Inter Press Service » Peace http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 09 Dec 2016 18:38:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.13 The United Nations Volunteer: From Global To Localhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/the-united-nations-volunteer-from-global-to-local/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-united-nations-volunteer-from-global-to-local http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/the-united-nations-volunteer-from-global-to-local/#comments Mon, 05 Dec 2016 09:04:17 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148083 Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative to Kenya ]]> George Gachie, Kenya National UN Volunteer shares a moment with school children in Kibera slums, the community where  he is leading a Participatory Slum Upgrading Project for  UN-Habitat. Photo Credit; UNDP Kenya

George Gachie, Kenya National UN Volunteer shares a moment with school children in Kibera slums, the community where he is leading a Participatory Slum Upgrading Project for UN-Habitat. Photo Credit; UNDP Kenya

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 5 2016 (IPS)

Today 05 December is International Volunteer Day, and every year we recognize the invaluable contributions of volunteers to peace and development.

Consider this. George Gachie has been serving as a national United Nations Volunteer (UNV) with UN-Habitat for over three years. He grew up in the Kibera Slums – a challenging environment, where young people have very few opportunities and early pregnancy, school dropout, organized gangs, crime, diseases and drug abuse are common. In order to make it out of this situation one had to be smart. But as George himself put it during a recent UNV Blue-Room Talks event in Nairobi, ‘I am happy because it is volunteerism that got me out of the situation’.

In an acknowledgement of the expected role of the youth in delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals, volunteerism has now been recognized as a key driver in the development space. For Kenya, this is particularly apt given the large number of youth graduating every year but who find only limited employment opportunities.

Volunteerism is offering not only a chance to contribute to social development and a sense of self-worth, it also provides them with priceless lessons that sets them up for entering the job market and setting a foundation for their career.

The United Nations Volunteer programme has for many years delivered social services across a range of sectors. Today, the UNV Kenya programme remains one of largest UNV operations in the world, with 148 national and 47 International serving UN Volunteers. Kenya also contributes the largest number of UN Volunteers serving abroad, a testimony to the country’s commitment to humanitarian action and development.

Studies show that engaging in volunteerism from a young age helps people take their first steps towards long-term involvement in development. It is thus a perfect avenue to address the oft-repeated lament by corporate employers that the education system does not prepare students for the job market.

In that sense, volunteering is not just a way to get more numbers to ‘get the job done’, but a transformative opportunity for people from all walks of life, and a two-way exchange between the volunteer and the people they work with. By creating a sense of cohesion, reciprocity and solidarity within society, volunteering builds social capital, because it converts individual action into collective response directed towards a social end.

Volunteering also makes a significant economic contribution globally. It’s generally estimated that volunteers contribute an average of $400 billion to the global economy annually.

UNDP’s Administrator Ms Helen Clark has spoken about “ the tremendous impact UN Volunteers are making within the UN system. In implementing the SDGs, UNDP will continue to see volunteers as catalysts for change who amplify citizens’ voices and facilitate participation so that development can be truly people-centred”.

The impact of a volunteerism programme must be felt at the local level by building the capacity of people, including the marginalized, and should make the governance process more participatory and inclusive.

UNV has a strong track record of getting development results. In Kenya, UNV supported a neighborhood volunteer scheme to help ensure peaceful elections in 2013.

UN volunteers, including data analysts, planners, legal assistants and communication experts are deployed in 35 out of the 47 counties in the country, bringing critical capacity to the devolution process in Kenya.

In addition, 25 national and international UN Volunteers are engaged to support the humanitarian challenges on refugees in the country and well over 50 volunteers support operations of the United Nations Environment Program at its headquarters in Nairobi.

Having seen the contribution of volunteers, we can confidently vouch for community-based volunteering structures in all counties, to not only provide gainful occupation for Kenya’s youth, but to give them greater voice and participation in decision-making.

On the occasion of this year’s International Volunteer Day, the UN is committed to working with the Kenyan Government to integrate the concepts of volunteerism into development programming.

This can be done through various modalities, including facilitating volunteer schemes that target the contributions or integration of particular groups. Another area that holds great potential in advancing the course of volunteerism includes documentation of the various dimensions of volunteer involvement including its impacts on marginalized groups.

Volunteerism can be a powerful wind in our sails as we seek to achieve the SDGs and advance human development in Kenya.

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Civil Society On Aleppo: UN General Assembly Must Act http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/civil-society-on-aleppo-un-general-assembly-must-act/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-on-aleppo-un-general-assembly-must-act http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/civil-society-on-aleppo-un-general-assembly-must-act/#comments Fri, 02 Dec 2016 22:40:07 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148060 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/civil-society-on-aleppo-un-general-assembly-must-act/feed/ 1 UN Security Council Seats Taken by Arms Exportershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/un-security-council-seats-taken-by-arms-exporters/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-security-council-seats-taken-by-arms-exporters http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/un-security-council-seats-taken-by-arms-exporters/#comments Mon, 28 Nov 2016 05:36:42 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147975 The UN Security Council. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

The UN Security Council. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 28 2016 (IPS)

Nine of the world’s top ten arms exporters will sit on the UN Security Council between mid-2016 and mid-2018.

The nine include four rotating members — Spain, Ukraine, Italy and the Netherlands — from Europe, as well as the council’s five permanent members — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

According to 2015 data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), these nine countries make up the world’s top ten exporters of arms. Germany ranked at number 5, is the only top 10 exporter which is not a recent, current or prospective member of the 15-member council.

However, Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher in the Arms and Military Expenditure Programme at SIPRI told IPS that he was not “surprised at all” to see so many arms exporters on the council.

“In reality it is business as usual: the five permanent members of the Security Council are of course in many ways the strongest military powers,” said Wezeman.

Just two permanent members, the United States with 33 percent and Russia with 25 percent, accounted for 58 percent of total global arms exports in 2015, according to SIPRI data. China and France take up third and fourth place with much smaller shares of 5.9 percent and 5.6 percent respectively.

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The status of several rotating Security Council members as arms exporters while “interesting”, may be mostly “coincidence,” added Wezeman.

Current conflicts in Yemen and Syria pose contrasting examples of the relative influence that Security Council members have as arms exporters.

“Some of the major crises that the Security Council is now grappling with, particularly Yemen for example, have in large part been brought about the actions of its own members in selling arms to conflict parties,” Anna Macdonald, Director of Control Arms told IPS.

“We’ve been calling persistently for a year now for arms transfers to Saudi Arabia to be suspended in the context of the Yemen crisis, because of the severe level of the humanitarian suffering that exists there and because of the specific role that arms transfers are playing in that.”

Macdonald says that the transfer of arms to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen violates both humanitarian law and the Arms Trade Treaty.

“Some of the major crises that the Security Council is now grappling with, particularly Yemen for example, have in large part been brought about the actions of its own members in selling arms to conflict parties,” Anna Macdonald.

Domestic pressure from civil society organisations, however, have caused some European countries, including Sweden which will join the Security Council in January 2017, to restrict arms sales to Saudi Arabia, said Wezeman. Sweden, which will hold a seat on the council from January 2017 to December 2018, comes in as the world’s number 12 arms exporter.

However arms exports from Security Council members are not necessarily a significant source of weapons in conflicts under consideration by the council.

For example, council members have been hinting at the prospect of an arms embargo against South Sudan for much of 2016, however the weapons used in South Sudan are not closely related to exports from Security Council members.

“South Sudan is a country which acquires primarily cheap, simple weapons. It doesn’t need the latest model tank, it can do with a tank which is 30 or 40 years old,” said Wezeman.

According to Wezeman, it is more likely that political rather than economic considerations impact Security Council members’ decisions regarding arms embargoes, since profits from arms sales are “limited compared to their total economy.”

“Most of the states that are under a UN arms embargo are generally poor countries where the markets for anything, including arms, are not particularly big,” he added.

Overall, however Macdonald says that Security Council members have special responsibilities in the maintenance of international peace and security, and this extends also to their particular responsibilities as arms exporters.

“We would obviously cite the UN Article 5: promote maintenance of peace with the least diversion for armament,” she said.

“We would argue that the 1.3 trillion that’s currently allocated to military expenditure is not in keeping with the spirit or letter of the UN charter,” she added, noting that this is significantly more than it would cost to eradicate extreme poverty.

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This is No Way to Honour Kenya’s Contribution to Peace in South Sudanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/this-is-no-way-to-honour-kenyas-contribution-to-peace-in-south-sudan-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=this-is-no-way-to-honour-kenyas-contribution-to-peace-in-south-sudan-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/this-is-no-way-to-honour-kenyas-contribution-to-peace-in-south-sudan-2/#comments Mon, 21 Nov 2016 10:54:30 +0000 Ambassador Amina Mohamed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147863 Ambassador Amina Mohamed is Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kenya. ]]> U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) force commander Lt. Gen. Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki of Kenya (R) stands next to Ellen Loj (C), Special Representative of the U.N. secretary-general. Photo Credit: AP

U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) force commander Lt. Gen. Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki of Kenya (R) stands next to Ellen Loj (C), Special Representative of the U.N. secretary-general. Photo Credit: AP

By Ambassador Amina Mohamed
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 21 2016 (IPS)

The dismissal of Lt-Gen Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki as commander of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) comes off as a knee-jerk reaction that fails to address structural limitations of the UN peacekeeping operations.

Even more worrying for Kenya is that the action practically eviscerates the country’s unrivaled contribution to peace and stability in Sudan.

The reason given for the action was that the commander had failed to protect civilians during the violence in Juba last July. He arrived in Juba on 10 June 2016 and officially took over on 17 June 2016. The violence in Juba took place from 08 July to 12 July 2016. The tragic attack on the Terrain Hotel happened on 11 July 2016. The ex parte decision was arrived at against an individual who had arrived at the workplace just three weeks earlier, raising reasonable doubts about his culpability. This was clearly a scapegoating verdict rather than an honest intent to troubleshoot.

Kenya has taken part in peace keeping operations in more than 40 countries, sending out over 30,000 soldiers in the process. However, its military involvement was not the first contribution to peace in Sudan.

Kenya provided a huge logistics and operations hub for Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), way back in 1989, following a devastating famine and the civil war between the then Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement Army. Kenya supported the first humanitarian programme that sought to assist internally displaced and war-affected civilians during an ongoing conflict which helped save millions of lives. It was by far the largest humanitarian assistance programme.

Kenya also took the lead in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in January 2005, by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and the Government to end the civil war. It also set a timetable for a Southern Sudanese independence referendum. A top Kenyan soldier, General Lazaro Sumbeiywo, led in mediating the negotiations.

The two processes were quite long-drawn and laden with disappointments as would be expected of any belligerent setting, and Kenya bore the brunt squarely. This is why the latest decision to, as it were, blame the country’s military leadership on peacekeeping’s structural weakness did not go down well in Nairobi.

The government of Kenya has already protested the lack of formal consultation prior to the dismissal of Lt-Gen Ondieki, terming it a demonstration of disregard of Kenya’s key role in South Sudan.

What’s more, one discerns a whiff of jury inconsistency; in August last year following allegations of multiple sex abuse allegations against peacekeeping troops in Central African Republic, it was the UN peacekeeping envoy Babacar Gaye who was fired. Inexplicably, in South Sudan case the axe fell on the newly-arrived military commander.

Kenya’s ire is quite expected, given that the international community was already getting exasperated with the situation in South Sudan. Just a few months before the incident in Juba, the United Nations Security Council had authorised an increase in troops and the use of lethal force to protect civilians.

At the time, we in the region were acutely aware that something was amiss and the ability of UNMISS to operate was so crippled that it required urgent attention if its mandate was to be achieved. That was also precisely why most of South Sudan’s neighbours offered to contribute to the protection force and started working on making it operational.

It was also critical that the peace process in South Sudan be continuously encouraged along and any challenges that arise be quickly addressed, if justice was to become the cornerstone of the governance architecture in South Sudan. It had become abundantly apparent to many of us that in fact the situation in South Sudan required more sustained political negotiation and support than military presence.

A report by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services released recently acknowledged that operational and political constraints within missions were at odds with their legal authority and mandate to act and that some missions felt outnumbered and stretched “making the use of force only a paper option”.

As was the case in many conflict areas, military action without commensurate effort in political negotiations sets any mission up for only limited impact. Tough questions must then be asked not only regarding the success rate of UN peacekeeping missions, but also how to deal with the center when it is reluctant or too slow to respond to the needs of the field. Perhaps we have not learnt from Srebrenica, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Security Council should much more actively support regional efforts by ensuring that the forces on the ground have the enablers and multipliers needed to ensure successful missions. History shows that missions with adequate resources and attention are more often than not successful.

Unless the international community goes back to the drawing board, well-intentioned efforts by countries who contribute troops such as Kenya will appear unappreciated, and the civilians in South Sudan will continue to shed blood needlessly. Member states will not want to participate in missions set for failure ab initio and where the speed to condemn is disproportionate to the urgency in supporting the mission.

Firing one of our generals for the systemic weaknesses of UN peacekeeping and without prior consultation is not only disrespectful, but dishonors Kenya’s contribution to peace in South Sudan.

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Iran Deal Is Key Test of Trump’s Commitment to NATO Allieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/iran-deal-is-key-test-of-trumps-commitment-to-nato-allies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=iran-deal-is-key-test-of-trumps-commitment-to-nato-allies http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/iran-deal-is-key-test-of-trumps-commitment-to-nato-allies/#comments Thu, 10 Nov 2016 17:17:22 +0000 Eli Clifton and Jim Lobe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147714

By Eli Clifton and Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON, Nov 10 2016 (IPS)

Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton threatens to mainstream the Islamophobia, misogyny, racism, and anti-Semitism that swirled around his candidacy and supporters. On the foreign policy front his comments were no less shocking. But the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump hasn’t discussed in any depth beyond his promise at AIPAC’s March conference that his “number-one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran,” may stand as an early litmus test for his relationship with NATO allies.

Although Republican opponents of the deal frequently talked about unilaterally reneging on the agreement, they were never faced with the real likelihood of a president who might go along with the proposal or, possibly, even take the lead in such an action.

A key argument for the deal, which will no doubt be made to Trump’s foreign policy team as well as members of the House and Senate, is that reneging on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) will do far greater damage than just a deterioration in relations with Iran, a possible resumption of Iran’s production and buildup of medium-enriched uranium, and a setback in potential areas of cooperation with Iran particularly with respect to the war on the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq as well as efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

Breaking the deal could also be a fundamental breach of trust between the U.S. and the other P5+1 countries—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Iran signed the agreement with these countries to curtail its enrichment activity in exchange for sanctions relief that largely came in the form of trade deals with European countries and access to European banking systems.

He has questioned whether the U.S. should continue to offer security guarantees for countries that had not “fulfilled their obligation to U.S.” and threatened to withdraw U.S. military forces from European and Asian NATO partners if those allies fail to pay more for Washington’s protection
Maintaining good relations and pursuing confidence-building measures with NATO allies have been bipartisan policies since NATO’s founding in 1949. But Trump has already hinted that he’s not averse to shoving historical allies in Europe and Asia to the curb.

He has questioned whether the U.S. should continue to offer security guarantees for countries that had not “fulfilled their obligation to U.S.” and threatened to withdraw U.S. military forces from European and Asian NATO partners if those allies fail to pay more for Washington’s protection.

Those comments, and his questioning of whether the U.S. should seek better relations with Russia, have already given NATO’s leadership reason for concern. Following Trump’s victory, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg offered congratulations but also a reminder of U.S. treaty obligations. “NATO’s security guarantee is a treaty commitment,” said Stoltenberg. “All allies have made a solemn commitment to defend each other. This is something absolutely unconditioned.”

Indeed, if Trump is seeking to extricate the U.S. from NATO, much of that discussion might occur behind closed doors during negotiations over how much each NATO member contributes in financial and military resources.

But the JCPOA offers an early, very public test of where the Trump administration’s intentions may lie vis-à-vis Washington’s transatlantic allies.

There is, no doubt, pressure on Trump to consider a unilateral breaching of the nuclear agreement. His largest single campaign donor, casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, is adamantly opposed to the deal. Adelson funded many of the groups and politicians who sought to derail negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran and proposed launching a nuclear attack on Iran as a negotiating tactic. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is touted as a leading candidate for secretary of state and whose candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination during the 2012 primary campaign was sustained virtually singlehandedly by Adelson’s $15 million in contributions, has called for the JCPOA to be torn up on inauguration day. Another possible pick for the job, John Bolton, has repeatedly called for the agreement to be scrapped.

And the Republican Party, which has benefited greatly from Adelson’s largesse, has repeatedly sought to introduce unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic since it was reached in 2015. Although Trump may not himself be inclined to immediately abrogate (or “renegotiate”) the six-party accord, there will certainly be a move by Republican lawmakers to do so in which case he will have to decide whether to go along or push back.

On January 20, foreign policy analysts in the U.S. and NATO allies in Europe and Asia will be watching closely to see how a newly inaugurated President Trump approaches his predecessor’s signature foreign policy achievement, a deal brokered with the closest U.S. allies and biggest trading partners.

It will be a key test for how the Trump administration plans to work alongside or against members of the treaty organization, the most important and successful pillar of U.S. foreign policy in the post-World War II era. And, of course, if a Trump administration tears up the deal, other key Washington allies such as Japan and South Korea—as well as potential allies that have developed renewed commercial ties with Iran, notably India—are sure to take note.

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.

This piece was originally published in Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy Lobelog.com

 

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Beyond Calais: A Perspective on Migration, Agriculture and Rural Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/beyond-calais-a-perspective-on-migration-agriculture-and-rural-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=beyond-calais-a-perspective-on-migration-agriculture-and-rural-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/beyond-calais-a-perspective-on-migration-agriculture-and-rural-development/#comments Mon, 07 Nov 2016 06:15:10 +0000 Jose Graziano da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147657 José Graziano da Silva is Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).]]> José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO

By José Graziano da Silva
ROME, Nov 7 2016 (IPS)

Migration is part of the process of development. It is not a problem in itself, and could, in fact, offer a solution to a number of matters. Migrants can make a positive and profound contribution to the economic and social development of their countries of origin, transit and destination alike. To quote the New York Declaration, adopted at the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants on 19 September, “migrants can help to respond to demographic trends, labour shortages and other challenges in host societies, and add fresh skills and dynamism to the latter’s economies”.

So far this year, already more than 320,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean in search of a better future. Thousands have lost their lives doing so. Those that have survived face uncertain prospects at their destinations. Many are confronted with hostility and inhumane new realities. Migrants and refugees are often perceived negatively in their host communities, deemed to “steal’’ jobs and drain financial and social services. At personal and collective levels, this creates a certain sense of disquiet.

Tighter border controls are not the solution. They have instead resulted in more deaths at sea and more human rights violations. Without adequate policies that respond to migrants’ need to leave and that offer accessible, regular, safe and affordable avenues for migration, countries risk being left alone to deal with very complex challenges, possibly falling into chaos and disorganization.

In many cases, this translates into the adoption of less than desirable informal solutions, where the risk of abuses of the rights of migrants and asylum seekers is high. What has been happening in the Jungle camp near Calais in France shows that the most vulnerable, such as unaccompanied children, are those most at risk.

The challenge is huge. If we do not act in a timely manner, tensions will only rise further.

We need to address the root causes behind large movements of migrants and refugees, bringing together humanitarian and development responses. We also need channels for regular migration, facilitating migrants’ integration and contributions to development.

FAO argues that investing in sustainable rural development, climate change adaptation and resilient livelihoods is an important part of the solution, including in conflict-affected and protracted crisis situations.

Forty percent of international remittances are sent to rural areas, indicating that a large share of migrants originate from rural locations. Globally, three-quarters of the extreme poor base their livelihoods on agriculture. And by 2050, over half of the population in least developed countries will still be living in rural areas, despite increased urbanisation.

Agriculture and rural development can help address the root causes of migration, including rural poverty, food insecurity, inequality, unemployment, and lack of social protection, as well as natural resource depletion due to environmental degradation and climate change.

Agriculture and rural development can create sustainable livelihood options in rural areas. This kind of support can also help prevent the outbreak of conflicts over natural resources, and help host communities and displaced people cope with and recover from shocks by building their resilience.

Youth deserve particular attention. One-third of international migrants from developing countries are aged 15-34, moving mainly in search of better employment opportunities. By making agriculture a sustainable and attractive employment option and developing food value chains, millions of new and better jobs could be created.

Together with its partners, FAO supports global and country efforts on migration, bringing its specialized expertise on food security, resilience-building and sustainable agriculture and rural development. It does so by generating data on migration and rural development, supporting capacity development at country and regional level, facilitating policy dialogue and scaling-up innovative solutions to enhance agriculture-based livelihoods, social protection coverage and job opportunities in rural areas, as well as to build resilience in protracted crisis situations.

Since 2014, FAO has been a member of the Global Migration Group (GMG). The GMG has played an important role in coordinating inputs from different UN agencies for the process of intergovernmental negotiations that led to the adoption of the New York Declaration during the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants.

GMG will assume the same role in preparation of the adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration by 2018. FAO stands ready to lend its technical expertise and share best practices, to ensure that the need to address the root causes of migration, including from rural areas, is taken into account in major global fora.

FAO will also enhance the collaboration with key partners in the area of migration and development, at global, regional and country level. In this regard, FAO is discussing ways to foster country-level collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Note on the terminology: FAO uses the term migration to refer to the movement of people, either within a country or across international borders. It includes all kinds of movements, irrespective of the drivers, duration and voluntary/involuntary nature. It encompasses economic migrants, distress migrants, internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees and asylum seekers, returnees and people moving for other purposes, including for education and family reunification.

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Wonder Woman: Not the Hero the UN Needshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/wonder-woman-not-the-hero-the-un-needs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wonder-woman-not-the-hero-the-un-needs http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/wonder-woman-not-the-hero-the-un-needs/#comments Wed, 02 Nov 2016 17:53:55 +0000 Sanam Naraghi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147604

Sanam Naraghi Anderlini is Co-Founder & Executive Director, International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN)

By Sanam Naraghi Anderlini
WASHINGTON DC, Nov 2 2016 (IPS)

For those of us who ever feel conflicted about the United Nations, the past month has been an exercise in managing absurd cognitive dissonance. First, on October 21 2016, the United Nations announced that the 1940s comic book heroine, Wonder Woman would be its new mascot for promoting the empowerment of women and girls.

Sanam Naraghi Anderlini

Sanam Naraghi Anderlini

The news naturally sent serious women around the world into a collective swirl, and then a reach for their golden lassoes, to capture the attention of an institution that seems perpetually tone deaf on the issue of basic equality and respect for half the world’s population. It also prompted female staff at the UN to protest in silence, through literally turning their backs on the occasion.

Then, on October 25th the UN Security Council held its annual open debate on the groundbreaking ‘Women, peace and security agenda’, now in its 16th year of existence – still full of promise, and yet barely realized. So what’s going on?

The story so far:
In the age of Trumpism, just weeks after women’s rights activists globally were disappointed to learn that a woman was not selected to head the UN, hard on the heels of a year when the outgoing UN Secretary General appointed men to 96% of the senior jobs in the system, some folks at the UN thought having Wonder Woman as the icon for gender equality for the global organization was a good idea. Not so much.

Here are a few reasons why not:
First off, the UN is a post-war institution, dedicated to ending the scourge of war and, by extension, violence. It is an institution founded on diplomacy and the principle of negotiating differences, not vilification and use of force. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, was a product of the World War II propaganda of superheroes that fight ‘evil’, using violence in the name of ‘good’.

Throughout history and geography, whenever women have mobilized around their shared identity as women, to fight for self-determination or against oppression, they have not used violence. Today, from Afghanistan to the DRC, from Syria to Colombia, despite all the risks and violence they face, the most courageous women are leading non-violent struggles. Many are mediating between armed actors, hiding and saving men and boys at risk of being recruited and killed, feeding and caring for kids, the sick and the injured. They use their brains, hearts and imagination not brute force.

This is where resolution 1325 on women, peace and security ‘kicks’ in. In 2000, after a mass global campaign, the UN Security Council acknowledged women’s peace activism and call for the inclusion of women at the tables where power is brokered.

The agenda has expanded over the years, and these days world leaders talk about ‘women at the peace table’ as if it is an obvious fact, even though it is still not the norm. The agenda has also become warped. In some countries – the ‘peace’ part has gotten lost in a haze of talk about women as soldiers.

Elsewhere, people think it is yet another instrument to promote equality in security institutions and in times of war. But if 1325 is limited to an ‘equality agenda’ we end up with women having equal rights and responsibilities as men in the current status quo.
That was never the intent of the original 1325-ers.

We did not fight for women’s equal rights to fight, die and kill alongside men. We fought so that neither women nor men had to live through the horrors of war. We fought so that women peacemakers could have equal space with the militias and politicians at the tables where the future of peace and security in their countries is determined.

We fought to end the wars that exist, and to prevent future wars. 9/11 changed the course of history, but the spirit and vision of 1325 shouldn’t get lost in the fog of perpetual war and hyper militarization.

So the choice of Wonder Woman kicking, punching and lassoing her opponents is downright offensive and simplistic.

Herein lies the irony: just ten days ago, Marvel comics unveiled a new digital comic with Syrian mothers as the story’s heroines. So we are living in an age where institutions dealing in fiction recognize and revere contemporary facts, but institutions dealing in reality are stuck in an imaginary past.

Second, if we need a mythical figure, how about Shehrzad of the 1001 Nights? She used her words, wit and imagination to save the lives of women and turn a despotic king into a compassionate wise ruler. She is recognized across many countries and cultures – still relevant across time, and far more representative of an iconic and emancipated woman than Wonder Woman. Or, as one long-time UN staffer suggested, if its fictional figures, why not Pippi Longstocking? She was strong, creative, and definitely no pin-up girl.

Third, why choose from fictional figures, when we have so very many real historic super heroes? Take the oft-forgotten Bertha Von Suttner. She was a formidable figure in early 20th century Europe. She was a renowned leader of the pacifist movement, and most importantly – the inspiration for the Nobel Peace Prize. Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, was influenced by her thinking and actions. It’s time to revive and revere her memory as much as she deserves.

Others have already commented on the sartorial faux pas of selecting Wonder Woman. But there is a political and security dimension to this choice. Women are already fighting the backlash of conservative forces that believe their struggle for rights or voice in political spaces is a ‘western agenda’ designed to undermine their power structures.

Having a female figure in a low-cut bustier/corset covered in the American flag is just adding ammunition. Don’t get me wrong; I loved the kitsch Lynda Carter TV shows and comic books too. But Wonder Woman is clearly the figment of some 1940s male comic strip illustrator’s imagination.

If the purpose is to demonstrate women’s empowerment, how about reflecting the members of the very real Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL)? They live lives of extraordinary courage, vehemently rejecting weapons and arms and dedicating their lives to promoting rights, peace and pluralism, often in the face of extreme violence.

Here are just a few of the members: Fatima Al-Behadili of Iraq, who is deradicalizing young men and sending them back to school or getting them involved in social service. Visaka Dharmadasa of Sri Lanka who lost her son in the war against the Tamil tigers – but mobilized a group of mothers of missing servicemen to walk, unarmed into the jungle and meet the guerrillas face to face and open a back channel for peace talks. Hamsatu Alamin of Nigeria, who reaches into communities affiliated to Boko Haram and helps to reduce the stigma they experience, and get their kids into schools.

So to the UN Department of Comics (?): please get back to the drawing board or move over and let real women handle the situation.

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Journalist Murders: The Ultimate Form of Censorshiphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/journalist-murders-the-ultimate-form-of-censorship/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=journalist-murders-the-ultimate-form-of-censorship http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/journalist-murders-the-ultimate-form-of-censorship/#comments Tue, 01 Nov 2016 20:34:56 +0000 Lindah Mogeni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147595 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/journalist-murders-the-ultimate-form-of-censorship/feed/ 0 The Key Role Women Played in Culture of Peacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/the-key-role-women-played-in-culture-of-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-key-role-women-played-in-culture-of-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/the-key-role-women-played-in-culture-of-peace/#comments Tue, 01 Nov 2016 16:31:54 +0000 Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147593 Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations, Internationally Recognized Initiator of the UNSCR 1325 as the President of the UN Security Council in March 2000

[On the occasion of the 16th anniversary of unanimous adoption of groundbreaking UNSCR 1325 on 31 October 2000, IPS has the pleasure of publishing the Foreword which Ambassador Chowdhury wrote last year for the book “Openings for Peace – UNSCR 1325, women and security in India”, edited by Asha Hans and Swarna Rajagopalan and published by Sage Publications. The contents remain equally relevant on the 16th anniversary as well.] ]]>

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations, Internationally Recognized Initiator of the UNSCR 1325 as the President of the UN Security Council in March 2000

[On the occasion of the 16th anniversary of unanimous adoption of groundbreaking UNSCR 1325 on 31 October 2000, IPS has the pleasure of publishing the Foreword which Ambassador Chowdhury wrote last year for the book “Openings for Peace – UNSCR 1325, women and security in India”, edited by Asha Hans and Swarna Rajagopalan and published by Sage Publications. The contents remain equally relevant on the 16th anniversary as well.]

By Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 1 2016 (IPS)

In the fifteen years since the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, we have seen a tremendous enthusiasm among civil society at all levels in raising awareness, engaging in advocacy and building capacity for its meaningful implementation. It is my pleasure to write the foreword to this publication which is a meaningful endeavour to move the agenda forward on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the adoption of this groundbreaking resolution.

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury

All of us need to remember that adoption of 1325 has opened a much-awaited door of opportunity for women. To trace back, 15 years ago, on the International Women’s Day in 2000, I had the honor of issuing on behalf of the United Nations Security Council in my capacity as its President a statement that formally brought to global attention the unrecognized, underutilized and undervalued contribution women have always been making towards the prevention of wars, peacebuilding and engaging individuals, communities and societies to live in harmony. All fifteen members of the Security Council recognized in that statement that peace is inextricably linked with equality between women and men, and affirmed the value of full and equal participation of women in all decision-making levels. That is when the seed for Resolution 1325 on women and peace & security was sown. The formal resolution followed this conceptual and political breakthrough on 31 October of the same year giving this issue the long overdue attention and recognition that it deserved.

My own experience particularly during last quarter century has made it clear that the participation of women in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding assures that their experiences, priorities, and solutions contribute to longer-term stability and inclusive governance. I have seen time and again how women – even the humblest and the weakest – have contributed to building the culture of peace in their personal lives, in their families, in their communities and in their nations.

The contribution and involvement of women in the eternal quest for peace is an inherent reality. Women are the real agents of change in refashioning peace structures ensuring greater sustainability.

In choosing the three women laureates for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, the citation referred to 1325 saying that “It underlined the need for women to become participants on an equal footing with men in peace processes and in peace work in general.” The Nobel Committee further asserted that “We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society.”

The main inspiration behind 1325 is not to make war safe for women but to structure the peace in a way that there is no recurrence of war and conflict. Research and case studies consistently suggest that peace agreements and post-conflict rebuilding have a much higher chance of long-term success when women are involved. That is why women need to be at the peace tables, women need to be involved in the decision-making and in the peace-keeping teams to make a real difference in transitioning from the cult of war to the culture of peace.

The driving force behind 1325 is “participation” in which women can contribute to decision-making and ultimately help shape societies where violence in general, more so against women is not the norm. 1325 marked the first time that such a proposition was recognized as an objective of the UN Security Council.

“Women in every part of the world continue to be largely marginalized from the political sphere …” This is unfortunate and unacceptable. Empowering women’s political leadership will have ripple effects on every level of society and consequently on the global condition. When politically empowered, women bring important and different skills and perspectives to the policy making table in comparison to their male counterparts.

When women have been included in peace negotiations, they often have brought the views of women to the discussions by ensuring that peace accords address demands for gender equality, human rights, good governance, rule of law in new constitutional, judicial and electoral structures. We would not have to be worrying about countering extremism if women have equality in decision- making enabling them to take measures which would prevent such extremism. Ensuring equality and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness in international relations is essential to weed out roots of extremism.

I recall Eleanor Roosevelt’s words saying “Too often the great decisions are originated and given shape in bodies made up wholly of men, or so completely dominated by them that whatever of special value women have to offer is shunted aside without expression.” It is a reality that politics, more so security, is a man’s world.

Unfortunately the challenges to women’s rights and their equality not only continue, but those also mutate and reappear, undermining any hard-earned progress – of course in the process, those become more and more complex, complicated and more difficult to overcome.

The ever-increasing militarism and militarization have made the situation even worse. The global patriarchy’s encouragement to the voluminous arms trade has made it easier for extremists of all kinds in obtaining the arms to impose on others their extremist world views. Ending the arms trade and serious steps toward disarmament should be part of the prescription for reducing and eliminating extremism and all militarized violence.

Recognition that women need to be at the peace tables to make a real difference in transitioning from the cult of war to the culture of peace, I believe, made the passage of 1325 an impressive step forward for women’s equality agenda in contemporary security politics. The slogan of the Global Campaign on Women, Peace and Security which we launched in London in June 2014 reiterates “If we are serious about peace, we must take women seriously”. Of course, achieving real gender equality requires “transformative change.” In this conceptual reorientation, the politics of gender relations and restructuring of institutions, rather than simply equality in access to resources and options, should become the priority.

Fifteen years after the adoption of 1325, the governments are still trying to get their acts together on its effective implementation by preparing respective National Action Plan (NAP) as called for by the Security Council. Civil society, on its part, should systematically monitor and evaluate its implementation to hold all sides accountable. Also, countries should work towards the elimination of violence against women and ensure that victims have full access to justice and that there is no impunity for perpetrators. Some countries boast that they do not need a national plan as their countries are not in conflict. To that I say emphatically that no country can claim to be not in conflict where women’s rights are not ensured. Very relevant in this context is the civil society initiative to prepare a people’s action plan as cogently articulated by Betty Reardon in her persuasive contribution in this publication.

In general, National Action Plans should be designed to coordinate and strengthen the implementation of 1325. They should contain a catalogue of measures, clear targets and benchmarks for full and meaningful implementation. The creation of an action plan provides an opportunity to initiate strategic actions, identify priorities and resources, and determine the responsibilities and timeframes. The whole process of developing a plan is also a process of awareness-raising and capacity-building in order to overcome gaps and challenges to the full implementation of 1325.

In real terms, NAP is the engine that would speed up the implementation of Resolution 1325. So far, only 48* out of 193 UN member-states have prepared their plans – what a dismal record after 15 years. There are no better ways to get country level commitment to implement 1325 other than NAPs. I believe very strongly that only NAPs can hold the governments accountable. There has to be an increased and pro-active engagement of the UN secretariat leadership to get a meaningfully bigger number of NAPs – for example, setting a target of 100 NAPs by 2017.

In case of India, for both the government and civil society, preparation of its National Action Plan is particularly important. NGOs should persistently continue to pressure and demand that the government develops the country’s National Action Plan for the implementation of 1325.

At the global level, the UN Secretary-General needs to take the lead in setting up six-monthly inclusive consultative process for 1325 implementation with the civil society organizations at all levels for all relevant UN entities. Also, all relevant NGOs are to be mobilized at country level by the 1325 national coordination body supported by the UN Resident Coordinator.

Again, to recall my message in 2011, I welcomed the focus of Sansristi’s workshop “on the significance of and need for human-centred approach to security. Security can no longer be understood in purely military terms or in terms of state security. Rather, it must encompass economic development, social justice, environmental protection, democratization, disarmament, and respect for human rights and the rule of law. To attain the goals of human security, the most essential element is the protection and empowerment of people. As 1325 deals with peace & security with special attention to the half of the global population, it is crucially important that the human security concept becomes the key to the resolution’s implementation at the national, regional and global levels.”

The existing international policies and practices that make women insecure and deny their equality of participation, basically as a result of its support of the existing militarized inter-state security arrangements, is disappointing. We need to realize that the world is secure when we focus on ensuring human security with a feminist perspective and full and equal participation of women at all decision-making levels, in all spheres of human activity and at all times.

1325 is a “common heritage of humanity” wherein the global objectives of peace, equality and development are reflected in a uniquely historic, universal document of the United Nations. As we look ahead, what is called for is an ever-growing global movement involving more and more women and, of course, men.

This publication is a concrete and determined step towards the objective of contributing meaningfully to the emerging global movement for women’s equality and empowerment. It reflects our common eagerness, energy and enthusiasm to move forward. With wonderfully articulated presentations skillfully authored by experts from various background and experiences and brilliantly put together with accomplished editing by Asha Hans and Swarna Rajagopalan, the book deserves wide-ranging attention and global readership.

* Today the total stands at only 63

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Report Details UN Failings in Juba, South Sudan Violencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/report-details-un-failings-in-juba-south-sudan-violence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=report-details-un-failings-in-juba-south-sudan-violence http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/report-details-un-failings-in-juba-south-sudan-violence/#comments Tue, 11 Oct 2016 23:52:31 +0000 Lindah Mogeni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147308 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/report-details-un-failings-in-juba-south-sudan-violence/feed/ 0 UN Security Council’s “Perilous Interventions” in War Zoneshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/un-security-councils-perilous-interventions-in-war-zones/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-security-councils-perilous-interventions-in-war-zones http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/un-security-councils-perilous-interventions-in-war-zones/#comments Fri, 07 Oct 2016 18:46:46 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147271 Credit: IPS

Credit: IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 7 2016 (IPS)

When the UN Security Council last week discussed the “deliberate” attacks on medical facilities in war-ravaged Syria and Yemen, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon implicitly criticized some of the warring nations lamenting that “even a slaughterhouse is more humane” than the ongoing indiscriminate killings of civilians in the two devastating conflicts.

The attacks on hospitals, he warned, were “war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law”.

But Joanne Liu, International President of Medicins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), singled out “four of the five permanent members of the Security Council” for the continued atrocities and lambasted them for their role in the attacks against medical facilities.

“The conduct of war today knows no limits,” she regretted, pointing out that the failure of the Security Council “reflects a lack of political will among member states fighting in coalitions and those who enable them.”

The unidentified four “enablers” – the United States, Britain, France and Russia – are either directly or indirectly involved in the ongoing military conflicts either as participants or as key arms suppliers.

A recently-released 264-page book titled “Perilous Interventions” also takes a highly critical look at the Security Council whose military interventions have led, in some cases, to “chaos, destruction and destabilization” –specifically in the volatile Middle East—and helped create the Islamic State (IS), “arguably the most formidable extremist organization in history.”

Authored by Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, the former Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, the book lists all the mistakes made in the case of Libya and Syria, along with what happened in Yemen and Ukraine.

“This disastrous history,” Puri said in an interview with IPS “will repeat itself unless we learn from past mistakes and make the required corrections.”

Asked whether the Security Council has outlived its usefulness, judging by the unmitigated failures of Western-led military interventions— either directly or indirectly — in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine and Yemen, Puri said: “The use of force, in the interventions you have cited, was authorised by the Security Council only in the case of Libya (Resolution 1973).”

In the case of Afghanistan, he said, the “coalition of the willing did not even bother to approach the Council.”

In the case of Iraq, a sceptical Council refused to be persuaded, said Puri, who twice presided over Security Council meetings during 2011-2102.

Ukraine and Yemen, he noted, were “unilateral action with a helpless and ineffective Council being either manipulated or ignored.”

“The problem is, if you didn’t have the Council, you would have unilateral action only. The answer, therefore, is not to disband the Council but seek improvement in its functioning,” said Puri.

Asked if the proposed reform of the Security Council – still grounded after more than 10 years of negotiations – will help change the political landscape, Puri said an expanded Council will not suffice.

After all, the new members in an expanded Council will, in all likelihood, not have a veto.

Those who have the urge to use force should introspect about the consequences of their actions. Also, the veto should not be used in situations that potentially involve mass atrocities, he added.

“Security Council expansion and reform, by the way is not a lost cause. All it requires is for a group of countries to submit a framework resolution. Serious negotiations will follow,” he argued.

At a press briefing last September, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, was asked about his country’s stance on Council reform.

He told reporters he did not see, in the near future, any historic compromise being reached on the issue of admitting new permanent members.

“The Russian Federation did not support the French proposal on limiting veto use, as it was not a “workable scheme”; mass atrocity situations would be determined by the 15 Council members or the Secretary-General.”

“This is a political world,” and allowing the General Assembly to weigh in would only infringe on the Council’s purview, he warned.

But Puri told IPS that a veto restraint agreement is the need of the hour.

“I am confident that if it is packaged in terms of a voluntary restraint agreement, along the lines of the French proposal, no amendment let alone a Charter amendment would be required.”

Asked about Security Council decisions being dictated to by big power national interests, Puri told IPS the five permanent members ever so often place their own narrow national interest above considerations of peace and security.

“Some of them do so more blatantly than others. The Council is an intensely political institution”.

Asked about Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s recent complaint that decisions by “consensus” lead to one or two member states exercising undue power over UN decision making, Puri said: “This SG’s time is over. Let us hope the incoming SG will assert leadership and prove it to ensure democratic functioning in the UN.”

“If consensus is interpreted in terms of unanimity, that will become the basis for the doctrine of inaction. In that case, we can kiss goodbye to the UN itself,” he declared.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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The UN’s Blind Spot for Conflict Preventionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/the-uns-blind-spot-for-conflict-prevention/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-uns-blind-spot-for-conflict-prevention http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/the-uns-blind-spot-for-conflict-prevention/#comments Mon, 03 Oct 2016 19:53:17 +0000 Jonathan Rozen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147197 A graphic at UN headquarters in New York compares daily spending on arms versus peace. Credit: IPS UN Bureau.

A graphic at UN headquarters in New York compares daily spending on arms versus peace. Credit: IPS UN Bureau.

By Jonathan Rozen
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 3 2016 (IPS)

As the world struggles to respond to conflicts and the people fleeing them, UN insiders are also struggling to advance a ‘shift in mindset’ to help prevent these crises from happening in the first place.

“Part of the challenge is the way we have characterised the work of the UN as one of a first responder, fire-fighter, as an organisation that comes in when things fall apart,” Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya to the UN, told IPS. “As a consequence all of the institutions in the UN tend to be more reactive than preventive.”

To change this, a group of diplomats and UN staff are seeking to bolster the UN Peacebuilding Fund. This fund operates with an annual budget of roughly 100 million dollars, making small yet targeted investments to avert crises over the long-term.

“Conflicts are pushing UN system to its limits,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. “Without the Peacebuilding Fund, we will be forced to stand by as we witness the preventable loss of countless lives.” But the fund is dramatically under financed.

‘Bang for buck’

On September 21, the UN Peacebuilding Fund held a pledging conference for the fund’s continued operation. The contributions of 30 countries, however, only amounted to 152 million dollars – just over half of the 300 million dollar funding target.

“The rhetoric that we have on peacebuilding is way ahead of the willingness to face up to the challenges of delivering on peace,” said Kamau, who also serves as the Peacebuilding Commission chairperson. “Something fundamentally different needs to happen.”

This year’s budget for the UN’s 16 Peacekeeping missions is roughly eight billion dollars. Looking ahead, small investments by the UN Peacebuilding Fund could save money by preventing the need for expensive missions that respond to what are often already dire circumstances, argue proponents of peacebuilding.

But improved foresight and proactive investments may also have impacts beyond countries’ chequebooks.

As the international body with the mandate to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” the UN’s credibility rests largely on its ability to prevent and resolve conflict.

“If we are able to stop these conflicts from emerging in the first place, much of what we see today in the refugee situation putting a lot of pressure on individuals and countries would of course not have happened in the first place,” said Olof Skoog, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the UN.

‘Sustaining peace’

The UN Peacebuilding commission is a relatively new arm of the UN, established only in December 2005. Its mandate widened in April this year with the adoption of two identical resolutions by the UN General Assembly and Security Council. These moved peacebuilding responsibilities beyond post-conflict recovery to include comprehensive efforts for more proactive conflict prevention and ‘sustaining peace.’

Sustaining peace is the “idea that this process of prevention is actually something that goes on from the early warnings … over the conflict stage … and the post-conflict,” Jan Eliasson, UN Deputy Secretary-General, told the Peacebuilding Fund pledging conference. It involves consideration for the whole range of social, political, and economic factors that may contribute to peace.

This links conflict prevention to the achievement of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030). For example, Goal 1 and Goal 10 – “No Poverty” and “Reduced Inequalities” – will not be possible without sustained peace.

According to the World Bank, the world’s poorest people are becoming increasingly concentrated in fragile areas affected by conflict and violence, as peaceful areas reap the benefits of development. By 2030, 46 percent of people in extreme poverty will live in fragile and conflict affected areas, up from 17 percent today, says the Bank.

“We are still in early days to say what [Agenda 2030] will look like in terms of implementation,” Helder da Costa, General Secretary of the g7+ association of developing countries affected by conflict, told IPS after a meeting on Goal 16. “If you really want to build peaceful societies … we need practical implementation on the ground.”

One of the Peacebuilding Fund’s investments provided two million dollars to register births of 350,000 children in Côte d’Ivoire. Without registration, these children, many of whom were born just before or during the recent conflict, would be left in “legal limbo” without access to social services, advanced schooling or employment.

While the Peacebuilding Fund has been involved with various initiatives in Côte d’Ivoire since 2008, this registration effort aims to promote national identity for improved social cohesion, strengthening the social fabric of the country.

Investment in the SDG’s will support the social, economic, and political conditions that may prevent conflict and sustain peace. This process, however, will take time and the UN Peacebuilding Fund is looking to make the immediate and targeted investments that may curb the potential for conflicts.

“Lets not be impeded by bureaucratic challenges … lets think outside the box and then try to help things at the country level,” da Costa continued. But in a large and complex institution like the UN, new and innovative ways of thinking do not easily gain political traction or financial backing. In some cases they may even be directly opposed.

The UN Security Council initially resisted the Peacebuilding Commissions’ role in conflict prevention, said Eliasson. They believed it was an “infringement” on their primacy as the UN body for peace and security matters. Even now, with the world’s compounding crises of conflict, climate change, and refugees, countries’ investments remain focused on reacting to crises rather than preventing them.

It is important to cover the urgent humanitarian needs of today, Skoog explained to IPS. “At the same time, it’s very important to get this shift going to avoid these conflicts in the first place.”

As the international body with the mandate to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” the UN’s credibility rests largely on its ability to prevent and resolve conflict. Nevertheless, too often violence is permitted to spiral out of control and endure.

The president of the General Assembly for 2016-2017 has said he will support the shift to a more proactive mindset of ‘sustaining peace’ and encourage additional contributions to the Peacebuilding Fund. But after January 1 2017, when the next UN Secretary General takes office, it remains to be seen how the new leadership will prioritise proactive conflict prevention and the ‘sustaining peace’ mindset.

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Uncertainty Mars Potential for Peace in South Sudanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/uncertainty-mars-potential-for-peace-in-south-sudan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uncertainty-mars-potential-for-peace-in-south-sudan http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/uncertainty-mars-potential-for-peace-in-south-sudan/#comments Wed, 28 Sep 2016 00:26:14 +0000 Jonathan Rozen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147127 A delegation from the UN Security Council visited South Sudan at the beginning of September 2016. UN Photo/Isaac Billy.

A delegation from the UN Security Council visited South Sudan at the beginning of September 2016. UN Photo/Isaac Billy.

By Jonathan Rozen
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 28 2016 (IPS)

Nearly one month after UN Security Council members visited troubled South Sudan, disagreement reigns over even the limited outside measures proposed to try to bring the security situation in the world’s newest country under control.

“To fix South Sudan you will need 250,000 soldiers, you will need four or five billion dollars per year. Who is going to do that? Nobody.” Berouk Messfin, Senior Researcher with the Institute for Security Studies in Addis Ababa, told IPS.

While it is clear that neither an arms embargo nor an additional 4000 UN troops – two measures currently on the table – will be a panacea for troubled South Sudan, there is a slim hope that they may pressure the country’s leadership to act in the interests of its people.

As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told a high-level meeting on South Sudan’s humanitarian situation on September 22: “Time and again, (South Sudan’s) leaders have resorted to weapons and identity politics to resolve their differences.”

For three days in early September Security Council members traveled to South Sudan. At the end of the visit a ‘joint communiqué’ was issued that seemingly brokered an agreement with the interim Transitional Government of National Unity. It outlined the strengthening of the existing 12,000-troop UN peacekeeping mission (UNMISS) through an additional 4000-troop Regional Protection Force, and the removal of restrictions to humanitarian access. But in the days since the communiqué, South Sudanese officials have insisted that specifics of the additional force remain unresolved.

“We have agreed in principle … but the details of their deployment, the countries that will contribute … that is the work that is left now,” Hussein Mar Nyuot, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management for the South Sudan government told IPS. “I don’t see the difference that this [4000] will come and do.”

“To fix South Sudan you will need 250,000 soldiers, you will need four or five billion dollars per year. Who is going to do that? Nobody.” -- Berouk Messfin, Institute for Security Studies.

The proposed additional force would be under the command of UNMISS and was endorsed in July by the east African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) body leading the South Sudan peace talks. Building on UNMISS’ existing mandate, which already calls for the “use all necessary means” to protect UN personnel and civilians from threats, the Security Council believes the additional troops would strengthen the security situation.

The force is to be deployed as soon as possible, Hervé Ladsous, Under Secretary General for UN Peacekeeping Operations, told reporters Friday. Though he also said they were trying to elucidate “contradictory statements” from the capital, Juba.

In this context, human rights advocacy groups, along with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, have continued their calls for the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo to stop both sides’ continued militarization.

“It’s going to be more difficult for parties to the conflict to get access to ammunition and supplies,” Louis Charbonneau, UN Director for Human Rights Watch, told IPS. “Combine it with the boosting of UNMISS … [and] it’s going to make a difference for civilians.”

However, the South Sudanese government, whose soldiers have been implicated in ethnically motivated killings, rape, and looting, disagrees on the value of an embargo.

“[The] issue is not actually the arms that are coming … even if you have an arms embargo there are already arms in the hands of the local people … the arms that are coming in are not actually the ones causing any problems,” Hussein Mar Nyuot told IPS.

If they say they want to have [an] arms embargo, ok, but what will you do with the arms that are in the hands of the people?” he continued. “We should encourage the government to disarm the civilian population.”

Peacekeepers and UN police officers (UNPOL) with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Credit: UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein

Peacekeepers and UN police officers (UNPOL) with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Credit: UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein

As a party to the conflict, South Sudan’s government is not impartial in their position, however they are also not entirely alone in their hesitance. “[An embargo] has to be a last course … we are not there yet,” Mahboub Maalim, Executive Secretary of IGAD, told IPS.

Despite the existing arms in the country and the potential for continued illicit inflows, targeted sanctions by the Security Council may signal deeper commitment to ending the violence and protecting civilians. Nevertheless, neither an embargo nor 4000 additional troops will cure the political divisions among South Sudan’s leadership, which lie at the heart of the conflict.

Paths forward

“The South Sudanese have a string to hang on now … and that is the implementation of the [August 2015] agreement,” Maalim said. “It has had some problems because of the July incident, but it’s going to come on track,” he added referring to violent clashes which took place in South Sudan in July, bringing the country to the brink of all-out war.

However, not everyone agrees on the viability of the previous agreement.

“You have two sides that are not negotiating in good faith … who do not understand how to implement peace agreements they have signed,” said Messfin.

So what is to be done? Beyond the intended value for the protection of civilians, additional troops and restrictions will only go so far without political commitment from the country’s leadership.

Conflict prevention in South Sudan is about strategically applied political leverage, Cedric de Conning, Senior Researcher at the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes and the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, explained to IPS.

A protection force like a reinforced peacekeeping mission can only implement what is agreed to politically, and the warring parties are not committed and remain mistrustful. While immediate action is necessary to save lives, there will eventually need to be a “reset” and a new administration, he continued.

Meanwhile, civil society groups have also reported increased repression of their activities, indicating a further weakening of South Sudan’s social resilience.

“There has been a steady uptick in press freedom violations in South Sudan in recent months,” Murithi Mutiga, East Africa correspondent for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), told IPS. “We have seen a number of cases of newspaper outlets being arbitrarily closed down, the most prominent cases being the Nation Mirror and the Juba Monitor.”

Press freedom can support the pursuit of a sustained cessation of hostilities, urged CPJ, because accurate and accessible public information allows citizens to better understand how to react to crises without turning to violence. A well-informed population may also be better positioned to define a peaceful future for their country.

The importance of uninhibited civil society for conflict prevention also matches the priorities outlined in two identical resolutions passed by the UN Security Council and General Assembly in April, which recognize pathways to “sustaining peace.” Notably, this includes the development and maintenance of social, political and economic conditions necessary for conflict to be prevented.

South Sudan has experienced persistent violence since 2013, when armed conflict broke out between groups loyal to president Salva Kiir and opposition leader in exile Riek Machar. Fighting escalated along ethnic lines, pitting Dinka against Nuer, until a peace agreement was signed in August 2015. But fighting continued and escalated in July 2016 with a series of clashes in Juba, which left approximately 300 dead. Over the last three years thousands have been killed, over 1.6 million people remain internally displaced, and roughly 4.8 million currently suffer from food insecurity, according to the UN.

While the implementation of September’s joint communiqué will be reviewed with next steps considered at the end of the month, South Sudan’s Humanitarian Response Plan is severely under-funded at just over 50 percent; despite there being no doubt that South Sudan needs immediate assistance.

But this will only serve as a stop-gap against man-made famine. While the Security Council may still unite for the application of an embargo, the fate of South Sudan ultimately lies with its leadership. Their ability to find a lasting agreement, with support from the UN, the African Union, and IGAD, hinges on their willingness to stop the conflict.

“The lives and future of an entire generation hang in the balance,” Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, said Thursday. “Literally the future of South Sudan.”

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Colombia Referendum – First Acid Test for Peacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/first-acid-test-for-peace-in-colombia-will-be-the-referendum/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=first-acid-test-for-peace-in-colombia-will-be-the-referendum http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/first-acid-test-for-peace-in-colombia-will-be-the-referendum/#comments Tue, 27 Sep 2016 20:52:15 +0000 Constanza Vieira http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147126 Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signs the peace agreement, observed by FARC chief Rodrigo Londoño, Latin American presidents and other dignitaries, in an open-air ceremony in the city of Cartagena de Indias. Credit: Colombian presidency

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signs the peace agreement, observed by FARC chief Rodrigo Londoño, Latin American presidents and other dignitaries, in an open-air ceremony in the city of Cartagena de Indias. Credit: Colombian presidency

By Constanza Vieira
BOGOTA, Sep 27 2016 (IPS)

It was like a huge party in Colombia. “Congratulations!” people said to each other, before hugging. “Only 20 minutes to go!” one office worker said, hurrying on her way to Bolívar square, in the heart of Bogotá. And everyone knew what she was talking about, and hurried along too. Complete strangers exchanged winks of complicity.

Starting at 5:00 PM on Monday Sept. 26, the people in the square watched a live broadcast of the ceremony in Cartagena de Indias, 664 km to the north, where the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels signed a peace agreement, putting an end to 52 years of armed conflict.

Fifteen presidents, 27 foreign ministers and three former presidents, as well as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, took part in and witnessed the historic event.

The first big test for peace will come on Sunday Oct. 2, when Colombians will vote for or against the peace deal, in a referendum.

The ceremony began with one minute of silence for the Colombians who were killed or forcibly disappeared in the last half century, while dozens of white flags were raised.

This was followed by an a capella song by traditional singers from Bojayá, a town in the northwestern department of Chocó where 79 people were killed in May 2002, including 44 children. The United Nations blamed the FARC, the far-right paramilitaries and the army for the war crime.

“We are very happy/full of joy/that the FARC guerrillas/are laying down their arms,” they sang. During the war, “in our community/they didn’t even let/us go out to fish or work. We want justice and peace/to come from the heart/for health, peace and education to reach our fields.”

At 5:30 PM, President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, signed the “final agreement to end the conflict and build a stable and lasting peace”, agreed on Aug. 24 in Havana after five years of peace talks held with international observers.

Colombians are “bidding farewell to decades of flames and sending up a bright flare of hope that illuminates the world,” Ban Ki-moon said.

The two leaders signing the accord spoke next.

The former rebel leader apologised “to all the victims of the conflict for all of the pain that we have caused in this war,” receiving a standing ovation in Cartagena as well as Bogotá, while thousands of people chanted “Yes we could!”

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks at the ceremony for the signing of the peace deal in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. Credit: UN

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks at the ceremony for the signing of the peace deal in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. Credit: UN

The FARC rebel organisation will now become a new political party. ““No one should doubt that we are moving into politics without arms,” Londoño said. “The war is over. We are starting to build peace.”

Santos said “I welcome you to democracy. Exchanging bullets for votes, weapons for ideas, is the bravest and most intelligent decision…you understood the call of history.”

“We will undoubtedly never see eye to eye about the political or economic model that our country should follow, but I will staunchly defend your right to express your ideas within the democratic regime,” the president said.

After 14 years, the European Union removed the FARC from its list of terrorist organisations. And U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said his government would “review” doing the same.

Ban confirmed that the signing of the agreement marked the start of the U.N. Security Council peacekeeping mission to verify and monitor the ceasefire and the laying down of arms within 180 days.

On the sunny afternoon in Bolívar square, 70-something Graciela Laverde, wearing a colourful cotton dress, told IPS her biggest wish was “peace, education and recreation for so many children, an end to all the corruption and the killing of so many innocent people….If God wills, there will be peace.”

The referendum

The first big step along the complex route to consolidating peace will be the Oct. 2 referendum in which Colombians will vote whether or not they back the final peace deal.

The campaigns urging people to vote “yes” have been diverse and have included initiatives too numerous to count. For example, grandmothers playing with their grandchildren cut out large signs reading “si” (yes) to tape in their windows.

The campaign for the “no” vote, meanwhile, was led first and foremost by the far right: former president Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010) and former attorney general Alejandro Ordóñez, who may be Uribe’s candidate in the 2018 presidential elections.

The campaign has targeted Colombians in urban areas, who make up 70 percent of the population. “The people living in rural areas are prepared to vote ‘yes’,” analyst Jesús Aníbal Suárez told IPS, adding that it was urban residents who had the most doubts.

Suárez expects low voter turnout of around 35 percent, which would still be high enough to meet the legal requirements for the referendum. He projects a 60-40 percent result in favour of “yes”.

President Juan Manuel Santos (R) shows FARC chief Rodrigo Londoño the symbolic pen that the two will use to sign the peace agreement putting an end to over half a century of conflict in Colombia. Credit: Colombian presidency

President Juan Manuel Santos (R) shows FARC chief Rodrigo Londoño the symbolic pen made from a bullet that the two used to sign the peace agreement putting an end to over half a century of conflict in Colombia. Credit: Colombian presidency

“There is a great deal of uncertainty, and that leads people to abstain from voting,” he said. “Uribe’s effort has made its mark, it has managed to confuse people,” by widely disseminating false information about the peace agreement, he added.

But there is a new segment of the population in favour of the “yes” vote: the military and police, who total nearly half a million people in this country of 48 million.

“The members of the military can’t vote, but their families, the people around them, can,” said Suárez. “I heard retired general (former police chief) Roso José Serrano say: ‘I don’t want one more police officer to die.”

“Soldiers and police officers feel like they have been cannon fodder. Their families will vote for the ceasefire, just as a matter of logic,” because the deaths in combat have been reduced to zero.

During the 2014 presidential elections voters were polarised between reelecting Santos, so he could continue the peace talks with the FARC, and voting for Uribe’s candidate Óscar Zuluaga, who wanted to suspend the negotiations and relaunch them on a different footing.

Today, the “no” camp is calling for a renegotiation of the accord.

Suárez believes that in 2014, the families and friends of the half million soldiers and police voted for Zuluaga, but will now vote “yes”.

At the same time, the “no” campaign has complained about the government’s new sex education for preteens.

Because the peace agreement has a gender perspective, an unprecedented aspect in any peace deal anywhere in the world, Ordóñez’s followers protested on the day of the signing ceremony, in a small demonstration in Cartagena, that the peace accord represented a threat to children because of its “gender ideology.”

Evangelical Christians, who number several million in Colombia, vote in a disciplined manner, and their preachers have told them to vote “no”. The local Catholic Church leaders, despite Pope Francis’ support for the peace talks, declared themselves neutral with regard to the referendum.

“The referendum will define which direction this will take,” said Carlos Lozano, director of the Communist weekly publication Voz, who was close to the Havana talks.

“If the ‘no’ vote wins, which I don’t believe will happen, things would change a great deal, even if the war didn’t break out again,” he told IPS.

“It would be very difficult to hold another process of peace talks and reach another agreement,” he said. “It’s a document that has consensus support, which is worthy of the state, worthy of the guerrillas, and was built with great care, in a very detailed manner.”

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South Sudan and Uganda’s Intertwined History of Violencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/south-sudan-and-ugandas-intertwined-history-of-violence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-sudan-and-ugandas-intertwined-history-of-violence http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/south-sudan-and-ugandas-intertwined-history-of-violence/#comments Tue, 27 Sep 2016 17:25:54 +0000 Gabriel Odima http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147117 South Sudanese President Salva Kiir with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in 2015. Credit: UN Photo/Isaac Billy.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in 2015. Credit: UN Photo/Isaac Billy.

By Gabriel Odima
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA, Sep 27 2016 (IPS)

Uganda has and continues to play a major role in fueling the conflict in South Sudan. The recent events in South Sudan have brought that moral challenge into a very sharp focus.

The banishment of democracy from and suppression of the human rights of the citizens in South Sudan have persisted for the last five years since the birth of the nation. What appeared to be a hidden agenda is beginning to emerge in South Sudan.

These sad events in South Sudan have some similarities with events in Uganda. In 1981 thirty five years ago and fifteen days after elections in Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni plunged Uganda – where peace had returned following the fall of Idi Amin – to war. Museveni launched the war in what became known as the Luwero Triangle, a district adjacent to and north of Kampala, the capital of Uganda.

The war was a direct attack on democracy. It made the policy and work of the newly elected government in healing and reconciliation, development, rehabilitation, and transformation towards a culture of peace extremely difficult.

Like the case of South Sudan, the international community turned a blind eye. The continued support of Museveni’s rule in Uganda for the last 30 years raises very serious concern regarding the implications of U.S. foreign policy in Africa. The circumstance in which Museveni launched his war against the constitution and people in February 1981 exposed most clearly that he is a man of violent disposition who has a thirst for power in its most naked and atavistic form. Single handed, Museveni has exported this violent approach to South Sudan.  Indeed, all the subsequent wars which he waged in Luwero, Northern Uganda, Eastern Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo and South Sudan were totally unnecessary and cannot be justified.

During the Luwero war, Museveni and his army exhibited a very high degree of a most ignoble mendacity- not only as a war exigency but also as a means to conceal their crimes against humanity. They would, for instance, attack a village posing as government troops, cause much havoc, including massacres, and then on cue, the aggressors would hurriedly depart from the scene only for second unit of Museveni’s army to conveniently arrive to rescue the village from”government troops”. The second unit using a combination of persuasion and coercion would then cause the exodus of the villages to fortresses under the control of the insurgents after ransacking and destroying much of and in the village. The ignoble mendacity in the fact that at the time those atrocities were committed by Museveni’s army, road, foot paths and even  cattle tracks had been heavily manned by them and government troops were nowhere in the interior of Luwero District or in the village.

In 1971, the international media uniformly described Idi Amin repeatedly and for a whole year as " the gentle giant".

It became routine and an article of faith in Museveni’s subsequent wars in Northern Uganda, East, West Uganda, as well as in Rwanda, DR Congo and South Sudan, for atrocities committed by his army to be credited to his victims.

Those who are in the position to help the people of South Sudan to find and form a basis for harmony and rebuilding of South Sudan carry a very heavy burden and responsibility.

The Ugandan military regime, right from its installation in 1986 by the gun and bloodshed, has consistently, arrogantly and cynically suppressed and never permitted the citizens and their organized political parties to enjoy the freedom to hold opinions on political or public matters except the opinion of the regime. The fact that never, in the past, had the people of Uganda known so much death, oppression and repression as under the present military regime has been and is still being strenuously concealed by world leaders.

The cause of Democracy and the enjoyment by the citizens of human rights and freedoms have suffered in Uganda and South Sudan and will continue to suffer so long as politicians, church leaders and foreign governments and media give support and credibility to oppressive and repressive regimes established by the gun. The support and the credibility sometimes give the impression that the givers have removed the victims, that is, the oppressed citizens from the human race.

The general trend has been in many African countries for the Church leadership, politicians, the media and the international community to turn a blind eye on the atrocities in Uganda and South Sudan.

There are several reasons for the silence of these groups on democracy and observance of human rights in Uganda and South Sudan. Two of them stands out. The first is the tendency of both the spiritual and laity Christian leaders in a country faced with a difficult political or economic situation to accept wittingly or unwittingly a regime established by the gun and bloodshed. The second is the powerful influence of external forces namely, foreign governments, international media and human rights organizations when they give support and accolades to regimes established by the gun and bloodshed.

In 1971, the international media uniformly described Idi Amin repeatedly and for a whole year as “the gentle giant”. The evidence of massacres and terror by Amin’s soldiers was of no interest to the media until much later. Foreign governments also showed no interest in the evidence and Amnesty International, for instance, never reported even once throughout Amin’s rule of over eight years on the observance of human rights in Uganda.

In the case of South Sudan and Uganda, for instance, the military regime waged vicious wars to hold on to power and to ignore the lives of their citizens. There will be no peace in South Sudan as long as President Museveni of Uganda continues to play a role in fueling the conflict there.

The promotion and development of democracy and its attendant enjoyment of human rights by the citizen is under attack in Uganda and South Sudan not only by those holding the guns but also by the donors who provide funds indiscriminately. The donors know that no military regime in Africa, from Kampala through Juba is accountable to the people but still credit such regimes with accountability.

It is amazing and foreboding of hard and evil days ahead for Africa that although for the past 50 years, African countries have been largely ruled either by military dictators or single parties, opinions in the donor countries which have been in recent years strongly against single party rule are now shifting towards and in favor of military rule and against multiparty rule.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect IPS’s editorial policy.

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A Historic Day in Colombiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/a-historic-day-in-colombia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-historic-day-in-colombia http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/a-historic-day-in-colombia/#comments Tue, 27 Sep 2016 06:46:42 +0000 Martin Santiago http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147109 Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator of the United Nations in Colombia and Resident Representative of UNDP]]>

Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator of the United Nations in Colombia and Resident Representative of UNDP

By Martín Santiago
BOGOTA, Colombia , Sep 27 2016 (IPS)

Betsaida and her family abandoned their home and a small business in the port of Tumaco, in the Pacific of Colombia, and were forced to follow the road that more than 7 million displaced Colombians have as a result of the armed conflict.

Their story, and that of millions of victims of the war, is at the heart of what the United Nations Organization is and does. Seventy-one years after its creation, the universal aspiration to end war, reaffirm the fundamental human rights and promote social progress is latent and more crucial than ever.

Despite the progress we have made in the last quarter of the century, in which we achieved a significant reduction of armed conflicts, we have witnessed serious setbacks in the last four years: the number of civil wars and attacks by governments and armed groups against civilians have increased for the first time since 2005. More than fifty million people, the highest number recorded in history, have been uprooted from their homes around the world as a result of armed conflicts.

In the face of adversity by human tragedies, the Peace Agreement by the Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP that will be signed today is of great significance for Colombia and for the world. With it, the possibility of ending 52 years of war in Colombia, and ending the scourge of armed political violence throughout the Americas, becomes real. Before this beacon of hope, the United Nations System in Colombia pays tribute to the victims of the conflict and to the many Colombians who have fought every day to build peace in their country.

We are privileged to accompany this crucial moment in history, and, with the excitement, I also feel a deep sense of solemnity, characteristic of those historic moments that challenge us and urge us to step up the realization of the purpose to which we owe ourselves: that peace be translated into the real expansion of human freedoms for everyone, and, in particular, for those most severely affected by the conflict, and to whom development has bypassed: the rural population, peasants, women, indigenous groups, youth, Afro-Colombians and the displaced.

Experience demonstrates that it is not enough to sign peace. That building peace and, furthermore, making peace with each other, entail arduous work. The commitment of the United Nations System in Colombia is to work relentlessly, together with the national public and private stakeholders, for Betsaida, and thousands of families like hers, to restore their livelihoods and realize themselves with equal opportunities; to generate reconciliation and sustainable development that contributes to closing the gaps that originated the conflict; to promote that each community and municipality be a peacebuilding agent.

The prospect of a Colombia in peace invites us to walk the path firmly and decisively on the basis of reparations for the victims, of an inclusive democracy and a more equitable development in which no one be left behind.

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Jobs Are Crucial for Peace, Stem Radicalization and Violent Extremism in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/jobs-are-crucial-for-peace-stem-radicalization-and-violent-extremism-in-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=jobs-are-crucial-for-peace-stem-radicalization-and-violent-extremism-in-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/jobs-are-crucial-for-peace-stem-radicalization-and-violent-extremism-in-kenya/#comments Wed, 21 Sep 2016 12:22:30 +0000 Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147013 Ambassador Amina Mohamed (@AMB_A_Mohammed) is the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Siddharth Chatterjee (@sidchat1) is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya. ]]> Under Vision 2030, the agriculture sector is to be made more innovative, commercially oriented and modern. Photo Credit: WikiMedia

Under Vision 2030, the agriculture sector is to be made more innovative, commercially oriented and modern. Photo Credit: WikiMedia

By Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 21 2016 (IPS)

Today 21 September 2016 is the International Day of Peace.

Kenya has the largest number of jobless youth in East Africa, putting a strain on the economy’s growth and also threatening peace and security when hopeless youth gravitate towards violent extremist groups.

Today, youth form two-thirds of Kenya’s population, many of them unemployed, with the ratio of youth unemployment to overall adult unemployment standing at 46 percent, according to the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census. At the same time, there are eight dependents for every ten working Kenyans, meaning that the average worker will very often have little left to save or invest for growth.

While this youth bulge may seem like a disaster in the making, investing in the sectors with highest potential can turn it into a gateway to rapid economic growth and development as we have seen among Asian Tigers like Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia.

By all projections, agriculture presents this opportunity.

While the African Union has recognised agriculture as the driving force of social and economic transformation, the youth often feel that agriculture lacks the glamour, sophistication and allure of the professions they seek.

This is regrettable. Africa not only has the largest percentage of arable land in the globe, and untapped potential for irrigated agro-pastoralism on its vast arid and semi-arid lands, but it also has the highest ratio of young people with the necessary knowledge, innovative skills and physical strength.

Of particular interest are youth in hard to reach areas, such as the arid and semi-arid lands, who are increasingly disgruntled by dim prospects of good jobs and increasingly prone to the temptations of extremist groups. These groups sway them with blandishments and exploit their feelings of exclusion and hopelessness.

In northern Kenya, which has borne the brunt of extremism in the country, traditional livestock farming methods can be targeted for transformation into a quality-driven, export-targeting industry. This calls for investment in education, rural transport and electricity, and smart business and trade policies.

In these areas, formal education should provide young people with basic numeracy and literacy, managerial and business skills, and introduce them to agro-pastoralism. It has been shown that education is key to overcoming development challenges in rural areas, and that improved access to education also improves rural children’s food security.

The power of the internet also offers a great opportunity for attracting youth in far-flung areas to agriculture. Packaging and disseminating information on agri-business to the youth through social media platforms like blogs, websites, Twitter and Facebook has proven effective in Kenya. Much more can be achieved with increased access to the internet especially in the remote parts of the country.

There is a great potential pay-off for the continent: according to the World Bank, African agriculture and agribusiness could be worth $1 trillion by 2030. Clearly, this is the low hanging fruit that Kenya should aim to invest in to solve the myriad problems associated with youth unemployment.

Agro-pastoralism has great potential to improve livelihoods for youth and women and reduce food insecurity, create incomes and generally help youth to feel engaged and involved with the national development agenda. Those promoting entrepreneurship must therefore include agribusiness as a priority area of focus, particularly at the county level.

Acting on this, President Uhuru Kenyatta during this year’s African Green Revolution Forum held in Nairobi, announced that the government would invest US$200 million to enable 150,000 young agricultural entrepreneurs to gain access to markets, finance and insurance.

With their dynamism, enthusiasm and innovativeness, the youth are our greatest asset and a force for improving the productivity and growth of all sectors in Kenya.

To reap the dividends, Kenya’s priority focus needs to be on growth in sectors that can absorb them, particularly agriculture.

Policies must also ensure that women and girls, who do most of the actual work in farms across Africa, can achieve their potential. Lack of collateral and financial literacy often make them ineligible for financial assistance while cultural norms deny them land inheritance rights and, at times, restrict their movement and access to markets for their produce.

Kenya’s Vision 2030 aims to turn the country into an industrialized, middle-income country and provide a high quality life in a safe and secure environment to all its citizens by 2030.

It is only when the current large group of youth has been given education and skills demanded by the sectors of greatest potential that we will turn the youth bulge into a force for good and transform Kenya into a peaceful and prosperous nation.

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No One Is Indispensable in a Democracyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/no-one-is-indispensable-in-a-democracy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-one-is-indispensable-in-a-democracy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/no-one-is-indispensable-in-a-democracy/#comments Tue, 20 Sep 2016 03:15:54 +0000 Oscar Arias Sanchez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146995 Former Costa Rican president Oscar Arias

Former Costa Rican president Oscar Arias

By Oscar Arias Sanchez
SAN JOSÉ, Sep 20 2016 (IPS)

I have put a great deal of thought into whether or not to return to politics. Groups from different political parties, and without party affiliation, have expressed their concern over the current situation in the country and have offered me their support. And the opinion polls indicate that I would have a chance at a third presidential term.

The support of so many people fills me with gratitude. There is no greater reward for me than feeling the confidence and trust of the Costa Rican people, because it is based on deeds and actions, on knowing me for over 45 years, and knowing that, with all my defects, I always say what I think and do what I say.

The approval of my first two administrations is a reflection of what we managed to do together. In the 1980s, we brought peace to a region crushed by war, and we thus put Costa Rica on the world map.

Ten years ago, we inserted our small country in the international economy, and we put it on the map again when the United Nations approved the Arms Trade Treaty, Costa Rica’s biggest contribution to humanity in its entire history.

For many months I have weighed the contribution that I can still make, serving Costa Rica once again, against the need to give a boost to the emergence of a new generation of Costa Rican leaders. And I’m not thinking about the next four years. I’m thinking about the next 40. I have enough strength and enough ideas to serve them again. But I also know I’m not indispensable. No one is indispensable in a democracy.

This is something I have said many times: one of the main obligations of a political leader is to foster new leadership. The future of a country depends on the continuous emergence of new cadres willing to take up the baton. Only tyrants cling to power.

Democrats, of whom I am one, understand the importance of stepping aside. I believe the next generations must be given space, and this is the main reason for not running again for president.

The second reason arises from the political ungovernability in Costa Rica. The opposition doesn’t bother me; on the contrary, I have always believed that in a democracy if there is no opposition, it has to be created. I believe a good government requires someone on the other side of the sidewalk, reminding it of its commitments and holding it accountable.

Unfortunately, there is a segment of the opposition in our country which, instead of demanding that the government in office make good on its promises, uses any tool to keep it from doing so. Rather than allowing it to implement the government plan that voters supported at the polls, they spend four years carrying out a continuous election campaign, standing in the way of progress in the direction that the people said they wanted.

On May 8, 2006, when my second government took office, I made the following appeal to Costa Ricans, which continues to apply today:

“I hope that we learn that no party or social segment has a monopoly on honesty, patriotism, good intentions and love for Costa Rica. I hope that we can understand that the responsible use of political power is much more than pointing things out, complaining, and hindering, and consists above all of engaging in dialogue, working together and building.

“I hope we will be able to tell the difference between adversaries and enemies; understand that willingness to compromise is not a sign of weakness, just as intransigence is not a sign of strength. I hope we can do away with the pettiness of our political debate, raise up our heads, look forward and think big.”

The third and last reason that pushes me to make this decision is that I think there are many ways to work for the people of Costa Rica. They say that someone who is only good at being president is not even good at that. That is, if you can only exert influence from the presidential seat, it will not be a strong influence.

I don’t plan to retire. I will continue to express my opinions about the way things are going in the country, and I will continue to support the causes I believe in: I always defended what I consider is best for our people, and above all, for the less fortunate.

I will continue to tirelessly advocate the need for Costa Rica to approve educational reforms that make it possible to boost the quality of education in our primary and secondary schools and our universities, such as dual education, evaluation of teachers and ensuring that our young people receive the skills needed to compete in today’s world.

I will continue to insist on the need for Costa Rica to modernise its economy, invest in infrastructure, insert itself even more in the global markets, significantly bolster its competitiveness and rev up its engines of productivity, the best instrument to reduce inequalities. And I will continue defending democracy, peace and disarmament, because the small size of our country should never be the measure of its moral authority.

I have decided not to run for a third presidential term because I believe that the main problem we are facing is medium- to long-term. If we don’t manage to elevate the quality of politics and increase interest in public service, if we fail to get the most capable, educated and honest people to participate in political life, the sustainability itself of our democratic system is at stake.

To preserve this way of life that we have enjoyed for years, we have to encourage young people to lay their hands on the helm of history.

This is a country of young people. It’s the new generations that have to fight for, and exercise, power. If they don’t like the direction the country is moving in, they should change it. You can do a lot of good outside of politics, but a country where everyone is outside politics is a country adrift.

Arnold Toynbee, the great British historian, said “The greatest punishment for those who are not interested in politics, is that they are governed by people who are.”

Young people must occupy their rightful place in decision-making. They should take the helm of this ship we call fatherland; it will go in the direction of their commitment, or their indifference. I hope the Costa Rica of the future will not be the fruit of their omission, but of the most determined transformative action!

My profound gratitude to everyone who has supported me. Thank you so much for your affection and your trust. Thanks so much for the people of Costa Rica, who continue to move me, to inspire me, and to give me reasons to believe that politics is an instrument for doing good, for achieving peace, for doing justice; that politics is the workshop of dreams where perhaps they can become more realistic, more precise, more concrete, but also the place where dreams can come true.

The views expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS-Inter Press Service.

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Muslims in Europe: Can There Be Social Harmony ?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/muslims-in-europe-can-there-be-social-harmony/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=muslims-in-europe-can-there-be-social-harmony http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/muslims-in-europe-can-there-be-social-harmony/#comments Mon, 19 Sep 2016 18:46:15 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146993 The Geneva Centre held a panel discussion on the theme “Muslims in Europe: The Road to Social Harmony” today, 19 September.

The Geneva Centre held a panel discussion on the theme “Muslims in Europe: The Road to Social Harmony” today, 19 September.

By Rose Delaney
ROME, Sep 19 2016 (IPS)

Although 20 million Muslims reside in Western Europe, establishing social harmony between the Muslim community and their European counterparts has proved exceedingly challenging.Much to the dismay of international humanitarian agencies and anti-racism activists,the language of exclusion and prejudice persists.

Since the turn of the century, Muslims, the world over, have been subjected to harsh discrimination and harassment. This was triggered by the 2001 terror attacks which rapidly spread anti-Islamic sentiments across the US.The fear surrounding Muslims and the “brute terror” they are widely thought to inflict, has now resulted in the widespread diffusion of religious racism across Europe.

According to Dr.Zidane Meriboute, author of the book “Muslims in Europe: The Road to Social Harmony”, prior to the extremist-led terror attacks, there was a relative lack of concern for minority groups in Europe. Now, the growth in animosity directed at the Muslim community is increasing at a robust rate.

The modern phenomenon of Islamophobia can be related to leading literary critic, Edward Said’s, theory of “orientalism” wherein Arabs and other Muslims were traditionally labeled as the “other.” In other words, what Dr.Zidane describes as being “the scapegoat for Western society’s ills”. This also draws back to the 19th-century theorist, Arthur de Gobineau’s, description of an age-old “reciprocal repulsion” between Muslims and Europeans.Across Europe, Muslims continue to be the victims of ethnic profiling, violence, and discrimination.

Nowadays, we can see these “archaic” racist doctrines emerge and re-establish themselves in a modern context ,through sustained racism against Arabs and Muslims which may be characterized as Dr.Zidane explains, none other than “Contemporary European Phobic Discourse”.

In France, the 20th-century writings of political theorist Charles Maurras are still prevalent today. Maurras was instrumental in setting up the movement “Action Française”, whose primary objective was the restoration of the French nation through the presence of a strong monarchy powered by Catholicism.

Maurras xenophobic rhetoric targeted Jews and Mediterranean foreigners amongst a host of other minorities. His writings have acted as a major “intellectual” influence of contemporary Far-right movements including the French “National Front.”

The rise of Far-right movements in France is particularly perilous to the Muslim community, whose numbers now exceed 4 million. Muslims become the targets of these political movements, subjected to discrimination, assumed to be affiliated with extremist groups due to media manipulation and fear-mongering.

The anti-Islamic prejudice, accentuated by a series of terror attacks, was brought to light this August when the French State Council attempted to ban the wearing of the “burkini”. Although the ban has been suspended, Dr.Zidane believes that the mindset that created an environment conducive to such an extreme measure indicates a deep societal divide between Muslims and Westerners.

According to Dr.Zidane’s study on “Muslims in Europe”, in Italy, the Muslim population now surpasses 1.5 million. In spite of this vast number and a wider acceptance of secularism , both the Italian state and society remain committed to Catholicism and thus far, a move towards the recognition of Islam has not been made. In addition, there is a range of far-right political parties which are deeply opposed to Islam.

In both France and Italy, racism is commonplace. Discriminatory acts against Muslims are encouraged by the phobic discourse of Far-right parties. In France, for example, 756 anti-Muslim aggressions were enumerated in 2014. There has also been an increase in anti-Muslim violence perpetrated by police in both countries.

Even in Germany, which Dr.Zidane describes as a “model of tolerance”, there are now stirrings of extreme right-wing movements which run counter to the mainstream. The UK, home to some 3 million Muslims, remains the European country where Muslims are best protected by the law and the activities of the police. In spite of this, there has been a rise in Islamophobia triggered by right-wing movements such as the British National Party.

Across Europe, Muslims continue to be the victims of ethnic profiling, violence, and discrimination. Today, 19 of September, The Geneva Centre for Human Rights and Global Dialogue Advancement and Global Dialogue hosted the conference “Muslims in Europe: the road to social harmony” which aims to establish the illegality of racism, xenophobia and religious intolerance against Muslims. The Geneva Centre advocates for a prohibition on the incitement of religious hatred and violence and the recognition that Islamophobia should specifically be the object of sanctions under international law.

In the opening of today’s “Muslims in Europe” conference , Chairman of the Geneva Centre, Dr. Hanif Al Qassim, remarked that the meeting was called as an expression of solidarity with all victims of blind terrorism which targets Muslims and Westerners alike.

Dr. Al Qassim emphasised that all world religions encourage peace and harmony, but distorting their message in order to use them as instruments of conflict is a sham. Muslim communities are today being caught between a hammer of the imminent danger of terrorist groups and the anvil of growing Islamophobia and the emergence of xenophobic populism in some European countries.

He concluded by stating that the meeting should act as an opportunity to discuss the path towards social harmony in Europe for Muslims, whilst keeping with the Geneva Centre’s key objective of fostering interreligious and intercultural dialogue.

According to the former head of a United Nations agency, Algerian diplomat and Secretary General of the Geneva Centre, Idriss Jazairy, “social harmony begins at school.”Jazairy emphasised that teaching our children about the benefits of social harmony lies at the heart of the European Enlightenment.

The French philosopher Voltaire once said that while you may not necessarily agree with what someone has to say, you must “fight to the death” for them to have the right to say it. Jazairy encourages us to apply Voltaire’s philosophy in the context of rising Islamophobia.

In this way, future generations will practice the belief that, in spite of religious or ethnic differences, everyone has the right to live in a globalised world free from the setbacks of racism and prejudice.

Source: Dr.Zidane Meriboute, “Muslims in Europe: The Road to Social Harmony”. The Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue & Z.Meriboute, 2015.

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Building Bridges: Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed of the Emirates at the Vaticanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/building-bridges-sheikh-mohamed-bin-zayed-of-the-emirates-at-the-vatican/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-bridges-sheikh-mohamed-bin-zayed-of-the-emirates-at-the-vatican http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/building-bridges-sheikh-mohamed-bin-zayed-of-the-emirates-at-the-vatican/#comments Thu, 15 Sep 2016 19:32:13 +0000 Rubya Delarose http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146947 Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed and Pope Francis exchange gifts in the papal library at the apostolic palace. Credit: WAM

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed and Pope Francis exchange gifts in the papal library at the apostolic palace. Credit: WAM

By Rubya Delarose
ROME, Sep 15 2016 (IPS)

As the rise of religious racism and Islamophobia sweeps across Europe, the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E) is increasing their emphasis on the message for peaceful tolerance across all nations.

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Sheikh Zayed met with Pope Francis in Rome recently. The meeting held at the headquarters of the papacy was also attended by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Cardinal Pietro Parolin Vatican Secretary of State. The focus of their meeting was on global development and social and humanitarian issues, including initiatives in the educational and health areas in underprivileged communities.

Pope Francis commented at the meeting that the U.A.E’s adoption and deployment of sustainable sources of energy and support of countries and communities in need act as outstanding contributions to international development.

“Sheikh Mohamed’s visit to the Pope is part of his continuous meetings aimed at promoting the values of tolerance, peace and co-existence in all societies” Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi, Minister of State for Tolerance told Emirates News Agency WAM.

As terrorism destabilizes Europe, Sheikh Zayed’s meeting at the papacy was an opportunity to confirm the U.A.E’s condemnation of all forms of violent extremism and his country’s position as a united force against intolerance.

WAM reported that the U.A.E stands with Pope Francis on his universal rejection of extremism. The Vatican and the U.A.E recognize that the ideology and actions of extremists do not represent the core ethos of Islam.

As the consequences of Islamophobia threaten Muslims worldwide, the need to spread a message of tolerance across all religions is vital. Any form of extremism must be denounced.

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