Inter Press ServiceGlobal Geopolitics – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 23 Oct 2018 09:14:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Women as Liberia’s Guardians of Peacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/women-liberias-guardians-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-liberias-guardians-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/women-liberias-guardians-peace/#respond Fri, 19 Oct 2018 09:54:18 +0000 Franck Kuwonu Africa Renewal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158265 Not long ago, images of child soldiers and the nation of Liberia were wedded in the minds of the international community. The country was struggling to end a horrific civil war, but military efforts were going nowhere. Then the mothers, grandmothers and sisters of Liberia stepped forward and formed the Women of Liberia Mass Action […]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional reporting by Catherine Onekalit in Liberia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director, Arms Control Association

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Seize the Opportunity Offered by Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area, says UNIDO Chiefhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/seize-opportunity-offered-africas-continental-free-trade-area-says-unido-chief/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=seize-opportunity-offered-africas-continental-free-trade-area-says-unido-chief http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/seize-opportunity-offered-africas-continental-free-trade-area-says-unido-chief/#respond Mon, 24 Sep 2018 13:03:28 +0000 Li Yong http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157733 LI Yong is Director General, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

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

By Li Yong
VIENNA, Sep 24 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

Today, Africa has exceptional opportunities for industrialization.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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

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Coral reef in Mexico. Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

By Andrew Norton
LONDON, Sep 20 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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UN Expects More Upheavals as Trump’s Foreign Policy Runs Wildhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/un-expects-upheavals-trumps-foreign-policy-runs-wild/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-expects-upheavals-trumps-foreign-policy-runs-wild http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/un-expects-upheavals-trumps-foreign-policy-runs-wild/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 10:22:26 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157674 The unpredictable Donald Trump, described by some as a human wrecking ball, will be walking down his own path of self-inflicted destruction when he visits the United Nations next week. The volatile American president’s unorthodox and reckless foreign policy has already reverberated throughout the United Nations: a $300 million reduction in funding to the UN […]

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Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America, addresses the Assembly’s annual general debate. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 19 2018 (IPS)

The unpredictable Donald Trump, described by some as a human wrecking ball, will be walking down his own path of self-inflicted destruction when he visits the United Nations next week.

The volatile American president’s unorthodox and reckless foreign policy has already reverberated throughout the United Nations: a $300 million reduction in funding to the UN Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) aiding Palestinians and a $69 million cut in funding, since last year, for the UN Population Agency (UNFPA), advancing reproductive health.

And there is widespread speculation that the United States will also initiate a General Assembly resolution later this year to reduce its assessed contributions to the world body – currently at 22 percent of the annual budget.

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

Making his second visit to the United Nations on September 25 to address the 73rd session of the General Assembly and later to preside over a Security Council meeting, Trump is known to hold the UN in contempt ever since he called for the renegotiation of the 2015 Climate Change agreement which has been signed by 195 countries and ratified by 180.

In May, Trump also withdrew from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)– while all other signatories, including France, UK, Russia and China, (four of the five permanent members of the Security Council), plus Germany and the European Union (EU), refused to follow his destructive path.

And he once denounced the UN as just another “social club” – a remark made through sheer ignorance than a well-thought-out diplomatic pronouncement.

The world body is expecting more upheavals from an erratic political leader who has kept the international community guessing – not excluding the United Nations.

Norman Solomon, Executive Director of the Washington-based Institute for Public Accuracy, told IPS: “The world is too large, too diverse and too wondrous to have the foremost world body held hostage by the United States government. Trump’s jingoistic arrogance has dragged powerful discourse to new lows at the United Nations”.

The madness of Donald Trump, he pointed out, is shocking on a daily basis, but his administration is an extreme manifestation of what the UN has all too often tolerated in previous times, in more “moderate” forms from Washington.

“The time has come — the time is overdue — for the United Nations to clearly distinguish its operational missions from destructive agendas of the U.S. government,” said Solomon, Co-Founder and Coordinator of the online activist group RootsAction.org, which has 1.4 million active online members.

Meanwhile, as part of his contempt for the international trading system, Trump has threatened to withdraw from the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva as he continues to break trade agreements and impose unilateral tariffs.

Still, he has his adherents out there in Washington DC.

Stephen Moore, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, has proposed that Trump should receive the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economics, since the much-coveted Nobel Peace Prize is far beyond his reach.

Writing in Investor’s Business Daily last week, Moore said Trump’s economic achievements have been overshadowed by reports regarding his erratic and “dangerous” behavior.

As his foreign policy runs wild, Trump also broke political ranks with the rest of the world when he decided to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in open violation of a Security Council resolution calling for the warring parties to decide on the future of the disputed city.

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

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

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

Mouin Rabbani, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies in Washington DC told IPS that speculating on what issues President Trump will address at the United Nations, and how he will conduct himself, is a difficult task.

“Virtually the only thing that can be said with certainty is that he will once again put on a display of breathtaking vulgarity, will spew falsehoods with abandon (in many cases, it must be said, without having a clue that he is doing so), and will for these reasons be celebrated for unprecedented acts of heroism by his American and Israeli supporters,” he added

If Trump sticks to the script drafted by his handlers, which he may or may not do, the United States is expected to focus on its attempts to isolate Iran, he noted.

“It’s an interesting choice, given that the JCPOA is an international treaty that has been ratified by the UN Security Council, that Iran has repeatedly been judged to be in compliance with its JCPOA obligations, and that the United States in unilaterally renouncing its obligations under this treaty stands in open, willful violation of both international law and its obligations to the world body,” he pointed out.

Last week National Security Adviser John Bolton told the Federalist Society in Washington DC the Trump administration will push hard against any investigations by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of US citizens (read: American soldiers accused of war crimes in Afghanistan) or allies (read: Israel accused of war crimes by the Palestinians) from “unjust prosecution by an illegitimate court.”

Meanwhile, Haley has already held out a threat on US funding for the UN when she said “We will remember it (the voting against the US) when we are called upon once again to make the world’s largest contribution (22 percent of the regular budget) to the United Nations”.

Solomon told IPS the U.S. government’s contempt for international law, humanitarian priorities and the United Nations as an institution has reached new overt heights during the Trump presidency.

“The destructive arrogance of Washington’s current policies, represented at the UN by Ambassador Nikki Haley, must be condemned and opposed.”

But governments should do more than directly push back against the dangerous militarism and implicit racism of the current U.S. administration. Members of the UN should also assess — and fundamentally change — the trajectory of the world body’s subservience to the U.S. government and its long-term consequences he noted.

During the last few decades, while several different individuals have been in the White House, the U.S. government has engaged in de facto bribery, blackmail and other devious methods to manipulate member states — sometimes using very heavy-handed tactics to induce members of the Security Council to endorse or at least not oppose the USA’s aggressive military actions and ongoing wars, said Solomon.

Most permanent and rotating members of the Security Council have too often served as silent partners, rubber stamps or outright complicit assistants to the U.S. government’s flagrant, destabilizing and deadly violations of international law.

Yet the undue efforts to go along with Washington’s policies during the last several decades have disfigured the noble ideals of the United Nations — all too often twisting them into rationalizations for enabling the United States to claim the UN’s acquiescence, he declared.

Rabbani told IPS “Perhaps more interesting than Trump’s ramblings at the General Assembly will be his presiding over a session of the UNSC, over which the US holds the presidency this month.”

Watching Trump preside over a UN Security Council session, which includes an obligation to respect its procedures etc. will be a sight to behold. It’s entirely possible that he will open the session with an offer to remodel the building on the basis of one of his special discounts, and request that his fellow UNSC members adopt a resolution to dismiss Special Counsel Robert Mueller, said Rabbani.

If he does stick to script, and insists on pursuing the Iran agenda, one can think of a number of UNSC members that will provide pointed responses to the US position, and these may include US allies as well.

There appears to be a growing realisation that the US agenda is not limited to individual objectives such as the destruction of the JCPOA or ensuring permanent Israeli supremacy over the Palestinian people, but rather has a core objective the dismantling of international institutions, particularly those concerned with international law, and replacing these with naked power, primarily US and Israeli, as the arbiter of international affairs.

This agenda, he said, also helps further explain recent funding decisions taken by Washington vis-a-vis UN institutions such as UNRWA, though there are clear ideological factors at play as well.

“If Trump does come in for serious criticism at the UN, and particularly the UNSC, we should expect Washington to take further measures to seek to marginalise, de-fund, and render impotent the world body and its various agencies.”

“What we recently witnessed with respect to UNRWA and the ICC may prove to be just a precursor to what is coming,” warned Rabbani.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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An Urgent Need to Turn Down Rhetoric Against Migrants & Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/urgent-need-turn-rhetoric-migrants-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=urgent-need-turn-rhetoric-migrants-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/urgent-need-turn-rhetoric-migrants-refugees/#comments Tue, 18 Sep 2018 15:02:29 +0000 Carl Soderbergh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157666 Carl Soderbergh is Director of Policy & Communications, Minority Rights Group International

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Sub Saharan Africans - Israel
Female African asylum-seekers during a protest march where they called on the government to recognise African migrants as refugees, and for the release of Africans who are held in detention facilities.

By Carl Söderbergh
LONDON, Sep 18 2018 (IPS)

Migration has become a focus of debate in recent years. From United States President Donald Trump’s vehemently anti-migrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric to Denmark’s new ‘ghetto laws’, the language has become increasingly heated.

The Danish government adopted these measures in 2018, specifically targeting low-income immigrant districts and including compulsory education on ‘Danish values’ for children starting at the age of one. In the United Kingdom, while still Home Secretary, Prime Minister Theresa May instituted a ‘hostile environment’ policy in 2012 that was intended to catch undocumented migrants whenever they came into contact with public services.

The policy particularly affected members of the so-called ‘Windrush generation’, the tens of thousands of Afro-Caribbean men, women and children who came over to the UK after World War Two and settled there legally. It is thought that the number of those deported runs into the hundreds, while many thousands more have had to live for several years in considerable uncertainty.

While a public outcry led to an official apology by the UK government, other leaders and governments have been resolutely unapologetic. Indeed, Trump’s travel ban for citizens of several Muslim-majority countries was approved as constitutional by the US Supreme Court in June 2018.

Such policies – and the often vitriolic language accompanying them – have had a direct and negative impact on migrant and refugee communities. According to data released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the annual number of hate crimes against US Muslims recorded by the organization rose 15 per cent in 2017, following on from a 44 per cent increase the previous year – an increase it attributed in part to Trump’s divisive language and the discriminatory measures put forward by his administration.

Muslim woman – Thailand
A Thai policeman checks the papers of a Muslim woman at a checkpoint in Pattani.

On 11 September 2018, Minority Rights Group International launched its annual Minority and Indigenous Trends report by hosting a seminar for journalists in Krakow, Poland. This year, we focused the report on migration and displacement. We chose the theme for two reasons.

One is what I have outlined above – the casual disregard that we have repeatedly witnessed by people in power for the immediate impact of their actions and their words on minority and indigenous communities. Whenever politicians chase voters or news outlets seek to increase their readerships and advertising revenues by targeting migrants, they ignore the very real consequences in terms of increased hatred towards those same communities.

The other reason is that we sought to reflect the lived realities of migrants and refugees themselves – in particular, how discrimination and exclusion drive many people to make the very hard choice to leave their homes. It remains very difficult to arrive at a total percentage of minorities and indigenous peoples among the world’s migrants and refugees.

This is partly due to lack of interest – after all, much of the reporting on migration remains fixated on overall numbers rather than on the individual stories. More particularly, migrants and refugees who belong to minorities or indigenous peoples may well feel a need to remain silent about their ethnicity or religious faith, for fear of further persecution in transit or upon arrival in their new homes.

However, there are many clear indicators from around the world of an immediate causal link between marginalization and movement. The horrifying targeting of Yezidis by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, as well as more recently of Rohingya by the military and its allies in Myanmar, are by now well-documented. In both cases, the overwhelming majority of the communities have been displaced.

Migrant workers – Russia

But there are many other examples of membership in minority and indigenous populations and displacement. In Ethiopia, the government’s crackdown on political dissent, aimed particularly at the Oromo population, contributed directly to an upsurge in migration from that community. Data collected by the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat (RMMS) showed that by the beginning of 2017 as many as 89 per cent of arriving Ethiopian migrants in the key nearby transit country Yemen stated that they belong to the Oromo community. In Colombia, displacement by armed groups has continued despite the 2016 peace accord.

This disproportionately affects Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities who made up more than a quarter (26 per cent) of the more than 139,000 forcibly displaced in the country between January and October 2017, double their share of the national population as a whole.

In fact, the Colombian example is important as it highlights how, while global attention shifts away from a particular situation, the plight of minorities and indigenous peoples continues. Here, the distinction governments and UN agencies seek to make between refugees on the one hand and migrants on the other becomes blurred and even unhelpful.

The US government denies asylum to victims of Central American gang violence. However, much of the brutal gang-related violence in Guatemala, for instance, has affected indigenous communities disproportionately: decades of conflict and discrimination have left them impoverished and marginalized, with little recourse to protection from police or the judiciary. Indeed, in many cases their situation has been aggravated by official persecution.

The discrimination that caused many migrants and refugees to leave their homes often follows them while in transit. While the abusive treatment of asylum seekers and their families crossing into the US has been widely reported, the crackdown within Mexico on Central American migrants, particularly indigenous community members, has received less coverage.

Significantly, it has resulted not only in the targeting of foreign nationals, including many women and children, but also the arrest and intimidation of indigenous Mexicans by police. Over the past year, reports have emerged from Libya of sub-Saharan Africans trapped by the containment policies of the European Union, who now find themselves targeted by security forces, militias and armed groups. There have been widespread reports of torture, sexual assault and enslavement of migrants, many of whom are vulnerable not only on account of their ethnicity but also as non-Muslims.

The situation is further complicated for groups within minority or indigenous communities, such as women, children, persons with disabilities and LGBTQI people, who contend with multiple forms of discrimination and as a result face heightened threats of sexual assault, physical attacks and other rights abuses – in their places of origin, whilst in transit and upon arrival at their destinations.

What then is needed?

Firstly, all those participating in national and international debates on migration need to tone down their rhetoric. The Danish government could, for instance, have devised policies supporting marginalized urban districts without resorting to the historically loaded term, ‘ghetto’, which immediately stigmatizes residents while giving a green light to racists.

Secondly, governments need to abide by fundamental human rights principles, including the basic right to live with dignity. And finally, all those who are contributing to the debate – including media – must get past the numbers and reveal the individual stories. In order to discuss migration, one needs to understand it fully.

While the way forward may appear challenging, I was inspired by the many Polish journalists who attended our launch event in Krakow and who are already rising to the challenge by seeking out the stories that migrants and refugees have to tell us.

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Excerpt:

Carl Soderbergh is Director of Policy & Communications, Minority Rights Group International

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25 years Since the Oslo Accords: Israeli Security Depends on Palestinian Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/25-years-since-oslo-accords-israeli-security-depends-palestinian-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=25-years-since-oslo-accords-israeli-security-depends-palestinian-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/25-years-since-oslo-accords-israeli-security-depends-palestinian-rights/#comments Fri, 14 Sep 2018 12:51:10 +0000 Jan Egeland http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157620 Jan Egeland is Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. He co-organized the secret talks between Israel and Palestine that led to the historic 1993 Oslo Accords.

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Jan Egeland is Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. He co-organized the secret talks between Israel and Palestine that led to the historic 1993 Oslo Accords.

By Jan Egeland
OSLO, Norway, Sep 14 2018 (IPS)

Twenty-five years ago, on 13 September 1993, I sat on the White House lawn to witness the landmark signing of the Oslo agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Diplomats around me gasped as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shook hands with former foe, Chairman Yasser Arafat. But for some of us present, the handshake came as no surprise.

Jan Egeland, former UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs

Weeks earlier we watched the midnight initialing of the same accord in Oslo. It had been the culmination of an intense eight months of secret talks in Norway, a private back-channel we initiated to end hostilities.

Previous peace diplomacy efforts had failed. A triad of occupation, violence and terror had reigned for many years. The Oslo Accords led to a rare epoch of optimism in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

When our back-channel began, neither Israeli nor American officials were allowed to meet with the Palestine Liberation Organization. The signing momentarily changed everything. The two sides exchanged letters of official recognition, thousands of Palestinians secured jobs in Israel, joint industrial parks were planned, the Israeli stock exchange soared, and the country’s Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Gaza could become a “Singapore of the Middle East.”

Our optimism may seem naïve today. Hindsight can raise many worthwhile critiques about what that handshake missed. Importantly, the Oslo “Declaration of Principles” was no peace agreement, but rather a five-year time plan for how to negotiate peace through increased reconciliation and cooperation.

Peace antagonists took little time to tear down our efforts to facilitate agreements on Jerusalem, settlements, refugees, and the status and borders of a future Palestine. Israeli terrorists killed Prime Minister Rabin and Muslims at prayer in Hebron, while a terror campaign from Hamas and other armed groups targeted buses and marketplaces in multiple Israeli cities.

Before final status issues could be fleshed out, the tide of optimism gave way to more terror, violence and brutal crackdowns. The following years brought a second intifada, record expansion of illegal settlements, an increasingly entrenched military occupation, division among Palestinian factions, and the closure of Gaza. Instead of recognition and a commitment to sit at the same table, the political context devolved into extreme polarization and mutual provocation.

Twenty-five years later, it is time to learn from the past.

Too few concrete steps were made during the initial months when mutual trust existed. Political elites on both sides did too little to enable reconciliation, justice and security in their own backyards. We also made mistakes as international facilitators in underestimating the counterforces against peace. As in so many places where peace diplomacy fails, humanitarians had to step in to provide a lifeline. In the absence of a long-term solution, urgent needs only increased.

Today, I lead a large international aid organization assisting millions of people displaced across the world, including Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria. I have rarely seen, felt or heard as much despair as among Palestinian youth locked into hopelessness in camps and behind closed borders. Unemployment for Gaza’s youth sits at 58 percent, according to the World Bank.

In a time when peace efforts are at a standstill, it has been more difficult than ever to deliver humanitarian assistance to Palestinians. Relief funding is diminishing, while humanitarian needs are on the rise. Partisan lobby groups and politicians hostilely question aid agencies focused on protecting human rights, more than any time in recent years.

Young men and women I met recently in Gaza told me they feel betrayed: “You told us to study hard, stay out of trouble and believe in better days. Now we are further away than ever from finishing our studies, let alone getting a job, a home or an escape from this cage.”

As Palestinians increasingly struggle to meet basic needs, economic opportunity is stifled by endless occupation. This is bad news for Israelis and Palestinians. It is not in Israel’s interests to oppress future generations of Palestinians, contributing to increasing bitterness in its own neighborhood.

Despite the grim trends, there is still a way out of the vicious cycle of conflict. Perhaps precisely therefore, in this bleak hour, we may have the foundation for a genuine peace effort. It can only be a matter of time before Israeli leadership realizes its long-term security is squarely dependent on equal rights and dignity for millions of disillusioned Palestinian youth.

Bridging humanitarian funding gaps and allowing aid delivery would raise real GDP in the Gaza Strip by some 40 percent by 2025, according to the World Bank. Such short-term gains can be bolstered by long-term investments in employment and increasing connectivity between the West Bank and Gaza.

Financial aid and other forms of investment in the Palestinian economy are urgently needed, but they are stop-gap measures, not the solution itself. Without a final political agreement, there can be no end to the human suffering.

Only a “just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement” will lead to “peaceful coexistence and mutual dignity and security.” These principles remain as true now as they were 25 years ago. But they must be rooted in reverence for international law. Palestinians are as entitled to basic human rights as are Israelis or Americans. Any future positive gains are only sustainable when fortified by a commitment to a political solution that upholds the rights and security of all people in the region.

No external actor has more potential for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than the United States. Only Americans have real leverage on the parties and the ability to provide the security guarantees needed.

A new U.S.-effort is sorely needed as tensions build once again, humanitarian work becomes more difficult, and tens of thousands of youth take stock of their lack of options.

However, unless America’s “ultimate deal” delivers equal rights, justice and security, grounded in respect for international law, it will only serve to strengthen political extremism among Israelis and Palestinians, further destabilize a volatile region, and ensure that too many Palestinians will continue to live under seemingly endless military occupation.

The post 25 years Since the Oslo Accords: Israeli Security Depends on Palestinian Rights appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jan Egeland is Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. He co-organized the secret talks between Israel and Palestine that led to the historic 1993 Oslo Accords.

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Trump at the UN – a Dramatist Seizes an Opportunityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/trump-un-dramatist-seizes-opportunity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-un-dramatist-seizes-opportunity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/trump-un-dramatist-seizes-opportunity/#respond Thu, 13 Sep 2018 13:38:59 +0000 James Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157601 James Paul is former Executive Director of the New York-based Global Policy Forum and author of the recently-released “Of Foxes and Chickens: Oligarchy & Global Power in the UN Security Council”

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James Paul is former Executive Director of the New York-based Global Policy Forum and author of the recently-released “Of Foxes and Chickens: Oligarchy & Global Power in the UN Security Council”

By James Paul
NEW YORK, Sep 13 2018 (IPS)

Donald Trump, as we know, is first and foremost a showman. He is a person who loves theatrics and tries always to stay in the spotlight. In his habitual theater at the White House, however, the air has become tense, the audience unreliable, his efforts to attract an adoring crowd increasingly frought.

Donald J. Trump. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

So the president has decided to come to New York—on September 25– for a venue always much appreciated by world leaders – the United Nations. Here, he will have the chance to “strut upon the stage” in full view of a global audience.

UN supporters will certainly shake their heads in wonder. They will say: how could he come to the UN when he has already done it so much harm? How can he face this audience of people committed to multilateral cooperation when his signature mantra is “America First!”

At first glance this does seem contradictory. Trump has grievously weakened the UN and multilateralism. Who can forget the withdrawal of the US from the Human Rights Council, the withdrawal from UNESCO, the demanded cuts to the UN’s core budgets, and the diminished US contributions to many of the UN funds and programs.

Also, there is the US rejection of the climate change agreement, the pullout from the Iran nuclear deal, the multiple trade wars, and the plan to destroy the International Criminal Court. John Bolton, Trump’s National Security Advisor, is famous for his hostility to the UN.

But the President comes – as they all come – not out of enthusiasm for the UN and multilateralism but to take advantage of the theatrical opportunity. For Trump in particular, it is a chance to reach for global grandiosity, to rail against foreign enemies, to “disrupt” the status quo and to bask in the limelight of the frenzied news media.

He will arrive, as US presidents always do, with a great show and a lengthy motorcade. At the UN, his receptions and meetings will be the go-to moments.

There will be the premier speech from the podium of the General Assembly. He will command world attention as he makes expectable or unexpected jibes, denounces enemies real or imagined and thunders about a feverishly imagined reality. Nations may shudder at the thought of what he may say.

Media trucks will jam First Avenue to broadcast this and his other doings. From the point of view of the President and his advisors, it will be a morality play – giving the world a much-needed lesson in good conduct.

Above all, there will be the meeting of the UN Security Council at which he is expected to preside. How did the other Council members agree to the inevitable theatrics? The US happens to be president of the Council this month and the US almost always gets its way in Council proceedings.

As theater, it will inevitably recall the meeting in February 2003, when Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, argued for Council action on Iraq. That, too, was pure theater, though with dire consequences.

When Trump calls the Council to order, public attention will be riveted, as it so often is, on this showman. P.T. Barnum, the circus impresario, would endorse the method. We can wonder whether there will be some bellicose announcement: a “final warning” to Syria or Iran, for example.

In between the moments of theater, will Trump slip away to meet privately with other leaders, to do deals out of the spotlight as so many of his predecessors have done? Or will he stick to the theatrics, glad to be in front of the global cameras and to escape for a short while from the difficulties in Washington?

As his New York visit proceeds, will he encounter awkward silences, or a smattering of unenthusiastic applause – insufficient enthusiasm from those who (he might expect) would show honor and the fullest respect?

And what if there is real push-back – if some nations decide that enough is enough and call him out for his outrageous breaches of the peace? Will there be whispered threats? Angry vengeful tweets? Raw power on immediate display?

Finally, thank goodness, the show will be over. Trump will depart for Washington. The media trucks will vanish. Hopefully, the damage will not be too heavy! Maybe the sun will shine.

The post Trump at the UN – a Dramatist Seizes an Opportunity appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

James Paul is former Executive Director of the New York-based Global Policy Forum and author of the recently-released “Of Foxes and Chickens: Oligarchy & Global Power in the UN Security Council”

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Law of the Sea Convention Expands to Cover Marine Biological Diversityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/law-sea-convention-expands-cover-marine-biological-diversity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=law-sea-convention-expands-cover-marine-biological-diversity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/law-sea-convention-expands-cover-marine-biological-diversity/#respond Tue, 11 Sep 2018 11:21:21 +0000 Palitha Kohona http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157556 Dr Palitha Kohona is former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations & former co-Chair of the UN Adhoc Working Group on Biological Diversity Beyond Areas of National Jurisdiction

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Coral reef ecosystem at Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Jim Maragos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

By Dr Palitha Kohona
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Sep 11 2018 (IPS)

Responding to a persistent demand by developing countries, the conservation community and science, the UN General Assembly has commenced a process for bringing the areas beyond national jurisdiction in the oceans under a global legally binding regulatory framework.

Approximately two thirds of the oceans exist beyond national jurisdiction. The Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS), concluded in 1982, currently provides the broad legal and policy framework for all activities relating to the seas and oceans, including, to some extent, for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (BBNJ).

However, despite the comprehensive nature of UNCLOS, many feel that BBNJ is not adequately covered under it as detailed knowledge of BBNJ was not available, even to the scientific community, at the time. Advancements in science and technology have brought vast amounts of knowledge to our attention in the years following the conclusion of UNCLOS.

Today human knowledge about the oceans, including its deepest parts which were inaccessible previously, is much more comprehensive and new information continues to flood in due to significant scientific and technical advances.

UNCLOS, referred to as the ‘Constitution for the Oceans’ by the former Singaporean Ambassador Tommy Koh, came into force in 1994,and will necessarily be further elaborated as human knowledge of the oceans increases and human activities multiply.

It is already complemented by two specific implementing agreements, namely the Agreement relating to Part XI of UNCLOS, which addresses matters related to the Area as defined in the UNCLOS (the sea bed beyond national jurisdiction), and the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of UNCLOS relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. The proposed treaty on BBNJ will be the third implementing agreement under the UNCLOS.

The seas and oceans, which have acquired unprecedented commercial value and have become a major source of global nutrition, have also been the subject of considerable international rule making, most of it piecemeal. An estimated 200 million people world-wide make a living from fishing and related activities. Mostly in poor developing countries.

Fish provide at least 20 % of the animal protein intake of over 2.6 billion people. A treaty on BBNJ, as envisaged, while filling a gap in the existing global regulatory framework, will also result in significant areas of the oceans being set aside as Marine Protected Areas (MPA) to provide protection to marine biological diversity, its critical habitat, including spawning areas, as well as ensuring the equitable division of the benefits resulting from the scientific exploitation of such resources, especially through the development of new products.

Under the umbrella of UNCLOS, and carefully accommodated within it and its implementing agreements, a number of international instruments (and regimes) at the global and regional levels relevant to the conservation and
sustainable use of marine BBNJ, have been put in place already.

At the global level, these include inter alia, the regulations adopted by the International Seabed Authority for the protection and preservation of the marine environment in the Area; the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); instruments adopted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); measures adopted by the International Maritime Organization; measures relating to intellectual property in the context of the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

At the regional level, the relevant measures include those adopted by regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements (RFMO/As) by regional seas organizations having competence beyond areas of national jurisdiction.

A range of non-binding instruments/mechanisms also provide policy guidance of relevance to the conservation and exploitation of marine biodiversity, including beyond areas of national jurisdiction. These include the resolutions of the UN General Assembly on oceans and the law of the sea and on sustainable fisheries, as well as the Rio Declaration and Chapter 17 of Agenda 21 adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation adopted in 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the outcome document of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, i.e. The future we want, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular Sustainable Development Goal 14 (Conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development).

However, despite the existence of the above regimes, the need for a legally binding multilateral instrument to govern the protection, sustainable utilisation and benefit sharing of BBNJ has been advocated by a range of interest groups for some time. A champion of this process has been Argentina.

The negotiation process. Smooth sailing or rough seas ahead?

The UN ad-hoc working group (WG) on BBNJ, established by the GA in 2004, in response to the demands of a majority of the international community, took over ten years to finalise its recommendations in February 2015. Initially, the WG made little progress and was running the risk of being terminated.

Since 2010, it was co-chaired by Sri Lanka (Ambassador Dr Palitha Kohona) and the Netherlands (Dr Liesbeth Lijnzard). While the subject was not easy, and many delegations were only beginning to grasp its complexities, curious coalitions began to form. The Group of 77 (G77) and the European Union (EU) formed a common and a powerful front for different reasons.

Many strategic negotiating approaches were discussed behind the scenes and effectively deployed by these two unlikely allies resulting in a successful outcome to the work of the WG. Basically, the G77 wanted the future exploitation of BBNJ regulated globally so that the anticipated benefits would be distributed more equitably and marine technology transferred consistent with the commitments made under the UNCLOS.

Already significant numbers of patents based on biological specimens, including microorganisms (12,998 genetic sequences), retrieved from the oceans, many from hydrothermal vents, have been registered. (11% of all patent sequences are from specimens recovered from the ocean). 98 per cent of patents based on marine species were owned by institutions in 10 countries.

The German pharmaceutical giant, BASF, alone has registered 47% of the patented sequences. The financial bonanza that was expected from the commercialisation of these patents was hugely tempting. It is estimated that by 2025, the global market for marine biotechnological products will exceed $6.4 billion and was likely to grow further.

The EU, for its part, wanted to reserve large areas of the oceans for marine protected areas for conservation purposes. Conservation in this manner would result in providing space for genetic material to replenish itself naturally. The goals of the two groups were not necessarily contradictory.

The reservations on the need for a global legally binding regulatory mechanism for BBNJ were expressed mainly by the US, Japan, Norway and the Republic of Korea. Their interest was in preserving the unhindered freedom of private corporations to exploit biological specimens to conduct research and produce new materials, including drugs, biofuels and chemicals for commercial purposes.

These corporations needed the assurance that the billions that they were expending on research would produce financially attractive results. The difficulties involved in identifying the sources from where the specimens were recovered (whether beyond national jurisdiction or within), the costs usually associated with a discovery and bringing a commercially viable product into the market place, the actual need for a legally binding instrument in the current circumstances, the possibility of achieving the same goals through a non binding instrument, etc, were some of the concerns articulated.

These concerns are expected to be raised during the treaty negotiations as well. The US which held out to the bitter end preventing consensus at the WG is not even a party to the UNCLOS. A Preparatory Committee established by the UNGA to make recommendations on the elements of a draft of an international legally binding instrument (ILBI) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine BBNJ under UNCLOS, prior to holding an international conference met in four sessions in 2016 and 2017. Treaty negotiations began in September 2018 following the organizational session (in April 2018) and the conclusion of the fourth and concluding session of the Preparatory Committee.

It could be expected that the US and the like-minded group, reflecting a recognisable private enterprise oriented policy bias, would continue to raise objections affecting the smooth progress of the negotiations. The Trump administration, which has made it a habit of distancing itself from compacts to which the US had solemnly subscribed cannot be expected to be more sympathetic to the BBNJ aspirations of the G77 and the EU any more than the Obama administration.

Deposit with the UN Secretary-General

The Secretary-General is the depositary of over 550 multilateral treaties, mostly negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations. The UNCLOS and its two implementing agreements are examples. These are customarily deposited with the SG due to the recognition that he enjoys in the international community as a high level independent global authority.

The proposed treaty on BBNJ would in all likelihood, be deposited with the UN SG, when concluded. The day to day management of activity relating to these multilateral treaties is the responsibility of the Treaty Section of the UN Office of Legal Affairs, a function which dates back to the early days of the creation of the UN. Exceptionally, a major multilateral treaty may be deposited elsewhere.

For example, the NPT is deposited with the governments of the US, UK and Russia. Under Article 102 of the UN Charter all treaties, both multilateral and bilateral are required to be registered with the UN. The UN is the custodian of over 55,000 bilateral treaties so registered, currently available on line.

The post Law of the Sea Convention Expands to Cover Marine Biological Diversity appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Dr Palitha Kohona is former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations & former co-Chair of the UN Adhoc Working Group on Biological Diversity Beyond Areas of National Jurisdiction

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International Law Experts Warn Europe’s ‘Pull Back’ of Migrants is Illegal – Part 2http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/international-law-experts-warn-europes-pull-back-migrants-illegal-part-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=international-law-experts-warn-europes-pull-back-migrants-illegal-part-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/international-law-experts-warn-europes-pull-back-migrants-illegal-part-2/#comments Mon, 10 Sep 2018 11:41:32 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157538 This is the second part of our series about migration to Italy.

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Even though fewer people are attempting irregular migration to Europe since the start of the year, the number of deaths that occur along the Mediterranean route has dramatically increased, according to International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Amnesty International estimates. Courtesy: International Organization for Migration (IOM)

By Maged Srour
ROME, Sep 10 2018 (IPS)

“The Italian and other European authorities are engaging – on the migration issue – in a policy which has the foreseeable results of numerous deaths.” It is a grim warning from expert on international law, refugees and migration issues, and member of the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), Itamar Mann.

In February 2017, Italy entered into an agreement with Libya to provide funds to Libyan authorities for the coordination of relief operations in the central Mediterranean. Since the agreement, the Libyan Coast Guard has returned migrants to Libya who attempted to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

However, according to a recent Amnesty International report both “Italy and the European Union (EU) are bolstering their policy of supporting the Libyan Coast Guard to ensure it prevents departures and carries out interceptions of refugees and migrants on the high seas in order to pull them back to Libya. This is also contributing to rendering the central Mediterranean route more dangerous for refugees and migrants, and rescue at sea unreliable.”

When IPS asked Mann if he thought there was a direct link between the “pull back” of migrants intercepted in the Mediterranean and the increased number of migrant deaths, Mann described this policy as “killing by omission.”

Even though fewer people are attempting irregular migration to Europe since the start of the year, the number of deaths that occur along the Mediterranean route has dramatically increased, according to International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Amnesty International estimates.

According to Amnesty International:

• From January to July 2018, 1,111 people were reported dead or missing along the central Mediterranean route,

• The death rate among those attempting the crossing from Libya has surged to 1 in 16 in the period June-July, 2018,

• This was four times higher than the rate recorded from January-May 2018, which was 1 in 64.

Migrants arriving at Lampedusa, Italy in this picture dated 2011. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS.

Moral responsibility lies not only with Italy, but Europe too

In May, GLAN filed an application against Italy with the European Court of Human Rights for a 2017 incident where the Libyan Coast Guard allegedly intervened in the rescue, by an non-governmental organisation, of a sinking dinghy. At least 20 people died, including two children, when the vessel sunk. But the Libyan Coast Guard is reported to have engaged in “pull back” and returned the survivors to Libya, where they reportedly endured detention in inhumane conditions and were beaten, starved and raped.“While Italy retains legal responsibility, the process has been facilitated in multiple ways by the EU, and [therefore] the moral responsibility is not exclusively Italian.” -- Itamar Mann, Global Legal Action Network (GLAN).

According to Violeta Moreno-Lax, a senior lecturer in law from Queen Mary University of London, and legal advisor to GLAN: “The Italian authorities are outsourcing to Libya what they are prohibited from doing themselves. They are putting lives at risk and exposing migrants to extreme forms of ill-treatment by proxy, supporting and directing the action of the so-called Libyan Coast Guard.”

Mann, however, pointed out that, “while Italy retains legal responsibility, the process has been facilitated in multiple ways by the EU, and [therefore] the moral responsibility is not exclusively Italian.”
“The EU, for example, has tried to advance migrant processing centres in Libya, engaged in training of Libyan forces, and turned a blind eye to continued violations. So beyond the legal case, simply blaming Italy and ignoring the larger context would be misleading,” he told IPS via email.

The Italian government is expected to respond in due course to the legal papers.

Italy’s response to irregular migration

Italy’s stance on migrants has been reported previously. The country’s interior minister Matteo Salvini was reported by the Telegraph as saying his country would no longer be “the doormat of Europe” as it had been left to largely deal with the migrant crisis on its own. The newspaper reported that in May he had called for Italy’s coast guard and naval ships to be pulled back from patrolling the Mediterranean and brought closer to home.

There have been a number of other reported incidents of alleged “pull back”.

At the end of July, Italian authorities reportedly rescued migrants at sea and returned them to Libya. Also in July, the story of how migrants on the Italian coast guard ship, the Diciotti, were reportedly blocked from disembarking by the country’s ministry of interior generated much criticism and gave rise to a heated debate in Europe. The migrants were eventually allowed to disembark in Trapani, Sicily, after intervention by Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella. 

“The repatriation of refugees to Libya is illegal, as international law prohibits the transfer of people, who encounter distress at sea, to ‘unsafe havens,’” Benjamin Labudda, an expert on migration issues and housing conditions of refugees in the European context and a PhD Scientific Assistant at the Institute of Sociology of University of Muenster, told IPS.

Non-refoulement’, a well-known fundamental principle of international law, no country receiving asylum seekers can expel or return them to territories where their lives or freedom could be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

Concern for migrants sent back to Libya

Flavio Di Giacomo, spokesperson for IOM, told IPS he was also concerned about the return of migrants to Libya.

“If a boat is rescued in international waters and returned to Libya, we are facing a ‘pull back’. The fact that we are referring relief operations in international waters to Libya is ambiguous because the migrants would probably be taken to an unsafe port,” he said.

He said the issue should be kept under close observation, as according to international law migrants rescued at sea should not be returned to Libya, which was “not a safe harbour.”

“We must promote legality, through more residence permits and integration policies,” said Di Giacomo. “A simple closure would be misunderstood by the countries of origin of these migrants. They would only see ‘the rich Europe that sends back the poor Africans.’”

Labudda added that agreements for the distribution of refugees among EU countries must be institutionalised and enforced, as many countries still refuse to welcome refugees.
“A solution regarding the structure of a process of distribution has to be found as soon as possible in the upcoming months,” he added.

The post International Law Experts Warn Europe’s ‘Pull Back’ of Migrants is Illegal – Part 2 appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This is the second part of our series about migration to Italy.

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UN Begins Talks on World’s First Treaty to Regulate High Seashttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/un-begins-talks-worlds-first-treaty-regulate-high-seas/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-begins-talks-worlds-first-treaty-regulate-high-seas http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/un-begins-talks-worlds-first-treaty-regulate-high-seas/#comments Fri, 07 Sep 2018 10:22:21 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157498 After several years of preliminary discussions, the United Nations has begun its first round of inter-governmental negotiations to draft the world’s first legally binding treaty to protect and regulate the “high seas”—which, by definition, extend beyond 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) and are considered “international waters” shared globally. “The high seas cover half our planet […]

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A trawler in Johnstone Strait, BC, Canada. Human activities such as pollution, overfishing, mining, geo-engineering and climate change have made an international agreement to protect the high seas more critical than ever. Credit: Winky/cc by 2.0

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

After several years of preliminary discussions, the United Nations has begun its first round of inter-governmental negotiations to draft the world’s first legally binding treaty to protect and regulate the “high seas”—which, by definition, extend beyond 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) and are considered “international waters” shared globally.

“The high seas cover half our planet and are vital to the functioning of the whole ocean and all life on Earth. The current high seas governance system is weak, fragmented and unfit to address the threats we now face in the 21stt century from climate change, illegal and overfishing, plastics pollution and habitat loss”, says Peggy Kalas, Coordinator of the High Seas Alliance, a partnership of 40+ non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

“This is an historic opportunity to protect the biodiversity and functions of the high seas through legally binding commitments” she added.

The two-week Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), which concludes 17 September, is described as the first in a series of four negotiating sessions which are expected to continue through 2020.

Asked about the contentious issues facing negotiators, Dr Veronica Frank, Political Advisor at Greenpeace International, told IPS “although it is still early, we can expect that some of the potential issues that will require attention include the relationship between the new Global Ocean Treaty and existing legal instruments and bodies.”

These will include those who regulate activities such as fishing and mining, and what role
these other organizations will play in the management of activities that may impact on the marine environment in future ocean sanctuaries on the high seas.

“Also tricky is the issue of marine genetic resources, especially how to ensure the access and sharing of benefits from their use,” Dr Frank said.

Asked how different the proposed treaty would be from the historic 1994 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Essam Yassin Mohammed, Principal Researcher on Oceans and Environmental Economics at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), told IPS: “This new treaty is particularly significant because it is the first time the high seas will be governed.”

These negotiations are an opportunity, not just to protect the health of the oceans, but also to make sure all countries ― not just the wealthy few ― can benefit from the ocean’s resources in a sustainable way, he pointed out.

“As important as The Law of the Sea is, it only covers the band of water up to 200 miles from the coast. It does not cover the use and sustainable management of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction,” he added.

While this was acceptable in an era when the technological capacities that enabled people to venture beyond this area were limited, rapid innovation and technological advancement has changed this. Increasingly, economic activities are taking place in the high seas, he noted.

Most are unregulated and pose a major threat to marine biodiversity. It is more urgent than ever to fill this governance gap and monitor and regulate any activity in the high seas and make sure they benefit everyone ― particularly the poorest countries, he argued.

According to the High Seas Alliance, the ocean’s key role in mitigating climate change, which includes absorbing 90% of the extra heat and 26% of the excess carbon dioxide created by human sources, has had a devastating effect on the ocean itself.

Managing the multitude of other anthropogenic stressors exerted on it will increase its resilience to climate change and ocean acidification and protect unique marine ecosystems, many of which are still unexplored and undiscovered. Because these are international waters, the conservation measures needed can only be put into place via a global treaty, the Alliance said.

Dr Frank said the new treaty must create a global process for the designation and effective implementation of highly protected sanctuaries in areas beyond national borders.

Such global process must include the following elements: (a) a clear objective and a duty to cooperate to protect, maintain, and restore ocean health and resilience through a global network of marine protected areas, in particular highly protected marine reserves, and (b) the identification of potential areas that meet the conservation objective.

Asked about the existing law of the sea treaty, she said UNCLOS, which is the constitution of the ocean, sets the jurisdictional framework, ie general rights and obligations of Parties in different maritime zones, including some general obligations to cooperate and protect marine life and marine living resources that also apply to waters beyond national borders.

However, the Convention doesn’t spell out what these obligations entail in practice and puts much more emphasis on the traditional freedoms to use the high seas.

The Convention does not even mention the term biodiversity, she said, pointing out that
the treaty under negotiation will be the third so-called “Implementing Agreement” under UNCLOS – after the agreement for the implementation of Part XI on seabed minerals and one on fish stocks – and it will implement, specify and operationalise UNCLOS broad environmental provisions in relation to the protection of the global oceans.

Dr Frank said this is the first time in history that governments are negotiating rules that will bring UNCLOS in line with modern principles of environmental governance and provide effective protection to global oceans.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Amid Chronic Violence, Millions of Afghans Face Risks of Drought Related Displacementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/amid-chronic-violence-millions-afghans-face-risks-drought-related-displacement/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=amid-chronic-violence-millions-afghans-face-risks-drought-related-displacement http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/amid-chronic-violence-millions-afghans-face-risks-drought-related-displacement/#respond Thu, 30 Aug 2018 16:07:12 +0000 Enayatullah Azad http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157410 Enayatullah Azad is Media, Information & Advocacy Coordinator, Norwegian Refugee Council

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Drought-affected IDP children from Badghis in front of their makeshift shelter in Kahdestan area or Injil district. Credit: NRC/Enayatullah Azad.

By Enayatullah Azad
HERAT, Afghanistan, Aug 30 2018 (IPS)

Amid a precarious security situation in Afghanistan, the worst drought in recent history, that hit two out of three provinces in Afghanistan in July, has destabilized the lives of tens of thousands of civilians, some of whom have already been displaced.

The United Nations has predicted that over two million people are expected to become severely food insecure in the coming period.

The West Region of conflict-stricken Afghanistan has been hardest hit by the drought, and over 60,000 people have been displaced to Herat and Badghis provinces, as a result.

Families that fled to Herat are living in dire conditions in makeshift shelters, where they are exposed to the scorching sun and summer temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius. Many families are subsisting on a single meal a day. Many get by on just bread and water.

Herat has become the closest refuge for about 60,000 people, who have been displaced from their homes due to the drought. Conflict has also prompted many to flee their homes to the relative safety of province.

Over 1700 civilians were killed in Afghanistan during the first half of 2018, according to UNAMA. It is the highest recorded number, compared to the same periods for the past decade. The combination of drought and conflict has made tens of thousands of families destitute. They live with few long term prospects or means of regaining stability.

Among the most vulnerable are women and children. Many of the children show visible signs of malnutrition and illness, including skin diseases and eye infections due to dust and the hot weather.

Ayesha Halima is one of thousands of such children, who fled her home for Herat.  Leaning against the wall of a distribution center, she patiently awaits her next meal, as he mother moves through the growing crowd to get their rationed supplies.

 

Halima at the NRC’s cash for food distribution center in Herat.
Credit: NRC/Enayatullah Azad

 

The lack of sufficient nutrition is visible in the pallid faces of children like Soraya Hawa Gul and FatimaPari Gul, who have become neighbors in Herat. They bake bread together in a clay oven in the open air. The mothers make about ten loaves of bread a day, which they wash down with boiled water or tea.

“We cook together because we share a bag of flour,” said Hawa Gul. “Neither of us could afford a bag of flour alone. We have spent all the money we had and have taken many loans from relatives.”

Given such meagre resources, the unconditional cash grants from ECHO and NRC have become life lines for tens of thousands of the impoverished households. Despite the rapidly deployed assistance, drinking water, food and medical supplies are falling short.

Over 1700 civilians were killed in Afghanistan during the first half of 2018, according to UNAMA. It is the highest recorded number, compared to the same periods for the past decade. The combination of drought and conflict has made tens of thousands of families destitute. They live with few long term prospects or means of regaining stability.

The blazing temperatures are testing the endurance of those who are in the IDP settlements. Many people are suffering from dehydration, with children and older IDPs particularly susceptible. With few water resources around, drinking water is a prized commodity in the settlements.

“We can’t get enough water to drink or to clean ourselves and our clothes,” displaced Afghans in Herat told staff of the Norwegian Refugee Council.  “There hasn’t been any change to our life situation. We fled our homes because there was no water and it is the same here. At least we a had shelter back home in Badghis.”

With illnesses such as diarrhea, skin diseases and eye infections on the rise, many children are in need of comprehensive medical care. One-year-old Ahmad Mohammed has diarrhea, and a skin and eye infection. He lives in a makeshift shelter with his family after they were forced to leave their home in Badghis city/region/province. “It’s been 70 nights since we arrived. My children and my wife are all sick, and I don’t have the money to buy them enough food or medicine,” Mohammed’s father Ziauddin told NRC.

Shelter is another pressing issue, with families residing in makeshift shelters for the time being. While protection from the scorching sun and the high summer temperatures are the present concern, staying warm and winterisation of homes will become a need, if they remain displaced into the winter months.

But, despite the challenges, women like 57 year old Khanim Gul, who have been displaced several times, show remarkable resilience. Gul was forced to leave her family behind in Badghis. “This isn’t the first year we are suffering from drought. Last year we had almost nothing on the table. This is the fifth tent that I am setting up – the heavy wind keeps tearing it apart,” she said.

Amid the struggles of daily survival, protection has been scant, with women and girls facing heightened risks of harassment and gender-based violence. In the absence of regular schooling and safe spaces where they can grow, learn and play, children are more prone to child labour and child marriage.

Amid scarce resources and lack of livelihood opportunities, including daily labour, many of the displaced men in Herat, try to travel to Iran in search of work.

With regular wages a far fetched notion for most of the displaced populations, Karim is counting his blessings these days. With loans from family members, he has set up a vegetable stall and sell onions and potatoes to the rest of the displaced community near his tent in Herat.

 

Karim selling onions and potatoes near his tent in Kahdestan. Credit: : NRC/Enayatullah Azad.

 

For thousands of families displaced from Herat the few items they carried on their backs are the only remnants of their homes. For many, this is not the first instance of leaving their homes and belongings because of drought.

While news of peace talks and bombings in Afghanistan make the headlines, the IDP communities suffering chronic, long term displacement feel “forgotten” by their government and the international community. They are in desperate need of long term assistance.

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Excerpt:

Enayatullah Azad is Media, Information & Advocacy Coordinator, Norwegian Refugee Council

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UN Seeks Probe into Saudi Bombing of Civilian Targetshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/157395/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=157395 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/157395/#respond Wed, 29 Aug 2018 13:56:30 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157395 Saudi Arabia, which has been accused of relentlessly bombing civilian targets in strife-torn Yemen and threatening executions of human rights activists, is fast gaining notoriety as a political outcast at the United Nations. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has not only condemned the continued attacks on civilians but also called for “an impartial, independent and prompt […]

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Security Council meeting on the situation in Yemen. 02 August 2018 United Nations, New York. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

Security Council meeting on the situation in Yemen. 02 August 2018 United Nations, New York. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

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

Saudi Arabia, which has been accused of relentlessly bombing civilian targets in strife-torn Yemen and threatening executions of human rights activists, is fast gaining notoriety as a political outcast at the United Nations.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has not only condemned the continued attacks on civilians but also called for “an impartial, independent and prompt investigation” into some of the recent bombings in Yemen.

The bombings of civilians have also led to speculation whether the Saudis and their coalition partners could be hauled before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes.

In a report titled “44 Small Graves Intensify Questions About the US role in Yemen”, the New York Times said some members of the US Congress have called on the American military to clarify its role in airstrikes on Yemen “and investigate whether the support for those strikes could expose American military personnel to legal jeopardy, including for war crimes.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has not only condemned the continued attacks on civilians but also called for “an impartial, independent and prompt investigation” into some of the recent bombings in Yemen.

Guterres has described Yemen as “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”, with three in four Yemenis in need of assistance. So far, the UN and its partners have reached out to more than 8 million people with direct assistance this year.

The death toll alone amounts to over 10,000 people, mostly civilians, since 2014.

But any drastic action against the coalition—or even an independent UN investigation–  is most likely to be thwarted by Western powers, including three permanent members of the Security Council, namely the US, UK and France, which are key suppliers to the thriving multi-billion dollar arms market in Saudi Arabia.

According to Amnesty International, the Saudis are also seeking the death penalty for five individuals who face trial before Saudi Arabia’s counter-terror court, including Israa al-Ghomgham, who would be the first woman ever to face the death penalty simply for participating in protests.

With a woman activist being threatened with execution, who is next in line? Children?

Daniel Balson, Advocacy Director at Amnesty International, told IPS “The sad fact is that in Saudi Arabia, children and the mentally disabled are not exempt from execution.”

Abdul Kareem  Al-Hawaj was 16 when he took part in anti-government protests., Abdullah al-Zaher and Dawood al-Marhoon were arrested on 3 March and 22 May 2012, when they were 16 and 17 years old respectively. Ali al-Nimr was 17 when he was arrested in February 2012.

Balson pointed out that these cases have several things in common: All four are members of the minority Shi’a sect. All four claimed that their confessions were extracted under torture. All four are at risk of imminent execution. Unfortunately, Saudi authorities have proven their willingness to incur substantial political cost simply to put people to death.

In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed 47 people in a single day despite widespread international condemnation. Saudi Arabia is certainly no stranger to killing women – authorities executed two in 2017.

Asked about the continued strong military relationship between the Saudis and Western governments, Balson told IPS that U.S. government officials must, along with their Western allies ban the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, not just to dis-incentivize executions but because these weapons cause innumerable civilian deaths in Yemen.

“This isn’t conjecture, it’s a documented fact,” he said.

Late last year, Amnesty documented that a US-made bomb killed and maimed children in San’a. Media reports have indicated that a bomb that killed dozens of children this month was made in the U.S.

“The U.S. must communicate to Saudi authorities that the killing of children – whether by warplane or executioner – is abhorrent,” he declared.

Hiba Zayadin of Human Rights Watch (HRW) told IPS the public prosecutor is demanding the death penalty for five of the six activists currently on trial.

“We do not know of any other woman activist that has faced the death penalty before for her rights-related work and believe this could set a dangerous precedent. It goes to show just how determined the Saudi leadership is to crush any and all dissent, all the while claiming to be on a path towards modernization, moderation, and reform,” she said.

Zayadin said now is the time for the international community to speak up about the human rights abuses increasingly taking place in Saudi Arabia today, especially by allies such as the US, UK, and France.

“We believe Saudi authorities would be responsive to calls from allies and international businesses seeking to invest in Saudi Arabia to respect the rule of law and release all unjustly detained dissidents”

If the Saudi leadership is truly committed to reform, she said, it would change course, and as long as it does not, the international community has a responsibility to hold it accountable to its promises.

Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns, said Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most prolific executioners and the world cannot continue to ignore the country’s horrific human rights record.

“We call on the international community to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian authorities to end the use of the death penalty, which continues to be employed in violation of international human rights law and standards, often after grossly unfair and politically motivated trials.”

Meanwhile, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock said that at least 22 Yemeni children and four women were killed in an air strike last Thursday (August 23) as they were fleeing the fighting in Al Durayhimi district in Hudaydah governorate.

“This is the second time in two weeks that an air strike by the Saudi-led Coalition has resulted in dozens of civilian casualties. An additional air strike in Al Durayhimi on Thursday resulted in the death of four children,” he added

Lowcock said he was also “deeply concerned” by the proximity of attacks to humanitarian sites, including health facilities and water and sanitation infrastructure.

The UN and its partners, he pointed out, are doing all they can to reach people with assistance. Access for humanitarian aid workers to reach people in need is critical to respond to the massive humanitarian crisis in Yemen. People need to be able to voluntarily flee the fighting to access humanitarian assistance too.

“The parties to the conflict must respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and those with influence over them must ensure that everything possible is done to protect civilians,” he added.

In a piece titled “US Commander Seeks Clarity in Yemen Attack”, the New York Times said since 2015, the US has provided the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen with mid-air refueling, intelligence assessments and other military advice.

The US air commander in the Middle East, Lt. Gen Jeffrey Harrigian, has also urged the Saudi-led coalition to be more forthcoming about an airstrike in early August which killed more than 40 children.

Harrigian was quoted as saying “There’s a level of frustration we need to acknowledge. They need to come out and say what occurred there.”

The conflict in Yemen began in 2014 when Houthi rebels, aligned with Iran, seized the capital and sent the government into exile in Saudi Arabia. The fighting intensified beginning 2015.

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Kofi Annan Strengthened the U.N.’s Dignity with the Help of Two Brazilianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/kofi-annan-strengthened-u-n-s-dignity-help-two-brazilians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kofi-annan-strengthened-u-n-s-dignity-help-two-brazilians http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/kofi-annan-strengthened-u-n-s-dignity-help-two-brazilians/#respond Tue, 21 Aug 2018 22:30:31 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157305 Kofi Annan’s stature as a global leader grew after he finished his second term as United Nations Secretary-General in 2006. Time confirmed his excellence in defending the principles and values of multilateralism, which is currently on the decline and subject to all kinds of attacks. Some of the crucial actions carried out by Annan, who […]

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Kofi Annan, U.N. Secretary General from 1997 to 2007 and 2001 Nobel Peace Prize-winner, who died on Aug. 18, seen together with Brazilian diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello (left), one of his right-hand men and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, who died in Baghdad in 2003. Credit: Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation

Kofi Annan, U.N. Secretary General from 1997 to 2007 and 2001 Nobel Peace Prize-winner, who died on Aug. 18, seen together with Brazilian diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello (left), one of his right-hand men and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, who died in Baghdad in 2003. Credit: Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation

By Mario Osava
RÍO DE JANEIRO, Aug 21 2018 (IPS)

Kofi Annan’s stature as a global leader grew after he finished his second term as United Nations Secretary-General in 2006. Time confirmed his excellence in defending the principles and values of multilateralism, which is currently on the decline and subject to all kinds of attacks.

Some of the crucial actions carried out by Annan, who died on Aug. 18, such as condemning the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, had the key backing of two Brazilian diplomats.

Sergio Vieira de Mello, who died in Baghdad on Aug. 19, 2003, was U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and Annan’s right-hand man in dealing with conflicts and rebuilding shattered nations.

He was sent to Iraq as the secretary-general’s special representative in May 2003, two months after the invasion, a spectacle of violence and bombings instantly reported by the global media.

A truck bomb destroyed the Canal Hotel used as a U.N. office in Baghdad.

Vieira and 21 other U.N. officials were killed in the suicide attack by the Al-Zarqawi organisation, the seed of what would later call itself the Islamic State (IS), according to Carolina Larriera, Vieira’s Argentine widow and a member of his team who survived in the rubble.

In memory of the victims, the U.N. General Assembly decided in 2008 to designate Aug. 19 as World Humanitarian Day, dedicated to all those who risk their lives to assist people affected by armed conflicts and other crises.

Vieira, a Brazilian who worked at the U.N. since he was 21, died at the age of 55 as a hero of humanitarian and peace operations in the most dangerous situations, in Bangladesh, Sudan, Cyprus, Mozambique, Peru and Iraq.

He mediated conflicts in Cambodia, Lebanon, Rwanda and other countries, while in Kosovo and East Timor he supported the “building of new nations.”

Between 1999 and 2002 he led the U.N. peacekeeping forces that oversaw the transition to independence of East Timor, a former Portuguese colony occupied by Indonesia since 1975.

The son of a Brazilian diplomat, Vieira rose through the ranks of the United Nations, occupying positions in its refugee and human rights agencies.

He reached the peak of his career in the missions commissioned by Annan, such as the operation in East Timor. Many even pointed to him as a possible successor to the secretary general because of his proven capacity and extensive experience.

“Annan was a giant at the United Nations,” the last great promoter of multilateralism, which has recently lost momentum, overtaken by the current wave of nationalism,” said Clóvis Brigagão, a political scientist who headed the Centre for the Study of the Americas at a university in Rio de Janeiro.

Born in Ghana 80 years ago, Annan was the first black U.N. secretary-general. He held the position from 1997 to 2006.

He was recognised as perhaps the last global head of state that the powers-that-be allowed the world and as a leader who promoted human rights as a priority and strengthened the mechanisms of peace, democratisation and development.

One of his triumphs was to achieve a consensus on the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that set 17 targets to reduce poverty, hunger, child and maternal mortality, among other scourges of humanity, from 2000 to 2015.

Expanded and renewed, 169 targets now make up the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDOs), the heirs to the MDGs, seeking to promote social, human, environmental and economic advances by 2030.

For his work, Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the U.N. in 2001.

But it was the tragedy in Iraq that marked his two terms at the General Secretariat, as the first career staffer to be promoted to the top post in the U.N.

During that crisis, in addition to Vieira he also had the support of another Brazilian diplomat, José Mauricio Bustani, in adopting a position against the invasion by the U.S.-led coalition that also included Great Britain, Australia and Poland.

Bustani had led the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) since it was created in 1997 to enforce the international convention that seeks to eradicate these weapons worldwide.

His reports were key to the U.S. government’s decision to attack Iraq under George W. Bush (2001-2009), in what was known as the second Gulf War (2003-2011) after the one that took place between 1990 and 1991.

The pretext for the attack was the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction, mainly chemical weapons, in the hands of the regime of Saddam Hussein.

In 2001, Bustani was negotiating Iraq’s accession to the OPCW, which would allow for inspections and would prove, according to him, the absence of such weapons in the country.

This was a challenge to the U.S. government, which exerted pressure that led to Bustani’s removal from the organisation in 2002. A year later, Iraq was bombed under a justification that was never proven, which reinforced Annan’s condemnation of the Iraq war, which he deemed “illegal”.

Bustani shared his experience in the article “Brazil and OPCW: Diplomacy and Defence of the Multilateral System Under Attack,” published in late 2002, and continued his career, as Brazil’s ambassador to Britain and France, before retiring in 2015.

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Statement by the Secretary-General on the Passing of Former Secretary-General Kofi Annanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/statement-secretary-general-passing-former-secretary-general-kofi-annan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=statement-secretary-general-passing-former-secretary-general-kofi-annan http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/statement-secretary-general-passing-former-secretary-general-kofi-annan/#respond Sat, 18 Aug 2018 15:57:22 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157257 Kofi Annan was a guiding force for good.  It is with profound sadness that I learned of his passing.  In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. He rose through the ranks to lead the organization into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination. Like so many, I was proud to call Kofi […]

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By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 18 2018 (IPS)

Kofi Annan was a guiding force for good.  It is with profound sadness that I learned of his passing.  In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. He rose through the ranks to lead the organization into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination.

Like so many, I was proud to call Kofi Annan a good friend and mentor. I was deeply honoured by his trust in selecting me to serve as UN High Commissioner for Refugees under his leadership. He remained someone I could always turn to for counsel and wisdom — and I know I was not alone. He provided people everywhere with a space for dialogue, a place for problem-solving and a path to a better world.  In these turbulent and trying times, he never stopped working to give life to the values of the United Nations Charter. His legacy will remain a true inspiration for all us.

My heartfelt condolences to Nane Annan, their beloved family, and all who mourn the loss of this proud son of Africa who became a global champion for peace and all humanity.

New York, 18 August 2018

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Winds of Change on Kenya’s Northern Bordershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/winds-change-kenyas-northern-borders/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=winds-change-kenyas-northern-borders http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/winds-change-kenyas-northern-borders/#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2018 15:09:48 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157082 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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At the Global Peace Leadership Conference in Uganda, President Museveni flanked by high level leaders from Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, Inter-Governmental Authority for Development(IGAD). Credit: State House 03 August 2018

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 6 2018 (IPS)

Previously characterised by belligerence, based on competition for resources, the border regions of Eastern Africa can sense the blissful wind of peace approaching.

It is not a wind being blown by strict military enforcement of borders, but rather by the opening up of them, and empowerment of former warring neighbours to find collective coping mechanisms for environmental and economic shocks which have previously driven them to battle.

The charm of soft power as an alternative to aggression and inter-tribal warfare was a key highlight at the 6th annual Global Peace Leadership Conference held in Kampala, and whose theme was Moral and Innovative Leadership: New Models for Sustainable Peace and Development.

In the region, the new paradigm is being inspired by successes of the Kenya-Ethiopia Cross Border Programme, which was launched in December 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and the former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia. In a joint article by Ambassador Amina Mohamed, the former Foreign Minister of Kenya and Dr Tedros Adhnom, the former Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, said, “peace and development initiative offers hope of resolving conflicts in border areas of Kenya and Ethiopia”.

The initiative, driven by the need to foster peace and sustainable development in the cross-border area of Marsabit County, Kenya, and the Borana/Dawa Zones, Ethiopia, is supported by IGAD, the European Union and Japan and implemented by the United Nations family in Kenya and Ethiopia together with local authorities on both sides.

“The programme we are launching today is transformative in its ambition…our task is to end the conflict, make certain that Kenyans and Ethiopians along the border have the same opportunities as those of other citizens in the two countries,” remarked Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta during the launch of the programme.

That programme was ignited by the United Nations, under the leadership of the former Resident Coordinator, Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas. The current Country Team has given it momentum, and it has morphed into what is now recognized as a global best practice.

In an independent assessment, the United Nations University Centre for Policy Research hailed Kenya’s multidimensional cross-border programme for “simultaneously addressing violent extremism, human trafficking, economic development, local governance and inter-communal peace with mutually reinforcing objectives and means”.

The initiative slots in well with the vision of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his report on Peace-building and Sustaining Peace, which observed that UN agencies must “rally stakeholders to action within the entire peace continuum – from prevention, conflict resolution and peacekeeping to peacebuilding and sustainable long-term development”.

The programme has now inspired a similar initiative in what is known as the Karamoja Cluster, also a conflict-prone border region shared by four countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda.

Map of the Karamoja area

On 26 July 2018, ministers from the four countries held consultations in Uganda, where they signed a communique on cooperation for the development of cross-border areas in the Cluster.

It was signed by Uganda’s State Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Hon Musa Ecweru, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and ASAL Areas Hon. Eugene Wamalwa, Ethiopia’s Minister for Livestock and Fisheries Prof Fekadu Beyene and South Sudan’s Minister for Environment and Forestry Hon. Josephine Napwon.

“The conflicts in South Sudan, Congo and Somalia are causing proliferation of arms into Kenya and Uganda, and this is curtailing the development in the area. What we are doing now will give a more lasting solution,” said Uganda’s Minister for Karamoja Affairs Hon. John Byabagambi.

Kenya’s Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said that “peace will not prevail in the absence of basics such as water and food, and in the case of pastoralists, pasture for their herds“.

The Governments of Kenya and Uganda supported by their respective UN Resident Coordinators are developing a concept note that will put in place concrete modalities of cooperation by the affected countries. The mission is to develop the Karamoja Cluster as a single socio-economic zone, with joint policies and programs that will build resilience to overcome resources and erode current fault-lines–critical if this region is to realise SDGs.

The long term vision is that prevention strategies will be driven by private investment as a sustainable pathway to countering inequity and promoting inclusivity for the region’s peripheral communities.

There are already some good vibes coming from the region; last April 2018, leaders from South Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda joined their counterparts from Kenya in the fourth edition of the Turkana Cultural Festival in Lodwar, Kenya.

In place of belligerence, the speeches harped on forging of trade relationships and unifying the region’s populations. Clearly, falling back into the safety of tribal enclaves is now recognised as an outdated sophism.

Slowly but surely, a light of peace is piercing through the Pearl of Africa, and it is sure to cause a rainbow of friendship between communities in the region.

The UN Country Teams in the region have the persistency of purpose, the determination to continue as the ‘sinews of peace’, so that neighbour shall not be forced by socio-economic circumstance to rise against neighbour.

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Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Global Compact & the Art of Cherry-Picking Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/global-compact-art-cherry-picking-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-compact-art-cherry-picking-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/global-compact-art-cherry-picking-refugees/#respond Mon, 30 Jul 2018 13:41:46 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156949 When Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was asked about the legality of the UN’s much-ballyhooed Global Compact for Migration, he was initially evasive in his response. “I’m not a lawyer”, he told reporters July 12, “and I presume that this question might be better asked from a lawyer”. Still, he pointed out that “if I remember well […]

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By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 30 2018 (IPS)

When Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was asked about the legality of the UN’s much-ballyhooed Global Compact for Migration, he was initially evasive in his response.

“I’m not a lawyer”, he told reporters July 12, “and I presume that this question might be better asked from a lawyer”.

Burundian refugees arriving from a transition camp in Nyanza are processed at Mahama camp in Rwanda’s Eastern Province. Credit: UNHCR / Anthony Karumba

Still, he pointed out that “if I remember well in my past capacity (as UN High Commissioner for Refugees), I don’t think this can be considered as customary law in the sense, like, for instance, the 1951 Convention (on Refugees), even for countries that have not signed it, is valid as customary international law.”

In the case of something that is not legally binding, (which the Global Compact is), he said: “I don’t think it can be considered directly as customary international law”.

Guterres chief Spokesman Stephen Dujarric added a note of levity when he intervened: “We’ll get a lawyer”. [Laughter]

But the growing humanitarian crises, which triggered the Global Compact for Migration, is no laughing matter.

The lingering question, however, remains: If countries such as the US, Australia, Hungary and the Gulf nations, who have signed and ratified the 1951 Convention, continue to restrict or bar political refugees, what good is the Global Compact, whose implementation is only voluntary?

At the same time there are growing political movements in countries such as UK, Italy and Germany challenging the entry of political refugees and migrants in violation of the Convention.

Asked about the shortcomings of the Compact, Charlotte Phillips, Advisor/Advocate, Refugee and Migrants’ Rights team at the London-based Amnesty International (AI) , told IPS: “As you rightly point out, the Compact is non-binding, which means there is no legal obligation for states to put the Compact into action.:

She said this is one of the key problems with the Compact. It effectively means that states can cherry pick which aspects of the Compact they want to implement.

This reflects and entrenches the current status quo whereby wealthier states can pick and choose what, if any, measures they take to share responsibility, leaving major hosting nations in developing regions to shoulder the lion’s share of refugees, she pointed out.

“Having said that, the Compact is supposed to express a consensus commitment and member states have spent months negotiating the details of the Compact, showing that states do take its content seriously.

“The real question now is whether the political will needed from governments to implement the Compact is there?,” she said.

It is also worth noting, she pointed out, that many of the states negotiating the Compact have already ratified the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, which is legally binding and these obligations are still relevant and the Convention is referenced in the Compact’s guiding principles.

“Despite this, whilst negotiations have been in full swing, we have seen the rights of refugees violated by governments. For example, we have seen European governments attacking NGOs’ capacity to rescue refugees stranded at sea and adopting policies of deterrence and border control that expose refugees to abuses”.

“We have seen Australia continue to justify its cruel and torturous detention practises on Manus Island and Nauru. For the Compact to be worth the paper it is written on, we need to see the principles laid out in the Compact translated into real action to protect refugees,” she declared.

Joseph Chamie, a former director of the United Nations Population Division and an independent consulting demographer, told IPS: “The Global Migration Compact is a step in the right direction, but it will not resolve major problems, including the refugee crisis.”

Why?
Fundamentally, he argued, the Compact is non-binding and voluntary and while various factors are at play, four key elements are human rights asymmetry, global demographics, limited migration options and growing opposition.

Firstly, Human rights asymmetry: you have a right to leave your country, but you don’t have a right to enter another country. (See: “Knock, Knock …. Who’s There? Many Migrants!“).

Secondly, Global demographics: the demand for migrants in receiving countries is far less than the growing pool of potential migrants in the sending countries. (See: “Prepare for the 21st Century Exodus of Migrants“).

Thirdly, Limited migration options: the large majority of people wishing to emigrate basically have no legal means available to them other than illegal migration. (See: “Understanding Unauthorized Migration“).

Fourthly, Growing opposition: countries worldwide increasingly aim to reduce immigration levels and stem record flows of refugees by erecting fences and barriers, strengthening border controls, tightening asylum policies and restricting citizenship. (See: “Mind the Gap: Public and Government Views Diverge on Migration“).

A New York Times report on July 22 said thousands protested in cities across Australia to mark five years of a controversial government policy under which asylum seekers and migrants have been turned away and detained in Pacific Islands such as Papua New Guinea and Nauru for years –triggering criticisms from human rights groups and UN refugee agencies.

The fate of over 1,600 people remains in limbo due to this practice of “off shore processing” of asylum seekers.

The Global Compact for Migration, which is expected to be adopted at an international conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, in December, is unlikely to resolve their key problems.

The United Nations is expecting 192 countries to participate in the Morocco conference, minus the US which pulled out of the negotiations back in December, with the Trump administration hostile towards cross border migrations and with a ban on migrants from six Muslim-majority countries: Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan.

An estimated 258 million people are categorized as international migrants, and since 2000, about 60,000 people have died while crossing the seas or passing through international borders.

The European Union (EU) is taking one of its members, Hungary, to the European Court of Justice because of its anti-immigrant laws in violation of several EU treaties.

Iverna McGowan, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office, was critical of Hungary’s decision to prohibit civil society organizations (CSOs) from advocating the cause of migrant and refugees.

“Hungary’s attempts to prohibit the legitimate and vital work of people and civil society organizations working to protect the rights of migrants and asylum-seekers are unacceptable.”

“By challenging a legislative package that flagrantly breached EU human rights law, the European Commission has sent a clear and unambiguous message that Hungary’s xenophobic policies will not be tolerated” she said, pointing out that European leaders who have remained largely silent over the human rights crackdown in Hungary must now follow the Commission’s lead and call for these laws to be shelved.

“With new restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly also on track for adoption by the Hungarian parliament tomorrow, it is more important than ever to challenge the Hungarian government loudly and clearly,” said McGowan.

According to Amnesty International, the new infringement procedure by the European Commission concerns a package of xenophobic measures that came into effect in Hungary on 1 July 2018.

Under these laws people providing assistance to asylum seekers and migrants, including lawyers and international and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), can have their access restricted to asylum-processing areas and may even face criminal proceedings if they facilitate claims that are unsuccessful.

The measures make it impossible for people who passed through another country before arriving in Hungary to claim asylum, said Amnesty in a statement released last week.

The European Commission found these measures to be in violation of the Union’s Asylum Procedures, Reception Conditions and Qualifications Directives and of the right to asylum. It also pointed out inconsistencies with the EU’s provisions on the free movement of Union citizens and their family members.

Hungary’s policies and practices on refugees, asylum seekers and migrants cause unnecessary human suffering, while the government has increasingly sought to silence critical voices, Amnesty warned.

Michael Clemens, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, said the Global Compact is the biggest step the world has taken to cooperatively face the defining policy challenge of our time: how to better regulate international migration in this century.

The Compact offers a clear mandate and roadmap for countries to work together to get more of what they want from migration and less of what they do not want, he noted.

Unfortunately, he warned, there is currently a political movement ascendant in the U.S., UK, Italy, and elsewhere promising to address the many problems of migration by restricting or eliminating it altogether.

This new Compact is the defining alternative to that movement. It is a treasure chest of the best ideas on how to address the many challenges of migration with hard work and a pragmatic cooperative approach, he said.

“While the Compact is now final, the real work is just beginning. As countries prepare to adopt the Global Compact for Migration in December, discussions will revolve around how to operationalize and implement the commitments agreed to in this document”.

One innovation endorsed by the Compact, he said, is the idea to create Global Skill Partnerships. Other innovations should also be piloted and tested out, as countries and their partners work to identify sustainable solutions to today’s migration challenges and opportunities.

“The road ahead will be difficult and many of the challenges and points of contention that arose during the Compact’s negotiations will not disappear with its adoption”.

Rather, countries will need to tackle these challenges head-on as they work toward pragmatic, evidence-based, and coordinated migration policies and practices that fulfill the objectives and commitments of the Compact, he declared.

Chamie told IPS while the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol are legally-binding, implementation remains problematic, even when countries are in violation.

The trend is clear: governments are increasingly resisting taking in refugees and those who seek asylum. Why?

Global demographics play a central role because of the sheer record-breaking levels of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons.

Claiming refugee status: further complicating the refugee situation is as many unauthorized migrants seek to improve their lives and those of their children. (See: “The Dilemma of Desperation Migration“).

Implicit message: the de facto message and understanding of men, women and children including smugglers as well as the implicit principle guiding many governments of receiving countries is: If you can get in and keep a low profile, you can stay. (See “Illegal Immigration Illogic“).

Ineffective policies: due to the complexity of the issue, limited resources, human rights concerns and heated public sentiments, government policies have been ineffective in coping with surges of unwanted migration.

In the end, although invariably contentious, deferred action, amnesty and regularization are frequently used to address large numbers of unauthorized migrants. (See: “Unwanted Migration: How Governments Cope?“).

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Migration/Pages/GlobalCompactforMigration.aspx

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Stop Neglecting African Conflictshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/stop-neglecting-african-conflicts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stop-neglecting-african-conflicts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/stop-neglecting-african-conflicts/#respond Wed, 13 Jun 2018 12:27:32 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156207 Conflicts have uprooted millions across several African nations and we must not forget them, said a human rights group. Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) timely message was published through their annual list of the worlds most neglected displacement crises. “It’s a sad pattern that we are once again seeing that the crises on the African continent […]

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A group of displaced men, women, and children find refuge at a church on the outskirts of Nyunzu village in eastern Congo. Pastor Mbuyu (pictured) looks after them. Credit: NRC/Christian Jepsen

By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 13 2018 (IPS)

Conflicts have uprooted millions across several African nations and we must not forget them, said a human rights group.

Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) timely message was published through their annual list of the worlds most neglected displacement crises.

“It’s a sad pattern that we are once again seeing that the crises on the African continent seldom make media headlines or reach foreign policy agendas before it is too late,” said Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland.

This year’s results found that six of the worlds 10 most neglected conflicts are found in Africa.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – where years of civil war have displaced more than 5 million people – topped the list.

South Sudan, Central African Republic, Burundi and Ethiopia rounded out the top five.

But why are such conflicts so neglected?

Lack of political and diplomatic will is among the NRC’s major concerns.

“We – the West – are good at turning a blind eye when there is little geopolitical interest for us,” NRC’s spokesperson Tiril Skarstein told IPS.

“The countries on the list are often considered less strategically important, and that’s why there’s no international interest in finding a solution,” she added.

Skarstein explained that in some countries, the opposite is the case, where there are many actors with conflicting political interests taking part in the conflict. Such are the cases of Yemen and Palestine, where political gains are put before the lives of civilians.

The lack of political will to work towards a solution is one of three criteria on which a crisis is measured in order to be included on the list.

Media Turns A Blind Eye

According to the NRC, the plight of African refugees is also consistently too far removed from the ‘consciousness of the west’ as their stories fail to be told in Western news and media.

If they are, they certainly are not being covered as as much as other humanitarian conflicts in the world.

Expanding on this point, Skarstein drew comparison between Syria and the DRC where the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in both conflicts is approximately 13 million.

“Many people wouldn’t know that. Why? Because the two have had vastly different levels of international exposure,” she told IPS.

Since many of the refugees from the Syria have fled the Assad regime via Europe, many in the West have been forced to “confront and come to terms with their plight.”

“We are literally seeing these people arrive on our doorsteps. In the media, their story in chronicled, tv, online, on social media. And when people get to see others and know their situation people have a tendency to care and act,” Skarstein noted.

Meanwhile, conflicts in the DRC and other African nations often see displaced people flee to neighboring countries.

“They are not arriving on tourist beaches. Crossing one African border to another doesn’t generate the same level of exposure,” Skarstein said.

Less Money, More Problems

Because of the lack of political will and media attention, many of African crises also end up struggling to access humanitarian funds.

“Crises that are given little international attention and are seldom mentioned in the media, are also often declined the financial support needed to meet severe humanitarian needs,” Skarstein told IPS.

DRC is currently the second lowest funded of the world’s largest crises with less than half of the US$812 million aid appeal met.

A further problem is ‘donor fatigue’, a phenomenon whereby the longer a conflict goes on, the harder it is to attract the necessary funding from donors.

“You have conflicts raging for years, sometimes even decades – you get people thinking it’s a hopeless case, it’s all over. We need to fight that,” she said.

So what can get these African conflicts off the most neglected list?

The NRC says the most important thing is for donor states to provide assistance on a needs basis rather than a political one.

The human rights group also highlighted the role of media in bringing attention to overlooked humanitarian disasters.

“Exposure is so critical, that people be heard and listened too is key. The more we speak up about these crises and the more we see of them, the more that can be done,” Skarstein said.

And this list should serve as a reminder to all.

“Just because we do not see these people suffer, it does not make their suffering any less real…importantly, it does not absolve us from our responsibility to act,” Skarstein concluded.

Violence escalated in several parts of the DRC in 2015, forcing almost 2 million people to flee their homes in 2017 alone.

Among the other countries to make this year’s “World’s Most Neglected Displacement Crises” list is the Palestinians territories, Myanmar, Yemen, Venezuela and Nigeria.

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