Inter Press ServicePeace – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 24 Aug 2017 00:01:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 Civilians Increasingly Bearing Burden of Armed Conflicts in Arab Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/civilians-increasingly-bearing-burden-armed-conflicts-arab-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civilians-increasingly-bearing-burden-armed-conflicts-arab-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/civilians-increasingly-bearing-burden-armed-conflicts-arab-region/#respond Fri, 18 Aug 2017 11:32:17 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151695 The author is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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World Humanitarian Day / Syrian boy brings bread back from underground bakery in severly damaged opposition-held area of Aleppo. August 2014. photo credit Shelly KittlesonIPS

Syrian boy brings bread back from underground bakery in severly damaged opposition-held area of Aleppo. August 2014. photo credit Shelly KittlesonIPS

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Switzerland, Aug 18 2017 (IPS)

The war in Syria has now entered its 6th year and is becoming the world’s worst man-made disaster.

The humanitarian calamity in Syria has affected millions of lives; more than half of Syria’s pre-war population has been forced to flee, including 6.3 million internally displaced persons and 5.1 million refugees living in refugee camps in the Middle East and in Europe. It is also estimated that approximately 465,000 people have lost their lives because of this enduring conflict with no immediate end in sight.

Arab civilians are also suffering in other major armed conflicts in the Middle East. According to UNHCR and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, at least 3 million Iraqis have been displaced as a result of the civil strife in Iraq.

Iraq Body Count estimates that more than 50% of the war-related deaths – following the 2003 Iraq invasion – were civilians.

In Yemen, the United Nations estimates that more than 10,000 civilians have perished from the fighting between Yemeni government forces and the Houthi rebels. On top of this, IOM and UNHCR estimates that around 3 million Yemeni civilians have been displaced from their homes since the beginning of the conflict.

World Humanitarian Day / Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim. Credit: United Nations Library at Geneva

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim. Credit: United Nations Library at Geneva

The high civilian tolls witnessed in these conflicts reveal that civilians are increasingly bearing the burden of armed conflicts in the Arab region.

The pattern of modern warfare has changed: battles that were once fought in the unpopulated shores of Normandie and in the desert of El Alamein are now being fought in the urban centres of Gaza, Mosul, Baghdad and Aleppo affecting the lives of millions of civilians.
The theme of the 2017 World Humanitarian Day – Civilians caught in conflict are not a target – reaffirm the vision expressed in the 10 May 2017 report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict calling for “collective action to strengthen the protection of civilians in armed conflict.”

A “global protection crisis” has emerged – noted the Secretary General in the same report – owing to the rise of use of force of which civilians are ultimately the main victims. Since the end of World War II, it is estimated that between 60-90% of war-related deaths are primarily among civilians. Civilians have become the primary casualties of war in the 21st century.

The irregular and black market arms trade have fuelled the rise of violent and extremist groups in numerous countries in the Arab region.

The illicit arms trade has enabled terrorist groups to thrive in countries affected by conflict and violence. Disturbing images of civilian infrastructure such as schools and hospitals being bombed in Palestine, in Syria and in Iraq show that civilian infrastructure is increasingly being targeted by belligerents.

Although the Arms Trade Treaty sought to regulate the international arms trade, the flow of arms and weapons to violent and extremist groups continues to fuel bloody conflicts in the Arab region owing to the lack of ratification of the Treaty by the member states of the United Nations.

Warfare and armed conflicts are increasingly being fought in urban centres in the Arab region. It has brought the war closer to people. The pattern of modern warfare has changed: Battles that were once fought in the unpopulated shores of Normandie and in the desert of El Alamein are now being fought in the urban centres of Gaza, Mosul, Baghdad and Aleppo affecting the lives of millions of civilians.

World Humanitarian Day / Civilians are Not a Target

The use of heavy weapons, so-called strategic bombardments and the use of modern technologies such as drones have increased the likelihood of inflicting collateral damage on civilians during armed conflicts. The disproportionate use of force has caused immense suffering leading to abuse and to killings of civilians. Collateral damage has emerged as an acceptable term to justify errors and the indiscriminate use of force.

In order to respond to the need to provide protection to civilians in armed conflict, the world has a moral responsibility to end the illegal trade of arms and weapons fuelling the growth of violent and extremist groups.

States need to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty and comply with its provisions so as to end the illicit arms trade that is currently estimated to lie at around 10 billion US dollars per year. Weapons and arms should not end up in the hands of extremist groups such as DAESH that commit heinous and unscrupulous crimes on civilian populations in the Arab region.

I also appeal to the international community to ensure that all parties to conflict comply with their provisions to protect the lives of civilians in line with the provisions set forth in the Convention for the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War commonly known as the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Respect for international law must guide the actions of belligerents in armed conflicts. Widespread crimes against humanity affecting civilians must be condemned uniformly by world leaders regardless of where they take place. Civilians should not bear the burden of the devastating consequences of military conflicts.

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Donald Trump & Kim Jong-Un Need To Find A Diplomatic Off-Ramphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/donald-trump-kim-jong-un-need-find-diplomatic-off-ramp/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=donald-trump-kim-jong-un-need-find-diplomatic-off-ramp http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/donald-trump-kim-jong-un-need-find-diplomatic-off-ramp/#respond Wed, 09 Aug 2017 07:40:29 +0000 Daryl G. Kimball http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151626 Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association

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Image by The Official Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Photostream – flickr.com

By Daryl G. Kimball
WASHINGTON DC, Aug 9 2017 (IPS)

Just six months into the administration of President Donald Trump, the war of words and nuclear threats between the United States and North Korea have escalated, and a peaceful resolution to the escalating crisis is more difficult than ever to achieve.

Both leaders need to immediately work to descalate the situation and direct their diplomats to engage in an adult conversation designed to resolve tensions

On Jan. 1, North Korea’s authoritarian ruler Kim Jong Un vowed to “continue to build up” his country’s nuclear forces “as long as the United States and its vassal forces keep on [sic] nuclear threat and blackmail.” Kim also warned that North Korea was making preparations to flight-test a prototype intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Two days later, Trump could not resist laying down a “red line” on Twitter, saying, “It won’t happen.”

Pyongyang has responded to the U.S. statements and military exercises on North Korea’s doorstep with its own, even more bellicose rhetoric. Following press reports that a U.S. carrier strike group was being sent toward the Korean peninsula, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations warned April 17 that “a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment” and that his country is “ready to react to any mode of war desired by the United States.”

After an inter-agency review, Trump and his team announced a policy of “maximum pressure and engagement” to try to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions and its ballistic missile program. So far, the approach has been all “pressure” and no “engagement,” with U.S. officials calling for North Korea to agree to take concrete steps to show its commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

In response, North Korean has accelerated its pace of ballistic missile tests, including flight tests of missiles in July with ICBM capabilities. The UN Security Council unanimously adopted Aug. 5 the toughest UN Security Council sanctions yet imposed on North Korea. The Korean Central News Agency lashed out Aug. 8, warning that it will mobilize all its resources to take “physical action” in retaliation in response to the UN actions.

Trump, in turn, said Tuesday “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Trump’s attempt to play the role of nuclear “madman” is as dangerous, foolish, and counterproductive as North Korea’s frequent hyperbolic threats against the United States.

Trump’s latest statement is a blatant threat of nuclear force that will not compel Kim to shift course. In fact, repeated threats of U.S. military force only give credibility to the North Korean propaganda line that nuclear weapons are necessary to deter U.S. aggression, and it may lead Kim to try to accelerate his nuclear program.

That should not come as a surprise. Since the beginning of the nuclear age, U.S. “atomic diplomacy” has consistently failed to achieve results. The historical record shows that U.S. nuclear threats during the Korean War and later against China and the Soviet Union, as well as Nixon’s “madman” strategy against North Vietnam, failed to bend adversaries to U.S. goals.

With respect to North Korea in particular, the threat of pre-emptive U.S. military action is not credible, in large part because the risks are extremely high.

North Korea has the capacity to devastate the metropolis of Seoul, with its 10 million inhabitants, by launching a massive artillery barrage and hundreds of conventionally armed, short-range ballistic missiles. Moreover, if hostilities begin, there is the prospect that North Korea could use some of its remaining nuclear weapons, which could kill millions in South Korea and Japan.

U.S. intelligence sources believe North Korea has already developed a warhead design small enough and light enough for delivery by an ICBM. North Korea’s may have a supply of fissile material for up to 25 nuclear weapons, but its fissile production capacity is likely growing and it may be ready to conduct its sixth nuclear test explosion, which would further advance ability to develop a reliable missile-deliverable warhead.

Trump and his advisers need to curb the impulse to threaten military action, which only increases the risk of catastrophic miscalculation. A saner and more effective approach is to work with China to tighten the sanctions pressure and simultaneously open a new diplomatic channel designed to defuse tensions and to halt and eventually reverse North Korea’s increasingly dangerous nuclear and missile programs.

Better enforcement of UN sanctions designed to hinder North Korea’s weapons procurement, financing, and key sources of foreign trade and revenue is very important. Such measures can help increase the leverage necessary for a diplomatic solution. But it is naive that sanctions pressure and bellicose U.S. threats of nuclear attack can force North Korea to change course.

Unless there is a diplomatic strategy to reduce tensions and to halt further nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests in exchange for measures that ease North Korea’s fear of military attack, Pyongyang’s nuclear strike capabilities will increase, with a longer range and less vulnerable to attack, and the risk of a catastrophic war on the Korean peninsula will likely grow.

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Kenya and Ethiopia Join Forces to Advance Peace, Security, Development and Hopehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/kenya-ethiopia-join-forces-advance-peace-security-development-hope/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenya-ethiopia-join-forces-advance-peace-security-development-hope http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/kenya-ethiopia-join-forces-advance-peace-security-development-hope/#respond Mon, 24 Jul 2017 06:59:56 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151414 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia have a shared vision of turning this once violent and fragile region into a prosperous & peaceful area. Moyale-07 Dec 2015. Credit: UNDP Kenya

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 24 2017 (IPS)

The Horn of Africa is often synonymous with extreme poverty, conflict, demographic pressure, environmental stress, and under-investment in basic social services such as health, education, access to clean water and infrastructure.

In Kenya’s Turkana, Marsabit, Wajir and Mandera counties, for instance, between 74% and 97% of the people live below the absolute poverty line and literacy rates and school enrollment rates are well below the national average. Conditions here are rife with flashpoints for potential conflict over natural resources and access to limited government services, and all too fertile for discontent, radicalization, violent extremism and recruitment of adolescents and youth into armed groups as an economic survival mechanism.

Confronting the challenges of radicalization and terrorist threats in the region calls for a focused strategy on a compendium of socio-cultural, economic, political and psychological factors. While extremism and related violence have traditionally been driven by exclusion and poverty, this paradigm is no longer adequate. As shown during the attack at Kenya’s Garissa University, not all extremists are uneducated or from poor families.

Complex, interlinked and rapidly evolving circumstances have brought about the need for a raft of interventions geared towards fostering sustainable peace in the border areas. One of the most promising initiatives to-date involves establishing social and economic interdependence across border communities.

This is the powerful rationale behind the pact between the Governments of Ethiopia and Kenya, who established a cross-border programme which straddles Marsabit County, Kenya and the Borana/Dawa Zones of Ethiopia known as the “Integrated Programme for Sustainable Peace and Socio-economic Transformation.”

This initiative was launched in December 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Executive Secretary, Ambassador Mahboub Maalim. A short video.

The programme, which is implemented in partnership with IGAD and the UN Country Teams of Ethiopia and Kenya, aims at preventing and mitigating potential violent conflicts and extremism in the borderland areas through conflict prevention mechanisms, addressing the root causes of violent extremism and focusing on the humanitarian, security and development nexus.

To take this programme another step forward, the Kenyan and Ethiopian Governments signed the programme document on 22 June 2017.

Kenya’s Minister Henry Rotich and Ethiopia’s Minister Kassa Tekleberhan exchange the joint agreement. Kenya’s Foreign Minster Amina Mohamed and EU Ambassador to Kenya, Stefano Dejak look on. Credit: UNDP Kenya


To galvanize support for the programme, an event titled “From Barriers to Bridges: The Ethiopia-Kenya Cross-Border Programme” was organized on 10 July 2017 at UNDP New York. It was co-chaired by the Permanent Representatives of Kenya and Ethiopia to the United Nations.

Taking stock of the programme to-date, one cannot help but marvel at how far the two countries have come and what can still be achieved. As confirmed by local community elders, local conflicts have diminished and the programme has achieved impressive results in reducing the allure of extremist groups such as Al-Shabaab among local youth, ever since joint interventions by the Government of Kenya, the UN and civil society partners started in 2015.

There have been significant socio-economic gains as well. The Isiolo-Merille-Marsabit-Moyale road, which is partially financed by the European Union (EU), is now complete and is expected to be a game-changer in enhancing integration, connectivity and promoting trade between Ethiopia and Kenya.

The World Bank has also embarked on a huge infrastructure development programme to link Isiolo with Mandera. The EU is already proposing that the Ethiopia-Kenya cross-border programme be scaled up to include the Mandera Triangle, the Omo and Karamoja clusters.

These are all welcome developments for a region with substantial development needs and considerable potential. The areas involved are home to more than half of Kenya’s livestock, which can be harnessed to create bigger and better agro-business industries.

The region’s diverse and rich culture and heritage, evidenced by local historical and geographical sites, can be an asset in developing eco-tourism. There is also a latent resource for clean and renewable energy exploitation, as proven by the recent launch of the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project, which is expected to generate 310MW.

Once operational, the wind farm will provide 310MW of reliable, low cost energy to Kenya’s national grid (i.e. approx. 15% of the country’s installed capacity). Credit: Lake Turkana Wind Power Project


The recent discovery of major groundwater aquifers and massive oil deposits in Turkana provides further reason for optimism.

Cross-border trade could have a positive ripple effect. It is poised to generate tremendous revenue for both countries, reduce risks of conflict, facilitate prevention of violent extremism efforts (particularly if tied to approaches that aim to strengthen social cohesion and societal resilience as well as paying attention to the social/cultural/political dimensions that drive radicalization and extremism), and improve livelihoods, especially among the marginalized and poor communities to expedite the achievement of a core goal of the SDGs – ending poverty by 2030.

The UN Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Regional Director for Africa Mr. Abdoulaye Mar Dieye has said, “The Ethiopia Kenya Cross Border Programme has a high peace and development return. If we invest in the region we can boost development and reduce insecurity. This Cross Border Programme is a regional public good. It resonates far beyond Kenya and Ethiopia and can serve the entire continent”.

Mr Abdoulaye Mar Dieye flanked by the Permanent Representative of Kenya Ambassador Macharia Kamau and the Permanent Representative of Ethiopia, Ambassador Tekeda Alemu said, “The Ethiopia Kenya Cross Border Programme has a high peace and development return”. Credit: UNDP Africa


The Kenya Ethiopia cross-border programme may well hold the key to an innovative approach to operationalizing Mr António Guterres, the UN Secretary General’s prevention agenda by addressing marginalization, radicalization and prevent violent extremism using human development and economic growth to spur peace.

Norway’s Ambassador to Kenya, Victor Ronneberg says. “this programme is a testimony of the UN’s convening role, to spur dialogue & engagement & reiterates the primacy of multilateralism even more in this day and age.”

The momentum has to be maintained and should not falter due to absence of resources. It is therefore critical for the international community to strongly support this initiative.

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya. Follow him on twitter.

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No Justice, No Peace for Yemeni Childrenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/no-justice-no-peace-yemeni-children/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-justice-no-peace-yemeni-children http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/no-justice-no-peace-yemeni-children/#respond Fri, 21 Jul 2017 14:09:04 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151395 Human rights groups are urging the UN Secretary-General to include the Saudi-led Coalition (SLC) in a child rights’ “shame list” after documenting grave violations against children. Save the Children and the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict have documented at least 23 SLC airstrikes which injured or killed children, prompting an urgent call for the […]

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'Zuhoor_Yemen' : One-year-old Zuhoor was forced to have the fingers of her right hand amputated after being seriously injured by an airstrikes near Sana'a. Credit: Mohammed Awadh/Save the Children

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 21 2017 (IPS)

Human rights groups are urging the UN Secretary-General to include the Saudi-led Coalition (SLC) in a child rights’ “shame list” after documenting grave violations against children.

Save the Children and the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict have documented at least 23 SLC airstrikes which injured or killed children, prompting an urgent call for the UN to help protect children caught in the midst of the deadly two year-long conflict.

“Everywhere you go in Yemen you see the devastation caused by airstrikes…all parties have been responsible for the unnecessary deaths of children in Yemen, and the Saudi Arabia-led coalition is among them,” said Save the Children’s Yemen country director Tamer Kirolos.

“The UN Secretary-General must put the interests of children first – and hold all of those responsible to account,” he continued.

The human rights groups compiled evidence of “grave violations” in an effort to push Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to include the SLC in a report on child rights violations in conflict, expected to be released next month.

The annual Children and Armed Conflict report documents grave violations including the killing and maiming of children and attacks on schools and hospitals. It also includes an annex which names and shames perpetrators of such violations.

The coalition was initially listed in the 2016 report, only to be removed a few days later after the Gulf state reportedly threatened to withdraw funding from critical UN programs.

“I had to make a decision just to have all UN operations, particularly humanitarian operations, continue,” former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said following the move.

“I also had to consider the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would defund many UN programs,” he added.

The 2016 report found that the coalition was responsible for 60 percent of all recorded child deaths and injuries.

This pattern has only continued as Save the Children and Watchlist documented the killing and maiming of more than 120 children.

In one incident, multiple airstrikes on a market in Hajjah in March 2016 left 25 children dead and four injured.

Multiple bombings of schools and hospitals have also been recorded, including attacks on two different Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)-supported hospitals.

Beyond the immediate and devastating effects on children, such attacks have exacerbated a humanitarian crisis in the country including the “world’s worst cholera outbreak.”

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), children under the age of 15 account for 40 percent of the almost 300,000 suspected cholera cases and make up a quarter of cholera-related deaths.

The 1.8 million acutely malnourished children under five are particularly vulnerable to such communicable diseases.

However, the health system remains unable to respond to the needs of the population as only 45 percent of health facilities remain with limited functionality.

“As war grinds on and children’s lives are blighted not just in Yemen but around the world, the Secretary-General’s annual list has rarely been more important,” the organisations said in a briefing.

“It offers an opportunity to stand up for children caught in today’s brutal conflict to say that their lives and rights have value,” they continued.

In order to hold perpetrators accountable, the list must be “executed without fear or favour” where every party to the conflict that has committed grave violations is included, they added.

Though listing the SLC is not an end in itself, failure to include a key party to the conflict will set a “dangerous precedent” that others around the world will take note of.

“It would also betray the families whose loved ones were killed, the children who suffered life-changing injuries in airstrikes last year…Yemen’s children deserve accountability for the attacks committed against them,” Save the Children and Watchlist concluded.

The coalition is comprised of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan. Because of an ongoing diplomatic rift, Qatar is no longer a part of the SLC.

More than 4,000 children have been killed or injured by all sides of the conflict.

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In the New World Order, Asia Is Rising, Says Pakistan’s UN Envoyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/new-world-order-asia-rising-says-pakistans-un-envoy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-world-order-asia-rising-says-pakistans-un-envoy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/new-world-order-asia-rising-says-pakistans-un-envoy/#respond Wed, 19 Jul 2017 18:44:56 +0000 Barbara Crossette http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151363 When Maleeha Lodhi arrived at the United Nations in 2015 as Pakistan’s ambassador, she brought with her a broad background in academia, journalism and diplomacy: a Ph.D. in political science from the London School of Economics, where she later taught political sociology; the first woman to edit major newspapers in Pakistan; ambassador to the United […]

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Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN, presiding over a General Assembly session, May 5, 2017. In an interview, Lodhi said the UN imbued nations with a “spirit of cooperation.” Credit: UN/Photo

By Barbara Crossette
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19 2017 (IPS)

When Maleeha Lodhi arrived at the United Nations in 2015 as Pakistan’s ambassador, she brought with her a broad background in academia, journalism and diplomacy: a Ph.D. in political science from the London School of Economics, where she later taught political sociology; the first woman to edit major newspapers in Pakistan; ambassador to the United States twice and once as Pakistan’s high commissioner in London.

In a sense, that background is all coming together at the UN.

While Lodhi’s diplomatic priority must be putting Pakistan’s interests first, she said in an interview in her office at the Pakistani UN mission on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, she also finds time to focus on global perspectives, which makes the UN a great assignment.

From her base in New York, Lodhi stays actively involved in a number of international think tanks, including the Institute of Strategic Studies and the Middle East Center at the LSE, both in London. She is also a member of the UN Disarmament Commission and the global agenda council of the World Economic Forum.

In the interview, Lodhi ranged over Pakistan’s reputation in the UN arena, the increasing role of China in development across Asia, the rise of Islamophobia and the sad state of Western responses to an unprecedented world refugee crisis.

Although Pakistan’s national priorities remain predominant — Lodhi mentioned counterterrorism, sustainable economic development, relations with India and the decades-long impasse over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir — the UN has another 192 nations with their own interests. The rapid, spontaneous evolution of a new world order means every nation needs friends to meet the challenges.

“When you come to the UN, you see the priorities of other nations, and the dynamics at play, and the crises that are occurring,” she said. “The best thing about [the UN] is that it encourages a spirit of cooperation, and I think that’s extremely essential in the challenging times that we live in. The United Nations is about negotiating as part of a bloc of countries. No country here negotiates on its own for obvious reasons, because you need the support of other countries.”

The UN displays global changes in sharp relief, Lodhi suggested, and the West must recognize that these developments beg for a rethinking of old assumptions about international power structures.

“At a time when we see the rise of Asia — and this being described as Asia’s century — the West needs to go back to the drawing board and revisit the very notion of an international community,” she said.

Maleeha Lodhi was born into a well-to-do family in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s largest province, Punjab, and the center of the country’s cultural traditions and base for its most prominent human-rights activists and groups. That includes the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a nongovernmental group.

She has credited her career partly to her parents’ emphasis on education. But her personality came into play early. She is known to be tough but gracious, meticulous in her scholarship while outspoken in promoting Pakistan. An Indian commentator suggested that Lodhi may have been sent to the UN to keep India from getting a permanent Security Council seat, though the Council is a long way from reform and expansion.

Decades ago, Lodhi became a good friend and adviser to Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s first female prime minister, who first appointed her ambassador to the United States in 1993-1996. She served as ambassador to the US again, from 1999 to 2002, under the military government of President Pervez Musharraf.

Her years in Washington, and later in fellowships at Harvard and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, would have demonstrated to anyone that Pakistan had serious critics across the US government and research organizations.

Under Abdul Qadeer Khan, who headed Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, Pakistan was found to have shared the technology he acquired while studying and working in Europe (or help given to him by China) with North Korea, Libya and Iran. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2004 for his black-market operations but pardoned almost immediately by General Musharraf and placed under house arrest until 2009.

Asked if Pakistan’s however-notorious past relations with North Korea and China, which is the country’s biggest development aid donor, had led to any outside requests for Pakistani information on the North Korean nuclear program or suggestions that Pakistani experts might be tapped to give advice with China on the current nuclear crisis with the Kim Jong Un regime, Lodhi said no.

Pakistan is often portrayed as an oppressive Islamic society, harsh on women and minorities, a record that is increasingly shared by neighboring India. The Pakistani government and intelligence services have also been accused of having created the Taliban, though little is said or remembered of Islamabad’s earlier hosting — with full US support — of the disparate armies of the Afghan mujahedeen, who took power after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. The remnants of these warlord-led militias in Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance continue to create political havoc in Kabul.

The attitude toward Pakistan is much more positive at the UN, Lodhi said.

“Contrary to the impression given by the negative media [particularly in the US], at the United Nations you’ll find the total antithesis. If you look at Pakistan’s position within this international community, it is one of enormous respect,” she said. She noted that the country has played a key role at the UN “on all three pillars: peace and security, human rights/humanitarian action and development.”

“We have consistently remained among the top three troop contributors to UN peacekeeping,” she said. “This has been the case since 1960 onwards.” Lodhi added that much of the current deployment of Pakistani soldiers is in Africa, “where they are needed most.”

On the humanitarian front, Lodhi points to Pakistan’s record on refugee assistance.

“We’ve always pointed out that the Western countries need to show a bigger heart,” she said. “They have a big wallet, but they need to match that wallet with a bigger heart. We didn’t have much of a wallet in Pakistan, but we continue to host over two million Afghan refugees. At the peak, we had more than three million. We continue to do that, and we’ve done that for 35 years.”

Pakistan, the world’s second-most-populous Muslim majority nation after Indonesia, plays a key role in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or OIC, and its voting bloc at the UN, Lodhi said. Among the concerns of Muslims, she said, are the unfulfilled resolutions on Kashmir, still a disputed territory between Pakistan and India; and on Palestine.

“There’s such a similarity between the cases of Palestine and Kashmir, both involving Muslim nations, both involving big power politics that stood in the way and continue to stand in the way of implementation of those resolutions.”

As a Muslim, Lodhi sees Islamophobia and xenophobia as “new forms of racial discrimination,” she said. “This is the contemporary expression of effort to discriminate against people of a certain faith who also happen to be people of a certain color. Here, also, Pakistan has been active at the United Nations, raising the issue.”

China looms large in the ambassador’s perception of the most significant global changes happening on the horizon, starting with the shifting relationship between Islamabad and Beijing.

“Traditionally, it was a defense and strategic dimension that was dominant in the relationship,” Lodhi said. “Now that relationship has morphed into a much more wide-based relationship. The defense-strategic relationship is there, but in addition, there is a very strong — I would say, much stronger — economic and investment orientation because Pakistan is the pivot of China’s One Belt, One Road. We hope to be the beneficiary in a mutually advantageous way.”

The Chinese initiative was announced in 2013 by President Xi Jinping. It is a breathtakingly ambitious program involving road, rail and sea links connecting traders and investors across Central Asia, parts of South and Southeast Asia, two seas — the South China Sea and Indian Ocean –and, ultimately, Europe.

The Chinese, who never think small or pay a lot of attention to critics, have wowed Pakistan, a longtime ally that sees itself as part of “the biggest economic initiative of the 21st century by any nation,” Lodhi said. “People still invoke the Marshall Plan as having in a way created a new paradigm and shifted a whole set of circumstances at that time. But this is gigantic by comparison. It’s not about aid and assistance. It’s about investment. It’s about trade. It’s about energy cooperation.

This has the potential of transforming all of Asia — certainly the 60 countries that are participating, thrusting them into a new era of prosperity and mutual cooperation.”

(*Brought to IPS readers courtesy of PassBlue, online independent coverage of the UN, a project of the Ralph Bunche Institute, City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center)

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Not Just Numbers: Migrants Tell Their Storieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/not-just-numbers-migrants-tell-stories/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=not-just-numbers-migrants-tell-stories http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/not-just-numbers-migrants-tell-stories/#respond Mon, 17 Jul 2017 09:52:11 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151317 Every single day, print and online media and TV broadcasters show images and footage of migrants and refugees adrift, salvage teams rescuing their corpses–alive or dead, from fragile boats that are often deliberately sunk by human traffickers near the coasts of a given country. Their dramas are counted –and told– quasi exclusively in cold figures. […]

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By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jul 17 2017 (IPS)

Every single day, print and online media and TV broadcasters show images and footage of migrants and refugees adrift, salvage teams rescuing their corpses–alive or dead, from fragile boats that are often deliberately sunk by human traffickers near the coasts of a given country. Their dramas are counted –and told– quasi exclusively in cold figures.

Every now and then a reporter talks to a couple of them or interviews some of the tens of humanitarian organisations and groups, mostly to get information about their life conditions in the numerous so called “reception centres” that are often considered rather as “detention centres” installed on both shores of the Mediterranean sea.

How to participate in IOM “i am a migrant” campaign


Answer a few questions:
- Country of origin/ current country/occupation,
- At what age did you leave your country and why (and where did you go to)?
- What was your first impression?
- What do you miss from your country?
- What do you think you bring to the country you're living in?
- What do you want to do/what do you actually do for your country of origin? (Example) What's your greatest challenge right now?
- Do you have a piece of advice you'd like to give to the people back in your country?
- And to those living in your host country?
- Where is home for you?
- Share a high-resolution picture of yourself

SOURCE: IOM

It is a fact that their numbers are shocking: 101,417 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 through 9 July, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reported. Of this total, 2,353 died.

Beyond the figures, migrants and refugees live inhumane drama, are victims of rights abuse, discrimination, xenophobia and hatred–often encouraged by some politicians. Let alone that tragic realty that they fall easy pry to human traffickers who handle them as mere merchandise. See: African Migrants Bought and Sold Openly in ‘Slave Markets’ in Libya..

On top of that, another UN organisation—the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that the Central Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe is among the world’s deadliest and most dangerous migrant routes for children and women.

“The route is mostly controlled by smugglers, traffickers and other people seeking to prey upon desperate children and women who are simply seeking refuge or a better life,” it reports. See: A Grisly Tale of Children Falling Easy Prey to Ruthless Smugglers.

On this, Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe, said that this route “is mostly controlled by smugglers, traffickers and other people seeking to prey upon desperate children and women who are simply seeking refuge or a better life.”

Moreover, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has estimated that 7 of 10 victims of human traffickers are women and children.

True that statistics help evaluate the magnitude of such an inhumane drama. But, is this enough?

1,200 Migrants Tell Their Dreams and Realities

2,716 kms from home. “I’ll probably go back to Senegal to use what I have learnt here (Niger) to contribute to my country’s development and to Africa as a whole” – Fatou. Read her story. Credit: IOM/Amanda Nero

In a singular initiative, IOM launched “i am a migrant” – a platform to promote diversity and inclusion of migrants in society.

3,385 kms from home. “Before, they used to ask how I came here. Now they ask migrants why they came” – Jasmine. Occupation: Law-maker. Current Country: Republic of Korea. Country of Origin: Philippines. Read her story. Credit: IOM

It’s specifically designed to support volunteer groups, local authorities, companies, associations, groups, indeed, anyone of goodwill who is concerned about the hostile public discourse against migrants, says IOM.

i am a migrant” allows the voices of individuals to shine through and provides an honest insight into the triumphs and tribulations of migrants of all backgrounds and at all phases of their migratory journeys.”

“While we aim to promote positive perceptions of migrants we do not shy away from presenting life as it is experienced. We seek to combat xenophobia and discrimination at a time when so many are exposed to negative narratives about migration – whether on our social media feeds or on the airwaves.”

The IOM campaign uses the testimonials of migrants to connect people with the human stories of migration. Thus far, it has seen 1,200 profiles published. The anecdotes and memories shared on the platform help us understand what words such as “integration”, “multiculturalism” and “diversity” truly mean.

Through stories collected by IOM teams around the world, “diversity finally finds a human face.” While inviting migrants to share their stories with its teams, IOM informs that “i am a migrant” is part of the UN TOGETHER initiative that promotes respect, safety and dignity for everyone who has left home in search of a better life.

Read their stories here.

From the Ashes of World War II

IOM is among the world’s most experienced international agencies dealing with migrants. No wonder– it rose from the ashes of World War Two over 65 years ago.

“In the battle-scarred continent of Europe, no government alone could help survivors who wanted no more than an opportunity to resume their lives in freedom and with dignity. The first incarnation of IOM was created to resettle refugees during this post-war period,” it reminds.

The agency’s history tracks the man-made and natural disasters of the past over 65 years – Hungary 1956; Czechoslovakia 1968; Chile 1973; the Viet Nam boat people 1975; Kuwait 1990, Kosovo and Timor 1999; the 2003 invasion of Iraq; the 2004 Asian tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and Haiti’s 2010 earthquake.

Now under the United Nations umbrella as part of its system since 2016, IOM quickly grew from a focus on migrant and refugee resettlement to become the world’s leading inter-governmental organisation dedicated to the well-being, safety and engagement of migrants.

Over the years, IOM has grown into 166 member states. Its global presence has expanded to over 400 field locations. With over 90 per cent of its staff deployed in the field, it has become a lead responder to the world’s worst humanitarian emergencies.

Shall these facts –and the stories migrants tell—help awaken the consciousness of those European politicians who ignore the fact that their peoples were once migrants and refugees as a consequences of wars their predecessors provoked? And that the migration agency was born for them?

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The Arab Youth Bulge and the Parliamentarianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/arab-youth-bulge-parliamentarians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=arab-youth-bulge-parliamentarians http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/arab-youth-bulge-parliamentarians/#respond Thu, 13 Jul 2017 16:26:37 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151300 More than ever before, the Arab region now registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges such as extremely high unemployment rates –more than half of all regional jobless population–, and inadequate education and health provision, in particular among young women. These challenges come amidst increasing population pressures, advancing drought and desertification, and […]

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The Arab region registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges, such as high unemployment and inadequate education

Students from Al-Amal Preparatory School for Girls in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, participate in psychosocial support activities. Credit: © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Sarraj

By IPS World Desk
ROME/AMMAN, Jul 13 2017 (IPS)

More than ever before, the Arab region now registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges such as extremely high unemployment rates –more than half of all regional jobless population–, and inadequate education and health provision, in particular among young women.

These challenges come amidst increasing population pressures, advancing drought and desertification, and alarming growing water scarcity, all worsening as a consequence of climate change.

One of the main consequences is an increasing social unrest like the one that led to so the so-called Arab Spring in 2011. Let alone massive migration–now it is estimated that 25 to 35 per cent of Arab youth appear to be determined to migrate. (See: What Future for 700 Million Arab and Asian Youth?).

What to Do?

More than 100 Arab and Asian legislators are set to focus on these and other related challenges in Amman, Jordan, during the Asian and Arab Parliamentarians Meeting and Study Visit on Population and Development (18-20 July 2017).

Organised by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA), which is the Secretariat of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP), in close consultation with Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development (FAPPD), participants have been selected based on their needs for capacity enhancement and priority policy interventions where knowledge-sharing can be most effective.

According to APDA, over the past decades, while the Arab region has shown remarkable socio-economic improvement including education and health, it has faced profound changes and challenges. Among them is the “youth bulge,” which describes the increasing proportion of youth in relative to other age groups.

The Arab region registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges, such as high unemployment and inadequate education

Students at the Jalazone Basic School watch a performance by ‘Clowns 4 Care’. Credit: © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Riham Jafary

Such increase, together with overall Arab population pressures, has resulted in an unprecedented youth population growth in the region’s history, it adds.

One of the most challenging issues facing young Arabs are the high-unemployment rates. “The region has one of the highest regional youth unemployment rate seen anywhere in the world,” it warns, adding that in 2009, more than 20 per cent of Arab youth were unable to find a job, which constituted more than half of the total unemployment.

Such high youth unemployment, combined with a demographic youth bulge, provoked the Arab Spring, a civil uprising mainly by Arab youths, and regional instability, according to APDA.

Moreover, despite overall progress in the health sector in many Arab countries over the past years, Arab youth still suffer from inadequate health provision and poor access to health facilities, lack of access to health information and services, especially for reproductive health.

“This is especially true for young women, youth in rural areas, and youth with disabilities and putting many in a vulnerable situation. “

The Youth Bulge

Organised under the theme “From Youth Bulge to Demographic Dividend: Toward Regional Development and Achievement of the SDGs”, the Amman meeting aims at enhancing the roles of parliamentarians in enacting legislation to formulate policies and mobilize budget that takes population issues into account is a driver to promote socio-economic development.

In fact, legislators have a significant part to play in linking demographic dimensions with sustainable development and turning them into advantages to produce socio-economic outcomes.

“For instance, the youth bulge presents not only development challenges but also opportunities, if appropriate policies are adopted to invest in the youth and reap the full potential of them. “

The Amman event will be followed by one in India on mid-September, and another one in the Republic of Korea towards the end of October 2017.

The Asian Population and Development Association has supported activities of parliamentarians tackling population and development issues for 35 years.

This time, in close consultation with Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development and its Secretariat in Amman, Jordan, the event is intended to highlight and call attention of Asian and Arab parliamentarians to population perspectives in the 2030 Agenda.

As well, it will focus on parliamentarians’ important roles and tasks in addressing population issues aligned with the new goals and targets, and related policies and programmes that advance social inclusion and population stability in the region.

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Nuclear Ban Approved, Now What?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/nuclear-ban-approved-now/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nuclear-ban-approved-now http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/nuclear-ban-approved-now/#comments Wed, 12 Jul 2017 09:12:36 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151248 More than seven decades after the deployment of deadly atomic bombs in Japan, the UN has passed a historic treaty banning nuclear weapons around the world. Though it has sparked hope for a future without nuclear weapons, uncertainty in the success of the treaty still lingers. More than 122 countries, representing two-thirds of the 192-member […]

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After months of talks, more than 122 countries, representing two thirds of the 192-member UN, adopted the historic nuclear ban

Credit: UN Photo/Pernaca Sudhakaran

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

More than seven decades after the deployment of deadly atomic bombs in Japan, the UN has passed a historic treaty banning nuclear weapons around the world. Though it has sparked hope for a future without nuclear weapons, uncertainty in the success of the treaty still lingers.

More than 122 countries, representing two-thirds of the 192-member UN, adopted the historic treaty banning nuclear weapons after months of talks.

“We have managed to sow the first seeds of a world free of nuclear weapons…the world has been waiting for this legal norm for 70 years,” said Elayne Whyte Gomez, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica and the president of the UN conference which negotiated the treaty.

After months of talks, more than 122 countries, representing two thirds of the 192-member UN, adopted the historic nuclear ban

Elayne Whyte Gómez. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Nuclear Disarmament Program Manager for the civil society organization PAX Susi Snyder similarly highlighted the importance of the occasion to IPS, stating: “People have been working for decades on the issue, myself included, and to have a moment that you know, to the very tips of your toes, that history is being made? That’s a moment to feel all the feelings.”

There are approximately 15,000 nuclear warheads globally, more than 90 percent of which belong to the United States and Russia.

Unlike the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) which allowed five countries to possess such arms, the new instrument is an explicit prohibition on the direct or indirect use, threat of use, possession, acquisition, and development of nuclear weapons.

It also for the first time includes obligations to provide assistance to victims of nuclear weapons testing and use as well as environmental remediation of areas contaminated a result of nuclear weapon activities.

“This normative treaty highlights the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons—it is a huge achievement especially for the Hibakusha, the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Arms Control Association’s (ACA) Researcher Alicia Sanders-Zakre told IPS.

Reference to such consequences can be seen throughout the treaty, including the deep concern “about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons” and the persistent risk to humanity posed by the “continued existence of nuclear weapons.”

Though the awareness of nuclear weapons’ devastating humanitarian ramifications is certainly not new, both Snyder and Sanders-Zakre noted that states still legitimize nuclear weapons in their security approaches.

“Some states negotiating the treaty would say that by having a security doctrine of nuclear deterrence, nuclear weapons states legitimize nuclear weapons and distract from their humanitarian consequences…which are often not in the forefront of the security stage,” said Sanders-Zakre.

The new treaty aims to strip nuclear weapons of their prestige by making them unacceptable under international law.

Not Without a Fight

The world’s nine nuclear-armed states as well as the majority of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) members boycotted the negotiations, except for the Netherlands which voted against the document.

Among the most vocal critics is the United States who, since the beginning of the talks, said that the process was not “realistic,” especially in the wake of rising tensions between the North American nation and North Korea.

“There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons, but we have to be realistic. Is there anyone who thinks that North Korea would ban nuclear weapons?” asked U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.

In a joint statement, the U.S., United Kingdom, and France announced that they do not ever intend to sign, ratify, or become party to the treaty.

“A purported ban on nuclear weapons that does not address the security concerns that continue to make nuclear deterrence necessary cannot result in the elimination of a single nuclear weapon and will not enhance any country’s security, nor international peace and security,” they stated, reiterating their continued commitment to the NPT.

Snyder told IPS that it was not surprising that such nations did not participate due to a desire to retain the political power associated with nuclear weapons. However, she criticised the joint move as it may be in violation of the NPT.

Article 6 of the NPT, which the majority of member States have signed, states that each party must “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”

Snyder noted that negotiations were considered by the majority to be an “effective measure” in the pursuit of disarmament.

“While this prohibition is not the final effort to achieve and maintain a nuclear weapons free world, it is certainly a key element of a world without nuclear weapons. It was an absence that is embarrassing for the nuclear armed states, demonstrating their commitment to inhumane weapons over humanity,” she continued.

However, nuclear-armed nations would argue that they are not violating the NPT as they do not consider that the prohibition will result in the elimination of nuclear weapons and is thus not an “effective measure,” said Sanders-Zakre.

The treaty reflects a growing divide between nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states on visions of disarmament.

Between a Nuke and a Hard Place?

Additional frustrations have arisen concerning the treaty’s prohibition on the stationing, installation or deployment of nuclear weapons on territories as it puts many NATO members in nuclear sharing agreements in a sticky situation.

Five nations, including Germany and Turkey, currently host U.S. nuclear weapons as part of NATO’s nuclear sharing policy. In order for NATO members to join, they will have to reverse or withdraw from their obligations.

“One the one hand, the treaty seeks to be universal to include many members. But at the same time, it is a prohibition treaty and having a member of a prohibition treaty that has nuclear weapons on their soil would be contradictory,” Sanders-Zakre told IPS.

But can a nuclear ban treaty be successful without such nations?

Snyder and Sanders-Zakre say yes.

“The treaty sets a norm, and the nuclear armed states have a history of following norms even when they don’t sign up to the treaties behind them,” said Snyder, referencing the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) which, despite not being ratified by all nations and not entering into force, has set a norm in which nuclear testing is condemned.

“That norm will grow from this treaty as well, and will likely result in ongoing substantive condemnation of the activities of the nuclear armed states that are not disarmament,” Snyder continued.

Sanders-Zakre noted that there might be some obstacles in the way before the treaty’s entry into force, including potential lobbying by nuclear weapon states to dissuade others from ratifying the instrument or a general decrease in political momentum.

But, with or without the nuclear weapon states, the treaty will mark a significant normative step towards disarmament if all 122 states which negotiated the instrument sign and ratify.

“My hope is that this treaty will be the first step towards more productive disarmament dialogue, and that it will serve as a wake-up call to nuclear weapon states that have not seriously been pursuing disarmament negotiations for quite some time,” Sanders-Zakre said.

Snyder similarly described the historic occasion as the first step of many, stating: “This treaty will help towards the elimination of nuclear weapons—it’s not the last thing that will get them out of the world forever, but it helps by reaffirming the complete illegitimacy of such inhumane weapons and offers a pathway for elimination.”

The treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons will be open for signature by member states on 20 September, marking the beginning of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly. It will enter into legal force 90 days after it has been ratified by 50 countries.

Earlier this year, atomic scientists set the Doomsday Clock to two and a half minutes before midnight, reflecting a fear that the world is closer to a nuclear disaster than it has been since 1953 after the U.S. and Soviet Union tested hydrogen bombs.

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Promoting Sustainable Population Growth, Key to Raising Human Rights Standardshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/promoting-sustainable-population-growth-key-raising-human-rights-standards/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=promoting-sustainable-population-growth-key-raising-human-rights-standards http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/promoting-sustainable-population-growth-key-raising-human-rights-standards/#respond Tue, 11 Jul 2017 15:31:57 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151237
Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Promoting Sustainable Population Growth, Key to Raising Human Rights Standards

Two women and a baby in a village near the city of Makeni, in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone. Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Switzerland, Jul 11 2017 (IPS)

The world population has witnessed a remarkable growth during the recent decades. In 1965, it stood at 3.3 billion people. In 2017 –52 years later– the global population reached a staggering 7.5 billion people corresponding to more than a doubling of the Earth’s residents over the last half-century.

Humans have been blessed with access to natural resources such as water, food and rare minerals that have been indispensable to the evolution and to the progress of humanity since time immemorial.

Nonetheless, the rapid increase of the world population is raising again Malthusian concerns. The Earth’s resources are finite and cannot sustain the current population growth rate in the long run; the Earth’s population is set to grow to 9.8 billion people by 2050. “When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.”

This is tantamount to saying that world population during the post WWII century will increase 3 times as much since man’s appearance on our planet. A Native American saying reminds us that uncontrolled population growth and excessive use of resources can leave the world empty-handed:

“When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.”

The 2017 World Population Day is an important occasion to raise awareness on contemporary unsustainable consumption patterns.

According to the United Nations, this year’s World Population Day will coincide with the 2017 Family Planning Summit that will focus inter alia on family planning among the world’s most marginalized and vulnerable women.

Preventative family planning is a vehicle for promoting sustainable population growth and for enhancing the status of women.

The “Protection of the Family” resolution adopted on 22 June 2017 by the United Nations upholds international human rights standards on the right to life and the right to family life, and is a good starting-point to further promoting sustainable population growth through family planning.

Child marriage is considered as a major triggering factor worsening population pressure around the world. It is referred to as a major problem in numerous countries located in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and even in Europe.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

The charity “Girls not Brides“ estimates that 1 out of 3 girls in the developed world are married before the age of 18. It also estimates that approximately 700 million women alive today were married when they were children.

According to the World Bank and the International Centre for Research on Women, child marriage accelerates population growth as women marrying before the age of 18 are prone to having more children than women marrying at a later age.

Child marriage also discourages women from pursuing higher education as their prospects of completing education diminishes drastically. In many cases, girls marrying at an early age are left with no other option than to drop out of school. This impedes the prospects for achieving economic empowerment owing to the marginalization of girls and of women.

Lack of access to family planning also remains a major concern in many countries. The 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action called upon member states of the United Nations (UN) to improve access to family planning services in an effort to resolve issues related to overpopulation.

The 1994 Cairo Declaration on Population & Development likewise called for constrained efforts to strengthen family planning particularly in the developed world. Nonetheless, the UNFPA estimates that approximately 225 million women “are not using safe and effective family planning methods.”

In order to address these challenges, I appeal to UN member States to implement concrete plans to address target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This target requires the world community to eliminate all forms of harmful practices including early and forced child marriage to advance the status of girls and women worldwide.

Addressing child marriage would further advance gender equality, increase access to education and improve the social status of girls and women. Child marriage is considered as a violation of human rights and must be eliminated in all its forms.

Enhancing family planning policies enables societies to cope with population pressures by bringing down the fertility rate to a sustainable level. This would improve the economic well-being of families and alleviate poverty and inequality. The economic burden on families would be reduced as there would be fewer mouths to feed.

However, countries should avoid implementing family planning policies reducing the fertility level below the 2.1 reproduction rate.

Addressing the depopulation of ageing advanced societies by fostering migration of population from high population growth developing countries is therefore key to optimizing growth potential and thus to move development forward.

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Is the United States Preparing for a War in Syria?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/is-the-united-states-preparing-for-a-war-in-syria/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-the-united-states-preparing-for-a-war-in-syria http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/is-the-united-states-preparing-for-a-war-in-syria/#comments Mon, 03 Jul 2017 13:53:21 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151152 Although US policies during the past few months have been quite puzzling and unpredictable, the events of the past few days have been truly bewildering and alarming. On Monday 26th June, the White House released a statement saying that the United States had “identified potential preparations for another chemical attack by the Assad regime…” It […]

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A civil defence team search for survivors after a barrel bomb attack in Aleppo Syria in August 2014. Credit: Shelly Kittleson/IPS

A civil defence team search for survivors after a barrel bomb attack in Aleppo Syria in August 2014. Credit: Shelly Kittleson/IPS

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Jul 3 2017 (IPS)

Although US policies during the past few months have been quite puzzling and unpredictable, the events of the past few days have been truly bewildering and alarming. On Monday 26th June, the White House released a statement saying that the United States had “identified potential preparations for another chemical attack by the Assad regime…” It went on to say: “If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

The threats were not limited to the Syrian government. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, followed that statement by tweeting: “Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people.”

It is of course beside the point to ask how US officials have “identified” that Syria was preparing for another chemical attack, while after so many years of fighting ISIS and other terrorists, they have not yet been able to find out who is supplying them with weapons, funds and organization.

Farhang Jahanpour

With these strange and unsubstantiated statements, the Trump Administration is introducing a new element of uncertainty to the developments in the Middle East. As if the situation in that volatile region was not bad enough, these warlike statements have made it much worse. Many people are asking whether the US Administration is preparing the ground for a major confrontation in the Middle East with unimaginable consequences.

Some 14 years ago, in total violation of international law, former US President George W. Bush launched a barbaric attack on Iraq on the basis of fabricated intelligence, which destroyed that country, killed and wounded more than a million people, and gave rise to ISIS that has afflicted the world ever since.

Far from having learned any lessons from that disastrous mistake, the Trump Administration seems intent on committing a similar mistake on a grander scale. During the campaign, Candidate Trump accused the former US Administration of having created ISIS, not indirectly but deliberately. He spoke about America having spent six trillion dollars on illegal wars in the Middle East and having nothing to show for it. He vowed that he would not be interested in regime change and was intent on resolving international disputes through negotiations and deals.

Whether he has changed his mind or whether the neocons in the Administration have infiltrated and dominated his administration makes little difference. The clear fact is that the Trump Administration seems to have opted for the logic of war, instead of resolving the conflicts by peaceful means.

During the past few weeks, US forces have launched a number of attacks on the positions of the forces allied with the Syrian government. On 18th May and 6th June, American aircraft bombed pro-Syrian militias in southern Syria. They shot down two Iranian-made drones on 8th and 20 June, and on 18th June a US fighter shot down a Syrian aircraft that was attacking ISIS bases west of Raqqa.

On 6th April, after an alleged Syrian chemical attack on Khan Shaykhun, a US frigate fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at the air base from which the Syrian aircraft had taken off. This was despite the fact that the United Nations was still investigating the source of the attack, and some leading investigative reporters and even the Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity who were on the ground had cast doubt on the Syria government’s involvement in the chemical attack.

It is strange that as Syrian forces, backed by Russia and Iran, are gaining the upper hand and liberating most of Syria from the terrorists, the intensity of Israeli and American attacks on Syrian government forces has increased.

From the start of the crisis in Syria, there have been a number of theories based on some leaked information that claimed that the entire debacle in Syria was part of a vicious plot by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States, initially supported by Turkey and Qatar, to isolate Iran and to cut off any links between Iran and Hezbollah through Syria.

Whether those theories about US involvement in Syria in support of Israel and against Iran were correct or not, the fact remains that the Trump Administration is engaged in an illegal and dangerous course of action that may result in a an unwanted war between Russia and Iran on the one hand, and the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia on the other.

In view of these developments it is important to point out:

  1. US actions are in clear violation of the UN Charter and are acts of aggression against a sovereign state.
  2. While Russian and Iranian forces are fighting in Syria against the insurgents at the invitation of the Syrian government, America as an uninvited guest has been fighting against the Syrian forces.
  3. If the Trump Administration is sincere in wanting to eliminate ISIS it should support Russia and Iran to liberate the remaining territory occupied by the terrorists.
  4. If the Trump Administration believes in democracy, free elections and the rule of law, it should call for elections in Syria under UN supervision after the defeat of the insurgents, and then accept the election results, rather than keep calling for the ouster of the Syrian president.
  5. Before launching into a dangerous adventure against Russia and Iran, the Trump Administration must carefully consider the consequences of such a major confrontation.
  6. If the Trump Administration is determined to push for war in Syria, US allies should make it clear that they will not support another unnecessary war in the Middle East.
  7. Meanwhile, instead of being only concerned about possible threats to the state of Israel, it is time to take serious steps to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict with some justice for the hard-pressed Palestinians who have lived under a brutal occupation for more than 50 years. Finding a fair solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict would ensure Israel’s security more than any attempts at regime change in other countries.
  8. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump strongly criticized President Obama for having set a red line regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and then failing to punish Syria. President Trump should realize that by issuing similar ultimatums to the Syrian government on the hypothetical use of chemical weapons, he is giving an open invitation to the terrorists to undertake such false flag operations, and then he will have to act, whether the Syrian government had been responsible for the use of chemical weapons or not.

Finally, to add an element of farce to the entire episode, on June 28th Defense Secretary James Mattis announced that the Syrian government had heeded the US warning and had changed its mind about the use of chemical weapons.

The situation in the world is too serious for the leading superpower in the world to pursue such confused and contradictory policies. It is time for the US government to adopt serious and sane approaches towards the Middle East before the world is engulfed in another major catastrophe.

 

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Scholar at Harvard. For the past 30 years he has been teaching courses on the Middle East at the Department of Continuing Education and is a member of Kellogg College at the University of Oxford

The statements and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IPS.

 

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Time Stands Still for Nepal’s Conflict Victimshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/time-stands-still-nepals-conflict-victims/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=time-stands-still-nepals-conflict-victims http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/time-stands-still-nepals-conflict-victims/#respond Mon, 03 Jul 2017 00:01:08 +0000 Marty Logan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151124 “Reconstruction and reconciliation require finances and physical structure, but the families of the victims of the conflict first and foremost need their integrity protected. Physical and financial compensation mean little without justice,” wrote Suman Adhikari nearly 11 years ago, during a ceasefire in Nepal’s Maoist insurgency. The conflict ended later that year, leaving 17,000 dead […]

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By Marty Logan
KATHMANDU, Jul 3 2017 (IPS)

“Reconstruction and reconciliation require finances and physical structure, but the families of the victims of the conflict first and foremost need their integrity protected. Physical and financial compensation mean little without justice,” wrote Suman Adhikari nearly 11 years ago, during a ceasefire in Nepal’s Maoist insurgency.

The conflict ended later that year, leaving 17,000 dead over a decade, including Adhikari’s father. A teacher and headmaster in Lamjung district, he and his fellow teachers in January 2002 refused Maoist demands to hand over 25 percent of their salaries. Days later, cadres seized him as he was teaching a Grade 10 class, bound his hands and legs, and dragged the man out of the school to a forest, where he was stabbed in the stomach and shot in the head. His body was left tied to a tree.“Many victims have been unable to get on with their lives. They are frustrated and suffer from psychological trauma." --Suman Adhikari

Soon after, Suman returned to the capital Kathmandu, where he began talking to other conflict victims about their own horrible experiences. They met with civil society organisations and political leaders, created an organisation and submitted their demands to political leaders then crafting the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

Today, as chairperson of the Conflict Victims Common Platform, Suman finds himself repeating many of the same requests.

One of the Common Platform’s main demands is that the government provide needs-based compensation to victims. The state has paid most of them Rs 500,000 (4,834 US dollars) as interim relief since the conflict ended but Adhikari says one-off payments can’t replace many of the breadwinners who families lost; without them, many are still struggling to find sufficient work or pay school fees.

“Many victims have been unable to get on with their lives. They are frustrated and suffer from psychological trauma,” he says.

For conflict victims in Nepal, transitional justice remains elusive

Suman Adhikari, chairperson of Nepal’s Conflict Victims Common Platform, holding a photo of his father. Credit: Marty Logan/IPS

While society moves on, with, for example, the political leader who was prime minister three times during the insurgency taking over as PM again last week from former Maoist supremo Prachanda, victims are being forgotten, Suman says. “They still haven’t had the chance to speak of their pain properly, from the heart.”

A recent report found that victims have diverse demands for ‘truth’. Prepared by the Nepal office of the International Centre for Transitional Justice and local think-tank Martin Chautari from recent interviews with victims, it noted that many people needed closure and an end to their ambiguous losses. “Our people will come home today or tomorrow. We watch the roads,” said one woman in Bardiya, the district that had the most disappearances during the conflict.

Recognition is also a common wish, Aileen Thomson, head of ICTJ Nepal, told IPS. “They feel that the violation happened because of their membership in certain communities … a lot of times violations perpetrated by the State were because of perceived associations with the Maoists, which was really tied to identity and community and where you lived.”

The survivors want society to know that their kin were innocent victims, caught in the crossfire, adds the report.

Just as victims’ demands varied, civil society also had different ideas about what transitional justice should achieve, says Mandira Sharma, co-founder of Advocacy Forum, an NGO that filed numerous court cases for conflict-era crimes. But those theoretical discussions were shelved when it became apparent that political leaders from both sides were hoping to use the process to avoid prosecutions, adds Sharma, who is now doing a PhD in human rights and law.

“We went to see the prime minister at that time, Girija Prasad Koirala, and he was very open and honest. He said ‘Look, I had concerns raised by the military, I had concerns raised by the Maoists, and I have assured them that nothing will happen to them… We have to turn now to development, and we have to forget what happened’.”

Instead, Advocacy Forum and other groups continued to take cases to court. After victims received their interim relief, “You could have closed the chapter forcing victims to be quiet with that, but that would have been temporary: this deep sense of injustice would have remained,” Sharma says.

“In that past that’s what we did (using commissions formed after earlier political milestones like Nepal’s return to democracy in 1990). That hasn’t helped us to heal, that hasn’t helped us to improve the justice system, to correct the sense that certain people are always above the law. And there’s a very deep sense of inequality in our system because of this. We identified this as something we had to fix.”

Today though, transitional justice appears at a near standstill. The government created truth and disappearances commissions in 2014, but the legislation was severely criticised on several fronts. The Supreme Court later struck down a provision that grants amnesty for serious human rights violations.

Human Rights lawyer Raju Chapagain says that while the laws creating the bodies must be amended, the truth commission could be making efforts to advance transitional justice, which would also help to diminish a strong sense of scepticism about the body. “Nothing is preventing them inquiring into human rights violations. Commissions have powers equivalent to courts; they have adequate powers in terms of inquiries,” he says.

By taking action the commission could overcome its “credibility gap,” Chapagain adds, but it has failed to date, in part because it hasn’t engaged with victims.

The truth commission opened its office in Pokhara, west of Kathmandu, this week, one of seven regional centres, but Adhikari says the body still refuses to engage with victims. “The commissions are not good, the appointments are political, the commissioners are new to this: they should at least have a willingness to learn and to collaborate – but they don’t listen to us.”

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Education, a Building Block for Sustainable Peacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/education-building-block-sustainable-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=education-building-block-sustainable-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/education-building-block-sustainable-peace/#comments Thu, 29 Jun 2017 07:20:42 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151090 Millions lack access to quality education around the world—but how can the international community change this? Two years into the adoption of the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), one of which includes a goal to provide inclusive, equitable, and quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all, the question of ‘how’ still remains. In an […]

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Access to education often has a trickle-down effect, helping boost food, health, and economic security, all of which are also essential SDGs.

Adult literacy and education program. Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/ IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 29 2017 (IPS)

Millions lack access to quality education around the world—but how can the international community change this?

Two years into the adoption of the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), one of which includes a goal to provide inclusive, equitable, and quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all, the question of ‘how’ still remains.

In an effort to answer this question, the UN convened a high-level meeting to discuss and explore new approaches to achieve the education goal, namely SDG 4.

“Access to quality education is not only a goal in itself, but a fundamental building block of creating a better world of sustainable peace, prosperity, and development,” said current General Assembly President Peter Thomson during the opening segment.

“For in the act of investing in education, we are realizing the potential of our greatest asset: the potential inherent in the people of this world,” he continued.

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed echoed similar sentiments, stating, “We know that when we deliver education to a young person, we are not only delivering the knowledge and skills they will need to chart their futures, but we are preparing them to lend their hearts, hands, and minds to shaping a much more peaceful, prosperous society indeed for themselves but also for everyone.”

However, much work needs to be done.

More than 260 million children and young people are out of school, and the number of primary-aged children not in school is increasing.

Over 750 million youth and adults also do not have basic literacy and numeracy skills, even if education is accessible.

Access to education often has a trickle-down effect, helping boost food, health, and economic security, all of which are also essential SDGs.

Education is therefore the “golden thread” that connects all 17 SDGs, Thomson noted.

But providing education is no simple task as there are many challenges to overcome.

Children in fragile or conflict-affected countries are often hard to reach but are three times more likely to miss primary school compared to children in other non-fragile developing countries. Additionally, only 50 percent of refugee children and 22 percent of refugee adolescents have access to primary and secondary schools.

“This is not only a short-term challenge, but a challenge that goes directly to the heart of our long-term efforts to build a more peaceful and equal world,” Mohammed said.

Innovative ways to deliver quality education are therefore essential, from providing temporary learning spaces to displaced children to using technology to reach children in remote and hard-to-reach areas.

Girls also still face a range of barriers from gender-based violence to social and cultural norms that prevent girls from attending to even the lack of appropriate and separate toilet facilities for girls, causing 130 million primary and secondary-aged girls to be out of school today.

Two-thirds of all illiterate adults are also women.

Since increasing women and girls’ access to education is proven to directly contribute to healthier families and economies, Thomson urged to look for ways to end gender discrimination that stops women and girls from accessing education.

Participants also highlighted the importance of providing lifelong learning for life and work.

“Over the next ten years, a billion young people will enter the global workforce. They need the requisite skills and competencies required not only to do the jobs that exist today, but the many jobs that haven’t yet been invented,” Mohammed stated.

Thomson added that adults should also be supported with ongoing training to help them adapt to and participate in rapidly changing workplaces.

According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), automation threatens up to two-thirds of jobs in developing countries, reflecting the necessity of adaptation support and vocational training.

However, among the biggest challenges to provide inclusive, equitable, and quality education is finances which continue to be insufficient worldwide.

The Education 2030 Framework for Action, adopted by the international community in 2015 to lead efforts to achieve SDG 4, provides two benchmarks for public expenditures on education: allocate at least 4-6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to education and/or allocate at least 15-20 percent of public expenditure to education.

Some countries such as the Republic of Korea, which has one of the best education systems in the world, have successfully allocated almost 5 percent of GDP to education, providingequitable access to vocational programs, and achieiving some of the highest secondary and tertiary enrollment and attainment rates in the world.

“This comes from the belief of the people on the power of education from the bottom,” said Republic of Korea’s Former Minister of Education and member of International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity Ju-Ho Lee during the event.

However, this is not the case for many other countries. The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) found that 51 out of 138 countries with data spent less than 4 percent of GDP on education, including a number of both low-income and high-income countries.

Though low and lower middle income countries have increased their spending on education, it is estimated that these countries would still face an annual financing gap of 39 billion dollars between 2015-2030.

External resources such as aid become essential for such countries. However, aid to education has remained stagnant.

Between 2014 and 2015, aid to education was a total of 12 billion dollars below its 2010 level and significantly less than the amount required to achieve SDG 4.

Mohammed urged for increased funding both on domestic and international levels, especially to countries most in need, as well as calling on participants to explore new approaches beyond ODA.

New funds dedicated to education have already been created, including the Education Cannot Wait Fund which provides education in humanitarian contexts. The UN’s education envoy Gordon Brown also proposed an international finance facility to leverage funds to help close the global funding gap for education.

Referring to his meeting with schoolgirls kidnapped from a school in Chibok, Nigeria, Thomson said that it should serve as inspiration to strengthen access to education for a safer and equitable world.

Mohammed made a similar appeal, stating: “There is no better investment in the future of peace and resilience of a society than in the education of its citizens, every citizen, and perhaps to say beyond citizens for those who are stateless—every person deserves a right to quality education.”

The UN High-Level SDG Action Event on Education is the last in a series of SDG events convened by the 71st session of the General Assembly. Each event focused on a key driver of sustainable development including sustainable peace, climate action, financing, and innovation.

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The World Society Needs to Express Greater Solidarity for Refugees Worldwidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 12:02:36 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150978 Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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The World Society Needs to Express Greater Solidarity for Refugees Worldwide

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

The world is heading into troubled waters as we are witnessing an unprecedented movement of people – refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons (IDPs) alike – fleeing from misery, poverty and conflicts. The refugee crisis that has swept across Europe and the Middle East is becoming the 21st century’s most protracted crisis with no immediate solution in sight. The world has not witnessed a more complex movement of people since the end of the Second World War; thousands of human beings undertake perilous and treacherous journeys in hope for a better and a safer future. Many of them perish during these hazardous journeys. How can we forget the words the British-Somali poet Warsan Shire who said:

No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”

The 2017 World Refugee Day is an important occasion to stand united with millions of refugees around the world. This international commemorative day was announced in 2001 following the adoption of Resolution 55/76 by the United Nations General Assembly on 12 February 2001. It also marked the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the “1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.” Although the traumas of the Second World War reminded the world of the importance of never ignoring the past, the contemporary crisis calls for concerted efforts to resolve the plight of refugees worldwide as a matter of urgency and to address the root causes of mass exodus, as a long-term strategy.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 21 million refugees worldwide. In 2017, there was an estimated 5 million Syrian refugees worldwide. Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Sudan – countries located in the Arab region – are also considered as source countries of refugees owing to the proliferation of conflicts and the rise of violent extremism.

The majority of these refugees have sought refuge in countries neighbouring their country of origin. In the Middle East, countries in the Arab region are hosting one of the highest number of refugees. More than 1 million people have found refuge in Lebanon, a country that has already welcomed more than 500,000 Palestinian refugees. Jordan is home to approximately 660,000 refugees, whereas Iraq and Egypt have welcomed around 240,000 and 120,000 refugees respectively despite internal upheavals and civil strife. On top of this, one can also add Turkey that is currently hosting nearly 3 million Syrian refugees.

On the other side of the Mediterranean Sea, several European countries have showed some support to address the plights of refugees from the Arab region. Germany and Sweden have taken adequate measures to accommodate the influx of refugees by welcoming 400,000 and 100,000 refugees respectively. Other countries such as France and the Netherlands have also pleaded to relocate refugees entrenched in refugee camps in transit countries such as Italy, Greece and Hungary.

Although a certain degree of solidarity is being expressed by European countries, the number of refugees being granted protection in rich Western countries constitutes a very small one-digit percentage of the population compared with countries in the Arab region. Despite being signatories to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, many countries have decided to openly defy the acceptance of refugees belonging to certain religious faiths within their societies. Walls have been built in a misconceived attempt to exclude refugees from entering certain countries. The fearmongering and scapegoating of refugees have likewise given rise to a populist tidal wave. Right-wing movements use the contemporary refugee crisis to confer legitimacy on their aspirations to political power through whipping up xenophobia and through conflating Islam with terrorism.

During a panel debate that was held on 15 March 2017 at the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG) on the subject of “Islam and Christianity, the Great Convergence: Working Jointly Towards Equal Citizenship Rights” several panellists underscored that these types of practices are contradictory to the core principles of Islam and Christianity preaching love, peace and tolerance towards people in need. Societies should stand united in addressing the rise of populism that is pervasive in many countries.

I would also like to call upon governments in the Middle East and in the West to work jointly to address the protracted refugee crisis. Rich countries have a moral responsibility to provide development assistance to poorer countries to achieve a more equitable burden sharing arrangement for hosting refugees. Countries in the West and in the Middle East need also to step up their joint efforts to eliminate the root causes which have fuelled extremism. Peace and stability in the Middle East need to be restored before refugees can safely return to their home societies. This calls for a radical political change of approach in problem solving in the region.

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New Alert: Refugee Numbers Outpace Resettlement Spotshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/new-alert-refugee-numbers-outpace-resettlement-spots/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-alert-refugee-numbers-outpace-resettlement-spots http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/new-alert-refugee-numbers-outpace-resettlement-spots/#respond Tue, 13 Jun 2017 17:49:35 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150868 Against the backdrop of increasing refugee numbers around the globe, fuelled by crisis and insecurity, and an ever-widening gap in places to resettle them, the top United Nations official dealing with refugee issues has called on governments to “step up” and deliver places for refugees in line with the commitments they have made. “The fact […]

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Congolese refugee (Bora, second from right) arrives at Cape Town International Airport with her friends. She is being relocated to France with her children under a UNHCR scheme to resettle the most vulnerable refugees. Credit: UNHCR/James Otaway

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jun 13 2017 (IPS)

Against the backdrop of increasing refugee numbers around the globe, fuelled by crisis and insecurity, and an ever-widening gap in places to resettle them, the top United Nations official dealing with refugee issues has called on governments to “step up” and deliver places for refugees in line with the commitments they have made.

“The fact is global resettlement needs today far outweigh the places made available by governments by a factor of 13 to one, despite more countries taking part in the programme and an increase in private sector and community involvement,” on June 12 said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at the opening of the UN agency’s annual resettlement consultations in Geneva, Switzerland.

Close to 1.2 million refugees need resettling globally, but only 93,200 places in resettlement countries are expected to be available this year – 43 per cent fewer than in 2016. For refugees from sub-Saharan Africa the situation is especially acute – with just 18,000 available places for more than half a million refugees.

“The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants was a milestone in global solidarity with refugees and the mainly developing countries which host almost 9 in 10 of them. But true sharing of responsibility requires places for refugees in third countries on a scale in line with the needs. We need urgent action to get there,” Grandi said.

The UN refugees agency’s report UNHCR Projected Global Resettlement Needs in 2018 estimates some 1.2 million refugees need a third country solution in the coming year – a slight increase from the previous year.

This includes more than 510,000 refugees in 34 different countries across Africa, some 280,000 in the Middle East, 302,000 in Europe (mostly in Turkey), over 100,000 in Asia and some 1,800 in the Americas.

The UNHCR report tabled at the Geneva meeting notes that the widening gap between needs and places in 2017 follows a year of several positive achievements in the global resettlement programme.

In 2016, UNHCR submitted more than 162,500 refugees for resettlement – the highest number in 20 years – and more than 125,800 started new lives in third countries. Almost half of the refugees submitted were Syrians, while 44,000 were from sub-Saharan Africa – the highest from this region in almost 15 years.

The number of resettlement states grew to 37 in 2016, with some European governments setting up programmes for the first time and Argentina and Brazil, amongst others, making new commitments to resettle Syrian refugees, the UN agency informs.

“Despite the rhetoric against refugees in some quarters we have also seen an outpouring of good will, with ordinary citizens sponsoring refugees to live in their countries, inviting them into their homes and helping them to find jobs,” Grandi added.

He also noted that the increased engagement of civil society and the private sector embodies the spirit of the New York Declaration, which calls for all parts of society to play a role in the global response to large movements of refugees.

“Resettlement places not only help those refugees who face extreme difficulty in their first country of asylum, but are an important gesture of solidarity with countries hosting large numbers of refugees.”

The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants was adopted on 19 September 2016 by 193 Member States of the United Nations.

In it governments committed – amongst other objectives – to work on increasing resettlement places and other legal pathways for admission of refugees on a scale that would match the annual resettlement needs identified by UNHCR.

Refugees in need of resettlement are those people identified by UNHCR as having particular problems in the countries where they have sought refuge because their life, liberty, safety, health or other fundamental rights are at risk.

We need urgent action to get there,” he underscored.

“Despite the rhetoric against refugees in some quarters we have also seen an outpouring of good will, with ordinary citizens sponsoring refugees to live in their countries, inviting them into their homes and helping them to find jobs,” Grandi added, urging all partners to support ways to provide additional places for refugees.

“Resettlement places not only help those refugees who face extreme difficulty in their first country of asylum, but are an important gesture of solidarity with countries hosting large numbers of refugees,” he said.

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Child Labor in the Arab Region Does Not Belong to the 21st Centuryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/child-labor-in-the-arab-region-does-not-belong-to-the-21st-century/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=child-labor-in-the-arab-region-does-not-belong-to-the-21st-century http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/child-labor-in-the-arab-region-does-not-belong-to-the-21st-century/#respond Mon, 12 Jun 2017 19:08:57 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150860 Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Jun 12 2017 (IPS)

Today marks the 2017 World Day against Child Labor to reaffirm the goal to eliminate all forms of child labor. This year’s annual theme highlights a subject that is often neglected, namely the importance of addressing child labor in conflict areas and in disaster settings.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

The United Nations (UN) estimates that approximately 1.5 billion people live in conflict areas around the world. It is likewise projected that around 200 million people are affected annually by disasters whether related to man-made environmental devastations, to natural hazards or to other types of catastrophes.

Out of these figures, 168 million children worldwide are affected by child labor in conflict and in disaster settings. Asia and the Pacific has the highest incidence with approximately 78 million (9.3%) followed by Sub-Saharan Africa with 59 million (21%) and Latin America and the Caribbean with 13 million (8.8%). 9.2 million children – 8.4% of the total figures – are engaged in child labor in the Middle East and in North Africa.

Child labor is prohibited by several legal conventions. ILO Convention No. 182 often referred to as the “Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention” provides important guidelines on the worst types of child labor that need to be prohibited and eliminated by States. ILO Convention No. 138 entitled “Minimum Age Convention” likewise upholds in Article 7 that children at an early age should not undertake employment considered “to be harmful to their health or development.”

Although the incidence of child labor in the Middle East and in North Africa is lower than in other parts of the world, it remains a major challenge for many countries in the Arab region owing to the proliferation of conflicts.

The war in Syria is a major humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century. Several hundred thousand civilians have died, whereas it is estimated that approximately 7.6 million people are internally displaced and 4.8 million are refugees. A figure that is often left unaddressed is the incidence of child labor involving Syrian refugee and displaced children. According to several think-thanks, these children perform hazardous work and hard labor under harsh and unsustainable working conditions. Organized crime groups exploit children for financial gains. Child labor has now reached a disturbing level among Syrian refugee children.

Yemen has also witnessed the growth of child labor owing to the war that is unfolding in the country. According to a joint UNHCR-IOM press release issued in February 2017, it was concluded that the deteriorating situation in Yemen has pushed children into “danger and adversity” including child labor and hazardous work. Other Arab countries facing turmoil and civil war – such as Libya and Iraq – also experience a resurgence of child labor as a result of the disintegration and the fragmentation of these societies.

Despite this troubling context, there is hope in the horizon. I am pleased that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) underscore the importance of addressing and of ending child labor. SDG 8.7 stipulates the need to end child labor “in all its forms” by 2025. I invite all Arab states to work jointly towards the realization of this imperative goal by 2030. Arab States have showed great dedication and commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); I remain convinced that similar progress will be realized vis-à-vis the SDGs.

The deteriorating security situation and the growing threat of famine throw societies into a situation of despair and instability. The lack of employment, decent work and poverty provide fertile ground for child labor to prosper as the only hope for economically disadvantaged families is to send their children – in particular girls – to engage in child labor. To reverse this trend, war-torn societies need to be allowed to return to a modicum of peace and stability guaranteeing families safe living conditions and peaceful prospects. The return to peace is the first step towards the full elimination of child labor.

Lastly, despite a massive influx of refugees and internally displaced persons to Europe, the heaviest burden by far is borne by Muslim societies in neighbouring countries bordering war-torn countries of departure of refugees and other migrants. It is therefore important to step up the efforts of the international community to provide adequate support and assistance to such countries welcoming a high percentage of migrants and refugees including children in relation to their own population.

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This Is the Nation of 170 Million Enslaved Childrenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/this-is-the-nation-of-170-million-enslaved-children/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=this-is-the-nation-of-170-million-enslaved-children http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/this-is-the-nation-of-170-million-enslaved-children/#comments Mon, 12 Jun 2017 03:06:56 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150844 Globally over 1.5 billion people live in countries that are affected by conflict, violence and fragility. Meantime, around 200 million people are affected by disasters every year—a third of them are children. And a significant proportion of the 168 million children engaged in child labour live in areas affected by conflict and disaster. These are […]

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Credit: UN News Centre

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jun 12 2017 (IPS)

Globally over 1.5 billion people live in countries that are affected by conflict, violence and fragility. Meantime, around 200 million people are affected by disasters every year—a third of them are children. And a significant proportion of the 168 million children engaged in child labour live in areas affected by conflict and disaster. These are the facts. Up to you to reflect on the immediate future of humankind.

Conflicts and disasters have a devastating impact on people’s lives, the United Nations reminds.

“They kill, maim, injure, force people to flee their homes, destroy livelihoods, push people into poverty and starvation and trap people in situations where their basic human rights are violated.”

Of this total of 168 million children victims of modern slavery, about 100 million boys and 68 million girls.

Forced labour is estimated to generate around 150 billion dollars a year in illegal profits.

Credit: Unicef.ca, Canada

Credit: Unicef.ca, Canada

Amid such a huge human tragedy, children are often the first to suffer as schools are destroyed and basic services are disrupted, the world body reports.

“Many children are internally displaced or become refugees in other countries, and are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and child labour. Ultimately, millions of children are pushed into child labour by conflicts and disasters.”

This why on the occasion of the 2017 World Day Against Child Labour, marked June 12, the UN focuses on the impact of conflicts and disasters on child labour.

“Urgent action is needed to tackle child labour in areas affected by conflict and disaster. If the SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) Target 8.7 which aims to “eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour” is to be achieved by 2030.”

The UN stresses the need to intensify and accelerate action to end child labour, including in areas affected by conflict and disasters. “And we need to do it together.”

Child Labour No More by 2025?

Credit: Unicefusa.org

Credit: Unicefusa.org

As the world strives to achieve the elimination of child labour by 2025, on this World Day Against Child Labour, says the International Labour Organization (ILO), “let’s join forces to end child labour in areas affected by conflict and disaster!”

Child labour and forced labour in conflicts and humanitarian settings will be discussed at the IV Global Conference on Child Labour (Buenos Aires, 14-16 November 2017).

For its part, the UN Children Fund (UNICEF) warns that child labour deprives children of their right to go to school, exposes them to violence, and reinforces intergenerational cycles of poverty.

“Yet, this serious violation of human rights is not inevitable. Child labour is preventable through integrated approaches that simultaneously address poverty and inequity, improve access to and quality of education and mobilise public support for respecting children’s rights.”

11 Per Cent of World’s Children

UNICEF also reminds that, worldwide, about 168 million children aged 5 to 17 are engaged in child labour, accounting for almost 11 per cent of all children.

The most recent figures, based on statistical evidence from UNICEF, ILO and the World Bank, show a decline of about one third since 2000.

While that is positive news, progress is far too slow, the UN specialised agency reports, adding that the continued persistence of child labour poses a threat not only to the health and well being of children, but also to national economies and the achievement of global development goals.

Child labour is defined as work for which the child is too young – i.e., work done below the required minimum age.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recognises every child’s right, “to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education,” or that is likely to harm the child’s health or, “physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.”²

Other international instruments further define a child’s right to be protected from the “worst forms of child labour,” including recruitment in armed conflict, sexual exploitation and drug trafficking.

The lives and futures of millions of children are in jeopardy, UNICEF warns. “We have a choice: Invest in the most excluded children now or risk a more divided and unfair world.”

“Every child has the right to a fair chance in life. But around the world, millions of children are trapped in an intergenerational cycle of disadvantage that endangers their futures – and the future of their societies.”

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Crisis in the Gulf: Escalation or negotiation?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/crisis-in-the-gulf-escalation-or-negotiation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=crisis-in-the-gulf-escalation-or-negotiation http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/crisis-in-the-gulf-escalation-or-negotiation/#respond Thu, 08 Jun 2017 15:37:23 +0000 James M. Dorsey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150821 *Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies & co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture

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By James M. Dorsey
SINGAPORE, Jun 8 2017 (IPS)

Turkey’s parliament is this week fast tracking the dispatch of up to 3,000 troops to Qatar, home to the country’s military base in the Middle East. Certain to stiffen Qatar’s resolve to resist Saudi and UAE-led pressure to force it to change policies, the Turkish move comes amid hints that the kingdom and its allies may seek to undermine the rule of Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

The stakes for both sides of the Gulf divide could not be higher. Saudi Arabia and the UAE cannot afford to fail in their effort to force Qatar’s hand after leading several Arab and non-Arab states in a rupture of diplomatic relations and declaring an economic boycott that also targets Qatar’s food supplies. By the same token, Qatar cannot afford a cave-in to Saudi and UAE demands that would humiliate the country and effectively turn it in to a Saudi vassal.

The dispatch of Turkish troops as well as Turkish and Iranian offers to help Qatar offset the impact of the boycott by ensuring that its food and water needs are met positions the Gulf crisis and Saudi Arabia’s proxy war with the Islamic republic as a political rather than a sectarian battle. Sunni Turkey and Shiite Iran countering of the Saudi-UAE campaign undermines the kingdom’s effort to project its rivalry with Iran as both a sectarian conflict and a power struggle.

The dispatch of troops and the emergence of a pro-Qatari alliance opposed to that of Saudi Arabia also eases pressure on non-Arab Muslim states to take sides. By raising the stakes, Turkey and Iran could potentially contribute to efforts to find a political solution to the crisis.

The move to quickly dispatch troops to Qatar came a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the Saudi-UAE effort to isolate sanctions and cripple it with sanctions. Mr. Erdogan warned that the moves would fail to solve problems and said he would do what he could to end the crisis.

Kuwait is already attempting to bridge the gap between the Gulf states and Qatar while the United States and Germany have called for a political solution. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was scheduled to visit Ankara to discuss ways of resolving the Gulf crisis.

That may prove to be easier said than done. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are bent on avoiding a repeat of 2014 when Qatar failed to respond to the withdrawal of the Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini ambassadors from Doha by caving in to their demands that it halts its support for Islamists and militants. The three countries were forced to return their ambassadors after an absence of nine months with little to show for their action.

Leaders of Saudi Arabia and the UAE have moreover put their credibility on the line by not only breaking off diplomatic relations but also imposing a harsh boycott. The UAE, apparently concerned that the boycott, and particularly the targeting of food supplies, could spark domestic criticism, made expressions of sympathy with Qatar a criminal offense punishable with up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of at least US$ 136,000. Up to 40 percent of Qatar’s approximately $1 billion in food exports a year were trucked to Qatar from Saudi Arabia until this week’s eruption of the crisis.

Also raising the stakes is the fact that a Qatar capable of resisting Saudi and UAE pressure would effectively contribute to a Muslim bloc in the Middle East that stands for everything Saudi Arabia and the UAE are seeking to defeat.

Inevitably, closer Qatari ties with Turkey as well as Iran, with which the Gulf state shares the world’s largest gas field, would become a fixture of Middle Eastern geopolitics. Iran is already helping Qatar not only with food but also by allowing Qatar Airways flights to Asia to cross Iranian airspace in their bid to circumvent Saudi, UAE and Bahrain airspace that has been closed to them.

Beyond demonstrating that Qatar is not alone in its fight, the dispatch of Turkish troops would also seek to dissuade Saudi Arabia and the UAE from intervening directly in the Gulf state.

Turkey and Qatar have long pursued similar policies. Both countries supported the 2011 popular Arab revolts.

By contrast, Saudi Arabia and the UAE went to great length to thwart their success., including helping engineer the military coup that in 2013 toppled Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim brother and Egypt’s first and only democratically elected president. Saudi and UAE troops also helped Bahrain brutally squash its 2011 popular uprising.

Turkey and Qatar moreover both support the Muslim Brotherhood, rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Islamist groups in divided Libya. The UAE and Saudi Arabia alongside Egypt back the internationally recognized Tobruk-based Libyan government that joined them in breaking off relations with Qatar.

Turkey set up a military base in Qatar with some 150 troops, its first in the Middle East, as part of an agreement signed in 2014. Turkish officials have since said Turkey’s presence would be increased to some 3,000 troops.

Turkey’s move to expedite the dispatch of additional troops to Qatar came as UAE state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said that one “cannot rule out further measures. We hope that cooler heads will prevail, that wiser heads will prevail and we will not get to that.”

Accusing Qatar of being “the main champion of extremism and terrorism in the region,” Mr. Gargash insisted that “this is not about regime change — this is about change of policy, change of approach.”

Egyptian, Emirati and Saudi newspapers, none of which are known to be truly independent, reported in recent days that domestic opposition to Qatari emir sheikh Tamim was mounting.

“We have long been silent about the irrational practices of the regime in Qatar,” Sheikh Saud bin Nasser Al-Thani, a little known member of the ruling family which is believed to account for up to 20 percent of Qatar’s citizens, told Egypt’s Youm7 newspaper.

The newspaper reported that opponents of Sheikh Tamim would form a London-based opposition paper headed by Sheikh Abdelaziz Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, an uncle of the emir and former oil and finance minister, who was accused of involvement in a failed effort in 2011 by Qatari military officers to overthrow Sheikh Tamim’s father and predecessor, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.

Abu Dhabi’s The National newspaper reported that the party would advocate a Qatari policy in line with Saudi and UAE demands, including curbing the activities of Sheikh Hamad’s wife, Sheikha Mozah Al-Misnad, who heads Qatar Foundation; freezing Qatar’s relations with Iran, ending Qatari support for Islamists in Libya and Egypt, and expelling Islamist leaders from the Gulf state.

“On behalf of the Qatari people, we offer the highest apology to the people of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen and other countries that have been abused and harmed by the Qatari regime. We inform you that the Qatari people do not approve of the national policies that seek to shatter the Arab unity,” Sheikh Saud said in a statement carried by Egypt Today.

“Qataris are questioning whether this is going to end up in seeing a change in leadership itself in Qatar,” added Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, a prominent liberal intellectual, art collector and businessman who is a member of the ruling family of the UAE emirate of Sharjah.

Earlier, Salman al-Ansari, the head of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), a Washington-based lobby, warned Sheikh Tamim that he could meet the same fate as Mr. Morsi, the toppled Egyptian president.

The Arab press reports notwithstanding, there is little by which to gauge possible support for opposition to Sheikh Tamim among the military or the public in Qatar, which like others in the region controls its media but has not imposed the kind of draconic penalties on freedom of expression introduced this week in the UAE.

Whatever the case, Qatar and Turkey hope that a substantial presence of Turkish troops rather than the fact that Qatar also hosts 10,000 US troops on the largest US military facility in the Middle East, would complicate, if not dampen, any plans to force Sheikh Tamim’s exit.

Said Mr. Al Qassemi: “The Qataris should not count on that base as being a guarantee or sort of American protection when it comes to conflict with Saudi Arabia. I think the Americans would choose to side with Saudi Arabia over any other country in the region.”

The statements and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IPS.

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What Future for 700 Million Arab and Asian Youth?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/what-future-for-700-million-arab-and-asian-youth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-future-for-700-million-arab-and-asian-youth http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/what-future-for-700-million-arab-and-asian-youth/#respond Thu, 08 Jun 2017 15:11:23 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150818 With a combined population of around 400 million inhabitants, 22 Arab countries are home to nearly 300 million youth. Meantime, there are 400 million youth living in Asia and the Pacific. In both regions, these 700 million young people aged 15–24 years account for up to 60 per cent of world’s youth population. What future […]

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Women and girls in the garment industry are often subject to forced overtime and low wages, and on domestic workers because of the unprotected nature of their work. Credit: ILO / A. Khemka

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 8 2017 (IPS)

With a combined population of around 400 million inhabitants, 22 Arab countries are home to nearly 300 million youth. Meantime, there are 400 million youth living in Asia and the Pacific. In both regions, these 700 million young people aged 15–24 years account for up to 60 per cent of world’s youth population. What future for them?.

Not an easy question, especially if you consider that the Middle East and North of Africa (MENA) region faces a bulk of huge challenges: from fast growing population to increasing food insecurity; from armed conflicts (Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, Iraq) to climate driven instability and massive displacement and migration.

Let alone the widening gender gap—in fact only 13.5 per cent of female youth are economically active, compared to around 50 per cent per cent of male youth.

All the above occurs amidst record high unemployment rates, reaching and average of 30 per cent in the whole region, with peaks of up to 55 per cent in the case of war-torn Yemen.

This challenge is aggravated by the fact that young people remain nearly four times more likely to be unemployed than their adult counterparts, and as much as over four times in the Arab states.

Asian Youth
In Asia and the Pacific, youth appear not to be much better off. There, in 2015, nearly 40 million youth –12 per cent of the youth labour force– were unemployed. Although this was less than the global youth unemployment rate of 13 per cent, it varied by sub-region.

In 2015, for example, the youth unemployment rate was estimated at around 12.9 per cent in South-East Asia and the Pacific, 11.7 per cent in East Asia and 10.7 per cent in South Asia.

Here, despite relatively low youth unemployment rates, young people remain nearly four times more likely to be unemployed than their adult counterparts, and as much as 5.4 times in South-Eastern Asia (over four times in Southern Asia).

Schoolchildren in Chowrapara, Rangpur, Bangladesh. Credit: UNICEF / Tapash Paul

Schoolchildren in Chowrapara, Rangpur, Bangladesh. Credit: UNICEF / Tapash Paul

This region faces as well a huge gender gap. In South Asia, low female participation (19.9 per cent) is estimated to be nearly 40 percentage points lower than among youth males (53 per cent). And the gender gap in labour force participation rates has been widening over the last decade in South Asia.

Experts from national regional and international organisations have worked hard on finding solutions. One of them, the International Labour Organization, UNESCO, UN Population Fund, World Bank, among others, emphasise the need for education, which will determine the livelihoods of 700 million people in the these two regions and drive growth and development for generations to come.

They also coincide in warning that while significant policy developments have focused on these challenges, including school-to-work transitions and skill mismatches, further coordinated efforts are needed to address obstacles to productive employment and decent work for all youth and thereby help to properly unleash their potential.

Asian and Arab Parliamentarians to Meet
In addition to international experts, analysts and organisations, parliamentarians as direct, elected representatives of people, are set to meet next month in Amman under the theme “From Youth Bulge to Demographic Dividend: Toward Regional Development and Achievement of the SDGs.”

Organised by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) and the Secretariat of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP), this Asian and Arab Parliamentarians Meeting and Study Visit on Population and Development, will on 18-20 July discuss in the Jordanian capital, the above challenges and ways how to face them.

In spite of the rising number of women entering the labour force in Bangladesh, gender disparities persist. Credit: Obaidul Arif / IPS

In spite of the rising number of women entering the labour force in Bangladesh, gender disparities persist. Credit: Obaidul Arif / IPS

The Amman meeting will be hosted by the Jordanian Senate, the Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development (FAPPD), with the support of the Japan Trust Fund (JTF); the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

The Jordanian capital’s meeting will be followed by a two specific ones: Africa-Asia in New Delhi at mid of September, and an event on ageing, scheduled to take place in Korea end of October.

Annual Parliamentarian Meetings
Since its establishment, APDA has been holding the annual Asian Parliamentarians’ Meeting on Population and Development to promote understanding and increase awareness of population and development issues among Japanese, Asian, and Pacific parliamentarians.

APDA sends Japanese and Asian parliamentarians overseas to observe projects conducted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japanese Government.

Similarly, parliamentarians from selected countries are invited to Japan to visit facilities in areas such as population and development, health and medical care. Through exchange between parliamentarians from Japan and other countries, the programme aims to strengthen cooperation and promote parliamentarians’ engagement in the field of population and development.

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In Volatile Times, the U.A.E. calls for Tolerancehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/in-volatile-times-the-u-a-e-calls-for-tolerance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=in-volatile-times-the-u-a-e-calls-for-tolerance http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/in-volatile-times-the-u-a-e-calls-for-tolerance/#respond Thu, 08 Jun 2017 06:23:08 +0000 Rose Delaney http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150804 With terror attacks on the increase worldwide, there are more people today who believe that it has something to do with the religion of Islam. Seeds of misinformation are taking root and the divide between peoples and cultures is ever increasing. The promotion of tolerance is critically important now more than ever. Undoubtedly, bigotry has […]

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By Rose Delaney
MIAMI, Jun 8 2017 (IPS)

With terror attacks on the increase worldwide, there are more people today who believe that it has something to do with the religion of Islam.

Sheikha Lubna Al-Qasimi

Sheikha Lubna Al-Qasimi

Seeds of misinformation are taking root and the divide between peoples and cultures is ever increasing. The promotion of tolerance is critically important now more than ever.

Undoubtedly, bigotry has increased worldwide and violent hate crimes have risen exponentially. The recent epidemic of “fake news” utilized by major media outlets and the outbreak of anti-Islamic sensationalism have only worsened the situation and fueled further conflict and division.

The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E..) is widely considered to be a multicultural “marvel” of the Middle East. The country proudly hosts an ethnically diverse population with over 200 nationalities living in harmony.

The U.A.E.’s leadership promotes a positive image of Islam but also sets an example of peace and tolerance of all world religions in the country.

The U.A.E. and its multi-ethnic population aim to be an international role model for “acceptance, coexistence, and understanding.”

The U.A.E. today is considered a globalized symbol of acceptance and progression. Recently, an anti-discriminatory law was passed which forbids citizens and residents alike from discriminating against anyone on the grounds of caste, creed, culture or religion.

In 2016, U.A.E.’s first Ministry of Tolerance was officially established with Sheikha Lubna Al-Qasimi as its minister. Al-Qasimi believes that the Arab world has a great responsibility when it comes to ensuring the universal spread of tolerance and acceptance. She emphasizes the pivotal role youth and the global media play in the understanding and celebration of religious and ethnic diversity.

To instill values of cultural and religious acceptance everywhere, the government of the U.A.E. believes institutions of tolerance should be established on a global scale, especially in volatile times of terror and extremism.

The proliferation of these institutions would act as symbols of peace and co-existence, ensuring global societies that universal tolerance is achievable and can become a tangible reality.

Al-Qasimi recognizes that transparency in the media is vital during periods of fear and instability and emphasizes that the global dissemination of positive and tolerant news content is a critical form of “protection against extremism”.

At the 16th Arab Media Forum (AMF) held in Dubai last month, Al Qasimi highlighted that the media played a key role in the universal perception of Islam. The rise of “fake news” has proven detrimental to the promotion of universal tolerance. The media has a duty to “correct misconceptions about the image of the Arab world,” Al Qasimi said.

This ties in with the fact that global media content has lately been used as a weapon of divisive manipulation, rather than a method of progressing and sustaining universal harmony and acceptance.

The U.A.E.’s President, Sheikha Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, also considers the media to be a key player in the advancement of universal tolerance.

For this reason, Al Nahyan has committed to providing full support for the development of transparent media in his home nation. The U.A.E. encourages its media to disseminate, along with other institutions, the values of acceptance and open dialogue across all walks of society.

“Responsible media that fully understands its role and mission is a fundamental tool in countering extremist and terrorist ideology amid the widespread digital media that has a powerful influence on people’s thoughts and orientations,” Al Nahyan says.

Al Nahyan recognizes that the future development of tolerance rests largely on the perceptions and messages spread by the global media. “The media is not just a profession“, Al Nahyan stated. It is rather, in his belief, a vital means to spread the message of global justice and truth. In other words, it is high time the media stop being used a sensationalized tool to stir divisive controversy and “boost ratings” based on the plight of the stigmatized.

Al Nahyan highlighted the fact that the proliferation of positive media could only lead to effective nation-building and progress. Furthermore, it can help break down the negative perceptions surrounding Islam and the Middle East itself by drawing back to the multicultural and accepting values, ethics and traditions of Emirati society.

In an increasingly globalized world dominated by the trends of social media, the voice of youth undoubtedly holds a tremendous degree of power. The multicultural array of young professionals and students that make up U.A.E.’s fast growing population are actively encouraged to act as tomorrow’s leading voices in the pursuit of universal tolerance.

In the U.A.E., “the sky really appears to be the limit” for its young adult population. Its ministry of youth is led by the youngest minister in the world, 23-year-old Shamma bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui. For many Emirati youths, spreading the principles of harmonious unity and actively condemning all forms of divisive extremism are a core objective, especially for the protection and benefit of upcoming generations.

As the rise of extremism threatens global security, the U.A.E. aims to encourage all forms of tolerance with the belief that through open dialogue and a strong sense of unity, the global community could overcome adversity.

However, the question remains, are other countries willing to follow the U.A.E.’s model of peaceful co-existence, or will ongoing extremism and divisive Islamophobic media campaigns hinder the U.A.E.’s idealistic vision of universal tolerance? Only time will tell.

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A Bold Step toward the Elimination of Nuclear Weaponshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/a-bold-step-toward-the-elimination-of-nuclear-weapons-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-bold-step-toward-the-elimination-of-nuclear-weapons-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/a-bold-step-toward-the-elimination-of-nuclear-weapons-2/#respond Wed, 07 Jun 2017 08:22:46 +0000 Ambassador Sergio Duarte http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150776 The author is a Brazilian Ambassador, former United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs; former Chairman of the Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons; former President of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

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Image by The Official Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Photostream – flickr.com

By Ambassador Sergio Duarte
NEW YORK, Jun 7 2017 (IPS)

As previously announced, the President of the United Nations Conference for the negotiation of a Convention on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, Costa Rican Ambassador Elayne Whyte-Gómez, unveiled last 22 May the draft elaborated after the first part of those negotiations in March.

The text will now be debated at the Conference between June 17 and July 7 and the general expectation is that the final result will be adopted by consensus. The new Convention will then be opened to the signature of States.

Resolution no. 1 of the General Assembly of the United Nations, adopted in January 1946, had decided the establishment of a Commission charged with making specific proposals for the “elimination atomic weapons from national arsenals”.

The lack of concrete results over the 72 years of existence of the United Nations increased the frustration of the majority of the international community and finally led a group of countries to propose last October, for the first time in the history of the Organization, the negotiation of such a Convention.

Ambassador Sergio Duarte

Ambassador Sergio Duarte

The importance of the humanitarian considerations that are at the root of the international movement favoring the elimination of nuclear armament is highlighted in the Preamble of the draft. The first few paragraphs recognize the “catastrophic consequences” and implications of any use of nuclear weapons.

This concern had already been expressed unanimously by the States party of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons at the 2010 Review Conference of that instrument.

Next, the draft Preamble mentions the suffering of the victims of nuclear detonations, including those affected by tests carried out by the States that acquired such arms. Another important paragraph declares that the use of atomic weapons is contrary to the norms of International law, especially the principles and rules of humanitarian law which stem from custom, the principles of humanity and the dictates of public conscience.

The draft Convention states the decision of the States Party to the Convention to contribute to the realization of the purposes and principles of the United Nations and to act with a view to achieving further effective measures of nuclear disarmament and to facilitate the elimination of such weapons and the means of their delivery.

Special emphasis is given to the 8 July 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice that “there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion, negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament”. This obligation is also expressed in Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons but up to now the possessors of nuclear weapons have not shown much interest in promoting such negotiations.

The draft Preamble goes on to reaffirm the “crucial importance” of the NPT, of the Comprehensive Test-ban Treaty (CTBT) and of the instruments that establish zones free of nuclear weapons.

Such expressions make abundantly clear that the Convention does not aim at disrupting the existing non-proliferation regime or at undermining its foundations but rather to reinforce it in order to promote the realization of longstanding objectives shared by the international community as a whole.

Articles 1 and 2 of the draft formulate clearly and objectively the basic obligations to be assumed by signatory States. The development, production, manufacture, possession and stockpiling of nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices are among the banned activities.

The use of nuclear weapons is also prohibited, as well as the transfer of such weapons or devices to any recipient, besides their stationing, installation and deployment. The draft expressly reaffirms the provisions of the CTBT by prohibiting tests of nuclear weapons and any other nuclear explosions.

States Party to the Convention would commit themselves to formally declare whether they have manufactured or possessed nuclear weapons, or acquired them by any means after the date of 5 December 2001. The reasons for the choice of that date do not seem very clear.

The obligation to present such declarations is based on the precedent of the Chemical Weapons Convention but unlike the latter, however, the draft does not contain the obligation to destroy the weapons or devices that may appear in the declarations. In this sense, the Convention is not strictu sensu a “disarmament” treaty, but rather a means to reach that objective.

Article 3 deals with the safeguards to prevent diversion of nuclear energy used in peaceful applications to nuclear weapons or explosive devices as detailed in the Annex to the Convention. It is important to ensure that such safeguards are applied in conformity with the Statutes of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The elimination, mentioned in Article 4, before the entry into force of the Convention, of nuclear weapons manufactured, possessed or otherwise acquired would entail the obligation to cooperate with the IAEA in the verification of the completeness of the stocks of materials and nuclear installations.

This provision presupposes that the process of elimination of nuclear weapons must precede the entry into force of the Convention for each State Party. Article 5 introduces the possibility of presentation and consideration of proposals of complementary measures of nuclear disarmament, including the elimination, under verification, of remaining nuclear weapons.

States that possessed or hosted before 5 December 2001 that come to adhere to the Convention may avail themselves of this provision in order to propose such measures, to be examined by the biennial Meetings of the Parties established by Article 9.

In this way, the Convention would be permanently open to the inclusion of new Parties that wish to eliminate their nuclear armament and next accede to the instrument as they see fit. That would be a way to ensure that all Parties to the Convention have the same rights and obligations, thus avoiding an undesirable discriminatory character among them.

The remaining provisions of the draft are quite clear and should not raise much controversy. Article 6 follows the humanitarian inspiration of the Convention. According to Article 9, States not parties to the Convention may participate in Meetings and Review Conferences.

Their prerogatives and limitations in exercising that right should be clearly spelled out. An innovative provision in Article 13 promotes the universality of the Convention by calling upon its parties to “encourage” other States to ratify, accept, approve of accede to it.

Some of the possessors of nuclear armament and their allies have expressed in different ways their opposition to the negotiation of the Convention and contend that it will weaken the international non-proliferation regime. Article 19 attempts at responding to these concerns by affirming explicitly that the Convention does not affect the rights and obligations of the Parties under the NPT.

Mainstream media in the central countries in general has paid little or no attention to the process of negotiation of the Convention, although specialized publications have been examining the implications of the adoption of an instrument of this kind. World public opinion and civil society organizations, particularly in the former States and their allies, have an important role to play in ensuring the success of the Convention and its ability to become a universal, legally binding instrument of codification of the repudiation of nuclear weapons.

There is considerable expectation for the continuation of the negotiations among the many States and international organizations that participated in the first phase of the work of the Conference, last May. It is important that the final text is simple and objective and at the same time be inclusive and able to obtain widespread acceptance.

After 72 years since the start of the proliferation of nuclear weapons and 47 years since the entry into force of the NPT, the continued existence of nuclear weapons and the frightening prospect of the use still haunt mankind. We must not miss the historic opportunity to establish a legal norm on the prohibition of such weapons.

*Ambassador Sergio Duarte’s article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 5 June 2017: TMS: A Bold Step toward the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

The post A Bold Step toward the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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