Inter Press ServicePeace – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 19 Sep 2018 14:09:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Chairman of the Geneva Centre: South-South cooperation brings peace and stability to the Global Southhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/chairman-geneva-centre-south-south-cooperation-brings-peace-stability-global-south/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chairman-geneva-centre-south-south-cooperation-brings-peace-stability-global-south http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/chairman-geneva-centre-south-south-cooperation-brings-peace-stability-global-south/#respond Wed, 12 Sep 2018 07:21:52 +0000 Geneva Centre http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157570 Enhanced South-South cooperation is key to addressing instability and armed conflict as well as to bringing peace and stability to the Global South, says the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim on the occasion of the 2018 International Day for South-South Cooperation. “Enhanced […]

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By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Sep 12 2018 (Geneva Centre)

Enhanced South-South cooperation is key to addressing instability and armed conflict as well as to bringing peace and stability to the Global South, says the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim on the occasion of the 2018 International Day for South-South Cooperation.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

Enhanced South-South cooperation in the political, economic, social, cultural, environmental and technical spheres as well as adopting joint positions on human rights policies in international fora will undoubtedly strengthen the capacity of developing countries to meet the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations,” said Dr. Al Qassim.

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman observed that enhanced South-South cooperation was required to turn conflict into cooperation and to address global issues requiring a coordinated response from countries in the Global South.

Economic cooperation and trade between countries in the Global South serve as instruments to foster greater economic integration and the realization of common aspirations. This cooperation should be made to extend to the area of multilateral human rights issues to ascertain that universal values prevail over politicization in particular in UN fora. Ideological and political differences in this context should not dim the voice of the Global South in their joint pursuit of peace and stability,” Dr. Al Qassim stressed.

In this connection, the Geneva Centre’s Chairman appealed to decision-makers in the Global South to settle political disputes and to promote peaceful relations. He remarked that major armed conflicts occur primarily in the Global South and hinder the achievement of durable peace and development. More than 90% of active conflicts worldwide take place between and within developing countries. At the same time, economic growth and the predominance of human rights in developing societies will in turn consolidate peace and security.
In this connection, Dr. Al Qassim praised the landmark peace declaration signed on 9 July 2018 by the leaders of Eritrea and Ethiopia to end one of Africa’s most prolonged conflict.

Peace and stability are preconditions for economic growth, development, trade and for human rights to prevail. Armed conflict and military confrontation hinder trade and economic growth and jeopardize the rule of law. Greater efforts should therefore be undertaken by decision-makers in promoting peaceful relations between developed countries.

I therefore hail the recent decision of the leaders of Eritrea and Ethiopia to set aside political differences and to work jointly towards peace, stability and prosperity for their peoples. I also salute the efforts of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE’s Armed Forces, in restoring the relationship between both countries after two decades of conflict. I voice the hope this human right will thereby be enhanced in the whole region,” Dr. Al Qassim underlined.

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The US vs. UNRWA: Who’s the Real Loser?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/us-vs-unrwa-whos-real-loser/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-vs-unrwa-whos-real-loser http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/us-vs-unrwa-whos-real-loser/#comments Fri, 07 Sep 2018 14:36:44 +0000 Mona Ali Khalil http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157516 Mona Ali Khalil, PassBlue*

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For the first time, students from the West Bank met students from Gaza through an UNRWA summer program. Here, they say farewell after a camping activity, July 20, 2017. The US decision to end funding to the UN agency that administers to Palestinian refugees will damage everyone in the region, including Israel, the author argues. Credit: FADI THABET/UNRWA

By Mona Ali Khalil
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 7 2018 (IPS)

It is entirely the United States’ prerogative to cut off its voluntary contributions to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA.

In her statements about why the Trump administration has decided to do so, however, Ambassador Nikki Haley misses the mark on who should be grateful for her country’s past largess and whose interests will actually be hurt.

On Aug. 29, Haley said, “The Palestinians continue to bash America . . . this is the government, not the people,” but “they have their hand out wanting UNRWA money.” On a separate occasion, Haley also said that “as of now, they’re not coming to the table, but they ask for aid. We’re not giving the aid, we’re going to make sure they come to the table and we want to move forward with the peace process.”

Contrary to what Haley said, US funding to UNRWA is not a favor to the Palestinian people or to the Palestinian government. It is, in fact, a favor to Israel.

As any occupying power, Israel is obliged, under international humanitarian law, to ensure the welfare and well-being of the occupied population, including maintaining public order and public health and providing food and medical care.

These are among the forms of assistance that Unrwa delivers to the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and as refugees in neighboring countries.

Accordingly, when Unrwa fulfills its UN mandate, it is fulfilling Israel’s responsibilities. Nonetheless, Israel retains ultimate responsibility for meeting these obligations.

So, if the UN agency is ever unable to continue to provide these services, then Israel will, at least as a matter of international law, resume its responsibility for doing so.

Moreover, when the US generously grants $300 million in annual contributions to help Unrwa heal, educate and shelter Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, it is thus adding a stipend of $300 million to its far more generous $5 billion annual contribution to Israel.

It is ironic that with the same $300 million in grants, Israel can buy about 10 F-15s or 15 Apache helicopters — US-made weapons — which it uses to make another kind of delivery, bombs and missiles, to Palestine and occasionally to neighbouring countries.

Despite the asymmetry of her government’s generosity, Haley demands gratitude from Unrwa’s beneficiaries — the besieged people of Gaza and the millions of refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria but not from Israel — one of the wealthiest and most militarily and technologically advanced nations in the world.

As for that peace table that Haley keeps referring to, she should be reminded that Washington appears to have found a faster and easier path to “peace” that dispenses with tables as well as with fairness to, and equality between, the parties.

Instead, the Trump administration has chosen unilateral decrees on the final-status issues — not only deciding for the parties but also doing so consistently in favor of one party.

So why bother inviting the other party to a table when everything has seemingly been determined: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel; the Palestinian refugees are no longer refugees and therefore no longer have a right of return; the illegal settlements in the West Bank will define the borders of Israel; and Israel is a uniquely Jewish state, although a third of its citizens are Christian or Muslim.

The current US policy will not help those who want peace and security for both the Israeli and Palestinian people. It won’t help American standing in the region or in the world at large. It won’t even help Israel. According to Israel’s own military and intelligence officials, it might help the radicals and violent extremists.

Did the architects of this flawed policy want to reduce the prospects of peace in the Middle East by design or by default?

*PassBlue is an independent, women-led digital publication offering in-depth journalism on the US-UN relationship, as well as women’s issues, human rights, peacekeeping and other urgent global matters, reported from its base in the UN press corps.

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Excerpt:

Mona Ali Khalil, PassBlue*

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Culture of Peace Embedded in Every Word on the UN Charterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/culture-peace-embedded-every-word-un-charter/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=culture-peace-embedded-every-word-un-charter http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/culture-peace-embedded-every-word-un-charter/#respond Wed, 05 Sep 2018 18:44:06 +0000 Miroslav http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157477 Miroslav Lajčák, President of the current 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, in his address to the Forum on a Culture of Peace

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Miroslav Lajčák, President of the current 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, in his address to the Forum on a Culture of Peace

By Miroslav Lajčák
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 5 2018 (IPS)

As we open this Forum, I will make three main points. First, I want to ask: what does a culture of peace actually mean?

And, frankly it might be different for every person in this room. But I will share some elements, which have stuck with me.

Miroslav Lajčák

The first is time. Peace takes a lot of time.

It cannot be installed. It cannot be erected,

It must be built up – block after block, layer after layer. And this must be done, not by the hands of internationals– but by the people on the ground; the people who were there – in their countries, and in their villages – when peace was not.

Cultures do not come about in a day or a week. And neither does peace. A second element is simplicity. “The culture of peace”.

This is a very simple phrase. It can be easily translated into different languages. And it can be understood – even without a degree in philosophy, or years of experience at the United Nations.

Because we all have some idea of culture.

It is around us, every day. It’s in what we do…where we go…how we speak. And if peace is not a part of these everyday habits – then we simply do not have a culture of peace.

And, thirdly, another element is hope. Let’s be frank: a culture of peace is not, yet, a reality.

Conflicts rage on, across the world. International terrorism poses as grave a threat as ever. And political and religious intolerance is rising.

But we have chosen not to accept this, as our fate. In fact, through this resolution – and this Forum – we are saying no.

We are recommitting to the very ideals of the United Nations Charter. We are showing that it is in our power, to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. Not in some places in the world – but in all.

And that is a powerful message of hope. This brings me to my second point – on the United Nations Charter.

The document doesn’t specifically mention a “culture of peace”. But I believe it is embedded in every word.

And I think we are closer now – than we have ever been – to an international system, which can support and promote a culture of peace.

In the past, our tools and mechanisms were designed to react to conflict. They jumped into action when there was an outbreak in violence, or when a peace treaty was signed.

Now we are opening our eyes. We are asking ourselves the question: what can we do, proactively, to build peace, from the ground up, and to make sure it won’t go anywhere, in the future?

So, we have moved from reactive to proactive; from response to prevention; from concentrating on the effects of conflict to exploring the accelerators of peace.

And central to that has been a renewed focus on conflict prevention and peacebuilding – which are all part of a larger cycle of Sustaining Peace.

Not just in theory. But also, in practice. And here’s the thing: We are doing this. Now.

We are reforming the United Nations’ peace and security pillar.

We are investing more in mediation and peacebuilding capacities.

We are reviewing the way our peacekeeping operations work on the ground.

And we are looking at how our efforts for Sustainable Development and human rights have a direct impact on prospects for peace.

Last April, we all met in this hall. We listened to leaders, policy makers and activists give their take on this new approach to peace. And what we heard was very exciting.

Commitments to preventive diplomacy. Calls for a “quantum leap” in peacebuilding finance. Discussions on coherence and partnerships. And success stories from the ground.

So, it is happening. In this hall. In offices nearby. And in UN country teams and peace operations all over the world.

We are moving our international system towards a culture of peace.

But, as my third point, I want to highlight that, to get there, we need to widen our approach.

We cannot achieve a culture of peace from a hall like this. We need to take action on the ground. And we need new approaches. In some cases, that means a complete re-set.

For example, students all over the world are studying peace theory in university. But maybe we need to start much sooner. Maybe young children should not, only, be learning lessons in maths and history – but also in humanity and peace.

Also, we are seeing some exciting initiatives, which bring all three pillars of the United Nations together. For example, the UN’s Peace and Development Advisers – who are deployed in the field. Now, we need to scale these best practices up – and bring all areas of the United Nations’ work together, for a cultural shift.

And we must remember: culture includes– not just some – but everyone.

So, gender equality is crucial. Every time a woman is denied her voice, her rights, or her place in society – we are taking a step away from a culture of peace. Also, if young people continue to be excluded from our decisions and processes, we won’t get very far.

So, we need everyone involved. From heads of states and top United Nations officials, to the people who work, for the United Nations, academic institutions or NGOs on the ground.

The late Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, delivered a Nobel Lecture, in 2001. During it, he said, “Peace must be made real and tangible in the daily existence of every individual in need”.

That is a simple message. But it is an important one. Peace should not be a theory. It should not be a principle, or an aim, or an outcome. It should not have a budget or a timeline.

Instead, peace should be something that we can touch, see, feel and experience – on a daily basis. It should be in the air around us or the ground we walk on. It should, in essence, be a culture.

And one that is here to stay.

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Excerpt:

Miroslav Lajčák, President of the current 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, in his address to the Forum on a Culture of Peace

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“We Should Not Wait” — Action Needed on Myanmarhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/not-wait-action-needed-myanmar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=not-wait-action-needed-myanmar http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/not-wait-action-needed-myanmar/#comments Tue, 04 Sep 2018 08:57:23 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157443 After the release of a scathing report on Myanmar’s human rights violations, next steps to achieve accountability and justice remain elusive and uncertain.   A year after the re-escalation of violence that forced almost a million people to flee to neighbouring countries, a fact-finding mission found a “human rights catastrophe” in Myanmar. “The gross human […]

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Rohingya alight from a boat as they arrive at Shahparir Dip in Teknaf, Bangladesh in 2017. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 4 2018 (IPS)

After the release of a scathing report on Myanmar’s human rights violations, next steps to achieve accountability and justice remain elusive and uncertain.  

A year after the re-escalation of violence that forced almost a million people to flee to neighbouring countries, a fact-finding mission found a “human rights catastrophe” in Myanmar.

“The gross human rights violations and abuses committed in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States are shocking for their horrifying nature and ubiquity,” the report states.

“Many of these violations undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law,” it continued.“The U.N. system really failed the people of Myanmar particularly the Rohingya by treading softly.” -- Human Rights Watch’s U.N. Director Louis Charbonneau

Triggered by insurgent attacks on security forces, the report pointed a finger to Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, for committing the gravest of crimes including indiscriminate killing, burning of houses, and sexual violence.

The investigators identified six generals, including the commander in chief of the Tatmadaw Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and recommended that they be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court (ICC) or at an alternative tribunal.

“There needs to be an unequivocal message sent that Myanmar’s military cannot act with impunity against ethnic minorities in Myanmar again,” Amnesty International’s Asia Advocacy Manager Francisco Bencosme told IPS.

“Never again has to mean never again – and the entire world is watching to see what the international community does,” he continued.

Like Bencosme, Human Rights Watch’s U.N. Director Louis Charbonneau also told IPS that the Security Council should refer the situation in Myanmar to the ICC or create a special criminal tribunal for prosecution.

But how did we get here?

Years of systematic oppression against Myanmar’s ethnic minorities made the crisis “foreseeable”—so what happened?

A System-Wide Failure

In 2008, the U.N. failed to heed warnings of increasing violence between the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and did not report evidence of widespread government violations and casualties.

A 2012 internal review found that various U.N. agencies including the Security Council failed at every level to protect civilians and meet their responsibilities in the last months of the civil war in the South Asian nation.

In the wake of the fiasco, the U.N. implemented the Human Rights Up Front Initiative to ensure a better system of monitoring and responding to international crises. Though Myanmar was identified as a situation requiring the Action Plan’s human rights response to crises, the approach was rarely, if ever, used, the report stated.

Instead, U.N. agencies continued to prioritise development goals, humanitarian access, and quiet diplomacy—an approach which “demonstrably failed.”

“The U.N. system really failed the people of Myanmar particularly the Rohingya by treading softly,” Charbonneau told IPS.

“Now instead of us saying ‘never again’ after Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Srebrenica—here we are saying well yet again it happened. The U.N. didn’t do what it was supposed to be doing, it didn’t raise the alarm bells to the extent that they could have,” he continued.

The Security Council’s response, or lack thereof, has been equally disappointing. The U.N. organ has had only a handful of meetings on Myanmar and none have resulted in any resolution.

In contrast, Syria has received special attention over the last seven years with numerous meetings in the “triple digits.”

“Given the scale of the crisis in Myanmar, it is difficult to reconcile the different responses of the Security Council particularly given a situation where the U.N. for sometime has been warning about the possibility of the ‘g’ word that is genocide,” Charbonneau said.

“It would be good to see an attempt to really push the Council to try something. We haven’t seen that yet and I don’t know if we will see it,” he continued.

China and Russia, Security Council members with veto power, have consistently pushed back on efforts to act on Myanmar’s crisis, stating that the crisis should only be resolved by the parties directly affected including Bangladesh where over 700,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to.

In the Security Council’s first open meeting on Myanmar in eight years, Russia’s ambassador Vasily Nebenzya warned against claims of ethnic cleansing and blaming Myanmar’s authorities as it “will make it more difficult to achieve lasting interethnic peace inside the country.”

Whether it is genocide or crimes against humanity, Bencosme highlighted the need for the international community to act with respect to Myanmar.

“We don’t need a legal diagnosis to understand that something desperately tragic and clearly unlawful has been happening in Myanmar. What matters most is that a civilian population is under attack because of its race or religion, and that these violations must stop immediately,” he told IPS.

Myanmar has repeatedly denied accusations of violations including those most recently published through the fact-finding mission’s report.

“Myanmar authorities have shown themselves to be both unable and unwilling to investigate and prosecute those responsible. As a result, the ICC is the appropriate route to deliver justice,” Bencosme said.

However, since Myanmar is not a member of the ICC, only a member of the Security Council can bring the case to the tribunal.

“The time for rhetoric is over – there needs to be action. There needs to be genuine accountability and justice. There needs to be an honest conversation about referring the situation to the International Criminal Court. We need to pursue all avenues of justice for these victims and their families who are the heart of the crisis,” Bencosme concluded.

Urgent Action Needed

While Charbonneau expressed hope that the new report will “reenergise” the U.N., he noted that we should not idly wait.

“I don’t think we should be waiting around for the Security Council—too often the Council doesn’t move on issues and it’s more deadlock than ever these days. We may have to keep using these work-arounds like the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council,” he told IPS.

Among the alternative avenues for action is the establishment of an impartial mechanism by the Human Rights Council or General Assembly to collect, analyse, and preserve evidence for future potential criminal proceedings in the ICC or another criminal tribunal.

The report also recommends that the U.N. urgently adopt a common strategy to address human rights concerns in Myanmar in line with the Human Rights Up Front Action Plan, as well as a comprehensive inquiry into whether the U.N. did everything possible to prevent or mitigate Myanmar’s crisis.

“The time has past for these feeble condemnations or expressions of concern that we are so used to from the U.N.—we just really need action,” Charbonneau said.

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Damning U.N. Report Outlines Crimes Against Rohingya As Children Suffer from Trauma One Year Laterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later/#respond Mon, 27 Aug 2018 23:38:55 +0000 Farid Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157366 At 12, Mohammed* is an orphan. He watched his parents being killed by Myanmar government soldiers a year ago. And he is one of an estimated half a million Rohingya children who have survived and been witness to what the United Nations has called genocide. According to accounts in a U.N. fact-finding report released today, […]

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A damning reporting by the United Nations on the Myanmar’s army crimes against the Rohingya may come too late for these Rohingya children, many of whom remain traumatised as witnesses of the genocide. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

By Farid Ahmed
DHAKA, Aug 27 2018 (IPS)

At 12, Mohammed* is an orphan. He watched his parents being killed by Myanmar government soldiers a year ago. And he is one of an estimated half a million Rohingya children who have survived and been witness to what the United Nations has called genocide.

According to accounts in a U.N. fact-finding report released today, the children were likely witnesses to their homes and villages being burnt down, to mass killings, and to the rape of their mothers. As girls, they would have likely been raped themselves.

It has been a year since the atrocities in Myanmar’s Rakhine state led to the exodus of some 700,000 Rohingya—some 60 percent of whom where children, according to the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF)—into neighbouring Bangladesh and to the coastal Cox’s Bazar district were the refugee camps have been set up.

And life remains difficult for the children in these camps.

While some who live in the squalid camps find it hard to envision themselves returning to a normal life; others, like Mohammed, dream of justice.

“I want justice… I want the soldiers to face trial,” he tells IPS, saying he wants justice from the soldiers who “ruined his life”.

“They killed our people, grabbed our land and torched our houses. They killed both my mother and father. I am now living with my sister,” he says.


A year ago, on Aug. 25, Myanmar government forces responded to a Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attack on a military base. But, according to the report by the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, “the nature, scale and organisation of the operations suggests a level of preplanning and design on the part of the Tatmadaw [Myanmar’s military] leadership.”

The report outlines how  “the operations were designed to instil immediate terror, with people woken by intense rapid weapons fire, explosions, or the shouts and screams of villagers. Structures were set ablaze and Tatmadaw soldiers fired their guns indiscriminately into houses and fields, and at villagers.”

It also notes that “rape and other forms of sexual violence were perpetrated on a massive scale” and that “sometimes up to 40 women and girls were raped or gang raped together. One survivor stated, “I was lucky, I was only raped by three men.””

The report calls for a full investigation into genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, calling for Myanmar’s top generals to be investigated for genocide in Rakhine state.

Senior-general Min Aung Hlaing is listed in the report as an alleged direct perpetrator of crimes, while the head of state, Aung San Suu Kyi, was heavily criticised in the report for not using her position “nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events, or seek alternative avenues to meet a responsibility to protect the civilian population.”

While rights agencies have responded to the report calling on international bodies and the U.N. to hold to account those responsible for the crimes, local groups have been calling for long-term solutions to aid the surviving Rohingya children.

A Rohingya girl proudly holds up her drawing at a UNICEF school at Balukhali camp, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Since their arrival in Bangladesh many Rohingya children have not received a proper education, while the healthcare facilities have been strained by the large numbers of people seeking assistance.

While scores of global and local NGOs, aid groups, U.N. agencies and the Bangladesh government are working to support the refugees, aid workers are concerned as many of the children remain traumatised by their experiences.

While they are receiving trauma counselling, it is still not enough.

“Whenever there is a darkness at night, I’m scared and feel somebody is coming to kill us… sometimes I see it in my dream when I’m asleep… sometimes I see our room is filled with blood,” 11-year-old Ayesha Ali*, who was studying at a madrassa at Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, tells IPS.

UNICEF in an alert last week warned that denial of basic rights could result in the Rohingya children becoming a “lost generation”.

“With no end in sight to their bleak exile, despair and hopelessness are growing among the refugees, alongside a fatalism about what the future has in store,” the alert states.

It is estimated that 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are housed in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh. Credit: Mojibur Rahaman Rana/IPS

A number of children in the camps have lost either one or both parents. Last November, Bangladesh’s department of social services listed 39,841 Rohingya children as having lost either their mother or father, or lost contact with them during the exodus. A total of 8,391 children lost both of their parents.

“Most of the children saw the horrors of brutality and if they are not properly dealt with, they might have developed a mind of retaliation. Sometimes the small children talk like this: ‘We’ll kill the army…because they killed our people.’ They are growing up with a sort of hatred for the Myanmar army,” aid worker Abdul Mannan tells IPS.

And while there are 136 specialised, child-friendly zones for children and hundreds of learning centre across Cox Bazar, UNICEF notes it is only now “developing a strategy to ensure consistency and quality in the curriculum.”

BRAC, a development organisation based in Bangladesh, points out current learning centres and other facilities for children are not enough for the proper schooling and future development of the children.

“What we’re giving to the children is not enough to stand them in good stead,” Mohammed Abdus Salam, head of humanitarian crisis management programme of BRAC, tells IPS.

Newly arrived Rohingya refugees enter Teknaf from Shah Parir Dwip after being ferried from Myanmar across the Naf River. Credit: Farid Ahmed/ IPS

Salam says that the children and women in the camps also remain vulnerable. “Especially the boys and girls who have lost their parents or guardians are the most vulnerable as there was no long-term programme for them,” he says, adding that many were still traumatised and suffered from nightmares. Cox Bazar is a hub of drugs and human traffickers, and children without guardians remain at risk.

Both the Bangladesh government and international aid officials say that they are trying hard to cope with the situation in Cox Bazar which is the largest and most densely-populated refugee settlement in the world.

But Salam says that it is urgent to formulate long-term plans for both education and healthcare if the repatriation process was procrastinated. “Otherwise, many of the children will be lost as they are not properly protected,” he says.

*Names changed to protect the identity of the children.

Additional reporting by Nalisha Adams in Johannesburg.

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Q&A: Comoros Power Grab Rejected by Opposition, Amid Pleas for International Interventionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/qa-comoros-power-grab-rejected-opposition-amid-pleas-international-intervention/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-comoros-power-grab-rejected-opposition-amid-pleas-international-intervention http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/qa-comoros-power-grab-rejected-opposition-amid-pleas-international-intervention/#respond Thu, 23 Aug 2018 12:16:36 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157326 President Azali Assoumani of the Comoros Islands is tightening his grip on power. First, he insisted on holding a referendum allowing him to extend his term of office and abolish the country’s constitutional court. Which he won. And now, the lawyer of former President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi has said that his client has been charged […]

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Former Comoros president Ahmed Abdallah Sambi has been charged with corruption and the misappropriation of public funds in a passport fraud. He has been under house arrest by current president Azali Assoumani for the last three months. Courtesy: Abubakar Aboud

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Aug 23 2018 (IPS)

President Azali Assoumani of the Comoros Islands is tightening his grip on power. First, he insisted on holding a referendum allowing him to extend his term of office and abolish the country’s constitutional court. Which he won. And now, the lawyer of former President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi has said that his client has been charged Tuesday with corruption and the misappropriation of public funds in a passport fraud.

This July, Assoumani held a referendum in the Indian Ocean archipelago, giving himself a mandate that widely extends his powers.

The constitutional draft allows for the President of the Union of the Comoros to now ratify international treaties and agreements without consulting parliament. The text also provides for the abolition of the three vice-presidencies, as well as the Constitutional Court. The Comoros was plunged into crisis in April when Assoumani suspended the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the country, sparking opposition protests.

Under the current constitution, power rotates every five years between the archipelago’s three main islands. But this has also been done away with through the referendum.

Sambi, who is a leading critic of Assoumani’s rule and president of the vocal opposition, the Juwa Party, was placed under house arrest three months ago. Since then has not been allowed any visitors, though his lawyer Mahamoud Ahamada saw him on the afternoon of Tuesday, Aug. 21.

The Juwa party has rejected the mandate extending Assoumani’s powers, and has called for immediate international intervention to restore democracy.

Comoros, situated in the Indian Ocean between Mozambique and Madagascar, is one of the world’s poorest countries. It has been repeatedly shaken by separatist movements and instability prior to the passing of a new constitution in 2001, which provides for the rotation of power between the islands.

Advisor to Sambi, Abubakar Aboud, told IPS that they have reached out to the international community to intervene in the political crisis unfolding in the Comoros to avoid bloodshed. Excerpts of the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): The referendum has given Assoumani carte blanche to grab power, as it were, with an extension to his rule. Do you accept this outcome?

Abubakar  Aboud (AA): We do not approve at all the electoral process that Colonel Azali [Assoumani] has started. This process is illegal to the extent that it has violated the fundamental texts of our country. Colonel Azali [Assoumani] put an end to the Constitutional Court without consulting the people. From that moment on, we cannot accept the results of this illegal process.

IPS: What about the charges against Sambi?

AA: The arrest as well as all the charges are purely political. In parallel, the lawyers will ask for a provisional release of president Sambi, who has now been a political prisoner of Colonel Azali [Assoumani] for over three months.

IPS: What does this mean for the fragile democracy in Comoros?

AA: I fear the worst for the fragile peace of our country. It is very disturbing to see a colonel put our country in danger for the sole purpose of holding on to power. Our country has not tasted the benefits of democracy for long, and now Colonel Azali [Assoumani] is demolishing everything that we have built for his own interests.

IPS: What action will you take, or can you take, now if you are to save the country from the autocratic rule?

AA: We do not want violence in the country. And yet, Colonel Azali [Assoumani] is doing everything to crush the discordant voices we are part of as members of the opposition. To avoid confrontations that could cause bloodshed, we regularly call on the international community for help. These calls are becoming more and more urgent as almost all the members of the opposition are either arrested or have suspended sentences.

 

IPS: What is the feeling on the other islands’ about this result?

AA: Everyone feels betrayed by the colonel and his men. The Comoran people are very peaceful. But Azali [Assoumani] is driving the people to revolt. I feel a lot of anger and frustration among the population. I don’t know how long the current patience will last, but we are dangerously close to reaching [the] limit.

IPS: Where do you see the future of Comoros now?

AA: I hope to see my country return to the democracy that we fought so hard to achieve. I hope for a brighter future, even though we are crossing the darkest path of our history… I see this future without Colonel Azali [Assoumani], because he will have to answer for the violations of human rights and the acts of high treason.

IPS: What of ex-president Sambi? Is he safe and how does he feel about this turn of events?

AA: His lawyer, Mahamoud Ahamada, saw him Tuesday [Aug. 21] and told us he seems a little bit weak but he is okay.  I did not have the ex-president’s opinion on this electoral masquerade. But knowing him, I’m sure he shares our opinion on it.

IPS: What are your next steps to challenge this result?

AA: We are waiting for the international community to react. If they don’t do it fast, we’ll be obliged to do it ourselves by any means necessary. Formal letters have been signed by president Sambi and his lawyers have sent them by mail today [Aug. 22] to the United Nations and the African Union.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Annan Denounced Iraqi Invasion as “Illegal” & Criticized Military Leaders Addressing UNhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/annan-denounced-iraqi-invasion-as-illegal-criticized-military-leaders-addressing-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=annan-denounced-iraqi-invasion-as-illegal-criticized-military-leaders-addressing-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/annan-denounced-iraqi-invasion-as-illegal-criticized-military-leaders-addressing-un/#respond Mon, 20 Aug 2018 10:17:43 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157266 The Secretary-General of the United Nations, who is  a creature of member states, rarely challenges or defies his creators. But Kofi Annan, who died last week at the age of 80, did both. Surprisingly, he lived to tell the tale– but paid an unfairly heavy price after being hounded by the United States. When the […]

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Kofi Annan. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Kofi Annan. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 20 2018 (IPS)

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, who is  a creature of member states, rarely challenges or defies his creators. But Kofi Annan, who died last week at the age of 80, did both. Surprisingly, he lived to tell the tale– but paid an unfairly heavy price after being hounded by the United States.

When the US invaded Iraq in March 2003, he described the invasion as “illegal” because it did not have the blessings of the 15-member UN Security Council (UNSC), the only institution in the world body with the power to declare war and peace.

But the administration of President George W. Bush went after him for challenging its decision to unilaterally declare war against Iraq: an attack by one member state against another for no legally-justifiable reason.

The weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), reportedly in Iraq’s military arsenal, which was one of the primary reasons for the invasion, were never found.

Subsequently, Annan came under heavy fire for misperceived lapses in the implementation of the “Oil-for-Food” programme which was aimed at alleviating the sufferings of millions of Iraqis weighed down by UN sanctions.

Ian Williams, author of UNtold: The Real Story of the United Nations in Peace and War, told IPS: “While I am heartened by the outpouring of appreciation for Kofi Annan, I can’t help but notice the contrast with the sound of silence when the Rupert Murdoch press and its followers had his back to the wall with the spurious Oil-for-Food crisis they had manufactured.”

All too many stood back and stayed silent as Annan spent long months under constant sniper fire, he recounted.

While few now remember the Oil for Food crisis, said Williams, it was billed at the time as the “greatest financial scandal” in history.

He said the so-called crisis “was a savage assault on Kofi’s greatest asset– and his perceptible integrity took a severe personal toll, as people who should have known better kept their silence.”

“It was in fact one of the greatest “fake news” concoctions in history, almost up there with Iraqi WMDs. That was no coincidence since many of the sources for both were the same,” said Williams, a senior analyst who has written for newspapers and magazines around the world, including the Australian, The Independent, New York Observer, The Financial Times and The Guardian.

“While I am heartened by the outpouring of appreciation for Kofi Annan, I can’t help but notice the contrast with the sound of silence when the Rupert Murdoch press and its followers had his back to the wall with the spurious Oil-for-Food crisis they had manufactured.”
Annan also virtually challenged the General Assembly which continued to offer its podium to political leaders who had come to power by undemocratic means or via military coups.

In 2004, when the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor of the present African Union (AU), barred coup leaders from participating in African summits, Annan singled it out as a future model to punish military dictators worldwide.

Annan went one step further and said he was hopeful that one day the UN General Assembly, the highest policy making body in the Organization, would follow in the footsteps of the OAU and bar leaders of military governments from addressing the General Assembly.

Annan’s proposal was a historic first. But it never came to pass in an institution where member states, not the Secretary-General, rule the roost.

The outspoken Annan, a national of Ghana, also said that “billions of dollars of public funds continue to be stashed away by some African leaders — even while roads are crumbling, health systems are failing, school children have neither books nor desks nor teachers, and phones do not work.”

He also lashed out at African leaders who overthrow democratic regimes to grab power by military means.

Jayantha Dhanapala, who served under Annan as Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, told IPS that Annan was “my friend and my Secretary-General”.

He was without doubt the “best Secretary-General the UN was privileged to have, after Dag Hammarskjold,” and steered the global body into the 21st century, with a vision and dedication sadly unmatched by the global leaders of the day, said Dhanapala.

“Kofi was dedicated to the cause of disarmament and re-established the Department for Disarmament Affairs in 1998 appointing me as its head, as part of his UN reforms. It was an honour to serve in his Senior Management Team for five eventful years and implement his policies for the reform of the UN.  His legacy will endure and be an inspiration,” he declared.

“I had known Kofi before he became Secretary-General. He remained unassuming, dignified and sincere in his commitment to peace,” said Dhanapala, a former Sri Lankan envoy to the United States.

Asked about Annan’s criticism of the American invasion of Iraq, he said “the USA went after him for saying that, and harassed him”.

Annan’s public declaration of the illegality of the US invasion provoked negative reactions both from the White House and from U.S. politicians.

White House Spokeswoman Claire Buchan said U.S. officials disagreed with Annan. “We previously made clear that coalition forces had authority [to invade Iraq] under several UN resolutions.”

“If Kofi had his way, [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein would still be in power,” said Senator John Cornyn, a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.

Williams told IPS that Annan was a person of integrity, and recognized his own failings, as in the Balkans and Rwanda, and tried to do something about them, commissioning reports that implicated him.

“With his experience in the UN machinery, he could have put the blame elsewhere but he accepted his share and that gave him the standing to represent the UN.”

People sometimes say that he was not outspoken enough, not loud enough, but that was actually a strength. When Annan spoke, said Williams, it was not just a trite soundbite because “he said what had to be said even it was sometimes unpopular.”

When Annan came back from negotiating with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and said it was a testament to the efficacy of diplomacy, not enough people listened to his corollary – when backed with the threat of force.

That posture of dignity, noted Williams, allowed him to steer the landmark Responsibility to Protect (R2P) resolution through the sixtieth anniversary summit and it is still a landmark even if many of those who did not have the political courage to oppose it at the summit have done so much to frustrate it since.

“Annan was no mere bureaucrat and he was not after the big desk and the title. He wanted to contribute to the world and thought the secretary-general’s office was the best place to do so. No one is perfect, high office demands compromises for practical achievements to win allies and majorities.”

But in office, on development goals, poverty, human rights, gender equality and many other issues, he advanced the UN agenda even as he re-wrote it. After office, Annan continued to do so, with the Elders and his own Foundation, said Williams.

James Paul, who served as executive director of the New York-based Global Policy Forum and monitored the United Nations for over 19 years, told IPS there are many stories about Kofi that deserve attention.

The most important may be about how he told a reporter that the Iraq War was contrary to the UN Charter, and not long afterwards sent a letter to US President George W Bush calling on the United States not to attack Fallujah.

This was before the 2004 US elections and Bush was livid. Soon thereafter Washington claimed to have uncovered a huge “financial scandal” at the UN.  Kofi was threatened by the US and was nearly forced out of office, said Paul.

He was summoned to a meeting at a private apartment in New York and forced eventually to agree to a wholesale change in his top staff in the fall of 2004 (which was detailed in a New York Times article).

After losing his key lieutenants and being humiliated, his wings were clipped. And throughout his tenure, his policies were never up to his charisma. He cut the budget to please Senator Jesse Helms.

He was the first secretary-general to promote a UN relationship with multinational companies (the Global Compact) and he gave backing to the aggressive US-UK program of “humanitarian intervention,” said Paul, author of “Of Foxes & Chickens: Oligarchy and Global Power in the UN Security Council”

When Annan completed his 10-year tenure as secretary-general, he left behind a mixed political legacy: his acknowledged successes in promoting peace, development, gender empowerment and human rights, and his self-admitted failures in reining in a sprawling U.N. bureaucracy facing charges of mismanagement.

 Annan, who served as the seventh secretary-general, from January 1997 to December 2006, shared the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize with the United Nations.

At his farewell press conference in mid-December, Annan specifically zeroed in on the multi-billion-dollar oil-for-food programme, which he said was “exploited to undermine the organization.”

“But I think when historians look at the records, they will draw the conclusion that yes, there was mismanagement; (and) there may have been several U.N. staff members who were engaged” in unethical behaviour.

“But the scandal, if any, was in the capitals, and with the 2,200 companies that made a deal with (Iraqi President) Saddam (Hussein) behind our backs,” he added.

The “capitals” he blamed were primarily the political capitals of the 15 member states of the Security Council — and specifically the five permanent members, namely the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia (P-5), under whose watchful eyes the notorious oil-for-food kickbacks took place.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

 

 

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Palestinian Children, the True Victims of the Conflicthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/palestinian-children-true-victims-conflict/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=palestinian-children-true-victims-conflict http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/palestinian-children-true-victims-conflict/#respond Wed, 15 Aug 2018 06:57:07 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157188 Over 500 to 700 West Bank children were arrested and prosecuted each year by Israeli military forces. And Palestinian child rights organisation, Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP), says that between 2012 and 2017 the organisation represented more than 700 children, some 72 percent of whom endured violence after their arrest. With the release of Palestinian teen […]

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Over 700 West Bank children were detained by Israeli military forces between 2012 and 2017, with 72 percent of them enduring physical violence after the arrest, according to Defense for Children International Palestine. Photo credit: UNICEF/El Baba

By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 15 2018 (IPS)

Over 500 to 700 West Bank children were arrested and prosecuted each year by Israeli military forces. And Palestinian child rights organisation, Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP), says that between 2012 and 2017 the organisation represented more than 700 children, some 72 percent of whom endured violence after their arrest.

With the release of Palestinian teen activist Ahed Tamimi in late July, the constant arrests of Palestinian children by Israeli forces have been in the spotlight once again.“Reforms undertaken by Israeli military authorities tend to be cosmetic in nature rather than substantively addressing physical violence and torture by Israeli military and police forces.” -- Brad Parker, international advocacy officer and attorney at Defense for Children International Palestine.

“Ill-treatment of Palestinian child detainees by Israeli forces is widespread, systematic and institutionalised throughout the Israeli military detention system,” Brad Parker, international advocacy officer and attorney at DCIP, told IPS.

July was an eventful month for Palestine. On the one hand, the observer state of Palestine was chosen to lead the Group 77 at the United Nations, making it a big win for Palestine and increasing the tensions with Israel. G77 is the largest bloc of developing countries, currently with 135 countries, and Palestine spoke at the General Assembly. Palestine will assume leadership of the G77 by January 2019, replacing Egypt.

On the other hand, some days later the 17-year-old Palestinian activist, Tamimi, was released after an eight-month stay in an Israeli prison. She was arrested after she hit an armed Israeli soldier at the entrance of her village, Nabi Saleh. The scene was recorded and the video made her well known worldwide.

Commenting on Tamimi’s case, Parker said: “Ahed’s detention, prosecution, plea agreement, and sentencing in Israel’s military court system is not exceptional, but illustrates the widespread, systematic, and institutionalised ill-treatment of Palestinian child detainees by Israeli forces and the fair trial denials inherent in Israel’s military detention system.”

“Now that she has been released, attention will likely wane but she has and continues to highlight the plight of the hundreds of other Palestinian child detainees that continue to be detained and prosecuted in Israel’s military court system,” he added.

Palestinian child arrests are becoming pervasive and the legitimacy of the methods used to process their arrests is quite questionable. Of the 727 children processed by Israeli military courts that DCIP represented, 700 had no parent or legal counsel present during the interrogation.

Additionally, 117 spent more than 10 days in solitary confinement. For Parker, “the ill-treatment of Palestinian child detainees by Israeli forces has been one of the more high profile Palestinian rights issues raised by the international community.”

With Palestine’s new leadership position at the U.N., the observer state could draw international attention towards this issue. But some experts remain sceptical as to whether this will prove to be true. Vijay Prashad, director at Tricontinental Institute for Social Research, said: “The G77 is hampered as countries that once were stalwarts in the fight against colonialism—such as India—are now hesitant. They need to be called to account.”

Asked about the role of the international system and institutions such as the U.N. to stop Palestinian child abuses in the West Bank, Prashad was adamant that there must be more action.

“The U.N. must be more vigorous. It is one thing to have declared the settlements as illegal and another to do nothing about it,” he said.

He went on, stating, “there needs to be more action by countries that abhor this policy of colonisation. Much more vocal condemnation, more stringent policies against the Israeli government [is needed].” 

Parker called the Israeli authorities to responsibility.

“Despite sustained engagement by [U.N. Children’s Fund] UNICEF and repeated calls to end night arrests and ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention, Israeli authorities have persistently failed to implement practical changes to stop violence against Palestinian child detainees or guarantee due process rights and basic fair trial rights,” he said.

In response to the question of whether there had been any reforms within the Israeli military, Parker answered: “Reforms undertaken by Israeli military authorities tend to be cosmetic in nature rather than substantively addressing physical violence and torture by Israeli military and police forces.”

The international community is taking a stand with, for example, briefings and reports by different U.N. agencies and the current United States bill that focuses on the rights of Palestinian children detainees called the “Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act”.

According to Parker, this is not enough as Israel keeps breaking international justice agreements.

“Regardless of guilt or innocence or the gravity of an alleged offence, international juvenile justice standards, which Israel has obligated itself to implement by ratifying the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, demand that children should only be deprived of their liberty as a measure of last resort, must not be unlawfully or arbitrarily detained, and must not be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” Parker said.

When asked whether the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem— enacted by U.S. president Donald Trump—has increased tensions, Prashad said: “Israeli policy has been whipped past illegality long before Trump became president. It has certainly intensified. But it is the same U.S. policy of appeasement of Israel’s ambitions.”

Parker, on the other hand, did see changes.

“Large-scale demonstrations, marches and clashes throughout the West Bank following the Trump administration’s decision to publicly recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December corresponded with a spike in the number of Palestinian child detainees held in Israeli military detention,” Parker said.

“Systemic impunity is the norm when it comes to Israeli’s 50-plus year military occupation of Palestinians, so demanding justice and accountability and ultimately an end to occupation is what is needed to end grave human rights violations against children,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Map of the Karamoja area

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Pakistan’s Vote – a Loud and Clear Message that People Want Democracy at Any Costhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/pakistans-vote-loud-clear-message-people-want-democracy-cost/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pakistans-vote-loud-clear-message-people-want-democracy-cost http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/pakistans-vote-loud-clear-message-people-want-democracy-cost/#respond Mon, 30 Jul 2018 09:44:00 +0000 Ashfaq Yusufzai http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156941 Voters in Pakistan’s general election outrightly rejected political parties with extremism records and candidates linked to banned terrorist groups, opting instead to back liberal forces in a support for peace. “None of the parties related to terrorism won any of the 272 national assembly seats as the people don’t want to empower them to legislate,” […]

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Voters in Pakistan’s general election outrightly rejected political parties with extremism records in the country’s Jul. 25, 2018 – which had the largest ever voter turnout. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

By Ashfaq Yusufzai
PESHAWAR, Jul 30 2018 (IPS)

Voters in Pakistan’s general election outrightly rejected political parties with extremism records and candidates linked to banned terrorist groups, opting instead to back liberal forces in a support for peace.

“None of the parties related to terrorism won any of the 272 national assembly seats as the people don’t want to empower them to legislate,” analyst Muhammad Junaid told IPS.

On Saturday, Jul. 28, electoral officials announced that Pakistani cricket star Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf or PTI (Move for Justice party) won 115 of the 272 contested seats in the National Assembly. The former ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), won 64 seats and Pakistan People’s Party won 43. Other seats went to smaller parties and independents, with militant parties losing badly.

Junaid, who teaches political science at the University of Peshawar, said that Pakistan has suffered a great deal because of terrorism and people had clearly rejected terrorist-linked groups in the polls.

Political party Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek supported extremist candidates allegedly linked to the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 108 people, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed. Saeed is head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), one of the largest terrorist organisations in South Asia.

However, the party was rejected by voters across the country as it failed to win a single seat in the national assembly.

Saeed’s son, Talha Saeed, contested the elections from Punjab province, but lost. Saeed’s son-in-law, Khalid Waleed, faced a similar fate. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) results show that the party’s candidates received just 171,441 votes, just a drop in the ocean when compared with the more than 49 million votes that were cast.

Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), another party with a clear sectarian mindset, had fielded more than 150 candidates contesting the National Assembly seats and hundreds more who contested provincial assembly seats. The party received just over two million votes and just two of its candidates were elected to the Sindh provincial assembly, the ECP results showed. Sindh is one of Pakistan’s four provinces.

People also rejected candidates from Jamiat Ulemai Islam Sami for the party’s connection with the terrorist group Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The party’s leader, Maulana Samiul Haq, is known as the father of the Taliban and his seminary Darul Uloom Haqqania is referred to as the “University of Jihadists”.

Pakistan faced a great deal of criticism from both the international and local media, human rights groups as well as political leaders for having hundreds of individuals with clear links to extremists openly campaigning in the election.

In June, the global watchdog Financial Action Task Force placed Pakistan on its terrorism financing watchlist. The call for Pakistan to be placed on the list was led by the United States in a move to pressure the country to close financing loopholes for terrorist groups. The U.S. has previously accused Pakistan of providing a savehaven for terrorists.

The country itself, however, has not been immune to terror attacks.

On Jul. 10, Haroon Bilour, a candidate from the Awami National Party, was killed in Peshawar along with 30 others. The terrorist group TTP claimed reasonability for the attack. Two days later, a candidate from PTI was killed in a separate act.

On Jul. 13, candidate Siraj Raisani, along with 130 others, was killed in a suicide attack in Balochistan, one of the Pakistan’s four provinces. On election day the province was scene to another suicide attack, which killed 30 people.

However, the deadly attacks failed to deter people as they formed long queues at polling stations to cast their votes. Some 55 percent of Pakistan’s registered 100 million voters turned out at the polls – the highest ever turnout in Pakistan’s history.

Junaid said militants wanted to advance their own agenda and rule people through the use of force and fear and not democracy.

In Khan’s victory speech he continued to condemn terrorism and vowed to establish peace in the region. “We want a better relationship with neighbouring countries, India, Iran and Afghanistan as well as China and the U.S. to have peace in the region,” he said.

Pakistan’s army deputed 350,000 soldiers to guard polling stations on election day and publically declared their support for democracy.

“Militants want to create anarchy in our country, but the nation is united against militancy. Our military and civil leadership are on the same page and determined to continue the war against terror till its logical end,” military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said.

Analyst Khadim Hussain said that it was indicative of people’s hate for terrorism that they took part in a “high-decibel campaign” for the national polls to defeat terrorism.

“Long queues were seen outside the polling booths. People remained vibrant and upbeat, which was a signal that they wanted democracy and rejected terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,” he said.

Despite incidents of terrorism, the mood was extremely upbeat, and towns and villages were adorned with party flags and banners calling on people to vote for respective candidates, he said. The message was loud and clear that people wanted democracy at any cost, Hussain said.

Foreign observers declared the election free, fair and transparent.

“A number of violent attacks, targeting political parties, party leaders, candidates and election officials, affected the campaign environment,” the European Union’s election observation mission chief Michael Gahler, told a news conference Jul. 27.

Most interlocutors acknowledged a systematic effort to undermine the former ruling party, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), through cases of corruption, contempt of court and terrorist charges against its leaders and candidates, he added.

Religious parties contesting the polls also fared poorly.

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Building Peace in Societies Affected by Small Armshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/building-peace-societies-affected-small-arms/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-peace-societies-affected-small-arms http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/building-peace-societies-affected-small-arms/#respond Tue, 24 Jul 2018 09:18:40 +0000 Izumi Nakamitsu and Jean-Pierre Lacroix http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156838 Izumi Nakamitsu is UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs & Jean-Pierre Lacroix is UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations

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Excerpt:

Izumi Nakamitsu is UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs & Jean-Pierre Lacroix is UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations

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Pakistan and the World Need Inclusive Conflict Preventionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/pakistan-world-need-inclusive-conflict-prevention/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pakistan-world-need-inclusive-conflict-prevention http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/pakistan-world-need-inclusive-conflict-prevention/#respond Fri, 20 Jul 2018 13:58:02 +0000 Quratulain Fatima http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156806 Flight Lieutenant Quratulain Fatima is a policy practitioner working extensively in rural and conflict-ridden areas of Pakistan with a focus on gender inclusive development and conflict prevention. She is a 2018 Aspen New Voices Fellow

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Baloch fighters at a location in Pakistan. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS.

By Quratulain Fatima
ISLAMABAD, Jul 20 2018 (IPS)

Last week, 200 people were injured and 131 died in a suicide bombing in Mastung, Baluchistan. This attack was second most deadly since the 2014 Army Public School Attack in Peshawar, KhyberPukhtunkwah, which killed 144 people. This recent attack was one of three in 72 hours related to the country’s upcoming elections on July 25.Terrorist attacks are not new in my country. Pakistan has lost over 50,000 civilians in terror-related deaths since 2003.

For me, the latest deadly suicide bombing triggered traumatic memories and an acute reminder that Pakistan, and the world, need preemptive and inclusive conflict prevention if we are to stem the tide of growing violence.

Nine years ago, I participated in Pakistan‘s war on terrorism against the Taliban as a Pakistan Air Force officer stationed at Pakistan’s conflict torn province of Khyber Pukhtunkhwah. On 16 October, 2009, while going home to celebrate my birthday with my only daughter, I was stopped by the police who told me that a suicide bomber had  exploded near the residential complex where my house was situated. My then three-year-old daughter was in the house at the time. I was asked to go on foot to my house.

What is important for conflict prevention is knowing that a cause of terrorism is a sense of relative deprivation. Social scientists have long acknowledged that people evaluate their own wellbeing not only based on what they have but also based on what they have relative to what other people have.

The 13-minute walk to my house was the hardest of my life. My only thoughts were why this was not prevented and how much personal cost I would bear for this war. I could smell burnt flesh, saw bloody bodies and felt broken glass under my feet. I saw the young happy cobbler’s charred and shrapnel ridden dead body in front of me. He had come to the city so that he could earn a living and let his daughters study.

My own daughter survived the bombing, but she was traumatized for a very long time. That one day changed my perception of peace and conflict forever. Despite being in internal conflict for a very long time, Pakistan has not learned the art of preemptive conflict prevention.

Conflict prevention is defined as not only controlling the damage caused by conflict but also targeting the underlying causes of conflicts to avoid recurrence.  Development remains a potent tool for conflict prevention.

Conflict prevention efforts can save both lives and money. The cost savings could be up to US$70 billion per year globally given that two billion people live in countries where economic stability and opportunity are affected by fragility, conflict, and violence and conflicts derive 80% of all the humanitarian needs.

Of course, the horrors of terrorism cannot be captured by using statistics alone. Terrorism destroys way of life, inculcates lingering fear and leaves survivors traumatized for life, as my daughter and I can attest.

What is important for conflict prevention is knowing that a cause of terrorism is a sense of relative deprivation. Social scientists have long acknowledged that people evaluate their own wellbeing not only based on what they have but also based on what they have relative to what other people have. Discontent and inequality in access to resources remain an important cause of conflict. Development strategies target exactly that.

In the case of Pakistan, the military has a very heavy involvement in the foreign policy and counter terrorism strategies. This may halt conflict and give a sense of peace, but it’s a fragile peace imposed on people instead of coming from them. This remains a handicap for Pakistan that has not been able to foster positive and sustainable peace through development as a conflict prevention strategy.

In Pakistan, most of the terrorist attacks happen in two of its provinces: Khyber Pukhtunkhwah and Baluchistan where there is a long history of unresolved grievances against the Federation and its biggest province Punjab. These areas are navigating a very complex conflict nexus that includes the Taliban, Daesh and internal separatists, but it is also a source of conflict that these provinces overwhelmingly see themselves as deprived in comparison the affluent province of Punjab.

As much as intelligence and military efforts help to curb terror attacks, targeting underlying causes of conflicts requires the inclusion of a broader group of stakeholders, such as the government, community leaders, military, civilians and media.

Today, militaries in many conflict ridden countries — including Pakistan —drive the process of conflict resolution. This needs to change. Peacebuilding needs the inclusion of all other stakeholders to make the process of conflict resolution—as well as prevention—feasible. All other parts of society need to step up and demand their voices be heard.

Until now, the world and Pakistan have been failing at conflict prevention because we’ve relied on military forces alone. We have paid a high cost through instability and recurrent loss of lives. At the same time, civil society has been driving for democracy through events like the Arab Spring. Today we need the same kind of movement to make conflict prevention a priority for the world. Indeed, a “Prevention Spring”—a time when civil society focuses on building more equitable societies rather than preventing conflict—may well be the solution to making the world peaceful.

The post Pakistan and the World Need Inclusive Conflict Prevention appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Flight Lieutenant Quratulain Fatima is a policy practitioner working extensively in rural and conflict-ridden areas of Pakistan with a focus on gender inclusive development and conflict prevention. She is a 2018 Aspen New Voices Fellow

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Support of Influential World Leaders Not Enough to End Rohingya Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/support-influential-world-leaders-not-enough-end-rohingya-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=support-influential-world-leaders-not-enough-end-rohingya-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/support-influential-world-leaders-not-enough-end-rohingya-crisis/#respond Thu, 19 Jul 2018 21:04:56 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156793 Despite having the strong support of influential global leaders, Bangladesh has “missed” the opportunity to mobilise the world’s superpowers and place pressure on Myanmar to allow for the repatriation of the Rohingya refugees.  Experts specialising in international affairs expressed their disappointment to IPS that despite the recent joint visit by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres […]

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Rohingya refugees now cramped in hilly terrains of Ukhiya in southeastern regions of Cox’s Bazar along Bangladesh border with Myanmar. Credit: ASM Suza Uddin/IPS

By Naimul Haq
DHAKA, Jul 19 2018 (IPS)

Despite having the strong support of influential global leaders, Bangladesh has “missed” the opportunity to mobilise the world’s superpowers and place pressure on Myanmar to allow for the repatriation of the Rohingya refugees. 

Experts specialising in international affairs expressed their disappointment to IPS that despite the recent joint visit by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, the world’s biggest refugee crisis remains unresolved.

“No single event of such magnitude ever drew so much global attention and solidarity, not even the ethnic cleansing in the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina where tens of thousands of Muslims were killed in conflicts among the three main ethnic groups,” professor Tareq Shamsur Rehman, who teaches International Relations at Jahangirnagar University, told IPS.

Since the influx of over 700,000 Rohingya refugees from August last year, leaders from around the world have visited Bangladesh, travelling to the coastal Cox’s Bazar district were the refugee camps are. 

Foreign ministers from Japan, Germany and Sweden; a high-level delegation from 58 countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation; a delegation from the U.N. Security Council and the European Union; a United States Congressional fact-finding mission and Dhaka-based diplomats have all heard the recounts of the refugees. In February, Nobel Laureates Mairead Maguire, Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkol Karman travelled to Cox’s Bazar to highlight the plight of the Rohingya.

During his visit earlier this month, U.N. Secretary-General Guterres said he heard “heartbreaking” accounts of suffering from the refugees and expressed concern about the conditions in the camps ahead of the monsoon season.

The World Bank announced almost half a billion dollars in grant-based support to Bangladesh for health, education, sanitation, disaster preparedness, and other services for the refugees until they can return home safely, voluntarily and with dignity.

But the aid may have come too late. In Bangladesh some 63 million of the country’s 160 million people live below the poverty line. The influx of over one million refugees has impacted not only the country’s monetary resources, but natural resources also. The environmental impact is significant as over a million refugees are now cramped in hilly terrains of Ukhiya in southeastern regions of Cox’s Bazar along Bangladesh border with Myanmar. Trees on over 20 acres of land near the camps are being cut down daily for firewood for cooking.

And there has been a social impact too. Some locals have said that since the arrival of the refugees the crime rate in Ukhiya has increased, with many accusing the Rohingya of assault, murder, human trafficking and drug dealing.

“The solution to the Rohingya crisis is possible if two-way pressure on Myanmar is possible. The way the U.S. imposed sanctions on North Korea, like preventing remittance and imposing economic sanctions, it has really had the desired impact,” Mohammad Zamir, a former ambassador and international relations analyst, told IPS.

“If the world imposes a similar ban on Myanmar that there will be no foreign investment in Myanmar, I think they would then be under tremendous pressure and may bow to the demands to repatriate the Rohingya refugees. If the world adopts these preventive measures on Myanmar then there will be a possibility to solve the Rohingya problem.”

It is estimated that over one million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are housed in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh. Credit: Mojibur Rahaman Rana/IPS

IPS visited Cox’s Bazar early this month and spoke to a number of people in the 21 Rohingya camps, including those in the largest camps of Kutupalong and Balukhali.

Mohammad Mohibullah, a spokesperson for the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, told IPS that while they welcomed the visit of U.N. and World Bank chiefs, “the money they pledged is for our survival and not for resolving our crisis.”

“We have not noticed any effective role of the leaders in pressurising Myanmar to repatriate the Rohingya,” Abdul Gaffar, another spokesman for the group told IPS. “They come and go but leave us with no hope of any permanent solution. We want to return to our ancestral home and not live in shambles like we are doing now.”

In January, the Myanmar government agreed with Bangladesh to take back Rohingya refugees. However, weeks after the agreement they allowed only about 50 families, mostly comprising Hindus, to return. Then the so-called repatriation process stopped after Myanmar demanded that a joint Bangladeshi/Myanmaris team first identify the Rohingya as their citizens.

The U.N. and other international agencies have previously been denied access to Rakhine State to assess the conditions for returning refugees, however, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi was allowed entry in May. Then in June the Myanmar government signed an agreement with the U.N. Refugee Agency and U.N. Development Programme as a first step in setting up a framework for the return of the refugees.

But the process is slow.

Just this week the country’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, urged U.N. Special Envoy to Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener to persuade Myanmar to take back the refugees.

Experts have pointed out the “misreading in diplomacy” by Bangladesh towards resolving the Rohingya crisis has resulted in the current deadlock.

“Instead of using influential powers like China and Russia, Bangladesh engaged itself in bi-lateral negotiation, which is a stalemate. They [Myanmar] have clearly demonstrated defiance once again. For instance, every demand we put forward, like the demand for fixing the start of repatriation date, Myanmar instead of complying with the bilateral agreement insisted on verifying their citizens – a tactic used to delay the process and ultimately enforce deadlock,” professor Delware Hossain from the International Relations Department at the University of Dhaka told IPS.

“What we really need is lobbying with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council who have the powers to impose economic, military and political sanctions. It is sad though that until now we have not seen our foreign ministers visiting Moscow, Beijing, London and Paris in mobilising them acting in favour of Bangladesh,” Rehman said, adding that in other international cases of genocide, military leaders have been identified, tried and punished because of the strong commitment and involvement of leading nations.

Others argue that despite such powerful political support, even from the United States, Myanmar remains unmoved continuing their mission of ethnic cleansing.

Human rights organisation, Fortify Rights, stated in a report released today, Jul. 19, that the lack of action by the international community against the 2016 attacks against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine State allowed Myanmar to proceed with genocide. The report is based on over 250 interviews conducted over two years with eyewitnesses, survivors of attacks, and Myanmar military and police sources, among others.

“The international community failed to act after the Myanmar Army killed, raped, tortured, and forcibly displaced Rohingya civilians in October and November 2016. That inaction effectively paved the way for genocide, providing the Myanmar authorities with an enabling environment to make deeper preparations for more mass atrocity crimes,” the report stated.

But professor Amena Mohsin who teaches International Relations at the University of Dhaka believes that there is significance to the recent visits of Guterres and Kim.

“Let us not forget that the 73rd session of the U.N. General Assembly will open in September next and their visits act as a pressure. We hope that the Rohingya issue will be discussed during the assembly and Myanmar will further feel the pressure,” Mohsin told IPS.

World Bank Group spokesperson in Washington, David Theis, responded to questions from IPS, saying they were collaborating closely with the U.N. and other partners to encourage Myanmar to put in place the conditions for “the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of refugees and to improve the welfare of all communities in Rakhine State.”

He said they would incentivise further progress through a proposed project focused on employment and economic opportunities for all communities in Rakhine State.

“This is part of our strategy to stay fully engaged in Myanmar’s economic transition, with a greater focus on social inclusion in conflict-affected areas.”

However, noted journalist Afsan Chowdhury told IPS that the U.N. had not been very effective since the Rohingya arrived in Bangladesh. “One of the reasons is that the U.N. is effective only when big powers are interested. The World Bank’s impact in this issue is very low end, not a high end impact, as I see it.”

Additional reporting by A S M Suza Uddin from Cox Bazaar.

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Social Media – the New Testing Ground for Sri Lanka’s Freedomhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/social-media-new-testing-ground-sri-lankas-freedom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=social-media-new-testing-ground-sri-lankas-freedom http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/social-media-new-testing-ground-sri-lankas-freedom/#comments Wed, 18 Jul 2018 11:49:40 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156753 Journalists and media activists have cautioned against Sri Lanka’s newfound press freedom as the country heads to the polls in 2020. Separate incidents of hate-speech against a Muslim minority—and the subsequent shutdown of social media platforms—and the harassment of reporters critical of the country’s opposition have led some to believe that the changes in media […]

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Sri Lanka's media has been under pressure for most of the past decade and only gained some breathing space since the 2015 presidential election. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Amantha Perera
COLOMBO, Jul 18 2018 (IPS)

Journalists and media activists have cautioned against Sri Lanka’s newfound press freedom as the country heads to the polls in 2020. Separate incidents of hate-speech against a Muslim minority—and the subsequent shutdown of social media platforms—and the harassment of reporters critical of the country’s opposition have led some to believe that the changes in media independence could reverse.

In the latest world press freedom rankings by Reporters Without Borders, Sri Lanka is listed 131 out of 180 countries across the globe—a marginal improvement from its 2014 ranking of 165.

The unexpected 2015 electoral victory for current president Maithripala Sirisena, who championed greater press freedom during his campaign, was responsible for this island nation’s rise on the index.

But Shan Wijethunge, head of the Sri Lanka Press Institute, the island’s premier media training centre, is apprehensive as he takes stock of what has transpired over the last six months.

In February, the government lost the local government elections to a resurgent opposition led by ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa, which prompted opposition supporters to increase the tempo of their anti-government campaign. Many became critical of the New York Times (NYT) and its Sri Lanka journalists who reported that Rajapaksa had allegedly received funds from Chinese state companies. In a delicately balanced national political scenario, the reporters who worked on the story were accused of working for a pro-government agenda and their independence was questioned.

“The journalists were criticised and trolled rather than [there being] any challenge on the contents of the story, because what matters right now is setting the headlines,” Wijethunge told IPS.

Family and friends of the NYT journalists in Sri Lanka said that they were shocked at the personal level of the attacks and pointed out that there had been no requests for the story to be retracted.

“They just felt so vulnerable, as if things suddenly regressed by three years. It just shows how quickly things can get bad here,” said a colleague of the harassed journalists. He requested to remain anonymous due to the fear of being targeted.

It was only less than a decade ago when the Editor-in-Chief of the Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge, was assassinated in 2009—just months before the country’s 26-year civil war ended. A year after Wickrematunge’s death, cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda disappeared.

However, there are signs that media freedom has improved on the island nation.

In 2016 when the respected regional magazine Himal Southasian came under increased bureaucratic pressure in Nepal, where it had been operating since 1996, the Sri Lankan capital Colombo became the obvious choice for relocation. In March, the magazine opened a new office in a Colombo suburb. Amnesty International also now has a regional office in the capital.

But many are concerned that if the upcoming 2020 presidential election proves to be a tight race, there will be heightened pressure on journalists to toe the line.

Not only that, the recent shut down of social media platforms across the country has left analysts concerned that freedom of speech in general could be targeted.

In March, parts of Sri Lanka’s Central Province experienced a wave of anti-Muslim riots that led to a weeklong shutdown of the social media platforms Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram and Viber. The government blamed the riots on hate speech against the minority Muslim community that was spread over the various platforms. After meeting with Facebook, which owns Whatsapp and Instagram, the government unblocked the platforms.

“It was a knee jerk reaction, but it is a reaction that is again possible in the future, especially when we are heading into elections,” Wijethunge said.

He feels that social media was targeted because that is where Sri Lankans tend be freest in airing their views and disseminating news.

Facebook data shows that there are between five to six million accounts of Sri Lankan origin, generating one billion posts on Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram each month. Even politicians like president Sirisena, ex-president Rajapaksa and his son Namal Rajapaksa have been using their Facebook and Twitter profiles as integral parts of campaigning and reaching out to their constituencies.

Sanjana Hattotuwa, a senior researcher with the think-tank Centre for Policy Alternatives, has extensively researched the impact social media has on voters. His research shows that for a quarter of the country’s eligible voters, those within the age bracket of 18 to 34, social media is the primary platform of political interaction.

“Misinformation and disinformation are clearly engineered to heighten their anxieties and anger,” he said, referring to fake news content.

Hattotuwa’s research also shows that hate speech, trolling and fake news were quite visible on accounts and groups originating in Sri Lanka long before the March riots. He said these should have been tackled in a much more organised and professional manner with technology and human vetting playing an important role. He said he feared that old political games could be at play on these new forums.

“The growth of social media and the spread of internet access, in Sri Lanka, cannot be equated with a stronger democracy, and the growth of liberal government. The weaponisation of social media needs thus to be seen as the latest strategy of an older political game.”

With its growing popularity, Wijethunge feels social media is now the main vector for political news and sentiment.

Given that there is no effective countering of fake content and misinformation other than outright blocking, “it will be the testing ground where we will see all these freedoms gained in the last three and half years are really sustainable or just an illusion.” More so as the criticism of the government increases.

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A Gender-Specific Approach To Counter-Terrorismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/gender-specific-approach-counter-terrorism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-specific-approach-counter-terrorism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/gender-specific-approach-counter-terrorism/#respond Thu, 12 Jul 2018 08:55:22 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156663 Understanding the different way that terrorists target women and how to prevent their recruitment could play a significant role in counter-terrorism efforts, and is gaining increased recognition among the international community. “Any prevention programme should be fully mindful about its gender implications, and should be tailored toward understanding men and women’s grievances being exploited by […]

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Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb took credit for bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Algiers in December 2007, an act that claimed the lives of 17 U.N. personnel. The international community is increasingly recognising the importance of integrating a gender perspective into the global counter-terrorism efforts. Credit: UN Photo / Evan Schneider

By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 12 2018 (IPS)

Understanding the different way that terrorists target women and how to prevent their recruitment could play a significant role in counter-terrorism efforts, and is gaining increased recognition among the international community.

“Any prevention programme should be fully mindful about its gender implications, and should be tailored toward understanding men and women’s grievances being exploited by recruiters,” Mattias Sundholm, communications adviser to the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, told IPS.

Hundreds of members of civil society and representatives of member states met at the United Nations Headquarters in New York at the end of June for the first High-Level Conference on Counter-Terrorism. During the two-day conference, the role of gender in counter-terrorism strategies was discussed in length. 

A senior European Union official shared with IPS that “the international community is increasingly recognising the importance of integrating a gender perspective into the global counter-terrorism efforts.”

“Gender inequality and corruption, combined with the lack of information, no access to education and lack of understanding of what’s happening on the battlefield seem to play a role in the recruitment of women fighters,” the official said.

Despite the military setback of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in many Middle Eastern countries, countering its influence in the media and public opinion, along with Al-Qaeda’s power and Boko Haram’s attacks, remains a top priority for the U.N.

Last year, the General Assembly decided to implement the U.N. Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and created the Office of Counter-Terrorism, while the establishment of a Global Network of Counter-terrorism coordinators was discussed. The theme of this year’s meeting was “Strengthening international cooperation to combat the evolving threat of terrorism,” with the goal of creating partnerships and finding practical solutions.

Different approaches to recruiting men and women

The way terrorists target men and women is different as they promise them particular rewards they find appealing.

“Extremist armed groups shrewdly exploit gender just as they exploit any other potential recruitment tool. For women, they may dangle the promise of adventure, travel, romance, commitment to a cause, and the possibility of being part of an extended family yet far from the yoke of immediate relatives. For men, the pitches are often more macho, complete with the promise of glory and multiple wives,” Letta Tayler, senior researcher on terrorism at Human Right’s Watch (HRW), told IPS.

Megan Manion, policy analyst with U.N. Women, explained men are often recruited as fighters with a promise that fighters get wives as a reward.  “Extremist groups also offer a salary for services of the fighters.”

But on the other hand, Manion explained, women are promised different things.

“Women join extremist groups together with or to follow their husbands or boyfriends. Women also join violent extremist groups to get the opportunities they will not have in their own communities due to inequalities,” she said.

If terrorism strategies include gender-specific narratives, so should prevention plans.

“Women have a particularly influential role in families and can play an important role in preventing young people from radicalising,” the senior EU official said.

Thus, prevention strategies must raise to the level of terrorist strategies in terms of their nuances. “When extremist groups understand gender inequalities and the impact and power they hold, but we, those who are preventing violent extremism do not, there is a significant issue around identifying and responding to human rights violations, as well as serious security implications and risks,” Manion said.

When asked how prevention strategies should then be framed to be effective, Tayler firmly responded that any successful prevention strategy had to provide the same sense of belonging and thrill that groups like ISIL offered.

“That can only work if states stop marginalising communities and individuals who are vulnerable to recruitment,” Tayler said.

One of the ways to implement gender-specific strategies could be through the strengthening the role of women in law enforcement and policing both in terms of numbers but also on all hierarchical levels, the EU source said.

He argued in favour of reaching out to all communities, especially the de-radicalised ones.

“There is an important role for women religious leaders and local interfaith dialogue to build an environment which is less conducive to violent extremism,” he said.

Some civil organisations, such as the non-profit International Centre for Religion and Diplomacy, are already including religious actors in their counter-terrorism strategies.

Moreover, Sundholm, from the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, added that youth, and in particular girls, “should also be empowered to lead and participate in the design and implementation of prevention programmes.”

Tayler explained that at HRW gender was taken into account when the issue required it. For example, ISIL rapes or the sexual enslavement of Yezidi women require the counter-terrorism strategy to be very gender-specific. Another case would be Nigeria, where “women who managed to escape Boko Haram are reportedly being raped by Nigerian security forces who claim to be their rescuers.” 

What should member states do?

Most experts and policy makers say that counter-terrorism should be the responsibility of U.N. member states, as they control borders and pass laws, which can either give privilege to or marginalise groups. Member states should also take the lead in including a gender perspective into their policies.

“Gender-mainstreaming should be integrated in the work and programmes of both Member States and the U.N.,” the EU source said.

Manion believes that member states hold the key to prevention.

“Repressive laws and lack of security, rule of law or good governance are powerful drivers for radicalisation for women and men,

“They must make sure that the laws they pass to respond to terrorist threats do not impose unreasonable burdens on women, including women civil society organisations who are often working on the front lines to identify and prevent radicalisation and re-integrate returnees,” she added.

However, Tayler warned that while gender should be a critical focus of counter-terrorism efforts, “neither the U.N. nor national governments should assume that being gender-sensitive is a panacea.”

“Ticking off the “gender” box alone is not an effective counterterrorism strategy. Authorities need to address the myriad root causes of terrorism,” she said.   

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Church and Conflict in South Sudanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/church-conflict-south-sudan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=church-conflict-south-sudan http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/church-conflict-south-sudan/#respond Tue, 03 Jul 2018 08:53:06 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156517 Throughout fifty years of struggles, South Sudan’s different churches have remained one of the country’s few stable institutions, and in their workings toward peace, have displayed a level of inter-religious cooperation rarely seen in the world.  Priests and pastors from numerous denominations brought humanitarian relief to civilians during South Sudan’s long wars for independence — […]

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South Sudanese Christians celebrate Christmas mass at El Fasher church in North Darfur. South Sudan's different churches have remained one of the country's few stable institutions. Credit: UN Photo/Olivier Chassot

By James Jeffrey
JUBA, Jul 3 2018 (IPS)

Throughout fifty years of struggles, South Sudan’s different churches have remained one of the country’s few stable institutions, and in their workings toward peace, have displayed a level of inter-religious cooperation rarely seen in the world. 

Priests and pastors from numerous denominations brought humanitarian relief to civilians during South Sudan’s long wars for independence — often considered a fight for religious freedom for the mostly Christian south — from the hard-line Islamist government to the north in Khartoum, Sudan.

Amid destruction and failed politics, church leaders emerged as the only players left standing with any credibility and national recognition, enabling them to effectively lobby the international community to support the southern cause while also brokering peace between communities torn apart by war and ethnic strife.

However, they have been less able to influence politicians and generals in South Sudan’s latest civil war raging since 2013, which began just two years after gaining independence from Sudan. Last week, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and rebels, led by his former vice president Riek Machar, signed a peace agreement to bring about a ceasefire. But Reuters reported that fighting broke out again on Sunday, killing 18 civilians. “The blood of the tribe has become thicker than the blood of the Christ," Episcopal Bishop Enock Tombe.

“The new outbreak of war caught the Church unprepared,” says John Ashworth, referring to the five-year civil war. Ashworth has worked in South Sudan, including advising its churches, for more than 30 years. “While the Church played a major role in protecting people and mobilising humanitarian support, and in mediating local peace and reconciliation processes, it took quite a while to rebuild the capacity to implement national level initiatives.”

Although Islam has dominated the region for centuries, Christian roots in Sudan and South Sudan go back to the 5th century. Missionaries were active in the 1800s, mainly from the Anglican, Presbyterian, Catholic and Coptic churches.

Though there are conflicting reports about South Sudan’s exact religious composition, Christianity is the dominant religion, with a 2012 Pew Research Centre report estimating that around 60 percent are Christian, 33 percent followers of African traditional religions, six percent Muslim and the rest unaffiliated.

In the face of shared adversity, South Sudan’s Christian churches embraced an ecumenical approach to establish the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC), which spearheaded the churches’ joint efforts that proved heavily influential in the 2005 peace deal that ended Africa’s longest-running civil war.

The SSCC continued its involvement in the process that led to the January 2011 referendum on independence, in which an overwhelming majority of South Sudanese voted to secede and become Africa’s first new country since Eritrea split from Ethiopia in 1993. South Sudan formally gained independence from Sudan on Jul. 9, 2011.

But all those achievements began to unravel in 2013 when government troops began massacring ethnic Nuer in the capital, Juba. Afterwards, the national army, called the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), split along ethnic lines during a violent uprising, pitting ethnic Dinka loyal to Kiir against Nuer led by Macher.

Both sides committed atrocities, while the narrative of fighting for religious freedom was manipulated for political advantage. The SPLA has painted themselves as Christian liberators — atrocities notwithstanding — their propaganda referring to the churchgoing Kiir as the “Joshua” who took South Sudan to the promised land of independence.

“The blood of the tribe has become thicker than the blood of the Christ,” Episcopal Bishop Enock Tombe remarked in 2014.

But the church has been caught up in the divisive fallout too. 

“The current war has divided people along ethnic lines — the church is not immune to these divisions,” says Carol Berger, an anthropologist who specialises in South Sudan.

In a speech in April, South Sudan’s vice president James Wani Igga accused priests of promoting violence.

“While individual clergy may have their own political sympathies, and while pastors on the ground continue to empathise with their local flock, the churches as bodies have remained united in calling and for an end to the killing, a peaceful resolution through dialogue, peace and reconciliation — in some cases at great personal risk,” Ashworth says.

Some have accused the church of inaction during the latest civil war. Ashworth suggests that after the 2005 peace agreement the SSCC “took a breather to rebuild and repair,” with the 2013 outbreak of war catching them unprepared and less capable. Subsequently it has taken church leaders longer than expected to rebuild capacity, but now the SSCC is taking action to make up for lost ground.

It has begun by choosing a new Secretary General, says Philip Winter, a South Sudan specialist who has long been engaged in its peace processes. He notes how the SSCC was called upon by the warring parties negotiating in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, to help them get over their differences — something the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) failed to do as a mediator.

Following the talks in Ethiopia in June, both warring sides signed a peace agreement in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, a week later.

“The SSCC recognised that is was perhaps not as effective as the most recent conflict required,” Winter says. “So they are once more playing an important, if discreet, role.” 

The SSCC’s renewed impetus includes implementing a national Action Plan for Peace (APP), which recognises the need for a long-term peace process to resolve not only the current conflict but also the unresolved effects of previous conflicts which are contributing causes of the current conflict. The SSCC says the APP may continue for 10 or 20 years.

At this stage of the plan, the SSCC hopes to see a visit to the country by Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church. Earlier this year a delegation of Christian leaders from South Sudan met the Pope and urged him to visit.

“We gave the situation of the Church in South Sudan, that the people are hungry for peace, and they expect the Pope to visit them,” the Bishop Emeritus of Tori, Paride Taban, a member of the delegation, told media after meeting the Pope. “He [the Pope] encourages us not to fear. We are not alone, he is with us, and he will surely come.”

The bishop spoke at the Rome headquarters of Sant’Egidio, a peace and humanitarian group that is trying to help peace efforts in South Sudan. The group played a crucial role in the 2015 papal visit to another war-torn country, the Central African Republic, and was instrumental in the signing of the Mozambique peace accords in 1992. 

The Pope previously postponed a planned 2017 South Sudan trip with Justin Welby, the head of the Anglican Church. Most media assumed that decision was based on the country being too dangerous to visit. But Welby told media the visit was postponed to ensure it would have the maximum impact in helping to establish peace. However, with the current, tentative ceasefire, the pope may visit to consolidate peace.

“You’re playing a heavyweight card and you have to get the timing right,” he said. “You don’t waste a card like that on anything that is not going to work.”

Others, however, remain deeply sceptical of how the Pope could visit.

“I see no way that the Pope could visit South Sudan,” says Berger. “The capital of Juba is a sad and troubled place these days. People have left for their villages, or neighbouring countries. Shops and hotels have closed. The town is heavily militarised and there is hunger everywhere.”

Whether the Pope would have a lasting impact, if he comes, remains to be seen. But current events indicate why the SSCC think it worth his trying, as the world’s youngest state remains afflicted by war and famine, and mired in an almost constant state of humanitarian crisis.     

“More exhortations to the antagonists to stop fighting are largely a waste of breath,” Winter says.

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Pelé Beyond Footballhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/pele-beyond-football/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pele-beyond-football http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/pele-beyond-football/#respond Wed, 27 Jun 2018 12:12:55 +0000 Kul Chandra Gautam http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156428 Kul Chandra Gautam, a former Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, is author of a forthcoming memoir: “Global Citizen from Gulmi: My Journey from the Hills of Nepal to the Halls of United Nations”

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Pele (standing, back row right) at the UNICEF signing ceremony. Credit: UNICEF

By Kul Chandra Gautam
KATHMANDU, Nepal, Jun 27 2018 (IPS)

Pele’s example has inspired millions of young people to join the ‘beautiful game’ and contribute to building a peaceful and prosperous world fit for all our children.

As billions of people around the world—including millions of Nepalis—are glued to their televisions watching the 2018 World Cup, I wish to reminisce about the humanitarian dimension of a great football star who is currently not in the pitch. Pelé.

Everybody knows Pelé as probably the best football player in the world in history. But few people know about his important contribution to other great social causes. Unbeknownst to many of his fans, Pelé helped save the lives and improve the health of millions of children in Brazil.

He also helped promote such worthy global causes as ecology and environment, sports and development and peaceful resolution of conflicts as goodwill ambassador for the UN, UNESCO and UNICEF.

Pelé and breastfeeding

In the 1980s and 90s, UNICEF was involved in promoting many innovative methods of social mobilization to influence child-friendly public policies in Brazil. One example was promotion of breastfeeding to enhance child health and to reduce the high rates of infant mortality and malnutrition.

Due to the aggressive marketing of baby milk formulas by private multinational companies, breastfeeding had declined dramatically to the point that in the 1980s only eight percent of Brazilian mothers exclusively breastfed their babies during the first six months. UNICEF explored how best it could help reverse this dangerous trend.

Efforts to promote breastfeeding by the Ministry of Health and by concerned pediatricians were not producing the desired results in the face of very aggressive and deceptive advertising by the infant formula companies. In its search for who might be the most respected and credible messenger whose advice mothers would pay attention to, UNICEF came up with the most unusual yet obvious choice: Pelé—Brazil’s most popular and the world’s best football player.

It did not take much effort for UNICEF to convince Pelé to lend his name to this worthy mission of saving the lives and protecting the health of millions of Brazilian children. Decline in breastfeeding affected all segments of Brazil’s population but the worst consequences were among the poorest.

Many poor women were influenced by formula advertisers who presented bottle-feeding as the healthy and glamourous alternative to breastfeeding. Rich and beautiful women were shown as preferring bottle-feeding over breastfeeding. Even doctors and nurses in hospitals were enlisted by infant formula companies to influence new mothers to switch to bottle-feeding.

As the world’s leading child health organizations, UNICEF, WHO and the International Pediatric Association, had uncontested scientific evidence that breastfeeding was the best nutrient for infants, and that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding for up to two years with gradual introduction of healthy weaning foods protected children from infection, malnutrition and common childhood diseases.

With rare exceptions, all mothers are capable of breastfeeding which has many lifelong advantages for infants as well as for their mothers and society as a whole.

With such arguments UNICEF convinced Pelé to be its champion for breastfeeding. It helped prepare an attractive poster that was plastered all over the country in which Pelé’s mother was shown patting her famous son on the shoulder and saying: “Of course, he is the best football player in the world. I breastfed him!”

This poster became the centre-piece of a breastfeeding promotion campaign that led to a dramatic increase in exclusive breastfeeding to almost 40 percent within a few years. The lives of thousands of Brazilian children were saved and health of millions improved as a result of this campaign.

As UNICEF’s Chief for Latin America and the Caribbean in the 1980s, and later as its global Program Director, I had the opportunity to visit Brazil many times and witness the impact of Pelé’s contribution—along with that of the Catholic church and Brazil’s vibrant media—in that country’s impressive progress in child survival and development.

Childhood in poverty

Pelé was receptive to UNICEF’s message partly because of his own personal experience of growing up as a poor child. Born in 1940 in a poor community in the state of São Paulo in southern Brazil, Pelé’s real family name was Edson Arantes do Nascimento. He grew up in poverty earning money by working in tea shops as a servant.

Taught to play football by his father, he could not afford a proper football. He often played with either a grapefruit or an improvised ball made of old socks stuffed with newspapers and tied with a string. Given this personal experience, Pelé is very sensitive to the plight of children suffering from poverty. He has been a strong supporter of UNICEF and the UN’s anti-poverty development goals.

In Brazil, Pelé’s name is also associated with anti-corruption activism. In 1995, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who had once been a UNICEF consultant on social policy, appointed Pelé to the position of Extraordinary Minister for Sport. During his tenure, Pelé proposed legislation to reduce corruption in Brazilian football, which came to be known as “Pelé law.”

‘Say yes for children’

I had the opportunity to meet and interact with Pelé in 2001 when I was leading UNICEF’s plans for organizing a Global Summit at the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children. To build momentum for the Summit to come up with ambitious goals and strong commitment, UNICEF had launched a “Say Yes for Children” campaign with active support of luminaries like Nelson Mandela, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and dozens of world leaders.

One of the highlights of the campaign was a special partnership with FIFA. We invited FIFA President Sepp Blatter and several famous football stars and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors to join. The most prominent among them was Pelé, who signed the “Say Yes…” campaign as part of “UNICEF-FIFA Global Alliance for Children”.

I was happy to be part of that memorable ceremony at which I asked Pelé to sign a football jersey for my son Biplav Gautam, a sports enthusiast, who treasures that jersey as one of his proud possessions.

In another memorable event, Pelé helped UNICEF and FIFA to kick off the 2006 World Cup in Germany as part of a campaign to utilize the power of football to create self-esteem, mutual respect and fair play among children, and to spread the message of peace.

Pelé carried the World Cup trophy onto the pitch in Munich alongside supermodel and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Claudia Schiffer. Around 150 former World Cup winners also took part in the spectacular opening ceremony watched by more than a billion people around the world.

A special World Cup website created by UNICEF in Arabic, English, French and Spanish invited fans to join a virtual team of UNICEF supporters around the world captained by England star and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham and joined by other soccer heroes like Didier Drogba (Côte d’Ivoire), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Francesco Totti (Italy) and many others.

All of these players appeared in a series of TV spots produced by MTV for UNICEF and FIFA, which were broadcast around the world and in every stadium before each match. The spots ended by asking viewers to ‘UNITE FOR CHILDREN, UNITE FOR PEACE’.

Maestro of ‘beautiful game’

During his illustrious career, Pelé won three FIFA World Cups in 1958, 1962 and 1970, and broke many international records as the greatest football player of all time. His extraordinary skills—such as his ability to strike powerful and accurate shots with both feet and the elegance with which he maneuvered the ball and out-maneuvered his competitors—are legendary. More than anyone else, Pelé is credited for popularizing football as “the beautiful game.”

Due to ill health Pelé was unable to join in the opening of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. But his example has inspired millions of young people to join the ‘beautiful game’ and contribute to building a peaceful and prosperous world fit for all our children.

The link to the original article published in The Republica, a daily newspaper in Kathmandu :
http://republica.nagariknetwork.com/news/pele-beyond-football/

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Excerpt:

Kul Chandra Gautam, a former Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, is author of a forthcoming memoir: “Global Citizen from Gulmi: My Journey from the Hills of Nepal to the Halls of United Nations”

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Trump is Here to Stay and Change the Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/trump-stay-change-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-stay-change-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/trump-stay-change-world/#respond Mon, 18 Jun 2018 15:05:37 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156274 Donald John Trump, 45th and current president of the United States, has been seen in many illustrious circles as an anomaly that cannot last. Well, it is time to look at reality. If we put on the glasses of people who have seen their level of income reduced and are afraid of the future, Trump […]

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By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jun 18 2018 (IPS)

Donald John Trump, 45th and current president of the United States, has been seen in many illustrious circles as an anomaly that cannot last. Well, it is time to look at reality.

If we put on the glasses of people who have seen their level of income reduced and are afraid of the future, Trump is here to stay, and he is a result and not a cause.

Roberto Savio

In his year and a half of government, Trump has not lost one of his battles. He has changed the political discourse worldwide, established new standards of ethics in politics, a new meaning of democracy, and his electoral basis has not been shrinking at all.

His critics are the media (which a large majority of Americans dislike), the elite (which is hated) and professionals (who are considered to be profiting at the expense of the lower section of the middle class).

There is now a strong divide with the rural world, the de-industrialised parts of the United States, miners with their mine closed, etc. In addition, white Americans feel increasingly threatened by immigrants, minorities, corporations and industries which have been using the government to their advantage. At every election their number shrinks by two percent.

Let us not forget that Trump was elected by the vote of the majority of white woman, in a country which is the bedrock of feminism.

I know that this could create some irate reactions. The United States is home to some of the best universities in the world, the most brilliant researchers as shown by the number of Nobel prizes awarded , very good orchestras, libraries, museums, a vibrant civil society, and so on. But the sad reality is that those elites count, at best, for no more than 20 percent of the population.

In 80 percent of cases, TV news is the only source of information on international affairs. Newspapers are usually only local, with exception of a few (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, in all less than ten), and have a readership of 35 percent of the population.

You have only to travel in the US hinterland to observe two striking facts: it is very rare to meet somebody who knows geography and history even minimally, and everybody is convinced that the United States has been helping the entire world for which nobody is grateful.

An investigation by the New York Times found out that Americans were convinced that their country has been giving at least 15 percent of its budget for support and philanthropy. In fact, in recent decades the real figure has been below 0.75 percent. At the same time, it has a number of institutes of international studies of the highest level with brilliant analysts, plus a large number of international NGOs. But only 34 percent of the member of the Senate, and 38 percent of members of the House of Representatives have a passport…

The country is divided into two worlds. Of course, the same happen in every country, and in Africa or Asia the division between elite and low-level population is even more extreme. But the United States is an affluent country, where for more than two centuries efforts have been made on the fronts of education and integration in a country which has also been called the “melting pot”, and where it is widely believed that it is the best – if not the only – democracy in the world.

Trump, therefore, has an easy and captive electorate, made up of strong believers, and we cannot understand why, if we do not go over the history of American politics, which is in fact parallel to the political history of Europe. The calls for a lengthy analysis which is what is missing in today’s media, and in which recent US politics can be divided (very roughly) into three historical cycles.

The first, from 1945 to 1981), saw the political class convinced that the priority was to avoid a new world war. For this, institutions for peace and cooperation had to be built, and individuals were to be happy with their status and destiny.

Internationally, that meant the creation of the United Nation, multilateralism as a way to negotiate on the basis of participation and consensus, and international cooperation as a way to help poor countries develop and reduce inequalities. Domestically, this was to be done by giving priority to labour over capital. Strong trade unions were created and in 1979 income from labour accounted for 70 percent of total income. A similar trend was also the seen in Europe.

The second cycle ran from 1981 to 2009, the year Barack Obama was named president. On behalf of the corporate world, Ronald Reagan had launched the neoliberal wave. He started by shutting down the trade union of air traffic controllers, and went on to dismantle much of the welfare and social net built over the previous four decades, eliminating regulations, giving free circulation to capital, creating unrestricted free trade, and so on.

That led to delocalisation of factories, the decline of trade unions and their ability to negotiate, and a very painful reduction of the labour share of wealth, which fell from 70 percent in 1979 to 63 percent in 2014, and has continued to decline ever since.

Unprecedented inequalities have become normal and accepted. Today, an employee at Live Nation Entertainment, an events promotion and ticketing company, who earns an average of 24, 000 dollars would need 2,893 years to earn the 70.6 million dollars that its CEO, Michael Rapino, earned last year.

Reagan had a counterpart in Europe, Margaret Thatcher, who dismantled trade unions, ridiculed the concept of community and common goods and aims (“… there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families …” ), partly followed by Gerard Schroeder in Germany. Globalisation became the undisputed new political vision, far from the rigid ideologies which had created communism and fascism, and were responsible for the Second World War. The market would solve all problems, and governments should keep their hands off.

Reagan was followed by Bush Sr., George H. W. Bush. who somewhat moderated Reagan’s policies. While he started the war with Iraq, he did not go on to invade the entire country. And he was followed by a Democrat, Bill Clinton, who did not challenge neoliberal globalisation but tried to ride it, showing that the left (in American terms) could be more efficient than the right. To give just one example, it was Clinton who completed deregulation of banks by repealing the Glass-Steagall Act which separated savings and investment banking. That led to the transfer of billions of dollars from savings to investments, or speculation, with the result that today banks consider customer activity less lucrative than investments, and finance has become a sector that is totally separate from the production of goods and services. There are now 40 times more financial transactions in one day than output from industry and services, and finance is the only sector of human activity without any international control body.

Markets are now more important than the vote of citizens given that, in many cases, it is they that decide the viability of a government. Furthermore, this has become a sector with no ethics: since the financial crisis of 2008, banks have paid a whopping amount of 321 billion dollars in penalties for illegal activities.

Clinton’s conviction that the left could be successful also had its counterpart in Europe, like Reagan had Thatcher. It was Tony Blair, who constructed a theoretical design for explaining the submission of the left to neoliberal globalisation: this was the so-called Third Way which was, in fact, was a centrist position that tried to reconcile centre-right economic and centre-left social policies.

However, it became clear that neoliberal globalisation was in fact lifting only a few boats and that capital without regulation was becoming a threat. Social injustices continued to increase and legions of people in the rural area felt that towns were syphoning off all revenues and that the elite was ignoring them, and unemployed workers and the impoverished middle class no longer felt old loyalties to the left, which was now considered representative of the elite and professionals.

In the United States the Democratic Party, which also held a neoliberal view with Clinton, began to change its agenda from an economic approach to one of human rights, defending minorities, Afro-Americans and immigrants, and advocating their inclusion in the system.

The fight was no longer between corporations and trade unions, and Obama was the result of that fight, the champion of human rights also as an instrument of international affairs. In fact, while he had a brilliant agenda on human rights, he did very little on the social and economic front, beside the law on national health. But his alliance of minorities and progressive whites was a personal baggage, who could not pass on to an emblematic figure of the establishment like Hillary Clinton.

That led to a new situation in American politics. Those on the left began to see defence of their identity (and their past) as the new fight, now that the traditional division between left and right had waned. Religious identity, national identity, fight against the system and those who are different, become political action.

It should be stressed that the same process happened in Europe, albeit in a totally different cultural and social situation. Those left out deserted the traditional political system to vote for those who were against the system, and promised radical changes to restore the glories of the past.

Their message was necessary nationalist, because they denounced all international systems as merely supporting the elites who were the beneficiaries. It was also necessarily to find a scapegoat, like the Jews in the thirties. Immigrants were perfect because they aroused fear and a perceived loss of traditional identity, a threat in a period of large unemployment.

The new political message from the newcomers was to empower those left out, those who felt fear, those who had lost any trust in the political class, and promise to give them back their sovereignty, reject intruders and take power away from the traditional elites, the professionals of politics, to bring in real people.

Since the end of the financial crisis in 2008 – which brought about even further deterioration of the social and economic situation) – those parties known as populist parties started to grow and they now practically dominate the political panorama.

In the United States, the Republicans of the Tea Party, radical right-wing legislators, were able to change the Republican party, pushing out those called compassionate conservatives because they had social concern. In Europe, the media were startled to see workers voting for Marine Le Pen in France, but the left had lost any legitimacy as representative of the lower incomes; technological change led to the disappearance of social identities, like workers.

In a period of crisis, there was no capability for redistribution. The left had now found itself in the middle of a crisis of identity and it will not emerge from it soon.

Let us now come to today. In November 2016, to universal amazement, (and his own) Trump was elected president of the United States, and just four months later, in March 2017, Brexit came as a rude awakening for Europe. The resentful and fearful went to the polls to get Great Britain out of Europe. The fact that the campaign was plagued by falsehood – recognised by the winners after the referendum – was irrelevant. Who was against Brexit? The financial system, the international corporations, the big towns like London, university professors: in other words, the system. That was enough.

Here, I have deliberately lumped together the United States and Europe (the European Union) to show that globalisation has had a global impact. A United States, which had been the creator and guarantor of the international system, started to withdraw from it under Reagan when he felt that it was becoming a straitjacket for the United States.

This started the decline of the United Nations: on American initiative, trade was taken away from the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was created. Globalisation has two engines, trade and finance, and both are now out of the United Nations, which has become an institution for health, education, children, woman and other non-productive sectors, according to the market. It is no coincidence that Trump is now fighting against the globalisation that United States invented, and one of its main enemies is the WTO.

An old maxim is that people get the government they deserve. But we should also be aware that they are being pushed by a new alliance: the alternative right alliance. In all countries it has the same aim: destroy what exists. This network is fed at the same time by Russia and the United States. American alt-right ideologues like Steve Bannon are addressing European audiences to foster the end of the European Union, with clear support from the White House. The populists in power, like Viktor Orban in Hungary or Matteo Salvini in Italy (as well those not in power, like Le Pen) all consider Trump and Vladimir Putin as their points of references. Such alliances are new, and they will become very dangerous.

And now we come to Mr. Trump. After what has been said above, it is clear why he should be considered a symptom and not a cause, while his personality is obviously playing an additional important role. It should be noted that he has not lost any important battle since he came to power. He has been able to take over the Republican party completely, and it is now de facto the Trump Party.

In the primaries for the November 2017 elections (for all House of Representative seats and 50 percent of those of the Senate), he intervened to support candidates he liked, and their opponents always lost. In South Carolina, conservative Katie Arrington, who won against a much stronger opponent, Mark Sanford, declared in her acceptance speech: our party is the Trump party.

Trump knows exactly what his voters think, and he always acts in a way that strengthens his support, regardless of what he does. He is a known sexist, and is now involved in a scandal with a porno star? He has moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and he now has the support of the evangelists, a very large and puritan Protestant group which is an important source of votes. (Interestingly, Guatemala and Paraguay which decided to move their embassies to Jerusalem are also run by evangelists.)

Trump has refused to disclose his incomes and taxes, and he has not formally separated himself from his companies. In the United States, this is usually is enough to force people to resign.

He has removed from his cabinet all the representatives of finance and industry he had put in on his arrival (in order to be accepted by the establishment) and replaced them with right-wing hawks, highly efficient and not morons, from National Security Advisor John Bolton to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He has managed to obtain Gina Hastel, a notorious torturer, as director of the CIA with the votes of Democrats.

He has turned his back on a highly structured treaty with Iran (and other four major countries) to forge a totally unclear agreement with North Korea, which creates problems with Japan, an American ally by definition. He has decided to side with Israel and Saudi Arabia against Iran, because that move has the support of a large American sector.

In addition to narcissism, what moves Trump are not values but money. He has quarreled with all historical allies of the United States and he is now engaging in a tariff war with them, while starting one with China, simply on the basis of money. However while erratic, Trump is not unpredictable. All that he has done, he announced during his electoral campaign.

Trump believes he is accountable to no one, and has created a direct relationship with his electors, bypassing the media. According to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog, which keeps track of Trump’s many misstatements, untruths and outright lies, he exceeded 3,000 untrue or misleading statements in his first 466 days – on average, 6.5 untruths a day. Nobody cares. Very few are able to judge.

When a president of United States announces that he is abandoning the treaty with Iran, because they are the main financier of ISIS and Al Qaida, the lack of public reaction is a good measure of the total ignorance of most Americans.

Americans have no idea that Islam is divided between Sunni and Shiite, and that the terrorists are Sunni and based on an extreme interpretation of Islam, Wahhabism, or Salafism. Iranians, who are not Arabs, are Shiite, and are considered apostate by the Sunni extremists; Iran has lost thousands of men in the fight against ISIS.

This ignorance helps Trump win Republican voters, no matter what.

The fact that Trump knows exactly what his voters feel and think feeds his narcissism. After his meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, at a press conference he said of previous US presidents: “I don’t think they’ve ever had the confidence, frankly, in a president that they have right now for getting things done and having the ability to get things done”.

He does not tolerate any criticism or dissent, as his staff well knows. The result is that he is surrounded by yes men, like no president before. His assistant for trade, Peter Navarro, has declared that there should be a special place in hell for foreign leaders who disagree with Trump.

According to the large majority of economists, the tariff war that he has now started now with US allies plus China will bring growth down all over the world, but nobody reacts in the United States. It is all irrelevant to his voters. He now has a 92 percent rate of confidence, the highest since the United States has existed.

Considering all he has done in less than two years against the existing order leads us to consider that the real danger is that he will be re-elected, and leave office only in 2024. By then, the changes in ethics and style will have become really irreversible.

With many candidates in various countries looking to him as a political example, he will certainly be able to change the world in which we have grown and which, albeit with many faults, has been able to bring about growth and peace.

It is true that the traditional political system needs a radical update, and it does appear able to do so. Meanwhile, it is difficult to foresee how a world based on nationalism and xenophobia – with a strong increase in military spending worldwide, and many other global problems from climate change to no policy for migration, and a global debt that has reached 225 percent of GNP in ten years – will be able to live without conflicts,

What we do know is that the world which emerged from the Second World War, based on the idea of peace and development, the world which is in our constitutions, will disappear.

Democracy, can be a perfect tool for the legitimacy of a dictator. This is what is happening in the various Russias, Turkeys, Hungarys or Polands. A strongman wins the elections, then starts to make changes to the constitution in order to have more power. The next step is to place cronies in institutional positions, reduce the independence of the judiciary, control the media, and so on. That is then followed by acting in name of the majority, against minorities.

This is not new in history. Hitler and Mussolini were at first elected, and today many “men of providence” are lining up.

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You Are More Powerful than You Think!http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/you-are-more-powerful-than-you-think/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=you-are-more-powerful-than-you-think http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/you-are-more-powerful-than-you-think/#respond Thu, 14 Jun 2018 15:25:08 +0000 Monique Barbut http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156239 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.

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Credit: UNCCD

By Monique Barbut
BONN, Jun 14 2018 (IPS)

Are you overwhelmed by the depressing news coming at you daily? Conflict, forced migrants, famine, floods, hurricanes, extinction of species, climate change, threats of war … a seemingly endless list. It might surprise you, but you can really make a difference on many of these issues.

Just like every raindrop counts towards a river and every vote counts in an election, so does every choice you make in what you consume. With every produce you consume, you strengthen the river of sustainability or of unsustainability. It is either a vote in favor of policies that spread social goods like peace and poverty eradication or social bads like – conflict or grinding poverty.

We look up to governments a lot, forgetting that governments set up policies to encourage us to make specific choices. That’s how powerful our lifestyles choices are.

Imagine, what would happen if the world’s over 7 billion consumers committed, every year, to just one lifestyle change that will support the provision of goods from sustainably managed land.

Every year, we make New Year resolutions about change. Why not include as one of those resolutions, a changeof habit leading that will lead to a smart sustainable consumer lifestyle? Without any government intervention, you can make choices that will help to end deforestation, soil erosion and pollution or reduce the effects of drought or sand and dust storms.

Monique Barbut

However, to make the right lifestyle change, each of us must first find out where the goods we consume are cultivated and processed. For instance, if they are linked to conflict in regions with rapidly degrading land or forests or polluted water or soils, then chose an alternative that is produced sustainably. It is a small, but achievable change to make every year.

Every country and product has a land footprint. What we eat. What we wear. What we drink. The manufacturer or supplier of the products we consume. The brands related to these suppliers that we will support. We prioritize buying from the local small farm holders to reduce our global land footprint. Consumers have plenty of options.

But a vital missing link is the informed consumer.

Through mobile phone apps**, it is getting easier and easier to track where the goods we consume come from. It is also getting easier to find alternative suppliers of our choice, as the private sector embraces the idea of ethical business. The information you need is literally in the – mobile phone in the – palm of our hand.

But you must believe in your own power to change the world. The global effect on the market may surprise you.

We will reward the food producers, natural resource managers and land planners struggling against all odds to keep the land healthy and productive. This is cheapest way to help every family and community in the world to thrive, and avoid the damage and loss of life that comes from environmental degradation and disasters.

Make 17 June, the celebration of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, your date with nature. It’s the mid-point of the year and a good moment to review the progress you are making towards your New Year resolution of a sustainable lifestyle.

In 2030, when the international community evaluates its achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, you can point to positive changes that you have contributed in favor of present and future generations.

You are more powerful than you think. Take your power back and put it into action.

Monique Barbut is Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, and the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

The post You Are More Powerful than You Think! appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.

The post You Are More Powerful than You Think! appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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