Inter Press Service » Global Geopolitics http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 27 Apr 2017 13:23:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.17 Fate of Earth Must Not be Decided by US & Fellow Nuclear Stateshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/fate-of-earth-must-not-be-decided-by-us-fellow-nuclear-states/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fate-of-earth-must-not-be-decided-by-us-fellow-nuclear-states http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/fate-of-earth-must-not-be-decided-by-us-fellow-nuclear-states/#comments Mon, 24 Apr 2017 15:21:57 +0000 Joan Russow http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150115 Dr Joan Russow is Co-ordinator, Global Compliance Research Project]]> Credit: UN photo

Credit: UN photo

By Joan Russow
VICTORIA, BC, Canada, Apr 24 2017 (IPS)

When the United Nations continues its negotiations in June for an international treaty against nuclear weapons, there must be a treaty that should cover every single aspect of the devastating weapons — and leading eventually to their total elimination from the world’s military arsenals.

As envisaged, the treaty should not only prohibit stockpiling; use and threat of use, and planning for use of nuclear weapons but also the deployment; transfer, acquisition, and stationing; development and production of these weapons—along with testing; transit and transshipment; and financing, assistance, encouragement, and inducement and an obligation for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons and a framework to achieve it.(WILPH, Reaching Critical Will).

As Eva Walder, the Swedish representative to the UN’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, declared: “Sweden’s position is clear. The only guarantee that these weapons will never be used again is their total elimination.”

Through the current negotiations, there is the global opportunity to speak truth to power, to save the world from the scourge of war and to prevent and remove the threats to peace.

The US has stated that the treaty to ban nuclear weapons would be ineffective, with adverse consequences for security and would hinder the implementation of Article VI of the US constitution on international treaties.

It is, rather, NATO`s nuclear policy which contravenes Article VI, as well as some of the Thirteen Steps Towards Nuclear Disarmament, and has consequences for common security:

1) nuclear weapons must be maintained indefinitely
2) We will improve their use and accuracy (modernize them)
3) We can use them first.
4) We can target non-nuclear weapon states
5) We can threaten to use them
6) We can keep them in Europe, as they are now doing
7) We can launch some on 15 minutes warning.
8) We say “they are essential for peace
(Murray Thompson, Canadian for a Nuclear Weapons Convention)

In October 17 2016, prior to the vote of the Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) on Nuclear Weapons, the US circulated a “non-paper“, to NATO and its allies on potential negative impacts of starting negotiations for a nuclear ban treaty and wrote,“ for the allies, participating in the OEWG , we strongly urge you to vote no on any vote at the UN First Committee on starting negotiations for a nuclear ban treaty.“ http://www.icanw.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/NATO_OCT2016.pdf

Subsequently, in the October 27 2016 meeting of the OEWG, the US Intervention appeared to work. Only the Netherlands did not vote no. On December 23, 2016.the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) approved a significant resolution to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.

The resolution was adopted by a large majority, with 113 UN member states voting in favour, 35 voting against and 13 abstaining. Support came from every continent, except Australia, and represented the range of legal systems. It thus fulfilled the criteria for a peremptory norm.

The US appears, however, to have provided a script for the US allies voting on the nuclear ban treaty; most of them gave the reason for voting against the resolution as being, “the US nuclear weapons are essential for its security and they have refused to declare that nuclear weapons should never be used”. Perhaps “security” needs to be redefined not distorted by the US weapons industry.

The late Olof Palme, former Prime Minister of Sweden, affirmed “True security exists when all are secure, through “common security” (Palme Commission (Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security) 1982)
http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/04/the-u-n-at-70-a-time-for-compliance/

The aforementioned October 17 2016 letter to the NATO and the script for allies at the UNGA, continues the practice of the US “influencing“ votes through financial incentives, threats, or intimidation (FITI),

For example, in 1990, only two countries on the UNSC opposed the passage of US Resolution 678, and when Yemen cast one of these votes, the U.S. Ambassador threatened him: “that will be the most expensive vote you ever cast,” and the U.S. immediately cut off aid to Yemen.

In 2003, several UNSC non-permanent members who opposed the US` proposed intervention in Iraq, suddenly came out with a US script supporting the invasion of Iraq. In addition, in 2003, the US sent a letter, described as an ultimatum, to all the members of the UNGA pressing them to not support the call for an emergency session of the UNGA to oppose the invasion of Iraq.

The data, based on UNGA voting patterns, provided in the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) document of participants in the March negotiations, indicates that there were 138 “supportive” states, one “not supportive” state (Japan), and 13 “not clear” states

The ICAN data on voting patterns of participants who did not attend the March negotiations indicate 14 were “supportive, five were “not clear”, 27 NATO states were “not supportive,” along with the other non-NATO nuclear weapons states (Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and other US allies from NATO along with Japan, and South Korea, http://www.icanw.org/

If the 14 supportive states attend the upcoming June 15– July 7 meeting, there will be around 143 “supportive` states” (70% of the 193 member states of the United Nations). This would be the case, provided the US does not threaten or offer financial incentives and persuade them to claim “that the US nuclear weapons are essential for its security and has refused to declare that nuclear weapons should never be used”`.

If there is a positive vote in the UNGA, the US and the four other permanent members will try to block decision through taking any UNGA decision to the UNSC. With the current composition of the UNSC, the nuclear powers will be able to get “not supportive” votes from only three non-permanent members: Italy, Japan and Ukraine.

This is assuming that Bolivia Egypt, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Senegal. Sweden, and Uruguay will not be coerced into renouncing their former supportive positions for a treaty for the abolition of nuclear weapons. If the required number of nine votes does not oppose the treaty, the UNSC would fail to make a decision. Then there is a precedent in the 1950 “Uniting for Peace Resolution” and the decision could pass back to the UNGA. http://www.un.org/en/sc/repertoire/otherdocs/GAres377A(v).pdf

In the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations, there is a call to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war – and “to maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace”…

In 2017, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday clock to two and one half minutes to midnight because of the threats arising both from nuclear weapons and climate change. The funds thus saved from ending the production of nuclear weapons could be transferred to fully implement the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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Trump’s First 100 Days: a Serious Cause for Concernhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/trumps-first-100-days-a-serious-cause-for-concern/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trumps-first-100-days-a-serious-cause-for-concern http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/trumps-first-100-days-a-serious-cause-for-concern/#comments Mon, 24 Apr 2017 10:37:56 +0000 Martin Khor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150108 With one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases becoming a disbeliever that climate change is man-made and could devastate the Earth, and no longer committing to take action domestically and helping others to do so, other countries may be tempted or encouraged to do likewise. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS

With one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases becoming a disbeliever that climate change is man-made and could devastate the Earth, and no longer committing to take action domestically and helping others to do so, other countries may be tempted or encouraged to do likewise. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS

By Martin Khor
PENANG, Apr 24 2017 (IPS)

This week, Donald Trump will mark his first hundred days as US President.  It’s time to assess his impact on the world, especially the developing countries.

It’s too early to form firm conclusions.  But much of what we have seen so far is of serious concern.

Recently there have been many U-turns from Trump. Trump had indicated the US should not be dragged into foreign wars but on 6 April he attacked Syria with missiles, even though there was no clear evidence to back the charge that the Assad regime was responsible for using chemical weapons.

Then his military dropped what is described as the biggest ever non-nuclear bomb in a quite highly-populated district in Afghanistan.

Critics explain that this flexing of military might be aimed at the domestic constituency, as nothing is more guaranteed to boost a President’s popularity and prove his muscular credentials than bombing an enemy.

Perhaps the actions were also meant to create fear in the leaders of North Korea.  But North Korea threatens to counterattack by conventional or nuclear bombs if it is attacked by the US, and it could mean what it says.

Martin Khor

Martin Khor

Trump himself threatens to bomb North Korea’s nuclear facilities.  With two leaders being so unpredictable, we might unbelievably be on a verge of a nuclear war.

As the Financial Times’ commentator Gideon Rachman remarked, there is the danger that Trump has concluded that military action is the key to the “winning” image he promised his voters.

“There are members of the president’s inner circle who do indeed believe that the Trump administration is seriously contemplating a ‘first strike’ on North Korea.  But if Kim Jong Un has drawn the same conclusion, he may reach for the nuclear trigger first.”

The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof says the most frightening nightmare is of Trump blundering into a new Korean war.  It could happen when Trump destroys a test missile that North Korea is about to launch, and the country might respond by firing artillery at Seoul (population: 25 million).

He cites Gen. Gary Luck, a former commander of American forces in South Korea, as estimating that a new Korean war could cause one million casualties and $1 trillion in damage.

Let us all hope and pray that this nightmare scenario does not become reality.

This may be the most unfortunate trend of the Trump presidency.  Far from the expectation that he would retreat from being the world policeman and turn inward to work for “America First”, the new President may find that fighting wars or at least unleashing missiles and bombs in third world countries may “make America great again”.

This may be easier than winning domestic battles like replacing former President Obama’s health care policy or banning visitors or refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, an order that has been countered by the courts.

But the message that people from certain groups or countries are not welcome in the US is having effect: recent reports indicate a decline in tourism and foreign student applications to the US.

Another flip-flop was on NATO.  Trump condemned it for being obsolete, but recently hailed it for being “no longer obsolete”, to his Western allies’ great relief.

Another note-worthy but welcome about-turn was when the US President conceded that China is after all not a currency manipulator.  On the campaign trail, he had vowed to name China such a manipulator on day 1 of his presidency, to be followed up with imposing a 45% tariff on Chinese products.

Trump continues to be obsessed by the US trade deficit, and to him China is the main culprit, with a $347 billion trade surplus versus the US.

The US-China summit in Florida on 7-8 April cooled relations between the two big powers. “I believe lots of very potentially bad problems will be going away,” Trump said at the summit’s end.

The two countries agreed to a proposal by Chinese President Xi Jinping to have a 100-day plan to increase US exports to China and reduce the US trade deficit.

For the time being the much anticipated US-China trade war is off the radar.  But it is by no means off altogether.

Trump has moved to shred Obama’s climate change policy. He proposed to cut the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by 31% and eliminate climate change research and prevention programmes throughout the federal government. The EPA, now led by a climate change skeptic, was ordered to revise its standards on tailpipe pollution from vehicles and review the Clean Power Plan, which was the centrepiece of Obama’s policy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Trump has asked his Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to prepare a report within 90 days on the US’ bilateral trade deficits with its trading partners, and whether any of them is caused by dumping, cheating, subsidies, free trade agreements, currency misalignment and even unfair WTO rules.

Once Trump has the analysis, he will be able to take action to correct any anomalies, said Ross.

We can thus expect the Trump administration to have a blueprint on how to deal with each country with a significant trade surplus with the US.

If carried out, this would be an unprecedented exercise by an economic super-power to pressurise and intimidate its trade partners to curb their exports to and expand their imports from the US, or else face action.

During the 100-day period, Trump did not carry out his threats to impose extra tariffs on Mexico and China.  He did fulfil his promise to pull the US out of the TPPA but he has yet to show seriousness about revamping NAFTA.

A threat to the trade system could come from a tax reform bill being prepared by Republican Congress leaders.  The original paper contains a “trade adjustment” system with the effect of taxing US imports by 20% while exempting US exports from corporate tax.

If such a bill is passed, we can expect a torrent of criticism from the rest of the world, many cases against the US at the WTO and retaliatory action by several countries.   Due to opposition from several business sectors in the US, it is possible that this trade-adjustment aspect could eventually be dropped or at least modified considerably.

In any case, as the new US trade policy finds its shape, the first 100 days of Trump has spread a cold protectionist wind around the world.

On another issue, the icy winds have quickly turned into action, and caused international consternation.

Trump has moved to shred Obama’s climate change policy.  He proposed to cut the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by 31% and eliminate climate change research and prevention programmes throughout the federal government.

The EPA, now led by a climate change skeptic, was ordered to revise its standards on tailpipe pollution from vehicles and review the Clean Power Plan, which was the centrepiece of Obama’s policy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The plan would have shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants, stop new coal plants and replace them with wind and solar farms.

“The policy reversals also signal that Mr Trump has no intention of following through on Mr Obama’s formal pledges under the Paris accord,” said Coral Davenport in the New York Times.

Under the Paris agreement, the US pledged to reduce its greenhouse gases by about 26% from 2005 levels by 2025.  “That can be achieved only if the US not only implements the Clean Power Plan and tailpipe pollution rules but also tightens them or adds more policies in future years,” says Davenport.

She quotes Mario Molina, a Nobel prize-winning scientist from Mexico, as saying:  “The message clearly is, we won’t do what the United States has promised to do…They don’t believe climate change is serious.  It is shocking to see such a degree of ignorance from the US.”

Will the US pull out of the Paris Agreement?  An internal debate is reportedly taking place within the administration.  If the country cannot meet and has no intention of meeting its Paris pledge, then it may find a convenient excuse to leave.

Even if it stays on, the new US delegation can be expected to discourage or stop other countries from moving ahead with new measures and actions.

There is widespread dismay about Trump’s intention to stop honouring the US pledge to contribute $3 billion initially to the Green Climate Fund, which assists developing countries take climate actions.

Obama had transferred the first billion, but there will be no more forthcoming from the Trump administration unless Congress over-rules the President (which is very unlikely).

Another adverse development, especially for developing countries, is Trump’s intention to downgrade the importance of international and development cooperation.

In March Trump announced his proposed budget with a big cut of 28% or $10.9 billion for the UN and other international organisations, the State Department and the US agency for international development, while by contrast the proposed military budget was increased by $54 billion.

For the time being the much anticipated US-China trade war is off the radar.  But it is by no means off altogether. Credit: Bigstock

For the time being the much anticipated US-China trade war is off the radar. But it is by no means off altogether. Credit: Bigstock

At about the same time, the UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien urgently requested a big injection of donor funds to address the worst global humanitarian crisis since the end of the second world war, with drought affecting 38 million people in 17 African countries.

The US has for long been a leading contributor to humanitarian programmes such as the World Food program.  In future, other countries will have to provide a greater share of disaster assistance, said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

“The US is turning inward at a time when we are facing these unprecedented crises that require increasing US assistance,” according to Bernice Romero of Save the Children, as quoted in the Los Angeles Times.  “In 2016 the US contributed $6.4 billion in humanitarian assistance, the largest in the world.  Cutting its funding at a time of looming famine and the world’s largest displacement crisis since World War II is really unconscionable and could really have devastating consequences.”

Trump also proposed to cut the US contribution to the UN budget by an as yet unknown amount and pay at most 25% of UN peacekeeping costs.  The US has been paying 22% of the UN’s core budget of $5.4 billion and 28.5% of the UN peacekeeping budget of $7.9 billion.  Trump also proposed a cut of $650 million over three years to the World Bank and other multilateral development banks.

The foreign affairs community in the US itself is shocked by the short-sightedness of the Trump measures and 121 retired US generals and admirals urged Congress to fully fund diplomacy and foreign aid as these were critical to preventing conflict.

The proposed Trump budget will likely be challenged at the Congress which has many supporters for both diplomacy and humanitarian concerns.  We will have to wait to see the final outcome.

Nevertheless the intention of the President and his administration is clear and depressing.   And instead of other countries stepping in to make up for the United States’ decrease in aid, some may be tempted to likewise reduce their contributions.

For example, the United Kingdom Prime Minister Teresa May in answer to journalists’ questions refused to confirm that the UK would continue its tradition of providing 0.7% of GNP as foreign aid.

This has led the billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates to warn that a cut in UK aid, which currently is at 12 billion pounds, would mean more lives lost in Africa.

Besides the reduction in funding, the Trump foreign policy approach is also dampening the spirit and substance of international cooperation.

For example, the President’s sceptical attitude towards global cooperation on climate change will adversely affect the overall global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to global warming.

With one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases becoming a disbeliever that climate change is man-made and could devastate the Earth, and no longer committing to take action domestically and helping others to do so, other countries may be tempted or encouraged to do likewise.

The world would be deprived of the cooperation it urgently requires to save itself from catastrophic global warming.

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Middle East, Engulfed by a ‘Perfect Storm’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/middle-east-engulfed-by-a-perfect-storm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=middle-east-engulfed-by-a-perfect-storm http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/middle-east-engulfed-by-a-perfect-storm/#comments Fri, 21 Apr 2017 13:35:21 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150079 In Mazrak, Yemen, a five year-old girl, diagnosed as malnourished, is given a pink wristband to wear to show she has not been getting enough to eat. Credit: UNHCR/Hugh Macleod

In Mazrak, Yemen, a five year-old girl, diagnosed as malnourished, is given a pink wristband to wear to show she has not been getting enough to eat. Credit: UNHCR/Hugh Macleod

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 21 2017 (IPS)

A perfect storm has engulfed the Middle East, and continues to threaten international peace and security.

Hardly anyone could sum up the Middle East explosive situation in so few, blunt words as just did Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.

Reporting to the UN Security Council on the “dire situation across the Middle East region, marked by the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War, fractured societies, proliferation of non-State actors and unbelievable human suffering,” Mladenov reiterated the need for a surge in diplomacy for peace to ease the suffering of innocent civilians.

The UN Special Coordinator also warned that “the question of Palestine remained a ‘potent symbol’ and a ‘rallying cry’, “one that is easily misappropriated and exploited by extremist groups.”“The question of Palestine remained a “potent symbol” and “rallying cry,” one that is easily misappropriated and exploited by extremist groups,” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.

“Let us not forget that behind the images of savagery [there] are the millions [struggling] every day not only for their own survival but for the true humane essence of their cultures and societies,” he on 20 April 2017 told the Security Council.

“Today, a perfect storm has engulfed the Middle East, and continues to threaten international peace and security,” he said, noting that divisions within the region have opened the doors to foreign intervention and manipulation, breeding instability and sectarian strife.

“Ending the occupation and realising a two-state solution will not solve all the region’s problems, but as long as the conflict persists, it will continue to feed them.”

Mladenov also informed the 15-member Security Council of sporadic violence that continued to claim lives and reported on Israel’s approval of the establishment of new settlements and declaration of “State land” in the occupied Palestinian territory.

On the Palestinian side, he noted multiple worrying developments that are “further cementing” the Gaza-West Bank divide and dangerously increasing the risk of escalation.

Turning to the wider region, Mladenov briefed the Security Council members on the on-going crisis in Syria that continues to be a “massive burden” for other countries and called on the international community to do more to stand in solidarity with Syria’s neighbours.

“Strong, Loud Alarm”

“The statement that Mr. Mladenov has just made should sound a strong, loud alarm,” a retired Arab diplomat told IPS on condition of anonymity.

“We should always have in mind that the United Nations envoys and special coordinators use to be extremely careful when choosing their wording, in particular when it comes to reporting to the UN Security Council. This is why his words should be taken really seriously,” the diplomat emphasised.

Displaced families from Reyadeh and 1070 neighbourhoods take shelter at a kindergarten in western Aleppo city. Conditions are still extremely basic. Credit: UNICEF/Khuder Al-Issa

Displaced families from Reyadeh and 1070 neighbourhoods take shelter at a kindergarten in western Aleppo city. Conditions are still extremely basic. Credit: UNICEF/Khuder Al-Issa

According to this well-informed source, several Middle East analysts and even regional political leaders “harbour mixed feeling and even confusion about what some consider as “errant” foreign policy of the current US administration.”

“What is anyway clear is that a new Middle East is now “under construction”. Such process will not be an easy one, in view of the growing trend to embark in new cold war between the US and Russia,” the diplomat concluded.

Further in his briefing, the UN Special Coordinator spoke of the situation in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen as well as of “social exclusion and marginalisation that tend to provide fertile ground for the rise of violent extremism.”

Recalling UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ call for a “surge in diplomacy for peace”, Mladenov urged UN Member States, especially through a united Security Council, to assume “the leading role in resolving the crisis.”

“Multilateral approaches and cooperation are necessary to address interlinked conflicts, cross-border humanitarian impacts and violent extremism.”

“Grave Danger”

Just one week earlier, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told the UN Security Council in the wake of yet another dire turn in the Syrian crisis, that the United States and the Russian Federation “must find a way to work together” to stabilise the situation and support the political process.”

In his briefing on 12 April, de Mistura added that the previous week’s reported chemical weapons attack, the subsequent air strikes by the US and intensified fighting on the ground have put the fragile peace process is in “grave danger.”

A seven-year-old child stands in front of her damaged school in Idleb, Syria. October 2016. Credit: UNICEF

A seven-year-old child stands in front of her damaged school in Idleb, Syria. October 2016. Credit: UNICEF

“This is a time for clear-thinking, strategy, imagination, cooperation,” said de Mistura.

“We must all resolve that the time has come where the intra-Syrian talks move beyond preparatory discussions and into the real heart of the matter, across all four baskets, to secure a meaningful negotiated transition package,” he added.

Prior to the reported chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun area of Idlib, modest but incremental progress were made, the UN envoy noted, highlighting that though there no breakthroughs, there were also no breakdowns. The most recent round of talks, facilitated by the UN in Geneva, wrapped up three weeks ago.

However, the reported attack and subsequent events have placed the country between two paths: one leading more death, destruction and regional and international divisions; and the other of real de-escalation and ceasefire, added de Mistura.

The UN Special Envoy reiterated that there are no military solutions to the strife in the war-ravaged country.

“You have heard it countless times, but I will say it again: there can only be a political solution to this bloody conflict […] regardless of what some say or believe,” he expressed, noting that this is what Syrians from all walks of life also say and something that the Security Council had agreed upon.

“So, let us use this moment of crisis – and it is a moment of crisis – as a watershed and an opportunity perhaps for a new level of seriousness in the search for a political solution.”

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Bannon Down, Pentagon Up, Neocons In?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/bannon-down-pentagon-up-neocons-in/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bannon-down-pentagon-up-neocons-in http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/bannon-down-pentagon-up-neocons-in/#comments Thu, 20 Apr 2017 14:34:23 +0000 Jim Lobe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150065 Jared Kushner, senior advisor to President Donald J. Trump, speaks with Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (by Dominique A. Pineiro via Department of Defense)

Jared Kushner, senior advisor to President Donald J. Trump, speaks with Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (by Dominique A. Pineiro via Department of Defense)

By Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON, Apr 20 2017 (IPS)

The apparent and surprisingly abrupt demise in Steve Bannon’s influence offers a major potential opening for neoconservatives, many of whom opposed Trump’s election precisely because of his association with Bannon and the “America Firsters,” to return to power after so many years of being relegated to the sidelines. Bannon’s decline suggest that he no longer wields the kind of veto power that prevented the nomination of Elliott Abrams as deputy secretary of state. Moreover, the administration’s ongoing failure to fill key posts at the undersecretary, assistant secretary, and deputy assistant secretary levels across the government’s foreign-policy apparatus provides a veritable cornucopia of opportunities for aspiring neocons who didn’t express their opposition to the Trump campaign too loudly.

Ninety days into the administration, the military brass—whose interests and general worldview are well represented by National Security Advisor Gen. H.R. McMaster and Pentagon chief Gen. James Mattis (ret.), not to mention the various military veterans led by National Security Council (NSC) chief of staff Gen. Kenneth Kellogg (ret.) who are taking positions on the NSC—appears to be very much in the driver’s seat on key foreign policy issues, especially regarding the Greater Middle East. Their influence is evident not only in the attention they’ve paid to mending ties with NATO and northeast Asian allies, but also in the more forceful actions in the Greater Middle East of the past two weeks. These latter demonstrations of force seem designed above all to reassure Washington’s traditional allies in the region, who had worried most loudly about both Obama’s non-interventionism and Trump’s “America First” rhetoric, that the U.S. is not shy about exerting its military muscle.

Nor could it be lost on many observers that Bannon’s expulsion from the NSC took place immediately after Jared Kushner returned from his surprise visit to Iraq hosted by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford—reportedly the culmination of a calculated strategy of seduction by the Pentagon. Kushner has emerged as the chief conduit to Trump (aside, perhaps, from Ivanka). The timing of Bannon’s fall from grace—and Kushner’s reported role in it—was particularly remarkable given that Kushner and Bannon were allied in opposing McMaster’s effort to fire Ezra Cohen-Watnick from the NSC just a week before Kushner flew to Baghdad.)

The Ascendance of the Military

The military’s emergence—at least, for now—has a number of implications, some favorable to neocons, others not so much.

On the favorable side of the ledger, there are clear areas of convergence between both the brass and the neocons (although it’s important to emphasize that neither is monolithic and that there are variations in opinion within both groups). Although both the military and the neocons give lip service to the importance of “soft power” in promoting U.S. interests abroad, they share the belief that, ultimately, hard power is the only coin of the realm that really counts.

The military tends to appreciate the importance of mobilizing multilateral and especially allied support for U.S. policies, especially the use of force. Many neocons, however, don’t accord such support so much importance. Indeed, some are openly contemptuous of multilateralism and international law in general, believing that they unduly constrain Washington’s freedom of action (to do good for the world).
With substantial experience in counter-insurgency (COIN) doctrine in Iraq and Afghanistan, both McMaster and Mattis appreciate the importance of politics in military strategy in principle. But they are ultimately military men and hence naturally inclined to look in the first instance to military tools to pound in any loose nails, whether in the form of failing states or failing regional security structures. (That hammer will likely look even more compelling as the Trump administration follows through on its budgetary proposals to deplete U.S. diplomatic and development capabilities.) Like neoconservatives, they also appreciate large military budgets, and although they certainly oppose, in principle, the idea that the U.S. should play globocop for fear of overextension, they have no problem with the notion of U.S. global military primacy and the necessity of maintaining hundreds of military bases around the world to uphold it.

Moreover, the military and neoconservatives share to some extent an enduring hostility toward certain states. The Pentagon is quite comfortable with an adversarial relationship with Russia, if only because it is familiar and ensures European adherence to NATO, which the United States will dominate for the foreseeable future. This applies in particular to McMaster, who spent the last couple of years planning for conflict with Russia. For similar reasons, the military is generally comfortable with a mostly hostile relationship toward Iran. Such a stance ensures close ties with Washington’s traditional allies/autocrats in the Gulf (whose insatiable demand for U.S. weaponry helps sustain the industrial base of the U.S. military as well as the compensation for retired flag officers who serve on the boards of the arms sellers). And, as Mattis has made clear on any number of occasions, he sees Iran as the greatest long-term threat to U.S. interests in the region and welcomes an opportunity to “push back” against what he has claimed are Tehran’s hegemonic ambitions there. All of this is clearly encouraging to neocons whose antipathy toward both the Islamic Republic and Russia is deeply ingrained and of long standing.

On the more negative side, however, the military as an institution naturally harbors a distrust of neoconservatives, a distrust established by the Iraq debacle in which the military still finds itself bogged down with no clear exit. “Regime change” and “nation-building”—much touted by neocons in the post-Cold War era—are dirty words among most of the brass, for whom such phrases have become synonymous with quagmire, over-extension, and, as much as they resist coming to terms with it, failure. Of course, many active-duty and retired senior military officers, of whom McMaster may well be one, consider the 2007-08 “Surge”—a plan heavily promoted by neoconservatives—to have been a great success (despite its manifest failure to achieve the strategic goal of political and sectarian reconciliation) that was undone by Obama’s “premature” withdrawal. But even the most ardent COINistas are aware that, absent a catastrophic attack on the U.S. mainland, the American public will have very limited patience for major new investments of blood and treasure in the Middle East, especially given the general perception that Russia and China pose increasing threats to more important U.S. interests and allies in Europe and East Asia, respectively, compared to five or six years ago.

The prevailing wisdom among the brass remains pretty much as former Defense Secretary Bob Gates enunciated it before his retirement in 2011: “In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it.” The military may indeed escalate its presence and loosen its rules of engagement in Mesopotamia, Afghanistan, and even Yemen in the coming months, but not so much as to attract sustained public attention and concern, despite the wishes of neocons like Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake, Gen. Jack Keane (ret.), or the Kagans. The desirability of a “light footprint” has become conventional wisdom at the Pentagon, while some neocons still believe that the U.S. occupation of post-World War II Germany and Japan should be the model for Iraq.

Besides Iraq’s legacy, the military has other reasons to resist neocon efforts to gain influence in the Trump administration. As successive flag officers, including one of their heroes, Gen. David Petraeus (ret.), have testified, the virtually unconditional U.S. embrace of Israel has long made their efforts to enlist Arab support for U.S. military initiatives in the region more difficult. Of course, like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, neocons argue that circumstances have changed over the last decade, that the reigning regional chaos and the fear of a rising Iran shared by both Israel and the Sunni-led Arab states have created a new strategic convergence that has made the Israeli-Palestinian conflict virtually irrelevant. According to this view, Washington’s perceived acquiescence in, if not support for, expanding Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and its quarantine of Gaza are no longer a big deal for Arab leaders.

But this perception runs up against the reality that the Pentagon and CENTCOM have always faced in the region. Even the most autocratic Arab leaders, including those who have intensified their covert intelligence and military cooperation with Israel in recent years, are worried about their own public opinion, and, that until Israel takes concrete steps toward the creation of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state pursuant to the solution outlined in the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative (API), their cooperation will remain limited, as well as covert. In the meantime, the ever-present possibility of a new Palestinian uprising or another armed conflict in Gaza threatens both continuing cooperation as well as the U.S. position in the region to the extent that Washington is seen as backing Israel.

There are other differences. Despite the experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, neocons have long believed that states necessarily constitute the greatest threat to U.S. national security, while the military tends to take relatively more seriously threats posed by non-state actors, such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda or, for that matter, al-Shabaab or Boko Haram to which neocons pay almost no attention. Although some neocons are clearly Islamophobic and/or Arabophobic (in major part due to their Likudist worldview), the military, as shown most recently by McMaster’s opposition to the use of the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” sees that attitude as counter-productive. And although neocons and the military share a strong antipathy toward Iran, the latter, unlike the former, appears to recognize that both countries share some common interests. Mattis, in particular, sees the nuclear deal as imperfect but very much worth preserving. Most neocons want to kill it, if not by simply tearing it up, then indirectly, either through new congressional sanctions or other means designed to provoke Iran into renouncing it.

The military tends to appreciate the importance of mobilizing multilateral and especially allied support for U.S. policies, especially the use of force. Many neocons, however, don’t accord such support so much importance. Indeed, some are openly contemptuous of multilateralism and international law in general, believing that they unduly constrain Washington’s freedom of action (to do good for the world). Neocons see themselves above all as moral actors in a world of good and evil; the brass is more grounded in realism, albeit of a pretty hardline nature.

Thus, to the extent that the military’s worldview emerges as dominant under Donald Trump, neoconservatives may have a hard time gaining influence. However, on some issues, such as lobbying for a larger Pentagon budget, taking a more aggressive stance against Moscow, aligning the U.S. more closely with the Sunni-led Gulf states, and promoting a more confrontational stance vis-à-vis Iran in the Middle East, neocons may gain an entrée.

Other Avenues of Influence

Just as the Pentagon deliberately courted Kushner—who appears, like his father-in-law, to be something of an empty vessel on foreign policy issues despite the rapid expansion of his international responsibilities in the first 90 days—so others will. Indeed, Abrams himself appears to have gotten the message. In his interview last week with Politico, he unsurprisingly praises Trump’s cruise-missile strikes against Syria and Kushner’s modesty. (“I don’t view him at all as an empire builder.”) At the end of the article, the author notes,

As for his own future with Trump, Abrams teased that it may still be in front of him, depending on how things shape up with Bannon and Kushner, the latter of whom he kept going out of his way to praise. [ Emphasis added.]

Although the deputy secretary of state position now appears to be taken, Abrams was also careful to laud his erstwhile promoter, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Now reportedly coordinating increasingly with Mattis and McMaster, Tillerson seems to have gained significant ground with Trump himself in recent weeks. Neocons may yet find a home at State, although I think Tillerson’s initial promotion of Abrams as his deputy was due primarily to the latter’s experience and skills as a bureaucratic infighter rather than for his ideological predispositions. Meanwhile, UN Amb. Nikki Haley, who was promoted to the NSC’s Principals Committee on the same day that Bannon was expelled, appears to have become a neocon favorite for her Kirkpatrickesque denunciations of Russia, Syria, and the UN itself. That she initially supported neocon heartthrob Sen. Marco Rubio for president and has been aligned politically with Sen. Lindsey Graham, who stressed Haley’s commitment to Israel when she was nominated as ambassador, also offers hope to neocons looking for avenues of influence and infiltration.

Yet another avenue into the administration—indeed, perhaps the most effective—lies with none other than casino king Sheldon Adelson, the single biggest donor to the Trump campaign and inaugural festivities (as well as to Haley’s political action committee). As we noted in January, Kushner himself, along with Israeli Amb. Ron Dermer, had become a critical, pro-Likud conduit between Trump and Adelson beginning shortly after Trump’s rather controversial appearance before the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) at the beginning of the presidential campaign. Although Adelson has maintained a low profile since the inauguration, he clearly enjoys unusual access to both Kushner and Trump. Indeed, the fact that Sean Spicer reportedly apologized personally to Adelson, of all people, almost immediately after his “Holocaust center” fiasco last week serves as a helpful reminder that, as much as the various factions, institutions, and individuals jockey for power in the new administration, money—especially campaign cash—still talks in Washington. This is a reality that neoconservatives absorbed long ago.

This piece was originally published in Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy Lobelog.com

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Nikki Haley’s ‘Historic’ Debate on Human Rights Left a Small Impressionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/nikki-haleys-historic-debate-on-human-rights-left-a-small-impression/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nikki-haleys-historic-debate-on-human-rights-left-a-small-impression http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/nikki-haleys-historic-debate-on-human-rights-left-a-small-impression/#comments Wed, 19 Apr 2017 17:11:08 +0000 Dulcie Leimbach http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150050 Nikki Haley, the American ambassador to the UN, with Liu Jieyi, China’s ambassador, before the April 18 Security Council meeting focused solely on human rights. Credit: Rick Bajornas /UN Photo

Nikki Haley, the American ambassador to the UN, with Liu Jieyi, China’s ambassador, before the April 18 Security Council meeting focused solely on human rights. Credit: Rick Bajornas /UN Photo

By Dulcie Leimbach
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 19 2017 (IPS)

Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, presided over what she was determined to sell as “an historic meeting exclusively on human rights” in the UN Security Council. But her brief speech in the April 18 meeting fell far short of introducing innovations to confront violations of human rights or prevent them in such places as Syria, Burundi and Myanmar.

“If this Council fails to take human rights violations and abuses seriously, they can escalate into real threats to international peace and security,” Haley began. “The Security Council cannot continue to be silent when we see widespread violations of human rights.

“Why would we tell ourselves that we will only deal with questions of peace and security, without addressing the factors that bring about the threats in the first place?”

The debate, ponderously titled “Maintenance of international peace and security: human rights and prevention of armed conflict,” gave an “opportunity to reflect on the way the Security Council directly addresses human rights issues in its work,” according to a concept note from the US mission to the UN.

The afternoon meeting among the Council’s 15 permanent and elected members turned political in no time. Ukraine referred to a “human-rights phobia” in the UN and blasted away at Russia’s annexation of Crimea; Uruguay said it was the responsibility of governments to protect its citizens’ human rights as well as people “in transit.” A low-level Russian diplomat rejected the whole notion of the Council concentrating on human rights in its forum.

Yet what shone through the two-hour meeting was not Haley’s remarks but the consistent messages of other Council members, who commended the UN Human Rights Council and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as indispensable partners with the Security Council. France, for example, said it was very “attached” to the Human Rights Council. Britain was effusive.

“Two institutions of the United Nations are particularly vital to delivering this joined up approach to human rights,” said Matthew Rycroft, the British ambassador to the UN. “First, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and his Office provide invaluable support to UN peace operations.” Second, he added, is the Human Rights Council.

Rights experts had hinted that Haley’s session on human rights was an attempt to undermine the UN Human Rights Council, which is based in Geneva. She has pointed to the Council as “corrupt” and said she planned to visit it in June to whip it into shape.

António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, reinforced the primary role of the UN human-rights monitoring bodies. He said that “close cooperation between the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and all relevant United Nations bodies, including the Security Council, enhances general awareness of potential crisis situations, and our collective ability to address them.”

Guterres described the Security Council’s own “decisive action” on human rights, citing the establishment of the international criminal tribunals for Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere as well as the Council’s referral of atrocity cases to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

As a matter of course, human-rights abuses are raised often by Council members as an early warning — or “prevention” — method.

As if stuck on a sales pitch, the US emphasized in the weeks before the meeting that it was holding the first exclusive session in the Council on human rights. But that is debatable, say some rights experts, since the topic has been written specifically into 15 peacekeeping mission mandates, sanctions, investigations, resolutions, special-envoy responsibilities and other matters relevant to the Council.

Even Haley acknowledged these tools of the Council, admitting their relevance and value.

Haley’s office fudged how well the Council accepted the purpose of the debate, saying that “through negotiations the United States convinced all 15 Council members to agree to put the meeting on the POW” – program of work. But the meeting was technically positioned under the international peace and security umbrella and not listed as an agenda item, a threshold that some council members refused to cross.

The US concept note for the meeting posed five questions to Council members to consider when they came to the session, as if they were being asked to write a high-school essay. The first question read, “What types of measures should the Security Council take to respond to serious human rights violations and abuses?” (The US did not appear to answer that.)

Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted in the lead-up to the meeting, is the “human rights discussion serious?” He added: “Are particular countries named? Do they include allies?”

In the Council’s early decades, human rights rarely crept into its deliberations because of Article 2, paragraph 7 of the UN Charter, which said, “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state. . . . ”

Sensitive political realities kept the topic from going too deep when it did arise, according to “The Procedure of the UN Security Council,” a reference book by Loraine Sievers and Sam Daws. When a Council member wanted to raise a human-rights issue in a certain country — not unusual throughout the Cold War — ambassadors needed to show that the abuses could ripple outside the country.

Famously, the topic of Myanmar (Burma) was brought up in 2006 when the US representative and other Council members voiced concerns over the deteriorating situation in that country. They noted that Myanmar’s outflow of refugees and illegal drugs as well as contagious diseases could destabilize the region, the Sievers-Daws book said. But China objected to putting Myanmar on the Council’s agenda, denying its problems presented an international threat.

Nevertheless, the Council has not avoided taking on high-profile rights-abuse cases. The rise in abuses in Burundi last year prompted the Council to call on the government to cooperate with UN human-rights monitors — or else. And a UN commission of inquiry on North Korea declared the regime responsible for crimes against humanity, with the Council elevating the matter to its regular agenda.

In Burundi, the UN’s top human-rights official, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said on April 18 that he was alarmed by what appeared to be a “widespread pattern” of rallies in Burundi in which members of a pro-government youth militia chant a call to “impregnate” or kill opponents. Burundi has been seized on and off by violence since its president, Pierre Nkurunziza, won a disputed third term in 2015.

(Brought to IPS readers courtesy of PassBlue, online independent coverage of the UN, a project of the Ralph Bunche Institute, City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center)

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Fighting Xenophobia & Inequality Together in the Age of Trumphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/fighting-xenophobia-inequality-together-in-the-age-of-trump/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fighting-xenophobia-inequality-together-in-the-age-of-trump http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/fighting-xenophobia-inequality-together-in-the-age-of-trump/#comments Wed, 19 Apr 2017 14:25:23 +0000 Ben Phillips http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150042 Ben Phillips is Co-Founder #fightinequality alliance]]> Credit: UN photo

Credit: UN photo

By Ben Phillips
NAIROBI, KENYA, Apr 19 2017 (IPS)

As the world marks 100 days of the Trump Presidency, we can see that we are now in a new era of crisis, that it goes well beyond one man and one country, and that only a profound and international response can get us out of the state we are in.

The crises of xenophobia and inequality embodied by the Age of Trump are profound and are worldwide. Refugees without safe haven; ethnic and religious minorities facing officially sanctioned discrimination; women facing an aggressive onslaught of misogyny.

Civil society leaders supporting marginalized people are seeing an upsurge of these injustices in every continent. We are witnessing a world in danger not just of a slow down in social progress but of a reverse in it.

For leaders of civil society, four things are clear.

First, this is a global challenge. The whirlwind first hundred days of the Trump administration in the US have both epitomized and exacerbated worrying global trends in which an increasingly economically divided world is becoming an increasingly angry and intolerant one.

Secondly, we must take sides against intolerance. We must unashamedly support the oppressed and commit ourselves to resisting forces of division – whether it be hate speech at refugees in Hungary, xenophobic attacks in South Africa, extrajudicial killings of activists in Latin America, discrimination against religious minorities in South Asia, or unconstitutional bans on migrants in the USA. We will work together with others to help foster societies built on respect for diversity, and open to refugees from war and persecution.

The rapid rise in xenophobia and the rise in inequality which is helping to drive it need not be accepted, and can be defeated. When we stand together.
Thirdly, to tackle the forces of intolerance we must also confront the ever widening inequality that is driving societies apart. Progressive values are put under massive strain when economies cast millions aside. We know from history that 1929 economics can lead to 1933 politics, and that when people lose hope fascists ascend. Growth must benefit ordinary people, economies must be reoriented to create jobs, decent jobs, and not see wealth ever more concentrated in the hands of a view.

Fourthly, we must work together as one. There is an old saying, “the people united will never be defeated”. Sadly, that is not always true. But what is true is that the people divided will always be defeated. The challenge to foster societies of equality and solidarity can not be achieved by one organization or even one sector alone. That is why we have come together as many different leaders in NGOs, trade unions, and social movements in a joint call to #fightinequality, and to build power from below.

The stakes could not be higher. The forces of ever widening inequality, and of ever increasingly intolerance, are mobilizing. But so are the forces of solidarity and equality.

We are more united than ever to fight inequality and intolerance. Inspired by the great campaigns of old – anti-slavery, anti-colonialism, votes for women, anti-apartheid, drop the debt – and by the determined young people of today – in Fees Must Fall, Black Lives Matter, Gambia Has Decided – we will work to bend the long arc of the universe towards justice. The rapid rise in xenophobia and the rise in inequality which is helping to drive it need not be accepted, and can be defeated. When we stand together.

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Yemen, World’s Largest Humanitarian Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/yemen-worlds-largest-humanitarian-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yemen-worlds-largest-humanitarian-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/yemen-worlds-largest-humanitarian-crisis/#comments Wed, 19 Apr 2017 05:10:44 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150034 Yemen 2017 Humanitarian Needs Overview. Credit: Fragkiska Megaloudi / OCHA

Yemen 2017 Humanitarian Needs Overview. Credit: Fragkiska Megaloudi / OCHA

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 19 2017 (IPS)

With 18.8 million people –nearly 7 in 10 inhabitants– in need of humanitarian aid, including 10.3 million requiring immediate assistance, Yemen is now the largest single-nation humanitarian crisis in the world, the United Nations informs while warning that the two-year war is rapidly pushing the country towards “social, economic and institutional collapse.“

More worrying, the conflict in Yemen and its economic consequences are driving the largest food security emergency in the world, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported.

According to OCHA, over 17 million people are currently “food insecure,” of whom 6.8 million are “severely food insecure” and require immediate food assistance, and two million acutely malnourished children. The Yemeni population amounts to 27,4 million inhabitants.

“We can avert a humanitarian catastrophe, but need 2.1 billion dollars in funding to deliver crucial food, nutrition, health and other lifesaving assistance,” the UN estimates.

UN, Sweden, Switzerland

The world organisation plans to hold a high-level pledging meeting for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Co-hosted by the governments of Switzerland and Sweden, the conference will take place at UN in Geneva on 25 April 2017.

Credit: OCHA

Credit: OCHA

“The time is now to come together to prevent an “impending humanitarian catastrophe” in Yemen, the organisers warn.
OCHA has also reminded that even before the current conflict escalated in mid-March 2015, Yemen had faced “enormous levels” of humanitarian needs stemming from years of “poverty, under-development, environmental decline, intermittent conflict, and weak rule of law.”

Meantime, it has stressed the need to protect civilians. “The conduct of hostilities has been brutal. As of 31 December 2016, health facilities had reported nearly 48,000 casualties (including nearly 7,500 deaths) as a result of the conflict.” These figures significantly under-count the true extent of casualties given diminished reporting capacity of health facilities and people’s difficulties accessing healthcare.

Massive Violations of Human Rights

OCHA stressed the impact of this crisis in which “all parties appear to have committed violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.”

On-going air strikes and fighting continue to inflict heavy casualties, damage public and private infrastructure, and impede delivery of humanitarian assistance, it explains, adding that parties to the conflict and their supporters have created a vast protection crisis in which millions of people face tremendous threats to their safety and well-being, and the most vulnerable struggle to survive.

According to the UN humanitarian body, since March 2015, more than 3 million people have been displaced within Yemen. Roughly 73 per cent are living with host families or in rented accommodation, and 20 per cent in collective centres or spontaneous settlements. A substantial numbers of returnees live in damaged houses, unable to afford repairs and face serious protection risks.

Economy, Destroyed

The Yemeni economy is being wilfully destroyed, OCHA informs. Preliminary results of the Disaster Needs Assessment estimated 19 billion dollars in infrastructure damage and other losses – equivalent to about half of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2013.

“Parties to the conflict have targeted key economic infrastructure. Mainly air strikes – but also shelling and other attacks – have damaged or destroyed ports, roads, bridges, factories and markets. They have also imposed restrictions that disrupt the flow of private sector goods and humanitarian aid, including food and medicine.”

For months, nearly all-basic commodities have been only sporadically available in most locations, and basic commodity prices in December 2016 were on average 22 per cent higher than before the crisis, reports OCHA.

At the same time, Yemen is experiencing a liquidity crisis in which people, traders and humanitarian partners struggle to transfer cash into and within the country. Lenders have become increasingly reluctant to supply credit to Yemeni traders seeking to import essential goods.

Basic Commodities, Scarcer, More Expensive

On this, it informs that at the end result is an economic environment in which basic commodities are becoming scarcer and more expensive just as people’s livelihoods opportunities and access to cash are receding or disappearing altogether.

And that humanitarian partners face growing pressure to compensate for the entire commercial sector, which is beyond both their capacity and appropriate role. Essential basic services and the institutions that provide them are collapsing due to conflict, displacement and economic decline.

“Yemeni authorities report that Central Bank foreign exchange reserves dropped from 4.7 billion dollars in late 2014 to less than 1 billion in September 2016, and the public budget deficit has grown by more than 50 per cent to 2.2 billion dollars.”

In addition, salaries for health facility staff, teachers and other public sector workers are paid erratically, often leaving 1.25 million state employees and their 6.9 million dependents – nearly 30 per cent of the population – without a regular income at a time of shortages and rising prices.

“As a result, social services provided by public institutions are collapsing while needs are surging.” In August 2016, the Ministry of Public Health and Population in Sana’a announced it could no longer cover operational costs for health services, and by October, only 45 per cent of health facilities in the country were fully functional.

Absenteeism among key staff – doctors, nutrition counsellors, teachers, etc. – is reportedly rising as employees seek alternatives to provide for their families, according to the UN. On top of pressure to compensate for a faltering commercial sector, humanitarian partners are increasingly fielding calls to fill gaps created by collapsing public institutions.

90% of Food, Imported – 8 Million Lost Livelihoods

According to OCHA, Yemen relies on imports for more than 90 per cent of its staple food and nearly all fuel and medicine.

Authorities in Sana’a and other areas also at times deny or delay clearances for humanitarian activities, including movement requests for assessments or aid delivery. Restrictions on workshops, humanitarian data collection and information sharing have also been intermittently introduced and rescinded.

These restrictions are at times resolved through dialogue, but the time lost represents an unacceptable burden for people who desperately need assistance. Positive developments since November 2016 indicate that these restrictions may substantially improve in the immediate coming period.

An estimated 8 million Yemenis have lost their livelihoods or are living in communities with minimal to no basic services, the UN informs, adding that about 2 million school-age children are out of school and damage, hosting IDPs, or occupation by armed groups.

Yemen is an Arab country situated in the Southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is the second-largest country in the peninsula, with nearly occupying 528,000 km2, and its coastline stretches for about 2,000 kms.

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A Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons Is in the Makinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/a-treaty-to-ban-nuclear-weapons-is-in-the-making/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-treaty-to-ban-nuclear-weapons-is-in-the-making http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/a-treaty-to-ban-nuclear-weapons-is-in-the-making/#comments Fri, 14 Apr 2017 13:19:36 +0000 Sergio Duarte http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149969 Sergio Duarte is a Brazilian Ambassador, former United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs; former Chairman of the Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons; former President of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Amb. Duarte’s Op-Ed first appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS). Amb. Duarte’s Op-Ed first appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS).]]> Image by The Official Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Photostream – flickr.com

Image by The Official Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Photostream – flickr.com

By Sergio Duarte
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 14 2017 (IPS)

The nine possessors of nuclear weapons and most of their allies chose to ignore the negotiations on a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.

This unprecedented initiative resulted from a proposal by South Africa, Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico and Nigeria and was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2016 by an overwhelming majority.

The first Session, from 27 to 31 March, ended on an optimistic tone. There was wide convergence of views on the core prohibitions relating to stockpiling, use, deployment, acquisition, development and production of nuclear weapons.

Sergio Duarte

Sergio Duarte

Other questions such as verification of compliance, clauses for accession by nuclear-armed and other States, timelines for elimination of stockpiles and the relationship of the new instrument with existing treaties such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), among others, will be further discussed during the second Session, from June 15 to July 7, when the President of the Conference will introduce her draft. The future instrument may soon be opened to the signature of States.

It is clear that these negotiations will not bring about a sudden shift in the mindsets of the nine governments that threaten the rest of the world with the willingness to use the most cruel, indiscriminate and destructive weapon ever invented.

It is undeniable, however, that even at this early stage public opinion in many countries have begun to pay attention to the potential impact of a prohibition treaty through press articles and analyses in specialized publications.

The mantra “a world free of nuclear weapons” has become the stated and uncontroverted objective of the community of nations.

Opponents of a ban argue that such an agreement would impede or at least render more difficult efforts for reductions of atomic arsenals under the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and that a treaty to which the current nuclear powers choose not to adhere would not bring about any tangible results in reducing or eliminating nuclear weapons.

They consider that negotiating a prohibition is “premature” and even counterproductive as it risks unraveling the disarmament architecture put together over the past decades.

Supporters, for their part, contend that a ban treaty would establish a clear legal standard rejecting nuclear weapons on humanitarian grounds and would enable States to formalize such a rejection besides enhancing the stigma against those weapons.

They add that it would reaffirm their unacceptability and incompatibility with universally recognized principles of international law and would re-state and strengthen commitments assumed under other treaties. It would enhance, not detract from such commitments.

They hope that it will set into motion a trend toward further specific agreements on nuclear disarmament.

In fact, one of the major challenges for the universality and full effectiveness of a ban treaty is precisely how to design a mechanism that will ensure the possibility, in a second stage, of adherence of States currently under the “umbrella” of nuclear-armed powers and ultimately the adherence of the latter themselves.

Before we can hail a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons as a worthwhile accomplishment or dismiss it as futile, the two sets of arguments must be checked against the results that the treaty may bring about in the short, medium and long run.

If the ban proves at least to be a positive ingredient to infuse life and energy into the moribund multilateral disarmament machinery or to create viable alternative, but not conflicting paths we may consider it useful and justifiable. If not, it will simply fall into oblivion or at best remain as a monument to human fallibility.

The push for negotiations on a nuclear arms ban treaty grew out of years of mounting frustration over the lack of progress in efforts under the NPT regime.

Whether or not parties to that instrument, possessors of nuclear weapons have displayed little or no inclination to fulfill the commitment enshrined in its Article VI, which requires all its Parties “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”.

Possessors are currently engaged in a new round of the nuclear arms race as they seek to enhance the destructive power, accuracy and range of their weapons. As a result, confidence in their real motives and intentions waned in recent years.

In the recent past, a new and powerful force helped to propel forward the drive to finalize a treaty banning nuclear weapons and brought this matter to the forefront of the preoccupations of a large majority of States.

The collective conscience of humankind has increasingly taken to heart the unanimous concern expressed at the 2010 Review Conference of Parties to the NPT over the catastrophic consequences of nuclear detonations as well as the conclusions of three international Conferences held in 2013 and 2014 on such consequences.

In 2015 a large majority of States supported the humanitarian pledge to “stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate” nuclear armament. Civil society organizations contributed studies and discussion forums that helped shape specific, realistic proposals.

The thrust of the movement to ban nuclear weapons is not directed against any State in particular, but against the inhuman nature of nuclear weapons themselves and their disastrous effects on populations and the environment.

The movement does not advocate unilateral disarmament but rather good faith compliance with treaty commitments and with imperatives dictated by humanitarian international law and the universal principles of civilized behavior.

Accordingly, it does not discriminate against “good” or “bad” possessors, whether these are States or non-State actors. No country should be allowed to possess the means to annihilate whole populations and render the planet uninhabitable under the pretense that this would somehow protect their own security.

In his vote in the legal suit brought last year before the International Court of Justice by the Marshall Islands against the nine countries possessing nuclear weapons Judge Cançado Trindade stated: “A world with arsenals of nuclear weapons, like ours, is bound to destroy its past, dangerously threatens the present, and has no future at all. Nuclear weapons pave the way into nothingness”.

It is time for mankind as a whole to act decisively in defense of its own survival.

This article originally appeared Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 10 April 2017: TMS: A Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons Is in the Making.

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A Transformational Moment in Nuclear & International Affairs?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/a-transformational-moment-in-nuclear-international-affairs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-transformational-moment-in-nuclear-international-affairs http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/a-transformational-moment-in-nuclear-international-affairs/#comments Mon, 03 Apr 2017 06:21:12 +0000 John Burroughs http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149763 John Burroughs is Executive Director of the New York-based Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy & Director of UN Office of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms.]]> Credit: UN Photo

Credit: UN Photo

By John Burroughs
NEW YORK, Apr 3 2017 (IPS)

Is a paradigm shift now underway on nuclear weapons at the United Nations? That was the question posed as about 130 nations gathered this past week to begin negotiations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons, leading to their total elimination. The treaty would prohibit development, possession and use of nuclear weapons, but would not contain detailed provisions relating to verified dismantlement of nuclear arsenals and governance of a world free of nuclear arms.

This is the first multilateral negotiation on nuclear weapons since the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was adopted in 1996. It is also the first ever such negotiation relating to the global elimination of nuclear arms, despite the fact that the first UN General Assembly resolution, in 1946, called for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.

The hope of the nations leading the negotiations, including Costa Rica, whose ambassador, Elayne Whyte, is president of the negotiating conference, is that the second session, to be held from June 15 to July 7, will succeed in adopting a treaty. The idea is to strike while the iron is hot.

What makes the initiative at first hard to grasp is that it involves countries whose acquisition of nuclear weapons is already barred by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and by regional nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties.

The nuclear-armed states (United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel) are not participating, nor are almost all states in military alliances with the United States. The aim, nonetheless, is to set a global standard stigmatizing nuclear arms and laying the foundation for their universal and permanent elimination.

The initiative grew out of three conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear explosions organized by the governments of Norway, Austria, and Mexico, in 2013 and 2014. The straightforward message is that the consequences of use of nuclear weapons are morally unacceptable and also incompatible with international humanitarian law barring the use of weapons causing unnecessary suffering and indiscriminate harm.

Therefore, nuclear weapons should be explicitly prohibited by treaty, as have other weapons including biological weapons, chemical weapons, landmines, and cluster munitions. The initiative also builds upon the regional nuclear weapon free zone treaties, to which most of the negotiating states belong.

The Trump Administration has carried forward the Obama Administration’s policy of opposing the negotiations. An alarming related development is that Christopher Ford, a former US Special Representative for Nonproliferation now serving on the National Security Council, has stated that the administration is reviewing “whether or not the goal of a world without nuclear weapons is in fact a realistic objective, especially in the near to medium term.” Ford, a lawyer, knows very well that the United States is legally bound by Article VI of the NPT to pursue in good faith negotiations on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament.

A common objection made by U.S. allies is that a nuclear ban treaty will undermine the NPT. Participating states reply: How? We are negotiating an effective measure relating to nuclear disarmament as Article VI requires of all NPT states parties.

The first week of negotiations revealed a broad convergence in favor of a relatively simple prohibition treaty. Only a few countries advocated negotiation in this forum of a comprehensive convention addressing all aspects of nuclear disarmament. Many other countries see negotiation of a comprehensive convention as a step to be taken later, when at least some nuclear-armed states are ready to participate.

There remain significant issues to be resolved concerning the provisions of a prohibition treaty, including issues relating to threat of use of nuclear arms and to testing. My organization, the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA), advocates for inclusion of a prohibition of threat of use.

In our view, that would confirm and specify existing international law and, as Chile and South Africa also said, help to delegitimize nuclear deterrence. An opposing view is that the illegality of threat of use would be implicit in the prohibitions of possession and use and is already adequately covered by the UN Charter.

IALANA also calls for the treaty to prohibit design and testing of nuclear weapons, capturing a whole suite of activities from computer simulations to explosive testing. The treaty will help set the template for future disarmament agreements, and therefore should be reasonably comprehensive.

Many governments support the inclusion of a prohibition of at least testing. Some governments maintain, however, that it is captured by the prohibition of development and note that explosive testing is banned by the yet to enter into force CTBT.

A knotty issue is how to handle possible later participation in the treaty by nuclear-armed states. The basic options are to require that they denuclearize prior to joining the treaty, or to provide that they may join the treaty if they have accepted a time-bound obligation verifiably to eliminate their arsenal. Participation by nuclear-armed states in a ban treaty in the near term is entirely theoretical, and may not happen even when they do decide to eliminate their arsenals. Still, negotiators want to make it clear that all states are welcome and encouraged to join the treaty.

The initiative and the negotiations have been marked by close cooperation between governments and civil society, notably the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, and with the International Committee of the Red Cross. Civil society was given ample opportunity to comment throughout the first week.

Such cooperation has never before occurred in the nuclear sphere. Also noteworthy is that the negotiations are taking place in a UN process over the opposition of the permanent five members of the Security Council, perhaps a harbinger of democratization of the United Nations.

Diplomats and civil society organizations involved in the negotiations are clearly energized, even passionate, and determined to work constructively. If all goes well, members of a ban treaty, working together with civil society, will become a potent collective actor that will transform nuclear and international affairs for the better.

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Syrian Regime Survives on Russian Arms & UN Vetoeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/syrian-regime-survives-on-russian-arms-un-vetoes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=syrian-regime-survives-on-russian-arms-un-vetoes http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/syrian-regime-survives-on-russian-arms-un-vetoes/#comments Tue, 28 Mar 2017 16:25:57 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149679 Syrian conflict. Credit: UN Photo

Syrian conflict. Credit: UN Photo

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 28 2017 (IPS)

As the devastating civil war in Syria entered its seventh year last week, President Bashar al-Assad has continued to survive— despite faltering efforts by the United States and the UN Security Council (UNSC) to rein him in, or impose sanctions on his beleaguered regime.

Assad, who did his post-graduate studies in the UK and was trained as an ophthalmologist in London, is not your average, run-of-the mill Middle East dictator.

Nadim Houry of Human Rights Watch calls him an “Arab dictator 2.0” – technologically upgraded from the likes of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi, both of whom died in the hands of their captors.

“He is a different kind of blood thirsty dictator who shops online on his I-pad,” says Houry, describing Assad as more dress-conscious and technologically sophisticated in an age of the social media.

According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres: “For six years now, the Syrian people have been victims of one of the worst conflicts of our time” – and under Assad’s presidency.

The death toll is estimated at nearly 400,000, according to the United Nations and civil society organizations monitoring the conflict.

And the Syrian President’s political survival has depended largely on three factors: Russian vetoes in the Security Council (aided occasionally by China) protecting his presidency; a wide array of Russian weapons at his command; and the sharp division among multiple rebel groups trying unsuccessfully to oust him from power.

Assad, however, is not unique in the protection he receives from a divided Security Council. Israel continues to be protected by the US and Morocco by France.

After losing Iraq and Libya — two of its former military allies who were heavily dependent on Russian weapons– Moscow has remained determined to prevent any Western-inspired regime change in Syria.

Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics & Coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, told IPS: “Although the harsh U.S. criticism of Russia and China for the abuse of their veto powers is in itself quite reasonable, it should be noted that while Russia and China have now vetoed six resolutions challenging violations of international legal norms by Syria, the United States has vetoed no less than 43 resolutions challenging violations of international legal norms by Israel.”

Though the Russian and Chinese vetoes of these modest and quite reasonable resolutions on Syria have been shameful, Assad would probably still be in power regardless, he said.

“None of these resolutions allowed for foreign military intervention or anything that would have significantly altered the power balance. The opposition is too divided and, despite the regime’s savage repression, it still has the support of a substantial minority of Syrians, particularly given popular fears of a takeover by Salafist radicals if Assad was overthrown,” he noted.

Furthermore, even the Assad regime’s harshest Western critics have never appeared ready to dramatically escalate their support for Syrian rebels or their direct military intervention regardless of whether or not they had UN authorization to do so, said Zunes who has written extensively on the politics of the Security Council.

In a statement last week, the office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee [Democtat-California] pointed out that “President Trump recently deployed 400 troops to Syria and reports indicate that the Pentagon is planning to send 1,000 additional troops in the coming weeks, marking the latest front in this endless war.”

The UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is currently involved in a fifth round of intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, described as “Geneva V”.

A coalition of civil society organizations, however, warned last week that Geneva IV failed to deliver tangible progress to improve the lives of our people. “Unless there are consequences for the continued killing of civilians, Geneva V will suffer the same fate.”

“As this new round of talks begins, we appeal to you to bring leverage to the table – otherwise your presence does nothing to increase the chances of success. We know what we want for our future and how we should get there. We need what we can’t deliver and what has always been missing: pressure on and leverage over the regime and its allies to enforce Security Council resolutions, which are clear and explicit.”

In a guest editorial in the current issue of the magazine published by the UN Association of UK, Lakhdar Brahimi, who served as UN and Arab League Envoy to Syria from 2012 until 2014, said: “Yes, the UN failed to stop the bloodshed in Syria, but a deeper understanding is needed of why the UN fails when it fails, and why the UN succeeds when it succeeds.

Asked about the continued vibrant military relationship between Syria and Russia, 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 Syrian conflict is seemingly intractable.

Bashar al-Assad has remained in power, despite a conflict that has persisted since 2011. She said Russian support, including arms transfers, has helped President Assad stay in power.

“The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has documented small quantities of weapons transfers to Syria from China, Iran, and North Korea, as well as possible transfers from Belarus. But over the last 15 years, Russia has been by far the Assad regime’s dominant arms supplier.”

President Assad has remained in power, but at great cost, said Goldring, who also represents the Acronym Institute at the United Nations on conventional weapons and arms trade issues

Russia has remained the largest single arms supplier dating back to a 25-year Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed by Syria with the then Soviet Union in October 1970.

Syria’s military arsenal includes over 200 Russian-made MiG-21 and MiG-29 fighter planes, dozens of Mil Mi-24 attack helicopters and SA-14 surface-to-air missiles, and scores of T-72 battle tanks, along with a wide range of rocket launchers, anti-aircraft guns, mortars and howitzers.

But most of these are ageing weapons systems, purchased largely in the 1970s and 1980s costing billions of dollars, and badly in need of refurbishing or replacements. As in all military agreements, the contracts with Russia include maintenance, servicing, repairs and training.

Goldring said Syria is yet another example of the costs of proxy warfare. Continued arms transfers fuel the conflict, and the Trump Administration’s plans for US forces in Syria magnify this risk. She said the pattern of the conflict suggests that a military solution is unlikely.

When one group has been able to attain an advantage, it has been temporary, as another group has responded. “Rather than perpetuating the conflict through weapons transfers, the suppliers should stop supplying weapons and ammunition to ongoing conflicts, including in Syria,” said Goldring.

Singling out the role of the United Nations in resolving international crises over the years, Zunes told IPS “the Syrian dictator is not the only autocratic Arab dictator to have received support from a divided Security Council.”

He pointed out that Moroccan King Hassan II and his successor Mohammed VI’s ongoing occupation of Western Sahara, and refusal to go ahead with the promised referendum on the fate of the territory, has put Morocco in violation of a series of Security Council resolutions.

But France—and, depending on the administration, the United States as well—has prevented the United Nations from enforcing these resolutions through Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

As with Indonesia’s 24-year occupation East Timor, he pointed out, Morocco’s permanent member backers have never had to formally exercise their veto power as has Syria’s allies, but the threat of a veto has prevented the United Nations from carrying through with its responsibilities to uphold the right of Western Sahara, as a legally-recognized non-self-governing territory, to self-determination.

Today, more than four decades after the UNSC initially called on Morocco to pull out and allow for self-determination, the occupation and repression continues, he noted.

“If anything, the case for UN action in Western Sahara is legally more compelling. While the death toll and humanitarian crisis in Syria is far worse, it is primarily an internal conflict taking place within that country’s sovereign internationally-recognized borders, while Western Sahara—as an international dispute involving a foreign military occupation–is clearly a UN responsibility,” Zunes declared.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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The World Faces a Historic Opportunity to Ban Nuclear Weaponshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/the-world-faces-a-historic-opportunity-to-ban-nuclear-weapons/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-world-faces-a-historic-opportunity-to-ban-nuclear-weapons http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/the-world-faces-a-historic-opportunity-to-ban-nuclear-weapons/#comments Fri, 24 Mar 2017 17:26:42 +0000 Beatrice Fihn, Martin Butcher, and Rasha Abdul Rahim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149634 On Monday 27 March, UN talks will begin on a global nuclear ban treaty. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

On Monday 27 March, UN talks will begin on a global nuclear ban treaty. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Beatrice Fihn, Martin Butcher, and Rasha Abdul Rahim
VIENNA/Oxford/LONDON, Mar 24 2017 (IPS)

Nuclear weapons are once again high on the international agenda, and experts note that the risk of a nuclear detonation is the highest since the Cold War.

As global tensions, uncertainty and risks of conflict rise amongst nuclear-armed states, nuclear weapons are treated as sabres to rattle, further heightening the risks of intentional or inadvertent use.

Nuclear weapons are the most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created. Both in terms of the scale of the immediate devastation they cause and the threat of a uniquely persistent, pervasive and genetically damaging radioactive fallout, they would cause unacceptable harm to civilians.

But while the nuclear-armed states are implementing policies based on unpredictability, nationalism and weakening of international institutions, the majority of the world’s states are preparing to finally outlaw nuclear weapons.

Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of Hiroshima, described the nuclear bombing as blinding the whole city with its flash, being flattened by a hurricane-like blast, and burned in the 4,000-degree Celsius heat. She said a bright summer morning turned to a dark twilight in seconds with smoke and dust rising from the mushroom cloud, and the dead and injured covering the ground, begging desperately for water, and receiving no medical care at all. The spreading firestorm and the foul stench of burnt flesh filled the air.

A single nuclear bomb detonated over a large city could kill millions of people and cause catastrophic and long-term damage to the environment. The use of tens or hundreds of nuclear bombs would be cataclysmic, severely disrupting the global climate and causing widespread famine.

Strikes of this kind would invariably violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law, yet, these weapons are still not explicitly and universally prohibited under international law. Nine states are known to possess them and many more continue to rely on them through military alliances.

The alarming evidence presented by physicians, physicists, climate scientists, human rights organisations, humanitarian agencies, and survivors of nuclear weapons attacks have been successful in changing the discourse, and opened space for greater engagement from civil society, international organisations, and states.

Because the humanitarian and environmental consequences of using nuclear weapons would be global and catastrophic, eliminating such dangers is the responsibility of all governments in accordance with their obligation to ensure respect for international humanitarian law.

The world is now facing a historic opportunity to prohibit nuclear weapons.

In October last year, a majority of the world’s states at the United Nations General Assembly agreed to start negotiations of a new legally binding treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, in line with other treaties that prohibit chemical and biological weapons, landmines and cluster munitions.

As we’ve seen with these weapons, an international prohibition has created a strong norm against their use and speed up their elimination.

The negotiations will start at the United Nations in New York on 27-31 March, and continue on 15 June-7 July, with the aim of concluding a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.

Amnesty International, Oxfam and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) believe that it is time to negotiate a treaty that would prohibit the use, possession, production and transfer of nuclear weapons, given their indiscriminate nature. No state, including permanent members of the UN Security Council, should possess nuclear weapons.

This is the moment to stand up for international law, multilateralism and international institutions. All governments should seize this opportunity and participate actively in the negotiations of a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons in 2017.

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‘Words of Fear and Loathing Can -and Do- Have Real Consequences’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/words-of-fear-and-loathing-can-and-do-have-real-consequences/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=words-of-fear-and-loathing-can-and-do-have-real-consequences http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/words-of-fear-and-loathing-can-and-do-have-real-consequences/#comments Tue, 21 Mar 2017 13:51:46 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149517 Students watch a performance by their peers at Barros Barreto School, in Salvador, Brazil. The performance tackled social issues such as racism and gender discrimination. Credit: UNICEF/Claudio Versiani

Students watch a performance by their peers at Barros Barreto School, in Salvador, Brazil. The performance tackled social issues such as racism and gender discrimination. Credit: UNICEF/Claudio Versiani

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Mar 21 2017 (IPS)

“Politics of division and the rhetoric of intolerance are targeting racial, ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities, and migrants and refugees. Words of fear and loathing can, and do, have real consequences,” warns the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

The UN rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March that Governments around the world that they have a legal obligation to stop hate speech and hate crimes, and called on people everywhere to “stand up for someone’s rights.”

The theme for the Day this year is ending racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including as it relates to people’s attitudes and actions towards migration.

At the Summit for Refugees and Migrants in September 2016, UN member states adopted a Declaration strongly condemning acts and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The Summit also sparked the UN’s Together initiative to change negative perceptions and attitudes aimed at refugees and migrants.

Zeid said that States do not have any excuse to allow racism and xenophobia to fester.

States “have the legal obligation to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination, to guarantee the right of everyone, no matter their race, colour, national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law,” the senior UN official said.

He urged governments to adopt legislation expressly prohibiting racist hate speech, including the dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, incitement to racial discrimination, and threats or incitement to violence.

“It is not an attack on free speech or the silencing of controversial ideas or criticism, but a recognition that the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities,” Zeid said.

To promote human rights, the UN High Commissioner’s office, known by its acronym OHCHR, is asking people around the world to , “Stand up for Someone’s Rights Today”.

The campaign urges people to take practical steps in their own communities to take a stand for humanity.

Rising Populism and Extremism

For his part, UN secretary general António Guterres had on 27 February said that “disregard for human rights is a disease, and it is a disease that is spreading – North, South, East and West.”

Addressing the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council http://www.ohchr.org, he urged member states to uphold the rights of all people in the face of rising populism and extremism.

Having lived under the dictatorship of Portugal’s António de Oliveira Salazar, Guterres explained that he was 24 before he knew democracy. Denying his compatriots their human rights had oppressed and impoverished many of them, resulting in a mass exodus, and also brought bloody civil wars to Portugal’s former colonies in Africa.

World, More Dangerous Today

Calling today’s world “more dangerous, less predictable, more chaotic,” the Secretary-General called for making prevention a priority, tackling root causes of conflict and reacting early and more effectively to human rights violations.

He highlighted the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the treaties that derive from it, and urged the Council to be “fully engaged” on the issues that require their attention.

“We are increasingly seeing the perverse phenomenon of populism and extremism feeding off each other in a frenzy of growing racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred and other forms of intolerance,” said Guterres.

“Minorities, indigenous communities and others face discriminations and abuse across the world,” he added, noting abuse targeting refugees and migrants, and people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and/or intersex.

Among other issues raised, Guterres also called for protection of the human rights defenders and of journalists who are “essential” to the checks and balances of any society.

In his address, UN High Commissioner Zeid denounced “reckless political profiteers” who threaten the multilateral system or intend to withdraw from parts of it.

“We have much to lose, so much to protect,” the UN High Commissioner said.

“Without a commitment to fundamental human rights, to the dignity and worth of the human person and to the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, our world will become chaos, misery and warfare,” he warned.

“Of all the great post-war achievements, it is this assertion of the universality of rights in human rights law that may be the most noteworthy.”

Speaking directly to the political actors, Zeid said “the sirens of historical experience ought to ring clear” and pledged that “we will not sit idly by” in the face of violations.

“Our rights, the rights of others, the very future of our planet cannot, must not be thrown aside by these reckless political profiteers,” he added.

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‘Religious Discrimination, Fanaticism and Xenophobia Worsened’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/religious-discrimination-fanaticism-and-xenophobia-worsened/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=religious-discrimination-fanaticism-and-xenophobia-worsened http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/religious-discrimination-fanaticism-and-xenophobia-worsened/#comments Sat, 18 Mar 2017 20:52:43 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149481 Credit: Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

Credit: Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By IPS World Desk
ROME/GENEVA, Mar 18 2017 (IPS)

Religious discrimination, fanaticism and xenophobia have worsened in several countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and North America, thus there is a need for alternatives to identify a common strategy to address these challenges, a Geneva-based think tank promoting global dialogue stated.

The issue has been top on the agenda of a meeting organised by the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue on Mar. 16 at the United Nations Office in Geneva, during which representatives from the Muslim and Christian regions of the world exchanged views on the convergence between Islam and Christianity,

William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) who participated in this meeting, entitled “Islam and Christianity, the Great Convergence: Working Jointly Towards Equal Citizenship Rights, highlighted the importance of recognising the convergences of the Abrahamic religions – Islam and Christianity – in order to overcome religious divisions.

“We live today in turbulent and troubled times. There are many and loud voices that take perverse delight in drawing attention to what divides and splits our global community. In these circumstances, it is all too easy to forget that Islam and Christianity – two of the world’s three ancient Abrahamic monotheist religious traditions – have more in common than in contention.”

Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan underlined in a video message the importance of fostering religious tolerance and inter-faith harmony between Christians and Muslims as well as intra-faith cohesion.

Referring to the Brussels Declaration entitled “The Peace of God in the World’ Towards Peaceful Coexistence and Collaboration Among the Three Monotheistic Religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam”, he underscored the importance of bringing peace to the world and the need for peaceful co-existence between religious groups.

“All of our religions disapprove of religious justification of violence and inhumane actions, none of them approve of violence, terrorism or ill treatment of human beings,” he said.

For his part, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim highlighted the significance of garnering the support of Muslim and Christian leaders to restore relations between Islam and Christianity.

“Today we have a tremendous opportunity to discuss the convergences between Islam and Christianity and to continue our joint efforts combining our strengths to promote equal citizenship rights,” he added.

The Minister of State for Tolerance of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikha Lubna Khalid al Qasimi, for her part emphasised the need for Christian-Muslim dialogue as a necessary condition for peace, tolerance and harmony.

“Irrespective of national identity, all citizens need to be granted equally universal human rights. Our states need to protect these human rights. To grant equal protection, we need to rethink our Christian-Muslim dialogue. It is only through engaging in dialogue and accepting the diversity of each other that we can reach a peaceful reconciliation.”

Representing over 500 million Christians in more than 110 countries of the world, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Reverend Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit said, “that the nature of the relationship between these two faith communities is of vital significance for the welfare of the whole human family.”

For his part, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Algeria, Lakhdar Brahimi, condemned the hijacking of religious faiths by violent and extremist groups stating that the “majority of people in the so-called Muslim majority countries are horrified by the barbaric violence committed by groups who claim to serve Islam.”

“Daesh, Al-Qaeda, Boko-Haram and similar groups in our countries and in Europe are abusing Islam and gravely trying to destroy its values, its cultures and its civilisation.”

Equal, Inclusive Citizenship Rights

As part of the meeting’s agenda, the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre Idriss Jazairy presented a draft agenda for a forthcoming world conference entitled “Religions, Creeds or Other Value Systems and Equal Citizenship Rights” that will build on the discussions initiated during the meeting.

The goal of this conference would be to initiate a structured dialogue that might lead to the obsolescence of the concept of minority and to its replacement by that of a model of inclusive and equal citizenship rights.

On the conference, the Former Acting Foreign Minister of Lebanon and the current Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs in Beirut, Dr. Tarek Mitri, argued that states should be established on the principles of citizenship, equality and law to create an environment of plurality and tolerance.

“Re-vitalising the pact of citizenship necessitates the rebuilding of state institutions on the foundation of the rule of law. The state’s chief obligation is to protect its citizens, all its citizens. Politics of inclusion in fractured societies are a condition for equal citizenship,” he said.

The former US ambassador to the United Nations and former member of the US Congress, Dr. Mark D. Siljander, ascertained that the convergence and the commonalities between the Abrahamic faiths of Islam and Christianity could lead to equal and inclusive citizenship rights. Drawing on his long-time expertise as a diplomat and peacemaker.

And Pakistan’s ambassador Tehmina Janjua reminded the participants that the concept of equal and inclusive citizenship should go beyond religious affiliation.

“If we are to address the issue of citizenship rights/minorities globally, then we need to go beyond the relationship of Christianity and Islam. We also need to go beyond viewing this issue from the perspective of religion alone.”

The goal of the Geneva Centre’s initiative was to highlight the many convergences that exist between Islam and Christianity, to recognise the potential of a “great convergence” between both religions, and to mitigate and reverse the social polarisation between affiliates of these two religions and the resulting marginalisation of religious minorities, discrimination, xenophobia and violence.

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Argentina and UAE Agree to Strengthen Economic Tieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/argentina-and-uae-agree-to-strengthen-economic-ties/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=argentina-and-uae-agree-to-strengthen-economic-ties http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/argentina-and-uae-agree-to-strengthen-economic-ties/#comments Fri, 17 Mar 2017 23:01:25 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149473 Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra and her counterpart from the UAE, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, give a press conference after their working meeting in the foreign ministry in Buenos Aires. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra and her counterpart from the UAE, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, give a press conference after their working meeting in the foreign ministry in Buenos Aires. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Mar 17 2017 (IPS)

Argentina and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) agreed Friday Mar. 17 to explore the possibility of this South American country receiving investment from the Gulf nation, particularly tourism and health, while they pledged to strengthen bilateral relations and increase trade.

This was reported by Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra and her counterpart from the UAE, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, during the latter’s official visit to Buenos Aires.

The two ministers held a working meeting at the San Martin Palace, the headquarters of Argentina’s foreign ministry, then gave a brief press conference before having lunch with Argentine Vice President Gabriela Michetti.

“This week started and ended for us with the United Arab Emirates, which shows the importance that both countries put on this relationship and the shared interest in reinforcing our friendship,” Malcorra said.

She was referring to the visit to Argentina early this week by a high-level delegation from the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), considered the second-largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, headed by Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed al Nahyan, that came to learn about the present economic situation and business climate in the country.

The delegation was received in the Casa Rosada, the seat of the central government, by President Mauricio Macri. The members of the delegation also met with Malcorra, Michetti, the president of the Central Bank, Federico Sturzenegger, and the ministers of the treasury, finance and energy and mines.

In addition, they held meetings with business representatives from different sectors of the economy: oil, steel, agriculture, food, real estate, energy and finance, among others.

A broad UAE delegation headed by UAE Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Mohammed Sharaf also visited Argentina this week.

Malcorra wore black at Friday’s meeting to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Mar. 17, 1992 terrorist attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, which left 22 dead and dozens injured.

During the news briefing, Minister Al Nayhan expressed his solidarity referring to the incident and said he hoped nations “will work more effectively to put a stop to terrorism.”

He had a message of political support for President Macri, congratulating the government on its determination “to take the very brave steps it has been taking to ensure that Argentina becomes the country it deserves to be, generating openness, not only for tourists but also for investors and for its different partners and allies.”

Since Macri, of the centre-right Cambiemos alliance, took office in December 2015, one of his priorities has been to generate the conditions for drawing foreign investors to Argentina and improving the country’s access to global credit markets.

The measures he has taken to that end include an agreement to pay 4.65 billion dollars to holdout hedge funds, creditors that have been in conflict with Argentina since the late 2001 default declared in the midst of the severe economic crisis that led to the resignation of then president Fernando de la Rúa.

This is the second time that the UAE foreign minister has visited Buenos Aires since Macri became president. The first visit was in early February 2016, when the main aim was to meet the new authorities here.

In November 2016, an Argentine delegation headed by Vice President Michetti visited the UAE and held several meetings, with the aim of “attracting investment and generating jobs for our countries,” as the vice president stated at the time.

In the trade balance between the two countries Argentina – which mainly sells food to the Gulf nation – has a surplus of 133.6 million dollars.

“Although it is true that trade between our countries has not yet reached the levels that we would like, our presence will help it grow and will bring about a greater presence of the United Arab Emirates in terms of investment in Argentina. We have also been exploring opportunities to reach cooperation accords involving third parties, and we are optimistic,” said the Emirati foreign minister.

For her part, Malcorra referred to the sectors in which Argentina could receive investment from the UAE.

She especially mentioned “tourism, not only to draw a significant number of visitors from the Emirates, but also as an opportunity for investment in the hotel industry,” and “health, since the Emirates has become a model health centre, which draws people from the entire region; we are looking at the possibility of exchange and complementarity in this area.”

The Argentine minister also reported that a memorandum of understanding was signed regarding visas, “to facilitate the exchange between the two countries.”

During the visit, Malcorra gave Minister Al Nahyan a letter from Macri in which the president promised that Argentina would take part in the Expo 2020, the world fair to be held in Dubai between October 2020 and April 2021, which is expected to be visited by 25 million people, 70 percent of them from abroad.

The Emirati minister came to Argentina from Brazil, the other leg of his current South America tour, where he signed three agreements on Thursday Mar. 16 with his Brazilian host and counterpart, Aloysio Nunes. Al Nahyan will return from Buenos Aires to Brazil, where he will inaugurate the UAE consulate-general in São Paulo on Tuesday Mar. 21.

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UN Facing Famines, Conflicts and Now U.S. Funding Cutshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/un-facing-famines-conflicts-and-now-u-s-funding-cuts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-facing-famines-conflicts-and-now-u-s-funding-cuts http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/un-facing-famines-conflicts-and-now-u-s-funding-cuts/#comments Fri, 17 Mar 2017 05:48:53 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149461 Snow falls outside of the UN headquarters Secretariat building in New York. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Snow falls outside of the UN headquarters Secretariat building in New York. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 17 2017 (IPS)

In the midst of responding to the worst humanitarian crisis since records began, the UN is now faced with potential funding cuts from its biggest donor, the United States.

On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump released “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” the first such budget proposal of his presidency. The blueprint’s biggest proposed cuts target the Department of State, which would lose 29 percent of its budget, and the Environment Protection Agency, which would lose 31 percent.

Although details of exactly how the proposed cuts – which still require approval of U.S. Congress – would be made, are yet to emerge, funding for the UN and the USAID which both fall under the State Department is at risk.

“If approved – and that’s a big “if” – the Whitehouse’s plans could slash several billions in UN funding,” Natalie Samarasinghe Executive Director of the United Nations Association of the UK, told IPS.

These billions of dollars of potential cuts come at a time when the United Nations is occupied responding to both acute and chronic crises around the world.

“Some 20 million people are facing famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen,” said Samarasinghe.

“The number of people forced to flee their homes is now the biggest since records began,” she said. “These are people for whom the UN is literally the difference between life and death,” she said.

“The total foreign aid of the U.S. is about one percent of the budget - not 10 or 15 percent as some people seem to think - it’s one percent.” -- Michel Gabaudan

Michel Gabaudan, President of Refugees International, told IPS that it is important to keep the United States contribution in perspective when assessing the potential cuts.

“The U.S. contribution is critical, it is generous, it is vital, but it is not unduly high compared to other countries of the western bloc – who are the main funders of humanitarian aid – and we must keep this contribution in perspective.”

“The total foreign aid of the U.S. is about one percent of the budget – not 10 or 15 percent as some people seem to think – it’s one percent.”

“The magnitude of the U.S. economy means that that one percent of money is critical to humanitarian relief and to development programs but if you compare this with what some European countries are doing, like Switzerland, like the Nordics, like the Dutch … they are certainly giving more in terms of dollar per capita of their citizens,” he said.

Samarasinghe also noted that the proposed cuts are “still a relatively small amount compared to, say, fossil fuel subsidies.”

She said that it would be “politically challenging for European countries to pick up the slack, especially with elections looming in a number of countries.”

As an example, said Samarasinghe, a recent appeal from the Netherlands to fund reproductive health and safe abortions has not yet reached its $600 million target. That appeal was set up after Trump re-instated the Global Gag Rule, which removes U.S. funding from non-governmental organisations that carry out any activities related to safe abortion, regardless of the funding source.

Meanwhile, Deborah Brautigam an expert on China in Africa told IPS that it is unlikely that China will increase its funding to the United Nations as the United States steps back, because China already feels “very comfortable” in its current position at the UN. This position includes a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and UN development policies, which align with China’s priorities, such as industrialisation, said Brautigam who is Professor of International Political Economy and Director of the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University.

Two UN agencies that receive the most funding from the United States are the World Food Program, which provides emergency food assistance, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

However Gabaudan said that both the more immediate humanitarian aid as well as long-term development assistance are needed to address the world’s crises:

“The state department funds UNHCR and USAID funds development programs which tie the humanitarian aid with longer term issues,” said Gabaudan.

“Most displacement crises are protracted, people don’t leave and get back home after a year or two,” he said, as is the case with the Syrian conflict, which just surpassed six year on March 15th.

The budget proposal also reinforces other aspects of the emerging Trump Republican administration policies, including sweeping cuts to environment programs and cuts to programs, which assist the poor in the United States.

Nikki Haley, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations said in a statement that the cuts reflected a desire to make the United Nations more effective and efficient.

“I look forward to working with Members of Congress to craft a budget that advances U.S. interests at the UN, and I look forward to working with my UN colleagues to make the organisation more effective and efficient.”

“In many areas, the UN spends more money than it should, and in many ways it places a much larger financial burden on the United States than on other countries.”

However that financial relationship between the UN and the host of UN Headquarters is not unidirectional. According to the latest New York City UN Impact Report, the UN community contributed 3.69 billion dollars to the New York City economy in 2014.

In response to the budget blueprint Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that “the Secretary-General is grateful for the support the United States has given to the United Nations over the years as the organisation’s largest financial contributor.”

“The Secretary-General is totally committed to reforming the United Nations and ensuring that it is fit for purpose and delivers results in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.”

“However, abrupt funding cuts can force the adoption of ad hoc measures that will undermine the impact of longer-term reform efforts,” said Dujarric.

Dujarric’s statement also addressed aspects of the proposed budget, which claim to address terrorism. The proposal, which significantly increases spending on the U.S. military appears to favour a “hard power” militaristic approach over a “soft power” diplomatic and humanitarian approach.

“The Secretary-General fully subscribes to the necessity to effectively combat terrorism but believes that it requires more than military spending,” said Dujarric. “There is also a need to address the underlying drivers of terrorism through continuing investments in conflict prevention, conflict resolution, countering violent extremism, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, sustainable and inclusive development, the enhancement and respect of human rights, and timely responses to humanitarian crises.”

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Brazil and the UAE Determined to Explore New Bilateral Frontiershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/brazil-and-the-uae-determined-to-explore-new-bilateral-frontiers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brazil-and-the-uae-determined-to-explore-new-bilateral-frontiers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/brazil-and-the-uae-determined-to-explore-new-bilateral-frontiers/#comments Thu, 16 Mar 2017 23:00:49 +0000 Doris Calderon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149459 The UAE’s foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (2nd-L), and his Brazilian counterpart Aloysio Nunes (3rd-R) sign agreements in Itamaraty Palace, Brazil’s foreign ministry. Credit: Doris Calderón/IPS

The UAE’s foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (2nd-L), and his Brazilian counterpart Aloysio Nunes (3rd-R) sign agreements in Itamaraty Palace, Brazil’s foreign ministry. Credit: Doris Calderón/IPS

By Doris Calderon
BRASILIA, Mar 16 2017 (IPS)

The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, made his fifth visit to Brazil Thursday, Mar. 16, in search of new opportunities to exploit the enormous potential in relations between the two countries.

In statements to reporters in the Itamaraty Palace, the headquarters of Brazil’s foreign ministry, after a working meeting with his Brazilian counterpart Aloysio Nunes, Al Nayhan said he was “very pleased about the strengthening of ties of friendship between the two countries seen year by year.”

“There are great opportunities between the UAE and Brazil, not only in the economy and trade, but also in other sectors, like tourism. We are particularly interested in increasing the presence of Brazilian nationals in our country,” he added.

He said he was pleased that 60,000 Brazilians a year visit the UAE, making the Persian Gulf country the third destination for tourists from Latin America’s giant. “Brazil is opening up and finding new horizons in other parts of the world,” he said.

Al Nahyan, who has been foreign minister since 2006, commented that the Middle East currently finds itself in a complex moment, making it necessary to jointly take on challenges like fighting violence and terrorism.

Brazil’s foreign minister said they discussed a wide variety of questions on the regional and global agenda, as well as bilateral issues.

Nunes stressed that the latest visit by Al Nahyan, who also came to Brazil in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2014, “shows the high priority that the two countries put on bilateral relations and cooperation.”

The Brazilian official was referring to the mutual interest of the private sector in the two countries in long-term projects in strategic areas like infrastructure, industry and services, and to investment in Brazil by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), considered the second-largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, worth nearly one trillion dollars.

The two ministers signed three bilateral accords during the meeting. Two of them were visa waiver agreements, and another involved the strengthening of air travel services between the two countries.

The UAE is home to the largest community of Brazilians in the Gulf: 4,500.

Al Nahyan’s agenda also included meetings with Brazilian President Michel Temer, Senate head Eunicio Oliveira, and the ministers of defence, Raul Jungmann, and industry, trade and services, Marcos Pereira.

The Emirati minister will visit Argentina on Friday Mar. 17, before returning to Brazil on Mar. 21, to participate in the inauguration of the new UAE consulate-general in São Paulo.

Relations between the two countries were formally established in 1974. The Brazilian Embassy in Abu Dhabi opened in 1978, and in 1991 the UAE opened its first embassy in Latin America, in Brasilia.

Ties grew stronger in recent years thanks to the number of visits by high-level Brazilian officials to the UAE: 31 ministers and 14 state governors since 2007, it was noted on Thursday.

The new emphasis on bilateral ties began in December 2003, with the visit to the UAE by then president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011), at the head of a broad delegation of government officials and business leaders.

Ten years later, in 2013, then vice president Temer made an official visit to the Emirati cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Since 2008, the UAE haaçs become Brazil’s second-largest trading partner in the Middle East, after Saudi Arabia, in terms of bilateral trade.

The UAE is currently one of the biggest Middle Eastern importers of Brazilian goods, such as chicken, refined sugar, aluminum oxides and hydroxides, and cast-iron pipes.

Brazil imports from the UAE products like sulphur and electrical control panels and distribution boards.

More than 30 Brazilian companies have offices in the UAE, a business hub which re-exports products to third countries and large markets, such as Saudi Arabia, India, Iran and Pakistan.

Bilateral trade soared from 300 million dollars in 2000 to three billion dollars in 2015.

In 2014, the two nations reached a defence accord that included the exchange of technology, cooperation in military instruction and training, weapons, crisis management, and logistical support in United Nations peacekeeping missions.

It was the first treaty of its kind signed by Brazil with a Middle Eastern country.

A new phase has now been launched in the promotion of trade and the exchange of people to make Brazil the UAE’s main ally in Latin America.

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“The Struggle Continues” for Human Right to Peace and Inclusion of Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/the-struggle-continues-for-human-right-to-peace-and-inclusion-of-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-struggle-continues-for-human-right-to-peace-and-inclusion-of-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/the-struggle-continues-for-human-right-to-peace-and-inclusion-of-women/#comments Thu, 16 Mar 2017 20:07:50 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149456 CSW61_Banner-EN_

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 16 2017 (IPS)

UN officials and activists gathered to discuss the essential relationships between sustainable peace and gender equality during a two week-long UN meeting, begining March 13.

At a side event of the 61st session of the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW), panelists shed light on the important role that women play in peace and development.

“Without peace, no development is possible. And without development, no peace is achievable. But without women, neither peace nor development is possible,” said Former Under-Secretary General and High Representative of the UN Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury.

Despite this, panelists noted that societies have long ignored women’s contributions.

According to an Oxfam report, women carry out up to 10 times more unpaid care work than men. This work is worth approximately $10 trillion per year, which is more than the gross domestic products (GDPs) of India, Japan and Brazil combined.

Research has also shown that almost 60 million unpaid workers are filling in the gaps caused by inadequate health services, majority of whom are women who have had to give up employment or education to carry out this role.

Chowdhury added that there would be 150 million fewer hungry people in the world if women had the same access to resources as men.

Panelists were particularly concerned with the lack of formal recognition of the human right to peace and the inclusion of women in this goal.

Canadian activist Douglas Roche explained the ‘human right to peace’ arose to address new “interconnected” challenges that the current human rights framework, which is based on a relationship between the State and the individual, is unable to do, including increased militarism by both State and non-State entities.

During the panel discussion, UN Independent Expert in the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order Alfred-Maurice de Zayas stated that the human right to peace also allows for the realization of the right to self-determination which is a “crucial conflict prevention strategy.”

After decades of struggling to gain consensus, the General Assembly adopted a Declaration on the Right to Peace in December. Though it was a significant accomplishment achieved largely due to a civil society initiative, many have expressed their disappointment in the document.

“The new declaration is falling far short of the expectation of civil society, many governments,” Chowdhury told IPS.

Among concerns about the declaration is its lack of reference to women which is only mentioned once in the 6 page document.

President of Hague Appeal for Peace and long time peace activist Cora Weiss criicised the document’s language, which calls for women’s “maximum participation.”

“It’s a slippery word,” she told participants, stressing the importance of “equal” inclusion of women to achieve peace.

Weiss was a national leader of the Women Strike for Peace, which organised the largest national women’s protest of the 20th century and contributed to the end of nuclear testing in the 1960s. She was also helped lead the anti-Vietnam war movement, including organising one of the largest anti-war demonstrations in 1969.

“There is no limit to the relationship between women and peace,” Weiss said.

Chowdhury, who led the initiative on Resolution 1325 calling for the increase in women’s representation in conflict management and resolution, echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating: “Women at the peace table is a very important element at the UN and at the Security Council to take into account. Unless they value the 50 percent of humanity positively contributing to securing peace and security, it will move nowhere.”

Despite the unanimous UN adoption of Resolution 1325, little has been done to enforce and implement it. No woman has ever been the chief or lead mediator in an UN-led peace negotiation.

Panelists also criticised the absence of language around disarmament in the Declaration.

“How are you going to make peace in a world that is awash with weapons?” Weiss asked.

According the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), approximately 15,000 nuclear weapons still exist and are owned by just nine countries. The Arms Control Association (ACA) estimates a higher inventory of 15,500, 90 percent of which belong to Russia and the United States. Almost 2000 of these warheads are on high alert and are ready to launch within minutes, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute found.

More general military spending also continues to dwarf resources provided to development activities including education.

In 2014, global military spending was approximately 1.8 trillion dollars while 26 billion dollars was provided to achieve education for all by the end of 2015.

Zayas highlighted the need to redirect resources used for war to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and address other pressing socioeconomic and environmental challenges.

Chowdhury also told participants that a resolution on peace cannot and should not be adopted by vote.

“Peace is the ultimate goal of the UN,” he said.

The Declaration was approved with 131 vote for, 34 against, and with 19 abstentions, reflecting a lack of consensus on the subject.

Though he expressed fear that progress towards gender equality may be rolled back due to a reversal in trends, Chowdhury said the struggle will continue until the human right to peace is recognized and implemented.

CSW is the largest inter-governmental forum on women’s rights, bringing together civil society, academia, and governments. This year’s theme is women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work.

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Travel Restrictions Cast Shadow on UN Women’s Meeting: Rights Groupshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/travel-restrictions-cast-shadow-on-un-womens-meeting-rights-groups/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=travel-restrictions-cast-shadow-on-un-womens-meeting-rights-groups http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/travel-restrictions-cast-shadow-on-un-womens-meeting-rights-groups/#comments Thu, 16 Mar 2017 04:27:56 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149442 A view of the General Assembly Hall during the opening meeting of the sixty-first session of the Commission on Stats of Women (CSW). Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

A view of the General Assembly Hall during the opening meeting of the sixty-first session of the Commission on Stats of Women (CSW). Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 16 2017 (IPS)

Increasing travel restrictions have prevented delegates from attending this year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), according to several women’s rights groups.

The travel constraints go beyond U.S. President Donald Trump’s embattled travel ban on refugees and Muslim-majority countries, which was again blocked by a Federal Judge on Wednesday.

Although the Executive Order has not been re-enacted, women’s rights groups perceive that organising internationally is becoming more difficult. They report that some potential delegates were surprised that they were unable to obtain U.S. visas for the UN meeting; others were worried about increasingly strict treatment at U.S. airports; while others were prevented from travelling by their home countries.

The annual Commission on the Status of Women is usually one of the most vibrant and diverse meetings at UN headquarters in New York with hundreds of government ministers and thousands of delegates attending from around the world.

Sanam Amin from the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) told IPS that two members of the group’s delegation from from Bangladesh and Nepal, countries that “are not listed in the first or second version of (Trump’s travel) ban,” were unable to obtain visas.

“Multiple civil society organisations representatives from other countries are facing refusals and this is new to us, as we have never faced visa refusals after presenting UN credentials,” said Amin.

Amin also said that she had “been in contact with UN Women in Bangladesh, in Bangkok (ESCAP) and in New York over the visa refusal issue,” for weeks before the meeting, trying to find a solution.

“Those who were refused were expected by us to speak or participate in our side events and meetings with partner organisations and official delegations.” The APWLD, is an NGO which has accreditation with the UN Economic and Social Chamber.

Others unable to attend the event include a youth activist from El Salvador who on Wednesday participated in a side-event she had been meant to speak at, via video. Meanwhile women’s rights activists Mozn Hassan and Azza Soliman from Egypt were unable to attend because the Egyptian government has prevented them from leaving the country

"Multiple civil society organisations representatives from other countries are facing refusals and this is new to us, as we have never faced visa refusals after presenting UN credentials," -- Sanam Amin.

Representatives from civil society having difficulties obtaining visas to travel to attend UN meetings in the United States pre-dates the current Trump-Republican Administration. The U.S. Department of State advised IPS that it could not comment on individual visa cases. However while there are many potential reasons why visas may be refused, several groups perceive travel becoming more difficult in 2017.

“It’s incredibly ominous to have women’s rights activists feel like the revised executive order and overall hate rhetoric from the Trump administration makes them feel unsafe coming to this CSW and that is what we have heard,” Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International told IPS.

“We’ve heard women’s rights activists say that they worried about how they would be treated at U.S. borders and airports. We heard LGBTI activists who were coming to this meeting also worry about their own safety.”

Both Stern and Amin expressed concern about the implications and meanings of the travel ban, even though the courts have continued to keep it on hold, because even the revised ban, specifically restricts travel for nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

“The ban text even cites violence against women – in section one – in the six countries as reason to ‘not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred’,” said Amin.

“In fact, it (would restrict) civil society from those very countries from participating in events such as CSW. Instead, their governments are emboldened to take more regressive positions on women’s human rights, and the U.S., with its Global Gag Rule among other anti-women policies, is taking its place side-by-side with the very countries it has targeted with the ban,” she said.

Stern added that the theme of this year’s CSW – the economic empowerment of women – should not be a politicised issue.

“(It) should be a non-partisan issue that every government in the world can get behind because every government has a vested interest in the eradication of poverty and national economic development and we know that women are the majority of the world’s poor and so if you empower women economically than you empower families communities and nations,” said Stern.

She emphasised the importance of the meeting as a global forum for people who are actively working for gender justice around the world to speak with governments.

At the CSW “thousands of activists for women’s rights and gender justice (speak) with every government of the world to say what struggles they have from their own governments and the kind of accountability that they expect from the international system,” says Stern.

The rights organisations sponsoring the No Borders on Gender Justice campaign include: MADRE, Just Associates (JASS), Center for Women’s Global Leadership, AWID, Urgent Action Fund, Women in Migration Network and OutRight Action International.

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Violence, Power Vacuum in Mideast, Fertile Ground for Terrorismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/violence-power-vacuum-in-mideast-fertile-ground-for-terrorism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=violence-power-vacuum-in-mideast-fertile-ground-for-terrorism http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/violence-power-vacuum-in-mideast-fertile-ground-for-terrorism/#comments Mon, 13 Mar 2017 07:01:08 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149379 Credit: Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

Credit: Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By IPS World Desk
ROME/GENEVA, Mar 13 2017 (IPS)

Long decades of violence in the Middle East and Northern Africa, resulting from the proliferation of international and local conflicts, have strained the social fabric that once held peaceful Arab societies together, says a Geneva-based think tank promoting global dialogue.

The resulting power vacuum has provided fertile ground for the emergence of terrorists group advocating a distorted view of Islam in an attempt to access power through violence exercised against Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities, adds the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue (GCHRAGD).

“This situation has had a spill-over effect affecting also the West and other regions in which the disruptive effects of globalisation, and the growing disengagement of political elites from the concerns of ordinary people, have given rise to a populist tidal wave.“

According to the GCHRAGD, the emerging populism has a strong xenophobic component. Societies are prey to the growing polarisation created through manipulation of religions and beliefs. “The disruptive effects of globalisation, and the growing disengagement of political elites from the concerns of ordinary people, have given rise to a populist tidal wave” – The Geneva Centre

“The rise of far-rightist populist movements goes hand in hand with the political instrumentalisation of religions, which exacerbates divisions and incites hatred and violence. While Islam and Christianity are vectors of peace, their malevolent manipulation seeks to accentuate alleged differences and depict them as incompatible and opposed to one another.”

The Geneva Centre has repeatedly consistently addressed issues related to the rise of xenophobia, extremist violence, racism and discrimination with various partners.

This way, it organised, in 2016, a series of conferences on themes related to “Islamophobia and the Implementation of UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18: Reaching Out”; “De-radicalization or the Roll-Back of Violent Extremism”, and “Muslims in Europe: The Road to Social Harmony”.

Notwithstanding the relevance of the topics, some participants pointed out to the Geneva Centre the necessity of broadening the debate to not only include Muslim minorities in Europe, but also to take into account other religious minorities affected by the current environment of tension and incitement to hatred.

In this regard, the GCHRAGD has planned to organise a side-event on the theme of “Islam and Christianity, the Great Convergence: Working jointly towards equal citizenship rights”, scheduled for 15 March, in relation to the 34th ordinary session of the UN Human Rights Council.

Credit: Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

Credit: Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue


The objective will be to study the “alternatives to identify a common strategy that addresses the issues of religious discrimination, fanaticism and xenophobia,” which have worsened in several countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and North America.

According to the organisers, the goal will be to highlight the many convergences that exist between Islam and Christianity, to recognise the potential of a “great convergence” between both religions, and to mitigate and to reduce the marginalisation of religious minorities, discrimination, xenophobia and the resulting violence.

This debate could then be the starting point for a larger conference, which identifies common commitments to dialogue, tolerance and non-discrimination, announce the organisers.

According to the Geneva Centre, “some high-level politicians are trying to oppose Islam and Christianity and express concerns about the plight of minorities affiliated to particular religions.”

The planned initiative aims at restoring globality to the debate taking into account the need to empower all minorities so that the very notion of minorities ends up dissolving into the broader and more inclusive concept of equal citizenship rights.

“It is fortunate that this agenda is bringing together some of the most senior representatives of the body politics, the religious leaders and academics from the Christian and the Muslim regions alike.”

GCHRAGD is an independent, non-profit, non- governmental organization dedicated to the advancement of human rights through consultation and training with youth, civil society and governments.

In addition to the Geneva Centre’s chairman Hanif Ali Al Qassim, and executive director, Idriss Jazairy, the panel with bring together Sheikha Lubna Khalid Al Qasimi, minister of State for Tolerance of United Arab Emirates; Reverend Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary, World Council of Churches, and Lakhdar Brahimi, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Algeria.

Also participating Tarek Mitri, former acting minister of Foreign Affairs of Lebanon; ambassador Mark D. Siljander, former U.S. Congressman; Reverend Timothy Radcliffe, Dominican friar of the English Province, and former Master of the Order of Preachers (commonly known as the Dominicans); Ambassador Marie-Thérèse Pictet-Althann, Permanent Observer of the Sovereign Order of Malta to the UN, and professor Carole Hillenbrand, Professor of Islamic History, University of St. Andrews.

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Merkel Under Pressure for Refugee Policy in Germanyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/merkel-under-pressure-for-refugee-policy-in-germany/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=merkel-under-pressure-for-refugee-policy-in-germany http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/merkel-under-pressure-for-refugee-policy-in-germany/#comments Thu, 23 Feb 2017 17:57:24 +0000 Wolfgang Kerler http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149088 Wolfgang Kerler, a reporter for German public broadcaster ARD, is a specialist on globalization, digitalization, migration and investigative reporting.]]>

Wolfgang Kerler, a reporter for German public broadcaster ARD, is a specialist on globalization, digitalization, migration and investigative reporting.

By Wolfgang Kerler
MUNICH, Feb 23 2017 (IPS)

Internationally, German chancellor Angela Merkel was praised for her humanitarian decision to open the countries’ border to hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria and Iraq. But the decision has considerably reduced her support among Germans. Chances are real that Merkel could lose the chancellorship in the upcoming national elections.

Refugees in Germany

Refugees in Germany

On October 3rd 2016, a bulk of several hundred gathered in the historic center of Dresden, where the official celebration for Germany’s Unity Day took place. Most of the people did not come to celebrate though. They came to protest. When Angela Merkel finally arrived in Dresden, the crowd started to boo and yell “Merkel must go!”, “get out!” or “traitor!”.

Not long ago, a scene like this seemed impossible.

In spring 2015, all national polls saw Merkel’s conservative party at more than 40 percent support among Germans. The Social Democrats, which came in second, reached less than 25 percent. Even after almost ten years as chancellor, Merkel was considered as indispensable by most Germans. She enjoyed an approval rating of 75 percent.

However, after the events of September 2015, her popularity quickly started to drop to levels below 50 percent. Her party fell to 32 percent in recent polls.

Angela Merkel made her famous statement “we can make it” on August 31st of 2015. The number of refugees entering the country had already risen to 100,000 a month and she wanted to assure the public that Germany could tackle the integration of those immigrants.

Within days after Merkel’s comment the situation became even more dramatic.

Hungarian authorities had blocked thousands of refugees, who were fleeing violence and war in the Middle East, from boarding trains to Austria or Germany where they wanted to apply for asylum. Families had to sleep in makeshift shelters outside Budapest’s train station, while volunteers were struggling to provide at least a minimum of aid.

On September 4th, chancellor Merkel and her Austrian counterpart Werner Faymann therefore decided to open their countries’ borders for the people stranded in Budapest. Soon afterwards, first trains arrived in Munich, and many Germans welcomed the refugees and supplied food, drinks and clothing. A total of 890.000 asylum seekers entered Germany in 2015.

“The German government’s reaction was not an open-door policy, but a humanitarian reaction on the basis of international law”, Petra Bendel, a professor for political science at Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen, told IPS.

She also pointed out that Merkel’s grand coalition switched to a more restrictive refugee policy within weeks.

For example, the coalition introduced residence restrictions for asylum seekers. Instead of giving out money, some social benefits are provided in kind. And by granting only subsidiary protection instead of refugee status for Syrians, family reunions were made more difficult. On top of that, the German government started to push forward returns and expulsions.

“Timing suggests that these policy proposals must have existed in the drawers and waited for their time to come, since they were introduced in record time”, Bendel, who is also a member of The Expert Council on Integration and Migration, added.

But the rapid shift to a more restrictive stance on immigration and even the steep decline in the number of refugees coming to Germany in 2016 did not lead to a recovery of Merkel’s popularity.

Those parts of society that saw refugees as a threat to their wealth and security had already turned their back on her. Social networks were flooded with “Merkel must go!”-postings. After the events of Cologne and other cities, where groups of migrants sexually assaulted hundreds of women on New Year’s Eve 2015, tensions within the German society intensified.

“The events clearly had a decisive effect on public opinion”, said Bendel. “Survey data showed that in January 2016 for the first time a clear majority – 60 percent of survey participants instead of 46 percent in December – considered that Germany could not cope with such a large number of refugees.”

In the same time, eurosceptic right-wing party AfD gained momentum with a fierce and populist anti-immigrant rhetoric. The party easily surpassed the long-established Greens, the Left Party, and the Liberals in several regional elections with double digit results. In return, Merkel’s own Christian Democrats suffered one defeat after another.

In recent weeks, however, polls showed diminishing support for AfD. But it was not Merkel’s conservative block that benefitted. Instead, the Social Democrats which have been the junior partner in the ruling coalition made a comeback after nominating Martin Schulz, the former president of the European Parliament, as their candidate for chancellor.

Schulz already outpolled Angela Merkel in personal popularity.

“The few moderate AfD-supporters have migrated to the Social Democrats because they believe Martin Schulz could oust Angela Merkel, whom they hate”, Manfred Güllner, the head of pollster Forsa commented a survey that his institute conducted for TV network RTL and magazine Stern.

However, the resurge of the Social Democrats does not mean that refugee policy will not play a major role in the campaign for the national election due in September.

“Analyzing the party platforms, migration issues are on top of each and every party’s agenda”, Bendel said. “The danger exists that particularly the AfD’s campaign, which has already been leaked, further builds on irrational, explosive contents and appeals to most primitive instincts.”

Political observers now see a chance that after twelve years, Angela Merkel could lose the chancellorship.

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