Inter Press Service » Peace http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 22 Feb 2017 20:13:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.15 Humanitarian Crisis, Result of Decades of Globalization with No Concern for Social Justicehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/humanitarian-crisis-result-of-decades-of-globalization-with-no-concern-for-social-justice/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-crisis-result-of-decades-of-globalization-with-no-concern-for-social-justice http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/humanitarian-crisis-result-of-decades-of-globalization-with-no-concern-for-social-justice/#comments Tue, 21 Feb 2017 09:26:59 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149041 Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, a think-thank dedicated to the promotion of human rights through cross-cultural, political, religious and civilizational dialogue, and through training of the upcoming generations of stakeholders in the Arab region.

Dr. Al Qassim' op-ed is issued on the occasion for World Day of Social Justice 2017. ]]>

Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, a think-thank dedicated to the promotion of human rights through cross-cultural, political, religious and civilizational dialogue, and through training of the upcoming generations of stakeholders in the Arab region.

Dr. Al Qassim' op-ed is issued on the occasion for World Day of Social Justice 2017.

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Feb 21 2017 (IPS)

The distressing images of desperate people making the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean Sea and the Balkans to escape armed conflict, social tensions, discrimination and poverty harm the preconditions to achieve social harmony.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim

Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim

This humanitarian crisis is the result of decades of freewheeling globalization with no concern for social justice in all countries. One of its consequences is social upheavals and mass exodus.

What remains today of the peace and its dividends that were supposed to accrue to the poorer countries as a consequence of the ending of the East-West conflict?

The proliferation of armed conflicts, particularly in the Middle East, further undermine the well-being of societies.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 4 million people have left Syria owing to the continued violence in the country. The majority of them live now in shelters and camps as internally displaced persons scattered throughout the region in countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

The world has not witnessed mass exodus of this proportion since the end of World War II.

As the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue (Geneva Center), I participated as a panel member in a side-event that was held 06 December 2016 by the Geneva Centre in relation to the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the 1986 Declaration on the Right to Development.

During our panel deliberation, I observed that structural violence and the ongoing-armed conflicts and displacement were in contradiction with the vision expressed by the Declaration on the Right to Development.

The negative impact of violence tramples both human rights to life and to development.

Widening income equality also gives rise to social tensions that destabilize societies. Lack of employment opportunities stifle economic growth and result in poverty, which give rise to unemployment and social tensions.

Addressing social tensions requires adopting measures to eradicate poverty, ensure the promotion of employment and decent work, and eliminate the root-causes of inequality. By inequality, one should refer to both inequality in access to public goods, to income and gender inequality.

The realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a good starting-point. SDG 10 stipulates the need to reduce inequality between and within countries. SDG 8 similarly reminds the world of the importance of promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth to eradicate inequality. Lastly, SDG 5 specifies the need to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls through the elimination of violence and discrimination.

The 2030 Agenda is a bold roadmap for states to foster social cohesion and social harmony.

Another cause of social tension is the application of universal coercive measures. Such measures are discriminatory and hinder the capacity of governments to execute their functions in the interest of their citizens, and very often target the vulnerable segments of populations rather than the elites.

The denial of access to technology, food and patented medicines negatively affects the enjoyment of basic human rights.

Indeed, social development is central to the needs and aspirations of people throughout the world. The aim is to live in a peaceful, just and equitable society that ensures the fair distribution of income, access to resources and equality of opportunities for all.

We need to seize the opportunity to address the causes of social instability and economic backsliding. People must be empowered so as to enable them to realize their potential and take ownership of their destinies.

Identifying, addressing and eradicating the root-causes of social injustice will enable us to promote a more equitable development that puts the human being at the centre, and creates synergies between societal development and human security.

Addressing social injustice is in our common interest to promote a more sustainable international order.

I would like to end this statement by sharing a quote from Martin Luther King Jr:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

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The Algerian Emir Who Set a Protection of Prisoners Code in 1842http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/the-algerian-emir-who-set-a-protection-of-prisoners-code-in-1842/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-algerian-emir-who-set-a-protection-of-prisoners-code-in-1842 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/the-algerian-emir-who-set-a-protection-of-prisoners-code-in-1842/#comments Wed, 15 Feb 2017 13:17:59 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148944 Abdelkader saving Christians during the Druze/Christian strife of 1860. Painting by Jean Baptiste Huysmans. Public Domain

Abdelkader saving Christians during the Druze/Christian strife of 1860. Painting by Jean Baptiste Huysmans. Public Domain

By IPS World Desk
ROME / OXFORD, UK, Feb 15 2017 (IPS)

As far back as the 1830s, Algerian Emir Abd el Qader el Jazairy was known for having introduced, among others, rules concerning the humane treatment of prisoners, which developed in 1842 into his Code for the Protection of Prisoners.

“The Emir’s Code prohibited mistreatment of prisoners and the killing of unarmed enemy soldiers or prisoners. In the Emir’s jails, there were no ‘enemy combatants’ prevented from enjoying basic human rights,” explained Idriss Jazairy, the executive director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue.

“Henri Dunant, the great Swiss humanitarian activist is credited with having introduced the first code to protect war prisoners that led to the creation of the Red Cross. That was in 1863, some twenty years after the adoption of the Emir’s Code,” he added.

The executive director of the Geneva Centre made this statement during an event held on Feb. 15 on the historical importance of the 19th century Algerian leader, Emir Abd el Qader, and the universality of Islamic values, at the renowned Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies of Oxford University.

Jazairy also spoke about the Emir’s contribution to identify commonalities between Islam and Christianity in order to promote peace, social justice and inter-religious harmony between Muslims and Christians.

“He asserted in a letter of July 1862 to a French bishop, Mgr. Pavy, that the teachings of both of these faiths were the same and could be encapsulated in two principles: the worship of God and compassion towards His creatures. Our religions, he averred, only differ in the prescriptions provided as to how best to comply with these cardinal principles.

“This brings the Emir to the conclusion in his book ‘Reminder to the Thoughtful and Notice to the Oblivious’ that religions are complementary and all lead to tolerance,” Jazairy said.

During his presentation, he also referred to the example of the Emir’s action to save the Christian minority in Damascus, during civil strife in 1860 that was widely commended by world leaders at that time.

The Emir’s decision to provide protection to religious minorities reflect the Emir’s dedication to upholding what he called “the rights of humanity” an expression that preceded, and anticipated, the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 85 years later.

The executive director of the Geneva Centre also expressed his concerns that the world press, by calling the authors of terrorist action “Jihadis”, unwittingly provide religious legitimacy for their heinous crimes and accredit the idea that Islam inspires terrorism.

He argued that this was tantamount to “Islamising crime rather than denouncing the criminalisation of Islam.”

“This provides terrorist groups with recruitment publicity while stimulating in credulous people’s minds, both in the Middle East and in the West, a conflation of Islam with terrorism,” the executive director of the Geneva Centre warned.

By this standard, the Emir Abd el Qader el Jazairy is very much alive today with city squares and streets across the world bearing his name and with even a city in the U.S. state of Iowa named after him, he explained.

Not a single year has elapsed in recent times without new books and innumerable articles being published about this towering international figure, said Jazairy.

“The Emir was honoured by no lesser world leaders of his time than Abraham Lincoln, Queen Victoria, Tsar Alexander II, Sultan Abdelmajid I and of course Napoleon III. Praised also was he by no lesser writers and poets than Rimbaud and Voltaire, Browning and Thackeray.”

The Emir is known to have fought the French invaders of Algeria for 17 years from 1830 to 1847. He waged 116 battles and confronted, at times defeating them, five princes of the French Royal Household, ten field-marshals and 150 generals, Jazairy reminded.

“Despite the fact that the French army outnumbered 10 to 1 the troops of the Emir, despite the former’s resort to weapons of mass destruction of the times, the almighty mobile cannon, the French conquest was slow, even laborious. Its vagaries called for the replacement of the Minister of War in France 16 times during this period.”

He noted that Algeria has a long history of resisting foreign invasion and occupation. Jugurtha, born in 160 BC, for instance, a courageous leader of Algeria, resisted the Roman invasion for seven years.

“Algeria’s liberation war (1954-1962) also lasted seven years. In December 1847, the fighting officially ended leading to what Algerians refer to as a treaty to end hostilities. The French called it, not ingenuously, a surrender.”

By this treaty the French committed inter alia to the transfer of the Emir, his family and followers to Alexandria or Acre. However, the treaty was shamefully violated by France, Jazairy noted.

The Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue is a think-thank dedicated to the promotion of human rights through cross-cultural, political, religious and civilizational dialogue, and through training of the upcoming generations of stakeholders in the Arab region.

The Centre works towards a value-driven human rights system, challenging politicisation and building bridges between different narratives thereon of the Global North and of the Global South.

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No to Palestinian Peace Envoy: US to UNhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/no-to-palestinian-peace-envoy-us-to-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-to-palestinian-peace-envoy-us-to-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/no-to-palestinian-peace-envoy-us-to-un/#comments Tue, 14 Feb 2017 01:11:01 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148937 The flags of UN observer states the Vatican and Palestine. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak.

The flags of UN observer states the Vatican and Palestine. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 14 2017 (IPS)

The failed appointment of former Palestinian-Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as the UN’s peace envoy to Libya has shown that divisions over Palestine still run deep at the world body.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ pick as his Special Representative in Libya, was quickly vetoed by U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on Friday 10 February.

Haley said on Friday that the United States was “disappointed” to see a letter indicating Fayyad would be appointed for the role.

By Monday Fayyad was no longer under consideration

In Dubai on Monday, Guterres described the turn of events as a “loss for the Libyan peace process,” describing Fayyad as “the right person for the right job at the right moment.”

Guterres also noted the importance of appointment given the ongoing instability in Libya.

“Let’s not forget that Libya is not only relevant in itself, Libya has been a factor of contamination to the peace and stability in a wide area, namely in Africa, in the Sahel, and to bring an end to the conflict in Libya is in everybody’s interest.”

However few if any conflicts have remained on the UN’s agenda as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Indications that the Palestinian question – as it is referred to in UN Security Council meetings – may become a source of tension between the United Nations and the Trump – Republican administration began before Trump had taken office.

On December 22, the United States under then President Barack Obama allowed Security Council Resolution 2334 condemning Israeli settlements to pass by abstaining – the resolution was supported by the 14 other Security Council members, including U.S. allies such as New Zealand, the United Kingdom and France.

The resolution stated that “Israel’s establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, had no legal validity.”

In an apparent break from protocol for a President-elect, Donald Trump appeared to respond to the vote on December 23 with a Tweet stating: “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th.”.

Haley later described the resolution as “a terrible mistake,” in her confirmation hearing for the role of U.S. Ambassador to the UN.

Following the vote Israel passed a law on 6 February retrospectively recognising Jewish Settelements built on confiscated Palestinian land in the occupied territories.

Kofi Annan, Chair of The Elders and former UN Secretary-General, described the law as “highly damaging” to “prospects for peace.”

“Prime Minister Netanyahu should show leadership to overturn this law, paying heed to the objections of Israel’s Attorney General, broad segments of Israeli society, and members of his own Likud Party,” said Annan.

The United States has remained Israel’s closest ally both for strategic reasons as a partner in the Middle East and due to domestic support for Israel. This support comes in part from America’s Jewish population. While the current administration supports Israel, their support for Judaism is less clear, after the White House failed to refer to Jews or Judaism in its statement issued on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Meanwhile support for Israel also comes from groups such as Christians United for Israel who say on their website that they have over 3 million members. The group’s website homepage also includes a pop-up campaign calling to defund the United Nations.

The United States provides 22 percent of the UN budget, making it the largest single member state contributor.

There is yet to be any concrete indication from either Trump or Haley that the U.S. intends to reduce U.S. funding to the UN other than through a leaked draft Executive Order published by some media outlets.

However some Republican lawmakers have been more open in their opposition to the UN’s seeming sympathy towards Palestine, presenting a bill, which has not yet passed, to withhold U.S. funding to the UN until Resolution 2334 has been repealed.

Palestine has been a non-member observer state at the UN since 2012. In a symbolic gesture, the UN began flying the Palestinian flag in September 2015, alongside the Holy See – Vatican – which is also an observer state.

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A Dire Vacuum in a World in Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/a-dire-vacuum-in-a-world-in-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-dire-vacuum-in-a-world-in-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/a-dire-vacuum-in-a-world-in-crisis/#comments Thu, 09 Feb 2017 13:21:02 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148875 Courtesy of the Geneva Centre for the Advancement of Human Rights and Global Dialogue.

Courtesy of the Geneva Centre for the Advancement of Human Rights and Global Dialogue.

By Baher Kamal
ROME/GENEVA, Feb 9 2017 (IPS)

“The world is in a crisis, not least because governing élites have estranged themselves from the needs and aspirations of ordinary people. This sense of being left behind has lead the latter to rebel against their country’s stratified governance,” warns a Geneva-based human rights and dialogue centre.

“At the same time, complaints about the unfairness of globalisation were hushed up or ignored when they hit the poor in the Global South but now that people in the Global North are feeling the pinch as well, the issue’s priority is moving up in media reports”, says the Geneva Centre for the Advancement of Human Rights and Global Dialogue(GCHRAGD).

All these trends have exacerbated populist movements rejecting citizenship in favour of narrower concepts of identity related to dominant races or religions, the Centre continues, adding that on the other hand foreign military invasions in the Middle East, with the resultant casualties and exclusions, have created bitterness and have destroyed social mechanisms for conflict resolution.

“These developments have brought about a vacuum, which has been occupied by terrorist groups seeking legitimacy in a perverted interpretation of Islam… Thus for different reasons, the two main world religions have become embroiled in the rise of extremist ideologies and are increasingly being perceived as part of the problems underlying this world crisis.”

Now the GCHRAGD is in the process of launching a new initiative during the current session of the UN Human Rights Council (Feb. 27 to Mar. 24, 2017)—a side-event on March 15th a panel discussion around the theme “Islam and Christianity, The Great Convergence: Working jointly towards equal citizenship.”

According to the Centre, this initiative is aimed at creating a grand coalition to let these major world religions become part of the solution to the current crisis by unleashing their joint potential for peace at the service of equality in citizenship which implies a definition of identity based on citizenship rather than on religious, ethnic or other affiliations.

Thus could be addressed the issue of minorities, both Muslim ones in the West and Christian ones in the Middle East, let alone the parlous situation of Muslim minorities in parts of Asia or religious tension between Muslims and Christians in some parts of Africa as well as contemporary phobic language which tends to create more social tension, explains GCHRAGD.

“A side-event is only a first awareness raising opportunity which should be followed by other initiatives, hopefully in the Human Rights Council itself and beyond.”

The panel discussion will build on a series of events organised by the Geneva Centre in collaboration with various partners working on the promotion and protection of human rights in the Arab region and in Europe, as well as on extremist violence and Islamophobia.

In this context, the Geneva Centre organised in 2016 a number of conferences on four related themes: The Advancement of the Status of Women in the Arab World; Islamophobia and the Implementation of UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18: Reaching out; De-radicalisation or the Roll-Back of Extremist Violence; and Muslims in Europe: The Road to Social Harmony.

According to its organisers, the side event seeks to ascertain religious diversity and consolidate the view of the Christian and Muslim religions as vectors of peace, by focusing on the great convergences between Islam and Christianity based on the commonalities of their basic values.

The Rationale Behind

The Geneva Centre for the Advancement of Human Rights and Global Dialogue explains the rationale behind the March 15th side event:

“Over the past few years, on-going armed conflict and indiscriminate terrorist attacks bringing bereavement principally to the Arab region and to parts of Africa, and spilling over to the Western world, have contributed to an exacerbation of human rights violations with a worldwide worsening human rights impact of unprecedented proportions not witnessed since the end of World War II.

“This can take form through the violation of human rights encompassing the freedom of worship, the freedom of expression, the freedom of movement, the restriction of education, the repression of women, and the violations of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

“Against this dire background, the world is witnessing a rise of right wing populism and extremist ideologies, resulting from increasing remoteness of the State from the electorate.

“Feeding on violence and dormant biases, Islamophobia has been increasing steadily and worryingly over the past years. For instance, only in the United States alone, hate crimes against Muslims rose by a staggering 67 per cent since 2015.

“The Muslim Rohingya minority in Myanmar has also witnessed ethnic cleansing and religious persecution by Buddhist extremists in the state of Rakhine that has largely been neglected and ignored by the world community.

“Other relevant examples of religious persecution can be extended to include the genocide committed by the Bosnian Serbs on the Bosniaks of Bosnia-Herzegovina in which the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, largest massacre in Europe after the end of the Second World War, was carried out in the town of Srebrenica resulting in the killing of more than 8,000 Muslims.

“During the late 1980s, the Bulgarian Turks experienced widespread human rights violations by the Bulgarian government that launched a campaign to erase the ethnic and religious identities of the Bulgarian Turks.

“Moreover, the demolition of the Baburi mosque by Hindu extremists in 1992 gave rise to heightened Muslim-Hindu tensions in India. Likewise, the distorted representation of Muslim communities as well as of Islam itself in the media has been playing a malevolent role in strengthening xenophobic trends around the world, by perpetuating stereotypes and negative portrayals of Muslims.

“We can explore ways in which the media can mitigate their role in presenting a distorted picture of religious minorities, and more fully contribute to increased tolerance and inter-religious understanding by promoting peaceful messages to the public.”

The primary outcome of the side event could be the adoption of a draft agenda for an international conference to be held on the same subject for which a first draft is attached as an annex to the concept note.

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US Threatens to Penalize Allies on UN Votinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/us-threatens-to-penalize-allies-on-un-voting/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-threatens-to-penalize-allies-on-un-voting http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/us-threatens-to-penalize-allies-on-un-voting/#comments Tue, 07 Feb 2017 16:27:12 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148850 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 7 2017 (IPS)

The United States and most Western donors have traditionally exercised their financial clout to threaten developing nations who refuse to fall in line on critical UN voting either in the Security Council, the General Assembly or the Human Rights Council.

Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

The unwritten rule, exercised off and on, warns: if you don’t play ball with us, we will penalize you by reducing or cutting off aid.

When Yemen, a non-permanent member of the Security Council, voted against a US-sponsored resolution to militarily oust Iraq from Kuwait back in 1990, the US blowback will remain forever in the UN’s institutional memory.

No sooner Yemen cast its negative vote, the US ambassador turned to the Yemeni envoy and famously said: “That will be the most expensive ‘no’ vote you will ever cast”.

And Washington, almost overnight, decided to cut off some $70 million in development and military aid to Yemen, then a close American ally.

In her maiden press briefing, the new US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, implicitly threatened member states who defy Washington on US-sponsored resolutions, and probably on anti-Israeli resolutions.

“Our goal with the administration is to show value at the UN, and the way that we’ll show value is to show our strength, show our voice, have the backs of our allies, and make sure that our allies have our back, as well,” she told reporters.

“For those who don’t have our back”, she warned “we’re taking names – we will make points to respond to that accordingly.”

In a February 5 editorial titled “Mr Trump’s Random Insult Diplomacy,” the New York Times described Haley’s comments as “abrasive.”

In diplomatic jargon, “taking names” is an implicit threat to blacklist countries that defy the US, particularly at voting time.

Having been rebuffed by outgoing President Barack Obama who refused to accede to then President-elect Donald Trump’s appeal to veto a Security Council resolution declaring Israeli settlements illegal in occupied-territories, Trump challenged the effectiveness of the world body and dismissed it as “a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.”

Immediately after the resolution 2334 was adopted by a vote of 14–nil on December 23, with the US abstaining, he held out a warning: “As to the UN, things will be different after January 20” (when he assumed office at the White House)

Perhaps a widely-anticipated Trump twitter message in his characteristic style would read: “The United Nations? One of the world’s most ineffective talking shops. Sad!”

But that message is yet to come.

Addressing the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee during her confirmation hearings last month, Haley said: “What happened with Resolution 2334, it basically said that being an ally to the United States doesn’t mean anything, and if we are a strong ally, and we always stand with them, more countries will want to be our allies and those that challenge us will think twice before they challenge us.”

Although political arm twisting is mostly behind closed-doors at the UN —or in state capitals — the rules are likely to change under President Trump.

Dr Stephen Zunes, a Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, who has written extensively on the politics of the United Nations, told IPS the United States has often thrown its weight around at the United Nations, particularly since the (Ronald) Reagan administration, bullying and threatening both adversaries and allies which did not adhere to U.S. priorities in the world body.

Only under (President Barack ) Obama did the United States practice a less contentious style to its diplomacy, despite often being an outlier on such key issues as arms control, international humanitarian law, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said Zunes, a senior policy analyst for the Foreign Policy in Focus project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC.

“There is little question, though, that both in terms of ideology and style of engagement, the Trump era will likely be the most contemptuous and undiplomatic of any previous administration in its relations with the United Nations, and possibly of any Security Council member in history.”

Zunes said the only positive side of this is that it may result in a kind of backlash in which some U.S. allies that might have previously deferred to the United States will instead defend their positions more vigorously, encouraging greater pluralism at the United Nations.

Mouin Rabbani, Senior Fellow with the Institute for Palestine Studies and Policy Advisor to Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, told IPS there is nothing new about the United States using the power at its disposal to cajole and coerce friend and foe alike to toe Washington’s line at the United Nations.

An early example, he pointed out, concerns the Philippines, whose UN ambassador in November 1948 gave an impassioned speech against UN General Assembly resolution 181 recommending the partition of Palestine, but then voted for it after the US administration of President Harry S. Truman (1945-53) interceded with his superiors.

“Such tactics have been consistently used to promote American interests in the world body, and often Israeli ones as well,” he noted. Nor is American withdrawal from UN agencies unprecedented.

The administration of President Jimmy Carter (1977-81), for example, withdrew from the International Labour Organization (ILO), and President Ronald Reagan (1981-89) from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

More recently, Washington has passed legislation obliging the government to terminate funding to any UN agency that accepts Palestine as a member, which amounts to a de facto withdrawal, said Rabbani.

The US is thus voluntarily withdrawing from UN agencies relevant to American interests, in order to serve Israeli interests and obstruct Palestinian rights, he noted.

“What is different with the Trump administration’s approach is its sheer vulgarity, exemplified by Nikki Haley’s inaugural public statement that she will be “taking names” of those who don’t do as she says and single them out for retribution”.

“But in fairness to her, (President George W.) Bush’s appointee (UN Ambassador) John Bolton generally behaved like a rodent, and the end of his tenure was widely celebrated,” said Rabbani,

There is also the suspicion that the Trump administration may seriously consider withdrawing from the UN altogether.

“This is doubtless on (Trump’s Chief Strategic Adviser) Steve Bannon’s wish list, but unlikely to materialize. Rather, Washington is likely to more severely punish not only member states but also the UN and its agencies when it or Israel don’t get their way. Having announced their intention to implement major funding cuts to the UN from the very outset, their leverage is likely to be diminished,” Rabbani declared.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Trump’s Muslim Ban a Test for Unity and Solidarityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/trumps-muslim-ban-a-test-for-unity-and-solidarity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trumps-muslim-ban-a-test-for-unity-and-solidarity http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/trumps-muslim-ban-a-test-for-unity-and-solidarity/#comments Wed, 01 Feb 2017 16:14:30 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148766 Outgoing African Union Chair described the Muslim ban as a test for unity and solidarity. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas.

Outgoing African Union Chair described the Muslim ban as a test for unity and solidarity. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas.

By Lyndal Rowlands
NEW YORK / UNITED NATIONS, Feb 1 2017 (IPS)

Outgoing African Union Chair Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has described the United States ban on refugees and immigrants from seven countries as “one of the greatest challenges and tests to our unity and solidarity.”

Speaking to African leaders on Monday Zuma asked why “the very country to whom our people were taken as slaves during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, have now decided to ban refugees from some of our countries.”

On Friday 27 January United States President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily ceasing entry to the United States for nationals of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The order also suspended the entire U.S. refugee program for 120 days and indefinitely blocked all refugees from Syria from entering the United States.

African leaders are not the only ones who see the ban as a test of unity and solidarity.

Others see growing anti-Muslim sentiment as a rallying point for solidarity between different religious groups, with American Jews questioning the “terrible irony” of the bill being signed on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

IPS spoke with Fadi Hallisso, a former Jesuit from Syria and Said Sabir Ibrahimi, who was born in Afghanistan and is involved in interfaith solidarity events between Jewish and Muslim people living in New York.

“Religion is a powerful tool, but instead of using it for destruction and hatred, we are going to use it to build bridges between different communities to pave the way towards a better community for our kids,” -- Fadi Hallisso

Hallisso, is the co-founder of Basmeh and Zeitooneh a Syrian NGO, whose five founders include three Christians.

“Our work in Turkey and Lebanon is almost 100 percent with Muslim Syrians,” Hallisso told IPS. “I think working hand-in-hand with different people from different religious backgrounds is what we need right now.”

“Religion is a powerful tool, but instead of using it for destruction and hatred, we are going to use it to build bridges between different communities to pave the way towards a better community for our kids,” he said.

Trump’s order also states that once the U.S. refugee program resumes it will prioritise claims from religious minorities – prompting some to believe that Christian refugees from these Muslim majority countries will be prioritised.

However Hallisso, himself a Syrian Christian, disagreed that in the case of Syria Christians are more persecuted than Muslims.

“We are all human beings suffering from an impossible situation that we wish to have an end to soon,” he said.

Hallisso described the women’s marches that occurred the day after Trump’s inauguration as an important act of solidarity.

“I wish we can in the coming few months and years to expand this solidarity to become global solidarity movement,” he said. “If the people of goodwill do not work together and the bad guys would have the last say.”

Said Sabir Ibrahimi, who was born in Afghanistan and now lives in New York told IPS that he has seen a growing movement of people of different background in the United States bridging divides.

Ibrahimi is part of a group which organises interfaith solidarity events between Jewish and Muslim people living in New York.

“We sense open Islamaphobia and subtle anti-semitism – not to mention the anti-women rhetoric and more,” Ibrahimi told IPS.

“The good news is that some Muslim-Jewish and other faith or non-faith groups have come together to voice their concerns about this whole chaotic policy shift and we have witnessed these groups showing up in protests in large crowds, across the country, in unprecedented ways probably since the 1960s during the Vietnam war.”

Meanwhile, the White House has also been criticised for failing to mention Jewish people in its statement issued on Holocaust Memorial Day.

“I think it’s so bizarre to talk about the Holocaust and not mention Jewish people,” said Ibrahimi. “It was the Jewish people who had suffered the most during those horrific times of World War Two.”

He said that people are drawing connections and associating significance with the marginalisation of minorities in Nazi Germany and the events unfolding in the United States.

For some American Jews, it was no coincidence that the dramatic change in US immigration policy was announced on Holocaust Remembrance Day:

Jeremy Ben-Ami, President of Liberal Jewish advocacy group J Street said that it was a “terrible irony” that Trump signed the order on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“The fact that President Trump’s order appears designed to specifically limit the entry of Muslims evokes horrible memories among American Jews of the shameful period leading up to World War Two, when the United States failed to provide a safe haven for the vast majority of Jews in Europe trying to escape Nazi persecution,” said Ben-Ami.

Meanwhile, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that she was ready to register as a Muslim in response to Trump’s proposed Muslim Registry – which as yet has not been enacted:

“I was raised Catholic, became Episcopalian & found out later my family was Jewish. I stand ready to register as Muslim in #solidarity,” said Albright who came to the United States from Czechoslovakia as a refugee.

Hallisso expressed dismay that the United States a country “built on immigration,” and “built by immigrants escaping religious persecution in Europe” has begun “portraying all immigrants and refugees as potential terrorists.”

“To see this coming from Americans now, some American leaders, is for me devastating because it is like someone ignoring all of the history of his own country,” he said.

“But also it is problematic for us in the Middle East for a number of reasons, because for God’s sake, how do you expect countries like Lebanon and Jordan and Turkey to continue to receive more than a million refugees if 10,000 Syrian refugees coming to the United States are a problem?”

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Decades-Old U.S. Sanctions on Sudan Liftedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/decades-old-u-s-sanctions-on-sudan-lifted/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=decades-old-u-s-sanctions-on-sudan-lifted http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/decades-old-u-s-sanctions-on-sudan-lifted/#comments Thu, 26 Jan 2017 08:43:47 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148675 By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
United Nations, Jan 26 2017 (IPS)

Among his final actions, President Obama lifted U.S. sanctions against Sudan, a move welcomed by some.

On January 13, the Obama administration announced its change to the 20-year old policy, stating that it is “easing” comprehensive unilateral sanctions on Sudan.

Idriss Jazairy

Idriss Jazairy

The UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures Idriss Jazairy applauded the move, stating: “By lifting sanctions on Sudan, after adopting similar decisions on Cuba and Iran, President Obama will be remembered as a leader who listened to the international community and stakeholders, in particular the poor and the wretched who were the unintended main victims of such measures.”

The U.S. Treasury Department said the action was a result of “sustained progress” by the Government of Sudan including a reduction in offensive military activity, a pledge to maintain the cessation of hostilities and steps toward improving humanitarian access throughout the country. They also added that the change in regulations aim to further incentivize the Sudanese government to continue to improve its conduct.

The amendment now allows U.S. individuals to process transactions to Sudan and engage in trade of goods and oil.

The move received criticism, including from Human Rights Watch which expressed concern over the government’s continued role in Sudan’s conflict. However, Jazairy reported that such coercive measures have significantly impacted human rights on the ground including the rights to health, food and education.

In a report to the Human Rights Council, Jazairy found a lack of vaccines, preventative and treatment drugs for infectious diseases, and medical equipment including computer programmes used for medical diagnostics, obstructing effective emergency and epidemic response in the country.

Though sanctions targeting Sudan have exemptions for the health sector, they are ineffective when financial transactions are also prohibited, he noted.

U.S. sanctions also affected education by limiting technology and scholarship opportunities which would allow citizens to improve and update resources for teaching and learning.

Sanctions have also had a role in compounded Sudan’s external debt, affecting the ability and realization of development projects and thus resulting in increased costs of living and higher rates of poverty among civilians. In 2009, poverty rate increased to 46 percent of the population, largely due to the embargo on the country.

Meanwhile, the measures have not had a significant impact on officials or any elite group, Jazairy said.

Jazairy, who is also the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for the Advancement of Human Rights and Global Dialogue, noted that U.S. decision to revoke sanctions is in line with recommendations made in the report, including lifting restrictions on commercial and financial transactions.

He also advocated for a reduction of coercive measures in accordance with the fulfillment of objectives by the Sudanese government, and applauded President Obama’s acknowledgement of “positive actions” by the Government of Sudan.

“I urge the Sudanese authorities to intensify their efforts to enhance peace and stabilization efforts and uphold human rights,” Jazairy said.

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Trump to Pull Out of the UN, Expel It from the US?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/trump-to-pull-out-of-the-un-expel-it-from-the-us/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-to-pull-out-of-the-un-expel-it-from-the-us http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/trump-to-pull-out-of-the-un-expel-it-from-the-us/#comments Tue, 24 Jan 2017 14:38:27 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148646 Caption United Nations General Assembly hall in New York City. Photo: Patrick Gruban, cropped and downsampled by Pine. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Caption United Nations General Assembly hall in New York City. Photo: Patrick Gruban, cropped and downsampled by Pine. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jan 24 2017 (IPS)

So far, Donald Trump’s first decisions as president of the United States have left no doubt that he intends to implement his electoral threats, while most likely not fulfilling the promises he made as a candidate.

Barely 48 hours after his inauguration as the 45th president of the United States, a shocking report was circulated saying that “A bill was introduced early January that calls for the removal of the United States from the United Nations.

According to the Congress website, H.R. 193 — known as the American Sovereignty Restoration Act — was introduced to the House on January 3 and referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

While its official title says it seeks to end membership in the U.N., there are several other key components of the bill which include: ending the 1947 agreement that the U.N. headquarters will be housed in the U.S., ending peacekeeping operations, removing diplomatic immunity, and ending participation in the World Health Organization.

Should the bill pass, the Act and its amendments will go into effect two years after it has been signed.”

It Is Real

During a UN briefing on Jan. 23, a correspondent noted, “There is a call from the US Congress by five… resolution drafted by five or six congressmen calling on the United States to withdraw its membership from the United Nations.”

Donald Trump speaking to supporters at an immigration policy speech at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. | Author: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America |  Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

Donald Trump speaking to supporters at an immigration policy speech at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. | Author: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America | Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

The UN Spokesman answered: “We’re not going to comment on draft legislation that is floating around a legislative body.”

So such draft legislation is there.

More explicitly, a US academic, a professor of politics who closely monitors US-UN relations, told IPS the proposed legislation is “real.”

“But it only has six sponsors at this point (a handful of far right and libertarian Republicans), so I doubt it will get very far.”

Regardless of the number of sponsors and if and when it would pass or not, the fact is that the Trump administration’s intention to withdraw from the world’s multilateral body could easily be implemented.

In fact, it would be enough that Washington refrains from paying its share in the UN budget – or even just delaying it — to make the whole structure collapse.

The UN, Bankrupted

This would happen at one of the worst moments for the United Nations’ finances. The world body is, in fact, now bankrupted. Day after day, its agencies – from the children’s fund to the refugees agency — launch desperate appeals for funds to meet the ongoing unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

Moreover, an eventual US withdrawal would leave the UN in the hands of big private corporations. Actually, several transnational private businesses have over the last few years been among the major UN humanitarian operations’ funders.

Such a scenario would lead this unique multilateral system to be run by big business pundits. This risk should not be discarded, as the UN would in this case provide a needed “legal” coverage to their actions, whatever these would be.

In other words, the UN de facto is already being transformed into a private corporation, funded and guided by big private business that needs to keep its formal, legal umbrella wide open to handle everything… legally.

The UN? Just a Club!

President Trump’s thoughts regarding the UN were summarised in one of his tweets, in which he wrote: “The UN has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk, and have a good time.”

But that “… get together, talk and have a good time” is certainly not the case for the millions of women and girls who make up 71 per cent of all victims of human trafficking, as reported just a month ago by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Let alone the fact that children make up almost a third of all human trafficking victims worldwide.

Neither is it the case for the one third of women aged 20 to 24 who were child brides, nor that every 10 minutes, somewhere in the world, an adolescent girl dies as a result of violence, as stated in UNICEF’s Statistics and Monitoring report released in July last year.

Not to mention the 2.4 billion people who lack access to improved sanitation, including 946 million who are forced to resort to open defecation for lack of other options, and that 16,000 children die every day, mostly from preventable or treatable causes.

All these victims of human rights violations, which have been often perpetrated by US-led military coalitions and/or other members of the UN Security Council, and have been suffering the direct of indirectly consequences of massive war interventions, have so far depended on the UN assistance.

Maybe it would be right to remind here that many key United Nations bodies were created seven decades ago mostly to provide humanitarian assistance to millions of victims of the European conflict that became World War II.

UNICEF, for instance, aided up to five million European children.

Who Would Host the World Body?

Then comes a second point: which country would eventually host the United Nations, should the proposed bill end the 1947 agreement that the U.N. headquarters be housed in the US? And who would afford replacing the US contribution to its budget?

The US shoulders 22 per cent of the world body’s budget in exchange for a non-written pact that an equivalent percentage of key, decision-making staff would be appointed by the US administration.

The total regular UN budget for the year 2016-17 amounts to 5.6 billion dollars, of which the US contributes 610.836.578 dollars, according to the UN report “Contributions by Member States to the United Nations regular budget for the year 2017.”

Japan contributes the second highest share with 9.68 per cent, followed by China (7.921 per cent), Germany (6.389 per cent), France (4.859 per cent) and UK (4.463 per cent) in the top five. Brazil contributes about 3.823 per cent and is 6th in this list.

None of the current major contributors to the UN budget would clearly be able to replace the US share, plus its own.

Moreover, European powers are still facing the consequences of the financial crisis that was created in 2007 by giant private financial corporations based in the US and Europe.

Add to this the fact that they are all now witnessing a growing scenario of the rise of right-wing, ultra-conservative, xenophic, nationalist, and populist parties who clamorously cheer Donald Trump’s ascension to power.

In short, Trump seems to be seriously determined to carry out his electoral threats, while failing his populist promises.

To start with, his decision to trash the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), or the so-called Obamacare, a health care system which was enacted by President Barack Obama on March 2010.

Under this Act, hospitals and primary physicians would transform their practices financially, technologically, and clinically to drive better health outcomes, lower costs, and improve their methods of distribution and accessibility.

That Act was abolished on Trump’s first business day, threatening the health benefits of millions of US citizens, who he promised to place at the top of his priorities.

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Were UN Plans to Ban Nukes Pre-empted by Trump?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/were-un-plans-to-ban-nukes-pre-empted-by-trump/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=were-un-plans-to-ban-nukes-pre-empted-by-trump http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/were-un-plans-to-ban-nukes-pre-empted-by-trump/#comments Thu, 19 Jan 2017 23:16:16 +0000 Andy Hazel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148579 A UN meeting on the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

A UN meeting on the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

By Andy Hazel
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 19 2017 (IPS)

Despite not being a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, the United States exerts a strong influence over the United Nations plans to negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons than any other nation. US President Donald Trump pre-empted their agreement by proposing to expand the United States nuclear arsenal.

UN member states pushing to ban nuclear weapons have found a greater impetus to unity and a bigger threat following US President Donald Trump pre-empted their agreement by proposing to expand the United States nuclear arsenal.

In one of their final decisions of 2016, the UN General Assembly agreed to hold a conference in March 2017 to negotiate a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.”

123 of the UN’s 193 member states supported the General Assembly resolution which initiated the conference. Notable votes against the resolution included: France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Aside from China, which abstained, the no votes included all of the countries permitted to possess nuclear weapons under the current UN non-proliferation treaty which was adopted in 1968.

The 1968 treaty bans all UN member states except China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States from owning nuclear weapons and commits those states to eventually eliminating their atomic arsenals, pledges that have been ignored. Though not signatories to the treaty, Iraq, North Korea, Iran (and unofficially, Israel) have all developed nuclear weapons.

However the resolution – adopted on December 23 – was foreshadowed by a tweet by President-elect Donald Trump on December 22 in which he stated: “United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes”. Trump also mentioned that dismantling Obama’s long-negotiated Iran nuclear agreement was his “number one priority”.

"This treaty will be negotiated with or without US support, so I don't see Trump having a significant impact," -- Beatrice Fihn, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Some have seen these comments as an act of assertion aimed at strengthening his negotiating position upon arriving in the Oval Office, as Trump has already reversedhis position on issues to which he pledged support.

Beatrice Fihn, director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has described these statements as ‘nuclear-sabre rattling’ and the challenge to implementing the treaty as imperative.

“The Obama administration was very hostile to the idea of a ban treaty,” Fihn told IPS, despite Obama’s comments to the contrary, “and there’s no expectation that Trump will be more friendly. This treaty will be negotiated with or without US support, so I don’t see Trump having a significant impact. However, his rhetoric should definitely serve as a motivation for all of us. It’s a signal that the nuclear-armed states are not interested in real progress.”

Chief among the issues that would comprise a treaty is the Iranian nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a long-negotiated tool many on the Security Council are seeking to protect.

Fihn and representatives from other non-proliferation organisations are awaiting clearer statements from Trump’s administration before establishing their strategies, an approach that may have worked when dealing with previous administrations but could face unprecedented difficulty today. Trump has spoken before about the value of being unpredictable when it comes to nuclear weapons as a means to keep other leaders, both friends and enemies, keen to appease.

Unpredictability is also the hallmark of North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un. In his New Year’s address, Kim warned that North Korean engineers were in the “final stage” of preparing to test an intercontinental ballistic missile. Provoking a disbelieving response from Trump and more cautious tones from China and South Korea.

The most recent attempt at a nonproliferation review treaty in 2015 was unsuccessful, largely because of the failure of efforts to engage Iran and Israel. Both countries still absorb a disproportionate amount of the efforts to implement a treaty.

In an address to the IAEA Conference Commit to Further Strengthening Nuclear Security, Director General Yukiya Amano reinforced the socioeconomic value of nuclear technology as not remaining the preserve of wealthy countries. “Terrorists and criminals will try to exploit any vulnerability in the global nuclear security system, and any country could become the target of an attack. That is why effective international cooperation is vital.”

According to the findings of a congressional study into international arms sales that found that the sale of global arms dropped in 2015 to $80bn from 2014’s $89bn with the US responsible for around half of all sales.

Over the next decade, the United States is expected to spend around half a trillion dollars on maintenance and upkeep of delivery systems of its nuclear weapons armoury, considerably larger than the Department of Defence claims is required to deter a nuclear attack.

“The treaty needs a strong and clear prohibition on use and possession of nuclear weapons but it will be a challenge to make sure the prohibition will cover other relevant activities too,” says Fihn, “such as assistance to other states not party to the treaty.”

“It will also be a lot of work to get as many states as possible to engage in the negotiations and sign it. And of course a real challenge will be the implementation of the treaty, once it’s in place – we need to make sure the treaty has a real impact.”

The conference is scheduled to run from March 27-31 and continue from June 15-July 7.

Update: This article has been updated to more clearly state that the United States is not a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and to reflect that since Iran is not a party to the treaty it is not violating it.

Correction: an earlier version of the this article referred to Beatrice Kihn, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. It should have read Beatrice Fihn.

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Trump’s UN Pick: “UN Could Benefit from a Fresh Set of Eyes”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/trumps-un-pick-un-could-benefit-from-a-fresh-set-of-eyes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trumps-un-pick-un-could-benefit-from-a-fresh-set-of-eyes http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/trumps-un-pick-un-could-benefit-from-a-fresh-set-of-eyes/#comments Wed, 18 Jan 2017 21:46:01 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148558 Samantha Power, outgoing Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the UN, addressing the council after a controversial vote on Israeli Settlements in December 2016. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

Samantha Power, outgoing Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the UN, addressing the council after a controversial vote on Israeli Settlements in December 2016. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 18 2017 (IPS)

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, nominated to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the UN, outlined her vision of a strong U.S. role in the human rights institution at a confirmation hearing today.

Noting her potential role as a “fresh set of eyes” and an “outsider,” Haley highlighted the need for a strong U.S. leadership position at the UN.

“When America fails to lead, the world becomes a dangerous place. And when the world becomes more dangerous, the American people become more vulnerable,” she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, adding that she will bring back the U.S.’ “indispensable voice of freedom.”

When asked about Russia, Haley expressed caution in trusting them but suggested that their government could be an asset.

“Russia is trying to show their muscle right now…and we have to continue to be very strong back. We need to let them know that we are not okay with what happened in Ukraine and Crimea and what is happening in Syria, but we are also going to tell them that we do need their help with ISIS,” she said.

In her last major speech, current U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power similarly noted U.S. interest in solving problems and cooperating with Russia, but expressed dire concerns over Russia’s “aggressive and destabilizing actions” in Crimea, Syria and its interferences in numerous governments.

“Russia’s actions are not standing up a new world order. They are tearing down the one that exists. This is what we are fighting against—having defeated the forces of fascism and communism, we now confront the forces of authoritarianism and nihilism,” she said.

During her hearing, Haley acknowledged that Russia violated the international order when it invaded Crimea and its actions in Syria constitute war crimes, and that she supports preserving sanctions against the government. She also noted the need to stand up to any and all countries that attempts to interfere with the U.S.

This represents what could be perceived as a break with President-elect Trump who has previously denied intelligence pointing to Russian involvement in the recent U.S. elections.

In recent comments, President-elect Trump also suggested easing sanctions against Russia in return for a deal to reduce nuclear weapons. He additionally criticised the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), calling it “obsolete.”

When asked about these comments, Haley again differentiated her position from Trump’s:

“It is important that we have alliances…I think as we continue to talk to him about these alliances and how they can be helpful and strategic, I do anticipate he will listen to all of us and hopefully we can get him to see it the way we see it,” she said.

“I’m going to control the part that I can,” she continued.

Haley also blasted the UN for what she described as its “biased” position on Israel during the hearing, stating: “Nowhere has the UN’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than its bias against our close ally Israel.”

Like President-elect Trump, Haley particularly criticised the recent passage of a Security Council resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlements, calling it a “terrible mistake” that makes a peace agreement even harder to achieve.

During the vote in December, the U.S. broke with long-standing foreign policy towards Israel by abstaining, rather than vetoing. The other 14 members of the 15 member council all voted for the resolution.

Haley vowed to never abstain when the UN takes action that comes in direct conflict with U.S. interests, including actions against Israel.

She highlighted the need for UN reforms, stating that the goal is to “create an international body that better serves the American people.” To bring about changes, Haley suggested using U.S. funding as leverage.

“We are a generous nation but we must ask ourselves what good is being accomplished by this disproportionate contribution. Are we getting what we paid for?” she asked. She pointed to the Human Rights Council as an example, questioning their role in supporting and promoting human rights while countries such as Cuba and China are members.

The U.S. currently contributes 22 percent of the UN’s budget.

Recent legislation proposed by two U.S. Republican Senators would see the United States withdraw its funding not only to the UN Secretariat but also to the entire UN-system, including UNICEF, the UN Development Program and UN Women.

Though initially stating that she would not “shy away” from withdrawing U.S. funds to achieve reforms, Haley later backtracked and said that she does not support a “slash and burn” approach in terms of pulling funding from the UN when there are undesirable outcomes, but rather use funds as leverage to help make agencies more effective.

Haley is a South Carolina-born daughter of Indian immigrants and is the first female and first minority governor of her state. She gained national attention after calling for the removal of the Confederate flag from the state’s Capitol. Haley will replace Ambassador Power as the only woman on the 15-member council.

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UN Meeting Says No to Anti-Muslim Hatredhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/un-meeting-says-no-to-anti-muslim-hatred/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-meeting-says-no-to-anti-muslim-hatred http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/un-meeting-says-no-to-anti-muslim-hatred/#comments Tue, 17 Jan 2017 23:49:48 +0000 Andy Hazel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148538 Anti-muslim hatred has been particularly targeted at women. Credit:  UN Photo/Tobin Jones

Anti-muslim hatred has been particularly targeted at women. Credit: UN Photo/Tobin Jones

By Andy Hazel
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 17 2017 (IPS)

The rise in anti-muslim attitudes around the world prompted a special UN meeting Tuesday, just days before the inauguration of US President-elect Donald Trump whose controversial policies have drawn on anti-Muslim sentiments.

As if to illustrate just how easily noble intentions are misinterpreted, co-opted and misused, the event’s hashtag #No2Hatred was quickly taken over by nefarious social media actors and became an outlet for angry political diatribe.

“Anti-muslim hatred does not occur in a vacuum,” said David Saperstein, American Ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom at the event. “The rise of xenophobia across the world creates challenges that focus our attention and the data leaves us no doubt that this is happening.”

Saperstein quoted studies showing a massive rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence, France has seen a 223 percent increase in attacks on Muslims between 2014 and 2015, the British investigative group TELL MAMA reported a 326 percent increase in abuse and public attacks on Muslims in the UK over the same period. A 2016 study found 72 percent of  Hungarians admit to a negative view of Muslims.
"Most Muslim hate crime is against women and I would encourage everyone to consider the gender-specific aspects to this violence," -- Richard Arbeiter, the Director-General, Office of Human Rights, Freedoms and Inclusion, Global Affairs Canada.

“Underreporting is a very serious structural problem that obscures these numbers. The silencing effect is enormous and we must resolve to confront this,” Saperstein said.

“I sincerely regret just how necessary these deliberations have become,” said Richard Arbeiter, the Director-General, Office of Human Rights, Freedoms and Inclusion, Global Affairs Canada. “Most Muslim hate crime is against women and I would encourage everyone to consider the gender-specific aspects to this violence.”

Panels looked at civil society building how governments could best combat anti-Muslim discrimination, and positive narratives to promote inclusion. Several topics recurred for discussion; how best to engage with political actors and organisations of different beliefs, and how to counter misinformation online.

The American Jewish Committee’s Muslim-Jewish relations director, Mr Robert Silverman reinforced the idea of creating powerful messages by finding alliances and shared priorities with unlikely groups.

“Too often initiatives result in people speaking within bubbles to each other. In a country like the United States or in a place like Europe, we need to get out of our bubbles and reach out to the unlikely and unorthodox partners.”

“You should focus on the common ground,” he continued. “Don’t try to bring in an issue like climate change. Just focus narrowly on the common grounds.”

European Commission Coordinator on Combating anti-Muslim hatred David Friggieri outlined his meeting with the heads of Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google where “open and frank discussion” lead to the enforcement of the European Union’s free speech laws in an effort to counter anti-Muslim sentiment. The ‘red line’ agreed to by the companies and the European law, he told IPS, was one of incitement.

“We have a law prohibiting incitement to violence or hatred based on race, religion, ethnicity or nationality,” said Friggieri. “We are monitoring the situation with them every few months. We have had our first monitoring and there are some improvements but we look forward to seeing more.”

“In terms of the really bad type of hate speech such as incitement to violence, we look at: how are they taking it down? How long before they take it down? What responses does the company give to individuals who notify and to trusted flaggers? Ultimately the aim is to take down (from the internet) the worst type of incitement to violence.”

In a similar effort to address the recent increase in hate speech and anti-Muslim rhetoric, Moiz Bokhari, advisor to the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation spoke of the Center for Dialogue, Peace and Understanding a newly established website that provides foundations to deconstruct dangerous narratives. The site is aimed at addressing the potential for crimes, radicalisation and to “counter all types of radical extremist discourse in order to delegitimise the violent and manipulative acts committed in the name of religion, ideology or claims of cultural superiority.”

 The High Level Forum on Combating Anti-Muslim Discrimination and Hatred was dominated by discussion of how to address anti-Muslim sentiment and increase the  message of tolerance and inclusion. The forum was convened by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations and the Permanent Missions of the United States and Canada.

UN Secretary General Antònio Guterres used his introductory address to reaffirm the recently-launched initiative Together – Respect, Safety and Dignity for All. An outcome from the Summit for Refugees, the strategy is designed to strengthen the bonds between refugees migrants and host countries and communities.

Speakers throughout the day highlighted bipartisan interfaith success stories: the Canadian town that raised money to rebuild a mosque that had been burned down following the Paris terror attacks, the Norwegian mosque that was protected from attack by Oslo’s Jewish community, the power of positive stories of Muslims in the news and popular culture, and the success of Sadiq Khan who overcame a campaign rife with xenophobic rhetoric to become the first Muslim Mayor of London.

“Politics is moving against us, but local politics not so much,” said Catherine Orsborn, director of interfaith anti-Islamophobia campaign group Shoulder to Shoulder.

Several panellists highlighted the importance of establishing relationships with local political and law enforcement agencies so that any future instances Islamophobia could be dealt with more effectively.

Friends of Europe’s Director Europe and Geopolitics Alfiaz Vaiya ended the discussion on civil society and coalition building with an optimistic note: “The political climate is very toxic, but it’s about politicians being able to sell and be confident in selling a strong narrative on inclusion and diversity. I think youth are the way forward, we see how they vote we see how they follow progressive trends and we should encourage more youth to get involved in conversations like this.”

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Mário Soares, a Rebel with a Cause – Freedomhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/mario-soares-a-rebel-with-a-cause-freedom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mario-soares-a-rebel-with-a-cause-freedom http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/mario-soares-a-rebel-with-a-cause-freedom/#comments Tue, 10 Jan 2017 08:07:08 +0000 an IPS Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148456 Photo: Mario Soares attending a rally to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution, 25 April 2014 in Lisbon. Photo: FraLiss. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Photo: Mario Soares attending a rally to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution, 25 April 2014 in Lisbon. Photo: FraLiss. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

By an IPS Correspondent
LISBON, Jan 10 2017 (IPS)

Hardly a leader could reap so much respect, even from most relentless political rivals, both throughout his life and after his death on Jan 7 at the age of 92, like Portuguese Mário Soares.

Characterised as “an indefatigable political animal,” by the New York Times, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres hailed the commitment to freedom and democracy that made Soares “one of those rare political leaders of true European and global stature.”

The UN chief, who is himself Portuguese, said Soares has left an “indelible mark” on political life in Portugal, the result of his “steadfast and courageous political commitment and the principles and values that he consistently pursued throughout his life. Liberty was always his foundational value.”

Soares Legacy Goes Far Beyond Portugal – UN Chief

To a great extent, Guterres said, we are indebted to him for the democracy, the freedom and the respect for fundamental rights that all Portuguese have been able to enjoy in recent decades, and that are today established values in our country.”

Paying tribute to Soares, “who will, I am certain, remain in our memory and in the history of our country as a man of freedom, who wanted all to live in liberty, and fought for his entire life to realize that hope,” the UN Secretary-General added that the late leader’s legacy goes far beyond Portugal.

Indeed, this is not only because Soares was responsible for Portugal’s full integration into the international community, “but also because his commitment to freedom and democracy make him one of those rare political leaders of true European and global stature,” concluded Guterres.

Mário Soares was Prime Minister of Portugal from 1976 to 1978 in the aftermath of the Carnation Revolution that ended decades of right-wing dictatorship. He returned as PM in the early 1980s, and served as Portugal’s president between 1986 and 1996.

After flirting briefly with communism at university and then embracing Portugal’s democratic movement as a Socialist, Soares was jailed 12 times and then exiled for his political activities during the dictatorship of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar.

The Carnation Revolution

Soares played a key role after the 1974 Carnation Revolution –a military-led coup that soon turned in a massive popular movement of civil protest characterised by carnations that were handed out and placed in the barrels of soldiers’ rifles and tanks—that put an end to 48 years of Salazar rule.

A fierce critic of the military Junta that ruled Portugal for the next two years, Soares in 1976 became the first post-war democratically elected prime minister.

Soares spearheaded the country’s entry into the European Union. But, in recent years, he became a vocal critic of the austerity policies associated with the massive euro-zone bailout Portugal sought in 2011.

He left the presidency in 1996 after the maximum tenure in the office permitted under the constitution, with his popularity at a peak. For years, he remained one of the country’s most influential politicians.

He ran again for president in 2006 at the age of 82, but finished in third.

“President Mário Soares was born and graduated to be a fighter, to have a cause to fight – freedom,” President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said. “Soares never gave up on a free Portugal, a free Europe, a free world and what was decisive… he was always victorious.”

IPS President and Member of International Board of Trustees

As part of his unflagging commitment to freedom –in this case freedom of expression—lawyer, historian and politician Mário Soares, chaired the International Board of Trustees of Inter Press Service (IPS).

He graduated in Historical-Philosophical Sciences in 1951 and in Law in 1957 at Lisbon University. He taught at a private secondary school and was director of the Colégio Moderno, in Lisbon.

Soares practised law for some years and during his exile in France he was “Chargé de Cours” at Vincennes University and at the Sorbonne. He was associate professor at the Faculty of Arts of Haute Bretagne (Rennes).

More recently, he was guest professor in International Relations at the School of Economics of the University of Coimbra.

Mário Soares was the fourth president of IPS International Board of Trustees, succeeding the agency’s founder, Roberto Savio; former president of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari, and former Prime Minister of Japan, Toshiki Kaifu. UNESCO’s former director general, Federico Mayor Zaragoza, succeeded Mario Soares as president of IPS International Board of Trustees.

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Trump, the Banks and the Bombhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/trump-the-banks-and-the-bomb/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-the-banks-and-the-bomb http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/trump-the-banks-and-the-bomb/#comments Sat, 07 Jan 2017 07:59:40 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148435 Nuclear weapon test at Bikini Atoll in 1946. Credit: United States Department of Defense via Wikimedia Commons

Nuclear weapon test at Bikini Atoll in 1946. Credit: United States Department of Defense via Wikimedia Commons

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jan 7 2017 (IPS)

When pro-nuclear disarmament organisations last October cheered the United Nations decision to start in 2017 negotiations on a global treaty banning these weapons, they probably did not expect that shortly after the US would elect Republican businessman Donald Trump as their 45th president. Much less that he would rush to advocate for increasing the US nuclear power.

The United Nations on Oct. 27, 2016 adopted a resolution to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons, putting an end to two decades of paralysis in world nuclear disarmament efforts.

At a meeting of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, which deals with disarmament and international security matters, 123 nations voted in favour of the resolution, 38 against it and 16 abstaining.

The resolution will set up a UN conference beginning in March 2017, which will be open to all member states, to negotiate a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. The negotiations will continue in June and July this year.

The Geneva-based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a civil society coalition active in 100 countries, hailed the adoption of the resolution as a major step forward, marking a “fundamental shift in the way that the world tackles this paramount threat.”

“For seven decades, the UN has warned of the dangers of nuclear weapons, and people globally have campaigned for their abolition. Today the majority of states finally resolved to outlaw these weapons,” said ICAN’s executive director, Beatrice Fihn.

Despite arm-twisting by a number of nuclear-armed states, the resolution was adopted in a landslide. A total of 57 nations were co-sponsors, with Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa taking the lead in drafting the resolution.

European Parliament’s Resolution

The UN vote came just hours after the European Parliament adopted its own resolution on this subject – 415 in favour, 124 against, 74 abstentions– inviting European Union member states to “participate constructively” in the 2017 year’s negotiations, ICAN noted.

Nuclear weapons remain the only weapons of mass destruction not yet outlawed in a comprehensive and universal manner, despite their well-documented catastrophic humanitarian and environmental impacts, the anti-nuke campaign chief warned.

“A treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons would strengthen the global norm against the use and possession of these weapons, closing major loopholes in the existing international legal regime and spurring long-overdue action on disarmament,” said Fihn.

“Today’s [Oct. 27, 2016] vote demonstrates very clearly that a majority of the world’s nations consider the prohibition of nuclear weapons to be necessary, feasible and urgent. They view it as the most viable option for achieving real progress on disarmament.”

Biological weapons, chemical weapons, anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions are all explicitly prohibited under international law. But only partial prohibitions currently exist for nuclear weapons.

ICAN also recalls that nuclear disarmament has been high on the UN agenda since the organisation’s formation in 1945. “Efforts to advance this goal have stalled in recent years, with nuclear-armed nations investing heavily in the modernisation of their nuclear forces.”

Other pro-nuclear disarmament organisations also welcomed the UN resolution. They included PAX, a partnership between IKV (Interchurch Peace Council) and Pax Christi; Soka Gakai International (SGI), a community-based Buddhist organisation that promotes peace, culture and education centered on respect for the dignity of life; and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), just to mention a few.

US Must Greatly Strengthen, Expand Its Nuclear Capability – Trump

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C.  Photo: Gage Skidmore. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Wikipedia

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Gage Skidmore. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Wikipedia

The global ani-nuke movment, however, soon saw its joy being frustrated by the US president-elect Donald Trump, who in a tweet on Dec. 22, 2016, wrote:

Donald J. Trump Verified account ‏@realDonaldTrump : “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.

Trump’s announcement, if materialised, would imply one of the most insourmountable hardles facing the world anti-nuclear movement.

Is Your Bank Funding Nuclear Bombs?

Meanwhile, the international campaign to prevent private banks and financial companies from funding the production and modernisation of nuclear weapons has achieved a further step forward.

“Governments have decided to negotiate a nuclear weapons ban treaty in 2017, and now is the time for banks, pension funds and insurance companies to get ready and end financial relations with companies involved in nuclear weapons,” says Susi Snyder from PAX and author of a the Hall of Fame report.

“Around 400 private banks, pension funds and insurance companies continue to fund –with their clients’ money– the production of nuclear weapons.”

According to this study, 18 banks, controlling over 1.7 trillion Euros, are ready not to collaborate in the funding of atomic weapons, with policies that strictly prohibit any investment of any type in any kind of nuclear weapon-producing company.

These 18 banks are profiled in the Hall of Fame of the Don’t Bank on the Bomb 2016 edition, which was issued on Dec. 7, 2016. These Hall of Fame institutions are based in Australia, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The report also shows there are another 36 financial institutions with policies that specifically name nuclear weapons as a concern, and limit investment in some ways.

“Even though these policies have loopholes, they still demonstrate there is a stigma associated with investments in nuclear weapons. PAX calls on these institutions to strengthen their policies and Don’t Bank on the Bomb offers tailored recommendations for each financial institute in the Runners-Up.”

Investments are not neutral, warns the report. “Financing and investing are active choices, based on a clear assessment of a company and its plans. Institutions imposing limitations on investing in nuclear weapons producers are responding to the growing stigma against these weapons, designed to kill indiscriminately.”

All of the nuclear-armed countries are modernising their nuclear weapon arsenals, and Don’t Bank on the Bomb details how 27 private companies are producing key components to make nuclear weapons as well as the 390 banks, insurance companies and pension funds that still invest in nuclear weapon-producing companies, the report adds.

“As a new treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons is to be negotiated in 2017, states should include a prohibition on financing to provide an added incentive for the financial industry to exclude nuclear weapon associated companies from their investment universe, and raise the economic cost of nuclear weapons deployment, stockpiling and modernisation.”

Some Striking Facts about Nukes

The International Campaign against Nuclear Weapons summarises the most striking facts about this weapon of mass destruction:

Which countries have nuclear weapons and how many?

What are their effects on health and the environment?

Who supports a global ban on nuclear weapons?

What are the most significant events of the nuclear age?

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January Brings Changes for UN Security Councilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/january-brings-changes-for-un-security-council/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=january-brings-changes-for-un-security-council http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/january-brings-changes-for-un-security-council/#comments Fri, 06 Jan 2017 01:55:53 +0000 Andy Hazel and Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148419 UN Secretary-General Anto—nio Guterres with Olof Skoog of Sweden, President of the UN Security Council for the month of January Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas.

UN Secretary-General Anto—nio Guterres with Olof Skoog of Sweden, President of the UN Security Council for the month of January Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas.

By Andy Hazel and Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 6 2017 (IPS)

Five of the UN Security Council’s 15 seats were filled by new members this week, but a bigger shift in the council is expected later this month under the new US administration.

Sweden, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Italy replaced outgoing non-permanent members Spain, Malaysia, New Zealand, Angola and Venezuela.

They will join the other five non-permanent members – Japan, Egypt, Senegal, Ukraine and Uruguay – as well as the five permanent members of the council – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The council’s five permanent members are considered to be the most powerful, since they hold the ability to veto any vote they disagree with.

This is why the change in the United States administration may signal a greater political shift in the council than the rotation of non-permanent members.

The possible change was foreshadowed by President-elect Trump in December following a controversial vote on Israeli settlements.

The United States took the surprise decision to abstain from the vote condemning Israeli settlements in the disputed territory of the West Bank, rather than using its veto power.

“As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th,” Trump tweeted shortly after the vote took place.

US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power – a member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet – defended the abstention saying, “Israeli settlement activity in territories occupied in 1967 undermines Israel’s security, harms the viability of a negotiated two-state outcome, and erodes prospects for peace and stability in the region.”

Power is expected to be replaced by Trump’s pick for the council, Nikki Haley, the current Governor of South Carolina, after Trump’s inauguration on January 20.

However Sweden’s Ambassador to the UN, Olof Skoog downplayed the political implications of the change in US administration for the Security Council.

“I haven’t spoken with anyone from the administration of the President-elect, but I expect that when they come to look at the work we’re doing they’ll see it is in the interests of the United States,” Skoog told journalists on Tuesday.

With January bringing a new US president, a changed Security Council and a new UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Skoog said that he hoped to harness this “spirit of newness” to spur momentum into the Council’s work.

However Skoog said he was not expecting particular challenges to the Security Council’s work to come from the incoming US administration, with whom he said he looked forward to collaborating.

Skoog described Power as a strong voice with whom he shares many views. He said he also had a working relationship with Haley, but would not be drawn on possible changes regarding Israeli-Palestinian policy within the council.

Sweden has officially recognised the state of Palestine, putting it at odds with Trump’s pro-Israel stance.

Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said that he hoped Italy could bring the Israel-Palestine conflict “to the forefront of the United Nations’ agenda,” during their month as president in November. Migration from the Middle East and Syria are also expected to be among the issues Italy will prioritise. Italy will be represented by Ambassador Sebastiano Card.

In a new and unusual step, Italy will share its security council seat with the Netherlands due to an impasse vote in the UN General Assembly for the final European seat. Italy will sit on the council in 2016 and the Netherlands in 2017. Gentiloni described the move as “a message of unity between European countries.”

2016 will be the first time that Kazakhstan will sit on the Security Council. The Central Asian country – which is keen to be seen as a major international power – will be represented by the ex-Ambassador to the United States Mr Kairat Umarov.

Kazakhstan – a part of the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone – may also bring a different perspective to Security Council discussions on nuclear non-proliferation. President-elect Trump’s comments on nuclear weapons have signalled that this may be an area high on the UN’s agenda in 2017.

Succeeding Venezuela as the Latin American representative, and holding a seat on the Council for the first time since 1979, is Bolivia. The plurinational state is represented by the Sacha Llorenti, a published author who spent two years at the President of Bolivia’s Permanent Assembly for Human Rights and was a minister in the government of Evo Morales.

Llorenti resigned from the ministry in 2011 following a violent police response to protesters marching against the building of a road through the Amazon rainforest. This was not the first time Llorenti was involved in clashes between indigenous populations and infrastructure.

Ethiopia replaces Angola and joins Senegal as an African representative on the Council. Ethiopia has become a major contributor of over 8,000 troops to UN peacekeeping operations. However in 2016, Ethiopia faced political instability within its own borders amid crackdowns on protestors.

In its first month on the council, Sweden has also taken up the rotating position of President. Skoog told press on Tuesday that the council’s priorities for January would include Syria, South Sudan and the Congo.

Skoog also highlighted massive population displacement, diminishing resources and rise of Boko Haram in Lake Chad region as detailed by Oxfam in a report entitled Lake Chad’s Unseen Crisis, which draws parallels between climate change, terrorism and national security.

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New UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Takes Officehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/new-un-secretary-general-antonio-guterres-takes-office/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-un-secretary-general-antonio-guterres-takes-office http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/new-un-secretary-general-antonio-guterres-takes-office/#comments Tue, 03 Jan 2017 20:38:52 +0000 Andy Hazel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148392 UN Secretary-General Anto—nio Guterres (centre) arrives at UN headquarters. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

UN Secretary-General Anto—nio Guterres (centre) arrives at UN headquarters. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

By Andy Hazel
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 3 2017 (IPS)

Antonio Guterres of Portugal officially took up his position as ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations Tuesday morning, beginning his duties by addressing UN staff in New York.

Guterres emphasised the urgency of addressing the plight of refugees and displaced populations, calling out richer nations for their negligence in addressing their global responsibilities, an issue many expect him to target upon taking office.

“We live in a world in which conflicts multiply and are interlinked with this new phenomenon of global terrorism,” said Guterres. “Conflicts in which international humanitarian law is not respected, situations in which we see massive human rights violations, even refugee law is no longer as respected as it was few years ago. I remember the times when mostly borders would be open and now we see borders closed, now people do not even have the right to be a refugee in many parts of the world.”

“We live in a world where problems became global and there is no way they can be solved on a country by country basis" -- Antonio Guterres

In his speech Guterres also emphasised the importance of multilateralism to address global problems.

“When one looks at the global mega-trends of population growth, climate change, and other aspects that are interlinked, we see that we live in a world where problems became global and there is no way they can be solved on a country by country basis.”

Prior to becoming Secretary-General – a role he will initially hold for five years – Guterres was the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) from 2005 to 2015.

He oversaw the UNHCR during a time when the number of displaced persons worldwide grew to its highest number since World War II, exceeding 65 million. He is recognised for having managed the UNHCR’s response to the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Africa while also cutting staff and administrative costs and instituting wide-ranging reform of the organisation. He has pledged to bring a similar approach to the UN.

A number of key positions appointed by Guterres embraces diverse representation in the upper echelons of the organisation, and address the lack of gender parity to which previous Secretaries General had pledged to reform.

Nigeria’s Minister for the Environment Amina J. Mohammed was appointed Deputy Secretary-General. Under-Secretary for Asia and the Pacific at the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti becomes Chef de Cabinet. Guterres created the role of Special Adviser on Policy, Kyunga-wha Kang of South Korea who has previously served as Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator. The role of Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination in the Executive Office will be filled by Fabrizio Hochschild, former Deputy Special Representative for the UN Mission in the Central African Republic.

Spokesman for the Secretary General Stéphane Dujarric told a press conference that Guterres’ biggest challenge was to work with member states on achieving peace. “Many people are suffering from war and man-made disasters. He will focus on trying to meet the expectations that people have of this organisation (the UN).”

Dujarric also hinted that Guterres would be an open Secretary General. “As you’ll have seen if you’ve observed his career for the last ten years, he does hold press conferences frequently.”

Guterres was also quick to recognise the scale of the problems and the need for unity among the UN’s 193 member states to address them.

“I think it is useful to say that there are no miracles, and I am sure I am not a miracle-maker. And the only way for us to be able to achieve our goals is to really work together as a team, and to be able to deserve to serve the noble values enshrined in the Charter, that are the values of the UN, that are the values that unite mankind.”

The outgoing Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon described Guterres as a “wonderful choice” to lead the United Nations. “He is perhaps best known where it counts most: on the frontlines of armed conflict and humanitarian suffering.” Guterres inherits a complicated Syrian peace process; the highest number of migrant populations since the 1940s; increased tension between Israel and Palestinian; and a renewed push to admonish countries projected to fail to reach agreed climate change targets.

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Islamic Nations to Host Pledging Conference on Aid to Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/islamic-nations-to-host-pledging-conference-for-aid-to-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=islamic-nations-to-host-pledging-conference-for-aid-to-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/islamic-nations-to-host-pledging-conference-for-aid-to-yemen/#comments Thu, 29 Dec 2016 10:35:15 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148344 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 29 2016 (IPS)

While the international community remains intensely pre-occupied with the six-year-old civil war ravaging Syria, the ongoing military conflict in Yemen has triggered a relatively neglected humanitarian crises threatening to explode.

OIC Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Hesham Youssef

OIC Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Hesham Youssef

Since the conflict began in March 2015, an estimated 21 million people in Yemen are reported to be in need of assistance, including 10.3 million in desperate straits, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Responding to the crisis, the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is taking the lead in organizing a pledging conference for humanitarian assistance and development aid to one of the poorest countries in the Middle East devastated by a 22-month conflict which has claimed the lives of thousands of civilians and caused considerable damage to homes, schools and medical facilities.

Addressing a preparatory meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on December 18, Rashid Khalikov, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Partnerships with Middle East, said only $150 million had been received so far out of the total of about $1.6 billion pledged by international donors in 2016.

The proposed conference is being backed by the United Nations, the World Bank, the Yemeni government, member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and several international donors, including the US, Germany, Sweden, Japan and UK.

According to the OIC, UN findings in Yemen include: 21.2 million in need of humanitarian aid; 19.3 million with no access to safe drinking water; 14.1 million facing food shortages; and 2.2 million children suffering from acute malnutrition.

As of November, more than 7,000 people have been killed and over 43,000 injured, including more than 3,200 children killed or injured. Additionally, over 600 health facilities and 1,600 schools remain closed due to conflict-related damages, according to OCHA.

OIC Secretary General, General Yousuf Al-Othaimeen, said the aim of the conference “ is to find ways to support the Yemeni people” and the need to “bridge the huge gap in the required financing for humanitarian action in Yemen”.

The pledging conference is likely to take place in early 2017 but the venue is yet to be decided.

In an interview with IPS, OIC Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Hesham Youssef, said the primary objective of the conference is to “convene the international community to help in addressing the needs of the people of Yemen, boost the capacity for urgent humanitarian response and address the medium-term developmental needs in Yemen.”

“However, other aspects will also be considered and we are currently discussing other issues that can be considered in side events on the margins of the Conference. We will also work on finding ways to coordinate aid effort more effectively“.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: Is it largely a pledging conference seeking funds? Or does the proposed agenda also include negotiations for a peaceful settlement of the ongoing conflict?

Hesham Youssef: Yes, it is largely a pledging Conference. But it will also involve widening the scope of consultations the OIC has already begun with member states, civil society and international organizations in order to exchange information, enhance follow-up mechanisms and unify visions among partners on how to address the humanitarian and developmental needs of the people of Yemen.

Supporting the people of Yemen also means trying to find a resolution to the current crisis – something the OIC will continue to urge – but this is not the objective of this Conference.

That means calling for a comprehensive national reconciliation through the resumption of the political process within the framework of the Gulf Initiative, the outcomes of the 2014 Comprehensive National Dialogue conference, the 2015 Riyadh Declaration and the United Nations Security Council resolution 2216 (2015).

Q: Do you have a proposed target in terms of funding? And how confident are you that the conference will meet that target?

Hesham Youssef: Any target for funding depends very much on a thorough needs assessment. A UN detailed report will be ready in early January that will identify the needs on-the-ground.

Q: The UN has already complained that only $150 million has been received although international donors had pledged as much as $1.6 billion as humanitarian assistance to Yemen. Do you think the wide gap between pledges and deliveries may be due to the global economic recession?

Hesham Youssef: While domestic economic obstacles may well contribute to delays in delivery of donor pledges, it is imperative international donors appreciate that the cost of crises like that in Yemen could prove far costlier in the medium term.

Just as the Syria conflict has led to millions of refugees and regional instability, so too could the spill-over from the Yemen conflict adversely affect the international community in ways that costs it far more in future then it would to prevent such fallout now.

We also do not see huge complaints about how the global recession is affecting the massive military spending that supports military action on a global level, so the global downturn must not be used an excuse to not help those in need.

Q: Are there any countries that have already made pledges in advance of the conference?

Hesham Youssef: This is an ongoing process. Many donors have already supported the humanitarian relief efforts in Yemen and indicated a willingness to provide financial support. For example, at a bilateral level, the UAE has already provided around $1.6 billion to Yemen, Saudi Arabia has provided $274 million, plus one billion Saudi riyals, Kuwait is providing $100 million, along with assistance from the US, the European Union and U.K.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Arms Trade Treaty Falling Down in Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/arms-trade-treaty-falling-down-in-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=arms-trade-treaty-falling-down-in-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/arms-trade-treaty-falling-down-in-yemen/#comments Tue, 27 Dec 2016 21:06:42 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148319 A campaign in support of the Arms Trade Treaty argued that weapons were subject to fewer regulations than bananas. Credit: Coralie Tripier / IPS.

A campaign in support of the Arms Trade Treaty argued that weapons were subject to fewer regulations than bananas. Credit: Coralie Tripier / IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 27 2016 (IPS)

Two years after the UN Arms Trade Treaty entered into force many of the governments which championed the treaty are failing to uphold it, especially when it comes to the conflict in Yemen.

“In terms of implementation, the big disappointment is Yemen,” Anna Macdonald, Director of Control Arms, a civil society organisation dedicated to the treaty, told IPS.

“The big disappointment is the countries that were in the forefront of calling for the treaty – and indeed who still champion it as a great achievement in international disarmament and security – are now prepared to violate it by persisting in their arms sales to Saudi Arabia,” she added.

The Saudi-led international coalition has been responsible for thousands of civilian deaths in Yemen, and Saudi Arabia is known to have violated humanitarian law by bombing civilian targets, including hospitals.

The conflict in Yemen – the poorest country in the Middle East – has displaced over 3 million people since it began in March 2015 according to the UN.

However many countries, including the United Kingdom, United States and France, that have signed up to the Arms Trade Treaty continue to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, despite this violating their commitments under the treaty.

“The big disappointment is the countries that were in the forefront of calling for the treaty ... are now prepared to violate it by persisting in their arms sales to Saudi Arabia,” Anna Macdonald, Control Arms.

Currently 90 UN member states are parties to the treaty, which Macdonald says is a relatively high number for such a new and complex treaty, but the goal remains universalisation, she adds. The treaty entered into force on 24 December 2014. However while the U.K. and France have ratified the treaty, the U.S. has only signed the treaty.

Parties to the treaty are obligated to ensure that weapons they sell will not be used to violate international humanitarian law, commit genocide or commit crimes against humanity.

The U.K.’s sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia has been the subject of intense debate in British parliament.

Saudi authorities recently confirmed that they have used UK-made cluster munitions in Yemen.

“Evidence of cluster munition use has been available for almost a year, but the U.K. has ignored and disputed it, trusting instead in the Saudi-led coalition’s denials,” said Macdonald.

“The UK is continuing to ignore the vast amount of information of violations of human rights and the laws of war in Yemen, (recent developments) make even plainer how unfeasible such a position is.”

The UK which sold the weapons to Saudi Arabia in 1989 has since signed up to the Cluster Munitions Convention, which prohibits the sale of cluster munitions because of their indiscriminate nature, Macdonald added.

Meanwhile recent reports suggest the United States is curtailing at least some of its arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

“The U.S. has said it will halt the sale of precision-guided aerial bombs to Saudi Arabia because they have seen “systemic, endemic problems with Saudi Arabia’s targeting” that the U.S. says has led to high numbers of civilian casualties in Yemen,” said Macdonald.

However she noted that it is hard to know what effect this will have on policies under the incoming Trump Republican administration.

According to research published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) the world’s top three arms exporters are the United States, Russia and China.

India, Saudi Arabia and China are the world’s top three arms importers.

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US Heads for Political Showdown with UNhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/us-heads-for-political-showdown-with-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-heads-for-political-showdown-with-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/us-heads-for-political-showdown-with-un/#comments Tue, 27 Dec 2016 16:16:32 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148317 United Nations Secretariat Building

United Nations Secretariat Building

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 27 2016 (IPS)

The United States has had a longstanding love-hate relationship with the United Nations ever since 1952 when the world body began operations in New York city on an 18-acre piece of land which housed an abattoir where cattle was being trucked daily for slaughter.

The late Republican Senator Jesse Helms, a fulltime chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a part-time UN basher, once said “providing funds to the UN was like pouring money into a rat hole.”

Former New York city Mayor Ed Koch used a five-letter word to describe the UN: a “sewer”. And one of his successors, Rudolph Giuliani, said he will not miss the UN if it decides to pack up and leave New York.

When the 193-member UN General Assembly voted some of the world’s “repressive regimes” as members of the Human Rights Commission (now the Human Rights Council), Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (Republican of California) hollered: “The inmates have taken over the asylum. And I don’t plan to give the lunatics any more American tax dollars to play with.”

And now, US President-elect Donald Trump, peeved over a Security Council resolution last week chastising Israel over its continued settlements in the occupied territories, has signaled an implicit warning he will review his relationship with the United Nations.

Having been rebuffed by outgoing President Barack Obama who refused to accede to Trump’s appeal to veto the resolution, the incoming President, who will take office on January 20, challenged the effectiveness of the world body and dismissed it as “a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.”

Immediately after the resolution was adopted by a vote of 14–nil, with the US abstaining, he held out a warning: “As to the UN, things will be different after January 20.”

Currently, the US is the biggest single contributor accounting for 22 percent of the UN’s regular biennium budget, followed by Japan (9.7 percent), China (7.9 percent), Germany (6.7 percent) and France (4.8 percent) – all based on a country’s “capacity to pay”.

The UN’s 2016-2017 regular biennium budget amounts to about $5.4 billion, excluding its peacekeeping budget and voluntary contributions to UN Funds and Programmes.

Following the Security Council vote on Friday, Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) said he plans to form a bipartisan coalition to either suspend or reduce US funding for the UN.

And Senator Tom Cotton (Republican-Arkansas) warned that the UN and “nations supporting the resolution (against Israel) have now imperiled all forms of US assistance.”

While the US withheld its veto and abstained on the vote, the other four veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, namely, the UK, France, China and Russia, voted for the resolution, along with the 10 non-permanent members, namely, Angola, Egypt, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal, Spain, Ukraine, Uruguay and Venezuela.

A defiant Israel was livid, and in retaliation, threatened to build another 5,600 settlements in occupied Jerusalem thereby isolating itself further from the international community.

Jim Paul, former Executive Director of the New York-based Global Policy Forum, and who closely monitored the politics of the world body for over 19 years, told IPS the US threat of withholding its dues to the UN has been around for a long time – since the 1980s when it was first proposed by the Washington-based Heritage Foundation.

“This threat is effective only if it is believed and acted on by frightened UN officials or member states, who rush to adopt the latest requirements by the bully-state,” he noted.

“It actually might be healthy if the US dues were reduced and the UN were not so dependent on US financing, he added.

Paul pointed out that Swedish Prime Minister the late Olaf Palme once suggested that the UN’s dues structure should be changed so that no single country would pay more than 10 percent of the total budget(s).

“The cost to other states would not be very burdensome and the change might produce some real policy benefits,” said Paul, a well-known speaker and writer on the UN and global policy issues.

Over the years, successive US administrations have manipulated the UN to its own advantage as an extension of US foreign policy.

Paul pointed out that some delegates from governments who are out-of-favour in Washington are constrained to live within a specified distance from the city and some cannot travel beyond that distance in the US without special permission.

Every once in a while, he said, a head of state or other high official will be denied entry and thus an opportunity to speak at the UN.

“How important is this harassment and what does it tell us?”, he asked. It is short of horrendous and well past acceptable.

“We can conclude that Washington likes to remind the other states – and the UN as an institution – that it can do what it pleases and impose its will whether others like it or not.”

In Washington, they like to call this behavior “leadership” but “bully” might be the most appropriate term, said Paul, who frequently served as Chair or Vice Chair of the NGO Working Group on the Security Council.

Despite the 1947 Headquarters Agreement between the US and the UN, which calls on Washington to facilitate the functioning of the UN, the US has denied visas to several heads of governments planning to visit the UN to address the General Assembly or accredited as diplomats.

Palitha Kohona, a former Chief of the UN Treaty Section, told IPS the US was a key player in the creation of the UN and the organisation has served US interests well over the years.

“One might even say that the US has manipulated the UN to serve its global interests,” he argued.

Against this background, to return to the confrontational attitudes of the early 90s, when the US withheld its dues, would be self-defeating, said Kohona, a former Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN.

He said the US is no longer the only country with overwhelming financial clout.

“To threaten the UN with financial sanctions would only result in the further waning of US influence in the UN and globally. All countries, especially countries like the US, must continue to work together to make the world a better place,” he declared.

Although complaints against the UN have been never ending – including unpaid parking tickets, and tax–free and duty-free privileges for high-ranking UN-based diplomats – US politicians have rarely admitted the political and economic advantages of the presence of the UN on American soil.

And a new report released recently by the Office of the New York city Mayor points out that the UN generates $3.69 billion in total economic output to New York city’s economy.

The 15,890 individuals directly employed by the UN Community took home household earnings of approximately $1.64 billion. These household earnings and the operating expenses of the UN Community helped create and sustain 7,940 jobs for New Yorkers.

Titled “The United Nations Impact Report 2016”, it was released by the Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs Penny Abeywardena

In 1946, New York City competed with cities from London to San Francisco to host the official headquarters of the UN.

Unlike past Mayors, the current Mayor of New York city Bill de Blasio has been a strong supporter of the UN. “New York City is not only an economic and cultural capital, but a diplomatic one. We are proud to be the host city to the United Nations headquarters and the largest diplomatic community in the world,” he said following the release of the new report.

“The impact of the United Nations stretches far beyond New York City and this study reflects the city’s enduring commitment to supporting this critical institution,” he added

Still the political benefits of the UN to the United States have not been as clearly highlighted.

Kohona told IPS the US, with its vast economic and political influence, has without reluctance, manipulated the UN to justify its actions, including military interventions.

One recalls (former US Secretary of State) Colin Powell’s efforts, with videos and photographs, to convince the Security Council of the existence of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq or the intense phone calls to diplomats whose countries were members of the Human Rights Council when a US sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka was being taken up for vote at the Council.

He said evidence is also now emerging of the blatant US manipulation of the global media, including with manufactured news, with the objective of influencing diplomatic outcomes.

The current Secretary-General, whose interventions, have generally been on the side of the US, also tends to be influenced by the US and the New York media.

His home being in New York is a factor in this outcome. Perhaps the Secretary-General should rotate his residence around the capitals of the P-5, including in the UK, France, China and Russia.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Historic UN Security Council Vote Condemns Israeli Settlementshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/historic-un-security-council-vote-condemns-israeli-settlements/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=historic-un-security-council-vote-condemns-israeli-settlements http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/historic-un-security-council-vote-condemns-israeli-settlements/#comments Fri, 23 Dec 2016 21:26:12 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148295 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/historic-un-security-council-vote-condemns-israeli-settlements/feed/ 0 Security Council Vote on Israeli Settlements Postponed Indefinitelyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/security-council-vote-on-israeli-settlements-postponed-indefinitely/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=security-council-vote-on-israeli-settlements-postponed-indefinitely http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/security-council-vote-on-israeli-settlements-postponed-indefinitely/#comments Thu, 22 Dec 2016 21:53:44 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148285 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/security-council-vote-on-israeli-settlements-postponed-indefinitely/feed/ 0