Inter Press ServiceGlobal Geopolitics – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 17 Jan 2019 16:51:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Preventing a New Euro-Missile Racehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/preventing-new-euro-missile-race/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=preventing-new-euro-missile-race http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/preventing-new-euro-missile-race/#comments Wed, 09 Jan 2019 15:00:15 +0000 Daryl G. Kimball http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159564 Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director, Arms Control Association

The post Preventing a New Euro-Missile Race appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Russia's 9M729 missile reportedly has been tested using a mobile launcher system similar to that used by the 9K720 Iskander-M pictured here on September 18, 2017. Credit: Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

By Daryl G. Kimball
WASHINGTON DC, Jan 9 2019 (IPS)

Next month, it is very likely the Trump administration will take the next step toward fulfilling the president’s threat to “terminate” one of the most far-reaching and most successful nuclear arms reduction agreements: the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which led to the verifiable elimination of 2,692 Soviet and U.S. missiles based in Europe.

The treaty helped bring an end to the Cold War and paved the way for agreements to slash bloated strategic nuclear arsenals and to withdraw thousands of tactical nuclear weapons from forward-deployed areas.

On Dec. 4, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that Russia had fielded a ground-launched missile system, the 9M729, that exceeds the INF Treaty’s 500-kilometer range limit. He also announced that, in 60 days, the administration would “suspend” U.S. obligations under the treaty and formally announce its intention to withdraw in six months unless Russia returns to compliance. Suspension will allow the administration to try to accelerate the development of new missiles currently prohibited by the treaty.

Noncompliance with the treaty is unacceptable and merits a strong response. But Trump’s public declaration that he will terminate the treaty and pursue new U.S. nuclear capabilities will not bring Russia back into compliance with the INF Treaty. Worst of all, blowing up the INF Treaty with no substitute plan in place could open the door to a dangerous new era of unconstrained military competition with Russia.

Without the treaty, already severe tensions will grow as Washington considers deployment of new intermediate-range missiles in Europe and perhaps elsewhere and Russia considers increasing 9M729 deployments and other new systems.

These nuclear-capable weapons, if deployed again, would be able to strike targets deep inside Russia and in western Europe. Their short time-to-target capability increases the risk of miscalculation in a crisis. Any nuclear attack on Russia involving U.S. intermediate-range, nuclear-armed missiles based in Europe could provoke a massive Russian nuclear counterstrike on Europe and on the U.S. homeland.

In delivering the U.S. ultimatum on the treaty, Pompeo expressed “hope” that Russia will “change course” and return to compliance. Hope that Russia will suddenly admit fault and eliminate its 9M729 system is not a serious strategy, and it is not one on which NATO leaders can rely.

Instead, NATO members should insist that the United States and Russia redouble their sporadic INF Treaty discussions, agree to meet in a formal setting, and put forward proposals for how to resolve issues of mutual concern about the treaty.

Unfortunately, U.S. officials have refused thus far to take up Russia’s offer to discuss “any mutually beneficial proposals that take into account the interests and concerns of both parties.” That is a serious mistake. Failure by both sides to take diplomatic engagement more seriously since the 9M729 missile was first tested five years ago has bought us to this point.

Barring an unlikely 11th-hour diplomatic breakthrough, however, the INF Treaty’s days are numbered. Doing nothing is not a viable option. With the treaty possibly disappearing later this year, it is not too soon to consider how to head off a dangerous and costly new missile race in Europe.

One option would be for NATO to declare, as a bloc, that none of them will field any INF Treaty-prohibited missiles or any equivalent new nuclear capabilities in Europe so long as Russia does not field treaty-prohibited systems that can reach NATO territory. This would require Russia to remove those 9M729 missiles that have been deployed in western Russia.

This would also mean forgoing Trump’s plans for a new ground-launched, INF Treaty-prohibited missile. Because the United States and its NATO allies can already deploy air- and sea-launched systems that can threaten key Russian targets, there is no need for such a system. Key allies, including Germany, have already declared their opposition to stationing new intermediate-range missiles in Europe.

In the absence of the INF Treaty, another possible approach would be to negotiate a new agreement that verifiably prohibits ground-launched, intermediate-range ballistic or cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads. As a recent United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research study explains, the sophisticated verification procedures and technologies already in place under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) can be applied with almost no modification to verify the absence of nuclear warheads deployed on shorter-range missiles.

Such an approach would require additional declarations and inspections of any ground-launched INF Treaty-range systems. To be of lasting value, such a framework would require that Moscow and Washington agree to extend New START, which is now scheduled to expire in 2021.

The INF Treaty crisis is a global security problem. Without serious talks and new proposals from Washington and Moscow, other nations will need to step forward with creative and pragmatic solutions that create the conditions necessary to ensure that the world’s two largest nuclear actors meet their legal obligations to end the arms race and reduce nuclear threats.

The post Preventing a New Euro-Missile Race appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director, Arms Control Association

The post Preventing a New Euro-Missile Race appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/preventing-new-euro-missile-race/feed/ 1
Renew Nuclear Arms Control, Don’t Destroy Ithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/renew-nuclear-arms-control-dont-destroy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=renew-nuclear-arms-control-dont-destroy http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/renew-nuclear-arms-control-dont-destroy/#respond Wed, 02 Jan 2019 13:09:04 +0000 Andrew Lichterman and John Burroughs http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159455 Andrew Lichterman is Senior Research Analyst for Western States Legal Foundation, based in Oakland, California. John Burroughs is Executive Director of Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, based in New York City.

The post Renew Nuclear Arms Control, Don’t Destroy It appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

A Soviet inspector examines a BGM-109G Tomahawk ground-launched cruise missile prior to its destruction pursuant to INF Treaty, October 18, 1988, at Davis-Monthan US Air Force Base in Arizona. Credit: US Department of Defense

By Andrew Lichterman and John Burroughs
NEW YORK, Jan 2 2019 (IPS)

A hard-earned lesson of the Cold War is that arms control reduces the risk of nuclear war by limiting dangerous deployments and, even more important, by creating channels of communication and understanding. But President Donald Trump and his National Security Advisor John Bolton appear to have forgotten, or never learned, that lesson.

In late October, Trump announced an intent to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo subsequently stated that the US will suspend implementation of the treaty in early February. While US signals have been mixed, initiation of withdrawal at that point or soon thereafter appears likely.

Agreed to in 1987 by the United States and the Soviet Union, the INF Treaty prohibits the two countries from deploying both nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges between 310 and 3420 miles.

The main reason cited for withdrawal is that Russia has tested and deployed ground-launched cruise missiles the treaty prohibits. Russia denies that the missiles violate the treaty and has made its own accusations, foremost that US ballistic missile defense launchers installed in Eastern Europe could be used to house treaty-prohibited cruise missiles.

On December 21, the United States opposed a Russia-sponsored UN General Assembly resolution calling for preservation of the treaty and for the two countries to consult on compliance with its obligations. The Russian representative said that US withdrawal “is the start of a full-fledged arms race.”

The US representative conveyed that the only way to save the treaty is for Russia to stop violating it. On behalf of the European Union, which opposed the resolution as a diversion, an Austrian diplomat said that erosion of the treaty will have critical consequences for Europe and beyond, dialogue between the US and Russia remains essential, and Russia should demonstrate compliance.

A representative of China, which supported the resolution, said the treaty is important for global stability, and cast doubt on prospects for making it multilateral. The General Assembly rejected the resolution by a vote of 46 against to 43 in favor, with 78 abstentions.

The INF Treaty allows either party to withdraw on six-month’s notice “if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests.” The treaty also includes a bilateral mechanism for resolving disputes over compliance. The Trump administration has firmly asserted that Russia has violated the treaty, and NATO states have backed that assertion.

But the administration has not made the case that the missiles in question pose a threat that significantly affects the military balance between Russia and the very large and capable forces of the United States and its NATO allies, much less constitute an “extraordinary” development jeopardizing US “supreme interests.”

On December 14, a Russian official stated that Russia is open to mutual inspections regarding claimed violations.

President Trump has also indicated that withdrawal is premised in part on a buildup of intermediate-range missiles by China, which is not a party to the treaty. Here too no case has been made that these missiles, which are based in China’s national territory, are best answered in kind by US deployment of intermediate-range missiles.

Nor has it been demonstrated that peace and stability in that region or the world will be enhanced by repudiating the treaty rather than seeking more comprehensive arms control measures aimed at braking an emerging multipolar arms race. Further, in either Europe or Asia, US ground-based intermediate-range missiles would have to be deployed in other countries.

This likely would spark opposition from their populations—a factor that three decades ago contributed to the negotiation of the INF Treaty itself.

In sum, the INF Treaty should not be abandoned lightly. It remains a key element of the arms control framework limiting nuclear weapons and arms racing. Often forward deployed and intermingled with other forces, the missiles the treaty prohibits are among the weapons most likely to lead to miscalculation or misadventure in a crisis.

And the danger of crisis miscalculation, of a disastrous misunderstanding of an adversary’s mindset, is real. At the time the INF Treaty was being negotiated, some US strategists viewed their nuclear-armed missiles in Europe as useful for convincing “demonstration” shots to show a commitment to defend Europe with nuclear weapons with less risk of escalation to a catastrophic nuclear war.

A 1987 Washington Post article summarized NATO thinking: “A final advantage of the INF weapons is that NATO planners believe that they could use a single Pershing II or cruise missile, rather than another nuclear weapon, with somewhat less risk of triggering an all-out nuclear war.”

But we now know that Soviet military leaders, strongly influenced by the World War II national trauma of a homeland devastated and millions dead, saw things quite differently. In an article published in Survival only last year, Alexei Arbatov, a Russian arms negotiator and parliamentarian, notes that in 1983 Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov, head of the Soviet General Staff, made clear that the Soviet Union would not allow itself to be taken by surprise, as it had been in 1941. Ogarkov stated, “We will start the offensive if we are obliged to do it, and as soon as we discover the first evidence of the beginning of nuclear attack by NATO.” And in so doing, he said, “We will deliver dozens and, if need be, a hundred nuclear strikes to break through NATO’s deep defense echelon.”

Arbatov recounted this little-known history to support a subtle but critical point about arms control. Even when prospects for arms control progress seem dim, constant efforts to negotiate create channels of communication that are invaluable in a crisis. They also build institutions devoted to understanding not only the capabilities of an adversary but also their intentions, their fundamental interests and their deepest fears.

But a long hiatus in serious arms control efforts and a climate of deepening hostility have eroded the diplomatic and military-to-military contacts between Russia and the United States. And in the triumphalism of the long post-Cold War period, U.S. arms control institutions such as the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency were downgraded or allowed to atrophy.

With tensions growing among nuclear-armed countries in potential flashpoints from Ukraine to the South China Sea, it is long past time to rebuild the capacity of the US government to negotiate intelligently with its nuclear-armed adversaries.

The best course would be to use the dispute over the INF Treaty as a moment to renew, rather than discard, the negotiating frameworks and institutions that played a significant role in avoiding catastrophe during the Cold War.

However, Trump and Bolton have expressed general hostility to any international obligation that might limit US use of force or military capabilities. Both see negotiations as a zero-sum game to be won or lost. Neither seems capable of imagining international agreements that benefit all parties and make the world a safer place.

So Congress must act, to preserve enough of a fragile status quo to leave space for future diplomacy. As former senator Russell Feingold has explained, there is a legitimate question as to whether it is constitutional for a president to withdraw from a Senate-ratified treaty over Congressional opposition.

However, such core foreign policy controversies seldom are finally resolved by the courts. Congress in any case has the practical power to prevent the administration from taking action contrary to the INF Treaty. Most important, it can refuse to fund weapons testing, production, or deployment that would violate the treaty.

Senator Jeff Merkley and six colleagues already have introduced the Prevention of Arms Race Act of 2018 (S.3667). It characterizes withdrawal from the INF Treaty without consultation with Congress as “a serious breach of Congress’s proper constitutional role as a co-equal branch of government,” and erects barriers to spending on missiles that would violate the treaty.

Despite intense antagonism during the Cold War, the US and Russia were able to negotiate agreements like the INF Treaty to address the riskiest elements of their nuclear confrontation. The time to start building a climate for negotiations is now. Waiting for a crisis may be too late.

The post Renew Nuclear Arms Control, Don’t Destroy It appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Andrew Lichterman is Senior Research Analyst for Western States Legal Foundation, based in Oakland, California. John Burroughs is Executive Director of Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, based in New York City.

The post Renew Nuclear Arms Control, Don’t Destroy It appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/renew-nuclear-arms-control-dont-destroy/feed/ 0
Migrant’s Compact Mischaracterized for Political Reasonshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/migrants-compact-mischaracterized-political-reasons/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrants-compact-mischaracterized-political-reasons http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/migrants-compact-mischaracterized-political-reasons/#respond Mon, 10 Dec 2018 14:51:27 +0000 Alice Thomas http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159130 Alice Thomas is Refugees International’s Climate Displacement Program Manager.

The post Migrant’s Compact Mischaracterized for Political Reasons appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

By Alice Thomas
MARRAKESH, Morocco, Dec 10 2018 (IPS)

The fact that a handful of countries have indicated their intention not to come to Marrakesh to endorse the compact signifies how the issue of migration has been politicized and become a political flashpoint.

Unfortunately, certain right-wing, political parties in some of these countries have been successful in misleading the public regarding what the compact is, and what it seeks to achieve which is to promote cooperation among countries of origin, transit and destination to ensure that migration is safe, regular and orderly.

Moreover, with respect to countries like Switzerland – which was a co-chair of the process to develop the compact — there is nothing in the compact that is contrary to its current policies and practices. This demonstrates how the compact has been mischaracterized for political purposes.

Ultimately, however, that a handful of countries may not come to Marrakesh should not detract from the fact that over 180 nations will, meaning the compact has received overwhelming global support.

What is unique about this is that countries that are withdrawing are doing so despite the fact that (a) the compact is non-legally binding, and (b) all of these countries (other than the U.S.) participated – presumably in good faith – in the 18-month process to negotiate its terms, yet are now not supporting it.

How effective is the compact if its implementation is only voluntary?

The compact will only be effective if countries move forward with its implementation. However, what is important is that the compact’s 23 objectives embody a comprehensive set of best practices for managing migration in a safe, orderly manner which requires the cooperation of countries of origin, transit and destination.

In other words, implicit in the compact is the understanding that not implementing these practices results in unsafe, irregular, and disorderly human movement, in loss of life, in human trafficking, in exploitation and abuse of migrants in situations of vulnerability including children, etc..

It results in a failure to address the factors in countries of origin that are driving more and more people to migrate out of necessity and desperation, not choice.

It also seeks to protect persons in situations of vulnerability who are not squarely included in the Refugee Convention, including those compelled leave their countries due to disasters and the adverse effects of climate change.

All countries need to address these drivers, to promote practices that ensure that people are moving safely and regularly. At the same time, the compact recognizes the sovereign right of every nation to manage its borders. As such, that a country does not want to implement these best practices is contrary to its own self-interests.

Political parties will come and go, but ultimately, over the longer-term, the compact should prove effective in improving migration governance and in addressing the current challenges of migration in a smarter, more effective way that is everyone nation’s interests.

Has the concept of refugees undergone a dramatic change?

The concept of refugees has evolved. There are over 258 million migrants today (that is 1 in 30 people) most of whom migrate for economic reasons, to gain skills, to fill labor needs in countries of destination, and to support their families and communities back home through remittances.

In fact, unlocking the full economic potential of migration to contribute to GDP and sustainable development in origin and host countries is much of what the compact is about.

What has changed is the fact that increasingly, more and more people are migrating not out of choice – not as “economic migrants” – but because of other drivers like generalized violence, corruption, and the impacts of climate change in their home countries.

These persons are not included in the definition of refugee under the 1951 Refugee Convention, despite the fact that they are in “refugee-like” situations meaning they are in need of some level of international protection.

One of the goals of the compact is to ensure that those migrating out of desperation- and who are not protected under refugee law – are not exploited or abused, and that their human rights are upheld.

The post Migrant’s Compact Mischaracterized for Political Reasons appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Alice Thomas is Refugees International’s Climate Displacement Program Manager.

The post Migrant’s Compact Mischaracterized for Political Reasons appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/migrants-compact-mischaracterized-political-reasons/feed/ 0
US Blasts Migrant’s Compact – Even as 150+ Countries Embrace ithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/us-blasts-migrants-compact-even-180-countries-embrace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-blasts-migrants-compact-even-180-countries-embrace http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/us-blasts-migrants-compact-even-180-countries-embrace/#respond Mon, 10 Dec 2018 12:11:34 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159123 As UN delegates met in Morocco to adopt a global compact to protect the rights and safety of refugees and migrants (GCM), the Trump administration launched a blistering attack condemning it as a violation of national sovereignty. “The United States proclaims and reaffirms its belief that decisions about how to secure its borders, and whom […]

The post US Blasts Migrant’s Compact – Even as 150+ Countries Embrace it appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Credit: IOM

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 10 2018 (IPS)

As UN delegates met in Morocco to adopt a global compact to protect the rights and safety of refugees and migrants (GCM), the Trump administration launched a blistering attack condemning it as a violation of national sovereignty.

“The United States proclaims and reaffirms its belief that decisions about how to secure its borders, and whom to admit for legal residency or to grant citizenship, are among the most important sovereign decisions a State can make, and are not subject to negotiation, or review, in international instruments, or fora”.

The Trump administration, which pulled out of the negotiations last December, “maintains the sovereign right to facilitate or restrict access to our territory, in accordance with our national laws and policies, subject to our existing international obligations.”

“We believe the Compact and the process that led to its adoption, including the New York Declaration, represent an effort by the United Nations to advance global governance at the expense of the sovereign right of States to manage their immigration systems in accordance with their national laws, policies, and interests,” the US said in a “national statement” released on the eve of the conference¸which began in Marrakesh December 10 and concludes December 14.

But despite strong US opposition, more than 150 of the UN’s 193 member states, along with human rights organizations, international relief agencies and civil society organizations (CSOs) , either expressed support for it or are participating in the conference.

In an interview with IPS, Sarnata Reynolds, Oxfam International’s Policy Advisor for Global Displacement & Migration, said the contents of the GCM represent the culmination of two years of hard work, debate, and good faith negotiations among 192 UN member states, civil society and UN agencies, to bring together a blueprint for cooperation on migration that both respects the rights of the women, men and children leaving home, and the ability of states to respond to their economic and political challenges, among others.

Excerpts from the interview:

REYNOLDS: As we move into these last few days before adoption of the GCM, some world leaders and political actors are avoiding domestic grievances by shifting attention to the GCM, and asserting it will undermine sovereignty or worker’s rights, which is just not true.

Regardless of justifications provided so far, governments withdrawing from the GCM have not done so based on the contents of the GCM, which create no new rights and are not legally binding, they have done so based on current domestic politics.

Given this moment of heightened and heated rhetoric, positions of governments now may not remain the same as new administrations take office, and indeed they may temporarily get worse. But they could also get better.

Currently it looks as if 183 out of 193 UN members will adopt the GCM on Monday and Tuesday. A few countries have dropped out, and while that is of course unfortunate, the GCM does not require all UN member states to be functional and effective.

Ultimately, the GCM’s success will be measured by how well states work together to ensure that labor, demographic, family, education and other needs are addressed in a mutually beneficial way that bolsters human rights. It’s not particularly unusual in terms of international agreements, that 10 states will not adopt the GCM at the outset.

For example, the Rome Statute, which brought the International Criminal Court into effect, was adopted without the support of the US, has 139 signatories now, and has had a profound impact on international jurisprudence since it entered into force in 2002, whether states are parties to it or not.

There are 145 parties to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. No one would question that it has been highly influential and a lifeline to millions of people.

IPS: How effective is the compact if its implementation is only voluntary — particularly in the context of the Refugee Convention (signed and ratified by all UN member states) which is being violated by countries such as the US, Hungary and Poland?

REYNOLDS: It was never the intent for the GCM does to create any new rights or obligations. Indeed, the GCM arose out of commitments made in the New York Declaration (July 2016), https://refugeesmigrants.un.org/declaration. Neither the NY Declaration nor the GCM are legally binding, and this is specifically stated in both documents.

The entire impetus for this process arose because states around the world were struggling with the mobility of so many migrants and refugees, and there was a shared recognition that global coordination and a common governance was necessary.

The GCM is a carefully crafted understanding of what is needed and what can be claimed by right. If applied as written, it would mean that nations are finally tackling the newer migration occurring because of climate change, environmental degradation and increasing disasters.

It would mean that more visas are made available for students, workers and those in need of respite abroad in a way that is mutually beneficial. Going forward, we will be monitoring and participating in national plans of action consistent with the GCM monitoring alongside hundreds of other civil society organizations that have engaged in this process.

No doubt countries are violating the Refugee Convention, but governments do take their obligations to refugees into account when developing migration and protection policies. They are sensitive to the criticism they receive from civil society, and many make efforts to address them, even if partially.

And over and over again, through conflicts and across decades, ordinary people, mayors, families and organizations have taken on the responsibility to welcome and protect refugees.

Almost 70 years after the passage of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, governments generally accept that people fleeing conflict and persecution have the right to seek protection in another country, and countries neighboring those in conflict have protected tens of millions of refugees for protracted periods of time.

Over the past 40 years, millions of women, men, and children from dozens of countries have been resettled elsewhere, and States have contributed billions of dollars in support to refugees and their host countries. So there is hope in the GCM (and GCR) and there is also the reality that states will likely always need to be pushed to live up to their obligations.

IPS: Has the concept of refugees undergone a dramatic change — from political refugees of the cold war era to economic refugees of today?

REYNOLDS: The general concept of refugees has not undergone a dramatic change. The Refugee Convention was drafted in the aftermath of World War II and reflects both the circumstances, social norms, and populations displaced during that period. It had limitations as a result, including that rape and sexual slavery (common weapons of war) were not even considered forms of persecution until the 1990s. It has always been a living document.

Just as in the 1950s, in this decade there are people fleeing home and moving home for a variety of reasons – some for work, others for education, and still others to marry or reunite with family members. This is a constant throughout human history. Another constant is the migration taking place. In the 1970s, about 3% of the world’s populations were migrants.

Since then, in every decade, the number of migrants has remained at 3%, even until today. There is much myth-making around migration, which is positive and negative, ebbs and flows with economies and politics. Currently we’re in negative space.

The post US Blasts Migrant’s Compact – Even as 150+ Countries Embrace it appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/us-blasts-migrants-compact-even-180-countries-embrace/feed/ 0
A UN Conference Undermined by 11th Hour Withdrawalshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/un-conference-undermined-11th-hour-withdrawals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-conference-undermined-11th-hour-withdrawals http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/un-conference-undermined-11th-hour-withdrawals/#comments Fri, 07 Dec 2018 17:10:34 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159088 When the long-awaited UN conference focusing on the rights and safety of migrants and refugees takes off in Morocco, it will be a rare, if not an unprecedented meeting, for one reason: the withdrawal of at least seven member states almost at the 59th minute of the eleventh hour. As the international community struggles to […]

The post A UN Conference Undermined by 11th Hour Withdrawals appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Refugees from South Sudan. Credit: UNHCR/Will Swanson

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

When the long-awaited UN conference focusing on the rights and safety of migrants and refugees takes off in Morocco, it will be a rare, if not an unprecedented meeting, for one reason: the withdrawal of at least seven member states almost at the 59th minute of the eleventh hour.

As the international community struggles to resolve a spreading global humanitarian crisis, and restrict the intake of refugees and migrants, the approval of a “Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration” is turning out to be a politically sensitive issue.

The United States, which withdrew from the long-drawn-out negotiations back in December last year, will be a notable absentee, along with Austria, Hungary, Poland, Israel, Switzerland and Australia—all of whom have problems relating either to refugees or migrants.

Other non-starters may include Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, according to published reports.

Not surprisingly, these countries don’t want to be a party to a compact, which is expected to be adopted at the meeting in Marrakesh December 10-14.

This despite the fact that 192 member states, minus the US, finalized the Global Compact last July, after years of negotiations.

The reluctance is all the more surprising because the implementation of the compact is voluntary – unlike the mandatory 1951 Refugee Convention which has been signed and ratified by virtually all of the 193 UN member states, but not necessarily implemented.

Asked about the non-participants, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters November 30: “ I think what is regrettable, as we’ve seen, is a number of countries walking away from what was agreed already here in New York when the pact was adopted. I think it bears reminding again and again, that this is not a binding legal instrument. This is non-binding. This is guidance for countries on how to manage migration.”

As the Marrakesh conference is about to get off the ground, Denmark has announced plans to move “unwanted” immigrants to Lindholm Island, two miles out to sea, and once used for studying sick animals, according to Cable News Network (CNN).

“Rising far-right and anti-immigration sentiments that have swept Europe have now reached the highest levels of government in Denmark. Some of the country’s legislators have made it clear they have no qualms about testing the boundaries of human rights conventions to preserve what they call the Danish way of life. The controversial deal still must be passed by the parliament”, CNN said.

So, it seems very likely that Denmark may also join the rest of the team of absentees at the conference.

Joseph Chamie, a former director of the United Nations Population Division and an independent consulting demographer, told IPS the migration conference, despite its shortcomings, “is certainly an achievement.”

However, about a dozen countries are not participating and some additional countries are having strong objections raised by opposition parties to signing the Global Migration Compact (GMC), he added.

This will certainly have serious negative consequences on the Compact, especially as the United States — the largest immigrant receiving country — is having no part of the Global Compact.

“It will also be problematic for the European Union (EU) as these countries are divided on the Compact and some are not participating in the conference,” he noted.

Asked if this was unprecedented, Chamie said: “Yes, it is unusual for so many countries to bow out of a UN conference and this will weaken the effectiveness of the Global Compact.“

In an interview with the Associated Press (AP), Louise Arbour, the UN Special Envoy on International Migration, said she was “very disappointed” that some countries are reneging on their support — and in some instances for “bizarre” reasons.

She rightly pointed out that the global compact was “not legally binding” and “there is not a single country that is obligated to do anything that it doesn’t want to.”

Arbour was quoted as saying: “Some have said, for instance, we will not sign which is rather strange because there’s nothing to sign. It’s not a treaty. Others have said we will not come. Others have said we don’t endorse the compact.”

Meanwhile, one in every 70 people around the world is caught up in a crisis, including the refugee crisis, with more than 130 million people expected to need humanitarian aid next year.

The United Nations and its partners will aim to help more than 93 million of the most vulnerable people, according to the 2019 Global Humanitarian Overview presented by Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock in Geneva last week.

In a statement released December 5, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said migration has always been a polarizing topic.

But in recent years it has become even more divisive, to the point of dominating elections in many countries.

Concerns about the impacts of migration on receiving states have led some governments to adopt strategies specifically designed to reduce and deter migration, extending even so far as restricting access to essential and lifesaving services including basic health care, shelter, food and legal assistance.

The IFRC said governments have the right to set migration policies. However, contrary to conventional wisdom, all migrants, even those with no claim to asylum, have rights under international law. These rights include access to health, safety and protection.

Chamie told IPS that while the implementation of the Compact is voluntary, it is establishing global norms concerning international migration, which is a goal in itself.

“Of course, countries may not follow conventions and international compacts and there are certainly many instances of violations in the recent past.”

Countries are sovereign — something that has universal agreement– and they will promote their national interests even when it violates agreements they’ve signed, he added.

Asked about Denmark’s plans, he said confining “unwanted” immigrants to a remote island as Denmark proposes is likely to be problematic in many respects.

Aside from the important issue of human rights, it will be difficult logistically and will become increasingly problematic, especially with respect to children and those needing medical care. Moreover, over time as the numbers increase, the difficulties will be compounded, he added.

Chamie also pointed out the simple fact : the supply of potential immigrants is FAR, FAR greater than the demand.

In addition, the receiving countries are selecting immigrants and many of those who wish to migrate will not be selected.

“As a result, many of those migrating without legal status are claiming asylum and seeking refugee status when in fact they are actually seeking employment opportunities and improved living conditions for themselves and families,” he added.

And as a consequence, Chamie pointed out, people are migrating illegally and upon arrival at their desired destination will attempt to remain in the country by all means possible, including seeking refugee status.

Again, one has to face the demographic facts, something most politicians typically avoid. Many of the populations of migrant sending countries are growing rapidly and most developed receiving countries are growing slowly.

The considerable pressures and strong forces for illegal immigration will certainly continue and the receiving countries are still lacking effective policies to address this demographic phenomenon, declared Chamie.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

The post A UN Conference Undermined by 11th Hour Withdrawals appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/un-conference-undermined-11th-hour-withdrawals/feed/ 1
Is Africa Ready for Nuclear Energy?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/africa-ready-nuclear-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-ready-nuclear-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/africa-ready-nuclear-energy/#respond Fri, 07 Dec 2018 12:29:15 +0000 Laura Gil http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159083 Laura Gil, Africa Renewal

The post Is Africa Ready for Nuclear Energy? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Current & expected electricity generation of African countries.

By Laura Gil
VIENNA, Dec 7 2018 (IPS)

Years back, nuclear energy was a fancy option limited to the industrialized world. In due course, nuclear could be an energy source for much of Africa, where only South Africa currently has a nuclear power plant.

Governments across the continent are devising development policies to become middle-income countries in the medium term. Socioeconomic growth comes with a rise in energy demand—and a need for a reliable and sustainable energy supply.

For industrializing countries in need of a clean, reliable and cost-effective source of energy, nuclear is an attractive option.

“Africa is hungry for energy, and nuclear power could be part of the answer for an increasing number of countries,” says Mikhail Chudakov, deputy director general and head of the Department of Nuclear Energy at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an international organisation that promotes the peaceful use of nuclear technology.

A third of the almost 30 countries currently considering nuclear power are in Africa.

Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan have already engaged with the IAEA to assess their readiness to embark on a nuclear programme. Algeria, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia are also mulling the possibility of nuclear power.

“Energy is the backbone of any strong development,” says Nii Allotey, director of the Nuclear Power Institute at the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission. “And where do we get energy from? We have hydro, thermal, fossil fuels, and we have local gas—but these are dwindling. They are limited; fossil fuels could run out by 2030. And, the prices are volatile.”

For Ghana, cost-effective, reliable electricity is the entry point to higher-value-added manufacturing and export-led growth. For example, the country’s reserves of bauxite—the ore used to produce aluminium—are an important source of income, but for now it is exported raw.

“We have a smelter, but it’s not operating at full capacity because electricity is too expensive,” Allotey says. “If we had cost-effective electricity, we would not be exporting raw bauxite, but exporting smelted bauxite at a much higher price. This would be a big move for Ghana.”

Power to the people
African governments are working to make electricity more widely accessible. Roughly 57% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa does not have access to electricity.

For many, the electricity supply is characterised by frequent power outages, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), an organisation of 30 mostly industrialised countries that have met a set of energy security criteria.

Kenya is considering nuclear to meet the demand generated by hooking up households nationwide, which is expected to contribute significantly to the 30% increase in electricity demand predicted for the country by 2030.

A successful nuclear power programme requires broad political and popular support and a national commitment of at least 100 years.

“For a long time in our country electrification levels were low, but the government has put in a lot of efforts towards electrifying the entire country,” says Winfred Ndubai, acting director of the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board’s Technical Department. “Even those areas that were considered to be remote are now vibrant. Within a period of about 10 years we have moved from [a] 12% electrification rate to 60%.”

Kenya depends mostly on non-fossil fuel for energy; about 60% of installed capacity is from hydropower and geothermal power.

Is Africa ready for nuclear?
“Going nuclear is not something that happens from one day to the next. From the moment a country initiates a nuclear power programme until the first unit becomes operative, years could pass,” says Milko Kovachev, head of the IAEA’s Nuclear Infrastructure Development Section, which works with countries new to nuclear power.

“Creating the necessary nuclear infrastructure and building the first nuclear power plant will take at least 10 to 15 years.”

A successful nuclear power programme requires broad political and popular support and a national commitment of at least 100 years, Kovachev added. This includes committing to the entire life cycle of a power plant, from construction through electricity generation and, finally, decommissioning.

In addition to time, there is the issue of costs. Governments and private operators need to make a considerable investment that includes projected waste management and decommissioning costs.

Kovachev points out that “the government’s investment to develop the necessary infrastructure is modest relative to the cost of the first nuclear power plant. But [it] is still in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Financing nuclear energy
Without proper financing, nuclear is not an option. “Most countries in Africa will find it difficult to invest this amount of money in a nuclear power project,” Kovachev stresses.

“But there are financing mechanisms like, for instance, from export agencies of vendor countries. Tapping into a reliable, carbon-free supply of energy when vendors are offering to fund it can make sense for several countries in Africa.”

Another aspect to consider is the burden on the electrical grid system of the country. Nuclear power plants are connected to a grid through which they deliver electricity. For a country to safely introduce nuclear energy, the IAEA recommends that its grid capacity be around ten times the capacity of its planned nuclear power plant.

For example, a country should have a capacity of 10,000 megawatts already in place to generate 1,000 megawatts from nuclear power.

Few countries in Africa currently have a grid of this capacity. “In Kenya, our installed capacity is 2,400 megawatts—too small for conventional, large nuclear power plants,” Ndubai says. “The grid would need to increase to accommodate a large unit, or, alternatively, other, smaller nuclear power plant options would need to be explored.”

One option is to invest in small modular reactors (SMRs), which are among the most promising emerging technologies in nuclear power. SMRs produce electric power up to 300 megawatts per unit, or around half of a traditional reactor and their major components can be manufactured in a factory setting and transported to sites for ease of construction.

While SMRs are expected to begin commercial operation in Argentina, China and Russia between 2018 and 2020, African countries are still wary of such a project.

“One of the things we are very clear about in terms of introducing nuclear power is that we do not want to invest in a first-of-a-kind technology,” Ndubai says. “As much as SMRs represent an opportunity for us, we would want them to be built and tested elsewhere before introducing them in our country.”

Joining a regional grid is another option. “Historically, it has been possible to share a common grid between countries,” Kovachev explains. “But, of course, this requires regional dialogue.” One example of such a scheme is the West African Power Pool, created to integrate national power systems in the Economic Community of West African States into a unified regional electricity market.

Another factor militating against a headlong rush into nuclear power is popular rejection of projects that are costly and hard to finance.

Also, countries are wary that in the event of a nuclear power plant accident, released radioactive materials will harm the environment and lives. Although no fatalities were recorded in the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in March 2011 following the Tōhoku earthquake, the release of radioactive materials forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents.

IAEA assistance
While the IAEA does not influence a country’s decision about whether to add nuclear power to its energy mix, the organisation provides technical expertise and other pertinent information about safe, secure and sustainable use to countries that opt for nuclear energy.

Safety and security are key considerations in the IAEA Milestones Approach, a phased method created to assist countries that are assessing their readiness to embark on a nuclear power programme. The approach helps them consider aspects such as the legal framework, nuclear safety, security, radiation protection, environmental protection and radioactive waste management.

“Many, many people ask the question: Why nuclear?” Allotey says. “To me, it’s not about nuclear being an option. It is about energy being an option. Do you, as a country, need energy? And the simple answer is yes. So if you need energy, you need to find cost-effective electricity that is clean and reliable.”

“With a rapidly expanding population and plans to grow our economies, we need to work within these constraints,” he adds. “We are a continent that is in dire need of energy.”

The post Is Africa Ready for Nuclear Energy? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Laura Gil, Africa Renewal

The post Is Africa Ready for Nuclear Energy? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/africa-ready-nuclear-energy/feed/ 0
Will Member States Help Offset US Funding Cuts to UN?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/will-member-states-help-offset-us-funding-cuts-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-member-states-help-offset-us-funding-cuts-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/will-member-states-help-offset-us-funding-cuts-un/#respond Wed, 05 Dec 2018 07:39:09 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159040 The speculation that the Trump administration plans to reduce its mandatory assessed financial contributions to the UN’s regular budget was implicitly confirmed when the US president told delegates last September that Washington “is working to shift more of our funding, from assessed contributions to voluntary contributions, so that we can target American resources to the […]

The post Will Member States Help Offset US Funding Cuts to UN? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

The UN General Assembly will decide on any proposed cuts on US assessed contributions to the UN. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 5 2018 (IPS)

The speculation that the Trump administration plans to reduce its mandatory assessed financial contributions to the UN’s regular budget was implicitly confirmed when the US president told delegates last September that Washington “is working to shift more of our funding, from assessed contributions to voluntary contributions, so that we can target American resources to the programs with the best record of success.”

Any such reduction in the scale of assessment – which is based on each country’s “capacity to pay” — will not only undergo a long-drawn-out negotiating process but will also have a significant impact on the day-to-day operations of the world body.

But that resolution may be adopted by the 193-member General Assembly if the US resorts to strong-arm tactics — as US Ambassador Nikki Haley once threatened to “take down names” and cut American aid to countries that voted for a resolution condemning US recognition of Jerusalem as the new Israeli capital.

At a press conference announcing her decision to step down as US ambassador to the UN, Haley told reporters last October that that during her two year tenure “we cut $1.3 billion in the UN’s budget. We’ve made it stronger. We’ve made it more efficient.”

At the same time, the US has slashed its contribution to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) , from $69 million in 2016 to zero in 2017, and cut $300 million in funds to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), aiding Palestinian refugees.

The US, which pulled out of the Human Rights Council last June, has also threatened to “defund” the Geneva-based Council.

Scott Paul, Oxfam America’s Humanitarian Policy Lead, told IPS the Trump administration’s recent threats to cut funding for and cooperation with the UN undercut the world’s most important mechanism for reducing the risk of conflict, addressing acute humanitarian needs and building a better, safer world.

“Cutting US contributions not only undermines the effort to prevent conflict and end poverty; it limits the ability of the US to make it better and revitalize it to meet today’s challenges,” he pointed out.

Paul said responses to forgotten crises like the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are both less than 50% funded, “and we will likely see major humanitarian crises even less funded than they are right now”.

“With less reliable funding, when new crises emerge in the future, there will less capacity to respond to help the world’s most vulnerable people survive and live with dignity”.

“We hope other countries will step up to save lives in humanitarian crises, but the US is leaving a big gap to fill, and families caught in crisis will pay the price,” declared Paul.

However, the proposed reduction in assessed contributions by the US has to be approved by the UN’s Administrative and Budgetary Committee (the Fifth Committee), the Committee on Contributions and finally endorsed by the General Assembly.

Currently, the US makes the largest single contribution, paying 22 percent of the UN’s regular budget, which also give the US plenty of financial clout not only to demand some of the highest ranking jobs in the world body but also dominate discussions on the biennial budget, which is estimated at $5.4 billion for 2018-2019.

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, a former UN Under-Secretary-General and one-time President of the Security Council, told IPS that to have an agreement on reducing the scale approved by the General Assembly is a very complex and complicated process.

The proposal to reduce the scale by a country, particularly with a sizeable contribution, like the US, would mean increase in the contribution of other countries as the scale for all countries together adds up to 100 percentile points.

“It is a zero-sum situation,” he added.

According to this formula, besides the 22% contribution by the US, the percentage for the other major contributors include: Japan 9.7 %, China 7.9%, Germany 6.4%, France 4.9 %, UK 4.5%, Italy 3.7% and Russia 3.1%.
The poorest countries of the world pay 0.001% of the UN budget, whereas the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), described as the poorest of the poor, have a cap of 0.01% each.

Ambassador Chowdhury pointed out that a Member State proposing reduction needs to go through a painstaking and arduous process of bargain-laden negotiating process. It needs consistency, expertise and collegiality in going through the process till its objective of reduction in the scale is achieved.

Very importantly, he noted, the Permanent Representative of that Member State needs to be personally involved and lead the process throughout.

“The whole scenario for this unfolds as a Fifth Committee exercise at the UN – but also at the bilateral/regional levels for influencing that exercise. This is a tall order.”

The last time such an exercise was undertaken for the reduction of the US scale, from 25 percent to 22.5 percent, Ambassador Chowdhury was very closely following that process, as US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke was leading that effort on behalf of his country “in a masterful way using all kinds of avenues and leverages available to him.”

“That kind of tenacity, perseverance, skillful diplomatic maneuvers and personal relationship built with many of his counterparts from other nations at UN during his tenure is a rare combination.”

“As I was chairing the Fifth Committee in 1997-98 during the 52nd UN General Assembly session– and the scale of assessment and the biennium budget were both on the agenda– Richard kept in regular touch and sought clarification from me on many related issues.”

“That gave me an insight into the way his patient step-by-step strategy was bringing him close to his objective and finally, it was achieved without much acrimony and hard feeling,” Ambassador Chowdhury added.

At a press conference last October, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres– in response to a question on proposed US funding cuts– told reporters: “Until now, the United States has not put into question the assessed contributions to the United Nations”.

He said there have been decisions to withdraw support from different agencies whose work is not agreed by the United States, but there has not been a disruption of the funding from the assessed contributions, both for the normal function of the Secretariat and of peacekeeping.

“And, of course, we are doing everything we can in order to make sure that we can overcome the difficulties that have happened in relations to agencies like UNRWA [UN Relief and Works Agency] or UNFPA [UN Population Fund] that we consider to have a very important function that needs to be maintained,” he added.

Meanwhile, US National Security Adviser John Bolton rejected the argument that Washington will not be able to cut funding to the Human Rights Council because the Council’s operating expenses are funded through assessed contributions.

In an interview with Associated Press (AP), Bolton was quoted as saying: “We’ll calculate 22 percent of the Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner’s budget, and our remittances to the UN for this budget year will be less 22 percent of those costs — and we’ll say specifically that’s what we’re doing.”

Ambassador Chowdhury told IPS that another important element in his scale-reduction strategy by Holbrooke was a carrot –- namely paying up of all US arrears to UN amounting to $300 million plus, blocked by US Senator Jesse Helms as Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“That was also a considerable inducement.”

“In this context, I would say that it is nothing new for the UN to suffer due to US actions for not paying the assessed annual contribution on time, withholding part of the contribution on some excuse, proposing the reduction of the scale (in fact. since UN founding, US scale has come down from 30 percent to current 22 percent) etc.”

“I believe it would be smart on the part of the general UN membership and UN’s Senior Management leadership not to succumb to such eventualities as the US decides to lessen its multilateral engagements.”

“Yes, I agree that on time, in full and without condition payment of assessed contribution is a Charter obligation. But UN has not done anything to enforce this obligation.”

He said “contribution or absence of it” by the largest payer and the host country of UN should not have a negative impact on the policy direction and activities of the world body.

The UN needs to internalize the culture of doing more with less – motivation and inspiration to be of service to humanity should not be dependent on availability of “funds” only, he declared.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

The post Will Member States Help Offset US Funding Cuts to UN? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/will-member-states-help-offset-us-funding-cuts-un/feed/ 0
African Nations Show Rare Transparency in Military Spendinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/african-nations-show-rare-transparency-military-spending/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=african-nations-show-rare-transparency-military-spending http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/african-nations-show-rare-transparency-military-spending/#respond Mon, 26 Nov 2018 12:06:31 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158867 When the United Nations began publishing annual reports on arms expenditures, starting in 1981, not all 193 member states voluntarily participated in the exercise in transparency– primarily because most governments are secretive about their defense spending and their weapons purchases. The original goal of the reports, according to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), […]

The post African Nations Show Rare Transparency in Military Spending appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

A panel discussion on the politics of peace. Credit: SIPRI

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

When the United Nations began publishing annual reports on arms expenditures, starting in 1981, not all 193 member states voluntarily participated in the exercise in transparency– primarily because most governments are secretive about their defense spending and their weapons purchases.

The original goal of the reports, according to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), was to facilitate reductions in military budgets, particularly in the context of the trillions of dollars in annual global military spending– reaching a staggering $1.7 trillion in 2017.

The United Nations has vociferously – but unsuccessfully – long campaigned for a significant diversion of military budgets into development aid, including a much-needed $100 billion by 2020 to curb carbon emissions and weather the impact of climate change.

According to UNODA, a total of 126 UN Member States have submitted reports to the UN Secretary-General regularly or at least once.

But only a minority of States report in any given year, while a small number of States consistently report every year. In addition, there are significant disparities in reporting by States among different regions.

Transparency in armaments, according to the UN, contributes to international security by fostering trust and confidence among countries.

And in a rare exercise in transparency, countries in sub-Saharan Africa have consistently reported on their military expenditures, according to a new report released last week by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

Asked to single out the most transparent, and the least transparent, of the African countries, Dr Nan Tian, Researcher at SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Programme, told IPS that based on SIPRI’s analysis, countries with relatively high transparency include Burkina Faso, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania, among others.

He said the least transparent include Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi, Lesotho, Gambia, Equatorial Guinea and Djibouti.
According to UNODA, information on military matters, particularly transparency on military expenditures, helps build confidence between countries.

At the same time, it can also help governments determine whether excessive or destabilizing accumulations of arms are taking place.

The new SIPRI report says transparency in military spending in sub-Saharan Africa is higher than expected.

Between 2012 and 2017, 45 of the 47 states surveyed published at least one official budget document in a timely manner online.

‘Contrary to common belief, countries in sub-Saharan Africa show a high degree of transparency in how they spend money on their military,’ says Dr Tian.

He says citizens everywhere should know where and how public money is spent. It is encouraging that national reporting in sub-Saharan Africa has

In a joint statement Dr Tian and Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher in SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Programme, told IPS global participation in reporting of military expenditure to the UN, on the other hand, has decreased to a very low level.

“The latest information we have is that in 2018, only 32 countries submitted data about their military spending in 2017.”

In the period 2008–17, only five states in sub-Saharan Africa reported at least once, and no reports were submitted during the years 2015–17.

“2018 has not yet ended but, as far as we know, no African country reported this year.”

Still, SIPRI data shows that governments in 45 countries in the region made either military expenditure budgets or figures on actual military expenditure publicly available in the period 2012–16, said Dr Tian and Wezeman.

These states could have opted to simply use this information in a submission to the UN using either their own format or the simplified form.

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 latest SIPRI report contains good news for analysts and advocates concerned about global transparency on military expenditures.

She said SIPRI has documented the publication of military spending reports in 45 of 47 countries in sub-Saharan Africa for at least one year between 2012 and 2017.

The United Nations has a long-standing instrument that is intended to collect information on UN members’ military expenditures.

Unfortunately, participation in that instrument has been low in recent years. And the vast majority of the countries that reported on their 2017 budgets in 2018 are countries in Europe.

The other regions of the world are vastly underrepresented.

“It’s ironic that so many countries in Africa are publishing their individual reports on military spending, but are choosing not to report the same data to the United Nations,“ said Dr Goldring, who also represents the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy at the United Nations, on conventional weapons and arms trade issues.

She pointed out that UN Member States regularly describe “reporting fatigue,” with numerous – and sometimes overlapping – reporting requirements imposing burdens on agencies and departments that are chronically understaffed.

“One possible solution would be to try to reduce the number of reports and to create standard forms to gather data that would otherwise be submitted in multiple reports.”

“Although the inclusion of virtually all sub-Saharan countries in the SIPRI report is good news, knowing the monetary value of military budgets only gets you so far. Military budget numbers are often not good proxies for countries’ military power”.

For example, the horrendous destructive power of the small arms and light weapons that are being used in conflicts all over the world is completely out of proportion to their relatively modest cost, she added.

Asked how most Asian, Latin American and Middle Eastern countries compare with transparency by African countries, Dr Tian and Wezeman told IPS they do not make any comparisons in the report, nor an extensive assessment of other regions in the past few years.

“Still based on SIPRI’s continuous monitoring of military spending in the world we can sketch the situation in other regions.”

Military spending transparency in Latin America is relatively high, for all countries useful and often detailed information is available, they said.

In Asia, transparency varies a lot. In India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Malaysia, Kazakhstan and Indonesia, very useful military spending data is published by the governments.

However in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, North Korea, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, military spending is kept secret, while military spending data in China is incomplete.

Also in the Middle East transparency varies highly.

Turkey, Israel, Iran and Jordan publish quite detailed information, but public reporting on military spending in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt and Iraq is low to minimal, “whereas we have not found any useful military spending data for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

The post African Nations Show Rare Transparency in Military Spending appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/african-nations-show-rare-transparency-military-spending/feed/ 0
Inside a Wagon in the Forest of Compiègnehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/inside-wagon-forest-compiegne/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=inside-wagon-forest-compiegne http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/inside-wagon-forest-compiegne/#respond Sun, 11 Nov 2018 14:26:10 +0000 Manuel Manonelles http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158629 What is the link between the current civil war in Syria, the austerity policy imposed by Germany during the last economic crisis or the Arab-Israeli conflict? Its origin, which lies in the world that was born a hundred years ago, inside a wagon in the middle of the Forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris. Indeed, […]

The post Inside a Wagon in the Forest of Compiègne appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Picture taken after the signature of the armistice in the Forest of Compiègne. Credit: Public Domain

By Manuel Manonelles
GENEVA, Nov 11 2018 (IPS)

What is the link between the current civil war in Syria, the austerity policy imposed by Germany during the last economic crisis or the Arab-Israeli conflict? Its origin, which lies in the world that was born a hundred years ago, inside a wagon in the middle of the Forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris.

Indeed, it was on November 11, 1914 that the signature of the Armistice between the Allied powers and the German Empire took place, in the above-mentioned wagon. This event marked de facto the end of World War I (1914-18), a conflict that changed the world and still today projects its shadows.

The Armistice was followed by the Paris Peace Conference and, as a consequence, the Treaty of Versailles, that of Sèvres and many others. The birth of the League of Nations, the policy of “reparations” or the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian, German and Ottoman empires, and in part the Russian one, were other outputs of the end of the Great War. The consequences of some of these historical events are still present today in the international agenda and determine the lives of millions of people, one century later.

 

The Middle East, Kurdistan and Syria

The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, through the Treaty of Sèvres of August 1920, opened a Pandora’s Box that we still strive to close today. Three examples: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the civil war in Syria and the case of the Kurdistan.

Let us start with the last one, with Kurdistan. Sèvres foresaw the holding of a referendum to decide its future, a referendum that never took place. The uprising of Kemal Atatürk in Turkey, the subsequent war and the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) were the main causes, but the disunity between the Kurds we could call “pragmatic” and the supporters of a greater Kurdistan also influenced. Similarly, the fact that Sèvres planned to include the oil rich province of Mosul within the territory of an eventual free Kurdistan (which the British were coveting) helped to tip the balance in favor of Turkish interests.

Another unfortunate legacy is, in part too, the current civil war in Syria. It is widely known that the origin of this conflict is related to the emergence of the Arab Spring, the resilience of the al-Assad regime, the infiltration of radical jihadist groups, and the interests of many regional and global powers.

However, part of the current war’s cruelty is intimately related to a State, Syria, resulting from the end of the WWI, with their borders designed to satisfy, exclusively, the French and British colonial interests. A division based on a Franco-British secret agreement taken before the end war, the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916, that unscrupulously mixed and divided diverse ethnic and religious groups.

Even more, we cannot ignore the icing on the cake of all conflicts, the Arab-Israeli conflict. Its origin is linked to the Balfour declaration (1917) before the end of the Great War. This declaration was assumed by the San Remo Conference (1920) -also linked to the Paris Peace Conference- within the framework of the complex maneuvers of the great powers, and other influential groups of interests, during the reshaping of borders of the post-Ottoman Levant.

 

Inheritances in financial policy

In another vein, one of the main elements that also defined the treaties resulting from the Paris Peace Conference, and especially the Treaty of Versailles, was the policy of “reparations”. This policy mainly entailed that the countries that lost WWI had to face the payment of enormous sums to compensate the Allies.

This policy, so aggressive, led to the resignation of a young economist from the British delegation at the Peace Conference, called Keynes, who warned of the destabilizing effects in the economic and financial field that this could have. Indeed, this was one of the main causes of the German hyper-inflationary crisis of the years 1920-23, in which a loaf of bread reached the cost of billions of German marks. The influence of this crisis on the discrediting of the Weimar Republic and the consequent rise of Nazism is well known.

This sequence of events is at the base of the almost pathological animosity of the German economists to inflation. Since the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany, German official economic and financial policy has been always conditioned by a strict control of inflation: perceived as the mother of all possible and imaginable evils. This was the policy that Chancellor Merkel imposed, not only in Germany but also in the rest of Europe, during the last economic and financial crisis; a restrictive policy that would avoid the supposed danger of inflation. With the consequent austerity policies and their consequences…

All of this and more, a hundred years ago, started in a wagon inside the Forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris.

Manuel Manonelles is the Delegate of the Government of Catalonia in Switzerland, as well as Visiting Professor at the University Ramon Llull – Blanquerna (Barcelona)

 

The post Inside a Wagon in the Forest of Compiègne appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/inside-wagon-forest-compiegne/feed/ 0
Brazilians Decide on a Shift to the Right at Any Costhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/brazilians-decided-shift-right-cost/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brazilians-decided-shift-right-cost http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/brazilians-decided-shift-right-cost/#respond Mon, 29 Oct 2018 23:27:39 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158429 Voters in Brazil ignored threats to democracy and opted for radical political change, with a shift to the extreme right, with ties to the military, as is always the case in this South American country. Jair Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old former army captain, was elected as Brazil’s 42nd president with 55.13 percent of the vote in […]

The post Brazilians Decide on a Shift to the Right at Any Cost appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Supporters of president-elect Jair Bolsonaro celebrate his triumph in the early hours of Oct. 29, in front of the former captain's residence on the west side of Rio de Janeiro. The far-right candidate garnered 55.13 percent of the vote and will begin his four-year presidency on Jan. 1, 2019. Credit: Fernando Frazão/Agencia Brasil

Supporters of president-elect Jair Bolsonaro celebrate his triumph in the early hours of Oct. 29, in front of the former captain's residence on the west side of Rio de Janeiro. The far-right candidate garnered 55.13 percent of the vote and will begin his four-year presidency on Jan. 1, 2019. Credit: Fernando Frazão/Agencia Brasil

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct 29 2018 (IPS)

Voters in Brazil ignored threats to democracy and opted for radical political change, with a shift to the extreme right, with ties to the military, as is always the case in this South American country.

Jair Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old former army captain, was elected as Brazil’s 42nd president with 55.13 percent of the vote in Sunday’s runoff election, heading up a group of retired generals, such as his vice president, Hamilton Mourão, and others earmarked as future cabinet ministers. He takes office on Jan. 1.

His triumph caused an unexpected political earthquake, decimating traditional parties and leaders.

The Bolsonaro effect prompted a broad renovation of parliament, with the election of many new legislators with military, police, and religious ties, and right-wing activists.

His formerly minuscule Social Liberal Party (PSL) is now the second largest force in the Chamber of Deputies, with 52 representatives. The country’s most populous and wealthiest states, São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro, elected PSL allies as governors, two of whom had no political experience.

Brazil thus forms part of a global rise of the right, which in some countries has led to the election of authoritarian governments, such as in the Philippines, Turkey, Hungary and Poland, or even the United States under Donald Trump.

Bolsonaro’s chances of taking his place in the right-wing wave only became clear on the eve of the first round of elections, on Oct. 7.

Little was expected of the candidate of such a tiny party, which did not even have a share of the national air time that the electoral system awards to the main parties. His political career consists of 27 years as an obscure congressman, known only for his diatribes and outspoken prejudices against women, blacks, indigenous people, sexual minorities and the poor.

But since the previous presidential elections in 2014, Bolsonaro had traveled this vast country and used the Internet to prepare his candidacy.

Early this year, polls awarded him about 10 percent of the voting intention, which almost doubled in August, when the election campaign officially began.

That growth did not worry his possible opponents, who preferred him as the easiest adversary to defeat in a second round, if no candidate obtained an absolute majority in the first. The idea was that he would come up against heavy resistance to an extreme right-wing candidate who has shown anti-democratic tendencies.

Fernando Haddad, the candidate of the leftist Workers Party, promised his supporters, after his defeat in the Oct. 28 elections, that as an opposition leader he would fight for civil, political and social rights in the face of Brazil's future extreme right-wing government. Credit: Paulo Pinto/Public Photos

Fernando Haddad, the candidate of the leftist Workers Party, promised his supporters, after his defeat in the Oct. 28 elections, that as an opposition leader he would fight for civil, political and social rights in the face of Brazil’s future extreme right-wing government. Credit: Paulo Pinto/Public Photos

But this was no ordinary election. The poll favorite was former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011), whom the leftist Workers’ Party (PT) insisted on running, even though he had been in prison on corruption charges since April, and was only replaced on Sept. 11 by Fernando Haddad, a former minister of education and former mayor of São Paulo.

Five days earlier, Bolsonaro had been stabbed in the stomach by a lone assailant during a campaign rally in Juiz de Fora, 180 km from Rio de Janeiro.

The attack may have been decisive to his triumph, by giving him a great deal of publicity and turning him into a victim, observers say. It also allowed him to avoid debates with other candidates, which could have revealed his weaknesses and contradictions.

But two surgeries, 23 days in a hospital and then being confined to his home, due to a temporary colostomy, prevented him from participating in election rallies. So the social media-savvy candidate focused on the Internet and social networks, which turned out to be his strongest weapon.

The massive use of WhatsApp to attack Haddad aroused suspicions that businessmen were financing “fake news” websites, thus violating electoral laws, as reported by the newspaper Folha de São Paulo on Oct. 18. The electoral justice system has launched an investigation.

The recently concluded campaign in Brazil triggered a debate about the role of this free instant messaging network and “fake news” in influencing the elections.

The social networks were decisive for Bolsonaro, who started from scratch, with practically no party, no financial resources, and no support from the traditional media. The mobilisation of followers was “spontaneous,” according to the candidate.

Brazil, the largest and most populous country in Latin America, with 208 million people, is one of the five countries in the world with the most social media users, with 120 million people using WhatsApp and 125 million using Facebook.

But these tools were only successful because the former army captain managed to personify the demands of the population, despite – or because of – his right-wing radicalism.

He presented himself as the most determined enemy of corruption and of the PT, whose governments from 2003 to 2016 are blamed for the systemic corruption in politics and the errors that caused the country’s worst economic recession, between 2014 and 2016.

As a military and religious man, recently converted to an evangelical church, he swore to wage an all-out fight against crime, a pressing concern for Brazilians, and said he would come to the rescue of the conventional family, which, according to his fiery, and often intemperate, speeches, has been under attack by feminism and other movements.

He seduced business with his neoliberal positions, represented by economist Paulo Guedes, presented as a future minister.

The promise to reduce the size of the state and cut environmental taxes, among other measures, brought him the support of the agro-export sector, especially cattle ranchers and soybean producers.

The economic crisis combined with high crimes rates, added to a wave of conservatism in the habits and customs of this plural and open society, galvanised support for Bolsonaro, while offsetting worries about his authoritarian stances or his inexperience in government administration.

Bolsonaro said he would govern for all, defending “the constitution, democracy and freedom…It is not the promise of a party, but an oath of a man to God,” he said while celebrating his victory, announced three hours after the close of the polls.

His speech did little to reassures the opposition, which will be led by the PT, still the largest party, with 56 deputies and four state governors.

A week earlier he said that in his government “the red criminals will be swept from our homeland,” referring to PT leaders. He threatened to jail his rival, Haddad.

In the past he defended the torturers of the military dictatorship and denied that the 1964-1985 military regime was a dictatorship.

His brutal statements are downplayed by his followers as “boastfulness” and even praise his declarations as frank and forthright.

The problem is not the statements themselves, but the fact that they reveal his continued fidelity to the training he received at the Military Academy in the 1970s, in the middle of the dictatorship

He considers the period when generals were presidents “democratic”, since they maintained parliament and the courts, although with restrictions and subject to controls and purges..

Bolsonaro’s victory, with 57.8 million votes, also has the symbolic effect of the absolution of the military dictatorship via elections, to the detriment of democratic convictions.

The post Brazilians Decide on a Shift to the Right at Any Cost appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/brazilians-decided-shift-right-cost/feed/ 0
Women’s Climate Leadership More Vital Than Ever In Light Of Climate Change Reporthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/womens-climate-leadership-vital-ever-light-climate-change-report/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-climate-leadership-vital-ever-light-climate-change-report http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/womens-climate-leadership-vital-ever-light-climate-change-report/#respond Mon, 29 Oct 2018 12:06:35 +0000 Osprey Orielle Lake and Emily Arasim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158422 Osprey Orielle Lake is the founder and executive director of the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International and co-chair of International Advocacy for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. She is the author of the award-winning book Uprisings for the Earth: Reconnecting Culture with Nature.

 
Emily Arasim has served as WECAN International's media and communications coordinator and project assistant since 2014. She is an avid photojournalist, writer and farmer from New Mexico.

The post Women’s Climate Leadership More Vital Than Ever In Light Of Climate Change Report appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo work to reforest the Itombwe region as a part of WECAN/SAFECO program. Credit: Stany Nzabas

By Osprey Orielle Lake and Emily Arasim
SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 29 2018 (IPS)

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which arrived thunderously in October, concludes that we have only 12 years remaining to transform our energy systems and ways of living to limit the worst effects of climate change.

The IPCC report stands as the loudest clarion call yet from global climate scientists, stating that we must act immediately to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C temperature rise, beyond which, by even half a degree, ecological and social consequences are catastrophically amplified.

As we look around the proverbial room for answers and solutions in this moment of intensified clarity and urgency, it is imperative that we turn to one of the main untold stories of the climate crisis – the story of women leading climate solutions.

Research including Project Drawdown, United Nations reports and programs, and many other studies, all confirm that one of the most important strategies for a sustainable and thriving future is upholding the rights, and supporting the education and leadership of women.

While women are central to solutions, they also are disproportionately impacted by the negative effects of global warming due to unequal gender norms, which marginalize women’s voices, and impact women’s economic opportunities, rights, bodies, education, and political power. From natural disasters, to food system stress, to water pollution – women experience the impacts of climate change first and worst.

Frontline women leaders during at WECAN International event at the UN Climate Talks. Credit: Emily Arasim/WECAN International

Additionally, when women advocate to protect the water, forests, land, seeds, climate, and future generations with which they are so intimately linked – they are increasingly experiencing violence and criminalization, including perverse gender-based violations.

Nevertheless, women fight on, and are at the forefront of some of the most innovative and transformational projects being undertaken around the world.

In Ecuador, Indigenous women lead movements to protect their communities and the Amazon rainforest from oil extraction.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, women participating in a Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network program are contributing to the reforestation of the Itombwe region as they restore the ecology of the rainforest community, provide for household uses, and protect the ancient old-growth forests.

In many parts of India, rural women are spearheading efforts to protect agriculture biodiversity, build food security, and steward water, soils, and community health.

Frontline women leaders and allies take action outside of the United Nations in New York following a WECAN event. Credit: Emily Arasim/WECAN International

Across North America, indigenous women are taking action at the forefront of the global movement for fossil fuel divestment – and these are just a few of the countless examples of what women are doing to change the current trajectory of the climate crisis.

In order to provide a window into the plethora of solutions that women are engaged in, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network produced ‘Women Speak: Stories, Case Studies And Solutions From The Frontlines Of Climate Change’, an online research and story-telling database designed to shift the narrative on how we build equitable climate solutions.

‘Women Speak’ allows policy makers, journalists, activists, educators, students, and others, to explore thousands of stories by and about global women leaders working in areas such as forest and biodiversity protection; fossil fuel resistance efforts; ecologic agriculture; renewable energy; climate law and policy; education and grassroots movement building; and much more.

As the database illustrates, women have the social capital to work at the local and global level to create the restorative communities and economies that we need for a just transition with democratized, regenerative renewable energy for all.

However, even with all the studies and examples available, women’s climate leadership continues to be undervalued, underreported, and underfunded.

Given the short timeline for action identified by the IPCC report – we simply cannot afford to keep ignoring the direct connection between women and effective responses to climate change. To act on climate with justice and results means uplifting the voices of women – particularly of grassroots women, Indigenous women, and women of color – who have a long history and knowledge of living close to the land and of resistance efforts, and who are offering countless examples of successful community-led solutions.

If we are to truly address the multiple and interrelated crises we face, we also cannot afford to ignore the link between patriarchy, colonization, capitalism, and the historic and ongoing assault of the Earth and women.

Extractivism and exploitation of both women and the Earth are derived from the same ideology of domination and supremacy – and it is imperative that plans to address climate change take into account the root causes of the crisis.

Now is the time of women rising to protect and defend the Earth. Now is the time to vote women into office. Now is time to hear the voices of women and support their efforts.

Now is the time to act on the scientific and experience-based truth that women’s leadership is key to addressing climate change.

The post Women’s Climate Leadership More Vital Than Ever In Light Of Climate Change Report appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Osprey Orielle Lake is the founder and executive director of the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International and co-chair of International Advocacy for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. She is the author of the award-winning book Uprisings for the Earth: Reconnecting Culture with Nature.

 
Emily Arasim has served as WECAN International's media and communications coordinator and project assistant since 2014. She is an avid photojournalist, writer and farmer from New Mexico.

The post Women’s Climate Leadership More Vital Than Ever In Light Of Climate Change Report appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/womens-climate-leadership-vital-ever-light-climate-change-report/feed/ 0
Trump and Bolsonaro: Alarming Similaritieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/trump-and-bolsonaro-alarming-similarities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-and-bolsonaro-alarming-similarities http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/trump-and-bolsonaro-alarming-similarities/#respond Sat, 27 Oct 2018 11:13:59 +0000 Brent Millikan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158388 The author of this opinion piece is Brent Millikan, Geographer and Director of International Rivers - Brazil

The post Trump and Bolsonaro: Alarming Similarities appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Demonstration in São Paulo to protest against presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro. Credit: Rovena Rosa/Fotos Públicas

Demonstration in São Paulo to protest against presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro. Credit: Rovena Rosa/Fotos Públicas

By Brent Millikan
BRASILIA, Oct 27 2018 (IPS)

Observing recent political developments in the United States and Brazil, there are clearly similarities between the phenomena of ‘Trumpism’ and ‘Bolsonarism’ that do not seem to be a mere coincidence.

In both cases, far-right politicians have opportunistically exploited, for electoral purposes, frustrated expectations of millions of people in situations of increasing social and economic vulnerability.

In the US, the ‘American dream’ has become increasingly elusive for the majority of the population, largely as a reflection of perverse effects of increasingly globalized capitalism, coupled with neoliberal policies promoted by both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Despite important advances during the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton’s campaign clearly suffered from a legacy of neoliberal policies – such as NAFTA, launched during her husband’s administration – that aggravated social and economic inequalities.

To make matters worse, as a candidate, she paid relatively little attention to the electorate in places such as Michigan that have suffered the effects of deindustrialization, with worsening unemployment and low wages.  Of course, the Clintons’ ties to Wall Street did not help to counter the perception of being part of the Washington establishment. All of this facilitated the maneuvers of a right-wing populist billionaire characterizing himself as a champion of workers ‘forgotten’ by the Democratic party.

In Brazil, a serious economic crisis and mega corruption scandals revealed by the Lava Jato investigations, involving traditional political parties like the PMDB, PSDB and PT, led to a generalized revolt with the political class among voters, including the poor, not only hurting the candidacy of Fernando Haddad, but others with a center-left profile who had ties in the past with the PT, such as Ciro Gomes and Marina Silva.

As in the United States, an extreme right-wing candidacy in Brazil knew how to exploit political space associated with growing inequalities and errors committed by traditional social democratic parties.

A common tactic used by Trump and Bolsonaro is to propagate nostalgia for an idealized past that the ‘hero’ candidate promises to bring back miraculously.

Some bet that once sworn in, Trump could adopt a kind of moderate pragmatism .... What has happened over the past two years is just the opposite. The Trump administration has launched a widespread and systematic attack on democratic institutions in the United State. Based on experience with Trump, whom Bolsonaro sees as an 'excellent president' ... it's hard to find grounds for optimism ... other than capacity of resistance of the Brazilian people. Better not to fall off the cliff

The Trump campaign adopted as a slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ disregarding ‘details’ of American history, such as the genocide of indigenous peoples, slavery and long periods of discrimination against women, blacks, and migrants. On the other hand, the mythic Bolsonaro evokes nostalgia for the years of Brazil’s bloody military dictatorship during 1964-1985, including apologies for the use of torture.

A common pillar of the strategies of Trump and Bolsonaro has been to incite fear, anger and hatred, with apologies to violence, transforming certain individuals and groups into enemies that are declared guilty of all ills afflicting society.

For Trump and his followers, favorite targets have included, among others, populations of new migrants – characterizing Mexicans as ‘rapists’ and Muslims as ‘terrorists’ – blacks and, of course, Democratic opponents, especially leaders such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. (Meanwhile, Trump has surfed a positive economic wave, initiated during the Obama administration, giving all credit to himself).

For Bolsonaro, the long list of public enemies includes –  in addition to the Workers’ Party and supposed ‘communists’ –  indigenous peoples, quilombolas (descendants of African slaves), the LGBT movement, environmentalists, a national landless farmers’ movement (MST), human rights defenders and activists in general, as well as environmental agencies such as IBAMA and ICMBio..  Another characteristic of both Trump and Bolsonaro is extreme misogynism, encouraging disrespect and outright violence against women.

Another striking resemblance between Trump and Bolsonaro is the antagonism directed at vehicles of the mainstream press that demonstrate critical and independent positions, such as the CNN, The New York Times and Folha de São Paulo.

Accusations of ‘fake news’ appear when stories are released that reveal inconvenient truths, contradicting narrow political interests. Meanwhile, distorted and false information, appealing to fear, prejudice and rage against adversaries are disseminated en masse via social media, such as Facebook and whatsapp.

A direct result of the attacks on the press and the incitement to hatred of ‘enemies’ is the escalation of violence that rapidly spins out of control, as demonstrated by the violence around the neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia last year, and the serie of pipe bombs sent this week to several of Trump’s favorite targets : CNN, the Clinton and Obama families, former President Joe Biden, Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, actor Robert De Niro, and billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros, among others.

In Brazil, serious acts of violence by Bolsonaro followers have begun to appear, such as the murder of capoeira master Moa do Katendê, stabbed to death in Bahia by a partisan of the reformed captain. Meanwhile, there are growing threats to the Brazilian press, as in the case of Folha de São Paulo.

Following the publication of a story about how entrepreneurs linked to Bolsonarism contracted services for the mass dissemination via social media of false news about Haddad’s candidacy, the Folha made a formal request for police protection for its journalists.

Another similarity between the two politicians is the courtship of conservative evangelical churches with moralistic discourses on issues such as the prohibition of abortion and gay marriage, while signalling economic advantages to churches and their leaders (almost always white men).

Many of the tactics adopted by Trumpism and Bolsonarism – which seem inspired by the playbook of Joseph Goebbels, propaganda minister of the Nazis between 1933 and 1945 – are better understood when one considers the economic interests to which they are linked.

In Trump’s case, the influence of the oil and coal industries stands out. In the case of the Bolsonario, the overarching influence of the conversative agribusiness lobby, known as ruralistas, blatantly clear. In both cases, one finds the private interests of powerful groups associated with the private appropriation of territories, open public spaces, for the extensive exploitation of natural resources (logging, cattle ranching, land speculation, mechanized soybeans and mining), disregarding social and environmental damage borne by local populations (indigenous peoples, quilombolas and family farmers) and society in general.

Trump’s and Bolsonaro’s marketeers have invested heavily in creating the image of a “new” politician. This contrasts with archaic models of developmentalism promoted in practice, based on predatory exploitation of natural resources, lacking technological innovation and value added, such as the large-scale export of soybeans.

Ignored are challenges associated with climate change, reaching the UN sustainable development goals for 2030, as well as opportunities that Brazil possesses, with its enormous cultural and biological diversity, and its creative potential to generate income with quality jobs, associated with a new economy in the 21st century –  based on technological innovation, respect for cultural diversity and environmental sustainability.

When Trump was able to win the US presidential election in 2016 (losing to Hillary Clinton in the popular vote, but narrowly gaining in the archaic voting college), many questioned to what extent the far right rhetoric of the campaign would be put into practice. Some bet that once sworn in, Trump could adopt a kind of moderate pragmatism. What has happened over the past two years is just the opposite.

In practice, Trump’s administration has been charcaterized by a widespread and systematic attack on democratic institutions, including social security, health and public education programs. The treatment of migrants (including Brazilians) includes characteristics of cruelty, as in the case of detention and separation of young children from their parents.

Unashamedly, the Trump administration is attempting to dismantle the Obama’s clean energy program, while creating incentives to the coal and oil industry without a minimum of environmental safeguards. In addition, it has sought to systematically dismantle policies for the protection of water and air quality, historical achievements dating back to the 1970s.

The Trump government is determined to eliminate as much as possible natural heritage and environmental protection areas, such as the Bear Ears National Monument in Utah State (created by Obama and reduced by 85%) to facilitate exploitation of oil exploitation and fracking. His nominee to chair the EPA, Scott Pruitt, took office with the explicit mission of undermining the functioning of this vital institution. Moreover, Trump’s announcement of abandoning the Paris Agreement constitutes a risk of planetary dimensions.

Unscrupulously, Trump has used the machinery of government to favor his private interests, such as real estate deals, undermining US foreign policy in cases such as Russia and Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, with the full endorsement of the president, the Republican party has stepped up efforts to undermine voting rights, especially of the poor and Afro-AmericAN citizens, while redrawing voting districts (‘gerrymandering’) to consolidate political power.

Fortunately, there are important examples of resistance in the US from democratic institutions, citizen action (with women playing a fundamental role), and state and local governments.  Many are confident that the Democrats, including many progressive candidates, will be able to take back the House of Representatives in the November 6th mid-term election. However, there is a persistent sense that of democracy’s fragility, and its need for constant vigilance.

Returning to Bolsonaro, many in Brazil are wondering what will happen if he wins the run-off election on October 28th, as predicted by public opinion polls.  To what extent will Bolsonaro respect the Federal Constitution and democratic institutions? Will he attempt to criminalize social movements to the point of treating them as terrorists, as promised?

To what extent will he continue to incite prejudice and hatred against blacks, women, indigenous peoples and other ‘enemies’? Will he pursue his plans to dismantle Brazil’s progressive environmental policies, including a proposal to merge the ministries of the environment and agriculture, under the leadership of the ruralista bloc? Will he go ahead with his announcement to pull Brazil out of the Paris Agreement, following the example of Trump, that could bring disastrous political, economic and environmental consequences for Brazil, while damaging global efforts to address the climate crisis?

Looking at the case of Trump, whom Bolsonaro considers an “excellent president,” it’s  difficult to find much room for optimism in relation to such questions, other than the resilience of the Brazilian people.  Better not to fall off the cliff. Hopefully, the experience of Trumpism in the USA will help serve as a warning call to Brazilians of current dangers to their young democracy, and the need for the country to find its own path with wisdom, solidarity and joy, before it is too late.

The post Trump and Bolsonaro: Alarming Similarities appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

The author of this opinion piece is Brent Millikan, Geographer and Director of International Rivers - Brazil

The post Trump and Bolsonaro: Alarming Similarities appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/trump-and-bolsonaro-alarming-similarities/feed/ 0
An Ounce of Democracyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/an-ounce-of-democracy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=an-ounce-of-democracy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/an-ounce-of-democracy/#comments Thu, 25 Oct 2018 05:42:36 +0000 Abdoulaye Mar Dieye http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158362 Abdoulaye Mar Dieye is UN Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support

The post An Ounce of Democracy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Libya, General National Congress Elections - Voting Day, 7 July 2012 - An elated voter casts her ballot. Credit: UNDP Photo

By Abdoulaye Mar Dieye
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 25 2018 (IPS)

As the old adage goes: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Nowhere is this more appropriate than when it comes to conflict. Violent conflict causes not only human suffering and destruction but robs entire societies of development and growth.

By some estimates, a country that suffers a four-year civil war loses nearly 20% of its GDP per capita. Syria has lost 19-36% of its productive capacity by 2016 due to conflict, its economy producing 20-38 billion USD less in value each year.

What is more, secondary effects of conflicts have no borders, affecting economies all over the world. For example, it is estimated that the conflict in Somalia and piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean led to an increase in shipping costs of about 10%.

Moreover, because conflict tends to disproportionally affect low- and middle-income countries it compounds the challenge of development – once conflict starts, development slows down or ends. Ending conflict not only ends human suffering — a worthy goal in and of itself – but leads to significant economic benefits as well.

Preventing conflict from starting, on the other hand, would magnify those benefits immeasurably. Even after the end of conflict, countries need years, if not decades, to recover. Along with rebuilding shattered societies and infrastructure, countries have to rebuild confidence in their economic systems and attract investment.

The UN Secretary-General recognized this immense potential in his “Peacebuilding and sustaining peace” report, where he called for “prevention of conflict and addressing its root causes”.

It is also the key conclusion of the “Pathway for Peace”, a joint UN and World Bank study, and has been identified by the European Union (EU) in the “Pre-emptive Peace” section of the EU’s Global Strategy, which states that the EU will “redouble our efforts on prevention, [and] monitoring root causes” of conflict.

We do not have the blueprint for preventing conflict. We do, however, have years of experience in attempting to do so, and one of the key lessons we learned is a clear and firm link between strong democratic foundations and resilience.

Countries with institutions such as inclusive and empowered parliaments, free media and robust civil society sector are less likely to experience conflict, and even if they do, they tend to recover much quicker.

We also know that an essential building block of a strong democratic system is inclusive and transparent elections, giving citizens a voice and making leaders accountable to their people. At the same time, elections can also be a trigger (although seldom the cause) of conflict, often serving as a catalyst for long-simmering grievances.

Prevention of electoral conflict was a topic of a recent high-level conference in Brussels, organized by the EC-UNDP Joint Task Force on Electoral Assistance (JTF) and attended by over 200 practitioners from over 60 countries and is a focus of a joint EU-UNDP study and toolkit on “Sustaining Peace through Elections”.

While the study found that there is “no blueprint for preventing electoral violence”, it clearly identified a common thread – support to strong democratic institutions and social values is an essential component of any conflict-prevention strategy.

Building democratic institutions and reinforcing social values capable of withstanding potential shocks of electoral violence requires sustained support, well before and well after the elections. Attempts to address electoral conflict in the weeks or even months leading up to an election is, in most cases, too little, too late.

To change this paradigm, we need to rethink the way we offer electoral assistance. Acknowledging that no single political or technical solution is sufficient, the conference presented to participants a “Democracy Strengthening” approach.

Such strategy attempts to view assistance through a wide-angle lens, to include all the stakeholders in a comprehensive, long-term vision from the very start of our involvement.

Too often, we initiate our assistance driven by short-term focus on an electoral event or a single electoral cycle, only to keep extending and adding on project after project, without a comprehensive strategy.

Instead, we should embrace a long-term view from the start and design our assistance with a goal of not simply holding a better election or having a more competent parliament, but to develop strong, empowered and independent democratic institutions.

To capture this broader timeframe and increase coordination between communities of practice and institutions more effectively, the JTF will propose the development of “Democracy Strengthening” approaches in future electoral programmes. Ultimately, our goal is to build social and institutional resilience to prevent conflict from starting in the first place.

The post An Ounce of Democracy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Abdoulaye Mar Dieye is UN Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support

The post An Ounce of Democracy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/an-ounce-of-democracy/feed/ 2
Trump’s Counterproductive Decision to “Terminate” the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treatyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/trumps-counterproductive-decision-terminate-intermediate-range-nuclear-forces-treaty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trumps-counterproductive-decision-terminate-intermediate-range-nuclear-forces-treaty http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/trumps-counterproductive-decision-terminate-intermediate-range-nuclear-forces-treaty/#respond Wed, 24 Oct 2018 10:57:18 +0000 Daryl G. Kimball and Kingston Reif http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158338 Daryl G. Kimball is executive director & Kingston Reif is director for disarmament and threat reduction policy, Arms Control Association

The post Trump’s Counterproductive Decision to “Terminate” the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Sculpture depicting St. George slaying the dragon. The dragon is created from fragments of Soviet SS-20 and United States Pershing nuclear missiles. Credit: UN Photo/Milton Grant

By Daryl G. Kimball and Kingston Reif
WASHINGTON DC, Oct 24 2018 (IPS)

Under the influence of his new National Security Advisor, John Bolton, Trump announced Saturday at a campaign rally that he will “terminate” a key nuclear arms control agreement that helped end the Cold War race–the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in response to a long-running dispute over Russian noncompliance with the treaty.

The decision represents a shift in the administration’s INF response strategy which was announced in January and before Bolton joined the administration.Trump’s move to blow-up the INF Treaty is unnecessary and self-defeating wrong turn that could lead to an unconstrained and dangerous nuclear arms competition with Russia.

The breakdown of the agreement and uncertain future of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (New START) creates the most serious nuclear arms control crisis in decades.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty is “unacceptable” and “dangerous.” Russia continues to assert that there is no basis for the U.S. claim that Russia has violated the treaty, but the Russian Foreign Ministry said “there is still room for dialogue.”

Bolton was due to meet in Moscow with President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov.

The INF Treaty Still Matters

The INF Treaty, which was negotiated by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, required the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 km (300 to 3,500 miles).

The treaty successfully eliminated an entire class of destabilizing nuclear weapons that were deployed in Europe and helped bring an end to the spiraling Cold War arms race. It has been a cornerstone of the U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control architecture. And as NATO defense ministers said earlier this month, the INF Treaty “has been crucial to Euro-Atlantic security.”

Without the INF Treaty, we will likely see the return of Cold War-style tensions over U.S. and Russian deployments of intermediate-range missiles in Europe and elsewhere.

Russian Noncompliance

The INF Treaty, while very successful, has been at risk for some time. In 2014, Washington charged that Moscow had tested a weapon, the 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile, at a range beyond the limit set by the treaty. In 2017 the Pentagon declared the Moscow had begun deploying the weapon.

Russia denies that it has violated the treaty and asked the United States to divulge the technical details behind the charge. Moscow has expressed its own concerns about U.S. compliance with the pact, notably that U.S. missile defense interceptor platforms deployed in eastern Europe could be used for offense purposes that would violate the treaty.

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue have been limited and to date unsuccessful. Since Trump took office, U.S. and Russian officials have met only twice to try to resolve the compliance dispute. Clearly, neither side has exhausted the diplomatic options that could resolve their concerns.

U.S. Withdrawal Would Be An “Own Goal.”

Trump claims that the United States is pulling out to show Russia that it will not tolerate Russia’s alleged violation of the treaty. “We’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and do weapons and we’re not allowed to,” Trump said.

Trump may want to sound tough, but the reality is that withdrawing from the treaty weakens U.S. and allied security and does not provide the United States any military advantage in Europe or elsewhere.

• U.S. withdrawal does nothing to bring Russia back into compliance with the INF Treaty and it distracts from the fact that it was Russia’s actions that precipitated the INF Treaty crisis.
• U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty opens the door for Russia to produce and deploy the missile of concern, the 9M729, in greater numbers without any constraints.
• There is no military need for the United States to develop, as Trump has proposed, a new and costly INF Treaty-noncompliant missile. The United States can already deploy air- and sea-launched systems that can threaten the same Russian targets that ground-launched missiles that are prohibited by INF Treaty would.
• NATO does not support a new INF Treaty-range missile in Europe and no country has offered to host it. Attempting to force the alliance to accept a new, potentially nuclear missile would divide the alliance in ways that would delight the Kremlin.

Even without the INF Treaty in force, the U.S. Congress and NATO governments should reject Trump’s push to develop a new U.S. ground-based INF Treaty-range missile in Europe (or elsewhere), and instead focus on maintaining conventional military preparedness to deter adversaries without violating the treaty.

Does the United States Need Ground-launched, INF Treaty-Range Missiles to Counter China?

No. In 2011, long before any Russian INF compliance concerns surfaced, John Bolton proposed in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that Washington should to withdraw from the treaty in order to counter China, which is not party to the treaty. In his Oct. 20 remarks on withdrawing from the treaty, Trump also pointed to China as a reason for abandoning the INF Treaty.

When asked at a congressional hearing in July 2017 about whether withdrawal from the INF Treaty could be useful because it would allow the U.S. to develop new ground-based systems to hit targets in China, vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva said that such a move was unnecessary because the United States can already hold those targets at risk with treaty-compliant air- and sea-based assets.

In his remarks Saturday, Trump suggested he might support a ban on INF Treaty-range missiles if “Russia comes to us and China comes to us” … “and let’s none of us develop those weapons.”

The idea of “multilateralizing INF has been around for more than a decade, but neither Russia nor Washington have devoted serious effort into the concept and China is highly unlikely to join an agreement that would eliminate the bulk of its missile arsenal.

Trump’s INF Treaty decision is a debacle. But without New START it will be even worse

If the INF Treaty collapses, as appears likely, the only remaining treaty regulating the world’s two largest nuclear stockpiles will be New START. New START is due to expire in 2021 unless Trump and Putin agree to extend it by five years as allowed for in Article XIV of the agreement.

Unfortunately, Bolton may try to sabotage that treaty too. Since he arrived at the White House in May, he has been slow-rolling an interagency review on whether to extend New START and refusing to take up Putin’s offer to begin talks on its extension.

Key Republican and Democratic Senators are on record in support of New START extension, which can be accomplished without further Senate or Duma approval.

Instead, one option Bolton is talking about is a “Moscow Treaty” approach that would dispense with New START and its rigorous inspection system on warheads and missiles to ensure compliance.

This option would simply set limits on deployed warheads only and without any verification—an approach Moscow is very unlikely to accept because it could give the United States a significant breakout advantage.

The current crisis makes it all the more important to get a serious U.S.-Russian arms control dialogue back on track.

Trump and Putin should agree to relaunch their stalled strategic stability dialogue and commit to reaching an early agreement to extend New START by five years to 2026 – which is essential if the two sides are to meet their legal commitment under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty “to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament ….”

If they fail to extend New START, an even more dangerous phase in U.S.-Russian relations is just over the horizon.

The post Trump’s Counterproductive Decision to “Terminate” the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Daryl G. Kimball is executive director & Kingston Reif is director for disarmament and threat reduction policy, Arms Control Association

The post Trump’s Counterproductive Decision to “Terminate” the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/trumps-counterproductive-decision-terminate-intermediate-range-nuclear-forces-treaty/feed/ 0
Women as Liberia’s Guardians of Peacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/women-liberias-guardians-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-liberias-guardians-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/women-liberias-guardians-peace/#respond Fri, 19 Oct 2018 09:54:18 +0000 Franck Kuwonu Africa Renewal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158265 Not long ago, images of child soldiers and the nation of Liberia were wedded in the minds of the international community. The country was struggling to end a horrific civil war, but military efforts were going nowhere. Then the mothers, grandmothers and sisters of Liberia stepped forward and formed the Women of Liberia Mass Action […]

The post Women as Liberia’s Guardians of Peace appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Liberian women at an empowerment and leadership conference in Monrovia, Liberia. Credit: UNMIL Photo/Christopher Herwig

By Franck Kuwonu, Africa Renewal
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 19 2018 (IPS)

Not long ago, images of child soldiers and the nation of Liberia were wedded in the minds of the international community. The country was struggling to end a horrific civil war, but military efforts were going nowhere.

Then the mothers, grandmothers and sisters of Liberia stepped forward and formed the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace campaign.

They pressured Liberian men to pursue peace or lose physical intimacy with their wives. Wearing all-white clothing, the women of Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, gathered at the fish market in the thousands, sitting, praying and singing. Their images were seen around the world.

“The women of Liberia say peace is our goal, peace is what matters, peace is what we need,” was their clear message, stamped on a billboard in the downtown fish market.

“The world once remembered Liberia for child soldiers,” said Leymah Gbowee, a leader of the peace group for which she won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. “They now know our country for the women in white.”

Their efforts, which continued until the nation’s first elections, were successful.

“We felt like the men in our society were really not taking a stand,” recalls Gbowee, who now heads the Women, Peace and Security Program at Columbia University in New York.

“They were either fighters or they were very silent and accepting all of the violence that was being thrown at us as a nation.… So we decided, ‘We’ll do this to propel the silent men into action.’”

The women demanded a meeting with then-president Charles Taylor and got him to agree to attend peace talks with the other leaders of the warring factions brokered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a subregional grouping.

The women perfected the art of “corridor lobbying,” waiting for negotiators as they entered and exited meeting rooms during breaks. Their action paved the way for negotiations taking place in Ghana, where a delegation of about 200 Liberian women staged a sit-in at the presidential palace and applied pressure for a resolution.

Dressed in white, the women blocked every entry and exit point, including windows, stopping negotiators from leaving the talks without a resolution. Their action, as well as the pressures mounted by ECOWAS leaders, led to the signing of the 2003 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

“They would confront then-president [Charles] Taylor, insisting that he must give peace a chance; they travelled all the way to Ghana to confront the leaders of the warring factions as they were negotiating peace, urging them to sign a ceasefire agreement. Although the men of Liberia also played a role, the women were consistent and in the forefront.”

Liberian women’s political activism continued in the aftermath of the Accra peace accord through the period leading to 2005 elections, which brought Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to the presidency.

Observers note that through civic education and a voter registration drive carried out by women, Liberians had their voices heard and their votes counted.

Close to 80% of the Liberian women who flooded the polls during the country’s first postwar presidential election voted to usher a woman into power for the first time on a continent that for centuries had been the world’s most patriarchal. Ms. Sirleaf’s election was hailed as historic. “We have shattered the glass ceiling theory,” the then president-elect was quoted as saying.

Addressing jubilant supporters celebrating her victory a few days earlier, she’d urged women to “seize the moment to become active in civil and political affairs.”

President Sirleaf became the first democratically elected president in Africa. All in all, Liberian women have been a force against violence in the country, and their actions contributed to the ending of hostilities after a 14-year civil war. Subsequently there was a shift in focus to peacebuilding.

The women’s continued advocacy, with clear messages to the public, has led to their being considered community watchdogs, while they have also developed the concept of “peace huts,” where women receive leadership and entrepreneurship training.

Additional reporting by Catherine Onekalit in Liberia.

The post Women as Liberia’s Guardians of Peace appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/women-liberias-guardians-peace/feed/ 0
New Agreement with Canada and U.S. Is Win-Lose for Mexicohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/new-agreement-canada-u-s-win-lose-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-agreement-canada-u-s-win-lose-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/new-agreement-canada-u-s-win-lose-mexico/#respond Tue, 09 Oct 2018 23:14:21 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158082 Following the fanfare of the countries’ leaders and the relief of the export and investment sectors, experts are analysing the renewed trilateral agreement with Canada and the United States, where Mexico made concessions in sectors such as e-commerce, biotechnology, automotive and agriculture. Karen Hansen-Kuhn, director of Trade and Global Governance at the U.S.-based Institute for […]

The post New Agreement with Canada and U.S. Is Win-Lose for Mexico appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The post New Agreement with Canada and U.S. Is Win-Lose for Mexico appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/new-agreement-canada-u-s-win-lose-mexico/feed/ 0
G20 Women’s Summit Pushes for Rural Women’s Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/g20-womens-summit-pushes-rural-womens-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=g20-womens-summit-pushes-rural-womens-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/g20-womens-summit-pushes-rural-womens-rights/#respond Fri, 05 Oct 2018 14:52:59 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158026 Rural women play a key role in food production, but face discrimination when it comes to access to land or are subjected to child marriage, the so-called affinity group on gender parity within the G20 concluded during a meeting in the Argentine capital. The situation of rural women was one of the four themes of […]

The post G20 Women’s Summit Pushes for Rural Women’s Rights appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The post G20 Women’s Summit Pushes for Rural Women’s Rights appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/g20-womens-summit-pushes-rural-womens-rights/feed/ 0
The Case for a U.S. No-First-Use Policyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/case-u-s-no-first-use-policy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=case-u-s-no-first-use-policy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/case-u-s-no-first-use-policy/#respond Mon, 01 Oct 2018 10:28:55 +0000 Daryl G. Kimball http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157905 Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director, Arms Control Association

The post The Case for a U.S. No-First-Use Policy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

A scene from Stanley Kubrick's classic 1964 film “Dr. Strangelove.” Credit: Sony/Columbia Pictures

By Daryl G. Kimball
WASHINGTON DC, Oct 1 2018 (IPS)

Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1964 film “Dr. Strangelove” delivers an eerily accurate depiction of the absurd logic and catastrophic risks of U.S. and Russian Cold War nuclear deterrence strategy, but for one key detail: President Merkin Muffley was wrong when he said, “It is the avowed policy of our country never to strike first with nuclear weapons.” But it should be.

Fortunately, the nuclear “doomsday machine” has not yet been unleashed. Arms control agreements have led to significant, verifiable reductions in the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, the two countries have ceased nuclear testing, and they have tightened checks on nuclear command and control.

But the potential for a catastrophic nuclear war remains. The core elements of Cold War-era U.S. nuclear strategy are largely the same, including the option to use nuclear weapons first and the maintenance of prompt-launch policies that still give the president unchecked authority to order the use of nuclear weapons.

Today, the United States and Russia deploy massive strategic nuclear arsenals consisting of up to 1,550 warheads on each side, as allowed under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. These numbers greatly exceed what it would take to decimate the other side and are far larger than required to deter a nuclear attack.

Worse still, each side maintains the capability to fire a significant portion of its land- and sea-based missiles promptly and retains plans to launch these forces, particularly land-based missiles, under attack to guard against a “disarming” first strike. U.S. and Russian leaders also still reserve the option to use nuclear weapons first.

As a result, President Donald Trump, whom Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reportedly described as having the intellect of a “fifth- or sixth-grader,” has the authority to order the launch of some 800 nuclear warheads within about 15 minutes, with hundreds more weapons remaining in reserve. No other military or civilian official must approve the order. Congress currently has no say in the matter.

Continuing to vest such destructive power in the hands of one person is undemocratic, irresponsible, unnecessary and increasingly untenable. Cavalier and reckless statements from Trump about nuclear weapons use only underscore the folly of vesting such unchecked authority in one person.

Making matters worse, the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review expands the range of contingencies and options for potential nuclear use and proposes the development of “more-usable” low-yield nuclear weapons in order to give the president the flexibility to respond quickly in a crisis, including by using nuclear weapons first in response to a non-nuclear attack.

The reality is that a launch-under-attack policy is unnecessary because U.S. nuclear forces and command-and-control systems could withstand even a massive attack. Given the size, accuracy, and diversity of U.S. forces, the remaining nuclear force would be more than sufficient to deliver a devastating blow to any nuclear aggressor.

In addition, keeping strategic forces on launch-under-attack mode increases the risk of miscalculation and misjudgment. Throughout the history of the nuclear age, there have been several incidents in which false signals of an attack have prompted U.S. and Russian officials to consider, in the dead of the night and under the pressure of time, launching nuclear weapons in retaliation. No U.S. leader should be put in a situation that could lead to the use of nuclear weapons based on false information.

Retaining the option to use nuclear weapons first is fraught with unnecessary peril. Given the overwhelming conventional military edge of the United States and its allies, there is no plausible circumstance that could justify legally, morally, or militarily the use of nuclear weapons to deal with a non-nuclear threat. Even in the event of a conventional military conflict with Russia, China, or North Korea, the first use of nuclear weapons would be counterproductive because it likely would trigger an uncontrollable, potentially suicidal all-out nuclear exchange.

Some in Washington and Brussels believe Moscow might use or threaten to use nuclear weapons first to try to deter NATO from pressing its conventional military advantage in a conflict. Clearly, a nuclear war cannot be won and should not be initiated by either side. The threat of first use, however, cannot overcome perceived or real conventional force imbalances and are not an effective substitute for prudently maintaining U.S. and NATO conventional forces in Europe.

As the major nuclear powers race to develop new nuclear capabilities and advanced conventional-strike weapons and consider using cyber capabilities to pre-empt nuclear attacks by adversaries, the risk that one leader may be tempted to use nuclear weapons first during a crisis likely will grow. A shift to a no-first-use posture, on the other hand, would increase strategic stability.

Although the Trump administration is not going to rethink nuclear old-think, leaders in Congress and the next administration must re-examine and revise outdated nuclear launch policies in ways that reduce the nuclear danger.

Shifting to a formal policy stating that the United States will not be the first to use nuclear weapons and that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack would be a significant and smart step in the right direction.

The post The Case for a U.S. No-First-Use Policy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director, Arms Control Association

The post The Case for a U.S. No-First-Use Policy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/case-u-s-no-first-use-policy/feed/ 0
Seize the Opportunity Offered by Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area, says UNIDO Chiefhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/seize-opportunity-offered-africas-continental-free-trade-area-says-unido-chief/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=seize-opportunity-offered-africas-continental-free-trade-area-says-unido-chief http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/seize-opportunity-offered-africas-continental-free-trade-area-says-unido-chief/#respond Mon, 24 Sep 2018 13:03:28 +0000 Li Yong http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157733 LI Yong is Director General, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

The post Seize the Opportunity Offered by Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area, says UNIDO Chief appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

LI Yong is Director General, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

By Li Yong
VIENNA, Sep 24 2018 (IPS)

Since the turn of the millennium, Africa has experienced a steady and unprecedented economic growth.

However, poverty continues for people across the continent, especially in the sub-Saharan region. Unemployment and inequality have remained high. The rural population and the urban poor, women and youth, have not benefited from economic growth.

African policymakers realize that, for the benefits of growth to be shared by all, there needs to be a structural transformation of the economy. Specifically, there is an acknowledgement that its composition should change, with increased shares of manufacturing and agro-related industry in national investment, output, and trade.

Manufacturing, thanks to its multiplier effect on other sectors of the economy, has always been one of the most important drivers of economic development and structural change, especially in developing countries. Manufacturing is an “engine of growth” that enhances higher levels of productivity and greater technical change, thus creating more jobs with higher wages for both women and men.

Recognizing this, the United Nations has proclaimed the period 2016-2025 as the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA III) in order to increase global awareness and encourage partnerships to achieve inclusive and sustainable industrialization.

Today, Africa has exceptional opportunities for industrialization.

In the next few decades, Africa will become the youngest and most populous continent in the world with a working age population expected to grow by 450 million people. Or close to 70 per cent of the total, by 2035.

With a rapidly growing population, and one of the world’s highest rates of urbanization, the middle class is on the rise too. This will drive consumption of consumer goods, creating a market worth USD 250 billion, set to grow at an annual rate of 5 per cent over the next eight years.

Industrialization, diversification and job creation in Africa, however, cannot happen without continental economic integration. The recent signing of the historic agreement for an African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) by 49 out of 55 countries creates an opportunity for inclusive and sustainable economic development, moving away from structural stagnation and commodity-based economics.

The AfCFTA agreement will create the world’s largest single, integrated market for goods and services, and a customs union that will enable free movement of capital and business travelers in Africa.

This will provide great business opportunities for trading enterprises, businesses and consumers, unlocking trade and manufacturing potential and further enhancing industrialization in Africa.

With the AfCFTA agreement, exports of processed or intermediate goods will increase rapidly, further opening the way to Africa’s economic transformation to dynamically-diversified economies and globally competitive industrial production locations.

Higher trade among African countries will also strengthen African regional value chains, making it easier for local small and medium-sized enterprises, which account for around 80 per cent of Africa’s businesses, to build competitiveness, supply inputs to larger regional companies, and participate in and upgrade to global value chains.

This will give unprecedented opportunities to exploit the full agri-business potential of the continent. Strengthening the continent’s agro-industries can generate high social and economic returns, create jobs in rural areas and for young women and men, as well as responding to the urgent need to ensure food security and poverty reduction.

By taking bold actions in advancing the agenda of the AfCFTA, using it as one of the best means of promoting industrialization, African countries are well-positioned to build an Africa that can become a strong link in today’s interdependent global economy.

Structural transformation, however, is never automatic. Political goodwill and commitments are a first important step; but a multi-pronged, action-based approach with partnerships at the heart, along with concrete industrial policies, is needed for this to become a reality.

That is why UNIDO has developed an innovative country-owned, multi-stakeholder partnership model to provide governments with a platform to bring together various stakeholders, including development finance institutions and the private sector, to mobilize large-scale resources, accelerate industrialization and achieve a greater development impact.

Using this Programme for Country Partnership (PCP) approach, and helping governments to identify priority sectors based on prospects for job creation, strong links to the agricultural sector, high export potential and capacity to attract investment, UNIDO has already started assisting Ethiopia, Senegal, Morocco and other countries in Asia and Latin America in achieving their export goals and enabling the manufacturing sector to compete on the increasingly globalized market.

Now more than ever, such innovative schemes and mechanisms for enabling partnership building and resource mobilization for sustainable industrial development are needed to address the urgent need for structural transformation in Africa and seize the opportunities offered by the AfCFTA.

The post Seize the Opportunity Offered by Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area, says UNIDO Chief appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

LI Yong is Director General, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

The post Seize the Opportunity Offered by Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area, says UNIDO Chief appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/seize-opportunity-offered-africas-continental-free-trade-area-says-unido-chief/feed/ 0
First Steps Towards a Global Agreement on the High Seashttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/first-steps-towards-global-agreement-high-seas/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=first-steps-towards-global-agreement-high-seas http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/first-steps-towards-global-agreement-high-seas/#respond Thu, 20 Sep 2018 12:08:34 +0000 Andrew Norton http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157701 Andrew Norton is director, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

The post First Steps Towards a Global Agreement on the High Seas appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Coral reef in Mexico. Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

By Andrew Norton
LONDON, Sep 20 2018 (IPS)

The world’s first efforts to develop a way to govern the high seas – international waters beyond the 200 nautical mile national boundary – is truly underway. The initial round of negotiations at the United Nations has just ended after two weeks of talks.

On the face of it, given the importance and scale of the task, some may feel there has not been much progress. But it is significant that despite the range of views and interests in the room, all the member states of the UN engaging in this intergovernmental conference to ‘formulate a legally binding treaty to govern the conservation and use of biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction’ (BBNJ) remain committed to the process and the goal.

Although member states and civil society had expected a draft treaty to be presented for consideration, it wasn’t, and therefore the discussions were similar to previous preparatory committee meeting phases.

But the key points around what needs to be addressed are clear: ensuring fair access and ability to share the benefits of marine genetic resources; agreeing measures for marine protected areas so they benefit all; processes for establishing environmental impact assessments, and agreeing a mechanism for enabling developing countries to have access to the necessary technological means, including data (digital sequencing of marine organisms’ DNA, for example), to share the oceans’ benefits and become active stewards of the ocean.

None of the governance measures that currently tackle these issues extends beyond 200 nautical miles from the coast. There are fragmented regional initiatives such as the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic — the OSPAR Convention —but nothing that governs the high seas in its entirety.

Some governments including Russia, Iceland and Japan, feel that this is enough. But while regional treaties provide important governance mechanisms, no single treaty covers all the items currently on the BBNJ table or deals with the part of the ocean covering 50 per cent of the planet — the high seas.

There is a clear risk that lack of effective governance will play to the interests of richer countries that have the resources to exploit the biodiversity of the high seas and can proceed without benefit to the bulk of the world’s population. That is why IIED is working to support the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) negotiating group and negotiators from the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and other developing countries in the BBNJ process.

Limiting high seas governance to regional initiatives would mean nothing more than maintaining the status quo. We need to end this fragmentation of high seas governance and work towards establishing a fair and inclusive global instrument. It’s about sharing half of the planet with all of the world’s people.

All member states are keen to see a draft treaty text in the next BBNJ intergovernmental meeting that can be a focus for negotiations. There must also be more time to discuss cross-cutting issues, including financing, institutional arrangements and clarifying decision-making processes.

For the next round to be more effective we would also want to see the views of people affected by any agreed high seas management regime being central to negotiations. So that means a sustained and greater presence by the Least Developed Countries, other developing countries and Small Island Developing States at the negotiating table from Spring 2019 onwards.

This is early days, so despite slight frustration with the pace of progress, it’s important to remain optimistic. IIED will continue to provide on demand, real time support to the Least Developed Countries, Small Island Developing States and other developing countries’ negotiators. This first round is more than a step in the right direction, and we look forward to meeting again.

The post First Steps Towards a Global Agreement on the High Seas appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Andrew Norton is director, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

The post First Steps Towards a Global Agreement on the High Seas appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/first-steps-towards-global-agreement-high-seas/feed/ 0