Inter Press ServiceIPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 25 Apr 2018 00:04:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Illicit Trade in Oil & Fuel: an Emerging Global Policy Challengehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/illicit-trade-oil-fuel-emerging-global-policy-challenge/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=illicit-trade-oil-fuel-emerging-global-policy-challenge http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/illicit-trade-oil-fuel-emerging-global-policy-challenge/#respond Tue, 24 Apr 2018 12:02:06 +0000 Jeffrey Hardy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155440 Jeffrey Hardy is Director General, Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade*

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There is a broad spectrum of potential avenues for the illegal skimming from or shifting of profits in developing countries, carried out by criminal entities, corrupt officials and dishonest corporations. Credit: epSos .de/cc by 2.0

By Jeffrey Hardy
NEW YORK, Apr 24 2018 (IPS)

Illicit trade in any of its forms—alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, diamonds, timber, ivory and oil—sits at the nexus of two social-economic disorders that challenge global stability.

Firstly, the global economy remains on unsteady footing, and governments are scrambling to stimulate growth, employment and investment in infrastructure and other public programs.

Secondly, the upswing in criminal activity and lawlessness—in some cases punctuated by terrorist acts—has left us all questioning our security for this generation and the next.

Illicit trade exacerbates both problems and presents governments with an immediate challenge to address their pervasive and significantly negative impacts on our economy and our civil society.

Economic Impacts Deriving from Illicit Trade in the Petroleum Sector

Every year, an estimated $133 billion of fuels are illegally stolen, adulterated, or defrauded from legitimate petroleum companies. Roughly 30% of Nigeria’s refined fuel products are smuggled into neighboring states and pipeline fuel theft in Mexico is at record levels.

This illegal activity creates an enormous drain on the global economy, crowds out billions from the legitimate economy and dislocates hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Equally significant are associated fiscal losses from tax evasion and subsidy abuses that deprive governments of revenues for vital public services and force higher burdens on taxpayers—especially in developing countries where petroleum industry royalties and tax payments finance development.

For example, Philippines loses $750 million annually in tax revenue from fuel adulteration and smuggling. Dakila Cua, Chairman of the Philippines House Committee on Ways & Means, told me that fuel smuggling is a vicious practice that deprives his country of precious revenues for investment in infrastructure. He confirmed that the problem is deeply embedded in the Philippine economy and throughout ASEAN economies. The value of the illegal fuel trade in Southeast Asia ranges from $2 to $10 billion a year.

Links to transnational Organised Crime and Terrorism

The links between illicit trade and organized crime are well established. The global economic value of oil and fuel theft ranks amongst the highest of transnational crimes. Research shows connections between oil theft and drug cartels in Mexico; insurgents and human traffickers in Thailand; human smugglers in Libya; terrorists in Ireland; militant groups in Nigeria; rebel movements in Mozambique, and of course, ISIS.

This activity significantly threatens national and regional stability, and creates significant deterrents for business investment, which thrives in stable, peaceful environments.

Notably, the criminal connection is not limited to oil and fuel theft. Transnational organized crime is involved in all forms of illicit trade, from human trafficking networks and tobacco smuggling, to the involvement of the Mafia and Camorra in the trade of counterfeit goods. Moreover, profits from one illegal activity are frequently used to finance a different type of illicit trade.

Illicit Trade and Environmental Degradation

Illicit trade in the petroleum sector perpetuates extensive ripple effects across global markets, including undercutting sustainable development and hastening environmental degradation. The process of illegal tapping, bunkering and ship transfers, for example, carry a higher probability for oil spills and blown pipelines, potentially causing significant damage to soil fertility, clean water supplies and marine life.

Consequently, fighting fuel fraud is a global responsibility, as well as a prerequisite for the achievement of the UN SDGs.

Solutions

Despite these severe negative effects, the global problem of oil and fuel theft so far has been largely unchecked and remains mostly hidden from international attention.

Any long-term solution will be dependent on sustained collaboration between governments and the private sector.

Business will contribute by continuing to develop technical solutions, such as fuel markers and GPS tracking. Modern fuel-marking programs allow governments to identify stolen or diverted fuel and reduce fuel losses, while delivering improved integrity in fuel supply chains, mitigating tax evasion and subsidy abuses, and plugging revenue drains.

Business also can share intelligence, data, resources and measures that effectively control this illicit activity. And Business is willing to work with partners to convene stakeholders, improve awareness, expand the knowledge base, and energize the global dialogue.

Governments, however, need to improve regulatory structures, set deterrent penalties, rationalize tax policies, strengthen capacity for more effective enforcement and educate consumers. This is a matter of urgency and government efforts to fight illicit trade should be considered investments that pay tangible dividends to economic development and global security.

The Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (www.TRACIT.org) is responding to this challenge by leading business engagement with national governments and intergovernmental organizations to ensure that private sector experience is properly integrated into rules and regulations that will govern illicit trade.

Our specific engagement in the petroleum sector stems from the shared understanding that a united industry voice is required to track, report and stop fuel fraud – from extraction to production to distribution to consumers.

The geographic diversity and wide-ranging methods of oil and fuel theft and fraud require a comprehensive global approach to mitigating the problem. All stakeholders have an interest in stamping out illicit trade; and all benefit from collective action.

*The Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT) is an independent, business-led initiative to mitigate the economic and social damages of illicit trade by strengthening government enforcement mechanisms and integrating supply chain controls across industry sectors.

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Excerpt:

Jeffrey Hardy is Director General, Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade*

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Authoritarian Govts Tighten Grip on Press Freedomhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/authoritarian-govts-tighten-grip-press-freedom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=authoritarian-govts-tighten-grip-press-freedom http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/authoritarian-govts-tighten-grip-press-freedom/#respond Sun, 22 Apr 2018 11:39:30 +0000 Sopho Kharazi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155386 The 25th celebration of World Press Freedom Day will be led by UNESCO and the government of Ghana in Accra on May 2-3. The theme is “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law,” covering the issues of media in respect to the judicial system and transparent political processes. At the same time, […]

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Journalists in Peshawar protest an attack on Dawn News near the Peshawar Press Club in November 2016. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

Journalists in Peshawar protest an attack on Dawn News near the Peshawar Press Club in November 2016. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

By Sopho Kharazi
ROME, Apr 22 2018 (IPS)

The 25th celebration of World Press Freedom Day will be led by UNESCO and the government of Ghana in Accra on May 2-3. The theme is “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law,” covering the issues of media in respect to the judicial system and transparent political processes.

At the same time, the conference will discuss state institutions’ accountability towards their citizens.

• Politicians in democratic states launched or escalated efforts to shape news coverage by delegitimizing media outlets, exerting political influence over public broadcasters, and raising the profile of friendly private outlets.

• Officials in more authoritarian settings such as Turkey, Ethiopia, and Venezuela used political or social unrest as a pretext to intensify crackdowns on independent or opposition-oriented outlets.

• Authorities in several countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Asia extended restrictive laws to online speech, or simply shut down telecommunications services at crucial moments, such as before elections or during protests.

• Among the countries that suffered the largest declines on the report’s 100-point scale in 2016 were Poland (6 points), Turkey (5), Burundi (5), Hungary (4), Bolivia (4), Serbia (4), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (4).

• The world’s 10 worst-rated countries and territories were Azerbaijan, Crimea, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Turkmenistan, and

The day takes place in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015, which includes 17 goals for achieving sustainable development for all, including ending inequalities between men and women. Among the goals, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 focuses on promoting just, peaceful and inclusive societies.

Peace, justice and strong institutions allow for good governance as well as other sustainable development efforts to thrive, facilitated further by an independent and enabling media environment.

Today, the number of countries with right to information laws is steadily increasing. The international normative framework regarding the safety of journalists, and particularly women journalists, has been significantly bolstered through the adoption of resolutions at the UN General Assembly, Security Council, Human Rights Council and UNESCO, and there is greater recognition of the right to privacy.

Still, according to Freedom House, a free press is accessible to only 13% of the world population and a partly free press to 42% of the world population. The remaining 45% lives in countries where a free press is non-existent (“New Report: Freedom of the Press 2017”). Political and economic transformations of some countries alongside their technological developments place new restrictions on press freedom.

Governments of these countries tend to implement restrictive laws and censorship on freedom of press, usually justifying these actions as a necessary tool for national security against terrorism. Apart from violating the right of freedom of expression, these restrictions place higher risks of violence, harassment and death on journalists.

According to the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, violence and restrictions against media freedom has risen by 14% in the time period of 2012-2017. At the same time, since 2016, media freedom in countries where it was ranked as “good” decreased by 2.3%.

The level of restriction on press freedom has been one of the highest in MENA countries such as Syria. Even though article 43 of Syria’s Constitution guarantees freedom of the press while a 2011 media law bans monopolistic media alongside with “the arrest, questioning, or searching of journalists,” these laws are not practiced in the government-held areas of the country. According to the media law, publication of any information on armed forces and spread of information that might affect national security and provoke “hate crimes” is forbidden in Syria. In case of violating this law, journalists are held accountable and fined with 1 million Syrian pounds ($4,600).

At the same time, despite the fact that article 3 of the media law guarantees freedom of expression as stated in the Syrian Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 4 of the same law declares that the media must practice this freedom with “awareness and responsibility”.

Consequently, this broad wording allows the Syrian government to restrict press freedom in multiple ways and in case of disobedience, punish journalists for anti-state crimes. For instance, in December 2016, the government imprisoned seven Syrian journalists through security-related legislation and used torture to receive their confession.

From the political perspective, Syrian authorities spread propaganda and false information while forcefully restricting publication of news in the government-controlled areas. Distribution of “all printed material” has been led by the General Corporation for the Distribution of Publications, responsible for censorship in Syria. This, alongside the economic problems caused by war, has decreased media diversity in the government-controlled area, leaving only a few dozen print publications which rarely deal with the political issues.

From the economic perspective, most of the print publications are owned by the government-allied businessmen who also control editorial policy. This, on the other hand, intensifies the problem of the non-existent free press in Syria.

However, despite this fact, in the opposition-controlled territory new print and broadcast outlets have emerged, funded by volunteers and some of them based abroad. For instance, the opposition TV channel – Orient TV owned by Ghassan Aboud, an exiled Syrian entrepreneur – broadcasts from Dubai while having correspondents in Syria.

According to Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House, “when politicians lambaste the media, it encourages their counterparts abroad to do the same…[undermining] democracy’s status as a model of press freedom.”

The case of Syria demonstrates how the absence of press freedom and an independent judiciary triggers development of authoritarian governments. The “just, effective and independent judiciary” is a base for an effective rule of law which builds a strong democratic system, guaranteeing the right of freedom of information, expression and safety of journalists.

This, on the other hand, provides free press that is compulsory for representing political will and needs of people, and for establishing good governance. Press freedom allows journalists to monitor and report about the on-going events taking place in different sectors of the state. As a result, this makes it possible to hold governments accountable towards their people and helps to accomplish the 2030 agenda of Sustainable Development Goals.

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Improving Our Anti-money Laundering Operations Will Help Prevent Great-Power Warhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/improving-anti-money-laundering-operations-will-help-prevent-great-power-war/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=improving-anti-money-laundering-operations-will-help-prevent-great-power-war http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/improving-anti-money-laundering-operations-will-help-prevent-great-power-war/#respond Fri, 20 Apr 2018 12:32:47 +0000 Clay R. Fuller http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155364 Clay R. Fuller is a Jeane Kirkpatrick Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI)*

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Clay R. Fuller is a Jeane Kirkpatrick Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI)*

By Clay R. Fuller
WASHINGTON DC, Apr 20 2018 (IPS)

Interest is growing in illicit finance because great-power competition is playing out in boardrooms, stock markets, trade wars, and compliance departments. The US anti-money laundering (AML) regime needs an update that enhances national security and sets an example for the rest of the world.

Clay R. Fuller

The US leads in crafting and enforcing global standards of financial integrity and accountability. However, like most US economic regulations, the current AML regime is a haphazard, ad hoc patchwork riddled with loopholes and inefficiencies.

An illicit finance bill should encourage communication between and within compliance and law enforcement, safeguard individual privacy rights, and help smaller businesses and financial institutions. It has been 17 years since the last AML overhaul. It is time to address the clear and present danger — dirty money.

National security concerns

For the past thirty years Western democracies have actively and passively sought out economic integration with authoritarian states. Westerners hoped (and many still do) that modernization would create middle classes that demand rights. Investors and businesses simply saw new markets as opportunities to turn a profit.

Profits came to fruition, but economic integration morphed into a sort of messy imbroglio, or a rules-based liberal order entangled with opaque, violent, and kleptocratic authoritarians eager to bend the rules in their favor.

Currently, kleptocrats and their ilk can store and move wealth in the US anonymously. Some profit from breaking drug laws, others evade taxes, and many set up simplistic fraud schemes. Dastardly agitators use anonymous capital to support political and economic espionage, nationalistic violence, and religious zealotry.

The absence of clear and transparent rules in non-democracies (and among thieves) breeds instability, uncertainty, and violence. A simple first step toward protecting the US from these negative externalities is to require legal entities to register and verify their beneficial ownership (BO) at the time of incorporation.

Two examples

The General Services Administration apparently cannot identify the ultimate beneficial owners of up to a third of high security leases. This means that unidentified Russians can, and might, own the buildings that the FBI leases to investigate Russian activities.

An investigative report recently uncovered thousands of planes in the US registered to companies known to use secrecy tactics to provide services to non-US citizens. Planes transport drugs — and, post 9/11, well.

New reporting and securing individual privacy rights

Thresholds for currency transaction reports (CTRs) and suspicious activity reports (SARs) are not adjusted for inflation. The estimated 55,000 SARs that the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) receives every day are not being efficiently communicated or leveraged with simple, cheap, and powerful data science tools.

Legislation should ensure that reporting data (BO, SARs, and CTRs) will never be made public. But data sharing within and between financial institutions and law enforcement needs to be increased and modernized.

The problem is that privacy is now protected by effectively deputizing the financial sector. In the current threat environment, this puts a massive amorphous burden on compliance departments. That cost is ultimately passed on to the consumer and hamstrings the effectiveness of law enforcement.

One solution is for FinCEN to host a basic BO dataset (such as name, address, ID) that compliance departments can access and search, verifying their own due diligence findings. This allows FinCEN to leverage big data analytical tools to easily find trends in CTRs and SARs. Also, more sensitive information remains in private hands.

How legislation can help smaller competitors

A small American shipping company has to turn a profit in order to pay its employees and stay open. A drug cartel-owned shipping company in the same town has no need to turn a profit. All it has to do is not get caught. It can and does swallow up fair competitors by seeking out legit accounts to cover its illegitimate activity.

Second, large government contracts have “set asides” for small businesses. Shell companies defraud the government by underbidding fairly competing small businesses for these set asides and then providing shoddy product or engaging in other schemes. Congress could also make it cheaper and easier for businesses to become a publicly-traded company.

Bottom Line: Updating the AML regime for the explicit purposes of creating a better business environment strikes a pragmatic balance between the duty of government to provide the public good of national security and the privacy necessary for free enterprise. Doing it before great-power competition turns into great-power war might just be what prevents that calamity and ushers in a brighter future.

The link to the original article in the AEI policy blog:
https://www.aei.org/publication/anti-money-laundering-and-great-power-war/

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Excerpt:

Clay R. Fuller is a Jeane Kirkpatrick Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI)*

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Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Democratic Multilateralismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/boutros-boutros-ghali-democratic-multileralism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=boutros-boutros-ghali-democratic-multileralism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/boutros-boutros-ghali-democratic-multileralism/#respond Fri, 20 Apr 2018 11:26:10 +0000 Federico Mayor Zaragoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155359 Federico Mayor Zaragoza, Former Director-General of UNESCO (1987-1999) and president of the Foundation for a Culture of Peace

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Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations, speaks at the unveiling of his official portrait as Secretary-General Kofi Annan, his successor, listens. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations, speaks at the unveiling of his official portrait as Secretary-General Kofi Annan, his successor, listens. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

By Federico Mayor Zaragoza
Apr 20 2018 (IPS)

“If we don’t do everything possible to democratize globalization, globalization will pervert national democracies”, said the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, as President of the “International Panel on Democracy and Development” set up by UNESCO and chaired by the man who had worked so hard, at a global scale, in favour of giving voice to the peoples -as required in the first sentence of the Charter of the United Nations- to allow constant participation from citizenship as should be the rule in a genuine democracy.

He also mentioned how risky it was to exchange “trade for aid” because it led to put an end to foreign aid for the sake of integral, sustainable and human development, leaving initiative in the hands of major trade corporations.

“Globalization is not governed by democratic principles, and decisions taken are neither the result of a process of free expression of opinion… I think the essential philosophy for the proper operation of global democracy is the same as for national democracy: promoting a countervailing power, listening to everyone’s opinion, in particular the opinion of the members of the opposition and of the weakest, in order to reach agreements that make everyone feel duly represented”.

“Globalization is not governed by democratic principles, and decisions taken are neither the result of a process of free expression of opinion... I think the essential philosophy for the proper operation of global democracy is the same as for national democracy: promoting a countervailing power, listening to everyone’s opinion, in particular the opinion of the members of the opposition and of the weakest, in order to reach agreements that make everyone feel duly represented”
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, UN Secretary-General, 1992-1996

This was Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s (1922 – 2016) way of thinking, those were the ideas he clearly expressed in his Agendas for Peace, Development and Democracy, the ideas that led many rich countries -in particular United States Republican Party- to feel prejudiced against a second mandate from a Secretary-General that had so openly and convincingly expressed his opinion against globalizing neoliberalism.

His book “En Attendant la Prochaine Lune…” (1997-2002) starts with the reflections he made on 1 January 1997 about the reasons that prevented him from being nominated for a second term in such a high-level position, as was normally the case.  The relevance of this book lies in the memories that the former Secretary-General recalls about this painful period. In the first place, he mentions the moment when he was replaced by the new Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.

I had the opportunity to personally attend this event. The Secretary-General that had made the greatest contributions to the democratization of United Nations was forced to quit his job because President Clinton was a weak president, confronted to the influential Republican Party that dominated the power scenario in the United States, under the leadership of Senator Jesse Helms.

And that is why, disregarding the support of a vast majority, Boutros Boutros-Ghali gave yet another lesson of common sense and sense of timing when he accepted to be replaced by a civil servant from the United Nations who met all terms and conditions due to his recognized undertaking of the tasks that he was trusted with and to his personal and family background. He wrote: “I don’t really regret leaving behind a job, a way of living, a house, friends… but rather to have to start from scratch at 74, under a new sky, new responsibilities, in an environment that is still completely odd to me”…

On 1 January 1997 he flew to Paris on board of a Concorde with his wife Lea, a woman with an unusual personality, very much up to the standard of his well-known husband.  When they arrived to the Hotel Meurice, “as if everything was the same… the scenery that had remained unchanged was a great relief and it helped me start a new life after having left the UN behind”…

On 10 January he was greeted by President Chirac at the Élysée “with the cordiality, simplicity and true friendship that were one of his best kept secrets”.  We had both lost a battle… because he had been in the last period my strongest pillar, my floating log, when other Nations had decided to abandon me pressed by the American hurricane…

In another one of his “diaries” he had written: “I knew that he republicans and the Zionists would oppose my re-election”.  During this meeting he was “introduced” by Chirac to the position of General Secretary of “La Francophonie, an organisation whose aim was “to protect multilingualism and cultural diversity…”, and which had to be elected for the first time during the Summit Meeting of Heads of State and Government to be held in Hanoi in November 1997.  The French President suggested that starting from May he should travel around Africa and Asia to ensure the success of his candidacy.

He describes the occasion when on 4 March -during the presentation of the “Amicorum Liber” from Héctor Gros Espiell-  Karel Vassak invited him, with my persistent support, to prepare his own. Lea was very pleased with this project. Boutros seemed somehow reluctant to accept the proposal, but he finally did.  On 12 May he recalls we had lunch together and I asked him to chair the International Commission on “democracy and development”.

He explains: “Federico Mayor had previously created a Commission chaired by Javier Pérez de Cuéllar on “culture and development”, and he had entrusted Jacques Delors with the responsibility of yet another Commission on “education and development”…

On 18 May he told me who were the 22 members of the Panel, amongst them well-known international personalities such as Nadine Gardiner, from South Africa, Basma Bint Talal from Jordan, Mohammed Charfi, Tunisia, Abid Hussain, India, Attiya Inayatullah, Pakistan, Robert Badinter, France, Bruce Russet, U.S.A., Juan Antonio Carrillo Salcedo, Spain, Rosario Green, Mexico”… “This will be -he says- a new and wide-scope academic adventure .  I am fully aware of the challenge I will be faced with”.

But there is no doubt that he had a great experience in this particular area.  In fact, in December 1986, when the 51st session of the General Assembly of the United Nations was about to end, as was his term as Secretary-General, Boutros-Ghali submitted his third Agenda within one of the issues for discussion entitled “Support by the United Nations system to efforts made by Governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies” .

Amongst the six sections it includes, the most important and timely is certainly the one devoted to “Democratization at an international scale”. Once again Boutros Boutros-Ghali was running ahead of events, because he was familiar with the ins and outs of oligarchic groups supported by neoliberalism. He names the “new actors” in the international scenario that shall thereafter be taken into account: “regional organizations, NGOs, members of the Parliament, local authorities, academic and scientific circles, companies… and, in particular, mass media”.

According to him: “A culture for democracy leads to the promotion and reinforcement of a culture for peace and to development by means of an adequate governance”.

Despite being fair and universal, the United Nations cannot promote democratization movements.  But it can, however, help every country to find its own way towards democracy. Boutros was the first Secretary-General who, despite reaffirming United Nations neutrality, overtly declared himself in favour of the democratic system, a declaration that reflected a change in what had been up to then the traditional position.

“Democracy contributes to preserve peace and security, to protect justice and human rights and to promote economic and social development”.  As a matter of fact Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s perspective and action duly completes the 1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The different “Summits” that were held since 1992 also highlight the need to finally give a voice to “We the peoples…”: they were allowed to speak about environment in Rio de Janeiro, 1992; about population in Cairo, 1992; about human rights in Vienna, 1993; about women in Pekin, 1995; about the habitat in Istanbul, 1995 about social development in Copenhagen, 1995…

The next meeting was the Millennium Forum that gathered together, in May 2000 at the United Nations headquarters in New York, 1350 representatives of NGOs, civil society organisations, associations representing new actors… It was, therefore, urgent to make an assessment of the meetings held during the first part of the nineties so that attention was finally paid to the specific directives that were required to allow implementation -at a national, regional and international scale- of suitable actions for the 21st century and the third millennium.

The Forum concluded with the Final Declaration from the Civil Society -”We the peoples”-and the Agenda for Action (“Strengthening the United Nations for the Twenty-First Century”) that included specific proposals such as: transforming the Security Council; reshaping the International Court of Justice… all of which have been ignored up to now, although they remain at the disposal of mankind, once we will no longer be distracted and subjugated by the gigantic media power, and we will realize that there are essential changes that must be made without delay.

 

Boutros Boutros-Ghali was appointed by acclamation by the General Assembly as the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations, for a five-year term beginning 1 January 1992. Credit: UN Photo/John Isaac

Boutros Boutros-Ghali was appointed by acclamation by the General Assembly as the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations, for a five-year term beginning 1 January 1992. Credit: UN Photo/John Isaac.

 

The titles of the extensive work written by Boutros Boutros-Ghali are an unusual and extraordinary reflect of his life as a politician and as a human being: “The Problem of the Suez Channel”, 1957; “General Theory of Alliances”, 1963; “The African Union Organization”, 1969; “The Egyptian Path to Jerusalem”, 1997; “My Life in the Glass House”, 1999; “Peace, Development, Democracy: Agendas for the Management of our Planet”, 2001; “Democratizing Globalization”, 2002…

19 November 1997 was the 20th anniversary of the wise and courageous visit of President Anwar el-Sadat to Jerusalem, “the most important event in my political and diplomatic career… 20 years have elapsed: history will recall this exceptional visit as one of the greatest moments of the 20th century.

In my contribution to his “Amicorum Disipulorumque Liber” on “The Human Right to Peace” I wrote in the prologue “Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s term occurred at the same time as a series of radical changes in international affairs”.  The “post-Cold War” had indeed nothing to do with “previous post-wars”. And yet Boutros Boutros-Ghali knew which the priorities were. And which were the main references and recommendations raised during the most relevant meetings of the United Nations.

We had the raw materials… but we lacked the ability to use them in a hostile environment headed by United States Republican Party. In my paper I told the following story: “My granddaughter asked me recently why we hadn’t kept the promises we made during the Earth Summit.  I told her that to take action one needs to feel involved, responsible, one needs to recall, to compare… She is still waiting for that to happen. Everyone, men and women are still waiting. I hope we will not deceive them. I hope the United Nations will have the support they need to put into practice the Plans to promote tolerance, dialogue, cultural exchange, peace”.

Boutros-Ghali’s friends and pupils unveiled -in his book Amicorum– an extraordinary man in extraordinary circumstances, I felt satisfied that the UNESCO, a “thinking” organisation within the United Nations family, had been at the root of this book. Some of the contributors worthwhile mentioning were the following: Jacques Delors, Mikhail Gorbachev, Juan Antonio Carrillo, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Enrique Iglesias, Robert Badinter, Shimon Peres, Ismail Serageldin…

Finally I would like to mention how vividly I still recall the proposal made by Karel Vasak, Bernard Kouchner and myself to the Secretary-General of The United Nations concerning the “humanitarian interference”, a concept that should prevent atrocities such as those committed in Cambodia and Rwanda from ever happening again with no reaction from the international community.

The UN blue helmets should only intervene in two specific cases: general violation of human rights and genocide. But the “duty to intervene” due to humanitarian reasons was overtly at odds with the sacred sovereignty of Nations -despite massacre? How many victims are hiding behind the term “sovereignty”? Could Pol Pot really claim that he had legal powers that justified his atrocious insanities?

If the United Nations were “re-democratized”, they would be in the position to rely on article 42 of the Charter that allows an armed intervention in case of massive violations of human rights or in case of “clear menace against peace and international security”.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali was overthrown… but he reappeared as leader of La Fancophonie, as President of the Council of the European Centre for Peace and Development; he, therefore, made his re-entry into the international scene, and he shall remain there forever as a beacon thanks to the audacious and truthful messages he conveyed about peace, justice, development and democracy, all of which demand the implementation of multilateralism he so much yearned for.

 

This story was originally published on 28 July 2017, reminiscing Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Roberto Savio, Founder of IPS retrieved this story and we are republishing.

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Excerpt:

Federico Mayor Zaragoza, Former Director-General of UNESCO (1987-1999) and president of the Foundation for a Culture of Peace

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Another Debt Crisis for Poor Countries?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/another-debt-crisis-poor-countries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=another-debt-crisis-poor-countries http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/another-debt-crisis-poor-countries/#comments Wed, 18 Apr 2018 13:27:50 +0000 Masood Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155329 Masood Ahmed is President of the Center for Global Development*

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Masood Ahmed is President of the Center for Global Development*

By Masood Ahmed
WASHINGTON DC, Apr 18 2018 (IPS)

When the world’s finance ministers and central bank governors assemble in Washington later this month for their semi-annual IMF meeting, they will no doubt set aside time for yet another discussion of the lingering debt problems in the Eurozone or how impaired bank debt could impact financial stability in China.

Masood Ahmed

They would do well to also focus on another looming debt crisis that could hit some of the poorest countries in the world, many of whom are also struggling with problems of conflict and fragility and none of which has the institutional capacity to cope with a major debt crisis without lasting damage to their already-challenged development prospects.

Nearly two decades ago, an unprecedented international effort—the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt initiative—resulted in writing off the unsustainable debt of poor countries to levels that they could manage without compromising their economic and social development.

The hope was that a combination of responsible borrowing and lending practices and a more productive use of any new liabilities, all under the watchful eyes of the IMF and World Bank, would prevent a recurrence of excessive debt buildup.

Alas, as a just-released IMF paper points out, the situation has turned out to be much less favorable. Since the financial crisis and the more recent collapse in commodity prices, there has been a sharp buildup of debt by low-income countries, to the point that 40 percent of them (24 out of 60) are now either already in a debt crisis or highly vulnerable to one—twice as many as only five years ago.

Moreover, the majority, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, have fallen into difficulties through relatively recent actions by themselves or their creditors. They include, predictably, commodity exporters like Chad, Congo, and Zambia who have run up debt as they adjusted (or not) to revenue loss from the collapse in oil and metals prices.

But they also include a large number of diversified exporters (Ethiopia, Ghana, and the Gambia among others) where the run-up in debt is a reflection of larger-than-planned fiscal deficits, often financing overruns in current spending or, in a few cases, substantial fraud and corruption (the Gambia, Moldova, and Mozambique).

The increased appetite of sovereign borrowers has been facilitated by the willingness of commercial lenders looking for yield in a market awash with liquidity, and by credit from China and other bilateral lenders who are not part of the Paris Club.

It is striking that between 2013-16, China’s share of the debt of poor countries increased by more than that held by the Paris Club, the World Bank and all the regional development banks put together.

Nor do traditional donors come out entirely blameless. Concessional funding for low-income countries from the (largely OECD) members of the DAC fell by 20 percent between 2013–16, precisely the period in which their other liabilities increased dramatically.

As for the IMF and World Bank, while it may have been wishful thinking to hope they could prevent a recurrence of excessive debt, it was not unreasonable to expect that they would have been more aware as this buildup was taking place and sounded the alarm earlier for the international community.

There is also a plausible argument that excessively rigid rules limiting the access of low-income countries to the non-concessional funding windows of the IMF and World Bank left no recourse but to go for more expensive commercial borrowing, with the consequences now visible.

How likely is it that these countries are heading for a debt crisis, and how difficult will it be to resolve one if it happens? The fact that there has been a near doubling in the past five years of the number of countries in debt distress or at high risk is itself not encouraging.

And while debt ratios are still below the levels that led to HIPC, the risks are higher because much more of the debt is on commercial terms with higher interest rates, shorter maturities and more unpredictable lender behavior than the traditional multilaterals.

More importantly, while the projections for all countries are based on improved policies for the future, the IMF itself acknowledges that this may turn out to be unrealistic.

And finally, the debt numbers, worrying as they are, miss out some contingent liabilities that haven’t been recorded or disclosed as transparently as they should have been but which will need to be dealt with in any restructuring or write-off.

The changing composition of creditors also means that we can no longer rely on the traditional arrangements for dealing with low-income country debt problems. The Paris Club is now dwarfed by the six-times-larger holdings of debt by countries outside the Paris Club.

Commodity traders have lent money that is collateralized by assets, making the overall resolution process more complicated. And a whole slew of new plurilateral lenders have claims that they believe need to be serviced before others, a position that has yet to be tested.

It is too late to prevent some low-income countries from falling into debt difficulties, but action now can prevent a crisis in many others. The principal responsibility lies with borrowing country governments, but their development partners and donors need to raise the profile of this issue in the conversations they will have in Washington.

There is also an urgent need to work with China and other new lenders to create a fit-for-purpose framework for resolving low-income country debt problems when they occur.

This is not about persuading these lenders to join the Paris Club but rather about evolution towards a new mechanism that recognizes the much larger role of the new lenders, and demonstrates why it is in their own interest to have such a mechanism for collective action.

Traditional donors also need to look at their allocation of ODA resources, which face the risk of further fragmentation under competing pressures, including for financing the costs in donor countries of hosting refugees.

Finally, the assembled policymakers should urge the IMF to prioritize building a complete picture of debt and contingent liabilities as part of its country surveillance and lending programs, and to base its projections for future economic and debt outcomes on more realistic expectations.

They should also commission a review to examine the scope for increased access to non-concessional IFI funding for (at least) the more creditworthy low-income borrowers.

It is the poor and vulnerable that pay the heaviest price in a national debt crisis. They have the right to demand action by global financial leaders to make such a crisis less likely.

*Masood Ahmed previously led the World Bank’s Heavily Indebted Poor Countries debt relief initiative, which has to-date brought relief from debt burdens to 36 of the world’s poorest nations.

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Excerpt:

Masood Ahmed is President of the Center for Global Development*

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A Child of War Dedicates Herself to Peacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/child-war-dedicates-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=child-war-dedicates-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/child-war-dedicates-peace/#comments Tue, 17 Apr 2018 15:22:06 +0000 Mary de Sousa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155315 UNESCO Courier*

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Dalia Al-Najjar, Goodwill Ambassador for Children of Peace. Credit: Vilde Media

By Mary de Sousa
PARIS, Apr 17 2018 (IPS)

“I was so angry, I felt like I wanted to blow up the whole world, but I didn’t. I decided I wouldn’t be pushed to become evil. I would choose peace.”

Dalia Al-Najjar has crammed a great deal into her short life. At 22, the Palestinian refugee has already lived through three wars and has spent every spare moment between siege and ceasefire studying, volunteering, working, blogging, on the daily struggle to live in Gaza – and planning how to change the future.

A good deal of her energy goes into her role as Goodwill Ambassador for Children of Peace, a non-partisan children’s charity dedicated to building trust, friendship and reconciliation between Israeli and Palestinian children, aged 4 to 17, and their communities.

Dalia says she is fuelled by anger and hope, but also that she draws heavily on a family culture that values education. She has consciously used learning as a means to realize her dreams, the greatest of which is to find solutions to violence and hatred.

“My family has always made me aware that education is hugely important,” she said.

Dalia experienced her first siege when she was just 12, followed by two major conflicts.

“I was in ninth grade when the first war started, and everything fell apart. I didn’t understand: why were people killing each other? I thought it would last only a few weeks,” she said.

She continued to study throughout, finally graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the Islamic University of Gaza, her life reduced to the intermittent bursts of electricity in the city.

“In those days I never went to school without watching the news first, and everything depended on the power schedule. So I woke up when there was electricity, or studied by candlelight, which destroyed my eyes. I would often fight with my brother and sister to get the candle.”

“Wars and Peace”, from the Cartooning for Peace international network of editorial cartoonists, supported by UNESCO.

The 2014 war proved a turning point for Dalia. “After the war, my ideas became much clearer. I didn’t want anybody else to have to live like this. I chose to be optimistic, because if not, I don’t live. Not living wasn’t a choice for me,” she said.

Dalia was invited on a short scholarship to the United States, and began a blog and YouTube show. She is also a member of the World Youth Alliance, a New York-based international coalition, which works with young people worldwide to build a culture that nurtures and supports the dignity of the person – through advocacy, education and culture.

But it is Dalia’s work as a Goodwill Ambassador for Children of Peace that has changed her most profoundly.

“It is easy to stay on your own side and demonize the other. Now I have Israeli friends and we realize we have been given different narratives, and we have to find our way through that together, using critical thinking,” she explained.

“Being on one side of a conflict makes it much easier to dehumanize someone than to accept that there is trauma on both sides.”

Now studying for her Master’s degree in Human Resources in Sakarya, Turkey, Dalia has an exciting new project. She attended the Young Sustainable Impact (YSI) conference in Oslo in 2017, as an ‘earthpreneur’ (someone who uses entrepreneurship to work towards a sustainable planet), where she was tasked with proposing a startup that addressed one of the Sustainable Development Goals.

When she learned that more people die as a result of waterborne diseases than from conflict, she co-founded Xyla Water Filtration Technologies. The company aims to commercialize a filter made from plant tissue that costs less than $10 and can provide clean water for a family of seven for a year.

And she has another goal. “I want to be prime minister,” she said, matter-of-factly.

*Available online since March 2006, the UNESCO Courier serves readers around the world in the six official languages of the Organization (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish), and also in Esperanto and Portuguese. A limited number of issues are also produced in print.

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Excerpt:

UNESCO Courier*

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Middle East: a Threat to World Peace & Security, Warns UN Chiefhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/middle-east-threat-world-peace-security-warns-un-chief/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=middle-east-threat-world-peace-security-warns-un-chief http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/middle-east-threat-world-peace-security-warns-un-chief/#comments Fri, 13 Apr 2018 16:47:38 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155274 UN Secretary-General António Guterres in an address to the Security Council

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UN Secretary-General António Guterres in an address to the Security Council

By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 13 2018 (IPS)

The situation in the Middle East is in chaos — to such an extent it has become a threat to international peace and security.

The region is facing a true Gordian knot – different fault lines crossing each other and creating a highly volatile situation with risks of escalation, fragmentation and division as far as the eye can see with profound regional and global ramifications.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo

We see a multiplicity of divides. The first is the memory of the Cold War. But to be precise, it is more than a simple memory.

The Cold War is back — with a vengeance but with a difference. The mechanisms and the safeguards to manage the risks of escalation that existed in the past no longer seem to be present.

Second, the Palestinian-Israeli divide. Third, the Sunni-Shia divide, evident from the Gulf to the Mediterranean. It is important to note that apparent religious divides are normally the result of political or geo-strategic manipulations.

Finally, a wide range of different factors — from opposing attitudes in relation to the role of the Muslim Brotherhood or the status of the Kurds, to the dramatic threats to communities that have been living in the region for millennia and are part of the rich diversity of Middle Eastern societies.

This multiplicity of divides is reflected in a multiplicity of conflicts with different degrees of interconnection, several of them clearly linked to the threat of global terrorism. Many forms of escalation are possible.

We see the wounds of the Palestinian- Israeli conflict deepening once again. The recent violence in Gaza has resulted in many needless deaths and injuries.

I repeat my call for an independent and transparent investigation into these incidents.
I also appeal to those concerned to refrain from any act that could lead to further casualties and, in particular, any measures that could place civilians in harm’s way.

This tragedy underlines the urgency of revitalizing the peace process for a two-state solution that will allow Palestinians and Israelis to live in two democratic states side by side in peace and within secure and recognised borders. I reaffirm the United Nations’ readiness to support these efforts.

In Yemen, we are witnessing the worst humanitarian disaster in today’s world. There is only one pathway to ending the Yemeni conflict and addressing the humanitarian crisis – a negotiated political settlement through inclusive intra-Yemeni dialogue.

My Special Envoy Martin Griffiths is doing everything possible to facilitate that political settlement — and he will brief the Council next week.

In Libya, I encourage all parties to continue to work with my Special Representative Ghassan Salamé, as he engages in the political process with a broad range of Libyan interlocutors across the country to implement the UN Action Plan. It is high time to end the Libyan conflict.

Iraq demonstrates that progress is possible with concerted local, regional and global commitment. With the defeat of Daesh, and after overcoming the risk of fragmentation, the Government of Iraq must now focus on reconstruction, reforms and reconciliation. I hope the upcoming elections will consolidate this progress.

At the recent Paris and Rome conferences, the international community reaffirmed its support for Lebanon’s sovereignty, stability and state security institutions.

It is absolutely essential to avoid a new Israel-Hezbollah conflict that could inevitably result in many more victims and much greater destruction than the last war.

I reiterate the critical importance to act on key principles and commitments on Lebanon, including Security Council resolutions such as 1701, and the policy of disassociation. The dangers of the links to the Syrian conflict are evident in the recent confrontations between Iran and Israel in Syria.

Syria indeed today represents the most serious threat to international peace and security.

In Syria, we see confrontations and proxy wars involving several national armies, a number of armed opposition groups, many national and international militia, foreign fighters from everywhere in the world, and various terrorist organizations.

From the beginning, we have witnessed systematic violations of international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and international law tout court — in utter disregard of the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter.

For eight long years, the people of Syria have endured suffering upon suffering. I reiterate: there is no military solution to the conflict.

The solution must be political through the Geneva intra-Syrian talks, as stipulated in resolution 2254 of the Security Council, in line with the consistent efforts of my Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura.

Syrians have lived through a litany of horrors: atrocity crimes, sieges, starvation, indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, the use of chemical weapons, forced displacement, sexual violence, torture, detention and enforced disappearances. The list goes on.

In a moment of hope, the Security Council adopted resolution 2401 demanding that all parties cease hostilities without delay for a durable humanitarian pause.

Unfortunately, no such cessation of hostilities ever really took place. That is the bleak panorama of Syria today.

In this panorama, I am outraged by the continued reports of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

I reiterate my strong condemnation of the use of chemical weapons by any party to the conflict and under any circumstances. Their use is abhorrent and a clear violation of international law.

The seriousness of the recent allegations requires a thorough investigation using impartial, independent and professional expertise.

In this regard, I reaffirm my full support for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – the OPCW — and its Fact-Finding Mission in undertaking the required investigation into these allegations.

The Fact-Finding Mission should be granted full access, without any restrictions or impediments to perform its activities. I take note that the Syrian government has requested it and committed to facilitate it.

The first team of the OPCW is already in Syria. A second is expected today or tomorrow. But we need to go further.

In a letter to the Council two days ago, I expressed “my deep disappointment that the Security Council was unable to agree upon a dedicated mechanism to attribute responsibility for the use of chemical weapons in Syria”, following the end of the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, or JIM.

I want to repeat today that the norms against chemical weapons must be upheld.

As I wrote in the same letter: “Ensuring accountability for a confirmed use of chemical weapons is our responsibility, not least to the victims of such attacks.

A lack of accountability emboldens those who would use such weapons by providing them with the reassurance of impunity. This in turn further weakens the norm proscribing the use of chemical weapons and the international disarmament and non-proliferation architecture as a whole.

I urge all Member States to act responsibly in these dangerous circumstances.

I appeal to the Security Council to fulfil its duties and not give up on efforts to agree upon a dedicated, impartial, objective and independent mechanism for attributing responsibility with regard to the use of chemical weapons. I stand ready to support such efforts.”

Increasing tensions and the inability to reach a compromise in the establishment of an accountability mechanism threaten to lead to a full-blown military escalation.

In my contacts with you — especially with the Permanent Members of the Security Council — I have been reiterating my deep concerns about the risks of the current impasse and stressed the need to avoid the situation spiralling out of control.

This is exactly the risk we face today – that things spiral out of control. It is our common duty to stop it.

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Excerpt:

UN Secretary-General António Guterres in an address to the Security Council

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UN Cracks Down on Peacekeeping Troops over Human Rights Abuseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/un-cracks-peacekeeping-troops-human-rights-abuses/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-cracks-peacekeeping-troops-human-rights-abuses http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/un-cracks-peacekeeping-troops-human-rights-abuses/#respond Fri, 13 Apr 2018 15:48:18 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155272 The United Nations, whose peacekeepers have come under increased scrutiny because of widespread charges of sexual abuse and human rights violations, claims it is now committed to ensuring that all personnel serving with the UN meet the “highest standards of conduct, competence and integrity, including respect for and commitment to human rights.” And there are […]

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MINUSMA peacekeepers patrolling the village of Bara in northeastern Mali. It is one of the most dangerous UN peacekeeping missions. Credit: UN Photo/Harandane Dicko

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 13 2018 (IPS)

The United Nations, whose peacekeepers have come under increased scrutiny because of widespread charges of sexual abuse and human rights violations, claims it is now committed to ensuring that all personnel serving with the UN meet the “highest standards of conduct, competence and integrity, including respect for and commitment to human rights.”

And there are no exceptions to this rule, which applies to over 100,000 civilian, military and police personnel currently deployed in 14 UN peacekeeping operations and 23 special political missions around the world.

Nick Birnback, UN Peacekeeping spokesperson, told IPS “member States that provide personnel to UN peacekeeping operations have the responsibility to certify that all these personnel have not been involved, by act or omission, in violations of international humanitarian law or human rights law, and have not been repatriated on disciplinary grounds from a UN operation.”

The most recent test case under investigation is the deployment of 49 Sri Lankan troops to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) who did not undergo the required vetting process, this time by the local Human Rights Commission based in Colombo.

Taking a tough stand, the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has requested that “the Sri Lankan government immediately prioritize the completion of the screening for the 49 officers already deployed to UNIFIL”.

“If concerns arise regarding the 49 personnel already deployed to UNIFIL, DPKO may request that they be repatriated and replaced at the Government’s cost,” Birnback warned.

“In the case of Sri Lanka where there are specific human rights concerns”, he pointed out, the UN has put in place additional screening measures in 2016 to help ensure that deployed personnel meet our standards.

Prior to their deployment to UNIFIL, he said, the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations provided an attestation certifying that the contingent had not been involved in any violations.

“However, in February 2018, we learned that the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission — which the Government of Sri Lanka had agreed it would undertake human rights screening of all Sri Lankan personnel — had not yet completed the screening when the rotation of the unit in UNIFIL started. UN Peacekeeping immediately raised this with the Sri Lankan authorities and the deployment was stopped.”

“Meanwhile, we’ve asked the government of Sri Lanka to formalize the screening arrangements with the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission. Compliance with these arrangements will be required before the UN can receive any further deployments or rotations from Sri Lanka. The government is cooperating with us in this regard,” Birnback said.

According to DPKO, the United Nations Charter requires that all UN personnel must maintain the highest standards of integrity and conduct. The UN is committed to ensuring that all its personnel deployed globally serve with professionalism, courtesy and dignity.

The UN Standards of Conduct apply to all categories of personnel deployed in UN missions. There is a three-pronged strategy to address misconduct: prevention, enforcement of the UN Standards of Conduct, and remedial action.

In July 2008, the Department of Field Support (DFS) launched the Misconduct Tracking System (MTS), a global, restricted-access database and confidential tracking system for all allegations of misconduct.

The UN Standards of Conduct are based on three key principles: highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity; zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and accountability of those in command and/or leadership who fail to enforce the standards of conduct, according to DPKO.

Meanwhile, as sexual abuse and paternity claims continue to rise against UN peacekeepers, the United Nations is actively collaborating with troop contributing countries in collecting DNA samples: a protocol introduced back in 2014.

The number of paternity claims – or potential paternity claims – has increased significantly: from 12 each in 2013 and 2014, to 15 in 2015, 33 in 2016 and 56 in 2017.

These are victims of “sexual exploitation and abuse,” according to the United Nations.

Providing an update on sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) in the UN system– in line with the Secretary-General’s initiative on increasing transparency on ongoing allegations– UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters February 22 that from 1 October to 31 December 2017, “we have received 40 allegations for all UN entities and implementing partners. Not all allegations have been fully verified, and many are in the preliminary assessment phase.”

Out of the 40 allegations, 15 are reported from peacekeeping operations. These 15 are not new allegations — they have all been uploaded on the Conduct and Discipline database as they have come in. And that is a publicly available website.

The remaining 25 allegations are reported from agencies, funds and programmes, and include 8 allegations relating to implementing partners.

Of the 40 allegations, 13 are categorized as sexual abuse, 24 as sexual exploitation, and 3 are of an unknown nature. The 40 allegations involve 54 victims — 30 are women, 16 are girls (under the age of 18), the ages of 8 others are unknown; 12 of the 40 allegations occurred in 2017, 7 in 2016, 3 in [2015] or prior, and the dates are unknown for 18 of them, Dujarric said.

With regard to the status of the 40 allegations, two have been substantiated by an investigation; three are not substantiated; 15 are at various stages of investigation; 18 are under preliminary assessment; two are under review with limited information provided to the investigating entity, he added.

Currently, there are 14 UN peacekeeping operations worldwide, seven of them in Africa. The more than 100,000 troops and civilian personnel come from 123 countries, with the five largest troop-contributing countries (TCC) being Ethiopia (8,326 troops), India (7,471), Pakistan (7,161), Bangladesh (6,772) and Rwanda (6,146).

The approved budget for UN peacekeeping operations for the fiscal year of July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 was $7.87 billion, which is slightly smaller than its previous fiscal year’s budget.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has pointed out that UN’s peacekeeping budget – “less than one half of one per cent of global military spending — is money well spent.”

“It is a fraction of the cost of allowing conflict to spread and erode the gains of economic development. The investment is multiplied by the economic growth and prosperity that follow from stability and security after successful peacekeeping missions,” he declared last March.

He also said “UN peacekeepers are often under-equipped, under-prepared and unready [and] there are gaps in command and control, in culture, in equipment and in training.”

Speaking at a meeting of the UN Security Council, he declared: “Our peacekeepers are vulnerable, and they are targeted for attack,” he added.

Last year, he said, 59 peacekeepers lost their lives as a result of malicious act – highest number ever and a sharp increase over the year before when the figure was 34.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Caribbean Eyes Untapped Potential of World’s Largest Climate Fundhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/caribbean-eyes-untapped-potential-worlds-largest-climate-fund/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-eyes-untapped-potential-worlds-largest-climate-fund http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/caribbean-eyes-untapped-potential-worlds-largest-climate-fund/#respond Thu, 12 Apr 2018 00:01:25 +0000 Zadie Neufville http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155243 The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) also known as the 5Cs, is looking for ways to boost the region’s access to the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The Centre is on the hunt for proposals from the private and public sector organisations around the region that want to work with the Centre to develop their […]

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Deputy Director at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre Dr. Ultic Trotz (left) in conversation with farmers at a unique agroforestry project in Belize, one of many implemented by the Centre to boost the region's resilience to the effects of climate change. Credit: Zadie Neufville

Deputy Director at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre Dr. Ultic Trotz (left) in conversation with farmers at a unique agroforestry project in Belize, one of many implemented by the Centre to boost the region's resilience to the effects of climate change. Credit: Zadie Neufville

By Zadie Neufville
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 12 2018 (IPS)

The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) also known as the 5Cs, is looking for ways to boost the region’s access to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The Centre is on the hunt for proposals from the private and public sector organisations around the region that want to work with the Centre to develop their ideas into successful projects that are in line with their country’s national priorities to build resilience to climate change.

The 5Cs, the agency with responsibility for coordinating climate action in the Caribbean, has doubled its efforts in wake of the 2017 Hurricane Season which saw the devastation of several islands and which exacerbates the need for climate proofing critical infrastructure a building resilience.

“We welcome proposals from all areas and industries,” said, Dr. Kenrick Leslie executive director of the Centre, noting that as an accredited entity: “We are able to assist organisations to access Green Climate Fund (GCF) grants for climate adaptation and mitigation projects of up to 50 million dollars per project”.

The GCF has approved a couple hundred million in preparation funding for several countries across the region, but the 5Cs boss is particularly proud of the achievements of his tiny project development team.

On March 13, the Bahamas became the second of the four countries for which the Centre is the Delivery Partner, to launch their GCF readiness programme. In 2017, three countries – the Bahamas, Belize, and Guyana, and more recently St. Lucia – were approved for grants of 300,000 to build in-country capacities to successfully apply for and complete GCF-funded projects that align with their national priorities, while simultaneously advancing their ambitions towards becoming Direct Access Entities (DAEs).

Each ‘readiness’ project is expected to run for between 18-months and 2 years and include developing operational procedures for Governments and the private sector to engage effectively with the GCF; providing training about its processes and procedures, how to access grants, loans, equities and guarantees from the GCF; and the development of a pipeline of potential project concepts for submission to the Fund. These activities are not one-off measures, but will form part of an ongoing process to strengthen the country’s engagement with the Fund.

Guyana’s ‘readiness’ project began in October 2016 and is expected to end in April this year; while the Bahamian Ministry of Environment and Housing and the Centre’s recent hosting of a project inception workshop, marked the start of that programme. The Belize project is expected to begin next month and St Lucia’s will kick-off in May, and run for two years. The readiness projects are being funded by the GCF at a cost of approximately 300,000 dollars each.

Aside from these readiness grants, the Centre secured 694,000 dollars in project preparation facility (PPF) grants for a public-private partnership between the Government of Belize and the Belize Electricity Company.

The project is intended to enable Belize to utilise the indigenous plant locally known as wild cane (scientific name Arundo donax) as a sustainable alternative source of energy for electricity generation. The grant will provide the resources needed to conduct the necessary studies to ascertain viability of the plant, with the intention of facilitating large-scale commercial cultivation for energy generation purposes.

In addition, the Centre partnered with the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) to develop the proposal for the Water Sector Resilience Nexus for Sustainability Project (WSRN S-Barbados) for which the GCF announced 45.2 million dollars in funding – some of which is in counterpart funding – at the 19th meeting of the Board in Korea in March this year.

BWA’s Elon Cadogan noted that the project would directly impact 190,000 people on an island which has been described as “one of the most water stressed” in the Caribbean. The frequency of lock-offs has been costly for the country.

“Schools have had to close due to lack of water and the potential unsanitary conditions are likely to increase health treatment costs. In addition, there have been some cancellations of tourist stays and bookings,” Dr Cadogan, who is the project management officer at the BWA said.

Because of its unique operating structure, the Centre is able to call on its many partners to speedily provide the required skills to complete the assessments required to bring a project to the submission stage for further development or full project funding. In the case of the Arundo donax project, the Centre provided several small grants and with the help of the Clinton Foundation, completed a range of studies to determine the suitability of the grass as an alternative fuel.

For the Barbados project, the 5Cs worked with the University of the West Indies (UWI) and South Florida University (SFU) and the BWA to complete the submissions on time.  With the Centre’s own GCF accreditation completed within six months, the 5Cs is turning its attention to assisting countries with their own.

Head of the Programme Development and Management Unit (PDMU) and Assistant Executive Director at the Centre Dr. Mark Bynoe said that even as the Centre continues its work in project development and as a readiness delivery partner, the focus has now shifted.

“We are now turning our attention to aiding with their GCF accreditation granting process and the completion of their National Adaptation Plans (NAPS). Each country has an allocation of 3-million-dollar grant under the GCF window for their NAP preparation,” he said.

The GCF is the centrepiece of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) efforts to raise finance to address climate change related impacts. It was created to support the efforts of developing countries to respond to the challenges posed, and opportunities presented, by climate change through a network of National Designated Authorities (NDAs) and Accredited Entities (AEs).

As a readiness delivery partner, the Centre will provide the necessary oversight, fiduciary and project management, as well as monitoring and evaluation of these ‘readiness’ projects, skills that are critical to ensuring that those projects are speedily developed and submitted for verification and approval.

Every success means the Centre’s is fulfilling its role to deliver transformational change to a region under threat by climate change.

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The UN tells private enterprise leaders that “Business as Usual Won’t Work”.http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/un-tells-private-enterprise-leaders-business-usual-wont-work/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-tells-private-enterprise-leaders-business-usual-wont-work http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/un-tells-private-enterprise-leaders-business-usual-wont-work/#comments Wed, 11 Apr 2018 17:42:20 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155241 As global citizens face an array of issues from unemployment to discrimination, affecting their livelihoods and potential, a UN agency called upon businesses to employ a new, sustainable, and inclusive model that benefits all. Business leaders from around the world convened at the United Nation’s 2018 Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) partnership forum to hear […]

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By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 11 2018 (IPS)

As global citizens face an array of issues from unemployment to discrimination, affecting their livelihoods and potential, a UN agency called upon businesses to employ a new, sustainable, and inclusive model that benefits all.

2018 ECOSOC Partnership Forum. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Business leaders from around the world convened at the United Nation’s 2018 Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) partnership forum to hear how the private sector can work with governments to improve global economic opportunities.

“The private sector is an indisputable partner in reducing global inequalities and improving employment opportunities for all” the UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told the audience.

Mohammed stressed that the private sectors contribution to development was essential if the world is to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

However, in order for this to happen Mohammed said that “business as usual simply won’t work.”

Instead, leaders were challenged to commit to align their business goals with the SDGs by investing in sustainable business models.

“I would also like to take the opportunity to challenge the business leaders present here today to make bold commitments to a more inclusive future for all,” said Marie Chatardova, president of the ECOSOC.

Chatardova reminded the leaders of the UN’s Business and Sustainable Development Commissions recent research that found that investment in sustainable models could create some $12 trillion dollars in economic opportunities by 2030.

“Investing in sustainable development goals – it’s a ‘win-win partnership,” she said.

Calling for Inclusion

Today, 192 million people are unemployed. Eight per cent of the global population live in poverty. There is a mounting youth unemployment crisis. Women, indigenous and disabled persons continue to face barriers to equitable and meaningful employment.

Attendees highlighted the importance of sustainable business models that prioritize diversity and inclusivity by getting women, youth, indigenous and disabled persons into the workforce.

In panel discussions, many business leaders spoke of their companies’ ongoing diversity programs.

Sara Enright, director of the Global Impact Sourcing Coalition (GISC), pointed to Impact Sourcing – an example of inclusive business practice.

Impact sourcing, Ms Enright told the forum is: “when a company prioritises suppliers who are hiring and providing career development to people who otherwise have limited prospects of formal employment.”

The GISC is a global network of 40 business that include – Google, Microsoft, Aegis, and Bloomberg – that have committed to impact sourcing.

In March, GISC members were challenged to hire and provide training to over 100,000 new workers by 2020. Enright said so far ten companies have responded to the challenge, pledging to hire over 12,000 workers across Kenya, Nepal, Cambodia and the United States.

Enright said she expected many more companies to sign up and stressed that the GISC would monitor and measure the outcomes.

The UN applauded GISC’s work as an inspiring example of the private sector working collaboratively and inclusively to meet the SDGs vision.

Curb Your Corruption

Another issue that arose during the forum was corruption in development.

Last year global development funding reached $143 trillion dollars, of which the UN estimates that over 30 percent of funds failed to reach their intended destinations.

The UN told business leaders that if they commit to using technology that better tracks where money goes in development, then it will help curb corruption.

Bob Wigley, chairman of UK Finance, encouraged businesses to invest in technologies like ‘Block Chain’.

Block-chain, or Distributed Ledger Technology, is a digitized public record book of online transactions that was developed in 2008 with the rise of online currency ‘bitcoin’.

It is an entirely decentralized means of record keeping, meaning it is operated on a peer-to-peer basis rather than one central authority.

Wigley said the technology allows the direct tracking of online payments, ensuring that it is delivered correctly.

“If I was the recipient of state aid or wanting to know where my funds are going exactly then I’d be using block-chain systems, not the antiquated bookkeeping that gives rise to potential corruption every time a payment trickles from one set of hands to another,” he said.

“Think of how embracing and enhancing block chain technology could ensure accountability and transparency – things that are critical to meeting the SDGs,” Wigley continued.

A Race to the Top

Whilst many businesses are committing to the SDGs and implementing sustainable initiatives, more still needs to be done to unlock the full potential of the sector.

Kristine Cooper from United Kingdom insurance company Avia said it is a question of creating ‘competition’ between business by tracking them in their commitment and delivery.

“Lots of companies are doing great things in diversity and SDG commitments and how they do business to meet these goals, but it’s hard to know who’s doing really well, there is no consistency with reporting,” Cooper said.

“The system lacks the incentives to make right decisions and make organizations live up their responsibility.”

Ranking companies and holding them accountable, Cooper said, would create a “race to the top” and in the process, truly unleash “the power of the corporate and private sector in meeting development goals”.

Discussion points from this meeting will be further discussed in ECOSOC meetings held in May 2018, as well as at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July 2018.

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UN’s Zero Hunger Goal Remains a Daunting Challengehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/uns-zero-hunger-goal-remains-daunting-challenge/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uns-zero-hunger-goal-remains-daunting-challenge http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/uns-zero-hunger-goal-remains-daunting-challenge/#comments Wed, 11 Apr 2018 05:29:11 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155232 The United Nations, which is battling some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, still remains focused on one of its equally daunting undertakings: how to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030. But the latest figures released in a joint study by the European Union (EU), the Food and Agriculture […]

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By IPS World Desk
ROME, Apr 11 2018 (IPS)

The United Nations, which is battling some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, still remains focused on one of its equally daunting undertakings: how to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030.

UN’s zero hunger challenge.

But the latest figures released in a joint study by the European Union (EU), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) highlight the gravity of the situation just last year alone when some 124 million people in 51 countries faced acute food insecurity — 11 million more than in 2016 (even while the number of people living on the edge of starvation and hunger remains at 815 million worldwide).

The 2017 increase, according to the ‘Global Report on Food Crises’, is largely attributable to new or intensified conflicts and insecurity in Myanmar, north-east Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan and Yemen.

Prolonged drought conditions have also triggered poor harvests in countries already facing high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition, both in eastern and southern Africa.

And UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres warned last January that hunger is on the rise the world over, with Africa registering the highest rates.

The Secretary General said agricultural and livestock productivity in Africa was under threat largely due to conflict and climate change. He added, “climatic shocks, environmental degradation, crop and livestock price collapse and conflict are all interlinked”.

Still, the United Nations seems determined to work towards its targeted goal of Zero Hunger by 2030. But how feasible is this?

Asked about the impediments facing that goal, Dr Marta Antonelli, Research Programme Manager at the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation (BCFN), told IPS reducing the number of chronically undernourished people in Africa is one of the most urgent challenges that the world needs to face.

She pointed out that food insecurity, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, is related to a variety of interconnected factors, such as extreme poverty, un-diversified livelihoods, weak institutions and governance, and, especially, adverse climatic conditions and social conflicts.

“Climate change and severe extreme weather events could have a tremendous impact on crop yields, livestock, fish stocks and therefore affect farmer’s incomes (especially subsistence smallholder farmers) who become more vulnerable to food insecurity.”

Dr Antonelli said measures to tackle hunger in Africa include the harmonisation of governance of food security, sustainability and nutrition; building institutional responses to reduce extreme poverty and inequalities; supporting more efficient agricultural systems; ICTs and technology innovation.

Additionally, it also includes supporting farmers to diversify livelihoods and reduce vulnerability; restoring land and increasing integrated land and water management to improve harvests; identification of strategies for building resilience to shocks through adaptation to climate change, institutional response mechanisms; and finally monitoring and reporting of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through generation and sharing of reliable data.

The BCFN Foundation, a non-profit, independent think tank working for food sustainability, addresses today’s major food related issues with a multidisciplinary approach — from the environmental, economic and social perspective. That goal is to secure the wellbeing and health of people and the planet.

Asked what role BCFN can play, as part of its contribution to a resolution of the food crisis, Dr Antonelli said the coexistence of hunger and obesity, the overexploitation of natural resources and food loss and waste: these are the three paradoxes identified by the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation.

According to BCFN, it recognises three imbalances that beset the global food system: food waste (nearly 1/3 of world food production), hunger in the face of epidemic levels of obesity (2.1 billion people impacted), and unsustainable agricultural systems (1/3 of world grain production is used for animal feed, foodstuffs are used for first generation biofuels instead of feeding people.

Dr Antonelli said: “Since 2009, we use a multidisciplinary approach to study and analyse the relationship between food and scientific, economic, social and environmental factors. Through research, dissemination and public engagement, our contribution to shift towards more sustainable food systems includes the Nutritional and Environmental Double Pyramid, the Milan Protocol, the publication of Eating Planet.”

Moreover, in 2016, BCFN launched the Food Sustainability Index (FSI), developed by The Economist Intelligence Unit with the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition. The FSI analyses, ranks and maps 34 countries worldwide on a range of indicators, from food waste per capita to agricultural biodiversity and CO2 emissions from agriculture, to determine the sustainability of their food systems.

“We fund young research through the ‘BCFN YES!’, a contest open to PhD candidates and young research fellows around the world. The award is given in recognition and support of innovative projects on food and sustainability. We also believe that involving media and journalists is also pivotal to shed a light simultaneously on local and global food sustainability, inform people on supply chains and inform their choices.”

For this reason, the BCFN launched in 2016 the Food Sustainability Media Award, which invites journalists, bloggers, freelancers and individuals to submit work, either published or unpublished, on food safety, sustainability, agriculture and nutrition. (www.goodfoodmediaaward.org).

BCFN has also developed a series of educational programmes for school children and the MOOC on “Sustainable Food Systems: a Mediterranean Perspective” realised in collaboration with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Mediterranean with SDG Academy and The University of Siena, with a major educational purpose.

It consists of a series of pre-recorded lectures, readings, quizzes, discussion forums and deals with environmental and climate-related challenges basing upon Mediterranean experience, how sustainable farming systems is being utilized as a roadmap for positive action and implementation of Sustainable Development Goals.

Asked about the importance of food sustainability– including eliminating waste and reducing obesity – as a key factor in reaching the 2030 goal, Dr Antonelli said the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 SDGs establish a global set of objectives for all countries in the world to be achieved by the year 2030.

SDGs range from the eradication of poverty and hunger, to the need to act for climate mitigation, to the promotion of education and gender equality, to preserving natural resources such as water in sufficient quantity and quality for human needs.

Food access, utilisation, availability, quality and sustainability are at the core of all SDGs and represent a pre-requisite to implement the 2030 Agenda in all countries in the world.

Agriculture accounts for one third of global GhG emissions, cover 38% of the world’s land surface (an area still in expansion), accounts for 70% of water withdrawals and 80% of desertification.

The number of hungry people, she pointed out, is rising again and exceeded 815 million in 2016; overweight and nutrition challenges affect two billion people both in the North and the South of the world; and about one third of the food produced for human consumption gets lost or is wasted.

“We cannot transform our world without fixing the food system first.”

Asked about the countries making the most progress in the Food Sustainability Index, she said the FSI Index shows that, when defining food sustainability by looking at country’s performance in sustainable agriculture, nutritional challenges and food loss and waste, the top scoring countries are France, Japan, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, Italy, South Korea and Hungary.

The presence or absence of sound and well-implemented policies is fundamental in shaping the score of the countries analysed. Generally speaking, high human development is moderately correlated with higher sustainability of food systems.

The analysis performed in 2017 on the Mediterranean countries revealed that the southern and eastern Mediterranean countries are those struggling the most in achieving sustainable food system, especially in the area of food loss and waste, whereas they perform relatively better across the nutritional challenges indicators.

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International Community Ramps Up Action on Venezuela Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/international-community-ramps-action-venezuela-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=international-community-ramps-action-venezuela-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/international-community-ramps-action-venezuela-crisis/#comments Tue, 10 Apr 2018 21:13:04 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155223 One year into the most recent series of protests and a humanitarian crisis with no end in sight, international groups have called for action to help protect Venezuelans. A complex political and economic crisis in Venezuela has left millions without access to basic services and resources, prompting UN agencies and human rights groups like Human […]

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Venezuelans arrive in Pacaraima, border city with Venezuela, and wait at the Federal Police, the entity responsible for receiving Venezuelans seeking asylum or special stay permits in Brazil, 16 February 2018. Credit: UNHCR/Reynesson Damasceno

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 10 2018 (IPS)

One year into the most recent series of protests and a humanitarian crisis with no end in sight, international groups have called for action to help protect Venezuelans.

A complex political and economic crisis in Venezuela has left millions without access to basic services and resources, prompting UN agencies and human rights groups like Human Rights Watch to speak up and urge action.

“Venezuela needs help to tackle and overwhelming crisis,” said singer Ricardo Montaner alongside Human Rights Watch at the launch of the #TodosConVenezuela, or Together with Venezuelans, campaign.

“Join me. It’s not just my job or yours, it’s something we should all do. Tell your friends—let’s do this together,” he continued.

The campaign, launched ahead of the Summit of the Americas where world leaders will discuss the situation in Venezuela, asks the public to tweet at Latin American presidents to confront Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro about government abuses.

Such abuses include the suppression of dissent as government critics are often arbitarily detained and prosecuted in military tribunals.

An estimated 700 civilians have been prosecuted in military courts for offenses such as rebellion and treason.

Numerous UN Special Rapporteurs also found “excessive and indiscriminate use of force” during anti-government protests.

“Protests must not be criminalized,” they said.

Meanwhile, Venezuela has been facing a severe economic crisis since global oil prices plummeted in 2014.

The South American nation now has the highest inflation rate in the world which now exceeds 6,000 percent, making it nearly impossible for Venezuelans to access medicine and food and causing a health crisis.

In one year alone, maternal mortality and infant mortality increased by 65 percent and 30 percent respectively. Over 80 percent of the country now live in poverty.

Driven by the lack of access to basic services as well as political tensions, almost two million Venezuelans have left the country, causing the humanitarian crisis to spill over.

Carlos Miguele Machado told Human Rights Wach that he left his home country because he could not find medicine that his wife needed after undergoing thyroid surgery.

“I had to travel far, go from pharmacy to pharmacy looking for the medicine, and I could not find it—and it is very expensive in the black market,” he said.

Both Colombia and Brazil have seen the largest numbers of migrants crossing their borders in recent months. To date, over 1 million Venezuelans have reached Colombia while Brazil estimates that over 800 enters its country every day.

“As the complex political and socio-economic situation in their country continues to worsen, arriving Venezuelans are in more desperate need of food, shelter, and health care. Many also need international protection,” said UN High Comissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson William Spindler.

As public services in Brazil become more and more stretched in response to the inflows, UNCHR has ramped up its efforts to help register and house Venezuelans. The agency has opened up new shelters for vulnerable Venezuelans which are already almost at capacity.

In order to implement its regional response plan, UNCHR made an appeal of $46 million to donors. So far, it is only four percent funded.

Similarly, the International Organizaation for Migration (IOM) launched a regional action plan to strengthen response to the large-scale of flows of Venezuelans.

“IOM’s Regional Action Plan…represents a call for the international community to contribute to and strengthen the government efforts to receive and assist Venezuelans, so that those efforts may be sustained,” said IOM’s Regional Director for South America Diego Beltrand, encouraging host countries to adopt measures to help regularize Venezuelans’ stay.

World Food Programme Director David Beasely also urged the international community step up international donor funding in order to prevent the “humanitarian catastrophe” unraveling at the Colombian border.

“This could turn into an absolute disaster in unprecedented proportions for the Western Hemisphere,” Beasely said while visiting Colombia.

“I don’t think people around the world realize how bad the situation is and how much worse it could very well be,” he continued, pointing to the case of Syria’s crisis which began with a minor food emergency.

The upcoming presidential vote in May in Venezuela could determine the future of the country and its citizens.

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Freedom of Speech Guaranteed, Says Aliyev, as Azerbaijan Blocks News Websiteshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/freedom-speech-guaranteed-says-aliyev-azerbaijan-blocks-news-websites/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=freedom-speech-guaranteed-says-aliyev-azerbaijan-blocks-news-websites http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/freedom-speech-guaranteed-says-aliyev-azerbaijan-blocks-news-websites/#respond Tue, 10 Apr 2018 05:38:22 +0000 Gulnoza Said http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155210 Gulnoza Said, Committee to Protect Journalists, Europe and Central Asia Research Associate*

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A cell phone takes photos of an August 2016 meeting in Baku between the presidents of Russia, Iran, and Azerbaijan. President Ilham Aliyev claims internet is 'free of censorship' in Azerbaijan, but authorities have blocked access to critical news websites. (Alexander Nemenov/Pool/AP)

By Gulnoza Said
NEW YORK, Apr 10 2018 (IPS)

President Ilham Aliyev claims that in Azerbaijan the internet is free and press freedom is guaranteed. But ahead of the April 11 snap elections, authorities have systematically silenced critical voices online through amending laws and blocking news websites, and hackers have attacked independent news outlets.

In a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, Aliyev said that about 80 percent of the country’s population were online, adding, “When internet is free, without any censorship and absolute majority of population are using internet, it is difficult to talk about restriction of press.”

However, Azerbaijanis waiting to learn the election results–hopefully after they cast ballots, not before, as happened in 2013 –have been cut off from independent or critical coverage of Aliyev and his family.

In March last year, Azerbaijan’s parliament passed amendments to the law on Information, Informatisation, and Protection of Information to allow authorities to shutdown websites without a court ruling, according to reports.

And in May the Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technology blocked access to the websites of the RFE/RL Azeri-language service locally known as Azadliq, Berlin-based independent online news agency Meydan TV, independent daily newspaper Azadliq, and the online broadcasters Turan TV and Azerbaycan Saati (Azerbaijan Hour), CPJ reported at the time.

A Baku court ruled that the outlets promoted violence, hatred, or extremism, violated privacy or constituted slander.

In a statement, RFE/RL said that the move to block its Azeri website came after it published investigative reports about financial activities allegedly linked to members of President Aliyev’s family and inner circle. The outlet tried to fight the ban, but in December a Baku court of appeals upheld the decision and all the websites remain blocked, according to reports.

Authorities also ordered access to the website of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) to be blocked in September after the Sarajevo-based organization published “The Azerbaijan Laundromat,” which implicated the government in various money laundering and lobbying schemes, according to a Freedom House report.

When contacted by CPJ for comment about conditions for the press, Mushfig Aleskerli, deputy chairman of Azerbaijan’s Press Council, asked for questions to be sent via email, but as of April 9 the media authority has not responded to the emailed questions.

Social media accounts of critics have also been targeted by hackers and legal complaints, which many Azeri journalists say they believe are part of a government effort to silence them.

When the Facebook account of the award-winning outlet Meydan TV was hacked on January 29, it lost 100,000–nearly one-fifth–of the subscribers to its Azeri, English and Russian-language pages, and all content posted since 2012 was deleted.

Staff at Meydan TV told CPJ at the time that it was devastating to lose the followers that they worked so hard for. According to the outlet’s 2017 annual report, every third Facebook user from Azerbaijan was a Meydan TV follower. Facebook was finally able to restore Meydan’s 100,000 followers in late March, but the deleted content has not been restored.

In late December, YouTube removed four Meydan TV videos that allegedly infringed YouTube’s copyright rules, after Muse Networks, a company based in Turkey and with an office in Baku, filed a complaint, according to Meydan TV director Emin Milli.

Milli told CPJ at the time that the videos contained video and audio clips either produced or owned by Meydan. The videos included allegations of official corruption, police brutality, and reports on the financial dealing of President Aliyev and his family, and the state oil company.

Muse Network blamed a technical error for copyright strikes, apologized, and the videos were restored, Milli said, adding, “I have no doubts the Azerbaijani government is behind this.”

Azadliq, RFE/RL’s Azeri-language service, had six videos removed from YouTube in early January, also after Muse Networks flagged alleged copyright violations. Azadliq is a leading news channel in Azerbaijan with over 100,000 subscribers and more than 40 million annual views, according to RFE/RL. Azadliq’s director Ilkin Mammadov told the independent site Coda Story the videos were restored after Azadliq complained to YouTube.

Azerbaijani journalists have also reported an increase in trolling and digital denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Alex Raufoglu, a Washington, D.C.-based Azerbaijani journalist who contributes to the independent news agency Turan, told CPJ that the government follows “the textbook of silencing critical media.”

“Not only has there been more trolling recently, but the comments the trolls leave [on social media accounts] repeat and duplicate each other. That means they are centralized and managed by the government,” Raufoglu said.

Investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova told regional news website Kavkazsky Uzel she believed bots as well as “employees of state institutions or journalists of pro-government media,” are behind the trolling, adding, “[they] are obliged to write comments under the posts of critics of power.”

In the same article, Ogtay Gulaliyev, head of the advocacy group Azerbaijan without Political Prisoners, said attacks from trolls increase when he posts something critical about the president’s assistant for public and political affairs, Ali Hasanov.

Sevinc Osmanqizi, who contributes to Meydan TV, has also alleged that Hasanov is linked to internet trolls. She circulated a letter that she wrote to Hasanov on April 8, in which she called on the presidential assistant to order “his trolls” to cease attacking her Facebook and YouTube pages.

Hasanov denied being connected to any online attacks. “I unequivocally declare that the accusations and the slander that I instructed troll or some fictional groups to insult certain individuals are clearly defamatory and target the government of Azerbaijan and me personally,” Hasanov said in a statement distributed through pro-government media.

In response to Hasanov’s statement, Richard Kauzlarich, a former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan who has been labeled a spy and a “staff critic” after raising the country’s poor press freedom record, tweeted, “Oh but you did organize slander against me personally five years ago–using false news in government-controlled media.”

Turan contributor Raufoglu told CPJ that the attacks by trolls and bots are “just one, albeit conspicuous, element of the Azerbaijani regime’s ‘arsenal’ to fight freedom of speech.”

*Gulnoza Said is a journalist and communications professional with over 15 years of experience in New York, Prague, Bratislava, and Tashkent. She has covered issues including politics, media, religion, and human rights with a focus on Central Asia, Russia, and Turkey.

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Excerpt:

Gulnoza Said, Committee to Protect Journalists, Europe and Central Asia Research Associate*

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UN Development Goals Cannot be Achieved if Bombs Keep Falling From the Skyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/un-development-goals-cannot-achieved-bombs-keep-falling-sky/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-development-goals-cannot-achieved-bombs-keep-falling-sky http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/un-development-goals-cannot-achieved-bombs-keep-falling-sky/#respond Fri, 06 Apr 2018 07:46:39 +0000 Miroslav Lajcak http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155192 Miroslav Lajčák, President of the UN General Assembly, in an address to the mid-term ministerial conference of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)

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Miroslav Lajčák, President of the UN General Assembly, in an address to the mid-term ministerial conference of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)

By Miroslav Lajčák
BAKU, Azerbaijan, Apr 6 2018 (IPS)

I am honoured to pay a visit to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) to address this Ministerial Meeting. I would like to use this opportunity to commend the role of the Non-Aligned Movement in promoting peace, security and development around the world.

I also want to start by acknowledging the commitment of Venezuela, as Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement. I also thank Azerbaijan for welcoming us all to Baku, as the host of this conference.

Credit: UN photo

Our theme today: promoting international peace and security for sustainable development. It is not a question of whether there is a link between peace and development. Because, this link is already, widely, accepted.

It is even evident in the United Nations’ Charter. The drafters of this Charter not only envisaged a world free from war – but also one in which social and economic progress improved the lives of all people.

Later, in 2015, this link became one of the core components of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. And, it has been an element of almost all international resolutions on both peace and development since then.

The question, however, remains: how can we better use it, to tackle today’s challenges? And, in answering this, I want to focus on three areas in particular.

First, conflict prevention.

It is simple. We cannot achieve any of the 17 SDGs if bombs are falling from the sky. People cannot achieve social or economic progress, if they are fleeing their homes in terror. And, development cannot take root on battlegrounds.

We have seen this, in practice. Too often, development gains have been destroyed by the outbreak or recurrence of conflict. Which is why a stronger focus on conflict prevention is key to our global efforts for Sustainable Development.

On the other hand, development, itself, can be a valuable prevention tool. Because, at the heart of every SDG lies a chance to eradicate a root cause of conflict. So, Sustainable Development can both help and benefit from an increased focus on conflict prevention.

On 24 and 25 of April, I will convene a High-Level Meeting on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace. It aims to increase momentum towards a UN better equipped to prevent conflict.

The perspectives of the Non-Aligned Movement will be crucial. Many of you have extensive experience in mediation and the peaceful resolution of disputes. Your perspectives, as champions of development, will also help us to shed new light on the SDGs as tools for conflict prevention. Many of you have already confirmed your participation. And I look forward to welcoming even more of you to New York in April.

The second area I want to focus on, this morning, is coherence. We have, indeed, accepted the link between peace and development. We are taking some positive steps towards a more coherent approach.

One example can be seen through the expanding partnerships between the UN’s Peacebuilding Commission and development actors, such as the World Bank or UN Country Teams. And, I hope that my own presidency will also contribute to greater coherence in the work of the UN.

In March, I convened a high-level event to launch the Decade of Action: Water for Sustainable Development. We learnt many valuable lessons about the relationship between water and peace – and how it affects people on the ground. In fact, many such lessons came from delegations represented in this room today.

On 30 May, I will be convening a Youth Dialogue. It aims to address the role of young people in driving SDG implementation – including in the areas of employment and education.

In particular, it will explore the role for young people in preventing violent extremism. Given that the Non-Aligned Movement is home to most of the world’s young people, I count on your engagement.

And, my SDG financing event, planned for 11 June, will address the link between peace and development. We intend to hear from investors working in post-conflict areas. And, I hope this discussion will help us to lessen the gap between the funding spent on responding to conflicts, versus that which is available to address its root causes.

My third and final point is that the relationship between peace and development has an impact outside of these two areas.

Migration is a good example. Because, it can be affected by – and contribute to – both peace and development. As you know, we are currently negotiating a Global Compact on safe, orderly and regular migration.

Countries of the Non-Aligned Movement have extensive experience with migration. That is why we need your voices to continue to be heard.

Ongoing activities for UN reform are also relevant to the link between peace and development because the overarching aim of all reforms is a UN which is fit for purpose.

And this necessarily means a UN which can address the interconnected challenges in the areas of both peace and development. I hope we continue to see the active engagement of the Non-Aligned Movement in efforts to strengthen the UN system.

And, finally, we do need to build bridges between the two pillars of peace and security, and development. But, these bridges will be unbalanced, unless they extend to the third pillar of human rights and human dignity.

Before I conclude, I want to point something out. We cannot address the link between peace and sustainable development without acknowledging that we are facing major challenges, in both areas.

As we speak, institutions are crumbling to conflict. As we speak, people’s prayers and calls for peace remain unanswered. As we speak, climate change is waging an invisible war, across new battlegrounds. And, as we speak, the gap between the rich and the poor gets even wider.

Some areas in the world feel these challenges more than others. But no country, land, or group is immune. So, we need to recommit to working together. To cooperation. To multilateralism. And, to the United Nations.

I am standing today, in front of one of the most influential groups in the world. And, outside these walls, the demand for multilateralism is growing. But so too are attacks on the UN’s role and legitimacy.

So, I make an appeal to you all today: Let us stand together, in defence of our multilateral system.

We need it now more than ever. For peace. For sustainable development. And, for all of our futures.

The post UN Development Goals Cannot be Achieved if Bombs Keep Falling From the Sky appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Miroslav Lajčák, President of the UN General Assembly, in an address to the mid-term ministerial conference of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)

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“International Solidarity” at Yemen Donor Conferencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/international-solidarity-yemen-donor-conference/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=international-solidarity-yemen-donor-conference http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/international-solidarity-yemen-donor-conference/#respond Thu, 05 Apr 2018 15:55:56 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155181 The international community has pledged over two billion dollars towards urgently needed humanitarian assistance to Yemen during a UN event. Convened by the UN along with the Governments of Sweden and Switzerland, a High-Level Pledging Event brought together the international community to support suffering Yemenis facing a seemingly “forgotten war.” “This pledging conference represents a […]

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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (second from left) signs a Voluntary Financial Contribution Memorandum between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Nations to the 2018 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 5 2018 (IPS)

The international community has pledged over two billion dollars towards urgently needed humanitarian assistance to Yemen during a UN event.

Convened by the UN along with the Governments of Sweden and Switzerland, a High-Level Pledging Event brought together the international community to support suffering Yemenis facing a seemingly “forgotten war.”

“This pledging conference represents a remarkable success of international solidarity to the people of Yemen,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“Yemen’s situation today is catastrophic. But with international support, we can and must prevent this country from becoming a long-term tragedy,” he added.

Forty countries and organizations pledged 2.01 billion dollars towards the 2018 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan (YHRP) which requested 2.96 billion for lifesaving assistance to 13 million people across the Middle Eastern nation.

Last year’s donor conference raised 1.1 billion dollars in aid.

With the destructive conflict soon entering its fourth year, Yemen has become one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 22 million people, or 75 percent of the population, are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Though both sides are complicit, a Saudi Arabian-imposed blockade has particularly led to severe shortages in food, medicine, and other basic needs.

Approximately 18 million are food-insecure, including over 8 million who are on the brink of famine, and the lack of access to water has led to the world’s largest cholera epidemic.

With the rainy season soon to commence, many are concerned that the number of cholera cases will multiply yet again.

While humanitarian resources are extremely important in saving lives, they are not enough, said Guterres.

“We need unrestricted access everywhere inside Yemen and we need all the parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law, and to protect civilians,” he continued.

Both Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden Isabella Lovin and Switzerland’s Vice President Ueli Maurer echoed similar sentiments.

“Humanitarian aid alone cannot be the response to the growing needs of the Yemeni people endangered by the armed conflict,” Maurer said.

In addition to unfettered aid access, the hosts highlighted the need for a political process and a political solution.

Though efforts continue to try to bring warring parties to the negotiating table, attacks persist, terrorizing the people of Yemen.

Most recently, an air strike by the Saudi-led coalition left 12 people dead in the coastal city of Hodeidah. Houthi forces later retaliated by targeting the southern region of Saudi Arabia with a missile.

Groups such as Human Rights Watch and a number of UN experts have pointed to the Saudi-led coalition’s indiscriminate air strikes as disproportionately affecting civilians over the last year.

Meanwhile, among the generous donors at the conference are Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – who have fueled Yemen’s conflict. The two countries donated 930 million dolars, one of the biggest contributions the UN has ever received, prompting the UN Security Council to consider a British proposal praising the Middle Eastern nations.

The move, however, has raised ethical questions among many.

“The Security Council should be naming and shaming everyone,” said Human Rights Watch’s UN Director Louis Charbonneau.

“A statement that condemns one side, the Houthis, but doesn’t even mention the abuses of the other, the Saudi-led coalition, simply nurtures the atmosphere of impunity,” he added.

Guterres called for the full respect for international humanitarian law and an inclusive intra-Yemeni dialogue.

“Millions of people depend for their survival on the decisions we take today,” he concluded.

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Bolton: Is He the Walrus –Goo goo g’joob?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/bolton-walrus-goo-goo-gjoob/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bolton-walrus-goo-goo-gjoob http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/bolton-walrus-goo-goo-gjoob/#comments Thu, 05 Apr 2018 14:49:16 +0000 Ian Williams http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155172 Ian Williams is a senior analyst who has written for newspapers and magazines around the world, including the Australian, The Independent, New York Observer, The Financial Times and The Guardian. He is the author of UNtold: The Real Story of the United Nations in Peace and War*.

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Ian Williams is a senior analyst who has written for newspapers and magazines around the world, including the Australian, The Independent, New York Observer, The Financial Times and The Guardian. He is the author of UNtold: The Real Story of the United Nations in Peace and War*.

By Ian Williams
NEW YORK, Apr 5 2018 (IPS)

President Trump’s nomination of John Bolton as his National Security Advisor highlights the deep irrationality of this White House’s global agenda. Apparently, the world has hitherto been spared Bolton’s robust sabotage only because the President has an eccentric visceral antipathy to his mustache, but so far could not find another, clean-shaven, candidate in the rapidly draining pool of applicants for White House jobs.

Ian Williams

At the time of Bolton’s UN recess appointment, I termed him a Palaeocon, as opposed to the Neocon. In their own twisted post-Trotskyist way, Neocons knew and cared about the rest of the world, and wanted to remake it in the American image, while Bolton had toiled for long decades in the bunkers of the Heritage Foundation plotting the ruination of Roosevelt’s post war international order. Their alliance over the Iraq war was expedient case of shared prejudices against Muslim enemies.

Bolton and his ilk are indeed creatures of prejudice. They do not have a “joined-up” foreign policy, but rather a set of reflexes born out of ancient grudges. They have never forgiven the New Deal, nor the Truman “betrayal” of Chiang Kai Shek.

They probably sit upon the ground and tell sad tales of the dearth of nukes on North Korea during the war, and, as with far too many Leftists, they still see Putin’s Kremlin as a revenant of the ComIntern. And of course, they have never forgiven the Iranians for throwing out the Shah or storming the US Embassy.

Bolton supports the Taiwanese, not because of any abstruse feelings for democracy – the conservatives had no problem with Chiang Kai Shek’s corrupt tyranny- but because he sees Beijing as a major obstacle to Washington’s supremacy. If the Taiwanese, or indeed the South Koreans, were to become collateral damage to his vision, one feels that he could easily live with it.

Faced with this administration’s whimsical conduct of policy, it would be impossible to predict how long Bolton’s tenure would be, let alone its outcome. But nonetheless there are ominous signs that a Bolton-Trump partnership would be a match made in Hell. Bolton shares Trump’s hyper-nationalist prejudices – but he is much cleverer.

His bullying bureaucratic infighting techniques have often helped him bluster his way against his nominal superiors and colleagues in the State Department. He is, after all most memorably, the thug who strode into a library polling place in Florida in 2000 yelling, “I’m with the Bush-Cheney team, and I’m here to stop the count.”

Bolton’s advocacy of a “robust” approach to Iran and North Korea, and his cheerleading and facilitation for Israeli hawks is an ominous endorsement of the late Senator Jesse Helms’ accolade for him. ‘John Bolton is the kind of man with whom I would stand at Armageddon,’
neatly tying up the apocalyptic agendas of various strands of American conservatism.

Unfortunately, millions of others would fall with him if he realized his apocalyptic visions. Bolton has an often-unacknowledged track record of successes for his agenda. Armageddon is, of course, a long-term project.

For example, Bolton played a large role in pushing Colin Powell’s State Department into backing the war in Iraq, succeeded in “un-signing” the Convention on the International Criminal Court, rewriting the US relationship to International Law in the process. Once he got to the UN, he acted as Dick Cheney’s agent there, bypassing Condoleezza Rice’s slightly more reality-based agenda.

His other quick wins include setting the fuse for it by getting the Iran file shifted from the IAEA to the UN Security Council, which could impose sanctions. This involved a deal with India to vote for the IAEA referral of Iran to the UN Security Council. Iran has signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, India has not, but in return the US did not apply non-proliferation rules against Delhi!

Bolton could overcome his prejudices against the UN long enough to play diplomatic chess with foresight even if his plans were briefly checked by the JCPOA. Of course, Bolton is an advocate of a first strike on Iran – which is as close to a fuse for Armageddon as you could envisage, and in the appropriate region too!

No-one’s toady, Bolton ended up in a feud even with George W. Bush, who famously did not do nuance either. Whether Bolton will bond further with Trump is unsure, but he will surely play to all this president’s most ill-founded and dangerous prejudices.

In Bolton’s memoirs he denounced, “eastern elitists”, state department “careerists”, the “High Minded”, the “True Believers”, the “EAPeasers” (state department East Asia and Pacific staffers) and “EUroids,” not to mention the “Risen Bureaucrats” whom he accused of subverting Bush White House actions.

And that is in between Islamophobia that is almost clinically psychopathological. He has a better command of polemic than the tweet-constrained President, but messaging is similar!

Some of Bolton’s past patterns anticipate Trump’s now – gratuitous insults to countries that more rational foreign policy experts would like to keep on side. He was especially vitriolic about the British at the UN, when for years they have acted as a bridge between US arrogance and the rest of the world. If he wants a war with Iran, he has to get the UK and most of the EU on side.

The mutual influence of Bolton and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley would almost certainly exacerbate the baleful effect of both of them, not least since Haley, as a first for the GOP, got a cabinet position with the office. One can perhaps foresee a clash of ambitions down the line between the monstrous egos and ambitions of Haley and Bolton, but few if any differences of prejudice, let alone opinion. Haley’s ambitions are personal, while Bolton’s, to give him his back-handed due, are ideological. Insofar as he wants position, it is to effect his agenda, not to polish his ego, which is quite monstrously buffed enough already.

Past patterns suggest that Bolton will bite his mustache and refrain from direct contradiction of the President, who is one fool he could suffer gladly, probably confident that Trump’s manifest inattention to detail would allow Bolton to unfold his plans unchecked.

*Ian Williams, formerly UN correspondent for The Nation, is also the author of Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776; The Deserter: Bush’s War on Military Families, Veterans and His Past; The Alms Trade; and The UN For Beginners.

The post Bolton: Is He the Walrus –Goo goo g’joob? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Ian Williams is a senior analyst who has written for newspapers and magazines around the world, including the Australian, The Independent, New York Observer, The Financial Times and The Guardian. He is the author of UNtold: The Real Story of the United Nations in Peace and War*.

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How Citizen Power Ignited Seoul’s Energy Innovationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/citizen-power-ignited-seouls-energy-innovations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=citizen-power-ignited-seouls-energy-innovations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/citizen-power-ignited-seouls-energy-innovations/#respond Thu, 05 Apr 2018 06:59:46 +0000 Park Won-soon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155159 Park Won-soon is Mayor of Seoul, a city recognized as a role model for megacities

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Mayor of Seoul, South Korea

By Park Won-soon
SEOUL, South Korea, Apr 5 2018 (IPS)

In a bid to reduce its nuclear energy dependence, Seoul embarked on a massive energy reduction initiative—shaped by citizen participation—in 2012.

The result was a drastic drop in energy use as citizens and corporations embraced the switch to energy-efficient alternatives and took charge of their energy usage. The 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in neighbouring Japan gave a great sense of crisis to South Korea.

Climate change response begins with energy reduction. Hence, Seoul began pursuing the One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative with its 10 million citizens in April 2012. Operating on the principle of first communicating with citizens before choosing policy directions, the government began by initiating large-scale discussions.

To do this, we created the Citizens Committee—comprising citizens from all walks of life, including professionals, academic circles, religious circles and civic groups—to lead the discussions and the civic governance. Eighteen events were held to hear what citizens and organisations had to say about energy reduction.

A government team, whose sole role was to communicate with citizens, was also created. It used online communication channels like Twitter and Facebook, as well as offline communication channels, such as policy workshops, deliberation processes and citizens’ podiums to get feedback.

To involve senior citizens who lacked internet access, the government reached out to organisations, associations and communities that already worked with them. The One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative was therefore led by the citizens, for the citizens, and with the citizens.

Civic governance was, and continues to be, the essence of our One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative. Reflecting all of the opinions of the citizens in our policies was not an easy task.

At times, it caused delays in the decision-making process and the implementation process. There seemed to be endless discussions on how to elicit the participation of the citizens. It was a challenge. But it brought together the wisdom of 10 million citizens, and it brought about changes in the direction of our policies and improvements in existing regulations.

The public discussions generated ideas on tapping alternative or renewable forms of energy: mini solar panels were installed on the rooftops of houses, schools and public buildings while sewage water heat, chimney waste heat and other forms of wasted energy were converted to renewable energy.

To boost energy efficiency, buildings, which accounted for 56% of energy use, were retrofitted. Even though energy is a crucial part of our daily lives, it was difficult to promote the value of policies or to encourage participation, as it is “invisible”. The government tried to raise awareness of our energy policies with the Eco Mileage Programme, which rewarded households that voluntarily reduced energy usage by lowering their electricity bills. More than 42% of households took part.

As a result, energy reduction has become a part of our citizens’ daily lives in homes, schools, and workplaces—it has become a part of Seoul’s culture. Currently, 22,000 students in 500 schools are energy guardian angels who help to prevent energy wastage in homes and schools, and 34 universities are green campuses that have reduced energy usage by 10%.

Small changes in the habits of the citizens in their daily lives have brought about big changes in the energy future of the city. We achieved the first phase goal of reducing 2 million tonnes of oil (the energy generated by one nuclear plant) six months ahead of schedule in June 2014.

Many people believed it to be impossible. But we have not stopped there. We have set a second phase goal of reducing the energy equivalent to two nuclear power plants by 2020 and reducing 10 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions as well. The changes brought about by Seoul are spreading to other cities across South Korea.

Last November, four local governments in South Korea, including Seoul, recognised the importance of local energy policies, and announced in a joint statement to cooperate on the wise and frugal use of clean and safe energy for a mutually prosperous future.

The changes driven by the citizens are inspiring not only for cities in South Korea but also for cities around the world. Many representatives of cities and organisations around the world are coming to Seoul to learn about our One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative. Many ask me: How did Seoul do it? My answer: The citizens did it.

The citizens are the energy. Civic governance, powered by the energy of the citizens, drove the changes. Seoul now looks beyond the changes in Seoul and the changes in South Korea to the changes in the world. We now look beyond civic governance to urban governance. We aspire to cooperate with cities around the world for a sustainably prosperous future.

Small actions lead to small changes, which lead to bigger changes. Our actions will form the Earth’s future. A dream we dream together will come true. I hope that the climate action story of the citizens of Seoul will become an important chapter in the history of the earth.

Small changes in the habits of the citizens in their daily lives have brought about big changes in the energy future of the city. We achieved the first phase goal of reducing 2 million tonnes of oil (the energy generated by one nuclear plant) six months ahead of schedule in June 2014. Many people believed it to be impossible.

But we have not stopped there. We have set a second phase goal of reducing the energy equivalent to two nuclear power plants by 2020 and reducing 10 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions as well. The changes brought about by Seoul are spreading to other cities across South Korea.

Last November, four local governments in South Korea, including Seoul, recognised the importance of local energy policies, and announced in a joint statement to cooperate on the wise and frugal use of clean and safe energy for a mutually prosperous future. The changes driven by the citizens are inspiring not only for cities in South Korea but also for cities around the world.

Many representatives of cities and organisations around the world are coming to Seoul to learn about our One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative. Many ask me: How did Seoul do it? My answer: The citizens did it. The citizens are the energy. Civic governance, powered by the energy of the citizens, drove the changes. Seoul now looks beyond the changes in Seoul and the changes in South Korea to the changes in the world.

We now look beyond civic governance to urban governance. We aspire to cooperate with cities around the world for a sustainably prosperous future. Small actions lead to small changes, which lead to bigger changes. Our actions will form the Earth’s future. A dream we dream together will come true. I hope that the climate action story of the citizens of Seoul will become an important chapter in the history of the earth.

The link to the original article: https://www.clc.gov.sg/documents/publications/urban-solutions/issue9/us_i9_5_counterpoint.pdf

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Excerpt:

Park Won-soon is Mayor of Seoul, a city recognized as a role model for megacities

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What’s Happening to the World Income Distribution?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/whats-happening-world-income-distribution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=whats-happening-world-income-distribution http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/whats-happening-world-income-distribution/#respond Wed, 04 Apr 2018 15:12:03 +0000 Homi Kharas and Brina Seidel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155148 Homi Kharas is Interim Vice President and Director -Global Economy and Development and Brina Seidel is Research Analyst - Global Economy and Development, The Brookings Institution*

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Homi Kharas is Interim Vice President and Director -Global Economy and Development and Brina Seidel is Research Analyst - Global Economy and Development, The Brookings Institution*

By Homi Kharas and Brina Seidel
WASHINGTON DC, Apr 4 2018 (IPS)

In 2013, Christoph Lakner and Branko Milanovic published a graph—quickly dubbed the “elephant chart”—that depicts changes in income distribution across the world between 1988 and 2008.

The chart has been used to support numerous reports of rising inequality fueled by increased globalization. Every time a populist movement rises, every time the elite gather in Davos, every time Oxfam publishes a new report on inequality, the elephant chart resurfaces.

The original elephant chart, reproduced in Figure 1, records the income growth of each ventile of the global income distribution over the course of 20 years. It has been used as evidence to support four stylized facts about who has benefited from globalization:
o The global elite, in particular the top 1 percent, have enjoyed massive income growth over the past decades. Their high income growth, coupled with a high initial share of income, implies they continue to capture a large share of global income growth. This can be seen in the elephant’s raised trunk.

o The global upper middle class has seen its income stagnate with zero growth over two decades for the 80th This appears to corroborate data showing stagnant real wage growth and other frustrations fueling populist politics in rich countries. This can be seen in the depth of the trough at the base of the elephant’s trunk.

o The global middle class has risen rapidly as select developing countries have begun to converge toward rich countries. Countries like China have lifted large impoverished populations into the middle class. This can be seen in the graph’s peak at the elephant’s torso.

o The global extreme poor have largely been left behind, with several countries stuck in a cycle of poverty and violence. This can be seen in the elephant’s slumped tail.

Figure 1: Original Elephant Chart

This paper examines how these four parts of the elephant chart—tail, torso, trough, and trunk—hold up to new data and new methods. We caution that while elements of the original story have certainly been confirmed by other data in other contexts, the elephant shape itself may be an overburdened and inaccurate depiction of what is really going on in the world economy.

We return to the original chart and, step by step, make modest adjustments and updates to the data and methodology. We use the most recent update of global price comparisons (the 2011 purchasing power parity data, rather than the 2005 PPP series).

We add surveys for countries that did not have data available when the original chart was published. We also extend the period to 2013, thereby including post-recession years.

We further add data from countries with only a single household survey, making distributionally neutral assumptions about their growth incidence. This permits the broadest possible country coverage—our analysis is truly global in that it covers 97.5 percent of the world’s population, compared to around 80 percent coverage in Lakner-Milanovic version.

Methodologically, we also compare the Lakner-Milanovic approach with an alternative method that better approximates the way the elephant chart has been (mistakenly) understood. This method, called a quasi-non-anonymous growth incidence curve, holds the country composition of each global decile constant across time and therefore shows the fate of specific economic classes in specific countries

In doing so, we find that the primary narrative is one of convergence: Poorer countries, and the lower income groups within those countries, have grown most rapidly in the past 20 years. The data do not support the idea that the poorest people are being left behind, nor that the richest are taking all the income gains.

This is consistent with other findings. According to the World Bank, inequality between countries is falling, and inequality within countries is falling in many places as well. The World Bank also finds that there is little difference in growth rates among the lowest 95 percent of the global population.

One caveat: our analysis is based on household survey data only. Household surveys are notoriously weak in coverage of the top and bottom of the distribution and the representativeness of the sample gets worse at each tail.

For this reason, we use grouped data that records the mean income of each decile or percentile of each country’s distribution, and even for the world, we do not try to make finer distinctions beyond the top 1 percent—but recall that around 1990, 1 percent of the world is still over 50 million people.

For many discussions, this is too crude a breakdown; for example, it does not distinguish between millionaires (about 16 million globally) and the rest. To address this data shortfall, the World Inequality and Wealth Database (WID) spearheaded by Tony Atkinson, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and others has developed alternatives using tax administration data.

These give a far different picture of what is happening at the very top, which we examine as well. While these efforts have brought a welcome empiricism to conversations about top incomes, the estimates remain controversial.

As we unpack the elephant, it becomes clear that the distributional gains from the past 30 years of growth and globalization are far from settled fact.

From the Brookings Institution blog: https://www.brookings.edu/research/whats-happening-to-the-world-income-distribution-the-elephant-chart-revisited/?utm_campaign=Brookings%20Brief&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=61834758

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Excerpt:

Homi Kharas is Interim Vice President and Director -Global Economy and Development and Brina Seidel is Research Analyst - Global Economy and Development, The Brookings Institution*

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Yemen the World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis, Says UN Chiefhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/yemen-worlds-worst-humanitarian-crisis-says-un-chief/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yemen-worlds-worst-humanitarian-crisis-says-un-chief http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/yemen-worlds-worst-humanitarian-crisis-says-un-chief/#respond Wed, 04 Apr 2018 08:10:17 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155143 Secretary-General António Guterres, in his address to the Pledging Conference on Yemen.

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A young boy runs with his tyre past buildings damaged by airstrikes in Saada Old Town. Credit: Giles Clarke/OCHA

By António Guterres
GENEVA, Apr 4 2018 (IPS)

Thank you all for being here today to show your solidarity with the women, men, girls and boys of Yemen. And I want to thank my co-chairs, the Governments of Sweden and Switzerland, for hosting this conference for the second year and for their continued humanitarian commitment.

Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. As the conflict enters its fourth year, more than 22 million people – three-quarters of the population – need humanitarian aid and protection.

Some 18 million people are food insecure; one million more than when we convened last year. And a horrifying 8.4 million of these people do not know how they will obtain their next meal.

Millions of Yemenis do not have access to safe drinking water. Last year, 1 million people suffered from watery diarrhoea and cholera. Half of all health facilities are shut or not working properly, meaning there is a high risk of another cholera epidemic.

Treatable illnesses become a death sentence when local health services are suspended and it is impossible to travel outside the country. Civilians have been facing indiscriminate attacks, bombing, snipers, unexploded ordnance, cross-fire, kidnapping, rape and arbitrary detention.

Every ten minutes, a child under five dies of preventable causes. And nearly 3 million children under 5 and pregnant or lactating women are acutely malnourished. Nearly half of all children aged between six months and 5 years old are chronically malnourished and suffer from stunting, which causes development delays and reduced ability to learn throughout their entire lives.

Some two million children are out of school, and 2,500 schools have been destroyed or are not being used for their original purpose.

Children are being forcibly recruited to fight, or put to work to support their families. And families across the country are sliding into debt and coping in any way they can. Child marriage rates have escalated; nearly two-thirds of girls are married before the age of 18, and many before they are 15.

Three-quarters of displaced people are women and children, and women and girls among them face an increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence. And the number of women accessing services for gender-based violence has risen by at least 30 per cent, despite social constraints on reporting.

And these facts represent only a snapshot of the devastation.

Yemen’s situation today is catastrophic. But with international support, we can and must prevent this country from becoming a long-term tragedy.

The 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan for Yemen requires $2.96 billion to reach more than 13 million people across the country.

And we have a strong foundation on which to build. The humanitarian operation has expanded dramatically. At the start of last year, partners were reaching 3 million people per month with food assistance. By August, we were reaching more than 7 million people every month.

At the height of the cholera epidemic, more than 1,000 oral rehydration centres and 234 diarrhoea treatment centres were in operation – up from only 25 such centres earlier in this year.

Thanks to humanitarian agencies and our partners, the cholera epidemic has been contained and famine – even if famine is a technical concept that does not really describe the reality as many, many people are hungry – but famine has so far been averted, although there is no room for complacency on either count.

Your generosity made this work possible. But your generosity is well-deserved by the Yemeni people. In my capacity as High Commissioner for Refugees and during more than 10 years, I worked closely with Yemen.

Yemen has always received Somali refugees in big numbers coming to the country, and granting them prima facie refugee status, something that unfortunately, many other countries around the world refused to do, even if their resources and capacities are much larger than the resources and capacities of the Yemeni people.

The Yemeni people has always been extremely generous to those that came to Yemen in search of protection and assistance. And so our generosity is also a duty to match the generosity that Yemenis always have shown to those in need that have been able to seek their protection.

Last year’s donor conference raised $1.1 billion for humanitarian action in Yemen. This year, the United Nations and our partners on the ground are ready to do everything possible to expand our support even further. But we need resources.

Donors have already stepped forward. The governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have generously provided $930 million for the Humanitarian Response Plan. They have also pledged to secure an additional $500 million from the region. And I deeply thank them.

Other donors have contributed some $293 million. This means that we have already met 40 per cent of our requirements for the year.

But the scale of suffering that we see in Yemen requires rapid, full funding for the 2018 response plan. And the plan is prioritized so that every dollar goes where it is urgently needed. I urge all to do whatever it is possible because the Yemeni people needs and deserves it.

My second message here today is that humanitarians must be able to reach the people who need help and to do so without conditions. Humanitarian agencies and their partners need full and unconditional access at all times. But humanitarian agencies report access constraints in 90 percent of districts in Yemen.

All ports must remain open to humanitarian and commercial cargo for the medicines, the food and the fuel needed to deliver them. And Sana’a airport is also a lifeline that must be kept open.

It is vital to provide safe, unimpeded, unrestricted humanitarian access to all parts of the country. And the Yemen Comprehensive Humanitarian Operations Plan recently announced in Riyadh was an important step in this direction.

My final message is possibly the most important of all. We must see action to end the conflict.

This war is causing enormous human suffering to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world, and there are no humanitarian solutions to humanitarian crises.

A negotiated political settlement through inclusive intra-Yemeni dialogue is the only solution. And I urge all parties to engage with my new Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, without delay.

And I reiterate my call for full respect for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Meanwhile, millions of people depend for their survival on the decisions we take today. And I hope you will match your participation here with action, to support humanitarian operations and to move decisively towards lasting peace in Yemen.

The post Yemen the World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis, Says UN Chief appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Secretary-General António Guterres, in his address to the Pledging Conference on Yemen.

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Palestinian Journalists Injured Covering Mass Protest in Gaza Striphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/palestinian-journalists-injured-covering-mass-protest-gaza-strip/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=palestinian-journalists-injured-covering-mass-protest-gaza-strip http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/palestinian-journalists-injured-covering-mass-protest-gaza-strip/#respond Tue, 03 Apr 2018 17:59:23 +0000 Committee to Protect Journalists http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155135 Israeli authorities should independently and credibly investigate reports that Israeli security forces injured journalists covering protests in the Gaza Strip on March 30, 2018. At least 10 Palestinian journalists were injured while covering mass protests on the Gaza border, according to the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS), the Palestinian press freedom group Palestinian Center for Development […]

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International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists

By Committee to Protect Journalists
BEIRUT, Lebanon, Apr 3 2018 (IPS)

Israeli authorities should independently and credibly investigate reports that Israeli security forces injured journalists covering protests in the Gaza Strip on March 30, 2018.

At least 10 Palestinian journalists were injured while covering mass protests on the Gaza border, according to the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS), the Palestinian press freedom group Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom (MADA), the regional press freedom group Center for Defending the Freedom of Journalists (CFJ), and news reports.

Thousands of Palestinians joined the protest in Gaza Strip on March 30 against Israel’s refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their pre-1948 homes, news reports said. At least 17 Palestinians have been killed and 1,400 injured in the protest.

“Journalists should be able to cover demonstrations without fearing for their safety,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said from Washington D.C. “We call on Israeli officials to hold to account any security personnel who commit violence against journalists.”

Freelance journalist Ahmed Salem Muammar was hit in his lower abdomen by a live round in an area east of the city of Khan Younis, according to MADA, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, and CFJ.

Muammar told MADA that he was leaving the site of the demonstrations along with his colleague Hatem Omar, a photographer for the Xinhua News Agency, after having covered the protests when he was shot in his abdomen.

“By chance I was very close to an ambulance that took me to Nasser Hospital. There were 14 shrapnel in my lower abdomen, I underwent a three-hour surgery, where 30 cm of intestine was removed, bleeding was controlled and I am still under observation in hospital,” he said, according to MADA’s website.

Wisam Mousa, photographer for the Deir al-Balah-based local radio station Fursan al-Aradah, was hit by live rounds in both legs while he was covering the protests from afar at the refugee camp of Al-Bureij, according to MADA, the PJS, and his employer.

“I was more than 400 meters away from the border fence, and while I was standing near the ambulances, I was deliberately targeted and shot with two live fire- bullets, one of which penetrated my right leg and came out of it, whereas, the other bullet penetrated my left leg causing a severe rupture in my leg muscle- just below the knee,” Mousa told MADA.

Israeli Defense Forces did not immediately reply to CPJ’s email requesting comment.

Hala al-Hassanat, reporter for the Gaza-based Nahar News Agency, told CPJ that she was covering the march at Al-Bureij refugee camp in the evening when Israeli soldiers began shooting at civilians. She ran away from the shooting and fell over a pile of stones, breaking her left leg. She was transferred for treatment to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital.

Mahmoud Adnan Mdouj, a photographer for the media production company Media Town, was hit by a live round in his right leg, which was broken as a result, while he was covering the protest march behind the protesters, about 500 meters away from the border fence, according to MADA and pictures posted on Facebook by other Palestinian journalists.

Ahmed Kafa, a photographer for the local news website Deir al-Balah Media, was injured in his right leg by a live round while he was covering the protests in eastern Khan Younis, according to the local press freedom group Journalist Support Committee, news reports, and his employer.

Journalists Amina Dabash, reporter for the independent news agency Media Field Unit, Mohammed Joudeh, reporter for the Palestinian Authority’s official broadcaster Palestine TV, and freelance photographer Hussein Abu Khreis were hit directly in their legs by tear gas canisters in Al-Bureij, Rafah, and eastern Khan Younis, respectively, according to the PJS, news reports, and Facebook posts.

Ali Yousef al-Adwy, reporter and cameraman for the local Lajee TV Channel, was hit by a bullet on his left leg, slightly below his knee, while he was covering the protests near the Gaza border with Israel, according to his employer, pictures of Al-Adwy posted on Facebook, and the CFJ.

For his part, Loay Nahd al-Ghoul, a reporter for Palestine TV, inhaled tear gas while he was covering the protests in eastern Gaza, according to the PJS and a post on his Facebook account.

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