Inter Press ServicePeace – Inter Press Service News and Views from the Global South Mon, 11 Dec 2017 13:34:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 No One Country Can Do It Alone — Towards a Migration Compact Fri, 08 Dec 2017 16:27:08 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage International commitment and cooperation is critical to reap the benefits and overcome the challenges of migration, stressed a leading official at the conclusion of a UN meeting. Over 400 delegates from 136 countries convened in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to review data and recommendations for the creation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular […]

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Credit: UNICEF

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

International commitment and cooperation is critical to reap the benefits and overcome the challenges of migration, stressed a leading official at the conclusion of a UN meeting.

Over 400 delegates from 136 countries convened in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to review data and recommendations for the creation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration.

“We stand today tasked with the mandate to weave these challenges and opportunities into a global effort to enhance State cooperation in the management of migration,” said UN Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbour at the end of the three-day meeting.

Arbour reminded delegates of the “tragedy of large mixed flows of people on the move and how to deal with those who are ineligible for international refugee protection yet for whom humanitarian assistance and longer-term solutions are no less urgent.”

In an effort to respond to the unprecedented numbers of people fleeing conflict and poverty, member states adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants in 2016 which included an agreement to develop two global compacts for migration and refugees.

The preparatory meeting in Mexico kickstarts the formal process to create these compacts.

“It’s a historic opportunity to have such a compact,” UNICEF’s Associate Director for Gender, Rights & Civic Engagement Susana Sottoli told IPS.

The compact can help trigger political action towards the development of a longer-term global migration response, she added.

Though disappointed in the watered-down declaration which failed to include more concrete commitments, Amnesty International’s Senior Campaigner for Refugee and Migrant Rights Denise Bell told IPS that the compact is still “an important set of principles.”

Sottoli urged for a heightened and continued focus on migrant and displaced children for the compact.

Nearly half of the world’s refugees are children, while another 22 million children have been uprooted from their homes due to poverty and other factors.

Over 300,000 have been documented traveling unaccompanied around the world in recent years, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.

“We have seen evidence that tell us about terrible situations of children and adolescents in detention centers…in conditions that none of us would ever imagine is acceptable for our own children,” Sottoli told IPS.

In Libya, the main entry point to the Mediterranean Sea and thus Europe, militias hold migrants in detention centers in order to ask their families for ransom money. Women and children have been found living in cramped spaces in militia-run detention centers with little basic services or even access to the outdoors.

In one of the centers, UNICEF spoke to 16-year-old Patti who fled war and poverty in Nigeria.

“The journey was hard. Very hard…we walked for two weeks to reach Libya, sometimes walking and going without water for two days,” she said.

Patti was captured at sea, brought back, and arrested in Libya.

“When I was in the sea, I was so scared. I was just comforted by my dreams of going to Europe and making a good life for myself and my siblings,” she said.

Footage revealing migrants being sold at an auction has also garnered international outrage, prompting the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to evacuate and help hundreds of West African migrants including children return home.

“We are trying to bring these people back into the daylight of our time where they are known and they are assisted and protected,” IOM’s Director-General William Lacey Swing told the UN.

The United States has seen a surge in child migrants fleeing violence in Central America in recent years. In 2014, border agents apprehended almost 70,000 minors, a 77 percent increase from the year before.

The unaccompanied children are often held in detention centers in unsanitary and cramped living conditions and for an indefinite period of time.

UNHCR is now considering providing help to unaccompanied minors crossing the border in light of new policies preventing them from seeking safe refuge.

The new administration has ended a program that allowed children fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to apply for refugee status before leaving home and making the dangerous trip to the border.

The government has also reduced the refugee cap to 45,000, the lowest level since 1980.

Most recently, just hours before the preparatory meeting in Mexico, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley announced that the country was withdrawing from the non-binding global compact, claiming that it would restrict U.S. sovereignty on migration policy.

“The U.S. pulling out of this is a further abdication our global leadership on the refugee crisis…pulling out of this sends a terrible message to refugee host countries and resettlement countries about their need to keep up their commitments,” Bell told IPS.

“The world’s most vulnerable are being punished again and again—first through the slashing of refugee admission numbers to this withdrawal from the Compact,” she added.

A group of U.S. civil society organizations that took part in the meeting also issued a statement calling the move “deeply disappointing” and for the North American nation to recommit to the multilateral process.

“Migration is a global phenomenon which requires a global response. The United States is not immune from the global forces of conflict, economic coercion, and climate change that drive human migration,” they stated.

Sottoli echoed similar sentiments, saying that no one country on its own can protect children as they move across borders.

“We are hopeful that the challenges of tacking this complex agenda will be addressed and that many countries will continue collaborating and look forward to shape a new compact,” she told IPS.

In their ‘Beyond Borders’ report, UNICEF calls to protect child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, to end the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating, and to keep families together as the best way to protect children.

The report provides case studies of effective methods to protect child refugees and migrants, including that of Greece which established the National Centre for Social Solidarity (EKKA) to help track and monitor unaccompanied children in detention and ensure they are placed in safe accommodation and care.

“Policy decisions need to be made on the basis of acts, experiences, and proven solutions. This is the moment to take stock of what is out there and what is working…solutions are out there,” Sottoli said.

Bell called on the international community to not only protect the rights of refugees and migrants, but also redouble their commitments to resettlement.

“We have to come back to a story of migrants that is historically accurate…migration has always been a positive story,” Swing said.

The next step in the process towards creating the Global Compacts is the Secretary-General’s report on migration, expected to be released in January followed by intergovernmental negotiations. The Global Compacts will be presented for adoption at a conference in Morocco in December 2018.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Thalif Deen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The writer can be contacted at

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Aid Groups Sound Alarm on DRC Crisis Mon, 13 Nov 2017 09:25:23 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis and the international community must step in before it worsens, humanitarian agencies warn. The escalation of ethnic clashes in southeastern DRC in recent months has left millions displaced and on the verge of starvation. In the past year alone, the […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis and the international community must step in before it worsens, humanitarian agencies warn.

The escalation of ethnic clashes in southeastern DRC in recent months has left millions displaced and on the verge of starvation.

In the past year alone, the conflict has displaced nearly 2 million, 850,000 of whom are children and some of whom have fled to the neighboring nations of Angola and Zambia. DRC already had the highest number of new displacements in the world in 2016.

Last month, the UN declared the DRC a level three humanitarian emergency—the highest possible classification on par with Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

“The alarm bells are ringing loud and clear,” said Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) DRC Country Director Ulrika Blom.

“The UN system-wide L3 response is only activated for the world’s most complex and challenging emergencies, when the entire aid system needs to scale up and respond to colossal needs.”

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), over 3 million people in the Kasai region are severely food-insecure, exacerbating hunger and malnutrition.

“As many as 250,000 children could starve in Kasai in the next few months unless enough nutritious food reaches them quickly,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley after a four-day mission to the central African country.

NRC said that over 80 percent of people in displacement camps in Tanganyika province did not have access to clean drinking water, heightening the risk of cholera outbreaks.

Though WFP and NRC are both scaling up assistance, aid agencies are constrained by challenges in funds and access.

The UN’s humanitarian response appeal for DRC is only 33 percent funded, the lowest level of funding for the country in more than 10 years, while WFP has received only one percent of the 135 million dollars needed for the next eight months.

Multiple active militias, poor road networks, and the upcoming rainy season further impede humanitarian access.

Swift intervention is needed now to stop the conflict and address humanitarian needs in order to prevent “long-term chaos,” Beasley said.

Though some families have been able to return to their villages in Kasai, Beasley noted that many could not work on their fields for fear of being attacked again.

“I have met too many women and children whose lives have been reduced to a desperate struggle for survival…that’s heartbreaking, and it’s unacceptable,” he said.

Blom expressed hope that a level three emergency classification will bring in more funds, and highlighted the importance of having such resources be flexible.

For instance, North Kivu, which hosts the largest number of displaced people in the country, is not included within the UN’s emergency classification. Blom said that though North Kivu is not experiencing the same level of violence as seen in Kasai, the conflict’s unpredictable nature could change this.

“Resources coming into the country must be flexible so we can put them to use where needs and gaps arise. Lives depend on it,” she warned.

DRC’s long-standing conflict has left over 8 million people in need of assistance and protection. The most recent iteration of the crisis has partly been fueled by the refusal of President Joseph Kabila to step down after his mandate expired in December 2016

Beasley said he saw the horror in survivor’s eyes as they told stories of beheadings and sexual violence.

“The Kasai region, it was rather appalling in ways that are truly hard to explain, in ways you actually don’t want to explain.”

According to a mission report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), security forces and militias “actively fomented, fueled, and occasionally led, attacks on the basis of ethnicity.”

Witnesses told OCHR that two pregnant women’s foetus’ were removed and allegedly chopped into pieces, while another two women were accused of being witches and were beheaded.

Among the survivors was a woman who was raped with a rifle barrel four hours after giving birth. “I did not end up like the others because I lied on the ground pretend to be dead…and I hid my baby under my body,” she told OHCHR. Her newborn baby was reportedly shot twice in the head.

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The Illusion of Justice: When Will Reparations be Served to Iraq’s Victims? Thu, 09 Nov 2017 16:17:11 +0000 Miriam Puttick Miriam Puttick is Head of Middle East and North Africa Programs at the London-based Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and co-author of the report*

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Personal property destroyed in the battle to push ISIS from Iraq's Ninewa plains, March 2017. Credit: Mays al-Juboori

By Miriam Puttick
TORONTO, Nov 9 2017 (IPS)

It is difficult to spend any time in Iraq without being struck by a sense of profound injustice. After successive decades of war and occupation, violence has become the rule rather than the exception in the country, with each phase of conflict outdoing the previous in terms of brutality and capacity to shock the conscience.

Since the fall of Mosul in June 2014, the conflict with ISIS has occupied minds, hearts and television screens, unleashed unspeakable horrors, and created countless new victims. Now, more than three years later, and in the wake of victories in Hawija and Raqqa, ISIS may be on the brink of annihilation – but military defeat without justice raises the specter of further violence.

The recent eruption of military confrontation between Iraqi and Kurdish forces in Kirkuk, which shattered a fragile status quo in place since the start of the conflict with ISIS, seems to confirm that peace is an elusive dream. When contemplating the prospects of reconciliation in Iraq, the idea of multiple layers of injustice, accumulated over time, always comes to mind.

How can a society recover when new wounds are being inflicted before old scars have healed? For every thousand civilians who have been victimized by the conflict with ISIS and are waiting for answers, there are a thousand more widows of the American invasion, and a thousand survivors of Saddam Hussein’s genocides, many of whom have not been served justice to this day.

In international human rights circles, planning for the post-ISIS phase is in full swing. Here, “accountability” is the word of the day, and many are spurred on by a September 2017 UN Security Council resolution that will see an international investigative team deployed to Iraq to support domestic prosecution of ISIS crimes.

However, the resolution’s most obvious flaw is that it is limited in mandate to acts committed by ISIS, despite the fact that other parties to the conflict, including Iraqi and Kurdish forces, government-allied militias, and the US-led coalition, are all responsible for their fair share of violations.

Moreover, while the emphasis on criminal accountability is justifiable given the severity of violations committed, it is questionable whether it is enough to prompt the type of reconciliation and healing desperately needed in Iraq.

It was these types of questions that led my colleagues and I to first start exploring the potential of individual reparations as a path forward towards justice for victims in Iraq. A growing body of international best practices, from Colombia to South Africa, points to the significant material and symbolic impact that reparations can have on individuals and societies recovering from atrocities.

Moreover, a lesser-known fact is that Iraq already has the domestic framework to support reparations – and has been quietly administering them for years. A visit to the Baghdad headquarters of the Central Compensation Committee, the government body responsible for administering compensation to victims of ‘military operations, military mistakes, and terrorist actions,’ was an unexpectedly humbling experience.

The Committee, which draws its mandate from a law passed in 2009, delivers compensation packages to victims harmed since the 2003 invasion that include one-time grants, monthly pensions, and plots of land. In the midst of stiff political opposition, a spiraling economic crisis, and ongoing conflict that has paralyzed their operations in parts of the country, the members of the Committee have diligently gone on with their work.

Between 2011 and 2016, they reached decisions on 183,940 cases, distributing more than $355 million in compensation to victims and their families. The compensation officials we met with seemed refreshingly principled as far as government officials go, and were keen to emphasize the sense of duty that guided their work with victims of violations.

Yet, they receive very little recognition for their work either inside or outside of Iraq. Countless politicians and foreign diplomats we met with in Baghdad were quick to criticize the compensation process as bureaucratic, slow or inconsequential. Many dismissed the idea of reparations entirely, viewing it as unrealistic or financially untenable given the need to invest in stabilization and reconstruction.

These arguments hardly stand up to scrutiny. Reparations cost money, yes, but not nearly as much as war. One of the findings released last year by the Chilcot Inquiry, mandated to investigate the UK’s role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, was that the decision to invade was made almost entirely independently of any financial calculations of what such an undertaking would entail – it was war at any cost.

The UK eventually spent £9.24 billion on the invasion – a figure which pales in comparison to the trillions spent by the US. That the Iraqi government has shown itself able to run an entirely self-funded reparations process in the midst of ongoing conflict, while the worlds’ leading military powers claim to be incapable of accepting financial responsibility for the destruction they unleashed in the country, is as ridiculous as it is lamentable.

But while the US and the UK attempt to put their occupation-era blunders behind them, more recent military involvement in Iraq is setting dangerous new precedents. Since August 2014, airstrikes launched by the US-led military coalition have flattened neighborhoods and led to thousands of civilian casualties – 5,117 deaths as of August 2017, according to international monitoring group Airwars.

Yet, the coalition has proved reluctant to launch proper investigations into reports of civilian casualties and has reportedly only issued two condolence payments to victims’ families since the start of the campaign, in stark contrast to previous practice in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

If Iraq is to be extricated from the cycles of violence and resentment that have dominated its recent history, a truly inclusive transitional justice process is needed to acknowledge the harms committed by all parties to the conflict, past and present. For the Iraqi government, this means ensuring that all armed actors, including government-affiliated militias, are held accountable for their recent actions and engaged in truth-seeking and reparations processes.

For the international community, this means holding themselves to the same standards of justice to which they hold others, and redressing wrongdoing wherever it has occurred.

*The report was released November 8.

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UN Member States, With Exceptions, Pay Lip Service to Women & Peacekeeping Tue, 31 Oct 2017 07:59:52 +0000 Thalif Deen A UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution adopted on 31 October 2000, underlying the role of women in peacekeeping, has long been described as both historic and unprecedented. But 17 years later, there are widespread expressions of disappointment over the mostly non- implementation of the resolution known by its symbol UNSCR 1325. Mavic Cabrera Balleza, Chief […]

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Sweden and the UN. We build peace. Credit: Jonas Svensson, Swedish Armed Forces

By Thalif Deen

A UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution adopted on 31 October 2000, underlying the role of women in peacekeeping, has long been described as both historic and unprecedented.

But 17 years later, there are widespread expressions of disappointment over the mostly non- implementation of the resolution known by its symbol UNSCR 1325.

Mavic Cabrera Balleza, Chief Executive Officer/International Coordinator, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, (GNWP) told IPS that despite all the ballyhoo following the resolution, the percentage of women in peacekeeping “is incredibly low”.

In 1993, women made up 1% of deployed uniformed personnel. As of August 2017, women constituted only 3.7 % of military personnel; and 9.4 % of police personnel.

“This is beyond shocking. If we are going to use this as an indicator to assess the achievements of UNSCR 1325, we are failing miserably,” she declared.

Under-Secretary-General Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, told the Security Council last week although women’s absence from peace tables is no longer easily brushed off as normal, it is still commonplace.

“Every year, we track women’s overall participation in peace processes that are led by the UN. We track the inclusion of gender expertise and gender-sensitive provisions in peace agreements, and the requirement to consult with women’s civil society organizations. In all of these indicators, we performed slightly worse than a year ago.”

At the Myanmar Union Peace Conference in 2016—before the current crisis—there were seven women and 68 men among the delegates. And recent peace talks on the Central African Republic hosted by the Community of Sant’Egidio did not include a single woman.

Six years into the Syrian civil war—and in spite of significant efforts by the UN and the Special Envoy—women’s participation in the peace talks is still inadequate, and often limited to an advisory role. This political marginalization extends beyond peace talks, she declared.

Only 17 countries (out of 193 UN member states) have an elected woman Head of State or Government. This includes only one post-conflict conflict country, Liberia, where Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s presidency has just ended after two terms, following democratic elections and the peaceful transfer of power.

“That is something to celebrate,” she added. Meanwhile, the proportion of women parliamentarians in conflict and post-conflict countries has stagnated at 16 per cent in the last two years.

Focusing on another neglected aspect, Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, co-founder of the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN), told IPS there has to be some element of institutional or state responsibility for sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) in UN peacekeeping missions.

She said it cannot just be “a soldier” — after all “a government” sent the soldier to the peacekeeping mission, so that government must bear responsibility for egregious behavior.

Second, “we have to be more honest about the ‘grayness’ of exploitation. Poverty and the need for food and water can induce ‘consent’ – so it can be abusive and exploitative but technically not illegal, if it involves an adult.”

Finally, for over 20 years we have heard the common refrain that “it is difficult to find women in militaries”. Why not have a radical re-think regarding the recruitment of women into peacekeeping forces?

It is not only about equal opportunities for jobs that pay better than others, but also about deep personal empowerment, and of course prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse.

“How do we do it?”, she asked. “Why not have regional women’s peacekeeping institutes where women can come and get the basic military training needed, as well as skills specific to peacekeeping?”.

There are plenty of countries that export women for domestic work, which entails poor pay and exposure to abuse. Why not support them to become peacekeepers? Their salaries would be higher and their skills could be useful once they return home, she argued.

Cabrera Balleza told IPS the benefits of having more women in peacekeeping are numerous and very tangible. Female peacekeepers serve as role models, they inspire women and girls to assert their rights and to take on leadership and non-traditional positions, including as part of the security sector.

“They are also more sensitive to the needs of female ex-combatants, women refugees, survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. No doubt, women peacekeeping personnel are critical to the success of peace operations”, she noted.

She also pointed out that it is easy to criticize the UN for this dismal failure to achieve gender parity in peace operations.

“However, we need to examine the source – and those are the (193) Member States. There are very few women in UN peacekeeping because the sources are shallow. Discriminatory recruitment and hiring polices as well as unsafe work environment within the Troop Contributing Countries (TCC) prevent women from joining police and military institutions”.

This, she said, is symptomatic of the major obstacles in implementing Resolution 1325– initiated by Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury of Bangladesh when he presided over the Security Council in October 2000– and the supporting women-and-peace and security resolutions.”

She also pointed out that the underrepresentation of women in peacekeeping is mirrored by the under-representation of women in peace negotiations; by the lack of women in decision-making and governance positions; by the absence of women in the design of disarmament programs; by the lack of funding for women’s peacebuilding work.

The problems are multi-pronged: they are political, economic, social and cultural. Hence the solutions should also be multi-pronged and holistic.

The call for a holistic and coherent strategy to implement Resolution 1325 and the supporting resolutions is not new, she added.

The three reviews in 2015, namely the Global Study on UNSCR 1325; the High Level Peace Operations; the Peacebuilding Architecture Review all highlighted the need to address the fragmentation in the UN system in order for peacebuilding efforts to be successful.

Needless to say, the global policy decisions and the efforts to find coherence in the work of the UN should be informed by the voices of women in conflict affected communities and translated into localization initiatives.

“Let’s all roll up our sleeves, buckle down to work and take 1325 out of New York, and bring it to local communities. Only then can we fulfill the promise of this ground breaking international policy,” she declared.

In a recent article in Foreign Affairs, Naraghi Anderlini said when she started working in peacebuilding over 20 years ago, the United Nations was coming under fire because multinational forces working as peacekeepers in Cambodia had sexually abused women and girls and spread HIV/AIDS and other diseases among local populations.

In the many years since, UN peacekeepers have been accused of doing the same in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Liberia, and beyond. In 2014, peacekeepers from France and Georgia were implicated in incidents of sexual violence against young children in the Central African Republic.

In 2016, following investigations, the UN reported 41 cases of abuse involving peacekeepers from Burundi and Gabon, including eight paternity cases and six filed on behalf of minors.

With the arrival of Antonio Guterres as the new UN secretary general and Sweden’s presence in the Security Council in 2017, the issues have again gained traction, said Naraghi Anderlini.

As a champion of a “feminist foreign policy,” Sweden has made the Women, Peace, and Security agenda a priority at the UN, she noted.

As Guterres and the Swedish delegation noted, a better balance of women and men in peacekeeping forces would enable greater access to communities while increasing transparency and accountability among the forces themselves and reducing levels of sexual abuse.

“If this seems farfetched, it is worth imagining a scenario where UN peacekeepers are 100 percent female. Incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse likely would disappear altogether. Yet little effort has been put into increasing the number of women,” she declared.

Meanwhile, Sweden has been a staunch supporter of UN peacebuilding and assumed the chair of the Peacebuilding Commission in 2015 while maintaining a long tradition of participating in UN peace operations.

According to the Swedish government, more than 80,000 Swedish women and men have taken part in UN peacekeeping to date. From the very first group of Swedish military observers, who participated in the UN Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) in 1948, to Sweden’s current engagement in the UN stabilisation mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Sweden’s commitment has remained firm.

The writer can be contacted at

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Historic Resolution on Women & Peacekeeping Remains Mostly Unimplemented Mon, 30 Oct 2017 08:24:02 +0000 Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former UN Under-Secretary-General, is internationally recognized as the initiator of the UN Security Council resolution 1325 when he was President of the Security Council in March 2000

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Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former UN Under-Secretary-General, is internationally recognized as the initiator of the UN Security Council resolution 1325 when he was President of the Security Council in March 2000

By Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury

At the 26 October launch of GNWP’s (Global Network of Women Peacebuilders) manual “No Money, No NAP” on dedicated budgetary allocation to fund the implementation of the 1325 National Action Plans, Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka characterized UNSCR 1325 as the most unimplemented resolution of the UN Security Council.

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury Former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN

Representing the UN Secretary-General, his Chef de Cabinet Maria Luiza Ribiero Viotti said at the Security Council Open Debate on Women and Peace and Security on 27 October that “…seventeen years since the passage of resolution 1325, our own implementation remains too often ad hoc. While there is a clear recognition of the relationship between gender equality, women’s participation and stability and resilience, too little is being done to operationalize this understanding.”

I agree with both of them in a big way particularly bearing in mind that adoption of 1325 opened a much-awaited door of opportunity for women who have shown time and again that they bring a qualitative improvement in structuring peace and in post-conflict architecture.

We need to understand that 1325 by itself envisages a broad-based conceptual transformation of the existing international policies and practices that make women insecure and deny their equality of participation, basically as a result of the Security Council’s support of the existing militarized inter-state security arrangements.

I am referring to the concept of security based on current strategic power structures rather than on human security which highlights the security of the people. That change itself remains very distant.

Here I would mention enthusiastically a dedicated woman, Peace and Security Program which was launched last week at New York’s prestigious Columbia University. Led by 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate dynamic Leymah Gbowee, this Program has identified all the key areas which need special attention, particularly emphasizing the human security dimension and grassroots level experiences in WPS agenda. I wish her and the Program all success!

Apart from that I find there four areas where greater progress was possible during last 17 years:
One, in real terms, National Action Plan (NAP) is the engine that would speed up the implementation of 1325. It should be also underscored that all countries are obligated as per decisions of the Security Council to prepare the NAP whether they are in a so-called conflict situation or not. So far, only 68 out of 193 UN Member States have prepared their plans – what a dismal record after 17 years.

Leymah Gbowee launches WPS Program at the Columbia University, as its Executive Director

There are no better ways to get country level commitment to implement 1325 other than the NAPs. I believe very strongly that only NAPs can hold the governments accountable. There needs to be an increased and pro-active engagement of the UN secretariat leadership to get a meaningfully bigger number of NAPs.

Two, I would say that special attention should be given to building awareness and sensitivity as well as training of the senior officials within the UN system as a whole with regard to 1325. That will create a foundational culture of recognizing women’s equality of participation as essential.

Three, another missing element is a greater, regular, genuine and participatory involvement of civil society in implementing 1325 both at national and global levels. We should not forget that when civil society is marginalized, there is little chance for 1325 to get implemented in the real sense.

Four, what role the Secretary-General should play? I believe there is a need for his genuinely active, dedicated engagement in using the moral authority of the United Nations and the high office he occupies for the effective implementation of 1325. Would it not have a strong, positive impact on countries for the implementation of 1325 if their leaders received a formal communication from the S-G suggesting a date for submission of respective NAPs?

Implementation of 1325 should be seriously taken up in the SG’s UN system-wide coordination mechanism – at the next CEB meeting. DPI needs to have an information and awareness raising strategy for 1325 – mainstreamed in its work – not as an event and anniversary oriented publicity.

UN Resident Coordinators who represent the SG and the whole UN system at the country level and UN country teams should assist all national level actors in preparation and implementation of national action plans.

In short, through implementation of 1325, we want complete and real, practical, functional, operational equality between women and men to end the cycle of all forms of extremism which continue to sabotage humanity’s quest for sustainable peace and development.

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Ending the Male Monopoly on Peace: Women Still Need More Seats at the Table Thu, 26 Oct 2017 06:29:41 +0000 Shaheen Chughtai Shaheen Chugtai is Oxfam’s Global Women, Peace and Security Policy Lead

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Women participate in an event in Morocco organized to support and encourage women running for local election and to encourage voting. Credit: Ellie Kealey / Oxfam

By Shaheen Chughtai
NEW YORK, Oct 26 2017 (IPS)

Whether targeted by perpetrators of sexual violence, oppressed by ideological extremists, or uniquely threatened by the bombing of hospital maternity units, women often bear the brunt of conflicts. Yet when it comes to peace negotiations, women too often don’t have a seat at the table. The continuing reality that men, particularly armed men, enjoy an almost exclusive role in peace processes defies both logic and evidence.

It is now 17 years since UN resolution 1325 was adopted – the first Security Council resolution to establish the so-called women, peace and security agenda, which aims to uphold women’s rights in war and roles in peace.

Ahead of the Open Debate on Peace and Security at the UN, it is the time reflect and double down both on what promises are left unfilled, as well as what progress has been made – there are examples of both.

There have been some positive signs of headway, as seven subsequent UN Security Council resolutions have helped strengthen policies and norms worldwide over the past decade. Almost 70 countries have national action plans to put women, peace and security aims into practice.

This year, renewed peacekeeping and peace enforcement mandates for Western Sahara, Sudan and Somalia included new language on the importance of women’s participation. Hopefully this trend will continue with South Sudan’s peacekeeping mandate renewal just around the corner.

And just weeks ago, the US Congress passed the Women, Peace and Security Act. Among other aims, the act makes it US policy to promote the meaningful participation of women in efforts to address conflict overseas. But crucial gaps remain – not least, the routine exclusion of women from peace processes.

Why does this matter? Because women missing from peace talks means world leaders are missing opportunities to save countless lives and stabilize an increasingly fractured world.

Analysis of various conflicts and peace processes worldwide shows that when women able to bring crucial perspectives and experiences from civil society and local communities, the chances of peace agreements being reached and sustained rises dramatically.

Worldwide, women already play crucial roles in resolving disputes in their families and communities, and identifying challenges and solutions that influence social cohesion and stability. Tapping into that experience and expertise, a peace that reflects the needs and aspirations of the whole population, benefits everyone, male and female, and is more likely to last.

That simple logic should drive a paradigm shift in international diplomacy to prevent and resolve conflicts. Wars not only take and destroy lives. It is estimated that the total monetary cost of violence and conflict around the world was $13.6 trillion in 2015.

But instead, we hear excuses. Time and time again, key members of the UN Security Council stubbornly stick to strategies that not only struggle to resolve conflicts but offer only hollow rhetoric about supporting women’s participation.

All speak loudly in favor of women’s rights and role inside the UN Security Council chamber, but for the rest of the year leading governments routinely prioritize other interests when it comes to international diplomacy. The standard group photograph of male delegates at any of the major peace talks on Syria or Yemen gives us a damning snapshot of just how far we still have to go.

When the US Security Council Resolution 2242 was adopted, mandating the UN to double its female police representation and reaffirming support for women in civil society, it enjoyed historic support. Unfortunately, in the time since, there has been very little action to back it up.

Friday’s Security Council annual debate will be a chance to reflect on the advances and challenges that have emerged since the adoption of Resolution 2242 and for members to recommit to back up their words with actions.

Several key areas of UN reform would also help: improving the number of women in senior UN positions, including in conflict missions, strengthening gender capacity in peacekeeping missions and assessments, and drastically increasing funding and other support for local women’s organizations.

Addressing these specifics will signal progress, but above all, we need a radical shift in mindsets and priorities to accelerate progress, with support for both the quantity and quality of women’s involvement in peace processes and political decision-making a key objective.

In a world seemingly frayed by growing divisions, with conflicts on the rise and record numbers of people forced from their homes, the continued male monopoly on resolving and preventing conflicts is not just anachronistic – it is a danger to us all.

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The United Nations Is Needed More than Ever Before to Promote Peace and Justice Worldwide Tue, 24 Oct 2017 06:28:50 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim United Nations Day – 24 October 2017

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United Nations Day – 24 October 2017

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Oct 24 2017 (IPS)

In commemoration of the 2017 United Nations Day, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue H. E. Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim called for enhancing the role of the United Nations to address issues related to the promotion of peace and security as a platform for collaboration and the advancement of human rights.

Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

In observation of United Nations Day and its 72nd anniversary, we strongly commend the vision of the United Nations to establish the Sustainable Development Goals and the Millennium Development Goals – that aim to promote peace and justice in every corner of the world,” underlined Dr. Al Qassim.

The achievements of the United Nations since its establishment in promoting a future in the mutual interest of all peoples have been remarkable,” added Dr. Al Qassim.

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman praised the efforts of the United Nations in bringing numerous issues of relevance to social and human development at the forefront of international decision-making. He noted, however that the realization of human rights and peaceful relations between states continues to be areas of great concern.

He warned against the politicization of human rights stating that, “the protection and promotion of human rights is often more influenced by political interests than by human rights policy. States are more likely to be swayed by political interests at odds with a value-driven human rights system.

Politicization of human rights and the selective application of relevant international legal norms gives rise to distrust. The credibility of the United Nations and in particular of the Human Rights Council depends on the resolve to apply international law and human rights standards uniformly and not to be influenced by political interests to apply laws à la carte in support of a particular special interest.” stated Dr. Al Qassim.

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman likewise added that recent statements being declared at the podium of the United Nations General Assembly calling for the destruction of states only contributes to a political climate of instability, fear and warmongering.

The purpose of the United Nations is to promote international co-operation and to achieve international peace and security. Beating the drums of war impedes the ability of the United Nations to act as a platform and a neutral broker for solving disputes among its member States. All disputes must be resolved within the framework set forth in the Charter of the United Nations calling for the promotion of peaceful relations and refraining from acts of aggression and the settling of disputes through military means,” stated Dr. Al Qassim.

To enhance the role of the United Nations in dealing with such issues, he stated “the United Nations needs to strengthen its efforts to accelerate disarmament, enhance peacebuilding and contribute to preventive diplomacy and mediation through dialogue, conflict prevention and dispute settlement.

The United Nations is needed more than ever before to promote peace and justice worldwide,” ended Dr. Al Qassim.

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Let’s Harness the Egalitarian Spirit of Sport for Global Cohesion Tue, 24 Oct 2017 06:19:25 +0000 Ann Therese Ndong Jatta and Siddharth Chatterjee Ann Therese Ndong Jatta is Director UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa.
Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya.

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Football match to raise awareness on environmental issues in Watamu, Kenya jointly organized by UNESCO, UN Environment and UN Information Center. Credit: @UNESCO

By Ann Therese Ndong Jatta and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 24 2017 (IPS)

24 October has been celebrated as United Nations Day since 1948.

In his message to the world the UN Secretary General, Mr Antonio Guterres remarked, “When we achieve human rights and human dignity for all people – they will build a peaceful, sustainable and just world”.

Sport has proven to be a cost-effective and flexible tool in promoting peace and development objectives

Consider this. On assuming the presidency, one political masterstroke by the late Nelson Mandela was his use of sports to foster the country’s healing process. As hosts of the 2010 World Cup, white and black fans stood and cheered the country’s team together, forgetting past antagonisms.

Mandela said, “Sport can create hope where there was once only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. Sport has power to change the world.”

Sport eliminates barriers and stereotypes in a way few other human endeavors do, rendering innocuous differences in gender, religion, and cultures, and uplifting the importance of team work, discipline and rules of the game for a team to score and win. It is the ideal opportunity to teach team-building, peace and appreciation of the other person’s qualities and abilities.

A team implies a group of people linked to a common purpose. Though human beings learn and work together various professional and personal settings, sports and games strengthen human ties most, endearing most effectively the pain or joy of losing or winning.

That team spirit and a belief in promoting peace, justice, happiness for the whole of humanity are what define us at the United Nations. That is what drives what we do to attain the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The values of sports are universal. Olympism is a philosophy that combines the qualities of body, mind and spirit. Blending sports with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational values of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.

This is especially relevant today in a world where values are increasingly under threat, with wars, violent extremism, especially gender-based violence and civil conflicts becoming the order of the day.

Research has provided evidence of the benefits and outcomes of physical education and sports in schools, for both children and for educational systems, which include children’s physical, lifestyle, affective, social and cognitive development.

According to data from the Education for all Global Monitoring Report 2015, the number of children enrolled in primary schools in Sub-Saharan Africa rose by 75 % to 144 million between 1999 and 2012, and this is attributed partly to the abolition of school fees in countries like Ethiopia, Ghana and Kenya, as well as to an increase in the number of teachers.

This is a population that is a potentially powerful force for cohesion if all these schools have compulsory physical education class.

At UNESCO, Values Education contributes to the development of self-confidence, healthy lifestyle choices, life skills, and an understanding of rules and rights. Values-based education is at the heart of the Kenya Curriculum Reform, supported jointly by UNESCO and UNICEF.

Sport is often seen as of secondary importance to the traditional or ‘legacy’ subjects. However, sensitizing young people to the universal values of sport, such as fairness, inclusion, equality and respect, can equip them with the knowledge and skills needed for the SDG 4 on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

In East Africa, UNESCO together with members of the UN family is working tirelessly to build a culture of peace, human rights, gender equality and to tackle the social and human dimensions of climate change among other initiatives seeking social transformations for human dignity. Towards these values, we work with youth through sports and cultural activities to unleash their potential and make their dreams possible to achieve.

As enablers of youth growth and development, sport and social actions can lead to raising of awareness of other topics, like gender, domestic violence, drug abuse, breaking stereotypes, religion, race and identity.

Our imagination is the only limit to what sports can achieve for humanity. In a remarkable feat, during the 2016 Rio Olympics Games, a team of Refugees, comprising of 10 members from Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Syria, used sports to break the cycle of poverty, hopelessness and to give courage to millions of people around the world about the power of will, discipline, excellence, solidarity and hard work. Through Sport, the team became the heroes, powerful and inspirational stories of triumph over adversity.

As we celebrate UN day today, our shoulders are squared for the task of giving our youth the tools they need to live happy, fulfilled lives, thus cascade their inner and outer healthy state of beings to a greater human and global cause.

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Peace and stability must be restored in the Middle East and North Africa so as to alleviate poverty Tue, 17 Oct 2017 09:26:26 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim On the occasion of the 2017 International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue H. E. Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim observed that the unprecedented rise of violence and insecurity in the Arab region combined, breed poverty and societal decline. He noted […]

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By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Oct 17 2017 (IPS)

On the occasion of the 2017 International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue H. E. Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim observed that the unprecedented rise of violence and insecurity in the Arab region combined, breed poverty and societal decline.

Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

He noted that the Middle East and the North Africa region was once at the forefront of progress to alleviate poverty and hunger – in line with the provisions set forth in Millennium Development Goal 1 – but noted, however, that a multitude of factors have contributed to a reversal of progress undermining the alleviation of poverty as stipulated in Sustainable Development Goal 1 to end poverty in all its forms everywhere by 2030.

In this context, he stated that “the spread of conflict and violence have left a social and political vacuum that has been filled by violent and extremist groups. The persistence of political and social unrest in the Arab region have become the main drivers of poverty. Approximately 2/3 of the population in Syria are now living below the poverty line. In Yemen, more than 50% of the population live in extreme poverty, whereas this malaise now affects around 1/3 of Libya’s population. Insecurity driven poverty and fragile societies – gripped by violence and conflict – have thrown Arab countries into chronic poverty and societal decline.”

He further added that “the failure of diplomacy to create peace and stability in countries affected by conflict and violence has triggered a massive movement of people escaping insecurity and sectarian violence. Refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons in the region experience extreme poverty in a way unbeknownst to them hitherto. They have lost livelihood opportunities and have inadequate access to basic services. Forcibly displaced people remain stuck in limbo as they are either unwanted or forced to live in destitution in refugee or detention camps, after having witnessed the destruction of their home societies. The current situation undermines the prospects of recovery of conflict-affected societies from the adverse impact of armed conflict owing to the destruction of human capital and of a stable middle class.”

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman further observed that “the adverse impact of climate change has contributed to exacerbating all forms of poverty and food insecurity in the Arab region as a result of lack of access to renewable and non-renewable resources. Depletion of resources, desertification and water scarcity are indiscriminately affecting countries in the Middle East and North Africa. It has given rise to an ecological crisis affecting the livelihood of millions of people and forcing people to flee.”

He concluded stating that addressing the multidimensional elements of poverty in the Arab region requires adopting a holistic approach addressing the root-causes of extreme poverty in the Arab region.

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How to Eradicate Rural Poverty, End Urban Malnutrition – A New Approach Mon, 09 Oct 2017 06:40:57 +0000 Baher Kamal Population growth, increasing urbanisation, modern technologies, and climate change are transforming the world at a fast pace. But what direction are these transformations headed in? Are they benefitting the poor and the food insecure? And will the food systems of the future be able to feed and employ the millions of young people poised to […]

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Nuclear applications in agriculture rely on the use of isotopes and radiation techniques to combat pests and diseases, increase crop production, protect land and water resources, ensure food safety and authenticity, and increase livestock production. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 9 2017 (IPS)

Population growth, increasing urbanisation, modern technologies, and climate change are transforming the world at a fast pace. But what direction are these transformations headed in? Are they benefitting the poor and the food insecure? And will the food systems of the future be able to feed and employ the millions of young people poised to enter labour markets in the decades to come?

These are some of the main questions posed by the just-released State of Food and Agriculture 2017 report, which argues that a key part of the response to these challenges must be transforming and revitalising rural economies, particularly in developing countries where industrialisation and the service sector are not likely to be able to meet all future job demand. “Unless economic growth is made more inclusive, the global goals of ending poverty and achieving zero hunger by 2030 will not be reached,” Graziano da Silva.

“It lays out a vision for a strategic, ‘territorial approach’ that knits together rural areas and urban centres, harnessing surging demand for food in small towns and mega cities alike to reboot subsistence agriculture and promote sustainable and equitable economic growth,” says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in its report, issued on 9 October.

One of the greatest challenges today is to end hunger and poverty while making agriculture and food systems sustainable, it warns, while explaining that this challenge is “daunting” because of continued population growth, profound changes in food demand, and the threat of mass migration of rural youth in search of a better life.

The report analyses the structural and rural transformations under way in low-income countries and shows how an “agro-territorial” planning approach can leverage food systems to drive sustainable and inclusive rural development.

Otherwise, the consequences would be dire. In fact, the world’s 500 million smallholder farmers risk being left behind in structural and rural transformations, the report says, while noting that small-scale and family farmers produce 80 per cent of the food supply in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, and investments to improve their productivity are urgently needed.

“Urbanisation, population increases and income growth are driving strong demand for food at a time when agriculture faces unprecedented natural-resource constraints and climate change.”

Harvesting sunflowers in Pakistan. Credit: FAO

Moreover, urbanisation and rising affluence are driving a “nutrition transition” in developing countries towards higher consumption of animal protein. “Agriculture and food systems need to become more productive and diversified.”

Catalytic Role of Small Cities, Towns

According to the report, small cities and towns can play a catalytic role in rural transformation rural and urban areas form a “rural–urban spectrum” ranging from megacities to large regional centres, market towns and the rural hinterland, according to the report. In developing countries, smaller urban areas will play a role at least as important as that of larger cities in rural transformation.

“Agro-territorial development that links smaller cities and towns with their rural ‘catchment areas’ can greatly improve urban access to food and opportunities for the rural poor.” This approach seeks to reconcile the sectoral economic aspects of the food sector with its spatial, social and cultural dimensions.

On this, the report explains that the key to the success of an agro-territorial approach is a balanced mix of infrastructure development and policy interventions across the rural–urban spectrum.

“The five most commonly used agro-territorial development tools –agro-corridors, agro-clusters, agro-industrial parks, agro-based special economic zones and agri-business incubators – provide a platform for growth of agro-industry and the rural non-farm economy.”

A Clear Wake-Up Call

Announcing the report, FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva said that in adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development two years ago, the international community committed itself to eradicating hunger and poverty and to achieving other important goals, including making agriculture sustainable, securing healthy lives and decent work for all, reducing inequality, and making economic growth inclusive.

With just 13 years remaining before the 2030 deadline, concerted action is needed now if the Sustainable Development Goals are to be reached, he added.

“There could be no clearer wake-up call than FAO’s new estimate that the number of chronically undernourished people in the world stands at 815 million. Most of the hungry live in low-income and lower-middle-income countries, many of which have yet to make the necessary headway towards the structural transformation of their economies.”

Graziano da Silva said that successful transformations in other developing countries were driven by agricultural productivity growth, leading to a shift of people and resources from agriculture towards manufacturing, industry and services, massive increases in per capita income, and steep reductions in poverty and hunger.

Countries lagging behind in this transformation process are mainly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Most have in common economies with large shares of employment in agriculture, widespread hunger and malnutrition, and high levels of poverty, he explained.

Nuclear techniques are now used in many countries to help maintain healthy soil and water systems, which are paramount in ensuring food security for the growing global population. Credit: FAO

1.75 Billion People Survive on Less than 3.10 Dollars a Day

According to the latest FAO estimates, some 1.75 billion people in low-income and lower-middle-income countries survive on less than 3.10 dollars a day, and more than 580 million are chronically undernourished.

The prospects for eradicating hunger and poverty in these countries are overshadowed by the low productivity of subsistence agriculture, limited scope for industrialization and –above all– by rapid rates of population growth and explosive urbanisation, said Graziano da Silva.

In fact, between 2015 and 2030, their total population is expected to grow by 25 percent, from 3.5 billion to almost 4.5 billion. Their urban populations will grow at double that pace, from 1.3 billion to 2 billion.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people aged 15–24 years is expected to increase by more than 90 million by 2030, and most will be in rural areas.

“Young rural people faced with the prospect of a life of grinding poverty may see few other alternatives than to migrate, at the risk of becoming only marginally better off as they may outnumber available jobs in urban settings.”

Enormous Untapped Potential

The overarching conclusion of this report is that fulfilling the 2030 Agenda depends crucially on progress in rural areas, which is where most of the poor and hungry live, said the FAO Director General.

“It presents evidence to show that, since the 1990s, rural transformations in many countries have led to an increase of more than 750 million in the number of rural people living above the poverty line.”

To achieve the same results in the countries that have been left behind, the report outlines a strategy that would leverage the “enormous untapped potential of food systems” to drive agro-industrial development, boost small-scale farmers’ productivity and incomes, and create off-farm employment in expanding segments of food supply and value chains.

“This inclusive rural transformation would contribute to the eradication of rural poverty, while at the same time helping end poverty and malnutrition in urban areas.”

A major force behind inclusive rural transformation will be the growing demand coming from urban food markets, which consume up to 70 per cent of the food supply even in countries with large rural populations, he added.

The FAO chief explained that thanks to higher incomes, urban consumers are making significant changes in their diets, away from staples and towards higher-value fish, meat, eggs, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, and more processed foods in general.

The value of urban food markets in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to grow from 150 billion dollars to 500 billion dollars between 2010 and 2030, said Graziano da Silva.

Urbanisation thus provides a “golden opportunity for agriculture”, he added. However, it also presents challenges for millions of small-scale family farmers. “More profitable markets can lead to the concentration of food production in large commercial farms, to value chains dominated by large processors and retailers, and to the exclusion of smallholders.”

Small-Scale Producers

According to the FAO head, to ensure that small-scale producers participate fully in meeting urban food demand, policy measures are needed that: reduce the barriers limiting their access to inputs; foster the adoption of environmentally sustainable approaches and technologies; increase access to credit and markets; facilitate farm mechanisation; revitalise agricultural extension systems; strengthen land tenure rights; ensure equity in supply contracts; and strengthen small-scale producer organisations.

“No amount of urban demand alone will improve production and market conditions for small-scale farming,” he said. “Supportive public policies and investment are a key pillar of inclusive rural transformation.”

The second pillar is the development of agro-industry and the infrastructure needed to connect rural areas and urban markets, said Grazano da Silva, adding that in the coming years, many small-scale farmers are likely to leave agriculture, and most will be unable to find decent employment in largely low-productivity rural economies.

Agro-Industry Already Important

In sub-Saharan Africa, food and beverage processing represents between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of total manufacturing value added in most countries, and in some more than 80 per cent, he said. “However, the growth of agro-industry is often held back by the lack of essential infrastructure – from rural roads and electrical power grids to storage and refrigerated transportation.”

In many low-income countries, such constraints are exacerbated by a lack of public- and private sector investment, FAO chief explained.

The third pillar of inclusive rural transformation is a territorial focus on rural development planning, designed to strengthen the physical, economic, social and political connections between small urban centres and their surrounding rural areas.

In the developing world, about half of the total urban population, or almost 1.5 billion people, live in cities and towns of 500,000 inhabitants or fewer, according to the report.

“Too often ignored by policy-makers and planners, territorial networks of small cities and towns are important reference points for rural people – the places where they buy their seed, send their children to school and access medical care and other services.”

Recent research has shown how the development of rural economies is often more rapid, and usually more inclusive, when integrated with that of these smaller urban areas.

“The agro-territorial development approach described in the report, links between small cities and towns and their rural ‘catchment areas’ are strengthened through infrastructure works and policies that connect producers, agro-industrial processors and ancillary services, and other downstream segments of food value chains, including local circuits of food production and consumption.”

“Unless economic growth is made more inclusive, the global goals of ending poverty and achieving zero hunger by 2030 will not be reached,” warned Graziano da Silva.

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Need for Inclusive Peace Efforts in South Sudan: No More ‘Compassion Fatigue’ Wed, 04 Oct 2017 17:56:29 +0000 Lindah Mogeni “Peace is not a one-day affair or event, it requires our collective effort,” said South Sudan’s Vice President, General Taban Deng Gai, while addressing the General Assembly at the UN. South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, celebrated its six-year anniversary on July 9 this year, with its president, Salva Kirr, marking 2017 as the ‘Year […]

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An Oxfam staffer helps a woman at UN House in Juba carry home some of the emergency supplies she has just received. Credit: Anita Kattakhuzy/Oxfam

By Lindah Mogeni

“Peace is not a one-day affair or event, it requires our collective effort,” said South Sudan’s Vice President, General Taban Deng Gai, while addressing the General Assembly at the UN.

South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, celebrated its six-year anniversary on July 9 this year, with its president, Salva Kirr, marking 2017 as the ‘Year of Peace and Prosperity.’

A mere two years after its split from Sudan, a country plagued by decades-long of ethnic-based civil war between Arab and non-Arab tribes, the independent state of South Sudan erupted in conflict when President Kiir, a Dinka, accused his then vice president, Riek Machar, a Nuer, of attempting a coup.

Amid heightening political tensions, violent skirmishes flared up in the nation’s capital of Juba in mid-December 2013 between loyalist soldiers from both parties. South Sudan has been mired in conflict ever since – much to the dismay of its citizens who hadn’t imagined they would carry the torch of war into their new republic.

Three months into a peace agreement signed by both parties in August 2015, the conflict reached a boiling point in December 2015 when President Kiir dissolved South Sudan’s 10 regional states and established 28 new states, resulting in a surge of violence beyond the capital, to several areas of the country.

A transitional government formed by both parties in April 2016, with the peace agreement as a precursor, failed to temper the violence as clashes continued country-wide. Further, President Kiir’s appointment of General Gai, Machar’s political ally, as his new vice president inflamed Machar and his loyalists, resulting in a split within the opposition – thus fueling the conflict.

A government ceasefire, declared after Machar fled the capital, crumbled shortly thereafter.

With lengthy, arduous peace efforts failing and confidence in ending the conflict flailing, South Sudan is facing its gravest humanitarian situation in years.

“This is the last chance of salvaging the peace agreement in South Sudan…we must resolve now, both individually and collectively, to do more to end this conflict,” said Ambassador Nikki Haley, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, while addressing the UN Security Council last week.

More than 2.5 million people have been displaced by the South Sudan conflict. An estimated 830,000 have fled to neighboring countries, mainly Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda, according to Oxfam America.

Harassment and arbitrary detention of journalists, forced recruitment of child soldiers, widespread sexual violence and restricting movement of UN peacekeepers by both sides characterize the conflict in South Sudan, according to prominent human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

“In over 30 years working in South Sudan, Oxfam has never responded to such dire needs under such difficult conditions,” said Oxfam America’s president, Abby Maxman, speaking on South Sudan at the UN.

Asked about the country’s grim situation, Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam’s Senior Policy Advisor for Humanitarian Response, told IPS that, “with the conflict hitting many parts of the country simultaneously, with more access to advanced firepower, with a collapsing economy, with food insecurity and famine on the rise and, most especially, with no resounding commitment from the international community, South Sudan is more vulnerable than it has ever been.”

The suffering of communities in South Sudan has reached unprecedented levels.

“The situation is South Sudan is dire but not hopeless…when a situation is seen as hopeless and when the rhetoric surrounding it makes it seem ‘too complex’ and diminishes on-the-ground efforts, compassion fatigue arises,” said Gottschalk.

Though it is the responsibility of the significant parties in South Sudan to root out the source of the problem, it is the duty of the international community to navigate a peaceful outcome for the sake of 12 million South Sudanese who have not given up.

“We have not given up on them and we have not forgotten them…they have a friend and advocate in the US,” said Haley.

The UN, African Union (AU) and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) recently agreed to pool their efforts to support the revitalization of the political process in South Sudan.

The primary goal in mind, for this joint communiqué, is to adequately represent all significant parties and encourage them to focus on the full implementation of the August 2015 Peace Agreement, under a permanent ceasefire.

“This is the last chance at salvaging the peace agreement in South Sudan…the different parties to the conflict must use the next several weeks to commit themselves to this process and to conclude it,” said Haley.

Before undertaking these well-intended collective measures, it is important to understand the nature of the conflict in South Sudan.

“To get the country back on its feet, we must first recognize this conflict for what it is and what it isn’t…it’s not a tribal conflict, because ethnic identity doesn’t determine allegiance on the ground, it’s not a military conflict, because civilians, not soldiers, are bearing the brunt of the violence…in many ways it’s not even a political conflict, because that would imply that it’s about competing visions for governing this nation…what it is, is a hostage situation,” said Maxman.

In July this year, the AU Commission, South Sudanese officials, and UN representatives met in Juba to discuss the establishment of an independent Hybrid Court for South Sudan, envisioned under the 2015 Peace Agreement, and agreed on plans to finalize the court’s statute by August, according to Human Rights Watch.

Notably, South Sudan is not a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC). As such, its leaders can only be held accountable by the ICC through a request from the Sudanese government or a referral by the UN Security Council.

Though a lack of accountability is a conflict-accelerant, a more immediate focus is required in the inclusive peace efforts geared towards helping the people in South Sudan.

“It’s high time we throw our lot in with the hostages, not the hostage-takers,” said Maxman.

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

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Jonathan Granoff is President of the Global Security Institute

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

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

Master of Ceremonies Jonathan Granoff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Macron Defends Globalist Approach at UN General Assembly Wed, 20 Sep 2017 13:59:33 +0000 Roshni Majumdar French President Emmanuel Macron delivered a sombre speech at the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, denouncing Myanmar’s “ethnic cleansing,” and calling for better protection of refugees in the world. His decisive speech at the lectern took a sharp turn from the U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech earlier that morning, who focused on a nationalist agenda, […]

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By Roshni Majumdar

French President Emmanuel Macron delivered a sombre speech at the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, denouncing Myanmar’s “ethnic cleansing,” and calling for better protection of refugees in the world.

Emmanuel Macron. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

His decisive speech at the lectern took a sharp turn from the U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech earlier that morning, who focused on a nationalist agenda, urging leaders to put their countries first as he invoked his “America First” vision. Macron led his speech with a multilateral approach, and vowed instead, to fight climate change with all member countries. In a press conference later, he added that he would try to persuade Trump to reconsider his decision to pull out of the Paris agreement.

Macron, a centrist who ran his recent presidential campaign on open borders, kept in line with his advocacy for protecting refugees as a “moral duty.” He addressed human trafficking along the Mediterranean route, and said that greater checks and a “humanitarian infrastructure” should be put in place to stem blatant flouting of “fundamental human rights” by traffickers.

While Trump touted topics that invoked a mainstream media frenzy—but are nevertheless important national security issues—such as threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea, and reiterating his critical views of the 2015 Iran deal by slamming it as an “embarrassment,” Macron led the speech in a more conventional way, as is convention, in essentially the headquarters of world diplomacy.

Macron said that he was willing to open dialogues with the North Korea’s leader, and added that migration and terrorism, which are political challenges, couldn’t simply be addressed by “short-term” strategies. Similarly, he committed to contribute to developmental aid, and said that the process, for him, began with investing in education. “We must give the opportunity to young boys and girl to obtain an education to choose their own future, not the future that is imposed on them by need but the future that they should choose for themselves,” he said.

In the end, in spite of criticising the world body as a “club for people to get together, talk and have a good time” before, Trump praised the UN body for its immense potential to bring deliberations at the world stage.

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“We are a World in Pieces” Tue, 19 Sep 2017 18:38:30 +0000 Antonio Guterres António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his address to the General Assembly

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António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his address to the General Assembly

By António Guterres

I am here in a spirit of gratitude and humility for the trust you have placed in me to serve the world’s peoples. “We the peoples”, and our United Nations, face grave challenges. Our world is in trouble. People are hurting and angry. They see insecurity rising, inequality growing, conflict spreading and climate changing.

The global economy is increasingly integrated, but our sense of global community may be disintegrating. Societies are fragmented. Political discourse is polarized. Trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo

We are a world in pieces. We need to be a world at peace. And I strongly believe that, together, we can build peace. We can restore trust and create a better world for all. I will focus today on seven threats and tests that stand in our way. For each, the dangers are all too clear. Yet for each, if we act as truly United Nations, we can find answers.

First, the nuclear peril.
The use of nuclear weapons should be unthinkable. Even the threat of their use can never be condoned. But today global anxieties about nuclear weapons are at the highest level since the end of the Cold War.

The fear is not abstract. Millions of people live under a shadow of dread cast by the provocative nuclear and missile tests of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Within the DPRK itself, such tests do nothing to ease the plight of those who are suffering hunger and severe violations of their human rights.

I condemn those tests unequivocally. I call on the DPRK and all Member States to comply fully with Security Council resolutions. Last week’s unanimous adoption of resolution 2375 tightens sanctions and sends a clear message regarding the country’s international obligations.

I appeal to the Council to maintain its unity.

Only that unity can lead to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and — as the resolution recognizes — create an opportunity for diplomatic engagement to resolve the crisis.

When tensions rise, so does the chance of miscalculation. Fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings.

The solution must be political. This is a time for statesmanship. We must not sleepwalk our way into war. More broadly, all countries must show greater commitment to the universal goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The nuclear-weapon states have a special responsibility to lead.

Today proliferation is creating unimaginable danger, and disarmament is paralyzed.

There is an urgent need to prevent proliferation and promote disarmament. These goals are linked. Progress on one will generate progress on the other.

Second, let me turn to the global threat of terrorism.
Nothing justifies terrorism — no cause, no grievance. Terrorism continues to take a rising toll of death and devastation. It is destroying societies, destabilizing regions and diverting energy from more productive pursuits. National and multilateral counter-terrorism efforts have disrupted networks, reclaimed territory, prevented attacks and saved lives.

We need to intensify this work. Stronger international cooperation remains crucial. I am grateful to the General Assembly for approving one of my first reform initiatives: the establishment of the UN Office on Counter-Terrorism. Next year, I intend to convene the first-ever gathering of heads of counter-terrorism agencies of Member States to forge a new International Counter-Terrorism Partnership.

But it is not enough to fight terrorists on the battlefield or to deny them funds. We must do more to address the roots of radicalization, including real and perceived injustices and high levels of unemployment and grievance among young people. Political, religious and community leaders have a duty to stand up against hatred and serve as models of tolerance and moderation.

Together, we need to make full use of UN instruments, and expand our efforts to support survivors.

Experience has also shown that harsh crackdowns and heavy-handed approaches are counterproductive. As soon as we believe that violations of human rights and democratic freedoms are necessary to win the fight, we have lost the war.

Third, unresolved conflicts and systematic violations of international humanitarian law.
We are all shocked by the dramatic escalation of sectarian tensions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. A vicious cycle of persecution, discrimination, radicalization and violent repression has led more than 400,000 desperate people to flee, putting regional stability at risk.

The authorities in Myanmar must end the military operations, and allow unhindered humanitarian access. They must also address the grievances of the Rohingya, whose status has been left unresolved for far too long.

No one is winning today’s wars. From Syria to Yemen, from South Sudan to the Sahel, Afghanistan and elsewhere, only political solutions can bring peace. We should have no illusions. We will not be able to eradicate terrorism if we do not resolve the conflicts that are creating the disorder within which violent extremists flourish.

Last week I announced the creation of a High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation. Those eminent individuals will allow us to be more effective in brokering peace around the world. The United Nations is forging closer partnerships with key regional organizations such as the African Union, the European Union, the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

We continue to strengthen and modernize peacekeeping – protecting civilians and saving lives around the world. And since taking office, I have sought to bring together the parties to conflict, as well as those that have influence on them.

As a meaningful example, I am particularly hopeful about tomorrow’s meeting on Libya.

Last month, I visited Israel and Palestine. We must not let today’s stagnation in the peace process lead to tomorrow’s escalation. We must restore the hopes of the people. The two-state solution remains the only way forward. It must be pursued urgently.

But I must be frank: in too many cases, the warring parties believe war is the answer.

They may speak of a willingness to compromise. But their actions too often betray a thirst for outright military victory, at any cost. Violations of international humanitarian law are rampant, and impunity prevails. Civilians are paying the highest price, with women and girls facing systematic violence and oppression.

I have seen in my country, and in my years at the United Nations, that it is possible to move from war to peace, and from dictatorship to democracy. Let us push ahead with a surge in diplomacy today and a leap in conflict prevention for tomorrow.

Fourth, climate change puts our hopes in jeopardy.
Last year was the hottest ever. The past decade has been the hottest on record.

Average global temperature keeps climbing, glaciers are receding and permafrost is declining.

Millions of people and trillions of assets are at risk from rising seas and other climate disruptions.

The number of natural disasters has quadrupled since 1970. The United States, followed by China, India, the Philippines and Indonesia, have experienced the most disasters since 1995 – more than 1600, or once every five days. I stand in solidarity with the people of the Caribbean and the United States who have just suffered through Hurricane Irma, the longest-lasting Category 5 storm ever recorded.

We should not link any single weather event with climate change. But scientists are clear that such extreme weather is precisely what their models predict will be the new normal of a warming world.

We have had to update our language to describe what is happening: we now talk of mega-hurricanes, superstorms and rain bombs.

It is high time to get off the path of suicidal emissions. We know enough today to act. The science is unassailable. I urge Governments to implement the historic Paris Agreement with ever greater ambition. I commend those cities that are setting bold targets.

I welcome the initiatives of the thousands of private enterprises — including major oil and gas companies — that are betting on a clean, green future. Energy markets are telling us that green business is good business. The falling cost of renewables is one of the most encouraging stories on the planet today. So is the growing evidence that economies can grow as emissions go down.

New markets, more jobs, opportunities to generate trillions in economic output. The facts are clear. Solutions are staring us in the face. Leadership needs to catch up.

Fifth, rising inequality is undermining the foundations of society and the social compact.
The integration of the world’s economies, expanding trade and stunning advances in technology have brought remarkable benefits. More people have risen out of extreme poverty than ever before. The global middle class is also bigger than ever. More people are living longer, healthier lives.

But the gains have not been equal. We see gaping disparities in income, opportunity and access to the fruits of research and innovation. Eight men hold the same wealth as half of humanity.

Whole regions, countries and communities remain far removed from the waves of progress and growth, left behind in the Rust Belts of our world. This exclusion has a price: frustration, alienation, instability. But we have a blueprint to change course — to achieve fair globalization. That plan is the 2030 Agenda.

Half our world is female. Half our world is under 25 years of age. We cannot meet the Sustainable Development Goals without drawing on the power of women and the enormous energy of young people. We know how fast transformation can take place in our day and age. We know that with global assets and wealth worth trillions, we are not suffering from a lack of funds.

Let us find the wisdom to use the tools, plans and resources already in our hands to achieve inclusive and sustainable development — a goal in its own right but also our best form of conflict prevention. The dark side of innovation is the sixth threat we must confront — and it has moved from the frontier to the front door.

Technology will continue to be at the heart of shared progress. But innovation, as essential as it is for humankind, can bring unintended consequences. Cybersecurity threats are escalating. Cyber war is becoming less and less a hidden reality — and more and more able to disrupt relations among States and destroy some of the structures and systems of modern life.

Advances in cyberspace can empower people, but the dark web shows that some use this capacity to degrade and enslave. Artificial intelligence is a game changer that can boost development and transform lives in spectacular fashion. But it may also have a dramatic impact on labour markets and, indeed, on global security and the very fabric of societies.

Genetic engineering has gone from the pages of science fiction to the marketplace – but it has generated new and unresolved ethical dilemmas. Unless these breakthroughs are handled responsibly, they could cause incalculable damage. Governments and international organizations are simply not prepared for these developments.

Traditional forms of regulation simply do not apply. It is clear that such trends and capacities demand a new generation of strategic thinking, ethical reflection and regulation. The United Nations stands ready as a forum where Member States, civil society, businesses and the academic community can come together and discuss the way forward, for the benefit of all.

Finally, I want to talk about human mobility, which I do not perceive as a threat even if some do. I see it as a challenge that, if properly managed, can help bring the world together.

Let us be clear: we do not only face a refugee crisis; we also face a crisis of solidarity.
Every country has the right to control its own borders. But that must be done in a way that protects the rights of people on the move.

Instead of closed doors and open hostility, we need to reestablish the integrity of the refugee protection regime and the simple decency of human compassion. With a truly global sharing of responsibility, the numbers we face can be managed. But too many states have not risen to the moment.

I commend those countries that have shown admirable hospitality to millions of forcibly displaced people. We need to do more to support them. We also need to do more to face the challenges of migration. The truth is that the majority of migrants move in a well-ordered fashion, making positive contributions to their host countries and homelands. It is when migrants move in unregulated ways that the risks become clear – for states but most especially for migrants themselves exposed to perilous journeys.

Migration has always been with us. Climate change, demographics, instability, growing inequalities, and aspirations for a better life, as well as unmet needs in labour markets, mean it is here to stay.

The answer is effective international cooperation in managing migration to ensure that its benefits are most widely distributed, and the human rights of all concerned properly protected. But from ample experience, I can assure you that most people prefer to realize their aspirations at home.

We must work together to make sure that they can do so. Migration should be an option, not a necessity. We also need a much stronger commitment of the international community to crack down on human traffickers, and to protect their victims.

But we will not end the tragedies on the Mediterranean, the Andaman Sea and elsewhere without creating more opportunities for regular migration. This will benefit migrants and countries alike.

I myself am a migrant, as are many of you. But no one expected me to risk my life on a leaky boat or cross a desert in the back of a truck to find employment outside my country of birth.

Safe migration cannot be limited to the global elite. Refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants are not the problem; the problem lies in conflict, persecution and hopeless poverty.
I have been pained to see the way refugees and migrants have been stereotyped and scapegoated – and to see political figures stoke resentment in search of electoral gain.

In today’s world, all societies are becoming multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious.
This diversity must be seen as a richness, not a threat. But to make diversity a success, we need to invest in social cohesion, so that all people feel that their identities are respected and they have a stake in the community as a whole.

We need to reform our world, and I am committed to reforming our United Nations. Together, we have embarked on a comprehensive reform effort:
— to build a UN development system to support States in bettering peoples’ lives;
— to reinforce our ability to safeguard people’s peace, security and human rights;
— and to embrace management practices that advance those goals instead of hindering them.
We have launched a new victims-centred approach to preventing sexual exploitation and abuse.
We have a roadmap to achieve gender parity at the United Nations – and we are already on our way.

We are here to serve: to relieve the suffering of “we the peoples”; and to help fulfil their dreams.
We come from different corners of the world. Our cultures, religions, traditions vary widely — and wonderfully. At times, there are competing interests among us. At others, there is even open conflict. That is exactly why we need the United Nations. That is why multilateralism is more important than ever.

We call ourselves the international community. We must act as one. Only together, as United Nations, can we fulfil the promise of the Charter and advance human dignity for all.

The post “We are a World in Pieces” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Out of Africa: Understanding Economic Refugees Tue, 19 Sep 2017 15:19:45 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram Anis Chowdhury, a former professor of economics at the University of Western Sydney, held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok.
Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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Young African migrants seek opportunities abroad as the World Bank projects that “the world’s extreme poor will be increasingly concentrated in Africa”. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Sep 19 2017 (IPS)

Not a single month has passed without dreadful disasters triggering desperate migrants to seek refuge in Europe. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at least 2,247 people have died or are missing after trying to enter Europe via Spain, Italy or Greece in the first half of this year. Last year, 5,096 deaths were recorded.

The majority – including ‘economic migrants’, victims of ‘people smugglers’, and so on – were young Africans aged between 17 and 25. The former head of the British mission in Benghazi (Libya) claimed in April that as many as a million more were already on their way to Libya, and then Europe, from across Africa.

Why flee Africa?
Why are so many young Africans trying to leave the continent of their birth? Why are they risking their lives to flee Africa?

Part of the answer lies in the failure of earlier economic policies of liberalization and privatization, typically introduced as part of the structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) that many countries in Africa were subjected to from the 1980s and onwards. The World Bank, the African Development Bank and most Western donors supported the SAPs, despite United Nations’ warnings about their adverse social consequences.

SAP advocates promised that private investment and exports would soon follow, bringing growth and prosperity. Now, a few representatives from the Washington-based Bretton Woods institutions admit that ‘neoliberalism’ was ‘oversold’, condemning the 1980s and 1990s to become ‘lost decades’.

While SAPs were officially abandoned in the late 1990s, their replacements were little better. The Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) of the World Bank and IMF promised to reduce poverty with some modified policy conditionalities and prescriptions.

Meanwhile, the G8 countries reneged on their 2005 Gleneagles pledge to provide an extra US$25 billion a year for Africa as part of a US$50 billion increase in financial assistance to “make poverty history”.

Poor Africa

Thanks to the SAPs, PRSPs and complementary policies, Africa became the only continent to see a massive increase in poverty by the end of the 20th century and during the 15 years of the Millennium Development Goals. Nearly half the continent’s population now lives in poverty.

According to the World Bank’s Poverty in Rising Africa, the number of Africans in extreme poverty increased by more than 100 million between 1990 and 2012 to about 330 million. It projects that “the world’s extreme poor will be increasingly concentrated in Africa”.

The continent has also been experiencing rising economic inequality, with higher inequality than in the rest of the developing world, even overtaking Latin America. National Gini coefficients – the most common measure of inequality – average around 0.45 for the continent, rising above 0.60 in some countries, and increasing in recent years.

While the continent is experiencing a ‘youth bulge’, with more young people (aged 15-24) in its population, it has failed to generate sufficient decent jobs. South Africa, the most developed economy in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), has a youth unemployment rate of 54%.

The real situation could be even worse. Discouraged youth, unable to find decent jobs, drop out of the labour force, and consequently, are simply not counted.

Surviving in Africa
Most poor people simply cannot afford to remain unemployed in the absence of a decent social protection system. To survive, they have to accept whatever is available. Hence, Africa’s ‘working poor’ and underemployment ratios are much higher. In Ghana, for example, the official unemployment rate is 5.2%, while the underemployment rate is 47.0%!

Annual growth rates have often exceeded 5% in many African countries in the new century. SAP and PRSP advocates were quick to claim credit for the end of Africa’s ‘lost quarter century’, arguing that their harsh policy prescriptions were finally bearing fruit. After the commodity price collapse since 2014, the proponents have gone quiet.

With trade liberalization and consequently, greater specialization, many African countries are now even more dependent on fewer export commodities. The top five exports of SSA are all non-renewable natural resources, accounting for 60% of exports in 2013.

The linkages of extractive activities with the rest of national economies are now lower than ever. Thus, despite impressive economic growth rates, the nature of structural change in many African economies have made them more vulnerable to external shocks.

False start again?
Africa possesses about half the uncultivated arable land in the world. Sixty percent of SSA’s population work in jobs related to agriculture. However, agricultural productivity has mostly remained stagnant since 1980.

With agriculture stagnant, people moved from rural to urban areas, only to find life little improved. Thus, Africa has been experiencing rapid urbanization and slum growth. According to UN Habitat, 60% of SSA’s urban population live in slums, with poor access to basic services, let alone new technologies.

Powerful outside interests, including the BWIs and donors, have been advocating large farm production, claiming it to be the only way to boost productivity. Several governments have already leased out land to international agribusiness, often displacing settled local communities.

Meanwhile, Africa’s share of global manufacturing has fallen from about 3% in 1970 to less than 2% in 2013. Manufacturing’s share of total African GDP has decreased from 16% in 1974 to around 13% in 2013. At around a tenth, manufacturing’s share of SSA’s output in 2013 is much lower than in other developing regions. Unsurprisingly, Africa has deindustrialized over the past four decades!

One cannot help but doubt how the G20’s new ‘compact with Africa’, showcased at Hamburg, can combat poverty and climate change effects, in addition to deterring the exodus out of Africa, without fundamental policy changes.

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Islamic Organization Promotes Cultural Rapprochement Between US & Muslim World Mon, 18 Sep 2017 11:44:28 +0000 Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen is Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

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Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen. Credit: OIC

By Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen
NEW YORK, Sep 18 2017 (IPS)

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), by virtue of its position of being the second largest international organization outside the UN system with 57 member countries comprising one fifth of the world population and covering Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, is indeed an important actor in dealing with rapprochement between cultures, in particular rapprochement between the Muslim World and its international partners like the USA.

Rapprochement between cultures through dialogue among civilizations and diverse faiths as an agenda item was pioneered by the OIC at the international level as early as 1998.

The OIC believes in dialogue and communication in order to foster mutual respect and understanding. Its focus continues to be one of outreach and engagement with the international stakeholders like the USA to form a meaningful and functional partnership to work together in engendering a culture of peaceful coexistence and upholding human dignity.

Communication makes people more connected and raises awareness among them on the implications of hatred and discrimination based on their faith, culture and religion. Based on these premises, the OIC has established a separate full-fledged Department of Dialogue and Outreach in its General Secretariat. The main objective of this Department is to reach out to different cultures with an aim to reduce misunderstanding and cultural gap between them and the Muslim World.

With this in mind, the Department has established a close relationship of collaboration and cooperation with the King Abdullah International Center for Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), an Intergovernmental setup established at the initiative of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia along with Austria and Spain to highlight the efficacy of cultural rapprochement as an effective tool to reduce conflict through building bridges between cultures.

We all want to live in dignity, in peace, in security, to raise our children, to protect our families. Muslims are not exception to that. Islam like any other religion advocate for the same values of humanity, mercy, solidarity, peace.

To this end, contemporary challenges like xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, discrimination, and hatred must be tackled through inclusive dialogue and tolerance. For this, uniting our efforts is what the world needs today.

Much has been achieved in this regard, nevertheless, as the challenges around us continue to grow and expand, much more is yet to be done. We believe that there is more to unite us than to divide. As such, in order to focus on the factors that bring us together, cultural rapprochement through communication, dialogue and inclusiveness needs to be nurtured and demonstrated in our everyday life.

Meanwhile, an OIC press release says the Organization will hold several meetings on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York starting Monday, 18 September 2017.

The foreign ministers of the OIC Member States are expected to hold a coordination meeting to discuss the issues of interest to the OIC that are on the agenda of the current session of the UNGA.

Also, the Special Ministerial Committee on Palestine will hold a meeting to discuss the developments regarding the Palestinian issue, and the Secretary General Dr. Yousef Al Othaimeen will chair an international high-level meeting to support the Palestinian refugees.

There will also be a ministerial meeting of the Contact Group on the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar, who are being subjected to persecution, displacement and ethnic cleansing in Myanmar for years. The situation has exacerbated in the past weeks, which caused more than 300,000 of the Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh.

Other contact group meetings will also be held on Somalia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Yemen, Jammu and Kashmir, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and on the aggression of Armenia on Azerbaijan to discuss the situations and developments in these countries and regions.

In addition, the second meeting of the Contact Group on Muslims in Europe will be held, which aims to promote understanding and respect between Muslims living in the West and their communities and protecting their rights in light of heightened Islamophobia across Europe.

The recent terrorist attacks combined with the current economic crisis and high unemployment rates have increasingly strained relations between immigrant Muslim communities and the larger societies in which they live, a situation that has been used by the far right groups to exacerbate tensions.

The OIC Secretary General is expected to have bilateral meetings with a number of presidents, foreign ministers and high officials from the member states and non-member states during the UNGA to discuss issues of mutual interest.

Furthermore, Al-Othaimeen and his accompanying delegation of senior officials will participate in the opening of the UNGA session and several meetings and activities that are to be held on its sidelines on important regional and international issues.

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World Hunger on the Rise Again Fri, 15 Sep 2017 15:48:09 +0000 Baher Kamal Exacerbated by climate-related shocks, increasing conflicts have been a key driver of severe food crisis and recently re-emerged famines, a major United Nations joint report has just revealed. Hunger and under nutrition are significantly worse where conflicts are prolonged and institutional capacities weak, on 15 September warned the first-ever UN report measuring progress on meeting […]

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Children drink from a tap during recess at a UNICEF supported primary school inside Bukasi internally displaced people's camp, in Maiduguri, Borno state, Nigeria. Credit: UNICEF/Gilbertson

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Sep 15 2017 (IPS)

Exacerbated by climate-related shocks, increasing conflicts have been a key driver of severe food crisis and recently re-emerged famines, a major United Nations joint report has just revealed.

Hunger and under nutrition are significantly worse where conflicts are prolonged and institutional capacities weak, on 15 September warned the first-ever UN report measuring progress on meeting new international goals pegged to eradicating hunger and malnutrition by 2030. “After steadily declining for over a decade, global hunger is on the rise again, affecting 815 million people in 2016, or 11 per cent of the global population, says a new edition of the annual report on world food security and nutrition.”“Addressing food insecurity and malnutrition in conflict-affected situations cannot be business as usual”

At the same time, multiple forms of malnutrition are threatening the health of millions worldwide, it adds.

“The increase – 38 million more people than the previous year – is largely due to the proliferation of violent conflicts and climate-related shocks, according to the study.”

Addressing food insecurity and malnutrition in conflict-affected situations cannot be “business as usual,” alerts the new edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017, Building Resilience for Peace and Food Security.

It requires a conflict-sensitive approach that aligns actions for immediate humanitarian assistance, long-term development and sustaining peace, says this year’s report, which has been elaborated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the UN World Food Program (WFP), along with the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Key numbers

Hunger and food security

• Overall number of hungry people in the world: 815 million, including:
o In Asia: 520 million
o In Africa: 243 million
o In Latin America and the Caribbean: 42 million

• Share of the global population who are hungry: 11%
o Asia: 11.7%
o Africa: 20% (in eastern Africa, 33.9%)
o Latin America and the Caribbean: 6.6%

Malnutrition in all its forms

• Number of children under 5 years of age who suffer from stunted growth (height too low for their age): 155 million.
o Number of those living in countries affected by varying levels of conflict, ranging from South Sudan to India: 122 million

• Children under 5 affected by wasting (weight too low given their height): 52 million

• Number of adults who are obese: 641 million (13% of all adults on the planet)

• Children under 5 who are overweight: 41 million

• Number of women of reproductive age affected by anaemia: 613 million (around 33% of the total)

The impact of conflict

• Number of the 815 million hungry people on the planet who live in countries affected by conflict: 489 million

• The prevalence of hunger in countries affected by conflict is 1.4 - 4.4 percentage points higher than in other countries

• In conflict settings compounded by conditions of institutional and environmental fragility, the prevalence is 11 and 18 percentage points higher

• People living in countries affected by protracted crises are nearly 2.5 times more likely to be undernourished than people elsewhere

SOURCE: The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017

The Consequences

The consequences are striking—around 155 million children aged under five are stunted (too short for their age), the report says, while 52 million suffer from wasting, meaning their weight is too low for their height.

Meantime, an estimated 41 million children are now overweight. Anaemia among women and adult obesity are also cause for concern. These trends are a consequence not only of conflict and climate change but also of sweeping changes in dietary habits and economic slowdowns.

The report is the first UN global assessment on food security and nutrition to be released following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030 as a top international policy priority.

It singles out conflict – increasingly compounded by climate change – as one of the key drivers behind the resurgence of hunger and many forms of malnutrition.

And it sends a clear warning signal that the ambition of a world without hunger and malnutrition by 2030 will be challenging – achieving it will require renewed efforts through new ways of working.

More Chronically Undernourished People

The joint report provides estimates of the number and proportion of hungry people on the planet and includes data for the global, regional, and national levels, while offering a significant update on the shifting global milieu that is today affecting people’s food security and nutrition, in all corners of the globe.

Among other key findings, it reveals that in 2016 the number of chronically undernourished people in the world is estimated to have increased to 815 million, up from 777 million in 2015 although still down from about 900 million in 2000.

After a prolonged decline, this recent increase could signal a reversal of trends.

“The food security situation has worsened in particular in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, South-Eastern Asia and Western Asia, and deteriorations have been observed most notably in situations of conflict and conflict combined with droughts or floods.”

The apparent halt to declining hunger numbers is not yet reflected in the prevalence of child stunting, which continues to fall, though the pace of improvement is slower in some regions, the report warns.

Globally, the prevalence of stunting fell from 29.5 per cent to 22.9 percent between 2005 and 2016, although 155 million children under five years of age across the world still suffer from stunted growth.

Children, Stunned

According to the report, wasting affected one in twelve of all children under five years of age in 2016, more than half of whom (27.6 million) live in Southern Asia.

Multiple forms of malnutrition coexist, with countries experiencing simultaneously high rates of child undernutrition, anaemia among women, and adult obesity, t reports, adding that rising rates of overweight and obesity add to these concerns.

Levels of child stunting are still unacceptably high in some regions, and if current trends continue, the SDG target on reducing child stunting by 2030 will not be reached, according to the report.

Economic Slowdown

Another key finding is that worsening food security conditions have also been observed in more peaceful settings, especially where economic slowdown has drained foreign exchange and fiscal revenues, affecting both food availability through reduced import capacity and food access through reduced fiscal space to protect poor households against rising domestic food prices.

Credit: WHO/C. Black

“While underlining that the failure to reduce world hunger is closely associated with the increase in conflict and violence in several parts of the world, the report attempts to provide a clearer understanding of the nexus between conflict and food security and nutrition, and to demonstrate why efforts at fighting hunger must go hand-in-hand with those to sustain peace.”

Famine struck in parts of South Sudan for several months in early 2017, and there is a high risk that it could reoccur there as well as appear in other conflict-affected places, namely northeast Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen, they reminded.

Alarm Bells

Over the past decade conflicts have risen dramatically in number and become more complex and intractable in nature, said José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General; David Beasley, WFP Executive Director; Gilbert F. Houngbo, IFAD President; Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

Some of the highest proportions of food-insecure and malnourished children are found in countries affected by conflict, a situation that is even more alarming in countries characterised by prolonged conflicts and fragile institutions.

At the site for internally displaced persons in Mellia, Chad. Credit: OCHA/Ivo Brandau

“This has set off alarm bells we cannot afford to ignore: we will not end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030 unless we address all the factors that undermine food security and nutrition,” the chiefs of the five UN agencies participating in the elaboration of the report have stated.

The five UN agencies heads also reaffirmed their determination and commitment now more than ever to step up concerted action to fulfil the ambitions of the 2030 Agenda and achieve a world free from hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

“Ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition is an ambitious goal, but it is one we strongly believe can be reached if we strengthen our common efforts and work to tackle the underlying causes that leave so many people food-insecure, jeopardizing their lives, futures, and the futures of their societies.”

In response to a question raised by IPS at a press conference held this morning to launch the report at FAO headquarters, the FAO DG da Silva emphasized that to reverse the adverse trend in the number of undernourished people, ‘we are all working together, especially in countries affected by conflict and climate change, and continuing our focus on emergencies and humanitarian issues. There are new tools available now, such as cash vouchers and food for work. Although lives were lost, we were able to pull South Sudan out of famine in three months and Somalia in six months. There is no illusion that all protracted crisis can be solved immediately’.

IFAD President Gilbert Houngbo said that ‘We should not wait for conflicts to be over. Long term investment is core to the solution, not only as seen from an agriculture perspective, but there are also issues of governance. Agriculture investment must also be combined with investment in technology and fighting food losses and creating access to markets’

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