Inter Press Service » Peace http://www.ipsnews.net Turning the World Downside Up Fri, 04 Sep 2015 17:02:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.7 Opinion: Iran and the Non-Proliferation Treatyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/opinion-iran-and-the-non-proliferation-treaty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-iran-and-the-non-proliferation-treaty http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/opinion-iran-and-the-non-proliferation-treaty/#comments Fri, 04 Sep 2015 16:48:29 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142272

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford.This is the first of a series of 10 articles in which Jahanpour looks at various aspects and implications of the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme reached in July 2015 between Iran and the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, China and Germany, plus the European Union.

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 4 2015 (IPS)

Iran’s nuclear programme has been the target of a great deal of misinformation, downright lies and above all myths. As a result, it is often difficult to unpick truth from falsehood. 

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

As President John F. Kennedy said in his Yale University Commencement Address on 11 June 1962: “For the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliché of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of the opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

In order to understand the pros and cons of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed by Iran and the P5+1 (United States, United Kingdom, Russia, China, France and Germany) on 14 July 2015, and the subsequent U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 passed unanimously on 20 July 2015 setting the agreement in U.N. law and rescinding the sanctions that had been imposed on Iran, it is important to study the background to the whole deal.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regulates the activities of the countries that wish to make use of peaceful nuclear energy. The NPT was enacted in 1968 and it entered into force in 1970. Its objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, while promoting the peaceful use of nuclear technology. Iran was one of the first signatories to that Treaty, and so far 191 states have joined the Treaty.“Iran’s nuclear programme has been the target of a great deal of misinformation, downright lies and above all myths. As a result, it is often difficult to unpick truth from falsehood”

It has been one of the most successful disarmament treaties in history. Only three U.N. member states – Israel, India and Pakistan – did not join the NPT and all of them proceeded to manufacture nuclear weapons. North Korea, which acceded to the NPT in 1985, withdrew in 2003 and has allegedly manufactured nuclear weapons.

This treaty was a part of the move known as “atoms for peace”, which allowed different nations to have access to nuclear power for peaceful purposes, but prevented them from manufacturing nuclear weapons.

The treaty was a kind of bargain between the five original countries that possessed nuclear weapons (all the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council) and the non-nuclear countries that agreed never to acquire nuclear weapons in return for sharing the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology.

The Treaty is based on four pillars:

Pillar One – Non-Proliferation:  Article 1 of the NPT states that nuclear weapon state countries (N5) should not transfer any weapon-related technology to others.

Pillar Two – Ban on possession of nuclear weapons by non-nuclear states: Article 2 states the other side of the coin, namely that non-nuclear states should not acquire any form of nuclear weapons technology from the countries that possess it or acquire it independently.

Pillar Three – Peaceful use of nuclear energy: Article 4 not only allows the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, but even stresses that it is “the inalienable right” of every country to do research, development and production, and to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, without discrimination, as long as Articles 1 and 2 are satisfied.

It further states that all parties can exchange equipment, material, and science and technology for peaceful purposes. It calls on the nuclear states to assist the non-nuclear states in the use of peaceful nuclear technology.

Pillar Four – Nuclear disarmament: Article 6 makes it obligatory for nuclear states to get rid of their nuclear weapons. The Treaty states that all countries should pursue negotiations on measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race and “achieving nuclear disarmament”.

While nuclear powers have worked hard to prevent other countries from acquiring nuclear weapons, they have not abided by their side of the bargain and have been reluctant to give up their nuclear weapons. On the contrary, they have further developed and upgraded those weapons, and have made them more capable of use on battlefields.

Sadly, 37 years after its final ratification, the number of nuclear-armed countries has increased, and at least four other countries have joined the club.

After it was realised that unfettered access to enrichment could lead some countries, such as Iraq and North Korea, to gain knowledge of nuclear technology and subsequently develop nuclear weapons, the NPT was amended in 1977 with the Additional Protocol, which tightened the regulations in order to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

According to the Additional Protocol, which Iran has agreed to implement as part of the JCPOA, “Special inspections may be carried out in circumstances according to defined procedures. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) may carry out such inspections if it considers that information made available by the State concerned, including explanations from the State and information obtained from routine inspections, is not adequate for the Agency to fulfil its responsibilities under the safeguards agreement.” 

However, as the above paragraph makes clear, these inspections will be carried out only in exceptional circumstances when there is valid cause for suspicion that a country has been violating the terms of the agreement, and only if the IAEA decides that the explanations provided by the State concerned are not adequate. Also, such inspections will be carried out on the basis of “defined procedures”

The countries that have ratified the Additional Protocol have agreed to “managed inspections”, and the Iranian authorities have also said that such managed and supervised inspections can be carried out. This of course does not mean “anytime, anywhere” inspections, but inspections that are in keeping with the provisions of the Additional Protocol as set out above.

Meanwhile, in addition to the nuclear states, there are 19 other non-weapons states which are signatories to the NPT and which actively enrich uranium. They have vastly more centrifuges than Iran ever had. Iran’s array of 19,000 centrifuges (only 10,000 of them were operational) prior to the agreement was paltry compared with the capabilities of other countries that enrich uranium.

During the talks between Iran and the P5+1, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali  Khamenei said that Iran wanted to have at least 190,000 centrifuges in order to get engaged in industrial scale enrichment.

It should be remembered that the sale of nuclear fuel is a lucrative business and the countries that do not have enrichment facilities but which have nuclear reactors, are forced to purchase fuel from the few countries that have a monopoly of enriched uranium. Iran had openly stated that it wished to join that club, or at least to be self-sufficient in nuclear fuel.

However, under the JCPOA, Iran has given up the quest for industrial scale enrichment and is even reducing the number of its operational centrifuges from 19,000 to just over 5,000. (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)

Edited by Phil Harris   

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

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Opinion: Can Nuclear War be Avoided?http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/opinion-can-nuclear-war-be-avoided/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-can-nuclear-war-be-avoided http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/opinion-can-nuclear-war-be-avoided/#comments Thu, 03 Sep 2015 15:58:53 +0000 Gunnar Westberg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142255

Gunnar Westberg, Professor of Medicine in Göteborg, Sweden, and Co-President of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) from 2004 to 2008, describes himself as “generally concerned about with what little wisdom our world is governed”

By Gunnar Westberg
GÖTEBORG, Sweden, Sep 3 2015 (IPS)

The Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons had as members former leading politicians or military officers, among others a British Field Marshal, an American General, an American Secretary of Defence and a French Prime Minister.

The commission unanimously agreed in its report in 1996 that “the proposition that nuclear weapons can be retained in perpetuity and never be used – accidentally or by decision – defies credibility. The only complete defence is the elimination of nuclear weapons and assurance that they will never be produced again.”

Gunnar Westberg

Gunnar Westberg

So that’s it: Nuclear weapons will be used if they are allowed to remain with us. And even a “small” nuclear war, using one percent or less of the world’s nuclear weapons, might cause a worldwide famine leading to the death of a billion humans or more.

Lt Colonel Bruce Blair was for several years in the 1970s commander of U.S. crews with the duty to launch intercontinental nuclear missiles. “I knew how to fire the missiles, I needed no permission,” he states. In the 1990s he was charged with making a review for the U.S. Senate on the question: “Is unauthorised firing of U.S. nuclear weapons a real possibility?”

Blair’s answer was “Yes”, and the risk is not insignificant.

On Hiroshima Day, Aug. 6, this year, a major newspaper in Sweden, Aftonbladet, carried an interview with Colonel Blair, now head of the Global Zero movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons. The reporter asked: “Mr Blair, do you think that nuclear weapons will be used again?” Mr Blair was silent for a while and then responded: “I am afraid it cannot be avoided. A data code shorter than a Twitter message could be enough.”

Blair reminds us of the story of the ‘Permissive Action Link’, a security device for nuclear weapons, the purpose of which is to prevent their unauthorised arming or detonation.

When Robert McNamara was U.S. Secretary of Defence in the mid-1960s, he issued an order that to be able to fire missiles from submarines, the commanding officer must have received a code which permitted the launch.

However, the navy did not want to be prevented from firing on its own initiative, such as in the case that contact with headquarters was interrupted. The initial code of 00000000 was for this reason retained for many years and was generally known. McNamara, however, did not know this until many years after he left the government.

A Soviet admiral once told me that as late as around 1980 he could fire the missiles from a submarine without a code.

When systems of control of the launch systems are discussed, we often learn – as a kind of post scriptum – that there is a Plan B: If all communication with HQ is dead and the commanders believe the war is on, missiles can be fired. We are never told how this works. But there is a plan B.

What is the situation today? Can an unauthorised launch of nuclear weapons occur? Colonel Blair says “Yes”. Mistakes, misunderstandings, hacker encroachments, human mistakes – there are always risks.

After the end of the Cold War, we have learnt about several “close calls”. There was the Cuban missile crisis and especially the “Soviet submarine left behind”. There was the Petrov Incident in September 1983. There was the possibly worst crisis – worst but little known – of the NATO exercise ‘Able Archer’ in November 1983 when the Soviet leaders expected a NATO attack any moment – and NATO had no insight into the Soviet paranoia.

There are numerous other dangerous incidents about which we have less information.

Martin Hellman, a mathematician and expert in risk analysis, guesses that the risk of a major nuclear war may have been as high as one percent per year during the 40 Cold War years. That sums up to 40 percent. Mankind thus had a slightly better than even chance of not being exterminated. We were lucky.

Maybe the risk is smaller today. But with the risk of proliferation, with new funds allocated to nuclear weapons research and with the increasing tension in international relations, the risk may be increasing again.

As long as nuclear weapons exist the risk exists. The risk of global omnicide, of Assured Destruction.

It is nuclear weapons or us. We cannot co-exist. One of us will have to go.

A prohibition against nuclear weapons is necessary. And it is possible.

Edited by Phil Harris   

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

* This article was originally published by the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research (TFF)

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Impeachment Motion Stirs Political Waters in Somaliahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/impeachment-motion-stirs-political-waters-in-somalia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=impeachment-motion-stirs-political-waters-in-somalia http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/impeachment-motion-stirs-political-waters-in-somalia/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 21:16:05 +0000 Nora Happel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142222 Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is seen in his presidential office inside Villa Somalia. Credit: UN Photo/Stuart Price

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is seen in his presidential office inside Villa Somalia. Credit: UN Photo/Stuart Price

By Nora Happel
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 1 2015 (IPS)

The impeachment motion Somali parliamentarians filed against President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on Aug. 12 has created a political standoff that might further threaten the country’s stability shortly ahead of planned elections in 2016.

Last week, the envoys of the United Nations, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement, calling for a rapid resolution of the crisis and expressing their concern that the motion “will impede progress on Somalia’s peace and state building goals”.

"The chronic bane of Somali elite politics, particularly in the past two decades, has been a toxic cocktail of tribalism, malfeasance, and incompetence. President Hassan Sheikh is the embodiment of this syndrome." -- Ahmed Ismail Samatar, former member of the Somali Federal Parliament
“While we fully respect the right of the Federal Parliament to hold institutions to account and to fulfill its constitutional duties, the submission of any such motion requires a high standard of transparency and integrity in the process and will consume extremely valuable time, not least in the absence of essential legal bodies.”

“Emerging institutions are still fragile. They require a period of stability and continuity to allow Somalia to benefit from the New Deal Somali Compact and to prepare for a peaceful and legitimate transfer of public office in 2016,” the text added.

As a matter of fact, there are important procedural irregularities as well as legal obstacles arising from insufficiently developed institutions that stand in the way of a smooth running of the impeachment process and might indeed cause further political turmoil.

In accordance with article 92 of the Federal Government of Somalia’s (FGS) provisional constitution, the impeachment motion has been submitted by one-third of the members of parliament.

However, as reported by the Somali Current, at least 25 members of parliament out of a total of 93 deputies endorsing the motion claimed their names were used without their consent.

After the submission of the impeachment motion, the following step provided for under articles 92 and 135 of the provisional constitution will be a decision by the Constitutional Court, within 60 days, on the legal grounds of the motion, followed by a two-thirds majority vote in the Parliament.

However, at the time of writing, no Constitutional Court exists in the country – a major obvious hindrance, even though some analysts invoke the possibility of a decision by the Supreme Court acting on the matter instead, following the legal precedent of former article 99 of the 1960 Somali Constitution.

Another major question of debate concerns the charges against President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. As outlined in a press statement by the Somali Federal Parliament, the impeachment motion lists a total of 16 charges against President Hassan, including abuse of power, corruption, looting of public resources, failure to address insecurity, human rights abuses, detentions of political dissidents, interference with the independence of the judiciary and intentional failure to meet the requirements for elections in 2016.

Article 92 (1) states that a deposition of the Somali president can only occur if there are allegations of “treason or gross violations of the constitution”. There is ongoing discussion whether the charges put forth by the parliamentarians present enough legal grounds for the motion to pass.

In a press conference last week, President Mohamud dismissed the charges against him, adding it was not the right moment for an impeachment procedure and accusing individuals of having “special interests” – a possible allusion to deputies seeking term extensions.

This suspicion has also been brought up, in an indirect way, in the above-mentioned joint press statement by the international community:

“We also recall that Somalia and all member states are bound by United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2232, which sets out the expectations of the international community on the security and political progress needed in Somalia, and the need for an electoral process in 2016 without extension of either the legislative or executive branch,” the statement said.

In an interview with Voice of America, U.N. Envoy to Somalia Nicholas Kay repeated the international criticism of the impeachment motion.

He said, in the context of the upcoming election and ongoing attacks by al-Shabaab militants, Somalia shouldn’t “lose time [on] the political bickering that has brought down governments in the past.”

While some voices are more concerned about the impeachment motion itself as it will likely create further chaos and instability, others emphasise the validity of the charges and the need to hold the President and national institutions accountable.

Ahmed Ismail Samatar is former member of the Somali Federal Parliament. A candidate for the 2012 elections in Somalia, he is now working as professor and chair of International Studies at Macalester College.

Speaking to IPS, he said, “The chronic bane of Somali elite politics, particularly in the past two decades, has been a toxic cocktail of tribalism, malfeasance, and incompetence. President Hassan Sheikh is the embodiment of this syndrome.”

Unlike most international observers, Samatar does not necessarily see the elections in 2016 threatened by the motion: “If carried expeditiously and firmly, the proceedings need not thwart the mounting of the elections in September 2016.”

Last month, President Mohamud declared that he does not expect “one person, one vote” elections to be possible in 2016 due to persisting security challenges. However, he said in an interview with Voice of America, he is “aiming for the next best option” regarding transition of power in 2016.

Opposition parties have reacted angrily to the president’s statement, claiming that he uses the insecurity argument as a pretence to extend his mandate.

President Mohamud was elected in 2012 by a parliament made up of 135 clan elders in what the BBC described as a “U.N.-backed bid to restore normality to the country”.

However, instability, severe economic problems and continuing al-Shabaab attacks as well as the current political crisis seem to suggest that the country still has a long way to go to achieve normality.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Will New Sri Lankan Government Prioritize Resettlement of War-Displaced?http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/will-new-sri-lankan-government-prioritize-resettlement-of-war-displaced/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-new-sri-lankan-government-prioritize-resettlement-of-war-displaced http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/will-new-sri-lankan-government-prioritize-resettlement-of-war-displaced/#comments Sun, 30 Aug 2015 16:43:03 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142192 Despite six years of peace, life is still hard in areas where Sri Lanka's war was at its worst, especially for internally displaced people (IDPs). Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Despite six years of peace, life is still hard in areas where Sri Lanka's war was at its worst, especially for internally displaced people (IDPs). Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Amantha Perera
JAFFNA, Sri Lanka, Aug 30 2015 (IPS)

The new Sri Lankan government that was voted in on Aug. 17 certainly didn’t inherit as much baggage as its predecessors did during the nearly 30 years of conflict that gripped this South Asian island nation.

"Do you know how it feels to live in other people's houses for so long? You are always an outsider. I am getting old [...]. I want to die in my own house, not somewhere else." -- Siva Ariyarathnam, an IDP in northern Sri Lanka
But six years into ‘peacetime’, the second parliament of President Maithripala Sirisena will need to prioritize some of the most painful, unhealed wounds of war – among them, the fate of over 50,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), some of whom have not been home in over two decades.

Though the fighting between government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended in 2009, closing a 28-year-long chapter of violence, Siva Ariyarathnam is still waiting for a government official to tell him when he can go home.

Like tens of thousands of others, Ariyarathnam fled with his family when the military took over his land in the country’s Northern Province in the 1990s as part of a strategy to defeat the LTTE, who launched an armed campaign for an independent homeland for the country’s minority Tamil population in 1983.

The outgoing government says it plans to give the land back to 50,000 people, but has not indicated when that will happen, and Ariyarathnam says he is running out of time.

“Do you know how it feels to live in other people’s houses for so long? You are always an outsider,” Ariyarathnam told IPS. “I am getting old and I want to live under my own roof with my family. I want to die in my own house, not somewhere else.”

A decades-old problem

Ariyarathnam’s tale is heard too frequently in the former war-zone, a large swath of land in the country’s north comprising the Vanni region, the Jaffna Peninsula and parts of the Eastern Province, which the LTTE ran as a de facto state after riots in 1983 drove thousands of Tamils out of the Sinhala-majority south.

During the war years, displacement was the order of the day, with both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government forcing massive population shifts that would shape ethnic- and communal-based electoral politics.

For ordinary people it meant that the notion of ‘home’ was a luxury that few could maintain.

The cost of the conflict that finally ended in May 2009 with the defeat of the Tigers by government armed forces was enormous.

By conservative accounts over 100,000 perished in the fighting, while a report by the United Nations estimates that as many as 40,000 civilians died during the last bouts of fighting between 2008 and 2009.

According to the Ministry of Resettlement, Sri Lanka’s post-war IDP returnees stood at an impressive 796,081 by the end of June.

But the same data also reveal that an additional 50,000 were still living with host families and in the Thellippali IDP Centre, unable to return to villages still under military occupation.

These militarized zones date back to the 1990s, when the army began appropriating civilian land as a means of thwarting the steadily advancing LTTE.

By 2009, the military had confiscated 11,629 acres of land in the Tamil heartland of Jaffna – located on the northern tip of the island, over 300 km from the capital, Colombo – in order to create the Palaly High Security Zone (HSZ).

This was the area Ariyarathnam and his family, like thousands of others, had once called home.

New government, new policies?

Many hoped that the war’s end would see a return to their ancestral lands, but the war-victorious government, helmed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was slow to release civilian areas, prioritizing national security and continued deployment of troops in the North over resettlement of the displaced.

A new government led by President Maithripala Sirisena, Rajapaksa’s former health minister who took power in a surprise January election, promised to accelerate land release, and turned over a 1,000-acre area from the Palaly HSZ in April.

But top officials tell IPS that genuine government efforts are stymied by the lack of public land onto which to move military camps in order to make way for returning civilians.

“The return of the IDPs is our number one priority,” Ranjini Nadarajapillai, the outgoing secretary to the Ministry of Resettlement, explained to IPS. “There is no timetable right now, everything depends on how the remaining high security zones are removed.”

The slow pace of land reform has kept IDPs mired in poverty, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), an arm of the Oslo-based Norwegian Refugee Council.

“The main reasons why there are higher poverty levels among IDPs include the lack of access to land during displacement to carry out livelihood activities, [and] the lack of compensation for lost or destroyed land and property during the war, which was acquired by the military or government as security or economic zones,” Marita Swain, an analyst with IDMC, told IPS.

An IDMC report released in July put the number of IDPs at 73,700, far higher than the government statistic. Most of them are living with host families, while 4,700 are housed in a long-term welfare center in Jaffna, the capital of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province.

The lingering effects of the policies of the previous administration led by Rajapaksa, which prioritized infrastructure development over genuine economic growth for the war-weary population, has compounded the IDPs’ plight, according to the IDMC.

Despite the Sirisena government taking office in January, it has been hamstrung over issues like resettlement for the past eight months as it prepared to face parliamentary elections that pitted Rajapaksa-era policies against those of the new president.

Nadarajapillai of the Ministry of Resettlement said the new government is taking a different approach and reaching out to international agencies and donors to resolve the issue.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is helping the government devise a plan to resolve the IDP crisis, added Dushanthi Fernando, a UNHCR official in Colombo.

Still, these promises mean little to people like Ariyarathnam, whose displacement is now entering its third decade with no firm signs of ending anytime soon.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Disarmament Conference Ends with Ambitious Goal – But How to Get There?http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/disarmament-conference-ends-with-ambitious-goal-but-how-to-get-there/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=disarmament-conference-ends-with-ambitious-goal-but-how-to-get-there http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/disarmament-conference-ends-with-ambitious-goal-but-how-to-get-there/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 13:00:18 +0000 Ramesh Jaura http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142177 Cloud from an atmospheric nuclear test conducted by the United States at Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands, in November 1952. Photo credit: US Government

Cloud from an atmospheric nuclear test conducted by the United States at Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands, in November 1952. Photo credit: US Government

By Ramesh Jaura
HIROSHIMA, Aug 28 2015 (IPS)

A three-day landmark U.N. Conference on Disarmament Issues has ended here – one day ahead of the International Day Against Nuclear Tests – stressing the need for ushering in a world free of nuclear weapons, but without a consensus on how to move towards that goal.

The Aug. 26-28 conference, organised by the Bangkok-based United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (UNRCPD) in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of Japan and the city and Prefecture of Hiroshima, was attended by more than 80 government officials and experts, also from beyond the region.

It was the twenty-fifth annual meeting of its kind held in Japan, which acquired a particular importance against the backdrop of the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the founding of the United Nations.“In order to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons, it is extremely important for political leaders, young people and others worldwide to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki and see for themselves the reality of atomic bombings. Through this, I am convinced that we will be able to share our aspirations for a world free of nuclear weapons” – Fumio Kishida, Japanese Foreign Minister

Summing up the deliberations, UNRCPD Director Yuriy Kryvonos said the discussions on “the opportunities and challenges in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation” had been “candid and dynamic”.

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference from Apr. 27 to May 22 at the U.N. headquarters drew the focus in presentations and panel discussions.

Ambassador Taous Feroukhi of Algeria, who presided over the NPT Review Conference, explained at length why the gathering had failed to agree on a universally acceptable draft final text, despite a far-reaching consensus on a wide range of crucial issues: refusal of the United States, Britain and Canada to accept the proposal for convening a conference by Mar. 1, 2016, for a Middle East Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs).

Addressing the issue, Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida joined several government officials and experts in expressing his regrets that the draft final document was not adopted due to the issue of WMDs.

Kishida noted that the failure to establish a new Action Plan at the Review Conference had led to a debate over the viability of the NPT. “However,” he added, “I would like to make one thing crystal clear. The NPT regime has played an extremely important role for peace and stability in the international community; a role that remains unchanged even today.”

The Hiroshima conference not only discussed divergent views on measures to preserve the effective implementation of the NPT, but also the role of the yet-to-be finalised Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in achieving the goal of elimination of nuclear weapons, humanitarian consequences of the use of atomic weapons, and the significance of nuclear weapon free zones (NWFZs) for strengthening the non-proliferation regime and nuclear disarmament.

Speakers attached particular attention to the increasing role of local municipalities, civil society and nuclear disarmament education, including testimonies from ‘hibakusha’ (survivors of atomic bombings mostly in their 80s and above) in consolidating common understanding of the threat posed by nuclear weapons for people from all countries around the world regardless whether or not their governments possess nuclear weapons.

UNRCPD Director Kryvonos said the Hiroshima conference had given “a good start for searching new fresh ideas on how we should move towards our goal – protecting our planet from a risk of using nuclear weapons.”

Hiroshima Prefecture Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki, the city’s Mayor Karzumi Matsui – son of a ‘hibakusha’ father and president of the Mayors for Peace organisation comprising 6,779 cities in 161 countries and regions – as well as his counterpart from Nagasaki, Tomihisa Taue, pleaded for strengthening a concerted campaign for a nuclear free world. Taue is also the president of the National Council of Japan’s Nuclear-Free Local Authorities.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki city leaders welcomed suggestions for a nuclear disarmament summit next year in Hiroshima, which they said would lend added thrust to awareness raising for a world free of nuclear weapons.

Though foreign ministry officials refused to identify themselves publicly with the proposal, Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who hails from Hiroshima, emphasised the need for nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear weapon states to “work together in steadily advancing practical and concrete measures in order to make real progress in nuclear disarmament.”

Kishida said that Japan will submit a “new draft resolution on the total elimination of nuclear weapons” to the forthcoming meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. Such a resolution, he said, was “appropriate to the 70th year since the atomic bombings and could serve as guidelines for the international community for the next five years, on the basis of the Review Conference”.

The next NPT Review Conference is expected to be held in 2020.

Mayors for Peace has launched a 2020 Vision Campaign as the main vehicle for advancing their agenda – a nuclear-weapon-free world by the year 2020.

The campaign was initiated on a provisional basis by the Executive Cities of Mayors for Peace at their meeting in Manchester, Britain, in October 2003. It was launched under the name ‘Emergency Campaign to Ban Nuclear Weapons’ in November of that year at the 2nd Citizens Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons held in Nagasaki, Japan.

In August 2005, the World Conference endorsed continuation of the campaign under the title of the ‘2020 Vision Campaign’.

Foreign Minister Kishida expressed the views of the inhabitants of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki when he pointed out in a message to the UNRCPD conference: “… the reality of atomic bombings is far from being sufficiently understood worldwide.”

He added: “In order to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons, it is extremely important for political leaders, young people and others worldwide to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki and see for themselves the reality of atomic bombings. Through this, I am convinced that we will be able to share our aspirations for a world free of nuclear weapons.”

Edited by Phil Harris   

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Opinion: A Farewell to Arms that Fuel Atrocities is Within Our Grasphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/opinion-a-farewell-to-arms-that-fuel-atrocities-is-within-our-grasp/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-a-farewell-to-arms-that-fuel-atrocities-is-within-our-grasp http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/opinion-a-farewell-to-arms-that-fuel-atrocities-is-within-our-grasp/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 19:09:41 +0000 Marek Marczynski http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142170 The recent destruction of this 2,000-year-old temple – the temple of Baal-Shamin in Palmyra, Syria – is yet another grim example of how the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) uses conventional weapons to further its agenda – but what has fuelled the growing IS firepower? Photo credit: Bernard Gagnon/CC BY-SA 3.0

The recent destruction of this 2,000-year-old temple – the temple of Baal-Shamin in Palmyra, Syria – is yet another grim example of how the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) uses conventional weapons to further its agenda – but what has fuelled the growing IS firepower? Photo credit: Bernard Gagnon/CC BY-SA 3.0

By Marek Marczynski
CANCUN, Mexico, Aug 27 2015 (IPS)

The recent explosions that apparently destroyed a 2,000-year-old temple in the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria were yet another grim example of how the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) uses conventional weapons to further its agenda.

But what has fuelled the growing IS firepower? The answer lies in recent history – arms flows to the Middle East dating back as far as the 1970s have played a role.

Marek Marczynski

Marek Marczynski

After taking control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in June 2014, IS fighters paraded a windfall of mainly U.S.-manufactured weapons and military vehicles which had been sold or given to the Iraqi armed forces.

At the end of last year, Conflict Armament Research published an analysis of ammunition used by IS in northern Iraq and Syria. The 1,730 cartridges surveyed had been manufactured in 21 different countries, with more than 80 percent from China, the former Soviet Union, the United States, Russia and Serbia.

More recent research commissioned by Amnesty International also found that while IS has some ammunition produced as recently as 2014, a large percentage of the arms they are using are Soviet/Warsaw Pact-era small arms and light weapons, armoured vehicles and artillery dating back to the 1970s and 80s.

Scenarios like these give military strategists and foreign policy buffs sleepless nights. But for many civilians in war-ravaged Iraq and Syria, they are part of a real-life nightmare. These arms, now captured by or illicitly traded to IS and other armed groups, have facilitated summary killings, enforced disappearances, rape and torture, and other serious human rights abuses amid a conflict that has forced millions to become internally displaced or to seek refuge in neighbouring countries.“It is a damning indictment of the poorly regulated global arms trade that weapons and munitions licensed by governments for export can so easily fall into the hands of human rights abusers … But world leaders have yet to learn their lesson”

It is a damning indictment of the poorly regulated global arms trade that weapons and munitions licensed by governments for export can so easily fall into the hands of human rights abusers.

What is even worse is that this is a case of history repeating itself. But world leaders have yet to learn their lesson.

For many, the 1991 Gulf War in Iraq drove home the dangers of an international arms trade lacking in adequate checks and balances.

When the dust settled after the conflict that ensued when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s powerful armed forces invaded neighbouring Kuwait, it was revealed that his country was awash with arms supplied by all five Permanent Members of the U.N. Security Council.

Perversely, several of them had also armed Iran in the previous decade, fuelling an eight-year war with Iraq that resulted in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths.

Now, the same states are once more pouring weapons into the region, often with wholly inadequate protections against diversion and illicit traffic.

This week, those states are among more than 100 countries represented in Cancún, Mexico, for the first Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which entered into force last December. This Aug. 24-27 meeting is crucial because it is due to lay down firm rules and procedures for the treaty’s implementation.

The participation of civil society in this and future ATT conferences is important to prevent potentially life-threatening decisions to take place out of the public sight. Transparency of the ATT reporting process, among other measures, will need to be front and centre, as it will certainly mean the difference between having meaningful checks and balances that can end up saving lives or a weakened treaty that gathers dust as states carry on business as usual in the massive conventional arms trade.

A trade shrouded in secrecy and worth tens of billions of dollars, it claims upwards of half a million lives and countless injuries every year, while putting millions more at risk of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations.

The ATT includes a number of robust rules to stop the flow of arms to countries when it is known they would be used for further atrocities. 

The treaty has swiftly won widespread support from the international community, including five of the top 10 arms exporters – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The United States, by far the largest arms producer and exporter, is among 58 additional countries that have signed but not yet ratified the treaty. However, other major arms producers like China, Canada and Russia have so far resisted signing or ratifying.

One of the ATT’s objectives is “to prevent and eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms and prevent their diversion”, so governments have a responsibility to take measures to prevent situations where their arms deals lead to human rights abuses.

Having rigorous controls in place will help ensure that states can no longer simply open the floodgates of arms into a country in conflict or whose government routinely uses arms to repress peoples’ human rights.

The more states get on board the treaty, and the more robust and transparent the checks and balances are, the more it will bring about change in the murky waters of the international arms trade. It will force governments to be more discerning about who they do business with.

The international community has so far failed the people of Syria and Iraq, but the ATT provides governments with a historic opportunity to take a critical step towards protecting civilians from such horrors in the future. They should grab this opportunity with both hands.

Edited by Phil Harris   

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

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Call for Global Ban on Nuclear Weapons Testinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/call-for-global-ban-on-nuclear-weapons-testing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=call-for-global-ban-on-nuclear-weapons-testing http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/call-for-global-ban-on-nuclear-weapons-testing/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 09:58:00 +0000 Katsuhiro Asagiri and Ramesh Jaura http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142157 A group of eminent persons (GEM) launched a concerted campaign on Aug. 25, 2015, for entry into force of a global ban on nuclear weapon tests such as this one at Bikini Atoll in 1946. Credit: United States Department of Defense via Wikimedia Commons

A group of eminent persons (GEM) launched a concerted campaign on Aug. 25, 2015, for entry into force of a global ban on nuclear weapon tests such as this one at Bikini Atoll in 1946. Credit: United States Department of Defense via Wikimedia Commons

By Katsuhiro Asagiri and Ramesh Jaura
HIROSHIMA, Aug 27 2015 (IPS)

As the international community gears up to commemorate the 20th anniversary next year of the opening up of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) for signature, a group of eminent persons (GEM) has launched a concerted campaign for entry into force of a global ban on nuclear weapon testing.

GEM, which was set up by Lassina Zerbo, the Executive Secretary of the September 2013 Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) at the United Nations headquarters in New York, met on Aug. 24-25 in Hiroshima, a modern city on Japan’s Honshu Island, which was largely destroyed by an atomic bomb during the Second World War in 1945.

“Multilateralism in arms control and international security is not only possible, but the most effective way of addressing the complex and multi-layered challenges of the 21st century” – CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo
Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the only two cities in the world which have suffered the devastating and brutal atomic bombs that brought profound suffering to innocent children, women and men, the tales of which continue to be told by the ‘hibakusha’ (survivors of atomic bombings).

“There is nowhere other than this region where the urgency of achieving the Treaty’s entry into force is more evident, and there is no group better equipped with the experience and expertise to help further this cause than the Group of Eminent Persons,” CTBTO Executive Secretary Zerbo told participants.

The GEM is a high-level group comprising eminent personalities and internationally recognised experts whose aim is to promote the global ban on nuclear weapons testing, support and complement efforts to promote the entry into force of the Treaty, as well as reinvigorate international endeavours to achieve this goal.

The two-day meeting was hosted by the government of Japan and the city of Hiroshima, where CTBTO Executive Secretary Zerbo participated in the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing early August.

On the eve of the meeting, Zerbo joined former United States Secretary of Defence and GEM Member William Perry and Hiroshima Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki as a panellist in a public lecture on nuclear disarmament which was attended by around 100 persons, including many students.

In an opening statement, Zerbo urged global leaders to use the momentum created by the recently reached agreement between the E3+3 (China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States) and Iran to inject a much needed dose of hope and positivity in the current discussions on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

“What the Iran deal teaches us is that multilateralism in arms control and international security is not only possible, but the most effective way of addressing the complex and multi-layered challenges of the 21st century. [It] also teaches us that the measure of worth in any security agreement or arms control treaty is in the credibility of its verification provisions. As with the Iran deal, the utility of the CTBT must be judged on the effectiveness of its verification and enforcement mechanisms. In this area, there can be no question,” Zerbo said.

Also speaking at the opening session, Perry expressed his firm belief that ratification of the CTBT served U.S. national interests, not only at the international level but also at the strictly domestic level for national security measures. He considered that the current geopolitical climate constituted a risk for the prospects of entry into force and reiterated the importance of maintaining the moratoria on nuclear testing.

Participating GEM members included Nobuyasu Abe, former U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Japan; Des Browne, former Secretary of State for Defence, United Kingdom; Jayantha Dhanapala, former U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs; Sérgio Duarte, former U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Brazil; Michel Duclos, Senior Counsellor to the Policy Planning Department at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Wolfgang Hoffmann, former Executive Secretary of the CTBTO, Germany; Ho-Jin Lee, Ambassador, Republic of Korea; and William Perry, former Secretary of Defence, United States.

István Mikola, Minister of State, Hungary; Yusron Ihza Mahendra, Ambassador of Indonesia to Japan; Mitsuru Kitano, Permanent Representative, Ambassador of Japan to the International Organisations in Vienna; and Yerzhan N. Ashikbayev, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Kazakhstan, participated as ex-officio members.

The GEM took stock of the Plan of Action agreed in its meetings in New York (Sep. 2013), Stockholm (Apr. 2014) and Seoul (Jun. 2015). The Group considered the current international climate and determined that, with the upcoming 20th anniversary of the opening for signature of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, there was an urgency to unite the international community in support of preventing the proliferation and further development of nuclear weapons with the aim of their total elimination.

Participants in the meeting discussed a wide range of relevant issues and debated practical measures that could be undertaken to further advance the entry into force of the Treaty, especially in the run-up to the Article XIV Conference on Facilitating Entry into Force of the CTBT, which will take place at the end of September in New York, with Japan and Kazakhstan as co-chairs.

One hundred and eighty-three countries have signed the Treaty, of which 163 have also ratified it, including three of the nuclear weapon states: France, Russia and the United Kingdom. But 44 specific nuclear technology holder countries must sign and ratify before the CTBT can enter into force. Of these, eight are still missing: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States. India, North Korea and Pakistan have yet to sign the CTBT.

The GEM adopted the Hiroshima Declaration, which reaffirmed the group’s commitment to achieving the global elimination of nuclear weapons and, in particular, to the entry into force of the CTBT as “one of the most essential practical measures for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation”, and, among others, called for “a multilateral approach to engage the leadership of the remaining . . . eight States with the aim of facilitating their respective ratification processes.”

The GEM called on “political leaders, governments, civil society and the international scientific community to raise awareness of the essential role of the CTBT in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and in the prevention of the catastrophic consequences of the use of nuclear weapons for humankind.”

Edited by Phil Harris   

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Opinion: Children of the World – We are Standing Watch for Youhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/opinion-children-of-the-world-we-are-standing-watch-for-you/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-children-of-the-world-we-are-standing-watch-for-you http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/opinion-children-of-the-world-we-are-standing-watch-for-you/#comments Sun, 23 Aug 2015 08:48:05 +0000 Oscar Arias Sanchez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142106

Oscar Arias, former President of Costa Rica (1986-1990 and 2006-2010) and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987, wrote this opinion piece to accompany the First Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty (Cancún, Mexico, 24-27 August 2015).

By Oscar Arias Sanchez
SAN JOSE, Aug 23 2015 (IPS)

Twenty-eight years ago this month, an indigenous woman stood in the plaza in Guatemala City, watching as the presidents of Central America walked out into the street after signing the Peace Accords that would end the civil wars in our region. When I reached her, she took both my hands in hers and said, “Thank you, Mr. President, for my child who is in the mountains fighting, and for the child I carry in my womb.”

Oscar Arias

Oscar Arias

I don’t need to tell you that I have wondered about that woman’s children ever since. I never met them, but those children of conflict are never far from my thoughts. Those children, and others like them, were the audience of the peace treaty I had drafted. They were its true authors, its reason for being. Theirs were the human lives behind every letter we put onto the page, every word we negotiated.

For the presidents who signed the treaty, achieving peace was the most important challenge of our lives. For those children, it was life or death.

But our victory for peace in 1987 did not fully safeguard those children, or millions more like them, because the weapons that had poured into our region during our conflicts did not disappear when the white flag was raised.

For years after arms suppliers channelled weapons to armies or paramilitary forces during the 1980s, those weapons were found in the hands of the gangs that roamed the countryside of Nicaragua, or of teenage boys on the streets of San Salvador and Tegucigalpa. Other weapons were shipped to guerrilla or paramilitary groups, as well as drug cartels in Colombia, ready to destroy yet more lives.“Throughout modern history, we have, in effect, told the children of the world that while we will regulate the international trade in food and textiles and any other product under the sun, we are not interested in regulating the international trade in deadly weapons”

We had walked into a new era of peace, but the weapons of the past were shackles at our feet.

As I watched this happen in my region, I also learned that the international trade in arms, free from any regulations whatsoever, was feeding unnecessary violence like this all over the world.

Throughout modern history, we have, in effect, told the children of the world that while we will regulate the international trade in food and textiles and any other product under the sun, we are not interested in regulating the international trade in deadly weapons, even when those weapons are being sold to dictators or other violators of human rights, or placed directly into the hands of child soldiers.

So, in 1997, I began my call for a treaty to regulate the trade of arms. I was quickly joined by fellow Nobel Peace laureates, and then by friends and allies all over the world. On Christmas Eve 2014, the International Arms Trade Treaty finally took effect. And now, in Cancún, Mexico, between Aug. 24 and 27, the first-ever Conference of Parties to the Treaty is being held so that its implementation can move forward.

I never thought I would see this day; I am delighted that I have. I am also filled with new determination to make sure that the treaty lives up to its potential.

For the treaty is a powerful tool, but it will only protect our children if we give it teeth. It will only protect our children if we implement it fully. It will only protect our children if we ensure that consensus is not used as an excuse for inaction.

I urge the 72 nations that have ratified the treaty to define an alternative to consensus so that one party cannot paralyse implementation. The perfect is the enemy of the good – and in this case, with human lives depending on our swift resolution of pending issues, inaction would be anything but perfect. It would be a travesty.

We must also continue to raise our voices in the face of tremendous opposition from groups that continue to oppose the treaty, arguing that it infringes upon national sovereignty. Quite the opposite is true: no sane definition of national sovereignty includes the right to sell arms for the violation of human rights in other countries. A nation willing to carry out such an act is not defending itself, but rather infringing upon the sovereignty of other nations that only want to live in peace.

We must also avoid using the danger and terrorism in the world today as an excuse for lack of regulation. Cicero’s famous phrase “silent enimleges inter armas” – among arms, laws are silent – has often been used to support the mind-set that the law does not apply during times of war.

But it is at times of war that the law must speak most bravely. When weapons are circulating freely into the worst possible hands, the law must speak. When the lives of the innocent are placed in danger by an absence of regulation, the law must speak.

And we must speak, today – in favour of this crucial treaty, and its swift and effective implementation. If we do, then when today’s children of conflict look to us for guidance and leadership, we will no longer look away in shame. We will be able to tell them, at long last, that we are standing watch for them. We are on guard. Someone is finally ready to take action. (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)

Edited by Phil Harris   

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

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U.N. Remains Helpless Watching Rising Deaths of Children in War Zoneshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/u-n-remains-helpless-watching-rising-deaths-of-children-in-war-zones/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-n-remains-helpless-watching-rising-deaths-of-children-in-war-zones http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/u-n-remains-helpless-watching-rising-deaths-of-children-in-war-zones/#comments Thu, 20 Aug 2015 19:44:23 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142076 Children residing at a Protection of Civilians (POC) site run by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) perform at a special cultural event in Juba March 27, 2015. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

Children residing at a Protection of Civilians (POC) site run by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) perform at a special cultural event in Juba March 27, 2015. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 20 2015 (IPS)

The rising death toll of civilians, specifically women and children, in ongoing military conflicts is generating strong messages of condemnation from international institutions and human rights organisations – with the United Nations remaining helpless as killings keep multiplying.

The worst offenders are warring parties in “the world’s five most conflicted countries”, namely Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Central African Republic (CAR), and most horrifically, Yemen, where civilian casualties have been rising almost by the hour.According to UNICEF, there have not been this many child refugees since the end of the Second World War.

The 1949 Geneva Convention, which governs the basic rules of war, has also continued to be violated in conflicts in Afghanistan, Libya, Gaza, Nigeria, Myanmar, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), among other military hotspots.

The U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, says some 230 million children grow up caught in the middle of conflicts, involving both governments and “terror groups” such as Boko Haram, Islamic State (IS), and Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

According to a new report by UNICEF, one of the worst cases is Yemen where an average of eight children are being killed or maimed every day.

The study, titled Yemen: Childhood Under Threat, says nearly 400 children have been killed and over 600 others injured since the violence escalated about four months ago.

In the conflict in Gaza last year, according to U.N. statistics, more than 2,100 were killed, including 1,462 civilians. And the civilian killings included 495 children and 253 women compared with the death toll of 72 Israelis, including seven civilians.

Addressing the Security Council during an open debate on children and armed conflict last month, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said there was “a moral imperative and a legal obligation” to protect children — and they should “never be jeopardized by national interests.”

He said 2014 was one of the worst years in recent memory for children in countries devastated by military conflicts.

The conflict in Yemen is a particular tragedy for children, says UNICEF Representative in Yemen, Julien Harneis. “Children are being killed by bombs or bullets and those that survive face the growing threat of disease and malnutrition. This cannot be allowed to continue,” he added.

As devastating as the conflict is for the lives of children right now, says the UNICEF report, “it will have terrifying consequences for their future.”

Across the country, nearly 10 million children – 80 per cent of the country’s under-18 population – are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. More than 1.3 million people have been forced to flee their homes, the report said.

The New York office of the Tokyo-based Arigatou International, which has taken a lead role in protecting children at the grassroots level, is hosting a forum on “Religious Ideals and Reality: Responsibility of Leadership to Prevent Violence against Children,” in Geneva next week.

The forum is being co-hosted by ECPAT International (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes), a global network dedicated to protecting children.

Rebeca Rios-Kohn, director of the Arigatou International New York Office, told IPS interfaith dialogue can play a critical role in bringing about behavioural change in areas of the world affected by armed conflicts.

“Religious leaders who have strong moral authority and credibility can influence positive change,” she added.

She pointed out the example of “corridors of peace” promoted by UNICEF which allowed vaccination of children to take place in conflict areas.

“However, while this is an important and tragic issue which receives great attention by the media, we must not forget that the issue of violence is global and affects many more children within the home, school and community, as well as orphanages, detention centres and other institutions where children are residing.”

Also, she said, the phenomenon of online exploitation of children, which will be addressed at the Forum, is a huge problem that has the attention of experts including Interpol due to its growing magnitude and the fact that the perpetrators can get away with it so easily.

“In other words, the work that we are doing focuses more on the broader dimensions of the problem,” she noted.

“We collaborate closely with the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC), another Arigatou Initiative that is led from Nairobi.”

Together, she said, the initiatives draw on the religious teachings and values of all major religions and on the power of prayer, meditation and diverse forms of worship to mobilise concrete actions for children.

Jo Becker, advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, points out that children’s education has also suffered, as armed forces or groups damaged or destroyed more than 1,000 schools around the globe last year.

The most affected schools were in Palestine, where Israeli airstrikes and shelling damaged or destroyed 543 schools in Gaza, and Nigeria, where the Islamist armed group Boko Haram carried out attacks on 338 schools, including the abduction of 276 girls from their school in Chibok, Borno, in April 2014.

The result: hundreds of thousands of children are denied an education, she said.

According to UNICEF, there have not been this many child refugees since the end of the Second World War.

Meanwhile, the UNICEF report outlines the different dimensions of the crisis facing children in Yemen including:

At least 398 children killed and 605 injured as a result since the conflict escalated in March.

Children recruited or used in the conflict has more than doubled – from 156 in 2014 to 377 so far verified in 2015; 15.2 million people lack access to basic health care, with 900 health facilities closed since March 26; and 1.8 million children are likely to suffer from some form of malnutrition by the end of the year.

Additionally, 20.4 million people are in need of assistance to establish or maintain access to safe water and sanitation due to fuel shortages, infrastructure damage and insecurity, and nearly 3,600 schools have closed down, affecting over 1.8 million children.

Over the past six months, the children’s agency has provided psychological support to help over 150,000 children cope with the horrors of the conflict. Some 280,000 people have learnt how to avoid injury from unexploded ordnances and mines.

Yet despite the tremendous needs, UNICEF says its response remains grossly underfunded.

With only 16 per cent of the agency’s funding appeal of 182.6 million dollars met so far, “Yemen is one of the most under-funded of the different emergencies UNICEF is currently responding to around the world.”

“We urgently need funds so we can reach children in desperate need,” said Harneis. “We cannot stand by and let children suffer the consequences of a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Opinion: The Writing on the Western Wallhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/opinion-the-writing-on-the-western-wall/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-the-writing-on-the-western-wall http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/opinion-the-writing-on-the-western-wall/#comments Wed, 19 Aug 2015 17:40:57 +0000 Joseph Chamie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142045 Western wall in Jerusalem at night. Credit: Wayne McLean/cc by 2.0

Western wall in Jerusalem at night. Credit: Wayne McLean/cc by 2.0

By Joseph Chamie
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 19 2015 (IPS)

The writing on the Western Wall is evident to most Israelis: “דמוגרפיה היא גורל” or “demography is destiny”. Those unwilling to acknowledge the prophetic message are either deceiving themselves or simply ignoring it in order to avoid facing the implications of demography for Israel’s future.

In order to be both a Jewish and democratic state, Israel has adhered to a clear demographic principle:  maintain an overwhelming Jewish majority. During the first few decades following its establishment in 1948, the proportions Jewish among the several million Israelis remained at record highs of nearly 90 percent (Figure 1).In the immediate aftermath of the two-state solution’s formal demise, Israel will try to avoid facing demographic realities and maintain an untenable status quo.

Since then, even with the large-scale Jewish immigration from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s, the Jewish proportion in Israel, while still a sizeable majority, has declined steadily. Today the proportion Jewish among the Israeli population of more than eight million is at an historic low of 75 percent.

Although the country’s Jewish majority will likely continue to decline slightly over the next 20 years, it is expected to remain over 70 percent according to official Israeli population projections. Those projections, however, assume that no significant numbers of non-Jews outside pre-1967 Israel are granted Israeli citizenship. If this assumption is relaxed, very different demographic futures emerge for Israel.

The Israeli population, for example, could be combined with the Palestinian populations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to form a single state with universal suffrage, in other words the one-state solution. While the expanded nation would continue to be democratic in principle, it would no longer be a Jewish state because the majority of the enlarged Israeli population would no longer be Jewish.

Source: Israel Central Bureaus of Statistics and United Nations Population Division

Source: Israel Central Bureaus of Statistics and United Nations Population Division

A more likely possibility perhaps would be for the Palestinians in the West Bank to be granted Israeli citizenship. At least during the first couple of decades of such a scenario, Jewish Israelis would retain their majority, being slightly above half of the total population.

However, after several decades, Jewish Israelis would likely turn out to be the minority due to higher rates of demographic growth among their non-Jewish compatriots. Here again, an expanded Israel enfranchising large numbers of non-Jews would continue to be a democracy but would eventually cease to be a predominantly Jewish state.

The current Israeli government does not envisage the establishment of a Palestinian state any time in the foreseeable future. Although some Israeli politicians have called for the creation of a separate Palestinian state in the occupied territories, key Israeli government officials and their pivotal supporters believe that it would be collective suicide for Israel to permit the establishment of a Palestinian state. They prefer to annex West Bank land, or Judea and Samaria using their terminology, which some contend is already the de facto case.

In addition, a majority of the Israeli public view reaching a peace agreement with a two-state solution as a pipedream and many are opposed to a two-state solution. Any support voiced by Israelis for a two-state solution invariably evaporates when the details of a possible peace agreement are spelled out, such as the sharing of Jerusalem, removing Israeli settlements or returning to some pre-1967 borders.

Also, more than 120 government-approved Israeli settlements and 100 unofficial ones have been established in the West Bank. The growing Israeli settler population in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is estimated at approximately 750,000. In the West Bank alone, the number of settlers has more than doubled since 1995 to about 400,000.

It appears highly unlikely that Israel will be able to withdraw its Jewish settlers from the occupied land as it did in 2005 when it withdrew with some difficulty about 9,000 Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip.

Despite the government’s opposition, public resistance and the ever-expanding demographic facts on the occupied ground, the two-state solution continues to be kept on life support largely through the sponsorship, funds and hopes of the international community, in particular the United States and its Western allies.

The ostensible reason for keeping this all-but-dead diplomatic path alive is to avoid confronting the inevitable alternatives to the failed attempts to establish a separate Palestinian state.

Soon, however, the two-state solution will be given its formal funeral, especially as peace talks have collapsed and the Israeli occupation is approaching its 50th anniversary. When this happens, the options remaining for the Israelis will be limited and difficult with the one-state solution with its eventual Palestinian majority loudly knocking at Israel’s front doorstep.

In the immediate aftermath of the two-state solution’s formal demise, Israel will try to avoid facing demographic realities and maintain an untenable status quo. The Israeli government will likely continue to enforce its costly and troubling occupation and control over millions of Palestinians, expand and increase Jewish settlements and consolidate its presence and authority throughout Jerusalem. However, those and related acts will in all likelihood only exacerbate an already vexing and volatile situation.

Attempts to preserve the status quo will lead to the numerous Jewish settlements becoming increasingly entrenched and entangled in the West Bank. The living conditions and disposition of the Palestinians in the occupied territories will worsen and their human rights concerns can be expected to rise to the top of the international community’s political agenda.

Israeli administrative decisions, Knesset bills and judicial pronouncements can neither dismiss nor repeal the laws of demography. No doubt some will choose to challenge the numbers and their significance, contending that under any foreseeable demographic circumstances Israel will remain a democratic and Jewish nation.

Inevitably, however, and likely sooner rather than later the Israeli government will be obliged to acknowledge the writing on the Western Wall and address demography’s decisive implications for the future of Israel.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Iran Deal a ‘Net-Plus’ for Nuclear Non-Proliferation Worldwidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/iran-deal-a-net-plus-for-nuclear-non-proliferation-worldwide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=iran-deal-a-net-plus-for-nuclear-non-proliferation-worldwide http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/iran-deal-a-net-plus-for-nuclear-non-proliferation-worldwide/#comments Tue, 18 Aug 2015 21:17:28 +0000 S. Chandra http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142040 By S. Chandra
WASHINGTON, Aug 18 2015 (IPS)

As the U.S. Congress prepares to vote next month on the landmark Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was agreed on July 14 between the world’s leading powers and Iran, and has been approved by the U.N. Security Council, eminent nuclear non-proliferation experts are mobilising international support for its immediate implementation.

In a joint statement, more than 70 of the world’s leading nuclear non-proliferation specialists outline why the JCPOA “is a strong, long-term, and verifiable agreement that will be a net-plus for international nuclear non-proliferation efforts.”

The non-proliferation specialists’ statement, organised by Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, point out that the July 14 agreement, “ … advances the security interests of the P5+1 nations (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the European Union, their allies and partners in the Middle East, and the international community.”

The joint statement is endorsed by former U.S. nuclear negotiators, former senior U.S. non-proliferation officials, a former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a former member of the U.N. Panel of Experts on Iran, and leading nuclear specialists from the United States and around the globe.

The experts “… urge the leaders of the P5+1 states, the European Union, and Iran to take the steps necessary to ensure timely implementation and rigorous compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”

The statement concludes: “… we believe the JCPOA meets key nonproliferation and security objectives and see no realistic prospect for a better nuclear agreement.”

“This statement … underscores, as President Barack Obama recently noted, the majority of arms control and non-proliferation experts support the P5+1 and Iran nuclear deal,” said the Arms Control Association’s executive director Daryl G. Kimball in a new release on Tuesday.

It said: “The JCPOA will establish long-term, verifiable restrictions on Iran’s sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities, many of which will last for 10 years, some for 15 years, some for 25 years, with enhanced IAEA monitoring under Iran’s additional protocol agreement with the IAEA and modified code 3.1 safeguards provisions lasting indefinitely.”

When implemented, eminent nuclear non-proliferation experts say, the JCPOA will establish long-term, verifiable restrictions on Iran’s enrichment facilities and research and development, including advanced centrifuge research and deployment.

“Taken in combination with stringent limitations on Iran’s low-enriched uranium stockpile, these restrictions ensure that Iran’s capability to produce enough bomb-grade uranium sufficient for one weapon would be extended to approximately 12 months for a decade or more,” they add.

“Moreover,” the experts say in a joint statement, “the JCPOA will effectively eliminate Iran’s ability to produce and separate plutonium for a nuclear weapon for at least 15 years, including by permanently modifying the Arak reactor, Iran’s major potential source for weapons grade plutonium, committing Iran not to reprocess spent fuel, and shipping spent fuel out of the country.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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U.N. Marks Humanitarian Day Battling Its Worst Refugee Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/u-n-marks-humanitarian-day-battling-its-worst-refugee-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-n-marks-humanitarian-day-battling-its-worst-refugee-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/u-n-marks-humanitarian-day-battling-its-worst-refugee-crisis/#comments Tue, 18 Aug 2015 20:42:44 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142034 Portrait of a man inside the "27 February" Saharawi refugee camp near Tindouf, Algeria. 24 June 2010. Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

Portrait of a man inside the "27 February" Saharawi refugee camp near Tindouf, Algeria. 24 June 2010. Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 18 2015 (IPS)

The United Nations is commemorating World Humanitarian Day with “inspiring” human interest stories of survival – even as the world body describes the current refugee crisis as the worst for almost a quarter of a century.

The campaign, mostly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, is expected to flood social media feeds with stories of both resilience and hope from around the world, along with a musical concert in New York.“Some donors have been very generous and their support is crucial and deeply valued, but it's simply not enough to meet the growing needs.” -- Noah Gottschalk of Oxfam

“It’s true we live in a moment in history where there’s never been a greater need for humanitarian aid since the United Nations was founded,” says U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

“And every day, I talk about people and I use numbers, and the numbers are numbing, right — 10,000, 50,000,” he laments.

But as U.N. statistics go, the numbers are even more alarming than meets the eye: more than 4.0 million Syrians are now refugees in neighbouring countries, including Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon (not including the hundreds who are dying in mid-ocean every week as they try to reach Europe and escape the horrors of war at home).

And more troubling, at least an additional 7.6 million people have been displaced within Syria – all of them in need of humanitarian assistance—and over 220,000 have been killed in a military conflict now on its fifth year.

The U.N.’s Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien said “with nearly 60 million people forcibly displaced around the world, we face a crisis on a scale not seen in generations.”

In early August, O’Brien decided to release some 70 million dollars from a U.N. reserve fund called the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) – primarily for chronically underfunded aid operations.

Besides Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen, the humanitarian crisis has also impacted heavily on Sudan, South Sudan, the Horn of Africa, Chad, the Central African Republic, Myanmar and Bangladesh, among others.

Noah Gottschalk, Senior Policy Advisor for Humanitarian Response at Oxfam International, told IPS the international humanitarian system created decades ago has saved countless lives but today, the humanitarian system is “overwhelmed and underfunded” at a time when natural hazards are projected to increase in both frequency and severity at the same time as the world must respond to unprecedented protracted crises like the conflict in Syria.

“Some donors have been very generous and their support is crucial and deeply valued, but it’s simply not enough to meet the growing needs,” he said.

The United Nations and the greater humanitarian system, he pointed out, needs to be reformed to be more efficient and to better respond to needs by supporting local leadership and capacity and funding programmes that help communities reduce the impact of disasters before emergencies occur.

Meanwhile, the #ShareHumanity social media campaign, currently underway, hopes to build momentum towards the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit, scheduled to take place in Istanbul next May.

According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), this year’s World Humanitarian Day campaign, beginning Aug. 19, reflects a world where humanitarian needs are far outstripping the aid community’s capacity to help the millions of people affected by natural disasters, conflict, hunger and disease.

Oxfam’s Gottschalk told IPS World Humanitarian Day is an important opportunity to stop and honour the brave women and men who work tirelessly around the world every day to save lives in incredibly difficult circumstances.

He said local humanitarian workers are often the first to respond when a crisis hits and rarely get the recognition, and most importantly, the support they deserve to lead responses in their own countries.

Oxfam has been making a strong push for mandatory contributions from U.N. Member States to fund humanitarian responses, which it says, will provide a more consistent and robust funding stream.

More of that funding should flow directly to the local level, and be allocated more transparently so that donors can track impact and local communities can follow the aid and hold their leaders accountable and demand results, he noted.

Gottschalk said millions of people around the world depend on the global humanitarian system, and this is in no small part due to the committed and compassionate people who are struggling to make the system work despite declining resources and increasing need.

These reforms will make the system more effective and better equip these dedicated humanitarians to save lives and ease suffering, he declared.

The ongoing military conflicts have also claimed the lives of hundreds of health workers, says the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva.

In 2014 alone, WHO said it received reports of 372 attacks in 32 countries on health workers, resulting in 603 deaths and 958 injuries, while similar incidents have been recorded this year.

“WHO is committed to saving lives and reducing suffering in times of crisis. Attacks against health care workers and facilities are flagrant violations of international humanitarian law,” said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, in a statement released to mark World Humanitarian Day.

She said health workers have an obligation to treat the sick and injured without discrimination. “ All parties to conflict must respect that obligation,” she declared.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Prospects for Peace in South Sudan Fading Fasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/prospects-for-peace-in-south-sudan-fading-fast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=prospects-for-peace-in-south-sudan-fading-fast http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/prospects-for-peace-in-south-sudan-fading-fast/#comments Tue, 18 Aug 2015 13:29:16 +0000 a Global Information Network correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142024 A man at a political rally held by Salva Kiir, President of the Republic of South Sudan, in Juba, March 18, 2015. Credit: UN Photo/Isaac Billy

A man at a political rally held by Salva Kiir, President of the Republic of South Sudan, in Juba, March 18, 2015. Credit: UN Photo/Isaac Billy

By a Global Information Network correspondent
JUBA, Aug 18 2015 (IPS)

Dismissing efforts, including those of U.S. President Barack Obama, to sign off on a peace agreement and end the 20-month-long civil war in the world’s newest nation, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir declined to sign, saying he needed more time for consultations.

President Kiir’s team reportedly had “reservations” over the deal and wanted an additional 15 days before returning to sign, Seyoum Mesfin, mediator for IGAD, a regional group, told the media.

Rebel leader and former Vice-President Riek Machar did sign the agreement.

Among the issues in dispute were the structure of the government, the powers of the president, and the vice president, power-sharing percentages, security issues, and the demilitarisation of Juba and other places.

Then, in a move that would add fuel to the fire, President Kiir on Monday removed four elected state governors and arrested one of them.

The actions by the South Sudanese leader threw the U.S. strategy into a tailspin. A State Department release expressed “deep regret” for the failure to sign a peace proposal by Monday’s deadline.

“The United States deeply regrets that the government of South Sudan chose not to sign … We call on the government to sign the agreement within the 15-day period it requested for consultations,” State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters at his daily briefing.

Meanwhile, a film that shows that cost of war and colonial exploitation in South Sudan, opened in New York on Monday. The film, “We Come As Friends” is a work by Austrian-born filmmaker Hubert Sauper who previously made the film “Darwin’s Nightmare,” a film about Uganda.

That film, nominated for the Academy Award, “sifted through the wreckage of globalization by way of the fishing export industry in Lake Victoria, the impact on local Tanzanians, and a fast-and-loose subculture of Russian cargo-plane pilots.

“We Come as Friends” is firmly rooted in reality, wrote The New York Times in a review. “The ‘land grab’ confirmed in the nighttime scene with the tribal leader has occurred frequently, in Sudan and elsewhere, said Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the think tank Oakland Institute, which has studied such issues.

“It’s not one of a kind — it’s not a small trend; it’s widespread,” Ms. Mittal said of the kind of “resource theft” that Sauper depicts.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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The U.N. at 70: Leading the Global Agenda on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality – Part Twohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/the-u-n-at-70-leading-the-global-agenda-on-womens-rights-and-gender-equality-part-two/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-u-n-at-70-leading-the-global-agenda-on-womens-rights-and-gender-equality-part-two http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/the-u-n-at-70-leading-the-global-agenda-on-womens-rights-and-gender-equality-part-two/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 13:25:15 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142009 Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of U.N. Women. Credit: U.N. Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Lakshmi Puri
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 17 2015 (IPS)

The efforts of the United Nations and the global women’s movement to promote the women’s rights agenda and make it a top international priority saw its culmination in the creation of U.N. Women, by the General Assembly in 2010.

UN Women is the first – and only – composite entity of the U.N. system, with a universal mandate to promote the rights of women through the trinity of normative support, operational programmes and U.N. system coordination and accountability lead and promotion.This is a pivotal moment for the gender equality project of humankind.

It also supports the building of a strong knowledge hub – with data, evidence and good practices contributing to positive gains but also highlighting challenges and gaps that require urgent redressal.

UN Women has given a strong impetus to ensuring that progressive gender equality and women’s empowerment norms and standards are evolved internationally and that they are clearly mainstreamed and prioritised as key beneficiaries and enablers of the U.N.’s sustainable development, peace and security, human rights, humanitarian action, climate change action and World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) + 10 agendas.

In fact, since its creation five years ago, there has been an unprecedented focus and prioritisation of gender equality and women’s empowerment in all normative processes and outcomes.

With the substantive and intellectual backstopping, vigorous advocacy, strategic mobilisation and partnerships with member states and civil society, U.N. Women has contributed to the reigniting of political will for the full, effective and accelerated implementation of Beijing Platform commitments as was done in the Political Declaration adopted at 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women; a remarkable, transformative and comprehensive integration and prioritisation of gender equality in the Rio + 20 outcome and in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through a stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal and gender sensitive targets in other key Goals and elements.

Additionally, there was also a commitment to both gender mainstreaming and targeted and transformative actions and investments in the formulation and implementation of financial, economic, social and environmental policies at all levels in the recently-concluded Addis Accord and Action Agenda on  Financing For Development.

Also we secured a commitment to significantly increased investment to close the gender gap and resource gap and a pledge to strengthen support to gender equality mechanisms and institutions at the global, regional and national levels. We now are striving to do the same normative alchemy with the Climate Change Treaty in December 2015.

Equally exhilarating and impactful has been the advocacy journey of U.N. Women. It  supports and advocates for gender equality, women’s empowerment and the rights of women globally, in all regions and countries, with governments, with civil society and the private sector, with the media and with citizens – women and girls, men and boys everywhere including through its highly successful and innovative Campaigns such as UNiTE to End Violence against Women / orange your neighbourhood, Planet 50/50 by 2030: Step it up for Gender Equality and the HeforShe campaign which have reached out to over a billion people worldwide .

UN Women also works with countries to help translate international norms and standards into concrete actions and impact at national level and to achieve real change in the lives of women and girls in over 90 countries. It is in the process of developing Key Flagship Programs to scale up and drive impact on the ground in priority areas of economic empowerment, participation and leadership in decision making and governance, and ending violence against women.

Ending the chronic underinvestment in women and girls empowerment programs and projects and mobilising transformative financing of gender equality commitments made is also a big and urgent priority.

We have and will continue to support women and girls in the context of humanitarian crisis like the Ebola crisis in West Africa and the earthquake relief and response in Nepal and worked in over 22 conflict and post conflict countries to advance women’s security, voice, participation and leadership in the continuum from peace-making, peace building to development.

UN Women’s role in getting each and every part of the U.N. system including the MFIs and the WTO to deliver bigger, better and in transformative ways for gender equality through our coordination role has been commended by all. Already 62 U.N. entities, specialised agencies and departments have reported for the third year on their UN-SWAP progress and the next frontier is to SWAP the field.

Much has been achieved globally on women’s right from education, to employment and leadership, including at the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has appointed more senior women than all the other Secretary-Generals combined.

Yet, despite the great deal of progress that has been made in the past 70 years in promoting the rights of women –persistent challenges remain and new ones have come up and to date no country in the world has achieved gender equality.

The majority of the world’s poor are women and they remain disempowered and marginalised. Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic. Women and girls are denied their basic right to make decisions on their sexuality and reproductive life and at the current rate of progress, it would take nearly another 80 years to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment everywhere, and for women and girls to have equal access to opportunities and resources everywhere.

The world cannot wait another century. Women and girls have already waited two millennia. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and all other normative commitments in the United Nations will remain ‘ink on paper’ without transformative financing in scale and scope, without the data, monitoring and follow up and review and without effective accountability mechanisms in this area.

As we move forward, the United Nations must continue to work with all partners to hold Member States accountable for their international commitments to advance and achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment in all sectors and in every respect.

UN Women is readying itself to be Fit For Purpose but must also be Financed For Purpose in order to contribute and support the achievement of the Goals and targets for women and girls across the new Development Agenda.

This is a pivotal moment for the gender equality project of humankind. In order to achieve irreversible and sustained progress in gender equality and women’s empowerment for all women and girls – no matter where and in what circumstances they live and what age they are, we must all step up our actions and investment to realise the promise of “Transforming our World ” for them latest by 2030. It is a matter of justice, of recognising their equal humanity and of enabling the realisation of their fundamental freedoms and rights.

As the U.N. turns 70 and the entire international development  and  security community faces many policy priorities – from poverty eradication, conflict resolution, to addressing climate change and increasing inequalities within and between countries – it is heartening that all constituents of the U.N. – member states, the Secretariat and the civil society – recognise that no progress can be made in any of them without addressing women’s needs and interests and without women and girls as participants and leaders of change.

By prioritising gender equality in everything they pledge to not only as an article of faith but an operational necessity, they signal that upholding women’s rights will not only make the economy, polity and society work for women but create a prosperous economy, a just and peaceful society and a more sustainable planet.

Part One can be read here.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Designed to Fail: Gaza’s Reconstruction Planhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/designed-to-fail-gazas-reconstruction-plan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=designed-to-fail-gazas-reconstruction-plan http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/designed-to-fail-gazas-reconstruction-plan/#comments Sat, 15 Aug 2015 12:22:00 +0000 Charlie Hoyle http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142003 The rubble of twisted concrete and metal bakes in the hot Mediterranean sun of a regional heat wave. A year on from Israel’s 51-day military operation in 2014, not a single one of the 11,000 destroyed homes in Gaza has been rebuilt. Photo credit: UNRWA Archives/Shareef Sarhan

The rubble of twisted concrete and metal bakes in the hot Mediterranean sun of a regional heat wave. A year on from Israel’s 51-day military operation in 2014, not a single one of the 11,000 destroyed homes in Gaza has been rebuilt. Photo credit: UNRWA Archives/Shareef Sarhan

By Charlie Hoyle
BETHLEHEM, Palestine, Aug 15 2015 (IPS)

The rubble of twisted concrete and metal bakes in the hot Mediterranean sun of a regional heat wave.

Eight months ago, the infrastructural devastation in the Gaza Strip was the same, except floodwater and freezing winter temperatures swept over the heaped remnants of people’s homes and businesses.

A year on from Israel’s 51-day military operation – in which over 2,200 Palestinians were killed, including more than 500 children – not a single one of the 11,000 destroyed homes has been rebuilt.

The task of large-scale reconstruction work was entrusted to the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), a United Nations-brokered agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority which would oversee the distribution of building materials entering Gaza.“Most of the 100,000 Palestinians displaced by the [2014] war continue to live in makeshift shelters, often in the rubble of their former homes, and the landscape is littered with miles upon miles of apocalyptic decay where homes, shops, and restaurants once stood”

To date, only 5.5 percent of the building materials needed to repair and rebuild homes and other damaged infrastructure has entered the coastal enclave, according to Israeli rights group Gisha, founded in 2005 to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especial Gaza residents.

Failed promises by donor countries which pledged 5.4 billion dollars last October, political tensions between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, and Israel’s continued restrictions on materials entering the territory have all impeded reconstruction efforts.

However, many hold the GRM directly responsible for the glacial pace of reconstruction, arguing that the terms of the agreement have entrenched Gaza’s underdevelopment by granting Israel control over nearly every aspect of the rebuilding process.

“Israel actually has deep power over every single house built in Gaza,” says Ghada Snunu, a reporting officer at Ma’an Development Centre in Gaza.

“We cannot build a house if Israel says no. Israel decides whether homes are built or not.”

As part of the GRM, Israel has case-by-case approval over individual applications for building materials, veto power over construction companies put forward by the Palestinian Authority to provide those materials, and access to the Authority’s Ministry of Civil Affairs database, which registers the ID numbers and GPS coordinates of Palestinians whose homes were destroyed.

According to Gisha, private owners, building plans, locations and the quantities all require Israeli approval, with companies and merchants who store the construction materials – mostly aggregate, cement and steel bars – forced to place security guards and install cameras to supervise the goods 24 hours a day.

This lengthy and expensive bureaucratic process, designed specifically to meet Israel’s stated security concerns, has meant the process is at a virtual standstill.

“The GRM has failed because it gives Israel veto power over everything. There are no changes on the ground so far,” complains Snunu.

In January, the Brookings Doha Centre said in a policy briefing that the GRM has effectively seemed to offer “legitimacy to the Israeli blockade” and placed “exclusive reliance on Israel’s willingness to allow the flow of reconstruction materials” for success of the mechanism.

In recent months, Oxfam says that more building materials are entering Gaza, but the levels are still only 25 percent of those before Israel’s blockade was imposed some eight years ago.

“At this pace it could take 19 years to finish just the rebuilding of homes destroyed in 2014 and at least 76 years to build all the new homes that Gaza needs,” said Oxfam’s Arwa Mhunna.

Most of the 100,000 Palestinians displaced by the war continue to live in makeshift shelters, often in the rubble of their former homes, and the landscape is littered with miles upon miles of apocalyptic decay where homes, shops, and restaurants once stood.

The vast infrastructural damage last summer, caused by an unprecedented amount of explosive weaponry used by Israel’s military, compounds the effects of an eight-year blockade and two other Israeli military offensives since 2008, with damage from those conflicts barely addressed.

Gazan institutions and stakeholders have been largely excluded from the rebuilding process following the three wars, placing the civilian population at the mercy of political infighting, unfulfilled international promises and Israel’s blockade.

“Gaza had already been destroyed completely before the war. This agreement did not change anything, Palestinians were told their homes would be rebuilt, but these promises have been broken by the international community and the PA,” says Snunu.

In May, the World Bank reported that Gaza had the highest unemployment rate in the world at 43.9 percent, with 67 percent of under 24-year-olds unemployed. Real per capita income is now 31 percent lower than it was 20 years ago, at 970 dollars a year, the report added.

At least 80 percent of Gazans are dependent on humanitarian aid.

“The situation in Gaza is getting more serious and dire,” says Mhunna. “The humanitarian crisis is continuing and now affects all aspects of life. Displacement has lasted for over a year since the war and there is a devastating economic situation.”

Hamas officials, rights groups, and both local and international NGOs had repeatedly stressed last year during ceasefire negotiations that Gaza must not return to a status quo of blockade.

Since Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005 – withdrawing some 9,000 settlers and military forces – it has repeatedly claimed that it is no longer occupying the territory and has held Hamas responsible for the civilian population.

Yet 10 years later, Israel controls the movement of Palestinians in and out of Gaza, the food they can have access to, whether they can receive medical treatment or not, and now under the terms of the GRM, whether their homes can be rebuilt.

“The GRM harms Palestinians more than it benefits them. What is clear in our demands is that the GRM heightens the blockade and Gaza will not be rebuilt unless the blockade is lifted,” says Snunu.

“Palestinians need solutions for the crisis, not mechanisms that manage the crisis.”

Edited by Phil Harris   

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U.N. Chief, Seeking Accountability, Shatters Myth of Lifetime Jobshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/u-n-chief-seeking-accountability-shatters-myth-of-lifetime-jobs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-n-chief-seeking-accountability-shatters-myth-of-lifetime-jobs http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/u-n-chief-seeking-accountability-shatters-myth-of-lifetime-jobs/#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2015 21:21:43 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142000 Babacar Gaye resigned his post as Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) this week. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Babacar Gaye resigned his post as Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) this week. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 14 2015 (IPS)

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stopped short of telling one his high-ranking Special Representatives: “You’re fired.”

If he did, he was only echoing the now-famous words of a U.S. presidential candidate, Donald Trump, who is best known for frequently dismissing his staffers, using that catch phrase, in a long-running reality TV show.

Following the alleged outrageous rape of a 12-year girl by peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic (CAR) — adding to 11 other cases of sexual abuse in the battle-scarred country — the secretary-general unceremoniously forced the resignation of his highest-ranking official, Babacar Gaye of Senegal.

The dismissal has been described as “unprecedented” in the 70-year history of the United Nations.

As U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters: “It is not something that I have seen in terms of Special Representatives in the field in the 15 years that I’ve been here, an action taken like this by a Secretary‑General.”

An "Unprecedented" Sacking

Samir Sanbar, a former U.N. assistant secretary-general and head of the Department of Public Information, told IPS firing of a Special Envoy is exceptional.

In this particular case, the Secretary General made his point in an unprecedented manner.

In previous cases, he said, a Secretary General would send a discreet message about the need to resign “for personal reasons” or transferred elsewhere until a contract expired.

Envoys usually have different, more limited contracts than regular staff.

For a long period, and in order to build a dedicated international civil service that would withstand taking instructions from those other than the Secretary General, a “career contract” was offered, normally after five to 10 years of proven competence.

Appointment and Promotion bodies jointly selected by the Administration and staff would review and ensure a valid transparent competitive process.

“I had served for years as Chairman after Kofi Annan left to take over Peacekeeping,” he said.

Regrettably, these bodies were abolished after Annan became Secretary General --apparently to give senior manager more leeway in selecting their own staff.

Also contractual arrangements were changed mainly under pressures that sought to influence staff policy attitudes.

That substantive shift eroded the spirit of International Civil Servants who habitually were drawn from the widest cultural and geographic backgrounds, demoralising the existing staff and leading to weakening the main base of the Secretary General's authority.

But in a bygone era, U.N. jobs, like most dictatorial Third World presidencies, were for life – until you hit the retirement age of 60 (or 62 now, and 65 in the future).

The most that would happen for any infractions is a U.N. staffer taking early retirement – either gracefully or disgracefully.

The rule is best exemplified in a long running anecdote here of a secretary, enraged at her boss, who picked up her typewriter and threw it at him, many moons ago. But because she held a life-time job, so the story goes, she couldn’t be fired from her job.

However, the end result was a memo from the human resources department to all divisional heads at the U.N. urging them to nail all typewriters to their desks.

The story may be apocryphal but it reflected the long standing professional lifestyle at the 39-storeyed glass house by the East River.

Ian Richards, President of the Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations (CCISUA), told IPS: “I cannot recall a political appointee being fired.”

The usual practice, even for incompetent assistant secretaries-general (ASGs) or under-secretaries-general (USGs), has been to let their contracts lapse, or ease them out by retiring them or moving them sideways to a non-job, he said.

“Cases of staff being terminated are very rare and usually for disciplinary reasons. However, there have been cases where contracts have not been renewed, usually citing performance difficulties, but which we believe to have been abusive circumstances. But it’s thankfully rare,” said Richards.

Where there is a big concern going forward is the General Assembly’s approval of a new mobility policy under which appointments and moves of D-1 and D-2 staff – both at director levels — will be managed by the Secretary-General’s office (making them virtually political appointments and not regular staffers).

“This could have serious repercussions as those who don’t toe the line could be threatened with a move to an undesirable duty station,” he added.

In closed-door consultations with the 15-member Security Council Thursday, the secretary general said: “I cannot express strongly enough my distress and shame over reports of sexual exploitation and the abuse of power by U.N. forces, police or civilian personnel.”

With respect to the allegations and cases in the Central African Republic, the time had come for a strong signal that leaders will be held responsible, he said.

“This is why I asked for the resignation of General Babacar Gaye despite his long and illustrious service to the United Nations.”

Ban said an effective response demands accountability — individual, leadership, command level, as well accountability by the Organisation and by Member States.

“In the case of peacekeeping missions, accountability begins at the top, with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and carries through each level of management and command.”

On Friday, he convened an extraordinary meeting of his Special Representatives, Force Commanders and Police Commissioners in all 16 peacekeeping missions to send the unequivocal message that they are obligated – every day and every night – to enforce the highest standards of conduct for all.

He also said it is critical that Troop Contributing Countries take swift action to appoint national investigation officers, conclude investigations and hold perpetrators accountable.

It is squarely their responsibility to ensure justice and to communicate to the Secretariat the results of their actions.

“All too often this is not done quickly enough – and in the most frustrating cases, it is not done at all,” Ban said.

“When the Secretariat does receive information about the actions taken in substantiated cases of sexual exploitation and abuse, I am frustrated by what appear to be far too lenient sanctions for such grave acts affecting men, women and, all too often, children.”

A failure to pursue criminal accountability for sexual crimes is tantamount to impunity, he warned.

“That injustice is a second blow to the victims – and a tacit pass for the crimes we are trying so hard to end.”

Referring to the firing of the Special Representative, Dujarric told reporters: “As you know, the Secretary-General did not take this action based on one particular case.”

He took it based on the repeated number of cases of sexual abuse and misconduct that have taken place in the Central African Republic.

“According to our numbers, we had 57 allegations of possible misconduct in the Central African Republic reported since the beginning of the mission in April 2014. And that includes 11 cases of sexual abuse, possible sexual abuse. Those cases are being investigated,” he added.

Deployed in early 2014, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR, known by the French acronym MINUSCA and headed by the dismissed Gaye, has been trying to defuse sectarian tensions across that country.

More than two years of civil war and violence have displaced thousands of people amid ongoing clashes between the mainly Muslim Séléka alliance and anti-Balaka militia, which are mostly Christian, according to the United Nations.

In addition, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a militant group, continues to operate in the south-eastern part of the country.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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The U.N. at 70: Leading the Global Agenda on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality – Part Onehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/the-u-n-at-70-leading-the-global-agenda-on-womens-rights-and-gender-equality-part-one/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-u-n-at-70-leading-the-global-agenda-on-womens-rights-and-gender-equality-part-one http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/the-u-n-at-70-leading-the-global-agenda-on-womens-rights-and-gender-equality-part-one/#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2015 12:12:38 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141990 Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of U.N. Women. Credit: U.N. Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Lakshmi Puri
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 14 2015 (IPS)

If there is any idea and cause for which the United Nations has been an indispensable engine of progress globally it is the cause of ending all forms of “discrimination and violence against women and girls, ensuring the realization of their equal rights and advancing their political, economic and social empowerment.

Gender equality and the empowerment of women has been featured prominently in the history of the United Nations system since its inception. The ideas, commitments and actions of the United Nations have sought to fundamentally improve the situation of women around the world, in country after country.Twenty years after its adoption, the Platform for Action remains a gold standard of international commitments on strategic objectives and actions on gender equality and women's empowerment.

Now, as we celebrate the United Nations’ 70th anniversary, the U.N. continues to be the world leader in establishing the global norms and policy standards on women’s empowerment, their human rights and on establishing what we at U.N. Women call  the Planet 50 / 50 Project on equality between women and men.

Equality between men and women was enshrined in the U.N.’s founding Charter as a key principle and objective. Just a year after, in 1946, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was set up as the dedicated intergovernmental body for policy dialogue and standard setting and monitoring gender equality commitments of member states and their implementation.

Since then, the Commission has played an essential role in guiding the work of the United Nations and in setting standards for all countries, from trailblazing advocacy for the full political suffrage of women and political rights to women’s role in development.

It also gave birth to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW, adopted in 1979. Often called the international bill of rights for women, and used as a global reference point for both governments and NGOs alike, the Convention has been ratified by 189 States so far.

These governments regularly report to the CEDAW Committee which has also become a generator of normative guidance through its General Recommendations, apart from strengthening the accountability of governments.

As the torch-bearer on women’s rights, the U.N. also led the way in declaring 1975 to 1985 the International Women’s Decade. During this period the U.N. held the first three World Conferences on Women, in Mexico (1975), Copenhagen (1980) and Nairobi (1985) which advanced advocacy, activism and policy action on gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s rights in multiple areas.

In 1995, the U.N. hosted the historic Fourth World Conference on Women, and adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, one of most progressive frameworks which continues to be the leading roadmap for the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment globally.

Twenty years after its adoption, the Platform for Action remains a gold standard of international commitments on strategic objectives and actions on gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s rights in 12 critical areas of concern including poverty, education, health, economy, power and decision making, ending violence against women, women’s human rights, conflict and post conflict environment, media, institutional mechanisms and the girl child.

Since 1995 gender equality and women’s empowerment issues have permeated all intergovernmental bodies of the U.N. system.

The General Assembly, the highest and the universal membership body of the United Nations, leads the way with key normative resolutions as well as reflecting gender perspectives in areas such as agriculture, trade, financing for development, poverty eradication, disarmament and non-proliferation, and many others. Among the MDGs, MDG 3 was specifically designed to promote gender equality and empower women apart from Goal 5 on maternal mortality.

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has also been a strong champion of gender mainstreaming into all policies, programmes, areas and sectors as the mains strategy in achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Progress achieved so far has been in part possible thanks to ECOSOC’s strong mandate for mainstreaming a gender perspective and its support to the United Nations system-wide action Plan on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (UN-SWAP) which constitutes a unified accountability framework for and of the U.N. to support gender equality and empowerment of women.

Strongly addressing the impact of conflict on women and their role in peacebuilding, the U.N. sent a strong signal by addressing the issue of women peace and security in the landmark Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) which asserted  the imperative of  women’s empowerment in  conflict prevention, peace-making and peace building apart from ensuring their protection.

This resolution was seen as a must for women as well as for lasting peace and it has since been complemented by seven additional resolutions including on Sexual Violence in Conflict. This year as the 15th anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 is commemorated, a Global Study and Review on its effective implementation is underway.

It is expected to renew the political will and decisive action to ensure that women are equal partners and their agency and leadership is effectively engaged in conflict prevention, peace-making and peace-building.

Part Two can be read here.

Edited by Kitty Stapp 

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U.N. to Unleash “Power of Education” to Fight Intolerance, Racismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/u-n-to-unleash-power-of-education-to-fight-intolerance-racism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-n-to-unleash-power-of-education-to-fight-intolerance-racism http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/u-n-to-unleash-power-of-education-to-fight-intolerance-racism/#comments Wed, 12 Aug 2015 13:41:34 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141961 The Pakistani Taliban destroyed over 838 schools between 2009 and 2012. Credit: Kulsum Ebrahim/IPS

The Pakistani Taliban destroyed over 838 schools between 2009 and 2012. Credit: Kulsum Ebrahim/IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 12 2015 (IPS)

The United Nations is planning to launch a global campaign against the spread of intolerance, extremism, racism and xenophobia — largely by harnessing the talents of the younger generation.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pointedly says education is the key. “If you want to understand the power of education, just look at how the extremists fight education.”“What they fear most are girls and young people with textbooks.” -- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

They wanted to kill the Pakistani teenage activist, Malala Yousafzai and her friends because they were girls who wanted to go to school, he said.

Violent extremists kidnapped more than 200 girls in Chibook, Nigeria, and scores of students were murdered in Garissa, Kenya and in Peshawar, Pakistan.

“What they fear most are girls and young people with textbooks,” said Ban, who will soon announce “a comprehensive Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism,” along with the creation of an advisory panel of religious leaders to promote interfaith dialogue.

The proposed plan is expected to be presented to the 70th session of the General Assembly which begins the third week of September.

As part of the campaign against intolerance and extremism, the U.N.’s Department of Public Information (DPI) recently picked 10 projects from young people from around the world, in what was billed as a “Diversity Contest,” singling out creative approaches to help address a wide range of discrimination, prejudice and extremism.

The projects, selected from over 100 entries from 31 countries, include challenging homophobia in India and Mexico; resolving conflicts to access water to decrease ethnic conflict in Burundi; promoting interfaith harmony in Pakistan; encouraging greater acceptance of migrant populations in South Africa and promoting greater employment opportunities to Muslim women in Germany.

Lara-Zuzan Golesorkhi, a PhD student and instructor at the New School in New York who submitted one of the prize-winning projects, told IPS she seeks to address one of the most discussed political issues in contemporary Germany: integration of Muslim immigrants.

At the centre of these discussions, Golesorkhi said, lies the so-called ‘veil debate’, which was brought about by the Ludin case in 1998.

That year, Fereshta Ludin (the daughter of Afghan immigrants) was rejected from a teaching position in the state’s public school system on the alleged basis of “lack of personal aptitude” that made her “unsuitable and unable to perform the duties of a public servant in accordance with German Basic Law.”

The endless dispute between Ludin and the German judicial system led to the inauguration of institutionalised state-based unveiling policies for public school teachers across Germany.

These policies have been in effect in eight states and have just recently been called into question on the federal level with a court decision that demands respective states to revise the inherently discriminatory policies, said Golesorkhi.

The DPI says Golesorkhi will return to Germany to challenge the perceived discrimination against Muslim women.

She will ask potential employers to symbolically pledge to hire Muslim women. She will also produce a list of those employers so that women can feel safe and empowered to apply to those work places.

The end result is to help decrease discrimination and increase the employment of Muslim women in Germany.

The New York Times, quoting the Religious Studies Media and Information Service in Germany, reported last month that Muslims make up around 5.0 percent of the population of 81 million, compared with 49 million Christians.

The newspaper focused on the growing controversy related to the renovation of an abandoned church in the working class district of Horn in Hamburg – where the “derelict building was being converted into a mosque.”

“The church stood empty for 10 years, and no one cared,” Daniel Abdin, the director of the Islamic Centre Al Nour in Hamburg told the Times, “But when Muslims bought it, suddenly it became a topic of interest.”

Golesorkhi told IPS her ‘With or Without’ (WoW) non-profit organisation, in its most abstract form, is aimed at addressing the intersection of two crucial aspects in the German polity: immigration and religion.

Immigration and religion have played a significant role in the nation building process of Germany, specifically in terms of the country’s laws and diverse social composition, as well as the development of anti-Muslim sentiments (Islamophobia) and discriminatory acts against Muslims (particularly since 9/11).

She said the population of Muslims in Germany has increased from about 2.5 million in 1990 to 4.1 million in 2010 and is expected to grow to nearly 5.5 million Muslims in 2030.

The top three countries of origin for Muslim immigrants are Turkey, the former Yugoslavia, and Morocco.

This significant and continuously growing presence of Muslims has led to varied responses by state and society, she noted.

Though the large majority (72 percent) of those interviewed in a 2008 study claimed that “people from minority groups enrich cultural life of this country”, Muslims are the least desirable neighbours, as data from the same year shows.

Further, 23 percent of German interviewees, she said, associated Muslims with terror, while 16 percent viewed the hijab, the Muslim head scarf, as a threat to European culture.

In the latest study on anti-Muslim sentiments conducted by the Bertelsman Stiftung in late 2014, 57 percent of non-Muslim interviewees reported they perceive Islam as very threatening.

The study also disclosed that 24 percent of the interviewees would like to prohibit Muslim immigration to Germany and an overwhelming 61 percent said they think Islam does not belong to the ‘Western’ world.

Particularly alarming, in the very recent context of anti-Muslim sentiments, she noted, is the continuously growing PEGIDA (Patriotrische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes), which rejects the alleged “Islamisation” of Europe and demands an overhaul of immigration policy.

Golesorkhi’s project includes a ‘Job Ready’ seminar and workshop series to prepare Muslim women for the German job market; “I Pledge Campaign”, an online and offline campaign (Twitter and photo series) to encourage employers to symbolically pledge to hire Muslim women; and an online and offline campaign (Twitter and photo series) to raise public awareness of difficulties faced by Muslim women in the German employment sector.

While the pledge does not guarantee employment, it allows WoW to produce a database of employers that would hire Muslim women.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Hiroshima and Nagasaki Mayors Plead for a Nuclear Weapons Free Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/hiroshima-and-nagasaki-mayors-plead-for-a-nuclear-weapons-free-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hiroshima-and-nagasaki-mayors-plead-for-a-nuclear-weapons-free-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/hiroshima-and-nagasaki-mayors-plead-for-a-nuclear-weapons-free-world/#comments Mon, 10 Aug 2015 09:49:20 +0000 Ramesh Jaura http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141930 The mayor of Nagasaki, Tomihisa Taue, presents the Nagasaki Peace Declaration, saying that “rather than envisioning a nuclear-free world as a faraway dream, we must quickly decide to solve this issue by working towards the abolition of these weapons, fulfilling the promise made to global society”. Credit: YouTube

The mayor of Nagasaki, Tomihisa Taue, presents the Nagasaki Peace Declaration, saying that “rather than envisioning a nuclear-free world as a faraway dream, we must quickly decide to solve this issue by working towards the abolition of these weapons, fulfilling the promise made to global society”. Credit: YouTube

By Ramesh Jaura
BERLIN/TOKYO, Aug 10 2015 (IPS)

Seventy years after the brutal and militarily unwarranted atomic bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9, a nuclear weapons free world is far from within reach.

Commemorating the two events, the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki made impassioned pleas for heeding the experiences of the survivors of the atomic bombings and the growing worldwide awareness of the compelling need for complete abolition of such weapons.

The atomic bombings in 1945 destroyed the two cities, and more than 200,000 people died of nuclear radiation, shockwaves from the blasts and thermal radiation. Over 400,000 have died since the end of the war, from the after-effects of the bombs.

As of Mar. 31, 2015, the Japanese government had recognised 183,519 as ‘hibakusha’ (explosion-affected people), most of them living in Japan. Japan’s Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Law defines hibakusha as people who were: within a few kilometres of the hypocentres of the bombs; within 2 km of the hypocentres within two weeks of the bombings; exposed to radiation from fallout; or not yet born but carried by pregnant women in any of these categories.“Our world still bristles with more than 15,000 nuclear weapons, and policy-makers in the nuclear-armed states remain trapped in provincial thinking, repeating by word and deed their nuclear intimidation” – Kazumi Matsui, mayor of Hiroshima

During the commemorative events in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, reports in several newspapers confirmed that those bombings were militarily unwarranted.

Gar Alperovitz, formerly Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, wrote in The Nation that that “the war was won before Hiroshima – and the generals who dropped the bomb knew it.”

He quoted Adm. William Leahy, President Harry S. Truman’s Chief of Staff, who wrote in his 1950 memoir ‘I Was There’ [that] “the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender …”

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, the U.S. president from 1953 until 1961, shared this view. He was a five-star general in the United States Army during World War II and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe.

Eisenhower stated in his memoirs that when notified by Secretary of War Henry Stimson of the decision to use atomic weapons, he “voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary.”

Even the famous “hawk” Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Twenty-First Bomber Command, went public the month after the bombing, telling the press that “the atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all,” wrote Alperovitz.

“The peoples of this world must unite or they will perish,” warned Robert Oppenheimer, widely considered the father of the bomb, as he called on politicians to place the terrifying power of the atom under strict international control.

Oppenheimer’s call has yet to be followed.

In his fervent address on Aug. 6, Kazumi Matsui, mayor of the City of Hiroshima, said: “Our world still bristles with more than 15,000 nuclear weapons, and policy-makers in the nuclear-armed states remain trapped in provincial thinking, repeating by word and deed their nuclear intimidation.”

He added: “We now know about the many incidents and accidents that have taken us to the brink of nuclear war or nuclear explosions. Today, we worry as well about nuclear terrorism.”

As long as nuclear weapons exist, he warned, anyone could become a hibakusha at any time. If that happens, the damage would reach indiscriminately beyond national borders. “People of the world, please listen carefully to the words of the hibakusha and, profoundly accepting the spirit of Hiroshima, contemplate the nuclear problem as your own,” he exhorted.

As president of Mayors for Peace, comprising mayors from more than 6,700 member cities, Kazumi Matsui vowed: “Hiroshima will act with determination, doing everything in our power to accelerate the international trend toward negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention and abolition of nuclear weapons by 2020.”

This, he said, was the first step toward nuclear weapons abolition. The next step would be to create, through the trust thus won, broadly versatile security systems that do not depend on military might.

“Working with patience and perseverance to achieve those systems will be vital, and will require that we promote throughout the world the path to true peace revealed by the pacifism of the Japanese Constitution,” he added.

“We call on the Japanese government, in its role as bridge between the nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon states, to guide all states toward these discussions, and we offer Hiroshima as the venue for dialogue and outreach,” the mayor of Hiroshima said.

In the Nagasaki Peace Declaration issued on Aug. 9, Nagasaki mayor Tomihisa Taue asked the Japanese government and Parliament to “fix your sights on the future, and please consider a conversion from a ‘nuclear umbrella’ to a ‘non-nuclear umbrella’.”

Japan does not possess any atomic weapons and is protected, like South Korea and Germany, as well as most of the NATO member states, by the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

He appealed to the Japanese government to explore national security measures, which do not rely on nuclear deterrence. “The establishment of a ‘Northeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NEA-NWFZ),’ as advocated by researchers in America, Japan, Korea, China, and many other countries, would make this possible,” he said.

Referring to the Japanese Parliament “currently deliberating a bill, which will determine how our country guarantees its security”, he said: “There is widespread unease and concern that the oath which was engraved onto our hearts 70 years ago and the peaceful ideology of the Constitution of Japan are now wavering. I urge the Government and the Diet to listen to these voices of unease and concern, concentrate their wisdom, and conduct careful and sincere deliberations.”

The Nagasaki Peace Declaration noted that the peaceful ideology of the Constitution of Japan was born from painful and harsh experiences, and from reflection on the war. “Since the war, our country has walked the path of a peaceful nation. For the sake of Nagasaki, and for the sake of all of Japan, we must never change the peaceful principle that we renounce war,” the declaration said.

The Nagasaki mayor regretted that the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) held at the United Nations earlier this year had struggled with reaching agreement on a Final Document.

However, said Taue, the efforts of those countries which were attempting to ban nuclear weapons had made possible a draft Final Document “which incorporated steps towards nuclear disarmament.”

He urged the heads of NPT member states not to allow the NPT Review Conference “to have been a waste”. Instead, they should continue their efforts to debate a legal framework, such as a ‘Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC),’ at every opportunity, including at the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Many countries at the Review Conference were in agreement that it was important to visit the atomic-bombed cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Against this backdrop, the Nagasaki mayor appealed to “President [Barack] Obama, heads of state, including the heads of the nuclear weapon states, and all the people of the world … (to) please come to Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and see for yourself exactly what happened under those mushroom clouds 70 years ago.”

No U.S. president has ever attended the any event to commemorate the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller was the highest-ranking U.S. official at the Aug. 6 ceremony. She was reported as saying that nuclear weapons should never be used again.

Edited by Phil Harris   

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Opinion: Look at Nuclear Weapons in a New Wayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/opinion-look-at-nuclear-weapons-in-a-new-way/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-look-at-nuclear-weapons-in-a-new-way http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/opinion-look-at-nuclear-weapons-in-a-new-way/#comments Fri, 07 Aug 2015 11:37:19 +0000 Jan Oberg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141901

Jan Oberg is co-founder and Director of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research (TFF) in Lund, Sweden.

By Jan Oberg
LUND, Sweden, Aug 7 2015 (IPS)

It’s absolutely necessary to remember what happened 70 years ago in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, see the movies from then, listen to the survivors, the hibakusa. But it isn’t enough for us to rid the world of these crimes-against-humanity weapons. And that we must.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki are history and are also the essence of the age you and I live in – the nuclear age. If the hypothesis is that by showing these films, we create opinion against nuclear weapons, 70 years of ever more nuclearism should be enough to conclude that that hypothesis is plain wrong.

Jan Oberg

Jan Oberg

There is a need for a frontal attack on not only the weapons but on nuclearism – the thinking/ideology on which they are based and made to look ‘necessary’ for security and peace.

Nuclear weapons – only for terrorists

At its core, terrorism is about harming or killing innocent people and not only combatants. Any country that possesses nukes is aware that nukes can’t be used without killing millions of innocent people – infinitely more lethal than Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and so.

Since 9/11 [attack on the Twin Towers in New York], governments and media have conveniently promoted the idea that terrorism is only about small non-governmental groups and thus tried to make us forget that the nuclear ‘haves’ themselves practise state terrorism and hold humanity hostage to potential civilisational genocide (omnicide).

Dictatorship

No nuclear state has ever dared to hold a referendum and ask its citizens: “Do you or do you not accept to be defended by a nuclear arsenal?” Nuclear weapons with the omnicidal ‘kill all and everything’ characteristics is pure dictatorship, incompatible with both parliamentary and direct democracy. And freedom.

Citizens generally have more, or better, morals than governments and do not wish to see themselves, their neighbours or fellow human beings around the world burn up in a process that would make the Holocaust look like a cosy afternoon tea party. In short, nuclear weapons states either arrange referendums or must accept the label dictatorship.“Citizens generally have more, or better, morals than governments and do not wish to see themselves, their neighbours or fellow human beings around the world burn up in a process that would make the Holocaust look like a cosy afternoon tea party”

The idea that a few hundred politicians and military people in the world’s nuclear states have a self-appointed right to play God and decide whether ‘project humankind’ shall continue or not belongs to the realm of the civilisational perverse or the Theatre of the Absurd. Such people must run on the assumption, deep down, that they are Chosen People with a higher mission. Gandhi rightly called Western civilisation diluted fascism.

Unethical

Why? Because – simply – there can be no political or other goal that justifies the use of this doomsday weapon and the killing of millions of people, or making the earth uninhabitable.

Possession versus proliferation

The trick played on us all since 1945 is that there are some ‘responsible’ – predominantly Christian, Western – countries that can, should, or must have nuclear weapons and then there are some irresponsible governments/leaders elsewhere that must be prevented by all means from acquiring them. In other words, that proliferation rather than possession is the problem.

However, it is built into the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that those who don’t have nuclear weapons shall abstain from acquiring them as a quid pro quo for the nuclear-haves to disarm theirs completely.

That is, the whole world shall become a nuclear-weapons-free zone (NWFZ).

Those who have nuclear weapons provoke others to get them too. Possession leads to proliferation.

The recent negotiations with Iran is a good example of this bizarre world view: the five nuclear terrorist states, sitting on enough nukes to blow up the world several times over and who have systematically violated international law in general and the NPT in particular, tell Iran – which abides by the NPT and doesn’t want nuclear weapons – that it must never obtain nuclear weapons.

Simultaneously, they turn a blind eye to nuclear terrorist state, Israel’s 50+ years’ old nuclear arsenals.

And it is all actively assisted by mainstream media which seem to lack the knowledge and/or intellectual capacity to challenge this whole set-up – including the racist belief structure that “we have a God-given right and are more responsible than everybody else – particularly non-Christians…”

But what about deterrence?

You’ve heard the philosophical nonsense repeatedly over 70 years: nuclear weapons are good to deter everyone from starting the ‘Third World War’. That nukes are here to never be used. That no one would start that war because he/she would know that there would be a mass murder on one’s own population in a second strike, retaliation. But think! Two small, simple counterarguments:

  • You cannot deter anyone from doing something unless you are willing to implement your threat, your deterrent. If A knows that B wouldnever use his nukes, A would not be afraid of the retaliation. Thus, every nuclear weapons state is ready to use nukes under some defined circumstance; if not there is no deterrence whatsoever
  • The United States has long ago done two things (as the only one on earth): decided on a doctrine in which the use of small nukes in aconventional role is fundamental, thus blurring the distinction between conventional and nuclear weapons; and said that its missile defence (which it also wants in Europe) is about preventing a second strike back – shooting down retaliatory missiles – so it can start, fight and win a nuclear war without being harmed itself. Or so it can hope.

Hope

Let’s rid the world of this civilisational mistake. Nuclearism and nuclear deterrence are the world’s most dangerous ideologies comparable to slavery, absolute monarchy and cannibalism that we have decided – because we are humans and civilised and can think and feel – to put behind us.

There is no co-existence possible between nuclear weapons on the one hand and democracy, peace and civilisation on the other.

It’s time to regain hope by looking at all the – civilised – non-nuclear countries and follow their example. Thus, 99 percent of the southern hemisphere landmass is nuclear weapons-free with 60 percent of its 193 states, with 33 percent of the world’s population, included in this free zone.

The West, the United States in particular, which started the terrible Nuclear Age, should now follow the great majority of humanity, apologise for its nuclearism and move to zero.

Edited by Phil Harris   

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

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