Inter Press Service » Global Geopolitics http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 23 Jan 2017 17:48:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.14 Please, Do Not Get Offended, But:http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/please-do-not-get-offended-but/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=please-do-not-get-offended-but http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/please-do-not-get-offended-but/#comments Sun, 22 Jan 2017 17:49:36 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148616 By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jan 22 2017 (IPS)

With the inauguration of Donald Trump on Jan. 20, the new leadership of the most powerful nation has signaled it is breaking away from the rest of the world. Here, a few thoughts…

a) Those who voted Trump are generally totally unaware of what happens beyond their immediate surroundings. So it will take a long time before they will realize that Trump is not about their real interest. This means that the polarization and the division of the U.S. will continue for a long time to come. And in the end, disillusionment and frustration will result in a further decline of democracy, and with a possible new populism coming up.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

b) The American democratic system is incomprehensible for us foreigners. We understand the history, the constitution, everything. But we think that a system where somebody who with 3 million votes less than his opponent becomes president, on the basis that this was adequate two centuries ago, needs to be updated urgently. And then you find out that this is not possible, because the smaller states are majority, and can block any constitutional change, like direct democracy. This, for us, looks like an inadequate democratic system.

c) Since the Supreme court did install George W. Bush, and then gave a vote to the corporations because they have equal rights as the people, we foreigners look at the Supreme Court as a partisan place, not as the Supreme institution that is there to act in defense of the citizens. Add to this the permanent fight between the legislative, judicial and executive, and instead of the balance of power that the founding fathers wanted, we have a dysfunctional democracy.

d) Elections now cost over 2 billion dollars. To be elected in the senate, you need a war chest of least 40 million dollars. You have two brothers who can invest in the elections 800 million dollars. That is not democracy, it is oligarchy.

All this are structural problems, and for me Trump is the proof that democracy in the U.S. is in crisis. Yet, I ceased to discuss this with my American friends, because they are not only convinced to be in a democracy, but many, as George W Bush said, the only democracy….

Maybe Trump will bring debates and reflections on the state of democracy in the US. But I doubt that the system will be able to evolve. Especially if Trump stays eight years….

But that said, a crisis of democracy is when people stop believing in it. And in Europe this is what is happening, and Brexit is a clear signal of that. Today the European leaders of populist and xenophobe parties met in Coblenz, to coordinate themselves, in view of the next elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany. And here two points, to echo somehow David:

1) All the right wing parties look to Putin as a point of reference. Defence of the family, religious values, national interests and identity, etc. Putin has been funding Le Pen, and Wilders, Farage, Salvini and so to look on him as a leader: not only Trump.
2) Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, has declared that part of his job is to create an international Alliance of populist and xenophobe parties, and he has indicated Farage as the example of a European whom the White House is looking up to.

My conclusion: we are in for a hell of a time. And the best example that we have is that the compass is lost and that we all live in an Anglo world, with values of democracy, human rights, common gods, sustainable development, woman empowerment and so on, which all come from the Anglo world. Pax Britannia lasted until 1914. It was replaced by Pax Americana. And in 11 months, both countries abdicated their role in the world…knowing well that we are in a multipolar world, with China, India and so on in the race…this is simply crazy…

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Were UN Plans to Ban Nukes Pre-empted by Trump?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/were-un-plans-to-ban-nukes-pre-empted-by-trump/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=were-un-plans-to-ban-nukes-pre-empted-by-trump http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/were-un-plans-to-ban-nukes-pre-empted-by-trump/#comments Thu, 19 Jan 2017 23:16:16 +0000 Andy Hazel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148579 A UN meeting on the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

A UN meeting on the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

By Andy Hazel
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 19 2017 (IPS)

UN member states wanting to ban nuclear weapons may make little headway in 2017, after US President-elect Donald Trump pre-empted their agreement by proposing to expand the United States nuclear arsenal.

In one of their final decisions of 2016, the UN General Assembly agreed to hold a conference in March 2017 to negotiate a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.”

123 the UN’s 193 member states supported the General Assembly resolution which initiated the conference. Notable votes against the resolution included: France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Russia, The United Kingdom and the United States. Aside from China, which abstained, the no votes included all of the countries permitted to possess nuclear weapons under the current UN non-proliferation treaty which was adopted in 1968.

"This treaty will be negotiated with or without US support, so I don't see Trump having a significant impact," -- Beatrice Fihn, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

The 1968 treaty bans all UN member states except China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States from owning nuclear weapons and commits those states to eventually eliminating their atomic arsenals, pledges that have been ignored. Iraq, North Korea, Iran (and, unofficially, Israel) have all violated the treaty by developing nuclear weapons, and it is widely seen as requiring renegotiation to be effective. Should Donald Trump pursue his ambitions, it could put the treaty in jeopardy.

However the resolution – which was adopted on 23 December – was foreshadowed by a tweet by President-elect Donald Trump on 22 December where he stated: “United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes”. Trump also mentioned that dismantling Obama’s long-negotiated Iran nuclear agreement was his “number one priority”.

Some have seen these comments as an act of assertion aimed at strengthening his negotiating position upon arriving in the Oval Office, as Trump has already reversed his position on issues to which he pledged support.

Beatrice Fihn, director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has described these statements as ‘nuclear-sabre rattling’ and the challenge to implementing the treaty as imperative.

“The Obama administration was very hostile to the idea of a ban treaty,” Fihn told IPS, despite Obama’s comments to the contrary, “and there’s no expectation that Trump will be more friendly. This treaty will be negotiated with or without US support, so I don’t see Trump having a significant impact. However, his rhetoric should definitely serve as a motivation for all of us. It’s a signal that the nuclear-armed states are not interested in real progress.”

Chief among the issues that would comprise a treaty is the Iranian nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a long-negotiated tool many on the Security Council are seeking to protect.

Fihn and representatives from other non-proliferation organisations are awaiting clearer statements from Trump’s administration before establishing their strategies, an approach that may have worked when dealing with previous administrations but may face unprecedented difficulty today. Trump has spoken before about the value of being unpredictable when it comes to nuclear weapons as a means to keep other leaders, both friends and enemies, keen to appease.

Unpredictability is also the hallmark of North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un. In his New Year’s address, Kim warned that North Korean engineers were in the “final stage” of preparing to test an intercontinental ballistic missile. Provoking a disbelieving response from Trump and more cautious tones from China and South Korea.

The most recent attempt at a nonproliferation review treaty in 2015 was unsuccessful, largely because of the failure of efforts to engage Iran and Israel. Both countries still absorb a disproportionate amount of the efforts to implement a treaty.

In an address to the IAEA Conference Commit to Further Strengthening Nuclear Security, Director General Yukiya Amano reinforced the socioeconomic value of nuclear technology as not remaining the preserve of wealthy countries. “Terrorists and criminals will try to exploit any vulnerability in the global nuclear security system, and any country could become the target of an attack. That is why effective international cooperation is vital.”

According to the findings of a congressional study into international arms sales that found that the sale of global arms dropped in 2015 to $80bn from 2014’s $89bn with the US responsible for around half of all sales.

Over the next decade, the United States is expected to spend around half a trillion dollars on maintenance and upkeep of delivery systems of its nuclear weapons armoury, considerably larger than the Department of Defence claims is required to deter a nuclear attack.

“The treaty needs a strong and clear prohibition on use and possession of nuclear weapons but it will be a challenge to make sure the prohibition will cover other relevant activities too,” says Fihn, “such as assistance to other states not party to the treaty.”

“It will also be a lot of work to get as many states as possible to engage in the negotiations and sign it. And of course a real challenge will be the implementation of the treaty, once it’s in place – we need to make sure the treaty has a real impact.”

The conference is scheduled to run from March 27-31.

Correction: an earlier version of the this article referred to Beatrice Kihn, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. It should have read Beatrice Fihn.

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Trump’s UN Pick: “UN Could Benefit from a Fresh Set of Eyes”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/trumps-un-pick-un-could-benefit-from-a-fresh-set-of-eyes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trumps-un-pick-un-could-benefit-from-a-fresh-set-of-eyes http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/trumps-un-pick-un-could-benefit-from-a-fresh-set-of-eyes/#comments Wed, 18 Jan 2017 21:46:01 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148558 Samantha Power, outgoing Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the UN, addressing the council after a controversial vote on Israeli Settlements in December 2016. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

Samantha Power, outgoing Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the UN, addressing the council after a controversial vote on Israeli Settlements in December 2016. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 18 2017 (IPS)

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, nominated to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the UN, outlined her vision of a strong U.S. role in the human rights institution at a confirmation hearing today.

Noting her potential role as a “fresh set of eyes” and an “outsider,” Haley highlighted the need for a strong U.S. leadership position at the UN.

“When America fails to lead, the world becomes a dangerous place. And when the world becomes more dangerous, the American people become more vulnerable,” she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, adding that she will bring back the U.S.’ “indispensable voice of freedom.”

When asked about Russia, Haley expressed caution in trusting them but suggested that their government could be an asset.

“Russia is trying to show their muscle right now…and we have to continue to be very strong back. We need to let them know that we are not okay with what happened in Ukraine and Crimea and what is happening in Syria, but we are also going to tell them that we do need their help with ISIS,” she said.

In her last major speech, current U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power similarly noted U.S. interest in solving problems and cooperating with Russia, but expressed dire concerns over Russia’s “aggressive and destabilizing actions” in Crimea, Syria and its interferences in numerous governments.

“Russia’s actions are not standing up a new world order. They are tearing down the one that exists. This is what we are fighting against—having defeated the forces of fascism and communism, we now confront the forces of authoritarianism and nihilism,” she said.

During her hearing, Haley acknowledged that Russia violated the international order when it invaded Crimea and its actions in Syria constitute war crimes, and that she supports preserving sanctions against the government. She also noted the need to stand up to any and all countries that attempts to interfere with the U.S.

This represents what could be perceived as a break with President-elect Trump who has previously denied intelligence pointing to Russian involvement in the recent U.S. elections.

In recent comments, President-elect Trump also suggested easing sanctions against Russia in return for a deal to reduce nuclear weapons. He additionally criticised the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), calling it “obsolete.”

When asked about these comments, Haley again differentiated her position from Trump’s:

“It is important that we have alliances…I think as we continue to talk to him about these alliances and how they can be helpful and strategic, I do anticipate he will listen to all of us and hopefully we can get him to see it the way we see it,” she said.

“I’m going to control the part that I can,” she continued.

Haley also blasted the UN for what she described as its “biased” position on Israel during the hearing, stating: “Nowhere has the UN’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than its bias against our close ally Israel.”

Like President-elect Trump, Haley particularly criticised the recent passage of a Security Council resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlements, calling it a “terrible mistake” that makes a peace agreement even harder to achieve.

During the vote in December, the U.S. broke with long-standing foreign policy towards Israel by abstaining, rather than vetoing. The other 14 members of the 15 member council all voted for the resolution.

Haley vowed to never abstain when the UN takes action that comes in direct conflict with U.S. interests, including actions against Israel.

She highlighted the need for UN reforms, stating that the goal is to “create an international body that better serves the American people.” To bring about changes, Haley suggested using U.S. funding as leverage.

“We are a generous nation but we must ask ourselves what good is being accomplished by this disproportionate contribution. Are we getting what we paid for?” she asked. She pointed to the Human Rights Council as an example, questioning their role in supporting and promoting human rights while countries such as Cuba and China are members.

The U.S. currently contributes 22 percent of the UN’s budget.

Recent legislation proposed by two U.S. Republican Senators would see the United States withdraw its funding not only to the UN Secretariat but also to the entire UN-system, including UNICEF, the UN Development Program and UN Women.

Though initially stating that she would not “shy away” from withdrawing U.S. funds to achieve reforms, Haley later backtracked and said that she does not support a “slash and burn” approach in terms of pulling funding from the UN when there are undesirable outcomes, but rather use funds as leverage to help make agencies more effective.

Haley is a South Carolina-born daughter of Indian immigrants and is the first female and first minority governor of her state. She gained national attention after calling for the removal of the Confederate flag from the state’s Capitol. Haley will replace Ambassador Power as the only woman on the 15-member council.

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UN Meeting Says No to Anti-Muslim Hatredhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/un-meeting-says-no-to-anti-muslim-hatred/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-meeting-says-no-to-anti-muslim-hatred http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/un-meeting-says-no-to-anti-muslim-hatred/#comments Tue, 17 Jan 2017 23:49:48 +0000 Andy Hazel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148538 Anti-muslim hatred has been particularly targeted at women. Credit:  UN Photo/Tobin Jones

Anti-muslim hatred has been particularly targeted at women. Credit: UN Photo/Tobin Jones

By Andy Hazel
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 17 2017 (IPS)

The rise in anti-muslim attitudes around the world prompted a special UN meeting Tuesday, just days before the inauguration of US President-elect Donald Trump whose controversial policies have drawn on anti-Muslim sentiments.

As if to illustrate just how easily noble intentions are misinterpreted, co-opted and misused, the event’s hashtag #No2Hatred was quickly taken over by nefarious social media actors and became an outlet for angry political diatribe.

“Anti-muslim hatred does not occur in a vacuum,” said David Saperstein, American Ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom at the event. “The rise of xenophobia across the world creates challenges that focus our attention and the data leaves us no doubt that this is happening.”

Saperstein quoted studies showing a massive rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence, France has seen a 223 percent increase in attacks on Muslims between 2014 and 2015, the British investigative group TELL MAMA reported a 326 percent increase in abuse and public attacks on Muslims in the UK over the same period. A 2016 study found 72 percent of  Hungarians admit to a negative view of Muslims.
"Most Muslim hate crime is against women and I would encourage everyone to consider the gender-specific aspects to this violence," -- Richard Arbeiter, the Director-General, Office of Human Rights, Freedoms and Inclusion, Global Affairs Canada.

“Underreporting is a very serious structural problem that obscures these numbers. The silencing effect is enormous and we must resolve to confront this,” Saperstein said.

“I sincerely regret just how necessary these deliberations have become,” said Richard Arbeiter, the Director-General, Office of Human Rights, Freedoms and Inclusion, Global Affairs Canada. “Most Muslim hate crime is against women and I would encourage everyone to consider the gender-specific aspects to this violence.”

Panels looked at civil society building how governments could best combat anti-Muslim discrimination, and positive narratives to promote inclusion. Several topics recurred for discussion; how best to engage with political actors and organisations of different beliefs, and how to counter misinformation online.

The American Jewish Committee’s Muslim-Jewish relations director, Mr Robert Silverman reinforced the idea of creating powerful messages by finding alliances and shared priorities with unlikely groups.

“Too often initiatives result in people speaking within bubbles to each other. In a country like the United States or in a place like Europe, we need to get out of our bubbles and reach out to the unlikely and unorthodox partners.”

“You should focus on the common ground,” he continued. “Don’t try to bring in an issue like climate change. Just focus narrowly on the common grounds.”

European Commission Coordinator on Combating anti-Muslim hatred David Friggieri outlined his meeting with the heads of Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google where “open and frank discussion” lead to the enforcement of the European Union’s free speech laws in an effort to counter anti-Muslim sentiment. The ‘red line’ agreed to by the companies and the European law, he told IPS, was one of incitement.

“We have a law prohibiting incitement to violence or hatred based on race, religion, ethnicity or nationality,” said Friggieri. “We are monitoring the situation with them every few months. We have had our first monitoring and there are some improvements but we look forward to seeing more.”

“In terms of the really bad type of hate speech such as incitement to violence, we look at: how are they taking it down? How long before they take it down? What responses does the company give to individuals who notify and to trusted flaggers? Ultimately the aim is to take down (from the internet) the worst type of incitement to violence.”

In a similar effort to address the recent increase in hate speech and anti-Muslim rhetoric, Moiz Bokhari, advisor to the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation spoke of the Center for Dialogue, Peace and Understanding a newly established website that provides foundations to deconstruct dangerous narratives. The site is aimed at addressing the potential for crimes, radicalisation and to “counter all types of radical extremist discourse in order to delegitimise the violent and manipulative acts committed in the name of religion, ideology or claims of cultural superiority.”

 The High Level Forum on Combating Anti-Muslim Discrimination and Hatred was dominated by discussion of how to address anti-Muslim sentiment and increase the  message of tolerance and inclusion. The forum was convened by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations and the Permanent Missions of the United States and Canada.

UN Secretary General Antònio Guterres used his introductory address to reaffirm the recently-launched initiative Together – Respect, Safety and Dignity for All. An outcome from the Summit for Refugees, the strategy is designed to strengthen the bonds between refugees migrants and host countries and communities.

Speakers throughout the day highlighted bipartisan interfaith success stories: the Canadian town that raised money to rebuild a mosque that had been burned down following the Paris terror attacks, the Norwegian mosque that was protected from attack by Oslo’s Jewish community, the power of positive stories of Muslims in the news and popular culture, and the success of Sadiq Khan who overcame a campaign rife with xenophobic rhetoric to become the first Muslim Mayor of London.

“Politics is moving against us, but local politics not so much,” said Catherine Orsborn, director of interfaith anti-Islamophobia campaign group Shoulder to Shoulder.

Several panellists highlighted the importance of establishing relationships with local political and law enforcement agencies so that any future instances Islamophobia could be dealt with more effectively.

Friends of Europe’s Director Europe and Geopolitics Alfiaz Vaiya ended the discussion on civil society and coalition building with an optimistic note: “The political climate is very toxic, but it’s about politicians being able to sell and be confident in selling a strong narrative on inclusion and diversity. I think youth are the way forward, we see how they vote we see how they follow progressive trends and we should encourage more youth to get involved in conversations like this.”

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Mário Soares, a Rebel with a Cause – Freedomhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/mario-soares-a-rebel-with-a-cause-freedom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mario-soares-a-rebel-with-a-cause-freedom http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/mario-soares-a-rebel-with-a-cause-freedom/#comments Tue, 10 Jan 2017 08:07:08 +0000 an IPS Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148456 Photo: Mario Soares attending a rally to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution, 25 April 2014 in Lisbon. Photo: FraLiss. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Photo: Mario Soares attending a rally to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution, 25 April 2014 in Lisbon. Photo: FraLiss. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

By an IPS Correspondent
LISBON, Jan 10 2017 (IPS)

Hardly a leader could reap so much respect, even from most relentless political rivals, both throughout his life and after his death on Jan 7 at the age of 92, like Portuguese Mário Soares.

Characterised as “an indefatigable political animal,” by the New York Times, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres hailed the commitment to freedom and democracy that made Soares “one of those rare political leaders of true European and global stature.”

The UN chief, who is himself Portuguese, said Soares has left an “indelible mark” on political life in Portugal, the result of his “steadfast and courageous political commitment and the principles and values that he consistently pursued throughout his life. Liberty was always his foundational value.”

Soares Legacy Goes Far Beyond Portugal – UN Chief

To a great extent, Guterres said, we are indebted to him for the democracy, the freedom and the respect for fundamental rights that all Portuguese have been able to enjoy in recent decades, and that are today established values in our country.”

Paying tribute to Soares, “who will, I am certain, remain in our memory and in the history of our country as a man of freedom, who wanted all to live in liberty, and fought for his entire life to realize that hope,” the UN Secretary-General added that the late leader’s legacy goes far beyond Portugal.

Indeed, this is not only because Soares was responsible for Portugal’s full integration into the international community, “but also because his commitment to freedom and democracy make him one of those rare political leaders of true European and global stature,” concluded Guterres.

Mário Soares was Prime Minister of Portugal from 1976 to 1978 in the aftermath of the Carnation Revolution that ended decades of right-wing dictatorship. He returned as PM in the early 1980s, and served as Portugal’s president between 1986 and 1996.

After flirting briefly with communism at university and then embracing Portugal’s democratic movement as a Socialist, Soares was jailed 12 times and then exiled for his political activities during the dictatorship of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar.

The Carnation Revolution

Soares played a key role after the 1974 Carnation Revolution –a military-led coup that soon turned in a massive popular movement of civil protest characterised by carnations that were handed out and placed in the barrels of soldiers’ rifles and tanks—that put an end to 48 years of Salazar rule.

A fierce critic of the military Junta that ruled Portugal for the next two years, Soares in 1976 became the first post-war democratically elected prime minister.

Soares spearheaded the country’s entry into the European Union. But, in recent years, he became a vocal critic of the austerity policies associated with the massive euro-zone bailout Portugal sought in 2011.

He left the presidency in 1996 after the maximum tenure in the office permitted under the constitution, with his popularity at a peak. For years, he remained one of the country’s most influential politicians.

He ran again for president in 2006 at the age of 82, but finished in third.

“President Mário Soares was born and graduated to be a fighter, to have a cause to fight – freedom,” President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said. “Soares never gave up on a free Portugal, a free Europe, a free world and what was decisive… he was always victorious.”

IPS President and Member of International Board of Trustees

As part of his unflagging commitment to freedom –in this case freedom of expression—lawyer, historian and politician Mário Soares, chaired the International Board of Trustees of Inter Press Service (IPS).

He graduated in Historical-Philosophical Sciences in 1951 and in Law in 1957 at Lisbon University. He taught at a private secondary school and was director of the Colégio Moderno, in Lisbon.

Soares practised law for some years and during his exile in France he was “Chargé de Cours” at Vincennes University and at the Sorbonne. He was associate professor at the Faculty of Arts of Haute Bretagne (Rennes).

More recently, he was guest professor in International Relations at the School of Economics of the University of Coimbra.

Mário Soares was the fourth president of IPS International Board of Trustees, succeeding the agency’s founder, Roberto Savio; former president of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari, and former Prime Minister of Japan, Toshiki Kaifu. UNESCO’s former director general, Federico Mayor Zaragoza, succeeded Mario Soares as president of IPS International Board of Trustees.

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Oceans, Tuberculosis and Killer Robots – the UN’s Diverse Agenda in 2017http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/oceans-tuberculosis-and-killer-robots-the-uns-diverse-agenda-in-2017/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=oceans-tuberculosis-and-killer-robots-the-uns-diverse-agenda-in-2017 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/oceans-tuberculosis-and-killer-robots-the-uns-diverse-agenda-in-2017/#comments Tue, 10 Jan 2017 02:12:25 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148445 200 million people worldwide rely on fishing and related industries for their livelihoods. Credit: Christopher Pala/IPS.

200 million people worldwide rely on fishing and related industries for their livelihoods. Credit: Christopher Pala/IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 10 2017 (IPS)

UN member states hope to reach agreement on a diverse range of global issues in 2017, from managing the world’s oceans to banning killer robots to stopping tuberculosis, one of the world’s deadliest diseases.

In recent years the UN has tackled big issues including ebola, the global migration crisis, financing for development and climate change, with varying degrees of success.

Many pressing environmental, humanitarian and development issues continue to fill the UN’s agenda – even as incoming President of the United States has argued that things will be different at the UN after his inauguration on 20 January.

Trump has suggested that the UN “is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.” However UN discussions have led the 71 year old organisation with 193 member states to create more than 560 international treaties.

Oceans and Life Below Water

One of the biggest meetings on the UN’s agenda this year is focused on the oceans or more specifically Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.

“The United Nations has the opportunity to drive profound change for the oceans in 2017,” Elizabeth Wilson, director, international ocean policy at the Pew Charitable Trusts told IPS.

In recent years the UN has tackled big issues including ebola, the global migration crisis, financing for development and climate change, with varying degrees of success.

“This event will provide UN member states an opportunity to assess progress on ocean conservation, make new commitments, and create meaningful partnerships,” she said.

The meeting – which will take place in New York from 5 to 9 June – is considered to be of global importance for many reasons. For example, according to a 2016 World Economic Forum report, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by the year 2050. Declining fish stocks will effect the more than two billion people worldwide who rely on fish as a source of protein. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation also estimates that 200 million people worldwide rely on fishing or related activities for their livelihoods, the vast majority of whom live in developing countries.

Another important related issue on the UN’s agenda in 2017 will be working towards creating a treaty to protect the high seas, the areas of the global oceans, which fall beyond any country’s sea borders, said Wilson.

Tuberculosis

The UN General Assembly has only ever convened special high-level meetings on two global health threats, HIV/AIDS and antimicrobial resistance. However in 2018, the General Assembly will meet to discuss Tuberculosis.

Although the decision to convene the special meeting has been welcomed, it will not come soon enough for the nearly two million people who will likely die of tuberculosis in 2017.

“The tuberculosis burden is much higher than we expected and the measures to be taken must be much more focused and serious than before,” Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership told IPS.

A series of global meetings will be held in 2017, in preparation for the 2018 meeting however, said Ditiu who also noted that these global meetings should not be seen as a silver bullet.

Although tuberculosis is treatable, the emergence of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in recent years is a major cause for concern. Multi-drug resistant tuberculosis is just one example of antimicrobial resistance – a serious health problem which world leaders addressed at the UN General Assembly in 2016.

Banning Nuclear Weapons and Killer Robots

Possibly the most ambitious item on the UN’s agenda in 2017 will be an attempt to create an international treaty for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

The first session of the UN conference to negotiate a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination will take place in New York from 27 to 31 March.

The treaty will be a more ambitious iteration of the already existing Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

However proponents of total abolition of nuclear weapons will face an even more challenging political context in 2017, with US President-elect Donald Trump appearing to have unpredictable views on nuclear weapons potentially at odds with the existing non-proliferation treaty which bans new countries from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Another, more contemporary issue on the UN’s agenda in 2017 will be killer robots. UN member states have agreed to begin talks to ban killer robots this year. According to the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots the talks will “(bring) the world another step closer towards a prohibition on the weapons.” A similar agreement back in 1995, led to government agreeing to pre-emptively ban lasers that would permanently blind, according to the campaign.

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Trump, the Banks and the Bombhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/trump-the-banks-and-the-bomb/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-the-banks-and-the-bomb http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/trump-the-banks-and-the-bomb/#comments Sat, 07 Jan 2017 07:59:40 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148435 Nuclear weapon test at Bikini Atoll in 1946. Credit: United States Department of Defense via Wikimedia Commons

Nuclear weapon test at Bikini Atoll in 1946. Credit: United States Department of Defense via Wikimedia Commons

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jan 7 2017 (IPS)

When pro-nuclear disarmament organisations last October cheered the United Nations decision to start in 2017 negotiations on a global treaty banning these weapons, they probably did not expect that shortly after the US would elect Republican businessman Donald Trump as their 45th president. Much less that he would rush to advocate for increasing the US nuclear power.

The United Nations on Oct. 27, 2016 adopted a resolution to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons, putting an end to two decades of paralysis in world nuclear disarmament efforts.

At a meeting of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, which deals with disarmament and international security matters, 123 nations voted in favour of the resolution, 38 against it and 16 abstaining.

The resolution will set up a UN conference beginning in March 2017, which will be open to all member states, to negotiate a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. The negotiations will continue in June and July this year.

The Geneva-based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a civil society coalition active in 100 countries, hailed the adoption of the resolution as a major step forward, marking a “fundamental shift in the way that the world tackles this paramount threat.”

“For seven decades, the UN has warned of the dangers of nuclear weapons, and people globally have campaigned for their abolition. Today the majority of states finally resolved to outlaw these weapons,” said ICAN’s executive director, Beatrice Fihn.

Despite arm-twisting by a number of nuclear-armed states, the resolution was adopted in a landslide. A total of 57 nations were co-sponsors, with Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa taking the lead in drafting the resolution.

European Parliament’s Resolution

The UN vote came just hours after the European Parliament adopted its own resolution on this subject – 415 in favour, 124 against, 74 abstentions– inviting European Union member states to “participate constructively” in the 2017 year’s negotiations, ICAN noted.

Nuclear weapons remain the only weapons of mass destruction not yet outlawed in a comprehensive and universal manner, despite their well-documented catastrophic humanitarian and environmental impacts, the anti-nuke campaign chief warned.

“A treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons would strengthen the global norm against the use and possession of these weapons, closing major loopholes in the existing international legal regime and spurring long-overdue action on disarmament,” said Fihn.

“Today’s [Oct. 27, 2016] vote demonstrates very clearly that a majority of the world’s nations consider the prohibition of nuclear weapons to be necessary, feasible and urgent. They view it as the most viable option for achieving real progress on disarmament.”

Biological weapons, chemical weapons, anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions are all explicitly prohibited under international law. But only partial prohibitions currently exist for nuclear weapons.

ICAN also recalls that nuclear disarmament has been high on the UN agenda since the organisation’s formation in 1945. “Efforts to advance this goal have stalled in recent years, with nuclear-armed nations investing heavily in the modernisation of their nuclear forces.”

Other pro-nuclear disarmament organisations also welcomed the UN resolution. They included PAX, a partnership between IKV (Interchurch Peace Council) and Pax Christi; Soka Gakai International (SGI), a community-based Buddhist organisation that promotes peace, culture and education centered on respect for the dignity of life; and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), just to mention a few.

US Must Greatly Strengthen, Expand Its Nuclear Capability – Trump

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C.  Photo: Gage Skidmore. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Wikipedia

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Gage Skidmore. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Wikipedia

The global ani-nuke movment, however, soon saw its joy being frustrated by the US president-elect Donald Trump, who in a tweet on Dec. 22, 2016, wrote:

Donald J. Trump Verified account ‏@realDonaldTrump : “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.

Trump’s announcement, if materialised, would imply one of the most insourmountable hardles facing the world anti-nuclear movement.

Is Your Bank Funding Nuclear Bombs?

Meanwhile, the international campaign to prevent private banks and financial companies from funding the production and modernisation of nuclear weapons has achieved a further step forward.

“Governments have decided to negotiate a nuclear weapons ban treaty in 2017, and now is the time for banks, pension funds and insurance companies to get ready and end financial relations with companies involved in nuclear weapons,” says Susi Snyder from PAX and author of a the Hall of Fame report.

“Around 400 private banks, pension funds and insurance companies continue to fund –with their clients’ money– the production of nuclear weapons.”

According to this study, 18 banks, controlling over 1.7 trillion Euros, are ready not to collaborate in the funding of atomic weapons, with policies that strictly prohibit any investment of any type in any kind of nuclear weapon-producing company.

These 18 banks are profiled in the Hall of Fame of the Don’t Bank on the Bomb 2016 edition, which was issued on Dec. 7, 2016. These Hall of Fame institutions are based in Australia, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The report also shows there are another 36 financial institutions with policies that specifically name nuclear weapons as a concern, and limit investment in some ways.

“Even though these policies have loopholes, they still demonstrate there is a stigma associated with investments in nuclear weapons. PAX calls on these institutions to strengthen their policies and Don’t Bank on the Bomb offers tailored recommendations for each financial institute in the Runners-Up.”

Investments are not neutral, warns the report. “Financing and investing are active choices, based on a clear assessment of a company and its plans. Institutions imposing limitations on investing in nuclear weapons producers are responding to the growing stigma against these weapons, designed to kill indiscriminately.”

All of the nuclear-armed countries are modernising their nuclear weapon arsenals, and Don’t Bank on the Bomb details how 27 private companies are producing key components to make nuclear weapons as well as the 390 banks, insurance companies and pension funds that still invest in nuclear weapon-producing companies, the report adds.

“As a new treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons is to be negotiated in 2017, states should include a prohibition on financing to provide an added incentive for the financial industry to exclude nuclear weapon associated companies from their investment universe, and raise the economic cost of nuclear weapons deployment, stockpiling and modernisation.”

Some Striking Facts about Nukes

The International Campaign against Nuclear Weapons summarises the most striking facts about this weapon of mass destruction:

Which countries have nuclear weapons and how many?

What are their effects on health and the environment?

Who supports a global ban on nuclear weapons?

What are the most significant events of the nuclear age?

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January Brings Changes for UN Security Councilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/january-brings-changes-for-un-security-council/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=january-brings-changes-for-un-security-council http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/january-brings-changes-for-un-security-council/#comments Fri, 06 Jan 2017 01:55:53 +0000 Andy Hazel and Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148419 UN Secretary-General Anto—nio Guterres with Olof Skoog of Sweden, President of the UN Security Council for the month of January Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas.

UN Secretary-General Anto—nio Guterres with Olof Skoog of Sweden, President of the UN Security Council for the month of January Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas.

By Andy Hazel and Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 6 2017 (IPS)

Five of the UN Security Council’s 15 seats were filled by new members this week, but a bigger shift in the council is expected later this month under the new US administration.

Sweden, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Italy replaced outgoing non-permanent members Spain, Malaysia, New Zealand, Angola and Venezuela.

They will join the other five non-permanent members – Japan, Egypt, Senegal, Ukraine and Uruguay – as well as the five permanent members of the council – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The council’s five permanent members are considered to be the most powerful, since they hold the ability to veto any vote they disagree with.

This is why the change in the United States administration may signal a greater political shift in the council than the rotation of non-permanent members.

The possible change was foreshadowed by President-elect Trump in December following a controversial vote on Israeli settlements.

The United States took the surprise decision to abstain from the vote condemning Israeli settlements in the disputed territory of the West Bank, rather than using its veto power.

“As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th,” Trump tweeted shortly after the vote took place.

US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power – a member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet – defended the abstention saying, “Israeli settlement activity in territories occupied in 1967 undermines Israel’s security, harms the viability of a negotiated two-state outcome, and erodes prospects for peace and stability in the region.”

Power is expected to be replaced by Trump’s pick for the council, Nikki Haley, the current Governor of South Carolina, after Trump’s inauguration on January 20.

However Sweden’s Ambassador to the UN, Olof Skoog downplayed the political implications of the change in US administration for the Security Council.

“I haven’t spoken with anyone from the administration of the President-elect, but I expect that when they come to look at the work we’re doing they’ll see it is in the interests of the United States,” Skoog told journalists on Tuesday.

With January bringing a new US president, a changed Security Council and a new UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Skoog said that he hoped to harness this “spirit of newness” to spur momentum into the Council’s work.

However Skoog said he was not expecting particular challenges to the Security Council’s work to come from the incoming US administration, with whom he said he looked forward to collaborating.

Skoog described Power as a strong voice with whom he shares many views. He said he also had a working relationship with Haley, but would not be drawn on possible changes regarding Israeli-Palestinian policy within the council.

Sweden has officially recognised the state of Palestine, putting it at odds with Trump’s pro-Israel stance.

Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said that he hoped Italy could bring the Israel-Palestine conflict “to the forefront of the United Nations’ agenda,” during their month as president in November. Migration from the Middle East and Syria are also expected to be among the issues Italy will prioritise. Italy will be represented by Ambassador Sebastiano Card.

In a new and unusual step, Italy will share its security council seat with the Netherlands due to an impasse vote in the UN General Assembly for the final European seat. Italy will sit on the council in 2016 and the Netherlands in 2017. Gentiloni described the move as “a message of unity between European countries.”

2016 will be the first time that Kazakhstan will sit on the Security Council. The Central Asian country – which is keen to be seen as a major international power – will be represented by the ex-Ambassador to the United States Mr Kairat Umarov.

Kazakhstan – a part of the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone – may also bring a different perspective to Security Council discussions on nuclear non-proliferation. President-elect Trump’s comments on nuclear weapons have signalled that this may be an area high on the UN’s agenda in 2017.

Succeeding Venezuela as the Latin American representative, and holding a seat on the Council for the first time since 1979, is Bolivia. The plurinational state is represented by the Sacha Llorenti, a published author who spent two years at the President of Bolivia’s Permanent Assembly for Human Rights and was a minister in the government of Evo Morales.

Llorenti resigned from the ministry in 2011 following a violent police response to protesters marching against the building of a road through the Amazon rainforest. This was not the first time Llorenti was involved in clashes between indigenous populations and infrastructure.

Ethiopia replaces Angola and joins Senegal as an African representative on the Council. Ethiopia has become a major contributor of over 8,000 troops to UN peacekeeping operations. However in 2016, Ethiopia faced political instability within its own borders amid crackdowns on protestors.

In its first month on the council, Sweden has also taken up the rotating position of President. Skoog told press on Tuesday that the council’s priorities for January would include Syria, South Sudan and the Congo.

Skoog also highlighted massive population displacement, diminishing resources and rise of Boko Haram in Lake Chad region as detailed by Oxfam in a report entitled Lake Chad’s Unseen Crisis, which draws parallels between climate change, terrorism and national security.

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Ban Ki-moon’s Mixed Legacy as UN Secretary-Generalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/ban-ki-moons-mixed-legacy-as-un-secretary-general/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ban-ki-moons-mixed-legacy-as-un-secretary-general http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/ban-ki-moons-mixed-legacy-as-un-secretary-general/#comments Wed, 04 Jan 2017 22:15:14 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148409 Ban Ki-moon with Korean pop singer Psy in 2012. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

Ban Ki-moon with Korean pop singer Psy in 2012. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 4 2017 (IPS)

Ban Ki-moon ended his ten years as UN Secretary-General at midnight on New Year’s Eve with his last official duty – dropping the ball at New York’s Times Square.

“I’ll be in Times Square for the ball drop. Millions of people will watch me lose my job.” Ban wrote beforehand on Twitter, hinting at possible relief that years of ribbon-cutting, handshaking and selfie-taking were finally over.

Ban – a former foreign minister of South Korea and career diplomat – seemed to embrace these ceremonial duties tirelessly during his two terms as Secretary-General.

However, when it came to some of the bigger responsibilities of the role, some critics argue he could have done more.

UN Secretaries-General have to tread a delicate path of diplomacy and bureaucracy. They are servants to the UN’s 193 member states, but they also have a responsibility to be a “true voice” of the UN Charter, Stephen Lewis, co-founder of international advocacy organisation AIDS-Free World, told IPS.

“Ban is a traditional diplomat to his bone marrow. He always felt that offending big powers was a taboo,” -- Richard Gowan.

“With the world in the state it now is in, we need a Secretary-General who speaks truth to power, who speaks his mind, who takes strong positions, and that has not been characteristic of the last several year of Ban Ki-Moon’s tenure,” said Lewis, who is also a former Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF and a former Canadian Ambassador to the UN.

Lewis said that Ban could have done more to follow in the footsteps of former Secretaries-General such as Kofi Annan of Ghana or Dag Hammarskjold of Sweden, two Secretaries-General admired for their ability to stand up to UN member states when needed.

“It’s the difference between someone who’ll use the middle ground to try and satisfy everyone and someone who says, my job is to lead this world in a principled way, upholding the charter and telling the member states when they’re wrong and when their human rights are being violated,” said Lewis.

The charter is the founding document of the United Nations which was established in 1945 in the wake of the Second World War.

UN expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations Richard Gowan agreed that Ban chose to be diplomatic rather than disagree with UN member states.

“Ban is a traditional diplomat to his bone marrow.  He always felt that offending big powers was a taboo,” said Gowan.

However Gowan – who has followed Ban’s tenure closely – noted that over time Ban began to take stronger positions.

“I do think Ban got better over time. After the 2009 Sri Lanka crisis he felt compelled to highlight serious human rights abuses. He is a moral man.”

However overall, Gowan said that Ban was considered too cautious in the face of major crises facing the UN. These include ongoing conflicts in Syria and South Sudan.

“The constant refrain I have heard from UN officials over the last decade has been that Ban has been too cautious and too concerned about protecting his own position in the face of major crises,” said Gowan.

However while Ban may have only had limited influence over the UN member states’ responses to the world’s protracted disasters he did have responsibility for how the UN responded to them.

This includes oversight for UN peacekeepers – whose numbers swelled to over 100,000 during Ban’s tenure.

UN peacekeepers have faced scandals, including allegations of sexual abuse, however it is the UN’s tepid response under Ban’s leadership to problems within peacekeeping that has attracted the most criticism.

Gowan argues that the UN’s responses under Ban seemed in part to reflect his lack of understanding of the operational intricacies of the UN.

“Secretaries-General are not magicians.  The UN bureaucracy is hard to manage, and peace operations are especially difficult to control,” said Gowan. “But Ban never seemed to have a detailed operational sense of what the UN has been doing on the ground on his watch.”

“When a big crisis hit a UN mission, or a sexual abuse scandal blew up, he always seemed to be on the back foot. I credit him with trying to do the right thing over cholera in Haiti, but he was slow.”

UN peacekeepers from Nepal responding to the 2010 earthquake bought cholera to Haiti in part because untreated sewage from a UN base ran into local water sources.

At the beginning of December 2016, soon before ending his time as Secretary-General, Ban apologised for cholera outbreak, but stopped short of accepting the UN’s role in bringing cholera to Haiti.

“His apology was very much characteristic of the middle ground that satisfied only part of his role,” said Lewis. “He never accepted the responsibility for the UN bringing cholera to Haiti. He only ever apologised for the consequences of the cholera. In other words he stopped short of embracing an important matter of principle.”

This may have been because a full apology could potentially open the UN and its member states to paying reparations to the people of Haiti, thousands of whom have already died due to the cholera outbreak.

Nevertheless, many saw Ban’s apology as an attempt to make amends for one of the darkest aspects of his ten years as Secretary-General.

His tenure did see progress made in other areas, for example Ban was considered to have progressed LGBTI rights within the UN by openly showing his support.

Ban’s successor Antonio Guterres, the former Prime Minister of Portugal, took office on 1 January, beginning his five year term with a message of peace to the world.

“We’re hoping that Guterres will be a Hammarskjold,” said Lewis, referring to the Swedish Secretary-General who is admired by many UN aficionados for his dedication to the UN charter.

Ban is widely considered to be vying for the Presidency of South Korea.

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2017 — A Thunderous Clash of Politics, Economies and Policieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/2017-a-thunderous-clash-of-politics-economies-and-policies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2017-a-thunderous-clash-of-politics-economies-and-policies http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/2017-a-thunderous-clash-of-politics-economies-and-policies/#comments Mon, 02 Jan 2017 12:24:49 +0000 Martin Khor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148380 The Paris agreement, which was adopted in December 2015 and which came into force in record time in October 2016 as a demonstration of international concern over climate change, may face a major test and even an existential challenge in 2017, if Trump fulfils his election promise to pull the US out. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS.

The Paris agreement, which was adopted in December 2015 and which came into force in record time in October 2016 as a demonstration of international concern over climate change, may face a major test and even an existential challenge in 2017, if Trump fulfils his election promise to pull the US out. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS.

By Martin Khor
PENANG, Jan 2 2017 (IPS)

Yet another new year has dawned.   But 2017 will be a year like no other.

There will be a thunderous clash of policies, economies and politics worldwide.   We will therefore be on a roller-coaster ride, and we should prepare for it and not only be spectators on the side-lines in danger of being swept away by the waves.

With his extreme views and bulldozing style, Donald Trump is set to create an upheaval if not revolution in the United States and the world.

He is installing an oil company chief as the Secretary of State, investment bankers in key finance positions, climate sceptics and anti-environmentalists in environmental and energy agencies and an extreme rightwing internet media mogul as his chief strategist

US-China relations, the most important for global stability, could change from big-power co-existence with a careful combination of competition and cooperation, to outright crisis.

Trump, through a phone call with Taiwan’s leader and subsequent remarks, signalled he could withdraw the longstanding US adherence to the One China policy and instead use Taiwan as a bargaining card when negotiating economic policies with China.  The Chinese perceive this as an extreme provocation.

He has appointed as head of the new National Trade Council an economist known for his books demonising China, including “Death by China: Confronting the Dragon”.

Trump seems intent on doing an about-turn on US trade and investment policies, starting with ditching the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and re-negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Other measures being considered include a 45% duty on Chinese products, extra duties and taxes on American companies located abroad, and even a 10% tariff on all imports.

Martin Khor

Martin Khor

Thus 2017 will see a rise in protectionism in the US, the extent still unknown.  That is bad news for those developing countries whose economies have grown on the back of exports and international investments.

Europe in 2017 will also be preoccupied with its own regional problems.  The Brexit shock of 2016 will continue to reverberate and several European countries facing elections will see challenges to their traditional values and established order from xenophobic and narrow nationalist parties.

As Western societies become less open to the world and more inward looking, developing countries should revise their development strategies and rely more on domestic and regional demand and investments.

As North-South economic relations decline, this should also be the moment for expanding South-South cooperation, spurred as much by necessity as by principles.

2017 may be the year when resource-rich China, with its huge Road and Belt initiative and its immense financing capacity, fills in the economic void created by western trade and investment protectionism.

But this may not be sufficient to prevent a finance shock in many developing countries now beginning to suffer a reversal of capital flowing back to the US, attracted by the prospect of higher interest rates and economic growth.

Several emerging economies which together received many hundreds of billions of dollars of hot money in recent years are now vulnerable to the latest downturn phase of the boom-bust cycle of capital flows.

Some of these countries opened up their capital markets to foreign funds which now own large portions of government bonds denominated in the domestic currency, as well as shares in the equity market.

As the tide turns, foreign investors are expected to sell off and transfer back a significant part of the bonds and shares they bought, and this new vulnerability is in addition to the traditional external debt contracted by the developing countries in foreign currencies.

Some countries will be hit by a terrible combination of capital outflow, reduced export earnings, currency depreciation and an increased debt servicing burden caused by higher US interest rates.

As the local currency depreciates further, the affected countries’ companies will have to pay more for servicing loans contracted in foreign currencies and imported machinery and parts, while consumers suffer from a rapid rise in the prices of imports.

On the positive side, the currency depreciation will make exporters more competitive and make tourism more attractive, but for many countries this will not be enough to offset the negative effects.

Thus 2017 will not be kind to the economy, business and the pockets of the common man and woman.  It might even spark a new global financial crisis.

The old year ended with mixed blessings for Palestinians. On one hand they won a significant victory when the outgoing President Obama allowed the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories by not exercising a veto.

The resolution will spur international actions against the expansion of settlements which have become a big obstacle to peace talks.

On the other hand the Israeli leadership, which responded defiantly with plans for more settlements, will find in Trump a much more sympathetic President.  He is appointing a pro-Israel hawk who has cheered the expansion of settlements as the new US ambassador to Israel.

With Trump also indicating he will tear up the nuclear power deal with Iran, the Middle East will have an even more tumultuous time in 2017.

Some countries will be hit by a terrible combination of capital outflow, reduced export earnings, currency depreciation and an increased debt servicing burden caused by higher US interest rates.
In the area of health care, the battle for affordable access to medicines will continue, as public frustration grows over the high and often astronomical prices of patented medicines including for the treatment of HIV AIDS, hepatitis C, tuberculosis and cancers.

There will be more powerful calls for governments to curb the excesses of drug companies, as well as more extensive use of the flexibilities in the patent laws to counter the high cost of medicines.

Momentum will also increase to deal with antibiotic resistance which in 2016 was recognised by political leaders meeting at the United Nations to be perhaps the gravest threat to global health.

All countries pledged to come up with national action plans to counter antibiotic and anti-microbial resistance by May 2017 and the challenge will then be to review the adequacy of these plans and to finance and implement them.

The new year will also see its fair share of natural disasters and a continued decline in the state of the environment.  Both will continue to be major issues in 2017, just as the worsening of air pollution and the many earthquakes, big storms and heat-waves marked the previous few years.

Unfortunately low priority is given to the environment.  Hundreds of billions of dollars are allocated for highways, railways and urban buildings but only a trickle for conservation and rehabilitation of hills, watersheds, forests, mangroves, coastal areas, biodiversity or for serious climate change actions.

2017 should be the year when priorities change, that when people talk about infrastructure or development, they put actions to protect and promote the environment as the first items for allocation of funds.

This new year will also be make or break for climate change.  The momentum for action painfully built up in recent years will find a roadblock in the US as the new President dismantles Obama-initiated policies and measures.

The Paris agreement, which was adopted in December 2015 and which came into force in record time in October 2016 as a demonstration of international concern over climate change, may face a major test and even an existential challenge in 2017, if Trump fulfils his election promise to pull the US out.

But Trump and his team will face resistance domestically including from state governments and municipalities which have their own climate plans, and from other countries determined to carry on without the US on board.

Indeed if 2017 will bring big changes initiated by the new US administration, it will also generate many counter actions to fill in the void left in the world by a withdrawing US or to counter its new unsettling actions.

Many people around the world, from politicians and policy makers to citizen groups and community organisers are already bracing themselves to come up with responses and actions.

Indeed 2017 will be characterised by the Trump effect but also the consequent counter-effects.

There are opportunities to think through, alternatives to chart and reforms to carry out that are anyway needed on the global and national economies, on the environment, and on geo-politics.

Most of the main levers of power and decision-making are still in the hands of a few countries and a few people, but there has also been the emergence of many new centres of economic, environmental and intellectual capabilities and community-based organising.

2017 will be a year in which ideas, policies, economies and politics will all clash, thunderously, and we should be prepared to meet the challenges ahead and not only be spectators.

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Arms Trade Treaty Falling Down in Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/arms-trade-treaty-falling-down-in-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=arms-trade-treaty-falling-down-in-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/arms-trade-treaty-falling-down-in-yemen/#comments Tue, 27 Dec 2016 21:06:42 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148319 A campaign in support of the Arms Trade Treaty argued that weapons were subject to fewer regulations than bananas. Credit: Coralie Tripier / IPS.

A campaign in support of the Arms Trade Treaty argued that weapons were subject to fewer regulations than bananas. Credit: Coralie Tripier / IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 27 2016 (IPS)

Two years after the UN Arms Trade Treaty entered into force many of the governments which championed the treaty are failing to uphold it, especially when it comes to the conflict in Yemen.

“In terms of implementation, the big disappointment is Yemen,” Anna Macdonald, Director of Control Arms, a civil society organisation dedicated to the treaty, told IPS.

“The big disappointment is the countries that were in the forefront of calling for the treaty – and indeed who still champion it as a great achievement in international disarmament and security – are now prepared to violate it by persisting in their arms sales to Saudi Arabia,” she added.

The Saudi-led international coalition has been responsible for thousands of civilian deaths in Yemen, and Saudi Arabia is known to have violated humanitarian law by bombing civilian targets, including hospitals.

The conflict in Yemen – the poorest country in the Middle East – has displaced over 3 million people since it began in March 2015 according to the UN.

However many countries, including the United Kingdom, United States and France, that have signed up to the Arms Trade Treaty continue to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, despite this violating their commitments under the treaty.

“The big disappointment is the countries that were in the forefront of calling for the treaty ... are now prepared to violate it by persisting in their arms sales to Saudi Arabia,” Anna Macdonald, Control Arms.

Currently 90 UN member states are parties to the treaty, which Macdonald says is a relatively high number for such a new and complex treaty, but the goal remains universalisation, she adds. The treaty entered into force on 24 December 2014. However while the U.K. and France have ratified the treaty, the U.S. has only signed the treaty.

Parties to the treaty are obligated to ensure that weapons they sell will not be used to violate international humanitarian law, commit genocide or commit crimes against humanity.

The U.K.’s sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia has been the subject of intense debate in British parliament.

Saudi authorities recently confirmed that they have used UK-made cluster munitions in Yemen.

“Evidence of cluster munition use has been available for almost a year, but the U.K. has ignored and disputed it, trusting instead in the Saudi-led coalition’s denials,” said Macdonald.

“The UK is continuing to ignore the vast amount of information of violations of human rights and the laws of war in Yemen, (recent developments) make even plainer how unfeasible such a position is.”

The UK which sold the weapons to Saudi Arabia in 1989 has since signed up to the Cluster Munitions Convention, which prohibits the sale of cluster munitions because of their indiscriminate nature, Macdonald added.

Meanwhile recent reports suggest the United States is curtailing at least some of its arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

“The U.S. has said it will halt the sale of precision-guided aerial bombs to Saudi Arabia because they have seen “systemic, endemic problems with Saudi Arabia’s targeting” that the U.S. says has led to high numbers of civilian casualties in Yemen,” said Macdonald.

However she noted that it is hard to know what effect this will have on policies under the incoming Trump Republican administration.

According to research published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) the world’s top three arms exporters are the United States, Russia and China.

India, Saudi Arabia and China are the world’s top three arms importers.

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Security Council Vote on Israeli Settlements Postponed Indefinitelyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/security-council-vote-on-israeli-settlements-postponed-indefinitely/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=security-council-vote-on-israeli-settlements-postponed-indefinitely http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/security-council-vote-on-israeli-settlements-postponed-indefinitely/#comments Thu, 22 Dec 2016 21:53:44 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148285 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/security-council-vote-on-israeli-settlements-postponed-indefinitely/feed/ 0 Outgoing UN Chief Yearns for Majority Rule in World Bodyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/outgoing-un-chief-yearns-for-majority-rule-in-world-body/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=outgoing-un-chief-yearns-for-majority-rule-in-world-body http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/outgoing-un-chief-yearns-for-majority-rule-in-world-body/#comments Thu, 22 Dec 2016 13:19:25 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148276 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivers a keynote address on “The Future of Multilateral Disarmament” at an event hosted by the Centre for Global Affairs (CGA) of New York University (NYU). Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivers a keynote address on “The Future of Multilateral Disarmament” at an event hosted by the Centre for Global Affairs (CGA) of New York University (NYU). Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 22 2016 (IPS)

As he packs his bags to head home to South Korea, the outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been sharply critical of the decision-making process in the world body – specifically the veto powers in the Security Council and the increasing “consensus” rule in voting – where a single country can defy the rest of the 192 members, particularly on politically and financially sensitive issues.

Pointing out that member states had failed to agree on a formula for reforming the Security Council, he said he had initiated a major reform proposal to improve fairness and effectiveness in the United Nations.

But these proposals have been blocked in the name of “consensus”, sometimes by a single country, he told delegates in his farewell address during the opening session of the General Assembly in September.

Ban, who steps down on December 31 after a 10-year long tenure, regretted that “essential action and good ideas had been blocked” not only in the Security Council but also in the General Assembly and in the budget process (in the Administrative and Budgetary Committee) and elsewhere.

Is it fair, he asked, “for any one country to wield such disproportionate power and hold the world hostage over so many important issues?”

But he refused to identify any countries by name, although he has singled out Russia and China for using their veto powers to block resolutions on Syria.

Is it fair, asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “for any one country to wield such disproportionate power and hold the world hostage over so many important issues?”
“Consensus should not be confused with unanimity,” he said, urging the General Assembly President to explore the creation of a high-level panel to search for solutions.

Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, a former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN, told IPS: “I can empathize with the frustrations of S-G Ban as he leaves office later this month.”

But the convoluted process of decision-making has been a matter of major concern for a long time at the UN, he added.

“It does not take two terms for an S-G to comprehend that—and that too in the last months (of his second five year term). Also, he should have mentioned how the Secretary-General of the UN is chosen by a few every five years”.

“I have found that when it suits its purpose the leadership of the UN Secretariat does not have any qualms about the convoluted decision-making process.”

The Secretariat leadership should have taken up the issue long ago and repeatedly directly with the countries concerned on both sides.

The tyranny and irrationality of the majority has been a point of contention as the contentious decisions were taken by majority votes marginalizing the “big players”, he argued.

“The tyranny and unilateralism of a few big financial contributors to UN in the consensus process is also a major concern”, declared Chowdhury, a former Chairman of the UN’s Administrative and Budgetary Committee in 1997-1998 which approved (former Secretary-General) Kofi Annan’s first reform budget.

Meanwhile, there has been longstanding speculation that the consensus rule was introduced in the 1970s when Western powers realized they were being outvoted by developing nations—even as the Group of 77 developing nations increased its membership to 132, ranking as the largest single coalition in the world body.

The United Nations was founded largely on the principle of one-country, one-vote – and where majority rules.

In his address to the Centre for Global Affairs at New York University (NYU) last month,  the outgoing Secretary-General also lambasted the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) for its inability to adopt a programme of work or even an agenda for nearly two decades.

“Twenty years this has existed, and I have been warning them:  If you behave this way, we will have to bring the discussions in the Conference on Disarmament to some other venue, but they don’t listen… because of the consensus system, just one country can block the whole 193 Member States.  This is a totally unacceptable situation,” he declared.

Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, former Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, told IPS the two comments attributed to the SG understandably represent and reflect an element of anguished introspection by the outgoing SG on the vexed and stalemated decision-making processes of, and in, the UN.

To begin with, it needs to be emphasized that the responsibility for this has to be borne entirely by the member states of the UN. All multilateral arrangements are ultimately based on rules of procedure negotiated by the member states themselves.

“With the exception of the Security Council, which has a peculiar and sui generis negotiating history, other instruments are invariably based on the one country one vote formula,” said Puri, whose recently- released book titled “Perilous Interventions” focuses on the flawed role of the Security Council in crisis situations such as Libya and Syria.

In the case of the Security Council, he pointed out, delegations in San Francisco in 1945 were confronted with a ‘take it or leave it ‘choice.

Since the major preoccupation of delegations was to prevent the scourge of another World War, they chose to accept, perhaps for valid reasons, a system based on vetoes by the five Permanent Members, he noted.

“This system worked for several years but fell apart after Resolution 1973, in the case of Libya, was misused to effect regime change, which was not part of the negotiating history of the resolution and was, in fact, specifically sought to be precluded”, he argued.

Having armed themselves with authority for the ‘use of force’, three of the five Permanent Members proceeded to disregard the other provisions of the Resolution, said Puri.

“The mess in Libya and the unfolding tragedy in Syria,” he said, required Council unanimity for vetoes not to be employed where mass atrocities were likely. This was not to be the case. Syria constitutes the severest indictment of the Council’s ineffectiveness in mass atrocity prevention, after Rwanda and Sberenica in 1994 and 1995.

The functioning of the Security Council represents a naked display of power politics. The rest of the UN system has not been immune from this either, he added.

Puri said the consensus rule was never intended to be anything more than an attempt to take everyone along. It degenerated into a requirement of unanimity.

The weak invariably acquiesced to the wishes of the powerful States and went along with outcomes in the interests of consensus. The strong and dominant States invoked consensus when they feared being outvoted by the arithmetic of numbers, Puri declared.

Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco who has written extensively on the politics of the Security Council, told IPS the Secretary General is certainly correct in his criticism and Russia and China for abusing their veto power to prevent effective action by the United Nations in trying to end the ongoing slaughter in Syria.

“However, it is important to remember that the United States has similarly abused its veto power (and threats thereof) to prevent effective UN action regarding Israel /Palestine, as has France in regard to Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara.”

Indeed, on a strictly legal basis, he pointed out, the case for UN action is even stronger in the latter cases, since they involve territories under foreign belligerent occupation, whereas the Syrian civil war—as tragic as it may be on a humanitarian level—is primarily an internal conflict, said Zunes, author of the highly-acclaimed “Tinderbox: US Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism”.

Chowdhury told IPS a balanced decision-making process should be discussed and agreed upon in the best interest of the United Nations.

This needs the immediate attention and pro-active leadership of incoming S-G Antonio Guterres, as he takes over the helms of UN in January.

One wonders: “Would be have the moral courage to do that because he, like his recent predecessors, is the beneficiary of the unilateral decision-making by the few?”

In his NYU address, Ban was talking about the decision-making in the Conference on Disarmament. That is altogether a different scenario compared to how the decisions are made by the UN GA (General Assembly). His GA statement has more relevance in the context of the reform of decision-making.

But to ask for “a high level panel to search for solutions” is naïve and an attempt to clean up his desk before departure.

“The new S-G should take the “bull,” as they say, by the horns and thereby prove that his choice as the new UN boss was a worthwhile decision,” said Chowdhury, Initiator of Security Council resolution 1325 underscoring women’s equality of participation and former Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to UN (1996-2001).

Puri told IPS each agency or instrument has a different context and history.

In the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the erstwhile General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), whenever the dominant players feared losing the numerical vote, they would go outside the system and negotiate plurilateral arrangements, constituting “a coalition of the willing.”

In the Fifth Committee and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), the lament of the outgoing SG must be seen in terms of the reluctance of developing countries willing to countenance priorities, which in their views often reflected the views of the developed countries.

The Conference on Disarmament is an altogether different story. The stalemate on major negotiating processes is anchored in serious policy differences. The fact that it continues to exist without any serious outcomes is more a reflection of the deep differences rather than the venue. It could be argued that the same negotiations conducted elsewhere might not fare any better, he added.

Puri said it might be a good idea for the outgoing SG to leave a handing over note for his successor so that some of these vexed and complicated issues could be flagged for attention by the incoming SG to the member states for priority attention.

“It is unlikely, however, that the reality could be altered in the foreseeable future,” Puri predicted.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

 

 

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Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Heads for 50 Years of UN Failurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/israeli-palestinian-conflict-heads-for-50-years-of-un-failure/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=israeli-palestinian-conflict-heads-for-50-years-of-un-failure http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/israeli-palestinian-conflict-heads-for-50-years-of-un-failure/#comments Thu, 15 Dec 2016 15:03:19 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148220 Credit: IPS

Credit: IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 15 2016 (IPS)

Come 2017, the United Nations will mark the 50th anniversary of one of the world’s longstanding unresolved political problems firmly entrenched on the UN agenda: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict dating back to the Six Day War in June 1967.

When Antonio Guterres takes over as the new UN Secretary-General on January 1, he will inherit a rash of ongoing political and military conflicts, including the six-year-old civil war in Syria, the devastating bombings in Yemen, the Shia-Sunni killings in Iraq, the widespread political chaos in Libya, renewed violence in the Central African Republic, the continued atrocities in Darfur and South Sudan and the rise of global terrorism.

But one of the most elusive problems — crying out for a solution despite half a century of negotiations and unimplemented Security Council resolutions —will be the demand for a Palestinian homeland.

As Guterres told reporters December 12: “We need a surge in diplomacy for peace when we see this multiplication of new conflicts — and old conflicts that seem never to die”.

Perhaps the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems destined to live forever—and has never shown signs of dying in 50 long years.

Mouin Rabbani, Senior Fellow with the Institute for Palestine Studies and Contributing Editor at Middle East Report, told IPS: “As the UN commemorates the 50th year of Israel’s occupation, we need to recognize that the world body is in many respects but a shadow of the organization it was in 1947, when the General Assembly adopted a recommendation to partition Palestine, or even 1967 when the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip commenced.”

What capacity it does retain to act effectively has, when it comes to Palestine, been deliberately and completely paralyzed by the United States, acting on Israel’s behalf, he declared.

Indeed, it has in this respect been somewhat ironic to watch (US Ambassador to the UN) Samantha Power and other US diplomats incessantly whine about Russia shielding the Syrian regime at the UN Security Council these past several years, said Rabbani, who is an Associate Fellow of the European Council on Foreign Relations, and Policy Advisor to Al-Shabaka – The Palestinian Policy Network.

“Will Palestinians be condemned to another half century of military occupation?”, he asked. “If they have to rely on the United Nations for salvation from Israel the answer would be “almost certainly”, but fortunately this is not the case.”

Asked specifically of the UN’s role, Rabbani said among recent Secretaries-Generals none have been more timid in their dealings with Israel and the US, and more solicitous of US and Israeli policy, including on the Question of Palestine, than outgoing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“His tenure has been a disaster for Palestinian rights. Full stop. So the mere fact of his departure and replacement is welcome news”, said Rabbani.

Vijay Prashad, the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies at Trinity College, Connecticut, told IPS it seems that the partition plan and two state solution has been destroyed by Israeli settlements.

The UN policy is out of step with this reality. The new Secretary-General will have to confront this position, viz the virtual impossibility of a two state solution.

What remains? What kind of Palestinian future is possible? These kinds of questions need to be asked, said Prashad, who has written extensively on Middle East Politics and is the author of “The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution”.

Israel will refuse both one state and two state solutions. It wants to annihilate the Palestinian Question, he noted.

“The Palestinians are playing defense. What kind of positive strategy is possible for Palestine and will the new Secretary-General enable such a discussion? I hope so,” said Prashad, co-editor of the recently-released “Land of Blue Helmets: the United Nations in the Arab World”.

Asked what his message would be, if and when he meets with US President-elect Donald Trump, Guterres, avoided a direct answer.

“Well, to restore confidence, I think the first thing that is important is to tell the truth. Sometimes the truth is ignored in political relations around the world. And when people talk to each other, the truth is that many times there are different perceptions about each other.’

“And I believe it is with truth that I need to engage with all governments in the world and, of course, also with the next Government of the United States, showing a clear will to cooperate in relation to the enormous challenges that we’ll be facing together,” Guterres declared.

Rabbani told IPS predicting about how a Trump administration will approach the Question of Palestine is a difficult task, primarily because Trump is an empty vessel with multiple – and therefore essentially no – views of his own.

“But as is generally the case with empty vessels, they tend to be filled by those with privileged access. And in this case the indications are not good.”

Regarding Guterres, Rabbani pointed out the new Secretary-General (SG) will be operating under the same constraints any other SG would encounter, but has the advantage that the UN is no longer as fully dominated by the US as it has been in recent decades.

It also seems reasonable to presume his ambitions exceed being an errand boy for Washington like his predecessor, Rabbani noted.

“I know little regarding his personal views on the Israel-Palestine conflict, though given the fact that he is a former European social democrat premier his views presumably fall within the European/EU mainstream. “

But the more important point is that this will be less about his personal views and more about the environment in which he operates and his willingness (or otherwise) to use his political clout.

“Will he want to expend political capital on Palestine when he may prefer to or feel he needs to spend it on other files such as Syria? This is difficult to divine.”

And it will depend not just on his priorities and preferences, but crucially upon how energetically this matter is promoted by member states and international public opinion.

“So I would see his tenure as an opportunity that I very much hope the Palestinians manage to utilise. But once again, I would advise to spend less time examining his personal views and preferences, and more on the environment in which he operates,” said Rabbani, a former Senior Middle East Analyst with the International Crisis Group.

Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said Guterres, whose appointment is arguably one of most challenging jobs on the planet, brings a wealth of experience and leadership to the role to guide the UN in the years to come.

“The new Secretary-General must face up to a world of numerous protracted conflicts, reprehensible breaches of the rules of war and a massive global displacement crisis,” she said.

But besides the ongoing political problems, he must also readily confront the extreme economic inequality crisis that is trapping people in poverty, undermining economic growth and threatening instability around the world.

Referring to the gender gap at the UN, Byanyima said: “Governments in seventy years have picked only men to lead the UN; the journey to find a woman, feminist Secretary-General goes on. We do however fully expect that the new Secretary-General will be a feminist Secretary-General who puts women’s rights and gender equality at the very core of the international agenda.

“And for the UN to be relevant, effective and accountable – in a world so different from the times when it was founded in 1945 – Mr. Guterres must spearhead essential reforms to the UN.”

She also congratulated Ban Ki-moon for his outstanding, dignified leadership.

“Among his achievements were ushering in the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement: both will be remembered in history for charting a better

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Gambia May Not Join African Withdrawals from ICChttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/gambia-may-not-join-african-withdrawals-from-icc/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gambia-may-not-join-african-withdrawals-from-icc http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/gambia-may-not-join-african-withdrawals-from-icc/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 15:07:56 +0000 Lindah Mogeni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148126 Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is also a Gambian national. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is also a Gambian national. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

By Lindah Mogeni
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 8 2016 (IPS)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) may have had a small reprieve this week from a string of African withdrawals, with Gambia’s newly elected President Adama Barrow telling various media outlets that there is no need for Gambia to leave the court.

Gambia, alongside Burundi and South Africa, was one of three African countries to announce it’s withdrawal from the ICC this year, with Namibia and Kenya rumoured to be close in heel.

Gambia’s questionable human rights record during outgoing President Yahya Jammeh’s twenty two year rule – may have put the West African country on the court’s radar. However under Jammeh’s leadership Gambia argued the reason for the withdrawal was that the ICC was institutionally prejudiced against people of colour, especially Africans. The withdrawal also followed Gambia’s repeated unsuccessful appeals for the Court to hold the European Union accountable for the deaths of thousands of African migrants who tried to cross over to its shores.

However, President-elect Barrow has praised the ICC for advocating good governance – which he intends for Gambia.

Addressing the UN General Assembly in September, Burundi’s Foreign Minister, Alain Nyamitwe, claimed that there are “politically motivated reasons which have pushed the ICC to act on African cases.”

Significantly, the ICC had announced its plan, in April, to launch an investigation into several human rights violations surrounding the upcoming elections and President Pierre Nkurunziza’s unconstitutional claim to remain in power for another term in Burundi.

There is no consensus in the AU to leave the ICC. Several African countries, including Zambia, Botswana, Tanzania, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Nigeria have opposed withdrawal from the Court.

South Africa’s notice of withdrawal from the ICC was considered a particular blow to the Court, since South Africa was one of the court’s founding members and among its strongest supporters.

The withdrawal came after South Africa failed to arrest Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir, who had been indicted by the ICC, when he visited South Africa to attend the 2015 African Union (AU) Summit. As a result, the ICC accused South Africa of not complying with cooperation procedures – which seemingly fractured their relationship.

UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, told the UN Security Council that the ICC departures could “send a wrong message on these countries’ commitment to justice.”

Some members of the AU have been calling for an exodus from the ICC since tensions with the Court first began in 2009 after the ICC issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Al-Bashir.

However, there is no consensus in the AU to leave the ICC. Several African countries, including Zambia, Botswana, Tanzania, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Nigeria have opposed withdrawal from the Court.

The perception that the ICC is biased towards Africa has intensified over the past few years.

The UN’s establishment of temporary tribunals in the 1990s for war crimes in Rwanda and Yugoslavia acted as roadmaps for the launch of the ICC in July 2002.

The Court’s primary objective was to serve as a permanent international tribunal tasked with conducting investigations and prosecuting perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Africa represents the largest regional grouping of countries that are parties to the ICC, with 34 African nations having ratified the treaty, the Rome Statute, which established the court.

Since the court’s formation 14 years ago, 9 out of 10 of its active cases have been against nationals of African countries.

These include, Central African Republic, Mali, Ivory Coast, Libya, Kenya, Sudan (Darfur), Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is the main reason why the ICC is accused of selective justice.

There are three ways through which a case can be brought forth to the ICC. The first is via submissions by individual governments of the countries concerned, as was the case with Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. The second is via self-initiated interventions by the ICC Chief Prosecutor, as was the case with Kenya and Ivory Coast. The third is via a UN Security Council referral, as was the case with Sudan and Libya – both of which are not parties to the ICC.

Evidently, the ICC has self-intervened in only two African cases. The other African cases have all come to the ICC through referrals by the countries themselves or by the UN Security Council.

Regardless of the fact that there have been cases before the ICC that were self-referred by the relevant African countries themselves, “a concern persists that the ICC appears to be targeting Africa in pursuit of political expediency,” said South Africa’s Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng in a speech addressing the Africa Legal Aid Conference (AFLA) in 2014.

“The reality is that gross human rights violations have taken place and continue to take place beyond the borders of Africa and yet, so say the critics of the ICC, there does not seem to be as much enthusiasm to deal with those atrocities as is the case with those committed in the African continent” said Mogoeng.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, a Gambian national, said, “with due respect, what offends me most when I hear criticisms about the so-called African bias is how quick we are to focus on the words and propaganda of a few powerful, influential individuals and to forget about the millions of anonymous people that suffer from these crimes,” said at an ICC Open Forum in 2012.

The greatest affront to victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity is to “see those powerful individuals responsible for their sufferings trying to portray themselves as the victims of a ‘pro‐Western’, ‘anti‐African’ Court…the ICC was established as a shield for the powerless not a club for the powerful,” said Bensouda.

Universality and equality before the law is one of the core ideals of the ICC. However, 3 permanent members of the UN Security Council- United States, Russia and China – are not state parties to the ICC. This has fuelled the perception that the ICC is not impartial and is essentially a ‘third world court’.

In January this year, ICC Prosecutor Bensouda opened the court’s first formal investigation outside Africa, into Georgia, for war crimes committed during the 2008 Georgia-Russia war.

Currently the ICC is examining a situation in Gabon, referred to the court by the government of Gabon, as well as situations outside Africa – including Colombia, Palestine, Afghanistan, alleged war crimes by British soldiers in Iraq and by Ukrainian separatist and Russian forces in Ukraine.

“Pulling out of the ICC is not the solution, we should be working towards fixing the court,” said Botswana’s Foreign Minister Pelomoni Venson-Moitoi.

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Trump Needs Lessons in Geopolitics : Musharrafhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/trump-needs-lessons-in-geopolitics-musharraf/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-needs-lessons-in-geopolitics-musharraf http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/trump-needs-lessons-in-geopolitics-musharraf/#comments Mon, 05 Dec 2016 09:28:01 +0000 David White http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148080 By David White
LONDON, Dec 5 2016 (IPS)

US President-elect Donald Trump has shown he has much to learn about South Asia,
Pakistan’s former President Pervez Musharraf said in an interview with IPS. But he counted on Trump having an open mind.

Pervez Musharraf

Pervez Musharraf

Musharraf was commenting on statements made by Trump in a radio talk show during his presidential campaign in September, when he described India as being “the check to Pakistan”.

“I think that these statements do cause worry,” Musharraf said. However, he thought that Trump had a “fresh” and “uninitiated” mind on the subject..

“He maybe lacks full understanding of international issues and regional geostrategic issues here, confronting us,” Musharraf said. “But he has an open mind, he can learn, he can be told, he can be briefed.”Musharraf said America’s “War on Terror”, declared in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, had been “to an extent successful” in military terms. But he added: “Wherever military victory takes place it has to be converted into a political victory, and I personally feel that is where the United States fails.”

He added a warning that pro-India US policy might force Pakistan to rely more heavily on its already extensive ties with China. “I think Donald Trump must understand you are no longer in a unipolar world, so countries will have choice to shift towards other poles. So don’t do that,” he urged, making clear that by “other poles” he was referring to China and Russia.

Failure to move towards a détente between Pakistan and India was another factor that might force Pakistan more into China’s zone of influence, Musharraf said. But he added: “It is not in Pakistan’s interest to be in the orbit of any one force.”

He emphasised Pakistan’s deep linkages with the US and other western countries and its reliance on them as export markets. “We can’t switch trade to China, and that would be a very foolish policy and strategy,” he said. However, China’s support and economic presence put Pakistan in a difficult situation of needing to balance its relations.

“Pakistan has a relationship with China. The United States should not mind it,” Musharraf said.

Commenting on other remarks made by Trump during his campaign – suggesting that it might be better if Japan, South Korea and possibly Saudi Arabia had their own nuclear weapons – Musharraf rejected the idea of Pakistan supplying the Saudis with a nuclear capability.

“We won’t do that. Once bitten, many times shy, I think. We were proliferators once. I think we’ve learnt. And this is not a mere trade of industrial goods,” Musharraf said. “I think this is too serious a matter. We can’t do that.”

Musharraf said America’s “War on Terror”, declared in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, had been “to an extent successful” in military terms. But he added: “Wherever military victory takes place it has to be converted into a political victory, and I personally feel that is where the United States fails.”

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Fidel Castro, a Larger-than-Life Leader in Tumultuous Timeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/fidel-castro-an-extraordinary-leader-in-tumultuous-times/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fidel-castro-an-extraordinary-leader-in-tumultuous-times http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/fidel-castro-an-extraordinary-leader-in-tumultuous-times/#comments Thu, 01 Dec 2016 15:51:59 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148033 The urn holding the ashes of Fidel Castro is seen covered by a Cuban flag on a military jeep on Nov. 30, at the start of an 800-km funeral procession that will reach a cemetery in Santiago de Cuba on Dec. 4. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The urn holding the ashes of Fidel Castro is seen covered by a Cuban flag on a military jeep on Nov. 30, at the start of an 800-km funeral procession that will reach a cemetery in Santiago de Cuba on Dec. 4. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Dec 1 2016 (IPS)

Among the many leaders who left their mark on history in the 20th century, Fidel Castro – who died Nov. 25 at the age of 90 – stood out for propelling Cuba into a global role that was unexpectedly prominent for a small country, in an era when arms were frequently taken up to settle national and international disputes.

The Cold War imposed certain political choices as well as the consequences in terms of hostilities. By choosing Communism as its path in 1961, two years after the triumph of the revolution, Cuba became a pawn that infiltrated the enemy chessboard, facing the risks posed by such a vulnerable and threatening position.

In Latin America, the “Western, Christian” side mainly degenerated into military dictatorships, nearly all of them anti-Communist and with direct links to the United States, with a few exceptions like the progressive government of General Juan Velasco Alvarado in Peru (1968-1975).

On the other side, guerrilla movements supported or stimulated by Cuba, like the 1966-1967 incursion led by Argentine-Cuban revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Bolivia, mushroomed. The military defeat of these movements was a general, but not absolute, rule.

For example, there was the Sandinista triumph in Nicaragua in 1979, and in Colombia the half-decade conflict raged until this year, when a peace deal was finally signed by the government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) rebels.

The armed conflicts were not limited to the countries of Latin America. The Vietnam war shook the world in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Communist victory over U.S. forces prevented another country from being split in two, like Korea or Germany.

In Africa, the decolonisation of some countries cost rivers of blood. Algeria, for example, won its independence from France in 1962 after a war that left a death toll of 1.5 million, according to the Algerians, or just over one-third of that number, according to the French.

Against this backdrop, Castro led an incredible set of accomplishments that earned Cuba a projection and influence far out of proportion to the size of a country of fewer than 10 million people up to 1980 and 11.2 million today.

He fomented and trained guerrilla movements that challenged governments and armed forces in several countries of Latin America. Many felt Cuba offered an alternative, more authentic, brand of Communism that contrasted with the Soviet Union’s, which was seen as bureaucratic, based on repression, even of other peoples, and by then bereft of revolutionary zeal.

The defence of social equality, the top priority put on children, advances in education and health, and solidarity with oppressed peoples or nations hit by tragedies around the world are attractive components of Cuba’s style of Communism, despite its dictatorial nature.

Hundreds of thousands of Cubans took part in the mammoth rally held Nov. 29 to pay homage to the late Fidel Castro in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución, attended by leaders from every continent. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños

Hundreds of thousands of Cubans took part in the mammoth rally held Nov. 29 to pay homage to the late Fidel Castro in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución, attended by leaders from every continent. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños

It was not democracy – a value not highly respected decades ago, not even by the propagandists of freedom in the Western world, who also disseminated, or were linked to, dictatorships.

Cuban troops and doctors spread in large numbers throughout Africa and Latin America, in campaigns providing support and assistance, on some occasions playing a central role.

The action abroad that had the greatest impact was in Angola, where Cuba’s military aid was decisive in the country’s successful bid for independence, by cutting off the advance of South African troops that almost reached Luanda in the attempt to prevent the birth of the new nation, which occurred on Nov. 11, 1975.

For decades, Cuban troops were in Angola training the military and strengthening national defence, along with the Cuban doctors and teachers who helped care for and teach a new generation of Angolans.

The operation in Angola showed that Cuba was more than a mere pawn of the former Soviet Union. On May 27, 1977 there was an attempted coup d’etat by a faction of the governing Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), led by Nito Alves.

Loyal to then President Agostinho Neto, the Cubans helped block the coup. They retook the main radio station in Luanda, which had been occupied by rebels, and returned it to government control. It was a Cuban voice fheard over the radio announcing the success of the operation.

The Soviets were on the side of the coup plotters, according to Angola’s leaders of the time. Diplomats from Moscow were expelled from the country, as were members of the Communist Party of Portugal.

A worse fate was suffered by the followers of Nito Alves accused of participating in the uprising: thousands of them were shot and killed. The number of victims has never been confirmed.

More recently, tens of thousands of Cuban doctors have spread a humane image of Cuba throughout Latin America, after they did so in many African countries. Thousands of them have worked in Venezuela since late president Hugo Chavez first took power in 1999. In Brazil, more than 11,000 Cuban doctors have been providing healthcare in poor and remote areas since 2013.

The Cuban revolution and its achievements are inextricably intertwined with the figure of Fidel Castro, whose leadership was so dominating that he probably would not have needed the rules of his political regime to constantly assert his power and authority over all activities in Cuba.

“Why hold elections?” many Cubans used to argue, in response to the frequent criticism of how long the Castro administration remained in power, without submitting itself to a real vote.

The impression is that his leadership was excessive, that it went far beyond the limits of the Caribbean island nation. His capacity for action was reflected in working meetings held in the wee hours of the morning, as well as in his meetings with visiting leaders.

His hours-long speeches were also delivered abroad, when he visited countries governed by friends, such as Chile in 1971 – governed at the time by socialist President Salvador Allende (1970-1973) – and Angola in 1977, under President Agostinho Neto.

“They don’t have a Fidel,” said Cubans in Angola, to criticise and explain errors committed by the government there, lamenting the lack of such an infallible leader as theirs, in a country whose development they were trying to support.

A product and subject of an era marked by the Cold War, Castro seemed destined to cause controversy, as a historic figure praised by some and condemned as a despot by others. But his political legacy will wane if Communism does not find a way to reconcile with democracy.

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The Cuban Revolution Has Lost Its Founder and Leaderhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/the-cuban-revolution-has-lost-its-founder-and-leader/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-cuban-revolution-has-lost-its-founder-and-leader http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/the-cuban-revolution-has-lost-its-founder-and-leader/#comments Sat, 26 Nov 2016 18:39:14 +0000 Patricia Grogg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147968 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/the-cuban-revolution-has-lost-its-founder-and-leader/feed/ 0 A Cuban Economy Facing Grim Forecasts Awaits Impact of Trumphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/a-cuban-economy-facing-grim-forecasts-awaits-impact-of-trump/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-cuban-economy-facing-grim-forecasts-awaits-impact-of-trump http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/a-cuban-economy-facing-grim-forecasts-awaits-impact-of-trump/#comments Tue, 15 Nov 2016 22:54:26 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147782 Students in Havana participate in an October protest, part of a campaign to fight the U.S. embargo against Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Students in Havana participate in an October protest, part of a campaign to fight the U.S. embargo against Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Ivet González
HAVANA, Nov 15 2016 (IPS)

Cuba’s economic difficulties will be aggravated by the uncertainty regarding how U.S. president-elect Donald Trump will deal with the thaw inherited from President Barack Obama.

Experts consulted by IPS preferred not to speculate. But they did recommend that the Cuban authorities adopt all measures within their reach to cushion the blow and reinforce what has been achieved on the economic front with the outgoing U.S. administration.

“In any case, Cuba will have to continue moving forward with its economic reforms and try to resolve whatever has clearly not functioned for decades and is within our reach to fix,” said Cuban economist Pável Vidal, a professor at the Javeriana University in Cali, Colombia.“As a businessman, he could be inclined towards pragmatic policies that favour business interests. He doesn’t have a personal history against Cuba, and as a Republican he doesn’t have a complex about appearing weak. Since he doesn’t have prior experience in public office, a large part of his decisions will be reached with the advisers who surround him.” – Ricardo Torres

Vidal is studying the economic reforms implemented since 2008 by the government of Raúl Castro, which has been facing major difficulties this year due to liquidity problems and oil shortages caused by the political and economic crisis in Venezuela, this country’s main trading partner and energy supplier.

In the first six months of this year, GDP grew just one percent, half of what was expected. And forecasts for the rest of 2016 are bleak, projecting a drop of one percent.

Further muddying the picture are the doubts with respect to the recently restored relations with the United States, now that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was defeated by her Republican rival in the Nov. 8 elections.

“With regard to Cuba, I don’t think (Trump) will roll back the important steps taken by the Obama administration to normalise relations between the two countries,” John Gronbeck-Tedesco, assistant professor of American Studies at Ramapo College in New Jersey, told IPS by email.

“But with a Republican-controlled Congress, it’s harder to know when the United States will fully commit to lifting the embargo and truly open up trade between the two countries,” said the academic, the author of the book “Cuba, the United States, and Cultures of the Transnational Left, 1930-1975”.

The U.S. embargo against Cuba, in place since 1962, consists of a complex web of laws that can only be fully repealed by Congress.

Cuba sees the embargo as the biggest obstacle it faces to development and a normalisation of ties with its giant neighbour to the north.

Since the start of the move towards reestablishing bilateral ties, in December 2014, Obama has taken measures to undermine the embargo and attempted to protect his efforts by means of Presidential Policy Directive 43 on the normalisation of relations between the United States and Cuba, issued on Oct. 14.

He even took an enormous symbolic step on Oct. 26, when for the first time in 25 years the United States abstained in the United Nations vote on the resolution that Cuba has presented annually since 1992, condemning the U.S. embargo, which it blames for 125.873 billion dollars in losses.

 Tourists enjoy the beach at the western Cuban resort town of Varadero. The number of U.S. tourists arriving jumped 80 percent in the first half of 2016, with respect to the same period in 2015. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS


Tourists enjoy the beach at the western Cuban resort town of Varadero. The number of U.S. tourists arriving jumped 80 percent in the first half of 2016, with respect to the same period in 2015. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Obama said his aim was to make the opening to Cuba “irreversible”. But just a week before the election, Trump said “We will cancel Obama’s one-sided Cuban deal, made by executive order, if we do not get the deal that we want and the deal that people living in Cuba and here deserve, including protecting religious and political freedom.”

But the business community and Cuban-Americans are largely in favour of the thaw, as analysts in both countries have been pointing out.

In Gronbeck-Tedesco’s view, “The United States will continue treating Cuba and Venezuela as separate political issues. And since Venezuela is still suffering from economic and political uncertainty, Trump’s plans would not appear to include an improvement in relations with Venezuela or help in rebuilding that country.”

In a reaction that observers like Vidal describe as “tardy”, Havana appears to be pushing for more foreign investment, especially in the energy industry, which is heavily dependent on the shrinking deliveries of Venezuelan crude.

“The tendency is for foreign investment in energy to pick up speed,” Juan Manuel Presa, an official at Cuba’s Ministry of Energy and Mines, told IPS. “There are a large number of projects in different stages of progress to use renewable sources, mainly wind and solar power.”

The engineer said the industry “is seeking a diversity of partners in a diversity of formulas: external financing of Cuban projects, companies that are made up 100 percent of foreign capital, and the new legal status of mixed – Cuban and foreign – companies.”

Cuba is still far from its goal of drawing 2. 5 billion dollars a year in foreign investment – the amount needed to put the economy on a steady footing. The 83 projects approved since a new law on foreign investment went into effect in 2014 have attracted just 1.3 billion dollars so far.

But to some extent, the thaw is easing the tense economic situation in this country.

Between 2.0 and 2.5 billion dollars in remittances from abroad flow into Cuba annually, mainly coming from the Cuban-American community, according to estimates by Cuban economist Juan Triana.

Only exports of medical services bring in more hard currency revenues, he said.

Another major source of hard currency is tourism. Cuba’s colonial cities and white sand beaches are experiencing an unprecedented tourism boom, with the number of visitors from the U.S. growing every month, despite the fact that they can only travel here under one of 12 approved categories, such as family visits, academic programs, professional research, journalistic or religious activities.

In the first half of this year, Cuba received 2,147,912 visitors from abroad, including 136,913 from the U.S. This latter number was 80 percent higher than the total for the first half of 2015, according to the national statistics office, ONEI.

In that period, tourism brought in more than 1.2 billion dollars, only counting public installations, not the growing private sector, which rents out rooms and runs taxis and restaurants.

Cuban economist Ricardo Torres showed IPS a novel analysis on the U.S. president-elect, who was widely criticised during the campaign for his racist, xenophobic and misogynistic remarks.

“There are three aspects (of Trump) that could benefit relations with Cuba,” the academic researcher said.

“As a businessman, he could be inclined towards pragmatic policies that favour business interests,” he said. “He doesn’t have a personal history against Cuba, and as a Republican he doesn’t have a complex about appearing weak. Since he doesn’t have prior experience in public office, a large part of his decisions will be reached with the advisers who surround him.”

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Trump’s Threat on Multilateral Treaties Keeps UN Guessinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/trumps-threat-on-multilateral-treaties-keeps-un-guessing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trumps-threat-on-multilateral-treaties-keeps-un-guessing http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/trumps-threat-on-multilateral-treaties-keeps-un-guessing/#comments Tue, 15 Nov 2016 11:15:18 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147764

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 15 2016 (IPS)

At the height of the US Presidential campaign in early 2015, Republican nominee Donald Trump made a rash of public pronouncements — some threatening internationally-agreed UN conventions– which set off political reverberations throughout the United Nations.

As part of his campaign rhetoric, he denounced climate change as a hoax and a Chinese conspiracy; vowed to bar political refugees; restrict migrants by building a wall across the Mexican border; recommended banning Muslims from entering the country; threatened to undermine reproductive rights; and dismantle the nuclear agreement signed by Iran and six of the world’s major powers: the US, UK, France, China, Russia, Germany, plus the European Union (EU).

All of Trump’s proposed moves were mostly in defiance of UN conventions or multilateral agreements – including the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and the Climate Change Agreement which came into force November 4 — and may have had a lasting negative impact on the world body.

But less than a week after his electoral victory on November 8, this time it was President-designate Donald Trump backtracking on some of his own proposals while keeping the UN grounded in a political guessing game.

UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters November14: ”We’ll have to wait and see what the new administration is like once it enters into office.  We have been making aware to all world leaders the problems that could arise if we do not go ahead and deliver on the commitments made in Paris (on the Climate Change agreement).”

Haq said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who briefly spoke with Trump on the phone last week to congratulate him, believes the US Government has played a valuable leadership role so far in recent months in terms of helping the international community move forward towards the entry into force of the Paris Climate Agreement and “we need to go ahead with that”

As part of his campaign rhetoric, he denounced climate change as a hoax and a Chinese conspiracy; vowed to bar political refugees; restrict migrants by building a wall across the Mexican border; recommended banning Muslims from entering the country; threatened to undermine reproductive rights; and dismantle the nuclear agreement signed by Iran and six of the world’s major powers: the US, UK, France, China, Russia, Germany, plus the European Union (EU)
“Any effort to divert from that course of action could actually be disastrous for all human life centuries down the line or even in the coming decades.  So we really need to consider what we do very carefully.”

Responding to a question on a proposal to restrict refugees into the US, Haq said: “We want all nations to be able to share responsibility for treating refugees fairly.  We’re witnessing the largest population of refugees since the Second World War.  It’s a very huge challenge, and we need all the nations of the world to be able to step up to that.  And we continue to expect that of every nation. “

Vijay Prashad, the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies at Trinity College, told IPS Trump will have a hard time walking away from all multilateral treaties.

“His government will still have to operate within the parameters of the US State and its history. This is not a coup against the State.”

Prashad pointed out that Trump has already had to walk back on several of his pledges — the Muslim ban, the wall against Mexico (much of it of course already exists), even deportations (Obama has already deported two million people during his presidency; Trump has now reduced his number from 11 million to 2-3 million).

Trump will find that if he tears up the Iran deal, he will have no partners in Europe who will follow him to a new sanctions regime. Even here, he will isolate the United States.

The US State will put pressure on the Trump government to hold back on some of these exaggerations, said Prashad, a former Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut (2013-2014), and who has written extensively on Middle Eastern politics, development economics, North-South relations and current events.

To be fair, he said, the US has barely acknowledged the climate negotiations, in fact playing the role of diluter of the more reasonable positions taken in Copenhagen in 2009, and Paris in 2015.

“Would Trump be worse than the status quo? The Congress was already in the hands of the climate deniers. He is merely reflecting their views,” said Prashad, the author of several books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter (2012) and The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (2007).

Ian Williams, a former UN correspondent for The Nation and currently for The Tribune, told IPS another part of the mystery is how serious Trump was with his anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican prejudice.

“We know he has no qualms about selling apartments to tasteless Arab sheiks, nor any particular prejudice about employing undocumented immigrants who will work for less. If we are lucky, his oratorical bigotry was just oratorical expedience to rouse the crowds.”

And to offset his anti-Muslim rhetoric, earlier this year he pledge to make Israel pay for its weapons! One suspects — or rather hopes— that there will be a lot of words being eaten in the first 100 days of his reign as he confronts the realities of law and government.

Williams said Trump has shown few signs of ideological fetishism. He voices his prejudices freely – and obviously delights in the enthusiasm for them from the crowds.

“Perhaps fortunately for the United Nations, the black helicopter crowd no longer dominates Republican discourse and Trump, the real estate magnate knows that the UN is good for property values.”

“However, that ideological vacuum could be dangerous since he has surrounded himself with a mix of prejudiced sycophants and ideologues – think of Rudi Giuliani or John Bolton or above all Myron Ebell, the potential demolition man for the Paris climate change agreements. The idea of Rick Grennell as the UN Ambassador, for example, does not inspire hope”, said Williams,

Norman Solomon, executive director of the Washington-based Institute for Public Accuracy, told IPS the positions Trump has staked out on domestic policies are extremely ominous.

“Inside the United States, he has promised the use of federal government power to assault basic human rights, undermining civil liberties while stoking hatred toward people of color and undocumented immigrants. His election as president is a tragedy for the USA.”

As for his articulated inclinations toward foreign policy, said Solomon, Trump has provided murky and often contradictory notions. He is clearly ignorant of world affairs and history, preferring to rely on simplistic and nationalistic nostrums.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon applauds during a High-level Event on the Entry into Force of the Paris Agreement. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon applauds during a High-level Event on the Entry into Force of the Paris Agreement. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

“We cannot anticipate a supportive stance from President Trump toward the United Nations or international agreements — on the contrary, his hostility to the Paris climate agreement is based on the ignorant denial of human-caused climate change, while his scorn for the Iran nuclear deal is dangerous nonsense.”

At the same time, Trump has often expressed skepticism or outright opposition to military interventions by the U.S. government for regime change.

“What remains to be seen is whether he will actually implement a real shift in Washington’s approach of invasions and air wars that has done such damage in several countries since 2001, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Libya and Syria.”

Trump has so far surrounded himself with militaristic and nationalistic advisers on foreign policy, who support the kind of interventions that Trump has sometimes directly criticized, Solomon declared.

“Trump’s attitude toward Russia could, if sustained during his presidency, provide a welcome shift from the bellicose policies that have increasingly gripped the Obama administration.”

While President-elect Trump is making the leaders of many NATO member countries nervous right now, his refusal to continue an aggressive tone toward the Kremlin could pay positive dividends in reducing tensions between Washington and Moscow.

This could also have a very healthy effect on Europe, said Solomon, author of the book “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death”

However, points out Williams, Trump is an unpredictable puzzle. He does not share the neoconservative urge to reshape the world, and ”has set himself against foreign engagements, but in the end I suspect the seductions of power will tempt him to talk loudly and carry a big stick on the world stage.”

“But his massive ego and manifest lack of self-confidence suggest that other leaders can flatter him in the direction of sanity.”

Trump was probably very pleased that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called him. And his arrogance will probably prevent his more toxic advisors from bullying him into stands he does not approve of, said Williams a former President of the UN Correspondents’ Association (UNCA).

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

 

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