Inter Press ServiceDr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 21 Jun 2018 20:57:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Cultural and Religious Diversity at a Crossroad: The Promotion of Equal Citizenship Rights to Deconstruct and Eliminate the Vulnerability of Peoplehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/cultural-religious-diversity-crossroad-promotion-equal-citizenship-rights-deconstruct-eliminate-vulnerability-people/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cultural-religious-diversity-crossroad-promotion-equal-citizenship-rights-deconstruct-eliminate-vulnerability-people http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/cultural-religious-diversity-crossroad-promotion-equal-citizenship-rights-deconstruct-eliminate-vulnerability-people/#respond Wed, 30 May 2018 14:02:01 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155991 Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, May 30 2018 (Geneva Centre)

The world’s population now stands at approximately 7 billion people spread among 7 continents. The United Nations is comprised of 194 States. There are more ethnicities than the world’s countries. It is estimated that there are more than 6,500 languages worldwide. The Earth’s population is divided among major world religions and civilizations that have contributed to the world’s evolution since time immemorial. The Earth is a cultural mosaic and an arena of dynamic interchange between cultures and civilizations.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

Despite the fact that the world has a long history of multi-culturalism and our individual and collective experiences have been enriched accordingly, current trends invoke concern for the future. In Europe, the re-birth of populist xenophobia and right wing extremism is a reality. Populist parties are securing electoral victories in local and national elections. They have re-emerged as an active political force gaining support from different layers of society. An Orwellian future – destructive to the ideals of an open and tolerant world society – seems to beckon. Comments such as these portend a future of intolerance: “We don’t see these people as Muslim refugees. We see them as Muslim invaders,” and “Multiculturalism is a fiction. Once you let migrants in, you can face such problem.” These inflammatory sentiments expressed by decision-makers in Central Europe mark their strong opposition to the influx of people on the move seeking refuge in Europe. The fear of the Other has emerged as the magical Silver Bullet in political campaigns worldwide. It is an antagonistic issue being used to gain power and popularity undermining authentic leadership and real concern for people.

The cultural and religious heritage of societies in the Middle East and North Africa is under threat. Since 1991, the Arab region has witnessed major armed conflicts in Iraq, Yemen. Libya, Sudan and Syria. The results after 15 years of warfare: approximately 15 million people displaced and more than 500,000 casualties. And the numbers are likely to increase in view of recent military escalation in Syria. The bereavement brought to the Arab region has also paved the way for the destruction of multicultural and multi-religious societies. In Iraq, only 1/10 of the Christian population, remains in their homeland. The same pattern prevails in other Arab countries, such as Syria, where ethnic and religious minorities once constituted a significant share of the population. However, decades of foreign interference and armed conflict have left their mark on the future of the Arab region. No wonder El Roto, the famous cartoonist of El País, said: “We send them bombs, and they send us migrants”.

How can we turn this tide and identify a process that enhances the celebration of diversity?

Attaining equal citizenship rights is the best way to defuse tensions and create resilient and cohesive societies. The prerequisite for achieving it is to harness the power of all religions, creeds and value-systems to promote and enhance equal citizenship rights. All major world religions implicitly advocate equal citizenship rights. Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism teach us that no one is superior or inferior to one another. The Holy Scriptures – through their discourses promote messages of love, equality and fraternity, which underpin equal citizenship rights. The foundation for common action of all religions, creeds and value systems to advance equal citizenship rights is therefore rooted in the ideals of these great world faith systems. Unfortunately, these systems have been hijacked for destructive purposes.

Inspired by this vision, the Geneva Centre will convene a major world conference entitled “Religions, Creeds and/or Other Value Systems: Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights” on 25 June 2018 at the United Nations Office at Geneva. Under the patronage of HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, it will bring together leaders from the world’s main religions, whether spiritual or lay, to give further concrete substance to the ideals that unite humanity. Religious leaders, politicians and community leaders must recommit themselves to identify appropriate ways to muster support for the promotion of equal citizenship rights. Ultimately, when equal citizenship rights are achieved, and all citizens can enjoy indiscriminately the same rights, privileges and duties, they will be looked upon as equal citizens as prescribed in the holy books and as imagined by all of the Prophets.

In times when religion has been considered as a source of division, the unified voice of all religions and value systems could reverse and roll-back the spread of hatred, bigotry, racism and the fear of the Other. Greater prominence must be given to rediscover commonalities between major world religions, creeds and value systems so as to give people a sense of belonging guided by harmony, diversity, unity and equal citizenship rights. Although not a panacea, the latter is a major building block in restoring peace and breaking the cycle of fear which has reached a level not witnessed since the end of the Second World War.

The World Conference will be the ultimate starting-point to break down the walls of ignorance and prejudice that are becoming – alas! – the hallmark of modern society.

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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A Free Press Is Indispensable for Good Governance and Transparent Societies Chair of the Geneva Centre for Human Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/free-press-indispensable-good-governance-transparent-societies-chair-geneva-centre-human-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=free-press-indispensable-good-governance-transparent-societies-chair-geneva-centre-human-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/free-press-indispensable-good-governance-transparent-societies-chair-geneva-centre-human-rights/#respond Thu, 03 May 2018 07:40:02 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155573 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, May 3 2018 (IPS)

On the occasion of the 2018 World Press Freedom Day commemorated on 3 May 2018, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, highlighted the importance of promoting freedom of the press to facilitate “good governance and transparent societies.”

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

Dr. Al Qassim noted that media, often referred to as the fourth estate, plays a central role in promoting the plurality of opinions and ideas in open and tolerant societies. “A free press acts as a voice for the public and as a watchdog. It provides checks and balances and holds leaders accountable to the public. A free press is indispensable for facilitating good governance and transparent societies,” Dr. Al Qassim said.

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman likewise cautioned against the rise of hate speech and online bigotry targeting religious communities. The “misconceived conflation between terrorism and Islam” – he noted – “has given rise to marginalization, bigotry and discrimination threatening the social harmony of multicultural societies worldwide. It has contributed to exacerbating animosities and artificial divisions between people.

“Media must play a more influential role in addressing prevailing misconceptions and misunderstandings that exist between people. Press freedom should not be used as a vector and catalyst for hate speech, bigotry and fear of the Other. The rise of hate speech and online bigotry – encompassing inflammatory and discriminatory smear campaigns singling out religious and ethnic groups – is a threat to press freedom and tests the boundaries of free speech.

“In the context where social media contributes to the dissemination of fake news without accountability, traditional media have an important role to play to promote awareness of false and inaccurate information. They may enlighten world public opinion by offering alternative narratives on contentious issues contributing to plurality of views and offering a voice to the voiceless,” Dr. Al Qassim asserted.

The Chairman of the Geneva Centre also noted that the lack of protective mechanisms for whistle-blowers challenges the concept of a free and open press. “The practice of silencing whistle-blowers constitutes a threat to press freedom and justice,” Dr. Al Qassim said.

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman added that the return to the founding principles of press freedom – encompassing inter alia accountability, liability and transparency – is key to addressing the challenges to press freedom. Dr. Al Qassim said respect for press freedom and the safety of journalists are key pre-requisites to promote peace, justice and strong institutions as stipulated in SDG 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Geneva Centre’s Chairman said:

“This year’s annual theme ‘Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law’ illustrates the importance of the interplay between access to information, freedom of expression and access to justice. Journalists have the right to work free from the threat of violence so they can carry out their important duties on behalf of the public. They must not be subjected to censorship, restrictive legislation, intimidation and violence.

“Societies that demonstrate respect for press freedom and the safety and freedom of journalists will make a valuable contribution to the fulfilment of the provisions set forth in SDG 16.”

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Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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People on the move and the politics of human solidarity: The 21st century’s most protracted crisis could end up as the forgotten chapter of human solidarityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/people-move-politics-human-solidarity-21st-centurys-protracted-crisis-end-forgotten-chapter-human-solidarity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=people-move-politics-human-solidarity-21st-centurys-protracted-crisis-end-forgotten-chapter-human-solidarity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/people-move-politics-human-solidarity-21st-centurys-protracted-crisis-end-forgotten-chapter-human-solidarity/#respond Mon, 30 Apr 2018 22:34:34 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155563 Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Apr 30 2018 (Geneva Centre)

The world is heading into troubled waters in the figurative and in the real sense of this expression, as we are witnessing an unprecedented movement of people – refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons (IDPs) alike – fleeing from insecurity, climate change, natural disasters, calamities and social instability. The migrant and refugee crisis has swept across the Middle East and across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. It is becoming the 21st century’s most protracted crisis with no immediate solution in sight. Thousands of human beings undertake perilous and treacherous journeys in hope for a better and a safer future. Many of them perish during these hazardous journeys over the Mediterranean Sea which has become a liquid graveyard.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

How can we forget the words the British-Somali poet Warsan Shire who said:

“No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”

The traumas of the Second World War reminded the world of the importance of never ignoring the tragedies of the past. The contemporary crisis must not repeat them. It calls for concerted efforts to resolve the plight of refugees worldwide as a matter of urgency and to address the root causes of mass exodus, as a long-term strategy. It is particularly disturbing that the solidarity and unity – that were expressed to refugees who fled the horrors and calamities of the Second World War – are being withdrawn from today’s people on the move. In the MENA region, violent and extremist groups have brought bereavement to Arab countries. More than 10 million people have fled the region. Geopolitical power games and policies of “creative chaos” including unilateral coercive sanctions – fostered by outside powers and fuelled by insecurity and sectarian violence – force people to leave their home societies. Extremist groups hijack religions to confer legitimacy to their poisonous and heinous ideologies.

Although the current situation is not of their doing, other countries in the Middle East have carried the majority of the burden in hosting refugees and migrants from affected nations. The majority of the refugees in the MENA region have sought refuge in countries neighbouring their country of origin. In the case of Jordan, Amman has provided protection and assistance to refugees that add up to 20% of its own population.

This is percentage-wise the equivalent of China, the US and Russia hosting 276, 64 and 28 million people respectively. The socio-economic pressure on Jordan and other medium-to low-income countries hosting such a high proportion of refugees impacts adversely on the living standards of ordinary citizens. In the long-term, this could trigger another wave of desperate people crossing the Mediterranean Sea at their life’s peril.

A very limited degree of solidarity is being expressed by European countries. The number of refugees being granted protection in rich Western countries constitutes approximately 0.2% of Europe’s population. Despite being signatories to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, many countries have decided to openly defy the acceptance of refugees and migrants belonging to certain religious faiths within their societies. Walls have been built or are planned in a misconceived attempt to exclude refugees and migrants from entering certain countries. The fearmongering and scapegoating of refugees have likewise exacerbated the rise to a populist tidal wave due to a loss of confidence in Western countries towards the governing elites accused of being cut off from grassroots realities. Right-wing movements use the contemporary refugee crisis to confer legitimacy on their aspirations to political power through whipping up xenophobia and through conflating Islam with terrorism. The level of intolerance witnessed in many countries is alarming. Fearmongering about the “Other” is now becoming a successful political gambit. How can the tide be turned in favour of people on the move?

Affected societies must return to a climate in which diversity is embraced and celebrated. Societies both in the Arab region and in the West should stand united in addressing simultaneously the rise of violent extremism and of destructive forms of populism. A climate that is conducive to respecting the dignity of all communities and to the achievement of peace and stability in regions affected by conflict and violence must guide the endeavours of decision-makers. Changing people’s narratives and managing diversity is key to facilitating a successful integration process of displaced people in host societies and to overcome the worrying trend of generalization of toxic discourse against the “Other” that is gaining ground in many societies around the world. We must intensify dialogue between and within societies, civilizations and cultures. We need to learn more about one another and to break down the walls of ignorance and prejudice that have insulated societies. We need each other more than ever to overcome the 21st century’s most protracted crisis.

I would also like to call upon governments in the Middle East and in the West to work jointly to address the protracted refugee crisis. Rich countries have a moral responsibility to provide development assistance to poorer countries to achieve a more equitable burden-sharing arrangement for hosting refugees. Countries in the West and in the Middle East need likewise to step up their joint efforts to eliminate the root causes which have fuelled violent conflict and extremism. Peace and stability in the Middle East need to be restored before refugees can safely return to their home societies. This calls for a radical political change of approach in problem solving in the region. It requires that military interventions, unilateral coercive measures and “threats of destruction” are phased out as “solutions” to settle political disputes. The adverse impact of military interventions in Iraq, Syria and Libya stand as stark warnings that the unilateral use of force has brought chaos and destruction to societies.

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Excerpt:

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Rejoicing in the Other and Celebrating Diversity Are Needed More than Ever to Address the Root-Causes of Intolerancehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/rejoicing-celebrating-diversity-needed-ever-address-root-causes-intolerance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rejoicing-celebrating-diversity-needed-ever-address-root-causes-intolerance http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/rejoicing-celebrating-diversity-needed-ever-address-root-causes-intolerance/#respond Thu, 16 Nov 2017 17:39:19 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153069 The Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue H. E. Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim deplored the rise of xenophobia, bigotry and marginalization – targeting refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons – that is taking effect in many regions of the world. In his statement issued in relation to […]

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By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Nov 16 2017 (IPS)

The Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue H. E. Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim deplored the rise of xenophobia, bigotry and marginalization – targeting refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons – that is taking effect in many regions of the world.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

In his statement issued in relation to the observation of the 2017 International Day for Tolerance, the Geneva Centre’s Chairman remarked that people in conflict zones or in areas affected by climate change are left with no other option than to flee their home societies owing to the rise of violent extremism and the adverse impact of armed conflict. Dr. Al Qassim said:

“Meanwhile, populist movements and right-wing parties seek to legitimize their political ideologies through hate rhetoric, bigotry and stereotyping of migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons.

“Exclusion and marginalization of displaced people – as witnessed in several countries – exacerbate xenophobia, bigotry and racism. Differences related to cultures and to religions are presented as obstacles and as being damaging to modern societies. This explains the rise of social exclusion which leaves the impression that cultural diversity is a threat, and not a source of richness,” stated the Chairman of the Geneva Centre.

Dr. Al Qassim called upon societies both in the Arab region and in the West to stand united in addressing simultaneously the rise of violent extremism and of populism. He also appealed to global decision-makers to step up their efforts to create a climate that is conducive to respecting the dignity of all communities and to the achievement of peace and stability in regions affected by conflict and violence.

“Changing people’s narratives and managing diversity is key to facilitating a successful integration process of displaced people in host societies and to overcome the worrying trend of a toxic discourse against the ‘Other’ that is gaining ground in many societies around the world.

“We need to intensify dialogue between and within societies, civilizations and cultures. We need to learn more about one another and to break down the walls of ignorance and prejudice that have insulated societies,”
highlighted Dr. Al. Qassim.

Against this background, he added the Geneva Centre is in the process of arranging a World Conference entitled “Religions, Creeds and/or Other Value Systems: Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights.” This event – Dr. Al Qassim noted – will be convened at the United Nations Office in Geneva in June 2018 and will bring together leaders from the world’s main religions whether spiritual or lay.

“The ambition of this conference is to chart a more inclusive understanding and forward-looking discussion in addressing religious intolerance and in the pursuit of equal citizenship rights. This will obviate the need for diverse segments of a native population to fall back on sub-identities heretofore referred to as ‘minorities’.

“The World Conference will become an opportunity to harness the collective energy of religious and lay leaders to capitalize on the convergence between religious faiths, beliefs and value systems to respond with a unified voice to the sweeping rise of intolerance affecting the world.

“In moments where the fear of the stranger has become the norm in many societies, rejoicing in the Other and celebrating diversity are needed more than ever to address the root-causes of intolerance worldwide,” concluded Dr. Al Qassim.

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The United Nations Is Needed More than Ever Before to Promote Peace and Justice Worldwidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/united-nations-needed-ever-promote-peace-justice-worldwide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-nations-needed-ever-promote-peace-justice-worldwide http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/united-nations-needed-ever-promote-peace-justice-worldwide/#respond Tue, 24 Oct 2017 06:28:50 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152662 United Nations Day – 24 October 2017

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United Nations Day – 24 October 2017

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Oct 24 2017 (IPS)

In commemoration of the 2017 United Nations Day, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue H. E. Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim called for enhancing the role of the United Nations to address issues related to the promotion of peace and security as a platform for collaboration and the advancement of human rights.

Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

In observation of United Nations Day and its 72nd anniversary, we strongly commend the vision of the United Nations to establish the Sustainable Development Goals and the Millennium Development Goals – that aim to promote peace and justice in every corner of the world,” underlined Dr. Al Qassim.

The achievements of the United Nations since its establishment in promoting a future in the mutual interest of all peoples have been remarkable,” added Dr. Al Qassim.

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman praised the efforts of the United Nations in bringing numerous issues of relevance to social and human development at the forefront of international decision-making. He noted, however that the realization of human rights and peaceful relations between states continues to be areas of great concern.

He warned against the politicization of human rights stating that, “the protection and promotion of human rights is often more influenced by political interests than by human rights policy. States are more likely to be swayed by political interests at odds with a value-driven human rights system.

Politicization of human rights and the selective application of relevant international legal norms gives rise to distrust. The credibility of the United Nations and in particular of the Human Rights Council depends on the resolve to apply international law and human rights standards uniformly and not to be influenced by political interests to apply laws à la carte in support of a particular special interest.” stated Dr. Al Qassim.

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman likewise added that recent statements being declared at the podium of the United Nations General Assembly calling for the destruction of states only contributes to a political climate of instability, fear and warmongering.

The purpose of the United Nations is to promote international co-operation and to achieve international peace and security. Beating the drums of war impedes the ability of the United Nations to act as a platform and a neutral broker for solving disputes among its member States. All disputes must be resolved within the framework set forth in the Charter of the United Nations calling for the promotion of peaceful relations and refraining from acts of aggression and the settling of disputes through military means,” stated Dr. Al Qassim.

To enhance the role of the United Nations in dealing with such issues, he stated “the United Nations needs to strengthen its efforts to accelerate disarmament, enhance peacebuilding and contribute to preventive diplomacy and mediation through dialogue, conflict prevention and dispute settlement.

The United Nations is needed more than ever before to promote peace and justice worldwide,” ended Dr. Al Qassim.

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Excerpt:

United Nations Day – 24 October 2017

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Peace and stability must be restored in the Middle East and North Africa so as to alleviate povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/peace-stability-must-restored-middle-east-north-africa-alleviate-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=peace-stability-must-restored-middle-east-north-africa-alleviate-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/peace-stability-must-restored-middle-east-north-africa-alleviate-poverty/#respond Tue, 17 Oct 2017 09:26:26 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152540 On the occasion of the 2017 International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue H. E. Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim observed that the unprecedented rise of violence and insecurity in the Arab region combined, breed poverty and societal decline. He noted […]

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By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Oct 17 2017 (IPS)

On the occasion of the 2017 International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue H. E. Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim observed that the unprecedented rise of violence and insecurity in the Arab region combined, breed poverty and societal decline.

Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

He noted that the Middle East and the North Africa region was once at the forefront of progress to alleviate poverty and hunger – in line with the provisions set forth in Millennium Development Goal 1 – but noted, however, that a multitude of factors have contributed to a reversal of progress undermining the alleviation of poverty as stipulated in Sustainable Development Goal 1 to end poverty in all its forms everywhere by 2030.

In this context, he stated that “the spread of conflict and violence have left a social and political vacuum that has been filled by violent and extremist groups. The persistence of political and social unrest in the Arab region have become the main drivers of poverty. Approximately 2/3 of the population in Syria are now living below the poverty line. In Yemen, more than 50% of the population live in extreme poverty, whereas this malaise now affects around 1/3 of Libya’s population. Insecurity driven poverty and fragile societies – gripped by violence and conflict – have thrown Arab countries into chronic poverty and societal decline.”

He further added that “the failure of diplomacy to create peace and stability in countries affected by conflict and violence has triggered a massive movement of people escaping insecurity and sectarian violence. Refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons in the region experience extreme poverty in a way unbeknownst to them hitherto. They have lost livelihood opportunities and have inadequate access to basic services. Forcibly displaced people remain stuck in limbo as they are either unwanted or forced to live in destitution in refugee or detention camps, after having witnessed the destruction of their home societies. The current situation undermines the prospects of recovery of conflict-affected societies from the adverse impact of armed conflict owing to the destruction of human capital and of a stable middle class.”

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman further observed that “the adverse impact of climate change has contributed to exacerbating all forms of poverty and food insecurity in the Arab region as a result of lack of access to renewable and non-renewable resources. Depletion of resources, desertification and water scarcity are indiscriminately affecting countries in the Middle East and North Africa. It has given rise to an ecological crisis affecting the livelihood of millions of people and forcing people to flee.”

He concluded stating that addressing the multidimensional elements of poverty in the Arab region requires adopting a holistic approach addressing the root-causes of extreme poverty in the Arab region.

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The world community must support the efforts of Bangladesh and the UN in offering temporary refuge and protection to the Rohingyanshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/world-community-must-support-efforts-bangladesh-un-offering-temporary-refuge-protection-rohingyans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-community-must-support-efforts-bangladesh-un-offering-temporary-refuge-protection-rohingyans http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/world-community-must-support-efforts-bangladesh-un-offering-temporary-refuge-protection-rohingyans/#respond Mon, 02 Oct 2017 13:58:53 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152309 2017 World Habitat Day – 2 October 2017

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2017 World Habitat Day – 2 October 2017

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
Geneva/Dubai, Oct 2 2017 (Geneva Centre)

The Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue H. E. Dr. Hanif Al Qassim appealed to the world community to provide financial, technical and material assistance to Bangladesh and the UN in providing adequate housing and shelter to the approximately 700,000 Rohingyan refugees – entrenched in Bangladesh – after fleeing persecution and oppression in Myanmar. Al Qassim’s appeal came in the wake of the deplorable humanitarian situation unfolding in the region and on the occasion of the 2017 World Habitat Day.

Rohingya children wait after arriving to Shahparir Dip in Teknaf, Bangladesh. Credit: IPS

The world community has a responsibility to provide support and assistance to neighbouring states providing refuge to the Rohingyans fleeing persecution, ethnic cleansing and maltreatment in Myanmar,” stated Dr. Al Qassim.

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman noted that the provision of adequate shelter to refugees “is stipulated in Article 21 of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and in Article 18 of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. International law guarantees the realization of the right to adequate shelter and housing to refugees in the context of forcible displacement of people.”

Dr. Al Qassim likewise echoed the views of the United Nations calling upon the government of Myanmar to allow for an international fact-finding mission to investigate the gravity of the human rights violations perpetrated against the Rohingyans by Burmese security forces in line with Resolution 34/22 – adopted on 24 March 2017 – by the UN Human Rights Council.

Evidence from satellite images – as reported by international media – confirms that more than 200 villages have been pillaged and burned to the ground in a deliberate attempt to forcibly expel – once and for all – the Rohingyans from Myanmar.

An international fact-finding mission must be given access to visit the Rakhine State and undertake an objective and impartial assessment of the gravity of human rights violations inflicted on the civilian population. Myanmar has a duty and an obligation – as a member State of the UN – to comply with the founding principles of the Charter of the UN to maintain international peace and security. Despite the fact that the Rohingyans have lived for centuries in Myanmar, their citizenship and even their basic human rights are being blatantly denied and violated,” added Dr. Al Qassim.

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman was also concerned about recent reports warning about the outbreak of diseases and hunger in refugee camps sheltering Rohingyans owing to lack of access to food, water and sanitation.

He said that “the deplorable situation of the Rohingyans could turn into a humanitarian tragedy if the world community continues to remaining silent about, or fails to fully address, the plight of the Rohingyan people. I call upon the world community to support the efforts of Bangladesh and the UN to ensure temporary refuge and protection to the Rohingyans and to assert their citizenship rights in, and their right to return to, Myanmar. We cannot turn a blind eye to the ethnic cleansing and the genocide and their ominous projections – as observed by the UN special advisor for the prevention of genocide Adama Dieng in September 2017 who said: ‘In fact it can be the precursor to all the egregious crimes – and I mean genocide’ – that is unfolding in Myanmar,” Dr. Al Qassim concluded in his statement.

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Excerpt:

2017 World Habitat Day – 2 October 2017

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Non-violence and lasting peace are key to secure the long-term stability of the Arab regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/non-violence-lasting-peace-key-secure-long-term-stability-arab-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=non-violence-lasting-peace-key-secure-long-term-stability-arab-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/non-violence-lasting-peace-key-secure-long-term-stability-arab-region/#respond Mon, 02 Oct 2017 10:26:17 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152306 International Day of Non-Violence – 2 October 2017

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International Day of Non-Violence – 2 October 2017

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
Geneva/Dubai, Oct 2 2017 (IPS)

The Chairman of the Geneva Centre Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim is calling on the international community to address the surge of extremist violence exacerbating the volatile security situation in the Arab region. This appeal was made by Dr. Al Qassim in relation to the commemoration of the 2017 International Day of Non-Violence observed on 2 October 2017.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

The Arab region is witnessing yet again a wave of extremist violence owing to the proliferation of local and international conflicts. Armed conflicts and internal upheavals in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen have resulted in the displacement of millions of people. Hundreds of thousands of people have died as a result of the surge of extremist violence and armed conflict which undermine the long-term stability of the Arab region,” Dr. Al Qassim said.

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman warned against extremist violence and related external military interventions in the Arab region which “provide fertile ground for terrorist groups to spread and justify its heinous and deadly ideology in countries in the Middle East and North Africa. “

In order to address the volatile security situation in the Arab region, Dr. Al Qassim appealed to “countries in the West and in the Arab region to work together to defeat all extremist and violent groups causing destruction and death in societies in the West, the Middle East and North Africa alike. All societies – regardless of religious beliefs and geographical location – are targets of the poisonous ideology of such extremist and violent groups.”

Dr. Al Qassim also noted that military victory over terrorism will “only bring a short-term solution to the Arab region as building lasting and sustainable peace requires addressing inter alia the root-causes of conflict, injustice, inequality, poverty and lack of social development.” He therefore stated that “the international community must provide an enabling environment allowing countries in the Arab region – affected by conflict and violence – to rebuild their societies through reconciliation, dialogue, respect for human rights and non-violence.”

He further noted that the spirit of the great Statesman of the Global South – Mahatma Gandhi like his African counterpart Nelson Mandela – should serve as an example for international decision-makers in promoting peace and justice in every corner of the world. In this regard, he stated that “the 2017 International Day of Non-Violence – observed today in commemoration of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi – is an opportunity for world society to commemorate the non-violent ideology of a world Statesman who believed in promoting peace and justice worldwide.”

Non-violence and lasting peace are key to securing the long-term stability of the Arab region and to promoting a sustainable future. On the commemoration of the International Day of Non-Violence, let the spirit of Gandhi guide the efforts of decision-makers in achieving this goal and in bringing justice, to all countries and in particular to those that suffer most in the Arab region,” concluded Dr. Al Qassim.

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International Day of Non-Violence – 2 October 2017

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Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in the Arab Region: Where Do We Stand?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/gender-equality-womens-empowerment-arab-region-stand/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-equality-womens-empowerment-arab-region-stand http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/gender-equality-womens-empowerment-arab-region-stand/#respond Fri, 29 Sep 2017 14:18:44 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim and Ambassador Idriss Jazairy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152286 Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, Ambassador Idriss Jazairy Executive Director of the Geneva Centre and H. E. Ms. Naela Mohamed Gabr member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

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From left to right, H. E. Mr. Amr Ramadan, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt ; Ambassador Idriss Jazairy, Executive Director of the Geneva Centre, H. E. Dr. Hanif Al Qassim, Chairman of the Board of Management of the Geneva Centre, H. E. Ms. Hoda Al-Helaissi, Member of Saudi Arabia's Shura Council and Dr. Susan Carland, Director of Monash University's Bachelor of Global Studies in Australia, during the panel discussion on “Women’s rights in the Arab world: between myth and reality” organized by the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue on 15 September 2017, at the UN Geneva.

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim and Ambassador Idriss Jazairy and H. E. Ms. Naela Mohamed
GENEVA, Sep 29 2017 (IPS)

Women’s empowerment and gender equality should remain a central objective of the world community. The recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) includes specific provisions to member States of the United Nations – notably through SDG 5 – to commit to enhancing gender equality and to give women a stronger voice in the fight for equality. The Preamble of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls for “equal rights” to be enjoyed by “men and women”: 69 years later, gender equality has not only been recognised for what it is: a fundamental human right, it is also becoming a guiding principle in the efforts of States to attain the highest ideals of a just and inclusive society and the highest rate of growth.

No society in the world can claim to have a society exempt from discrimination against women and girls. All regions of the world face their specific challenges related to the promotion and advancement of women’s rights. In the Arab region as in the West, the enhancement of the social status of women is of high importance. The barriers and the challenges which stand in the way of making impeding gender equality a reality cannot be seen as attributable solely to one region; charting a more inclusive agenda to enhance gender equality requires all regions to identify a suitable framework responding to its specific needs.

Amidst growing instability and social unrest as currently witnessed in the Middle East and North Africa region, encouraging developments are taking place in the Arab region. Tunisia, Lebanon and Jordan have recently decided to repeal discriminatory laws enabling rape perpetrators to escape justice if they would opt for marrying their female victims. Tunisia has just initiated ground-breaking measures in favour of women. In the national parliaments of Algeria, Tunisia and Iraq, women occupy more than 20% of the proportion of seats for parliamentarians. The United Arab Emirates and Egypt have likewise introduced legislation enabling women to benefit from equal rights and opportunities as their male compatriots. Other countries in the Arab region have likewise taken similar initiatives to advance the status of women. These developments show that the promotion and the enhancement of women’s rights in the Arab region have gained strong social acceptance within Arab societies.

Despite these encouraging signs, misperceptions and stereotyping of Arab women have become prolific news sources for mainstream media in depicting and offering a misleading picture of Arab women. The rise of extremism, Islamophobia and right-wing populism have further contributed to exacerbate the popular stereotyping of women as weak and voiceless. Societies as a whole are held further “guilty” for the alleged failures of Arab countries in advancing women’s rights. Hence the need to correct “orientalist” misperceptions.

The relations between Islam and women’s rights have also been the subject of widespread debate among women’s rights experts. Some people lacking perceptiveness consider that Islam is incompatible with women’s rights and gender equality, and that Islamic principles are hostile and discriminatory towards women. Generating simplistic solutions to challenges deriving from societal and cultural challenges – with no root in the teachings of Islam – will not solve “the mystery of Islam as a hostile religion to women.” We need to ask Arab women themselves whether they consider Islam as an emancipating factor in their efforts to achieve gender equality. According to the findings of the book “Fighting Hislam: Women, Faith and Sexism” written by Dr. Susan Carland in 2017, Arab women do not see Islam as an obstacle to fight sexism, discrimination and marginalization of women. Indeed Islam’s egalitarian spirit guides women in their efforts and commitments to advance their own rights. The fact that Islam has played an important role in redefining women’s rights in modern societies is hardly given any recognition in mainstream media. This shows that we have an uphill task ahead of us.

The deconstruction of existing myths regarding the status of Arab women will enable decision-makers and women’s rights experts to identify a common agenda to promote gender equality at a global level. It will enable women’s rights experts from the Arab region and the West to shift from “naming and shaming” and proclamations of moral superiority to the enhancement of women’s rights through constructive dialogue and the identification of joint solutions. Advancing the status of women requires a unified attempt by the Arab region and the West to safeguard women’s rights from adverse policies impeding the realization of gender equality. This idea was explored during the “Women’s rights in the Arab region: between myth and reality” panel debate held on 15 September at the United Nations Office in Geneva. Now is the time to join forces and work together to make this a reality.

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, Ambassador Idriss Jazairy Executive Director of the Geneva Centre and H. E. Ms. Naela Mohamed Gabr member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

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The Crisis of Refugees and Their Sufferings Call for a Solutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/crisis-refugees-sufferings-call-solution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=crisis-refugees-sufferings-call-solution http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/crisis-refugees-sufferings-call-solution/#respond Thu, 21 Sep 2017 16:06:02 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152191 Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Sep 21 2017 (IPS)

The pursuit of international peace and security has been on the agenda of international decision-makers ever since the establishment of the League of Nations on 10 January 1920. There has been a constant ambiguity about the way this commitment has been translated to practice. The Covenant of the League of Nations committed itself “to promote international co-operation and to achieve international peace and security”: nevertheless, the eruption of violence and geopolitical confrontations lead to another major confrontation two decades later. This reinforced the determination of the world community to redouble its efforts to promote peace and security. The Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue said that the UN Charter – adopted on 26 June 1945 – did not prevent the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and of Nagasaki less than two months later. The disastrous consequences of the Second World War was a terrible reminder of humanity’s ability to bring the world close to apocalypse. Partly for such reasons more than 60 million people continue to be forcibly displaced today and peace continues to be so elusive.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

This year’s annual theme for the 2017 International Day of Peace “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All” draws the attention of the need of the world community to unite its forces in support of people up-rooted and separated from their kith and kin. Dr. Al Qassim noted that the refugee and migrant crisis have become the symbol of the world’s inability to live up to the ideals of the Founders of the UN to promote peace and justice worldwide. Foreign invasions exacerbating resort to terrorist violence keep peace in jeopardy. So does the simultaneous rise of right-wing populist parties in the West which has become the driving force of xenophobia, bigotry, racism and marginalization of the Other. The combination of these elements once the symbol of a world undermining the peace that its peoples yearn for.

The Chairman has also concluded that the Arab region has been adversely affected by the rise of violent extremism and the proliferation of local and international conflicts. The civil wars and/or internal upheavals in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Iraq have resulted in the forced displacement of millions of people. In total, more than 13 million people have been forced to leave their home societies owing to the lack of security and the surge of violence. Millions of people have embarked on perilous and hazardous journeys over the unpredictable Balkan route. As the latter is being sealed off, they engage on the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa. Walls and fences have been built – and even detention camps – to respond to the unprecedented rise of people on the move. These liberal societies which cursed the Berlin Wall cordoning off the free flow of ideas now advocate new walls to cordon off the free flow of people in distress. He asked: How come that Europe cannot accommodate displaced people counting for less than 1% of Europe’s total population when certain countries in the Middle East provide protection to refugees and migrants accounting for more than 20% of their own populations? Making matters worse, Islamophobia is also on the rise in Southeast Asia where the ominous policy of ethnic cleansing has reared its head once again.

Guided by the vision of promoting peaceful societies and addressing the plight of people on the move, the Geneva Centre will be organizing a panel debate on 15 December 2017 entitled “Migration and human solidarity, a challenge and an opportunity for Europe and the MENA region.” He hoped that the debate will further promote a joint response of stakeholders from the Global North and the Global South responding with one voice to the injustice that is targeting people on the move in the Arab region and in other regions of the world. He called upon decision-makers should remain guided by the principles of international solidarity and justice in addressing the plight of refugees and migrants. We can no longer remain indifferent to a crisis that has become the symbol of the world’s inability to promote peace and justice.

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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South-South trade cooperation key to sustainable and inclusive model of globalizationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/south-south-trade-cooperation-key-sustainable-inclusive-model-globalization/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-south-trade-cooperation-key-sustainable-inclusive-model-globalization http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/south-south-trade-cooperation-key-sustainable-inclusive-model-globalization/#respond Tue, 12 Sep 2017 06:22:38 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152020 Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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South-South trade cooperation key to sustainable and inclusive model of globalization

Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Sep 12 2017 (IPS)

Thanks to globalization and trade liberalization of commodities, services and goods, global trade has reached an unprecedented level. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, world trade in goods was valued at approximately USD 16 trillion. North-North trade generates the highest trade volume at approximately 6 trillion; trade flows within and between countries of the Global South amounts to 4.6 trillion. Trade between the Global South and the Global North -approximately between 2.5 and 3 trillion – add up to less than the trade flows within the Earth’s two main poles.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

With a rapid population growth on the horizon, the potential to increase South-South trade and South-North trade is crucial to maintain economic growth and promote a sustainable and inclusive model of globalization. With more than 80% of the world population living in developing countries, South-South trade has the potential to increase in the years to come and to become a vector for economic growth and prosperity for a major world region whose potential has not been fully tapped during past decades.

The 2017 International Day for South-South Cooperation is an important opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of strengthening and enhancing economic cooperation between the world’s most populous regions. According to the US Energy Information Administration, 7 out of 10 countries with the highest proven oil reserves in the world are located in the Global South (Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Libya). If we look at the world’s diamond producing countries, 4 out of 7 are in thesub-Saharan Africa region (Botswana, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Namibia). Not only does the Global South account for more than 80% of the world population, it is also blessed with abundant natural resources.

There are numerous obstacles to unleashing the full potential of South-South trade cooperation, notably in the Arab region. In 1997, 14 Arab countries took the initiative to establish the Greater Arab Free Trade Area – a pan-Arab free trade and economic union – to spur economic growth in the Middle East and North Africa. This initiative can still become a success story if Arab states agree to remove and to eliminate tariffs hindering trade liberalization from taking full effect. The Gulf Cooperation Council is a good starting point. But even within this grouping which is one of the most successful economic trade block, setbacks occur. In addition, the unprecedented rise of military conflicts in the Arab region has hindered trade and economic growth. Ideological and political differences are still dividing Arab states in different sub-camps. These obstacles are also rife in many other regions in the Global South.

Another fundamental problem impeding better South-South trade cooperation is the current structure of the trade system. Many countries in the Global South are raw material producers with a strong primary sector in which the economic backbone is built primarily on the export of raw materials and commodities. Commodity and raw material prices are subject to volatility spurring social instability, as witnessed during the 2007-2008 world food price crisis or in the recent drop in oil prices. Countries in the Global South need to take further steps to move from a monoculture economy or one based on oil rent to an industrialized economy with a growing service sector as witnessed in the developed world. In the Arab region and especially in oil exporting countries, efforts are being made to diversify the economy despite the persistence of what is currently referred to as the “Dutch disease” (the discovery of natural gas in Groningen, Netherlands, drew all economic factors of production to the gas sector which led to the dereliction of the rest of the economy). The UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in particular are developing robust economic systems by reducing over-reliance on raw materials such as oil and gas. However, many countries in the Global South have not managed to free themselves from the raw material curse.

Countries in the Global South need to take further steps to move from a monoculture economy or one based on oil rent to an industrialized economy with a growing service sector as witnessed in the developed world.
In order to unleash the potential of South-South trade cooperation and ensure the right to development of their communities, countries in the Global South need to renew their commitments to create a global trade agreement that could bring about a meaningful South-South trade partnership. Although efforts were made to promote the Agreement on the Global System of Trade Preferences among Developing Countries (GSTP) as a blueprint for increased South-South cooperation, the GSTP has not materialized owing to differences in the elimination of trade tariffs. In the latest GSTP negations round that were held in Sao Paolo (Brazil), few countries signed the Sao Paolo Round Protocol despite the fact that the GSTP consisted of – at that time – 43 countries including Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia. Although the Sao Paolo Round was concluded in 2010, it has not yet become effective owing to the insignificant number of countries signing and ratifying the protocol.

In order for an economic South-South trade agreement to become a reality, countries in the Global South need to ensure that trade policies are in line with the provisions set forth in the 1986 Declaration on the Right to Development. The protection of human rights needs to be embedded in all trade agreements of relevance to the Global South. In addition, developed countries must provide for an enabling environment to boost trade and development in developing countries. Unfair trade tariffs, subsidies and economic sanctions – hindering the realization of free trade between the Global South and the Global North – need to be eliminated so as to promote an inclusive and sustainable model of globalization that would serve the interest of the world society.

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Transformative Power of Literacy in Today’s Digitalized Societyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/transformative-power-literacy-todays-digitalized-society/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=transformative-power-literacy-todays-digitalized-society http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/transformative-power-literacy-todays-digitalized-society/#respond Fri, 08 Sep 2017 05:25:14 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151976 Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Sep 8 2017 (IPS)

The vision of a literate world has guided the United Nations in its efforts to eliminate illiteracy worldwide. According to UNESCO, the world literacy rate now stands at 91% up from 79% in 1980. In the Arab region, the literacy rate is currently at 86%; a 22% increase from 1980 where the literacy rate stood at 64%. Although world society has witnessed significant progress in eradicating illiteracy, approximately 750 million adults and 264 million children worldwide are still considered as illiterate. Thus, the cloud of world illiteracy overshadows the geography of world poverty. Nonetheless, the Sustainable Development Goals have translated the vision of a literate world into a concrete action-plan: Sustainable Development Goal 4.6 calls upon all member States of the United Nations to ensure that youth, both men and women, “achieve literacy and numeracy” by 2030. In the words of formerSecretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

“Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.”

The 2017 World Literacy Day addresses a subject that is even more important today owing to the digitalization of our societies. This year’s theme “Literacy in a digital world” explores the transformative power of communication and information technology in addressing illiteracy. In my previous role as the Minister of Education of the United Arab Emirates, numerous initiatives and projects were implemented to empower youth through enhancing literacy in the age of information. The vision was to enable youth to read, reflect and think as the first step towards building a society for the future. Eliminating illiteracy is an investment in educating humanity and in promoting a sustainable future. Access to technology is a prerequisite for a knowledge-based society.

The introduction of digital technologies – against the backdrop of globalization – has brought peoples closer as communication and exchange of information have become seamless. We are more connected than ever. In a heartbeat, we can buy our favourite book on the Internet, read articles on Kindle or even read newspapers on the airplane. The teaching environments in today’s modern classrooms have been transformed, thanksto the Internet. Students now have access to the latest information technology to increase their learning capabilities and gain knowledge through electronic means. Inevitably, digitalization has simplified access to information and knowledge and contributed to the alleviation of literacy at a faster rate than was the case in the past.

Digitalization has also facilitated the emergence of a new concept commonly referred to as digital literacy. Cornell University in the United States defines the latter as “the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet.” It has transformed our traditional understanding of literacy – the ability to read and write – to also include the capability of effectively using technological devices to communicate and access information.

Inevitably, youth – at an early stage of their lives – are not adequately equipped with the required skills to critically analyze or question the validity of information available on the Internet. In this regard, youth are becoming vulnerable to the growing and alarming increase in self-radicalization that occurs through the use of Internet and social media. Online propaganda and ideological inspiration from sources controlled by right-wing and terrorist groups are increasingly exposing youth to heinous ideologies. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime have repeatedly warned against the phenomenon of Internet radicalization requiring “a proactive and coordinated response from Member States.” In world society’s attempts to address illiteracy, the ability to learn and to write needs also to include critical thinking so as to avoid self-radicalization which is emerging as a major social ill.

We must respond to the rise of Internet radicalism that is emerging as an invisible force inciting youth to join violent and radical groups whether in the Middle East or in Europe. Supportive settings and safe learning environments fostering social inclusion, open-mindedness and equal citizenship rights are important prerequisites in creating conditions protecting youth from falling prey to misguided ideologies. Critical thinking needs to be integrated in pedagogical teaching methodologies targeted towards youth. Literacy is not a static concept, it evolves in line with the developments of society. Strengthening digital literacy and critical thinking among youth is an investment in the future and one of the solutions to promote enlightenment, cope with radicalization in today’s digital age and realize the vision of a world that both prospers and is at peace with itself.

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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What Charities and Relief organizations do to alleviate poverty in the Arab regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/charities-relief-organizations-alleviate-poverty-arab-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=charities-relief-organizations-alleviate-poverty-arab-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/charities-relief-organizations-alleviate-poverty-arab-region/#respond Tue, 05 Sep 2017 06:29:05 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151925 Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Sep 5 2017 (IPS)

Extreme poverty remains one of the world’s biggest challenges. According to the United Nations, 767 million people live in extreme poverty around the world. Although world society has managed to lift nearly 1 billion people out of extreme poverty – in 1999 it was estimated that 1.7 billion were affected by extreme poverty – the unprecedented rise of conflict and of violence in the Arab region has worsened the socioeconomic situation of vulnerable population segments in many countries. On 22 February 2017, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator of the United Nations –Stephen O’Brien – stated to the United Nations Security Council that 67% of the population in Syria is living under conditions considered as extreme poverty. In another Arab country affected by war and conflict – Yemen – the World Bank estimates that poverty affects 62% of the population, whereas the World Bank’s estimates this number to be at approximately 22% for Iraq or even as high as 40% in territories controlled by DAESH. Inevitably, conflict and violence have worsened the situation in the Arab region.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

The 2017 World Charity Day is an opportunity to highlight the potential for an increased role by charity organizations and philanthropies in eradicating poverty worldwide through volunteer work and charitable activities. The founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates is an encouraging example of a wealthy businessman who has devoted his life to addressing poverty and humanitarian issues through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The think tank, According to Purpose in Action – specialized in enhancing donor contributions – estimates that the “annual global charitable giving amounts” is at least USD $410.71 billion a year. Put in a wider context, the amount given annually for charitable causes is higher than the nominal GDP of countries such as of the United Arab Emirates (USD 407 billion), Norway (USD 391 billion) and South Africa (USD 317 billion).

The Charities Aid Foundation World Giving Index for 2016 – measuring charitable activities in 140 countries – show that charitable causes motivate people from all over the world to contribute to advancing common causes and address poverty. Countries from the Arab region score high in this index: The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait were among the leading countries in the world that promoted charitable causes. When the survey respondents were asked whether they would participate in helping a stranger, 81%, 79% and 78% of the respondents in Iraq, Libya, Kuwait respectively stated that they would commit themselves to help someone in need. Helping people in need is inherent to the spirit of the Arabs and is in line with the teachings of the Holy Quran in which Muslims are obliged to give Zakat – charity to the poor in specific amounts. Surat Al-Isra from the Holy Quran [17:26] says:

“You shall give the due alms to the relatives, the needy, the poor, and the travelling alien, but do not be excessive, extravagant.”

The war in Syria has had a tremendous negative impact on the civilian population. More than 12 million people have been forced on the move. Although countries from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have donated significant funds to alleviate the miseries of the Syrian people, the real impact is delivered through the active involvement of NGOs, IGOs, UN entities and grass-root movements working on the ground. According to the latest donor report provided by Islamic Relief USA, more than 9 million people have benefited from charitable contributions channelled through this organization. The International Rescue Committee has also assisted more than 1 million Syrian civilians in need of aid and support. Other relief organizations – such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration – are working tirelessly to provide support to Syrians desperately in need of humanitarian assistance.

The war in Yemen is another example of a country that has benefitted from the goodwill of charities working to alleviate extreme poverty and to provide humanitarian assistance to the civilian population. The ongoing famine in the country is currently affecting up to 17 million people. In response, Saudi Arabia allocated USD 66.7 million to UNICEF and WHO in June this year in response to the cholera outbreak in the country. Other countries in the region, such as the United Arab Emirates has disbursed over USD 2 billion in humanitarian and in development aid – for the period of 2015 – 2017 – to Yemen and USD 200 million for Palestine partly through charities.

These examples show that charitable organizations and governments can work jointly to provide assistance and protection to Syrian and Yemeni civilians living in extreme poverty and distressing situations in their respective countries. It also indicates that charitable organizations can play the role as a mediator – without being regarded with suspicion by the belligerents – in offering assistance to the civilian population on the ground.

Although the praiseworthy activities of charities contribute to alleviate poverty in the short-term, identifying a long-term solution to address extreme poverty requires a more holistic and inclusive approach to deal with its root-causes. Peace and stability in the Middle East need to be restored so as to accelerate economic growth and to enable societies to stand on their feet. The implementation of unilateral coercive measures on countries affected by war continues to further exacerbate poverty, curb economic growth and destroy the middle class whether in Syria or in Gaza. The return to peace is the first required step.

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Civilians Increasingly Bearing Burden of Armed Conflicts in Arab Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/civilians-increasingly-bearing-burden-armed-conflicts-arab-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civilians-increasingly-bearing-burden-armed-conflicts-arab-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/civilians-increasingly-bearing-burden-armed-conflicts-arab-region/#respond Fri, 18 Aug 2017 11:32:17 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151695 The author is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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World Humanitarian Day / Syrian boy brings bread back from underground bakery in severly damaged opposition-held area of Aleppo. August 2014. photo credit Shelly KittlesonIPS

Syrian boy brings bread back from underground bakery in severly damaged opposition-held area of Aleppo. August 2014. photo credit Shelly KittlesonIPS

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Switzerland, Aug 18 2017 (IPS)

The war in Syria has now entered its 6th year and is becoming the world’s worst man-made disaster.

The humanitarian calamity in Syria has affected millions of lives; more than half of Syria’s pre-war population has been forced to flee, including 6.3 million internally displaced persons and 5.1 million refugees living in refugee camps in the Middle East and in Europe. It is also estimated that approximately 465,000 people have lost their lives because of this enduring conflict with no immediate end in sight.

Arab civilians are also suffering in other major armed conflicts in the Middle East. According to UNHCR and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, at least 3 million Iraqis have been displaced as a result of the civil strife in Iraq.

Iraq Body Count estimates that more than 50% of the war-related deaths – following the 2003 Iraq invasion – were civilians.

In Yemen, the United Nations estimates that more than 10,000 civilians have perished from the fighting between Yemeni government forces and the Houthi rebels. On top of this, IOM and UNHCR estimates that around 3 million Yemeni civilians have been displaced from their homes since the beginning of the conflict.

World Humanitarian Day / Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim. Credit: United Nations Library at Geneva

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim. Credit: United Nations Library at Geneva

The high civilian tolls witnessed in these conflicts reveal that civilians are increasingly bearing the burden of armed conflicts in the Arab region.

The pattern of modern warfare has changed: battles that were once fought in the unpopulated shores of Normandie and in the desert of El Alamein are now being fought in the urban centres of Gaza, Mosul, Baghdad and Aleppo affecting the lives of millions of civilians.
The theme of the 2017 World Humanitarian Day – Civilians caught in conflict are not a target – reaffirm the vision expressed in the 10 May 2017 report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict calling for “collective action to strengthen the protection of civilians in armed conflict.”

A “global protection crisis” has emerged – noted the Secretary General in the same report – owing to the rise of use of force of which civilians are ultimately the main victims. Since the end of World War II, it is estimated that between 60-90% of war-related deaths are primarily among civilians. Civilians have become the primary casualties of war in the 21st century.

The irregular and black market arms trade have fuelled the rise of violent and extremist groups in numerous countries in the Arab region.

The illicit arms trade has enabled terrorist groups to thrive in countries affected by conflict and violence. Disturbing images of civilian infrastructure such as schools and hospitals being bombed in Palestine, in Syria and in Iraq show that civilian infrastructure is increasingly being targeted by belligerents.

Although the Arms Trade Treaty sought to regulate the international arms trade, the flow of arms and weapons to violent and extremist groups continues to fuel bloody conflicts in the Arab region owing to the lack of ratification of the Treaty by the member states of the United Nations.

Warfare and armed conflicts are increasingly being fought in urban centres in the Arab region. It has brought the war closer to people. The pattern of modern warfare has changed: Battles that were once fought in the unpopulated shores of Normandie and in the desert of El Alamein are now being fought in the urban centres of Gaza, Mosul, Baghdad and Aleppo affecting the lives of millions of civilians.

World Humanitarian Day / Civilians are Not a Target

The use of heavy weapons, so-called strategic bombardments and the use of modern technologies such as drones have increased the likelihood of inflicting collateral damage on civilians during armed conflicts. The disproportionate use of force has caused immense suffering leading to abuse and to killings of civilians. Collateral damage has emerged as an acceptable term to justify errors and the indiscriminate use of force.

In order to respond to the need to provide protection to civilians in armed conflict, the world has a moral responsibility to end the illegal trade of arms and weapons fuelling the growth of violent and extremist groups.

States need to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty and comply with its provisions so as to end the illicit arms trade that is currently estimated to lie at around 10 billion US dollars per year. Weapons and arms should not end up in the hands of extremist groups such as DAESH that commit heinous and unscrupulous crimes on civilian populations in the Arab region.

I also appeal to the international community to ensure that all parties to conflict comply with their provisions to protect the lives of civilians in line with the provisions set forth in the Convention for the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War commonly known as the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Respect for international law must guide the actions of belligerents in armed conflicts. Widespread crimes against humanity affecting civilians must be condemned uniformly by world leaders regardless of where they take place. Civilians should not bear the burden of the devastating consequences of military conflicts.

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The author is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Promoting Sustainable Population Growth, Key to Raising Human Rights Standardshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/promoting-sustainable-population-growth-key-raising-human-rights-standards/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=promoting-sustainable-population-growth-key-raising-human-rights-standards http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/promoting-sustainable-population-growth-key-raising-human-rights-standards/#respond Tue, 11 Jul 2017 15:31:57 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151237
Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Promoting Sustainable Population Growth, Key to Raising Human Rights Standards

Two women and a baby in a village near the city of Makeni, in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone. Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Switzerland, Jul 11 2017 (IPS)

The world population has witnessed a remarkable growth during the recent decades. In 1965, it stood at 3.3 billion people. In 2017 –52 years later– the global population reached a staggering 7.5 billion people corresponding to more than a doubling of the Earth’s residents over the last half-century.

Humans have been blessed with access to natural resources such as water, food and rare minerals that have been indispensable to the evolution and to the progress of humanity since time immemorial.

Nonetheless, the rapid increase of the world population is raising again Malthusian concerns. The Earth’s resources are finite and cannot sustain the current population growth rate in the long run; the Earth’s population is set to grow to 9.8 billion people by 2050. “When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.”

This is tantamount to saying that world population during the post WWII century will increase 3 times as much since man’s appearance on our planet. A Native American saying reminds us that uncontrolled population growth and excessive use of resources can leave the world empty-handed:

“When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.”

The 2017 World Population Day is an important occasion to raise awareness on contemporary unsustainable consumption patterns.

According to the United Nations, this year’s World Population Day will coincide with the 2017 Family Planning Summit that will focus inter alia on family planning among the world’s most marginalized and vulnerable women.

Preventative family planning is a vehicle for promoting sustainable population growth and for enhancing the status of women.

The “Protection of the Family” resolution adopted on 22 June 2017 by the United Nations upholds international human rights standards on the right to life and the right to family life, and is a good starting-point to further promoting sustainable population growth through family planning.

Child marriage is considered as a major triggering factor worsening population pressure around the world. It is referred to as a major problem in numerous countries located in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and even in Europe.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

The charity “Girls not Brides“ estimates that 1 out of 3 girls in the developed world are married before the age of 18. It also estimates that approximately 700 million women alive today were married when they were children.

According to the World Bank and the International Centre for Research on Women, child marriage accelerates population growth as women marrying before the age of 18 are prone to having more children than women marrying at a later age.

Child marriage also discourages women from pursuing higher education as their prospects of completing education diminishes drastically. In many cases, girls marrying at an early age are left with no other option than to drop out of school. This impedes the prospects for achieving economic empowerment owing to the marginalization of girls and of women.

Lack of access to family planning also remains a major concern in many countries. The 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action called upon member states of the United Nations (UN) to improve access to family planning services in an effort to resolve issues related to overpopulation.

The 1994 Cairo Declaration on Population & Development likewise called for constrained efforts to strengthen family planning particularly in the developed world. Nonetheless, the UNFPA estimates that approximately 225 million women “are not using safe and effective family planning methods.”

In order to address these challenges, I appeal to UN member States to implement concrete plans to address target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This target requires the world community to eliminate all forms of harmful practices including early and forced child marriage to advance the status of girls and women worldwide.

Addressing child marriage would further advance gender equality, increase access to education and improve the social status of girls and women. Child marriage is considered as a violation of human rights and must be eliminated in all its forms.

Enhancing family planning policies enables societies to cope with population pressures by bringing down the fertility rate to a sustainable level. This would improve the economic well-being of families and alleviate poverty and inequality. The economic burden on families would be reduced as there would be fewer mouths to feed.

However, countries should avoid implementing family planning policies reducing the fertility level below the 2.1 reproduction rate.

Addressing the depopulation of ageing advanced societies by fostering migration of population from high population growth developing countries is therefore key to optimizing growth potential and thus to move development forward.

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Excerpt:


Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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The World Society Needs to Express Greater Solidarity for Refugees Worldwidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 12:02:36 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150978 Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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The World Society Needs to Express Greater Solidarity for Refugees Worldwide

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

The world is heading into troubled waters as we are witnessing an unprecedented movement of people – refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons (IDPs) alike – fleeing from misery, poverty and conflicts. The refugee crisis that has swept across Europe and the Middle East is becoming the 21st century’s most protracted crisis with no immediate solution in sight. The world has not witnessed a more complex movement of people since the end of the Second World War; thousands of human beings undertake perilous and treacherous journeys in hope for a better and a safer future. Many of them perish during these hazardous journeys. How can we forget the words the British-Somali poet Warsan Shire who said:

No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”

The 2017 World Refugee Day is an important occasion to stand united with millions of refugees around the world. This international commemorative day was announced in 2001 following the adoption of Resolution 55/76 by the United Nations General Assembly on 12 February 2001. It also marked the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the “1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.” Although the traumas of the Second World War reminded the world of the importance of never ignoring the past, the contemporary crisis calls for concerted efforts to resolve the plight of refugees worldwide as a matter of urgency and to address the root causes of mass exodus, as a long-term strategy.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 21 million refugees worldwide. In 2017, there was an estimated 5 million Syrian refugees worldwide. Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Sudan – countries located in the Arab region – are also considered as source countries of refugees owing to the proliferation of conflicts and the rise of violent extremism.

The majority of these refugees have sought refuge in countries neighbouring their country of origin. In the Middle East, countries in the Arab region are hosting one of the highest number of refugees. More than 1 million people have found refuge in Lebanon, a country that has already welcomed more than 500,000 Palestinian refugees. Jordan is home to approximately 660,000 refugees, whereas Iraq and Egypt have welcomed around 240,000 and 120,000 refugees respectively despite internal upheavals and civil strife. On top of this, one can also add Turkey that is currently hosting nearly 3 million Syrian refugees.

On the other side of the Mediterranean Sea, several European countries have showed some support to address the plights of refugees from the Arab region. Germany and Sweden have taken adequate measures to accommodate the influx of refugees by welcoming 400,000 and 100,000 refugees respectively. Other countries such as France and the Netherlands have also pleaded to relocate refugees entrenched in refugee camps in transit countries such as Italy, Greece and Hungary.

Although a certain degree of solidarity is being expressed by European countries, the number of refugees being granted protection in rich Western countries constitutes a very small one-digit percentage of the population compared with countries in the Arab region. Despite being signatories to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, many countries have decided to openly defy the acceptance of refugees belonging to certain religious faiths within their societies. Walls have been built in a misconceived attempt to exclude refugees from entering certain countries. The fearmongering and scapegoating of refugees have likewise given rise to a populist tidal wave. Right-wing movements use the contemporary refugee crisis to confer legitimacy on their aspirations to political power through whipping up xenophobia and through conflating Islam with terrorism.

During a panel debate that was held on 15 March 2017 at the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG) on the subject of “Islam and Christianity, the Great Convergence: Working Jointly Towards Equal Citizenship Rights” several panellists underscored that these types of practices are contradictory to the core principles of Islam and Christianity preaching love, peace and tolerance towards people in need. Societies should stand united in addressing the rise of populism that is pervasive in many countries.

I would also like to call upon governments in the Middle East and in the West to work jointly to address the protracted refugee crisis. Rich countries have a moral responsibility to provide development assistance to poorer countries to achieve a more equitable burden sharing arrangement for hosting refugees. Countries in the West and in the Middle East need also to step up their joint efforts to eliminate the root causes which have fuelled extremism. Peace and stability in the Middle East need to be restored before refugees can safely return to their home societies. This calls for a radical political change of approach in problem solving in the region.

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Excerpt:

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Child Labor in the Arab Region Does Not Belong to the 21st Centuryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/child-labor-in-the-arab-region-does-not-belong-to-the-21st-century/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=child-labor-in-the-arab-region-does-not-belong-to-the-21st-century http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/child-labor-in-the-arab-region-does-not-belong-to-the-21st-century/#respond Mon, 12 Jun 2017 19:08:57 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150860 Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Jun 12 2017 (IPS)

Today marks the 2017 World Day against Child Labor to reaffirm the goal to eliminate all forms of child labor. This year’s annual theme highlights a subject that is often neglected, namely the importance of addressing child labor in conflict areas and in disaster settings.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

The United Nations (UN) estimates that approximately 1.5 billion people live in conflict areas around the world. It is likewise projected that around 200 million people are affected annually by disasters whether related to man-made environmental devastations, to natural hazards or to other types of catastrophes.

Out of these figures, 168 million children worldwide are affected by child labor in conflict and in disaster settings. Asia and the Pacific has the highest incidence with approximately 78 million (9.3%) followed by Sub-Saharan Africa with 59 million (21%) and Latin America and the Caribbean with 13 million (8.8%). 9.2 million children – 8.4% of the total figures – are engaged in child labor in the Middle East and in North Africa.

Child labor is prohibited by several legal conventions. ILO Convention No. 182 often referred to as the “Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention” provides important guidelines on the worst types of child labor that need to be prohibited and eliminated by States. ILO Convention No. 138 entitled “Minimum Age Convention” likewise upholds in Article 7 that children at an early age should not undertake employment considered “to be harmful to their health or development.”

Although the incidence of child labor in the Middle East and in North Africa is lower than in other parts of the world, it remains a major challenge for many countries in the Arab region owing to the proliferation of conflicts.

The war in Syria is a major humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century. Several hundred thousand civilians have died, whereas it is estimated that approximately 7.6 million people are internally displaced and 4.8 million are refugees. A figure that is often left unaddressed is the incidence of child labor involving Syrian refugee and displaced children. According to several think-thanks, these children perform hazardous work and hard labor under harsh and unsustainable working conditions. Organized crime groups exploit children for financial gains. Child labor has now reached a disturbing level among Syrian refugee children.

Yemen has also witnessed the growth of child labor owing to the war that is unfolding in the country. According to a joint UNHCR-IOM press release issued in February 2017, it was concluded that the deteriorating situation in Yemen has pushed children into “danger and adversity” including child labor and hazardous work. Other Arab countries facing turmoil and civil war – such as Libya and Iraq – also experience a resurgence of child labor as a result of the disintegration and the fragmentation of these societies.

Despite this troubling context, there is hope in the horizon. I am pleased that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) underscore the importance of addressing and of ending child labor. SDG 8.7 stipulates the need to end child labor “in all its forms” by 2025. I invite all Arab states to work jointly towards the realization of this imperative goal by 2030. Arab States have showed great dedication and commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); I remain convinced that similar progress will be realized vis-à-vis the SDGs.

The deteriorating security situation and the growing threat of famine throw societies into a situation of despair and instability. The lack of employment, decent work and poverty provide fertile ground for child labor to prosper as the only hope for economically disadvantaged families is to send their children – in particular girls – to engage in child labor. To reverse this trend, war-torn societies need to be allowed to return to a modicum of peace and stability guaranteeing families safe living conditions and peaceful prospects. The return to peace is the first step towards the full elimination of child labor.

Lastly, despite a massive influx of refugees and internally displaced persons to Europe, the heaviest burden by far is borne by Muslim societies in neighbouring countries bordering war-torn countries of departure of refugees and other migrants. It is therefore important to step up the efforts of the international community to provide adequate support and assistance to such countries welcoming a high percentage of migrants and refugees including children in relation to their own population.

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Aggression against children in the Arab region needs to come to an endhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/aggression-against-children-in-the-arab-region-needs-to-come-to-an-end/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aggression-against-children-in-the-arab-region-needs-to-come-to-an-end http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/aggression-against-children-in-the-arab-region-needs-to-come-to-an-end/#respond Sun, 04 Jun 2017 15:35:15 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150726 Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Jun 4 2017 (IPS)

On 20 February 1997, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 51/77 to promote the rights of children. This Resolution was considered a milestone in promoting and advancing the right of children in conflict and wars.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim

Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim

The resolution was also seen as a further acknowledgement of the growing number of States that had signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child that entered into force on 2 September 1990. To this day only one State has not yet ratified this seminal Convention.

Despite the broad-based ratification of the Convention, children continue to bear the burden of conflicts and calamities. They are indiscriminately targeted by belligerents owing to their vulnerability and physical weakness. According to the United Nations more than 250 million children live in countries affected by conflict.

The 2017 International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression is therefore an important opportunity to recognise the challenges and constraints children experience in the context of wars and conflicts. This day is also celebrated in commemoration of Resolution 51/77 that marked a new era in the joint commitments taken by the Member States of the United Nations (UN) to accelerate the promotion and advancement of the rights of children.

Despite the existing consensus that exists between States, there are various cases of contemporary conflicts that have indiscriminately targeted children and the Arab region is no exception.

In December 2016, UNICEF reported that approximately 2.2 million children in Yemen – out of 3.3 million people – face grave risk of hunger and malnutrition owing to the civil war in Yemen. From the period of 2015 – 2017, civil society and donor governments – in collaboration with its international partners such as WHO, WFP, UNICEF and ICRC – have allocated aid and relief assistance to the hunger-stricken population in Yemen. This has enabled several million children to benefit from the joint efforts of regional and international actors to address the severe food shortage.

The civil war in Syria – also known as the 21st century’s worst humanitarian disaster – is yet another example of a terrible humanitarian catastrophe that indiscriminately targets children. According to UNICEF, 5.8 million children in Syria are in need of help, 2.8 million children are located in conflicts areas, 281,000 living under siege whereas 2.3 million children have fled the country.

This is the gripping reality affecting children in the Arab region. They are not being spared from the adverse impacts of wars and conflicts. They are seen as the easiest victims to target. The international community needs to step up their efforts to provide the necessary aid support to the Yemeni and Syrian civilian populations.

In order to protect children from abuse, exploitation and the intensifying conflicts, peace needs to be given a chance. The conflicts in the Middle East need to come to an end through diplomacy.

It is likewise important that justice triumph in cases where abuses against children are documented. Impunity should not become the norm of societies recovering from wars and conflicts. Peacebuilding and transitional justice require that crimes against humanity be addressed in a transparent and objective manner. Perpetrators who have committed crimes against children need to be brought to justice. They should stand trial for their heinous and barbaric crimes inflicted on civilian populations.

In concluding this statement, I would also like to underscore the importance of education as a peacebuilding measure. On 12 May, I chaired a panel debate at the United Nations Office in Geneva entitled “Human rights: Enhancing equal citizenship rights through education.” The objective of this panel debate was to address the role of education in instilling a culture of peace and tolerance among children in post-conflict environments. The lessons learned from the case studies of Bahrain, Sri Lanka and Colombia underlined the potential of education in enabling children to overcome hostile mindsets – sometime resulting from family backgrounds – and to understand that differences need not beget division but can be an opportunity to celebrate diversity. Many of these countries have taken a number of initiatives in creating supportive environments to facilitate the socializing of children and their peaceful reintegration in society.

No children in the world should face conflict and war. They should spend their childhood and youth in harmony and in peaceful surroundings. Aggression inflicted on children in the Arab region and elsewhere in the world needs to come to an immediate end.

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Reflections on 2017 World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/reflections-on-2017-world-day-for-cultural-diversity-for-dialogue-and-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=reflections-on-2017-world-day-for-cultural-diversity-for-dialogue-and-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/reflections-on-2017-world-day-for-cultural-diversity-for-dialogue-and-development/#respond Mon, 22 May 2017 05:38:04 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150497 Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue (“The Geneva Centre”)

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue (“The Geneva Centre”)

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, May 22 2017 (IPS)

More than 7 billion people live on this planet spread among 7 continents, 194 states of the United Nations (UN) and numerous other non-self-governing territories. The world is made up of a mosaic of people belonging to different cultural and religious backgrounds. Our planet has been a cultural melting pot since time immemorial.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim

Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim

According to the UN, the world population is expected to rise to 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion people in 2100. The projected rise of the global population will further reinforce the world’s cultural wealth and the opportunities for dynamic interchange between cultures and civilizations.

The 2017 World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development is an important opportunity to advance the goals of the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. This landmark Convention aims to “protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions” and to further enhance cultural diversity around the world.

The 2001 UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity likewise reminds us of the importance of moving “from cultural diversity to cultural pluralism” through social inclusion and cultural empowerment enabling social cohesion to flourish. Harmonious relationships between peoples start with cultural interaction and cultural empathy.

While we place great importance in preserving the diversity of cultures as a common heritage of mankind, we fear that the world is on the brink of entering into a phase of fragmentation and irreconcilable division.

The inflow of migrants to Europe has been used as an excuse to justify the rise of right-wing populism. Migrants are often scapegoated for the failures of societies although their contributions to the economic and social development of societies and to cultural diversity are well documented. Differences related to cultures and to religions are presented as obstacles and as being damaging to modern societies. This has given rise to discrimination, marginalization, bigotry and social exclusion leaving the impression that cultural diversity is a threat, and not a source of richness.

While the flow of migrants and refugees to rich Western countries constitutes a very small one-digit percentage of the population, they are increasingly resented. Yet it has been difficult to increase development assistance resources from rich economies to help stabilize people on the move who are present in countries neighbouring their country of origin. The latter, while much poorer, have welcomed a much higher, double-digit, percentage of migrants and refugees in relation to their own population.

With a view to proposing an alternative solution to enhance cultural diversity and to reversing this trend, I co-chaired a panel debate that was held on 15 March 2017 at the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG) on the theme of “Islam and Christianity, the Great Convergence: Working Jointly Towards Equal Citizenship Rights.”

During the deliberations, one of the panellists made a salient remark that captured the essence of the debate. It was emphasized that we should never fear “the stranger, in his or her difference, because he or she will be a source of richness.”

Echoing this view, I believe that in modern societies, progress can be ascribed to the celebration of cultural diversity and to the acceptance of the stranger. The driving force behind the success of the United States of America (USA) was the country’s openness towards migrants aspiring to live the American Dream. It allowed building a prosperous society that leveraged the talent of different people regardless of religious or cultural differences.

Embracing cultural diversity, open-mindedness and tolerance enabled the US to become a symbol of success and prosperity.

Taking inspiration from this example, I would like to emphasize that we need to cultivate a climate where cultural diversity is considered a synonym for progress and development. Exclusion and marginalization of people owing to cultural differences do not belong in an open, tolerant and prosperous society.

Hence the need to intensify dialogue between and within societies, civilizations and cultures. We need to learn more about each other, to build mutual bonds and to break down the walls of ignorance that have insulated societies.

The term “the beauty of the world lies in the diversity of its people” captures the essence of the 2017 World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. Let difference beget not division but an urge to celebrate diversity and pluralism.

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue (“The Geneva Centre”)

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Reflections on World Press Freedom Dayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/2017-world-press-freedom-day-message-by-dr-hanif-hassan-ali-al-qassim-chairman-of-the-geneva-centre-for-human-rights-advancement-and-global-dialogue/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2017-world-press-freedom-day-message-by-dr-hanif-hassan-ali-al-qassim-chairman-of-the-geneva-centre-for-human-rights-advancement-and-global-dialogue http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/2017-world-press-freedom-day-message-by-dr-hanif-hassan-ali-al-qassim-chairman-of-the-geneva-centre-for-human-rights-advancement-and-global-dialogue/#respond Wed, 03 May 2017 06:54:15 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150261 The author is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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The author is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, May 3 2017 (IPS)

This year’s theme for the 2017 World Press Freedom DayCritical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies” is one of the most important days honouring press freedom.

Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

Inevitably, the impact of media has the power to transform societies through enlightenment and active citizenry.

Observers occasionally refer to the media as the fourth estate owing to its influential role to further enhancing the plurality of opinions and ideas.

A free press is indispensable for facilitating good governance and transparency. It strengthens the accountability of governments as citizens can critically assess the activities of incumbents through information provided by the media.

Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights defends freedom of expression and the right to information. It enables press freedom to become a reality:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Some cite as a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad that “the ink of the scholar is holier than the blood of the martyr.”

However, significant challenges lay ahead limiting the freedom of the press.

Firstly, journalists have had at times to pay a high toll for the expression of truth as they see it.

Thus according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more than 1,200 journalists have been killed since 1992.

Among these victims, 65% were murdered, 22% perished owing to crossfire and combat, whereas 12% lost their lives owing to dangerous assignments.

Many of those murders remain unresolved and the perpetrators are rarely brought to justice as “complete impunity” prevails in 86% of the cases.

The 2016 World Press Freedom report issued by Reporters Without Borders suggests that violent extremism has put significant constraints on the ability of the press to operate freely and carry out their duties.

The conflicts in Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Syria, the report underlines, have enabled insurgents to “create black holes for reporting.”

Journalists have the right to work free from the threat of violence and of fear in their capacity as transmitters of information to the public.

Their lives should not be put at stake for merely putting Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration into practice.

Secondly, the accountability of media needs to be strengthened so that it represents the public’s interests.

After the so-called “War on Terror”, hate speech and online bigotry have rapidly been on the rise targeting specifically religious minorities.

This has been followed by a misconceived conflation between terrorism, Islam and the Arab identity, which has given rise to marginalization, bigotry and discrimination.

At the same time losses of lives as a result of violence or military action may be reported selectively thus implying unacceptable differences in the value of human lives according to where the losses occur.

During the Geneva Centre’s panel debate on 15 March on the theme of “Islam and Christianity, the Great Convergence: Working Jointly Towards Equal Citizenship Rights” that was held at the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG), it was suggested by the panellists to better harness the power of media by promoting positive stories about religion and culture.

It was also proposed that we, as global citizens, should never fear the stranger as differences enrichen our societies.

I believe that media can play a more influential role in addressing prevailing misconceptions and misunderstandings that exist between people.

Journalists need to refrain from the use of contemporary phobic language triggering social exclusion and religious intolerance.

Incitements to hatred, violence and bigotry should be condemned as it exacerbates religious divisions within communities.

The spread of fake news and fabricated stories in social media contradict the goals of freedom of opinion or of expression.

A return to the founding principles of press freedom and journalism – accountability, transparency and independence of news media – is the first step to stop the flow of misinformation that is on the rise.

When the Emir Abd el Qader el Jazairy – the founder of contemporary Algeria – visited a printing press in Paris in 1852, he made the following observation on the power of the press:

What comes out of it resembles a drop of water coming from the sky: if it falls into the half-opened shell, it produces the pearl; if it falls into the mouth of the viper, it produces venom.”

Media has a “moral and social responsibility” in “combating discrimination and in promoting intercultural understanding (…)” as stipulated in Principle 9 of the Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality.

By reversing the trend of offering simplistic and misconceived generalizations not grounded in reality, media could become a catalyst for social inclusion by implanting a culture of peace, harmony and tolerance.

This would be in line with the objectives laid out in the 2002 “Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence” and in UN HRC Resolution 16/18 entitled “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence, and violence against persons based on religion or belief.”

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The author is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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