Inter Press ServiceGlobal Geopolitics – Inter Press Service News and Views from the Global South Thu, 14 Dec 2017 22:08:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Arming Poor Countries Enriches Rich Countries Thu, 14 Dec 2017 09:35:42 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram Anis Chowdhury, Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney University and the University of New South Wales; held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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The iconic statue of a knotted gun barrel outside U.N. headquarters. Credit:Tressia Boukhors/IPS.

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Although the Cold War came to an end over a quarter century ago, international arms sales only declined temporarily at the end of the last century. Instead, the United States under President Trump is extending its arms superiority over the rest of the world.

The five biggest importers were India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), China and Algeria. Indian arms imports increased by 43 per cent. Its imports during 2012–2016 were far greater than those of its regional rivals, China and Pakistan, as Pakistan’s arms imports declined by 28 per cent compared to 2007–2011. UAE imports increased by 63 per cent while Saudi Arabia’s rose a staggering 212 per cent
Meanwhile, some fast-growing developing countries are now arming themselves much faster than their growth rate. Such expensive arms imports mean less for development and the people, especially the poor and destitute who constitute several hundred million in India alone.

The end of the Cold War in the early 1990s had raised expectations of a ‘peace dividend’. Many hoped and expected the arms race to decelerate, if not cease; the resources thus saved were expected to be redeployed for development and to improve the lives of ordinary people.

But the arms trade has continued to grow in the new millennium, after falling briefly from the mid-1990s. And without the political competition of the Cold War, official development assistance (ODA) to developing countries fell in the 1990s. Such ODA or foreign aid only rose again after 9/11, the brutal terroristic attack on US symbols of global power, only to fall again after the global financial crisis.


Arms sales

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) latest report on the world’s arms trade offers some revealing new data. The volume of international transfers of major weapons in 2012–2016 was 8.4 per cent more than in 2007–2011, the highest for any five-year period since 1990.

As Figure 1 shows, international arms exports rose steeply until the early 1980s, after a brief decline during 1955–1960. It fell once again from the mid-1980s as Mikhail Gorbachev sought to end the Cold War which had diverted resources to military build-ups in developing countries.

Foreign sales of military arms and equipment across the world totalled $374.8 billion in 2016, the first year of growth (by 1.9 per cent), after five years of decline. American companies had a $217.2 billion lion’s share of foreign arms sales. Seven out of ten of the world’s top arms companies were American, earning $152.1 billion, with Lockheed Martin leading with $40.8 billion.


Arms Sales: Arming Poor Countries Enriches Rich Countries - Source: SIPRI Arms Transfer Database (20 Feb. 2017) Note: The bars show annual totals while the line shows the five-year moving average, with each data point representing an average for the five-year period ending that year. The SIPRI trend-indicator value (TIV) measures the volume of international transfers of major weapons.

Figure 1. International transfers of major weapons, 1950–2016. Source: SIPRI Arms Transfer Database (20 Feb. 2017) Note: The bars show annual totals while the line shows the five-year moving average, with each data point representing an average for the five-year period ending that year. The SIPRI trend-indicator value (TIV) measures the volume of international transfers of major weapons.


Arms exporters

The five biggest exporters during 2012–2016 were the United States, Russia, China, France and Germany (Figure 2).



Arms Sales: Arming Poor Countries Enriches Rich Countries - Source: SIPRI Arms Transfer Database (20 Feb. 2017)

Source: SIPRI Arms Transfer Database (20 Feb. 2017)


US exports of major weapons increased by 21 per cent during 2012–2016 compared to 2007–2011. The major destination was the Middle East which accounted for 47 per cent. The USA exported major weapons to at least 100 states during 2012–2016, significantly more than any other supplying country.

Russian major weapons exports increased by only 4.7 per cent. It sold weapons to only 50 states, with exports to India alone accounting for 38 per cent. Meanwhile, China’s exports increased by 74 per cent, as its share of global arms exports rose from 3.8 to 6.2 per cent. China’s arms exports to Africa grew most, by 122 per cent, to account for 22 per cent of its total arms exports.


Arms importers

The five biggest importers were India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), China and Algeria. Indian arms imports increased by 43 per cent. Its imports during 2012–2016 were far greater than those of its regional rivals, China and Pakistan, as Pakistan’s arms imports declined by 28 per cent compared to 2007–2011. UAE imports increased by 63 per cent while Saudi Arabia’s rose a staggering 212 per cent! Saudi Arabia is the largest buyer of US weapons followed by South Korea.

India, the world’s largest arms importer, has more of the world’s abject poor (280 million) than any other country, accounting for a third of the world’s poor living below the international poverty line of US$1.90 a day. Using a US$3.10 a day poverty line, more appropriate for a middle-income country, the number of poor in India goes up dramatically to 732 million.

A study in 2014, led by the former chairman of the Indian Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, C Rangarajan, estimated that 363 million, or 29.5 per cent of India’s 1.2 billion people, lived in poverty in 2011–2012, i.e., on less than Rs 32 daily in rural areas, and below Rs 47 a day in urban areas.

Asia and Oceania was the main importing region in 2012–2016, accounting for 43 per cent of global imports, followed by the Middle East, with 29 per cent, and African states accounting for 8.1 per cent. Between the two five year periods, arms imports in Asia and Oceania increased by 7.7 per cent and in the Middle East by 86 per cent. Arms imports by European states fell by 36 per cent while African arms imports declined by 6.6 per cent.

Tensions in Southeast Asia have driven up demand for weapons. Viet Nam’s arms imports increased by 202 per cent, pushing it to become the 10th largest arms importer in 2012–2016 from being 29th in 2007–2011. This was the fastest increase among the top ten importers. Philippines’ arms imports increased by 426 per cent while Indonesia’s grew by 70 per cent.


Fuelling conflicts

Six rebel groups are among the 165 identified recipients of major weapons in 2012–2016. Even though deliveries to the six accounted for no more than 0.02 per cent of major arms transfers, SIPRI argues the sales fuel conflicts.

Conflict regions alone accounted for 48 per cent of total arms imports to sub-Saharan Africa. According to SIPRI, governments fighting rebel groups used major arms against anti-government rebels.

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Should Foxes Rule the Chicken Coop? Reflections on Security Council Reform Fri, 08 Dec 2017 13:54:51 +0000 James A. Paul James A. Paul, a writer and consultant, was Executive Director of Global Policy Forum (1993-2012), an NGO monitoring the work of the United Nations, and author of the newly-released book “Of Foxes and Chickens: Oligarchy & Global Power in the UN Security Council.” He was also for many years an editor of the Oxford Companion to Politics of the World.

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A meeting of the UN Security Council. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

By James A. Paul
NEW YORK, Dec 8 2017 (IPS)

Since the end of the Cold War, the UN Security Council has dramatically increased its activity and authority. Though the Council has exercised unprecedented global power, it has remained a very insular, secretive and undemocratic body, dominated by its five Permanent Members, armed with their notorious vetoes and benefiting from perpetuity in office.

The United States holds the leading position in this oligarchy. It is the “capo dei capi” – the boss of bosses – ruling with overwhelming authority and towering above the other four: the United Kingdom, France, China and Russia.

The Council’s 10 Elected Members, serving for only two years, have very little ability to influence Council action even though they have the electoral backing of all the other member states.

For the past 25 years, most of the world’s governments have insisted on the need for Council reform to overcome these retrograde arrangements, made more than 70 years ago in a very different world.

They have sought to create a more open, representative and democratic Council. In 1994, the UN General Assembly set up a Working Group to consider far-reaching reform for a new era.

The New Zealand ambassador, who had served on the Council during the Rwanda genocide, said that the Council’s practices were “nothing short of primitive.” The Mexican Ambassador told the General Assembly that Permanent Membership was “obsolete.”

From that time to the present, the Council oligarchy has continued to infuriate the international community by defending the status quo, while the UN General Assembly has continued to press for Council reform.

Some proposals, especially reform in Council membership, involve a change in the UN Charter, requiring a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly, followed by a two-thirds endorsement by all national parliaments – subject, of course, to P5 veto.

Assembly members are well aware of this high hurdle, but they have examined hundreds of specific proposals and engaged in spirited debates on the issues. In light of the difficulty of Charter change, opposition by the Permanent Five (P5), and other problems, the Assembly has been unable to adopt noteworthy reforms.

In the shadows of all the debates, the P5 have firmly defended their privileges. To those that want to change the Council’s stifling procedures, they have said that the General Assembly has no right to interfere in the Council, no right to tell the P5 how to run their shop. P5 resistance to change has at times been fiercely aggressive. Washington has forced governments to recall prominent UN ambassadors who have pushed too hard for change.

To blunt public engagement with the reform debates, the US has also pushed for heavy cuts in the UN’s public affairs budget. P5 anti-reform leverage is backed up by economic and military power.

Beyond the oligarchs’ opposition, there is another source of blockage – the inability of the other 188 member states to stand together and take up a common reform program. Most countries believe that new members on a reformed Council should be elected, but the so-called “rising powers” want to become permanent members themselves.

They want to join the Council oligarchy rather than to work to eliminate this odious privilege. So those who have the most clout to push through significant reforms have hijacked the reform debate to promote their own narrow interests.

The aspirants include Germany and Japan, India and Brazil, South Africa and Nigeria. They have insisted self-servingly that they themselves are the key to a diverse and fair Council, working to promote the peace.

The aspirants have insisted that their permanency would be a “realistic” approach to reform, but in fact their approach has proven to be far from realistic. The P5 remain unwilling to accept them into the inner circle. Nor do the aspirants command the two-thirds majority needed to advance their cause in a Charter amending process.

A bloc of regional rivals oppose new permanencies. Italy works against a German seat; South Korea and China are against Japanese permanency; and Argentina is unhappy about the elevation of Brazil. Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa vie for the hoped-for two African permanent seats. This complex political geometry makes success for the aspirants virtually impossible.

Adding a proposed six new permanent members, each with a veto, would create an impossible blockage on the Council. With more than twice as many veto-wielders, each one protecting their particular interests and manipulating the Council’s machinery to suit their purposes, the Council would be even more oppressive than it is today.

The P5’s multiple advantages in the UN system raise another set of issues. Would the new permanent members expect to have the same privileges as the P5 — their own judge on the World Court, for example, or control of certain high-level appointments in the Secretariat?

The campaigning aspirants say nothing negative about the institution of permanency and they mute their comments about the existing system and its many abuses. They curry favor with the P5 so as to avoid a future veto – if and when their candidacy reaches the ultimate stage.

This favor-currying has been going on for twenty-five years and it has had poisonous effects on the reform process and on the regular business of the Council too. In recent years, when the aspirants have joined the Council as Elected Members, they have generally played a muted and unimpressive role. This is definitely not a pathway towards constructive Council renovation.

For years, the aspirants’ campaign for new permanent members has overshadowed all other reform discussions. It has diverted energy from serious alternatives. Smaller states alone simply cannot challenge P5 domination without hefty assistance from the middle powers.

Presently, reform progress depends on the support of strong non-aspirant states like Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Korea, Indonesia, Egypt, Mexico and Argentina, in combination with the rest of the democratically-inclined UN membership.

Germany, where elite opinion about a permanent seat has long been divided, could break the ice and renounce its aspirations for permanency, leading the march towards a different future.

Political crises over the past twenty-five years have revealed the Council’s despotic failures. They have shown that the foxes cannot be expected to protect the global chicken coop.

As crises multiply, it is time to step up efforts to radically reform this outworn institution, to mobilize broad support for fundamental change and to energize a world-wide citizen movement for Council transformation and UN renewal.

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Trump-Mideast: Much More than a ‘Kiss of Death’ to Palestinians Thu, 07 Dec 2017 15:59:56 +0000 Baher Kamal US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital does not represent only a ‘kiss of death’ to the two-State solution, but also a strong blow in the face of 57 Muslim countries, let alone igniting fire in this easily inflammable region, providing more false arguments to criminal terrorist groups to escalate their […]

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Southern aerial view of the Temple Mount, Al-Aqsa in the Old City of Jerusalem. Al-Aqsa Mosque is considered to be the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. Credit: Godot13. Attribution: Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 4.0. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 7 2017 (IPS)

US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital does not represent only a ‘kiss of death’ to the two-State solution, but also a strong blow in the face of 57 Muslim countries, let alone igniting fire in this easily inflammable region, providing more false arguments to criminal terrorist groups to escalate their brutal attacks, in addition to taking a step further in Washington’s new conflict with Iran and the ‘restructuring’ of the Middle East.

These are the main conclusions both Middle East analysts and international policy experts reached as soon as Trump announced on 6 December 2017 his decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thus recognising as capital of Israel this Holy City, home to essential shrines of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The ‘Old City’ of Jerusalem has been steadily considered by Palestinians to become the capital of their future State, should all international agreements –including the United Nations General Assembly—implement their commitment for the two-State solution, one Israeli and one Palestinian.

Israeli captured Arab East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war and since then has gradually annexed against all international protests and non-recognition. The ‘Old City’ in Jerusalem hosts Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina.

Palestinian leaders have already warned that Trump’s move could have dangerous consequences, calling for massive popular mobilisations that are feared to lead to new bloodshed in the occupied West Bank and Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

“This is much more than a kiss of death to the longstanding international consensus to establish two-States as the sole feasible solution,” a former Egyptian high-ranking military official told IPS under condition of anonymity.

“[Trump’s] decision will add more dangerous fuel to the current rekindled flame over hegemony dispute between Shias lead by Iran and Sunnis lead by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, which fire President Trump has now contributed to strongly blow on.”

Donald Trump. Photo: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

According to the retired high military official who participated in secret regional negotiations over the Middle East conflict, “The US has visibly shown its strategy to support the Sunni States in the Arab Gulf… Just see president Trump’s new weapons sale deal –worth 100 billion dollars—with the Saudi regime, and its tacit support –and even physical involvement—in the ongoing genocidal war against Yemen.”

Gulf Sunni Arab countries are home to a high percentage of Shias who have been systematically ruled by Sunni regimes. In some of them, like Bahrain, it is estimated that the Shias represent up to 60 per cent of the total population in spite of which they are considered minorities.

Oil, that “Black Gold”

The Egyptian analyst would not exclude a new armed conflict between the Gulf Arab Sunni states and Shia Iran. Such an armed conflict would break the already fragile stability in the region, leading to a strong rise in oil prices.

“This eventually would clearly benefit the US fossil energy sector, would weaken the oil-dependent European economies, let alone striking a strong blow to the also foreign oil-dependent China.”

Hatred, Terrorism

Another immediate, dangerous consequence of President Trump’s decision is a feared new wave of terrorist attacks against US, Israel and Western interests worldwide.

In fact, the Palestinian radical movement Hamas, which rules Gaza, has already urged Arabs and Muslims worldwide to “undermine U.S. interests in the region” and to “shun Israel.”

On this, Lebanese Muslim Shia cleric A. Khalil, expressed to IPS his “deep fear that the [Trump’s] decision will help criminal terrorist groups, falsely acting in the name of Islam, to exploit the furious anger of lay people against the US-led aggression against Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen… to commit more and more brutal, inhumane attacks.”

This will tragically and dangerously unleash a new wave of hatred and Islamophobia that will only add fuel to popular anger, to the benefit of terrorist groups, added the cleric.

For his part, Ahmed El-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar – which is considered the world’s highest institution of Sunni Islamic learning– announced on 5 December 2017 that Al-Azhar rejects Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“The US president’s decision denies the rights of Palestinians and Arabs to their holy city; it ignores the feelings of one-and-a-half-billion Muslims as well as millions of Arab Christians who have a connection to Jerusalem’s churches and monasteries,” he said in a statement issued following Trump’s announcement.

Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church and Al-Azhar issued statements warning of the “serious potential consequences” of Trump’s plan to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to relocate the US embassy there.

“Politically Correct” Words

Meanwhile, politicians have reacted to president Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel. Here some examples:

Mahmoud Abbas, president of Palestinian Authority, alerted of its “dangerous consequences,” while Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas chief, talked about “igniting the sparks of rage.”

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stressed his country’s firm stance on preserving the legal status of Jerusalem within the framework of international references and relevant UN resolutions, stressing the need to ensure that the situation in the region is not complicated by measures that undermine the chances of peace in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia expressed “grave and deep concern,” while King Abdullah II of Jordan warned of “dangerous repercussions.”

Haider al-Abadi, Iraqi prime minister expressed “utmost concern,” and Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, secretary general of the Arab League, which groups all 22 Arab countries, characterised Trump’s decision as a “dangerous measure.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Jerusalem is a “red line for Muslims,” threatening cutting relations with Israel.

And Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary general, opposed Trump’s “unilateral action,” while Frederica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy representative, called for resolving Jerusalem’s status through negotiations.

Will words and “politically correct” statements reverse this new situation? Most likely they will not, at least if you judge by what’s happened over the last 98 years, i.e. since the then British Empire released its 1919 Balfour Declaration granting Israel a national home in Palestine.

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Post-Nuclear Nightmares Still Linger Over Pacific Islands Thu, 07 Dec 2017 08:31:35 +0000 Thalif Deen The Pacific islands have long remained victims of nuclear crimes – but the perpetrators, three of the world’s major powers with permanent seats in the UN Security Council, never paid for their deadly sins. The testing grounds in the Pacific, included the Marshall Islands (Bikini and Enewetak), and also Johnston Atoll and Christmas Islands in […]

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An atmospheric nuclear test conducted by the United States at Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands, on 1 November 1952. Credit: US Government

By Thalif Deen

The Pacific islands have long remained victims of nuclear crimes – but the perpetrators, three of the world’s major powers with permanent seats in the UN Security Council, never paid for their deadly sins.

The testing grounds in the Pacific, included the Marshall Islands (Bikini and Enewetak), and also Johnston Atoll and Christmas Islands in Kiribati.

The so-called “Pacific Proving Grounds”, which included the Marshall Islands and a few others on the Pacific Ocean, was the site of US nuclear testing between 1946 and 1962.

France tested its weapons on Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls in French Polynesia, with French naval vessels clashing with Greenpeace anti-nuclear campaigners.

The United Kingdom, along with the US, conducted several nuclear tests in and around Kiribati in the late 1950s. But the islanders were not evacuated exposing them to radiation from the blasts.

All of these tests, which left behind environmental hazards and radioactive waste, came to an inglorious end – or so it seems. But the nuclear nightmares over the Pacific continue to linger on.

According to the London Guardian, the Marshall Islands Nuclear Claims Tribunal awarded more than $2.0 billion in personal injury and land damage claims arising from the nuclear tests, but stopped paying after a compensation fund was exhausted.

After 67 tests, US nuclear experiments in the Marshall Islands ended in 1958. But in a 2012 report, UN Special Rapporteur Calin Georgescu, said “near-irreversible environmental contamination” had led to the loss of livelihoods and many people continued to experience “indefinite displacement”.

And a projected sea-level rise, triggered by climate change, is threatening to unearth the radioactive waste and spill it into the high seas.

According to two researchers, Barbara Rose Johnston and Brooke Takala Abraham, U.S. medical scientists traveled to the Marshall Islands, for nearly four decades, in order to document degenerating health and conduct related experiments, “all without informed consent.”

All told, 1,156 men, women, and children were enrolled in studies exploring the acute and late effects of radiation.

Among the findings of this research: radiation exposure generated changes in red blood cell production and subsequent anemia; metabolic and related disorders; musculoskeletal degeneration; cataracts; cancers and leukemia; and significant impact on fertility as evidenced by miscarriages, congenital defects, and infertility.

“Their experiences also demonstrate how chronic and acute radiogenic exposure compromises immunity, creating population-wide vulnerability to infectious and non-communicable disease”, Johnston and Abraham wrote.

Bob Rigg, a former senior editor with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and ex-chair of the New Zealand National Consultative Committee on Disarmament, told IPS: “It is impossible to make sweeping generalisations about the entire Pacific region, which is both vast and diverse”.

But US attention, he pointed out, was focused in particular on Micronesia, which includes most of the islands bitterly fought over in the latter years of World War II.

“The US wields disproportionate influence over this sub-region, where most of its 1,054 nuclear tests were conducted,” he added.

The US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, said Rigg, can be defined as the first example of US nuclear testing, given that a principal motive for both attacks was to facilitate large-scale research into the effects of nuclear weapons on living human beings, a subject which was a closed book even to the world’s leading nuclear scientists at the time.

As soon as the war ended, he said, “the US hastened to establish political control over a number of strategically important islands forming an “island chain” in the Pacific – a chain of US military and political influence cementing US control of major trade routes, while also enables it to contain the growing power and influence of Communist China.”

Ironically enough, the US island chain has something in common with China’s South China Sea outposts which today draw the ire of the US, he added.

Robert Alvarez, an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C. and an Adjunct Professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced Strategic International Studies, told IPS that three major international conferences—in Oslo, Mexico City, and Vienna— focused on the humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons, and on establishing a new international legal instrument that would outlaw nuclear weapons.

The humanitarian initiative and the Marshall Islands lawsuits—including one in US federal courts and the other with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague — received a chilly, some might say hostile reception from the nuclear weapons states, for an understandable reason, he pointed out.

The nuclear weapons countries are engaged in costly modernization efforts that all but guarantee the continued existence of nuclear weapons for decades, and perhaps beyond. The Marshalls lawsuits and the humanitarian initiative both seek to make the nuclear states seriously negotiate toward nuclear disarmament, he noted.

In an article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists back in May 2015, Alvarez said the damage did not end with nuclear testing.

In the 1960s, islands of the Enewetak Atoll were stripped of topsoil and used for explosive crater experiments, to see how US missile silos would hold up to enemy missiles.

And in October 1968, the US Navy conducted a biological warfare experiment in which Staphylococcal enterotoxin B, a virulent bacterium, was released over the Enewetak Atoll from fighter aircraft.

“The pathogen proved to be harmful to experimental animals over a 1,500 square mile area. Since the late 1950s, the Kwajalein Atoll and lagoon have served as an anti-ballistic missile launch site for testing against possible missile attacks,” he noted.

Nearly every US intercontinental ballistic missile was test fired at Kwajalein. Now home to the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, the $4 billion US Air Force complex on Kwajalein is considered a key strategic asset for anti-ballistic missile testing, military space projects, and intelligence gathering, wrote Alvarez, who was also a Senior Professional Staff member for the U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, where he conducted an investigation into the conduct of the U.S. nuclear weapons program in the Marshall Islands.

Rigg told IPS Truman had no qualms about bombing Japan and seizing control of several Micronesian Islands where America’s many subsequent nuclear tests could be conducted. Indigenous populations were frequently marginalised, displaced, and impoverished.

Traditional ways of living, cultivating food and eating were frequently replaced within one generation with a barbarised version of US consumer culture. The key operational assumption was that Pacific Islanders represented an inferior culture which, in the patronising words of one US scientist, at least had more in common with civilised westerners than laboratory mice, he said.

“Like the Japanese, Pacific Islanders were viewed through the prism of mainstream US racism. The example of Rongelap Island, which was seriously affected by fallout from the huge Castle Bravo test, is perhaps most instructive.”

When the islanders repeatedly lobbied for permission to return to their home, said Rigg, the US Atomic Energy Commission declared it safe for re-habitation, with US scientists privately noting that “the habitation of these people on the island will afford most valuable ecological radiation data on human beings.”

As a major environmental polluter, he argued, the US contributes to global warming which disproportionately affects many small Pacific Island states whose highest point is in some cases just a couple of metres above sea level.

“Such islands are also acutely vulnerable to the climate change-induced violent storms which increasingly inflict massive destruction on both vegetation and homes. As many of these islands are desperately poor there is all too often no money to rebuild infrastructure and homes, with more than 95% of damaged buildings being uninsured.”

Trump’s America First policy has already produced a 30% cut in State Department funding which will dramatically curtail expenditure on Pacific islands which are not part of the militarised US island chain. Australia abjectly proclaims that it is “joined at the hip” with the US, slavishly following in the wake of Uncle Sam in all things, Rigg said.

“Fortunately, there is one small ray of hope: New Zealand has just elected a new Labour Government which is signalling its willingness to adopt innovative approaches to political problem-solving, including in the region.”

The new Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, he pointed out, has already signalled her government’s willingness to view Pacific Islanders fleeing their submerged islands as refugees. At present Australia’s immigration policies exclude such “environmental refugees.”

This New Zealand initiative could eventually necessitate the re-negotiation of the UN Convention on Refugees, to accommodate a new category of environmental refugees, he added.

In the words of a recent report to a congressional committee, even before the election of Trump, the US had pursued a “policy of benign neglect towards the South Pacific nations.

“Too often have we relied on Australia and New Zealand to determine what US policy should be in the region.” If this was true before Trump, it will be doubly true now.”

Possibly with at least some support from New Zealand, Pacific Island states will have to continue to seek political support from outside their region, as recently, when Fiji and Germany jointly hosted the November meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP23) in Bonn.

The elevation of Fiji to this prominent role reveals that, in the complete absence of support from both Trump’s US and Malcolm Turnbull’s Australia, there is a heartening emerging international awareness of the extent to which the very existence of some Pacific Island states is already under threat from climate change, he noted.

“But words must be backed up by large quantities of hard cash, without which some small Pacific Island states will undoubtedly go under.”

This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world are currently meeting in Suva, Fiji, through 8 December for International Civil Society Week.

The writer can be contacted at

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First Use of Nuclear Weapons Would be Counterproductive Fri, 01 Dec 2017 11:11:26 +0000 Daryl G. Kimball Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director, Arms Control Association

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U.S. Air Force airmen install a cable raceway on an intercontinental ballistic missile at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on February 3, 2014. Credit: (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder/RELEASED)

By Daryl G. Kimball

Over the past year, cavalier and reckless statements from President Donald Trump about nuclear weapons and his threat to unleash “fire and fury” against North Korea have heightened fears about Cold War-era policies and procedures that put the authority to launch nuclear weapons in his hands alone.

Partially in response, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for the first time since 1976, held a hearing on the “executive’s authority to use nuclear weapons.” The Nov. 14 hearing should be just the start of a process that leads to changes that reduce the risk of nuclear miscalculation and establishes that the United States will not be the first to use nuclear weapons.

Since the end of the Cold War, U.S. and Soviet/Russian nuclear arsenals have been slashed through verifiable arms reduction agreements. Yet, each side still deploys 1,550 strategic nuclear weapons as permitted by the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which is far more than required to deter a nuclear attack.

Each maintains a significant portion of its land- and sea-based forces on a prompt-launch posture to guard against a “disarming” first strike. The resulting launch procedures would, in some scenarios, give the president only minutes to decide whether to avenge such an attack with hundreds of nuclear-armed missiles.

These policies increase the risk of catastrophic miscalculation. In the nuclear age, there have been several incidents in which false signals of an attack have prompted U.S. and Russian officials to consider, in the dead of the night and under the pressure of time, launching nuclear weapons in retaliation.

Continuing to vest such destructive power in the hands of one person and requiring launch decisions to be made in minutes, and without congressional authorization, is undemocratic and dangerous. No reliable safeguards are in place to prevent an impulsive and irrational decision by Trump to use nuclear weapons.

Days after the Senate hearing, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, tried to assuage congressional concerns, saying he would push back against a nuclear strike order from the president if it were “illegal.” That is cold comfort given the general acknowledged that, if the president insists, “we’ll work out a legal option.”

Rather than accept such empty assurances, Congress should demand and the Pentagon should provide more information on U.S. nuclear employment strategy, including targeting data, attack options, damage expectancy requirements, and estimated civilian casualties; and it should publicly review the legal rationale for these plans, which are currently not shared with members of Congress.

Despite the dangers, defenders of the status quo argue that altering the current system, including forgoing the first-use option, would undermine the credibility of deterrence and somehow encourage aggressors.

In reality, the current “launch under attack” policy is unnecessary because U.S. nuclear forces and command-and-control systems could withstand even a massive attack, particularly the submarine-based weapons, and remaining nuclear forces would be more than sufficient to deliver a devastating blow to any nuclear aggressor.

Eliminating the requirement to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles under attack would increase the time available for the president and other civilian and military advisers to more soberly weigh the possible use of nuclear weapons in retaliation for a warning of an attack against the United States or its allies.

Furthermore, given the conventional military superiority of the United States and its allies, there is no plausible circumstance that could justify legally, morally, or militarily the use of nuclear weapons to deal with a non-nuclear threat.

Nuclear weapons are not necessary to deter or respond to nuclear terrorism or to a potential chemical or biological weapons attack or cyberattack by state or nonstate actors. Even if there were to be a conventional military conflict with Russia or North Korea, the first use of nuclear weapons would be counterproductive because it would likely trigger an uncontrollable and potentially suicidal nuclear exchange.

As Vice President Joseph Biden said in remarks delivered in January 2017, “Given our non-nuclear capabilities and the nature of today’s threats, it’s hard to envision a plausible scenario in which the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States would be necessary or make sense.”

Given the indiscriminate, widespread, and long-term consequences of nuclear weapons, it is also hard to envision a nuclear first use scenario that is “legal” despite Pentagon claims that current nuclear weapons employment options meet the principles of “distinction and proportionality and seek to minimize collateral damage to civilian populations” as required by the Law of War.

The Senate’s recent hearing on nuclear weapons use policy must not be its last. It is past time to move away from outdated and dangerous, prompt-launch nuclear procedures. The fate of millions of people should not depend on the good judgment of one person, no matter who he or she may be.

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Cuban Immigration in the Eye of the Storm Sat, 28 Oct 2017 01:49:07 +0000 Patricia Grogg Cuban migration to the United States is the great loser under Donald Trump’s hostile policy toward Cuba, and creates additional difficulties for citizens of this Caribbean island nation who were accustomed to benefits that their neighbors in the rest of Latin America never enjoyed. In a decision that keeps uncertainty hanging over thousands of people […]

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A woman waves good-bye before boarding a flight at the José Martí International Airport in Havana, Cuba, in June 2017. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS

A woman waves good-bye before boarding a flight at the José Martí International Airport in Havana, Cuba, in June 2017. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS

By Patricia Grogg
HAVANA, Oct 28 2017 (IPS)

Cuban migration to the United States is the great loser under Donald Trump’s hostile policy toward Cuba, and creates additional difficulties for citizens of this Caribbean island nation who were accustomed to benefits that their neighbors in the rest of Latin America never enjoyed.

In a decision that keeps uncertainty hanging over thousands of people who wanted to travel to the U.S. by legal means, Washington suspended visas for residents of the island after ordering the removal of 60 percent of the staff in the Cuban embassy on Sept. 29.

“I cried a lot after the closure of the consular procedures in Havana,” a private sector worker told IPS. A year and five months ago her husband requested that she be allowed to immigrate to the United States to join him, under the Family Reunification Programme, which Washington assured it will keep in place, but without providing details.

Warning from the IOM

Marcelo Pisani, regional director of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) for Central America, North America and the Caribbean, told IPS that “safe and orderly migration requires that the entry or exit requirements of a country not be based on factors such as nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexual preferences or religious beliefs."

In his opinion, "when entry to a country is denied or preferred for these reasons, it promotes irregular migration, which puts migrants at risk."

And with regard to the particular case of Cuba and the United States, he said "the IOM calls for the two countries to work together to generate legal migration options."

This woman who lives in the capital, who asked to remain anonymous, said that she is less worried after receiving the new documents by mail this week to move forward with the application.

“Look, until now all the documents I had received referred to my case with a number. Now these have my full name,” she said.

“I still don’t have an appointment date and I don’t know where I will have to go for the visa interview, but my husband and I feel confident that everything will stay on track,” she said with a sigh of relief. For this step in the visa process she will probably have to travel to Colombia, where the U.S. embassy announced that it will attend cases in November.

“We know that Cubans are worried about this, but we still do not have instructions on how to proceed,” a source at the Colombian diplomatic mission, who asked not to be identified because she was not authorised to talk about the question, told IPS on Monday. Like most countries, Colombia requires visas for Cuban travelers.

The Washington delegation in Havana has reported on its website that Cubans who will be required to travel to Colombia include those who are applying for immigrant visas for fiancés, relatives of US citizens or people who have won one of the visas from the so-called “lottery”.

Those who wish to obtain visitor, tourist or business visas will have to go to the U.S. embassy in any other country. It is still unclear how they will guarantee the continued operation of the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program (CFRP) and the processing of refugees.

The bilateral climate has soured since the Trump administration cited alleged “acoustic attacks” at the U.S. embassy in Havana that reportedly affected the health of more than a score of its diplomats and their family members. Cuba insists that it had nothing to do with the incidents, which are still under investigation.

The U.S. also warned its citizens to refrain from traveling to Cuba for security reasons and demanded the departure of 15 officials from the Cuban embassy in Washington directly linked to consular and commercial matters, whose absence will hinder the relationship between people and companies from the two countries.

Such measures can have a “very damaging” effect on the (1994 and 1995) migration agreements between the two countries, political analyst Carlos Alzugaray told IPS. In his opinion, the decision to process visas in a third country will raise the costs which are already high.

It is possible that an increase in irregular immigration will occur, Emily Mendrala, executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, an organisation that promotes a policy based on reciprocity and recognition of Cuba’s sovereignty, told IPS.

“Even if the United States can live up to its commitment under the 1994 and 1995 Migration Agreements to admit 20,000 immigrants (per year), under current consular practices the number of non-immigrant visas issued to Cubans visiting the United States will drop drastically,” she said.

The expert said that applicants for immigrant visas will undoubtedly have a sponsor in the United States willing to pay the airfare and lodging expenses in Colombia, and also said that the refusal rates for nonimmigrant visas are higher and the cost of the trip, even if it is from any third country, “will be prohibitive.”

Internet users consulted by IPS agreed that in this context, “poor Cubans suffer, both here and there.”

In turn, a university professor, who asked not to be identified, said he believed that behind everything that is happening is the aim to create internal tensions and raise “the temperature of the (social) boiling pot”.

On Jan. 12, 2017, a few days before leaving the White House, then President Barack Obama announced the end of the so-called wet foot/dry foot policy, in force since the 1994 and 1995 agreements, which gave Cuban immigrants preferential treatment to obtain residence and other benefits.

“By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries,” said Obama, who also terminated the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, intended to welcome Cuban doctors who defected from their official missions in third countries.

The fear that the process of normalisation of bilateral relations, restored in July 2015, could put an end to special benefits for Cuban immigrants prompted thousands of Cubans to leave this country legally and to try to reach the United States from other Latin American nations.

Those countries closed their borders to the waves of travelers from Cuba, leading to a migration crisis involving several countries in the region. During 2016, a total of 6,000 frustrated migrants were returned to Cuba, according to official data, while a number difficult to pin down still remain hopeful and refuse to return.

The biannual review of the migration agreements was for almost two decades the only point of contact between the two countries. In that scenario, the Cuban government vehemently rejected the wet foot/dry foot policy and the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966.

Havana argued that these laws encouraged Cubans to defect, even at the risk of their lives. The immigration reform approved by President Raúl Castro in 2013 helped prevent clandestine departures.

The main recipient of Cuban migrants is the United States, where just over two million people of Cuban origin live, of whom almost 1.2 million were born in Cuba, according to official data from that country cited by Antonio Aja, director of the state University of Havana’s Center for Demographic Studies (Cedem), in an article on the subject.

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Russian & US Vetoes Protect Client States Wed, 25 Oct 2017 15:42:33 +0000 Thalif Deen The vote on the latest American-sponsored resolution in the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Syria was predictable: of the five big powers, China abstained and Russia vetoed, while the US, UK and France voted for it. Not surprisingly, the 15-member UNSC continues to lose its political legitimacy as its five veto-wielding members are more intent […]

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Syrian conflict. Credit: UN Photo

By Thalif Deen

The vote on the latest American-sponsored resolution in the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Syria was predictable: of the five big powers, China abstained and Russia vetoed, while the US, UK and France voted for it.

Not surprisingly, the 15-member UNSC continues to lose its political legitimacy as its five veto-wielding members are more intent in protecting their own national interests – and their client states—than the pursuit of world peace.

The Russian veto – the ninth in six years – was aimed at protecting Syria, one of its longstanding allies in the Middle East, currently embroiled in a seven-year-old military conflict.

Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics & Coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, told IPS that each of the vetoed resolutions in question were quite reasonable and consistent with international law.

“There is no excuse for any permanent member of the Security Council to abuse of its veto power to shield an allied regime from accountability”.

“It should be noted, however, that the United States has used its veto power no less than 42 times to prevent passage of otherwise-unanimous resolutions regarding Israel, resolutions which were also quite reasonable and consistent with international law,” said Zunes, who has written extensively on the politics of the Security Council.

During the past 35 years, he said, Washington has used its veto power 78 times (in overall total), as compared with 25 times by Moscow.

“So, while the latest Russian veto fully deserves the criticism it is receiving, the United States is hardly in a position to condemn,” he added.

The resolution, which suffered a veto at a UNSC meeting October 24, was aimed at extending the mandate of a joint UN body of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapon (OPCW) to identify the perpetrators of chemical-weapons attacks in Syria.

Eleven of the Council’s 15 members voted in favour, while Russia and non-permanent member Bolivia voted against the text. China, a permanent member, and Kazakhstan, a non-permanent members, abstained.

The UNSC comprises five permanent and 10 non-permanent members elected for two years on a system of geographical rotation.

If the resolution had been adopted, it would have extended the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism’s (JIM) mandate – established unanimously by the Council in 2015 and set to expire on 17 November – for a further one year.

Following the vote, Ambassador Michele J. Sison, U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, said the United States “deeply regrets that one member of this Council vetoed against this text, putting political considerations over the misery of Syrian civilians who have suffered and died from the use of chemical weapons. The reasons offered fool no one this morning.”

“We reject this cynicism, and we reaffirm our confidence in these technical experts, men and women who come from many regions, many backgrounds, and many perspectives. They knew their work would be attacked by Syria’s allies – yet have carried out their mandate effectively and responsibly,” she added.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the Council what was happening was not pleasant. “It stinks, in fact,” because the United States was politicizing the issue.

The Mechanism had been created, with the Russian Federation’s participation, to conduct thorough investigations, and its eagerly awaited report should be seen and discussed calmly before the mandate expired, he said.

“Why put the cart before the horse?”, he asked.

Recalling the attack by the United States against a Syrian air base, he said it had been carried out after a hasty determination that Syria was guilty.

“That rush to judgement had, therefore, been predetermined, as had strategies to impugn the Russian Federation. An early vote was the reason behind politicization,” he added.

Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch, said with its veto, Russia has once again sent a disturbing message to victims in Syria, signaling that Syrian government forces can continue to use chemical weapons with impunity and free of international scrutiny.

“Russia has supported investigations into the use of lethal chemicals in Syria, but this time has chosen to protect its ally in Damascus. UN member states should find a way to ensure that the investigation of Syrian chemical attacks continues so perpetrators can be held to account,” he added.

Russia’s ninth veto in the Security Council has only re-affirmed its strong and longstanding political, economic and military interests in Syria, going back to the days of President Hafez al-Assad, father of the current President, Bashar al-Assad.

The relations were strengthened by a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the two countries, a treaty which continued to be renewed every 25 years.

First signed with the then Soviet Union back in October 1970, the treaty provided Syria with long-term credits and outright gifts of Soviet weaponry.

Asked how heavily Syria was dependent on Russian arms, Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher Arms and Military Expenditure Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) told IPS that Russia has been, by far, the most important arms supplier to Syria for decades.

However, he pointed out, such arms supplies have fluctuated strongly, from the 1990s to 2008, including Syrian arms imports in general, and from Russia, were low.

After an agreement with Russia about the large debts Syria owed Russia, several significant contracts for new military hardware were signed in 2007.

Some of the equipment was delivered before the Syrian government lost control over large parts of Syria around 2013. Other equipment on order have not been delivered. In recent years, Syrian arms imports from Russia have been very modest, he added.

Asked if Syria’s entire military force structure was equipped with Russian weapons, Wezeman said almost all Syria’s major equipment is of Soviet/Russian origin.

Iran seems to have supplied artillery rockets and probably ammunition in recent years. There do not seem to be any other countries involved in supplying significant numbers of weapons to the Assad regime in recent years, he added.

Asked about reports of Russian naval bases in Syria, he said there are Russian naval and air forces based in Syria, in particular the Russian access to Tartus harbor.

The writer can be contacted at

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Austrian Elections: The Crisis of Europe Continues Sat, 21 Oct 2017 19:06:32 +0000 Roberto Savio Roberto Savio is co-founder of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and its President Emeritus. He is also publisher of OtherNews.

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Roberto Savio is co-founder of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and its President Emeritus. He is also publisher of OtherNews.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Oct 21 2017 (IPS)

The Austrian elections show clearly that media have given up on contextualising events. To do that, calls for a warning about Europe’s future, as a vehicle of European values is required. Europe has been weakened by all the recent elections, with the notable exception of France. Common to all, France included, were some clear trends, that we will hastily, and therefore maybe imperfectly, examine.

Roberto Savio

The decline of the traditional parties.

In every election, since the financial crisis of 2009, the parties we have known to run their country since the end of the Second World War, are on the wane ( or practically disappearing, like in the last French elections). In Austria, the far right Freedom Party of Austria (FPO) secured 26 per cent of the vote, just a few votes behind the Social Democrats who took 26.9 per cent of the votes. The social democrats have been in power practically since the end of the war. And the other traditional party, the conservative Austrian People’s Party (OVP), won the elections with 31.5 per cent. Together the two parties used to have more than 85% of the votes. In the Dutch elections held in March, Geert Wilder’s far-right Party for Freedom PVV, came second after the ruling People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy VVD, at the expense of all other parties. And in September in Germany, the far right anti immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) enjoyed historical success, becoming the third party while the two traditional parties, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union of Germany CDU and the social democrat Social Democratic Party of Germany SPD, suffered the worst results in more than a half a century. According to polls, next year Italian elections will see a populist movement, with the 5 Stars taking over the government.

Austria is the best example to understand how European national politics have changed. It is important to note that no right wing party was really visible in Europe, (except Le Pen in France), before the financial crisis of 2009. That crisis brought insecurity and fear and in the same year the Austrian far right, under the charismatic leadership of Jorg Haider, got the same percentage of votes as of today. And the conservative Prime minister of the time, Wolfgang Schlussel broke a taboo by bringing the Freedom Party into the government. Everybody in Europe reacted with horror, practically isolating Austria. And the FPO, lost all its lustre in the government, going down to 5%, and with the death of Haider even further down. There Are no gasps of horror now in Europe over any far right wing parties getting in to govern.

What has fuelled the decline of the traditional parties

The traditional parties were facing already a loss of participation and trust by the electors at the end of the last century but in 2009 Europe imported the financial crisis which racked the US in 2006. And, 2009 saw hardship and unemployment all over Europe. And that year Greece became the battleground of two visions in Europe. The Southern countries wanted to push out of the crisis with investments and social relief, while the bloc of Northern countries, led by Germany, saw austerity as the only response. Germany wanted to export it’s experience: they were doing well thanks to an internal austerity reform started by Schroeder in 2003, and they did not want to take on other reforms at any cost.

Greece was just 4% of the European economy and could have been rescued without problems. But the German line won and today Greece has lost 25% of its properties; pensions went down by 17%, and there is a massive unemployment. Austerity was the response to the crisis for all of Europe and that aggravated fear and insecurity.

It is also important to remember that until the invasions of Libya, Iraq and Syria, in which Europe played a key role (2011- 2014), there were few immigrants and this was not a problem. In 2010, immigrants numbered 215.000, in a region of 400 millions. But during the invasions, a very fragile balance between Shite and Sunni, the two main religious branches of Islam, collapsed. Civil war, and the creation of ISIS in 2015 pushed many to try to reach Europe to escape the civil wars. So, in 2015 more than 1.2 million refugees, the majority coming from countries in conflict, arrived in Europe, which was not prepared for such a massive influx. And, if we study the elections before then, we can see that the far right parties were not as relevant as they are now.

Therefore it should be clear that austerity and immigration have been the two main factors for the rise of the right wing. Statistics and data show that clearly. Statistics also show that immigrants, of course with exceptions, (that media and populism inflates), basically want to integrate, accept any kind of work, and are law abiding and pay their contributions, which is obviously in their interest. Of course the level of instruction plays a crucial role. But the Syrians who come here were basically middle class. And of course it is an inconvenient truth that if Europe did not intervene in the name of democracy, the situation would be different. NATO estimates that more than 30 billion dollars have been spent on the war in Syria. There are now six million refugees, and 400.00 dead.

And Assad is still there. Of course, democracy has a different value in countries which are closed and rich in petrol. If we were serious about democracy, there are so many African countries which need intervention. Book Haram has killed seven times more people than ISIS; and Mugabe is considering running for re-election after dominating Zimbabwe for nearly four decades. But you will never hear much on those issues in the present political debate.

How the far right is changing Europe

Nigel Farage is the populist who led a far right party, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) which fought for leaving Europe. UKIP received the greatest number of votes (27.49%) of any British party in the 2014 European Parliament election and gained 11 extra Member of the European Parliament MEPs for a total of 24.[55] The party won seats in every region of Great Britain, including its first in Scotland.[56] It was the first time in over a century that a party other than Labour or Conservatives won the mosti votes in a UK-wide election.

But Farage lost the elections held just before Brexit, in June 2016. His declaration to the media was: Infact, I am the real winner, because my agenda against Europe now is the basis for politics in all the traditional parties. Brexit did follow.

And this is what is happening now everywhere. The Austrian elections did not see only the FPO rise. They also saw the conservative OVP taking immigration, security, borders and others part of the far right agenda of the populist agenda in the electoral campaign. A full 58% of the voters went for the far right or the right, with the social Democrats also moving more to the center. The new Dutch governement took a turn to the right, by reducing taxes on the rich people, and to companies. The same turn to the right can be expected by the new coalition led by Merkel, with the liberals aiming to take over the ministry of Finance. Its leader, Christian Lindner, is a nationlist and has several times declared his aversion to Europe. In that seense, he will be worse than the inflexible Schauble, who just wanted to Germanize Europe, but was a convinced European. And it is interesting that the main vote for the far righ party AfD came from East Germany, where immigrants are few. But in spite of investing the staggering amount of 1.3 trillions Euro in the development of East Germany, important differences in employment and revenues with West Germany remain. No wonder that the President of South Korea has warned President Trump to avoid any conflict. They have decided a longtime ago, looking at the German reunification that they would not have the resources required by annexing with success, North Korea.The rocketman, as Trump calls Kim, after the decertification of Iran, can claim that the only way to be sure that US will not intervene, is to show that he has a nuclear intercontinental ability, because US does not respect treaties.

Those considerations done, a pattern is clear everywhere. The agenda of the right wing has been incorporated in the traditional parties; they bring in the governing coalition, like Norway did , or they try to isolate them , as did Sweden. This does not change the fact that everybody is moving to the right. Austria will now tilt to the Visegrad group, formed by Poland , Hungary, Czech and Slovakia, which are clearly challenging Europe and looking to Putin as a political model ( all the right wing does).

The only active European voice is Macron, who clearly is not a progressist guy either. The real progressist, Corbyn, is ambigous about Europe, because the Labour Party has a lot of eurosceptic.

The new German government has already made clear that many of it’s proposals for a stronger Europe are not on the agenda, and austerity remains the way. Unless a strong growth comes soon (and the IMF doubts that), social problems will increase. Nationalism never helped peace, development and cooperation. Probably , we need some populist movement to be in the government to show that they have no real answers to the problems. The victory of 5 stars in Italy will probably do that. But this was the theory also for Egypt. Let the Muslim Brotherhood take the government , and it will be a failure. Pity that the General El Sisi did not let this happen. Our hope is that we do not get any El Sisis in Europe.

If only young people went back to vote, this would change the situation in Europe…this is the real historical loss of the left in Europe.

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Trump, Korea, the Ban, & Where Hope Lies Thu, 12 Oct 2017 10:32:32 +0000 Joseph Gerson Dr. Joseph Gerson* is Director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Peace and Economic Security Program, Executive Director of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security, and Co-Convener of the Peace and Planet International Network

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Dr. Joseph Gerson* is Director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Peace and Economic Security Program, Executive Director of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security, and Co-Convener of the Peace and Planet International Network

By Dr. Joseph Gerson
NEW YORK, Oct 12 2017 (IPS)

There is much to celebrate in the Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s decision to award this year’s prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

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

If the chilling threats of nuclear war being tossed around by Donald Trump and Kim Jung-un weren’t enough to raise concerns about nuclear weapons, press reports of ICAN being awarded the Prize have reminded people that the threat of nuclear war didn’t end with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and that there remains hope for a nuclear weapons-free future.

While the negotiation of the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty has raised hopes around the world, Donald Trump (it is painful to refer to him as president) and his “madman” approach to North Korea give lie to the myth that the P-5’s nuclear arsenals are in “safe hands.”

With his denunciation of diplomacy, and simulated nuclear bomber attacks and tweets asserting that North Korea understands only one thing, Trump has returned humanity to the brink of nuclear catastrophe on the fifty-fifth anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The ten months since Trump’s inauguration have almost inured us to surprise, but this week midst Trumpian chaos we learned that in July Trump urged a ten-fold increase in the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and that this may have been the outrage that led Secretary of State Tillerson to describe his boss as a “f…..g moron.”

The reality of the “moron” having his finger on the nuclear trigger is indeed sobering and is the reason legislation has been introduced in Congress to prevent Trump from launching a nuclear war on his own authority.

Time dulls memory and sensibilities. Recall that a year ago Trump didn’t know what the nuclear triad was and suggested that Japan and South Korea should become nuclear powers. He asked why we can’t use nuclear weapons and threatened to use them against “terrorists” (likely including Kim Jung-un. He has also said “I can’t take anything off the table.”

In his first conversation with Vladimir Putin, before labeling the New START treaty a “bad deal”, he had to ask his advisors what it was. Since then, he has pledged to “greatly strengthen and expand” the U.S. nuclear arsenal, called for a nuclear arms race, and launched a Nuclear Policy Review targeted against Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, while Congressional forces press for deployment of land-based nuclear armed cruise missiles in Europe that would sink the INF Treaty.

Compounding these dangers Trump humiliated his Secretary of State’s efforts to pursue diplomacy with North Korea, even when the “Freeze for Freeze” option provides the obvious path back from the nuclear brink. With its B-1 bomber simulated nuclear attacks on North Korea, increased tempo of U.S. so-called “freedom of navigation” naval exercises in the South China, as well as others in Black and Baltic Seas, Trump and the Pentagon have increased the danger that unintended incidents or miscalculations could escalate beyond control.

Midst it all, we have the Ban Treaty. As we see with the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Treaty further stigmatizes nuclear weapons as it seeks to outlaw their use, threatened use, development, testing, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession or stockpiling of nuclear weapons, or their transfer and deployment.

The Treaty’s greatest potential appears to be in Europe. I hope that I am wrong, but my fear is that, like the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Ban Treaty will give us one more agreement that the nuclear powers refuse to respect.

Two trains are running in opposite directions. One, with the support of most of the world’s governments and international civil society, is racing toward a nuclear weapons-free world. The other, with the additional fuel of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and Trump at the helm in Washington, is burning unimaginable fortunes as it speeds toward nuclear Armageddon.

In addition to further stigmatizing nuclear weapons, the Treaty’s most important contributions may be reminding people around the world of the imperative of nuclear weapons abolition, and the encouragement it gives to people and governments who are working for nuclear disarmament.

That said, the Treaty will be recognized as international law by only those states that sign and ratify it. All the nuclear powers boycotted the ban treaty negotiations. The US, UK, France, and Russia denounced it, falsely claiming that nuclear deterrence kept the peace for 70 years. (Ask the Vietnamese, Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis, Congolese and so many others about that!) Led by the US, each of the nuclear powers is upgrading and/or expanding its nuclear arsenal. With NATO’s expansion to Russia’s borders, its nuclear weapons, and with the West’s conventional, high-tech and space weapons superiority, Moscow is “modernizing” its nuclear arsenal.

With increased Japanese and South Korean anxieties resulting from Pyongyang’s nuclear threats and growing doubts about reliability of the U.S, “nuclear umbrella,” there are mounting calls from sectors of their elites for their governments to become nuclear powers. We thus could be entering an era of nuclear weapons proliferation, not abolition.

Our future depends on how people and governments respond, and it dictates a global division of labor among nuclear weapons abolitionists. States that negotiated the ban treaty obviously must sign and ratify it as quickly as possible. And, they can do more.

As Professor Zia Mian reminds us, Article 12 requires states parties to make their treaty commitments “part of their political engagement with the nuclear weapon states.” They can dispatch delegations to encourage others to join the treaty, and they can initiate sanctions and boycotts to pressure the nuclear powers.

But winning nuclear weapons abolition still requires building mass movements within the nuclear weapons and “umbrella” states. These nations and our disarmament movements still lie at the crux of the struggle.

The Ban Treaty certainly reinforces popular understanding of the righteousness of Jeremy Corbyn’s and our movements’ commitments to a nuclear weapons free world. Imagine the global reverberations of Britain, led by Prime Minister Corbyn, deciding not to fund Trident replacement. And, across the channel, if just one or two NATO or other umbrella states are led by their people reject the strictures of their nuclear alliances, they could begin to unravel world’s nuclear architecture and unleash a global disarmament dynamic.

For those of us in the world’s nuclear weapons states, the imperative of resistance remains. This includes doing all that we can to prevent war with North Korea and steadfast education about the human costs, preparations for, and dangers of nuclear war that can be brought on by miscalculation and accident, as well as intentionally. We need to highlight the deceit and deficiencies of “deterrence,” and teach about the forces that led to and won the ban treaty.

But good ideas and truth rarely prevail on their own. Frederick Douglass, the 19th century U.S. anti-slavery abolitionist, was right: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

More recently, on the eve of the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, then U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon advised that governments alone will not deliver us into a nuclear weapons-free world. We can only reach that promised land with massive popular pressure from below, from international civil society.

For the moment, our best near-term hope may lie in Jeremy Corbyn and the possible Scottish succession from what was once Great Britain. Corbyn has said he will not push the nuclear button, and he has long opposed nuclear weapons and understands the need to invest in social uplift.

The loss of the Faslane on the Scottish coast could leave London without a nuclear weapons base. What the British movement does will thus be critical for human survival and to our struggles in the other nuclear weapons and umbrella states.

ICAN is not the first advocate of a nuclear weapons-free world to receive Nobel Peace Laureate. It was proceeded by the Quaker American Friends Service Committee which protested the A-bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki within days of the nuclear attacks; by Joseph Rotblat, the only Manhattan Project senior scientist who resigned because of his moral considerations, and by Mohamed ElBaradei of the IAEA who denounced nuclear double standards.

Years ago, speaking in Hiroshima, Robblat cut to the quick when he said that humanity faces a stark choice. We can either eliminate nuclear weapons, or we will see their global proliferation and the nuclear wars that will follow. Why? Because no nation will tolerate what it experiences as an unjust hierarchy of power, in this case nuclear terror.

*Dr. Joseph Gerson is author of Empire and the Bomb: How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World, and With Hiroshima Eyes: Atomic War, Nuclear Extortion and Moral Imagination.

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Will EU & US Part Ways on Iran Nuclear Deal? Wed, 11 Oct 2017 17:57:18 +0000 Tarja Cronber and Tytti Erasto Dr Tarja Cronberg is a Distinguished Associate Fellow at The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) & Dr Tytti Erästö is a Researcher in SIPRI's Programme on Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

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Dr Tarja Cronberg is a Distinguished Associate Fellow at The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) & Dr Tytti Erästö is a Researcher in SIPRI's Programme on Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

By Tarja Cronber and Tytti Erästö
STOCKHOLM, Oct 11 2017 (IPS)

The Iran nuclear deal has demonstrated that diplomacy can triumph in nuclear non-proliferation: dialogue, rather than military action, can convince states to forgo pursuing nuclear weapons. The European Union has long played an instrumental role in the multilateral diplomacy that produced the historic deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The Busher nuclear power plant in Iran. Credit: IAEA/Paolo Contri

In 2003, the EU took the lead in the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme, largely as an attempt to prevent an Iraq-style US military action in Iran. The Obama administration’s subsequent efforts at diplomacy were likewise driven by the concern that the nuclear crisis might escalate to war. The deal—brokered in 2015 with Iran by the P5 + 1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany) and the EU—solved the nuclear dispute and seemed to effectively put an end to such concerns.

However, since the election of Donald Trump as US president, this key foreign policy success has been under threat. Contrary to all evidence and EU positions, the US president still thinks the nuclear deal is ‘the worst deal ever’. This week, he is expected to issue a formal declaration that the JCPOA is no longer in the interest of US national security. What does this mean for the future of the deal and the transatlantic relationship?

The deal is working, but the United States questions its merits

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has repeatedly confirmed that Iran is in compliance with the provisions of the nuclear deal—most recently in August 2017. As a result of the deal, Iran’s uranium-enrichment activities and number of centrifuges remain limited, its stockpile of enriched uranium has been transported to Russia, and the heavy water reactor in Arak has been modified. Furthermore, Iran is under the most extensive nuclear inspection regime in the world: in addition to implementing the IAEA Additional Protocol, it has also agreed to additional inspections including potential IAEA access to suspected undeclared nuclear facilities and military sites.

In the USA, however, Republicans have been critical of the deal all along. Reflecting the deep-seated US–Iranian enmity, an enmity shared by Israel and Saudi Arabia, the Republicans tend to view Iran as an enemy to be isolated and sanctioned, rather than a state with which to partner and cooperate. Trump’s seemingly irrational dismissal of the JCPOA must be understood against this background.

Since his election campaign, Trump has remained consistent in his opposition to the Iran deal. Personally, he has said that the Iranians are ‘not in compliance with the agreement and they certainly are not in the spirit of the agreement’. However, there are divisions among senior administration officials on the issue.

Both US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford have called for continued US adherence to the deal. While Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that Iran is in ‘technical’ compliance, he has also said that Iran is ‘clearly in default of’ the expectation that the JCPOA would also have helped address other issues, such as Iran’s regional activities and continued missile testing.

The EU, in contrast, has been united in its support for the JCPOA. EU High Representative Federica Mogherini has repeatedly stressed that the deal is delivering and will be implemented as agreed. Europeans also stress that the deal was limited to addressing the nuclear dispute and should not be confused with other issues.

As a seeming middle way, the Trump administration has raised the idea of renegotiating the JCPOA, or parts of it, and has lobbied for this alternative in private meetings with Europeans. However, Iran has rejected such suggestions. According to Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, ‘It was complicated enough to reach this deal already, and it would be impossible to reach another deal’.

Europeans do not seem to have warmed up to suggestions for renegotiation either. For example, Peter Wittig, Germany’s Ambassador to the USA, recently said that he saw no practical way of renegotiating the deal and did not regard it possible to do so.

What if Trump decertifies Iran’s compliance?

According to the US Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, the president has to certify every 90 days that Iran ‘is verifiably and fully implementing the JCPOA’. As part of this process, the president must also assess whether adhering to the JCPOA is vital to the national security interests of the USA.

Trump has certified the deal twice, but reluctantly and under pressure to do so by his aides. As the next certification deadline of October 15 draws near, reports from Washington, DC, suggest with increasing certainty that Trump will decertify the deal, based on the argument that it is not in the interest of US national security.

Decertification would be a major blow to the deal. In addition to showing a complete lack of appreciation for Iran’s actual compliance and other JCPOA partners’ views, the president’s decision to decertify would open the door for the US Congress to reimpose the unilateral US sanctions that were lifted as part of the JCPOA. Congress would have 60 days to decide on the reimposition of those sanctions against Iran.

However, decertification does not necessarily mean that the USA is walking out of the deal. The White House seems to be gambling that Trump’s decertification—which would allow him to maintain consistency with his previous anti Iran line—would be offset by a congressional decision to waive nuclear related sanctions.

This way the USA could not be accused of breaching its own commitments under the JCPOA, the deal could be preserved and a conflict with European partners could be avoided. As part of the effort to influence the Congress, the administration is expected to push for tough non-nuclear sanctions legislation, notably by targeting the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Even if this strategy plays out as planned, the JCPOA would still face an uncertain future. In Iran, Trump’s decertification, coupled with new non-nuclear sanctions and potential new calls for additional inspections of Iranian military sites would be viewed as provocations requiring a response.

The comment by IRGC Head Mohammad Ali Jafari on the US plans to designate the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization illustrates the problem. If the USA is ‘considering the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group’, he said, ‘then the Revolutionary Guards will consider the American Army to be like Islamic State all around the world, particularly in the Middle East’.

More US sanctions and tensions in the region would also negatively impact international trade with Iran. Despite the lifting of sanctions, international banks and firms have been wary of entering into financial relations with Iran out of fear of being penalized as a result. This has contributed to one of the main Iranian grievances about the JCPOA, namely that sanctions relief—a key concession made to Iran under the deal—has not led to the expected recovery of the Iranian economy.

Thus, the mere talk of reimposing old US sanctions or drafting new ones is creating political tensions and economic uncertainty. This could undermine domestic support for the JCPOA in Iran and empower hardliners, who have promoted themselves by attacking the moderate policies of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

What can Europeans do if the US Congress reimposes sanctions?

The problem with the Trump administration’s reported strategy is that there is no guarantee that Congress will ultimately be convinced by any White House appeals to not reimpose nuclear sanctions. A congressional decision to reimpose US nuclear sanctions could be potentially fatal to the JCPOA. It would also put Europe in a very difficult position, both politically and economically.

Because the US sanctions are mainly extraterritorial, they would not hit Iran directly, but instead target third parties dealing with Iran. In principle, the EU could provide its banks and companies legal protection against the US Department of the Treasury. As several observers have suggested, this could be done by including the US sanctions in the 1996 blocking statute (Council Regulation EC 2271/96) that shields European companies ‘against the effects of the extra-territorial application of legislation adopted by a third country, and actions based thereon or resulting therefrom.’ Additionally, it has been suggested that the EU could explore offshore dollar-clearing facilities to substitute US-based financial transactions with Iran. One potential partner in such an effort could be China, which has both extensive trade relations with Iran and the economic base necessary for creating alternative financial networks.

It is unclear whether the EU would ultimately find the political will and unity to enter into an economic confrontation with the USA. Recent statements by EU officials, however, suggest that it might be ready for this. When asked how Europe would react to US sanctions being reimposed on Iran, EU ambassador to the USA David O’Sullivan said that he had ‘no doubt’ that the ‘European Union will act to protect the legitimate interests of our companies’.

The Secretary General of the European External Action Service, Helga Schmid, for her part, stated last week that the EU ‘will do everything to make sure it [the JCPOA] stays’. As one concrete example, Schmid referred to the European Commission’s proposal to allow the future operation of the European Investment Bank in Iran. In addition, credit agencies in Austria, Denmark and Italy have stepped in to provide export guarantees to Iran.

If faced with a situation where US sanctions interfere with legitimate trade with Iran, European choices might prove crucial for the JCPOA. As the Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has said, in such a case, ‘the only way Iran would be persuaded to continue to observe the limits on its civil nuclear programme would be if the other signatories … all remained committed to its terms and defy any subsequent US sanctions.’

Potential ‘snap back’ of UN sanctions

The reimposition of unilateral US sanctions would be a breach of the JCPOA. However, the USA could also (mis)use the JCPOA’s Joint Commission dispute resolution mechanism to legally reinstate all previous UN sanctions against Iran. This possibility has, thus far, been overlooked by most observers, as it is an unintended consequence of the formulation of Article 37 of the JCPOA—originally meant to prevent any party from protecting Iran if it breached its commitments.

The Commission, which is chaired by the EU and consists of Iran and the six world powers that negotiated the deal, reviews the implementation of the JCPOA. The parties have agreed that, if no agreement is reached regarding claims of non-performance with the JCPOA, the complaining party may take the issue to the UN Security Council. In such a case, the Security Council is to vote on a resolution to continue the lifting of the sanctions.

Due to its veto power in the Security Council, the USA could thus, at least in theory, block the resolution, and alone cause all previous UN sanctions against Iran to ‘snap back’. Such an action would oblige all UN members to abide by the previous sanctions resolutions issued by the Security Council. Although this would not bring back the harshest sanctions against Iran’s oil industry and the Central Bank, it is hard to imagine how the EU and the rest of the JCPOA partners could continue JCPOA implementation in such a context.

The EU’s high stakes in preserving the JCPOA

Due to its international economic and political leverage, the USA has several tools at its disposal to undermine and potentially kill the JCPOA. If the deal collapses, this could create a crisis far worse than the one before 2015. In the absence of even the rudimentary trust that agreements are honoured, diplomacy between Iran and the USA would be effectively ruled out. In effect, military action would likely return to the USA’s portfolio of policy options for dealing with Iran.

Disagreements over the JCPOA are already straining the transatlantic relationship. If the US Congress decides to walk away from the deal, the EU has the means to push back, at least when it comes to extraterritorial sanctions. However, given the depth of the political, economic and military ties between the EU and the USA, it is an open question whether the EU would eventually muster the political will and unity needed to confront the USA economically.

At the same time, going along with a policy that is almost universally condemned as illegitimate would question the EU’s foreign policy independence as well as its reliability as a serious international actor committed to existing agreements.

It is to be hoped that the US Congress will continue to stick to the Iran deal. But even if it does, this does not mean that the JCPOA is safe. The deal will continue to be affected by the overall US–Iranian relationship, and it remains precarious even if it survives for now.

In the meantime, the EU must do everything that it can to preserve the historic non-proliferation achievement. The stakes are more than political and economic. At its heart, the issue is one of international security. The demise of the JCPOA would lead to nothing less than the recreation of the Iran nuclear crisis, bringing back not only the risk of proliferation, but also the prospect of a new disastrous war in the Middle East.

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Merkel’s Defeat Confirms Dismal Trend for Europe Fri, 29 Sep 2017 07:40:39 +0000 Roberto Savio Roberto Savio is co-founder of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and its President Emeritus. He is also publisher of OtherNews.

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Roberto Savio is co-founder of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and its President Emeritus. He is also publisher of OtherNews.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Sep 29 2017 (IPS)

Generally, media have failed to analyse why the result of German elections is the worst possible. Merkel is not a winner, but a leader now in a very fragile position, who will have to make many compromises and pay now for her mistakes. Let us make at least the most important four points of analysis.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio


Point One: the decline of traditional parties

Now for some years, the traditional parties who have run their countries since the end of the Second World War are becoming irrelevant. The last French elections saw the practical collapse of the Socialist and Gaullist parties, with the arrival of a totally unknown candidate, Macron, who has now 60% of the seats in the Parliament. The same happened earlier in the Austrian presidential elections.

This process has now started in Germany. Merkel’s party, the CDU, had the worst performance since its creation. And its sister party, CSU (the Bavarian CDU) has lost a staggering million votes. The same has happened to the SPD, who saw the lowest approval since modern times. The two parties, who had in the last elections 67.2% of the votes, now got just 53.2%. And, as everywhere else, the missing votes went to parties who were recipients of discontent, and the desire to punish the establishment was evident. Linke, a radical left-wing party, got an additional 0.6%, by voters rejecting the increasing social inequality, and did not believe that SPD would be different from the CDU on this issue. The Green got an additional 0.5%, by those who were incensed by Merkel’s promise to increase defense costs to 2% of GDP, to please Trump. But the big winner was the AfD, an extreme right wing party, who was the conduit for people’s dissatisfaction on immigrants, on the European Union, and other nationalist and populist themes. AfD got 12.6 % of the votes, becoming the third party and with 96 members of parliament. AfD got 980.000 votes from the CDU, 470.000 from the SPD, 400.000 votes from the Linke. But, much more importantly, 1,200.000 votes from people who did not vote in the last elections. In a poll, 60% of them said that they were “disappointed with the present political situation’. At the same time the poll company Infratest Dimap, found out that 84% considered Germany’s economic situation “good”, when this was 74% four years ago, and a mere 19% eight years ago. The elections were not clearly on economy, but about immigration and the loss of German identity.

Therefore, Macron’s victory over Le Pen is not the end of the populist wave. And few doubt that if Macron loses his appeal (as it is already happening), and his fight for social reforms is stopped by mass manifestations, Le Pen would win the next elections. And the antisystem parties all over Europe did not win in the last elections, but they did not lose eithe. Now they are the needle of the balance in all Nordic countries, and can declare, like Farage , the founder of the anti-Europe party UKIP, when he lost in the last British election: it is irrelevant, our message has become part of all the political system. And Brexit was the best example that he was right…all parties in the Nordic countries had to incorporate points of the populist, especially on immigration.

It has been generally ignored that it is the middle class, the main actor in this change. Social inequality in Europe has constantly grown, and many from the middle class are impoverished or afraid. Germany is a good example. While unemployment went down with Merkel from 11% to 3.8%, those close to the poverty line went from 11% to 17% of the total. Merkel went from a public deficit of 100 billion dollars, to a surplus of 20 billion, but at the same time poverty doubled to 10%, and there are 2 million people who have two jobs to help them reach the end of the month. And the pensioners who live below the poverty line , have increased by 30%. A full 15.7% of Germans now live under the poverty line. Of these, nearly 3 million are children.

Are the fears and frustrations of the middle class only who have pushed Brexit and Trump ? The economist Homi Kharas, specialized on the middle class, considers that 43% of the world population (some 3.200 million) now form the world middle class. It grows every year by 160 million. What is common to them is that especially the lower middle class have high expectations from the government and they put economic growth before anything else. They are helped by the Internet and social media, to be aware of their rights, and of the risks. In rich countries, massive education helps awareness. In developing countries, the pressure on governments is equally strong. The best example is China. Between 2002 and 2011, there has been a strong increase in protests and loss of trust in the public institution, despite a period of economic growth. The fact is that to keep growth and social justice together, you need resources. And this a problem for the left. Its genetic message is redistribution and participation. How to do this when we are in a world of diminishing resources?


Point Two. The antisystem becomes an entrenched system

Bill Emmot, the ex-director of the Economist, has written: “we live in a period of political turmoil. Parties less than a year old have taken power in France and in the megalopolis of Tokyo. A party less than five years old is heading the polls in Italy. The White House is hosting a billionaire who never had any political experience. And we should add that before the crisis of 2009, no populist or xenophobe party was represented in Parliament.

We have therefore little experience on how antiparty system behaves when they are in power. But if we look at the United States, Poland and Hungary, clearly they are trying to put under control the public institutions, not because of the values of democracy that brought them to power, but a new campaign on fears and greed: globalization, immigration, automatization’s displacement of jobs, inequality, racism, and “my country first”. And the antisystem parties, who all have sent congratulatory message to the AfD, look to Putin as the political model to follow (except Poland for obvious reasons). But Urban of Hungary speaks openly of “illiberal democracy” as the main reason to combat the EU (and Poland of values of Catholicism against a secular Europe).

It is legitimate then to think that when the AfD, Le Pen, and company will come to power, (if the trend toward antisystem is not stopped), we are going to see a serious decline of democracy…also because we have Japan, India, China, Turkey, Philippines, just to name a few, who are nationalists, xenophobe and tend to project their vision, as the Russian hackers did in the last elections.

We must look at the youth’s decline in participation in politics as a new phenomenon extremely worrying. The priorities in budget allocations go increasingly to the older generations, which vote. It is important to note that the large majority of young people do not vote for the antisystem parties, but abstain. If young people did vote, we would not have Brexit and Trump. In the German elections, only 10% of those between 18 and 24 voted for AfD: all other age groups did so, and we must go to the oldest age group, those over 70 years to see a decline, to just 7% of the vote . But 69 per cent of the oldest voted for CDU and SPD, against 41% of the youngest. So, the theory that young people are moving to the right is a myth. They prefer to abstain…but the problem remains. Their abstention is helping both the system to stay, and the antisystem to win. But take Italy for example, run by a centre left party, the PD. They have just approved an incentive for youth unemployment (close to 30%), after giving 30 billion dollars to bail out four regional banks. The antisystem M5S, which is now heading the polls, has made the fight against the financial system a priority. If you were young, educated and unemployed, what would be your choice?


Point Three: German elections are a disaster for Europe

The appeal of an integrated Europe has been on the wane for a while. It became fashionable to present the European institutions as a bunch of unaccountable bureaucrats, out of touch with reality, intent on discussing the size of tomatoes. In fact, it is the Council of Ministers, formed by representative of the States, who take the decisions: EU can only implement them. But it becomes politically convenient to go back from Brussels and present decisions, especially those unpopular, as a diktat imposed on your country. This, of course, is just one of the many reasons for the decline of Europe as a political project. But is useful to remember this game, because it shows the irresponsibility of the political class. There was never a real unity behind the European project. Every country looked only for dividends, and now, not even for that (as the example of Poland and Hungary, very large recipients show). So, where is Europe heading?

There are in fact three visions of Europe. One is the vision of Juncker, the head of the EU. It calls for strengthening the European institutions, and reinforcing the social goals, until now left behind the economic and commercial priorities. It’s not that Juncker is a progressive: he just realizes without doing that, the anti-European parties will have an easier life. His view is of strengthening Europe as a super national entity, with the states conceding more power, for better functioning. Then there is the vision of Macron, who goes in the same direction, but from a country that has always jealously defended its national sovereignty. Yet he realizes that in this competitive world, no European country can go far, and a strong Europe is therefore necessary. Then there is Merkel’s Europe, which is basically toward a federation of countries, where decisions are taken by the states, (with Germany as the strongest), with the EU implementing them. Since Macron came to power, he has been championing the revival of the French-German entente, which is necessary for a viable Europe. Macron and the south of Europe have been asking for socialization of European revenues, so as to sustain the weakest and have a common growth, creating a European Monetary Fund to overcome crisis, a super minister of finance and economy, a common European defence and several social measures to give back faith to the European losers in Europe.

Well, this is exactly what Germany has vetoed every time. Germans do not want to share their revenues with losers. In this debate, there is a strong religious and moral argument: the protestant ethic against catholic culture of easy pardon. Greece was the field to affirm the doctrine of ordo liberalism, the German view of economics, where easy-going and lack of discipline must be punished. This was also a warning to other countries, like Italy, Spain and Portugal. The result of sanctions on Greece, which was just 4% of the European economy, is that after seven years there is at least 20% unemployment, a loss of 25% of the Greek economy, a reduction of the pensions of nearly 40%, and 20% of the population under poverty line. It should not be forgotten that a large component of the bail out loans went first to the banks (mainly German), to pay the large credits they had with the broken Greek state, and not to the citizens. And that now airports and ports are under German administration.

The face of this imposition of austerity, which is a very important component of the anti-European wind, had the face of the implacable and crippled minister of Finance, Schauble. But there was no doubt that he was pro Europe, even if of a Europe based on the German model. But now he has moved to be the President of the Parliament, to leave his place to the chairman of the FPD, the liberal party, Christian Lindner, who is an avowed anti-European. FDP is against the euro, wants Greece out of the Euro, wants a strong policy on refugees: in other words, he is much on the right. Merkel, the extremely prudent Chancellor , will certainly not be able to meet the expectations of Macron and Juncker. Europe will again be on standby. Italy will be probably run by a young PRime Minister (from the antisystem M5S) a totally untested 31 year old, who has announced that he would like to leave the Euro, and limit Brussels power. The tide against Europe has not been stopped at all, contrary to media enthusiasm.


Point Four: Merkel’s responsibilities

There is no doubt that the massive immigration of one million of Syrians, has given a strong weapon to Afd, and the liberals, to help them gain power. But time will prove that it was a wise decision, greeted by the German economy. Statistics show that Immigrants are model citizens, pay their taxes, and bring a net benefit to the country who receives them. Of course, we see only the story of criminals and rapists, that xenophobe parties use with success, because in difficult times to find a scapegoat is easy and convenient. But Merkel just rode the German idiosyncrasy, without doing any statist’s effort to mobilize citizens to a vision. She knows that the secret dream of Germans is to be a Swiss: no participation in the world (other than business), no experiments, no risks. She has become the embodiment of that idiosyncrasy – she is glad to be called Mutti, the mother. Other than the immigrants, she took only another risk, which was to abandon nuclear, after the disaster of Fukushima. Therefore, she did nothing to raise the awareness of the citizens on their European responsibilities. She shielded them from any sacrifice for being Europeans, refused any request by the EU, the IMF and the Wold Bank to spend the huge surplus that Germany made with intra-European trade. Her position was: we will keep the money we made with our hard work. And Schauble was just her instrument. Now, as a result of her odd coalition government she will ask the European Central Bank post for a German hawk, Jedemans, from the Bank of Germany: a good company to Christian Lindner. Dark days are coming for Europe; Merkel is the best illustration of the difference between the Germany of Bonn, run by idealist and committed politicians, with the Germany of Berlin, who is just a selfish entity, without vision. And after spending 100 billion a year, for 20 years, East Germany remains hopelessly behind, and it is where AfD took his largest share of votes.

On the night after the elections, the candidate for SPD, Martin Shultz, said looking into her eyes: Mrs Merkel, you are the great loser. You are the one responsible for the victory of AfD. Let us hope that willingly or not, Mutti will be also the one responsible for the end of the European dream.

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Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty a Significant Milestone Wed, 27 Sep 2017 15:55:19 +0000 Jonathan Granoff Jonathan Granoff is President of the Global Security Institute

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Jonathan Granoff is President of the Global Security Institute

By Jonathan Granoff
NEW YORK, Sep 27 2017 (IPS)

Presently, the entire world is hostage to a nuclear crisis expressed in the language of war and destruction by the leaders of North Korea and the United States We can look over the abyss and the reality of the consequence of the uses of nuclear weapons strikes fear and terror in the hearts of any sane person.

Master of Ceremonies Jonathan Granoff

There is no alternative to international coordinated diplomacy. We believe a broad perspective is valuable now to deal with this crisis and prevent others from arising in the future

In a speech, titled “Global Nuclear Disarmament A Practical Necessity, a Moral Imperative then United Nations,” High Representative Sergio Duarte reminded us that even before Hiroshima, on 11 June 1945, fifteen days before the UN Charter was signed, Manhattan Project scientists issued the “Franck Report, which stated with prescience: “Unless an effective international control of nuclear explosives is instituted, a race of nuclear armaments is certain to ensue following the first revelation of our possession of nuclear weapons to the world.”

Appropriately, the first UN General Assembly resolution, focused on the elimination of nuclear weapons. Last week, a step was taken at the United Nations to fulfill that vision of a nuclear weapons free world.

Since September 20, 2017, 53 nations have signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, popularly known as the Ban Treaty. It will enter into force after it is ratified by 50 states. UN Secretary General Guterres opened the signing of what he referred to as a “milestone” worthy of celebration.

The Treaty prohibits developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, possessing, stockpiling and deploying nuclear weapons, transferring or receiving them from others, using or threatening to use them, or allowing any stationing or deployment of nuclear weapons on national territories of signatories, and assisting, encouraging, or inducing any of these prohibited acts.

The Treaty requires each signatory state to develop “legal, administrative and other measures, including the imposition of penal sanctions, to prevent and suppress” these prohibited activities.

Criticism has been made that the Treaty is not supported by the nine states with nuclear weapons. Critics from nuclear weapons states argue that the Treaty does not address the threat of North Korea, undermines the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and will not advance nuclear disarmament.

The Treaty exemplifies an effort to establish a universal formal legal prohibition to end the incoherence of the states with nuclear weapons asking others to do as we say, not as we do.

Nothing stimulates nuclear proliferation so much as strong states and coalitions such as NATO claiming they need these weapons for their security while claiming they create dangers for the world when others have them. There are no good hands for such horrible arms.

We agree with the Nobel Peace Laureates who joined former South Korean President and Nobel Laureate Kim Dae Jung and stated in the Gwanju Declaration of Nobel Peace Laureates: If we are to have stability, we must have justice. This means the same rules apply to all. Where this principle is violated disaster is risked.

In this regard we point to the failure of the nuclear weapons states to fulfill their bargain contained in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to negotiate the universal elimination of nuclear weapons. To pursue a nuclear-weapons-free Korean Peninsula or Middle East or South Asia, without credible commitment to universal nuclear disarmament is akin to a parent trying to persuade his teenagers not to smoke while puffing on a cigar.

There are steps available to make progress in this area and they include: (a) Completing a treaty with full verification mechanisms cutting off further production of highly enriched uranium or plutonium for weapons purposes. (b) Universal ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, now ratified by 176 nations. (d) Taking the arsenals of Russia and the US off of hair trigger, launch on warning high alert. d. Legally confirmed pledges by all states with nuclear weapons never to use them first. (e) Making cuts in the US and Russia’s arsenal irreversible and verifiable.

The NPT requires the US, China, Russia, UK, and France to negotiate the elimination of nuclear weapons. Each of these states are either modernizing their nuclear arsenals and/or expanding them rather than fulfilling their legal obligations to negotiate their elimination.

It is time they began to fulfill their disarmament duties by either joining the Ban Treaty and addressing its limitations of verification and other technical issues or move forward in the arduous process of negotiating a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention to their liking. Sitting on the sidelines and offering no better way forward is inadequate.

The Treaty, in its preamble, highlights, “the ethical imperative” to achieve a nuclear weapons free world. The Treaty is designed, in its intent and substance, to stimulate, support, and advance humanity’s quest for the security of a nuclear free world. Obviously, more work is needed. Rather than only criticize that the Treaty does not do everything at once, critics should get to work on moving forward.

The Treaty states “that any use of nuclear weapons would be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, in particular international humanitarian law.” The Treaty deftly highlights prohibitions on the use of nuclear weapons that apply to all states now, including those with the weapons.

Existing international humanitarian law (law of war) limits the use of force in armed conflict, compels distinctions between civilians and combatants, sets forth requirements that force be proportionate to specific military objectives, prohibits weapons of a nature to that causes superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering and provides rules for the protection of the natural environment. The Treaty further emphasizes “that any use of nuclear weapons would also be abhorrent to the principles of humanity and the dictates of public conscience.”

The Treaty makes clear that even today should North Korea bomb Tokyo with a nuclear weapon, should a conflict take place, that it would be illegal and indeed criminal. This scope of the existing illegality of such uses of the weapon applies to all states, including those that have not signed on to the Treaty.

The Ban Treaty presents a challenge to the nuclear weapons states to help make humanity great by joining in efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. GSI was honored to participate in the Treaty negotiations along with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and hundreds of other passionate civil society advocates who for decades have laid the groundwork for this step forward.

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Trump’s Threat of Total Destruction Is Unlawful & Extremely Dangerous Mon, 25 Sep 2017 15:40:49 +0000 Andrew Lichterman and John Burroughs John Burroughs is Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy; Andrew Lichterman is Senior Research Analyst, Western States Legal Foundation.

The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”
– President Donald Trump, speech at United Nations, 19 September 2017

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Security Council meeting: Maintenance of international peace and security. Nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

By Andrew Lichterman and John Burroughs
NEW YORK, Sep 25 2017 (IPS)

President Trump’s threat of total destruction of North Korea is utterly unacceptable. Also deplorable is the response of North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho on 23 September at the United Nations.

He said that North Korean nuclear forces are “a war deterrent for putting an end to nuclear threat of the U.S. and for preventing its military invasion,” referred to “our rockets’ visit to the entire U.S. mainland,” and called Trump “mentally deranged”.

Instead of exchanging threats and insults, the two governments should agree on a non-aggression pact as a step toward finally concluding a peace treaty formally ending the 1950s Korean War and permanently denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

The U.S. and North Korean threats are wrong as a matter of morality and common sense. They are also contrary to bedrock requirements of international law. Both countries, by engaging in a cycle of threats and military posturing, violate prohibitions on the threat of force to resolve disputes and on threats to use force outside the bounds of the law of armed conflict.

Trump’s threats carry more weight because the armed forces of the United States, backed by an immense nuclear arsenal, could accomplish the destruction of North Korea in short order.

A threat of total destruction negates the fundamental principle that the right to choose methods and means of warfare is not unlimited:
• Under the law of armed conflict, military operations must be necessary for and proportionate to the achievement of legitimate military objectives, and must not be indiscriminate or cause unnecessary suffering. Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions prohibits threatening an adversary that there will be no survivors or conducting hostilities on that basis. The Nuremberg Tribunal found the Nazi concept of “total war” to be unlawful because it runs contrary to all the rules of warfare and the moral principles underlying them, creating a climate in which “rules, regulations, assurances, and treaties all alike are of no moment” and “everything is made subordinate to the overmastering dictates of war.”
• Conducting a war with the intention of destroying an entire country would contravene the Genocide Convention, which prohibits killing “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group ….”
• Limits on the conduct of warfare apply to both aggressor and defender states. Thus Trump’s statement that total destruction would be inflicted in defense of the United States and its allies is no justification. Moreover, the U.S. doctrine permitting preventive war, carried out in the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq, means that Trump’s reference to “defense” does not necessarily rule out U.S. military action in the absence of a North Korean attack or imminent attack.
• While the United States likely would not use nuclear weapons first in the Korean setting, it remains true that Trump’s references to “fire and fury” and “total destruction” raise the specter of U.S. nuclear use. North Korea has explicitly warned of use of its nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons cannot be used in compliance with the law of armed conflict, as the recently adopted Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons recognizes. Threats of use of nuclear weapons are likewise unlawful. The illegal character of the threat or use of nuclear weapons is especially egregious where the express intent is to “totally destroy” an adversary, a purpose that from the outset rules out limiting use of force to the proportionate and necessary.

U.S. and North Korean threats of war are also unlawful because military action of any kind is not justified. The UN Charter prohibits the threat or use of force except in self-defense against an armed attack or subject to UN Security Council authorization:
• Article 51 of the UN Charter permits the use of force as a matter of self-defense only in response to an armed attack. No armed attack by either side has occurred or is imminent.
• The Security Council is addressing the matter and has not authorized use of force. Its resolution 2375 of 11 September 2017 imposing further sanctions on North Korea was adopted pursuant to UN Charter Article 41, which provides for measures not involving the use of force. There is no indication whatever in that and preceding resolutions of an authorization of use of force. Moreover, the resolution emphasizes the need for a peaceful resolution of the dispute with North Korea. That approach is mandated by the UN Charter, whose Article 2(3) requires all members to “settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.”

It is urgent that diplomatic overtures replace threats.
In the nuclear age, the first principle of diplomacy should be that adversaries talk to each other to the maximum possible extent, and in moments of crisis directly and unconditionally. We learned during the Cold War that even when the prospects for any tangible progress seem dim, negotiations between nuclear-armed adversaries have other positive results. They allow the military and political leaderships of the adversaries to better understand each other’s intentions, and their fears, and build broader channels of communication.

Accordingly, the United States should declare itself ready and willing to engage in direct talks with North Korea, and a commitment to denuclearization should not be a precondition for such talks. To facilitate negotiations, the United States and South Korea should immediately cease large-scale military exercises in the region, providing North Korea with an opportunity to reciprocate by freezing its nuclear-related testing activities.

The immediate aim of negotiations should be a non-aggression pact, as a step toward a comprehensive peace treaty bringing permanent closure to the Korean War and providing for a nuclear-weapon-free Korean peninsula.

Success in denuclearizing the Korean peninsula will be much more likely if the United States, Russia, China and other nuclear-armed states also engage, as they are obligated to do, in negotiations for a world free of nuclear weapons.

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G77 a Key Partner in Reform of the UN System Mon, 25 Sep 2017 10:03:33 +0000 Miroslav Lajcak Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, in his address to the 41st annual ministerial meeting of the Group of 77

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Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, in his address to the 41st annual ministerial meeting of the Group of 77

By Miroslav Lajcak

When the Charter of Algiers was adopted 50 years ago, it marked the unity of the Group of 77. This unity has not wavered since then.

Credit: UN Photo

The G77 is the biggest group at the UN, made up of more than two thirds of Member States. It is also the most diverse– bringing together perspectives and priorities from across the world.

Today I want to focus on the key role played by the Group of 77 in strengthening our multilateral work. And I want to identify opportunities for stronger cooperation, as we head into the 72nd Session.

I will first point to the Group’s commitment to maintaining momentum around the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement.

These two frameworks involve big commitments. And big commitments need loud reminders to ensure they are met. The Group of 77 has spoken in a united voice. Over the past two years, it has worked to remind us all of the financial pledges made to humanity and to the planet. And I intend to add my voice over the coming year.

G77 members have also played a major role in promoting specific goals and issues. We have seen this through initiatives to mobilize youth for Sustainable Development. We will see this again, with the launch of the International Decade for Action on “Water for Sustainable Development” in 2018. And the Group’s commitment to combating climate change will be clear throughout COP23, which will be chaired by Fiji.

In addition, the Group has also acted as an import platform for south-south cooperation. I stand ready to support the preparation leading to the Second UN Conference on South-South Cooperation, to be hosted by Argentina in 2019

This focus on financing and partnerships is very much in line with the priorities of my Presidency. I intend to work with the Group of 77 throughout the coming year to identify opportunities for the sharing of ideas and lessons learned.

Second, I want to stress that an active G77 is crucial in other areas.

In 2018 the General Assembly will be charged with adopting Global Compacts for Refugees and Migrants. To succeed, we must focus on the needs of people, rather than our individual positions or ideologies. And we will need active engagement from the Group of 77.

Additionally, I will convene a High-Level Event on Sustaining Peace in April 2018. It will offer us an important opportunity to strengthen UN actions around peace and prevention. I intend to consult many G77 members as we work towards this event.

Finally, another opportunity for better cooperation lies in our collective goal for a stronger United Nations.

The 72nd Session will see UN Member States consider the reform agenda of the UN’s Secretary-General. This will apply to the UN development system, peace and security architecture, and management. I am committed to facilitating open and inclusive dialogue on reforms. The G77 will be a key partner in this process.

For the UN to carry out the mandates set by Member States, it needs adequate funding. We will need a timely agreement on the UN regular budget for 2018-2019. I commend the Group for its active engagement in this area.

The Group of 77 has a loud – and a united – voice. It can call attention to the needs and priorities of its members. This helps to ensure a prominent role for Least Developing Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries, and Small Island Developing States on the international stage.

But, more importantly, the Group can shed light on the needs and priorities of the people living in these countries.

Many of them are facing challenges. Some have experienced the devastating impact of Hurricane Irma and Maria. Others are dealing with the effects of terrorism, conflict, or drought.

These people, however, are also creating opportunities. They are working to mediate conflicts – start new businesses – and advocate for people and the planet.

Let us ensure that the 72nd Session involves stronger cooperation between the G77 and UN bodies, including the General Assembly. And let us ensure that this cooperation is focused on the people you are all are here to represent.

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Sixth North Korean Nuclear Test Creates New, More Dangerous Phase in Nuclear Crisis Wed, 06 Sep 2017 22:34:55 +0000 Daryl G. Kimball Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director of the Arms Control Association

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Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director of the Arms Control Association

By Daryl G. Kimball

North Korea’s 5.9 to 6.3 magnitude nuclear test explosion September 3 marks a new and more dangerous era in East Asia.

Daryl G. Kimball

The explosion, which produced a yield likely in excess of 100 kilotons TNT equivalent, strongly suggests that North Korea has indeed successfully tested a compact but high-yield nuclear device that can be launched on intermediate- or intercontinental-range ballistic missiles.

Still more tests are likely and necessary for North Korea to confirm the reliability of the system, but after more than two decades of effort, North Korea has a dangerous nuclear strike capability that can hold key targets outside of its region at risk. This capability has been reached since U.S. President Donald Trump threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” if Pyongyang continued its nuclear and missile pursuits Aug. 8.

The inability of the international community to slow and reverse North Korea’s nuclear and missile pursuits is the result of missteps and miscalculations by many actors, including the previous two U.S. administrations—George W. Bush and Barack Obama—as well as previous Chinese, Japanese, and South Korean governments.

Unfortunately, since taking office, President Donald Trump and his administration have failed to competently execute their own stated policy of “maximum pressure and engagement” with North Korea. Trump has greatly exacerbated the risks through irresponsible taunts and threats of U.S. military force that only give credibility to the North Korean propaganda line that nuclear weapons are necessary to deter U.S. aggression, and have spurred Kim Jong-un to accelerate his nuclear program.

The crisis has now reached a very dangerous phase in which the risk of conflict through miscalculation by either side is unacceptably high. Trump and his advisers need to curb his impulse to threaten military action, which only increases this risk.

A saner and more effective approach is to work with China, Russia, and other UN Security Council members to tighten the sanctions pressure and simultaneously open a new diplomatic channel designed to defuse tensions and to halt and eventually reverse North Korea’s increasingly dangerous nuclear and missile programs.

All sides need to immediately work to de-escalate the situation.
• The United States needs to consult with and reassure our Asian allies, particularly South Korea and Japan that the United States, and potentially China and Russia, will come to their defense if North Korea commits aggression against them.
• As the United States engages in joint military exercise with South Korean and Japanese forces, U.S. forces must avoid operations that suggest the Washington is planning or initiating a pre-emptive strike on North Korea, which could trigger miscalculation on the part of Pyongyang.
• Proposals to reintroduce U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea are counterproductive and would only heighten tensions and increase the risk of a nuclear conflict.
• The United States must work with the world community to signal that international pressure—though existing UN-mandated sanctions on North Korean activities and trade that can support its illicit nuclear and missile activities—will continue so long as North Korea fails to exercise restraint. Better enforcement of UN sanctions designed to hinder North Korea’s weapons procurement, financing, and key sources of foreign trade and revenue is very important.
• Sanctions designed to limit North Korea’s oil imports should now be considered. While such measures can help change North Korea’s cost-benefit calculations in a negotiation about the value of their nuclear program, it is naive to think that sanctions alone, or bellicose U.S. threats of nuclear attack, can compel North Korea to change course.
• The United States must consistently and proactively communicate our interest in negotiations with North Korea aimed at halting further nuclear tests and intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile tests and eventually to verifiably denuclearize the Korean peninsula, even if that goal may no longer be realistically achievable with the Kim regime in power.
• Washington must also be willing to do more than to simply say it is “open to talks,” but must be willing to take the steps that might help achieve actual results. This should include possible modification of U.S. military exercises and maneuvers in ways that do not diminish deterrence and military readiness, such as replacing command post exercises with seminars that serve the same training purpose, dialing down the strategic messaging of exercises, spreading out field training exercises to smaller levels, and moving exercises away from the demilitarized zone on the border.
• This latest North Korean nuclear test once again underscores the importance of universalizing the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Unless there is a more serious, more coordinated, and sustained diplomatic strategy to reduce tensions and to halt further nuclear tests and long-range ballistic missile tests in exchange for measures that ease North Korea’s fear of military attack, Pyongyang’s nuclear strike capabilities will increase, with a longer range and less vulnerable to attack, and the risk of a catastrophic war on the Korean peninsula will likely grow.

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Why New US Cold War with Russia Now Wed, 09 Aug 2017 15:54:16 +0000 Vladimir Popov Vladimir Popov is a Research Director with the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute in Berlin. This op-ed is based on a recent DOCRI publication (

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Vladimir Popov is a Research Director with the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute in Berlin. This op-ed is based on a recent DOCRI publication (

By Vladimir Popov
BERLIN, Aug 9 2017 (IPS)

Even before the imposition of new sanctions on Russia by Donald Trump and the ongoing fuss over Russian hackers undermining US democracy, Russian-American relations had deteriorated to a level not seen since the 1950s. Why?

Vladimir Popov

Political ideology
After all, the US has fewer ideological disagreements with Russia than with the USSR. Russia now has a capitalist economy and is more democratic than the USSR. Russia is also much weaker than the USSR – its population and territory are about 60 to 80 percent of the Soviet Union, and its economic and military might has been considerably diminished, so it poses much less of a threat to the US than the USSR.
However, US rhetoric and actions towards Russia are much more belligerent now than during the 1970s, or in the 1980s, when the US imposed sanctions against the USSR after Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan. Even when President Reagan was calling the USSR ‘the evil empire’, relations did not deteriorate as much as in recent years.

Bilateral economic relations have taken a similar turn for the worse. Soviet-US trade expanded rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s, nominally increasing nearly a hundred-fold in two decades, before plateauing in the 1980s. There was some growth in the 1990s and 2000s after the USSR fell apart, but after peaking in 2011, trade has been falling.

Why did the fastest expansion of bilateral trade occur in the 1960s and 1970s? After all, the USSR was not a market economy, and also ‘communist’. By contrast, US trade growth with post-Soviet, capitalist and democratic Russia over the next two decades was modest, before actually shrinking in the last half decade.


One popular explanation is geopolitical considerations. It is argued that when a hostile power tries to expand its influence, the US, the rest of the West and hence, NATO respond strongly.

Examples cited include the Cold War in the 1950s and 1960s, and sanctions against the Soviet Union after it invaded Afghanistan in 1979. The same could be said about more recent Western sanctions in response to Russian advances in Crimea, Eastern Ukraine and Syria.

But the 1970s contradicts this argument. After all, the USSR was gaining ground at US expense in Indochina, the former Portuguese colonies, Nicaragua and other developing countries. Why then did détente and trade grow in the 1970s?

US as #1
The US position is not primarily determined by either ideology or geopolitics, but rather, by the changing US establishment view of the balance of power. After the devastation of the Second World War, the USSR was hardly a superpower, so the US expected to press the USSR, its erstwhile ally, into submission through the Cold War.

But the Soviet Union began closing the gap with the United States in terms of productivity, per capita income and military strength in the 1950s and 1960s. Even though its economy slowed from the mid-1960s, the USSR had caught up in many respects, enough to qualify as the other superpower. The result was détente. Although the USSR had been offering rapprochement after the Second World War, the US only accepted detente in the 1970s, as the military gap closed.

Today, the US establishment knows that the Russian economy have fallen far behind since the 1980s while its military is getting more obsolete. The strategic conclusion appears to be that Russia can be contained via direct pressure and sanctions, something unthinkable against the communist USSR in the 1970s or China today, even though China is less democratic than Russia and still led by a communist party.

Playing with fire
Economically and militarily, Russia is undoubtedly relatively much weaker today than the USSR was. But its capacity has recovered considerably in the new century from the 1990s, with modest growth reversing the economic devastation of the Yeltsin presidency.

And even if it is true that the US is now an unchallenged ‘number one’, and will remain dominant in the foreseeable future, while Russia is not only weak, but also getting relatively weaker, the current effort of pressing Russia into submission has risks.

US pressure on Russia can result in a stand-off comparable to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, which the USSR was willing to risk at that time, even though its military capability was well behind that of the US. Eventually, not only were Soviet missiles withdrawn from Cuba, a return to the status quo ante, but the US also promised not only not to invade Cuba, but also to withdraw its medium range missiles from Turkey.

True, Russia is relatively weaker today, but it still has tremendous destructive capacity. One only has to remember that North Korea, with much less military capacity, has successfully withstood US pressure for decades. However, as US economic dominance in the world has been eroding since the Second World War, and its military superiority is the main source of US advantage, the temptation will remain to use this superiority before it is eroded as well.

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Donald Trump & Kim Jong-Un Need To Find A Diplomatic Off-Ramp Wed, 09 Aug 2017 07:40:29 +0000 Daryl G. Kimball Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association

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

By Daryl G. Kimball

Just six months into the administration of President Donald Trump, the war of words and nuclear threats between the United States and North Korea have escalated, and a peaceful resolution to the escalating crisis is more difficult than ever to achieve.

Both leaders need to immediately work to descalate the situation and direct their diplomats to engage in an adult conversation designed to resolve tensions

On Jan. 1, North Korea’s authoritarian ruler Kim Jong Un vowed to “continue to build up” his country’s nuclear forces “as long as the United States and its vassal forces keep on [sic] nuclear threat and blackmail.” Kim also warned that North Korea was making preparations to flight-test a prototype intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Two days later, Trump could not resist laying down a “red line” on Twitter, saying, “It won’t happen.”

Pyongyang has responded to the U.S. statements and military exercises on North Korea’s doorstep with its own, even more bellicose rhetoric. Following press reports that a U.S. carrier strike group was being sent toward the Korean peninsula, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations warned April 17 that “a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment” and that his country is “ready to react to any mode of war desired by the United States.”

After an inter-agency review, Trump and his team announced a policy of “maximum pressure and engagement” to try to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions and its ballistic missile program. So far, the approach has been all “pressure” and no “engagement,” with U.S. officials calling for North Korea to agree to take concrete steps to show its commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

In response, North Korean has accelerated its pace of ballistic missile tests, including flight tests of missiles in July with ICBM capabilities. The UN Security Council unanimously adopted Aug. 5 the toughest UN Security Council sanctions yet imposed on North Korea. The Korean Central News Agency lashed out Aug. 8, warning that it will mobilize all its resources to take “physical action” in retaliation in response to the UN actions.

Trump, in turn, said Tuesday “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Trump’s attempt to play the role of nuclear “madman” is as dangerous, foolish, and counterproductive as North Korea’s frequent hyperbolic threats against the United States.

Trump’s latest statement is a blatant threat of nuclear force that will not compel Kim to shift course. In fact, repeated threats of U.S. military force only give credibility to the North Korean propaganda line that nuclear weapons are necessary to deter U.S. aggression, and it may lead Kim to try to accelerate his nuclear program.

That should not come as a surprise. Since the beginning of the nuclear age, U.S. “atomic diplomacy” has consistently failed to achieve results. The historical record shows that U.S. nuclear threats during the Korean War and later against China and the Soviet Union, as well as Nixon’s “madman” strategy against North Vietnam, failed to bend adversaries to U.S. goals.

With respect to North Korea in particular, the threat of pre-emptive U.S. military action is not credible, in large part because the risks are extremely high.

North Korea has the capacity to devastate the metropolis of Seoul, with its 10 million inhabitants, by launching a massive artillery barrage and hundreds of conventionally armed, short-range ballistic missiles. Moreover, if hostilities begin, there is the prospect that North Korea could use some of its remaining nuclear weapons, which could kill millions in South Korea and Japan.

U.S. intelligence sources believe North Korea has already developed a warhead design small enough and light enough for delivery by an ICBM. North Korea’s may have a supply of fissile material for up to 25 nuclear weapons, but its fissile production capacity is likely growing and it may be ready to conduct its sixth nuclear test explosion, which would further advance ability to develop a reliable missile-deliverable warhead.

Trump and his advisers need to curb the impulse to threaten military action, which only increases the risk of catastrophic miscalculation. A saner and more effective approach is to work with China to tighten the sanctions pressure and simultaneously open a new diplomatic channel designed to defuse tensions and to halt and eventually reverse North Korea’s increasingly dangerous nuclear and missile programs.

Better enforcement of UN sanctions designed to hinder North Korea’s weapons procurement, financing, and key sources of foreign trade and revenue is very important. Such measures can help increase the leverage necessary for a diplomatic solution. But it is naive that sanctions pressure and bellicose U.S. threats of nuclear attack can force North Korea to change course.

Unless there is a diplomatic strategy to reduce tensions and to halt further nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests in exchange for measures that ease North Korea’s fear of military attack, Pyongyang’s nuclear strike capabilities will increase, with a longer range and less vulnerable to attack, and the risk of a catastrophic war on the Korean peninsula will likely grow.

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Sinking Island Seeks Seat in Security Council Wed, 26 Jul 2017 16:44:55 +0000 Thalif Deen The Maldives, one of the world’s low-lying, small island developing states (SIDS) — threatened with extinction because of a sea-level rise– is shoring up its coastal defences in anticipation of the impending calamity. And it is seeking international support for its very survival.—at a time when most Western nations are either cutting down on development […]

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An aerial view of the Village of Kolhuvaariyaafushi, Mulaaku Atoll, the Maldives, after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

An aerial view of the Village of Kolhuvaariyaafushi, Mulaaku Atoll, the Maldives, after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Thalif Deen

The Maldives, one of the world’s low-lying, small island developing states (SIDS) — threatened with extinction because of a sea-level rise– is shoring up its coastal defences in anticipation of the impending calamity.

And it is seeking international support for its very survival.—at a time when most Western nations are either cutting down on development aid or diverting funds to boost domestic security.

“The danger of sea level rise is very real and threatens not just the Maldives and other low-lying nations, but also major coastal cities like New York and Miami,” Ambassador Ahmed Sareer, the outgoing Permanent Representative of the Maldives, told IPS.

Sareer, who held the chairmanship of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) for over two years, said that even though projections vary, scientists anticipate at least three feet of sea level rise by the end of the century.

“This would be problematic for the Maldives, SIDS and many other coastal regions. We are currently building coastal defences to mitigate the danger, but need more support,” said Sareer, currently Foreign Secretary of the Maldives.

Along with Maldives, there are several low lying UN member states who are in danger of disappearing from the face of the earth, including the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Palau and Micronesia.

Asked if the United Nations and the international community were doing enough to help alleviate low-lying small island states, Sareer told IPS: “There has been a heightened focus on the risks SIDS face in recent years, not just from climate change but economic challenges as well. We are grateful for the progress, of course, but it is fair to say we still have much further to go.”

Beginning July 31, the Columbia Broadcast System (CBS), one of the major US television networks, is planning to do a series of stories on “Sinking Islands” threatened by rising sea levels triggered by climate change.

Described as “one of the world’s most geographically dispersed countries” and comprising more than a thousand coral islands scattered across the Indian Ocean, the Maldives has a population of over 390,000 people compared to India, one of its neighbours, with a hefty population of over 1.2 billion.

The island nation was devastated by the December 2004 tsunami, and according to one report, 57 islands faced serious damage to critical infrastructure, 14 had to be totally evacuated, and six islands were destroyed. A further twenty-one resort islands were forced to close because of tsunami damage estimated at over $400 million.

As part of its defences, the Maldives has been erecting a wall around the capital of Malé to thwart a rising sea and a future tsumani.

Meanwhile, in a dramatic publicity gimmick back in October 2009, former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed held an underwater cabinet meeting, with ministers in scuba diving gear, to highlight the threat of global warming.

And earlier, at a Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting in Kuala Lumpur in October 1989, then Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom told delegates that if his country is to host the annual meeting in the foreseeable future, the meeting may have to be held underwater in a gradually disappearing island nation.

The World Bank has warned that with “future sea levels projected to increase in the range of 10 to 100 centimeters by the year 2100, the entire country could be submerged”.

But still, the Maldives which graduated from the status of a least developed country (LDC) to that of a developing nation in 2011, is very much alive – and currently campaigning for a two-year non-permanent seat in the most powerful body at the United Nations: the 15-member Security Council.

This is the first time in its 51 years of UN Membership that the Maldives has presented its candidacy for a seat in the UN Security Council (UNSC).

Over the past 25 years, only six SIDS have served on the Council, out of the 125 elected members during that period. SIDS constitutes 20% of the UN Membership.

Since January 2015, the Maldives has chaired the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), a group it helped form in 1990, leading a coalition of 39 member states, of which 37 are UN Members, through landmark agreements on sustainable development, climate change, disaster risk reduction, financing for development, sustainable urbanization, and the follow-up to the SAMOA Pathway- the sustainable development programme of action for SIDS.

In a long-planned effort, the Maldives put forward its candidature on 30 January 2008: ten years before the election, which will take place next year in the 193-member UN General Assembly which will vote for new, rotating non-permanent members of the UNSC.

Sareer said the Maldives seeks to bring a fresh and unique perspective to old challenges.”

And the Maldives believes that non-traditional security threats are as important if not more, than traditional security threats, in today’s world. The Maldives also believes in multi-dimensional approaches to solving issues.

Despite its size, he said, the Maldives has always punched above its weight on the international stage. And it has been a staunch advocate for climate change, and a champion of small States.

Sri Lanka’s former Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Palitha Kohona told IPS Maldives has a commendable mission to realise – to push for action on climate change through the Security Council.

This, though a laudable aspiration, will be an uphill battle given that a powerful Permanent Member of the UNSC (the United States) is a declared opponent of the majority global view on climate change, having recently pulled out of the Paris Accord. It will also run in to opposition from the fossil fuel lobby.

However, if elected to the UNSC, Maldives is likely to enjoy the sympathy of the vast majority of the membership of the UN, including those who initiated a movement to seek an advisory opinion in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on responsibility for global warming and climate change in 2012, said Kohona, who co-chaired the UN Working Group on Biological Diversity Beyond National Jurisdiction and is a former Chief of the UN Treaty Section.

“It will need to deploy considerable resources to secure a seat and then to realise its goal
because Security Council elections, unfortunately, have become a competition among aspirants to see who can spend most on entertaining, junkets and obligatory visits to capitals. These ‘poojas’ become bigger and bigger by the year,” said Kohona.

He said Maldives will be a trend setter for small island developing states, which also must be able to play a role in the UNSC. “They have concerns of global import. It is unsatisfactory in every sense for the UNSC to increasingly become a preserve of big and the powerful.”

He also pointed out that Maldives is well placed and eminently qualified to raise awareness on climate change, global warming and sea level rise. These are threats to the very existence of humanity and could very well morph in to threats to global peace and security.

Already the flood of refugees is having a destabilizing effect on Europe. Refugee flows, which could be massive, resulting from climate change would pose a greater threat to global peace and stability requiring UNSC action. Such action could be taken preemptively rather than after the catastrophe has occurred, he noted.

“Seeing our loyal friend and neighbour seeking a non permanent Security Council seat should also encourage Sri Lanka to do the same in the not-too-distant future,” he added.

Asked whether the 2016 Paris Climate Change Agreement reflected the fears expressed by SIDS on sea level rise, Sareer said sea level rise is just one of the many impacts of climate change, which are of significance to SIDS.

“The Paris Agreement’s main objective is to enhance climate actions, and hence doesn’t directly address sea level rise. However it did include a strong temperature goal and a stand-alone article on loss and damage, which indirectly address these concerns. What is important now is for countries to make deep cuts in their emissions immediately.”

Asked whether the Maldives expects funding from the multi-billion dollar Green Climate Fund (GCF), he said: “We do. The GCF is a primary multilateral vehicle to deliver climate financing to developing countries and therefore ramping up support for the GCF will be critical for all vulnerable countries.”

However, other funds under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are also crucial for transforming climate action in SIDS and also in developing countries.

He said changing rainfall patterns and increasing salinization caused by rising sea levels have led to challenges in securing reliable supplies of drinking water in many Small Island Developing States.

In this context, the Maldives submitted one of the first projects approved through the GCF which will see almost a third of the population of the Maldives becoming freshwater self-sufficient over the next five years.

The writer can be contacted at

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In the New World Order, Asia Is Rising, Says Pakistan’s UN Envoy Wed, 19 Jul 2017 18:44:56 +0000 Barbara Crossette When Maleeha Lodhi arrived at the United Nations in 2015 as Pakistan’s ambassador, she brought with her a broad background in academia, journalism and diplomacy: a Ph.D. in political science from the London School of Economics, where she later taught political sociology; the first woman to edit major newspapers in Pakistan; ambassador to the United […]

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Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN, presiding over a General Assembly session, May 5, 2017. In an interview, Lodhi said the UN imbued nations with a “spirit of cooperation.” Credit: UN/Photo

By Barbara Crossette

When Maleeha Lodhi arrived at the United Nations in 2015 as Pakistan’s ambassador, she brought with her a broad background in academia, journalism and diplomacy: a Ph.D. in political science from the London School of Economics, where she later taught political sociology; the first woman to edit major newspapers in Pakistan; ambassador to the United States twice and once as Pakistan’s high commissioner in London.

In a sense, that background is all coming together at the UN.

While Lodhi’s diplomatic priority must be putting Pakistan’s interests first, she said in an interview in her office at the Pakistani UN mission on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, she also finds time to focus on global perspectives, which makes the UN a great assignment.

From her base in New York, Lodhi stays actively involved in a number of international think tanks, including the Institute of Strategic Studies and the Middle East Center at the LSE, both in London. She is also a member of the UN Disarmament Commission and the global agenda council of the World Economic Forum.

In the interview, Lodhi ranged over Pakistan’s reputation in the UN arena, the increasing role of China in development across Asia, the rise of Islamophobia and the sad state of Western responses to an unprecedented world refugee crisis.

Although Pakistan’s national priorities remain predominant — Lodhi mentioned counterterrorism, sustainable economic development, relations with India and the decades-long impasse over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir — the UN has another 192 nations with their own interests. The rapid, spontaneous evolution of a new world order means every nation needs friends to meet the challenges.

“When you come to the UN, you see the priorities of other nations, and the dynamics at play, and the crises that are occurring,” she said. “The best thing about [the UN] is that it encourages a spirit of cooperation, and I think that’s extremely essential in the challenging times that we live in. The United Nations is about negotiating as part of a bloc of countries. No country here negotiates on its own for obvious reasons, because you need the support of other countries.”

The UN displays global changes in sharp relief, Lodhi suggested, and the West must recognize that these developments beg for a rethinking of old assumptions about international power structures.

“At a time when we see the rise of Asia — and this being described as Asia’s century — the West needs to go back to the drawing board and revisit the very notion of an international community,” she said.

Maleeha Lodhi was born into a well-to-do family in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s largest province, Punjab, and the center of the country’s cultural traditions and base for its most prominent human-rights activists and groups. That includes the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a nongovernmental group.

She has credited her career partly to her parents’ emphasis on education. But her personality came into play early. She is known to be tough but gracious, meticulous in her scholarship while outspoken in promoting Pakistan. An Indian commentator suggested that Lodhi may have been sent to the UN to keep India from getting a permanent Security Council seat, though the Council is a long way from reform and expansion.

Decades ago, Lodhi became a good friend and adviser to Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s first female prime minister, who first appointed her ambassador to the United States in 1993-1996. She served as ambassador to the US again, from 1999 to 2002, under the military government of President Pervez Musharraf.

Her years in Washington, and later in fellowships at Harvard and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, would have demonstrated to anyone that Pakistan had serious critics across the US government and research organizations.

Under Abdul Qadeer Khan, who headed Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, Pakistan was found to have shared the technology he acquired while studying and working in Europe (or help given to him by China) with North Korea, Libya and Iran. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2004 for his black-market operations but pardoned almost immediately by General Musharraf and placed under house arrest until 2009.

Asked if Pakistan’s however-notorious past relations with North Korea and China, which is the country’s biggest development aid donor, had led to any outside requests for Pakistani information on the North Korean nuclear program or suggestions that Pakistani experts might be tapped to give advice with China on the current nuclear crisis with the Kim Jong Un regime, Lodhi said no.

Pakistan is often portrayed as an oppressive Islamic society, harsh on women and minorities, a record that is increasingly shared by neighboring India. The Pakistani government and intelligence services have also been accused of having created the Taliban, though little is said or remembered of Islamabad’s earlier hosting — with full US support — of the disparate armies of the Afghan mujahedeen, who took power after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. The remnants of these warlord-led militias in Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance continue to create political havoc in Kabul.

The attitude toward Pakistan is much more positive at the UN, Lodhi said.

“Contrary to the impression given by the negative media [particularly in the US], at the United Nations you’ll find the total antithesis. If you look at Pakistan’s position within this international community, it is one of enormous respect,” she said. She noted that the country has played a key role at the UN “on all three pillars: peace and security, human rights/humanitarian action and development.”

“We have consistently remained among the top three troop contributors to UN peacekeeping,” she said. “This has been the case since 1960 onwards.” Lodhi added that much of the current deployment of Pakistani soldiers is in Africa, “where they are needed most.”

On the humanitarian front, Lodhi points to Pakistan’s record on refugee assistance.

“We’ve always pointed out that the Western countries need to show a bigger heart,” she said. “They have a big wallet, but they need to match that wallet with a bigger heart. We didn’t have much of a wallet in Pakistan, but we continue to host over two million Afghan refugees. At the peak, we had more than three million. We continue to do that, and we’ve done that for 35 years.”

Pakistan, the world’s second-most-populous Muslim majority nation after Indonesia, plays a key role in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or OIC, and its voting bloc at the UN, Lodhi said. Among the concerns of Muslims, she said, are the unfulfilled resolutions on Kashmir, still a disputed territory between Pakistan and India; and on Palestine.

“There’s such a similarity between the cases of Palestine and Kashmir, both involving Muslim nations, both involving big power politics that stood in the way and continue to stand in the way of implementation of those resolutions.”

As a Muslim, Lodhi sees Islamophobia and xenophobia as “new forms of racial discrimination,” she said. “This is the contemporary expression of effort to discriminate against people of a certain faith who also happen to be people of a certain color. Here, also, Pakistan has been active at the United Nations, raising the issue.”

China looms large in the ambassador’s perception of the most significant global changes happening on the horizon, starting with the shifting relationship between Islamabad and Beijing.

“Traditionally, it was a defense and strategic dimension that was dominant in the relationship,” Lodhi said. “Now that relationship has morphed into a much more wide-based relationship. The defense-strategic relationship is there, but in addition, there is a very strong — I would say, much stronger — economic and investment orientation because Pakistan is the pivot of China’s One Belt, One Road. We hope to be the beneficiary in a mutually advantageous way.”

The Chinese initiative was announced in 2013 by President Xi Jinping. It is a breathtakingly ambitious program involving road, rail and sea links connecting traders and investors across Central Asia, parts of South and Southeast Asia, two seas — the South China Sea and Indian Ocean –and, ultimately, Europe.

The Chinese, who never think small or pay a lot of attention to critics, have wowed Pakistan, a longtime ally that sees itself as part of “the biggest economic initiative of the 21st century by any nation,” Lodhi said. “People still invoke the Marshall Plan as having in a way created a new paradigm and shifted a whole set of circumstances at that time. But this is gigantic by comparison. It’s not about aid and assistance. It’s about investment. It’s about trade. It’s about energy cooperation.

This has the potential of transforming all of Asia — certainly the 60 countries that are participating, thrusting them into a new era of prosperity and mutual cooperation.”

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

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Not Just Numbers: Migrants Tell Their Stories Mon, 17 Jul 2017 09:52:11 +0000 Baher Kamal Every single day, print and online media and TV broadcasters show images and footage of migrants and refugees adrift, salvage teams rescuing their corpses–alive or dead, from fragile boats that are often deliberately sunk by human traffickers near the coasts of a given country. Their dramas are counted –and told– quasi exclusively in cold figures. […]

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By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jul 17 2017 (IPS)

Every single day, print and online media and TV broadcasters show images and footage of migrants and refugees adrift, salvage teams rescuing their corpses–alive or dead, from fragile boats that are often deliberately sunk by human traffickers near the coasts of a given country. Their dramas are counted –and told– quasi exclusively in cold figures.

Every now and then a reporter talks to a couple of them or interviews some of the tens of humanitarian organisations and groups, mostly to get information about their life conditions in the numerous so called “reception centres” that are often considered rather as “detention centres” installed on both shores of the Mediterranean sea.

How to participate in IOM “i am a migrant” campaign

Answer a few questions:
- Country of origin/ current country/occupation,
- At what age did you leave your country and why (and where did you go to)?
- What was your first impression?
- What do you miss from your country?
- What do you think you bring to the country you're living in?
- What do you want to do/what do you actually do for your country of origin? (Example) What's your greatest challenge right now?
- Do you have a piece of advice you'd like to give to the people back in your country?
- And to those living in your host country?
- Where is home for you?
- Share a high-resolution picture of yourself


It is a fact that their numbers are shocking: 101,417 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 through 9 July, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reported. Of this total, 2,353 died.

Beyond the figures, migrants and refugees live inhumane drama, are victims of rights abuse, discrimination, xenophobia and hatred–often encouraged by some politicians. Let alone that tragic realty that they fall easy pry to human traffickers who handle them as mere merchandise. See: African Migrants Bought and Sold Openly in ‘Slave Markets’ in Libya..

On top of that, another UN organisation—the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that the Central Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe is among the world’s deadliest and most dangerous migrant routes for children and women.

“The route is mostly controlled by smugglers, traffickers and other people seeking to prey upon desperate children and women who are simply seeking refuge or a better life,” it reports. See: A Grisly Tale of Children Falling Easy Prey to Ruthless Smugglers.

On this, Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe, said that this route “is mostly controlled by smugglers, traffickers and other people seeking to prey upon desperate children and women who are simply seeking refuge or a better life.”

Moreover, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has estimated that 7 of 10 victims of human traffickers are women and children.

True that statistics help evaluate the magnitude of such an inhumane drama. But, is this enough?

1,200 Migrants Tell Their Dreams and Realities

2,716 kms from home. “I’ll probably go back to Senegal to use what I have learnt here (Niger) to contribute to my country’s development and to Africa as a whole” – Fatou. Read her story. Credit: IOM/Amanda Nero

In a singular initiative, IOM launched “i am a migrant” – a platform to promote diversity and inclusion of migrants in society.

3,385 kms from home. “Before, they used to ask how I came here. Now they ask migrants why they came” – Jasmine. Occupation: Law-maker. Current Country: Republic of Korea. Country of Origin: Philippines. Read her story. Credit: IOM

It’s specifically designed to support volunteer groups, local authorities, companies, associations, groups, indeed, anyone of goodwill who is concerned about the hostile public discourse against migrants, says IOM.

i am a migrant” allows the voices of individuals to shine through and provides an honest insight into the triumphs and tribulations of migrants of all backgrounds and at all phases of their migratory journeys.”

“While we aim to promote positive perceptions of migrants we do not shy away from presenting life as it is experienced. We seek to combat xenophobia and discrimination at a time when so many are exposed to negative narratives about migration – whether on our social media feeds or on the airwaves.”

The IOM campaign uses the testimonials of migrants to connect people with the human stories of migration. Thus far, it has seen 1,200 profiles published. The anecdotes and memories shared on the platform help us understand what words such as “integration”, “multiculturalism” and “diversity” truly mean.

Through stories collected by IOM teams around the world, “diversity finally finds a human face.” While inviting migrants to share their stories with its teams, IOM informs that “i am a migrant” is part of the UN TOGETHER initiative that promotes respect, safety and dignity for everyone who has left home in search of a better life.

Read their stories here.

From the Ashes of World War II

IOM is among the world’s most experienced international agencies dealing with migrants. No wonder– it rose from the ashes of World War Two over 65 years ago.

“In the battle-scarred continent of Europe, no government alone could help survivors who wanted no more than an opportunity to resume their lives in freedom and with dignity. The first incarnation of IOM was created to resettle refugees during this post-war period,” it reminds.

The agency’s history tracks the man-made and natural disasters of the past over 65 years – Hungary 1956; Czechoslovakia 1968; Chile 1973; the Viet Nam boat people 1975; Kuwait 1990, Kosovo and Timor 1999; the 2003 invasion of Iraq; the 2004 Asian tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and Haiti’s 2010 earthquake.

Now under the United Nations umbrella as part of its system since 2016, IOM quickly grew from a focus on migrant and refugee resettlement to become the world’s leading inter-governmental organisation dedicated to the well-being, safety and engagement of migrants.

Over the years, IOM has grown into 166 member states. Its global presence has expanded to over 400 field locations. With over 90 per cent of its staff deployed in the field, it has become a lead responder to the world’s worst humanitarian emergencies.

Shall these facts –and the stories migrants tell—help awaken the consciousness of those European politicians who ignore the fact that their peoples were once migrants and refugees as a consequences of wars their predecessors provoked? And that the migration agency was born for them?

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