Inter Press Service » Global Geopolitics http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 25 May 2016 20:28:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.11 Least Developed Countries Still Face Significant Challengeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/least-developed-countries-still-face-significant-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=least-developed-countries-still-face-significant-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/least-developed-countries-still-face-significant-challenges/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 20:28:29 +0000 Gyan Chandra Acharya http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145304 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/least-developed-countries-still-face-significant-challenges/feed/ 0 OPINION: Central America, Still Caught Up in the Arms Racehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/central-america-still-caught-up-in-the-arms-race/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=central-america-still-caught-up-in-the-arms-race http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/central-america-still-caught-up-in-the-arms-race/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 14:29:10 +0000 Lina Barrantes Castegnaro http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145301

In this column, Lina Barrantes Castegnaro, executive director of the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, denounces the arms race in Central America and calls for the implementation of the Costa Rica Consensus, which urges rich countries to increase development aid to countries that cut military spending.

By Lina Barrantes Castegnaro
SAN JOSE, May 25 2016 (IPS)

The recent announcement of the Nicaraguan government’s 80-million-dollar purchase of 50 Russian tanks caught the attention of the press in Latin America and caused alarm in the international community.

The purchase, not an isolated acquisition, is part of an arms race seen in Latin America in recent years.

The rise in military spending stands in contrast to the realities in a poor region like Central America, where the levels of defence spending are as shocking as the poverty rates.

Lina Barrantes Castegnaro

Lina Barrantes Castegnaro

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported that in 2015, in Belize 1.1 percent of the annual budget (19.6 million dollars) went toward military expenditure, in El Salvador 0.9 percent (223 million), in Guatemala 0.4 percent (274 million), in Honduras 1.6 percent (324 million) and in Nicaragua 0.6 percent (71.6 million).

(Costa Rica and Panama, which don’t have armies, do not declare military expenditure.)

While these funds are being spent on weapons, the specter of hunger and underdevelopment hangs over the region. In the 2015 United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index , Guatemala ranked 128th, Honduras 131st, El Salvador 116th, Nicaragua 125th and Belize 101st, out of 188 countries.

Costa Rica was in 69th place and Panama 60th.

The worst performers in the region, in the HDI, are Honduras and Guatemala, the two countries with the lowest level of human development in Central America.

That is, the poorer the country, the more the government spends on war toys. But the question is: Who will these toys be used to wage war against?

One possible answer is that the upgrading of weaponry is aimed to give countries the capacity to respond in case of war or invasion. But it’s not clear which war or invasion that might be.

Another hypothesis that could be set forth is that they could be used against the countries’ own citizens deported from the United States, who return after graduating from intensive courses in violence and crime in Latino neighbourhoods.

The UNDP Human Development Report 1994 formally introduced a new concept that had been debated for years in the international arena: if the world spent money on development instead of military expenditure, poverty could be eradicated in just a few years.

From that standpoint, poverty doesn’t just have to do with war, but with military spending itself.

In the period 1987-1994 global military expenditure declined by an estimated 935 billion dollars. Unfortunately, this money did not go towards social spending or development; actually the way these funds were used is not clear.

Spending on armament is deplorable, but it is even more so in the case of poor countries like those of Central America.

For that reason the concept of peace dividends, presented to the world by then Costa Rican president Oscar Arias in 2006 as the “Costa Rica consensus”, is so important.

According to this idea, countries that spend more on development than on death would be given priority when it comes to international financial resources.

Just as the Arms Trade Treaty proposes linking human rights and ethics with military spending, the Costa Rica consensus is aimed at creating mechanisms to condone debt and support, with financial resources, developing countries that spend more on health, education and housing for their people, and less on arms and soldiers.

In other words, the international financial community would reward not only those countries that spend in an orderly fashion, as it does now, but those that spend ethically.

When the Nobel Peace Laureates for Food Security and Peace Alliance was created earlier this month, at U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) headquarters in Rome, Arias proposed taking up the Costa Rica consensus again as an alternative for fighting hunger in the world, to support countries that use their budget funds for the lives of their citizens rather than their deaths.

We hope the day this will happen is not too far off.

Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Is it in Europe’s Interest to Push Russia into China’s Arms?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/is-it-in-europes-interest-to-push-russia-into-chinas-arms/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-it-in-europes-interest-to-push-russia-into-chinas-arms http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/is-it-in-europes-interest-to-push-russia-into-chinas-arms/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 13:59:31 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145256 Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.]]>

Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, May 23 2016 (IPS)

No mention in the media of the dangerous increase in the tension between Europe and Russia and yet Nato has just made operational in Romania a missile system, the ABM, which the United States has declared will protect it from “rogue” states, like Iran.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Russia, especially after the agreement reached with Iran on the control of its atomic industry, is convinced that the system is intended against its military force. The US has announced it will build another second site in Poland in 2018.The intention is to move from “reassurance” of eastern Nato allies to “deterrence” of the Kremlin. That means more troops and equipment, longer deployments, bigger exercises, and a “persistent” presence of Nato and American troops in countries like Poland and the Baltics.

In June, as many as 12 000 American troops will join servicemen from a number of European allies in Poland for an exercise called Anakonda, which will be the largest military exercise carried out in Europe for years. Altogether, 25 000 troops from 24 Nato and partner countries will be involved. US Deputy Secretary of Defence, Robert Work, has announced that 4 000 Nato troops, involving two US battalions, will be moved to the Russian border, permanently:” The Russians have been doing a lot of snap exercises right against the border, with a lot of troops, in extraordinarily provocative behaviour”, he said. Germany is to provide one battalion.

For a long time, the official line of US military is to see in Russia a regime intent on aggression, after the annexation of Crimea, and the country’s intervention in Ukraine. When General Ray Odierno retired as Chairman of Staff, he declared,“Russia is the greatest threat to the United States. His predecessor, General Joseph Dunford, was more specific. He thought Rusia was a bigger threat than ISIS. Odierno said that he saw threats to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine.

It would be useful to remember that Putin started his tenure by continuing Boris Yeltsin’s line of total cooperation with the United States. As George W. Bush famously said: I have seen inside Vladimir Putin’s eyes, and finally we have a strong ally for US interests”. That was before Bush proceeded to take a number of actions without consultation, which convinced the Russian that he was only considered a marginal player.

While it is obvious that Putin suffers from paranoia, and uses confrontation to obtain popular support, it would be wise to see matters also from the Russian viewpoint. To start with, it has been established beyond doubt that Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to not intervene militarily in the European countries that were under USSR dominance, provided NATO kept the existing borders.

The fact that this engagement was not kept has always been present in the Russian psyche. When Reagan met Gorbachev in Reykavik in 1986, Putin was in his mid-30s. the USSR was a superpower, present in Africa, the Caribbean and Central America, with important allies in Asia.

When Putin become 40, his country had been splintered into 15 nations. And when he come to power, in 1999, the USSR had lost one-third of his territory, and half of its population. Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Georgia and Azerbaijan, ihe Baltic States, Ukraine, Bielorussia, Moldova and Armenia were gone. At the same time, Nato continued its endless trend of encirclement with Russia. Putin saw the Ukrainian pro-Russian government overthrown in a US-backed coup. And the encirclement continues, asking even militarily insignificant countries, like Montenegro (some 3 000 soldiers in total), to join Nato.

“Russia has not accepted the hand of partnership “says Nato Commander, General Philip Bredlove, “ but has chosen a path of belligerence”. Well, it is significant that an impressive 80% of the Russian population shares Putin’s paranoia, and also does not see the “hand of partnership”. When Putin annexed Crimea and supported separatists in Ukraine, his popularity increased at home dramatically., especially because Crimea had always been part of Russia, until Nikita Khrushchev donated it to Ukraine, as a symbolic move in 1954. The 90% of Crimeans were Russian speakers, like those living in the Eastern part of Ukraine, a country that was created by joining Western Ukraine, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with Eastern Ukraine, which was part of the Russian empire. Putin very adroitly said that his task was to protect “Russian citizens, wherever they live”, and this struck a chord with the Russian people.

It should be made clear that there are no excuses in legal terms for Putin’s action. But in real life it is always useful to consider events by taking into account both sides of any story. The fact is that Putin reached the conclusion that Russia was considered, in Barack Obama’s words, “just a regional power”, and that to be admitted into the G7 and other Western fora was not giving him the chance to have Russia and himself considered an important player, and thus he decided to take a confrontational path in order to be taken seriously. He put a knife in the side of the West, by dividing again the two halves of Ukraine, obliging the West to sink hundreds of billions of dollars to sustain a deeply corrupt government in Kiev, and its ability to turn the knife when he wanted.

This move led to the establishment of sanctions by the West in 2014, with the declared goal of having Putin capitulate and abandon his intervention in Ukraine. However, Putin again interceded outside its borders, by intervening in Syria, where Russia has a naval base. The arrival of Russia has completely changed the situation in Syria, and now everybody agrees that there cannot be any military solution without Russia’s agreement.

Of course, one key principle behind US foreign policy is that nobody should challenge its power. Yet it is a principle, which is becoming increasingly unrealistic, as the emergence of China is showing. However, in the American psyche, the USSR is gone, and any attempt to recreate it, under any guise, is just a provocation. And while China has not had a direct clash yet with the US, Crimea and Ukraine were indeed a slap on the hand…

Now, seen from outside the western world, as many analysts have pointed out from Latin America and Asia, this situation does not make much sense. Let us take the sanctions. They have cost over $100 billion in lost exports to Russia. But this figure hides a difference: US exports to Russia dropped by 3.5%, while for Europe by as much as 13%, especially from the fragile European agricultural sector (which fell by 43%). Imports from Russia into Europe fell by 13.5%. According to the European Commission, the European Union’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is going to drop by 0.3% in 2014 and 0.4% in 2015 due to the sanctions. That is quite a considerable drawback, considering that Europe’s expected growth rate is expected to be just 1.5% on average, with countries, like Italy, barely making it over 1%.

Meanwhile a new trend is emerging that is largely being ignored by the media. Since 2104, Russia has been deepening its partnership with China, with which it had traditionally had difficult relations. The Chinese economic slowdown, due to its change of economic model based on exports to this latest shift towards internal market expansion, does not make this the best moment for economic cooperation. Yet, Russia and China have just signed a $25 billion deal, to boost Chinese lending to Russian firms, and a host of other accords. Russia has agreed a $400 billion deal, to supply China with 38 billion cubic meters of gas annually, from 2018 over the coming 30 years.

Russia’s Sberbank has received a $966 million credit line from the China Development Bank. China is launching a $2 billion-investment fund, targetig agricultural projects. And $19.7 billion will be used to open a rail link between Moscow and the Russian city of Kazan. At the same time, Russia agreed to increase its weapon’s sales to China, and a deal was done for the sale of the S-400 air defence system to China (to the great chagrin of the United States and Japan), for $3 billion, with another $2 billion for the sale of 24 Su-35 fighter planes. The two countries declared that they would increase their bilateral trade to $200 billion by 2020.

What is totally new and important is that both countries also decided to strengthen their military cooperation. This year they will take part in a joint Sea-2016 naval drill, hosted by China. The Deputy minister of Defence, Anatoly Antonov has declared: “Military cooperation between the two countries is highly diverse, and has improved significantly over the last three years .A more tight interaction between military departments corresponds to the national interest, and we expect this interaction to increase”.

This should lead Europeans to start reflecting seriously on events. Is it in the interest of Europe to keep pushing Russia into the hands of China? Is it not time to search for a settlement with Russia, that would include Ukraine, Syria, and an engagement to end “deterrence”, for an agreed status quo, which would reopen trade and cooperation, and satisfy the frustrated egos of Russian citizens? It should be recognized that even between allies, like the EU and US, sometimes there are different priorities…Maybe the American elections will change the rules of the game…

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When Emergencies Last for Decadeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/when-emergencies-last-for-decades/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=when-emergencies-last-for-decades http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/when-emergencies-last-for-decades/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 21:34:06 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145217 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/when-emergencies-last-for-decades/feed/ 0 Will Canada Recognise Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Developing Countries Too?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/will-canada-recognise-rights-of-indigenous-peoples-in-developing-countries-too/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-canada-recognise-rights-of-indigenous-peoples-in-developing-countries-too http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/will-canada-recognise-rights-of-indigenous-peoples-in-developing-countries-too/#comments Thu, 19 May 2016 15:09:32 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145192 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/will-canada-recognise-rights-of-indigenous-peoples-in-developing-countries-too/feed/ 1 A Refugee Crisis with No End in Sighthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-refugee-crisis-with-no-end-in-sight/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-refugee-crisis-with-no-end-in-sight http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-refugee-crisis-with-no-end-in-sight/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 10:35:15 +0000 Silvia Boarini http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145164 Syrian refugee children learn to survive at a camp in north Lebanon. Credit: Zak Brophy/IPS

Syrian refugee children learn to survive at a camp in north Lebanon. Credit: Zak Brophy/IPS

By Silvia Boarini
GAZA, Palestine, May 18 2016 (IPS)

“We don’t want charity, we want a long-term solution.”

That’s what a group of Palestinian refugees who fled the war in Syria and found safety in Gaza told IPS last November.

Today, their sentiment continues to be echoed in Syria and in camps and urban centres hosting refugees across the region.

New challenges

As the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War gives no sign of relenting, the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit will offer a much needed space to discuss what a long-term solution for people fleeing protracted conflict might look like and how actors and stakeholders might go about achieving it.

Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, the Middle East has slowly overtaken Sub-Saharan Africa to become the epicentre of this crisis and of the migratory movements of millions of people in search of a safe haven."We in America spend more money buying Coca-Cola than all the money going into Syria." -- Thomas Staal, Acting Assistant Administrator at USAID

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that today some 60 million people are displaced worldwide, that is 1 person in every 122. What experts in the field agree upon, is that traditional responses to refugees’ needs are falling far short of the mark.

At a conference on this issue that was held last June at the Middle East Institute (MEI) in Washington DC, humanitarian and political actors agreed that it is no longer enough for the UN to set up a camp at the nearest border, send in the aid professionals and assume that rich countries will foot the bill.

“That model has been shattered in recent years,” wrote scholar Greg Myre. And new patterns are emerging that demand new approaches.

Protracted conflict; the ability and willingness of refugees to reach far away places; and lack of funding for the aid industry, have been widely identified as the new elements causing a need to re-think traditional humanitarian approaches that are failing.

Protracted conflict

If in the recent past economic opportunities played a major role in people’s movements, today by far the major pushing factor is war.

In the Middle East alone, in 2015 some 15 million people had been displaced by conflict. As of May 16, 2016, the numbers have continued to rise.

Close to five million people have escaped Syria alone, while 6.6 million are IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons). According to OCHA, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in Yemen, IDPs number 2.76 Million, while in Iraq it is 3.4 million.

These numbers, of course, add to the existing five million Palestinians registered with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) since 1948 and 1967; to the Lebanese who had fled civil war in the 1980s; and to the Iraqi refugees who had fled the 1991 and 2003 wars. Many of them were living in Syria when the war broke out, making them refugees for a second or third time.

Refugees in the region compete for limited resources, place tremendous stress on the often wavering infrastructure recovering from prolonged conflict, and are perceived as a potential security threat by countries striving to maintain a precarious peace, such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Willingness to travel to faraway countries

As the region’s capacity to absorb refugees is stretched, the ability and willingness of refugees to reach faraway corners of the world is another important new element that sets this crisis apart from previous ones.

Especially in the case of Syria, the length of the conflict and the vacuum left by the lack of political solution in the foreseeable future push refugees to take the risk of settling somewhere else for the long term.

Poor living conditions in camps and limited or no educational and economic opportunities in hosting urban centres in the region are decisive factors in the move.

The people with the means to undertake a trip to Europe, the USA or Australia are often professionals whose expertise will be necessary, but unavailable, once the rebuilding kicks off. Statistics show that the further a refugee travels, the more unlikely he or she is to return. UNHCR estimates that the average length of displacement has now reached 17 years.

Lack of funding

Last, but certainly not least, this crisis is characterised by an endemic lack of funds that leaves the aid industry and UN agencies unable to provide for the basic needs of millions. As of May 2016, UNHCR is 3.5 billion dollars short on its 4.5 billion appeal for the Syria Regional Refugee Response alone.

It is often reported that it costs 10 times less to care for a refugee in the region of origin than it does in the West, and yet donor countries are slow to raise the necessary funds to improve the lives of millions escaping wars.

In 2015, Official Development Assistance (ODA) by OECD countries reached a record high, totalling 131.6 billion dollars. And yet payments still only average 0.30 percent of Gross National Income (GNI), well below the UN recommended minimum of 0.70 percent.

The funding crisis and the inability to successfully meet, let alone end, the needs of refugees has pushed the aid community to some soul searching that in the past decade has led to calls for reform, especially at the UN level, to streamline work, decrease overheads, coordinate more efficiently with local humanitarian organizations and seek alternative donors to governments.

On the subject of alternative funding sources, Thomas Staal, Acting Assistant Administrator at USAID, tellingly explained to the audience at the MEI conference last June that “we in America spend more money buying Coca-Cola than all the money going into Syria.”

Aside from highlighting that the private sector should play its part in times of crisis, the statement can be read as a comment of the need to reassess our priorities and values as a society.

The crisis is in the Middle East, not in the West

Despite clear statistics and readily available numbers on the Middle East refugee crisis, this emergency is still too often talked about in Western-centric terms and inevitably looked at as a ‘problem’, never an opportunity.

Deaths in the Mediterranean do not happen in a vacuum, they are the direct result of the shortcomings of the international community to meet the needs of refugees worldwide, to deflate conflicts and to create lasting opportunities for improvement.

The immense strain placed on the Turkish, Lebanese and Jordanian hosting populations, which have taken in 2.7, 1.05 and 0.70 million Syrians respectively, further highlights the West’s inability to add a sensible perspective to the small numbers of refugees reaching its shores.

As the healthcare and education systems of countries ravaged by war head down the path of de-development, it is imperative that lasting solutions are implemented before the situation spirals further into chaos, experts say.

The humanitarian summit could be the forum where the first steps on this road are taken.

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Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council: Assessment & Way Forwardhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/special-procedures-of-the-human-rights-council-assessment-way-forward/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=special-procedures-of-the-human-rights-council-assessment-way-forward http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/special-procedures-of-the-human-rights-council-assessment-way-forward/#comments Sat, 14 May 2016 03:22:49 +0000 Idriss Jazairy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145115 By Idriss Jazairy
GENEVA, May 14 2016 (IPS)

In my personal capacity as an academic from the Global South and a retired international civil servant, I undertook a study for the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue which was published in November 2014. This was at a time when I had no idea that I would later become a member of this elite group of Special Procedures Mandate Holder. The study is entitled “In Defence of Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council: An alternative narrative from the South”.

Idriss Jazairy. Credit: courtesy author.

Idriss Jazairy. Credit: Image provided by author.

The study makes the point that this mechanism was first initiated by the South and that the countries of different regions of the South share with those of the North the paternity of this innovative way of ensuring independent monitoring of human rights worldwide. They all consequently have an equal right to contribute to enhancing the efficiency of this mechanism.

The study indicates how one can remove the barrage of objections raised by countries or groups headquartered in the North who believe they are the self-appointed defenders of Special Procedures. They have tended to act in the past as if any suggestion for improvement of Special Procedures coming from the Global South can only be motivated by a desire to undermine the independence and integrity of the said mechanisms.

In other words, this study is an appeal to the North whether to Governments or to civil society organisations from the North that they accept to discuss with the South such suggestions on their merits. It would warrant engaging with those who hold different views and seeking to broaden areas of consensus through bridge-building as our Chairman emphasized in his opening remarks rather than through “excommunication”!

I will raise five central issues:

First, the process of selection of mandate-holders: the study reviews the process of selection of mandate-holders which has been improved as an outcome of the 2010 -2011 HRC review process. Henceforth the President of the Council has to give reasons if he decides to disregard the recommendations of the Consultative Group concerning the list of appointees. This adjustment indeed makes for greater transparency but it does not insulate the President from backroom political pressure from powerful quarters.

Why could we not, in cases where paralysis or postponement threaten, put the appointment of the mandate holders to a vote? There has been no disastrous effect resulting from the fact that their counterparts in treaty bodies are selected by ballot. Are they less objective or independent because of that? Candidates could campaign, offer plans of action indicating what they would do if elected. Many methods exist to ensure equitable gender and geographic distribution.

Second, the review, rationalisation and improvement of mandates.

The challenge here is to change the cluster of 77 Special Procedure Mandate Holders into a system. This is what the Council was mandated to do by General Assembly Resolution 60/25, o.p. 6, which directed it to “where necessary improve and rationalize all mandates (…) in order to maintain a system of Special Procedures”.

Why has this not happened? There are currently 77 mandate holders as against 44 when HRC was established and on current trends their numbers will reach 100 in ten years’ time. No provisions for a sunset clause, for mergers or absorption are in the cards.

If each mandate, of which there are now over 55 including SPs in working groups and with numbers growing year on year, interact with States on top of other Human Rights mechanisms, this can become an administrative nightmare for smaller and least developed countries.

Some claim ballooning of Special Procedures has a political explanation: each special procedure has a virtual national flag on it and to eliminate, merge it or otherwise change it may be seen as an offence to the initiating country which continues to enjoy special rights over the fate of the mandate.

Be that as it may, the numbers of Special Procedures keep increasing, never dovetailing but rather duplicating with pre-existing mandates. There is obvious overlap, for instance, between the mandates on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, the one on contemporary forms of slavery including its causes and consequences and the mandate on the sale of children, child prostitution and pornography.

Likewise CEDAW having defined violence as a form of discrimination against women, it’s hard to explain why one needs two mandates, one on discrimination against women and the other on violence against women.

While these mandates have Northern roots, the initiating countries from the South are not immune to such tendencies. Thus there is an obvious link between the mandate of promoting a democratic and equitable international order, the mandate dealing with foreign debt and that related to human rights and international solidarity.

I recommend a revitalisation of the RRI process in an open ended working group of the Council.

As a staying measure, the Council should start by requiring initiators of new mandates to answer such questions as:

– is there no other UN mechanism which addresses in part or in whole the issue proposed?

– is there not a Special Procedure which covers partly or wholly this issue?

– if so why not adjust the existing mandate for this purpose?

– could the new mandate not replace an existing mandate?

In parallel, the working group would review “all existing” thematic mandates to promote coherence, avoid duplication, determine protection gaps and determine whether the distribution of SPs between individual mandates and working groups is still appropriate.

Third, the enhancement of the cooperation between States and Special Procedures

General Assembly resolution 65/281 of 17 June 2011reiterating other similar positions incorporated in resolution 60/251 and in the Code of Conduct of Special Procedures stipulates that “The Special Procedures shall continue to foster a constructive dialogue with States” (emphasis added). In its para. 94, the MOSP reiterates this commitment but then illustrates it by saying “It is thus appropriate that reminders be sent to Governments in relation to unanswered correspondence”.

Mandate holders are also urged “to follow up on replies provided by the Governments in order to request further clarification…”. Surely a constructive dialogue can go beyond sending registered letters and asking for more clarification.

Real dialogue involves give and take. Why not for instance ask the CC and the 5 geographic representatives of States members of the Council to consult on how para. 94 of the MOSP could be made to reflect not only the letter but also the spirit of UNGA resolution 65/281.

Fourth is the broader issue of how the Human Rights Council can interact with Special Procedures on issues of methodology.

This interaction has to reconcile the accountability of Special Procedures to the Council which appoints them with the full independence of judgement of these mandate-holders in the pursuit of their monitoring mission.

The following kinds of issues have been raised in the recent past which have not found an optimal solution:

Can a Special Procedure Mandate Holder, in the legitimate context of his right to select studies to present to the Council, also question initiatives under discussion by the Council itself without being requested to do so?

If a Special Procedure is mandated by the Council to present a report on a particular issue at a specified session of the Council, may he replace such report by a study that he considers as taking precedence over the mandated theme without consulting the Bureau of the Council?

May a Special Procedure or a commission of enquiry mandated by the Council to present to it a report on a specific theme, report to the General Assembly thereon before reporting to the Council without specific authority to do so?

Should Special Procedures who also interact with the General Assembly of with the Security Council also report to the Human Rights Council thereon?

Many other such questions may crop up from time to time.

During the 2010-2011 review process, all groups of countries of the Global South proposed that some form of advisory body of independent jurists could be consulted on an ad hoc basis to address these procedural issues and free more time in the Council for debates on the substance of human rights promotion and protection.

This view held by a majority of developing nations deserves respect even in case of disagreement. And indeed it was objected to by the Global North, whether at the governmental or at the NGO level, who claimed this was tantamount to imposing an Ethics Committee on Special Procedures.

Pending progress towards greater understanding between North and South on this issue, it is suggested that such issues be discussed at an annual joint meeting of the Coordinating Committee of Special Procedures with the 5 regional representatives of the geographic regions recognized by the Council. They would consult on solutions to such procedural issues including linkages between relevant GA or HRC resolutions and paragraphs 94, 102 and 105 of MOSP.

Fifth, what future structure and funding for Special Procedures?

The dissemination of thematic and country mandates between different divisions or branches of OHCHr in the past has been a cause for concern about the preservation of the independence of Special Procedures. So has their authority to fund-raise individually as per paragraph 11 of MOSP.

The latter question has been addressed recently as Special Procedures are now asked to disclose and report on the support they obtain directly in cash or in kind from outside donors. This report should be submitted to HRC in the context of standard financial reporting.

Idriss Jazairy is author of “In Defence of Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council: An Alternative Narrative from the South”, the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue.

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Progress of The World’s Least Developed Countries to be Reviewedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/progress-of-the-worlds-least-developed-countries-to-be-reviewed/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=progress-of-the-worlds-least-developed-countries-to-be-reviewed http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/progress-of-the-worlds-least-developed-countries-to-be-reviewed/#comments Fri, 13 May 2016 01:05:36 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145105 Progress for Least Developed Countries could be a mixed blessing. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS.

Progress for Least Developed Countries could be a mixed blessing. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS.

By Aruna Dutt
UNITED NATIONS, May 13 2016 (IPS)

The United Nations will undertake a major review of progress made in the world’s 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) later this month.

“Many positive steps have been made by the world’s most vulnerable countries, demonstrating what they can do with the right support, but much more needs to be done given the persistent challenges and structural bottlenecks”, Gyan Chandra Acharya, High Representative for Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States said at a press conference here Tuesday.

The Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries will take place in Antalya, in the south of Turkey, from 27 to 29 May.

The countries defined by the UN as Least Developed Countries (LDCs) represent the poorest and under-developed segment of the international community. Two thirds of the 48 countries are in Africa, with the remaining one-third in the Asia-Pacific region, with Haiti the only LDC in the Americas. They comprise more than 880 million people – 12 per cent of the global population – half of which currently lives below the poverty line.

“We do not want to see a situation where a country graduates [from the LDC category] and then comes back again." -- Gyan Chandra Acharya.

In the past five years, the LDCs have made progress, including through access to the internet and telephone networks, infrastructure expansion, access to energy, reduction of child and maternal mortality rates, access to primary education, and women’s representation in parliament.

However development for the LDCs can be considered a mixed blessing, since many special forms of development assistance are directly targeted at these countries.

According to Acharya, this is why so-called graduation from the LDC category is more of a transition which takes place over a period of several years.

“We do not want to see a situation where a country graduates [from the LDC category] and then comes back again as an LDC,” he said.

He pointed to examples of recently graduated countries such as the Maldives and Samoa which are still receiving many of the facilities provided to the LDCs.

Acharya also said that consideration of when a country will graduate from LDC status was not only based on income.

To constitute a country as an LDC, three aspects of development are looked at, Gross National Income (GNI), Human Assets Index (HAI) and the Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI).

This reflects other aspects of an LDCs development, including their resilience to set-backs such as conflict, climate change and natural disasters.

According to the Group of 77 plus China (G77) which represents developing countries at the United Nations, “LDCs are the major victims of climate change.”

They are also vulnerable to “major health crises, natural calamities, price fluctuations of commodities, and external financial shocks,” the group said in its most recent statement on the upcoming review.

The G77 says that although the Istanbul Programme of Action stressed the importance of building the resilience of developing countries to withstand such shocks, “no visible international support has been devoted to build resilience of the LDCs.”

Acharya is hopeful for the meeting in Turkey, the review “provides an important opportunity for the global community to reaffirm its commitment to the world’s most vulnerable nations,” he said.

“Now is the time for action to ensure that no one is left behind as we build new and transformative partnerships, forging an inclusive and empowering future for millions of people living in Least Developed Countries.”

 

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Why Set Up a Shell Company in Panama?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/why-set-up-a-shell-company-in-panama/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-set-up-a-shell-company-in-panama http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/why-set-up-a-shell-company-in-panama/#comments Thu, 12 May 2016 13:28:21 +0000 Robert Burrowes http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145091 The author has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?‘ ]]> Panama City financial district | 22 March 2016 | Author: Dronepicr | Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. | Wikimedia Commons

Panama City financial district | 22 March 2016 | Author: Dronepicr | Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. | Wikimedia Commons

By Robert J. Burrowes
Daylesford, Australia, May 12 2016 (IPS)

A previously little-known law firm called Mossack Fonseca, based in Panama, has recently been exposed as one of the world’s major creators of ‘shell companies’, that is, corporate structures that can be used to hide the ownership of assets. This can be done legally but shell companies of this nature are widely used for illegal purposes such as tax evasion and money laundering of proceeds from criminal activity.

See ‘Giant Leak of Offshore Financial Records Exposes Global Array of Crime and Corruption: The Panama Papers‘.

Robert J. Burrowes

Robert J. Burrowes

Despite widespread awareness of offshore tax havens in many countries around the world, governments have never acted in a concerted manner to halt these illicit financial flows.

Why? In essence, because wealthy elites are heavily involved in using these mechanisms to isolate their wealth from the usual scrutiny to which the rest of us are subjected precisely so that they can evade tax. And governments do as these controlling elites instruct them.

There is an important reason why wealthy individuals want to maximise their wealth and evade contributing to any country that gave them the opportunity to make this wealth. You might think that you know this reason too: greed.

However, greed is a simplistic explanation that fails to explain, psychologically, why an individual might be greedy. So let me explain it now.

Individuals who engage in dysfunctional behaviours, ranging from accumulating excess wealth to inflicting violence, do so because they are very frightened that one or more of their vital needs will not be met. In virtually all cases, the needs that the individual fears will not be met are emotional ones, particularly including the needs for listening, understanding and love.

So, bizarre though it might seem, the dysfunctional behaviour is simply a (dysfunctional) attempt to have these needs met.

Unfortunately, the individual who compulsively accumulates wealth and/or hides money in a shell company is never aware of their deep emotional needs and of the functional ways of having these needs met which, admittedly, is not easy to do given that listening, understanding and love are not readily available from others who have themselves been denied these needs.

These are the countries, where country leaders, politicians, public officials, or their close family/associates are implicated in the Panama Papers. | Author: JCRules | 3 April 2016 | Brown: Countries of people implicated | Grey: Countries without people implicated (excludes businesspeople and celebrities) | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. | Wikimedia Commons.

These are the countries, where country leaders, politicians, public officials, or their close family/associates are implicated in the Panama Papers. | Author: JCRules | 3 April 2016 | Brown: Countries of people implicated | Grey: Countries without people implicated (excludes businesspeople and celebrities) | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. | Wikimedia Commons.

Moreover, because the individual is unconscious of their emotional needs, the individual (particularly one who lives in a materialist culture) often projects that the need they want met is, in fact, a material need.

This projection occurs because children who are crying, angry or frightened are often scared into not expressing their feelings and offered material items – such as a toy or food – to distract them instead.

Because their emotional responses to events in their life are not heard and addressed, the distractive items become addictive drugs. This is why most violence and ‘business’ involving illicit financial flows is overtly directed at gaining control of material, rather than emotional, resources.

The material resource becomes a dysfunctional and quite inadequate replacement for satisfaction of the emotional need.

And, because the material resource cannot ‘work’ to meet an emotional need, the individual is most likely to keep using direct and/or structural violence to gain control of more material resources in an unconscious and utterly futile attempt to meet unidentified emotional needs.

This is the reason why individuals using the services of Mossack Fonseca seek material wealth and are willing to take advantage of tax evasion structures beyond legal scrutiny.

They are certainly wealthy in the material sense; unfortunately, they are emotional voids and each of them justly deserves the appellation ‘poor little rich boy’ (or girl). For a full explanation of how this emotional damage occurs, see ‘Why Violence?‘ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice‘.

Were they emotionally healthy, their conscience, their compassion, their empathy, their sympathy and, indeed, their love would compel them to not hide their wealth and, in fact, to disperse it in ways that would alleviate world poverty (which starves to death 100,000 people in Africa, Asia and Central/South America each day) and nurture restoration of the ancient, just and ecologically sustainable economy: local self-reliance. See ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘.

Of course, it is not just those who use tax havens to evade their social responsibilities or, more generally, those billionaires and millionaires of the corporate elite who have suffered this emotional destruction.

Those intellectuals in universities and think tanks who accept payment to ‘justify’ the worldwide system of violence and exploitation, those politicians, bureaucrats and ordinary businesspeople who accept payment to manage it, those judges and lawyers who accept payment to act as its legal (but immoral) guardians, those media editors and journalists who accept payment to obscure the truth, as well as the many middle and working class people who perform other roles to defend it (such as those in the military, police and prison systems, as well as many school teachers), are either emotionally void or just too frightened to resist violence and exploitation.

Of course, it takes courage to resist violence and exploitation. But underlying courage is a sense of responsibility towards one’s fellows and the future.

As an extension of the above point, governments that use military violence to gain control of material resources are simply governments composed of many individuals with this dysfunctionality, which is very common in industrialized countries that promote materialism.

Thus, cultures that unconsciously allow and encourage this dysfunctional projection (that an emotional need is met by material acquisition) are the most violent both domestically and internationally. This also explains why industrialized (material) countries use military violence to maintain political and economic structures that allow ongoing exploitation of non-industrialized countries in Africa, Asia and Central/South America.

In summary, the individual who has all of their emotional needs met requires only the intellectual and few material resources necessary to maintain this fulfilling life: anything beyond this is not only useless, it is a burden.

What can we do? We need to recognize that several generations of people who were extremely badly emotionally damaged created the world as it is and that their successors now maintain the political, economic and social structures that allow ruthless exploitation of the rest of us and the Earth itself. We also need to recognize that the Earth’s ecological limits are now being breached.

And if we are to successfully resist these emotionally damaged individuals, their structures of exploitation and their violence, then we need a comprehensive strategy for doing so. If you wish to participate in this strategy you are welcome to sign online ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘.

Whatever else they do, the Panama Papers give us insight into the extent of the psychological damage suffered by wealthy elites and those who serve them.

(End)

The author has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?

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Mass Migration, EU, European Nationalismshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/mass-migration-eu-european-nationalisms/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mass-migration-eu-european-nationalisms http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/mass-migration-eu-european-nationalisms/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 13:46:26 +0000 Johan Galtung http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145064 The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.]]>

The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

By Johan Galtung
Antwerp, Alfaz, May 11 2016 (IPS)

We are dealing with mass migration, basically into EU, and European nationalisms, many in favor of exits from the EU.

Why this mass migration, maybe to the point of Völkerwanderung, mainly into EU–but then what kind of EU–and why the European nationalisms now found one way or the other in many member states?

Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

The forecast for migration from Africa into Italy in 2016 is about 100,000; 28,000 already arrived in the first quarter, with 1,000 drowning in the Mediterranean (INYT, 6 May 2016). Big numbers. They knew the risks they were taking, so the push away from Africa and the pull towards Italy, and beyond, must have been considerable.

Better think in terms of 50 million migrants over 50 years, from regions considered uninhabitable to inhabitable regions. There seem to be five major causes underlying this basic world asymmetry:

Slavery, four centuries, depriving societies particularly of able-bodied males, by Arabs, then Westerners, cross-Atlantic transportation mainly by the English (Liverpool);
Colonialism, by Muslims after the death of the prophet in 632, from Casablanca to Southern Philippines, till the end of the 15th century, close to nine centuries, then by Christians close to five centuries, till colonialism was officially ended in the 1960s;
Robbery Capitalism, stealing or paying next to nothing for resources processed into manufactured goods, pocketing the value added;
Wars, mainly initiated by the West, killing millions (the USA more than 20 million in 37 countries after WWII), destroying property;
Ecological Factors, like depletion-pollution, often toxic for humans or nature, erratic climate partly due to climate gases, NOX, CO2, CH4.

These are the causes of poverty in some parts of the world but also of wealth in others; creating the asymmetry uninhabitable vs inhabitable by exploitation, becoming rich at the expense of others becoming poor.

That clearly applies to slavery, colonialism, robbery capitalism and many wars (the difference between bombing and being bombed). But the ecological factor hits both; so, the West attends to that factor.

Anyhow, many think: Time has come to share more equitably this wealth.

Of 28 EU members, 11 were colonial powers. 9 in Africa: England, Netherlands, France, Belgium-Luxembourg, Italy, Spain, Portugal, till the end of WWI Germany; all enriching themselves.

To believe that the other 28 – 9 = 19 members will accept “quotas” for migration due to the violence of the 9–England-France particularly, in the Middle East by Sykes-Picot colonization (*)–is simply naive. EU has institutions, but has not managed fusion into a Europe of one for all, all for one.

EU today is an exploitative pyramid: Germany on top; 8 Northern-Germanic countries; 5 Southern-Latin countries with France, Ireland; 12 Eastern countries; Greece at the bottom. With inequity and quotas, not strange that nationalisms flourish, tearing EU apart. Remove the causes: England-France, pick up the bill; EU, flatten the pyramid. (**)

Nevertheless, that only solves the intra-EU problem, not the world problem of mass migration from parts of the world mainly damaged by the West. Migrating into the EU, over land and across the Mediterranean, with a small part into a USA protected by two major oceans from the problems they helped to cause–except for migration via and from Mexico.

Mass migration is now an “industry” with “helpers”, smugglers, drugs and trafficking, dubious migrants, police and military among them. Yet that does not detract from the role of the five root causes, even if all kinds of lesser causes and effects make them less visible.

EU redirects migrant flows from the Middle East to Turkey at high costs; the flow from Africa to Nigeria; NATO patrols the Mediterranean. But these are at most stopgap measures. They are migrants not only from but also to–to the colonial “mother countries”, England and France.

Today they travel on foot, by bus, taxis–tomorrow by submarines (like drug smugglers), planes (many do) or by more massive numbers? Claiming a right to settle, uninvited, where much of their human and natural resources has been processed into the wealth of others–who also settled, uninvited. How do we handle this? Are there solutions?

5 Causes, 2 (groups of) Solutions. For Each, Negative and Positive

Slavery:

Negative: CARICOM [Caribbean Community] leads in denouncing slavery, followed by eLAC Summit meeting in Quito; EU endorsing; joint history books (USA: Frederick Douglass testimony); mapping levels of slavery; museums-memorials.

Positive: EU-AU conciliation sessions; negotiate compensation.

Colonialism:

Negative: South Africa leads in denouncing, followed by AU; others should join; joint history books on the experience.

Positive: EU-AU conciliation sessions; cover federation-confederation costs for multi-nation states and multi-state nations.

Robbery Capitalism:

Negative: Documentation, like using Sevilla customs data calculating the value as debt of the resources robbed; “Hands Off Africa”.

Positive: Africa processing its own resources; the Gaddafi 3 points; SSS trade also with China; lifting the bottom up; new infrastructure.

Wars:

Negative: Stop killing (bombing, SEALs); how many killed in how many countries, like for USA; denounce events (like Berlusconi for 1911).

Positive:
Use military defensively against IS violence; solve conflicts with “terrorists” (IS)–with “communists” (Vietnam) after they won.

Ecology:
Negative: reduce CO2+CH4 levels controlling fossil fuels and fracking.

Positive: Switch to renewable non-polluting resources like sun, wind; increase diversity of biota and abiota resources; help with symbiosis (enough CO2!); improve light-dark balance to absorb less solar heat.

Much more awareness is needed to understand the damage done. But three positive approaches, from “trickling down” capitalism to lifting the bottom up, from offensive to defensive use of military, from victory to solution, could carry far way, even quickly. Likely?

Notes:

(*) To tilt the WWI power balance in their favor one century ago, the four colonies they created–instead of freedom for the Arabs–have been at the root of most Middle East problems. Take Syria as example, an artificial state constructed by Paris, with 7 built-in conflicts: with Israel-USA blocking for Eretz Israel (Golan is one aspect); with Russia if a government should deny Russia their only base (as opposed to at least 800 US bases); between minority Shia-Alawite dictatorship with tolerance for others and a majority Sunni dictatorship without; between Arab Muslims and others like Kurds, Turks, Christians, Jews; between Shia and Sunni and their countries, the Shia living in the Fertile Crescent; between Al Qaeda+ and foreigners; and between all of the above and the Islamic State. IS wants to undo Sykes-Picot and to recreate the Ottoman Empire and their Caliphate without Istanbul; and see themselves as Islamic responses to the EU and the Vatican.

In so doing IS has a decisive advantage relative to “all of the above” who reify Syria as something sustainable with basic changes. IS relates to a reality where today’s Syria is located that lasted four centuries, 1516-1916. They want to reconstruct a past based on provinces and proceed accordingly. This author would be surprised if Iraq as a state survives beyond 2020 and Syria as a state beyond 2025.

(**) If we collapse the top three and the bottom 2 levels 14 Western and 12 Eastern; with ten islands 28. Add Turkey and the point of gravity moves further East, with Istanbul challenging Brussels. And what happe then to the migrants stranded in Turkey?

Johan Galtung’s op-ed originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 9 May 2016: TMS: Mass Migration, EU, European Nationalisms

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Kenyan Refugee Camp Closures will have Disastrous Consequenceshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/kenyan-refugee-camp-closures-will-have-disastrous-consequences/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenyan-refugee-camp-closures-will-have-disastrous-consequences http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/kenyan-refugee-camp-closures-will-have-disastrous-consequences/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 01:04:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145049 An aerial view of the Ifo 2 Refugee Camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

An aerial view of the Ifo 2 Refugee Camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 11 2016 (IPS)

The Kenyan government’s decision to close its refugee camps will have disastrous consequences and must be reconsidered, international organisations have stated.

At the end of last week, the Kenyan government announced that the “hosting of refugees has to come to an end”, citing economic, security and environmental concerns.

Currently, Kenya hosts over 600,000 refugees, many of whom are from Somalia and South Sudan. The country is also home to the Dadaab complex, the largest refugee camp in the world.-

The government has already disbanded its Department of Refugee Affairs and is working to close its camps in the “shortest time possible.”

International human rights groups have lambasted the move.

“In a single breath, the Kenyan government recognizes that the Somalis it has been hosting for nearly 25 years are still refugees, but then states it’s finished with them,” said Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) Refugee Rights Program Director Bill Frelick.

Amnesty International’s (AI) Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes Muthoni Wanyeki called the decision “reckless” and an “abdication” of its responsibility to protect the vulnerable.

Similarly, Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) Head of Mission in Kenya Liesbeth Aelbrecht said that the move highlights the “continued” and “blatant neglect” of refugees around the world.

The government has already disbanded its Department of Refugee Affairs and is working to close its camps in the “shortest time possible.”

The camp closures mean refugees will be repatriated to their countries of origin.

Aelbrecht stated that in one Dadaab camp alone where MSF works, approximately 330,000 Somalis will be affected and forced to return to a war-torn country with little access to vital humanitarian assistance. Somalia is also facing a drought, exacerbating food insecurity and malnutrition in the country. Approximately 4.7 million people—nearly 40 percent—are in need of humanitarian assistance in the East African nation.

The ongoing conflict in neighbouring South Sudan has also displaced and killed millions, worsened access to food and water, and destroyed schools and hospitals.

Wanyeki said that the forced repatriation would be in “violation of Kenya’s obligations under international law.” Frelick echoed these sentiments, stating that though the threat of Al-Shabab is real, Kenya still has to “abide by international refugee law.” HRW also noted that there is no evidence linking Somali refugees to any terrorist attacks in Kenya.

This is not the first time that Kenya has made such calls.

According to Refugees International, in 2012 and 2014, the government ordered all urban refugees to report to refugee camps. Refugees were subsequently bribed, harassed, physically assaulted and arrested by police.

The most recent announcement may therefore increase levels of extortion and abuse by security forces, said Refugees International Senior Advocate Mark Yarnell.

Though they acknowledged the humanitarian consequences of the decision, the Kenyan government stated that they have been “shouldering” the burden on behalf of the regional and international community.

“As a country with limited resources, facing an existential terrorist threat, we can no longer allow our people to bear the brunt of the International Community’s weakening obligations to the refugees,” said Kenya’s Minister for National Security Karanja Kibicho in an editorial.

He noted that there has been a fall in international funding and lack of commitment to resettlement, partly due to a magnified focus on the refugee crisis in Europe.

“The world continues to learn the ruinous effect of these persistent double standards,” Kibicho stated.

In response to the government’s concerns, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) noted the “vital” role Kenya has played as one of the frontline major refugee hosting nations.

Organisations including Oxfam and the International Rescue Committee also acknowledged the “hospitality” and “responsibility” that the Kenyan government has borne over decades in a joint statement.

“The NGO community is committed to continue supporting the Government of Kenya in the search for long-term and sustainable solutions for refugees,” the statement says.

The joint statement calls on the international community to provide predictable and sufficient financial support to Kenya’s refugee programmes and to expand resettlement quotas.

The joint statement, along with UNHCR and MSF, also called on the government to reconsider its decision.

Aelbrecht stated that Kenya, alongside the international community, must continue providing humanitarian assistance and ensure adequate living conditions for the thousands “who desperately need it.”

Wanyeki, while recognizing the slow resettlement process, also urged the government to consider permanent solutions towards the full integration of refugees.

“Forced return to situations of persecution or conflict is not an option,” she concluded.

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UN Releases Plan to Increase Refugee Responsibility Sharinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/un-releases-plan-to-increase-refugee-responsibility-sharing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-releases-plan-to-increase-refugee-responsibility-sharing http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/un-releases-plan-to-increase-refugee-responsibility-sharing/#comments Tue, 10 May 2016 04:32:34 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145040 A Syrian refugee in Cairo: fleeing Syrians have little to look forward to here. Credit: Hisham Allam/IPS.

A Syrian refugee in Cairo: fleeing Syrians have little to look forward to here. Credit: Hisham Allam/IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, May 10 2016 (IPS)

The UN wants to create a new Global Compact to encourage countries to share the responsibility for hosting the 19 million refugees who have fled their home countries.

The success of a UN summit on refugees and migration planned for September this year “will hinge on the strength” of the proposed compact, Sherif Elsayed-Ali, ‎Deputy Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International told IPS.

Elsayed-Ali said that a small number of states have been expected to deal with a huge number of refugees while wealthier countries that could be doing a lot more “are not doing very much.”

One of the countries that has born a disproportionate burden of hosting refugees for decades is Kenya.

Elsayed-Ali said that the Kenyan government’s recent renewed threat to close down the world’s largest refugee camp and deport thousands of Somalis is “a manifestation of the complete failure to uphold responsibility sharing as it should be.”

“The situation has come to what it is now partially because the international community has ignored situations like the Somali refugee crisis in Kenya,” he said.

“The situation has come to what it is now partially because the international community has ignored situations like the Somali refugee crisis in Kenya,” -- Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Amnesty.

Kenya is not the only developing country struggling to cope with hosting refugees. Almost nine out of ten refugees live in developing countries, Karen AbuZayd, Special Adviser to the Secretary General on the Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants told journalists here Monday.

AbuZayd was appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to convene the September summit as a key part of the UN’s response to the ongoing global refugee crisis.

A report released here Monday “In Safety and Dignity: Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants” details Ban’s hopes for the summit, including his plans for the Global Compact.

AbuZayd said that the summit was partly needed to remind member states of the international laws they have already agreed to follow.

“We’ve come to this point that we have to have another summit about this and remind people of their previous commitments,” she said.

The summit will also propose new solutions, including a plan to increase development aid to host countries.

Countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, which are hosting millions of Syrian refugees, have been calling for increased international assistance to help them bear the financial burden of shelter, education and healthcare for millions of refugees.

“There needs to be proper funding for Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, for the financial costs of hosting a large refugee population,” said Elsayed-Ali.

However, it is unclear whether the proposed Global Compact plans to address the issue of rich countries paying poorer countries to host refugees for them.

IPS asked UN Deputy Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General about this issue here Monday and he said that it was one of many reasons demonstrating the urgency and relevance of the initiative. However Eliasson did not provide details as to how the issue could be specifically addressed.

So far one of the few countries to adopt this approach has been Australia. Elsayed-Ali described Australia’s policy of settling refugees in Papua New Guinea, Nauru and Cambodia as “completely disastrous.”

“Essentially Australia is absolving itself of its core responsibility under international refugee law,” he said.

Referring to the conditions on Nauru where two refugees have recently resorted to self-immolation in protest, Elsayed-Ali said that “almost no independent observers have been able to go and see the situation or talk to the refugees.”

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Is the System Broke or Broken?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/is-the-system-broke-or-broken/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-the-system-broke-or-broken http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/is-the-system-broke-or-broken/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 17:35:19 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144971 Families displaced from their homes in Pakistan’s troubled northern regions returning home. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS.

Families displaced from their homes in Pakistan’s troubled northern regions returning home. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 4 2016 (IPS)

Though the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit may seem timely, a debate ensues on an important question: is the world humanitarian system broke or broken?

The first-ever World Humanitarian Summit, which takes place in Istanbul on May 23-24, was convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to address the pressing needs of today’s humanitarian problems.

“We believe this is a once in a generation opportunity to address the problems, the suffering of millions of people around the world,” said European Union Ambassador to the United Nations João Vale de Almeida during a press briefing.

More than 125 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance globally. If this were a country, it would be the 11th largest in the world. Over 60 million are forcibly displaced, making it the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. Crises now last longer, increasing the average length of displacement to 17 years from 9 years.

However, need has surpassed capacity and resources. As of the beginning of May, almost $15 billion in appeals is unmet for crises around the world including in Nigeria, Central African Republic, and Syria. Approximately 90 percent of UN humanitarian appeals continue for more than three years.

The meeting therefore represents not only a call for action, but also an alarm to reform the increasingly strained humanitarian system.

From the recent earthquake in Ecuador to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, local communities and NGOs are often the first responders due to their proximity.

Among the summit’s core responsibilities is strengthening partnerships and a multi-stakeholder process that puts affected civilians at the heart of humanitarian action.

“The current system remains largely closed, with poor connections to…a widening array of actors,” a summit synthesis report stated following consultations with over 23,000 representatives. “It is seen as outdated.”

Senior Research Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute’s (ODI) Humanitarian Policy Group Christina Bennett agrees, noting that humanitarian and aid structures have changed very little since it was first conceived.

“It’s still a very top-down, paternalistic way of going about things,” she told IPS.

In an ODI report, Bennett found that the system has created an exclusive, centralised group of humanitarian donors and actors, excluding local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from participating.

In 2014, 83 percent of humanitarian funding came from donor governments in Europe and North America.

Between 2010 and 2014, UN agencies and the largest international NGOs (INGOs) received 86% of all international humanitarian assistance. Meanwhile, less than two percent was directly provided to national and local NGOs.

This has prevented swift and much needed assistance on the ground.

Field Nurse for Doctor of the World’s Greece chapter Sarah Collis told IPS of her time working in the Idomeni refugee camp in Greece, noting the lack of medical resources and basic items such as food and blankets.

“Distribution of blankets only happened at night because the aid agencies were worried about mass crowds,” she told IPS. “This meant that single mothers and young families often had no chance,” she added.

Collis also recalled that there were only two ambulances for the whole region and at times, her team often had to pile six people in an ambulance at once.

The most fast acting groups, Collis said, were the small NGOs and volunteers with direct funding sources and less red tape.

From the recent earthquake in Ecuador to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, local communities and NGOs are often the first responders due to their proximity. They also have better access to hard-to-reach areas, have familiarity with the people and cultures, and can address and reduce risk before disaster strikes.

On the other hand, larger organisations or institutions such as the UN often have difficulty conducting efficient and effective humanitarian operations.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) identified the UN as being at the “heart of the dysfunction” in the humanitarian system. They found that UNHCR’s three-pronged role, as being a coordinator, implementer and donor, led to their poor performance in South Sudan, Jordan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In South Sudan’s Maban county, UNHCR was reportedly slow in response and struggled to mobilise qualified staff.

Their “triple” role also made it difficult for subcontracting NGOs to share implementation challenges and for the agency itself to “admit to bigger problems or to ask for technical assistance from other UN agencies, for fear of losing out on funding or credibility.” This, in turn, impacted the quality of information to make sound decision-making.

Though some funds from UN agencies and INGOs are provided to local NGOs, the relationship is more “transactional” rather than a “genuine, strategic engagement,” Bennett says.

For instance, when aid is provided, it is often determined by the availability of goods and services rather than what people actually need or want on the ground.

“We don’t have more of an alliance…with these organisations as equal players,” Bennett told IPS.

These issues also came to a head during consultations for the World Humanitarian Summit in Geneva.

“Southern NGOs are demanding accompaniment rather than direction,” Executive Director of African Development Solutions (Adeso) Degan Ali told government officials, UN representatives, and civil society. “Be prepared to be uncomfortable.”

Though many acknowledge that there is an important role for INGOs and donor governments in the humanitarian system, there is an emerging understanding that such actors must shift their positions from one that is dominating to one that is enabling.

Organisations such as Oxfam and Adesso have called for the UN and large INGOs to enable local NGOs by directly providing funds. This will not only help them to prepare and improve their responses to crises, but it would also put decision making and power “where it should be,” Oxfam stated.

They have also urged for a target of 20 percent of all humanitarian funding to go directly to local organisations. Already, a charter has been created to commit INGOs to these actions. Among the signatories are Oxfam, Care International and Islamic Relief Worldwide.

Despite these calls to action, Bennett told IPS that she does not believe that the World Humanitarian Summit will lead to change.

“I think it isn’t something on the agenda of the World Humanitarian Summit…partially because they are hard to address and they’re very political—these aren’t easy wins,” she said.

In order to achieve fundamental changes, donor governments and institutions with decision making power must address the underlying assumptions and power dynamics that hold the system back, Bennett remarked.

“Until they move, the system is stuck.”

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Odd Situation in the “Paradise” of Press Freedomhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/odd-situation-in-the-paradise-of-press-freedom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=odd-situation-in-the-paradise-of-press-freedom http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/odd-situation-in-the-paradise-of-press-freedom/#comments Mon, 02 May 2016 16:54:45 +0000 Milla Sundstrom http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144930 By Milla Sundström
HELSINKI, Finland, May 2 2016 (IPS)

A strange situation has emerged in Finland where some people feel that the press freedom is currently jeopardised. The small Nordic country is a press freedom celebrity leading the index kept by Reporters Without Borders since 2009 and hosting the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

The case is related to the so-called Panama Papers that were recently leaked by The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The papers originate from the Panama based law company Mossack Fonseca and include information about over 210,000 companies that operate in fiscal paradises.

The Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) was involved in publishing the leak and fiscal authorities of Finland now insist that the company has to hand the material over to them. The dead line expired on Friday but YLE has refused.

The company is appealing the tax authorities’ decision and stating that it’s basic freedom is to protect the news sources. Besides YLE emphasised that it does not possess the material but a few journalists just have access to it.

What has most surprised both journalists and the public here is the fact that this happens in Finland while no other country whose media is involved in the Panama case has experienced same kind of threat from the authorities.

“We understand very well about why the tax office and politicians are interested in the documents leaked from Mossack Fonseca”, the responsible editors of YLE investigative group, Ville Vilén and Marit af Björkesten, said in their statement referring to the possible tax evasions and their social consequences.

They admit having partly shared purposes with the authorities but refuse to violate old principles that have been followed for decades in the European countries that respect press freedom.

“Despite their wideness the Panama papers are not a reason to endanger the protection of the news source and the possibilities of Finnish journalists to practice influential investigative journalism on a longer run,” they continue.

“Surprisingly we are not here to celebrate press freedom but instead to ponder an amazing situation”, the president on the Finnish Council of Mass Media, Elina Grundström, said Monday on YLE’s morning television.
The Council of Mass Media is an organ of the Finnish media’s self-regulation meant to supervise the ethics of the press from all stakeholders’ angle. Grundström gave her support to YLE’s decision not to give up the Panama papers to the tax authorities.
Susanna Reinboth, the law reporter of the biggest national daily, agreed while Pekka Mervola, editor-in-chief of the regional paper Keskisuomalainen, thinking that the material could be delivered with certain reservations that are meant to protect the sources.
The problem may be at least partly solved on May 9th when the ICIJ has promised to publish part of the Panama material.

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Democratic Corruptionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/democratic-corruption/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=democratic-corruption http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/democratic-corruption/#comments Mon, 02 May 2016 16:32:11 +0000 Sakib Sherani http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144931 By Sakib Sherani
May 2 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

`Chaste to her husband, frank to all beside / A teeming mistress, but a barren bride` – Alexander Pope

From Brazil to Malaysia, democracy around the world is under threat. Not from the march of army columns, but from the greed and corruption of a rapaclous global political elite. While nation-destroying corruption of leaders such as Ferdinand Marcos, Mobutu Sese Seko, Sani Abacha, Alberto Fujimori, or Robert Mugabe was the accepted `norm` till the 1990s for a select band of unfortunate Third World countries whose people had been made destitute by their leaders` insatiable greed, the latest wave of democracy was thought to have brought in a newer, and lesstainted, leadership.

From Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan to Cristina Fernandez de Kerchner in Argentina, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela to Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta in Kenya, citizens of newly democratic countries have looked up to young, educated and dynamic leaders to provide salvation from the curse of history. But this was not to be.

Wildly popular leaders elected via freer and fairer elections proved to be a false dawn in most countries much like the lament from Alexander Pope`s Rape of the Lock.

Far from strengthening democracy in their respective countries by building or consolidating institutions, most of these leaders chose to become elected autocrats by dismantling, brick by brick, constitutional checks and balances against misrule and established systems of good governance. Their popularity – born out of a politica dynasty, a successful acting career, leadership in the independence movement or just charismatic demagoguery – combined with the decimation of legitimate democratic opposition and institutional safeguards more often than not has bred a sense of entitlement and a culture of impunity. These are fertile grounds for corruption and misuse of unbridled power.

Hence, the scale, brazenness and pervasiveness of corruption in these countries. Hugo Chavez`s family in Venezuela, Tamil Nadu`s chief minister Jayalalitha, the Rajapakse family in Sri Lanka, are just a handful among a host of other recent popularly elected leadersaccused of amassing untold wealth while in office. Similar accusations dog the family of the prime minister of Bangladesh and the erstwhile prime minister of Thailand, Ms Yingluck Shinawatra.

In Brazil, the leftist President Dilma Rouseff and her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva are embroiled in a multi-billion dollar embezzlement scandal involving Petrobras, the country`s stateowned oil producer. Prime Minister Najib Razzak of Malaysia has had the good fortune of `someone` crediting his account with $700 million overnight (linked to Malaysia`s state fund 1MDB), while Turkey`s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is accused of wasting state funds on building a new palace for himself costing over $600m.

Nor is abuse of public office for personal enrichment limited any longer to dirt-poor developing countries. Even in countries with an established, albeit turbulent, tradition of parliamentary democracy, such as Spain and Italy, popularly elected leaders voted into office on a promise of change have quickly become tainted with allegations of corruption.

Closer to home, proceedings of hearings before the US Senate in 1999 provide a detailed account of millions of dollars of funds being moved through Citibank`s private banking centres on behalf of Mr Zardari between 1994 and 1997, including on account of commissions by the Swiss company Cotecna.

Details of beneficial ownership of a web of offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands by the thenprime minister and her spouse is provided in the official record of the proceedings. Further material on beneficial ownership of offshore companies and transactions amounting to millions of dollars during this period is provided in the Global Corruption Report (2004) in the section titled `The hunt for looted state assets: the case of Benazir Bhutto`

Recent revelations about offshore companies and accounts belonging to the prime minister`s family dating to the 1990s a period of intense speculation about corruption involving South Korea`s Daewoo, and in the yellow cabs import scheme that apparently caused a $1 billion loss to Pakistan`s exchequer reinforce the perception that the transition to democ-racy in Pakistan has taken a familiar, and less desirable, path.

Not unlike other parts of the world, where elected kleptocrats have been caught out with their `snouts in the trough` (as the late Ardeshir Cowasjee would put it), Pakistani politicians start crying hoarse about the threat to `the system` whenever their corruption is exposed. Presumably, the system they are out to protect is not one that guarantees education, jobs or basic health services to Pakistan`s teeming poor, but one that allows the entitlement to loot.

However, there is nothing constitutional or democratic about the systematic pillage of state resources for personal enrichment. About the only democratic thing about such large-scale corruption is that, barring the handful who benefit from it, it affects all other Pakistanis indiscriminately, with the poor and the vulnerable bearing the brunt of its pernicious consequences.

These consequences have been on egregious display time and again: when public schools in Azad Kashmir collapsed due to poor construction in the October 2005 earthquake killing thousands of innocent children; when poor Thari children die each year due to lack of basic facilities; when faulty scanners are imported to protect our cities; when expired medicines and vaccines are purchased for public hospitals; when the government does not have the money to pay pensioners, doctors, nurses, teachers and Lady Health Workers their dues for months on end but can cough up $2bn for vanity bus and train projects; when an illfunded and ill-equipped police has to take on wellarmed criminal gangs baclced by powerful politicians; ad nauseam.

True democracy is an aspiration worth pursuing. But passing off large-scale looting and plunder as constitutional democracy does not serve the interest of Pakistan`s citizens or its future generations.

Banay hain ahlay hawwas muda`ee bhi, munsifbhi Kisay vakil karein, kis say munsafi chahein (Faiz)

The writer is a former economic adviser to government, and currently heads a macroeconomic consultancy based in Islamabad.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Free Press a Casualty of Pakistan’s Terror Warhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/free-press-a-casualty-of-pakistans-terror-war/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=free-press-a-casualty-of-pakistans-terror-war http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/free-press-a-casualty-of-pakistans-terror-war/#comments Mon, 02 May 2016 14:59:49 +0000 Ashfaq Yusufzai http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144927 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/free-press-a-casualty-of-pakistans-terror-war/feed/ 0 Why we need to stand united against governments cracking down on dissenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/why-we-need-to-stand-united-against-governments-cracking-down-on-dissent/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-we-need-to-stand-united-against-governments-cracking-down-on-dissent http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/why-we-need-to-stand-united-against-governments-cracking-down-on-dissent/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 14:33:35 +0000 Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144877 Police use tear gas and water canons in Istanbul to disperse demonstrators protesting the new Internet bill in February 2014. Credit: Emrah Gurel/IPS.

Police use tear gas and water canons in Istanbul to disperse demonstrators protesting the new Internet bill in February 2014. Credit: Emrah Gurel/IPS.

By Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah
JOHANNESBURG, Apr 28 2016 (IPS)

Last month, after receiving threats for opposing a hydroelectric project, Berta Caceres, a Honduran indigenous and environmental rights campaigner, was murdered. A former winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize for her opposition to one of Central America’s biggest hydropower projects, Berta was shot dead in her own home.

In the same month, South African anti-mining activist, Sikhosiphi Bazooka Radebe, leader of a fiercely fought campaign to protect a pristine stretch of the Pondoland Wild Coast, was also shot dead.

Across the world, civic activists are being detained, tortured and killed. The space for citizens to organise and mobilise is being shut down; dissenting voices are being shut up. In 2015, at least 156 human rights activists were murdered. 156 that we know of.

The scale of the threat cannot be underestimated. The most recent analysis by my CIVICUS colleagues shows that, in 2015, significant violations of civic space were recorded in over 100 countries, up from 96 in 2014. People living in these countries account for roughly 86% of the world’s population. This means that 6 out of 7 people live in states where their basic rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression are being curtailed or denied. No single region stands out; truly, this is a worldwide trend, a global clampdown.

Hostility towards civil society is becoming normalised as threats emanate from an increasing range of state and non-state actors: corrupt politicians and officials, unaccountable security forces, unscrupulous businesses and religious fundamentalists.

Hostility towards civil society is becoming normalised as threats emanate from an increasing range of state and non-state actors: corrupt politicians and officials, unaccountable security forces, unscrupulous businesses and religious fundamentalists. But perhaps more worrying is the demonisation of civil society in mainstream political discourse. A recent bill in Israel, touted by its supporters as the ‘Transparency Bill’, places rigorous new disclosure demands on any Israeli non-profit organisation that receives more than 50% of its funding from “Foreign Political Entities’, in other words from foreign governments, the EU or UN. Following an escalating global trend, the bill seeks to cast Israeli CSOs as disloyal ‘foreign agents’, demanding that their public communications state the source of their funding and calling for their employees to wear distinctive tags.

In the UK recent government efforts to restrict the lobbying activities of civil society organisations prompted over 140 charities to express their concern. A proposed new grant agreement clause seeks to prevent UK charities from using their funds to enter into any dialogue with parliament, government or a political party. In India, Prime Minister Modi has cautioned his judiciary against being influenced by what he called, ‘five star activists’. Insinuating that the civil society sector is elitist and out of touch with realities on the ground, the comments lent renewed impetus to the country’s ongoing crackdown on critical civil rights activists and NGOs.

The recent proliferation of counter-terrorism measures has also served to further stigmatise and stifle the sector. By suggesting that non-profit organisations are particularly vulnerable to abuse or exploitation by terrorist groups, governments have justified new laws and regulatory restrictions on their legitimate activities and the political space they inhabit. Freedom of speech is being silenced, funding sources cut off; the effect has been debilitating.

State surveillance of online activities is also on the rise as authorities note the power of the internet and social media as a tool for citizen mobilization. Governments have woken up to the power of civil society. The deepest fear of repressive regimes is no longer necessarily the rise of new political opposition parties; it is 100,000 of their citizens taking to the streets in the pursuit of change. And so a concerted push-back has begun, an effort to tame civil society, to smother its ability to catalyse social transformation.

We need to push back on these incursions on civic space, urgently and across the world. We need to be challenging our governments over rights violations, about the murder of activists, about their progress in fighting poverty, climate change and inequality.

There is much cause for hope. Last year, a coalition of Tunisian civil society organisations won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work in bringing a country back from the brink of civil war and laying the foundations of a pluralistic democracy. The latest innovations in protest and movement building, in technologies that can liberate and mobilise citizens, in citizen-generated data that can empower campaigners and increase transparency around the monitoring of our global goals: all of these signal a new era of dynamic civic activism. Over the last few days more than 500 leading activists and thinkers gathered at International Civil Society Week 2016 in Bogota, Colombia to plot civil society’s global fight-back. It is fitting that this meeting took place against a backdrop of the peace negotiations that Colombian civil society has played such a key role in making possible.

Our gathering has the potential to be a defining moment for the future of democratic struggles. There will be more setbacks, low points and sacrifices to come but the demands for change won’t go away. Nor will civil society’s ability to affect it. A new, radically different vision for the future of civic action is being formulated. And those of us who believe in a healthy, independent civil society have more responsibility than ever before to keep on making our case. Knowing the threats she faced, Berta Caceres said, ‘We must undertake the struggle in all parts of the world, wherever we may be, because we have no spare or replacement planet. We have only this one and we have to take action’. She was right.

Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah is the Secretary General of CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of IPS.

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Playing Ping Pong with Disabilityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/playing-ping-pong-with-disability/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=playing-ping-pong-with-disability http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/playing-ping-pong-with-disability/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 07:53:51 +0000 Silvia Boarini http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144866 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/playing-ping-pong-with-disability/feed/ 0 G-77 Should Adopt South-South Climate Change Program of Action: Ambassador Djoghlafhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/g-77-should-adopt-south-south-climate-change-program-of-action-ambassador-djoghlaf/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=g-77-should-adopt-south-south-climate-change-program-of-action-ambassador-djoghlaf http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/g-77-should-adopt-south-south-climate-change-program-of-action-ambassador-djoghlaf/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 18:53:36 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144835 The beauty of the Paris agreement is that it’s a universal agreement, unlike the Kyoto protocol, said Ambassador Djoghlaf. Credit: Ahmed Djoghlaf.

The beauty of the Paris agreement is that it’s a universal agreement, unlike the Kyoto protocol, said Ambassador Djoghlaf. Credit: Ahmed Djoghlaf.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 26 2016 (IPS)

The 134 members of the Group of 77 and China (G-77) made their mark on the Paris Climate Change Agreement and should now adopt a program of action to implement it, Ambassador Ahmed Djoghlaf told IPS in a recent interview.

Djoghlaf, of Algeria, was co-chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), together with Daniel Reifsnyder, of the United States, a position which allowed him to “witness very closely” the negotiation of the Paris Agreement.

“As the co-chair of the preparatory committee I can tell you that the G-77 has been a major actor during the  negotiation and a major player for the success of the Paris conference,” said Djoghlaf.

Djoghlaf said that the Group of 77 and China made its mark on the Paris agreement by mobilising a diverse range of countries and sub-groups, to “defend the collective interests of the developing countries.”

The group helped to find balance in the agreement “between mitigation issues that are important for developed countries and adaptation issues that are very close to the heart of the developing countries,” said Djoghlaf.

He also said that the group fought for equity, response measures, loss and damage as well as means of implementation, including financing, capacity building and transfer of technology.

“Those that are suffering the most nowadays are those that have less contributed to climate change crisis and they are using their own limited financial resources to address them, to adapt, to adjust to the consequences created by others,” he said.

Program of Action in Marrakech

“I hope that the G-77 through the leadership of Thailand will be able to take the lead and submit to its partners at the next conference of the parties in Marrakech a draft work program on capacity building for the implementation of the Paris agreement,” said Djoghlaf.

The 22nd meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP22) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be held in Marrakech, Morocco, from 7 to 18 Nov. 2016.

Djoghlaf said the program should address North-South as well as South-South capacity building, which is needed to ensure that developing countries can implement their commitments including on issues related to the finalisation of their nationally determined contributions and preparation of their future contributions.

“It would be important for the developing countries to be able to identify their own capacity building needs and let others do it for them. It will be also important to have a framework to coordinate the South-South cooperation on climate change similar to the Caracas Plan of Action on South-South Cooperation or the Buenos Aires Plan of Action on economic and technical cooperation among developing countries,” he said.

Quoting Victor Hugo Djoghlaf said that “not a single army in the world can stop an idea whose time has come, I do believe when it comes to South-South cooperation on climate change it’s an idea whose time has come also.”

“Within the G-77, the diverse group, you have emerging countries that are now leaders in renewable energy and the energy of tomorrow and the they have I think a responsibility to share their experience and to allow other countries from the same region and the same group to benefit from their experience,” he said.

"It is crystal clear that the Paris agreement will enter into force well before the original expected date of 2020. The clock is ticking and we cannot afford any delay” -- Ambassador Ahmed Djoghlaf

“I also believe that time has come for the G-77 to initiate it’s own program of action on climate change,” he said.

Djoghlaf said that developing countries need capacity building to ensure that they can continue to participate fully in the implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Unlike developed countries, which “have fully-fledged ministries dealing with climate change,” he said, “In the South there is not a single country that has a Minister of Climate Change.”

He spoke about how during the negotiations of the Paris agreement many countries of the South had only one focal point and yet sometimes there were 15 meetings taking place at the same time and the meetings also often continued into the night.

It can be difficult for this focal point “to be able to understand and to participate, let alone be heard” when there is a “proliferation of simultaneous meetings,” he said.

Djoghlaf said that countries of the South could help address this disparity by establishing national committees, which include representatives from a number of different ministries.

“There’s not a single sector of activities which is not nowadays affected by the negative impact of climate change,” said Djoghlaf.

“All the sectors need to be engaged and we will succeed to win the battle of climate change when all these ministers, economic ministers and social ministers, will be fully integrating climate change in their planning and in their decision making processes,” he said.

Djoghlaf acknowledged it’s not easy for ministers in developing countries to engage because they have other urgent priorities. “They tend not to see the importance of the impact of climate change because they believe that this is not a priority for them,” he said. Yet there is often evidence that supports a more cross-cutting approach. For example, said Djoghlaf, World Health Organization research, which shows that 7 million people die from air pollution every year, demonstrates that climate change should also be a priority for health ministries.

The beauty of the Paris agreement

Djoghlaf said that the beauty of the Paris agreement is that it’s a universal agreement, unlike the Kyoto protocol. The Paris agreement is “very balanced” and should last for years to come because it takes into in to consideration the evolving capacities and the evolving responsibilities of countries, he said.

“We need a North-South and a South-South global climate solidarity,” said Djoghlaf.

“Without judging the past, who is responsible now, and who is responsible tomorrow, and who is responsible yesterday, I think we are all in the same boat, we are all in the same planet and we have to contribute based on our capacity,” he said.

He described the success of the signing ceremony held here Friday, where in total 175 countries signed and 15 countries deposited their instruments of ratification as “unprecedented”. “This has never happened before,” he said, referring to the developing countries, which also ratified the agreement. “It is a resounding political message and a demonstration of leadership,” he said. “It is crystal clear that the Paris agreement will enter into force well before the original expected date of 2020. The clock is ticking and we cannot afford any delay.”

Djoghlaf also said that he was not concerned about upcoming changes to the United States domestic political situation.

“When you are a party to the Paris agreement you can’t withdraw before three years after its entry into force. In addition I do believe that this historical agreement is in the long term interest of all Parties including the United States of America” he said.

“I believe that this Paris agreement is in the long term strategic interests of every country,” in part because eventually fossil fuel energy is going to disappear.

Investment in renewable energy was six times higher in 2015 than in 2014, he added.

“We tend to ignore the tremendous impact and signal the Paris agreement has already been providing to the business community,” he said.

Another part of the Paris agreement which Djoghlaf is happy about is what he describes as a “fully-fledged article on public awareness and education.”

“It’s to ensure that each and every citizen of the world, in particular the developing countries, are fully aware about the consequences of the climate change and the need for each of us as an individual to make our contribution to address the climate change,” he said.

“There is a need also to educate the people of the world of the need to have a sustainable lifestyle this throw away society can not continue to exist forever and we need to establish a sustainable pattern of production and consumption,” said Djoghlaf.

However Djoghlaf, who was the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, said that he was concerned that the negotiations in 2015 didn’t adequately reflect the importance of ecosystems and biodiversity.

“Healthy biodiversity and healthy ecosystems have a major role to play to combat climate change,” said Djoghlaf, adding that 30 percent of carbon dioxide is absorbed by forests and 30 percent by oceans.

“For each breath that we have we owe it to the forests, but also to the ocean, also wetlands have a major contribution to make, the peat lands have a major contribution to make, the land itself, the fertile soil of course has a major contribution to play, so biodiversity is part and parcel of the climate global response,” he said.

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Eastern Europe’s Claims for UN Chief Questionedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/eastern-europes-claims-for-un-chief-questioned/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=eastern-europes-claims-for-un-chief-questioned http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/eastern-europes-claims-for-un-chief-questioned/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 01:17:42 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144826 A Berlin Wall monument stands next to a Soviet sculpture at United Nations headquarters in New York. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

A Berlin Wall monument stands next to a Soviet sculpture at United Nations headquarters in New York. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 26 2016 (IPS)

As the campaign for a new UN Secretary-General (UNSG) gathers momentum, there is one lingering question that remains unanswered: does the now-defunct Eastern European political alliance have a legitimate claim for the job on the basis of geographical rotation?

Of the nine candidates in the running, seven are from the former Eastern Europe. All previous secretaries-general have come from the four other regional groups, including Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean and Western Europe and Other States.

But none from Eastern Europe, which exists as a geographical entity only within the precincts of the United Nations.

After the end of the Cold War in 1990-1991, Eastern European nations joined either the European Union (EU) or the North Atlantic Organisation (NATO), or both.

These include: Bulgaria (joined the EU in 2007), Croatia (2013), Czech Republic (2004), Estonia (2004), Hungary (2004),Latvia  (2004), Lithuania (2004),Poland  (2004), Romania  (2007), Slovakia (2004) and Slovenia (2004).

And four countries awaiting membership in the EU include: Albania, Montenegro, Serbia and the former Yugolav Republic of Macedonia.

Jayantha Dhanapala, a former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs and a one-time candidate for the post of Secretary-General, told IPS the end of the Cold War has transformed Eastern Europe from a political and geographical entity to a purely geographical group.

“Many of the East European countries are in NATO and the EU and their interests are closely linked to Western Europe – although some strains are showing in the wake of economic pressures and the recent migrant waves.

He said the principle of “geographical rotation” with regard to the UNSG position is therefore less strong than the vitally important gender equality criterion.

“The appointment of a competent and qualified woman as SG is therefore essential,” said Dhanapala, who lost out to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon nine years ago.

Eastern Europe should rightfully be an integral part of Western European and Other States. But the geographical group continues to exist at the UN purely to claim seats, including as non-permanent members of the Security Council, under the banner of Eastern Europe, according to some diplomats.

At elections for subsidiaries of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) last week, Belarus got a seat in the Statistical Commission purely on the basis of its non-existent Eastern European credentials.

So did many others: Estonia in the Commission on the Status of Women; Belarus and Montenegro in the Executive of UN Women; Romania in the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Albania and Moldova in the Executive Board of the UN Development Programme (UNDP)/ UN Population Fund (UNFPA)/UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS).

Since the creation of the UN over 70 years ago, the post of Secretary-General has been held by: Trygve Lie of Norway (1946-1953); Dag Hammarskjold of Sweden (1953-1961); U. Thant of Burma, now Myanmar (1961-1971); Kurt Waldheim of Austria (1972-1981); Javier Perez de Cuellar of Peru (1982-1991); Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt (1992-1996); Kofi Annan of Ghana (1997-2006); and Ban Ki-moon of South Korea (2007 through 2016).

The nine candidates for the post of UNSG who made their presentations to delegates recently include: Dr Srgjan Kerim of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; Ms Vesna Pusic of the Republic of Croatia; Dr Igor Luksic of Montenegro; Dr Danilo Turk of Slovenia; Ms Irina Bokova of Bulgaria; Ms Natalia Gherman of the Republic of Moldova and Vuk Jeremić of Serbia – all from the former Eastern Europe.

The two non-Eastern Europeans who are in the running include Helen Clark of New Zealand and Antonio Guterres of Portugal, the former from a Pacific nation and the latter from Western Europe.

When Clark was asked about Eastern European claims, she told reporters: ”When nominations were called for from Member States, they were called for from all Member States”.

“Already one senior representative from outside Eastern Europe has been nominated (Guterres of Portugal). I anticipate there will be other nominations. I judge it to be an open contest and my hope is that Member States will look at what are the challenges that the Secretary-General’s going to have to lead the organisation forward on and who has the best skills for that job.”

Currently, the strongest claims for the jobs are from women candidates.

Although the UN is one of the strongest advocates of gender empowerment, only three women have so far been elected President of the General Assembly, the highest policy making body at the UN: Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit of India (1953), Angie Brooks of Liberia (1969) and Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain (2006).

With women comprising half the world’s 7.2 billion people, the move to install a woman is perhaps the most legitimate of the claims.

James Paul, a former executive director of the New York-based Global Policy Forum who monitored the politics of the UN for nearly 19 years, told IPS there is the important question of whether a woman will finally be chosen for the post and the secondary issue of whether the East European bloc will be represented.

As for the longstanding complaints about secrecy, the recently-announced “open process” and “dialogues” with candidates, provide a small step forward in what has always been an outrageously secretive procedure, he said.

“But predictably little attention is directed at the biggest issue of all – a selection still based on the will of a small oligarchic group.”

This year, as in the past, the Secretary General will effectively be chosen by the “P-5,” the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council (the US, UK, France, China and Russia), Paul pointed out.

“As in previous years, there will be little reference to the will of all the other countries, the concerns of the world’s people or the pressing leadership needs of the organisation.  Polite conversation in the General Assembly will not stop the P-5 juggernaut,” he argued.

“The P-5, with Washington always in the lead, has a record of choosing weak and compliant candidates for this post – people who will reliably cater to the interests of the powerful and agree to a weak and relatively inactive UN,” said Paul, an onetime writer and consultant on several projects with Human Rights Watch, Oxford University Press and Physicians for Human Rights.

The selections of Secretary General in 2006 and 2011 showed clearly that strong and dynamic candidates are set aside, that poor performance in the job is no barrier to re-election, and that the overwhelming majority of member states – even those sitting on the Security Council – have almost no influence over the outcome, he declared.

“Could this despotic arrangement be changed in favour of a more democratic process and a far better end-result?,” he asked.

Paul said no small-scale, incremental reforms will do.  Excluded governments and ignored citizens will have to say “no” in this round and again five years from now.

“The public is increasingly fed up with those who govern.  The P-5 will not be able to continue their despotism forever.”

But in the meanwhile, can the UN survive as the climate clock ticks towards midnight?, asked Paul.

Samir Sanbar, a former UN Assistant Secretary-General who headed the Department of Public Information (DPI) told IPS the Eastern European Group was initially a political alliance supporting the former Soviet Union balancing Western Europe and Other States.

While political lines were scrambled with the fall of the Berlin Wall, it seemed politically expedient to interpret it geographically mainly for balancing purposes, he added.

“Some would push the boundaries around to interpret it in general European terms,” he noted.

Geographical rotation was obviously not essential in electing two Scandinavians successively (Trygve Lee and Hammarskjold), he pointed out.

And a third European, an Irish General Assembly President, was in line when an Asian, U Thant became a surprise candidate, by a practical consensus, initially as “acting” UNSG, said Sanbar who served under five different UN secretaries-general.

When U Thant refused a second term “as a glorified clerk” it was not extended to another Asian. Instead Kurt Waldheim of Austria was elected.

While African diplomats presented Salim Salim of Tanzania to succeed him on geographical grounds, a Latin American Javier Perez de Cuellar was elected in a last minute vote in 1982.

As long as geographical groupings remain, however nominally, Eastern European candidates would naturally stake an obvious claim, said Sanbar.

But qualified women from anywhere in the European continent would have a more credible claim, he declared.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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