Inter Press ServiceThalif Deen – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 19 Jun 2018 10:55:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Is there Gender Parity & Reverse Sexual Harassment at UN?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/gender-parity-reverse-sexual-harassment-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-parity-reverse-sexual-harassment-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/gender-parity-reverse-sexual-harassment-un/#respond Thu, 14 Jun 2018 12:52:25 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156237 Faced with growing allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) in the UN system, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last year announced a “zero-tolerance” policy to fight harassment in the world body. But UN Women, which was created in July 2010 and dedicated to gender empowerment, has moved one step further– and appointed an Executive Coordinator and […]

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By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 14 2018 (IPS)

Faced with growing allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) in the UN system, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last year announced a “zero-tolerance” policy to fight harassment in the world body.

But UN Women, which was created in July 2010 and dedicated to gender empowerment, has moved one step further– and appointed an Executive Coordinator and Spokesperson on Sexual Harassment and Discrimination, perhaps one of the few UN bodies to do so.

Dr. Purna Sen, UN Women

Holding that new position is Dr. Purna Sen, Director of Policy at UN Women, who under the newly-created role, will build on the current momentum “to find lasting solutions to stop, prevent and respond to sexual harassment both, within and outside the UN.”

Asked whether there have been any charges of sexual abuse or sexual harassment at UN Women, she told IPS that in 2015, one case of sexual harassment was reported: the allegations, which involved a contractor for UN Women, were substantiated, and the contract was immediately terminated.

In 2016, she said, two cases of allegations of sexual harassment were reported. None of the allegations were substantiated.

In 2017, there was one case of allegations of sexual misconduct against one UN Women staff member. The case is still under investigation.

As part of her mandate, Dr Sen will be calling upon and supporting states, government administrations and the private sector to ensure actions are taken to respond to women’s experiences of sexual harassment.

She begins her assignment with two calls: firstly, asking women to share their experiences of sexual harassment and assault and secondly, asking for examples of good practices, policies and laws dealing with harassment.

The email address follows: end.sexualharassment@unwomen.org

Announcing Dr Sen’s appointment, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director PhumzileMlambo-Ngcuka said: “UN Women was established to protect and promote women’s rights. We have a unique role to play in driving action towards accountability.”

“This means zero tolerance for violence and harassment, and actions to ensure that victims are supported. We currently see practices and cultural norms that enable harassment and penalize victims. This has to change.

”In her new role and with her directly relevant background, Purna will help address the deep-rooted patterns of inequality and abuse of women”, she declared.

In an interview with IPS, Dr Sen also responded to charges of “reverse sexual harassments” and the status of gender parity in the UN system.

Excerpts from the interview:

IPS: What is your response to charges of sexual harassment in reverse – where some high ranking UN officials point out cases where “women staffers throw themselves on their bosses to advance their careers?.”

Dr Sen: “Let’s decipher that statement: is it claimed that women are offering sex for jobs or promotion? If so, surely there are some clear responses.

Any muddying of professionalism, competency and recruitment with matters of sexual behaviour is inappropriate and not for defending. That holds whether it is powerful, high ranking officials (mostly men) or junior staff (more likely to be women, young people, national staff etc). Sexual activities in exchange for career advancement is of course unacceptable.

This possibility or practice must not be treated either as a distraction from the seriousness or ubiquity of gendered, structured sex discrimination that is manifest in sexual harassment, abuse and assault or riposte to accusations.

Those men in high ranking positions making these allegations have no doubt had the opportunity to use their positions to raise this issue over their careers. Has this been done? Or are these issues being raised now when women are calling for accountability for those who abuse?

Treating sexual harassment as isolated incidents, or as incomprehensible acts of individuals (as the formulation in the question suggests) is problematic. It leads to obfuscation or denial of the structural and systemic basis of sexual harassment and assault: these are expressions of patterns of unequal power structures where powerful men (predominantly) hold authority and control over junior staff (more likely to be women, local staff.) such that they can influence their careers or experiences at work.

Denial, distraction and excusing of sexual harassment and assault illustrate cultures where the seriousness and harm of harassment is not recognised or prioritized”.

IPS: A General Assembly resolution going back to the 1970s — and reaffirmed later– called for 50:50 gender parity amongst UN staffers, particularly in decision-making posts. How is UN women conforming to this resolution? What is the breakdown of your staff in numbers between men and women?

Dr Sen: UN Women is supporting the SG’s gender parity efforts through its unique mandate to lead and coordinate the UN system’s work on gender equality, as well as promote accountability, including through regular monitoring of system-wide progress.

UN Women is also a source of substantive guidance on gender parity and related issues for the UN system, and serves as a repository for best practices, provides guidance and tools, and analyses overall UN system trends to identify obstacles to and key drivers of change in advancing towards equal representation.

Additionally, UN Women supports interagency knowledge-sharing and collaboration, as well as capacity building of gender expertise, through system-wide gender networks, including the Gender Focal Points, IANWGE and the UN-SWAP network

Another important step UN Women is taking is the upcoming development of the Guidelines on Enabling Environment, containing system-wide recommendations and practical measures aimed at creating a work environment that is free from discrimination, harassment and abuse of authority, as well as supports women in their careers through family-friendly policies, work-life balance and professional development programmes.

As of today our overall workforce breakdown is 71% female; 29% male.

IPS: What is your response to the argument that jobs in the UN system should go to the most qualified and the most competent – rather than based on gender equality?

Dr Sen: “The problem with this question is that it assumes a contradiction between being ‘the most qualified and the most competent’ on the one hand, and the pursuit of gender equality, on the other. That is a false premise. It assumes that the goal of gender equality jettisons competency and good qualification.

What lies behind this assumption is the belief that women (for it is in general the appointment of greater numbers of women that makes up actions towards gender equality in staffing or representatives’ profiles) cannot be the best qualified or the most competent.

Therein lies a fully gendered belief in the essential incompetence of women and, in contrast, the innate competence of men. I reject that assumption and there are many examples that support such rejection.

In a nutshell, women can be and are both competent and qualified, including the most competent and qualified, in any sector. More pertinent is the question why is it that competent and qualified women are not being appointed?

The same gendered assumption that pre-supposes that women can be neither, is what stops their true talents, skills and competencies being recognized and rewarded. Cultures of gender inequality are insidious and have long passed their expiry date.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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UN Exemptions Make Mockery of Sexual Abuse in World Bodyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/un-exemptions-make-mockery-sexual-abuse-world-body/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-exemptions-make-mockery-sexual-abuse-world-body http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/un-exemptions-make-mockery-sexual-abuse-world-body/#respond Thu, 07 Jun 2018 14:41:44 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156105 When allegations of sexual harassment were made against a senior UN official—holding the rank of Under-Secretary-General at the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC)– the United Nations admitted that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has no jurisdiction over a UN body created by the General Assembly and answerable only to member states. http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/sexual-abuse-un-chief-no-jurisdiction-act/ But this glaring exemption to […]

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The UN General Assembly, the ultimate authority to ban exemptions on sexual abuse in the UN system. Credit: UN photo/Manuel Elias

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 7 2018 (IPS)

When allegations of sexual harassment were made against a senior UN official—holding the rank of Under-Secretary-General at the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC)– the United Nations admitted that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has no jurisdiction over a UN body created by the General Assembly and answerable only to member states. http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/sexual-abuse-un-chief-no-jurisdiction-act/

But this glaring exemption to the UN’s much-ballyhooed “zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse” (SEA) also applies to several other UN bodies created by the General Assembly, including, most importantly, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) — making a mockery of the ongoing fight against harassment in the world body.

And these exemptions may also cover some of the UN “Commissions, Boards, Committees, Councils and Panels” – all of which are considered subsidiary bodies of the General Assembly.

“I find it absolutely appalling that three of the UN entities entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring effective functioning of the UN system are themselves flouting some basic UN norms, taking advantage of legal lacuna without any supervision of the Secretary-General,” Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General, UN High Representative and Chairman of the General Assembly’s Administrative and Budgetary Committee (commonly referred to as the Fifth Committee) (1997-1998), told IPS.

He said it is “extremely urgent” that this situation be addressed without any more delay by the 193-member UN General Assembly (UNGA).

“By feeling helpless about such abuse and misuse in view of its past resolutions, the Assembly is shunning its responsibility as the world’s highest intergovernmental decision-making body,” Chowdhury said.

Asked for her comments on the ICSC exemption from the UN’s zero tolerance policy, Dr Purna Sen, Director of Policy at UN Women, Executive Coordinator and newly-appointed Spokesperson on Sexual Harassment and Discrimination, told IPS that zero tolerance is not an optional extra that (some) employers can apply or not.

“It must have universal reach so that all staff can enjoy safety and respect”.

First of all, she pointed out, sexual abuse, harassment, exploitation and assault are all aspects of sexual violence. There are laws against violence and all states have committed to ending violence by 2030 (Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals 5.2).

“The obligation for ending violence rests with states but all actors, the private sector, universities etc all have a role to play in making this happen. ICSC cannot be exempt from this work: independence cannot confer impunity,” Dr Sen said.

Secondly, the notion there can be places where accountability cannot reach is not tenable.

“With great respect for women who have shouted and hollered until they have been heard, I wish to note the international clamour from women who have put abusers on notice,” she noted.

The MeToo, BalanceTonPorc and other such women-led imperatives for change have at last got attention. Accountability has to be made real – at the ICSC, as well as elsewhere, Dr Sen said.

Finally, it seems that any exemption from the UN’ policies is something that exists due to a General Assembly resolution.

“It is surely within the authority and competence of the GA then to review and change that situation.”

The need for independence cannot trump the need for safety and respectful workplaces, where abuse of power and gender inequality are rendered obsolete, she declared.

“Surely our collective efforts are not incapable of finding arrangements for their co-existence such that staff and the public have confidence in the whole UN system.”

Seeking an intervention by the Secretary-General and the GA President, Chowdhury told IPS: “I believe very strongly that the President of the Assembly, with his trusted leadership, needs to take the initiative on a priority basis, in consultation with the Secretary-General, to table a UNGA resolution to overcome this lack of jurisdiction and control which results in such abuse without any higher supervisory control”.

He said “past decisions should not be an excuse to overlook such aberrations which the IPS article has very rightly highlighted. Independence of a UN entity should not give it immunity to disregard norms which are core values of the UN.”

Asked to weigh in with his comments, Ian Richards, President of the 60,000-strong Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations of the UN System (CCISUA), told IPS: “We expect all parts of the UN system to have policies and structures in place to prevent sexual harassment, in line with Secretary-General Guterres’s promise of zero tolerance.”

“This allows our member unions to help victims assert their individual rights to a harassment-free workplace and get justice when their rights are infringed,” he added.

However, he pointed out, “we are currently unable to assist staff who work for bodies such as the ICSC, ACABQ and JIU, to benefit from these rights. This despite their staff also having UN contracts and being appointed by the Secretary-General.”

He said the ICSC will itself touch on this issue when it discusses workforce diversity at its 87th session this July in Bonn.

“We hope it will join us in calling for consistent HR policies and structures throughout, without of course compromising the independence these bodies require to do their job.”

Brenden Varma, Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly (PGA) told IPS: “It’s for Member States to take such an initiative – not the PGA. From the PGA’s side, he continues to stand firmly against all forms of sexual abuse and harassment.”

Meanwhile, providing an update on cases of sexual exploitation and abuse in the UN system, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters May 1 that for the first three months of this year, from 1 January to 31 March 2018, there were 54 allegations for all UN entities and implementing partners.

But not all allegations have been fully verified, and many are in the preliminary assessment phase, he added.

Out of the 54 allegations, he said, 14 are reported from peacekeeping operations and 18 from agencies, funds and programmes. Twenty-one allegations relate to implementing partners and one to a member of a non-UN international force.

Of the 54 allegations, 17 are categorized as sexual abuse, 34 as sexual exploitation, and 3 are of an unknown nature.

The allegations involve 66 victims — including 13 girls (under the age of 18) and 16 victims whose age remains unknown.

With regard to the status of the allegations, he said, 2 have been substantiated by an investigation; 2 were not substantiated; 21 are at various stages of investigation; 27 are under preliminary assessment; and 1 investigation’s result is under review.

With over 95,000 civilians and 90,000 uniformed personnel working for the UN, sexual exploitation and abuse are not reflective of the conduct of the majority of the dedicated women and men who serve the Organization, Dujarric said.

“But every allegation involving our personnel undermines our values and principles and the sacrifice of those who serve with pride and professionalism in some of the most dangerous places in the world. For this reason, combating this scourge, and helping and empowering those who have been scarred by these egregious acts, continue to be key priorities for the Secretary-General in 2018.”

At a meeting with the Secretary-General in London on May 3, the executive heads of UN agencies, who are members of the Chief Executives Board (CEB), reiterated “their firm commitment to uphold a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment; to strengthen victim-centred prevention and response efforts; and to foster a safe and inclusive working environment.”

In addition, they pledged to provide mechanisms such as 24-hour helplines for staff to report harassment and access support; establish a system-wide database to avoid rehire of individuals who have perpetrated sexual harassment.

The CEB also pledged to institute fast track procedures to receive, process and address complaints; recruit specialized investigators, including women; enforce mandatory training; provide guidelines for managers; harmonize policies; and launch staff perception surveys to learn from experiences.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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The Day the UN Elected a President in a Virtual Lotteryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/day-un-elected-president-virtual-lottery/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=day-un-elected-president-virtual-lottery http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/day-un-elected-president-virtual-lottery/#comments Thu, 31 May 2018 15:40:01 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156003 The battle between two candidates for the presidency of the 193-member General Assembly next week harks back to the day when the president of the highest policy making body at the United Nations was elected on the luck of a draw –following a dead heat. With the Asian group failing to field a single candidate, […]

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The UN General Assembly in session. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, May 31 2018 (IPS)

The battle between two candidates for the presidency of the 193-member General Assembly next week harks back to the day when the president of the highest policy making body at the United Nations was elected on the luck of a draw –following a dead heat.

With the Asian group failing to field a single candidate, the politically-memorable battle took place ahead of the 36th session of the General Assembly (GA) back in 1981 when three Asian candidates contested the presidency: Ismat Kittani of Iraq, Tommy Koh of Singapore and Kwaja Mohammed Kaiser of Bangladesh (described as the “battle of three Ks”).

On the first ballot, Kittani got 64 votes; Kaiser, 46; and Koh, 40. Still, Kittani was short of a majority — of the total number of members at that time — to be elected to the presidency. On a second ballot, Kittani and Kaiser tied with 73 votes each.

In order to break the tie, the outgoing General Assembly President – Rudiger von Wechmar of Germany– drew lots, as specified in Article 21 relating to the procedures in the election of the president (and as recorded in the Repertory of Practice of the General Assembly).

And the luck of the draw, based purely on chance, favoured Kittani, in that unprecedented General Assembly election.

Come June 5, two candidates will vie for the prestigious post, but it is very unlikely that history will repeat itself.

The two in the running are:Mary Elizabeth Flores Flake, Permanent Representative of Honduras, and María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador—both from the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) group.

On the basis of geographical rotation, the LAC Group claims the upcoming presidency—an elected high ranking UN position which has been overwhelmingly dominated by men.

Since 1945, the Assembly has elected only three women as presidents: Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit of India (1953), Angie Brooks of Liberia (1969) and Sheikha Haya Rashed Al-Khalifa of Bahrain (2006). And that’s three out of 72 Presidents, 69 of whom were men.

Espinosa Garces, a former Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations (2008-2009), was once the trade union leader of the UN Permanent Representatives Association.

The biggest single factor that may go against her is that Ecuador had held the Presidency once before– Leopoldo Benites of Ecuador back in 1973. And to be elected again would go against precedent.

As a longstanding tradition, every one of the 193 member states –- with the exception of the five permanent members of the Security Council, namely Britain, the United States, France, China and Russia –- is expected to take their turn for the presidency.

The only country that has been elected twice is Argentina (Jose Arce at the second Special Session in 1948 and Dante Caputo in 1988).

According to a Middle Eastern diplomat,Flores Flake of Honduras, on the other hand, is unlikely to garner many votes from either the Arab or Muslim member states because Honduras is one of the few countries which has followed in the highly-controversial footsteps of President Donald Trump and decided to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem.

As a result, it could be a close fight for the presidency.

One of the recently contested presidencies was in 2011 when two candidates– Kul Chandra Gautam of Nepal and Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser of Qatar— vied for the post, both representing the Asian Group.

Providing a detailed analysis of the political mechanics behind GA elections, Gautam, a former U.N. assistant secretary-general and an ex-deputy executive director of the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF, told IPS last week that the election of the president of the General Assembly (PGA) is normally settled in the regional groups, and goes to the full GA for formal endorsement of the nominee of the region concerned.

If no unanimous choice emerges at the regional level through informal negotiations among multiple candidates, the common practice has been to have one or more “straw polls” at which the candidate with the most votes is “nominated’ as the “unanimous” candidate of the region, he explained.

Usually, he said, there is a “gentleman’s agreement” among members of the regional group to abide by the result of the “informal straw poll” in which the member state whose candidate gets fewer votes “voluntarily” withdraws its candidate to allow the candidate who got more votes to be the “unanimous nominee” of the whole region.

Because of this “gentleman’s understanding” at the regional level to which most member states subscribe “voluntarily” — there has rarely been a contested election in the full GA, said Gautam.

Usually, as a formality, the GA approves the single nominee of the region “unanimously” by acclamation.

“As you mention, in 1981, the Asian Group could not come to a consensus, and hence a real election was conducted in the GA, and when the votes in the GA were evenly divided, it went to the luck of the draw by the then PGA,” he pointed out.

“As I said, this happens very rarely, when some member-states presenting candidates for PGA feel that they may not win the majority in their regional group but feel they can garner more support from other regions in the full GA. As securing “unanimous nomination” from a regional group is not a binding UN rule but depends on the informal “gentlemen’s understanding”, member states contesting for the PGA position do retain the right to ask for voting in the full GA, if they so choose,” he noted.

“I am not sure how it all played in the GRULAC (Latin American and Caribbean) regional group in the current contest for PGA,” said Gautam.

In the case of Nepal and Qatar contesting for PGA, both these member-states — and the Asian Group as a whole — had agreed to the “gentlemen’s agreement” formula to nominate whoever got more votes in the informal “straw poll” in the Asian Group as the region’s “unanimous” candidate.

It was agreed in advance, he said, that the votes cast in the straw poll would be kept secret, known only to three persons — an Ambassador/Permanent Representative (PR) designated by Nepal from among the Asian Group, an Ambassador/PR designated by Qatar, and the President of the Asian Group for that month.

The two ambassadors designated by Nepal and Qatar served as polling officers – who counted the votes and reported the result to the President of the Asian Group.

“I recall the President of the Asian Group advising the assembled PRs and reps of the Asian Group that “the vote was extremely close” but that Qatar had received more votes than Nepal.”

At that point, as agreed in advance, he asked the Nepali Ambassador to speak. The Nepali PR then gracefully withdrew its candidate, allowing the Qatar candidate to be the Asian Group’s “unanimous” candidate referred to the full GA.

“So long as the election/straw poll in the regional group is conducted in a free, fair and impartial manner, I consider that to be an acceptable democratic practice. For member states to take the election to the full GA is actually an even more democratic practice.”

What is sometimes wrong – as in national elections – is if some countries and candidates resort to “cheque-book diplomacy” to secure votes by promises of more aid, trade or other official or personal inducements to secure undue advantage. Unfortunately, it does sometimes happen in the UN and its specialized agencies and is known as an open secret, Gautam said.

“I hope that is not the case in the forthcoming PGA election from the LAC region, as both candidates seem well qualified and neither seeming to have any unfair advantage. May the best candidate win.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Food Waste Enough to Feed World’s Hungry Four Times Overhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/food-waste-enough-feed-worlds-hungry-four-times/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=food-waste-enough-feed-worlds-hungry-four-times http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/food-waste-enough-feed-worlds-hungry-four-times/#comments Mon, 28 May 2018 17:17:58 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155952 The United Nations is continuing to fight a relentless battle to eradicate extreme hunger – particularly in the world’s poorest nations—by 2030. But it is battling against severe odds: an estimated 800 million people still live in hunger— amidst a warning that the world needs to produce at least 50 percent more food to feed […]

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Food Waste Enough to Feed World’s Hungry Four Times Over

Poland wastes at least 8.9 million tonnes of food every year. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu / IPS

By Thalif Deen
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, May 28 2018 (IPS)

The United Nations is continuing to fight a relentless battle to eradicate extreme hunger – particularly in the world’s poorest nations—by 2030.

But it is battling against severe odds: an estimated 800 million people still live in hunger— amidst a warning that the world needs to produce at least 50 percent more food to feed the growing 9.0 billion people by 2050—20 years beyond the UN’s goal.

Still, the World Bank predicts that climate change could cut crop yields by more than 25 percent undermining the current attempts to fight hunger.

The hunger crisis has been aggravated by widespread military conflicts – even as the Security Council, the most powerful body at the United Nations, was called upon last month to play a greater role in “breaking the link between hunger and conflict.”

Holding out the prospect of wiping out famine “within our lifetime”, Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told the Security Council that almost two thirds of people living in hunger were in conflict-stricken countries.

He singled out war-devastated Yemen, South Sudan and north-eastern Nigeria, which still faced severe levels of hunger, while the food security situation in Ethiopia, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo was “extremely worrying”.

In an interview with IPS, Alessandro Demaio, Chief Executive Officer of the Norway-based EAT, an organization promoting healthy and sustainable food for all, said: “At EAT, our mission is a simple but ambitious one: to transform the global food system and enable us to feed a growing global population with healthy food from a healthy planet – leaving no-one behind.”

“We do this by bringing together leading actors from business, science, policy and civil society to close scientific knowledge gaps, translate research into action, scale up solutions, raise awareness and create engagement,” he noted.

Excerpts from the interview:

IPS: One of the UN’s 17 SDGs (Goal 2, Zero Hunger) aims to eradicate extreme hunger – particularly in the world’s poorest nations– by 2030. Do you thinks this is feasible?

Demaio: Food is, in one way or another, linked to all UNs 17 Sustainable Development Goals. As a doctor, it deeply concerns me that more than 800 million people go hungry and more than two billion are overweight or obese, worldwide. These numbers are accompanied by a ballooning epidemic of diet-related and preventable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancers.

We´re not only producing what makes us sick and destroys the planet, we continue to subsidize it with billions of dollars annually. It is the worlds’ poor and the communities who are least responsible for creating them who are disproportionately affected by these trends.
While working in Mongolia, Sri Lanka and Cambodia at the frontlines, I saw firsthand how hunger has many forms. Undernutrition manifests in children in two key ways: by becoming dangerously thin for their height (wasting), or permanently impeding their growth (stunting). In the other extreme, populations with calorie dense but nutrient-poor diets drive the global burden of overweight and obesity.

There is a deeply unjust disconnect between food availability and quality in different parts of the world. One third of all food produced gets lost or goes to waste — that’s enough to feed all of the world’s hungry four times over!

But slow response to increasing pressures from climate change and increasing social inequalities means that not everyone gets access to the right foods. In fact the United Nations last year declared that hunger, after more than a decade in decline, was on the rise again.

I do believe that we can reach zero hunger by 2030. We have many of the solutions to do so, such as connecting smallholder farmers to markets, removing barriers to trade and boosting food production sustainably.

But we just need the political will to match, and to get stakeholders across sectors, borders and disciplines to work together and pull in the same direction.

Food is our number one global health challenge and a formidable climate threat. We´re not only producing what makes us sick and destroys the planet, we continue to subsidize it with billions of dollars annually. It is the worlds’ poor and the communities who are least responsible for creating them who are disproportionately affected by these trends.

 

IPS: What is your agenda to help reform the global food system, including increasing agricultural productivity, and recycling food waste?

Demaio: In our work to reform the global food system, we at EAT connect and partner across science, policy, business and civil society to achieve five urgent and radical transformations by 2050:

  1. Shift the world to healthy, tasty and sustainable diets;
  2. Realign food system priorities for people and planet;
  3. Produce more of the right food, from less;
  4. Safeguard our land and oceans; and
  5. Radically reduce food losses and waste.

About 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted every year, that’s an estimated one in three mouthfuls of food every day. In poorer nations, this waste generally occurs pre-market and can be part-solved by simple technologies in supply chains including transport, packaging and refrigeration. Technological interventions such as precision agriculture or investments in post-harvest processes will make huge differences.

In wealthier countries, the majority of waste occurs after market, in supermarkets and in our homes. This is where buying less but more frequently, avoiding impulse buys and taking measures to reduce the “buy one get one free” that incentivize over-purchasing, are all key.

 

IPS: The world needs to produce at least 50 percent more food to feed the growing 9.0 billion people by 2050. Is this target achievable because climate change can cause devastation to crop yields?

Demaio: The bad news is that modern agriculture doesn’t feed us all and it does not feed us well. The good news is that we have never had a bigger opportunity, more knowledge or the ingenuity and skills to fix it.

Increasing investment in harvesting infrastructure combined with improving access to markets and technology can result in minimizing field losses for farmers in low and middle-income countries, as well as help to pull millions out of poverty. In high income countries, business and consumers have a transformative role to play in reducing wasted food.

Through new business models, improved production, packaging and educational campaigns, businesses can nudge consumers in the right direction. By nudging better purchasing habits, better evaluations of portion size and improving food preparation techniques, consumers can dive headlong towards a circular food economy. Every pound of food saved from loss or waste will create economic, health and environmental gains.

Through working with remote communities, health professionals, and science and business leaders, I have seen how plant-based dietary trends have fueled a rediscovery of countless crop varieties with promising nutritional and environmental profiles.

With their abilities to deliver ‘more crop per drop’ and withstand unpredictable seasonal changes, diversifying what we grow can help meet local and global nutrition needs. In contrast, gene editing or lab grown meats offer to increase productivity, nutrition and tolerance to environmental uncertainties.

Essentially, the future of agriculture doesn’t lie in intensive expansion only — it lies in the harnessing of holistic, precise and tech savvy methods that enhance the production of more nutritious and more climate resilient foods.

 

IPS: How are ongoing military conflicts, particularly in Asia and Africa, affecting the world’s food supplies?

Demaio: Major regional or national conflicts have often profound impacts on food supplies as they disrupt society. Conflicts often originate from a competition over control of the factors of food production, such as land and water.

A growing global population, lower yields and diminished nutrient content of some crops due to changing climatic conditions contribute to increasing stress, raising the risk of civil unrest or military conflict. Countries under the greatest stress often have the least capability to adequately respond to civil unrest.

Contexts are important and whether it is climate change, food shortages, water crises, ocean sustainability, or geopolitical conflicts — many or most are interlinked.

An example of this is how ocean acidification and warming impacts fishery yields and the redistribution of already overfished and stressed fish stocks, which can cause new geopolitical tensions. Given that many of these challenges are intertwined, they also present common opportunities for co-mitigation.

 

IPS: What is the primary goal of the upcoming EAT forum in Stockholm, June 11-12? What’s on the agenda?

Demaio: Feeding a healthy and sustainable diet to a future population of almost 10 billion will be a monumental challenge, but it is within our reach. The EAT Stockholm Food Forum is a contribution to solving this challenge. The concept is simple genius — my favorite kind.

Bring together innovators, leaders and forward thinkers who usually rarely meet but are working on interrelated, global challenges — food systems, climate change, food security, global health and sustainable development. Put them in one room and get them to share ideas, share best practice, share the latest research and hopefully reshape the broken systems driving our planetary shortcomings.

This year we’re hosting the fifth EAT Stockholm Food Forum in partnership with the Government of Sweden. We have an incredible line-up of speakers, including: World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva; climate leader Christiana Figueres, an architect of the historic Paris Climate Agreement; Sam Kass, chef and former chief nutritionist to the Obama Administration; plus a host of global food heroes representing twenty-nine countries and six continents.

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Can Preventive Diplomacy Avert Military Conflicts?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/can-preventive-diplomacy-avert-military-conflicts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-preventive-diplomacy-avert-military-conflicts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/can-preventive-diplomacy-avert-military-conflicts/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 13:29:44 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155855 In the paradoxical battle against military conflicts, is preventive diplomacy one of the political remedies that can help deter wars before they break out? Miroslav Lajcak, President of the UN General Assembly, points out that prevention takes many forms, and it must tackle conflict at its roots – before it can spread. “This means stronger […]

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Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak delivers a speech after he was elected as president of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at the UN headquarters in New York, May 31, 2017. Credit: UN Photo

By Thalif Deen
STOCKHOLM, May 21 2018 (IPS)

In the paradoxical battle against military conflicts, is preventive diplomacy one of the political remedies that can help deter wars before they break out?

Miroslav Lajcak, President of the UN General Assembly, points out that prevention takes many forms, and it must tackle conflict at its roots – before it can spread.

“This means stronger institutions. It means smart and sustainable development. It means inclusive peacebuilding. It means promoting human rights, and the rule of law.”

At a recent three-day Forum on Peace and Development, sponsored by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and the Swedish Foreign Ministry, participants came up with several responses, including international mediation, pre-conflict peacebuilding, counter-terrorism — and, perhaps most importantly, sustainable development that aims at eradicating poverty and hunger.

Lajcak cites a recent World Bank-United Nations report, titled “Pathways for Peace”, that argues in terms of dollars and cents: that for every $1 spent on prevention, up to $7 could be saved – over the long term.

Speaking on the “Politics of Peace” – the theme of the SIPRI forum which concluded May 9—he said: “Peace can be political. It can be complicated. And it can be messy. Mediators do not have an easy job.”

Jan Eliasson, chairman of the SIPRI Board of Governors and a former Swedish Foreign Minister, points out that “aside from saving and improving human lives, studies suggest that investing $2 billion in prevention can generate net savings of $33 billion per year from averted conflict”.

And according to a World Bank survey, he said, 40 percent of those who join rebel groups do so because of a lack of economic opportunities?

“It is time for us all to get serious about prevention and sustaining peace if we are to achieve the peace envisioned in the SDGs by 2030. Policy makers must focus efforts on prevention, committing additional resources and attention to the highest risk environment,” said Eliasson, a former UN Deputy Secretary-General.

In an introduction to the “Politics of Peace,” SIPRI says targeted, inclusive and sustained prevention can contribute to lasting peace by reducing the risk of violent conflict.

“Unfortunately, the political will to invest in prevention is often lacking where it is needed most,” notes SIPRI.

The UN’s peacekeeping budget for 2017-2018 is estimated at a staggering $6.8 billion. But how much does the UN really spend on preventive diplomacy?

At a high level meeting on peacebuilding last month, several delegates emphasized the concept of prevention. But complained about the failure to aggressively fund such prevention.

Asked how one could explain that “meagre resources, a little bit over $1 million” is being devoted to preventive diplomacy, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters April 25: “I think that’s a question perhaps to those who allocate the budget. The Secretary General has repeatedly called for greater resources and greater emphasis to be put on prevention.”

Siddharth Chatterjee, UN Resident Coordinator & UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya told IPS, today’s violent conflicts are complex, trans-border and multi-dimensional in nature.

Similarly, the causes and patterns of conflict are also complex and intertwined with ethnicity, dispute over boundaries, and competition over scarce resources, weak governance systems, poverty, socioeconomic inequalities, environmental degradation, etc.

The complexity of violent conflict, he argued, makes it prolonged, deadly, and economically costly to the countries which experience conflicts.

According to Collier et. al (2003), “by the end of a typical civil war, incomes are around 15 per cent lower than they would otherwise have been, implying that about 30 per cent more people are living in absolute poverty” due to conflict. And according to the same authors, conflict would also lead to a permanent loss of around 2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Chatterjee also pointed out that the main damage of conflict emanates from its adverse effects of diverting resources from the productive sector to violence and destructive activities.

“These widespread conflicts are imposing an enormous cost not only to the countries where conflicts are raging but also to their neighboring countries, which often end up hosting refugees crossing the borders to seek a safe-haven. This further results in considerable economic and environmental problems for the host countries.”

He said armed conflict and violence are increasingly complex, dynamic and protracted. Over 65 million people were forcibly displaced in 2016 alone. Many conflicts have endured for decades; others have repercussions well beyond their immediate area.

Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, Executive Director of the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) told IPS that after so many wars and so much destruction, “I’m stunned that governments still think that weaponry is the pathway to peace and security.”

“When individuals are able to weaponize a car, a bus or truck, hi-tech missiles aren’t going to solve the problem. We need to be looking at the root causes and drivers.”

She said this brings up issues of gross inequality, rising extremism that’s fostering un-belonging, and other issues relating to education, mental health and so forth.

She asked: “What does it cost to build schools in Northern Nigeria so kids have a chance of a future? What does it cost to develop state of the art environmental programs that can preserve water and enable farmers to grow crops, so they aren’t forced to migrate to cities and be jobless and desperate?”

Globally, over 260 million children and youth are not in school, and 400 million children have only primary school education, according to UN estimates released last week. If left unaddressed, the education crisis could leave half of the world’s 1.6 billion children and youth out of school or failing to learn the most basic skills by 2030.

Last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and his Envoy on Global Education, Gordon Brown, received a petition signed by some 1.5 million young people calling for more investment in education. The petition was delivered by three youth activists from India, Kenya and Sierra Leone.

In the aftermath of the Cold War, said Naraghi Anderlini, “we recognized that human security was integral to state security. The 9/11 attacks threw us off course and we entered a realm of perpetual war and retaliations. Yet at the core sits issues of human security, dignity, legitimate grievances and aspirations. State failure is central to everything we see – from corruption to excessive violence and being absent in basic service provision.”

She warned that “governments can try to hide behind their bluster, weaponry and techno-wizardry but we are hurtling towards a new unknown, but this will not be the path to peace.”

The tragedy is that ordinary people, civil society actors in communities everywhere, have the answers and solutions, she argued.

“They have rolled up their sleeves and with limited resources they are doing extraordinary work. They raise uncomfortable truths for this reason, governments and even the UN system don’t bring them to the table. They provide ‘side events’ and agree to host them on the margins of major summits.”

But the citizens are not marginal, they are at the very center of any state. And civil society organizations that enable citizens to contribute to solving problems should be equal partners in the space of decision making globally, she declared.

Chatterjee told IPS the other emerging threat to the global community is violent extremism which has not only sets in motion a dramatic reversal of development gains already made, but also threatens to stunt prospects of development for decades to come, particularly in border lands and marginalized areas as well as affecting developed countries.

To support prevention of conflict and violent extremism; it is important to focus on the root causes, drivers of conflict and radicalization, which are intertwined with poverty, social, cultural, economic, political and psychological factors.

Extremism, which often evolves into terrorism, has its origin in poverty and human insecurity, which is partly linked to exclusion, marginalization and lack of access to resources and power, he noted.

A recent UNDP report – “the Road to Extremism”- which is based on extensive data collected from East and West African countries, revealed that poverty and marginalization to be the main factors that drive young people to join extremist groups. The study also found that the tipping point is how the government treats the community and the youth.

In addressing both violent conflict and extremism, Chatterjee said, it is important to invest in prevention because attempting to address the problem once it has erupted will cost more and huge amount of resources. And, it will also be complicated, as in the case of Somalia or the Central African Republic (CAR).

That is why the UN Secretary General’s reform agenda emphasizes preventing violent conflicts before they erupt into full-fledged crises. The Secretary General’s agenda also links conflict to SDGs, and the principle of leaving no one behind espoused by the SDGs is a critical condition for sustainable peace and prosperity, said Chatterjee.

He said this approach will strengthen institutions to sustain peace as the best way to avoid societies from descending into crisis, including, but not limited to, conflict, violent extremism and ensure their resilience through investments in inclusive and sustainable development.

“The bottom line is without peace, little or nothing can be achieved in terms of economic and social progress and without development it would be difficult to achieve sustainable peace,” declared Chatterjee.

Asked for his reaction, Dan Smith, SIPRI Director, summed it up as follows: “In general I think that a Norwegian politician, Erik Solheim, now head of UNEP, put it well when he said, at a public meeting many years ago, in response to a question about why prevention is not emphasised more, something along these lines: “Because, to my knowledge, no politician has ever been re-elected on the basis of preventing a war that might not have happened in a faraway country that none of her or his voters have ever heard of.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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How Do You Attain “Sustainable Peace” Amidst Rising Military Conflicts?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/attain-sustainable-peace-amidst-rising-military-conflicts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=attain-sustainable-peace-amidst-rising-military-conflicts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/attain-sustainable-peace-amidst-rising-military-conflicts/#comments Tue, 08 May 2018 14:00:08 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155672 The underlying message at the fifth annual Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development was summed up in its telling title “The politics of peace.” But the task ahead was overwhelmingly difficult: How do you advance peace and development against the backdrop of political unrest in parts of Asia and Africa and continued conflicts in the […]

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The opening panel of the Forum, 'The urgency and logic of investing in violent conflict'. Credit: SIPRI

By Thalif Deen
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, May 8 2018 (IPS)

The underlying message at the fifth annual Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development was summed up in its telling title “The politics of peace.”

But the task ahead was overwhelmingly difficult: How do you advance peace and development against the backdrop of political unrest in parts of Asia and Africa and continued conflicts in the Middle East— all of them amidst rising global military spending triggering arms sales running into billions of dollars.

In his opening address, the chairman of the Board of Governors of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Jan Eliasson set the theme for the three day meeting when he declared: “No peace without development and no development without peace”.

“And none of the above without human rights,” said Ambassador Eliasson, the former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The three-day meeting, May 7-9, was attended by more than 350 political leaders, high-level policy makers, academics and representatives of civil society organizations.

In his keynote address to the plenary, the President of the UN General Assembly (PGA) Miroslav Lajcak underlined the new UN concept of “sustaining peace” which has been the focus of two resolutions, one by the Security Council and the other by the General Assembly.

“It has spurred new initiatives. It has got us all talking – and acting,” he said.

And, two weeks ago, the UN hosted a High-Level Meeting on “Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace”.

The meeting showcased some best practices. “We learned about how we are moving from stand-alone actors or activities for peace, to pooling our assets”, said Lajcak, who is also the Foreign Minister of Slovakia.

Providing one concrete example, the PGA said he actually saw this in action, when he travelled to the Colombian town of Totoró. “There, I saw a real commitment to peace – from the various United Nations Agencies, from government officials and from indigenous communities.”

“And, I saw how all these stakeholders could come together – under a United Nations inter-agency programme –for a common goal: to make the peace agreement stick.”

Secondly, he said, “we talked a lot about partnerships. Years ago, the United Nations was like an island. Too often, it acted alone. But, we have all, now, realised something important: Sustaining Peace is not owned by any one entity. It can only be achieved, if we all work together. “

“We heard, during the Meeting, that partnerships with regional organisations are particularly crucial. And, given where we are, today, this Forum is a good opportunity to look at how we can build up stronger links between the European Union and the United Nations, for Sustaining Peace.”

“Thirdly, I want to say this – very clearly: Not one discussion failed to have a gender dimension. And, I mean that. Not one.”

The other featured high-level participants at the Forum included Margot Wallstrom, the Foreign Minister of Sweden, Isabella Lovin, the Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate Change, Gbehzohngar Milton Findley, Foreign Minister of Liberia, Adela Raz, Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan and Hassan Hussein Hajji, Minister of Justice of Somalia.

Meanwhile, a new SIPRI report, released last week, highlights the rise in global military spending at a time when there is widespread speculation about a new cold war between the United States and Russia.

And US President Donald Trump’s public war-mongering and military threats against countries such as Iran, and until recently, North Korea -– is also likely to escalate military spending further.

And, most visibly, the continued conflicts in Syria and Yemen and the instability in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, have triggered a rise in arms spending and bolstered US and Western arms sales to the war zones in Asia and the Middle East.

Asked if there are any hopes of a decline in arms spending in the foreseeable future, Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher in the Arms and Military Expenditure Programme, at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), told IPS “right now there is little hope that global military expenditure will decrease in the near future.”

For 2017, he said, global military spending remained stable for yet another year.

However, this happened at a time that Russia had to decrease its military spending due to the bad economic situation in the country and the year after Saudi Arabia had cut its spending a lot, he explained.

“If those two countries will maintain ambitions to improve their armed forces, we can expect they will increase military spending as soon as their economies improve,” Wezeman predicted.

Saudi Arabia started to increase its spending in 2017, despite the continuing low oil prices. At the same time there are no indications that China will end the long lasting steady annual increases in its spending.

The decrease in US spending ended in 2016, according to Wezeman.

Trump has pushed for increases and a substantial increase in 2018 is likely. Finally, many states in Europe have started to increase their spending in response to heightened threat-perceptions towards Russia, and in relation to the conflicts in the Middle East.

On the contrary, doesn’t it appear that spending will also keep rising in the context of a “new cold war between the US and Russia?

He pointed out that the heightened tensions between the US and most of Europe on one side and Russia on the other are a clear motive for increased military spending.

However, rivalry between major states in the Asia Pacific region, roughly China on the side and the USA, India Japan on the other are also a major element, he declared.

In its report, released May 2, SIPRI said total world military expenditure rose to $1.7 tillion in 2017, a marginal increase of 1.1 per cent in real terms from 2016.

“Continuing high world military expenditure is a cause for serious concern”’ warned Ambassador Eliasson. It undermines the search for peaceful solutions to conflicts around the world.”

After 13 consecutive years of increases from 1999 to 2011 and relatively unchanged spending from 2012 to 2016, total global military expenditure rose again in 2017.* Military spending in 2017 represented 2.2 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) or $230 per person.

‘The increases in world military expenditure in recent years have been largely due to the substantial growth in spending by countries in Asia and Oceania and the Middle East, such as China, India and Saudi Arabia,’ said Dr Nan Tian, Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure (AMEX) programme. ‘”At the global level, the weight of military spending is clearly shifting away from the Euro–Atlantic region”, he added.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Despite Setbacks, Africa Viewed as Continent of Hope, Promise & Vast Potentialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/despite-setbacks-africa-viewed-continent-hope-promise-vast-potential/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=despite-setbacks-africa-viewed-continent-hope-promise-vast-potential http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/despite-setbacks-africa-viewed-continent-hope-promise-vast-potential/#respond Mon, 07 May 2018 11:29:02 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155650 Africa has long been one of the world’s most beleaguered continents – singled out mostly for its conflicts, political and economic instability, rising poverty and hunger, inequalities and its environmental challenges. And in international circles, it is described as “Afro-pessimism.” Still, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has a more positive perspective of the long-suffering continent. Far […]

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By Thalif Deen
STOCKHOLM, May 7 2018 (IPS)

Africa has long been one of the world’s most beleaguered continents – singled out mostly for its conflicts, political and economic instability, rising poverty and hunger, inequalities and its environmental challenges.

And in international circles, it is described as “Afro-pessimism.”

Still, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has a more positive perspective of the long-suffering continent.

Far too often, he said, the world views Africa through a prism of problems. “But when I look to Africa”, he predicted last month, “I see a continent of hope, promise and vast potential.”

According to UN projections, Africa is expected to account for more than half the world’s population growth over the next 35 years. More than 30 per cent of Africa’s population is between the age of 10 and 24, and will remain so for at least the next 20 years.

“With the right investments, these trends could be the region’s greatest asset,” said former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

NAI Director Iina Soiri. Credit: NAI

With 55 years of study and research, the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI), based in Sweden, has an equally positive view of Africa.

In an interview with IPS, NAI Director Iina Soiri and NAI head of research and governance specialist Victor Adetula, provided an assessment on the current situation in Africa.

Adetula told IPS the UN Secretary-General was right when he expressed the view that Africa has a vast potential for success.

“We are happy that world leaders are beginning to appreciate Africa in positive terms. We at the Nordic Africa Institute have always pointed out that there is hope for Africa despite all the challenges. Our knowledge production processes and outcomes, as well as other forms of intellectual engagement on the continent, run against the Afro-pessimism that is chanted in some quarters. For us, our knowledge of Africa makes us to have hope for Africa.”

Soiri pointed out that diversification of Africa’s image and promotion of the notion that Africa is “so much of everything” rather than just reduced to one image, this is our mission at NAI.”

Excerpts from the interview:

IPS: Do you think that most African countries would succeed in achieving the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including hunger and poverty alleviation, by the 2030 deadline? What would be the reasons if they falter in their goals?

NAI Head of Research Victor Adetula. Credit: African Peace Building Network

Adetula: First, the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are not exclusively for Africa. Admittedly, the risks are far more for African countries due to a number of challenges. It is interesting however that the lessons of MDGs are being addressed in the SDGs, and there is hope there would be significant improvement in the performance of the African countries, particularly those that have made concerted efforts to synchronise the SDGs goals with their national development plans.

Soiri: The SDGs are global goals that oblige the whole global community. I would also like to point out that Africa on the continental level has its own Vision 2063, as well as national SDG plans. It is important that all countries are given support to enable implementation of the SDGs using their own strengths and analysis.

IPS: What is the biggest single political problem facing African nations? Lack of good governance or lack of financing for development?

Adetula: It is not so much a good idea to reduce the challenge of African countries to two issues, or to label them as political, economic, social etc. based on the historical experiences of other regions. However, it suffices to point out that the challenges in Africa have their causes in both the internal systems in the various African countries that are not supporting good governance, and the international environment which has become increasingly unfavourable to Africa.

Soiri: Again, countries in Africa differ greatly when it comes to governance systems in place. We again need to go into national level and address specific challenges. But as regards to financing for development, that is a problem shared by many African countries, as well as the whole global community.

IPS: Has there been a failure on the part of Western nations to fulfil their commitments on Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa?

Adetula: The ability of Western nations to meet up with their commitments on Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa cannot be the root cause of Africa’s development challenge. New knowledge has proved this assumption to be wrong that aid can produce autonomous development in Africa. Of course, we should admit that effective global partnership a way to go to promote global development. This needs to be influenced and driven by positive values of equality, fairness, and justice.

Soiri: At the moment, it is clear that financial commitments to match with the requirements of SDG agenda are still lacking drastically behind. Here, I would like to point out that instead of focusing only on ODA and other financial flows to Africa, more effort needs to be done curb illicit financial flows out of Africa and support domestic resource mobilisation. We need to rethink the whole structure of financing for development which has been dominated by ODA reported to OECD-DAC and open up the debate on all financial flows and transactions, to continue the so called Beyond Aid –debate.

IPS: Guterres recently warned that while poverty elimination is a shared priority across two agendas—the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 – there are “significant gaps that persist”, particularly with regard to industrialization, water, energy, infrastructure and the environment. Do you agree with this assessment?

Soiri: It is no news that huge gaps persist. What is most important is to facilitate knowledge and analysis capacity, strengthen countries’ own systems and capacity to own the development processes and allow national debate on the priorities. When a lot of things are missing, we need to first decide where we start to look for and for what – thus national consensus is essential how to go about national development plans.

And reach quick results to keep people satisfied and engaged. Global challenges in sustainable resource utilisation –water, energy, clean air, land, minerals – are huge and connected to sustainability of the whole planet.

And as there exist wide sentiments of grave inequality in how the resources have been used and overused until now, Africa needs to get more say when the future agreements on resource utilisation are made.

IPS: The UN says the majority of undernourished people in Africa live in conflict-affected countries, where hunger is almost twice as high when the crisis is protracted – advocating for stronger commitment by governments, the AU and the UN to promote peace, human rights and sustainable development? Any thoughts?

Adetula: The world is witnessing increase in violent conflicts and some new forms of violence, including those associated with globalisation processes. At the individual country level, good governance in terms of effective service delivery can help scale down the level of violence in Africa. Global governance and global partnership such as cooperation between the AU and the UN is a useful way to go.

Soiri: Many research has shown that there is a strong causality between conflicts and underdevelopment. Therefore most important is to solve the conflicts in order to create conducive environment for development efforts. But how conflicts are solved and peace agreements signed has a paramount importance for how the post-conflict development will succeed. Most important is to allow inclusive peace process which translates to inclusive long lasting state building.

IPS: What key role can the Nordic Africa Institute play in helping advance the political and economic transformation of Africa?

Soiri: During its 55 year of existence, the Nordic Africa Institute has been both the sign of and key for Nordic countries continued engagement in development of Africa. We embody our societies’ interest to continue investing in betterment of African peoples. Via our research and knowledge production and dissemination, we enlarge understanding of African key development challenges and their solutions and deepen decision-makers’ knowledge on best practices to contribute successfully for the development and conflict resolution.

We also build Africa’s own knowledge production capacity with our guest research programs, partnerships and joint research and conference activities, and translate and disseminate African aspirations and analysis for Nordic audiences. We are the only Africa research center in the whole world that surpasses national borders and bring together the whole Nordic region to study, analyse and develop Africa with a specific policy relevant mission – to contribute for the improvement of African people’s lives and educate our own citizens on importance on Africa.

Our library is the biggest resource hub for African social sciences literature in Northern Europe, and by using modern technology some of its resources can be accessed almost everywhere in the world, alleviating the chronic lack of academic and development related resources in the African continent.

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“Fake News” a Growing New Threat to Press Freedomhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/fake-news-growing-new-threat-press-freedom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fake-news-growing-new-threat-press-freedom http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/fake-news-growing-new-threat-press-freedom/#respond Thu, 26 Apr 2018 12:01:27 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155477 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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US president Donald Trump addressing the UN General Assembly in September 2017. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 26 2018 (IPS)

When a Malaysian politician of a bygone era was asked about the “leading newspapers” in his country, he shot back: “We don’t have any leading newspapers in our country because all our newspapers are misleading.”

But that comment, perhaps uttered half-jokingly about two decades ago, underwent a reality check recently when the Malaysian government passed legislation to impose prison sentences up to six years in jail if journalists are found guilty of spreading “fake news”.

The bill defines fake news as “any news, information, data and reports which is, or are, wholly or partly false, whether in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings, or in any other form, capable of suggesting words or ideas.”

And ever since President Donald Trump repeatedly used the term last year – more so to deny even the most verifiable facts and figures— some of the developing nations have followed in his jackbooted footsteps trying to muzzle the press, primarily on negative stories.

A president in perpetual denial, Trump has been described as a “serial liar” by his former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) James Comey – and some of the lying is meant to denigrate journalists whose stories and exposes are dismissed as “fake news.”

Steven Butler, Asia Program Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) told IPS: “Many Asian governments – including Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines – have jumped on the “fake news” bandwagon started by President Trump.”

But more broadly, he pointed out, the lack of a strong U.S. voice promoting the basic value press freedom at the heart of the U.S. constitution has emboldened governments – from China to Pakistan.

“Governments that wish to suppress freedom of expression know that the U.S. President will give them a free pass, something they could not count on in the past. Citizens of these countries need to find their own way to struggle for press freedom,” declared Butler.

In early April, India threatened to penalize journalists for spreading “fake news”. But in less than 48 hours the government had second thoughts and annulled the announcement without an explanation.

Norman Solomon. executive director of the Washington-based Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder and coordinator of RootsAction.org, told IPS powerful demagogues in many parts of the world hate a free press and want to curb or crush whatever independent media outlets might get in the way of power.

“Trump’s denunciations of “fake news” amount to a new rhetorical wrinkle in centuries-old techniques of blaming the messengers for unwanted news,” he added.

Governments, like large corporations, are in the business of news management, Solomon said, pointing out that “they use powerful megaphones and an array of leverage to gain favorable media coverage and suppress or discredit unfavorable coverage.”

In some societies, he noted, the repression takes the form of threats, raids, prosecution and imprisonment. In more democratic societies, the repression is apt to take the form of “soft power” inducements, economic carrots and sticks, massive public-relations campaigns and nonstop floods of propaganda.

In the midst of all this, journalists constantly face a challenge of pursuing facts and underlying truths no matter where they might lead, he argued.

In some countries, the obstacles induce fear of imprisonment or even death, while in other countries the fears are along the lines of stalled careers and loss of employment, said Solomon, author of “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death”

In an oped piece titled “Mr. Trump’s War on the Truth”, the New York Times said in early April that when Trump calls every piece of information he does not like “fake news”, he also encourages politicians in other countries, who are not constrained by constitutional free speech protections or independent judiciaries, to more aggressively squelch the press.

“They know that there will be little international condemnation of their actions because one of the most important standard bearers for a free press – the American government—is led by a man trying to discredit the free press.”

Ian Williams, author of “UNtold: The Real Story of the United Nations in Peace and War*, told IPS that to some extent all news is “fake” but some are flakier than others. But there are degrees of objectivity.

“Fake News” is a real problem – more as an accusation that kills serious debate than as a category of news in itself. Ideologues of both right and left use it to block acceptance of inconvenient information. The main stream media (“MSM”) are particularly reviled, he added.

As Pontius Pilate said, “What is truth?”

“I have a hierarchy of veracity. I would rather believe my own lying eyes than any media source! I watched the planes hit the WTC for example. Do I trust the MSM? Not much, and I would examine its content critically.”

In general, Williams said, the MSM is more conspicuous for what it ignores than for its lies, and it often reveals its biases. In particular the American media depends on government sources and is often naively trusting of them although Trump’s behaviour might be altering that.

For all its faults, he said, the MSM has competition and the fear that it might be scooped by rivals. On the other hand that means it has a herd mentality, so it collectively and uncritically bought into the Iraq WMDs and spurious scandal of “Oil for Food”, said Williams, a senior analyst who has written for newspapers and magazines around the world, including the Australian, The Independent, New York Observer, The Financial Times and The Guardian.

“But I would trust them before Fox, Murdoch tabloids and Breitbart, and above all before authoritarian state news agencies where an editor would lose his or her job and possibly head for not toeing the line”.

He pointed out that the BBC sometimes criticises its government. SANA and Russia Today never!

“And I also mistrust “Independent” journalists, who have permission and help to enter totalitarian states so they can tell the “truth” and expose MSM lies, sometimes at government organised press conferences. I scour their work assiduously but vainly for any hint of criticism of their hosts!”

Is the UN reliable?, he asked.

“Largely so, because it is so leaky that when reports are doctored, word leaks out and there are 193 missions checking for bias and rushing in with corrections”, said Williams, a former UN correspondent for The Nation, and author of Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776; The Deserter: Bush’s War on Military Families, Veterans and His Past; The Alms Trade; and The UN For Beginners.

Solomon, of the Institute for Public Accuracy, told IPS that in every society, there is a vital need for ongoing truth-telling that can make democracy real as the informed consent of the governed.

Right now, in the United States, Russia and China, and scores of other nations, people at the top of the governmental and economic power structures are eager to gain and maintain the uninformed acquiescence of the ruled.

“No matter how different the social, political and media systems may be, journalists face the challenge of overcoming the overt or tacit censorship efforts by government, corporate owners or wealthy individuals. The imperative goal is to make good on the potential of press freedom,” declared Solomon.

Meanwhile, a Joint Declaration by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, David Kaye, along with his counterparts from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Organization of American States (OAS), and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), reads: “Fake news” has emerged as a global topic of concern and there is a risk that efforts to counter it could lead to censorship, the suppression of critical thinking and other approaches contrary to human rights law.”

“In this Joint Declaration, we identify general principles that should apply to any efforts to deal with these issues,” said a statement released in March.

The Declaration identifies the applicable human rights standards, encourages the promotion of diversity and plurality in the media, and emphasizes the particular roles played by digital intermediaries, as well as journalists and media outlets.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

The post “Fake News” a Growing New Threat to Press Freedom appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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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UN Cracks Down on Peacekeeping Troops over Human Rights Abuseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/un-cracks-peacekeeping-troops-human-rights-abuses/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-cracks-peacekeeping-troops-human-rights-abuses http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/un-cracks-peacekeeping-troops-human-rights-abuses/#respond Fri, 13 Apr 2018 15:48:18 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155272 The United Nations, whose peacekeepers have come under increased scrutiny because of widespread charges of sexual abuse and human rights violations, claims it is now committed to ensuring that all personnel serving with the UN meet the “highest standards of conduct, competence and integrity, including respect for and commitment to human rights.” And there are […]

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MINUSMA peacekeepers patrolling the village of Bara in northeastern Mali. It is one of the most dangerous UN peacekeeping missions. Credit: UN Photo/Harandane Dicko

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 13 2018 (IPS)

The United Nations, whose peacekeepers have come under increased scrutiny because of widespread charges of sexual abuse and human rights violations, claims it is now committed to ensuring that all personnel serving with the UN meet the “highest standards of conduct, competence and integrity, including respect for and commitment to human rights.”

And there are no exceptions to this rule, which applies to over 100,000 civilian, military and police personnel currently deployed in 14 UN peacekeeping operations and 23 special political missions around the world.

Nick Birnback, UN Peacekeeping spokesperson, told IPS “member States that provide personnel to UN peacekeeping operations have the responsibility to certify that all these personnel have not been involved, by act or omission, in violations of international humanitarian law or human rights law, and have not been repatriated on disciplinary grounds from a UN operation.”

The most recent test case under investigation is the deployment of 49 Sri Lankan troops to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) who did not undergo the required vetting process, this time by the local Human Rights Commission based in Colombo.

Taking a tough stand, the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has requested that “the Sri Lankan government immediately prioritize the completion of the screening for the 49 officers already deployed to UNIFIL”.

“If concerns arise regarding the 49 personnel already deployed to UNIFIL, DPKO may request that they be repatriated and replaced at the Government’s cost,” Birnback warned.

“In the case of Sri Lanka where there are specific human rights concerns”, he pointed out, the UN has put in place additional screening measures in 2016 to help ensure that deployed personnel meet our standards.

Prior to their deployment to UNIFIL, he said, the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations provided an attestation certifying that the contingent had not been involved in any violations.

“However, in February 2018, we learned that the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission — which the Government of Sri Lanka had agreed it would undertake human rights screening of all Sri Lankan personnel — had not yet completed the screening when the rotation of the unit in UNIFIL started. UN Peacekeeping immediately raised this with the Sri Lankan authorities and the deployment was stopped.”

“Meanwhile, we’ve asked the government of Sri Lanka to formalize the screening arrangements with the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission. Compliance with these arrangements will be required before the UN can receive any further deployments or rotations from Sri Lanka. The government is cooperating with us in this regard,” Birnback said.

According to DPKO, the United Nations Charter requires that all UN personnel must maintain the highest standards of integrity and conduct. The UN is committed to ensuring that all its personnel deployed globally serve with professionalism, courtesy and dignity.

The UN Standards of Conduct apply to all categories of personnel deployed in UN missions. There is a three-pronged strategy to address misconduct: prevention, enforcement of the UN Standards of Conduct, and remedial action.

In July 2008, the Department of Field Support (DFS) launched the Misconduct Tracking System (MTS), a global, restricted-access database and confidential tracking system for all allegations of misconduct.

The UN Standards of Conduct are based on three key principles: highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity; zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and accountability of those in command and/or leadership who fail to enforce the standards of conduct, according to DPKO.

Meanwhile, as sexual abuse and paternity claims continue to rise against UN peacekeepers, the United Nations is actively collaborating with troop contributing countries in collecting DNA samples: a protocol introduced back in 2014.

The number of paternity claims – or potential paternity claims – has increased significantly: from 12 each in 2013 and 2014, to 15 in 2015, 33 in 2016 and 56 in 2017.

These are victims of “sexual exploitation and abuse,” according to the United Nations.

Providing an update on sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) in the UN system– in line with the Secretary-General’s initiative on increasing transparency on ongoing allegations– UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters February 22 that from 1 October to 31 December 2017, “we have received 40 allegations for all UN entities and implementing partners. Not all allegations have been fully verified, and many are in the preliminary assessment phase.”

Out of the 40 allegations, 15 are reported from peacekeeping operations. These 15 are not new allegations — they have all been uploaded on the Conduct and Discipline database as they have come in. And that is a publicly available website.

The remaining 25 allegations are reported from agencies, funds and programmes, and include 8 allegations relating to implementing partners.

Of the 40 allegations, 13 are categorized as sexual abuse, 24 as sexual exploitation, and 3 are of an unknown nature. The 40 allegations involve 54 victims — 30 are women, 16 are girls (under the age of 18), the ages of 8 others are unknown; 12 of the 40 allegations occurred in 2017, 7 in 2016, 3 in [2015] or prior, and the dates are unknown for 18 of them, Dujarric said.

With regard to the status of the 40 allegations, two have been substantiated by an investigation; three are not substantiated; 15 are at various stages of investigation; 18 are under preliminary assessment; two are under review with limited information provided to the investigating entity, he added.

Currently, there are 14 UN peacekeeping operations worldwide, seven of them in Africa. The more than 100,000 troops and civilian personnel come from 123 countries, with the five largest troop-contributing countries (TCC) being Ethiopia (8,326 troops), India (7,471), Pakistan (7,161), Bangladesh (6,772) and Rwanda (6,146).

The approved budget for UN peacekeeping operations for the fiscal year of July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 was $7.87 billion, which is slightly smaller than its previous fiscal year’s budget.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has pointed out that UN’s peacekeeping budget – “less than one half of one per cent of global military spending — is money well spent.”

“It is a fraction of the cost of allowing conflict to spread and erode the gains of economic development. The investment is multiplied by the economic growth and prosperity that follow from stability and security after successful peacekeeping missions,” he declared last March.

He also said “UN peacekeepers are often under-equipped, under-prepared and unready [and] there are gaps in command and control, in culture, in equipment and in training.”

Speaking at a meeting of the UN Security Council, he declared: “Our peacekeepers are vulnerable, and they are targeted for attack,” he added.

Last year, he said, 59 peacekeepers lost their lives as a result of malicious act – highest number ever and a sharp increase over the year before when the figure was 34.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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UN’s Highest Policy-Making Body to Break Male Domination— Momentarilyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/uns-highest-policy-making-body-break-male-domination-momentarily/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uns-highest-policy-making-body-break-male-domination-momentarily http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/uns-highest-policy-making-body-break-male-domination-momentarily/#respond Tue, 03 Apr 2018 14:14:46 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155127 The 193-member General Assembly – one of the highest policy-making bodies at the United Nations – will get a much-needed break, come September, when a woman will preside over its 73rd session, only the fourth in the history of the world body. The two who are in the running are: Mary Elizabeth Flores Flake, Permanent […]

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The opening of the 72nd session of the General Assembly in September 2017. Credit: UN Photo

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 3 2018 (IPS)

The 193-member General Assembly – one of the highest policy-making bodies at the United Nations – will get a much-needed break, come September, when a woman will preside over its 73rd session, only the fourth in the history of the world body.

The two who are in the running are: Mary Elizabeth Flores Flake, Permanent Representative of Honduras, and María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador—both from the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) group.

On the basis of geographical rotation, the LAC Group claims the upcoming presidency—an elected high ranking UN position which has been overwhelmingly dominated by men.

The break comes even as the United Nations has continued to vociferously preach gender empowerment to the outside world but failing to practice it in its own political backyard—despite scores of resolutions adopted by member states.

Since 1945, the Assembly has elected only three women as presidents: Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit of India (1953), Angie Brooks of Liberia (1969) and Sheikha Haya Rashed Al-Khalifa of Bahrain (2006).

And that’s three out of 72 Presidents, 69 of whom were men.

The track record of the 15-member Security Council is infinitely worse because it has continued to elect men as UN Secretaries-General, rubber-stamped by the General Assembly, and most recently in October 2016 – despite several outstanding women candidates.

And that’s zero out of nine male UN chiefs: Trygve Lie of Norway, Dag Hammarskjold of Sweden, U. Thant of Burma (now Myanmar), Kurt Waldheim of Austria, Javier Perez de Cuellar of Peru, Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt, Kofi Annan of Ghana, Ban Ki-moon of South Korea and, currently, Antonio Guterres of Portugal.

The two highest ranking political positions at the UN have long been identified as the intellectual birthright of men. And in terms of diplomatic protocol, the President of the General Assembly (PGA) has the status of a head of state in international fora.

Will the election of a fourth woman as the 73rd PGA later this year augur a new era? Or is it just a flash in the pan?

Asked for his response, Miroslav Lajčák of Slovakia, President of the current 72nd session of the General Assembly, told IPS: “I am committed to fostering greater gender parity throughout the work of the General Assembly. The history of the United Nations is filled with the contributions of strong women who have shaped its evolution since 1945. Yet, as of today, there have only been three women Presidents of the General Assembly”

He said it is important to ensure that women leaders’ voices are heard on all matters in the United Nations and having a woman as the next President of the General Assembly would be a major step in this regard.

“As President of the General Assembly, I have taken tangible steps to ensure that women play a key role in our work,” he noted.

For example, he said, he has appointed gender-balanced teams of Ambassadors to lead almost all General Assembly processes.

“Meanwhile, in my own office, I have seen to it that 70 per cent of the staff are women, and that women and men are represented equally at the managerial level. I believe that making our work at the United Nations more gender-balanced and inclusive will have a positive impact around the world,” he declared.

Barbara Crossette, a former UN Bureau Chief for The New York Times (1994-2010), and who has written extensively on gender empowerment, told IPS both candidates seem to bring some interesting resumes and welcome commitments to the work of the General Assembly—“and Latin American women can be quite fearless, as you know”.

“But I can’t really judge how real all this is. In both cases, however, the presidency would be a prestigious prize for either nation. But that’s not of international importance.”

“Now whether a woman makes a difference per se — or breaks a chain of male domination — is hard to judge in advance”, said Crossette, currently UN correspondent for The Nation, a senior fellow of the Ralph Bunche Institute at the City University of New York, contributing editor at PassBlue.com, and a freelance writer on foreign policy and international affairs

She also pointed out that if one or the other is chosen, what she could accomplish would affect how the member nations (or more important, informed public opinion) would react to the idea that a woman in the presidency is a good thing and should happen more often.

This is also the case with appointments to headquarters staff and high-level jobs, she noted.

Antonia Kirkland, Program Manager, Legal Equality, at the New York based Equality Now, told IPS:”It is completely unacceptable that only three women have been elected president of the UN’s General Assembly in the last 72 years. The UN needs to set a better example and live up to its promise of achieving gender parity throughout the UN system. Bringing women into the highest levels of decision making should be a top priority.”

She said achieving gender equality, development and peace, will never be realized without women’s equal access to positions of decision-making power.

The upcoming election of the President of the General Assembly is a perfect opportunity for member states to implement the commitments they have made to increasing women’s political access she added.

“Member states must also promote women’s leadership within their missions and ministries of foreign affairs so that there is equality at the ambassadorial level”, said Kirkland who represents a civil society organization which, since 1992, has been using the law to protect and promote the human rights of women and girls worldwide.

“We hope promoting women’s and girls’ rights around the world, particularly ending sexual violence and ending impunity for sexual assault and sexual harassment by UN staff members, will be a top priority for the next President of the General Assembly,” she declared.

Meanwhile, the General Assembly last year decided to establish a new process for the selection of the President of the General Assembly.

In its resolution 71/323 entitled “Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly”, the Assembly decided to conduct informal interactive dialogues with candidates for the position of President of the General Assembly, thus contributing to “the transparency and inclusivity of the process”, according to the PGA’s website.

Furthermore, the General Assembly has also called upon candidates to present to the Assembly their vision statements.

The new process will be in full respect of the established principle of geographical rotation and the General Assembly resolution 33/138 of 19 December 1978.

Consequently, the President of the 73rd session of the General Assembly is to be elected from the Latin American and Caribbean Group.

In line with the new process, the President of the 72nd session of the General Assembly will convene informal interactive dialogues with the candidates in early May 2018.

In accordance with Rule 30 of the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly, the Assembly shall elect a President and twenty-one Vice-Presidents at least three months before the opening of the session over which they are to preside.

The election of the President of the 73rd session of the General Assembly will take place on Tuesday, 5 June 2018

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Sexual Abuse Where UN Chief has No Jurisdiction to Acthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/sexual-abuse-un-chief-no-jurisdiction-act/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sexual-abuse-un-chief-no-jurisdiction-act http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/sexual-abuse-un-chief-no-jurisdiction-act/#respond Mon, 26 Mar 2018 17:58:30 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155038 As sexual harassment charges in the UN system keep piling up, the UN Secretariat has a new administrative problem on its hands: accusations of sexual abuse in the New York office of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) whose members are elected by the 193-member General Assembly – but not answerable either to the Secretary-General […]

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Secretary-General António Guterres (2nd right) delivers his remarks at the high-level meeting on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 26 2018 (IPS)

As sexual harassment charges in the UN system keep piling up, the UN Secretariat has a new administrative problem on its hands: accusations of sexual abuse in the New York office of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) whose members are elected by the 193-member General Assembly – but not answerable either to the Secretary-General or the President of the Assembly.

So, the lingering question facing the UN remains ambivalent: is there an exception to the Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ “zero tolerance policy” on sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) – even though the head of the ICSC office, with the rank of Under-Secretary-General (USG), and its 40 employees, are an integral part of the UN common system and considered UN staffers?

When the accusations of sexual abuse by four women in the ICSC office was referred to the office of the Secretary-General, the initial response was tepid: the accusers were implicitly told the Secretary-General does not have any jurisdiction over the ICSC or its 15 members.

Asked for a clarification, UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq told IPS: “The (UN’s) Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) is investigating the allegations to the maximum extent, within its authority, and has approached members of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) asking for their full cooperation, considering that they are outside the jurisdiction of the Secretary-General”.

At the same, he pointed out, the Executive Secretary of the Commission got an instruction to adopt all necessary measures to ensure that the complainants don’t suffer retaliation.

Brenden Varma, Head of Communications and Spokesperson for the President of the UN General Assembly told IPS “in general, the President of the General Assembly stands firmly against all forms of sexual harassment.”

The President is of the opinion that all allegations of sexual harassment must be investigated and perpetrators must be held accountable, he added.

While established by the United Nations General Assembly, the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) is an independent expert body, Varma pointed out.

And, according to the ICSC statute, which was endorsed by the General Assembly, “No appointment of a member of the Commission can be terminated unless, in the unanimous opinion of the other members, he or she has ceased to discharge the duties in a manner consistent with the provisions of the present statute.”

Neither the General Assembly nor its President exercises any managerial or administrative authority over the ICSC, Varma declared.

The president of the current General Assembly is Miroslav Lajčák of Slovakia.

Bibi Khan, President of the United Nations Staff Union (UNSU) in New York, which represents the staff members who filed the complaint, told IPS the Union unequivocally endorses and supports the Secretary-General’s policy on “Zero Tolerance for Sexual Abuse and Harassment”.

“However, this is an ongoing investigation and the Union cannot risk compromising the case by discussing any details at the present time”.

She also said “the UN has become a prisoner of its own bureaucracy, unable to act with the urgency that such complaints demand”.

The ICSC is described as “an independent expert body established by the United Nations General Assembly” which regulates and coordinates the conditions of service of staff in the UN common system “while promoting and maintaining high standards in the international civil service.”

The Commission is composed of 15 members who serve in their personal capacity. They are appointed by the General Assembly for four-year terms, with due regard for broad geographical representation. The Chairman and the Vice-Chairman are full-time members and are based in New York. The full Commission meets twice a year.

Article 7 of the ICSC statute and rules of procedure says: “No appointment of a member of the Commission can be terminated unless, in the unanimous opinion of the other members, he or she has ceased to discharge the duties in a manner consistent with the provisions of the present statute.”

And Article 8 says: “For the purposes of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, the Chairman and the Vice-Chairman of the Commission shall have the status of officials of the United Nations.”

The issue, according to one UN source, is about accountability: “who is accountable to action on this issue, is it the Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly or the ICSC Commissioners, who only meet twice a year and are entitled to their daily subsistence allowance while they are in New York. (even while the accused is considered a full time staffer with a salary from the jointly funded common system budget.)”

Meanwhile, the ICSC is also embroiled in an ongoing controversy over a proposed salary cut which has triggered work stoppages in UN offices in Geneva, Bangkok and Addis Ababa and is threatening to spread system-wide, including the UN’s field operations.

The protest is led by three staff unions – the Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations (CCISUA), the Federation of International Civil Servants’ Associations (FICSA) and the United Nations International Civil Servants Federation (UNISERV) representing over 60,000 staffers worldwide— and is aimed primarily at the ICSC.

In a letter to the Executive Heads of UN organizations and the President of the General Assembly, the three unions said recently: “It is with regret that we announce that staff have lost confidence in the independence and technical competency of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC), following a series of failings; we urge you to support our calls for a process of substantive reforms.”

As we have observed over several years, the letter states, this austerity agenda threatens to undermine the UN’s mission, particularly in the field, and potentially harms all staff and duty stations.

“In recent times, the ICSC decisions have significantly reduced the salaries of general services and professional staff in places such as Cairo, New Delhi, Tokyo and Bangkok, as well as those on peacekeeping missions.”

Depending on personal circumstances, it is anticipated that professional staff will also lose the equivalent of up to one month’s salary due to recent revisions to their compensation package; parents and those in field duty stations are most impacted.

“Improving the methods for reclassifying hardship, the unequal level of danger pay for local and international staff, and the absence of adequate protections for local staff against inflation and exchange rate fluctuations are examples of other important issues that we would like to address.”

“Unfortunately, the ICSC is increasingly unwilling to find constructive solutions that benefit both staff and the UN”, the letter notes.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Is UN’s Ambitious Global Compact the Last Word on the Migrant Crisis?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/uns-ambitious-global-compact-last-word-migrant-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uns-ambitious-global-compact-last-word-migrant-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/uns-ambitious-global-compact-last-word-migrant-crisis/#comments Fri, 16 Mar 2018 17:38:36 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154859 As the death toll keeps mounting and the humanitarian crises continue unabated, the life of the average migrant or refugee has largely turned out to be an unmitigated nightmare. The litany of woes include life-threatening midnight runs in dangerous waters, victims of human trafficking, suffering under deplorable working conditions, and subject to rampant sexual abuse […]

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Numbers or people? Migrants at Lampedusa. Credit: IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 16 2018 (IPS)

As the death toll keeps mounting and the humanitarian crises continue unabated, the life of the average migrant or refugee has largely turned out to be an unmitigated nightmare.

The litany of woes include life-threatening midnight runs in dangerous waters, victims of human trafficking, suffering under deplorable working conditions, and subject to rampant sexual abuse and violence in households.

The United Nations, in an attempt to resolve the ongoing crisis, is pinning its hopes on a proposed Global Compact on Migration (GCM), a 24-page document that covers a wide range of issues, including labour rights, access to legal assistance, open borders, consular protection, cheaper transfer of migrant remittances and the re-integration of migrants and refugees into society.

The ongoing negotiations – the last round of talks ended March 15, with a final round scheduled for July – will culminate in an intergovernmental conference on international migration in Morocco in December this year, with a view to adopting the GCM by all 193 member states.

UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric put it this way: “The Global Compact for Migration will be the first inter-governmentally negotiated agreement, prepared under the auspices of the United Nations, to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner.”

He pointed out that the negotiating process will require further discussion on several outstanding issues, including differentiation between irregular and regular migration, differentiation between migrants and refugees, implementation and capacity-building, as well as follow-up and review.

Matthew Reading-Smith, Senior Communication Officer at CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance based in Johannesburg, told IPS there are over a quarter billion migrants and refugees in the world. Over 5,000 died last year on their dangerous journeys.

And the United Nations has been moved to act, he said, pointing out that the Global Compact is meant to protect the rights of those displaced and help address the root economic, environmental and social drivers that are compelling people to leave their communities and countries.

In a blog posting, CIVICUS said a key area where the document falls short is on commitments to tackle the primary causes of migration. A stated aim of the Global Compact is to “mitigate the adverse drivers and structural factors that hinder people from building and maintaining sustainable livelihoods in their countries of origin”.

However, the current text lacks actionable commitments to control the numerous man-made forces underlying global mass migration.

“The reasons are different for every migrant and diaspora, but we know that natural disasters are the number one cause of internal and international displacement. With rising sea levels, desertification and extreme weather events, climate action must be a part of any meaningful agreement. “

Emele Duituturaga, Executive Director of the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), said “climate induced displacement is upon us. Coastal communities are being evacuated and relocated the world over.”

“In sea locked countries of the Pacific Ocean, disappearance of our island homes is imminent”, he warned.

To protect the growing number of climate migrants, a necessary starting place for the compact is to reaffirm the importance of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and accelerate efforts to limit global average temperature rise to 1.5°C, instead of the more conservative and ambiguous target to keep the world “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Missing just one of these targets will lead to millions of people being displaced, said Duituturaga.

Speaking at an international Forum in Paris in January, William Lacy Swing, Director General, International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN’s migration agency, said the Forum was remarkable in its timing, given recent developments signaling that this is truly a new era for migration – a “mega-trend” of our time.

To mention only two of these milestones, he singled out the formal recognition of migration as a force for sustainable human development– with the formal inclusion of migration-related targets in Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals; and, Secondly, he said, the historic adoption of the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants, and the resulting consultations, stock-taking phases; the Secretary-General’s Report; and the much-awaited “Zero Draft” that will form the basis for formal negotiations — all leading us towards the adoption of a “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.”

Sarnata Reynolds, Global Displacement & Migration Policy Advisor at Oxfam told IPS that overall, Oxfam welcomes much of the contents of the zero draft to the Global Compact on Migration.

“It consistently recognizes that all migrants have human rights, including the right to be treated with dignity and respects their right to access education, health care, due process and justice before the law.”

At the same time, she said, the zero draft is written from the perspective of states rather than the experience of rights holders. While this state-led process requires that political leaders ultimately agree to the contents of the GCM, implementation won’t be possible or credible if the experiences of migrants, their families and the communities who work alongside them are not fully integrated.

As the negotiations unfold, Oxfam urges states to commit to increasing the safe passage of migrants by providing sufficient work opportunities, education, family reunification and protection visas that meet the needs of families and industry, and lifesaving assistance when migrants are caught in crisis. In particular, the experience of women as migrants themselves and oftentimes as the primary caretaker of migrant families, must be integrated into all programs and approaches, to ensure that their ability to exercise agency and take up fair and safe employment is promoted.

As another priority, Oxfam is calling for the legal recognition and protection of migrants forced across borders due to disasters and/or climate change.

Oxfam welcomes the inclusion of these vulnerable migrants throughout the zero draft, and will work alongside favorable states to ensure that the final compact includes a process toward the formal protection of those crossing borders for these reasons, and a concrete timetable to realize these goals.

Kate Gough, a researcher at the Washington-based Center for Global Development (CGD) who specializes on migration issues, told IPS the draft is ambitious and covers a lot of ground.

“The GCM is a significant and critical opportunity that we can’t afford to miss. Member States have a chance to pragmatically tackle how migration is governed, in line with current and future migration realities.”

She said the immense benefits migration can bring can be amplified: migrants can significantly and positively contribute to the countries they move to and the countries they move from, but maximizing the positive impacts that are possible requires policies that enable migrants’ contributions rather than stifle them.

Gough also pointed out that the issue of returns is dominating discussions right now.

This is understandable given the scale of arrivals, but ultimately counterproductive. Return efforts alone will not deter future migration. The coming demographic realities mean migration will continue, and new legal pathways for migrants will be essential to managing these migration pressures, she noted.

“The conversation on returns is valid and relevant, but should not be the only part of the discussion. In fact, new lawful migration channels paired with enhanced enforcement could be an effective migration management tool, (as we laid out in a recent brief looking at the U.S. Bracero example). This is one example of the types of pragmatic and realistic policy discussions that could help move the negotiations forward,” she declared.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Merchants of Death Ultimate Winners in Escalating Military Conflictshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/merchants-death-ultimate-winners-escalating-military-conflicts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=merchants-death-ultimate-winners-escalating-military-conflicts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/merchants-death-ultimate-winners-escalating-military-conflicts/#comments Tue, 13 Mar 2018 15:20:40 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154795 In most military conflicts worldwide, the ultimate winners are not one of the warring parties– but the world’s prolific arms traders, described by peace activists as “merchants of death”. While fighting keeps escalating, the hunger for conventional weapons continues unabated, as exemplified in several ongoing battles. The conflicts include the six-year civil war in Syria […]

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Armed for battle. Credit: SIPRI

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 13 2018 (IPS)

In most military conflicts worldwide, the ultimate winners are not one of the warring parties– but the world’s prolific arms traders, described by peace activists as “merchants of death”.

While fighting keeps escalating, the hunger for conventional weapons continues unabated, as exemplified in several ongoing battles.

The conflicts include the six-year civil war in Syria where multiple warring factions are being armed either by the US, Russia or Iran; the three-year armed conflict in Yemen where American weapons are being used indiscriminately by Saudi Arabia, mostly against civilians; and the simmering 50-year old Israeli-Palestinian conflict which has transformed the heavily-armed Jewish state into a formidable military power described as far superior to the collective might of all the Arab states put together.

And arms are also pouring uninterruptedly into Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Iran, India, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The world’s five major arms suppliers include the four permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) – namely the US, Russia France and China– plus Germany (which is engaged in a longstanding battle for a permanent seat in the UNSC). Together, these five biggest exporters, have accounted for about 74 per cent of all arms exports during 2013–17

The weapons of war include sophisticated jet fighters, combat helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, missiles, warships, battle tanks, armoured personnel carriers, heavy artillery and small arms.

According to a new study, released March 12 by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the world’s five major arms suppliers include the four permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) – namely the US, Russia France and China– plus Germany (which is engaged in a longstanding battle for a permanent seat in the UNSC).

Together, these five biggest exporters, have accounted for about 74 per cent of all arms exports during 2013–17, according to the latest SIPRI figures.

The fifth permanent member of the UNSC, namely Britain, – which finalized an estimated $5 billion dollar arms agreement with Saudi Arabia for the sale of 48 Typhoon jet fighters last week, as reported in the Wall Street Journal March 10 — is not far behind. The proposed agreement also involves trade and investments between the two countries.

“All five permanent members of the Security Council”, ridicules one UN diplomat, “preach the doctrine of peaceful coexistence and the principles of disarmament — while having no compunctions in simultaneously selling lethal weapons in battle zones.”

The mostly strife-torn Middle Eastern nations alone more than doubled their arms purchases over the last 10 years, says SIPRI.

‘Widespread violent conflict in the Middle East and concerns about human rights have led to political debate in Western Europe and North America about restricting arms sales,’ says Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.

“Yet the USA and European states remain the main arms exporters to the region and supplied over 98 per cent of weapons imported by Saudi Arabia,” he noted.

Wezeman told IPS the current ongoing violent conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Sinai, Libya, Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey– and the prevalent view that military force is an important, if not the main instrument to deal with these conflicts– are major reasons for the demand for arms in the region.

In addition, he pointed out, these conflicts are closely linked to the aspirations of several states to be regional powers, in particular Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Iran, Qatar and Turkey, which in turn, leads to deeply entrenched threat perceptions between Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran, and between Israel and Iran.

In addition, he said, the rapidly developed deep rift between Saudi Arabia together with the UAE, on the one hand, and Qatar on the other, shows once again how fast new tensions can develop in the region, even between states that were military allies only shortly before.

“Preparing for such unforeseen tensions is likely to be a motive for regimes in the region to modernize, or as in the case of Qatar, rapidly expand their arsenals. The fast pace of arms procurement by several countries in the region risks becoming a multi-facetted and asymmetric regional arms race,” Wezeman declared.

Arms supplying states, he noted, have shown little signs of restraint aimed at cooling off the situation. The economic, and partly, the perceived security benefits of arms exports, remain a driving force for continuing aggressive arms marketing in the region.

Such marketing, he said, also plays into other non-security or power aspirations related reasons for arms procurement, namely prestige and the opportunities that arms procurement offers for corruption

Dr. Natalie J. Goldring, Senior Fellow with the Security Studies Program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, told IPS “the new SIPRI data on the global arms trade represent good news for arms dealers and bad news for the rest of us.”

The new data, she pointed out, confirm a disturbing trend, with the United States widening its lead over Russia, the world’s second largest arms exporter from 2013-2017.

She said the United States retains its title as “the leading merchant of death”. US manufacturers supplied more than a third of the value of the major conventional weapons delivered around the world from 2013-2017, the period covered by this report.

“The situation isn’t likely to get better any time soon, with a report from Reuters earlier this year indicating that the Trump Administration plans to loosen controls on weapons exports and task embassy officials with being more active in pursuing sales”.

This initiative is reportedly a “Buy American” plan, which effectively treats weapons as if they were simply another consumer commodity.

“It seems clear that President Trump is going to continue the unfortunate pattern of previous administrations, exercising little control over US weapons exports. Rather than seeing the risks inherent in unfettered arms transfers, he merely seems to see dollar signs,” said Dr Goldring, who also represents the Acronym Institute at the United Nations on conventional weapons and arms trade issues.

One hopeful sign, she pointed out, is that “Congress is taking a more critical look at some US arms exports. Last summer, for example, the US Senate fell just three votes short on a resolution to block a sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia. That more critical perspective should also be applied to sales of major conventional weapons to Saudi Arabia.”

“SIPRI reports that arms transfers to the Middle East have doubled in the last decade. If more weapons made people safer, the Middle East should be a remarkably peaceful place. The opposite seems closer to the truth, with continued conflict across the region,” Dr Goldring declared.

Meanwhile, India was the world’s largest importer of major arms in 2013–17 and accounted for 12 per cent of the global total. Saudi Arabia was the world’s second largest arms importer, with arms imports increasing by 225 per cent compared with 2008–12, according to SIPRI.

Arms imports by Egypt—the third largest importer in 2013–17—grew by 215 per cent between 2008–12 and 2013–17. The United Arab Emirates was the fourth largest importer in 2013–17, while Qatar (the 20th largest arms importer) increased its arms imports and signed several major deals in that period.

‘The tensions between India, on the one side, and Pakistan and China, on the other, are fuelling India’s growing demand for major weapons, which it remains unable to produce itself,’ said Wezeman.

By contrast, he said, China is becoming increasingly capable of producing its own weapons and continues to strengthen its relations with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar through arms supplies.

Asked about the driving force for arms purchases in the Middle East, Wezeman told IPS the data SIPRI collects about arms transfers for military use includes paramilitary forces, such as militarised police or so-called ‘internal security forces’, which exist in most if not all states in the Middle East, including for example, the Federal Police in Iraq and the National Guard in Saudi Arabia.

He said more or less all countries in the region are involved in armed conflicts. Many both in internal conflict and in military interventions outside their borders.

The use of heavy arms in internal conflict is common in Turkish operations against Kurdish groups; by the different groups in Syria; by US and European forces against the Islamic State (IS); by Egyptian forces in the Sinai; by Israel against Hezbollah and Hamas; and in Iraq and Yemen.

Therefore, demand for arms in the region is driven by an increased demand for weapons by all military actors. The largest deals in terms of value are usually for the regular armed forces, he added.

For example, in Saudi Arabia, the import of combat aircraft and their armaments account for the bulk of the arms imports. These aircraft are heavily used against the comparatively lightly armed Houthi rebels in Yemen, he added.

Deals for arms intended for use in internal operations, against rebel forces or even against unarmed opposition can also be substantial.

A typical example, Wezeman pointed out, is the sale of a large number of armoured vehicles made in Canada for the Saudi National Guard, worth over $10 billion.

The deal has become the subject of major debate in Canada, as critics have argued that earlier-delivered Canadian armoured vehicles were used in 2017 by the National Guard against the Shiite minority in Saudi Arabia.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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UN Relies on DNA for Paternity Claims Against Sexually Abusive Peacekeepershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/un-relies-dna-paternity-claims-sexually-abusive-peacekeepers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-relies-dna-paternity-claims-sexually-abusive-peacekeepers http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/un-relies-dna-paternity-claims-sexually-abusive-peacekeepers/#respond Mon, 26 Feb 2018 18:59:41 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154504 As sexual abuse and paternity claims continue to rise against UN peacekeepers overseas, the United Nations is actively collaborating with troop contributing countries (TCC) in collecting DNA samples: a protocol introduced back in 2014. The number of paternity claims – or potential paternity claims – has increased significantly: from 12 each in 2013 and 2014, […]

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UN Peacekeepers. Credit: UN Photo

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 26 2018 (IPS)

As sexual abuse and paternity claims continue to rise against UN peacekeepers overseas, the United Nations is actively collaborating with troop contributing countries (TCC) in collecting DNA samples: a protocol introduced back in 2014.

The number of paternity claims – or potential paternity claims – has increased significantly: from 12 each in 2013 and 2014, to 15 in 2015, 33 in 2016 and 56 in 2017.

These are victims of “sexual exploitation and abuse,” according to the United Nations.

UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters last week that with over 95,000 civilians and 90,000 uniformed personnel working for the United Nations around the world, sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) are not reflective of the conduct of the majority of the dedicated women and men who serve people around the world.

“But every allegation involving our personnel undermines our values and principles and the sacrifice of those who serve with pride and professionalism in some of the most dangerous places in the world.’

For this reason, combating this scourge, and helping and empowering those who have been scarred by these egregious acts, continue to be key priorities for the Secretary General in 2018, Dujarric declared.

A spokesman for UN Peacekeeping told IPS: “Our UN Missions in the field have been assisting concerned Member States under whose jurisdiction matters of paternity and child support fall in obtaining DNA samples from mothers and children for the purpose of testing their DNA against DNA samples from alleged fathers to confirm or refute paternity”.

She said it is the responsibility of the Member State to collect the sample from the alleged father and test it against the DNA of the claimant and her child/children.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has declared “zero tolerance” on sexual abuse both by UN peacekeepers and UN staffers system-wide, has not only spelled out Special Measures to prevent such abuses but also called upon Member States to appoint “national paternity focal points” to receive and advise on paternity claims.

The paternity focal points are an important part of the process, as they can bridge the gap between the facilitation that can be offered by the United Nations, including DNA collection, and steps required under national laws to advance paternity claims.

“Several Member States have indeed appointed such focal points, and the United Nations has facilitated contacts between the focal points and the complainants,” the peacekeeping spokesman said.

“It is important to note that it is the responsibility of the Member States to collect and test the DNA samples from their personnel, in accordance with their national legislation on such collection and testing of DNA material for use in as evidence in legal proceedings. The Secretary-General however continues to liaise with Member States to ensure that any paternity and child support claim is addressed under the applicable national legislation,” she noted.

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which stores biological information, is described as a molecule that carries the genetic instructions used in the growth, development, functioning and reproduction of all known living organisms and many viruses.

According to a BBC report, Britain pioneered the use of DNA as a crime-fighting tool, introducing the world’s first national database in 1985. Currently, it holds the profiles of more than five million people and is credited with helping solve some 40,000 crimes a year.

http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/will-dna-data-base-deter-sexual-abuse-un/

Ma. Victoria (Mavic) Cabrera Balleza, Chief Executive Officer/International Coordinator, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, told IPS that “DNA testing is long overdue”.

“This has actually been proposed by certain UN field officials many years ago. It should be mandatory to all personnel – civilian and uniformed – prior to deployment,” she said.

To say that submitting to DNA testing is equivalent to a presumption that all UN staff members are potential sex abusers is a misplaced concern, said Cabrera Balleza.

“Instead, it should be seen as an expression of honesty and sincerity to serve. However, DNA testing must not be the single measure to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse.”

She said discussions with Troop Contributing Countries should be ongoing to convince them to be more cooperative in prosecuting perpetrators. Civil society can play a key role in advocating for greater accountability from TCCs.

She also pointed out that training on the prevention of SEA should not only be prior to deployment. It should be prior, during and after. Changing attitudes and behavior is not possible with just one training.

The use of the single and uniform ‘Incident Report Form’ — to improve data collection, ensure investigation is carried out in a timely fashion, and adequate assistance to victims is provided immediately — is very much welcomed, she added.

“It is time for the UN and Member States to step up; bring out all the instruments and make funding available to end the scourge that is SEA . The response should go beyond condemnation. Victims need real solutions,” Cabrera Balleza declared.

Providing an update on SEA in the UN system– in line with the Secretary-General’s initiative on increasing transparency on ongoing allegations– Dujarric told reporters February 22 that from 1 October to 31 December 2017, “we have received 40 allegations for all UN entities and implementing partners. Not all allegations have been fully verified, and many are in the preliminary assessment phase.”

Out of the 40 allegations, 15 are reported from peacekeeping operations. These 15 are not new allegations — they have all been uploaded on the Conduct and Discipline database as they have come in. And that is a publicly available website.

The remaining 25 allegations are reported from agencies, funds and programmes, and include 8 allegations relating to implementing partners.

Of the 40 allegations, 13 are categorized as sexual abuse, 24 as sexual exploitation, and 3 are of an unknown nature. The 40 allegations involve 54 victims — 30 are women, 16 are girls (under the age of 18), the ages of 8 others are unknown; 12 of the 40 allegations occurred in 2017, 7 in 2016, 3 in [2015] or prior, and the dates are unknown for 18 of them, Dujarric said.

With regard to the status of the 40 allegations, two have been substantiated by an investigation; three are not substantiated; 15 are at various stages of investigation; 18 are under preliminary assessment; two are under review with limited information provided to the investigating entity, he added.

Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini, co-founder and Executive Director of the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN), told IPS the idea of taking DNA samples from peacekeepers prior to deployment was first noted in a 2005 UN report.

Privacy advocates have pushed back against this issue since then, and they have a point.
“How do we know that our DNA samples, once given to the UN, will not be used, abused or hacked by others?”, she asked.

Nonetheless, the problem of SEA in crisis and conflict affected settings is very real– not just committed by peacekeepers but also civilians as evident from recent UN reports and allegations from international humanitarian organizations, said Naraghi-Anderlini, the first Senior Expert on Gender and Inclusion on the UN’s Mediation Standby Team.

She listed the ways to address this issue:

First, the UN could train and inform its civilian and security personnel about SEA issues, and make the DNA sample optional. People who have no intention of being sexually abusive or exploitative would likely lead the way by providing the swabs, and this could encourage others to participate too.

Second, during recruitment, training and preparation of civilian and security personnel, prior to deployment and during field missions, the message could be conveyed regularly and clearly: if they are implicated in SEA cases, suspension without pay is effective immediately. If investigations prove the allegations to be true, individuals will be terminated, and the UN would recommend criminal proceedings in cases of sexual abuse and rape and those involving exploitation of minors.

Third, if an individual is aware of SEA occurring but does not report it, he/she is also complicit and would face punitive action.

Fourth, TCC countries and countries with citizens staffing international missions (or seconded from the government) have to commit to taking swift action to demonstrate their seriousness of intent.

Fifth, as always, recruitment and deployment of more women, particularly to senior posts can have a strong preventive impact and send a clear message.

The abuse and exploitation of women, girls ,boys and men when they are at their most vulnerable,by the men paid and sent to protect them on behalf of the world community, is among the most vile of crimes, she noted.

“That it continues, is an indictment of our governments. It is the most destructive and self-destructive force within the UN”, said Naraghi-Anderlini, who is also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University.

Meanwhile, Code Blue, a campaign by AIDS-free World, has called for a #MeTooUN movement, on the lines of a similar movement gaining widespread support in the US, as part of a campaign to expose sexual abuse in the UN system worldwide.

In a statement released week, it said: “Standing increasingly alone, the UN continues to downplay, dismiss, protest, and justify. Its own staff conduct internal “investigations” behind tightly locked doors, devoid of oversight, designed to exonerate the accused and belittle accusers. When its senior officials are exposed by advocates and media as misogynistic, or even criminal, the UN offers the accused a dignified exit.”

Code Blue also singled out the case of Luiz Loures, a UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director at UNAIDS, who “communicated his wish not to seek renewal of his position.”

Loures was accused of sexually assaulting a female subordinate. The case was closed after a questionable internal “investigation” that featured improper meddling by the Executive Director of UNAIDS, said Code Blue.

Last week, Justin Forsyth, an Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director at UNICEF, was allowed to resign following revelations that he sexually harassed female subordinates during his previous job at Save the Children. He left his UN job because he was concerned about protecting “our cause and the cause of aid,” he said in a statement.

In its statement, Code Blue also said that other senior UN officials accused of sexual harassment and sexual abuse are enjoying fully paid suspensions, awaiting exoneration by a system designed to bid predators farewell, thank them for their years of “service,” and gently place them in the high-level recycling bin

Ian Richards, President of the Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations of the UN System (CCISUA), told IPS last year: “When UN staff sign up to work for the UN, they shouldn’t have to sign over their DNA. This proposal would presume that all UN staff are potential sex abusers.”

No employer or country, he said, asks its employees or citizens to hand over their DNA, and there are good reasons for that, including the right to privacy and to protect against misuse of personal information.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Boycott, Divest & Sanctions Campaign Not Anti-Israel but Pro-Palestinian, Says Norwegian MPhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/boycott-divest-sanctions-campaign-not-anti-israel-pro-palestinian-says-norwegian-mp/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=boycott-divest-sanctions-campaign-not-anti-israel-pro-palestinian-says-norwegian-mp http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/boycott-divest-sanctions-campaign-not-anti-israel-pro-palestinian-says-norwegian-mp/#comments Mon, 12 Feb 2018 08:23:02 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154265 When Norwegian parliamentarian Bjørnar Moxnes recently nominated the BDS movement for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, the leader of Norway’s Red Party faced the inevitable: a furious backlash from pro-Israeli and anti-Palestinian groups. But “my nomination is first and foremost pro-Palestinian, not anti-Israeli”, declared Moxnes, while arguing his case, in an interview with IPS. The […]

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When Bjørnar Moxnes nominated the BDS movement for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, he faced the inevitable: a furious backlash from pro-Israeli and anti-Palestinian groups

Credit: BDS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 12 2018 (IPS)

When Norwegian parliamentarian Bjørnar Moxnes recently nominated the BDS movement for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, the leader of Norway’s Red Party faced the inevitable: a furious backlash from pro-Israeli and anti-Palestinian groups.

But “my nomination is first and foremost pro-Palestinian, not anti-Israeli”, declared Moxnes, while arguing his case, in an interview with IPS.

The 13-year old Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a fast spreading global campaign aimed at increasing political and economic pressure on Israel with the ultimate goal of Palestinian statehood.

Inspired by the highly successful 1960s anti-apartheid movement that led South Africa to abandon the widely-condemned racist government in Pretoria in the early 1990s, BDS is being led primarily by academics, trade unions, student bodies, peace activists, parliamentarians and civil society organisations (CSOs) worldwide.

Inspired by the highly successful 1960s anti-apartheid movement that led South Africa to abandon the widely-condemned racist government in Pretoria in the early 1990s, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is being led primarily by academics, trade unions, student bodies, peace activists, parliamentarians and civil society organisations (CSOs) worldwide.

Asked what convinced him to nominate the BDS movement for a Nobel Peace Prize, Moxnes singled out its goals, its achievements, and its growing widespread appeal fighting for the human rights of Palestinians.

“Our party has consistently supported all legitimate forms of struggles carried out to achieve justice for the Palestinian people for decades.”

“What fascinates us about the BDS campaign is that it is non-violent, legal, in line with international law and human rights and highly efficient at putting the struggle for Palestine back on the international agenda at an otherwise very difficult time for the Palestinian cause”.

He said it was also encouraging to see such a broad movement inspired by the anti apartheid campaign in South Africa, endorsed even by former Nobel Peace Prize laureates like Desmond Tutu and Mairead Maguire, peace activist from northern Ireland.

“We hope this nomination can help ignite an international campaign in favour of awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the BDS movement that will change the way the international community think and act regarding the Palestinian people’s just claim for freedom and justice.”

As part of the backlash, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs, last week demanded that a German bank close an account that “enables BDS to raise funds to boycott the Jewish state and spread antisemitism”.

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, he said: “I am leading an international campaign to defend Israel from the BDS movement’s hateful attacks against Israel’s right to exist”.

This stance against BDS, he said, “has been adopted by our close friends in Germany, including the CDU [Christian Democratic Union] and municipalities such as Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich. I call on the Bank for Social Economy to join the many German institutions, leaders and citizens who are uniting to reject the discriminatory and anti-semitic boycott movement against Israel,” he added.

According to the BDS website, “boycotts” include withdrawing support for Israel and Israeli and international companies that are involved in the violation of Palestinian human rights, as well as complicit Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions.

Norwegian parliamentarian Bjørnar Moxnes, leader of Norway’s Red Party

Norwegian parliamentarian Bjørnar Moxnes, leader of Norway’s Red Party

The “divestment” campaigns urge banks, local councils, churches, pension funds and universities to withdraw investments from all Israeli companies and from international companies involved in violating Palestinian rights

And the “sanctions” campaigns pressure governments to fulfil their legal obligation to hold Israel to account including by ending military trade, free-trade agreements and expelling Israel from international forums such as the UN and Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA).

With an international campaign against the nomination, what are the chances of BDS getting a Nobel?

Moxnes told IPS: “Our party has a critical attitude towards the Nobel Committee because of its long-standing bias in favour of Western geopolitical elite interests and its disregard of the will of Alfred Nobel to award the peace price to persons and organizations that fight for peace and demilitarization”.

However, he pointed out, there have been several important honourable exceptions to that rule, “and we have a realistic hope that our nomination of the BDS campaign can make it at least to the short list, published by the Nobel Committee towards the end of September. And let’s not rule out the possibility of actually achieving the Nobel Peace Prize either.”

“However, and this is a main point that I want to stress, the nomination has already created a positive campaign around the BDS movement, at a time when this movement is sought to be criminalized by Israel”.

If the supporters of justice for Palestine across the world come together to maintain this campaign in favour of rewarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the BDS movement, it can both re-legitimize the BDS movement and contribute to significantly increase the international pressure on the Israeli government to abide by international law, he noted.

Asked if the five-person Nobel committee will not shy away from what could be a highly controversial nomination, despite the fact that PLO leader Yassir Arafat shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, Moxnes said: “Let’s not forget that the Nobel Committee simultaneously awarded the peace prize to Israeli prime minister Yitzak Rabin and Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres, the latter considered the father of the Israeli atomic bomb.”

“So I don’t think it can be claimed that there has been any pro-Palestinian bias, that could justify ruling out a movement that fights for a peaceful and just solution to one of the world’s oldest and most bitter conflicts, through peaceful means. And the just solution for the Palestinians that the BDS movement is campaigning for is really key to achieve peace and stability also in the broader Middle East, something the whole humanity will benefit from. So the BDS really has all it takes to be a worthy Nobel Peace Prize laureate”, he declared.

Asked how much of political support the BDS nomination has in Norway itself, Moxnes said: “The current Norwegian government is closely allied to the USA and seems to be more eager to please the USA and its ally in Tel Aviv, than to uphold a principled stance on international law and human rights”.

Hence the success of this campaign in favour of awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the BDS movement depends on the active participation of a broad international movement.

On the other hand, he said, there is broad support for the just claims of the Palestinian people among Norwegians. The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, a massive player in Norwegian politics, firmly supports the Palestinian cause and voted in favour of implementing BDS measures against Israel last December. Among political parties and NGOs, there is also a lot of support for Palestinian rights.

Asked to respond to Israeli charges that BDS is an “anti-semitic movement”, he said: “One of the things we appreciate about the BDS movement is that it clearly is not hostile towards Jews in general. Actually many progressive Jews and Jewish organizations actively supports the BDS movement”.

This is important for our political party, that consistently reject any kind of racism, including anti-semitism, he added.

“We want a Middle East where Jews and Palestinian can live side by side in peace and security. A non-just and non-violent way towards the just claims of the Palestinian people would be a necessary step towards that end,that would also benefit the Jewish population,” he said.

The Nobel Committee usually publishes a shortlist of nominees by the end of September. The laureates are chosen and announced in October, and the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded on December 10 in Oslo, Norway.

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Tackling Inequality – The Myth that Davos Can Change the Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/myth-davos-can-change-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=myth-davos-can-change-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/myth-davos-can-change-world/#comments Mon, 29 Jan 2018 18:00:58 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154041 When the World Economic Forum (WEF) concluded in Davos, Switzerland last week, the outcome of the annual talk-fest was seemingly predictable—plenty of unrestrained platitudes but, surprisingly, less of the American populist, protectionist rhetoric. The presence of President Donald Trump was a political side-show as he proudly declared that America was “open for business”— even as […]

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For years now, Davos has listed inequality as a major concern, and yet has also noted that it keeps increasing. (Don’t these leaders have any influence?)

US President Donald Trump at the Davos Forum

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 29 2018 (IPS)

When the World Economic Forum (WEF) concluded in Davos, Switzerland last week, the outcome of the annual talk-fest was seemingly predictable—plenty of unrestrained platitudes but, surprisingly, less of the American populist, protectionist rhetoric.

The presence of President Donald Trump was a political side-show as he proudly declared that America was “open for business”— even as standup comedian Jimmy Kimmel wisecracked: “And who better to make that declaration than a man who declared bankruptcy six different times” (when he was a self-declared “billionaire” businessman before he ran for the US presidency.)

Trump, who has increasingly opted for bilateralism over multilateralism — while pulling out of the 11-member Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and threatening to do the same with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada– appeared more restrained before the world’s business elites, even though he arrived in Davos immediately after he slapped tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines.

But then appearances, as they say, can be frighteningly deceptive.

Implicitly taking a shot at Trump, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the Davos Forum that “forces of protectionism are raising their heads against globalization.” Their intention is not only to avoid globalisation but also reverse its natural flow, he warned.

Ben Phillips, Launch Director at the Nairobi-based Fight Inequality Alliance, told IPS: “Davos is over. This is not merely to say that the private helicopters have taken their charges back to private airstrips for their onward journey home. This year, 2018, was the nail in the coffin for the idea that Davos could change the world.”

He described the Davos Forum as a “speed-dating club for plutocrats and politicians”. But the idea that it will be a force for a more equal society is dead, he added.

Last week, WEF boss Klaus Schwab embraced Trump, complaining that Trump’s “strong leadership” had suffered “misconceptions and biased interpretations”.

Schwab, went further, praising Trump’s rushed and irresponsible tax giveaway to billionaires that is cutting services, increasing debt and widening inequality: “On behalf of the business leaders here in this room, let me particularly congratulate you for the historic tax reform package passed last month, greatly reducing the tax burden of US companies”.

According to the New York Times, some in the audience booed at Schwab’s remarks praising Trump.

Davos is now Trump-Davos: the racism and cruelty of Trump is forgiven, said Phillips.

“And Trump became Davos-Trump: his claimed revolt against globalization is now exposed as merely an attack on poor migrants and not a challenge to the global elite. Goldman Sachs – once the target of Trump’s rhetoric but now the source of his key cabinet picks, was clear. They “really like what he’s done for the economy”, Phillips added.

Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director, Greenpeace International, told IPS she saw no evidence that the corporate or government leaders in Davos really understood the urgent need to provide justice for the people or the planet.

“While they speak of inclusive growth and climate action, they fail to investigate or challenge their own role in propping up and benefitting from the underlying system that has created the fractured world we live in,” she added.

However, she said, she was inspired by many of the young global shapers, particularly women, whom she met, leading the way with big ideas and collective leadership.

Morgan pointed out that climate risk and climate action were more present in discussions at Davos this year, but not at the speed or scale required when measured against the scale of the challenge we face.

“Climate disruption is the new norm, which means a transformation of our energy and land-use systems is the only way forward,” she noted.

Phillips told IPS it has not just the embrace of Trump, however, that has ended the myth of Davos as an equalizing force. It is the consistent failure of Davos to deliver.

“For years now, Davos has listed inequality as a major concern, and yet has also noted that it keeps increasing. (Don’t these leaders have any influence?)”, he asked.

As the world’s foremost expert on inequality trends, former World Bank economist Branko Milanovic, concluded last week, Davos has “produced 0 results” in lessening inequality – while the economy has been further adjusted by inequality-exacerbating policies that have returned us to the “early 19thcentury”.

For students of history, noted Phillips, this should all be unsurprising: never, at any time or place, have great strides been made in tackling the concentration of power and wealth by a few by literally concentrating together those powerful and wealthy few.


"All major equalizing change has involved a process of those outside the elite gathering together, building confidence and strength, and pushing for a fairer share. Greater equality has never been freely given, it has always been won through collective struggle."

Ben Phillips, Fight Inequality Alliance

Indeed, all major equalizing change has involved a process of those outside the elite gathering together, building confidence and strength, and pushing for a fairer share.

Greater equality has never been freely given, it has always been won through collective struggle, declared Phillips.

Even the usually-restrained United Nations expressed concern over Trump’s call for countries to pursue their own self-interest – in this age of globalisation and multilateralism.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the outspoken Zeid Raad al-Hussein, declared: “It’s the script of the 20th century. He urged all countries to pursue their own interest, almost without reference to the fact that if you do all of that, if each country is narrowly pursuing its agenda, it will clash with the agendas of others and we will take the world back to 1913 once again.”

Striking a different perspective to Davos, Phillips said “happily, last week was a week when that process of people organizing together for change also took a step forward. But not on the Davos mountain, but on very different mountains.”

As the media summarized it “Forget Davos – Dandora is the key to tackling inequality.”

Dandora in Nairobi is a slum situated on top of a garbage mountain, and it was there, not at the World Economic Forum, that NGOs, social movements and trade unions who have come together in the global Fight Inequality Alliance centred their organizing.

Dandora played host to an Usawa Festival (“Equality Festival”) pulled together by Kenya’s greatest hiphop star Juliani along with grassroots groups working to build up strength from the ground up.

Across the world, similar festivals and rallies brought people together to demand change and build their power. Attendees at Davos complained of being trapped in fog, stuck in ditches, and almost buried by heavy snow.

At the Dandora garbage mountain, in contrast, the sun shone, the participants sang in joyful defiance and people took the initiative for change into their own hands, said Phillips.

“We are the people we’ve been waiting for!” they shouted.

It will take time, they said, but from the garbage mountain top they felt, in an echo of Dr King and of the captives who ran from the Pharaoh, that they could see the promised land, declared Phillips.

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Women’s March Focuses on Gender Equality & Minority Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/womens-march-focuses-gender-equality-minority-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-march-focuses-gender-equality-minority-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/womens-march-focuses-gender-equality-minority-rights/#respond Sun, 21 Jan 2018 09:13:11 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156283 The one-year anniversary of the 2017 Women’s March in Washington was commemorated in mid-town Manhattan yesterday where thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets of New York protesting the policies of the Trump administration—focusing specifically on gender empowerment, women’s rights, diversity, migrants, people of color, and gay and lesbian rights, in what is described as […]

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By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK, Jan 21 2018 (IPS)

The one-year anniversary of the 2017 Women’s March in Washington was commemorated in mid-town Manhattan yesterday where thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets of New York protesting the policies of the Trump administration—focusing specifically on gender empowerment, women’s rights, diversity, migrants, people of color, and gay and lesbian rights, in what is described as an increasingly polarized American society.

The slogans, which captured the political mood of the demonstrators, were strikingly feminist: “God is Coming & She is Pissed off”, “Equal Rights are Human Rights,” “Nasty Women Unite”, and “I will not Go Quietly”.

The marchers, spread over 20-25 blocks, were noisy but not unruly as hundreds of New York City police officers provided security, with demonstrators gathering at Central Park West. The march was organized by the Women’s March Alliance.

Katherine Siemionko, the founder of the Alliance and lead organizer of the New York City march, said: “Our goal is to unite people all over the world in the fight for human rights. Women’s March Alliance is honored to be one of the leaders in this effort and we’re excited – but not surprised – that New Yorkers have already come out and committed themselves to leading the effort”.

She said there will be marches happening all over the world on January 20th and 21st – and there will surely be another record-setting #weekendofwomen.”

Rosie Perez, actress and feminist activist, told the crowd: “We are going to keep the pressure on. Thank you to the women who came forward…who called out Mr. Weinstein and brought him down. We need to do the same for Trump.”

Last year’s protests were triggered by the election of Donald Trump as the 45th US President and took place on Jan. 21, the day after his inauguration. This year’s “weekend of women” is expected to include about 250 similar marches worldwide.

This is the second Women’s March in NYC. The first march last year drew an estimated 400,000 people.

The Alliance, which is independent from the Women’s March group in Washington D.C. march, is a nonprofit created in January 2017 and “whose mission is to raise women’s voices through education and activism.”  Besides the march, the group hosts educational workshops, training sessions, nonpartisan events, and festivals.

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US, Led by an Erratic Trump, Seeks to Undermine UNhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/us-led-erratic-trump-seeks-undermine-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-led-erratic-trump-seeks-undermine-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/us-led-erratic-trump-seeks-undermine-un/#comments Thu, 18 Jan 2018 15:33:00 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153931 The continued erratic and outrageous comments by President Donald Trump – and his attempts to undermine the United Nations – are threatening to cause irreparable damage to the world body. The signs are ominous: the US withdrawal from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the threats against member states voting for anti-Israeli resolutions; […]

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US president Donald Trump addressing the UN General Assembly in September 2017. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 18 2018 (IPS)

The continued erratic and outrageous comments by President Donald Trump – and his attempts to undermine the United Nations – are threatening to cause irreparable damage to the world body.

The signs are ominous: the US withdrawal from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the threats against member states voting for anti-Israeli resolutions; slashing funds to a 69-year-old UN agency for Palestinian refugees; withdrawal from the 2016 Paris climate change agreement; threats to “totally destroy” a UN member state, North Korea; a US-inspired $285 million reduction in the UN’s regular budget for 2018-2019, and the insidious attempts to wreck the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement.

And more recently, Trump triggered a global backlash when he singled out Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries” eliciting protests from the 55-member African Union (AU).

Trump has also come under fire for his insulting statements that “all Haitians have AIDS” and Nigerians who visit the US “would never go back to their huts.”

But running notoriously true to form, he has reversed himself again and again — and denied making any of these statements, despite credible evidence.

In its editorial last week, the New York Times rightly declared that Trump “is not just racist, ignorant, incompetent and undignified. He’s also a liar.”

That’s quite a mouthful to characterize the supreme leader of the free world: a crown which he may lose, paradoxically, to President Xi Jinping of totalitarian China.

James A. Paul, Executive Director of Global Policy Forum (1993-2012), an NGO monitoring the work of the United Nations, told IPS the Trump administration poses a grave threat to the future of the UN and to the development of international cooperation more generally.

“But we have to ask: how much does the present differ from the past and how close are we to a collapse of the UN under assault from Washington?.”

Every day, there appears new confirmation of the problem, whether it is President Trump’s crude statements about world leaders, his harsh commentary and stereotypical remarks about other countries and peoples, his upsetting of carefully-constructed international agreements, and his utter disregard for the tactfulness of diplomacy, said Paul.

“In terms of the UN as an institution, we see such blows as the US withdrawal from the Climate Change Agreement, looming US defunding of the UN’s Palestinian refugee aid, and US-led slashing of the regular UN budget.”

Crude blackmailing to enforce favorable votes in UN bodies, said Paul, has also been practiced by Washington more than ever.

“At the same time, there is an increasingly-harsh US government rhetoric about the UN as a useless bureaucracy, undeserving of respect and support.”

Paul said “right-wing nationalism has arisen in many lands in recent years, of course, and we should remember that the US has often in the past acted towards the UN and the international community with condescension and domination”.

Recent developments, he argued, are therefore not so much unique as they are extreme, posing deeper-than-ever threats to the viability of the UN in an extremely unstable and dangerous time.

Meanwhile, the US has already announced it will cut about $65 million in funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which providence sustenance to millions of Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon.

Responding to a question at a press conference January 16, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “very concerned” about the US funding cuts.

“I strongly hope that, in the end, it will be possible for the United States to maintain the funding of UNRWA, in which the US has a very important share.”

And he made it clear that UNRWA, contrary to a misconception, is “not a Palestinian institution. UNRWA is a UN institution created by the General Assembly.”

Last December, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who has hinted at linking America’s financial leverage as the biggest single donor, to Washington’s political demands, claimed the US had successfully negotiated the $285 million reduction of the UN budget for 2018-2019.

And it was Haley who threatened to “take down names” and cut US aid to countries that voted for a resolution last December condemning US recognition of Jerusalem as the new Israeli capital.

Ian Williams, UN correspondent for Tribune and Senior Analyst, Foreign Policy in Focus, told IPS “Trump’s ignorance and arrogance makes a dangerous compound mixed with Nikki Haley’s ambitions and her pro-Israeli prejudices.”

Her job as Permanent Representative of the UN includes letting the US government know the views of the rest of the world, but it is clear from her counterproductive threats that she does not really care, he said.

Sarah Palin (a former Republican Vice Presidential candidate), announcing her foreign policy credentials, once remarked she could monitor Russia from her backyard in her home state of Alaska.

“And it is clear that Haley can only see Israel from the US mission on First Avenue,” said Williams, author of “UNtold: The Real Story of the UN in Peace and War,” recently released by Just World Books.

That seems to reflect some deep prejudices as well as blatant domestic political ambition. While Bush appeased his right wring by letting John Bolton bluster, Washington and the White House made sure that he did not break up the playground, he added

“Trump shows no signs of restraining the damage that Haley is doing to the UN and international law – nor indeed to American diplomacy which Haley even more than some of her predecessors is making an oxymoron.”

But unlike earlier times, a newly involved, and newly affluent China is waiting to pick up the balls that Haley and Trump throw out, said Williams who has been covering the United Nations since 1989.

Mouin Rabbani, Contributing Editor, Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP), told IPS history is demonstrating once again that there is an inherent threat to international peace and security “when powerful states are led by volatile airheads.”

The United Nations is as exposed to these risks as any other state or institution, and arguably more so given its dependency on not only American funding but also US engagement, he added.

“At the same time, it would be a little unfair to assign blame solely to Trump and his diplomats, in this case led by the extraordinarily vulgar Nikki Haley.”

This is because UN-bashing has become something of a national sport if not civic requirement in the US for decades, fed by a ceaseless stream of morbid, utterly fantastical conspiracy theories of the type that Americans excel at concocting and revel in ingesting, he noted.

“We are witnessing, in real time, what happens when powerful states cease to properly invest in the education of their children.”

The problem for the UN is that making the world body a more effective organization is the one item not on the agenda of its US critics, he declared.

With Trump, they smell a unique opportunity to administer permanent and irreparable damage to the UN (and for that matter pretty much everything else they identify with modern civilization).

“It will be for the international community to decide whether to yet again roll over and play dead or prevent the lunatics from taking over the asylum,” Rabbani declared.

Paul told IPS that to get perspective and avoid idealizing earlier years at the UN, “we should remember the negative effects of the Cold War on the UN, including the proxy wars, the fierce battles over decolonization, and the negative pressure constantly brought to bear on UN budgets.”

The Congo crisis in the early 1960s had a deadly effect on the UN in more ways than one. Recent information points to the assassination of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961, showing how far Washington and its allies were prepared to go to weaken the UN so as to protect mining and other interests in Congo and throughout Africa, he noted.

“Today, the budget cuts may be the UN’s most serious danger. In the previous biennium, the Obama Administration already forced budget reductions but this time the cuts have been deeper and more fundamental.”

After years of “doing more with less,” the UN system is desperately short of funds for basic programs. Still, the Trump people in Washington have declared that cuts must go deeper and further shrinkage is necessary.

“Beyond the Regular Budget, Washington is imposing deep austerity on UN agencies, funds and programs. Will the Trump administration simply strangle the UN with steadily more draconian under-funding?,” he asked.

This has apparently been the Trump plan for US government agencies as well, from Environmental Protection to the State Department. “Kill the Beast!” chant the alt-right ideologues to the applause of their neo-liberal corporate backers. said Paul, author of the newly-released book “Of Foxes and Chickens: Oligarchy & Global Power in the UN Security Council.”

To assess the danger, “we need to go beyond calculations about whether Trump will be voted out of office in 2020.” Such possibilities, he noted, are a reminder that Trump’s own peculiarly odious politics could be short-lived.

“But they do not answer the larger question: what is happening in the world that has given rise to so many thuggish right-wing populists and so many corrupt, rightward-leaning centrists as well?”

Could it be the rising hegemony of the multinational corporations and their owners, who think they can rule over the global system with a minimum of interference, from old-fashioned states and ineffective intergovernmental bodies?, asked Paul, a former editor of the Oxford Companion to Politics of the World.

“We, the peoples,” the globe’s citizens, have been lured into this trap, to the surprise of so many intellectuals, globalists, and internationalists. This, not Trump, is the existential threat that the UN faces.

“Can a new leadership arise, with new ability to bring the public to its senses? Can the climate crisis stimulate a new transnational political movement? Can a global constituency for a revived national politics and a new and transformed UN come soon into being?,” he asked.

“The UN’s future almost certainly depends on it”, he said.

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Pakistan, Facing Military Aid Cuts, One Step Ahead of UShttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/pakistan-facing-military-aid-cuts-one-step-ahead-us/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pakistan-facing-military-aid-cuts-one-step-ahead-us http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/pakistan-facing-military-aid-cuts-one-step-ahead-us/#respond Tue, 16 Jan 2018 14:27:11 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153886 When the United States abruptly cuts off military supplies to its allies for political or other reasons, the reaction has been predictable: it drive these countries into the arms of the Chinese, the Russians and Western European weapons suppliers. So, when the Trump administration decided recently to withhold about $2.0 billion in aid to Pakistan, […]

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'Rafale B', French Air Force combat jets.

By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK, Jan 16 2018 (IPS)

When the United States abruptly cuts off military supplies to its allies for political or other reasons, the reaction has been predictable: it drive these countries into the arms of the Chinese, the Russians and Western European weapons suppliers.

So, when the Trump administration decided recently to withhold about $2.0 billion in aid to Pakistan, the government in Islamabad was one step ahead: it had already built a vibrant military relationship with China and also turned to UK, France, Sweden, Turkey and Italy for its arms supplies.

In the Middle East, some of the longstanding US allies, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt and Kuwait, are known not to depend too heavily on American weapons systems—and their frontline fighter planes include not only F-15s and F-16s (US-supplied) but also Rafale and Mirage combat jets (France), the Typhoon (a UK/France/Italy joint venture) and Tornado and Jaguars (UK), all of them in multi-billion dollar arms deals.

The primary reason for multiple sources is to ensure uninterrupted arms supplies if any one of the suppliers, usually the US, withholds military aid – as it did in the 1990s when Washington suspended security assistance to Pakistan under the so-called Pressler amendment which called for a certification that Pakistan did not possess nuclear weapons. (It did)

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) latest data for 2012-2016, the US accounted for about a third of the entire global market in major conventional weapons.

SIPRI reports that Pakistan has received significant quantities of weapons from both the United States and China in recent years. Deliveries from China in the last several years reportedly include combat aircraft, tanks, submarines, and other naval vessels.

US deliveries have included armored personnel carriers and systems to modernize US F-16s that were previously supplied to the Pakistani military.

Derek Bisaccio, Middle East/ Africa & Eurasia Analyst at Forecast International Inc., a US-based defense research company, told IPS the two primary arms suppliers to Pakistan are the United States and China.

American arms agreements with Pakistan, he said, have totaled between $5-6 billion since 2001; much of this stems from the sale of F-16 fighter planes.

“Although Chinese arms sales to Pakistan are more difficult to put a dollar figure to– owing to a lack of transparency on both sides– it is expected that Chinese arms sales have eclipsed American arms sales on an annual basis in recent years as Pakistan and China have deepened their military-technical cooperation,” he noted.

In the past decade, China has sold naval patrol vessels, submarines, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems to Pakistan. The two have partnered on projects like the JF-17 fighter jet, assembled and manufactured locally by the Pakistanis.

Other arms suppliers include Ukraine, with whom Pakistan has partnered on its fleet of battle tanks, and Turkey.

Pakistan and Turkey have negotiated in the past few years over Pakistan’s possible purchase of attack helicopters and corvettes. Pakistan has purchased airborne early warning & control aircraft from Sweden and may well acquire more in the coming years, Bisaccio said.

In the past, Pakistan has contracted the United Kingdom, France and Italy for some of its purchases; many naval vessels and aircraft operated by Pakistan are French-origin, he added.

According to a report in the Washington Times last week, China is planning to build a military base in Pakistan, which would be its second overseas military base, after Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.

The naval installation will be erected in a key strategic location: the Pakistani town of Jiwani, a port near the Iranian border on the Gulf of Oman and near the Straits of Hormuz, which resides at one of the six proposed economic corridors of the One Belt One Road Initiative, commonly called the Silk Road Economic Belt, the Times said.

Dr. Natalie J. Goldring, a Senior Fellow with the Security Studies Program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, told IPS: “The Trump administration’s decision to halt military aid to Pakistan is long overdue. Pakistan’s human rights record is deplorable, as documented in annual reports from the State Department.”

However, that decision was not justified on human rights grounds, she noted. Instead, the administration argues that the Pakistani government is not doing enough to combat terrorism.

“This argument that Pakistan is harboring terrorists is not new. The US-Pakistani relationship frequently features policy cycles that include critical statements by US officials, attempts to reduce or halt aid, and an eventual return to the status quo,” said Goldring, who also represents the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy at the United Nations, on conventional weapons and arms trade issues.

“Ironically, the Trump decision to put a hold on military assistance to Pakistan comes at the same time as Reuters reports that the administration is planning to be even more aggressive in pursuing global arms sales. Embassy staffs are apparently going to be asked to promote US arms sales more actively to their host governments. This is reminiscent of similar moves during the Reagan administration.”

She also pointed out that advocates of arms sales often argue that countries can find other suppliers if the US government refuses a sale.

“Yet by avoiding selling sophisticated US weapons to unstable regimes, we may significantly reduce the risk that members of our armed forces will end up fighting our own weapons. And in the end, the US government needs to set ethical standards for arms sales, not merely economic ones.”

Reacting to the US aid cuts, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif was quoted as saying: “We do not have any alliance” with the US. “This is not how allies behave.”

Trump said on Twitter that Pakistan had “given us nothing but lies and deceit” and accused Islamabad of providing “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan.”

But Islamabad may still retaliate by closing down US supply routes to Afghanistan which goes through Pakistan. Currently, there are over 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan.

Bisaccio of Forecast International Inc told IPS that due to decades of partnership, the Pakistani military has a large amount of U.S.-supplied equipment, either provided directly from the U.S. or a third party, in its force structures, either in active use or in storage.

Much of the Army’s aviation wing is composed of Western-supplied aircraft, with a lot of American systems.

Asked if the Pakistani military can survive if the US suspends military aid– and halts maintenance, servicing and spares to US-made equipment—Bisaccio said it can certainly survive, but in some areas of the military such moves to end cooperation would be painful.

He said the suspension of maintenance, servicing, and the provision of spare parts– should the U.S. decide to enact such a move– would be particularly problematic for the Pakistani F-16 fleet.

Pakistan has already encountered difficulty acquiring new F-16s, as the U.S. Congress blocked Pakistan from using foreign military financing to purchase eight jets in 2016. Inability to acquire maintenance or armaments would impact fleet readiness, especially over time as the F-16s face attrition. Posturing against rival India would suffer as a result, he added.

Moreover, the ability of the Army to carry out counter-insurgency operations could be impacted should Pakistan not be able to obtain servicing for the Army’s aviation assets, especially the AH-1 attack helicopters.

“Pakistan, in recognition that reliance on one supplier could create vulnerability, has over the years diversified its supplier base and worked to build up its own defense industry, which does have the effect of lessening its military dependence on the U.S,” Bisaccio pointed out.

The dispute with President Trump, he pointed out, is a symptom of the longer-running tension between the U.S. and Pakistan, but, in Pakistan’s view, the latest row with the Trump administration provides further validation for this policy.

In an interview with the Financial Times in September 2017, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi reiterated that his country would like to purchase F-16s from the U.S., but could seek alternatives from France or China if need be.

Pakistan’s missile deterrent against India is a key element of the country’s national security and Pakistan was able to develop its missile program without American assistance.

“The gradual fraying of relations between the U.S. and Pakistan has occurred amid a deepening of relations between China and Pakistan. Their joint cooperation on a range of matters, including military-technical issues, will help blunt the impact of the U.S. cutting off aid to Pakistan.”

The volume of security assistance provided to Pakistan from China is unknown but is likely to increase moving forward, offsetting to some extent the temporary or permanent loss of American assistance, he added.

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The Reality of North Korea as a Nuclear Powerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/reality-north-korea-nuclear-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=reality-north-korea-nuclear-power http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/reality-north-korea-nuclear-power/#comments Thu, 11 Jan 2018 11:12:46 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153823 With a track record of six underground nuclear tests between 2006 and 2017, North Korea is desperately yearning to be recognized as the world’s ninth nuclear power – trailing behind the US, UK, France, China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Israel. But that recognition seems elusive– despite the increasing nuclear threats by Pyongyang and the continued […]

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Credit: UN photo

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 11 2018 (IPS)

With a track record of six underground nuclear tests between 2006 and 2017, North Korea is desperately yearning to be recognized as the world’s ninth nuclear power – trailing behind the US, UK, France, China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Israel.

But that recognition seems elusive– despite the increasing nuclear threats by Pyongyang and the continued war of words between two of the world’s most unpredictable leaders: US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Arguing that North Koreans have little reason to give up their weapons program, the New York Times ran a story last November with a realistically arresting headline which read: “The North is a Nuclear Power Now. Get Used to it”.

But the world’s five major nuclear powers, the UK, US, France, China and Russia, who are also permanent members of the UN Security Council, have refused to bestow the nuclear badge of honour to the North Koreans.

North Korea, meanwhile, has pointed out that the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the ouster of Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi, were perhaps facilitated by one fact: none of these countries had nuclear weapons or had given up developing nuclear weapons.

“And that is why we will never give up ours,” a North Korean diplomat was quoted as saying.

Dr M.V. Ramana, Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia, told IPS there is, however, hope in the recent placatory moves by North and South Korea.

“I think that the situation can return to a calmer state, although it is entirely possible that this calmer state would involve North Korea holding on to nuclear weapons. I suspect that for the time being the world will have to live with North Korea’s nuclear arsenal,” he added.

“Although that is not a desirable goal, there is no reason why one should presume that North Korea having nuclear weapons is any more of a problem than India, Pakistan, or Israel, or for that matter, China, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, or the United States,” said Dr Ramana, author of The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India, Penguin Books, New Delhi (2012).

“I think the greater problem is the current leadership of the United States that has been making provocative statements and taunts. I think it is for the powerful countries to start the process of calming down the rhetoric and initiate negotiations with North Korea.”

Also, any peace process should be based on reciprocal moves: one cannot simply expect North Korea to scale down its programs without corresponding moves by the United States, he declared.

Jayantha Dhanapala, a former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs (1998-2003), told IPS there is little doubt that North Korea, (also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), has acquired a nuclear weapon capability and the means of delivering it to the mainland of the USA.

That this is clearly in defiance of international norms and a violation of international law and Security Council resolutions is also clear, he noted.

Those norms, quite apart from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), now include the recently negotiated Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, or the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty, the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons, with the goal of leading towards their total elimination.

It was adopted on 7 July 2017, but neither the USA nor the DPRK have acceded to it, said Dhanapala a former President of Pugwash (2007-17),

He also pointed out that the persistent efforts of the DPRK since the end of the Korean War to conclude a just and equitable peace with the USA have been rebuffed again and again.

“Past agreements and talks both bilateral and multilateral have failed and we are now witnessing the puerile antics of two leaders engaged in the mutual recrimination of two school-yard bullies asserting that one man’s nuclear button is bigger than the other’s while tensions reminiscent of the Cold War build up alarmingly.”

Such escalation reached dangerous proportions at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis where the historical record proves that the world was saved from nuclear catastrophe by sheer luck.

“We cannot trust to luck anymore,” he warned.

“Some small steps between the two Koreas hold promise of a dialogue beginning on the eve of the Winter Olympics. This must be the opportunity for all major powers to intervene and resume negotiations. The Secretary-General of the UN must act and act now,” he added.

The number of nuclear weapons in the world has declined significantly since the end of the Cold War: down from approximately 70,300 in 1986 to an estimated 14,550, according to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

According to US intelligence sources, North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is anywhere between 20 to 50 weapons. The US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) estimates a total of over 50 weapons.

Joseph Gerson, President of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security, told IPS that successive North Korean governments have pursued their nuclear weapons program for two primary reasons: to ensure the survival of the Kim Dynasty and to preserve the survival of the North Korean state.

“As Scott Snyder (a Senior Fellow for Korea Studies and Director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy Council on Foreign Relations) taught us years ago, there is a logic – potentially deadly as is the case with any nuclear weapons program – to the development of North Korea’s deterrent nuclear arsenal.”

Beginning with the Korean War, the United States has threatened and or prepared to initiate nuclear war against North Korea. These threats have added resonance for North Koreans as a consequence of the United States military having destroyed 90% of all structures north of the 38th parallel during the Korean War.

Gerson said it is also worth noting that in the wake of the 1994 U.S.-DPRK nuclear crisis, North Korea was prepared to trade its nuclear weapons program in exchange for security guarantees, normalization of relations and economic development assistance.

The United States failed to fulfill its commitments under the 1994 Agreed Framework, by refusing to deliver promised oil supplies and endlessly delaying its promised construction of two light water nuclear reactors in exchange for the suspension of the DPRK nuclear weapons program.

In 2000, former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright negotiated a comprehensive agreement with North Korea. And President Clinton was to travel to Pyongyang to finalize the agreement, but with the political crisis caused by the disputed outcome of the 2000 Presidential Election, he did not make that trip.

Among the first disastrous orders of business of the Bush Administration was the sabotaging of that agreement. This, in turn, led to North Korea’s first nuclear weapons test, said Gerson, author of “Empire and the Bomb: How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World”, “The Sun Never Sets…Confronting the Network of U.S. Foreign Military Bases”, and “With Hiroshima Eyes: Atomic War, Nuclear Extortion and Moral Imagination”.

While expectations for the meeting of North and South Korean officials, currently underway, are low, said Gerson, the world should be celebrating South Korean President Moon’s winter Olympic-related diplomatic initiatives and the resulting functional Olympic Truce.

By welcoming North Korean athletes to participate in the Olympics and by postponing threatening U.S.-South Korean military “exercises,” President Trump’s “my nuclear button is bigger than yours” –ratcheting up of dangers of war have been sidelined– he pointed out.

Following his inauguration last year, President Moon announced that he had a veto over the possibility of a disastrous U.S. initiated second Korean War. Having exercised that veto and forced Trump’s hand, he has opened the way for deeper diplomacy and peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Gerson said: “There remains, of course, the danger the Olympic Truce will simply serve as a temporary reprieve, with President Trump, beleaguered by the Muller investigation and seemingly endless scandals, again ratcheting up tensions. Disastrous war remains a possibility should the nuclear monarch opt for a desperate and deadly maneuver in his struggle for political survival.”

There never was, nor will there be, a military solution to the U.S.-North Korean nuclear crisis, and as U.S. military authorities have repeated warned, given Seoul’s proximity to North Korean artillery, even a conventional U.S. military attack against North Korea would result in hundreds of thousands of South Korean casualties and could escalate to uncontrollable and genocidal nuclear war.

The way forward requires direct U.S.-North Korean negotiations, possibly in multi-lateral frameworks like the Six Party Talks, Gerson noted.

As the growing international consensus advocates, resolution of the tensions will necessitate some form of a “freeze for freeze” agreement, limiting North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs in exchange for halting U.S. threats to destroy or overturn the North Korean government and to implement previous commitments to normalization of relations.

With this foundation in place, future diplomacy can address finally ending the Korea War by replacing the Armistice Agreement with a peace treaty and building on numerous proposals for the creation of a Northeast Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone.

In the end, Gerson said, the only way to prevent similar nuclear weapons proliferation crises is for the nuclear powers to finally fulfill their Article VI Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligation to negotiate the complete elimination of their nuclear arsenals.

As the Nobel Peace Laureate and senior Manhattan Project scientists Joseph Rotblat warned, humanity faces a stark choice. “We can either completely eliminate the world’s nuclear weapons, or we will witness their global proliferation and the nuclear wars that will follow. Why? Because no nation will long tolerate what it perceives to be an unjust hierarchy of nuclear terror.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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