Inter Press ServicePeace – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 19 Dec 2018 06:34:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 ‘Respect for the other’ lies at the heart of peace education, say panelists at UN debatehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/respect-lies-heart-peace-education-say-panelists-un-debate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=respect-lies-heart-peace-education-say-panelists-un-debate http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/respect-lies-heart-peace-education-say-panelists-un-debate/#respond Mon, 10 Dec 2018 19:35:17 +0000 Geneva Centre http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159139 Respect for the other lies at the heart of peace education and was a key thread through a debate entitled “Education for Peace in a multi-religious world”. It was held on the 2018 World Human Rights Day at the United Nations Office in Geneva. Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue and the […]

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By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Dec 10 2018 (Geneva Centre)

Respect for the other lies at the heart of peace education and was a key thread through a debate entitled “Education for Peace in a multi-religious world”. It was held on the 2018 World Human Rights Day at the United Nations Office in Geneva.

Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue and the World Council of Churches held the debate on 10 December on the impact of peace education to promote mutual understanding and cooperative relations between people and societies.

Countering extremist narratives
The conference focused on how education for peace can engage different stakeholders to counter violent, extremist narratives, build peaceful and inclusive societies as well as to promote universally shared values upheld in diverse faiths and creeds.

Ambassador Idriss Jazairy, Executive Director of the Geneva Centre’s Board of Management, a former head of a UN specialized agency and top diplomat for Algeria opened the panel debate. He said, “Today I would say peace is in jeopardy once again.

“We are exposed to a kind of a pincer movement between populism on the one hand and extremism on the other. In those circumstances, we need to see how we can defuse this tension and give the right of way to peace. We have to do this by addressing the problem already at the school level.”

WCC General Secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fyske Tveit, said in a speech opening the debate, “The question of how faith communities can educate for peace in a world torn by war and conflict is most pressing in today’s world.”

Tveit was unable to attend the panel discussion and his speech was read by Rev. Dr Peniel Rajkumar, who heads the WCC’s Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation programme.

“It is imperative that leaders of religious communities of various kinds recognize that one of the most solemn tasks laid upon them is to pass on a vision for the pursuit of peace to those they lead, those they teach, those whose imaginations they shape and whose consciences they help to form,” said Tveit.

“Faith communities as communities of edification at various levels – formal, informal, religious and secular – have a definite role in this. What are the motivations and means for us to capitalize on the constant opportunities for religious communities to teach their members how to be peacemakers?” he asked.

‘Knowing about each other’
Professor Majeda Omar of the University of Jordan and former director of the Royal Institute for Inter-faith Studies of Jordan said, “What we need to know about is, each other’s religions and cultures.”

She noted that it is the “lack of religious knowledge,” that is the question not “the lack of religions”. Omar said, “What is needed, is not just tolerance, but mutual understanding. We have to learn how to listen to one another.”

Professor Anantanand Rambachan, Professor of Religion at St. Olaf College (US) spoke from a Hindu perspective but also quoted Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi who spoke of “the duty of every cultured man or woman to read sympathetically, the scriptures of the world. If we are to respects others’ religions, as we would have them respect our own, a friendly study of the world’s religions is a sacred duty.”

Rambachan said, “Accurate knowledge of other traditions must be complemented by the development of relationships and friendships between people of different traditions.”

After his speech, Jazairy said, “Ecumenism should encompass all the Abrahamic religions, and Hinduism.”

Monsignor Indunil Janakaratne, Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said, “only by changing education can we can change the world”. He explained that a humanized education” can humanity lay down a pathway for “paternal humanism”.

Dialogue is essential for “your own maturity in confronting other cultures and religions” and that “as we grow, and we develop, and we mature, this dialogue is what creates peace,” said Janakaratne.

“Our goal is unity and not uniformity,” said panellist Dr Debbie Weissman, who as an “Israeli Jew”, a former president of the International Council of Christians and Jews.

Author of “Memoirs of a Hopeful Pessimist: A Life of Activism through Dialogue,” she referred to the biblical story of the creation of the human being in the image of God as “the basis of respect for the Other, which lies at the heart of peace education. Human diversity is the manifestation of God’s greatness.”

Those conducting the panel discussion included: Ms. Maria Lucia Uribe, Director of Arigatou International Geneva – Ethics Education for Children; Mr Renato Opertti, Senior Programme Specialist, IBE-UNESCO; Ms. Beris Gwynne, Founder and Managing Director of Incitare. Former Australian diplomat and aid official and NGO Executive; and Mr. Jan-Willem Bult, Head of Children & Youth Media and Chief Editor of WADADA News for Kids.

*The present press release was prepared by the World Council of Churches for dissemination and approved with some presentational adjustments by the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue.

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U.N. Remains Defiant Amid Last Minute U-turns on Global Compact for Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/u-n-remains-defiant-amid-last-minute-u-turns-global-compact-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-n-remains-defiant-amid-last-minute-u-turns-global-compact-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/u-n-remains-defiant-amid-last-minute-u-turns-global-compact-migration/#respond Mon, 10 Dec 2018 10:21:24 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159114 Amidst negative sentiments and last-minute withdrawals from the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) by some member countries, the United Nations says the regrettable decisions are being fuelled by misinformation. Addressing the media Dec. 9 on the eve of the historic two-day GCM conference in Marrakech, set against the dramatic backdrop of […]

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In refugee camps at Dolo Odo, Ethiopia there is enough food for small markets to operate. One in every 70 people around the world is caught up in a crisis, including the refugee crisis, with more than 130 million people expected to need humanitarian aid next year. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By Friday Phiri
MARRAKECH, Morocco, Dec 10 2018 (IPS)

Amidst negative sentiments and last-minute withdrawals from the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) by some member countries, the United Nations says the regrettable decisions are being fuelled by misinformation.

Addressing the media Dec. 9 on the eve of the historic two-day GCM conference in Marrakech, set against the dramatic backdrop of Morocco’s snow-capped Atlas Mountains, Louise Arbour, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration, addressed the question of whether the U.N. could have been better engaged with countries to persuade them to come on board.

“I have to tell you, I am not convinced you can persuade those who don’t want to be convinced,” Arbour says. “I am skeptical it would not have turned it into a dialogue of the deaf.”

The GCM is the first-ever inter-governmentally negotiated agreement to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner, providing a platform for cooperation on migration. Its genesis lies in the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted unanimously by the U.N. General Assembly in 2016. It is the culmination of 18 months of discussions and consultations among Member States, and other actors, including national and local officials, civil society, private and public sectors and migrants themselves.

“It creates no right to migrate; it places no imposition on States; it does not constitute so-called ‘soft’ law—it is not legally binding,” Arbour says. “It expressly permits States to distinguish, as they see fit, between regular and irregular migrants, in accordance with existing international law. This is not my interpretation of the text—it is the text.”

She added that it is surprising there has been so much misinformation about what the Compact is and what its text says, emphasising that “the adoption of the migration compact is a re-affirmation of the values and principles embodied in the U.N. Charter and in international law.”

This was, she conceded, notwithstanding several member States who have already declined to participate, others making last-minute indications they would not adopt the compact, while some have stated their final decision must await further internal deliberation. These include, most notably, the United States. Other countries also include Austria, Australia, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Latvia and Bulgaria, among others.

United Nations Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbour speaks to the media in Morocco. Courtesy: Global Compact for Migration/CC by 2.0

“It is regrettable whenever any State withdraws from a multilateral process, on a global issue, the outcome of which has generated overwhelming support,” Arbour says. “It is particularly regrettable when a State pulls out from a negotiated agreement in which it actively participated a short time before.”

Arbour emphasised the process of adoption would still go on as planned, with over 150 States registered to attend, joined by over 400 partners from the U.N. system, civil society, private sector and academia.

Even with the adoption of the compact, the unwelcome last-minute withdrawals and negative sentiments around the compact have unsettled several stakeholders from civil society.

Carolina Gottardo, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Australia, says the civil society movement is concerned with deliberate false information being peddled about the compact.

“It is your role as media to report facts and ignore political ideology,” Gottardo said during an IPS and U.N. Foundation training session for journalists on the eve of the conference.

The GCM defines 23 objectives covering all aspects of migration. Each objective comprises a general goal and a catalogue of possible actions, drawn from best practices, that States may choose to utilise to implement their national migration priorities.

“Many challenges still stand in the way of implementation – not least the toxic, ill-informed narrative that too often persists when it comes to migrants,” Arbour says.

During an evening reception for U.N. delegates that followed Arbour’s announcement, António Guterres, the U.N. Secretary-General, officially launched the U.N. Network on Migration, an agile and inclusive network of all key stakeholders on migration—U.N. agencies that have migration components, private sector, civil society and others—with the aim of mobilising the full resources and expertise to assist Member States in their endeavour to implement the 23 objectives outlined in the compact. 

He announced that the “the International Organization for Migration (IOM) will play a central role” in the network.

The U.N. chief also expressed confidence in the new network, highlighting some of its core features, saying it would focus on collaboration and have an inclusive structure, while embodying U.N. values, like diversity and an openness to working with all partners, at all levels.

“Your participation in this conference is a clear demonstration of the importance our global community places on the pursuit of the better management of international migration, through a cooperative approach that is grounded in the principles of state sovereignty, responsibility-sharing, non-discrimination and human rights,” Guterres told conference delegates.

But, as many attending the GCM acknowledge, in this age of social media and polarised political posturing, success all too often depends more on message and narrative—one of the main challenges the GCM, and the migration issue in general, faces.

“Report on facts, not political ideology,” Gottardo told journalists. “Avoid dichotomies between ‘good’ or ‘bad’ movements of people.”

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70 Years since the Universal Declaration on Human Rights – Hope Against Hopehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/70-years-since-universal-declaration-human-rights-hope-hope/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=70-years-since-universal-declaration-human-rights-hope-hope http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/70-years-since-universal-declaration-human-rights-hope-hope/#comments Mon, 10 Dec 2018 09:41:01 +0000 Prince Al Hassan bin Talal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159109 “Save the Children estimates that 84,701 children under five have died in Yemen from untreated cases of severe acute malnutrition between April 2015 and October 2018.” “The grim analysis of United Nations data comes as intense fighting has again erupted in Yemen’s strategic port city of Hodeidah.” Meanwhile, the UN considers Yemen the world’s biggest […]

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By HRH Prince Al Hassan bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
GENEVA, Dec 10 2018 (IPS)

“Save the Children estimates that 84,701 children under five have died in Yemen from untreated cases of severe acute malnutrition between April 2015 and October 2018.”

“The grim analysis of United Nations data comes as intense fighting has again erupted in Yemen’s strategic port city of Hodeidah.”

Meanwhile, the UN considers Yemen the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis and warns that without an end to the fighting, the country, in which more than half the population is already at risk of famine, faces the worst famine in decades.

Such have been the headlines day after day since the start of the war in Yemen in 2015. The tragedy is that statistics, coupled with the sensationalism of news, swiftly lose their impact. We become inured to the human catastrophe unfolding before our eyes as we turn the pages of our newspapers or flick channels on our television sets in search of something less distressing (OR less demanding).

This year sees the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, proclaimed in Paris by the United Nations General Assembly on the 10th December 1948. Following the unmitigated horrors of the Second World War, it was a milestone in the history of human rights. Yet, seventy years on, the river of human history continues to be poisoned by injustice, starvation, displacement, fear, instability, uncertainties and politicised sectarian and ethnic divisions.

Today it seems we are moving further away from the concept of Universal rights, in favour of my rights, even if at the expense of yours (although the other may be you yourself), with a callous disregard for the Declaration’s two key ethical considerations: a commitment to the inherent dignity of every human being and a commitment to non-discrimination.

The schisms in the world today have become so numerous, the inequities so stark, that a universal respect for human dignity is something that must be brought back to the consciousness of the international community.

Recognition of religion and individual cultural identities are a crucial part of the mix. Unlike citizenship – the legal membership of a sovereign state or nation, identity encompasses the totality of how one construes oneself, including those dimensions that express continuity with past ancestry and future aspirations, and implies affinity with certain groups and the recognition of common ties. In brief, it demands the recognition of the totality of the self, of one’s human dignity, irrespective of background, ethnicity or financial clout. A call to be empowered to fulfil one’s potential, without kowtowing to a social construct or relinquishing any part of one’s heritage.

We need to be proactive in addressing the growing global hunger for human dignity for it goes to the very heart of human identity and the polarity / plurality divide, and without it, all the protections of the various legal human rights mechanisms become meaningless.

We have gone from a world of symmetries and political and military blocs, to a situation of fearful asymmetries and violent, armed non-state actors.

The polarity of hatred among people is corrosive, not only in the Mashreq/Levant, but across the globe. The retrenchment into smaller and smaller identities is one of the most striking paradoxes of globalisation. Binary fallacies lead nations to dead ends; to zero sum games.

Cross border themes of today, water, energy and human dignity, must be discussed at a regional level, as a creative common, rather than country by country. The neglect of these themes has meant that the West Asia area has become a breeding ground for rogue and extremist actors. The complex dynamics among the three greatest forces shaping our planet – man, nature, technology – require a whole new outlook. Yet there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

In drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, its proponents [OR the drafting committee] sought to underpin a shared ideal, a common standard for all peoples and all nations, a code of conduct of rights and responsibilities if you will.

I should like to pay tribute to my late mother-in-law, the Begum Shaista Ikramullah. When she, the first Muslim Indian (as she then was) woman to gain a PhD from the University of London, working in 1948 with Eleanor Roosevelt on the Declaration of Human Rights and Convention Against Genocide, declared:

It is imperative that there be an accepted code of civilized behaviour.

Adding later:

The ideas emphasized in the [Declaration] are far from being realized, but there is a goal which those who believe in the freedom of the human spirit can try to reach.

To date we have fallen far short. Nonetheless the UDHR, not only provided the first step towards the creation of the International Bill of Human Rights (completed 1966, came into effect 1976), but gave rise to numerous conventions and international agreements which should give us cause for hope. I would like to mention but a few.

Of personal interest is the 1948 Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide which was worked on and signed by the late Begum Ikramullah. She strongly supported the work of Professor Raphael Lemkin who lost 24 members of his family in the Holocaust. Raphael Lemkin defined genocide as “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves“.

Some years later, the Helsinki Final Act (1975) “provided a basis for creating conditions favourable to peace in Europe and made human rights a common value to be respected by all nations in a world which was divided into East and West camps in that period”. It gave rise to the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, a non-governmental organisation of people in Europe, dedicated to the promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms, peace, democracy and pluralism and to our own Middle East Citizens’ Assembly.

More recently I had the honour to serve on the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, whose fundamental purpose was to empower those living in poverty through increased protections and rights – thereby addressing simultaneously, exclusion, loss of dignity, and the link between poverty and lack of access to the law.

The basic premise of its report (published in 2008) was that the law should work for everyone, and included as a key underpinning, state/governmental investment in the conditions of labour.

Despite these positive steps, the three main challenges identified by the Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues (ICIHI): man against man, man against nature and man-made disasters, summarised in the title of our report: Winning the Human Race? continue to prevail (OR there is much much more to be done.)

In a world where nearly one person is forcibly displaced every two seconds as a result of conflict or persecution, and where 85% of the worlds’ displaced are being hosted by developing countries, ill-equipped to do so, of which Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, Jordan and Lebanon are in the forefront and in which 15% of all mankind live in areas somewhat euphemistically described as ‘fragile states’, the moral lobby that is still strong across the world must act in cohesion. Together we must ensure that equal citizenship rights and human dignity are at the forefront of all development efforts. Further that the shift towards viewing human dignity as an individual, and not collective attribute, is realised.

This means placing human welfare firmly and definitively, at the centre of national and international policy-making.

We continue to hear of a security order or an economic order, neither of which have succeeded in creating a Universal order from which all of humanity benefits. In the face of this disharmonious logic, it is time for an humanitarian order based on the moral and ethical participation of the peoples of the world, as well as an intimate understanding of human nature.

We have, in the reports mentioned above and in other projects, a well-honed tool box of critical issues and agendas which should form the multi-stakeholder platform of our commitment to the universal ideals we all cherish. As with the UDHR, these reports are a clarion call to action – it is up to us to ensure they also represent a continuation of imaginative thinking for a universally beneficial creative process.

It is time to take off the blinkers of thinking only of ourselves – of our tribe and of our nation against all others – and consider how much can be achieved by drawing on the whole pool of our talents and resources to address common concerns on the basis of our shared humanity. We need an inclusive approach to meeting challenges, one that accounts for both the natural and the human environment. Only thus can we attain the desired organic unity between man and nature and the ethics of universal responsibility. This may sound idealistic; it is, but whether we are talking about water scarcity, food security, poverty, education, the ability for everyone to fulfil their potential, we need to focus on human dignity both in its ontological dimension by virtue of our very humanity and in its operative dimension as enhanced by our self-accomplishment.

We were not put on this earth to go forth and multiply, desecrate and destroy, but to bring life as well as hope for future generations.

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Is Africa Ready for Nuclear Energy?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/africa-ready-nuclear-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-ready-nuclear-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/africa-ready-nuclear-energy/#respond Fri, 07 Dec 2018 12:29:15 +0000 Laura Gil http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159083 Laura Gil, Africa Renewal

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Current & expected electricity generation of African countries.

By Laura Gil
VIENNA, Dec 7 2018 (IPS)

Years back, nuclear energy was a fancy option limited to the industrialized world. In due course, nuclear could be an energy source for much of Africa, where only South Africa currently has a nuclear power plant.

Governments across the continent are devising development policies to become middle-income countries in the medium term. Socioeconomic growth comes with a rise in energy demand—and a need for a reliable and sustainable energy supply.

For industrializing countries in need of a clean, reliable and cost-effective source of energy, nuclear is an attractive option.

“Africa is hungry for energy, and nuclear power could be part of the answer for an increasing number of countries,” says Mikhail Chudakov, deputy director general and head of the Department of Nuclear Energy at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an international organisation that promotes the peaceful use of nuclear technology.

A third of the almost 30 countries currently considering nuclear power are in Africa.

Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan have already engaged with the IAEA to assess their readiness to embark on a nuclear programme. Algeria, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia are also mulling the possibility of nuclear power.

“Energy is the backbone of any strong development,” says Nii Allotey, director of the Nuclear Power Institute at the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission. “And where do we get energy from? We have hydro, thermal, fossil fuels, and we have local gas—but these are dwindling. They are limited; fossil fuels could run out by 2030. And, the prices are volatile.”

For Ghana, cost-effective, reliable electricity is the entry point to higher-value-added manufacturing and export-led growth. For example, the country’s reserves of bauxite—the ore used to produce aluminium—are an important source of income, but for now it is exported raw.

“We have a smelter, but it’s not operating at full capacity because electricity is too expensive,” Allotey says. “If we had cost-effective electricity, we would not be exporting raw bauxite, but exporting smelted bauxite at a much higher price. This would be a big move for Ghana.”

Power to the people
African governments are working to make electricity more widely accessible. Roughly 57% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa does not have access to electricity.

For many, the electricity supply is characterised by frequent power outages, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), an organisation of 30 mostly industrialised countries that have met a set of energy security criteria.

Kenya is considering nuclear to meet the demand generated by hooking up households nationwide, which is expected to contribute significantly to the 30% increase in electricity demand predicted for the country by 2030.

A successful nuclear power programme requires broad political and popular support and a national commitment of at least 100 years.

“For a long time in our country electrification levels were low, but the government has put in a lot of efforts towards electrifying the entire country,” says Winfred Ndubai, acting director of the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board’s Technical Department. “Even those areas that were considered to be remote are now vibrant. Within a period of about 10 years we have moved from [a] 12% electrification rate to 60%.”

Kenya depends mostly on non-fossil fuel for energy; about 60% of installed capacity is from hydropower and geothermal power.

Is Africa ready for nuclear?
“Going nuclear is not something that happens from one day to the next. From the moment a country initiates a nuclear power programme until the first unit becomes operative, years could pass,” says Milko Kovachev, head of the IAEA’s Nuclear Infrastructure Development Section, which works with countries new to nuclear power.

“Creating the necessary nuclear infrastructure and building the first nuclear power plant will take at least 10 to 15 years.”

A successful nuclear power programme requires broad political and popular support and a national commitment of at least 100 years, Kovachev added. This includes committing to the entire life cycle of a power plant, from construction through electricity generation and, finally, decommissioning.

In addition to time, there is the issue of costs. Governments and private operators need to make a considerable investment that includes projected waste management and decommissioning costs.

Kovachev points out that “the government’s investment to develop the necessary infrastructure is modest relative to the cost of the first nuclear power plant. But [it] is still in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Financing nuclear energy
Without proper financing, nuclear is not an option. “Most countries in Africa will find it difficult to invest this amount of money in a nuclear power project,” Kovachev stresses.

“But there are financing mechanisms like, for instance, from export agencies of vendor countries. Tapping into a reliable, carbon-free supply of energy when vendors are offering to fund it can make sense for several countries in Africa.”

Another aspect to consider is the burden on the electrical grid system of the country. Nuclear power plants are connected to a grid through which they deliver electricity. For a country to safely introduce nuclear energy, the IAEA recommends that its grid capacity be around ten times the capacity of its planned nuclear power plant.

For example, a country should have a capacity of 10,000 megawatts already in place to generate 1,000 megawatts from nuclear power.

Few countries in Africa currently have a grid of this capacity. “In Kenya, our installed capacity is 2,400 megawatts—too small for conventional, large nuclear power plants,” Ndubai says. “The grid would need to increase to accommodate a large unit, or, alternatively, other, smaller nuclear power plant options would need to be explored.”

One option is to invest in small modular reactors (SMRs), which are among the most promising emerging technologies in nuclear power. SMRs produce electric power up to 300 megawatts per unit, or around half of a traditional reactor and their major components can be manufactured in a factory setting and transported to sites for ease of construction.

While SMRs are expected to begin commercial operation in Argentina, China and Russia between 2018 and 2020, African countries are still wary of such a project.

“One of the things we are very clear about in terms of introducing nuclear power is that we do not want to invest in a first-of-a-kind technology,” Ndubai says. “As much as SMRs represent an opportunity for us, we would want them to be built and tested elsewhere before introducing them in our country.”

Joining a regional grid is another option. “Historically, it has been possible to share a common grid between countries,” Kovachev explains. “But, of course, this requires regional dialogue.” One example of such a scheme is the West African Power Pool, created to integrate national power systems in the Economic Community of West African States into a unified regional electricity market.

Another factor militating against a headlong rush into nuclear power is popular rejection of projects that are costly and hard to finance.

Also, countries are wary that in the event of a nuclear power plant accident, released radioactive materials will harm the environment and lives. Although no fatalities were recorded in the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in March 2011 following the Tōhoku earthquake, the release of radioactive materials forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents.

IAEA assistance
While the IAEA does not influence a country’s decision about whether to add nuclear power to its energy mix, the organisation provides technical expertise and other pertinent information about safe, secure and sustainable use to countries that opt for nuclear energy.

Safety and security are key considerations in the IAEA Milestones Approach, a phased method created to assist countries that are assessing their readiness to embark on a nuclear power programme. The approach helps them consider aspects such as the legal framework, nuclear safety, security, radiation protection, environmental protection and radioactive waste management.

“Many, many people ask the question: Why nuclear?” Allotey says. “To me, it’s not about nuclear being an option. It is about energy being an option. Do you, as a country, need energy? And the simple answer is yes. So if you need energy, you need to find cost-effective electricity that is clean and reliable.”

“With a rapidly expanding population and plans to grow our economies, we need to work within these constraints,” he adds. “We are a continent that is in dire need of energy.”

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Excerpt:

Laura Gil, Africa Renewal

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Why Bother about World War Ihttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/bother-world-war/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bother-world-war http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/bother-world-war/#comments Wed, 05 Dec 2018 06:59:20 +0000 Jan Lundius http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159033 Why do we still need to be concerned about a war that ended a hundred years ago? Sure, it caused the death of at least 37 million people, but why bother about that now? Anyhow France´s president Emmanuel Macron believed it was worthwhile to commemorate the end of World War I and seventy world leaders […]

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By Jan Lundius
Stockholm/Rome, Dec 5 2018 (IPS)

Why do we still need to be concerned about a war that ended a hundred years ago? Sure, it caused the death of at least 37 million people, but why bother about that now? Anyhow France´s president Emmanuel Macron believed it was worthwhile to commemorate the end of World War I and seventy world leaders were invited to attend the centennial ceremony by Paris´s Arc de Triomphe.

In pouring rain Macron delivered a speech in which he reminded the gathered leaders that “old demons” were once again emerging all over the world, threatening peace and global co-operation. A common theme for these forces is Nationalism. We all know what that is all about – an intense form of loyalty to one’s country, or to what is often labelled as “our people”, exaggerating the value and importance of our own nation, placing its interests above those of other countries.

In his speech Macron declared that: “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism, which in fact is a betrayal of patriotism. By saying ´our interests first; who cares about the others?´, we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what makes it great, and what makes it essential — its moral values.” Upholding moral values requires listening to others, efforts to co-operate and understand one another. We have to accept that the fate of all humans is intertwined and “giving into the fascination for withdrawal, isolationism, violence and domination would be a grave error” for which future generations will hold us all accountable.

Listening to this speech was the US President Donald Trump, a leader who once tweeted about Kim Jong Un: “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” and who is supporting Saudi Arabia´s devastating war in Yemen. Present was also Russia´s president, Vladimir Putin, whose regime supports a long-winding war in the Ukrainian Donetsk Oblast and bombed civilian targets in Syria. Trump, who like Putin proudly has ¬declared himself a nationalist, sat stony-faced during Macron´s speech, but smiled broadly as he exchanged a handshake with Putin, who flashed him a thumbs-up sign.

Like any other statesman Trump also gives speeches, maybe not as eloquent as Macrons´, but nevertheless quite forceful:

      You know what a globalist is, right? You know what a globalist is? A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country so much. And you know what? We can’t have that.

Why bother about all this? What is the use of remembering World War I? The reasons to this overwhelming affliction were manifold; political, territorial and economic. However, the main cause of the disaster was the growth of nationalism and imperialism, fuelled by a breakdown of the European power balance. The crumbling of the Austro-Hungary and Ottoman Empires. The unification of Italy and Germany, combined with a grave intoxication of nationalism, which appeared to have poisoned every European nation.

A case in point was England, with an anthem that declared Rule, Brittania, Britons never, never will be slaves and where the press constantly warned about German, Russian or French aggression, as well as the Yellow Peril and the danger of losing admirable hereditary genetic characteristics due to the influx of and mixing with “inferior races”. Such “invasion literature” depicted the Germans as cold, cruel and calculating. Russians were described as uncultured barbarians. The French were above all leisure-seeking nonentities, while the Chinese were murderous, opium-smoking savages and Africans childish and underdeveloped.

Germans sang Deutschland, Deutschland über alles. Über alles in der Welt, Germany, Germany above all. Above all in the world and celebrated German culture as humanity´s most perfect creation, protected and backed up by a splendid Prussian war machine. In Russia, more than 80 ethnic groups were forced to speak Russian, worship the tsar and practice the Russian Orthodox religion. Africa, the Middle East and Asia were being “carved up” and economically exploited by European powers, while people of almost every ethnic European group were convinced that they, their nation, or the one they aspired to create, occupied or would be destined to obtain a position of cultural, economic and military supremacy. With provocative remarks and high-flown rhetoric, politicians, diplomats, authors and journalists contributed to this divisive and eventually destructive mind set.

The result? Millions of dead, wounded, bereaved, bewildered and starving people all over the world. Did humanity learn anything? Twenty years after the armistice a great part of the world was plunged into the abyss of another devastating war, even worse than the first one. And now? Have we learned anything? What are we doing now? We are once again listening to the siren song of nationalists. Please – let us take warning from what has happened before and pay attention to other tunes:

Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?
Gone to graveyards, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
                                     (Pete Seeger & Joe Hickerson)

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

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South Sudan Faces one of the World’s Worst Displacement Criseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/south-sudan-faces-one-worlds-worst-displacement-crises/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-sudan-faces-one-worlds-worst-displacement-crises http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/south-sudan-faces-one-worlds-worst-displacement-crises/#respond Fri, 30 Nov 2018 15:34:42 +0000 Daniel Sullivan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158963 Daniel Sullivan is Senior Advocate for Human Rights at Refugees International

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Refugees in South Sudan. Credit: UN photo

By Daniel Sullivan
WASHINGTON DC, Nov 30 2018 (IPS)

South Sudan is facing one of the worst displacement crises in the world today. More than half of the population is food insecure and, if not for international humanitarian aid, the country would almost certainly have already faced famine.

A new peace agreement is bringing cautious hope to the displaced and is driving discussions of returns from both within and outside of South Sudan, particularly for those in UN-hosted Protection of Civilian sites (PoCs) within the country.

However, security concerns and humanitarian needs remain immense, and rushed returns risk fueling ethnic tensions and costing lives.

These challenges are amplified by the broader realities of ongoing instability in some pockets of the country and active manipulation of aid by the South Sudanese government and opposition authorities.

Aid manipulation takes many forms, from the use of instability as an excuse to block aid delivery to opposition areas, to the blatant diversion of aid away from civilians and into the hands of soldiers.

One of the most egregious ways that aid risks being manipulated is in reinforcing the dislocation of ethnic groups, or what some observers even have described as ethnic cleansing.

Ethnic minorities have been targeted with violence throughout South Sudan’s civil war, dramatically altering the ethnic makeup of some areas of the country by displacing their populations.

Several large towns and other areas have been depopulated of their traditional ethnic communities and are now being repopulated by members of the dominant Dinka ethnic group.

Returns of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and provision of aid that fails to consider this context risk reinforcing demographic shifts born of atrocities and the inequalities, impunity, and ethnic tensions that go with these shifts.

The UN, international donors, and international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) have played – and must continue to play – a vital role in providing protection and life-saving humanitarian aid to millions of people in South Sudan. INGOs and UN agencies have taken several measures to counter aid manipulation; such efforts must continue and be enhanced.

If aid is to be used to maximum effect, however, international actors must speak with a unified voice, backed by credible threats of consequences, against the worst instances of such manipulation.

Moreover, any returns, starting with those from the PoCs, must include measures that ensure they are truly safe, voluntary, and dignified, and do not inadvertently fuel the very suffering international actors seek to mitigate.

Ensuring the safety and dignity of returns from PoCs, avoiding aid manipulation, and preventing the forced dislocation of ethnic groups are critical issues that the government of South Sudan, international organizations, and donor governments must urgently address.

They are important in and of themselves but also will have far-reaching implications for the prospects of return and well-being of millions of South Sudanese displaced both within and outside of the country.

Recommendations

TO UN AGENCIES, INTERNATIONAL DONORS, AND INTERNATIONAL NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS:

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the UN Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) should refrain from closure of PoC sites until transparent plans for safe, voluntary, and dignified returns are in place. The plans should include the following:
o Adherence to international guidelines on returns.
o Intentions surveys to ensure that IDPs are informed and willing to leave the PoCs.
o Security and conflict sensitivity assessments of the proposed areas of return.
o Facilitated “go-and-see” visits so IDPs can assess the conditions in areas of return.
o Measures to address housing, land, and property (HLP) issues.
o Programs to supply basic services and livelihood opportunities in the areas of return.
o Coordination of returns and PoC closures and sharing of lessons learned across the humanitarian community through a mechanism such as the National Durable Solutions Working Group, an existing but largely inactive body of UN agencies and NGOs working on PoCs and IDP issues.

UNMISS should focus its patrols on areas of potential return and areas with specific protection concerns. Such concerns should be identified through ongoing dialogue with humanitarian organizations and PoC residents and should include the ability of women to collect firewood and visit markets. UNMISS, with political support from the UN Security Council, should assert its right to patrol where and when risks are highest to civilians, including nighttime.
UNMISS should improve protection in PoCs through such measures as providing better lighting, securing border fences, and exploring ways to better address criminality.
• UN agencies, donors, and humanitarian groups should take strong, unified action in response to aid manipulation. Attacks or threats against aid workers, or aid diversion to armed actors should be met with diplomatic censure at the highest levels, targeted action against responsible officials, and, in the worst cases, withholding of aid to specific areas where continuing to provide aid would do more harm to civilians than good.
UN agencies, donors, and humanitarian organizations should take the following steps to combat aid manipulation:
o UN country leadership should empower the UN Office of the Coordinator of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), and donors should further support OCHA with resources to track and record incidents of aid manipulation more comprehensively.
o UN leadership and donor representatives in country should address incidents immediately and directly at the highest levels of government.
o UN agencies, donors, and humanitarian organizations should support OCHA and groups like the South Sudan NGO Forum, the main NGO networking body in the country; and the Conflict Sensitivity Resource Facility (CSRF), a joint donor initiative to better inform programming decisions and strategies, to expand efforts in sharing information on aid manipulation.
o Humanitarian organizations should build stronger internal awareness of aid manipulation through the collection of lessons learned and rigorous handovers for new staff.
o UN agencies and humanitarian organizations should continue to strengthen risk management efforts, including through implementation of the Contractor Information Management System, a common system for agencies to screen contractors; and increased biometric registration.
Fully fund the humanitarian response in South Sudan at sustained levels.
Ensure that funding of resilience and recovery projects do not inadvertently reinforce ethnic dislocation in the country. The UN Development Program (UNDP), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and others involved with the Partnership for Recovery and Resilience should ensure that projects are informed by adequate conflict-sensitivity analysis.
The Commission of Human Rights on South Sudan, mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, should investigate the ethnic dislocation taking place in the country.
The United States should re-appoint a U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan. The envoy should have experience and stature in the region and enjoy the backing of the White House. The envoy should prioritize support for the peace process and combatting aid manipulation and ethnic dislocation.

TO THE TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT OF SOUTH SUDAN:

Pass the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Act, which would commit the government to focusing greater attention and providing more funding to IDP issues in line with global standards, and join the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of IDPs in Africa (the Kampala Convention).

Grant an official government body the authority and responsibility for addressing internal displacement and provide that body with dedicated funding.

Establish a Special Court for adjudicating housing, land, and property (HLP) issues arising in the context of ethnic dislocation taking place in towns like Malakal and Wau.

Ensure accountability for atrocities committed during the civil war by establishing the hybrid African Union–South Sudanese court called for in the September 2018 peace agreement to try those responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The post South Sudan Faces one of the World’s Worst Displacement Crises appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Daniel Sullivan is Senior Advocate for Human Rights at Refugees International

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Breaking Bread with Violence: Connecting the Dots Between Conflict & Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/breaking-bread-violence-connecting-dots-conflict-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=breaking-bread-violence-connecting-dots-conflict-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/breaking-bread-violence-connecting-dots-conflict-hunger/#respond Fri, 30 Nov 2018 12:18:19 +0000 Herve Verhoosel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158955 Herve Verhoosel is Senior Spokesperson UN World Food Programme (WFP)

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Fatima Shooie sits between her 85-year-old mother and 22-year-old daughter who are both receiving treatment for cholera at a crowded hospital in Sana’a. Credit: WHO/S. Hasan

Fatima Shooie sits between her 85-year-old mother and 22-year-old daughter who are both receiving treatment for cholera at a crowded hospital in Sana’a. Credit: WHO/S. Hasan

By Herve Verhoosel
GENEVA, Nov 30 2018 (IPS)

Last week I met with Aamir, a 29-year-old Yemenite, living in Geneva since October 2018 and waiting for his application for asylum to be finalized.

We met outside a café on a brisk, overcast autumn day, where I offered to treat him to a coffee or a tea in exchange for the chance to listen to his story, one that he was worried to share. Worried for his family back in Yemen.

We took a small table amongst the quiet chatter of the café. Although I insisted, he politely declined my offer for the coffee or the tea. He paused for a moment, shifted his eyes away from mine, and began to share his story. A 16-month journey from Yemen to Geneva, via Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Greece – for 14 months in a camp in the Island of Chios – and Italy.

In Yemen, before the conflict Aamir was an electrician by apprenticeship. Now, he is starting over again, beginning first with French classes. Only if his status is fully granted, he will start a 4-year program so he can eventually gain the credentials to practice his trade in Switzerland.

Aamir left the country that he loves. Alone. “People have no food, no job, no more money, and of course no security. The war created all this” he told me. “How can I stay without work, without food, and unsure each day if I will live to see the next. I decided to leave my country, to leave my family and take my chance, far away from that violence…”

Hundreds of millions of people around the world caught up in armed conflict are living stories similar or much worse, having been pushed into hunger because they are stuck in the middle of a fight that is not their own. Some, like him decide to leave the country. Many others stay hoping for help. Your help, our help.

The fact that conflict fuels hunger is no secret. Today, there are 815 million hungry people on the planet- roughly 100 times the population of New York City. 60% of these people (489 million) are living in conflict-stricken areas.

That is almost half a billion people that are more than twice as likely to be undernourished as those living in countries at peace are.

In 2018 conflict and insecurity were the primary drivers of hunger in 18 countries where 74 million people require urgent food aid (Africa: 11 countries (37m) Middle East: 4 countries (27m), Asia: 2 (8m), and the Ukraine).

There is a growing understanding that hunger may also contribute to conflict when coupled with poverty, unemployment or economic hardship. People who have no other options to earn money and thus nothing to lose may be more easily convinced to join armed groups that they otherwise may not have.

This is the reality in Somalia where a study by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) of why people joined Al Shabab found that economic reasons were the biggest single factor. For some people the financial incentives may be the only way they can feed themselves and their families.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram is reported to pay up to US$600 to recruit members to its movement and in recent studies by ISS, economic incentives have been demonstrated to be a stronger driver of recruitment than religious extremism.

I met some of these youths involved in armed groups or violence during my two years living in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic while working for the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA).

Most of these young people are, in fact, very positive and kind parents, sisters, brothers, who unfortunately reached a point where they have no other way to feed their families- a situation that can be exploited by armed groups.

At times, parties to a conflict may also exploit conflict-induced food insecurity, and attempt to leverage the threat of famine to their advantage – and target farms, markets, mills storage sites and other infrastructure needed for food production and distribution – an act that is condemned and may constitute a war crime.

Once this vicious cycle gains momentum, humanitarian agencies like the UN World Food Programme and partners face increased challenges in stopping it. As conflict-affected regions slip further into violence, access to deliver vital supplies is often severed, leading to more people suffering from hunger, disease, and societal collapse.

Prevention must be at the heart of development. Earlier and longer-term interventions to improve food security and invest in agriculture is one way to address the growing connections between conflict and hunger. In a world where we have the finances and technology to ensure that nobody goes to bed hungry, this goal is more realistic today than it has ever been before.

The final battle against hunger and conflict will occur in the minds of people – our political leaders – and involves tackling the fundamental factors that fuel hunger and conflict.

Until then, WFP will continue to operate every day in Yemen, Somalia, Central African Republic and many of the world’s toughest active conflict zones, delivering food and saving lives. However, it shouldn’t have to be this way.

The post Breaking Bread with Violence: Connecting the Dots Between Conflict & Hunger appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Herve Verhoosel is Senior Spokesperson UN World Food Programme (WFP)

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Executive Director of the Geneva Centre: Israel’s de facto annexation of East Jerusalem violates the Palestinian people’s right to self-determinationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/executive-director-geneva-centre-israels-de-facto-annexation-east-jerusalem-violates-palestinian-peoples-right-self-determination/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=executive-director-geneva-centre-israels-de-facto-annexation-east-jerusalem-violates-palestinian-peoples-right-self-determination http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/executive-director-geneva-centre-israels-de-facto-annexation-east-jerusalem-violates-palestinian-peoples-right-self-determination/#respond Thu, 29 Nov 2018 07:01:16 +0000 Geneva Centre http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159009 In observation of the 2018 International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue Ambassador Idriss Jazairy appealed to the international community to express solidarity to the endeavours of the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination. Ambassador Jazairy stated that […]

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By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Nov 29 2018 (Geneva Centre)

In observation of the 2018 International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue Ambassador Idriss Jazairy appealed to the international community to express solidarity to the endeavours of the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination.

Ambassador Jazairy stated that Israel’s de facto annexation of East Jerusalem impedes the prospects of a two-state solution and hinders the realization of regional peace and security. The decision of several countries to move their embassies to Jerusalem, thus recognising the latter as the capital of Israel, contradicts the provisions set forth in the Arab Peace Initiative that calls for the normalization of relations between Arab states and Israel once the latter cedes, inter alia, its military occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem.

The Arab Peace Initiative was adopted during the 2002 Arab League Beirut Summit. It was subsequently re-endorsed at the Arab League Summit held in Jordan from 23 to 29 March 2017. In view of the prospects of attaining peace and identifying a peaceful resolution to the conflict, the Geneva Centre’s Executive Director said:

The Arab Peace Initiative lays the foundation for the creation of genuine and long-term peace and stability in the Middle East and between Palestinians and Israelis. A two-state solution – with the creation of an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital – the return of Palestinian refugees in line with the provisions set forth in UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 11 December 1948 and the return of occupied land are key conditions that must be fulfilled.

The Arab Peace Initiative is the blueprint for building a peaceful and stable Middle East. The decision to rubber-stamp the proclamation or recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is a serious set-back to joint aspirations of Arab countries to achieve a peaceful resolution to one of the world’s most enduring and bitter conflicts.”

Against this background, the Geneva Centre’s Executive Director considers that the enduring occupation of Palestinian land including East Jerusalem impedes the Palestinian people’s right to “decide their own destiny. The current situation is deplorable as the occupation of Palestinian land is intensifying in force. The Wall of Shame that has been erected to separate Palestinian Territories further restricts the Palestinians’ freedom of movement across Jerusalem. The Wall of Shame has now become the symbol of the 21st century’s Berlin Wall. The illegal occupation of Palestine must come to an immediate end.”

In addition, Ambassador Jazairy added that the removal of all illegal settlements is a prerequisite for the creation of peace and for the establishment of a viable Palestinian State in which its citizens can live freely without having their human rights violated on a daily basis, as highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories Mr. Michael Lynk in his latest report submitted to the UN General Assembly.

In order to reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Geneva Centre’s Executive Director appealed to the international community to show greater determination and resilience in addressing the main issues impeding the realization of peace and stability. Ambassador Jazairy concluded:

Without addressing the question of Jerusalem, peace will not prevail. A two state-solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine remains a prerequisite for the creation of peace and for the establishment of a viable state in which the Palestinian people can live freely without having their human rights violated on a daily basis.”

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African Nations Show Rare Transparency in Military Spendinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/african-nations-show-rare-transparency-military-spending/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=african-nations-show-rare-transparency-military-spending http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/african-nations-show-rare-transparency-military-spending/#respond Mon, 26 Nov 2018 12:06:31 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158867 When the United Nations began publishing annual reports on arms expenditures, starting in 1981, not all 193 member states voluntarily participated in the exercise in transparency– primarily because most governments are secretive about their defense spending and their weapons purchases. The original goal of the reports, according to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), […]

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A panel discussion on the politics of peace. Credit: SIPRI

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 26 2018 (IPS)

When the United Nations began publishing annual reports on arms expenditures, starting in 1981, not all 193 member states voluntarily participated in the exercise in transparency– primarily because most governments are secretive about their defense spending and their weapons purchases.

The original goal of the reports, according to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), was to facilitate reductions in military budgets, particularly in the context of the trillions of dollars in annual global military spending– reaching a staggering $1.7 trillion in 2017.

The United Nations has vociferously – but unsuccessfully – long campaigned for a significant diversion of military budgets into development aid, including a much-needed $100 billion by 2020 to curb carbon emissions and weather the impact of climate change.

According to UNODA, a total of 126 UN Member States have submitted reports to the UN Secretary-General regularly or at least once.

But only a minority of States report in any given year, while a small number of States consistently report every year. In addition, there are significant disparities in reporting by States among different regions.

Transparency in armaments, according to the UN, contributes to international security by fostering trust and confidence among countries.

And in a rare exercise in transparency, countries in sub-Saharan Africa have consistently reported on their military expenditures, according to a new report released last week by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

Asked to single out the most transparent, and the least transparent, of the African countries, Dr Nan Tian, Researcher at SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Programme, told IPS that based on SIPRI’s analysis, countries with relatively high transparency include Burkina Faso, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania, among others.

He said the least transparent include Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi, Lesotho, Gambia, Equatorial Guinea and Djibouti.
According to UNODA, information on military matters, particularly transparency on military expenditures, helps build confidence between countries.

At the same time, it can also help governments determine whether excessive or destabilizing accumulations of arms are taking place.

The new SIPRI report says transparency in military spending in sub-Saharan Africa is higher than expected.

Between 2012 and 2017, 45 of the 47 states surveyed published at least one official budget document in a timely manner online.

‘Contrary to common belief, countries in sub-Saharan Africa show a high degree of transparency in how they spend money on their military,’ says Dr Tian.

He says citizens everywhere should know where and how public money is spent. It is encouraging that national reporting in sub-Saharan Africa has

In a joint statement Dr Tian and Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher in SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Programme, told IPS global participation in reporting of military expenditure to the UN, on the other hand, has decreased to a very low level.

“The latest information we have is that in 2018, only 32 countries submitted data about their military spending in 2017.”

In the period 2008–17, only five states in sub-Saharan Africa reported at least once, and no reports were submitted during the years 2015–17.

“2018 has not yet ended but, as far as we know, no African country reported this year.”

Still, SIPRI data shows that governments in 45 countries in the region made either military expenditure budgets or figures on actual military expenditure publicly available in the period 2012–16, said Dr Tian and Wezeman.

These states could have opted to simply use this information in a submission to the UN using either their own format or the simplified form.

Dr. Natalie J. Goldring, a Senior Fellow with the Security Studies Program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, told IPS the latest SIPRI report contains good news for analysts and advocates concerned about global transparency on military expenditures.

She said SIPRI has documented the publication of military spending reports in 45 of 47 countries in sub-Saharan Africa for at least one year between 2012 and 2017.

The United Nations has a long-standing instrument that is intended to collect information on UN members’ military expenditures.

Unfortunately, participation in that instrument has been low in recent years. And the vast majority of the countries that reported on their 2017 budgets in 2018 are countries in Europe.

The other regions of the world are vastly underrepresented.

“It’s ironic that so many countries in Africa are publishing their individual reports on military spending, but are choosing not to report the same data to the United Nations,“ said Dr Goldring, who also represents the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy at the United Nations, on conventional weapons and arms trade issues.

She pointed out that UN Member States regularly describe “reporting fatigue,” with numerous – and sometimes overlapping – reporting requirements imposing burdens on agencies and departments that are chronically understaffed.

“One possible solution would be to try to reduce the number of reports and to create standard forms to gather data that would otherwise be submitted in multiple reports.”

“Although the inclusion of virtually all sub-Saharan countries in the SIPRI report is good news, knowing the monetary value of military budgets only gets you so far. Military budget numbers are often not good proxies for countries’ military power”.

For example, the horrendous destructive power of the small arms and light weapons that are being used in conflicts all over the world is completely out of proportion to their relatively modest cost, she added.

Asked how most Asian, Latin American and Middle Eastern countries compare with transparency by African countries, Dr Tian and Wezeman told IPS they do not make any comparisons in the report, nor an extensive assessment of other regions in the past few years.

“Still based on SIPRI’s continuous monitoring of military spending in the world we can sketch the situation in other regions.”

Military spending transparency in Latin America is relatively high, for all countries useful and often detailed information is available, they said.

In Asia, transparency varies a lot. In India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Malaysia, Kazakhstan and Indonesia, very useful military spending data is published by the governments.

However in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, North Korea, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, military spending is kept secret, while military spending data in China is incomplete.

Also in the Middle East transparency varies highly.

Turkey, Israel, Iran and Jordan publish quite detailed information, but public reporting on military spending in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt and Iraq is low to minimal, “whereas we have not found any useful military spending data for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Rohingya Protest Against Return to Myanmar and Halt Repatriationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/rohingya-protest-return-myanmar-halt-repatriation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingya-protest-return-myanmar-halt-repatriation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/rohingya-protest-return-myanmar-halt-repatriation/#respond Fri, 16 Nov 2018 08:37:00 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158693 Thousands of Rohingya refugees in camps in Cox’s Bazar, the southern-most coastal district in Bangladesh, protested on Thursday, Nov. 15, against an attempt to send them back to Myanmar. The voluntary repatriation was scheduled to begin Thursday as per a bilateral agreement reached at the end of October between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh. […]

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Rohingya refugees protested on Thursday, Nov. 15, against their voluntary repatriation to Myanmar. Credit: Mohammad Mojibur Rahman/IPS

By Naimul Haq
COX'S BAZAR/DHAKA, Nov 16 2018 (IPS)

Thousands of Rohingya refugees in camps in Cox’s Bazar, the southern-most coastal district in Bangladesh, protested on Thursday, Nov. 15, against an attempt to send them back to Myanmar.
The voluntary repatriation was scheduled to begin Thursday as per a bilateral agreement reached at the end of October between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh. They had agreed to the repatriation of 2,260 people from 485 families at the rate of 150 people per day over 15 days. However plans for repatriations were postponed in the face of massive demonstrations which started Thursday in several of the 27 camps that now host over a million refugees.

Men, women and even children began protesting soon after midday at one of the smaller camps in Unchiprang near the Myanmar border and protests soon spread across other camps, including the biggest camp Kutupalong.

They chanted slogans and waved placards that read—‘We won’t go back,’ ‘We demand safety,’ ‘We want citizenship,’ ‘We demand justice,’—as rows of buses arrived outside Unchiprang camp. The buses were to transport refugees some 15km from Cox’s Bazar to the Bangladesh border of Gundum, from where they would have been taken to Tumbru in Myanmar.

Bangladesh officials in charge of repatriation waited outside the camp asking the families to board the buses but none were willing.

Since last August, more than 700,000 Rohingya—some 60 percent of whom where children, according to the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF)—fled atrocities in Myanmar’s Rakhine state into Bangladesh.

Many still carry fresh memories of their experiences, which include rape, sexual violence and the torching of homes with people still inside.

“Why should we return?” shouted Nahar, a 26-year-old mother of three who arrived last July. She said that returning to Myanmar means going to a death camp.
Yousuf Ali, a resident of neighbouring Shamlapur camp said, “You want us to commit suicide?” A fellow refugee from Jamtoli camp said, “There is no guarantee that we would survive once we return.”

The government of Bangladesh along with local and international aid organisations and U.N. agencies have been working together to provide shelter, medical services, schooling and food to almost one million people.

Mohammad Abul Kalam, Bangladesh’s Refugee, Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner, and also a magistrate attached with Cox’s Bazar district office, told IPS, “We were prepared for the repatriation. Earlier we had sought a voluntary decision and made informed choices on the return of the refugees. No one responded with the decision to return home in Myanmar and so we had to postpone the programme.”

On Tuesday, 50 of the identified families selected for return, were interviewed by the U.N. to find out whether families agreed to return. None agreed, according to Kalam.

“They refused to go now but we remain prepared to facilitate their return home. Our counterpart from Myanmar was also present on the other side of the border … So far we know Myanmar had also taken all preparations for the much-expected repartition [that was] to start today,” Kalam said.

The government of Bangladesh along with local and international aid organisations and U.N. agencies, have been working together to provide shelter, medical services, schooling and food to almost one million people. Credit: Mohammad Mojibur Rahman/IPS

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet this week urged Bangladesh to halt the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, saying the move would violate international laws. “With an almost complete lack of accountability — indeed with ongoing violations — returning Rohingya refugees to Myanmar at this point effectively means throwing them back into the cycle of human rights violations that this community has been suffering for decades,” Bachelet said.

In October chair of the U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar, Marzuki Darusman, said that the Myanmar government’s “hardened positions are by far the greatest obstacle” to repatriation. He had also said, “Myanmar is destined to repeat the cycles of violence unless there is an end to impunity.” The U.N. has called the full investigation into genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Rakhine State.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali briefed the media on Thursday evening in the capital Dhaka, saying that Bangladesh would not forcibly return Rohingyas to Myanmar.
“There have been campaigns [saying] that the Bangladesh government is sending them back forcibly. From the beginning we have been saying that it will be a voluntary return. There is no question of forcible repatriation. We gave them shelter, so why should we send them back forcibly?” he said.

Mia Seppo, U.N. resident coordinator in Dhaka, told reporters at the joint press conference that, “The U.N. actually welcomes the commitment of the government of Bangladesh to stick to the principle of voluntary repatriation, which has been demonstrated today.”

Abu Morshed Chowdhury, President of Cox’s Bazar Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of Cox’s Bazar Civil Society NGO Forum, told IPS, “There were some flaws in the plans for the Rohingya repatriation. How can the refugees return, even if it’s voluntary, without ensuring their citizenship? The U.N. agencies have the responsibility to ensure this.”
He added that U.N. should have “been more active in their roles to allow smooth repatriation.”

Rezaul Karim Chouwhury, Executive Director of COAST Bangladesh, one of the leading NGOs working to address the Rohingya crisis also echoed the same concerns.

“There were flaws in the plans too, because we know that sooner or later the Rohingyas have to return to settle back. The bilateral agreement paved the way for the initiation of the repatriation and rehabilitation but the key players (international) in my opinion have not been so active,” he told IPS.

Caroline Gluck, Senior Public Information Officer, U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Cox’s Bazar, told IPS that every refugee has the right to freely decide their own future and the right to return.  Their decisions should be based on relevant and reliable knowledge of the conditions within the country of origin.

“Access restrictions in Rakhine State currently limit UNHCR’s ability to provide such information. Only refugees themselves can make the decision to exercise their right to return and when they feel the time is right for them. It is critical that returns are not rushed or premature,” she said. She added that the UNHCR supported the voluntary and sustainable repatriation of Rohingya refugees in safety and dignity to their places of origin or choice.

“We will work with all parties towards this goal. However, we do not believe that current conditions are conducive to returns in line with international standards. The responsibility for creating these conditions lies with Myanmar.”

*Additional Reporting by Mohammed Mojibur Rahman in Cox’s Bazar

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Inside a Wagon in the Forest of Compiègnehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/inside-wagon-forest-compiegne/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=inside-wagon-forest-compiegne http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/inside-wagon-forest-compiegne/#respond Sun, 11 Nov 2018 14:26:10 +0000 Manuel Manonelles http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158629 What is the link between the current civil war in Syria, the austerity policy imposed by Germany during the last economic crisis or the Arab-Israeli conflict? Its origin, which lies in the world that was born a hundred years ago, inside a wagon in the middle of the Forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris. Indeed, […]

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Picture taken after the signature of the armistice in the Forest of Compiègne. Credit: Public Domain

By Manuel Manonelles
GENEVA, Nov 11 2018 (IPS)

What is the link between the current civil war in Syria, the austerity policy imposed by Germany during the last economic crisis or the Arab-Israeli conflict? Its origin, which lies in the world that was born a hundred years ago, inside a wagon in the middle of the Forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris.

Indeed, it was on November 11, 1914 that the signature of the Armistice between the Allied powers and the German Empire took place, in the above-mentioned wagon. This event marked de facto the end of World War I (1914-18), a conflict that changed the world and still today projects its shadows.

The Armistice was followed by the Paris Peace Conference and, as a consequence, the Treaty of Versailles, that of Sèvres and many others. The birth of the League of Nations, the policy of “reparations” or the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian, German and Ottoman empires, and in part the Russian one, were other outputs of the end of the Great War. The consequences of some of these historical events are still present today in the international agenda and determine the lives of millions of people, one century later.

 

The Middle East, Kurdistan and Syria

The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, through the Treaty of Sèvres of August 1920, opened a Pandora’s Box that we still strive to close today. Three examples: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the civil war in Syria and the case of the Kurdistan.

Let us start with the last one, with Kurdistan. Sèvres foresaw the holding of a referendum to decide its future, a referendum that never took place. The uprising of Kemal Atatürk in Turkey, the subsequent war and the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) were the main causes, but the disunity between the Kurds we could call “pragmatic” and the supporters of a greater Kurdistan also influenced. Similarly, the fact that Sèvres planned to include the oil rich province of Mosul within the territory of an eventual free Kurdistan (which the British were coveting) helped to tip the balance in favor of Turkish interests.

Another unfortunate legacy is, in part too, the current civil war in Syria. It is widely known that the origin of this conflict is related to the emergence of the Arab Spring, the resilience of the al-Assad regime, the infiltration of radical jihadist groups, and the interests of many regional and global powers.

However, part of the current war’s cruelty is intimately related to a State, Syria, resulting from the end of the WWI, with their borders designed to satisfy, exclusively, the French and British colonial interests. A division based on a Franco-British secret agreement taken before the end war, the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916, that unscrupulously mixed and divided diverse ethnic and religious groups.

Even more, we cannot ignore the icing on the cake of all conflicts, the Arab-Israeli conflict. Its origin is linked to the Balfour declaration (1917) before the end of the Great War. This declaration was assumed by the San Remo Conference (1920) -also linked to the Paris Peace Conference- within the framework of the complex maneuvers of the great powers, and other influential groups of interests, during the reshaping of borders of the post-Ottoman Levant.

 

Inheritances in financial policy

In another vein, one of the main elements that also defined the treaties resulting from the Paris Peace Conference, and especially the Treaty of Versailles, was the policy of “reparations”. This policy mainly entailed that the countries that lost WWI had to face the payment of enormous sums to compensate the Allies.

This policy, so aggressive, led to the resignation of a young economist from the British delegation at the Peace Conference, called Keynes, who warned of the destabilizing effects in the economic and financial field that this could have. Indeed, this was one of the main causes of the German hyper-inflationary crisis of the years 1920-23, in which a loaf of bread reached the cost of billions of German marks. The influence of this crisis on the discrediting of the Weimar Republic and the consequent rise of Nazism is well known.

This sequence of events is at the base of the almost pathological animosity of the German economists to inflation. Since the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany, German official economic and financial policy has been always conditioned by a strict control of inflation: perceived as the mother of all possible and imaginable evils. This was the policy that Chancellor Merkel imposed, not only in Germany but also in the rest of Europe, during the last economic and financial crisis; a restrictive policy that would avoid the supposed danger of inflation. With the consequent austerity policies and their consequences…

All of this and more, a hundred years ago, started in a wagon inside the Forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris.

Manuel Manonelles is the Delegate of the Government of Catalonia in Switzerland, as well as Visiting Professor at the University Ramon Llull – Blanquerna (Barcelona)

 

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Is the United Nations in Kenya Fit For Purpose?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/united-nations-kenya-fit-purpose/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-nations-kenya-fit-purpose http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/united-nations-kenya-fit-purpose/#respond Wed, 31 Oct 2018 10:55:21 +0000 Yusuf Hassan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158454 The United Nations globally is witnessing some of the most ambitious reforms led by the UN Secretary General Mr. Antonio Guterres. Most relevant to us in Kenya is the entire reform of the development system and how the UN will adapt to a fast-changing development environment. The countdown to the ambitious SDGs is already on, […]

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President Uhuru Kenyatta and Siddharth Chatterjee the UN Resident Coordinator discuss youth unemployment in Kenya. Credit: State House Kenya

By Yusuf Hassan
NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 31 2018 (IPS)

The United Nations globally is witnessing some of the most ambitious reforms led by the UN Secretary General Mr. Antonio Guterres. Most relevant to us in Kenya is the entire reform of the development system and how the UN will adapt to a fast-changing development environment.

The countdown to the ambitious SDGs is already on, and the Agenda 2030 timeline implies we should already have gone one-fifth of the way towards all the targets. Kenya has been a champion of Agenda 2030 led by our own Ambassador Macharia Kamau, PS MFA, Kenya.

These include ridding Kenya of poverty and generally changing the narrative for those at the periphery of development and ensuring no one is left behind.

Kenya performed relatively well in the Millennium Development Goals, with that campaign being hailed for lifting more than one billion people out of extreme poverty and making inroads against hunger globally. However, Kenya was one of the countries that did not achieve MDG goals 4 and 5 which was about reducing maternal and child mortality.

Yusuf Hassan

Compared to the MDGs, Agenda 2030 is a doubling down, with global leaders having agreed on close to 170 targets summarized into 17 goals. Though countries will have to concentrate on those targets that are most urgent and of priority to them, the goals still mean greater challenges not only in financing programmes but in innovating for locally-applicable solutions.

One important transformation is in the operations of the Resident Coordinators(RC) System and new generation UN Country Teams. The Resident Coordinator’s Office is generally the engine of the UN development system on the ground, providing coordination, strategic policy, partnerships and investments around the SDGs.

In the reforms, the strengthened RC will be the representative of the UN Secretary-General on the ground and the most senior UN development officials at the country level and will be better positioned to ensure operational coherence and synergies in development, humanitarian and peace building action, according to the country context.

This takes effect on 01 January 2019.

Alignment of the work of UN in Kenya is expressed through the recently-launched United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF 2018-2022). The rigorous development process of UNDAF was led by the Treasury and Devolution ministries and coordinated with the UN Country Team.

More than 100 institutions were involved in the process to ensure the framework reflected priorities including Vision 2030, MTP III and the President Kenyatta’s bold Big 4 Agenda.

With Kenya being classified as a lower middle-income country, financial support to UN agencies has now undergone a considerable down-titration. Nevertheless, the current UNDAF has still committed up to 80% more resources towards finding solutions to the countries challenges between now and 2022.

Prime among those challenges include changing the narrative for the youth and advancing gender equality, but in that challenge lies an ideal common ground for joint programming not only between the development partners and UN but also bringing in the might of the private sector.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres is leading efforts to ensure that the UN is more effective, efficient, coherent, coordinated and a better performing United Nations country presence with a strengthened role of the UN Resident Coordinator.

The UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya, Siddharth Chatterjee at the launch of the UNDAF in June 2018 reiterated the fact that the UN agencies in Kenya have their shoulders squared to work with various partners to meet the challenges of our time. He emphasized that this will not be a “business usual” approach.

No doubt as a global body, the United Nations in Kenya is undertaking bold and innovative action that is required to deliver on the 2030 Agenda. This was acknowledged in an open letter by the Frontier Counties of Kenya to the UN stating, “The UN Kenya country team has demonstrated in action and words the principle of leaving no one behind and reaching the furthest behind first; as counties historically maginalised the ushers a new dawn of development”.

The President’s Big 4 agenda, the government’s keen interest to see rapid growth & progress and close working ties with the UN in Kenya, Kenya can become a model for the UN Delivering As One and ensuring “no one is left behind”.

Therein lies the UN “being fit for purpose.”

Hon Mr. Yusuf Hassan is a senior ranking Member of Kenya’s National Assembly and MP from Nairobi. He has served for over 18 years with the United Nations, including UNHCR & UNOCHA. He has also served as a senior adviser on refugees in the late UN SG Mr. Kofi Annan’s office. He is a graduate of the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy,Tufts University, USA.

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The UN has promoted peace and justice to every corner of the world,” says the Geneva Centre’s Chairmanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/un-promoted-peace-justice-every-corner-world-says-geneva-centres-chairman/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-promoted-peace-justice-every-corner-world-says-geneva-centres-chairman http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/un-promoted-peace-justice-every-corner-world-says-geneva-centres-chairman/#respond Wed, 24 Oct 2018 06:29:05 +0000 Geneva Centre http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158333 In commemoration of the 2018 United Nations Day, observed annually on 24 October, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue HE Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim said that the United Nations Day is an opportunity to reflect on the achievements of this unique organization that has gone beyond […]

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By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Oct 24 2018 (Geneva Centre)

In commemoration of the 2018 United Nations Day, observed annually on 24 October, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue HE Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim said that the United Nations Day is an opportunity to reflect on the achievements of this unique organization that has gone beyond maintaining world peace, promoting human rights and social progress.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

As we commemorate today the 73rd anniversary of the ratification and adoption of the Charter of the UN, we reflect on the progress world society has made in realizing the vision of the founders of the UN to promote international peace and prosperity, strengthen international cooperation and develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principles of equal rights and sovereign equality,” underlined Dr. Al Qassim.

The UN is the only global institution that brings together all countries of the world. It has become a forum where political leaders and national governments meet to discuss matters related to international peace and security and to foster cooperation in solving international economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian issues of shared relevance to all countries.

In this context, the Geneva Centre’s Chairman added that “the strenuous efforts of the UN to mediate in protracted conflict, promote and advance human rights, respond to impunity and redress gross human rights violations, promote a sustainable future – as witnessed with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – have contributed to promote peace and enhance justice in every corner of the world,” underlined Dr. Al Qassim.

Although the Geneva Centre’s Chairman praised the efforts of the UN in bringing numerous issues of relevance to social and human development at the forefront of international decision-making, he appealed to decision-makers to avoid impeding the UN from fulfilling its obligations.

In this context, Dr. Al Qassim underlined that member States must “pursue policies which enable values to take precedence over politics in human rights discourse. Politicization of human rights and the selective application of relevant international law norms give rise to distrust and antagonism.

The credibility of the UN must not be endangered. Decision-makers must commit themselves to enable the UN to become a vector for peace and sustainable development with the aim of uniting the endeavors of its member States to attain common goals and objectives as set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” stated Dr. Al Qassim.

In conclusion, the Geneva Centre’s Chairman warned that the threats of extremism and the rise of political populism could replace multilateralism and consensus-building by unilateralism and protectionism that would undermine the long-term efficiency of the UN. In this connection, he appealed to “States and international decision-makers to resort to dialogue and alliance-building so as to identify a path that preserves the irreplaceable bounty of the planet which is in jeopardy. This calls for resolute decision-making by the UN.

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Q&A: Using Data to Predict Internal Displacement Trendshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/qa-using-data-predict-internal-displacement-trends/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-using-data-predict-internal-displacement-trends http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/qa-using-data-predict-internal-displacement-trends/#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 17:18:53 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158207 Carmen Arroyo interviews ALEXANDRA BILAK, director of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

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When isolated by floodwaters, families, like this one in Morigaon, India, have no choice but to use boats for transportation; even children must learn the survival tool of rowing. Credit: Priyanka Borpujari/IPS

By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 16 2018 (IPS)

This year the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) noted that 2017 saw the highest number of displacements associated with conflict in a decade-11.8 million people. But this is not a situation that is going to be resolved any time soon, says the organisation which has been reporting on displacements since 1998.

These numbers were published in the World Migration Report 2018, which was released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) last month. The report also stated that an average of 25.3 million people are displaced each year because of natural disasters. “This will only get worse with climate change,” said IDMC’s director Alexandra Bilak in an interview with IPS.

Bilak has over 15 years of experience with NGOs and research institutes working on African conflicts. She lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 2004 to 2008 and in Kenya for the next five years. In 2014, she joined IDMC. The biggest change for her, claimed Bilak, was “disconnecting from the field and connecting to high political levels of decision making.”

The IDMC, part of the Norwegian Refugee Council, is the leading international institution of data analysis on internal displacement. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the centre works towards creating dialogues on displacement and providing accurate metrics. IDMC, according to Bilak, takes data analysis to the next level: “We combine many methodological approaches to provide a databased to build research agendas. It is a very interest combination of quantitative and qualitative research, but not from an academic perspective.” She added: “The analysis wants to be practical and policy-relevant.”

Under Bilak, the institute has changed its focus. While three years ago the IDMC understood displacement as a human rights issue, now it treats it with a more comprehensive approach. “By doing that, it wasn’t having the right kinds of conversations,” claimed Bilak. Now, their employees are not only lawyers and political scientists, they are also anthropologists, geographers, and data analysts.

With a calmed voice, Bilak tells IPS that this shift was a team effort, and that she is very happy with the results. Excerpts of the interview below.

Inter Press Service (IPS): How did your interest on displacement start?

AB: I started my work in the Great Lakes region in Rwanda, but when I moved over to Eastern Congo I was exposed to the full scope of conflict impact. Displacement was a major issue. I was really struck with the capacity of communities to cope with the problem. That’s where my interest started.

Then I moved from one job to another and narrowed down on the issue of displacement. Now, at IDMC we are very interested in understanding the connections between internal displacement and wider migratory flows, cross border movements, and broader development challenges. At Geneva, you can bring the experience from the field to the higher level and see where it all ties in together.

IPS: What are your goals for the future of IDMC?

AB: I think we want to maintain this position as global authority and consolidate our expertise on data. We cannot rest on our laurels. We have to keep up our efforts. We need to continue building trust-based relationships with national governments. They are the change agents when it comes to finding solutions for internal displacement. You can’t achieve anything if you avoid them.

IPS: If national governments are the change agents, what’s the role of international organisations in displacement?

AB: Although it is a development issue for the national governments, there are many humanitarian implications that need to be addressed. International organisations provide that immediate protection and assistance that international displaced people need. This is the role they must continue playing, despite their reduced budgets. Also let’s keep in mind that there are many diplomatic efforts to prevent these conflicts.

This is the development, humanitarian and peace building nexus. They need to go hand in hand for a comprehensive approach. But yes, ultimately, it still boils down to political will.

IPS: What about natural disasters? How can we predict them to avoid their consequences?

AB: There are already models that project into the future and give a good sense of the intensity of natural hazards in the future. IDMC has actually developed a global disaster displacement risk model. There’s a way of having a sense of the scale and scope of what to expect in the future.

But our message has always been the same. This is only going to get worse with climate change, unless there is a significant investment in preventative measures like disaster-risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

We know which are the countries that are going to be most affected. The latest report from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) on climate clearly pointed out what communities are going to be more affected in the future. This will impact internal displacement.

IPS: So, what would be your recommendation to a national government to manage this situation?

AB: There are many recommendations for those countries that suffer from the impacts. They need better early warning systems and preparedness measures, so people can be quickly evacuated in the right way.

Our recommendation is also to build on the good practices governments that have already been implemented. For example, in the Philippines displacement figures are part of their disaster loss database. It would be great if every country could have the same kind of national data system in place.

Other recommendations come from processes of relocation. In the Pacific, entire communities that are at risk of climate change impact have to be relocated. How are these communities going to be moved in a dignified way respecting their cultural heritage?

Finally, there also needs to be a gender perspective to make sure that women and children can be consulted in the process.

IPS: What do you predict for the next 12 months in terms of displacement?

AB: Based on what we are monitoring, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East will continue to be areas of concern for us due to conflict. We are looking at a recent peak in displacement in Ethiopia. This is not a situation that is going to be resolved any time soon, so we will see a displacement crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria… also in Syria. We will look at high displacement figures next year.

In terms of disaster displacement, we will see massive hurricanes in Asia, which will have long-term consequences. There are pockets of displaced people that remain so for large periods of time, also in high-income countries like Japan.

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Excerpt:

Carmen Arroyo interviews ALEXANDRA BILAK, director of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

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The Case for a U.S. No-First-Use Policyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/case-u-s-no-first-use-policy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=case-u-s-no-first-use-policy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/case-u-s-no-first-use-policy/#respond Mon, 01 Oct 2018 10:28:55 +0000 Daryl G. Kimball http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157905 Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director, Arms Control Association

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A scene from Stanley Kubrick's classic 1964 film “Dr. Strangelove.” Credit: Sony/Columbia Pictures

By Daryl G. Kimball
WASHINGTON DC, Oct 1 2018 (IPS)

Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1964 film “Dr. Strangelove” delivers an eerily accurate depiction of the absurd logic and catastrophic risks of U.S. and Russian Cold War nuclear deterrence strategy, but for one key detail: President Merkin Muffley was wrong when he said, “It is the avowed policy of our country never to strike first with nuclear weapons.” But it should be.

Fortunately, the nuclear “doomsday machine” has not yet been unleashed. Arms control agreements have led to significant, verifiable reductions in the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, the two countries have ceased nuclear testing, and they have tightened checks on nuclear command and control.

But the potential for a catastrophic nuclear war remains. The core elements of Cold War-era U.S. nuclear strategy are largely the same, including the option to use nuclear weapons first and the maintenance of prompt-launch policies that still give the president unchecked authority to order the use of nuclear weapons.

Today, the United States and Russia deploy massive strategic nuclear arsenals consisting of up to 1,550 warheads on each side, as allowed under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. These numbers greatly exceed what it would take to decimate the other side and are far larger than required to deter a nuclear attack.

Worse still, each side maintains the capability to fire a significant portion of its land- and sea-based missiles promptly and retains plans to launch these forces, particularly land-based missiles, under attack to guard against a “disarming” first strike. U.S. and Russian leaders also still reserve the option to use nuclear weapons first.

As a result, President Donald Trump, whom Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reportedly described as having the intellect of a “fifth- or sixth-grader,” has the authority to order the launch of some 800 nuclear warheads within about 15 minutes, with hundreds more weapons remaining in reserve. No other military or civilian official must approve the order. Congress currently has no say in the matter.

Continuing to vest such destructive power in the hands of one person is undemocratic, irresponsible, unnecessary and increasingly untenable. Cavalier and reckless statements from Trump about nuclear weapons use only underscore the folly of vesting such unchecked authority in one person.

Making matters worse, the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review expands the range of contingencies and options for potential nuclear use and proposes the development of “more-usable” low-yield nuclear weapons in order to give the president the flexibility to respond quickly in a crisis, including by using nuclear weapons first in response to a non-nuclear attack.

The reality is that a launch-under-attack policy is unnecessary because U.S. nuclear forces and command-and-control systems could withstand even a massive attack. Given the size, accuracy, and diversity of U.S. forces, the remaining nuclear force would be more than sufficient to deliver a devastating blow to any nuclear aggressor.

In addition, keeping strategic forces on launch-under-attack mode increases the risk of miscalculation and misjudgment. Throughout the history of the nuclear age, there have been several incidents in which false signals of an attack have prompted U.S. and Russian officials to consider, in the dead of the night and under the pressure of time, launching nuclear weapons in retaliation. No U.S. leader should be put in a situation that could lead to the use of nuclear weapons based on false information.

Retaining the option to use nuclear weapons first is fraught with unnecessary peril. Given the overwhelming conventional military edge of the United States and its allies, there is no plausible circumstance that could justify legally, morally, or militarily the use of nuclear weapons to deal with a non-nuclear threat. Even in the event of a conventional military conflict with Russia, China, or North Korea, the first use of nuclear weapons would be counterproductive because it likely would trigger an uncontrollable, potentially suicidal all-out nuclear exchange.

Some in Washington and Brussels believe Moscow might use or threaten to use nuclear weapons first to try to deter NATO from pressing its conventional military advantage in a conflict. Clearly, a nuclear war cannot be won and should not be initiated by either side. The threat of first use, however, cannot overcome perceived or real conventional force imbalances and are not an effective substitute for prudently maintaining U.S. and NATO conventional forces in Europe.

As the major nuclear powers race to develop new nuclear capabilities and advanced conventional-strike weapons and consider using cyber capabilities to pre-empt nuclear attacks by adversaries, the risk that one leader may be tempted to use nuclear weapons first during a crisis likely will grow. A shift to a no-first-use posture, on the other hand, would increase strategic stability.

Although the Trump administration is not going to rethink nuclear old-think, leaders in Congress and the next administration must re-examine and revise outdated nuclear launch policies in ways that reduce the nuclear danger.

Shifting to a formal policy stating that the United States will not be the first to use nuclear weapons and that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack would be a significant and smart step in the right direction.

The post The Case for a U.S. No-First-Use Policy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director, Arms Control Association

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Impunity and Harsh Laws Trouble Journalists in South Asia as Protesters March on the U.N. For Release of Bangladeshi Journalisthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/impunity-harsh-laws-trouble-journalists-south-asia-protesters-march-u-n-release-bangladeshi-journalist/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=impunity-harsh-laws-trouble-journalists-south-asia-protesters-march-u-n-release-bangladeshi-journalist http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/impunity-harsh-laws-trouble-journalists-south-asia-protesters-march-u-n-release-bangladeshi-journalist/#comments Fri, 28 Sep 2018 14:47:57 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157847 It has been six and half years since the killing of Bangladeshi journalists Meherun Runi and Sagar Sarwar in Dhaka. Runi, a senior reporter from the private TV channel ATN Bangla, and her husband Sarwar, news editor from Maasranga TV, were hacked to death at their home on Feb. 11, 2012. Years later, with no […]

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A student walks by a board displaying names of freedom fighters. The New Digital Security Act 2018 makes speaking against any freedom fighter leader a punishable offence. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
HYDERBAD, Sep 28 2018 (IPS)

It has been six and half years since the killing of Bangladeshi journalists Meherun Runi and Sagar Sarwar in Dhaka. Runi, a senior reporter from the private TV channel ATN Bangla, and her husband Sarwar, news editor from Maasranga TV, were hacked to death at their home on Feb. 11, 2012.

Years later, with no official updates on the progress of the investigation, their families wait for justice as the fear of impunity looms large.

The atmosphere in Bangladesh’s journalism today is one of trepidation and caution.

It has witnessed a series of attacks against students and journalists in the capital city of Dhaka, followed by the passing of a cyber law that has come under scathing criticism.

The Digital Security Bill 2018, passed on Sept. 19 has been strongly criticised by journalists, who have called it a tool designed to gag the press and freedom of speech.

The draft bill had been actually introduced last year, and there had been strong demands for amending several provisions of the law. The government had publicly promised to consider the demands. However, on the advice of the law makers, the government decided to go ahead without any changes and passed it last week. 

IPS Journalists worldwide stand in solidarity for press freedom and join the Nobel Laureates and 17 eminent global citizens, and British MP Tulip Siddiq as they call for the immediate release of Shahidul Alam. IPS also calls for the release of journalists who have been detained in the course of duty across the globe, including those in the Congo, Turkey, and Myanmar.

IPS has noted with concern the increasingly repressive environment that our reporters are working in and call on governments to review their media laws and support press freedom. It is incredibly important for IPS that our reporters are safe as they do their work in holding governments and institutions to account.

One of the most worrying provisions of the law (section 43) is that it allows the police to arrest or search individuals without a warrant.

Other provisions of the law includes 14 years of imprisonment for anyone who commits any crime or assists anyone in committing crimes using a computer, digital device, computer network, digital network or any other electronic medium.

As expected, the new law has come under scathing criticism of the media.

“The act goes against the spirit of the Liberation War. Independent journalism will be under threat in the coming days. We thought the government would accept our [Sampadak Parishad’s] suggestions for the sake of independent journalism, freedom of expression and free thinking, but it did not,” said Naem Nizam, editor of Bengali news daily Bangladesh Pratidin, in a strongly-worded public statement.

The Editor’s Council, known as Shampadak Parishad, also was unanimous in labelling the law as a threat to press freedom and independent media in the country.

To protest against the law, the council has called all journalists and media bodies to join a human chain on Sept. 29 in Dhaka.

The legislation “would violate constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press, and would create extensive legal dangers for journalists in the normal course of carrying out their professional activities,” Steven Butler, the Asia programme coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said in a statement.

Interestingly, the new law was originally developed in response to the media’s demand for scrapping Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, 2006—a broad law against electronic communication.

Under Section 57, intentionally posting false, provocative, indecent or sensitive information on websites or any electronic platforms that was defamatory, and can disrupt the country’s law and order situation, or hurt religious sentiments, is a punishable offence, with a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment and a fine of USD120,000.

It was under this section 57 that Shahidul Alam, an award-winning independent photographer, was arrested.

Alam was arrested on Aug. 5 from his home in Dhaka and has been charged with inciting violence by making provocative statements in the media. He has been held without bail since the arrest, despite repeated appeals by the media, human rights groups and the international community for his release.

IPS contacted several local journalists and academics but everyone declined to comment on the issue of Alam’s arrest. However, last month, British MP Tulip Siddiq, and the niece of Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina, called on her aunt to release Alam saying the situation was “deeply distressing and should end immediately”.

Protestors demanded the unconditional release of Shahidul Alam, and for charges against him, and others held in similar circumstances, to be dropped. Courtesy: Salim Hasbini

Alam’s family organised a protest in New York on Sept. 27 to coincide with prime minister Hasina’s address to the United Nations General Assembly.

The protest was endorsed by human rights groups and journalist associations, rights activist Kerry Kennedy, actress/activist Sharon Stone, and attended by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, among others.

At the demonstration, Columbia University professor Gayatri Spivak pointed out, “What is really important for the state is that if one silences the creative artists and intellectuals, then the conscience of the state is killed because its the role of the creatives artists and intellectuals to make constructive criticism so that the state can be a real democracy.”

According to Meenakshi Ganguly, Asia director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Bangladesh government wants to show that no one who dares criticise or challenge its actions will be spared.

“Newspaper editors face being charged with criminal defamation and sedition. Journalists and broadcasters are routinely under pressure from the authorities to restrain criticism of the government,” Ganguly said.

“As a photographer, Alam documents the truth; his work and his voice matter now more than ever,” she said. 

In Bangladesh, the media has been demanding the scrapping of Section 57, explains Afroja Shoma, an assistant professor of Media and Mass Communication at American International University of Bangladesh.

“However, the Digital Security Act left this untouched and so this new law is nothing but ‘old wine in a new bottle,’” Shoma told IPS.

“Section 57, in the past, has been misused several times. The media wanted the government to scrap this. The government then brought this whole new law [the Digital Security Bill 2018]. But it has retained the same old provisions of the section 57. As a result, the law has created an atmosphere of fear among the journalists of the country,” said Shoma.

Digital security breeding insecurity

However, digital laws are not just threatening press freedom in Bangladesh. Several countries in south Asia have had similar punitive laws passed.

India had its own “Section 57” known as the Section 66A of the Information Technology Act 2000.

Section 66A in the act made provisions for “punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service” and included information shared via a “computer resource or a communication device” known to be “false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will.”

In March 2015, the Supreme Court of India struck it down, calling it “open ended, undefined, and vague.”

However, of late, India has also seen a spate of vicious attacks on journalists. These include the murder of journalists Gauri Lankesh and Shujat Bukhari as well as online attacks on investigative journalist Rana Ayyub who authored the book Gujarat Files. No arrests have been made in any of these cases so far.

Nepal, a country not known for attacks on the press, has just passed a new law  that makes sharing confidential information an offence resulting in a prison sentence. The code criminalises recording and listening to conversations between two or more people without the consent of the persons involved, as well as disclosing private information without permission, including private information on public figures.

Under the law, a journalist could face fines of up to 30,000 rupees (USD270) and imprisonment of up to three years, according to the CPJ. The CPJ has released a statement asking the government to repeal or amend the law.

Badri Sigdel, Nepal’s National Press Union president, said in a recent press statement: “The NPU condemns the Act with provisions that restrict journalists to report, write and take photographs. Such restrictions are against the democratic norms and values; and indicate towards authoritarianism. The NPU demands immediate amendment in the unacceptable provisions of the law.”

Pakistan, which ranks 139 in the Press Freedom Index (India ranks 138, while Bangladesh and Nepal rank 146 and 106 respectively), has witnessed the killings of five journalists while working between May 1, 2017 to Apr. 1, 2018.

Also, according to a study by local media watchdog the Freedom Network there have been:

• 11 cases of attempted kidnapping or abduction,

• 39 illegal detention and arrest,

• 58 physical assault and vandalism,

• and 23 occurrences of verbal and written threats.

The country has just, however, drafted the Journalists Welfare and Protection Bill, 2017, which aims to ensure safety and protection of journalists. The draft, once adopted, will be the first in the region to provide physical protection, justice and financial assistance for all working journalists—both permanent and contractual.

 

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Without Food Security, There Is No Peacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/without-food-security-no-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=without-food-security-no-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/without-food-security-no-peace/#comments Thu, 27 Sep 2018 05:33:09 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157799 Reversing years of progress, global hunger is on the rise once again and one of the culprits is clear: conflict. A high-level side event during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly brought together, U.N. officials, governments, and civil society to assess and recommend solutions to the pressing issue of conflict-based food insecurity.  […]

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Two mothers and their children look to shore after arriving by boat to Mingkaman, Awerial County, Lakes State, South Sudan. In 2014 in less than a month close to 84,000 fleeing the fighting in Bor crossed the river Nile. South Sudan has been mired in civil conflict since December 2013. Some 2.8 million people, a majority of whom depend on livestock for their livelihoods, are now facing acute food and nutrition insecurity, according to FAO. Credit: Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 27 2018 (IPS)

Reversing years of progress, global hunger is on the rise once again and one of the culprits is clear: conflict.

A high-level side event during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly brought together, U.N. officials, governments, and civil society to assess and recommend solutions to the pressing issue of conflict-based food insecurity. “The use of hunger as a weapon of war is a war crime. Yet, in some conflict settings, parties to conflict use siege tactics, weaponise starvation of civilians, or impede life-saving humanitarian supplies to reach those desperately in need." -- Action Against Hunger’s CEO Veronique Andrieux

“Conflict-related hunger is one of the most visible manifestations to human suffering emerging from war…this suffering is preventable and thus all the more tragic,” said United States’ Agency for International Development’s (USAID) administrator Mark Green.

According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018, the number of hungry people increased to over 820 million in 2017 from approximately 804 million in 2016, levels unseen for almost a decade.

The Global Report on Food Crises found that almost 124 million people across 51 countries faced crisis-level food insecurity in 2017, 11 million more than the year before.

Conflict was identified as the key driver in 60 percent of those cases.

The report predicts that conflict and insecurity will continue to drive food crises around the world, including in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Panellists during the “Breaking the Cycle Between Conflict and Hunger” side-event noted food insecurity is often a tell-tale sign of future potential conflict and can lead to further insecurity.

“Building resilience…is indeed fundamental for strengthening social cohesion, preventing conflict, and avoiding forced migration. Without that, there is no peace,” said Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO) director-general Jose Graziano da Silva.

World Food Programme’s executive director David Beasley echoed similar sentiments, stating: “If you don’t have food security, you’re not going to have any other security. So we have to address the fundamentals.”

In an effort to address conflict-based hunger and the worrisome reversal in progress, the U.N. Security Council for the first time recognised that armed conflict is closely linked to food insecurity and the risk of famine earlier this year.

The group unanimously adopted resolution 2417 condemning the use of starvation as a weapon of war and urged all parties to conflict to comply with international law and grand unimpeded humanitarian access.

While participants lauded the historic resolution, they also highlighted that it alone is not enough.

“Humanitarian action and technical solutions can mitigate the effects of food crises but we desperately need political solutions and we need to implement [resolution] 2417 if we are to reverse the shameful, upwards trajectory of hunger primarily resulting from conflict,” said Action Against Hunger’s CEO Veronique Andrieux.

In order to prevent food crises and thus conflicts from escalating, the international community must take a holistic, preventative approach and strengthen the humanitarian-development nexus.

Before the long-running war began, Syria faced a drought which caused a spike in prices and led to food shortages. Many theorise that it was these very conditions that set off the civil war in 2011. This is a picture dated August 2014 of the then rebel-held Aleppo city, Syria. The government has since taken control of the city. Credit: Shelly Kittleson/IPS

Beasley pointed to the case of Syria where a seven-year long conflict has destroyed agricultural infrastructure, local economies, and supply chains and has left over six million food-insecure.

“The cost for us to feed a Syrian in Syria was about 50 cents a day which is almost double the normal cost because it is a war zone. If that same Syrian was in Berlin, it would be euros per day,” he told attendees.

“It is a better investment if we address the root cause as opposed to reacting after the fact,” Beasley added.

Before the long-running war began, Syria faced a drought which caused a spike in prices and led to food shortages. Many theorise that it was these very conditions that set off the civil war in 2011.

“Early action response to early warning is critical. We cannot wait for the conflict to start. We know that it will start,” said Graziano da Silva.

And it is data that can help establish early detection and prevent such crises, Graziano da Silva along with the other panelists stressed.

The Global Network against Food Crises (GNFC), which publish the Global Report on Food Crises, brings together regional and national data and analysis to provide a comprehensive picture of food insecurity globally.

It was the GNFC that enabled agencies to mitigate food crises and avert famine in northern Nigeria and South Sudan.

Just prior to the side event, FAO and the European Commission partnered to boost resilience and tackle hunger by contributing over USD70 million.

Panelists stressed the importance of such partnerships in addressing and responding to the complex issue of conflict-based food insecurity.

“At the ground, when we work together, it’s not only that we do better…we are much more efficient,” Graziano da Silva said.

Andrieux highlighted the need to uphold respect for international humanitarian law and that the U.N. and member states must hold all parties to the conflict to account.

“The use of hunger as a weapon of war is a war crime. Yet, in some conflict settings, parties to conflict use siege tactics, weaponise starvation of civilians, or impede life-saving humanitarian supplies to reach those desperately in need,” she said.

“We believe this is failing humanity,” Andrieux added.

Green pointed to the conflict in South Sudan where fighters have blocked desperately needed humanitarian assistance and attacked aid workers.

The African nation was recently ranked the most dangerous for aid workers for the third consecutive year.

“All the parties to the conflict are culpable, all the parties to the conflict are guilty, and they have all failed themselves, their people, and humanity,” Green told attendees.

Though the task of tackling conflict-based hunger is not easy, the solutions are there. What is now required is commitment and collective action, panelists said.

“All of us working together with effective solutions—we can truly end world hunger,” Beasley said.

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Q&A: An Uncertain Future Ahead for Rohingya in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-uncertain-future-ahead-rohingya-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-uncertain-future-ahead-rohingya-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-uncertain-future-ahead-rohingya-bangladesh/#respond Wed, 26 Sep 2018 08:45:09 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157770 IPS Correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage talks to AMBASSADOR MASUD BIN MOMEN, permanent representative of Bangladesh to the U.N about the Rohingya' crisis.

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A Rohingya woman and her child at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 26 2018 (IPS)

Over one year ago, Bangladesh opened its doors in response to what is now the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. But questions still remain on how to rehabilitate the steadily growing population. 

After a military crackdown on suspected terrorists in August 2017, over 700,000 Rohingya fled from their homes in Rakhine State, Myanmar to Bangladesh, bringing with them stories of the horrors they have experienced.

The United Nations described the military offensive as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and a recent fact-finding mission called for the investigation and prosecution of top officials from Myanmar’s military for possible crimes of genocide.

However, recurring cycles of violence can be traced back to 1978 and now 1.3 million Rohingya reside in Bangladesh, leaving the small South Asian nation straining for resources to provide to grief-stricken refugees and overcrowded camps.

So far, only one third of the humanitarian appeal for refugees and local host communities have been met and still many challenges remain from environmental stress to trafficking to the lack of shelters.

Bangladesh’s prime minister Sheikh Hasina, who was in Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people of 2018, has been lauded for her humanitarian gesture and her government’s work in addressing the crisis.

Many international and national organizations are working to support the Rohingya refugees. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in particular and its head William Lacy Swing have worked relentlessly to not only provide support to the refugees but also to find a lasting solution to the crisis. Swing has worked closely with the prime minister and her government and engaged with the many parties involved to bring about an end to the tragedy.

In recognition of his untiring efforts, Inter Press Service (IPS) is honouring Swing with the Person of the Year Award at an event to be held at the U.N. headquarters on Sept. 27. The prime minster will receive the IPS U.N. North America’s Humanitarian Award for her decision to give shelter to the over one million Rohingya refugees who were driven out of their homes, tortured, burnt, raped and left stateless and hopeless.

Ahead of the Hasina’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly, which is expected to focus on the Rohingya crisis and call for international action to resolve the crisis, IPS spoke to ambassador Masud Bin Momen, permanent representative of Bangladesh to the U.N.about the ongoing challenges, support, and future action plans.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): Could you talk about the situation in Bangladesh—are refugees still arriving? What conditions are Rohingya refugees arriving in and what conditions are they seeing and living with in Bangladesh?

Masud Bin Momen (MBM): The situation in Cox’s Bazar is terrible. Having to shelter more than 700,000 Rohingyas from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which is the fastest-growing crisis of its kind in the world, and provide them with humanitarian support is an onerous responsibility. It was the bold decision of our honourable prime minister to take up such a huge responsibility responding to humanity’s call. It takes a lot of courage and magnanimity of heart to make such a politically sensitive decision.

And the influx of Rohingyas has not stopped. It is continuing although in much smaller numbers. The freshly-arrived Rohingyas are still giving a grim picture of the ground situation in the Rakhine state. They are telling us about insecurity, threat, persecution, hunger, lack of livelihood opportunities, which is forcing them to leave Myanmar.

IPS: What has the government been doing as of late with regards to supporting Rohingya refugees there now? What have been some of the challenges to support these refugees?

MBM: The camp conditions in Cox’s Bazar may not be perfect and surely, one would understand how difficult it is for a developing country to cater to the humanitarian needs of such a huge population. But our government is trying its best to further improve the camp conditions to ensure basic necessities of the Rohingyas.

The challenges are manifold, I would mention only a few. Providing them with the basic amenities has been the biggest challenge.

For firewood, the Rohingyas have destroyed the forest and vegetation around the camps creating serious threat to the ecology of the area. The shelters that they have built on the slope of the hills are vulnerable to landslide during the monsoon.

For livelihood they are competing with the locals. This is reducing employment opportunities of the local population thus creating concern among the host communities. Their presence is affecting the local law and order situation. The possibility of radicalisation looms large. As their stay lingers, there is the possibility of mingling with the local population which could make their repatriation more difficult.

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

IPS: Could you talk about the controversies surrounding repatriation? Why has it been stalled, and are conditions favourable or safe for Rohingya refugees to go back to Myanmar right now? 

MBM: Although Rohingyas want to return to their homes in Rakhine they would not return to Myanmar until and unless the ground condition in the Rakhine state is conducive for their return. This is the singular impediment to return. Improving ground conditions is entirely Myanmar’s responsibility. Since the ground condition is not yet conducive, the Rohingyas are not signing the declaration for voluntary return and hence repatriation is being delayed.

IPS: If refugees cannot return to Myanmar yet, what does Bangladesh plan to do with regards to support? Are there future actions planned to enhance camps and living conditions?

MBM: If they do not return in the foreseeable future we perhaps have no other option but to continue to give them refuge. We would not send them back against their will. As our prime minister said, we would share our meals with them (Rohingyas). There cannot be a more poignant message of our goodwill to the Rohingyas. Our government is relentlessly working to improve the camps and the living conditions therein. We are also developing an island for relocation of some of the Rohingyas.

IPS: What are your thoughts to the criticism that the island which you mentioned is not safe to live, particularly due to violent weather and high risk of floods? 

MBM: This is an entirely wrong perception. Keeping the entire Rohingya population in a geo-politically sensitive place like Cox’s Bazar is not feasible at all. Cox’s Bazar simply does not have the physical capacity or the infrastructure to sustain such a huge Rohingya population. So, they have to be relocated and the island you are talking about is one such place for possible relocation.

Initially about 100,000 Rohingyas are planned to be relocated. The criticism that you have referred to is baseless coming from ill-informed quarters. Our government is working hard to make the island livable with self-sustaining livelihood options. And until it is made entirely livable, Rohingyas are not going to be relocated there.

IPS: What are your thoughts on the International Criminal Court (ICC) launching a preliminary examination? 

MBM: We feel that this is a positive development in ensuring accountability of the perpetrators. If the ICC can come up with some concrete outcome, it might also serve as an important factor in building confidence among the Rohingyas which will facilitate their repatriation.

IPS: Do you have a response or message to Myanmar’s government regarding the crisis? And perhaps a message to the International community in addressing the situation? 

MBM: We would urge upon Myanmar to make ground conditions in the Rakhine state conducive for return and take back the Rohingyas as soon as possible. The comprehensive implementation of the Kofi Annan Commission’s recommendations would be able to address the root causes of the Rohingyarians.

We urge upon the international community is to take custodianship of the bilateral arrangements for return that Bangladesh and Myanmar have signed and impress upon Myanmar to take back the Rohingyas.

*Interview has been edited for length and clarity

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Excerpt:

IPS Correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage talks to AMBASSADOR MASUD BIN MOMEN, permanent representative of Bangladesh to the U.N about the Rohingya' crisis.

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U.N. General Assembly Kicks Off With Strong Words and Ambitious Goalshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/u-n-general-assembly-kicks-off-strong-words-ambitious-goals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-n-general-assembly-kicks-off-strong-words-ambitious-goals http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/u-n-general-assembly-kicks-off-strong-words-ambitious-goals/#comments Tue, 25 Sep 2018 08:37:47 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157747 In honour of Nobel Peace Laureate Nelson Mandela’s legacy, nations from around the world convened to adopt a declaration recommitting to goals of building a just, peaceful, and fair world. At the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit, aptly held in the year of the former South African leader’s 100th birthday, world leaders reflected on global peace […]

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Graça Machel, member of The Elders and widow of Nelson Mandela, makes remarks during the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit. Credit: United Nations Photo/Cia Pak

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 25 2018 (IPS)

In honour of Nobel Peace Laureate Nelson Mandela’s legacy, nations from around the world convened to adopt a declaration recommitting to goals of building a just, peaceful, and fair world.

At the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit, aptly held in the year of the former South African leader’s 100th birthday, world leaders reflected on global peace and acknowledged that the international community is off-track as human rights continues to be under attack globally.Guterres highlighted the need to “face the forces that threaten us with the wisdom, courage and fortitude that Nelson Mandela embodied” so that people everywhere can enjoy peace and prosperity.

“The United Nations finds itself at a time where it would be well-served to revisit and reconnect to the vision of its founders, as well as to take direction from Madiba’s “servant leadership” and courage,” said Mandela’s widow, and co-founder of the Elders, Graça Machel. The Elders, a grouping of independent global leaders workers for world peace and human rights, was founded by Machel and Mandela in 2007.

Secretary-general Antonio Guterres echoed similar sentiments in his opening remarks, stating: “Nelson Mandela was one of humanity’s great leaders….today, with human rights under growing pressure around the world, we would be well served by reflecting on the example of this outstanding man.”

Imprisoned in South Africa for almost 30 years for his anti-apartheid activism, Mandela, also known by his clan name Madiba, has been revered as a symbol of peace, democracy, and human rights worldwide.

In his inaugural address to the U.N. General Assembly in 1994 after becoming the country’s first black president, Mandela noted that the great challenge to the U.N. is to answer the question of “what it is that we can and must do to ensure that democracy, peace, and prosperity prevail everywhere.”

It is these goals along with his qualities of “humility, forgiveness, and compassion” that the political declaration adopted during the Summit aims to uphold.

However, talk along of such principles is not enough, said Amnesty International’s Secretary-General Kumi Naidoo.

“These are words that get repeated time and time again without the political will, urgency, determination, and courage to make them a reality, to make them really count. But we must make them count. Not tomorrow, but right now,” he said to world leaders.

“Without action, without strong and principled leadership, I fear for them. I fear for all of us,” Naidoo continued.

Both Machel and Naidoo urged the international community to not turn away from violence and suffering around the world including in Myanmar.

“Our collective consciousness must reject the lethargy that has made us accustomed to death and violence as if wars are legitimate and somehow impossible to terminate,” Machel said.

Recently, a U.N.-fact finding mission, which reported on gross human rights violations committed against the Rohingya people including mass killings, sexual slavery, and torture, has called for the country’s military leaders to be investigated and protected for genocide and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

While the ICC has launched a preliminary investigation and the U.N. was granted access to a select number of Rohingya refugees, Myanmar’s army chief General Min Aung Hlaing warned against foreign interference ahead of the General Assembly.

Since violence reignited in the country’s Rakhine State in August 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh.

Still some remain within the country without the freedom to move or access basic services such as health care.

Naidoo warned the international community “not to adjust to the Rohingya population living in an open-air prison under a system of apartheid.”

This year’s U.N. General Assembly president Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces of Ecuador said that while Mandela represents “a light of hope,” there are still concerns about collective action to resolve some of the world’s most pressing issues.

“Drifting away from multilateralism means jeopardising the future of our species and our planet. The world needs a social contract based on shared responsibility, and the only forum that we have to achieve this global compact is the United Nations,” she said.

Others were a little more direct about who has turned away from such multilateralism.

“Great statesmen tend to build bridges instead of walls,” said Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, taking a swipe at U.S. president Trump who pulled the country of the Iran nuclear deal and has continued his campaign to build a wall along the Mexico border.

Trump, who will be making his second appearance at the General Assembly, is expected to renew his commitment to the “America First” approach.

Naidoo made similar comments in relation to the U.S. president in his remarks on urging action on climate change.

“To the one leader who still denies climate change: we insist you start putting yourself on the right side of history,” he told attendees.

Trump, however, was not present to hear the leaders’ input as he instead attended a high-level event on counter narcotics.

Guterres highlighted the need to “face the forces that threaten us with the wisdom, courage and fortitude that Nelson Mandela embodied” so that people everywhere can enjoy peace and prosperity.

FAO director general José Graziano da Silva (l), honourary member of the FAO Nobel Peace Laureates Alliance Graça Machel (centre) and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus (r) at the award ceremony in New York. Courtesy: FAO

Machel urged against partisan politics and the preservation of ego, saying “enough is enough.”

“History will judge you should you stagnate too long in inaction. Humankind will hold you accountable should you allow suffering to continue on your watch,” she said.

“It is in your hands to make a better world for all who live in it,” Machel concluded with Mandela’s words.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the U.N. awarded Machel an honorary membership of its Nobel Peace Laureates Alliance for Food Security and Peace in recognition of her late husband’s struggle for freedom and peace.

“It is an honour for us to have her as a member of the Alliance. In a world where hunger continues to increase due to conflicts, her advocacy for peace will be very important,” FAO director general José Graziano da Silva said.

In addition to honouring the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela, the Summit also marks the 70th Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights and the 20th Anniversary of the Rome Statute which established the ICC.

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Chairman of the Geneva Centre: World Conference outcome declaration contributes to the realization of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/chairman-geneva-centre-world-conference-outcome-declaration-contributes-realization-1948-universal-declaration-human-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chairman-geneva-centre-world-conference-outcome-declaration-contributes-realization-1948-universal-declaration-human-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/chairman-geneva-centre-world-conference-outcome-declaration-contributes-realization-1948-universal-declaration-human-rights/#respond Fri, 21 Sep 2018 13:36:27 +0000 Geneva Centre http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157718 The World Conference outcome declaration entitled “Moving towards greater spiritual convergence worldwide in support of equal citizenship rights” reaffirms its commitment to the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights (hereinafter “UDHR”) to promote peace, mutual respect and understanding across civilizations, cultures and generations, Dr. Al Qassim said on the occasion of the 2018 World Day […]

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By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Sep 21 2018 (Geneva Centre)

The World Conference outcome declaration entitled “Moving towards greater spiritual convergence worldwide in support of equal citizenship rights” reaffirms its commitment to the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights (hereinafter “UDHR”) to promote peace, mutual respect and understanding across civilizations, cultures and generations, Dr. Al Qassim said on the occasion of the 2018 World Day for Peace.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

The Declaration was adopted on 25 June 2018 as an outcome to the World Conference on the theme of “Religions, Creeds and Value Systems: Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights” held at the United Nations Office at Geneva under the Patronage of HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of the Jordan. It has been signed by Eminent Dignitaries and renowned world leaders from all over the world. In this connection, Dr. Al Qassim said:

The World Conference outcome declaration reaffirms its commitment to the founding ideals of the UDHR and calls upon lay and religious leaders to advance the well-being of humanity and to promote global peace. It also appeals to decision-makers worldwide to recommit themselves to Article 18 of the UDHR reaffirming that ‘everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

The reason for the adoption of the World Conference outcome declaration – the Chairman of the Geneva Centre noted – was the spread of religious intolerance, bigotry and fear of the Other in the West and the Arab region alike. “Discrimination against, and marginalization of, people associated with specific religions hinder the realization of social harmony affecting adversely the prospects and promises of diversity,” Dr. Al Qassim stated.

To alleviate these ominous trends, religious leaders and international decision-makers must harness their collective energy “to addressing religious intolerance in the pursuit of equal citizenship rights and in the promotion of global citizenship.” “They must capitalize on the convergence between religions, creeds and value systems” – he said – “to mitigate the marginalization of minorities worldwide and to promote peace, tolerance and co-existence.”

In conclusion, the Geneva Centre’s Chairman added that it is high time that all parties join hands to initiate a global effort to ensure that our equally shared humanity is reflected in equal citizenship rights. He called upon decision-makers worldwide to endorse the Declaration on “Moving towards greater spiritual convergence worldwide in support of equal citizenship rights”.

I strongly appeal to international decision-makers to implement the three follow-up actions of the World Conference outcome declaration. The declaration calls for the periodical holding of an annual World Summit on Equal Citizenship Rights, the setting-up of an International Task-Force to review measures implemented by UN member States to promote equal citizenship as well as the inclusion of a special item in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) state report to monitor the implementation of these measures. The World Conference outcome declaration underlines therefore that the spread of equal citizenship rights is the gateway to world peace,” Dr. Al Qassim concluded.

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