Inter Press Service » Peace http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 30 Jun 2016 08:20:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Sweden Among New Members of UN Security Councilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/ethiopia-kazakhstan-sweden-among-new-members-of-un-security-council/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ethiopia-kazakhstan-sweden-among-new-members-of-un-security-council http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/ethiopia-kazakhstan-sweden-among-new-members-of-un-security-council/#comments Wed, 29 Jun 2016 01:27:14 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145864 Italy and the Netherlands have taken the unusual step of splitting the term of a UN Security Council seat. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine.

Italy and the Netherlands have taken the unusual step of splitting the term of a UN Security Council seat. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 29 2016 (IPS)

Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Sweden were elected on Tuesday to serve on the UN Security Council (UNSC) as non-permanent members, while Italy and Netherlands have split the remaining contested seat.

The UN General Assembly (UNGA) met to choose five new non-permanent members who will serve a two-year term starting January 2017 alongside the 15-member council.

As the UN’s most powerful body, the UNSC is responsible for international peace and security matters from imposing sanctions to brokering peace deals to overseeing the world’s 16 peacekeeping missions.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom expressed how “happy” and “proud” Sweden is to be joining the UN’s top decision-making body.

“We will do now what we promised to do,” she told press. Among its priorities, Sweden has pledged to focus on conflict prevention and resolution.

“With 40 conflict and 11 full-blown wars, it is a very very worrisome world that we have to take into account,” Wallstrom stated.

Despite its location in Northern Europe,  Sweden has not been untouched by recent conflicts, including the ongoing civil war in Syria. With a population of 9.5 million, the Scandinavian country took in over 160,000 asylum seekers in 2015. The government has since imposed tougher restrictions on asylum seekers including a decrease in permanent residence permits and limited family reunification authorisations.

Ethiopia has also highlighted its position in promoting regional and continental peace and security. The country is the largest contributor of UN peacekeepers and is actively involved in mediating conflicts in Africa, most recently in South Sudan. It has also long struggled with its own clashes, including a crackdown on political dissent.

The Sub-Saharan African country has also promised to work towards UNSC reforms.

During the 70th Session of the UNGA in September 2015, Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn remarked that he was “proud” that Ethiopia is one of the UN’s founding members, but stressed the need to reform and establish a permanent seat for Africa in the council.

“Comprehensive reform of the United Nations system, particularly that of the Security Council, is indeed imperative to reflect current geo-political realities and to make the UN more broadly representative, legitimate and effective,” he told delegates.

“We seize this occasion to, once again, echo Africa’s call to be fully represented in all the decision-making organs of the UN, particularly in the Security Council,” Dessalegn continued.

Ethiopia has been a non-permanent member of the UNSC on two previous occasions, in 1967/1968 and 1989/1990.

It will also be the third time that Bolivia will have a non-permanent SC seat. Bolivia campaigned unopposed with the backing of Latin American and Caribbean countries.

“Bolivia is a country that has basic principles…one of those principles is, without a doubt, anti-imperialism,” the Bolivian delegation said following their election, adding that they will continue implementing these principles as a member of the UNSC.

Since the election of Evo Morales, its first indigenous leader, the South American country has largely focused on social reforms and indigenous rights. Most recently, Morales has been reportedly implicated in a political scandal that is threatening journalists and press freedom.

Kazakhstan became the first Central Asian country to be a member of the UNSC after beating Thailand for the seat.

Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov said that he was “very happy” and their selection was a “privilege.” He also reiterated the country’s priority focus on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan relinquished its nuclear weapons and has been actively advocating for non-proliferation around the world.

“We have a lot to offer to the world and we believe that it is time to attract attention to the need of development in our part of the world,” Idrissov stated.

However, Human Rights Watch has scrutinized the Central Asian nation’s human rights record, including restrictions on freedom of expression.

Netherlands and Italy were up for the last Western European seat on the UNSC, but after four rounds of voting, they were deadlocked with each country receiving 95 votes while needing 127 to win.

Following deliberations, Italian and Dutch foreign ministers announced that they would split the seat, with Italy in the UNSC in 2017 and the Netherlands in 2018.

Since May, the six countries have been campaigning for council seats by participating in the first-ever election debates in the UN’s 70-year history.

The debates were a part of a new effort to increase transparency in the institution.

The new non-permanent members will work alongside the five veto-wielding permanent members: China, France, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Following their controversial exit from the European Union, known as “Brexit”, the UK may face an uncertain future in the UNSC as the prospects of Scotland and Northern Ireland leaving the UK loom.

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Civil Society Under Serious Attackhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/civil-society-under-serious-attack/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-under-serious-attack http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/civil-society-under-serious-attack/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 22:51:25 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145847 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/civil-society-under-serious-attack/feed/ 0 Journalists Face Unprecedented Violencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/journalists-face-unprecedented-violence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=journalists-face-unprecedented-violence http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/journalists-face-unprecedented-violence/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 21:41:33 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145845 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/journalists-face-unprecedented-violence/feed/ 0 Will Brexit Have Political Ramifications at UN?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/will-brexit-have-political-ramifications-at-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-brexit-have-political-ramifications-at-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/will-brexit-have-political-ramifications-at-un/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 16:22:50 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145834 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/will-brexit-have-political-ramifications-at-un/feed/ 1 Islamists and Secularists Adjust to Work Togetherhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/islamists-and-secularists-adjust-to-work-together/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=islamists-and-secularists-adjust-to-work-together http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/islamists-and-secularists-adjust-to-work-together/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 20:56:56 +0000 Ruby Amatulla http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145803 By Ruby Amatulla
Jun 24 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

It is encouraging to watch how Rachid Ghannouchi and Nahdha, the largest and most popular Islamic political party in Tunisia which is now widely expected to come to power again in the next election, have been transforming over time. Recently Ghannouchi astonished the world by declaring that “We will exit political Islam”, meaning that the country would be working to separate religious work from politics. Coming from one who once advocated Sharia law in governance, this change is amazing. Ghannouchi’s leadership of remaining flexible, without compromising fundamental values and principles of Islam, has played a major role in helping Tunisia to become a vibrant democracy today, when other countries in the region have failed.

The goals of the revolution in Tunisia have not yet been achieved but the country is seeing some progress. photo: afp

The goals of the revolution in Tunisia have not yet been achieved but the country is seeing some progress. photo: afp

While Nahdha was in power, two opposition leaders were assassinated in 2013 and there were mass protests. To restore trust and confidence among people, Nahdha resigned and handed over power to a neutral caretaker government, who would be in charge until the next election. A secular party, Nidaa Tounes, got the majority in the Parliament in the subsequent election held in October 2014. Nahdha readily conceded defeat and pledged its cooperation. Thus a dignified political tradition, complying with the democratic spirit, was initiated. People’s trust was restored. Even the parties who lost in the last two elections in Tunisia confirm that elections were fair and the system is working well.

Going back, in June 2003, representatives of three major secular political parties made a visionary and courageous move in meeting representatives of Nahdha, then in exile, to negotiate and sign a joint declaration: “Call from Tunis” (issued from Paris). That document laid down rules of future political engagements that would ensure upholding democratic principles as well as respecting religious traditions and guaranteeing religious freedom. Since then, constructive engagements and protracted negotiations for a decade or so have produced a progressive Constitution, including terms of gender parity, proportional representation (PR) electoral system, and so on; a political system that should be emulated by the rest of the Muslim world.

This is an enormous achievement for a previously divided society that was ruled by autocrats since its independence from France in 1956, and torn between modernity and religious traditions. Since the Jasmine Revolution that ended President Ben Ali’s 23-year autocratic rule in January 2011, the nation has gone through difficulties but has survived with amazing resilience. The main contributing factor is the constructive engagement of the oppositions and the consequent changes in the greater society creating optimism and public trust in the political processes.

Right after the revolution, Nahdha was very popular and was widely expected to win about 90 percent seats in the Constituent Assembly without the PR [proportional representation] system. That would be unacceptable to the secular and liberal parties. To avoid turmoil in the country, Nahdha accepted PR whereby, they knew, the party’s share of the Assembly would drastically shrink.

In fact in the October 2011 elections, after using the PR system, Nahdha got only 41 percent seats. In spite of being the largest party in the Assembly, Nahdha formed coalition and shared power with the two secular groups. Paradoxically, the constraints and compromises of power-sharing among the oppositions have been the key to Tunisia’s success in having a functional democracy today.

On the other hand, Egypt, a regional power, could not hang on to the emancipation process after ending the long repressive rule of Hosni Mubarak around the same time of Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution in January 2011. Only two-and-a-half years after the Revolution, and one year after Mohamed Morsi from the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) was elected president, a military coup removed Morsi from power on July 3, 2013. Again a military man, the former Defence Minister, Abdel Fateh al-Sisi, who led the last coup, is on the throne, claiming to have received over 90 percent votes in the last election. Egypt is back full circle.

he main reason Egypt was unsuccessful is because secularists and Islamic groups failed to reach out to each other. President Morsi, after assuming power, refused to listen to the secular voices in the country, took an uncompromising approach, tried to consolidate power fast, and sent a signal of another authoritarian rule in Egypt. Massive protests erupted nationwide and turmoil ensued. The army took over power. The nation, since its independence from Britain in 1922, lost a historic opportunity for self-rule. The Islamic party bears a lion’s share of the blame for this failure. However, looking back, secular forces also remain responsible for this unfortunate outcome. Moderate Islamists have been persecuted at the hands of autocratic secular rulers going back to Nasser’s time over 60 years ago, while secular groups and civil society gave lip service to pluralism but remained silent when moderate Islamists were oppressed and their rights were violated.

Many western and eastern scholars have been repeatedly pointing out that whenever constructive moves of moderate Islamist groups are ignored and they are persecuted, extreme radical forces emerge. Ghannouchi confirms: Salafist and Jehadist groups emerged both in Tunisia and Egypt during the repressive secular rules.

As radicalism intensifies, autocratic regimes find more excuses to continue their grip in the name of fighting terrorism. In reality, they imprison opposition leaders at will and violate the civil rights of citizens. The western powers, in the name of stability, support and do business with these undemocratic ruthless regimes. Their support reinforces the status quo and their hypocrisy creates cynicism and distrust among the people under such a repressive rule. The anger and frustration of some segments of the society, especially of the younger generation, help reinforce radicalism. Radicals find more justifications for their vicious work. That also increases the ferocity of repression.

This vicious cycle continues with the reckless way of pursuing de-radicalisation. The recent events in many countries is a testament to the fact that the ‘War on Terror’ policy has failed, in spite of spending hundreds of billions of dollars by the powerful western countries. There is no military solution to radicalism, especially in this global society with an ever higher intolerance for subjugation and humiliation, and with the ever more availability of arms through reckless arms businesses. It is long overdue that the world powers focus on a deep rooted agenda to address radicalism, such as helping establish power-sharing democratic rule. The counterproductive strategy of pursuing stability at the expense of democracy ultimately helps create a stagnant situation devoid of both stability and democracy.

Tunisia seems to be getting out of this quagmire. Radicals have either mostly been transformed or marginalised. Both Islamists and secularists are finding common grounds and democracy is thriving in the country.

The writer is Executive Director, US based Justice, Peace and Progress.
E-mail: rubyamatullah@yahoo.com

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Ethiopia-Eritrea: The Cry of the Imburihttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/ethiopia-eritrea-the-cry-of-the-imburi/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ethiopia-eritrea-the-cry-of-the-imburi http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/ethiopia-eritrea-the-cry-of-the-imburi/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 13:48:45 +0000 Rene Wadlow http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145791 The author is member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and of its Task Force on the Middle East, is president and U.N. representative (Geneva) of the Association of World Citizens and editor of Transnational Perspectives. He is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment.]]> Map derived from a United Nations map. Public Domain | Wikimedia Commons.

Map derived from a United Nations map. Public Domain | Wikimedia Commons.

By Rene Wadlow
GENEVA, Jun 24 2016 (IPS)

The 12 June 2016 exchange of artillery fire along the heavily militarized frontier between Ethiopia and Eritrea could be just one of the periodic skirmishes between the two States. However, it could be the first signs of a flare up of violence. There have been calls from the United Nations and African Union officials for “restraint” but as yet no steps for real conflict resolution.

The Imburi are spirits that are said to inhabit the forests of Gabon in Equatorial Africa and who cry out for those who can hear them at times of impending violence or danger.

The artillery exchange with several hundred killed may be a cry of the Imburi and the need for more creative attention to the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict – all the more so that the armed conflicts in Yemen and Somalia have implications for both Eritrea and Ethiopia.

There was a long and often violent run up to the 1993 independence of Eritrea from Ethiopia. Eritrea was never a “colony” of Ethiopia but rather a loosely integrated Provence within a very decentralized state-system of Ethiopia.

Rene Wadlow

Rene Wadlow

Thus the frontiers of Eritrea had never been set by history. Rather the 1993 independence agreement set some frontiers, but these were not marked on the ground and were contested by some in both States.

The frontier issue plus, no doubt, resentments from the long years of independence struggles, led to a brief but violent war between 1998 and 2000, leaving an estimated 70,000 dead and many wounded.

The war led to a strong militarization of Eritrea n society with long, compulsory military service and a permanent war-footing for the society.

These militarized conditions of life with little socio-economic development and little possibility of freedom of speech or association have led many Eritreans, especially the young, trying to leave the country for Europe.

Ethiopia has had a powerful and politically important army since the end of the Second World War. The army was the one national institution in a decentralized State where many of the provinces were based on different ethnic groups. The Ethiopian army remains strong and has been often used by the African Union in its peacekeeping efforts.

The frontier issue between the two countries was taken for arbitration to the World Court, but the Court’s findings have not been put into practice. The lands contested are of no particular economic or social importance. They are contested just because each State attaches disproportionate importance to a frontier.

Intelligent leadership on both sides could make of the frontier lands a bridge rather than a wall, but intelligent leadership has been in short supply. As the African Union headquarters is in Ethiopia, the AU secretariat has been inactive on the Ethiopia-Eritrea issue for fear of displeasing Ethiopia.

The political and economic situation in the Horn of Africa is ever more complex. Domestic and external drivers of conflict are increasingly intermeshed.

The problem of the State-collapse in Somalia and the war in Yemen make matters ever more complicated.

The prolonged failure of the inter-State institutions – the United Nations, the African Union, and the European Union – to deal creatively with the Ethiopia-Eritrea divides may open a door for creative non-governmental Track II efforts.

One must hope that the cries of the Imburi are heard.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 20 June 2016: TMS: Ethiopia-Eritrea: The Cry of the Imburi.

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Bringing Back Our Girls Is Not The End of The Storyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bringing-back-our-girls-is-not-the-end-of-the-story/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bringing-back-our-girls-is-not-the-end-of-the-story http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bringing-back-our-girls-is-not-the-end-of-the-story/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 21:08:13 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145779 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bringing-back-our-girls-is-not-the-end-of-the-story/feed/ 0 UN Staff Unions Demand Stronger Action on Sexual Abusehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/un-staff-unions-demand-stronger-action-on-sexual-abuse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-staff-unions-demand-stronger-action-on-sexual-abuse http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/un-staff-unions-demand-stronger-action-on-sexual-abuse/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 15:04:35 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145767 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/un-staff-unions-demand-stronger-action-on-sexual-abuse/feed/ 0 Worldwide Displacement At Levels Never Seen Beforehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/worldwide-displacement-at-levels-never-seen-before/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=worldwide-displacement-at-levels-never-seen-before http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/worldwide-displacement-at-levels-never-seen-before/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 14:35:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145762 A family living in a refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq. Credit: Annabell Van den Berghe/IPS

A family living in a refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq. Credit: Annabell Van den Berghe/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 23 2016 (IPS)

Displacement has increased to unprecedented levels due to war and persecution, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has found.

In a new report, entitled Global Trends which tracks forced displacement globally, UNHCR found that 65.3 million were displaced at the end of 2015, compared to 59 million just 12 months earlier. This is the first time in the organisation’s history that the threshold of 60 million has been crossed.

Globally, 1 in every 113 people is now either an asylum-seeker, internally displaced or a refugee. This represents a population greater than the United Kingdom and would be the 21st largest country in the world.

“More people are being displaced by war and persecution and that’s worrying in itself, but the factors that endanger refugees are multiplying too,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi during the launch of the report.

Though the Syrian conflict continues to generate a large proportion of refugees in the world and garners significant international attention, other reignited conflicts have been contributing to the unprecedented rise in displacement including Iraq.

Iraq currently has the third-largest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs), and alongside Yemen and Syria, the Middle Eastern nation accounts for more than half of all new internal displacements.

“More people are being displaced by war and persecution and that’s worrying in itself, but the factors that endanger refugees are multiplying too.” -- Filippo Grandi.

By the end of 2015, there were 4.4 million Iraqi IDPs, compared to 3.6 million at the end of 2014. At least one million of these IDPs have been displaced since conflicts in the mid-2000s.

Displacement has increased even further following a government military offensive against the Islamic State in May with more than 85,000 Iraqis fleeing from the Iraqi city of Falluja and its surrounding areas. Approximately 60,000 of these fled over a period of just three days between 15 to 18 June.

Despite the figures, UNHCR continues to struggle to secure funding to meet the needs of Iraqis.

Halfway through the year, the agency has so far only received 21 percent of funds needed for Iraq and the surrounding region.

“Funds are desperately needed to expand the number of camps and to provide urgently needed relief supplies for displaced people who have already endured months of deprivation and hardship without enough food or medicine,” said UNHCR spokeswoman Ariane Rummery.

Though six camps have already been built and the construction of three more are underway, UNHCR estimates that 20 additional camps will be needed in the coming weeks.

In the Debaga camp in northern Iraq, newly displaced civilians are staying in a severely overcrowded reception centre which is currently seven times above its capacity.

Along with the lack of shelter, insufficient hygiene facilities and clean drinking water is creating a “desperate situation,” Rummery said.

And displacement may only get worse, she added.

“It is estimated that more than a million people still live in Mosul and any large offensive against the city could result in the displacement of up to 600,000 more people,” Rummery stated.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Iraq is classified as a level-three emergency, which signifies the most severe, large-scale humanitarian crisis.

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Xenophobic Rhetoric, Now Socially and Politically ‘Acceptable’ ?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 14:09:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145759 Families from Falluja, Iraq, continue to flee from the city as fighting continues. Credit: ©UNHCR/Anmar Qusay

Families from Falluja, Iraq, continue to flee from the city as fighting continues. Credit: ©UNHCR/Anmar Qusay

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 23 2016 (IPS)

“Xenophobic and racist rhetoric seems not only to be on the rise, but also to be becoming more socially and politically acceptable.”

The warning has been heralded by the authoritative voice of Mogens Lykketoft, current president of the United Nations General Assembly, who on World Refugee Day on June 20, reacted to the just announced new record number of people displaced from their homes due to conflict and persecution.

In fact, while last year their number exceeded 60 million for the first time in United Nations history, a tally greater than the population of the United Kingdom, or of Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined, the Global Trends 2015 report now notes that 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, an increase of more than 5 million from 59.5 million a year earlier.

The tally comprises 21.3 million refugees, 3.2 million asylum seekers, and 40.8 million people internally displaced within their own countries, says the new report, which has been compiled by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Measured against the world’s population of 7.4 billion people, 1 in every 113 people globally is now either a refugee, an asylum-seeker or internally displaced, putting them at a level of risk for which UNHCR knows no precedent, the report adds.

On average, 24 people were forced to flee each minute in 2015, four times more than a decade earlier, when six people fled every 60 seconds. Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia produce half the world’s refugees, at 4.9 million, 2.7 million and 1.1 million, respectively.

And Colombia had the largest numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs), at 6.9 million, followed by Syria’s 6.6 million and Iraq’s 4.4 million, according to the new Global Trends report.

UNHCR distribution of emergency relief items for displaced families from Fallujah who’ve arrived in camps from Ameriyat al-Falluja. Photo credit: UNHCR/Caroline Gluck

UNHCR distribution of emergency relief items for displaced families from Fallujah who’ve arrived in camps from Ameriyat al-Falluja. Photo credit: UNHCR/Caroline Gluck


Distressingly, children made up an astonishing 51 per cent of the world’s refugees in 2015, with many separated from their parents or travelling alone, the UN reported.

Anti-Refugee Rhetoric Is So Loud…

On this, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon stressed that meanwhile, “divisive political rhetoric on asylum and migration issues, rising xenophobia, and restrictions on access to asylum have become increasingly visible in certain regions, and the spirit of shared responsibility has been replaced by a hate-filled narrative of intolerance.”

With anti-refugee rhetoric so loud, he said, it is sometimes difficult to hear the voices of welcome.

For his part, Mogens Lykketoft, UN General Assembly President, alerted that “violations of international humanitarian and human rights law are of grave concern… Xenophobic and racist rhetoric seems not only to be on the rise, but also to becoming more socially and politically acceptable…”

The UN General Assembly’s president warning against the rising wave of extremism and hatred, came just a week after a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’ strong statement before the 32 session of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (13 June to 1 July 2016).

“Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers,” the High Commissioner on June 13 warned.

De-Radicalisation

Against this backdrop and the need to find ways how to halt and even prevent the growing waves of extremism of all kinds, the Geneva Centre on Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue on June 23 organised a panel themed Deradicalisation or the Roll-Back of Extremism.

IPS asked Algerian diplomat Idriss Jazairy, Board Member of the Geneva Centre, about the concept of this panel he moderated.

“Violent extremism, which sprang up in what might be perceived here as remoter parts of the world during the last part of the XXth century, has spread its dark shadow worldwide and is henceforth sparing no region… And with it, wanton deaths and desolation.”

He then explained that unregulated access to lethal weapons in some countries make matters worse. Violent extremism fuels indiscriminate xenophobic responses. “These in turn feed the recruitment propaganda of terrorist groups competing for world attention.”

According to the panel moderator, it seems at first sight that conflict is intensifying. “In fact what is happening is that it has changed its nature from more or less predictable classical inter-State or civil conflict to a generalisation of unpredictable ad hoc violence by terrorist groups randomising victims and outbidding one another in criminal horror.”

Thus casualties are not more numerous than was the case in the past, with some important exceptions such as Algeria during the Dark Decade of the ‘nineties, said Jazairy.

In Yemen, internally displaced children stand outside their family tent after the family fled their home in Saada province and found refuge in Darwin camp, in the northern province of Amran. Photo credit: UNHCR/Yahya Arhab

In Yemen, internally displaced children stand outside their family tent after the family fled their home in Saada province and found refuge in Darwin camp, in the northern province of Amran. Photo credit: UNHCR/Yahya Arhab


“Yet their impact is greater because attacks spread more fear among ordinary people and reporting on these crimes is echoed instantly across the world. The danger of polarisation of societies is thereby enhanced and peace is jeopardised.”

This meets the ultimate goal of terrorist violence, he added, while stressing that such violence has ceased to be simply a national or regional challenge. “It is now of worldwide concern. A concern that calls for immediate security responses with due respect for human rights of course.”

Jazairy explained that the panel has been intended to contribute to the maturing of such strategies and to rolling back violent extremism, xenophobic populism fuelled by it and that the latter in turn further exacerbates.

Understanding the Genesis of Violent Extremism

According to the panel moderator, understanding the genesis of violent extremism is not tantamount to excusing it despite what some politicians claim. It is a precondition to providing a smart and durable policy response, rather than a dumb crowd-pleasing short-term knee-jerk reaction, he added.

“True there is no single explanation to the emergence of violent extremism… Street crime in overpopulated cities may be its incubator.”

On this, Jazairy explained that in the South, high rates of youth unemployment and shortfalls in the respect of basic freedoms together with inadequate governance may be relevant considerations. In the North, he added, glass ceilings and marginalisation of minority groups and the desire of youths feeling powerless to develop an alternative identity and to become all-powerful, may also be at issue.

The former head of a UN agency then warned that understanding the genesis of violent extremism is not a philosophical debate as it ties in with the issue of how to “de-radicalise”.

In Belgium, he said, it has been claimed that condemnations in absentia of home grown terrorists that have joined Daesh (Islamic State) has pushed some to not return home with a group of others for fear of the penalty, thus radicalising them further.

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Fearing Violence, LGBT Refugees Rarely Seek Helphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fearing-violence-lgbt-refugees-rarely-seek-help/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fearing-violence-lgbt-refugees-rarely-seek-help http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fearing-violence-lgbt-refugees-rarely-seek-help/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 04:28:47 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145751 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fearing-violence-lgbt-refugees-rarely-seek-help/feed/ 0 The Environment: Latin America’s Battleground for Human Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-environment-latin-americas-battleground-for-human-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-environment-latin-americas-battleground-for-human-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-environment-latin-americas-battleground-for-human-rights/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 00:12:40 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145737 Indigenous Asheninka activist Diana Rios (centre) from the Amazon village of Saweto, Peru is the daughter of slain activist Jorge Rios who was murdered by illegal loggers in September 2014. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

Indigenous Asheninka activist Diana Rios (centre) from the Amazon village of Saweto, Peru is the daughter of slain activist Jorge Rios who was murdered by illegal loggers in September 2014. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
NEW YORK, Jun 22 2016 (IPS)

2015 was the deadliest year on record for the killings of environmental activists around the world, according to a new Global Witness report.

The report, On Dangerous Ground, found that in 2015, 185 people were killed defending the environment across 16 countries, a 59 percent increase from 2014.

“The environment is becoming a new battleground for human rights,” Global Witness’ Campaign Leader for Environmental and Land Defenders Billy Kyte told IPS.

“Many of these activists are being treated as enemies of the state when they should be treated as heroes,” he continued.

The rise in attacks is partially due to the increased demand for natural resources which have sparked conflicts between residents in remote, resource-rich areas and industries such as mining, logging and agribusinesses.

“The murders that are going unpunished in remote mining villages or deep within rainforests are fuelled by the choices consumers are making on the other side of the world." -- Billy Kyte.

Among the most dangerous regions for environmental activists is Latin America, where over 60 percent of killings in 2015 occurred. In Brazil, 50 environmental defenders were killed, the world’s highest death toll.

A majority of the murders in Brazil took place in the biodiverse Amazon states where the encroachment of ranches, agricultural plantations and illegal loggers has led to a surge in violence.

The report stated that criminal gangs often “terrorise” local communities at the behest of “timber companies and the officials they have corrupted.”

The most recent murder was of Antônio Isídio Pereira da Silva, the leader of a small farming community in the Amazonian Maranhão state. Isídio suffered years of assassination attempts and death threats for defending his land from illegal loggers and other land grabbers. Despite appeals, he never received protection and police have never investigated his murder.

Indigenous communities, who depend on the forests for their livelihood, particularly bear the brunt of the violence. Almost 40 percent of environmental activists killed were from indigenous groups.

Eusebio Ka’apor, member of the Ka’apor indigenous tribe living in Maranhão state, was shot and killed by two hooded men on a motorbike. He led patrols to monitor and shutdown illegal logging on the Ka’apor ancestral lands.

One Ka’apor leader told Survival International, an indigenous human rights organisation, that loggers have said to them that it is better to surrender the wood than let “more people die.”

“We don’t know what to do, because we have no protection. The state does nothing,” the leader said.

Thousands of illegal logging camps have been set up across the Amazon to cut down valuable timber such as mahogany, ebony and teak. It is estimated that 80 percent of timber from Brazil is illegal and accounts for 25 percent of illegal wood on global markets, most of which is sold to buyers in the United States, United Kingdom and China.

“The murders that are going unpunished in remote mining villages or deep within rainforests are fuelled by the choices consumers are making on the other side of the world,” Kyte stated.

Kyte also pointed to a “growing collusion” between corporate and state interests and high levels of corruption as reasons for the attacks on environmental defenders.

This is reflected through the ongoing corruption case involving the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam which continued despite concerns over the project’s environmental and community impact and was used to generate over $40 million for political parties.

Even in the face of a public scandal, Kyte noted that environmental legislation has continued to weaken in the country.

The new interim Brazilian government, led by former Vice President Michel Temer, has proposed an amendment that would diminish its environmental licensing process for infrastructure and development mega-projects in order to revive Brazil’s faltering economy.

Currently, Brazil has a three-phase procedure where at each step, a project can be halted due to environmental concerns.

Known as PEC 65, the amendment proposes that industries only submit a preliminary environmental impact statement. Once that requirement is met, projects cannot be delayed or cancelled for environmental reasons.

The weakening of key human rights institutions also poses a threat to the environment and its defenders.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), whose goal is to address and investigate human rights issues in Latin America, is currently facing a severe funding deficit that could lead to the loss of 40 percent of its personnel by the end of July, impacting the ability to continue its work. It has already suspended its country visits and may be forced to halt its investigations.

Many countries in Latin America have halted financial support to the commission due to disputes over investigations and findings.

In 2011, IACHR requested that Brazil “immediately suspend the licensing” for the Belo Monte project in order to consult with and protect indigenous groups. In response, the Brazilian government broke off ties with IACHR by withdrawing its funding and recalling its ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), which implements IACHR.

“It’s a huge crisis,” Kyte told IPS.

While speaking to the Human Rights Council in May, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also expressed concern over budget cuts to IACHR, stating: “When the Inter-American Commission announces it has to cut its personnel by forty percent – and when States have already withdrawn from it and the Inter-American Court…then do we really still have an international community? When the threads forming it are being tugged away and the tapestry, our world, is unravelling? Or are there only fragmented communities of competing interests – strategic and commercial – operating behind a screen of feigned allegiance to laws and institutions?”

He called on member states to defend and financially support the commission, which he noted was an “important strategic partner and inspiration for the UN system.”

In its report, Global Witness urged Brazil and other Latin American governments to protect environmental activists, investigate crimes against activists, expose corporate and political interests that lie behind the persecution of land defenders, and formally recognize land and indigenous rights.

Kyte particularly highlighted the need for international investigations to expose the killings of environmental activists and those responsible for them.

He pointed to the murder of Berta Cáceres, an environmental and indigenous leader in Honduras, which gained international attention and outrage.

“It’s a positive step that because of international outrage, the Honduran government was compelled to arrest these killers,” he said.

“If we can push for an international investigation into her death, which I think is the only way that the real criminal masterminds behind her death will be held to account, then that could act as an example for future cases,” Kyte concluded.

In March, Cáceres, who campaigned against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, was shot in her home by two armed men from the Honduras’ military.

A whistleblower alleges that Cáceres was on a hit list given to U.S.-trained units of the Honduran military.

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Yoga Unites the UN for Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/yoga-unites-the-un-for-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yoga-unites-the-un-for-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/yoga-unites-the-un-for-sustainable-development/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 23:03:39 +0000 Valentina Ieri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145731 'Sadhguru' Jaggi Vasudev leads yoga at the UN on International Yoga Day. Credit: Valentina Ieri / IPS.

'Sadhguru' Jaggi Vasudev leads yoga at the UN on International Yoga Day. Credit: Valentina Ieri / IPS.

By Valentina Ieri
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 21 2016 (IPS)

The word yoga means “unite” in Sanskrit, and the Indian government hopes that the ancient practice will help United Nations member states to work together to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The International Day of Yoga was celebrated here Tuesday with an outdoor yoga session led by Indian yoga master ‘Sadhguru’ Jaggi Vasudev.

“How can (we) transform the world without transforming human beings?” asked Vasudev, who is also founder of the Isha Foundation, an international non-profit organisation. “It is only by transforming individuals that a change in the world can be achieved.”

“How can you have a peaceful world if you do not know what inner peace is?” he added. “Yoga is the search for human wellbeing. When you address human wellbeing in a scientific way, that is yoga.”

Syed Akbaruddin, India's Permanent Representative to the UN. "At its core, yoga is as much about mindful thought as it is about mindful action."

Sadhguru’s approach of combining scientific yoga with human wellbeing is part of a long history of yoga being used to promote large-scale socially, sustainably, and culturally appropriate health, education, and environment projects.

One of them is the Project Green Hands, an initiative set up in 2004 with the target of planting over 25 million tree saplings.

“Yoga means that you can transcend the limitations of physical nature and go beyond the form that we are. Once this becomes a living experience, sharing and living together will become a common experience everywhere.”

The Indian yogi continued – “Our common idea of profit is very short term […] But no matter what kind of business we are running, we should turn the customer into our partner, the employee into our partner. Essentially business should be about human well-being.”

The annual celebrations were organised by India’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations.

Credit: Valentina Ieri / IPS

Credit: Valentina Ieri / IPS

“Yoga, is much more than a physical regimen.” said Syed Akbaruddin, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN. “At its core, yoga is as much about mindful thought as it is about mindful action.”

These two yoga pillars – continued Akbaruddin – have a direct bearing on our collective responses to global problems and raising a global consciousness about the 17 SDGs.

Highlighting the potential for yoga to contribute to sustainable development and peace UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said:

“Practicing yoga can also help raise awareness of our role as consumers of the planet’s resources and as individuals with a duty to respect and live in peace with our neighbours.”

“All these elements are essential to building a sustainable future of dignity and opportunity for all.”

In 2014, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to proclaim June 21 as the International day of Yoga co-sponsored by a 170 member-states. That decision showed the importance of yoga’s social, health and educational aspects.

Not only has yoga gained increasing popularity among youth and adults in different parts of the world, it is also linked to a healthier lifestyle and choice of living.

“Yoga means union between body and mind, between us and other human beings, and between human beings and nature, and it is because of this interdependence and interconnection that we are able to save problems,” said Germán A Bravo-Casas, President of the UN Yoga Club.

“If we are optimistic and change within ourselves”, said Bravo “than we will be able to solve catastrophes such as the contamination of the oceans, climate change, over-population, hunger and poverty”.

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Unmet Expectationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/unmet-expectations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unmet-expectations http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/unmet-expectations/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 17:49:58 +0000 Umair Javed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145710 By Umair Javed
Jun 20 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Donald Trump’s rise in America, a wave of pro-Brexit and xenophobic sentiment in the UK, mass demonstrations in France and Brazil, a political crisis in South Africa, communal polarisation in India, and religious zealotry coupled with anti-corruption agitation in Pakistan. On the face of it, there’s very little that connects these disparate events. Each appears unique to a country’s history and its contemporary interaction of domestic and global events.

faccione_However, strip away the details, and the names and faces of the actors involved, and a common theme emerges. At the heart of this decade of political crises, marked by conflict and disruption across the world, is a story of unmet expectations.

In 1962, James Davies published an article in the American Sociological Review titled ‘Towards a theory of revolution’. He borrowed the J-Curve model from non-linear mathematics to develop an understanding of why mass social disruptions, such as revolutions, take place.

His answer was that a period of prolonged prosperity followed by a sharp reversal in fortunes creates a crisis of unfulfilled expectations. By triggering sentiments of relative deprivation amongst upwardly mobile population segments, economic shocks or other exogenous factors (such as war) generate anger towards the established political order. In contemporary times, this order rests in the hands of the state and the political elite.

In a world where it takes little effort to see how the wealthy live, expectations from the state will be high.

In the 54 years since this article was published, we know human beings don’t function as angry automatons. Institutions, politicians, and ideological and cultural issues are very important in determining the scale and outcome of public anger and acquiescence. But perhaps there is a kernel of truth in the story of boiling frustrations.

For the last three decades, deindustrialisation and a complementary shift towards the services sector characterises the economies of many high- and low-income countries. The wake of this transformation has left behind a burgeoning mass of underemployed, semi-skilled labour, ruptured communities, and decaying cities. Over the same period, conservative political elites have capitalised on this crisis by shoring up support using scaremongering tactics and cultural markers such as gender roles, religion, and racial and ethnic identity.

Trump, for example, polls highest in areas, and amongst population segments (such as the white working class), ‘left behind’ by economic transformations of the last three decades. Unsurprisingly, these are the same areas where conservative cultural politics by the Tea Party and other radical fringes ran amok for the last two decades. The outcome? A heady combination of protectionist economic populism with visceral hatred towards racial minorities.

In the UK, a legitimate debate over immigration and a prolonged economic downturn has taken on ugly xenophobic contours. At its core, as John Hariss puts it, the anti-EU, anti-immigration movement is tapping into the frustrations of the precariously perched middle and working classes. Its support is loudest amongst those who have no space in London’s glamorous ‘knowledge economy’ and are now left at the mercy of whimsical, short-term employment contracts, a burdened social welfare system, rising house prices, and an increasingly inaccessible path towards social mobility.

The prosperity-followed-by-apocalypse model doesn’t just hold true for the US and UK. Brazil was jerked out of a decade of relatively egalitarian growth by a slump in commodity and oil prices, thus pushing the economy into recessionary free fall. The result is public anger over government corruption, directed towards the now-suspended president, Dilma Rouseff, and her party. The desire for a way out of relative or absolute deprivation has pushed many into the hands of politicians equally (and in some cases, even more) hollow only because they offer some element of change.

Similarly, Imran Khan and PTI are the prime beneficiaries of sentiments of relative deprivation amo-ngst Pakistan’s urban middle classes. As the heady days of consumption and mobility of Musharraf’s era gave way to expensive oil and incompetent governance under the PPP, anger became the most natural response. Even now, as the economy shuffles towards some semblance of stability, the anger hasn’t completely subsided. In a world where it takes very little effort to see how the wealthy live, and how the rest of the world progresses, expectations from the state will always remain high.

To this point, I’ve focused on unmet material expectations because, historically speaking, these have triggered the greatest unrest. However, unmet cultural and moral expectations are also potent factors for agitation. In India, provoked religious sentiment has led to the Hindutva right-wing asserting itself as a victim of Congress-ite secularism and minority appeasement. They now hold a prime seat at the BJP’s table, and will push the government’s supposed developmental agenda into one that caters to their communal demands as well.

For Pakistan, the biggest threat comes from a combination of material and cultural frustrations. The state pays lip service to its Islamic foundation, yet retains a comparatively secular orientation towards governance. Its existing political elite exhibits no intentions of turning the country into a Sharia-compliant state. However, decades of top-down soft-Islamism and cultural propaganda have resulted in an organic demand for a version of faith that stands proudly and violently on its own.

With fundamentalism and communal conflict rampant, the onus is on political elites and activists to construct an alternative cultural worldview that channels away and dilutes some of the moral anger. Similarly, politicians need to do a far better job of managing expectations by being better at delivering services and also by avoiding making unrealistic promises to the electorate.

So far, the country’s authoritarian history — with its patronage-tied political parties and a largely demoblised, cynical population — has acted as an inadvertent bulwark against mass Islamist mobilisation. Yet without adequate safeguards taken on an urgent footing, there is no guarantee that this ossified condition will persist indefinitely.

The writer is a freelance columnist. umairjaved@lumsalumni.pk
Twitter: @umairjav

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Case for Overcoming the Ostrich Syndromehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/case-for-overcoming-the-ostrich-syndrome/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=case-for-overcoming-the-ostrich-syndrome http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/case-for-overcoming-the-ostrich-syndrome/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 17:30:09 +0000 C R Abrar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145707 refugee_day__

By C R Abrar
Jun 20 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The final week of May 2016 was a grisly one. More than 700 asylum seekers and migrants died as three boats attempting to carry them to Italy sunk in the Mediterranean, and the death toll for the year crossed 2000. A week ago, Unicef reported a doubling of the number of unaccompanied children arriving as asylum seekers this year. The report also highlighted that these children are subjected to sexual violence, forced prostitution and other forms of abuse.

UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, informs that, of the 157,574 arrivals in Europe in 2016, 90 percent were from the top 10 refugee producing countries of the world — fleeing war, violence and persecution in their countries of origin, and were in need of international protection. A breakdown of the total reveals almost 90 percent of the cases were from three countries: Syria (49 percent), Afghanistan (25 percent) and Iraq (14 percent). These figures debunk the myth that most are economic migrants, who have left their own countries by choice in search of economic opportunities.

The magnitude and nature of the global refugee situation has changed considerably over the last few decades. It has become increasingly ‘protracted, politicised and complex’. This has made the task of finding a durable solution further challenging.

Evidence is replete that states are not only reluctant to uphold ethical standards of refugee protection, but also that they are actively contributing to the erosion of the principle and practice of asylum. Refugees are increasingly been seen as subjects of charity. There is little acknowledgement that the principle of non-refoulement, the cornerstone of international refugee protection, is now a provision of customary international law, binding even on states that are not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Over time, many Western states, particularly those of Europe, have introduced measures to reduce the number of individuals seeking asylum in their territory through non-arrival policies, diversion policies, an increasingly restrictive application of the 1951 Convention and a range of deterrent policies, such as detention of asylum seekers and the denial of social assistance; on the other hand, some states, like the UK, have openly advocated for dismantling of the 1951 Refugee Convention and instituting of a new international refugee regime, premised on containing of refugees within their region of origin.

This two-facedness of the western states has placed significant burden on asylum countries of the South, especially of Africa and Asia. This, in turn, has led some of the Southern countries to close off their borders to prevent arrivals, push for early and unsustainable return of asylum seekers to the country of origin and, in a few instances, forcibly expel entire refugee populations.

There is little recognition that protracted refugee situations do not remain confined to the host states of the South and have major regional and international implications. A UNHCR commissioned survey on Somali refugees has indicated that the absence of durable solutions and effective international protection in the first country of asylum is a major motive for secondary migratory movements to Europe and elsewhere.

There is a propensity in most quarters to view the refugee problem as a humanitarian problem. However, protracted refugee situations require more than humanitarian engagement. They entail meaningful and sustained engagement of peace, security and development actors. A comprehensive and holistic approach is perhaps the only way forward.

Thus while there is an urgent need to work out creative solutions to the global refugee problems, the international community appears to be hanging on to the old approach, premised on the concept of national security. This has been evident in Europe’s pursuit of Operation Sophia in dealing with the current refugee inflow. The next part of this essay will explicate how ill-conceived the strategy was.

In October 2014, Italy abandoned its ‘search and rescue’ Mare Nostrum operation that prevented mass drowning of asylum seekers in the Mediterranean. This resulted in an increase in the number of deaths of migrants trying to seek asylum in the continent. The demand for re-launching of the operation was met with stiff opposition and, on April 23, 2015, the European Council adopted a British-drafted resolution vowing to “undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy (refugee) vessels”. This was a palpable shift from humanitarian commitments to a military solution. It is worthwhile to note that British fascist Nick Griffin made the proposal five years earlier.

The European border agency Frontex reported that since its adoption 14 vessels have been destroyed and 69 ‘suspected smugglers’ were apprehended. The strategy was modelled to impede the human smuggling syndicates and limit the opportunities for would be refugees to flee to Europe. There is a little evidence that the new strategy worked at all. In the period from September 2015 to January 2016, the marginal drop of 9 percent in the Mediterranean flow was supplemented by the opening up of the ‘Balkans route’ to Europe. In order to minimise ‘significant financial loss’, the human smugglers amended their business model and replaced expensive wooden or fibre-glass boats by cheap mass produced Chinese inflatable rubber dinghies that have less carrying capacity and are more limited by sea conditions. In addition, as the borders became more challenging to navigate, migrants turned to more sophisticated smugglers to facilitate their crossing.

All these led the UK House of Lords EU Committee to observe, “The Mission (Sophia) does not… in any meaningful way deter the flow of migrants, disrupt the smugglers’ networks, or impede the business of people smuggling on the Mediterranean route”. The House of Lords report quotes Amnesty International’s Steve Symonds that the EU’s reinforcement of external borders policing had brought about “the movement of ever larger number of people around different routes by different journeys, usually at greater danger and cost to them, and so of greater profit to smugglers”. The opening sentence of the report quoted Peter Roberts of the Royal United Services Institute, “migrants in the boat are symptoms, not causes, of the problem”.

The challenge, therefore, for the international community is to acknowledge that refugees constitute an overwhelming bulk of the flow and they are fleeing protracted conflict conditions that needs urgent political solution. Pursuing unworkable policies would only be acting like an ostrich.

Recently displaying a life jacket used by a Syrian girl who died while trying to reach the Greek island of Lesbos to a group of youngsters, Pope Francis explained, “Migrants are not a danger – they are in danger”. It’s time the policy makers of Western nations paid heed to the pontiff.

The writer teaches International Relations at the University of Dhaka. He writes and researches on rights and migration issues.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Fences and Walls: A Short-sighted Response to Migration Fears?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fences-and-walls-a-short-sighted-response-to-migration-fears/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fences-and-walls-a-short-sighted-response-to-migration-fears http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fences-and-walls-a-short-sighted-response-to-migration-fears/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 14:16:09 +0000 Andrew MacMillan and Jose Graziano da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145688 José Graziano da Silva is Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Andrew MacMillan, former Director of Field Operations. ]]> Refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border near the town of Idomeni. Credit: Nikos Pilos/IPS

Refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border near the town of Idomeni. Credit: Nikos Pilos/IPS

By Andrew MacMillan and José Graziano da Silva
ROME, Jun 20 2016 (IPS)

European nations from which millions once left to escape hardship and hunger – Greece, Ireland, Italy – are today destinations for others doing the same.

Many people are on the move. The really big numbers relate to rural-urban migration in developing countries. In 1950, 746 million people lived in cities, 30 percent of the world’s population. By 2014, urban population reached 3.9 billion (54 percent).

By comparison, about 4 million migrants have moved into OECD countries each year since 2007.(*) And 60 percent of Europe’s 3.4 million immigrants in 2013 came from other European Union member states or already held EU citizenship. Those from outside amounted to less than 0.3 percent of the EU’s population.

Conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, along with the breakdown of law or of freedom in Libya, Eritrea, Somalia and South Sudan, have catalyzed a surge in asylum seekers – whose numbers climbed to 800,000 in OECD countries alone in 2014 and who, under international law, must be protected.

Growing apprehension in some recipient countries has led to calls for fences and walls to cut migrant flows. Barriers, however, are costly, can be circumvented, and are all too reminiscent of the restrictions on liberty from which many migrants are seeking refuge.

The urge for a better life is the main driving force for migration, both local and international. People are “pulled” by the belief that better prospects exist elsewhere. As mobile phones and internet access have reached the remotest corners of the world, such beliefs have proliferated.

For those countries wishing to reduce cross-border migratory pressures, the best option is probably to address the root causes. This entails actions that foster peace and security where there is conflict and oppression. It also implies closing the widening gaps in living standards, both between nations and between rich and poor in the countries that economic migrants are leaving.

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO/Alessandra Benedetti

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO/Alessandra Benedetti

Some destination countries have cut social security allowances for new arrivals in a bid to reduce their attraction. But more fundamental policy shifts in wealthier societies towards deterring their own people’s most conspicuous consumption behavior are needed. This will not be easy. It could involve having consumers meet the full costs of the environmental and social damage incurred in the production and use of what they buy.

Extreme poverty is found mainly in rural communities, where most internal migration begins. Poverty is not simply a matter of low incomes but also of limited access to adequate housing, clean water, energy, decent education and health services. On almost every score, rural people are worse off than city dwellers and also more vulnerable to shocks. Paradoxically, the incidence of hunger and malnutrition is highest in the very communities that produce much of the world’s food.

Urbanization seems bound to further widen these gaps. Cash remittances sent by first-generation local and international migrants to their relations back home help, but are usually modest in scale.

Policies to eliminate rural poverty must respond to locally expressed priorities for improved access to infrastructure and public services, including competent and honest local government institutions. They also need to include social protection programmes, ideally based on regular and predictable cash transfers to the poorest households, ensuring that all people are, at the very least, able to eat healthily and cope with periods of shortages.

The European Union has endorsed the principle of addressing the root causes of migration from Africa to Europe and, at a November 2015 summit in Malta, declared that investing in rural development is a priority. However, the EU’s nearly 30 members approved only EUR1.8 billion in extra resources. This is trivial, given the scale of poverty. It is about a quarter of what they offered Turkey to stem the flow of migrants into Europe.

Andrew MacMillan

Andrew MacMillan

Much greater funding is warranted. This is explicitly acknowledged in last September’s unanimous endorsement by all governments of the UN-brokered Sustainable Development Goals, including the eradication of poverty and hunger by 2030. Apart from being morally correct, this will reduce the conflicts that often drive international migration in the first place.

The link between the reduction of extreme deprivation and peace was acknowledged by FAO’s founders in 1945 when they wrote:
“Progress towards freedom from want is essential to lasting peace, for it is a condition of freedom from the tensions, arising out of economic maladjustment, profound discontent, and a sense of injustice which are so dangerous in the close community of modern nations.” (**) FAO today is guided by these principles in its ongoing work in rebuilding food security and creating greater resilience in countries torn apart by conflict.

Remittances and aid can help reduce inequalities but a more sustainable way of closing the urban-rural gap is offered by fairer trading in food, the main saleable output of most rural communities. When consumers begin to pay food prices that reward producers fairly for their investments, skills, risk exposure and labour, and for their responsible stewardship of natural resources, the market can become the main vehicle for eradicating the extreme deprivation and hunger that “push” migration. (***)

This move towards fairer food prices would be a first step towards harnessing the great power offered by the processes of globalization to create a world in which all people know they can, through their work, lead a decent life even when they choose to live where they were born.

 

(*) See OECD (2015), International Migration Outlook 2015, OECD Publishing, Paris

(**) See United Nations Interim Committee on Food and Agriculture, The Work of FAO, Washington DC, 1945

(***) Contrary to most predictions, the food price rises of 2008 and 2011 reduced extreme poverty in the long term in both rural and urban communities. See Headey, D., Food Prices and Poverty Reduction in the Long Run, IFPRI Discussion Paper 01331, Washington DC, 2014

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Xenophobia: ‘Hate Is Mainstreamed, Walls Are Back, Suspicion Kills’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobia-hate-is-mainstreamed-walls-are-back-suspicion-kills/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=xenophobia-hate-is-mainstreamed-walls-are-back-suspicion-kills http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobia-hate-is-mainstreamed-walls-are-back-suspicion-kills/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 13:43:49 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145697 With fear etched on their faces, clearly still suffering from the trauma of a rough by boat across the Aegean, an Afghan family arrives in Lesvos, Greece (2015). Photo credit: UNHCR/Giles Duley

With fear etched on their faces, clearly still suffering from the trauma of a rough by boat across the Aegean, an Afghan family arrives in Lesvos, Greece (2015). Photo credit: UNHCR/Giles Duley

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 20 2016 (IPS)

“Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers…”

Hardly a statement could have portrayed more accurately the current wave of hatred invading humankind, like the one made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

“… Clampdowns on public freedoms, and crackdowns on civil society activists and human rights defenders, are hacking away at the forces, which uphold the healthy functioning of societies. Judicial institutions, which act as checks on executive power, are being dismantled. Towering inequalities are hollowing out the sense that there are common goods.” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned.

In his address to the 32 session of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (13 June to 1 July 2016), the Human Rights Commissioner warned, “As the international community’s familiar customs and procedures are much in evidence… And yet the workable space in which we function as one community – resolving disputes, coming to consensus – is under attack.”

Zeid explained, “The common sets of laws, the institutions – and deeper still, the values“ which bind us together are buckling. And suffering most from this onslaught are our fellow human beings – your people – who bear the brunt of the resulting deprivation, misery, injustice, and bloodshed.”

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Credit: UN Photo/Pierre Albouy

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Credit: UN Photo/Pierre Albouy

He the recalled, “We are 7.4 billion human beings clinging to a small and fragile planet. And there is really only one way to ensure a good and sustainable future: ensure respect, resolve disputes, construct institutions that are sound and fair and share resources and opportunities equitably.

The UN Human Rights Commissioner referred to the millions of stranded refuges and migrants, saying that globally, many countries have distinguished themselves by their principled welcome to large numbers of desperate, often terrified and poverty-stricken migrants and refugees.

“But many other countries have not done so. And their failure to take in a fair share of the world’s most vulnerable is undermining the efforts of more responsible States. Across the board, we are seeing a strong trend that overturns international commitments, refuses basic humanity, and slams doors in the face of human beings in need.”

‘Europe Must Remove Hysteria and Panic’

The only sustainable way to resolve today’s movements of people will be to improve human rights in countries of origin, “ he said, while stressing that “Europe must find a way to address the current migration crisis consistently and in a manner that respects the rights of the people concerned – including in the context of the EU-Turkey agreement,” which was sealed on March 22, 2016.

“It is entirely possible to create well-functioning migration governance systems, even for large numbers of people, with fair and effective determination of individual protection needs. If European governments can remove hysteria and panic from the equation – and if all contribute to a solution…”

According to Zeid, in many parts of the Middle East and North Africa, the life-forces of society – which are the freedom and hopes of the people – are crushed by repression, conflict or violent anarchy. “Torture, summary execution and arbitrary arrests are assaults on the people’s security, not measures to protect security. It is a mistake to imagine that attacking the people’s rights makes them any safer or more content.”

There are roughly as many people seeking protection outside their countries as live in all of France. © UNHCR/Younghee Lee

There are roughly as many people seeking protection outside their countries as live in all of France. © UNHCR/Younghee Lee

“The antidote to the savagery of violent extremism is greater rule of law,” he said and added that “the best way to fight terrorism, and to stabilize the region, is to push back against discrimination; corruption; poor governance; failures of policing and justice; inequality; the denial of public freedoms, and other drivers of radicalization.”

De-Radicalisation

Radicalisation, or rather de-radicalisation, is precisely the focus of one of the panels organised within the current session of the Human Rights Council.

 Idriss Jazairy

Idriss Jazairy

In fact, on June 23, 2016, the Geneva Centre on Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue has organized the event under the auspices of the Permanent Mission of Algeria to the UN Office in Geneva. The panel will be moderated by highly respected Algerian diplomat and former head of a UN agency Idriss Jazairy, Resident Board Member of the Geneva Centre.

The panel organisers recall that “violent extremism had been until 2001 mainly in the lot of developing countries such as Uganda where a Christian mandate was usurped by the Lord’s Resistance Army to attack civilians and force children to participate in armed conflict, Sri Lanka, where the first suicide attacks originated, and Algeria where more Muslims were killed during a decade than Europeans worldwide ever since, through an evil manipulation of the precepts of Islam.”

Outside observers, they add, tended to belittle the impact of such violence considered as local incidents, at times preferring to ascribe it to “militants” responding to deficits of democracy and governance in the targeted countries.

During the last phases of the Cold War, violent extremism was condoned in some quarters as a weapon against communism, the panel concept note recalls, and adds that the recruitment of new cohorts of violent extremists was given added impetus by the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, the collapse of Iraq and Libya and the wars in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen.

“These developments, or lack thereof, occurred mainly in Muslim countries thus exacerbating violent extremism associated with this region and leading to an intensification of Islamophobia elsewhere, especially in Europe and North America.”

It remains, as underlined by the joint co-chairs conclusions of the Geneva Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism (7-8 April 2016), that “violent extremism or terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group.”

 A woman prepares a meal at a makeshift outdoor cooking area, atop the muddy grounds of the Bab Al Salame camp for IDPs, near the border with Turkey in Aleppo Governorate, Syria (January 2014). Photo credit: UNOCHA

A woman prepares a meal at a makeshift outdoor cooking area, atop the muddy grounds of the Bab Al Salame camp for IDPs, near the border with Turkey in Aleppo Governorate, Syria (January 2014). Photo credit: UNOCHA

The reaction of the international community was slow in taking shape in the UN if only because of political differences in terms of acceptance of a common definition of terrorism, says the panel’s concept note.

In a key remark, the organisers warn, “The very lexicon of international affairs is being manipulated to provide knee-jerk reactions that nurture ideologies of racist and xenophobic parties in the advanced world. It also provides a propitious climate for explosion of violent extremism around the world.”

In Europe, over 20 million Muslims have lived for decades as citizens in harmony with followers of other religions as well as with non-believers and have been contributing to the wealth of their countries of residence, the panel organisers recall.

“They are now being targeted by virtue of their identity, not their deeds. They are alone to suffer from fear-mongering and the rise of xenophobia for diverse minority groups in different parts of the world. One needs in this context to understand better the causes and means by which violent extremism is perpetrated and spread.”

The focus has been so far on how to roll back radicalism and on fighting violent extremism by all possible means without a full understanding of the root causes of such violence, says the panel’s concept note.

“The roll-back of violent extremism calls for an in-depth approach informed by the genesis and evolution of radicalisation, its link with citizenship and possible tipping point into violence… There also needs to be a better understanding of short-cuts to violent extremism that do not transit through radicalisation.”

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A Courageous Life After Escaping the Lord’s Resistance Armyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/a-courageous-life/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-courageous-life http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/a-courageous-life/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 02:32:12 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145675 Evelyn Amony. Credit: Erin Baines / UN Women

Evelyn Amony. Credit: Erin Baines / UN Women

By Aruna Dutt
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 20 2016 (IPS)

Evelyn Amony’s bravery not only helped her survive and escape captivity from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), but has made her an advocate for thousands of abducted women and children who face long term consequences after returning home.

Raised in Amuru District, northern Uganda, Evelyn Amony’s family, neighbours, and friends were bound into a close community. Her happiest memory was when she received the second-highest grade in her class. “When I was a child, my biggest interest was my education,” Amony told Inter Press Service.

“When my father heard the news, he slaughtered a goat and gave me the liver,”  says Amony in her memoir, “I Am Evelyn Amony: Reclaiming My  Life From The Lord’s Resistance Army.” But the next term, she was abducted by rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and did not get to attend Primary Five.

IPS spoke with Amony ahead of the launch of her book at the UN, organised by UN Women, the International Center for Transitional Justice, the Liu Institute for Global Issues, the University of British Columbia and the Permanent Mission of Canada to the UN.

She recounts her 11 years in captivity – being trained as the personal escort of the notorious LRA leader Joseph Kony, wanted by the International Criminal Court. Too young to know that childbirth would be painful, Amony was forced to become Kony’s wife and bore him three children from age 14.

“I remember how hard it was to be forced to walk long distances from Uganda to Southern Sudan, to the point where my feet were swollen and I would ask God to just let me rest, and that if I was abducted for the purpose to be killed, then God should let them kill me as fast as they could,” she recalls.

Amony tried to convince Kony to end the war. She tried escaping for years, eventually succeeding ten years later. Shot at many times, surviving a violent ambush, Amony began her journey to freedom from Southern Sudan. “It was at that moment I knew God was really there,” Amony told IPS. On reaching Uganda she was reunited with her family and two of her daughters, one is still missing.

War of Reintegration

For Amony and thousands of formerly abducted women, leaving war did not mean the war was over. In northern Uganda, coming back from the bush to communities where the LRA committed atrocities, meant facing further violence and discrimination.

Reintegrating into the community after over a decade of war, having missed school, meant finding a job was unlikely. Yet many women struggle single-handedly to raise their children.

One of these women may have to see the commander that abused her at the community market daily, says Ketty Anyeko of the Uganda Fund, an organisation that has helped reintegrate some 2,800 war-affected women.

"It was not easy for me to introduce myself as the chairperson of Women’s Advocacy Network because whenever I went, they would say “Oh, you are the wife of Joseph Kony”. They would reduce me to “rebel wife” and not see me as a “woman advocate." -- Evelyn Amony

“Uganda has a culture of forgiveness, so these LRA commanders can live freely. But for sexual violence, it is not easy to forgive and forget,” said Anyeko. These women are also often rejected by their families, so do not have access to land or resources needed for them and their children to survive.

Of every five children in northern Uganda, 3 were born during the war in the bush, said Amony. More than 66,000 children have been abducted in the Uganda region by the LRA, according to UNICEF. Only about 6,000 have returned. Many are physically impaired. Amony’s younger daughter, Grace, has hearing problems because of loud gunfire; her elder daughter Bakita’s eyesight is affected. That is in addition to the trauma and experience of war.

“When I ask male children what they want to do when they grow up, many say they want to be soldiers. When I ask why, they tell me that if you are a soldier you have the power to do whatever you want to do, you can get whatever woman you want, because you can use the gun. This is what they have been taught,” Amony says. It is not surprising then that children who returned are viewed negatively and seen as likely to take after their fathers who were part of LRA. In schools, children suffer stigma because some teachers refer to them as the “children of Kony.”

Unable to continue in that environment, many give up education. Girls are becoming pregnant as teenagers and male children are ending up on the streets, Amony says. In short, children are punished for the crimes of the LRA commanders.

When a war-affected woman remarries, the husband often does not show love for the children born in conflict, and even refuses to pay school fees. For Amony, all these are challenges to be overcome.

“I love to speak to children to the point where on holidays many of the kids spend time with me,” she says. They ask her questions to which she has no answers. They want to go to school but Amony does not have the resources to help them. “There are so many of Kony’s children, and they have an impression that I know where their father is,” Amony says.

Women’s Advocacy Network

It was tough for Amony to reintegrate also. After her escape, she attended a tailoring school, where there were 7 other formerly abducted women. When they went to get food, the other students would leave the serving table as they didn’t want to sit with them.

Because they shared similar hardships, Amony and the 7 women decided to start a small group to help each other. Their efforts soon expanded to organizing women in the larger community. But the LRA’s massacres had caused conflict between the communities. The group was sometimes pressured not to go to one community or another. But they persisted, angering one group or the other. Some in Amony’s group were very afraid. But when Amony told them her story, they cried. Amony knew she had won the battle.

In Gulu District, they established three groups of survivors. The Transitional Justice experts Ketty Anyeko and Erin Baines, stepped in to encourage the work. “We started getting involved in community theatre exercises to narrate our experiences in a very visual way,” Amony said. “This was when we started telling the deeper stories about our lives and the war, and we would all cry together.” In 2011, more survivor groups were formed and Amony was elected the chairperson of  the Women’s Advocacy Network. They began radio talk shows reaching out to the grassroots. They visited district offices to raise awareness. “It was not easy for me to introduce myself as the chairperson of Women’s Advocacy Network because whenever I went, they would say “Oh, you are the wife of Joseph Kony”. They would reduce me to “rebel wife” and not see me as a “woman advocate,” Amony said.

“I come here as Evelyn Amony to explain to you what women who suffered the conflict want,” was her response. Today, there are about 16 WAN groups, growing from 20 to 900 formerly abducted women in the last three years.

But it was not easy. “When we introduced ourselves as children who were formerly abducted, their initial reaction would be that we were the ones who committed atrocities.” The survivors explained that they too were victims and that the community must join hands and work together.

“What can we do to ensure Ugandan children live a normal life?” Amony wants to know.

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Majority of Vulnerable Refugees Will Not Be Resettled in 2017http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/majority-of-vulnerable-refugees-will-not-be-resettled-in-2017/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=majority-of-vulnerable-refugees-will-not-be-resettled-in-2017 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/majority-of-vulnerable-refugees-will-not-be-resettled-in-2017/#comments Fri, 17 Jun 2016 16:18:22 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145669 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/majority-of-vulnerable-refugees-will-not-be-resettled-in-2017/feed/ 0 World’s Nuclear Arsenal Declines But Multi-Billion Dollar Modernization Continueshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/worlds-nuclear-arsenal-declines-but-multi-billion-dollar-modernization-continues/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=worlds-nuclear-arsenal-declines-but-multi-billion-dollar-modernization-continues http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/worlds-nuclear-arsenal-declines-but-multi-billion-dollar-modernization-continues/#comments Mon, 13 Jun 2016 20:56:03 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145612 U.S. Pres. Barack Obama chairs the Security Council Summit on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. Credit: Bomoon Lee/IPS

U.S. Pres. Barack Obama chairs the Security Council Summit on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. Credit: Bomoon Lee/IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 13 2016 (IPS)

The world’s nuclear arsenal continues to decline – from 15,850 warheads in early 2015 to 15,395 in 2016, according to the latest figures released Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Still, the more distressing news is that none of the nine nuclear weapon-possessing states – the US, UK, Russia, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – are prepared to give up their existing weapons now, or in the foreseeable future.

The decrease in the overall number is due mainly to Russia and the US – which together still account for more than 93 per cent of all nuclear weapons – further reducing their inventories of strategic nuclear weapons.

However, despite the implementation of the bilateral Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START) since 2011, the pace of their reductions remains slow, said SIPRI.

The equally bad news, however, is the continued modernization of nuclear weapons both by the US and Russia.

Although details of the Russian program are not public, the US plans to spend $348 billion during 2015–24 on maintaining and comprehensively updating its nuclear forces.

Some estimates suggest that the US nuclear weapon modernization program may cost up to $1 trillion over the next 30 years, according to SIPRI.

Alice Slater, an Advisor to the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and who serves on the Coordinating Committee of Abolition 2000, told IPS the US has committed to spending $348 billion over the next ten years on two new bomb factories, new warheads and upgraded delivery systems by planes, submarine and land-based missile, estimating a budget of one trillion dollars over the next 30 years.

Last summer, the US tested a dummy warhead in Nevada for an earth-penetrating nuclear bunker buster, she pointed out.

Despite President Barack Obama’s qualified April 2009 Prague speech urging a world free of nuclear weapons – for which he received a Nobel Peace Prize, even after having noted that his dream of a world free of nuclear weapons “may not happen in my lifetime”- he has made the smallest reductions in the US nuclear arsenal compared to any previous post- cold war US President, said Slater.

And Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for US President at the November elections, famously misquoted Obama’s Prague speech when she was Secretary of State, saying Obama had said a nuclear weapons free world may not happen for “several lifetimes,” she added.

Last month UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his call for a world without nuclear weapons.

“Disarmament is part of the DNA of the United Nations, which was formed when the first and last use of nuclear weapons in war was fresh in people’s minds.”

Since then, he pointed out, all countries have rejected the use of nuclear weapons.

“But until these weapons are completely eliminated, they continue to pose a threat to our common well-being.  Fears of nuclear terrorism make disarmament even more urgent and important,” he added.

Hans Kristensen, co-author of the SIPRI Yearbook said the ambitious US modernization plan presented by the Obama Administration is in stark contrast to President Barack Obama’s pledge to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and the role they play in US national security strategy.

The other nuclear weapon-possessing states have much smaller arsenals, but have all either begun to deploy new nuclear weapon delivery systems or announced their intention to do so, he added.

China appears to be gradually increasing its nuclear forces as it modernizes the arsenal. India and Pakistan are both expanding their nuclear weapon stockpiles and missile delivery capabilities.

North Korea is estimated to have enough fissile material for approximately 10 nuclear warheads. However, it is unclear whether North Korea has produced or deployed operational weapons, said Kristensen.

“Despite the ongoing reduction in the number of weapons, the prospects for genuine progress towards nuclear disarmament remain gloomy,” said Shannon Kile, Head of the SIPRI Nuclear Weapons Project.

“All the nuclear weapon-possessing states continue to prioritize nuclear deterrence as the cornerstone of their national security strategies,” he added.

Apart from counting bombs in the respective nuclear arsenals, Slater told IPS, “we must factor in the aggressive and provocative expansion of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) up to the Russian border as a block to nuclear disarmament, despite promises given to (former Soviet leader Mikhail) Gorbachev when the Berlin Wall came down that NATO would not expand beyond East Germany as well as the US having planted new missile bases in Turkey, Romania and Poland after President Bush walked out of 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

It is significant that part of the deal US President John F. Kennedy made with Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev when the Soviet Union took their missiles out of Cuba was that the US would remove its missiles from Turkey.

“Despite the ongoing reduction in the number of weapons, the prospects for genuine progress towards nuclear disarmament remain gloomy." -- Shannon Kile

“Well they are back in Turkey.  The US also plans to modernize the nuclear weapons it bases in five NATO countries, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Turkey, and Italy.   And the US Asia “pivot” with expanded bases in Japan, South Korea, Australia and the Philippines is an enormous obstacle to enroll the Asian nuclear powers in endorsing nuclear disarmament,” declared Slater.

She argued that US plans to dominate and control the military use of space also block further possibilities for nuclear disarmament.

Gorbachev and (US President Ronald) Reagan spoke about abolishing nuclear weapons, but Gorbachev pulled his offer off the table when Reagan wouldn’t promise to forego Star Wars.

Then Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin offered a deal to (US President Bill) Clinton “to cut our massive arsenals to 1,000 nuclear weapons each, at which point we could invite all the other nuclear weapons states to the table to negotiate for their elimination, but only  if Clinton would forego the development of missile bases in Eastern Europe.

Slater said Clinton refused, and subsequently Bush unilaterally withdrew from the ABM Treaty in 2002.  Russia and China have actually been proposing, since 2008, a draft treaty to ban weapons in space which the US vigorously opposes by blocking consensus to even discuss it in the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva.

Finally, the nuclear weapons states have boycotted the 2016 Geneva meetings of the Open Ended Working Group for Nuclear Disarmament, established by the UN General Assembly, which have been discussing the legal gap in the law that fails to prohibit and ban nuclear weapons as we have done for biological and chemical weapons.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) merely promises “good faith efforts” for nuclear disarmament and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) left a gap in its 1996 decision on the legality of nuclear weapons when it said it couldn’t decide if nuclear weapons were illegal in the case where the very survival of a state was at stake.

“It appears that the non-nuclear weapons states may be prepared this year to start negotiations on a ban treaty without the rogue nuclear weapons states and some of the hypocritical “weasel” states who profess to want nuclear abolition but rely on the US nuclear umbrella for their “security”.”

These include NATO states and Japan, incredible as that may seem, as well as Australia and South Korea.  Hopefully, a treaty to ban the bomb signed by the 127 countries that are supporting the effort at this time, may break up this discouraging logjam for meaningful progress on nuclear disarmament as reported in the recent SIPR Annual count of the world’s nuclear arsenals, Slater noted.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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