Inter Press ServicePeace – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 20 Feb 2018 14:10:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.5 Father of Palestine’s Icon: Everyone is Blaming my Daughterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/father-palestines-icon-everyone-blaming-daughter/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=father-palestines-icon-everyone-blaming-daughter http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/father-palestines-icon-everyone-blaming-daughter/#respond Fri, 16 Feb 2018 17:18:06 +0000 Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154361 As a video clip spread all over the world, so too did the name Ahed Tamimi. For Palestinians, she has become an icon of freedom. Arbetet Global met the father of the teenage girl that kicked and hit two Israeli soldiers.

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The post Father of Palestine’s Icon: Everyone is Blaming my Daughter appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

As a video clip spread all over the world, so too did the name Ahed Tamimi. For Palestinians, she has become an icon of freedom. Arbetet Global met the father of the teenage girl that kicked and hit two Israeli soldiers.

The post Father of Palestine’s Icon: Everyone is Blaming my Daughter appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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UN Security Council Must Halt Disastrous March of Myanmar’s Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/un-security-council-must-halt-disastrous-march-myanmars-ethnic-cleansing-rohingya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-security-council-must-halt-disastrous-march-myanmars-ethnic-cleansing-rohingya http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/un-security-council-must-halt-disastrous-march-myanmars-ethnic-cleansing-rohingya/#respond Fri, 09 Feb 2018 22:57:04 +0000 Matthew Wells http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154258 Matthew Wells is a Senior Crisis Advisor at Amnesty International, and has just returned from two weeks of research in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

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A Rohingya woman at Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq / IPS

By Matthew Wells
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Feb 9 2018 (IPS)

Abdu Salam stayed in his village as Myanmar soldiers and local vigilantes burned down dozens of homes there last August. He stayed as news spread of atrocities that soldiers had committed in other Rohingya villages across northern Rakhine State. He stayed because Hpon Nyo Leik village was his home, the only home he’d known, and he wanted to protect his family’s property and right to live there.

But when, at the end of 2017, the Myanmar military’s starvation tactics left Abdu Salam’s family struggling to find food, they were forced to join the exodus to Bangladesh.

On 13 February, the UN Security Council will be briefed again on the situation in Myanmar. The briefing comes as the Myanmar government says it’s ready to start repatriating people from Bangladesh. But the military’s efforts to drive the Rohingya population out of the country haven’t even ground to a halt. The Security Council’s inaction, amid a weak international response to the ongoing crimes against humanity, has been a key part of the problem.


The Security Council must finally act, and send a clear, united message to the Myanmar military that atrocities must stop, and there will be no more impunity for its crimes. To start, the Security Council should impose a comprehensive arms embargo, as well as targeted financial sanctions on senior officials implicated in serious rights violations. It should explore avenues to bring to justice perpetrators of crimes under international law. And it should call on Myanmar to dismantle the apartheid system that forms the backdrop of the current crisis.

Abdu Salam and I sat in his recently erected bamboo shelter at the edge of Kutupalong Extension, the ever-growing refugee camp in southern Bangladesh that houses most of the 688,000 Rohingya who have fled Myanmar since last August. He was with his wife and six children, including his baby son, visibly emaciated, who slept in a makeshift crib that hung from the shelter’s ceiling.

His family arrived in Bangladesh in early January, among the hundreds who still cross the border each week. As part of our latest research in Bangladesh, my Amnesty International colleagues and I interviewed 19 men and women from this newest wave of refugees. I heard the same story again and again: the Myanmar military squeezed them out of northern Rakhine State by driving them to the brink of starvation.

Abdu Salam told me he used to go to the hill near his village and collect wood to sell at market. But even before the current crisis began, that source of livelihood was cut off, due to the severe movement restrictions imposed on the Rohingya population, as part of the conditions of apartheid under which they have lived.

Then, following the 25 August attacks on around 30 security force outposts by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), the Myanmar military unleashed a campaign of violence against the Rohingya across northern Rakhine State. Our October 2017 report documented in detail the military’s crimes against humanity, including the widespread killing of Rohingya men, women and children; rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls; forced deportation; and the targeted burning of villages. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) estimates that at least 6,700 people were killed in the first month of the crisis. The UN, other rights organizations, and media outlets have all painted the same, devastating picture.

Hpon Nyo Leik village was spared the worst of the military’s violence. But security forces arrested Abdu Salam’s 14-year-old son, accusing him of involvement with ARSA. To secure the boy’s release, the family scraped together almost their entire savings. It’s one of many examples of arrest-for-extortion we have long documented.

In the months after 25 August, movement restrictions grew even tighter for the remaining Rohingya, and already strict curfews were extended. Soldiers and vigilantes looted and torched Rohingya markets or, as in Hpon Nyo Leik, restricted market access to people holding a National Verification Card (NVC), a temporary identification document that most of the Rohingya community rejects, since it fails to recognise them as citizens.

Even as pressure mounted and hundreds of thousands left, many other Rohingya families stayed. Agriculture is central to livelihoods across Rakhine State, and the harvest season for rice, the area’s staple crop, occurs in November and December. Stockpiles from the previous harvest began to run low. The Myanmar military must have known what was to follow when, in many Rohingya villages, it then blocked people from going to their paddy fields.

As the harvest started, Abdu Salam worked for several days. “Then the soldiers came and said, ‘This harvest is not your harvest’,” he told me. “There were many [of us] harvesting there. All of us were forced to leave.” Soon after, he saw non-Rohingya villagers using machinery to harvest the same crops.

With no food for their six children, except occasional handouts of a little rice from wealthier neighbours, Abdu Salam’s family fled in late December, joined by others facing the same situation. Even before the August attacks and subsequent lockdown, the World Food Programme warned that malnutrition rates in northern Rakhine State were at emergency levels.

As Rohingya families fled toward the coast in recent weeks, Myanmar forces dealt a final blow by systematically robbing them at checkpoints. More than a dozen recent arrivals, including Abdu Salam, described to me the worst such checkpoint, near Sein Hnyin Pyar village tract in Buthidaung Township. There, soldiers separate men from women; search sacks and bodies, often sexually assaulting women in the process; and steal whatever of value they find, including money, jewellery, clothes, and phones.

Though the tactics may have changed, it should come as no surprise that the military’s ruthless campaign races forward. In the midst of its almost incomprehensively-efficient ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population, some states around the world have expressed alarm or even condemned the atrocities. But the international community has taken almost no concrete action.

The Security Council must finally act, and send a clear, united message to the Myanmar military that atrocities must stop, and there will be no more impunity for its crimes. To start, the Security Council should impose a comprehensive arms embargo, as well as targeted financial sanctions on senior officials implicated in serious rights violations. It should explore avenues to bring to justice perpetrators of crimes under international law. And it should call on Myanmar to dismantle the apartheid system that forms the backdrop of the current crisis.

In addition, the Security Council must demand that Myanmar authorities provide full and sustained aid access throughout the country, as well as access to independent investigators, including the UN Fact-Finding Mission. It should also demand that Myanmar respect a free press and immediately release two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, being detained and prosecuted simply for carrying out their reporting work on the military’s atrocities.

The Security Council has to quickly decide which side of history it wants to be on. With each day it fails to act, more people like Abdu Salam are forced to flee.

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Excerpt:

Matthew Wells is a Senior Crisis Advisor at Amnesty International, and has just returned from two weeks of research in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

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Pyeongchang Olympics: A New Cornerstone for Peace and Prosperityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/pyeongchang-olympics-new-cornerstone-peace-prosperity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pyeongchang-olympics-new-cornerstone-peace-prosperity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/pyeongchang-olympics-new-cornerstone-peace-prosperity/#respond Fri, 09 Feb 2018 18:09:50 +0000 Shamshad Akhtar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154255 Dr. Shamshad Akhtar is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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Dr. Shamshad Akhtar is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

By Shamshad Akhtar
BANGKOK, Thailand, Feb 9 2018 (IPS)

All eyes are on the 23rd Olympic Winter Games and 12th Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang this February. Top athletes will carry their national flags in an opening ceremony which has come to epitomize the international community. Sports fans worldwide eagerly await the Olympics, and this time there is cause for cautious optimism that sport diplomacy may lower tensions on the Korean Peninsula itself. Leaders, diplomats and citizens from the world over will witness North and South Korean athletes walking side by side. For this, there could be few better places than PyeongChang, which means peace (Pyeong) and prosperity (Chang): goals integral to the mission of the United Nations and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Shamshad Akhtar

The Olympic and Paralympic Games attract people from around the world and help reinforce a set of unifying objectives. The goal of Olympism, as the Olympic Charter states, is “to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity”. Achieving sustainable peace and sustainable development are critical objectives and the Games in PyeongChang offer promise of peace and prosperity.

In this spirit, the first Olympics in South Korea held in 1988 served to foster relationships at a time of rapid geopolitical shifts. These games featured many participating nations, including sizeable delegations from both the USA and USSR. The thaw in relations to which the Olympics contributed led to the establishment of diplomatic relations with neighbors such as Russia and China in the years following the games. The Republic of Korea became a member of the United Nations in 1991.

The Olympics also heralded the economic transformation of the South Korean economy that is now known as “the Miracle on the Han River.” For the decade after the games, its economy grew at an average rate of around 8.5% per year, transforming the country from an aid recipient country to a key aid donor. The material improvement in the lives of people in South Korea was nothing short of a miracle. From 1960 to 1995, GDP per capita increased more than one hundred-fold, virtually eliminating absolute poverty from more than half of the population to less than 5%.

This miracle was linked with another key value of the Olympics and the United Nations – international collaboration. South Korea successfully leveraged international aid, international trade, and international investment with its domestic ingenuity, to show the world it is possible to transform in one generation an agrarian economy into a dynamic technological and cultural producer.

Along with the rapid economic transformation, social and environmental concerns have also risen to the fore. In recent years, we have seen South Korea make commendable steps towards environmental sustainability and inclusive social policies such as the aged pension. Integrating the economic, social and environmental dimensions is the cornerstone of the Sustainable Development Goals. South Korea is once again demonstrating to the world a way to achieve a more inclusive and sustainable prosperity.

South Korea now stands as a valued member of the international community, generating cultural phenomena appreciated by young people around the world, playing a leadership role at the UN, and as a significant contributor of aid to developing countries. Olympic sports can support cultural, political and economic diplomacy in its efforts to achieving and sustaining peace.

The Olympic Truce Resolution adopted by the United Nations is an example of using a momentous occasion in international sports, to build a stronger foundation for a more peaceful and inclusive world. The resolution urges all countries to respect the truce by creating a peaceful environment during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and calls on all countries to work together, in good faith towards peace, human rights, and sustainable development.

Opening of the direct dialogue between two countries of the Korean peninsula after the 2018 Olympics show cases a commitment to peace and prosperity. I wish South Korea a promising future and success in its endeavors to foster lasting peace and prosperity.

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Excerpt:

Dr. Shamshad Akhtar is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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“The World Has Gone in Reverse”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/world-gone-reverse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-gone-reverse http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/world-gone-reverse/#comments Thu, 18 Jan 2018 07:06:34 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153922 A year into his position, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said that peace remains elusive and that renewed action must be taken in 2018 to set the world on track for a better future. Around the world, challenges such as conflicts and climate change have deepened while new dangers have emerged with the threat […]

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Secretary-General António Guterres briefs the General Assembly on his priorities for 2018. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 18 2018 (IPS)

A year into his position, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said that peace remains elusive and that renewed action must be taken in 2018 to set the world on track for a better future.

Around the world, challenges such as conflicts and climate change have deepened while new dangers have emerged with the threat of nuclear catastrophe and the rise in nationalism and xenophobia.

“In fundamental ways, the world has gone in reverse,” said Guterres to the General Assembly.

“At the beginning of 2018, we must recognize the many ways in which the international
community is failing and falling short.”

Among the major concerns is the ongoing and heightened nuclear tensions.

Guterres noted that there are small signs of hope, including North Korea’s participation in the upcoming winter Olympics as well as the reopening of inter-Korean communication channels.

“War is avoidable—what I’m worried is that I’m not yet sure peace is guaranteed, and that is why we are so strongly engaged,” he said.

Despite UN sanctions, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has refused to surrender the country’s development and stockpile of nuclear missiles.

During a meeting in Canada, United States’ officials warned of military action if the Northeast Asian nation does not negotiate.

“It is time to talk, but they have to take the step to say they want to talk,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told foreign ministers.

A recently released nuclear strategy also outlines the U.S. administration’s proposal to expand its nuclear arsenal in response to Russian and Chinese military threats which may only sustain global tensions.

Guterres has also pinpointed migration and refugee protection as priorities for the year.

Though arrivals have dropped, refugees and migrants from Honduras to Myanmar still embark on dangerous journeys in search of economic opportunity or even just safety. However, they are still often met with hostility.

“We need to have mutual respect with all people in the world. In particular, migration is a positive aspect—the respect for migrants and diversity is a fundamental pillar of the UN and it will be a fundamental pillar of the actions of the Secretary-General,” Guterres said.

The UN Global Compact for Migration is set to be adopted later this year after months of negotiations. The U.S. however has since withdrawn from the compact and is seemingly increasingly abandoning its commitments to migrants and refugees.

Most recently, U.S. President Donald Trump allegedly made offensive comments about immigrants from Caribbean and African nations.

The African Group of UN Ambassadors issued a statement condemning the “outrageous, racist, and xenophobic remarks” and demanded an apology.

UN human rights spokesperson Rupert Colville echoed similar sentiments, stating: “There is no other word one can use but racist. You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”

Guterres expressed particular concern about U.S. cuts to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) which has served more than five million registered refugees for almost 70 years.

“UNRWA is providing vital services to the Palestinian refugee population…those services are extremely important not only for the wellbeing of these populations—and there is a serious humanitarian concern here—but also it is an important factor of stability,” he said.

Just a day after the Secretary-General’s briefing, the U.S. administration announced that it will cut over half of its planned funding to the agency.

Former UN Undersecretary-General and current Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland urged the government to reconsider its decision.”

“Cutting aid to innocent refugee children due to political disagreements among well-fed grown men and women is a really bad politicization of humanitarian aid,” he said in a tweet.

In light of the range of challenges, Guterres called for bold leadership in the world.

“We need less hatred, more dialogue, and deeper international cooperation. With unity in 2018, we can make this pivotal year that sets the world on a better course,” he concluded.

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Pakistan, Facing Military Aid Cuts, One Step Ahead of UShttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/pakistan-facing-military-aid-cuts-one-step-ahead-us/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pakistan-facing-military-aid-cuts-one-step-ahead-us http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/pakistan-facing-military-aid-cuts-one-step-ahead-us/#respond Tue, 16 Jan 2018 14:27:11 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153886 When the United States abruptly cuts off military supplies to its allies for political or other reasons, the reaction has been predictable: it drive these countries into the arms of the Chinese, the Russians and Western European weapons suppliers. So, when the Trump administration decided recently to withhold about $2.0 billion in aid to Pakistan, […]

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'Rafale B', French Air Force combat jets.

By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK, Jan 16 2018 (IPS)

When the United States abruptly cuts off military supplies to its allies for political or other reasons, the reaction has been predictable: it drive these countries into the arms of the Chinese, the Russians and Western European weapons suppliers.

So, when the Trump administration decided recently to withhold about $2.0 billion in aid to Pakistan, the government in Islamabad was one step ahead: it had already built a vibrant military relationship with China and also turned to UK, France, Sweden, Turkey and Italy for its arms supplies.

In the Middle East, some of the longstanding US allies, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt and Kuwait, are known not to depend too heavily on American weapons systems—and their frontline fighter planes include not only F-15s and F-16s (US-supplied) but also Rafale and Mirage combat jets (France), the Typhoon (a UK/France/Italy joint venture) and Tornado and Jaguars (UK), all of them in multi-billion dollar arms deals.

The primary reason for multiple sources is to ensure uninterrupted arms supplies if any one of the suppliers, usually the US, withholds military aid – as it did in the 1990s when Washington suspended security assistance to Pakistan under the so-called Pressler amendment which called for a certification that Pakistan did not possess nuclear weapons. (It did)

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) latest data for 2012-2016, the US accounted for about a third of the entire global market in major conventional weapons.

SIPRI reports that Pakistan has received significant quantities of weapons from both the United States and China in recent years. Deliveries from China in the last several years reportedly include combat aircraft, tanks, submarines, and other naval vessels.

US deliveries have included armored personnel carriers and systems to modernize US F-16s that were previously supplied to the Pakistani military.

Derek Bisaccio, Middle East/ Africa & Eurasia Analyst at Forecast International Inc., a US-based defense research company, told IPS the two primary arms suppliers to Pakistan are the United States and China.

American arms agreements with Pakistan, he said, have totaled between $5-6 billion since 2001; much of this stems from the sale of F-16 fighter planes.

“Although Chinese arms sales to Pakistan are more difficult to put a dollar figure to– owing to a lack of transparency on both sides– it is expected that Chinese arms sales have eclipsed American arms sales on an annual basis in recent years as Pakistan and China have deepened their military-technical cooperation,” he noted.

In the past decade, China has sold naval patrol vessels, submarines, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems to Pakistan. The two have partnered on projects like the JF-17 fighter jet, assembled and manufactured locally by the Pakistanis.

Other arms suppliers include Ukraine, with whom Pakistan has partnered on its fleet of battle tanks, and Turkey.

Pakistan and Turkey have negotiated in the past few years over Pakistan’s possible purchase of attack helicopters and corvettes. Pakistan has purchased airborne early warning & control aircraft from Sweden and may well acquire more in the coming years, Bisaccio said.

In the past, Pakistan has contracted the United Kingdom, France and Italy for some of its purchases; many naval vessels and aircraft operated by Pakistan are French-origin, he added.

According to a report in the Washington Times last week, China is planning to build a military base in Pakistan, which would be its second overseas military base, after Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.

The naval installation will be erected in a key strategic location: the Pakistani town of Jiwani, a port near the Iranian border on the Gulf of Oman and near the Straits of Hormuz, which resides at one of the six proposed economic corridors of the One Belt One Road Initiative, commonly called the Silk Road Economic Belt, the Times said.

Dr. Natalie J. Goldring, a Senior Fellow with the Security Studies Program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, told IPS: “The Trump administration’s decision to halt military aid to Pakistan is long overdue. Pakistan’s human rights record is deplorable, as documented in annual reports from the State Department.”

However, that decision was not justified on human rights grounds, she noted. Instead, the administration argues that the Pakistani government is not doing enough to combat terrorism.

“This argument that Pakistan is harboring terrorists is not new. The US-Pakistani relationship frequently features policy cycles that include critical statements by US officials, attempts to reduce or halt aid, and an eventual return to the status quo,” said Goldring, who also represents the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy at the United Nations, on conventional weapons and arms trade issues.

“Ironically, the Trump decision to put a hold on military assistance to Pakistan comes at the same time as Reuters reports that the administration is planning to be even more aggressive in pursuing global arms sales. Embassy staffs are apparently going to be asked to promote US arms sales more actively to their host governments. This is reminiscent of similar moves during the Reagan administration.”

She also pointed out that advocates of arms sales often argue that countries can find other suppliers if the US government refuses a sale.

“Yet by avoiding selling sophisticated US weapons to unstable regimes, we may significantly reduce the risk that members of our armed forces will end up fighting our own weapons. And in the end, the US government needs to set ethical standards for arms sales, not merely economic ones.”

Reacting to the US aid cuts, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif was quoted as saying: “We do not have any alliance” with the US. “This is not how allies behave.”

Trump said on Twitter that Pakistan had “given us nothing but lies and deceit” and accused Islamabad of providing “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan.”

But Islamabad may still retaliate by closing down US supply routes to Afghanistan which goes through Pakistan. Currently, there are over 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan.

Bisaccio of Forecast International Inc told IPS that due to decades of partnership, the Pakistani military has a large amount of U.S.-supplied equipment, either provided directly from the U.S. or a third party, in its force structures, either in active use or in storage.

Much of the Army’s aviation wing is composed of Western-supplied aircraft, with a lot of American systems.

Asked if the Pakistani military can survive if the US suspends military aid– and halts maintenance, servicing and spares to US-made equipment—Bisaccio said it can certainly survive, but in some areas of the military such moves to end cooperation would be painful.

He said the suspension of maintenance, servicing, and the provision of spare parts– should the U.S. decide to enact such a move– would be particularly problematic for the Pakistani F-16 fleet.

Pakistan has already encountered difficulty acquiring new F-16s, as the U.S. Congress blocked Pakistan from using foreign military financing to purchase eight jets in 2016. Inability to acquire maintenance or armaments would impact fleet readiness, especially over time as the F-16s face attrition. Posturing against rival India would suffer as a result, he added.

Moreover, the ability of the Army to carry out counter-insurgency operations could be impacted should Pakistan not be able to obtain servicing for the Army’s aviation assets, especially the AH-1 attack helicopters.

“Pakistan, in recognition that reliance on one supplier could create vulnerability, has over the years diversified its supplier base and worked to build up its own defense industry, which does have the effect of lessening its military dependence on the U.S,” Bisaccio pointed out.

The dispute with President Trump, he pointed out, is a symptom of the longer-running tension between the U.S. and Pakistan, but, in Pakistan’s view, the latest row with the Trump administration provides further validation for this policy.

In an interview with the Financial Times in September 2017, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi reiterated that his country would like to purchase F-16s from the U.S., but could seek alternatives from France or China if need be.

Pakistan’s missile deterrent against India is a key element of the country’s national security and Pakistan was able to develop its missile program without American assistance.

“The gradual fraying of relations between the U.S. and Pakistan has occurred amid a deepening of relations between China and Pakistan. Their joint cooperation on a range of matters, including military-technical issues, will help blunt the impact of the U.S. cutting off aid to Pakistan.”

The volume of security assistance provided to Pakistan from China is unknown but is likely to increase moving forward, offsetting to some extent the temporary or permanent loss of American assistance, he added.

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The Reality of North Korea as a Nuclear Powerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/reality-north-korea-nuclear-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=reality-north-korea-nuclear-power http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/reality-north-korea-nuclear-power/#comments Thu, 11 Jan 2018 11:12:46 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153823 With a track record of six underground nuclear tests between 2006 and 2017, North Korea is desperately yearning to be recognized as the world’s ninth nuclear power – trailing behind the US, UK, France, China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Israel. But that recognition seems elusive– despite the increasing nuclear threats by Pyongyang and the continued […]

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Credit: UN photo

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 11 2018 (IPS)

With a track record of six underground nuclear tests between 2006 and 2017, North Korea is desperately yearning to be recognized as the world’s ninth nuclear power – trailing behind the US, UK, France, China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Israel.

But that recognition seems elusive– despite the increasing nuclear threats by Pyongyang and the continued war of words between two of the world’s most unpredictable leaders: US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Arguing that North Koreans have little reason to give up their weapons program, the New York Times ran a story last November with a realistically arresting headline which read: “The North is a Nuclear Power Now. Get Used to it”.

But the world’s five major nuclear powers, the UK, US, France, China and Russia, who are also permanent members of the UN Security Council, have refused to bestow the nuclear badge of honour to the North Koreans.

North Korea, meanwhile, has pointed out that the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the ouster of Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi, were perhaps facilitated by one fact: none of these countries had nuclear weapons or had given up developing nuclear weapons.

“And that is why we will never give up ours,” a North Korean diplomat was quoted as saying.

Dr M.V. Ramana, Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia, told IPS there is, however, hope in the recent placatory moves by North and South Korea.

“I think that the situation can return to a calmer state, although it is entirely possible that this calmer state would involve North Korea holding on to nuclear weapons. I suspect that for the time being the world will have to live with North Korea’s nuclear arsenal,” he added.

“Although that is not a desirable goal, there is no reason why one should presume that North Korea having nuclear weapons is any more of a problem than India, Pakistan, or Israel, or for that matter, China, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, or the United States,” said Dr Ramana, author of The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India, Penguin Books, New Delhi (2012).

“I think the greater problem is the current leadership of the United States that has been making provocative statements and taunts. I think it is for the powerful countries to start the process of calming down the rhetoric and initiate negotiations with North Korea.”

Also, any peace process should be based on reciprocal moves: one cannot simply expect North Korea to scale down its programs without corresponding moves by the United States, he declared.

Jayantha Dhanapala, a former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs (1998-2003), told IPS there is little doubt that North Korea, (also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), has acquired a nuclear weapon capability and the means of delivering it to the mainland of the USA.

That this is clearly in defiance of international norms and a violation of international law and Security Council resolutions is also clear, he noted.

Those norms, quite apart from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), now include the recently negotiated Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, or the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty, the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons, with the goal of leading towards their total elimination.

It was adopted on 7 July 2017, but neither the USA nor the DPRK have acceded to it, said Dhanapala a former President of Pugwash (2007-17),

He also pointed out that the persistent efforts of the DPRK since the end of the Korean War to conclude a just and equitable peace with the USA have been rebuffed again and again.

“Past agreements and talks both bilateral and multilateral have failed and we are now witnessing the puerile antics of two leaders engaged in the mutual recrimination of two school-yard bullies asserting that one man’s nuclear button is bigger than the other’s while tensions reminiscent of the Cold War build up alarmingly.”

Such escalation reached dangerous proportions at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis where the historical record proves that the world was saved from nuclear catastrophe by sheer luck.

“We cannot trust to luck anymore,” he warned.

“Some small steps between the two Koreas hold promise of a dialogue beginning on the eve of the Winter Olympics. This must be the opportunity for all major powers to intervene and resume negotiations. The Secretary-General of the UN must act and act now,” he added.

The number of nuclear weapons in the world has declined significantly since the end of the Cold War: down from approximately 70,300 in 1986 to an estimated 14,550, according to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

According to US intelligence sources, North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is anywhere between 20 to 50 weapons. The US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) estimates a total of over 50 weapons.

Joseph Gerson, President of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security, told IPS that successive North Korean governments have pursued their nuclear weapons program for two primary reasons: to ensure the survival of the Kim Dynasty and to preserve the survival of the North Korean state.

“As Scott Snyder (a Senior Fellow for Korea Studies and Director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy Council on Foreign Relations) taught us years ago, there is a logic – potentially deadly as is the case with any nuclear weapons program – to the development of North Korea’s deterrent nuclear arsenal.”

Beginning with the Korean War, the United States has threatened and or prepared to initiate nuclear war against North Korea. These threats have added resonance for North Koreans as a consequence of the United States military having destroyed 90% of all structures north of the 38th parallel during the Korean War.

Gerson said it is also worth noting that in the wake of the 1994 U.S.-DPRK nuclear crisis, North Korea was prepared to trade its nuclear weapons program in exchange for security guarantees, normalization of relations and economic development assistance.

The United States failed to fulfill its commitments under the 1994 Agreed Framework, by refusing to deliver promised oil supplies and endlessly delaying its promised construction of two light water nuclear reactors in exchange for the suspension of the DPRK nuclear weapons program.

In 2000, former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright negotiated a comprehensive agreement with North Korea. And President Clinton was to travel to Pyongyang to finalize the agreement, but with the political crisis caused by the disputed outcome of the 2000 Presidential Election, he did not make that trip.

Among the first disastrous orders of business of the Bush Administration was the sabotaging of that agreement. This, in turn, led to North Korea’s first nuclear weapons test, said Gerson, author of “Empire and the Bomb: How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World”, “The Sun Never Sets…Confronting the Network of U.S. Foreign Military Bases”, and “With Hiroshima Eyes: Atomic War, Nuclear Extortion and Moral Imagination”.

While expectations for the meeting of North and South Korean officials, currently underway, are low, said Gerson, the world should be celebrating South Korean President Moon’s winter Olympic-related diplomatic initiatives and the resulting functional Olympic Truce.

By welcoming North Korean athletes to participate in the Olympics and by postponing threatening U.S.-South Korean military “exercises,” President Trump’s “my nuclear button is bigger than yours” –ratcheting up of dangers of war have been sidelined– he pointed out.

Following his inauguration last year, President Moon announced that he had a veto over the possibility of a disastrous U.S. initiated second Korean War. Having exercised that veto and forced Trump’s hand, he has opened the way for deeper diplomacy and peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Gerson said: “There remains, of course, the danger the Olympic Truce will simply serve as a temporary reprieve, with President Trump, beleaguered by the Muller investigation and seemingly endless scandals, again ratcheting up tensions. Disastrous war remains a possibility should the nuclear monarch opt for a desperate and deadly maneuver in his struggle for political survival.”

There never was, nor will there be, a military solution to the U.S.-North Korean nuclear crisis, and as U.S. military authorities have repeated warned, given Seoul’s proximity to North Korean artillery, even a conventional U.S. military attack against North Korea would result in hundreds of thousands of South Korean casualties and could escalate to uncontrollable and genocidal nuclear war.

The way forward requires direct U.S.-North Korean negotiations, possibly in multi-lateral frameworks like the Six Party Talks, Gerson noted.

As the growing international consensus advocates, resolution of the tensions will necessitate some form of a “freeze for freeze” agreement, limiting North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs in exchange for halting U.S. threats to destroy or overturn the North Korean government and to implement previous commitments to normalization of relations.

With this foundation in place, future diplomacy can address finally ending the Korea War by replacing the Armistice Agreement with a peace treaty and building on numerous proposals for the creation of a Northeast Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone.

In the end, Gerson said, the only way to prevent similar nuclear weapons proliferation crises is for the nuclear powers to finally fulfill their Article VI Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligation to negotiate the complete elimination of their nuclear arsenals.

As the Nobel Peace Laureate and senior Manhattan Project scientists Joseph Rotblat warned, humanity faces a stark choice. “We can either completely eliminate the world’s nuclear weapons, or we will witness their global proliferation and the nuclear wars that will follow. Why? Because no nation will long tolerate what it perceives to be an unjust hierarchy of nuclear terror.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Why the #MeToo Movement Disrupts the Creeping Commodification of Feminismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/creeping-commodification-feminism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=creeping-commodification-feminism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/creeping-commodification-feminism/#comments Mon, 08 Jan 2018 16:43:12 +0000 Rangita de Silva de Alwis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153782 Rangita de Silva de Alwis is Associate Dean of International Affairs, University of Pennsylvania Law School & Advisor, UN SDG Fund

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Rangita de Silva de Alwis is Associate Dean of International Affairs, University of Pennsylvania Law School & Advisor, UN SDG Fund

By Rangita de Silva de Alwis
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 8 2018 (IPS)

As the 62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations in New York draws near, women from every corner of the world will convene to deliberate on the theme of CSW 2018: Challenges and Opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls. This year, the theme of empowerment has added significance. The #MeToo movement has shocked our collective conscience and made it impossible to ignore that empowerment goes far beyond economic agency.

Rangita de Silva de Alwis

Women’s economic empowerment has enormous consequence. Research from McKinsey & Company shows that gender equality adds U.S. $12 trillion to the global economy, yet women are conspicuously absent from board rooms and in some communities, school rooms. The evidence is now clear, when women are absent from the market place, the market suffers.

Although the cost analysis is important, the #MeToo movement has helped unmask the way in which sometimes women’s economic participation pays lip service to women’s power, while serving those in power. Feminism’s urgent charge is not to commodify women through glossy stories and data, but to pierce those veils to identify the underlying power structures and structural barriers that prevent women’s access to and retention in the market.

Feminism’s latest incarnation, “economic feminism,” poses a complicated challenge to the pursuit of gender equality around the world. By providing legal economic rights to women empowerment is thus framed as voluntary, and structural barriers are normalized.

Herein the champions of economic feminism proudly parade entrepreneurial women as proof of gender equality, a byproduct of a transformation in a society that sees value in women. In this cultural shift, if a woman is not in the marketplace, it is because she has made a choice not to work – and not because of debilitating structural inequalities.

However, this thinking masks patriarchy’s power over women. Economic feminism, in its unquestioned authority, can pose a threat to women’s advancement around the world. The importance attached to economic instrumentalist arguments for women’s rights can hide unexamined challenges.

Without a doubt, the plethora of recent research confirming gender equality significantly boosts economic growth from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), as well as the aforementioned McKinsey study, is to be celebrated for giving a tangible economic reason for countries to improve the status of women.

Unfortunately, this message has been warped by some economies, and economic policies such as Abenomics in Japan supplant important social change policies on sexual abuse and hold back feminism’s goal of full realization of gender equality under law. The reality is that women continue to face inequality that goes beyond just economic opportunity.

Several countries, notably Japan, have put forward “win-win” economic policies, but they ignore controversial and difficult social policies such as violence against women. This approach is similar to the nations that peddled the “Asian Values” theory in the 1990s. The better approach is to reveal the interconnectedness of women’s economic participation with equal protection of laws.

For example, in many corners of the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, women have unequal access to property and land. Globally, women’s unequal access to citizenship, residency, inheritance, and decision-making in public and private often subordinate women’s economic participation.

Gender equality in all laws, most importantly family laws, have a profound impact on shaping and advancing women’s economic participation. In many countries, laws that regulate women in their families require women to get permission from their husbands to travel and disallow married mothers to confer citizenship on their children. Several nations have legislation that do not recognize women as heads of household and control their free movement.

Further, laws around the world permit underage and forced marriage for girls. Every two seconds, a girl is forced into marriage. Women married as children will reach one billion by 2030, according to UNICEF.

Martha Minow, the former Dean of Harvard Law School, has argued that the rules of family law construct not only roles and duties of men and women, but can shape rules about employment and commerce, and perhaps the governance of the state.

And not to be forgotten is that violence is one of the most insidious barriers to women’s economic empowerment. Where a woman suffers sexual and other forms of abuse, her capacity to work and function are severely impaired – Fortune estimates that it costs the US $500 billion, but the human cost cannot be computed.

Fortune argues that when talking about equality, the focus should include violence, or more specifically, violence against women. And according to McKinsey, violence is one of the biggest factors holding American women and all other women back.

Feminism’s and the #MeToo movements’ power lies in its potential to disrupt seemingly immutable gender norms. The international women’s rights community, as it convenes in New York in March, should not be swayed by the promise of economic opportunity alone, it must continue to press on issues of violence, sexual abuse and discrimination that disallow women from participating in economic activity, and inhibit women’s full empowerment.

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Excerpt:

Rangita de Silva de Alwis is Associate Dean of International Affairs, University of Pennsylvania Law School & Advisor, UN SDG Fund

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Religion: Between ‘Power’ and ‘Force’http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/religion-power-force/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=religion-power-force http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/religion-power-force/#comments Wed, 03 Jan 2018 07:53:29 +0000 Azza Karam http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153716 Azza Karam, is Senior Advisor UNFPA; Coordinator, UN Interagency Task Force on Religion

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Azza Karam. Credit: UN photo

By Azza Karam
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 3 2018 (IPS)

In 1994, Dr. David R. Hawkins wrote a book positing the difference between power and force (Power vs. Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior – the latest revised version came out in 2014).

Basing his hypothesis on the science of kinetics, Dr. Hawkins made a case for how human consciousness – and the physical body – can tell the difference between power, which is positive, and force, which is not. An example of power over force is illustrated as Gandhi’s non-violent resistance to the force of British colonialism.

Power is slow, steady, and long lasting, whereas force is moving, fast, and tends to both create counter-force, and eventually exhaust itself. Dr. Hawkins’ argument, often labeled as ‘spiritual’, lays the groundwork for how faith, or belief, is a source of power, and, to coin a phrase, it’s all good.

Historically, from the first century’s Lucretius, to 16th Century Machiavelli, to 18th Century’s Voltaire and David Hume, through to modern day Richard Dawkins and others among the New Atheists, it has long been argued, in different ways, that religion —particularly as manifested through religious institutions — is, in Hawkins’ terms, more pertinent to the realm of ‘force’.

And yet, it is still largely towards these religious leaders, and religious institutions, that the international community (now increasingly shepherded by many governments) is looking, as a means to (re)solve a myriad of human development and humanitarian challenges.

These challenges include poverty, migration, environmental degradation, children’s rights, harmful social practices, ‘violent extremism’ (often narrowed down only to the religious variety), and even armed conflict. Religious leaders, and occasionally faith-based organizations, are posited as the panacea to all these, and more.

The notion of partnering with religious actors as one of the means to mobilise communities (socially, economically and even politically), to seek to (re)solve longstanding human development challenges, has evolved significantly inside the United Nations system over the last decade. But the intent of the outreach from largely secular institutions towards religious ones, has changed in the last couple of years.

The rationale for partnership, as argued by the diverse members of the United Nations Interagency Task Force on Partnership with Religious Actors for Sustainable Development (or the UN Task Force on Religion, for short) in 2009, was based on certain facts: that religious NGOs are part of the fabric of each civil society, and therefore bridging between the secular and religious civic space is key to strong advocacy and action for human rights (think the Civil Rights Movement in the USA); that religious institutions are the oldest and most long-standing mechanisms of social service provision (read development including health, education, sanitation, nutrition, etc.); and that some religious leaders are strong influencers (if not gatekeepers) of certain social norms – including especially some of the harmful social practices that hurt girls and women.

Thus, the UN Interagency Task Force developed guidelines for engagement with religious actors, based on a decade of learning, consultations and actual engagement among 17 diverse UN entities and almost 500 faith-based NGOs. These guidelines stipulate, among other aspects, engagement with those who are committed to all human rights. Thus, there is to be no room for cherry-picking, or so-called ‘strategic’ selectivity about which rights to honour, and which to conveniently turn a blind eye to.

When the specific religious actors who are committed to all human rights, are convened, even around one development or humanitarian issue, the ‘power’ in the convening space is palpable, and the discourse can – and does – move hearts and minds. This was evident as far back as 2005 when UNDP started convening Arab faith leaders around the spread of HIV.

Some of the very same religious leaders who held that HIV was a ‘just punishment for sexual promiscuity’, when confronted with the scientific realities of the spread of the disease, and its very human consequences on all ages and all social strata, signed on to a statement which remains one of the most ‘progressive’ (relatively speaking) in religious discourse of the time, and some went so far as to ask for forgiveness from those living with HIV among them.

The ‘power’ of religious actors who are systematically convened together for the human rights of all, at all times, was repeatedly witnessed over the course of several UN initiatives over the years, in different countries, and at the global level. Notably, UNFPA and UNICEF convened religious leaders with other human rights actors, to effect a social transformation as witnessed in a number of communities committed to stopping the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in several sub-Saharan African countries.

The latest event took place as 2017 wound to an end, in December, when the UN Office for the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, after two years of convening religious actors – using the UN systems vetted partners and it’s Guidelines — as gatekeepers against hate speech, responded to a request from some of the religious leaders themselves, to come together from several South Asian countries (including Myanmar, Thailand, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka).

Sharing respective experiences of protecting religious minorities and standing in solidarity with the rights of all, across religions and national boundaries, created a sense of shared purpose, and above all, of possibility, hope – and yes, of power. Not a minor achievement in a time of a great deal of general confusion and sense of instability around, and with, religion.

Can the same be said of convening religious actors who are prepared to uphold a particular set of rights, even at the expense of ignoring other rights, ostensibly for the ‘greater good’? Or are we then, very possibly, inadvertently mobilising the ‘force’ of religion?

The post Religion: Between ‘Power’ and ‘Force’ appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Azza Karam, is Senior Advisor UNFPA; Coordinator, UN Interagency Task Force on Religion

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Perpetrators of Crimes against Humanity Must be Brought to Justicehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/perpetrators-crimes-humanity-must-brought-justice/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=perpetrators-crimes-humanity-must-brought-justice http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/perpetrators-crimes-humanity-must-brought-justice/#respond Wed, 20 Dec 2017 11:46:11 +0000 Geneva Centre http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153631 On the occasion of the 2017 International Day of Human Solidarity observed on 20 December, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim calls for peace for and human solidarity with, the Rohingya minority in Myanmar. The Chair of the Geneva Centre emphasized that […]

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By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Dec 20 2017 (IPS)

On the occasion of the 2017 International Day of Human Solidarity observed on 20 December, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim calls for peace for and human solidarity with, the Rohingya minority in Myanmar.

The Chair of the Geneva Centre emphasized that the forcible expulsion of more than 600,000 Rohingya from Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh has aggravated the dire human rights and humanitarian situation of the Rohingya.

He remarked inter alia that international decision-makers, members States of the United Nations and NGOs have a “moral responsibility to stand in solidarity with the Rohingya minority in Myanmar and other persecuted people worldwide.”

In this regard, Dr. Al Qassim stated that “the Geneva Centre took the initiative on 11 and 12 October 2017 to call upon the members of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations to hold a special session in solidarity with the Rohingya people and to address the situation in Myanmar.

Our call for peace, solidarity and justice in Myanmar was heard; on 5 December 2017 a special session was convened at the United Nations Office in Geneva to identify a common platform to end the atrocities committed on the Rohingya people guided by the principles of justice and human solidarity. It is only through joint action and human solidarity that world society can respond with a unified voice to address the plight of the Rohingya people in Rakhine State and in Bangladesh,” stated Dr. Al Qassim.

Although the holding of the special session on the human rights situation of Rohingya Muslim population and other minorities in the Rakhine Sate of Myanmar reached its objective, the world society must keep its gear high in calling for peace and social justice. Dr. Al Qassim added:

Our efforts to address the situation in Myanmar will be in vain if the international community limits its action to include the adoption of resolutions and declarations in support of the Rohingya people.

Endemic poverty, violence and stark inequalities remain high in Rakhine State. Once the Rohingya refugees start to return to their home societies as envisaged in the ‘Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State’ signed on 23 November between Bangladesh and Myanmar which presupposes that it will become safe for them to do so, the main task will lie in rebuilding a safe, stable and inclusive society for all.

The Rohingya people and other minorities in Rakhine State must be allowed to enjoy full and unconditional legal protection and fundamental freedoms. I appeal to the government of Myanmar to review and revoke the 1982 Citizenship law that degrades the status of the Rohingya people and other minorities to second-class citizens. All citizens of Myanmar are entitled to enjoy equal and inclusive citizenship rights,” stated Dr. Al Qassim.

In conclusion, he added that perpetrators of crimes against humanity must be brought to justice. Strengthening accountability and transitional justice in post-conflict Myanmar are imperative to end impunity and bring peace and stability to the region.

Myanmar must take its future into its own hands and address all human rights concerns deriving from the current situation in Rakhine State. Decision-makers in Myanmar must remain committed to developing a peaceful and inclusive society in which the Rohingya people and other minorities are considered as integral components of the society of Myanmar and the international community must continue to assist victims to ensure their livelihoods and Bangladesh to enable it to be in a position to provide them with decent shelter,” concluded Dr. Al Qassim.

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Dr. Al Qassim: “The promotion of Arabic language and culture is key to enhance cultural diversity and promote peaceful relations between peoples“http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/dr-al-qassim-promotion-arabic-language-culture-key-enhance-cultural-diversity-promote-peaceful-relations-peoples/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dr-al-qassim-promotion-arabic-language-culture-key-enhance-cultural-diversity-promote-peaceful-relations-peoples http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/dr-al-qassim-promotion-arabic-language-culture-key-enhance-cultural-diversity-promote-peaceful-relations-peoples/#respond Mon, 18 Dec 2017 18:01:13 +0000 Geneva Centre http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153606 On the occasion of the 2017 World Arabic Language Day, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue H. E. Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim stated that the increased use of Arabic language worldwide is key to build bridges between peoples and to enhancing intercultural understanding between Arabs and […]

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By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Dec 18 2017 (Geneva Centre)

On the occasion of the 2017 World Arabic Language Day, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue H. E. Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim stated that the increased use of Arabic language worldwide is key to build bridges between peoples and to enhancing intercultural understanding between Arabs and non-Arabs.

Dr. Al Qassim noted that the Arabic language is spoken in more than 20 countries and is the mother tongue of approximately 400 million people. It is also recognised as one of the six official languages of the United Nations thus belonging to the common heritage of mankind.

Arabic has emerged as a global language represented by its many dialects in the Arab region. Since time immemorial, it has been spoked by many different peoples and ethnic groups. The spread of the Arabic language during the era of Prophet Muhammed PBUH has enriched and contributed to diverse and multicultural societies in the Middle East and in North Africa,” said Dr. Al Qassim.

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman highlighted likewise that Arabic literary scripts during the Islamic medieval age contributed greatly to the social, cultural and civic evolution of today’s modern societies. Arabic mathematicians – he noted – flourished in the medieval age in which disciplines such as algebra and the very notion of algorithms emerged and laid the foundation for inter alia geometry, computer sciences and other related disciplines. Hence, it would be scientifically more correct to describe European civilizations as Semito-Christian and not just Judeo-Christian to include its Arabic component.

Arabic was the lingua franca for trade and science during the medieval age. The world witnessed immense social evolution under the Golden Age of the Islamic World which is hardly recognized in our modern societies,” remarked Dr. Al Qassim.

Although the Geneva Centre’s Chairman emphasized the important role of Arabic as a transmitter of knowledge and science, he noted that the rise of anti-Arab sentiments in societies worldwide contribute to Arabophobia and the stigmatization of people of Arab origin.

He noted that the increased use of Arabic language has the potential to transmit Arabic culture, literature and art to a wider audience and contribute to alleviate the rise of xenophobia, bigotry and racism.

Against this background, the Geneva Centre’s Chairman remarked that the increased exposure of Arabic culture and language to non-Arabs will contribute to enhance intercultural understanding and tolerance. He said that scholarships earmarked for Arabic culture and language at universities in the Arab region can play a vital role in fostering inter-cultural dialogue.

Youth are the backbone of our societies. They must not fall victim to heinous and poisonous ideologies that spread hate, bigotry and racism. Decision-makers must encourage youths to expand their horizons and cultivate peaceful relations with peoples from other regions of the world.

Scholarships for students to study Arabic language and culture are suitable options to improve inter-ethnic relations, celebrate cultural diversity and create mutual bonds between Arab and non-Arab communities. It is only through dialogue and the celebration of diversity that we can overcome and respond to the rise of xenophobia and Arabophobia that prevails in many societies.

Renowned educational institutions such as the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies have succeeded in becoming a meeting point for scholars from the Arab region and the West. This approach has laid the foundation for enhancing interaction and for deepening intercultural understanding between the Arabs and non-Arabs. The Oxford Centre has made impressive efforts to depict Arabic art, architecture and calligraphy at its premises and to promote the learning of Arabic language to its students.

The promotion of Arabic language and culture is key to enhancing cultural diversity and uniting spirits and minds in calling forth a more peaceful world,” asserted Dr. Al Qassim.

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Civil Society Activists Speak Out– Despite Threatshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/civil-society-activists-speak-despite-threats/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-activists-speak-despite-threats http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/civil-society-activists-speak-despite-threats/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 13:49:12 +0000 Pascal Laureyn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153575 They are young, smart and willing to take the rough road. Victor, Jubilanté and Khaled are independent fighters who speak out with a force that could possibly change the appearances of their countries, and beyond. These ‘sparks of hope’ were awarded with the Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovation Awards for their contributions to civil society. Nigeria, […]

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Victor Ugo dedicates the award he won to all Nigerians coping with mental illness. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

By Pascal Laureyn
SUVA, Fiji, Dec 15 2017 (IPS)

They are young, smart and willing to take the rough road. Victor, Jubilanté and Khaled are independent fighters who speak out with a force that could possibly change the appearances of their countries, and beyond.

These ‘sparks of hope’ were awarded with the Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovation Awards for their contributions to civil society. Nigeria, Guyana and Egypt already heard about them, the award will make their endeavors known internationally—and it’s high time to hear these inspiring voices.

Creating awareness for mental health in Nigeria. Motivating young creatives in Guyana to speak out using digital media. Defending human rights and freedom of speech in Egypt. These are some of the missions they have dedicated their lives to. Victor Ugo, Jubilanté Cutting and Khaled al-Balshy received the yearly award in Fiji last week.

The Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovation Awards seeks to promote individuals and organizations for their excellence and bravery in creating social change. “They inspire compassion and empathy at a time of growing fear, xenophobia, and hate speech,” says Graça Machel, the former First Lady of South Africa.

During the International Civil Society Week (ICSW)— highlighting a conference organized by CIVICUS in Fiji’s capital Suva – the winners had the opportunity to capture a large audience eager to learn about their projects. The interest was overwhelming and often left them exhausted after the daily rounds of interviews and panel discussions. The fourth winner of the prestigious prize – the philanthropic Guerrila Foundation of Germany – was not present in Fiji.

Every year, CIVICUS – a civil society organizations alliance – brings the ICSW to another location to “promote and defend a more just and sustainable future.” Fiji hosted the 2017 event, highlighting the potential and problems of the Pacific.

Victor Ugo (Nigeria) – Best organization of civil society

Victor has the confident stride of a young man with proven achievements while walking from venue to venue at the conference in Suva. He shows no trace of the depression he once suffered from. He was diagnosed with the condition almost 4 years ago. And he was lucky, he got treatment. Most Nigerians who have psychiatric ailments never get help.

Victor Ugo patiently answers questions of interested journalists: “The award makes us more desirable.” Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

“Mental healthcare is none existent in Nigeria,” explains Victor. “There is no knowledge. Not just illiterate people, but also university professors think that mental illnesses are caused by evil ghosts. Patients get punished for their disease.”

As a consequence of the stigma, mental health facilities are really poor. “There are only 200 psychiatrists in Nigeria, a country of 186 million people,” an exasperated Victor says. “And many of them go into banking because they can’t find a job.”

After his depression the young doctor founded the Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI). Two years later, it has become Nigeria’s largest mental health organization. MANI combats the stigma, creates awareness and promotes services for mental health. “Most people don’t know the symptoms and that it can be treated.”

Therefor MANI encourages conversation on social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are platforms used for online campaigns on depression, bipolar disorders or bullying. “We explain how a depression feels like. We make people talk about it,” says Victor. Patients share their experience, family and friends can ask for help. “We try to find people who want to talk about it. We call them our ‘champions of mental health’.”

Media sometimes spread misconceptions about mental health or ignore it completely. “We correct the media so that it is understood that it’s about diseases,” the young man explains. “Suicide, for example. We teach the press how to report on suicides without encouraging it.”

MANI is also creating an online platform to link doctors to patients, like Uber does with drivers and passengers. When a patient asks for help, a therapist in the area is alerted. They can make an appointment after they agree on the price. The platform will be launched next year.

“Today, in villages, patients are still being flogged and chained because of traditional beliefs,” Victor sighs. The taboo needs to be broken. “The less stigma, the more people will ask for help. That will create a market that can encourage more students to become a psychiatrist,” says the hopeful award winner. He dedicates the award to all Nigerians coping with mental illness. “The award makes us more desirable. Everybody wants to join.”

Jubilanté Cutting (Guyana) – Youth Activist Award

At just 19, Jubilanté Cutting founded the Guyana Animation Network (GAN) to help empower young people with skills in digital media and animation. During the conference in Fiji, she was not only promoting the business model of GAN but also trying to inspire. When the stylishly dressed young woman engages in discussions on civil society, she easily impresses people with her enthusiasm and motivational calls to action.

Jubilanté Cutting: “We help children to think out of the box, to learn something about themselves and express themselves.” Credit: Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

“I got the spark when I was 17, at a workshop on art, technology and animation in Trinidad and Tobago. There I met many talented people who were pushing out Caribbean style media products. It was an explosion of talent, it made my creative juices flowing. Although I noticed quickly that I’m not very talented as an animator. But I do have a talent for networking, I decided to focus on that and help to develop Guyana’s digital and creative industries,” Jubilanté concludes.

Two years later, the young law student created GAN. In its first year GAN has reached than 3,500 people through summer camps, events, talks in schools and social media. The main purpose is to change a way of thinking. “Art is still seen as a hobby, not as a professional career,” says Jubilanté who taps her fingernails on the table out of frustration.

“But digital creatives can have a profitable career. If we could attach a price on creativity, many people would already be millionaires. We have to embrace creativity as more than just fun and teach people how to monetize it.”

And no better way to learn new skills and creative mind sets than to start at a young age. “Children are an important target for us,” Jubilanté points out. “Our society is ignoring the young ones. I use every forum I get to emphasize this. Children are born in the digital age. We have to learn them to use that technology in a responsible way. That’s why our organization opens its doors to children, because we acknowledge how transformational they are,” says the young woman.

Jubilanté tells enthusiastically what happened at one of her workshops. When teaching software to create digital graphics, the children aged 6 and 7 were quicker than the older ones to grasp the complicated tool. “Children are unafraid to learn, that’s critical for creative development. But books only teach them things in a structured way. We help children to think out of the box, to motivate them to learn something about themselves and express themselves.”

It took Jubilanté and her team of co-workers and volunteers a year to get the attention of the government. “We need more infrastructure, training and equipment to break the barriers for development. The Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Award won us the recognition of the government and it draws attention to Guyana and the whole Caribbean. Now people know that something is happening there with digital media.

At her 21, Jubilanté is already a force that drives things forward on sheer will power. GAN is only one year old, but she is thinking big. “I want to spread the Caribbean culture. Everyone already loves Bob Marley and Rhianna. I will make them love Caribbean animation and promote our own artists.”

Khaled al-Balshy (Egypt) – Individual Activist Award

Khaled al-Balshy is a prominent human rights defender and journalist fighting to protect free speech. In Egypt, that is no easy job. The government has increasingly cracked down on the press and has become one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists. In a nation where media are under constant attack, Khaled is struggling to defend freedom of the press.

The journalist is gifted with the calmness necessary to face hardship. Khaled knows all too well how an Egyptian cell looks like. He has a suspended 1 year sentence for harboring journalists wanted for expressing critical views. His news website al-Bedaiah is blocked. He was accused for “insulting the police” on social media. The courts have 10 pending cases against him. These are just a few of the harassments he has grown accustomed to.

“The situation in Egypt is one of the worst in the world. More than 12 journalists have been murdered in the last three years. More than 20 are in prison, some without clear accusations. Many others are being stopped from writing and publishing,” Khaled explains for the umpteenth time. He gives many interviews at the conference in Fiji, always with the same energy and indignation.

Known to be an ardent defender of press freedom, Khaled leads numerous initiatives for the detained and disappeared journalists. “I write about their cases. I visit their families. We organize meetings and we create groups that helps lawyers with the legal process.” Sometimes that leads to success. “When a journalist is released, we are happy. But only for a few minutes. Sometimes they have spent years in prison without a clear accusation.”

“This absurd dictatorship is feels threatened, why else would they imprison us?” Khaled continues. “They are afraid of us. When we write, we make a change. If we just tell the truth all the time, that change will come. We did this with Mubarak, we can do it again with al-Sisi,” says Khaled. “The only way to protect freedom of expression is to exercise it and to denounce the violations against it.”

“When I knew I won the Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Award, I was sad for 3 days. I’m getting an award, while people are spending years in prison. My son convinced me that this award is for everyone, for the people I’m fighting for. It’s a message to the imprisoned journalists that their voices can break through prison walls.” The Tunisian translator wipes tears off her face when she repeats his words in English. Her country had a successful uprising, the one in Egypt has failed.

But Khaled has hope. He will continue to fight. “I want to make that change for my son, he is making me do this.”


This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world met in Suva, Fiji, December 4 through December 8 for International Civil Society Week..

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Shedding Diplomacy, Roberto Savio Speaks about Fear as a Tool to Gain Powerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/shedding-diplomacy-roberto-savio-speaks-fear-tool-gain-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=shedding-diplomacy-roberto-savio-speaks-fear-tool-gain-power http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/shedding-diplomacy-roberto-savio-speaks-fear-tool-gain-power/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:17:39 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153533 This op-ed by Roberto Savio, IPS founder and President Emeritus is adapted from a statement he made as a panelist on Migration and Human Solidarity, A Challenge and an Opportunity for Europe and the MENA region held on 14 December at the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue.

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This op-ed by Roberto Savio, IPS founder and President Emeritus is adapted from a statement he made as a panelist on Migration and Human Solidarity, A Challenge and an Opportunity for Europe and the MENA region held on 14 December at the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

At the outset my thanks to Dr Hanif Hassan Ali Al Kassim, and Ambassador Idriss Jazairy who lead the Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue for organizing this panel discussion at a critical moment in history. The Centre, is one of the few actors for peace and cooperation between the Arab world and Europe. As a representative of global civil society, I think it will be more meaningful if I speak without the constraints of diplomacy, and I make frank and unfettered reflections.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

The misuse of religion, of populism and xenophobia, is a sad reality, which is not clearly addressed any longer, but met with hypocrisy and not outright denunciation. Only now the British are realizing that they voted for Brexit, on the basis of a campaign of lies. But nobody has taken on publicly Johnson or Farage, the leaders of Brexit, after Great Britain accepted to pay, as one of the many costs of divorce, at least 45 billion Euro, instead of saving 20 billion Euro, as claimed by the ‘brexiters’. And there are only a few analysis on why political behaviour is more and more a sheer calculation, without any concern for truth or the good of the country.

President Trump could be a good case study on the relations between politics and populism. Just a few days ago the United States has declared that they are withdrawing from the UN Global Compact on Migration. This has nothing to do with the interest or the identity of United States, which has built itself as a country of immigrants. It has to do with the fact that this decision is popular with a part of American population, which is voting for President Trump, like the evangelicals. I have here to show the message they are circulating, after the declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This is what it is said in the Bible. If we recreate the world described in the bible, Jesus will make his second coming to earth, and only the just will be rewarded. And therefore they think that Trump brings the world closer to the return of Christ, and therefore he acts for the good of their beliefs. Evangelicals are close to thirty million, and they strongly believe that when the second coming of Jesus will happen, he will recognize only them as the believers who are on the right path. Trump is not an evangelical, and he has shown little interest in religion. But, like each of his actions, he is coherent with his views during the campaign, which brought together all the dissatisfied people catapulting him into the White House. Everything he does, is not in the interest of the world or of the United States. He is just focused on keeping the support of his electors – those who do not come from big towns, academia, media and the Silicon Valley. They come mainly from impoverished and uninformed white electors, who feel left out from the benefits of globalization. They believe those benefits went to the elite, to the big towns and to the few winners, and believe that there is an international plot to humiliate the United States. So, climate change for them and Trump is a Chinese hoax ! During the first year, Trump can well have a shocking approval rating of 32%, the lowest in history for a President of United States. But 92% of his voters would re-elect him. And as only 50% of Americans vote, he can conveniently ignore general public opinion.

It is not the place here to go deeper into American political trends. But Trump is a perfect example to see why a large number of Europeans, or even countries like Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic, are ignoring the decisions of the European Union on migrants, and why populism, xenophobia and nationalism are on the rise everywhere.

Fear has become the tool to get to power.

Historians agree that two main engines of change in history, are greed and fear.

Well, we have been trained, since the collapse of communism, to look to greed as a positive value. Markets (no man or ideas), was the new paradigm. States were an obstacle to a free market. Globalization, it was famously said, would lift all boats, and benefit everybody. In fact, markets without rules was self-destructive, and not all boats were lifted, but only yachts, the bigger the better. The rich became richer, and the poor poorer. The process is so speedy, that ten years ago the richest 528 people had the same wealth of 2.3 billion people. This year, they have become 8, and this number is likely to shrink soon. All statistics are clear, and globalization based on free market is losing some of its shine.

But meanwhile we have lost many codes of communication. In the political debate there is no more reference to social justice, solidarity, participation, equity, the values in the modern constitutions, on which we built international relations. Now the codes are competition, success, profit and individual achievement. During my lectures at schools, I am dismayed to see a materialistic generation, who do not care to vote, to change the world. And the distance between citizens and political institutions is increasing every day. The only voices reminding us of justice and solidarity, and are voices from religious leaders: Pope Bergoglio, the Dalai Lama, Bishop Tutu, and the Grand Mufti Muhammad Hussein, just to name the most prominent. And with media who are now also based on market as the only criteria, those voices are becoming weaker.

After a generation of greed, we are now in a generation of fear. We should notice that, before the great economic crisis of 2009 (provoked by greed: banks have paid until now 280 billion dollars of penalties and fines), xenophobe and populist parties were always minorities (with exception of Le Pen in France). The crisis created fear and uncertainties, and then immigration started to rise, especially after the invasion of Libya in 2001 and Iraq in 2013.We are now in the seventh year of the Syrian drama, which displaced 45% of the population. Merkel is now paying a price for her acceptance of Syrian refugees, and it is interesting to note that two thirds of the votes to Alternative Fur Deutschland, the populist and xenophobe party, comes from former East Germany, that has few refugees but an income, which is nearly 25% lower. Fear, again, has been the engine for change of German history.

Europe was direct lyresponsible for these migrations. A famous cartoonist El Roto from El Pais, has made a cartoon showing bombs flying in the air, and migrant’s boats coming from the sea. “We send them bombs, and they send us migrants”. But there is no recognition of this. Those who escape from hunger and war are now depicted as invaders. Countries who until few years ago, like the Nordic ones, were considered synonymous with civic virtues, and who spent a considerable budget for international cooperation, are now erecting walls and barbed wire. Greed and fear have been so successfully exploited by the new nationalist, populist and xenophobe parties, that now they keep growing at every election, from Austria to the Netherlands, from Czech Republic to Great Britain (where they created Brexit ), and then Germany, and in a few months, Italy. The three horses of apocalypse, which in the thirties were the basis for the Second Wold War: nationalism, populism and xenophobia, are back with growing popular support, and politicians openly riding them.

But what is shocking is that we have now a new element of division: religion, which is widely used against immigrants and should instead unite us. Religion has always been used to get power and legitimacy. Common people never started the wars of religion in Europe but by princes and kings. A few years ago we did commemorate the expulsion first of the Jews, and then of the Moors, from Spain, where they lived in harmony and peace with the Christians, forming a civilization of the three cultures. And a few weeks ago, there was a great march in Warsaw, ignored by the media, with 40.000 people, many coming from all over Europe and the United States. They marched in the name of God, crying death to the Jews and Muslim.

But while Protestant, Catholic, Muslim and Jew religious leaders engage in a positive dialogue for peace and cooperation, a number of self-proclaimed defenders of the faith, are bringing fear, misery and death. And it should be clear that we have no clash of religions. It is a clash of those who use religion for power and legitimacy. And they ride an unrealistic historical dream. To return to a world, which is gone, where mines will reopen, the country will go back to its former glory: a world, that dreams not of a better future, but of a better past. Africa is going to double its population, with 80% of its population under 35 years; while in Europe it will be just 20%. There is no hope for Europe to be viable in a global economy and in a competitive world, without substantial immigration. Yet, to speak about that in the political debate, is now a kiss of death.

In conclusion, I must stress that we face a sad reality, which cannot be ignored any longer, even if it is not politically correct. Ideals have always been used to gain support, even from those who did not believe them. And historians teach us that in modern times humankind has fallen into three traps: In the name of God, to divide and not to dialogue; in the name of the nation, often to rally support and bring citizens to wars; and now, in name of the profit. I think it is time to make new alliances, and launch a great powerful campaign of awareness on the false prophets, with mobilizations of media, civil society and legitimate politicians, to educate citizens that immigration must be regulated, as it is a necessity, with which Europe must live.

We must establish policies, and even after Trumps leaves the global Compact, like he left the Paris Agreement on climate change, he will remain an isolated voice, while citizens will strive for a better world, with no fears, based on common values. We must take an unpopular but vital action for education and participation. It will be unpopular and difficult we know. But if we do not take this road, human beings, who are the only ‘animals’ who do not learn from past mistakes, will again go through blood, misery and destruction.

The post Shedding Diplomacy, Roberto Savio Speaks about Fear as a Tool to Gain Power appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This op-ed by Roberto Savio, IPS founder and President Emeritus is adapted from a statement he made as a panelist on Migration and Human Solidarity, A Challenge and an Opportunity for Europe and the MENA region held on 14 December at the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue.

The post Shedding Diplomacy, Roberto Savio Speaks about Fear as a Tool to Gain Power appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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South Sudan: a Nation Tormented by a Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/south-sudan-nation-tormented-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-sudan-nation-tormented-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/south-sudan-nation-tormented-crisis/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:05:56 +0000 Kujiek Ruot http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153553 I come from Panyijar County, South Sudan, just south of where famine was declared in February this year and one of thousands of places badly hit by the conflict which enters its fifth year today. With each year the fighting continues, the hopes that I and my fellow South Sudanese had when voting for independence […]

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Oxfam in South Sudan

By Kujiek Ruot, Oxfam, South Sudan
PANYIJAR COUNTY, South Sudan, Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

I come from Panyijar County, South Sudan, just south of where famine was declared in February this year and one of thousands of places badly hit by the conflict which enters its fifth year today. With each year the fighting continues, the hopes that I and my fellow South Sudanese had when voting for independence in 2011 are dimmed.

Home has become a place where our worst memories are made in recent times. Another year passes and I wonder if I should start to ignore it, to move on and avoid more hurt. But how can you forget home? This is my home. My South Sudan.

Let me tell you a bit about my home.

If I ask you to imagine what my old home looked like, most people would picture the bad bits. You might think of the fighting that has forced people to flee for their lives, of barren lands, and of the suffering that thousands of people are currently going through.

But for me, Panyijar was always somewhere completely different; a beautiful and natural place with some of the kindest people around. It’s because of these memories that I cry when I see what is happening there today.

Panyijar County sits in the heart of huge swamps, some of the largest in the world. The waters are dotted by dozens of small islands, with lilies and natural vegetation floating in between. Rare eagles compete with the roosters to wake you in the morning. Not much plastic has reached here yet, so the waters are clear of rubbish.

The people of Panyijar have maintained the natural state of this palm tree-laden land. Were South Sudan a peaceful and developed nation, tourism would be a big earner here! And then there are the people.

Panyijar is famous for its culture of giving and sharing. Caring for others is encouraged from childhood. People tell folk tales of the perils of greed to discourage selfishness. It has even been known for families to trace the lineage of potential spouses for meanness, before getting married.

I remember you could move from one corner of the county to the next, meeting friendly faces all the way. You worried little about where to find food or a place to spend the night: someone would always welcome you. Because people had more, they had more to share when others were in need.

I cannot say there were no challenges before the conflict, but Panyijar was peaceful at least. Today, it’s a different story; a story of crisis. When the guns started blazing, thousands of people fled to the islands where they found some kind of safety but little to survive on except boiled water lily bulbs. With few latrines and clean water difficult to find, deadly diseases and suffering have followed.

The talk of the towns was once of cattle arriving from towns nearby. Now you hear of desperate people arriving, forced to flee from their homes. Diseases seem to be killing more than ever.

When, as a child, I felt unwell in the morning, my mother would give me some herbs and by late afternoon I would be back in the field playing with friends. The difference? Back then I ate nutritious food until I was full to the brim, but now the children are almost always hungry.

Food production has declined. There are few places safe enough to farm and fewer young people to do the work as many of them have been sucked into the conflict. We all keep giving and sharing whatever we may have, but with less to go around, our efforts are stretched thin.

It’s heart-breaking to see the state of a place with such huge potential. On my recent return I saw some signs that there can be better days. Community gardens set up with Oxfam’s help were flourishing, supplying some of the only vegetables in the markets.

It can’t be enough to feed the ever-growing population of the islands, but hopefully in better times more people will adopt them. I want nothing more than this place of natural beauty and wonderful people to grow and flourish.

For now, we must avert disaster. Aid agencies like Oxfam are doing all they can to stop things getting even worse and we must all keep working together to bring back my home’s lost glory and better times for South Sudan.

Peace is where it all begins.

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Arming Poor Countries Enriches Rich Countrieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/arming-poor-countries-enriches-rich-countries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=arming-poor-countries-enriches-rich-countries http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/arming-poor-countries-enriches-rich-countries/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 09:35:42 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153534 Anis Chowdhury, Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney University and the University of New South Wales; held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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The iconic statue of a knotted gun barrel outside U.N. headquarters. Credit:Tressia Boukhors/IPS.

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY/KUALA LUMPUR , Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

Although the Cold War came to an end over a quarter century ago, international arms sales only declined temporarily at the end of the last century. Instead, the United States under President Trump is extending its arms superiority over the rest of the world.

The five biggest importers were India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), China and Algeria. Indian arms imports increased by 43 per cent. Its imports during 2012–2016 were far greater than those of its regional rivals, China and Pakistan, as Pakistan’s arms imports declined by 28 per cent compared to 2007–2011. UAE imports increased by 63 per cent while Saudi Arabia’s rose a staggering 212 per cent
Meanwhile, some fast-growing developing countries are now arming themselves much faster than their growth rate. Such expensive arms imports mean less for development and the people, especially the poor and destitute who constitute several hundred million in India alone.

The end of the Cold War in the early 1990s had raised expectations of a ‘peace dividend’. Many hoped and expected the arms race to decelerate, if not cease; the resources thus saved were expected to be redeployed for development and to improve the lives of ordinary people.

But the arms trade has continued to grow in the new millennium, after falling briefly from the mid-1990s. And without the political competition of the Cold War, official development assistance (ODA) to developing countries fell in the 1990s. Such ODA or foreign aid only rose again after 9/11, the brutal terroristic attack on US symbols of global power, only to fall again after the global financial crisis.

 

Arms sales

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) latest report on the world’s arms trade offers some revealing new data. The volume of international transfers of major weapons in 2012–2016 was 8.4 per cent more than in 2007–2011, the highest for any five-year period since 1990.

As Figure 1 shows, international arms exports rose steeply until the early 1980s, after a brief decline during 1955–1960. It fell once again from the mid-1980s as Mikhail Gorbachev sought to end the Cold War which had diverted resources to military build-ups in developing countries.

Foreign sales of military arms and equipment across the world totalled $374.8 billion in 2016, the first year of growth (by 1.9 per cent), after five years of decline. American companies had a $217.2 billion lion’s share of foreign arms sales. Seven out of ten of the world’s top arms companies were American, earning $152.1 billion, with Lockheed Martin leading with $40.8 billion.

 

Arms Sales: Arming Poor Countries Enriches Rich Countries - Source: SIPRI Arms Transfer Database (20 Feb. 2017) Note: The bars show annual totals while the line shows the five-year moving average, with each data point representing an average for the five-year period ending that year. The SIPRI trend-indicator value (TIV) measures the volume of international transfers of major weapons.

Figure 1. International transfers of major weapons, 1950–2016. Source: SIPRI Arms Transfer Database (20 Feb. 2017) Note: The bars show annual totals while the line shows the five-year moving average, with each data point representing an average for the five-year period ending that year. The SIPRI trend-indicator value (TIV) measures the volume of international transfers of major weapons.

 

Arms exporters

The five biggest exporters during 2012–2016 were the United States, Russia, China, France and Germany (Figure 2).

 

 

Arms Sales: Arming Poor Countries Enriches Rich Countries - Source: SIPRI Arms Transfer Database (20 Feb. 2017)

Source: SIPRI Arms Transfer Database (20 Feb. 2017)

 

US exports of major weapons increased by 21 per cent during 2012–2016 compared to 2007–2011. The major destination was the Middle East which accounted for 47 per cent. The USA exported major weapons to at least 100 states during 2012–2016, significantly more than any other supplying country.

Russian major weapons exports increased by only 4.7 per cent. It sold weapons to only 50 states, with exports to India alone accounting for 38 per cent. Meanwhile, China’s exports increased by 74 per cent, as its share of global arms exports rose from 3.8 to 6.2 per cent. China’s arms exports to Africa grew most, by 122 per cent, to account for 22 per cent of its total arms exports.

 

Arms importers

The five biggest importers were India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), China and Algeria. Indian arms imports increased by 43 per cent. Its imports during 2012–2016 were far greater than those of its regional rivals, China and Pakistan, as Pakistan’s arms imports declined by 28 per cent compared to 2007–2011. UAE imports increased by 63 per cent while Saudi Arabia’s rose a staggering 212 per cent! Saudi Arabia is the largest buyer of US weapons followed by South Korea.

India, the world’s largest arms importer, has more of the world’s abject poor (280 million) than any other country, accounting for a third of the world’s poor living below the international poverty line of US$1.90 a day. Using a US$3.10 a day poverty line, more appropriate for a middle-income country, the number of poor in India goes up dramatically to 732 million.

A study in 2014, led by the former chairman of the Indian Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, C Rangarajan, estimated that 363 million, or 29.5 per cent of India’s 1.2 billion people, lived in poverty in 2011–2012, i.e., on less than Rs 32 daily in rural areas, and below Rs 47 a day in urban areas.

Asia and Oceania was the main importing region in 2012–2016, accounting for 43 per cent of global imports, followed by the Middle East, with 29 per cent, and African states accounting for 8.1 per cent. Between the two five year periods, arms imports in Asia and Oceania increased by 7.7 per cent and in the Middle East by 86 per cent. Arms imports by European states fell by 36 per cent while African arms imports declined by 6.6 per cent.

Tensions in Southeast Asia have driven up demand for weapons. Viet Nam’s arms imports increased by 202 per cent, pushing it to become the 10th largest arms importer in 2012–2016 from being 29th in 2007–2011. This was the fastest increase among the top ten importers. Philippines’ arms imports increased by 426 per cent while Indonesia’s grew by 70 per cent.

 

Fuelling conflicts

Six rebel groups are among the 165 identified recipients of major weapons in 2012–2016. Even though deliveries to the six accounted for no more than 0.02 per cent of major arms transfers, SIPRI argues the sales fuel conflicts.

Conflict regions alone accounted for 48 per cent of total arms imports to sub-Saharan Africa. According to SIPRI, governments fighting rebel groups used major arms against anti-government rebels.

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Excerpt:

Anis Chowdhury, Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney University and the University of New South Wales; held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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A Responsibility to Prevent Genocidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/responsibility-prevent-genocide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=responsibility-prevent-genocide http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/responsibility-prevent-genocide/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 07:43:12 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153474 Almost 70 years since the Genocide Convention was adopted, the international community still faces a continued and growing risk of genocide. On the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide, the UN launched an appeal for member states to ratify the 1948 convention by the end of 2018. […]

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Thousands of new Rohingya refugee arrivals cross the border near Anzuman Para village, Palong Khali, Bangladesh. Credit: UNHCR/Roger Arnold

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

Almost 70 years since the Genocide Convention was adopted, the international community still faces a continued and growing risk of genocide.

On the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide, the UN launched an appeal for member states to ratify the 1948 convention by the end of 2018.

“Genocide does not happen by accident; it is deliberate, with warning signs and precursors,” said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“Often it is the culmination of years of exclusion, denial of human rights and other wrongs. Since genocide can take place in times of war and in times of peace, we must be ever-vigilant,” he continued.

The Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng echoed similar sentiments, stating: “It is our inaction, our ineffectiveness in addressing the warning signs, that allows it to become a reality. A reality where people are dehumanized and persecuted for who they are, or who they represent. A reality of great suffering, cruelty, and of inhumane acts that have at the basis unacceptable motivations.”

The Convention defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.” This includes not only killing members of the group, but also causing serious bodily or mental harm and imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.

Despite the comprehensive definition of genocide in the Convention, genocide has recurred multiple times, Guterres said.

“We are still reacting rather than preventing, and acting only when it is often too late. We must do more to respond early and keep violence from escalating,” he said.

One such case may be Myanmar.

After a year of investigation, the organization Fortify Rights and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum said that there is “mounting” evidence that points to a genocide against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar with Burmese Army soldiers, police, and civilians as the major perpetrators.

“The Rohingya have suffered attacks and systematic violations for decades, and the international community must not fail them now when their very existence in Myanmar is threatened,” said Cameron Hudson from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“Without urgent action, there’s a high risk of more mass atrocities,” he continued.

More than half of Myanmar’s one million Rohingya have fled the country since violence reignited in August.

“They tried to kill us all,” 25-year-old Mohammed Rafiq from Maungdaw Township told researchers when recalling how soldiers gathered villagers and opened fire on them on 30 August. It has been the largest and fastest flow of destitute people across a border since the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

“There was nothing left. People were shot in the chest, stomach, legs, face, head, everywhere.”

Eyewitness testimony revealed that Rohingya civilians were burned alive, women and girls raped, and men and boys arrested en masse.

“These crimes thrive on impunity and inaction…condemnations aren’t enough,” said Chief Executive Officer of Fortify Rights Matthew Smith.

On the other side of the border, refugees find themselves living in overcrowded camps with limited access to food, water, and shelter. They are in need of treatment for not only their physical injuries, but also the mental and emotional scars from their traumatic experiences.

IOM spoke to some of the survivor who made the treacherous journey by boat to Bangladesh including 8-year-old Arafat. His entire family including his parents, two brothers, and a sister drowned when the fishing boat carrying them capsized in stormy weather.

“Where will I go now,” he cried, transfixed with shock.

The government’s strict restrictions on Rohingya’s daily lives also point to signs of genocide.

In 2013, authorities placed a two-child limit on Rohingya couples in two predominantly Muslim townships in Rakhine State.

Others have come forward to claim that the crisis in Myanmar may constitute genocide such as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein and the British parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

“Considering Rohingyas’ self-identify as a distinct ethnic group with their own language and culture – and [that they] are also deemed by the perpetrators themselves as belonging to a different ethnic, national, racial or religious group – given all of this, can anyone rule out that elements of genocide may be present?” al-Hussein asked.

Though the UN Human Rights Council recently condemned the systematic and gross violations of human rights in Myanmar, the Security Council has failed to act on the crisis.

As the UN appeals for the remaining 45 member states to ratify the Genocide Convention, what about nations like Myanmar who are already party to the document?

The Convention requires all states to take action to prevent and punish genocide. Not only Myanmar, but the entire international community has failed to protect Rohingya civilians from mass atrocities.

“The world has reacted with horror to the images of their flight, and the stories of murder, rape and arson brought from their still smoldering villages in North Rakhine State. But this horror will have to be matched by action on the part of the international community, if we are to avert a humanitarian disaster on both sides of the border,” said IOM’s Director-General William Lacy Swing.

Perhaps the international community may need to consider additional mechanisms to address and prevent genocide, making sure ‘never again’ really means never again.

To date, a total of 149 member states have ratified the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.

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No One Country Can Do It Alone — Towards a Migration Compacthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/no-one-country-can-alone-towards-migration-compact/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-one-country-can-alone-towards-migration-compact http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/no-one-country-can-alone-towards-migration-compact/#respond Fri, 08 Dec 2017 16:27:08 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153418 International commitment and cooperation is critical to reap the benefits and overcome the challenges of migration, stressed a leading official at the conclusion of a UN meeting. Over 400 delegates from 136 countries convened in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to review data and recommendations for the creation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular […]

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Credit: UNICEF

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 8 2017 (IPS)

International commitment and cooperation is critical to reap the benefits and overcome the challenges of migration, stressed a leading official at the conclusion of a UN meeting.

Over 400 delegates from 136 countries convened in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to review data and recommendations for the creation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration.

“We stand today tasked with the mandate to weave these challenges and opportunities into a global effort to enhance State cooperation in the management of migration,” said UN Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbour at the end of the three-day meeting.

Arbour reminded delegates of the “tragedy of large mixed flows of people on the move and how to deal with those who are ineligible for international refugee protection yet for whom humanitarian assistance and longer-term solutions are no less urgent.”

In an effort to respond to the unprecedented numbers of people fleeing conflict and poverty, member states adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants in 2016 which included an agreement to develop two global compacts for migration and refugees.

The preparatory meeting in Mexico kickstarts the formal process to create these compacts.

“It’s a historic opportunity to have such a compact,” UNICEF’s Associate Director for Gender, Rights & Civic Engagement Susana Sottoli told IPS.

The compact can help trigger political action towards the development of a longer-term global migration response, she added.

Though disappointed in the watered-down declaration which failed to include more concrete commitments, Amnesty International’s Senior Campaigner for Refugee and Migrant Rights Denise Bell told IPS that the compact is still “an important set of principles.”

Sottoli urged for a heightened and continued focus on migrant and displaced children for the compact.

Nearly half of the world’s refugees are children, while another 22 million children have been uprooted from their homes due to poverty and other factors.

Over 300,000 have been documented traveling unaccompanied around the world in recent years, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.

“We have seen evidence that tell us about terrible situations of children and adolescents in detention centers…in conditions that none of us would ever imagine is acceptable for our own children,” Sottoli told IPS.

In Libya, the main entry point to the Mediterranean Sea and thus Europe, militias hold migrants in detention centers in order to ask their families for ransom money. Women and children have been found living in cramped spaces in militia-run detention centers with little basic services or even access to the outdoors.

In one of the centers, UNICEF spoke to 16-year-old Patti who fled war and poverty in Nigeria.

“The journey was hard. Very hard…we walked for two weeks to reach Libya, sometimes walking and going without water for two days,” she said.

Patti was captured at sea, brought back, and arrested in Libya.

“When I was in the sea, I was so scared. I was just comforted by my dreams of going to Europe and making a good life for myself and my siblings,” she said.

Footage revealing migrants being sold at an auction has also garnered international outrage, prompting the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to evacuate and help hundreds of West African migrants including children return home.

“We are trying to bring these people back into the daylight of our time where they are known and they are assisted and protected,” IOM’s Director-General William Lacey Swing told the UN.

The United States has seen a surge in child migrants fleeing violence in Central America in recent years. In 2014, border agents apprehended almost 70,000 minors, a 77 percent increase from the year before.

The unaccompanied children are often held in detention centers in unsanitary and cramped living conditions and for an indefinite period of time.

UNHCR is now considering providing help to unaccompanied minors crossing the border in light of new policies preventing them from seeking safe refuge.

The new administration has ended a program that allowed children fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to apply for refugee status before leaving home and making the dangerous trip to the border.

The government has also reduced the refugee cap to 45,000, the lowest level since 1980.

Most recently, just hours before the preparatory meeting in Mexico, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley announced that the country was withdrawing from the non-binding global compact, claiming that it would restrict U.S. sovereignty on migration policy.

“The U.S. pulling out of this is a further abdication our global leadership on the refugee crisis…pulling out of this sends a terrible message to refugee host countries and resettlement countries about their need to keep up their commitments,” Bell told IPS.

“The world’s most vulnerable are being punished again and again—first through the slashing of refugee admission numbers to this withdrawal from the Compact,” she added.

A group of U.S. civil society organizations that took part in the meeting also issued a statement calling the move “deeply disappointing” and for the North American nation to recommit to the multilateral process.

“Migration is a global phenomenon which requires a global response. The United States is not immune from the global forces of conflict, economic coercion, and climate change that drive human migration,” they stated.

Sottoli echoed similar sentiments, saying that no one country on its own can protect children as they move across borders.

“We are hopeful that the challenges of tacking this complex agenda will be addressed and that many countries will continue collaborating and look forward to shape a new compact,” she told IPS.

In their ‘Beyond Borders’ report, UNICEF calls to protect child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, to end the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating, and to keep families together as the best way to protect children.

The report provides case studies of effective methods to protect child refugees and migrants, including that of Greece which established the National Centre for Social Solidarity (EKKA) to help track and monitor unaccompanied children in detention and ensure they are placed in safe accommodation and care.

“Policy decisions need to be made on the basis of acts, experiences, and proven solutions. This is the moment to take stock of what is out there and what is working…solutions are out there,” Sottoli said.

Bell called on the international community to not only protect the rights of refugees and migrants, but also redouble their commitments to resettlement.

“We have to come back to a story of migrants that is historically accurate…migration has always been a positive story,” Swing said.

The next step in the process towards creating the Global Compacts is the Secretary-General’s report on migration, expected to be released in January followed by intergovernmental negotiations. The Global Compacts will be presented for adoption at a conference in Morocco in December 2018.

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Should Foxes Rule the Chicken Coop? Reflections on Security Council Reformhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/foxes-rule-chicken-coop-reflections-security-council-reform/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=foxes-rule-chicken-coop-reflections-security-council-reform http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/foxes-rule-chicken-coop-reflections-security-council-reform/#respond Fri, 08 Dec 2017 13:54:51 +0000 James A. Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153411 James A. Paul, a writer and consultant, was Executive Director of Global Policy Forum (1993-2012), an NGO monitoring the work of the United Nations, and author of the newly-released book “Of Foxes and Chickens: Oligarchy & Global Power in the UN Security Council.” He was also for many years an editor of the Oxford Companion to Politics of the World.

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A meeting of the UN Security Council. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

By James A. Paul
NEW YORK, Dec 8 2017 (IPS)

Since the end of the Cold War, the UN Security Council has dramatically increased its activity and authority. Though the Council has exercised unprecedented global power, it has remained a very insular, secretive and undemocratic body, dominated by its five Permanent Members, armed with their notorious vetoes and benefiting from perpetuity in office.

The United States holds the leading position in this oligarchy. It is the “capo dei capi” – the boss of bosses – ruling with overwhelming authority and towering above the other four: the United Kingdom, France, China and Russia.

The Council’s 10 Elected Members, serving for only two years, have very little ability to influence Council action even though they have the electoral backing of all the other member states.

For the past 25 years, most of the world’s governments have insisted on the need for Council reform to overcome these retrograde arrangements, made more than 70 years ago in a very different world.

They have sought to create a more open, representative and democratic Council. In 1994, the UN General Assembly set up a Working Group to consider far-reaching reform for a new era.

The New Zealand ambassador, who had served on the Council during the Rwanda genocide, said that the Council’s practices were “nothing short of primitive.” The Mexican Ambassador told the General Assembly that Permanent Membership was “obsolete.”

From that time to the present, the Council oligarchy has continued to infuriate the international community by defending the status quo, while the UN General Assembly has continued to press for Council reform.

Some proposals, especially reform in Council membership, involve a change in the UN Charter, requiring a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly, followed by a two-thirds endorsement by all national parliaments – subject, of course, to P5 veto.

Assembly members are well aware of this high hurdle, but they have examined hundreds of specific proposals and engaged in spirited debates on the issues. In light of the difficulty of Charter change, opposition by the Permanent Five (P5), and other problems, the Assembly has been unable to adopt noteworthy reforms.

In the shadows of all the debates, the P5 have firmly defended their privileges. To those that want to change the Council’s stifling procedures, they have said that the General Assembly has no right to interfere in the Council, no right to tell the P5 how to run their shop. P5 resistance to change has at times been fiercely aggressive. Washington has forced governments to recall prominent UN ambassadors who have pushed too hard for change.

To blunt public engagement with the reform debates, the US has also pushed for heavy cuts in the UN’s public affairs budget. P5 anti-reform leverage is backed up by economic and military power.

Beyond the oligarchs’ opposition, there is another source of blockage – the inability of the other 188 member states to stand together and take up a common reform program. Most countries believe that new members on a reformed Council should be elected, but the so-called “rising powers” want to become permanent members themselves.

They want to join the Council oligarchy rather than to work to eliminate this odious privilege. So those who have the most clout to push through significant reforms have hijacked the reform debate to promote their own narrow interests.

The aspirants include Germany and Japan, India and Brazil, South Africa and Nigeria. They have insisted self-servingly that they themselves are the key to a diverse and fair Council, working to promote the peace.

The aspirants have insisted that their permanency would be a “realistic” approach to reform, but in fact their approach has proven to be far from realistic. The P5 remain unwilling to accept them into the inner circle. Nor do the aspirants command the two-thirds majority needed to advance their cause in a Charter amending process.

A bloc of regional rivals oppose new permanencies. Italy works against a German seat; South Korea and China are against Japanese permanency; and Argentina is unhappy about the elevation of Brazil. Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa vie for the hoped-for two African permanent seats. This complex political geometry makes success for the aspirants virtually impossible.

Adding a proposed six new permanent members, each with a veto, would create an impossible blockage on the Council. With more than twice as many veto-wielders, each one protecting their particular interests and manipulating the Council’s machinery to suit their purposes, the Council would be even more oppressive than it is today.

The P5’s multiple advantages in the UN system raise another set of issues. Would the new permanent members expect to have the same privileges as the P5 — their own judge on the World Court, for example, or control of certain high-level appointments in the Secretariat?

The campaigning aspirants say nothing negative about the institution of permanency and they mute their comments about the existing system and its many abuses. They curry favor with the P5 so as to avoid a future veto – if and when their candidacy reaches the ultimate stage.

This favor-currying has been going on for twenty-five years and it has had poisonous effects on the reform process and on the regular business of the Council too. In recent years, when the aspirants have joined the Council as Elected Members, they have generally played a muted and unimpressive role. This is definitely not a pathway towards constructive Council renovation.

For years, the aspirants’ campaign for new permanent members has overshadowed all other reform discussions. It has diverted energy from serious alternatives. Smaller states alone simply cannot challenge P5 domination without hefty assistance from the middle powers.

Presently, reform progress depends on the support of strong non-aspirant states like Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Korea, Indonesia, Egypt, Mexico and Argentina, in combination with the rest of the democratically-inclined UN membership.

Germany, where elite opinion about a permanent seat has long been divided, could break the ice and renounce its aspirations for permanency, leading the march towards a different future.

Political crises over the past twenty-five years have revealed the Council’s despotic failures. They have shown that the foxes cannot be expected to protect the global chicken coop.

As crises multiply, it is time to step up efforts to radically reform this outworn institution, to mobilize broad support for fundamental change and to energize a world-wide citizen movement for Council transformation and UN renewal.

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Excerpt:

James A. Paul, a writer and consultant, was Executive Director of Global Policy Forum (1993-2012), an NGO monitoring the work of the United Nations, and author of the newly-released book “Of Foxes and Chickens: Oligarchy & Global Power in the UN Security Council.” He was also for many years an editor of the Oxford Companion to Politics of the World.

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Post-Nuclear Nightmares Still Linger Over Pacific Islandshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/post-nuclear-nightmares-still-linger-pacific-islands/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=post-nuclear-nightmares-still-linger-pacific-islands http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/post-nuclear-nightmares-still-linger-pacific-islands/#respond Thu, 07 Dec 2017 08:31:35 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153377 The Pacific islands have long remained victims of nuclear crimes – but the perpetrators, three of the world’s major powers with permanent seats in the UN Security Council, never paid for their deadly sins. The testing grounds in the Pacific, included the Marshall Islands (Bikini and Enewetak), and also Johnston Atoll and Christmas Islands in […]

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An atmospheric nuclear test conducted by the United States at Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands, on 1 November 1952. Credit: US Government

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 7 2017 (IPS)

The Pacific islands have long remained victims of nuclear crimes – but the perpetrators, three of the world’s major powers with permanent seats in the UN Security Council, never paid for their deadly sins.

The testing grounds in the Pacific, included the Marshall Islands (Bikini and Enewetak), and also Johnston Atoll and Christmas Islands in Kiribati.

The so-called “Pacific Proving Grounds”, which included the Marshall Islands and a few others on the Pacific Ocean, was the site of US nuclear testing between 1946 and 1962.

France tested its weapons on Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls in French Polynesia, with French naval vessels clashing with Greenpeace anti-nuclear campaigners.

The United Kingdom, along with the US, conducted several nuclear tests in and around Kiribati in the late 1950s. But the islanders were not evacuated exposing them to radiation from the blasts.

All of these tests, which left behind environmental hazards and radioactive waste, came to an inglorious end – or so it seems. But the nuclear nightmares over the Pacific continue to linger on.

According to the London Guardian, the Marshall Islands Nuclear Claims Tribunal awarded more than $2.0 billion in personal injury and land damage claims arising from the nuclear tests, but stopped paying after a compensation fund was exhausted.

After 67 tests, US nuclear experiments in the Marshall Islands ended in 1958. But in a 2012 report, UN Special Rapporteur Calin Georgescu, said “near-irreversible environmental contamination” had led to the loss of livelihoods and many people continued to experience “indefinite displacement”.

And a projected sea-level rise, triggered by climate change, is threatening to unearth the radioactive waste and spill it into the high seas.

According to two researchers, Barbara Rose Johnston and Brooke Takala Abraham, U.S. medical scientists traveled to the Marshall Islands, for nearly four decades, in order to document degenerating health and conduct related experiments, “all without informed consent.”

All told, 1,156 men, women, and children were enrolled in studies exploring the acute and late effects of radiation.

Among the findings of this research: radiation exposure generated changes in red blood cell production and subsequent anemia; metabolic and related disorders; musculoskeletal degeneration; cataracts; cancers and leukemia; and significant impact on fertility as evidenced by miscarriages, congenital defects, and infertility.

“Their experiences also demonstrate how chronic and acute radiogenic exposure compromises immunity, creating population-wide vulnerability to infectious and non-communicable disease”, Johnston and Abraham wrote.

Bob Rigg, a former senior editor with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and ex-chair of the New Zealand National Consultative Committee on Disarmament, told IPS: “It is impossible to make sweeping generalisations about the entire Pacific region, which is both vast and diverse”.

But US attention, he pointed out, was focused in particular on Micronesia, which includes most of the islands bitterly fought over in the latter years of World War II.

“The US wields disproportionate influence over this sub-region, where most of its 1,054 nuclear tests were conducted,” he added.

The US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, said Rigg, can be defined as the first example of US nuclear testing, given that a principal motive for both attacks was to facilitate large-scale research into the effects of nuclear weapons on living human beings, a subject which was a closed book even to the world’s leading nuclear scientists at the time.

As soon as the war ended, he said, “the US hastened to establish political control over a number of strategically important islands forming an “island chain” in the Pacific – a chain of US military and political influence cementing US control of major trade routes, while also enables it to contain the growing power and influence of Communist China.”

Ironically enough, the US island chain has something in common with China’s South China Sea outposts which today draw the ire of the US, he added.

Robert Alvarez, an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C. and an Adjunct Professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced Strategic International Studies, told IPS that three major international conferences—in Oslo, Mexico City, and Vienna— focused on the humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons, and on establishing a new international legal instrument that would outlaw nuclear weapons.

The humanitarian initiative and the Marshall Islands lawsuits—including one in US federal courts and the other with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague — received a chilly, some might say hostile reception from the nuclear weapons states, for an understandable reason, he pointed out.

The nuclear weapons countries are engaged in costly modernization efforts that all but guarantee the continued existence of nuclear weapons for decades, and perhaps beyond. The Marshalls lawsuits and the humanitarian initiative both seek to make the nuclear states seriously negotiate toward nuclear disarmament, he noted.

In an article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists back in May 2015, Alvarez said the damage did not end with nuclear testing.

In the 1960s, islands of the Enewetak Atoll were stripped of topsoil and used for explosive crater experiments, to see how US missile silos would hold up to enemy missiles.

And in October 1968, the US Navy conducted a biological warfare experiment in which Staphylococcal enterotoxin B, a virulent bacterium, was released over the Enewetak Atoll from fighter aircraft.

“The pathogen proved to be harmful to experimental animals over a 1,500 square mile area. Since the late 1950s, the Kwajalein Atoll and lagoon have served as an anti-ballistic missile launch site for testing against possible missile attacks,” he noted.

Nearly every US intercontinental ballistic missile was test fired at Kwajalein. Now home to the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, the $4 billion US Air Force complex on Kwajalein is considered a key strategic asset for anti-ballistic missile testing, military space projects, and intelligence gathering, wrote Alvarez, who was also a Senior Professional Staff member for the U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, where he conducted an investigation into the conduct of the U.S. nuclear weapons program in the Marshall Islands.

Rigg told IPS Truman had no qualms about bombing Japan and seizing control of several Micronesian Islands where America’s many subsequent nuclear tests could be conducted. Indigenous populations were frequently marginalised, displaced, and impoverished.

Traditional ways of living, cultivating food and eating were frequently replaced within one generation with a barbarised version of US consumer culture. The key operational assumption was that Pacific Islanders represented an inferior culture which, in the patronising words of one US scientist, at least had more in common with civilised westerners than laboratory mice, he said.

“Like the Japanese, Pacific Islanders were viewed through the prism of mainstream US racism. The example of Rongelap Island, which was seriously affected by fallout from the huge Castle Bravo test, is perhaps most instructive.”

When the islanders repeatedly lobbied for permission to return to their home, said Rigg, the US Atomic Energy Commission declared it safe for re-habitation, with US scientists privately noting that “the habitation of these people on the island will afford most valuable ecological radiation data on human beings.”

As a major environmental polluter, he argued, the US contributes to global warming which disproportionately affects many small Pacific Island states whose highest point is in some cases just a couple of metres above sea level.

“Such islands are also acutely vulnerable to the climate change-induced violent storms which increasingly inflict massive destruction on both vegetation and homes. As many of these islands are desperately poor there is all too often no money to rebuild infrastructure and homes, with more than 95% of damaged buildings being uninsured.”

Trump’s America First policy has already produced a 30% cut in State Department funding which will dramatically curtail expenditure on Pacific islands which are not part of the militarised US island chain. Australia abjectly proclaims that it is “joined at the hip” with the US, slavishly following in the wake of Uncle Sam in all things, Rigg said.

“Fortunately, there is one small ray of hope: New Zealand has just elected a new Labour Government which is signalling its willingness to adopt innovative approaches to political problem-solving, including in the region.”

The new Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, he pointed out, has already signalled her government’s willingness to view Pacific Islanders fleeing their submerged islands as refugees. At present Australia’s immigration policies exclude such “environmental refugees.”

This New Zealand initiative could eventually necessitate the re-negotiation of the UN Convention on Refugees, to accommodate a new category of environmental refugees, he added.

In the words of a recent report to a congressional committee, even before the election of Trump, the US had pursued a “policy of benign neglect towards the South Pacific nations.

“Too often have we relied on Australia and New Zealand to determine what US policy should be in the region.” If this was true before Trump, it will be doubly true now.”

Possibly with at least some support from New Zealand, Pacific Island states will have to continue to seek political support from outside their region, as recently, when Fiji and Germany jointly hosted the November meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP23) in Bonn.

The elevation of Fiji to this prominent role reveals that, in the complete absence of support from both Trump’s US and Malcolm Turnbull’s Australia, there is a heartening emerging international awareness of the extent to which the very existence of some Pacific Island states is already under threat from climate change, he noted.

“But words must be backed up by large quantities of hard cash, without which some small Pacific Island states will undoubtedly go under.”


This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world are currently meeting in Suva, Fiji, through 8 December for International Civil Society Week.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Aid Groups Sound Alarm on DRC Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/aid-groups-sound-alarm-drc-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aid-groups-sound-alarm-drc-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/aid-groups-sound-alarm-drc-crisis/#respond Mon, 13 Nov 2017 09:25:23 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152989 The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis and the international community must step in before it worsens, humanitarian agencies warn. The escalation of ethnic clashes in southeastern DRC in recent months has left millions displaced and on the verge of starvation. In the past year alone, the […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 13 2017 (IPS)

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis and the international community must step in before it worsens, humanitarian agencies warn.

The escalation of ethnic clashes in southeastern DRC in recent months has left millions displaced and on the verge of starvation.

In the past year alone, the conflict has displaced nearly 2 million, 850,000 of whom are children and some of whom have fled to the neighboring nations of Angola and Zambia. DRC already had the highest number of new displacements in the world in 2016.

Last month, the UN declared the DRC a level three humanitarian emergency—the highest possible classification on par with Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

“The alarm bells are ringing loud and clear,” said Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) DRC Country Director Ulrika Blom.

“The UN system-wide L3 response is only activated for the world’s most complex and challenging emergencies, when the entire aid system needs to scale up and respond to colossal needs.”

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), over 3 million people in the Kasai region are severely food-insecure, exacerbating hunger and malnutrition.

“As many as 250,000 children could starve in Kasai in the next few months unless enough nutritious food reaches them quickly,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley after a four-day mission to the central African country.

NRC said that over 80 percent of people in displacement camps in Tanganyika province did not have access to clean drinking water, heightening the risk of cholera outbreaks.

Though WFP and NRC are both scaling up assistance, aid agencies are constrained by challenges in funds and access.

The UN’s humanitarian response appeal for DRC is only 33 percent funded, the lowest level of funding for the country in more than 10 years, while WFP has received only one percent of the 135 million dollars needed for the next eight months.

Multiple active militias, poor road networks, and the upcoming rainy season further impede humanitarian access.

Swift intervention is needed now to stop the conflict and address humanitarian needs in order to prevent “long-term chaos,” Beasley said.

Though some families have been able to return to their villages in Kasai, Beasley noted that many could not work on their fields for fear of being attacked again.

“I have met too many women and children whose lives have been reduced to a desperate struggle for survival…that’s heartbreaking, and it’s unacceptable,” he said.

Blom expressed hope that a level three emergency classification will bring in more funds, and highlighted the importance of having such resources be flexible.

For instance, North Kivu, which hosts the largest number of displaced people in the country, is not included within the UN’s emergency classification. Blom said that though North Kivu is not experiencing the same level of violence as seen in Kasai, the conflict’s unpredictable nature could change this.

“Resources coming into the country must be flexible so we can put them to use where needs and gaps arise. Lives depend on it,” she warned.

DRC’s long-standing conflict has left over 8 million people in need of assistance and protection. The most recent iteration of the crisis has partly been fueled by the refusal of President Joseph Kabila to step down after his mandate expired in December 2016

Beasley said he saw the horror in survivor’s eyes as they told stories of beheadings and sexual violence.

“The Kasai region, it was rather appalling in ways that are truly hard to explain, in ways you actually don’t want to explain.”

According to a mission report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), security forces and militias “actively fomented, fueled, and occasionally led, attacks on the basis of ethnicity.”

Witnesses told OCHR that two pregnant women’s foetus’ were removed and allegedly chopped into pieces, while another two women were accused of being witches and were beheaded.

Among the survivors was a woman who was raped with a rifle barrel four hours after giving birth. “I did not end up like the others because I lied on the ground pretend to be dead…and I hid my baby under my body,” she told OHCHR. Her newborn baby was reportedly shot twice in the head.

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The Illusion of Justice: When Will Reparations be Served to Iraq’s Victims?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/illusion-justice-will-reparations-served-iraqs-victims/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=illusion-justice-will-reparations-served-iraqs-victims http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/illusion-justice-will-reparations-served-iraqs-victims/#respond Thu, 09 Nov 2017 16:17:11 +0000 Miriam Puttick http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152956 Miriam Puttick is Head of Middle East and North Africa Programs at the London-based Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and co-author of the report*

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Personal property destroyed in the battle to push ISIS from Iraq's Ninewa plains, March 2017. Credit: Mays al-Juboori

By Miriam Puttick
TORONTO, Nov 9 2017 (IPS)

It is difficult to spend any time in Iraq without being struck by a sense of profound injustice. After successive decades of war and occupation, violence has become the rule rather than the exception in the country, with each phase of conflict outdoing the previous in terms of brutality and capacity to shock the conscience.

Since the fall of Mosul in June 2014, the conflict with ISIS has occupied minds, hearts and television screens, unleashed unspeakable horrors, and created countless new victims. Now, more than three years later, and in the wake of victories in Hawija and Raqqa, ISIS may be on the brink of annihilation – but military defeat without justice raises the specter of further violence.

The recent eruption of military confrontation between Iraqi and Kurdish forces in Kirkuk, which shattered a fragile status quo in place since the start of the conflict with ISIS, seems to confirm that peace is an elusive dream. When contemplating the prospects of reconciliation in Iraq, the idea of multiple layers of injustice, accumulated over time, always comes to mind.

How can a society recover when new wounds are being inflicted before old scars have healed? For every thousand civilians who have been victimized by the conflict with ISIS and are waiting for answers, there are a thousand more widows of the American invasion, and a thousand survivors of Saddam Hussein’s genocides, many of whom have not been served justice to this day.

In international human rights circles, planning for the post-ISIS phase is in full swing. Here, “accountability” is the word of the day, and many are spurred on by a September 2017 UN Security Council resolution that will see an international investigative team deployed to Iraq to support domestic prosecution of ISIS crimes.

However, the resolution’s most obvious flaw is that it is limited in mandate to acts committed by ISIS, despite the fact that other parties to the conflict, including Iraqi and Kurdish forces, government-allied militias, and the US-led coalition, are all responsible for their fair share of violations.

Moreover, while the emphasis on criminal accountability is justifiable given the severity of violations committed, it is questionable whether it is enough to prompt the type of reconciliation and healing desperately needed in Iraq.

It was these types of questions that led my colleagues and I to first start exploring the potential of individual reparations as a path forward towards justice for victims in Iraq. A growing body of international best practices, from Colombia to South Africa, points to the significant material and symbolic impact that reparations can have on individuals and societies recovering from atrocities.

Moreover, a lesser-known fact is that Iraq already has the domestic framework to support reparations – and has been quietly administering them for years. A visit to the Baghdad headquarters of the Central Compensation Committee, the government body responsible for administering compensation to victims of ‘military operations, military mistakes, and terrorist actions,’ was an unexpectedly humbling experience.

The Committee, which draws its mandate from a law passed in 2009, delivers compensation packages to victims harmed since the 2003 invasion that include one-time grants, monthly pensions, and plots of land. In the midst of stiff political opposition, a spiraling economic crisis, and ongoing conflict that has paralyzed their operations in parts of the country, the members of the Committee have diligently gone on with their work.

Between 2011 and 2016, they reached decisions on 183,940 cases, distributing more than $355 million in compensation to victims and their families. The compensation officials we met with seemed refreshingly principled as far as government officials go, and were keen to emphasize the sense of duty that guided their work with victims of violations.

Yet, they receive very little recognition for their work either inside or outside of Iraq. Countless politicians and foreign diplomats we met with in Baghdad were quick to criticize the compensation process as bureaucratic, slow or inconsequential. Many dismissed the idea of reparations entirely, viewing it as unrealistic or financially untenable given the need to invest in stabilization and reconstruction.

These arguments hardly stand up to scrutiny. Reparations cost money, yes, but not nearly as much as war. One of the findings released last year by the Chilcot Inquiry, mandated to investigate the UK’s role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, was that the decision to invade was made almost entirely independently of any financial calculations of what such an undertaking would entail – it was war at any cost.

The UK eventually spent £9.24 billion on the invasion – a figure which pales in comparison to the trillions spent by the US. That the Iraqi government has shown itself able to run an entirely self-funded reparations process in the midst of ongoing conflict, while the worlds’ leading military powers claim to be incapable of accepting financial responsibility for the destruction they unleashed in the country, is as ridiculous as it is lamentable.

But while the US and the UK attempt to put their occupation-era blunders behind them, more recent military involvement in Iraq is setting dangerous new precedents. Since August 2014, airstrikes launched by the US-led military coalition have flattened neighborhoods and led to thousands of civilian casualties – 5,117 deaths as of August 2017, according to international monitoring group Airwars.

Yet, the coalition has proved reluctant to launch proper investigations into reports of civilian casualties and has reportedly only issued two condolence payments to victims’ families since the start of the campaign, in stark contrast to previous practice in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

If Iraq is to be extricated from the cycles of violence and resentment that have dominated its recent history, a truly inclusive transitional justice process is needed to acknowledge the harms committed by all parties to the conflict, past and present. For the Iraqi government, this means ensuring that all armed actors, including government-affiliated militias, are held accountable for their recent actions and engaged in truth-seeking and reparations processes.

For the international community, this means holding themselves to the same standards of justice to which they hold others, and redressing wrongdoing wherever it has occurred.

*The report http://minorityrights.org/publications/reparations-victims-conflict-iraq-lessons-learned-comparative-practice/ was released November 8.

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Excerpt:

Miriam Puttick is Head of Middle East and North Africa Programs at the London-based Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and co-author of the report*

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