Inter Press Service » IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 30 Sep 2016 19:22:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.13 UN Resolution on Journalist Safety Passed, But Long Way to Gohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-resolution-on-journalist-safety-passed-but-long-way-to-go/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-resolution-on-journalist-safety-passed-but-long-way-to-go http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-resolution-on-journalist-safety-passed-but-long-way-to-go/#comments Fri, 30 Sep 2016 19:20:32 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147172 Kashmiri journalists at a rare protest against a government clampdown on freedom of expression in 2012. Credit: Athar Parvaiz/IPS

Kashmiri journalists at a rare protest against a government clampdown on freedom of expression in 2012. Credit: Athar Parvaiz/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 30 2016 (IPS)

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) advanced its commitment to the safety of journalists after adopting a groundbreaking resolution with measures for states to ensure journalist protection. But this is only the first step, many note.

Though the UNHRC has adopted resolutions on the safety of journalists in the past, some note that this year’s resolution is more comprehensive in protecting the rights of freedom of expression and the press.For the first time, UNHRC called for states to release arbitrarily detained journalists and to reform laws that are misused to hinder their work.

“[The resolution] brings up these issues more explicitly than it has been brought up in other resolutions,” Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch told IPS.

She stressed that the resolution acknowledges the role that states play in committing violence against journalists and in creating a permissive environment for the safety of journalists.

“It is not simply enough to talk about the safety of journalist without also addressing the need to create an environment in which freedom of expression and press freedom can flourish,” she stated.

Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) Advocacy and Communications Officer Margaux Ewen echoed similar sentiments to IPS, noting that the resolution is a “wonderful reiteration” which calls on member states to implement their international obligations.

For the first time, UNHRC called for states to release arbitrarily detained journalists and to reform laws that are misused to hinder their work.

According to CPJ, approximately 200 journalists were imprisoned worldwide in 2015. The organisation recorded the highest number of such arrests in China, where 49 journalists were imprisoned. Most recently, Chinese journalists Lu Yuyu and Li Tingyu were detained in June 2016 on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” They had been documenting and reporting on protests across the East Asian nation since 2012.

China is among the members of UNHRC.

The newly adopted resolution also affirms the right of journalists to use encryption and anonymity tools. Journalists often rely on such mechanisms to safely impart information anonymously online. They are also used to encrypt their communications in order to protect their contacts and sources.

Radsch noted that these tools are essential for journalists “to do their job in the 21st century.”

The resolution also addresses the specific risks that women journalists face in their work, condemning all gender-based attacks.

Earlier in September, freelance journalist Gretchen Malalad and Al Jazeera Correspondent Jamela Alindogan-Caudron were subject to severe social media attacks, receiving threats of rape and death due to their coverage of the Philippine government’s controversial anti-drug war.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NJUP) Ryan Rosauro expressed his dismay of the state of journalism in the country, stating: “We will never take any threats, whether of physical harm or to silence us, lightly for we have lost far too many of our colleagues and hardly seen justice for them,” he said.

In a joint statement with NJUP, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) stated that the government must take social media threats to journalists seriously and should penalise perpetrators to ensure the safety of journalists.

In their 2016 World Press Freedom Index, RSF ranked the Philippines 138th out of 180 countries in press freedom making it one of the most dangerous countries for practicing journalists.

As in previous years, the UNHRC also highlighted the need to end violence against journalists and to combat impunity for attacks.

CPJ found that over 1,200 journalists have been killed since 1992, the majority of whom were murdered with complete impunity. Other organisations speculate that the numbers are higher, with IFJ reporting that at least 2,300 journalists and media staff have been killed since 1990.

In 2009, prominent Sri Lankan journalist and editor Lasantha Wickramatunga was beaten to death after his car was pulled over by eight helmeted men on motorcycles. Often critical of the government and its conduct in the country’s civil war, the editor had been attacked before and received death threats for months prior to his death. He even anticipated his own fate, writing an essay shortly before his death about free media in the South Asian nation.

“In the course of the past few years, the independent media have increasingly come under attack. Electronic and print-media institutions have been burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honour to belong to all those categories and now especially the last,” Wickramatunga wrote.

Most recently, Jordanian journalist Nahed Hattar was shot dead while on his way to face charges for sharing a cartoon deemed offensive to Islam.

“The killing of Mr. Hattar is appalling, and it is unacceptable that no protection measures had been put in place to ensure his safety, particularly when the threats against him were well known to the authorities,” said UN special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye.

Kaye urged authorities to bring the perpetrator to justice and to ensure legislation that allows a culture of diverse expression.

However, both Radsch and Ewen noted that the resolution is only the first step as it must be translated to action on the ground.

“We continue to see the failure of states to adequate investigate the murders of journalists…so while resolutions are important, we need to see actual concrete actions to accompany these normative statements,” Radsch told IPS.

Ewen stated that UN resolutions are “strong and strongly worded” but it still remains to be seen for states to implement measures to protect journalists and the right of freedom of expression. She pointed to RSF’s campaign to create a Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General for the safety of journalists as a way to ensure states comply with their international obligations.

Led by RSF, the Protect Journalists campaign has brought together over a 100 media organisations and human rights organisations including CPJ, the Guardian and the United Nations Correspondents Association to push for the establishment of a special representative.

During a press conference, RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire noted that a special representative could act as an early warning and rapid response mechanism to give journalists, when threatened, access to authorities and protective measures as laid out in the resolution. He also added that a special representative with political weight can make sure the safety of journalists is integrated in all UN programs and operations.

“Every week, there are new names on new graves in journalist cemeteries…we cannot let anymore journalists be killed because of this lack of political will,” Deloire told press.

The 47-member state council adopted the resolution on the safety of journalists by consensus, expressing a deep concern for the increased number of journalists and media workers who have been killed, tortured and detained. Nations beyond the UNHRC including Austria and the United States also joined the initiative as cosponsors.

 

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Take a Deep Breath? But 9 in 10 People Worldwide Live with Excessive Air Pollution!http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/take-a-deep-breath-but-9-in-10-people-worldwide-live-with-excessive-air-pollution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=take-a-deep-breath-but-9-in-10-people-worldwide-live-with-excessive-air-pollution http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/take-a-deep-breath-but-9-in-10-people-worldwide-live-with-excessive-air-pollution/#comments Thu, 29 Sep 2016 14:08:51 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147149 Air pollution in Cairo, Egypt. Credit: World Bank/Kim Eun Yeul ” Source: UN News Centre

Air pollution in Cairo, Egypt. Credit: World Bank/Kim Eun Yeul ” Source: UN News Centre

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Sep 29 2016 (IPS)

The warning is sharp and the facts, alarming: 92 per cent of the world’s population live in places where levels exceed recommended limits. And 6.5 million people die annually from air pollution.

And the warning comes from the leading United Nations agency dealing with health, which rolled out its most detailed profile of the scourge ever in a bid to slash the deadly toll.

“Fast action to tackle air pollution can’t come soon enough,” the Geneva-based UN World Health Organization (WHO) top environmental official Maria Neira on 27 September said of the new air quality model, which includes interactive maps that highlight areas within countries exceeding WHO limits.

The world’s population reached 7.35 billion last year, according to UN figures.

What to Do Then?

“Solutions exist with sustainable transport in cities, solid waste management, access to clean household fuels and cook-stoves, as well as renewable energies and industrial emissions reductions,” Dr. Neira added.

Nearly 90 per cent of the deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, with nearly two out of three occurring in the South-east Asia and Western Pacific regions.
“Air pollution continues to take a toll on the health of the most vulnerable populations – women, children and the older adults,” WHO’s Assistant Director General Flavia Bustreo said for her part. “For people to be healthy, they must breathe clean air from their first breath to their last,” she added.

Major sources of air pollution include inefficient modes of transport, household fuel and waste burning, coal-fired power plants, and industrial activities. But not all air pollution originates from human activity. For example, air quality can also be influenced by dust storms, particularly in regions close to deserts.

Credit: Radek Kołakowski CC | UNEP

Credit: Radek Kołakowski CC | UNEP

“The new WHO model shows countries where the air pollution danger spots are, and provides a baseline for monitoring progress in combating it,” Dr. Bustreo said.
Developed in collaboration with the University of Bath, United Kingdom, it represents WHO’s most detailed outdoor air pollution-related health data ever, based on satellite measurements, air transport models and ground station monitors for more than 3,000 locations, both rural and urban.

Indoor Air Pollution as Deadly as Outdoor Exposure

Some three million deaths a year are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution. Indoor air pollution can be just as deadly. In 2012, an estimated 6.5 million deaths (11.6 per cent of all global deaths) were associated with indoor and outdoor air pollution together.

Ninety-four per cent of the deaths are due to non-communicable diseases – notably cardiovascular diseases, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Air pollution also increases the risks for acute respiratory infections.

“This new model is a big step forward towards even more confident estimates of the huge global burden of more than six million deaths – one in nine of total global deaths – from exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution,” said Dr. Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health.

The Ambient Air quality guidelines of WHO limit annual mean exposure to particulate matter with a diametre of less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5), such as sulfate, nitrates and black carbon, which penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, posing the greatest health risks.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda, adopted at a UN summit in 2015, call for substantially reducing the number of deaths and illnesses from air pollution.

The issue of sustainable cities, which is one of the SDGs, will be at the heart of a media and civil society organisations training workshop, organised by IPS and the UN Foundation http://www.unfoundation.org/, scheduled to take place in Quito on October 27-28.

WHO interactive maps. Credit: World Health Organization

WHO interactive maps. Credit: World Health Organization

The Quito workshop is part of a series of IPS-UNF training events in two European and one Asian country, all of them taking place during October and November, under the common title: Decoding the Future.

Disconnection Between People and the Environment

Anyway, no region is safe. For instance, in prosperous Europe, air pollution, climate change, unhealthy lifestyles and disconnection between people and the environment are increasingly affecting human health in the pan-European region, according to the latest report by the UN Environment Programme and the UN Economic Commission in Europe.

The report, which was released on June 8, calls for greater cooperation and a more integrated approach to tackle the transboundary challenges in the pan-European region, which comprises the 53 countries spanning Europe, the Caucuses and Central Asia, and Israel.

Of these challenges, air pollution is the greatest threat with more than 95 per cent of the European Union (EU) urban population exposed to levels above World Health Organisation guidelines, according to latest Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6) assessment released today by the Nairobi-based UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

Over 500,000 premature deaths in the region were attributed to outdoor air quality and 100,000 to indoor air quality in 2012, according to the assessment.
UNEP and UNECE have alerted that an urgent shift from incremental to transformational change will help to reverse some of these indicators.

“The GEO-6 assessment for the pan-European region highlights how the transition to an inclusive green economy in the region must be built on resilient ecosystems, sound management of chemicals and clean production systems, and on healthy consumption choices,” Jan Dusik, Head of UNEP’s Regional Office for Europe, said.

The report also finds that environmental challenges in the region have become more systemic and complex, while resilience to these will be affected by megatrends largely outside the region’s control.

“This report provides fresh information on the region’s emerging environmental issues and it will help governments shape their future policy,” said UNECE Executive Secretary Christian Friis Bach.

Other challenges discussed in the assessment include climate change, considered one of the largest threats to human and ecosystem health, and to achieving sustainable development in the pan-European region.

“It is also an accelerator for most other environmental risks, with impacts affecting health through floods, heat waves, droughts, reduced agricultural productivity, exacerbated air pollution and allergies and vector, food and water-borne diseases.”

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Development as Human Right: An Unfulfilled Promise to Billionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/development-as-human-right-an-unfulfilled-promise-to-billions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=development-as-human-right-an-unfulfilled-promise-to-billions http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/development-as-human-right-an-unfulfilled-promise-to-billions/#comments Wed, 28 Sep 2016 23:12:54 +0000 an IPS Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147142 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the commemoration event for the 30th anniversary of Declaration on Right to Development. Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the commemoration event for the 30th anniversary of Declaration on Right to Development. Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

By an IPS Correspondent
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 28 2016 (IPS)

As the United Nations commemorated the 30th anniversary of the “Right to Development”, the Group of 77 (G77) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) expressed strong collective support for one of the basic human rights described as a key element in the implementation of the UN’s post-2015 development agenda.

“Development as a human right is still an unfulfilled promise for billions of people,” said a joint statement issued September 22 by two of the largest economic and political groupings at the United Nations.

The 133-member G77 (joined by China) and the 120-member NAM said 30 years ago, “we recognized the human person as the central subject of the development process and  therefore development policy should make the human being the main participant and beneficiary of development.”  And it placed people at the center of development while demanding equal opportunities and equitable distribution of economic resources.

Since then, said the joint statement, the international community has embraced the concept of “people-centred” development.

At the same time, it has recognized that, despite continuous efforts on the part of the international community, “the gap between developed and developing countries remains unacceptably wide, that most of the developing countries continue to face difficulties in participating in the globalization process and that many risk being marginalized and effectively excluded from its benefits.”

The resolution on the ‘Declaration on the Right to Development’ was adopted at the 97th plenary meeting of the General Assembly back in December 1986.

Addressing a high level meeting of the General Assembly commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Right to Development on September 22, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said despite great strides forward, developing countries still struggle with the diversification of their economies, international trade, macroeconomic and fiscal issues and ensuring equitable and sustainable frameworks for the use of natural resources.

There are more least developed countries (LDCs) now than in 1986. Even among middle-income countries, few are on paths that can ensure sustained, sustainable and equitable growth and poverty eradication.

Developed countries also face new challenges, such as rising inequality and financial crises, he said.  “We have new prospects for realizing the right to development, thanks to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and SDG 17 on strengthening the means of implementation and revitalizing the global partnership, together with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.”

"it is an opportune time to demonstrate and reiterate our unequivocal commitment to the right to development, in particular the need to strive for greater acceptance, operationalization and the realization of this right at the international level.”

The 2030 Agenda explicitly recognizes the Declaration of the Right to Development and reflects its spirit. Its emphasis on equality, participation, empowerment and ensuring that no one is left behind, echoes the definition of the right to development as “an inalienable human right”.

It recognizes, like the Declaration, that each country has primary responsibility for its own economic and social development while affirming that international cooperation and partnership are essential to ensure implementation.

The 2030 Agenda has unprecedented potential to fulfil the aspirations that motivated the Declaration on the Right to Development, and that remain critical to this day.  “Let us celebrate the Declaration for its past – and more importantly for the promise it holds for the future,” Ban declared.

The President of the General Assembly Peter Thomson told the high level meeting that  many of the commitments on the UN’s post-2015 development agenda mirror duties arising from the Declaration on the Right to Development.

It includes a duty on each government to put the well-being of the entire population, and of all individuals, at the heart of their policies and strategies. This includes by ensuring their free and meaningful participation in development efforts and decision-making process, and in the distribution of the resulting benefits.

It includes the duty to remove structural obstacles and to address both historical and contemporary inequities that are holding back developing countries, he noted.

And it includes the need for international cooperation in support of those countries that remain in vulnerable situations – whether they be the least developed countries; those affected by conflict and instability; or those struggling to adapt to the impacts of climate changes, Thomson told delegates.

“As we mark this Anniversary, let us recognize that if we are to realize the Right to Development, we must do so together; working in responsible and ethical partnerships between governments, the UN system, civil society, the private sector and others.”

Addressing the high level meeting, the European Union’s (EU) Special Representative for Human Rights Stavros Lambrindis, said: “We wish to reiterate our support for the right to development, as based on the indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights as outlined in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the multidimensional nature of development strategies and the role of individuals as the central subjects of the development process.”

He pointed out that the EU is fully committed to a rights-based approach to development, encompassing all human rights, including the right to development. The right to development requires the full realisation of civil and political rights, together with economic, social and cultural rights, and a mix of policies, creating an enabling environment for individuals, involving a wide range of actors, at all levels.

“We emphasise that the primary responsibility for ensuring that the right to development is realised is one owed by States to their citizens. We must recognize that divergent views in the understanding of the right to development remain.”

But he re-stated the EU position that it is not in favour of the elaboration of an international legal standard of a binding nature “as we do not believe that this is the appropriate mechanism to realise the right to development.”

With its universal applicability and its importance in shaping development priorities, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will open up new avenues to integrate human rights into global and national policies in both developed and developing countries over the next 15 years, he added.

Meanwhile, in its joint statement, the G77 and NAM said the Right to Development is crucial to the three agreements reached last year: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development (FfD) and the Paris Climate Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which have vowed to “leave no one behind.”

“There is no doubt that in order for us to reach that goal, the right to development must be central to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development taking into account countries and peoples who face specific challenges, in particular, African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States as well as specific challenges that many middle-income countries face, as well as countries facing conflict and post-conflict situations, humanitarian emergencies, the effects of climate change and global pandemics.”

The statement also said “We must take resolute steps to eliminate the massive and flagrant violations of human rights of peoples and human beings affected by situations such as those resulting from apartheid, all forms of racism and racial discrimination, colonialism, foreign domination and occupation, aggression, foreign interference and threats against national sovereignty, national unity and territorial integrity, threats of war and refusal to recognize the fundamental right of peoples to self-determination.”

According to the statement, the 30th Anniversary coincided with the first year of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  “So it is an opportune time to demonstrate and reiterate our unequivocal commitment to the right to development, in particular the need to strive for greater acceptance, operationalization and the realization of this right at the international level.”

“We must continue our efforts also, to mainstream this right in our work at the national and regional level and in the United Nations, particularly in the Human Rights mechanisms, as well as international financial and multilateral trading systems in the context of the elaboration of their policies in line with the 2030 Agenda.”

One of the recurring themes in recent conversations and panel discussions was the understanding that the realization of the right to development is a necessity now, more than ever.  “The ambitious goals we have committed ourselves to, the massive challenges and violations of human rights caused by situations resulting from, among others, unilateral coercive measures and unfair sanctions, can only be reached and overcome if we embrace the tenets of the Declaration.”

In this regard, the statement said: “We urge all States to expand and deepen mutually benefiting cooperation with each other in promotingdevelopment and eliminating obstacles to it, in the context of promoting an effective international co-operation for the realization of the right to development, bearing in mind that lasting progress towards the implementation of the right to development requires effective development policies at the national level as well as equitable economic relations and a favorable economic environment at the international level; and to work together towards the elaboration and adoption of a Convention on the Right to Development.”

The G77 and NAM pointed out there are different approaches, visions, models and tools available to each country to achieve sustainable development, in accordance with its national circumstances and priorities as well as its own development context.

“It is our collective hope that on this auspicious 30th Anniversary of this landmark Declaration, we are rightly reminded of the work that still needs to be done to realize this fundamental right.”

The G77 Newswire is published with the support of the G77 Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF) in partnership with Inter Press Service (IPS).

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Ending Lingering Hunger in a World of Plentyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/ending-lingering-hunger-in-a-world-of-plenty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ending-lingering-hunger-in-a-world-of-plenty http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/ending-lingering-hunger-in-a-world-of-plenty/#comments Wed, 28 Sep 2016 13:45:00 +0000 Lindah Mogeni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147124 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/ending-lingering-hunger-in-a-world-of-plenty/feed/ 0 Uncertainty Mars Potential for Peace in South Sudanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/uncertainty-mars-potential-for-peace-in-south-sudan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uncertainty-mars-potential-for-peace-in-south-sudan http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/uncertainty-mars-potential-for-peace-in-south-sudan/#comments Wed, 28 Sep 2016 00:26:14 +0000 Jonathan Rozen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147127 A delegation from the UN Security Council visited South Sudan at the beginning of September 2016. UN Photo/Isaac Billy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paths forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Constanza Vieira
BOGOTA, Sep 27 2016 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The two leaders signing the accord spoke next.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The referendum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Poverty Eradication Greatest Global Challenge, Say G77 Ministershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/poverty-eradication-greatest-global-challenge-say-g77-ministers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poverty-eradication-greatest-global-challenge-say-g77-ministers http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/poverty-eradication-greatest-global-challenge-say-g77-ministers/#comments Tue, 27 Sep 2016 18:18:31 +0000 an IPS Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147120 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon talks with Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand and Chair of the Fortieth Annual Meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon talks with Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand and Chair of the Fortieth Annual Meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77.

By an IPS Correspondent
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 27 2016 (IPS)

The 133-member Group of 77 (G77), joined by China, unanimously endorsed a Ministerial Declaration strongly reiterating its support to the UN’s post-2015 development agenda, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the Climate Change agreement.

The Declaration, which was adopted at the 40th annual meeting of G77 Foreign Ministers on September 23, reaffirmed “the overarching objective of eradication of poverty in all its forms and dimensions,” describing it as “the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.”

Reiterating that poverty eradication is a central imperative of the UN’s Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Ministers emphasized “the need to address poverty in all its forms and dimensions in order to truly leave no one behind.”

The targeted deadline for the eradication of poverty worldwide is 2030.

General Prayut Chan-O-Cha (Ret), Prime Minister of Thailand and G77 chair of the Ministerial Meeting said: “This year, we have together taken the first steps in translating vision into concrete action, in line with developing countries’ needs and interests and to realize the SDGs.”

Since the start of this year, he pointed out, the Group has played an active role in implementing the 2030 Agenda through (1) negotiating a resolution on Follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the global level; (2) reviewing global agenda outcomes under the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development; (3) following-up on Financing for Development (FfD); (4) determining a global indicator framework for SDGs; (5) supporting implementation of the Agenda in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) through negotiating a political declaration for the High-Level Mid-term Review according to the Istanbul Programme of Action for LDCs; and (6) strengthening cooperation among developing countries on the High-Level Meeting on South-South Cooperation.

Addressing the meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the key role played by the G77 in the adoption of both the SDGs and the Climate Change agreement last year.

The United Nations and the G-77 have an invaluable partnership, he told the Ministers. ”Together, we have made enormous progress for human rights and human dignity.”

The Ministers called for the establishment of a United Nations specialized agency for South-South cooperation to be located in a developing country.

Singling out the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development on September 29, Ban said the G-77 was also a driving force behind the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – “our truly transformative plan for the planet and all people.”

“Many G-77 countries also helped push for the adoption of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Thank you for this advocacy,” he said.

Ban pointed out that G-77 kept its distinctive name even after the membership expanded to 133 countries, joined by China (from the original 77). ”In the same way, I hope you keep the Group’s founding spirit to stand up for the countries of the South while expanding your engagement to tackle emerging threats. “

With this mix of timeless values and timely action, he declared, “we can build on our proud record and leave a better world for generations to come. Thank you for your leadership and commitment.”

40th Annual Declaration

Some of the key elements of the Declaration include the following:

The Ministers highlighted that the year 2016 marked the first year of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development towards a sustainable future. Thus, it is important to show the international community the Group’s continued unwavering commitments to further translate ambitions set out in the Agenda into real actions.

In this context, the Ministers noted that 2017 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first Ministerial Meeting of the Group of 77 which adopted in October 1967 the “Charter of Algiers”, the first platform of the G-77 calling for joint efforts by developing countries towards economic and social development, peace and prosperity.

The Ministers welcomed the progress made by Member States in their national  implementation, but stressed that implementing the 2030 Agenda at all levels requires a revitalized global partnership and the full implementation of the 17th Sustainable Development Goal, which is dedicated to this purpose.

In this context, said the Declaration, enhancing support to developing countries is fundamental, including through provision of development financial resources, transfer of technology on favorable terms including on concessional and preferential terms, enhanced international support and targeted capacity-building and promoting a rules-based and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system.

The Ministers urged the international community and relevant stakeholders to make real progress in these issues, including developing action plans to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

They appreciated the G20 2016 Summit, which took place in Hangzhou, China in September 4-5, being the first G20 Summit which took place in a developing country after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with broad participation of developing countries, including the Chair of G77, which endorsed the G20 Action Plan on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as an important contribution to the global implementation of the 2030 Agenda

The Ministers also approved the Report of the 31st Meeting of the Committee of Experts of the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF) and endorsed its recommendations.

The Ministers commended the Chairman of the PGTF for his continued commitment and expressed their satisfaction with the results achieved by the PGTF.

In light of the substantial decrease in the interest earnings of the Fund caused by the current world financial situation, as reported by the Chairman of the PGTF, the Ministers appealed to every Member State to make a significant contribution to the PGTF on the occasion of the UN Pledging Conference for Development Activities to be held in New York on 7 November 2016.

Thailand, ahead of the conference, made a contribution of $520,000 to the PGTF.

The Ministers noted the commemoration of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA) + 40 to be held in 2018 which represented an opportunity to enhance the current institutional arrangements to better support South-South cooperation and promote the South-South agenda.

In this context, the Ministers strongly recommended the consolidation of existing mechanisms of South-South cooperation and called for the establishment of a United Nations specialized agency for South-South cooperation to be located in a developing country.

The Ministers underlined that the achievement of the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda will depend on enabling international environment for development, facilitating the necessary means of implementation, particularly in the areas of finance, international trade, technology and capacity-building to developing countries.

In this regard, they called for a sincere and effective follow up on global commitments of all actors, particularly developed countries.

The Declaration also said there was a dire need for development partners to meet their current official development  assistance  (ODA) commitments  and  to  upscale  these  in  support  of  the aspirations that have been set under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Fortieth Annual Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77. Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

Fortieth Annual Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77. Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

The Ministers reasserted that developing  countries  will  continue  to  advocate  for additional  funding  for  development  to  be  made  available,  with  North-South cooperation central to these efforts

While commending the few countries who reach the ODA target, the Ministers stressed the need to urgently address the unmet ODA commitments since North-South Cooperation is still the main channel of financing for development for developing countries.

They noted with concern that efforts and genuine will to address these issues are still lagging behind as reflected in the 2016 outcome document of the Financing for Development forum which failed to address these important issues.

The Ministers reaffirmed the paramount importance of ODA in supporting the sustainable development needs of developing countries, in particular African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small islands developing States and the middle-income countries and countries in conflict and post-conflict situations.

In this context, developed countries must commit to fully implementing their ODA commitments in keeping with their previously made undertakings and to upscale these efforts to play a meaningful role in eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions. The Ministers called for the global partnership for development to be revitalized and reinvigorated.

The Ministers reiterated their position that South-South cooperation is a complement to, rather than a substitute for, North-South cooperation, and reaffirmed that South-South cooperation is a collective endeavour of developing countries and that, consequently, South-South cooperation deserves its own separate and independent promotion, as reaffirmed in the Nairobi outcome document.

In this context, the Ministers stressed that South-South cooperation and its agenda must be driven by the countries of the South. South-South cooperation, which is critical for developing countries, therefore requires long-term vision and a global institutional arrangement, as envisioned at the Second South Summit.

The Ministers stressed that developing countries attach importance to scaling up international tax cooperation and combating illicit financial flows in order to mobilize domestic resources for the SDGs.

The Ministers welcomed the convening of the G-77 Bangkok Roundtable on Sufficiency Economy: An Approach to Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, held in Bangkok, Thailand on 28-29 February 2016 and the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy in Business: A G-77 Forum on the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, held in Bangkok, Thailand on 1-2 June 2016.

They noted that there are different approaches, visions, models and tools available to each country to achieve sustainable development, in accordance with its national circumstances and priorities as well as its own development context.

And, in this regard, welcomed the initiative by the Kingdom of Thailand to share its development experience and promote partnership among G-77 members on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular through applying the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP) as an approach for sustainable development that focuses on transforming the economics of exploitation into the economics of moderation, resilience and self-immunity guided by knowledge as well as ethics and moral consideration with a view to harmonizing the economic, social, environmental and cultural aspects of development.

The Ministers welcomed the fruitful and productive discussion from the interactive thematic dialogue on SEP for Sustainable Development Goals convened on the occasion of the Fortieth Annual Meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77 under the leadership of the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand as chair country of the Group of 77.

They noted the various experiences and home-grown approaches to achieve the SDGs and the importance of learning and sharing of best practices including through North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation.

They recognized the SEP as a practical approach that can support the implementation and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and its universality underscored by its successful application in various development projects in a number of G-77 countries, including “SEP for SDGs Partnership”

The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of respect for the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination, in particular of peoples living under colonial or foreign occupation and other forms of alien domination, which adversely affects their social and economic development, respect for the independence of States, national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of States, including through the use of information and communications technologies, in particular social networks, contrary to the principles of international law, for the effective guarantee and observance of human rights, enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and embodied in the international covenants on human rights, and stress that full respect for the principles and purposes enshrined in the Charter and international law inspire full commitment to multilateralism.

The Ministers reaffirmed that the right of self-determination is a primordial right that anchors the United Nations. For developing countries, it has been and continues to be a beacon of hope for all those who struggle under the weight of occupation.

In this context, in the implementation and the follow-up and review of 2030 Agenda, the international community must not forget the severe difficulties faced by peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation and strive to remove the obstacles to their full realization of the right of self-determination, which adversely affect their economic and social development and their ability to achieve and implement the sustainable development goals and to ensure that they will not be left behind.

The Ministers stressed the importance of eliminating safe havens that create incentives for transfer abroad of stolen assets and illicit financial flows. They reiterated their commitment to working to strengthen regulatory frameworks at all levels to further increase transparency and accountability of financial institutions and the corporate sector, as well as public administrations.

The Ministers reaffirmed that they would strengthen international cooperation and national institutions to combat money-laundering and financing of terrorism.

The Ministers expressed their concern over illicit financial flows and related thereto tax avoidance and evasion, corruption and money laundering, by using certain practices, with negative impacts for the world economy and, in particular, for developing countries.

They maintained that, while there is increasing recognition of the central role of tax systems in development and the importance of international cooperation on tax matters, there is still no single global inclusive forum for international tax cooperation at the intergovernmental level.  There is also not enough focus on the development dimension of these issues.

In this context, the Ministers reiterated the need to fully upgrade the United Nations Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters into an intergovernmental body and to provide adequate resources to the Committee to fulfill its mandate as well as increase the participation of experts of developing countries at its meetings.

This will be critical in transforming the current Committee from experts acting in their own capacity to an intergovernmental subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council, with experts representing their respective Governments.

The G77 Newswire is published with the support of the G77 Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF) in partnership with Inter Press Service (IPS).

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What Does Leaving No One Behind Really Mean?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/what-does-leaving-no-one-behind-really-mean/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-does-leaving-no-one-behind-really-mean http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/what-does-leaving-no-one-behind-really-mean/#comments Mon, 26 Sep 2016 22:55:26 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147101 World leaders attending the UN General Assembly in NYC in September encountered a Rainbow Crosswalk to remind them of LGBT rights. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

World leaders attending the UN General Assembly in NYC in September encountered a Rainbow Crosswalk to remind them of LGBT rights. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 26 2016 (IPS)

One year after UN member states adopted the ambitious 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda their repeated vow to “leave no one behind” seems almost as idealistic and impractical as ever.

2016 has so far proved a difficult year for the UN’s objective of including the world’s most vulnerable and marginalised in development efforts.

Last week’s UN Refugee and Migration summit fell short for child refugees; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) advocates were left out of an important HIV and AIDS meeting in June and no women were voted onto an important disability committee by UN member states also in June.

Danny Sriskandarajah Secretary General of CIVICUS told IPS that the objective of leaving no one behind will require governments to consider serious changes in both policy and social norms.

“If we’re serious about finding and helping those who are furthest behind that’s not a technical exercise that’s a deeply political exercise,” said Sriskandarajah.

“If our leaders say 42 times in their agreement that they are not going to leave anyone behind we now very quickly need to find out who is being left behind,” -- Danny Sriskandarajah.

The first step, says Sriskandarajah is making sure that we identify and include those at risk of being left out.

“If our leaders say 42 times in their agreement that they are not going to leave anyone behind we now very quickly need to find out who is being left behind,” he said.

However the marginalised and excluded are not always easy to reach, Vladimir Cuk, Executive Director of the International Disability Alliance (IDA) told IPS.

Truly for everyone means that you have implement for those that are hardest to reach, hardest to count, hardest to include in the programs, hardest to know anything about, and those are typically persons with disabilities,” he said.

Cuk noted that some efforts have been made to include persons with disabilities in the 2030 sustainable development agenda so far, a welcome change from the previous millennium development goals which did not refer to disability.

However reaching persons with disabilities will also be difficult since they are also over-represented among the extreme poor, he added.

This points to another reason why it will be difficult for UN member states to ensure no one gets left behind – different types of disadvantage and exclusion often overlap.

This is true of Indigenous peoples who are often the “minorities within the minorities,” Marama Pala Executive Director of INA (Māori, Indigenous & South Pacific) HIV/AIDS Foundation told IPS.

“Until countries address the inequalities and injustices for Indigenous Peoples reaching the Sustainable Development Goals will be impossible,” said Pala, who is also a civil society representative at UN meetings.

Yet Indigenous peoples are also at risk of being left behind because they can be adversely affected by so-called development encroaching on their land, from land grabbing for palm oil plantations to the construction of mega dams funded by multilateral development banks.

“Massive demand for food, fuel and other commodities continues to drive industry into new territories,” Alice Harrison, Senior Communications Advisor with Global Witness told IPS.

“Increasingly those communities are finding themselves in the firing line for taking a stand against the theft or destruction of their land and natural resources.”

Some forms of inequalities were considered too politically divisive to be included in the final 2030 agenda, which had to be agreed to by all 193 UN member states.

The final version of the text refers to rights “without distinction of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, disability or other status.”

References to sexual orientation and migration status were removed from earlier drafts in order to reach consensus.

In order to address the inequalities which leave marginalised groups behind, political, social and economic change is needed at the national level as well as the multinational level.

“Once you start to commit to something like leaving no one behind you unearth a whole bunch of economic and social exclusion that’s happening in society that’s driven by corporate greed, political corruption, social exclusion which will need serious changes in both policy and social norms if we’re to track it,” Sriskandarajah said.

The Sustainable Development Goals themselves also address inequality between countries. Efforts to address these inequalities such as through a global tax cooperation body have also been stymied to-date.

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Global South Address Sustainable Development Challengeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/global-south-address-sustainable-development-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-south-address-sustainable-development-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/global-south-address-sustainable-development-challenges/#comments Sun, 25 Sep 2016 03:04:19 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147080 Presentation by Prime Minister of Thailand Prayuth Chan-o-cha Thailand's pledged contribution to Eduardo Praselj, President of the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF). Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

Presentation by Prime Minister of Thailand Prayuth Chan-o-cha Thailand's pledged contribution to Eduardo Praselj, President of the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF). Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 25 2016 (IPS)

On Friday, a group of 134 developing nations, known as the Group of 77 (G77), came together for a meeting to address challenges and solutions in achieving sustainable development. In attendance were G-77 Foreign Ministers, the President of the General Assembly, the UN Secretary-General and other UN senior officials.

During the 40th Annual Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, whose country is currently Chair of the group, highlighted the need to translate the vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into concrete action in line with developing nations’ needs and interests.

“There is no one size fits all approach for development,” he told delegates.

Prime Minister Chan-o-cha pointed to several resources to ensure the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including human resources.

“Human beings are full of potential and are the source of innovation and creativity. The challenge is how to tap that potential,” he said. Prime Minister Chan-o-cha looked to education and the improvement of quality of life as ways to build human capacity.

“The Global South’s cause is a universal cause for all mankind,” -- Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Guillaume Long.

Another key challenge that arose during the meeting was ensuring equal participation of developing nations in discussions and solutions.

Prime Minister Chan-o-cha expressed his delight in being invited for the first time to the recent G20 Summit in China and called it an “opportunity” for the G77 and developing nations to be heard. However, he still stressed the need to build a global partnership within and beyond developing nations.

“Thailand, as a Chair of the Group, is working as a bridge-builder among all actors that share the same goal in creating a better world, a world without poverty,” he stated. He added that developed nations should assist G77 countries through short-term assistance and capacity building to pave the way for a long-term outcome with the group’s needs in mind.

During the meeting The Kingdom of Thailand made a contribution of 520,000 US dollars to the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund (PGTF) for South-South Cooperation. The fund supports economic and technical cooperation among developing countries.

President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly (GA) Peter Thomson particularly underlined the importance of cooperation within the Global South.

“South-South cooperation represents the best expression of solidarity and interdependence among developing countries, and will be pivotal in complementing North-South, public and private SDG-implementation initiatives,” he told delegates in his opening address.

Thomson was Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the UN, making him the first GA President from the Pacific Islands. Fiji is also a member of the G77.

Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Guillaume Long told delegates that there needs to be a “re-founding” of the multilateral system in order to increase solidarity.

“We need a UN with more voices and fewer vetoes,” he stated.

“The Global South’s cause is a universal cause for all mankind,” Long continued.

Ecuador is next in line for chairmanship of the G77 in January 2017, which marks the first time the country will assume the position.

The G77, which began with 77 nations, has since grown to include 134 member states from around the world. It has become the largest intergovernmental organisation of developing countries in the UN, allowing the Global South to express their needs and promote cooperation for development.

Both Thomson and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted that the G77 is an “indispensable” and “invaluable” partner of the UN.

Thailand will continue as chair of the G77 until the end of December 2016.

During the meeting Prime Minister Chan-o-cha also presented an award to G77Executive Secretary Mourad Ahmia to express appreciation for his leadership andsupport provided by the G77 Secretariat team to the Kingdom of Thailand as Chair country and to all the Member States.

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The Right to Development at 30 Yearshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/the-right-to-development-at-30-years/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-right-to-development-at-30-years http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/the-right-to-development-at-30-years/#comments Fri, 23 Sep 2016 22:04:40 +0000 Martin Khor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147076 Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre, based in Geneva]]>

Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre, based in Geneva

By Martin Khor
GENEVA, Sep 23 2016 (IPS)

It’s had a very useful if sometimes controversial past and it will have great relevance for many more years ahead. That’s the sense one has about the Declaration on the Right to Development as it is commemorated 30 years after its adoption by the United Nations General Assembly in 1986.

Three decades ago, the Declaration “broke new ground in the struggle for greater freedom, equality and justice,” remarked the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, at a session of the Human Rights Council on 15 June, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Declaration.

The right to development has had great resonance among people all over the world, especially in developing countries. Even the term itself “the right to development” carries a great sense and weight of meaning and of hope.

In the past three decades it has been invoked numerous times in international negotiations. The right to development is a major component of the Rio Principles endorsed by the 1992 Earth Summit, and most recently it was included in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change of 2015.

It is fitting to recall some of the important elements of this right to development. It is human and people centered. It is an inalienable human right , where every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to and enjoy development in which all rights and freedoms can be fully realized . The human person is the central subject of development and should be the active participant and beneficiary of development.

It gives responsibility to each state to get its act together to take measures to get its people’s right to development fulfilled. But it also places great importance to the international arena, giving a responsibility to all countries to cooperate internationally and especially to assist the developing countries.

The right to development is also practical. The Declaration makes it a duty for governments to work towards the realisation of the right to development. It recognises that there are national and international obstacles to the realisation of this right and calls on all parties to eliminate these obstacles.

It is thus useful to identify some of the present key global issues that have relevance to the right to development, or that constitute obstacles to its realisation, and to take steps to address them.

Firstly is the crisis in the global economy. The economic sluggishness in developed countries has had adverse impact on developing economies, with lower commodity prices and falling export earnings affecting their economic and social development.. Many economies face the havoc of volatility in the inflow and outflow of funds, due to absence of controls over speculative capital, and fluctuations in their currency levels due to the lack of a global mechanism to stabilise currencies.

Several countries are facing or are on the brink of another external debt crisis. There is for them an absence of an international sovereign debt restructuring mechanism, and countries that undertake their own debt workout may well become victims of vulture funds.

All these problems make it difficult for developing countries to maintain their development momentum, and constitute obstacles to realising the right to development.

Second is the challenge of formulating and implementing appropriate development strategies. This includes getting policies right in boosting agricultural production, farmers’ incomes and food security; and climbing the ladder from labour intensive to higher technology industries and overcoming the middle-income trap. There is also the imperative to provide social services such as healthcare, education, water supply, lighting and transport, and developing financial and commercial services.

For many countries, development policy-making has been made more difficult due to premature liberalisation resulting from loan conditionality and trade and investment agreements which severely constrain their policy space. Policies used by other countries when they were developing may no longer be available due to conditionality or international agreements.

Recently, there has been a crisis of legitimacy over investment agreements that contain the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system, which enable foreign investors to take cases against host governments, taking advantage of imbalanced provisions and shortcomings in the arbitration system. The cases taken up not only cost countries a lot in monetary compensation payments but also put a chill on the formulation of policies and regulations. A review of these conditionalities and trade and investmemt agreements, taking account of their effects on the right to development, would be useful.

Thirdly, climate change has become an existential problem for the human race. It is an outstanding example of environmental constraints to development and the right to development.

In 2014 the Assestment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) revealed that the world has to limit its release of Greenhouse Gases to only release another 1,000 billion tonnes if there is to be a reasonable chance of avoiding global warming of 2 degree Celsius, and anything above that level would cause a devastating disaster. Global emissions are running at 50 billion tonnes a year. Within two decades the atmospheric space would be filled up. Therefore there is an imperative to cut global emissions as sharply and quickly as possible.

The Paris Agreement of December 2015 was a success in multilateral deal making. But it is not environmentally ambitious enough, nor did it generate any confidence that the commitment for transfers of finance and technology to developing countries will be met. There is a danger of that the burdens of adjustment will be passed on to the developing and poor countries. How to equitably share the costs of urgent environmental action which should also be economically feasible is the major climate change challenge that will impact seriously on the right to development.

Fourthly is another existential problem — the crisis of anti-microbial resistance and the dangers of a post-antibiotic age. Many diseases are becoming increasingly difficult to treat because bacteria have become more and more resistant to anti-microbials. Some strains of bacteria are now resistant to multiple antibiotics and a few have become pan resistant – resistant to all antibiotics. The WHO Director General has warned that every anitibiotic ever developed is at risk of becoming useless. She added that: “A post-antibiotic era means in effect an end to modern medicine as we know it. Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.”

Actions are needed to reduce the over-use and wrong use of antibiotics including control over unethical marketing of drugs, control of the use of antibiotics in livestock, to educate the public and discover new antibiotics. The World Health Assembly (WHA) in 2015 adopted a global plan of action to address anti-microbial resistance but the challenge is in the implementation. Developing countries require funds to enforce the measures as well as technology such as microscopes and diagnostic tools; they also need to have access to existing and new antibiotics at affordable prices; and people worldwide need to be protected from anti-microbial resistance if life expectancy is to be maintained.

Finally there are major challenges in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs include very ambitious and idealistic goals and targets, but there are obstacles to fulfilling them.

For example, Goal 3 is “to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” One of the targets is to achieve universal health coverage, that no one should be denied treatment because they cannot afford it. But this will remain an unfulfilled noble aim unless governments address the controversial issue of how to finance public health measures..

The problem is compounded when medicines are priced beyond the reach of the poor and the middle class. The treatment for HIV AIDS became more widespread and affordable only when generics were made available at cheaper prices, for example $60 a patient a year today, compared to the prices of original drugs of $10,000, and millions of lives have been saved.

Some of the new medicines, for example for Hepatitis C and cancers, are unaffordable even in rich countries and thus not provided through their national health service. They will certainly be out of the reach of patients in developing countries unless generic versions are made available through the use of flexibilities in the global patent regime, such as the non-granting of patents and compulsory licenses.

The interconnecting issues of patents, over pricing of original drugs, and the need to make generic drugs more available, are relevant to the implementation of SDGs, universal health coverage, and the realisation of the right to health and the right to development.

The examples above of pressing global problems show there is a long way to go before we make progress on social and economic development, while protecting the environment. The principles and instruments associated with the Right to Development can shine a bright light on the way forward. The Declaration adopted 30 years ago continues to have great relevance, if only we make full use of it.

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Mexico City’s Expansion Creates Tension between Residents and Authoritieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/mexico-citys-expansion-creates-tension-between-residents-and-authorities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexico-citys-expansion-creates-tension-between-residents-and-authorities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/mexico-citys-expansion-creates-tension-between-residents-and-authorities/#comments Fri, 23 Sep 2016 16:09:22 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147070 Construction work on the Chapultepec Intermodal Transfer Station, with the castle in the famous Chapultepec forest in the background. The recurrent complaint of Mexico City residents affected by public works in this city is the lack of consultation, transparency and information. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Construction work on the Chapultepec Intermodal Transfer Station, with the castle in the famous Chapultepec forest in the background. The recurrent complaint of Mexico City residents affected by public works in this city is the lack of consultation, transparency and information. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Sep 23 2016 (IPS)

People living in neighborhoods affected by the expansion of urban construction suffer a “double displacement”, with changes in their habitat and the driving up of prices in the area, in a process in which “we are not taken into account,” said Natalia Lara, a member of an assembly of local residents in the south of Mexico City.

Lara, who is pursuing a master’s degree in public policies at the Latin American School of Social Sciences (Flacso), told IPS that in her neighborhood people are outraged because of the irrational way the construction has been carried out there.

The member of the assembly of local residents of Santa Úrsula Coapa, a lower middle-class neighborhood, complains that urban decision-makers build more houses and buildings but “don’t think about how to provide services. They make arbitrary land-use changes.”

Lara lives near the Mexico City asphalt plant owned by the city’s Ministry of Public Works, which has been operating since 1956 and has become asource of conflict between the residents of the southern neighbourhoods and the administration of leftist Mayor Miguel Mancera of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, which has governed the capital since 1997.“There is clearly a lack of planning and vision, the strategy of only carrying out projects with a strictly economic focus is affecting us.There is no interest in building spaces that help improve community life. We are becoming more isolated, people don’t take their kids to play in parks anymore, but go to shopping centers instead, the fabric of the community breaks down. These are serious problems.” -- Elias García

In mid-2014, Mancera’s government announced its intention to donate the asphalt plant’s land to Mexico City’s Investment Promotion Agency, which would build the Coyoacán Economic and Social Development Area there.

In response, local residents organised and formed, in September of that year, the Coordination of Assemblies of Pedregales, which brings together residents of five neighborhoods in the Coyoacánborough, one of the 16 boroughs into which Mexico City is divided.

But the transfer of ownership of the land took place in December 2014, to create a development area including the construction of an industrial park and residential and office tower blocks.

To appease local residents, Mancera proposed modifying the initial plan and turning the area into an ecological park, despite the fact that the soil is polluted and will take many years to recover.

Last May, the mayor announced the final closure of the asphalt plant and its reconversion into an environmental site, although the decree for the donation to the city investment promotion agency was never revoked, and there is no reconversion plan.

This conflict shows the struggles for the city, for how the public space is defined and used, one of the central topics to be addressed at the Oct. 17-20 third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito, Ecuador.

In the upcoming summit organised by U.N.-Habitat, member states will assume commitments with regard to the right to the city, how to finance the New Urban Agenda that will result from Quito, and sustainable urban development, among other issues.

Cities like the Mexican capital, home to 21 million people, are plagued with similar problems.

Elías García, president of the non-governmental Ecoactivistas, knows this well, having worked for three decades as an environmental activist in the borough of Iztacalco, in the east of the capital.

“There is clearly a lack of planning and vision, the strategy of only carrying out projects with a strictly economic focus is affecting us.There is no interest in building spaces that help improve community life. We are becoming more isolated, people don’t take their kids to play in parks anymore, but go to shopping centers instead, the fabric of the community breaks down. These are serious problems,” he told IPS.

The activist and other local residents have witnessed how in Iztacalco a concert hall, a race track for F1 international motor races, and more recently, a baseball stadium were built one after another.

In the process, some 3,000 trees were cut down and many green spaces and local sports fields disappeared.

The last measure taken was Macera’s 2015 decision to revoke the declaration of the Magdalena Mixhuca sports complex’s environmental value, which had protected the facilities for nine year, in order to build a baseball stadium in its place. Local residents filed an appeal for legal protection, but lost the suit last June.

Luisa Rodríguez, a researcher at the public Doctor José María Luís Mora Research Institute’s Interdisciplinary Center for Metropolitan Studies, told IPS that where people live determines their enjoyment of rights, such as to the city, a clean environment and housing.

“The exercise of citizenship is connected to the idea of the city. When a severely fragmented city is built, based on a model that only benefits the few, participation in social institutions like education and healthcare is only partial. Geographical location determines the exercise of those rights,” she said.

There are a number of open conflicts between organised local communities and the government of Mexico City. One high-profile flashpoint flared up in 2015 when the city government intended to build the Chapultepec Cultural Corridor in the west of the city, next to the woods of the same name, the biggest “green lung” that remains in this polluted megalopolis.

In a public consultation last December, the residents of the Cuauhtémoc borough, where Chapultepec is located, voted against the public-private project, which intended to build an elevated promenade for pedestrians, lined with shops, gardens and trees, above the traffic down below.

Instead, the city government is building an Intermodal Transfer Station (known as CETRAMs) at a cost of 300 million dollars, whose first stage is to be completed in 2018. Besides the transport hub, it will include a 50-floor hotel and a shopping center.

The Economic and Social Development Zones (ZODES), which originally were to be built in five areas in the capital, have apparently failed to improve the quality of urban life.

“In spite of the benefits these micro-cities are supposed to offer, the negative aspects of evicting the people currently living in these areas have not been assessed, and they run counter to the concepts of sustainability and strategic management that the government claims to support,” wrote city planner Daniela Jay in the specialised journal “Arquine”.

The last draft of the final declaration of Habitat III, agreed upon in July, makes no reference to the process of building a city based on inclusion and the active participation of citizens, although it does refer to exercising the right to the city and the importance of such participation.

Activists see both positives and negatives in the approach taken by Habitat III. The conference “will reinforce urban laws that focus on building cities, displacing the perspective of native people and local communities. There is no trend towards inclusion,” said Lara.

Activist García demanded that the local people be heard. “They have to listen to the people who are committed to protecting the environment,” he said.

According to Rodríguez, Habitat III offers an opportunity to address urban emergencies. “There are high expectations for governments to start focusing on building cities thinking about the inhabitants instead of the buildings,” she told IPS.

But with or without the conference, the battles for the city in urban centres like Mexico’s capital will continue.

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Starting Line Draws Nearer for Global Climate Agreementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/starting-line-draws-nearer-for-global-climate-agreement/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=starting-line-draws-nearer-for-global-climate-agreement http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/starting-line-draws-nearer-for-global-climate-agreement/#comments Thu, 22 Sep 2016 00:14:52 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147043 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon applauds during a High-level Event on the Entry into Force of the Paris Agreement. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon applauds during a High-level Event on the Entry into Force of the Paris Agreement. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 22 2016 (IPS)

The Paris Climate Agreement is on the verge of coming into force after 31 nations officially deposited their instruments of ratification here Wednesday, more than doubling the number of countries which have joined so far to reach 60.

However the treaty will not yet enter into force, since these 60 countries represent only 48 percent of global carbon emissions. The Paris Agreement requires at least 55 countries representing 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions in order for the deal to take effect.

Convened by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the High Level Event on Entry into Force of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change brought world leaders together to act upon commitments made to reduce global greenhouse emissions last year.

“What once seemed impossible now seems inevitable. When this year ends, I hope we can all look back with pride knowing that we seized the opportunity to protect our common home,” said Ban to delegates.

Director of Strategy and Policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) Alden Meyer pointed out the significance of the event to IPS, stating: “Political leaders see this as an important issue for their public.”

Similarly, Greenpeace International’s Climate and Energy Policy Advisor Kaisa Kosonen said how “inspiring” it was to see so many countries ratifying the agreement so soon.

“It truly tells you that times have changed. If one compares the process we had at Copenhagen and you think about where we are today when the agreement is looking likely to enter into force…it is giving the agreement a very good start,” she told IPS.

“Getting an agreement on climate change was one of the most difficult tasks the world has ever faced" -- Nick Nuttall, UNFCCC.

During the UN Climate Change Conference in 2009 (COP15) in Denmark, global leaders failed to commit to concrete actions to reduce emissions. The Paris Agreement now obligates governments to keep temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Many believe that the treaty will be ratified by the end of the year, less than a year since the agreement was signed, which would make it the speediest agreement to enter into force.

“It’s unprecedented,” said Spokesperson for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Nick Nuttall to IPS after noting the breakneck speed in which the treaty would come into force.

“Getting an agreement on climate change was one of the most difficult tasks the world has ever faced…that’s a strong political signal that all governments are on board to actually make good on their pledges in Paris.”

Of the countries that have joined are some of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions including China and the United States, which together account for over one third of global emissions.

However many of the countries which joined the agreement early, were small island states many of which see climate change as an existential threat. Although these states face increased natural disasters and rising sea levels, their own carbon emissions barely make a dent on a global scale.

China, which represents just over 20 percent of global emissions, has ambitiously committed to reduce carbon dioxide levels by 60 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The East Asian nation also aims to expand energy consumption coming from non-fossil energy to 20 percent by then. The U.S. meanwhile plans to cut up to 28 percent of the country’s emissions below 2005 levels by 2025.

Meyer commented on the importance of the move by the U.S., stating: “The United States is very wealthy but is obviously not immune as we’ve seen from Superstorm Sandy, the recent flooding in Louisiana, the droughts and heat waves in the West…no country, no community is immune.”

More countries are expected to ratify the agreement by the end of this year including Australia, Canada and the 28 members of the European Union (EU).

If these promises are fulfilled, the agreement will pass the second threshold and go into effect within 30 days.

But this is just the beginning, Nuttall stated. “The Paris Agreement is a framework agreement to combat climate change but it needs some nuts and bolts put in.”

Meyer echoed similar sentiments, telling IPS: “Having the agreement in place is only meaningful if countries implement [the agreement]. It is really actions on the ground that make a difference and the jury is still out on that.”

Nuttall highlighted the need for a “rule book” for member states to put the climate treaty into action, which many hope will be achieved during the upcoming Climate Conference (COP22) in Morocco.

Meyer particularly pointed to the challenge of achieving the two degree Celsius goal, telling IPS that the pledges by themselves do not add up to meet the temperature target. But even if the international community achieves this goal, the impacts of climate change will drastically increase which will require further action.

“The other side of this discussion has to be how we increase resilience to climate impacts and how we help countries and communities that are facing impacts cope with those impacts,” Meyer told IPS.

“This is a moment which we should celebrate, hoist a glass of champagne but get back to work in the morning because there’s still a lot of work to do,” he continued.

Already obstacles are arising as trade policies continue to clash with climate action.

“It’s clear that all policies that still favor fossil fuels or prevent countries from prioritizing renewable clean energy are harmful and should not be supported,” Kosonen said, referring to a new controversial global trade deal Trade in Services Agreement (Tisa).

According to leaked documents, the trade deal under negotiation between the EU and 22 countries may threaten the expansion of clean, renewable energy which could undermine the achievement of the Paris Agreement.

Meyer told IPS it was important for heads of State to engage and ensure that trade deals are “climate compatible.”

However, the world is waiting for the final ratification of the Paris Agreement as it is still uncertain where, how far and how fast it will go.

“The direction is clear, the commitment is clear but…can a family of nations working with the private sector and being supported by cities and regions rev up the action sufficiently quickly that we have a good chance of peaking these emissions very soon? That we will have to wait and see,” Nuttall stated.

Kosonen noted there is no room for complacency.

“Time is not on our side on this. This is the moment when we come together and decide this is what we want to do,” she concluded.

In December 2015, the international community descended on the French Capital of Paris to sign an agreement to reduce global warming. Over 180 countries have signed the agreement.

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UN Refugee Summits Fall Short for Childrenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-refugee-summits-fall-short-for-children/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-refugee-summits-fall-short-for-children http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-refugee-summits-fall-short-for-children/#comments Wed, 21 Sep 2016 18:46:49 +0000 Phoebe Braithwaite http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147038 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-refugee-summits-fall-short-for-children/feed/ 0 Yazidi Survivor of ISIL Appointed UN Goodwill Ambassadorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/yazidi-survivor-of-isil-appointed-un-goodwill-ambassador/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yazidi-survivor-of-isil-appointed-un-goodwill-ambassador http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/yazidi-survivor-of-isil-appointed-un-goodwill-ambassador/#comments Wed, 21 Sep 2016 15:31:35 +0000 Lindah Mogeni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147033 Nadia Murad with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

Nadia Murad with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

By Lindah Mogeni
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 21 2016 (IPS)

Yazidi Nadia Murad – who survived being kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by ISIL – was honoured by the UN on Friday September 16 for her work to help human trafficking survivors.

At a ceremony held ahead of the International Day of Peace Murad was appointed as the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. She is the first survivor of human trafficking to hold the position.

In early August 2014 Murad’s home town of Kocho in Northern Iraq was attacked by ISIL – also known as ISIS or Daesh.

Murad, who belongs to the Yazidi minority religion, described ISIL’s impact as “a nightmare that has struck our society.”

ISIL executed men and older women from the village in the attack, including Murad’s mother and six of her brothers.

Murad and other women and children were captured as “war-booty” and trade merchandise.

ISIL’s attacks on the Yazidis have been described as attempted genocide, since ISIL aims to kill all Yazidis which it describes as infidels.

“The sole aim of ISIL was to destroy Yazidi identity through forced rape, the recruitment of children and the destruction of our temples,” -- Nadia Murad.

Murad later escaped in November 2014 when her captor left the door unlocked and a neighboring family smuggled her to a refugee camp, Duhot, in northern Iraq before she sought and was granted asylum in Germany.

Murad’s advocacy against ISIL’s trafficking of Yazidis later led her to testify before the UN Security Council in December 2015.

“The sole aim of ISIL was to destroy Yazidi identity through forced rape, the recruitment of children and the destruction of our temples,” Murad said, describing the Islamic State’s action as an orchestrated “collective genocide against Yazidi identity” and religion.

She called for the case of genocide against the Yazidis to be brought before the International Criminal Court and for an international budget to compensate Yazidi victims to be established.

Murad also expressed her wish to witness the liberation of occupied Yazidi territory and urged states to open their societies to Yazidi refugees.

According to the UN Commission of Inquiry on ISIL’s June report, some 3200 women and children are currently enslaved by ISIL.

Murad would “bring much needed attention to international efforts to end human trafficking and help keep it on the Security Council’s agenda,” US Ambassador to the Economic and Social Council Sarah Mendelson said.

The international response should be “commensurate with the scale of human trafficking” said Mendelson, noting that human trafficking generates an estimated 150 billion dollars in revenue annually with over 20 million victims.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described Murad as a “fierce and tireless advocate for the Yazidi people and victims of human trafficking everywhere.”

Ban also described the crimes against Yazidis by ISIL as possible genocide.

“The crimes committed by ISIL in Iraq against the Yazidi may constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and even genocide.”

He called for the immediate release of thousands of Yazidis being held in captivity.

Human rights barrister, Amal Clooney, who represents Murad, described ISIL’s violence towards the Yazidis as a “bureaucracy of evil on an industrial scale.”

ISIL have released a pamphlet entitled ‘Questions and Answers on Taking Captives and Slaves’ which describes acts such as beating female slaves, raping female slaves who have not reached puberty, buying or selling or gifting female slaves.

Clooney also expressed her disappointment in the UN’s failure to stop the ISIL’s attacks on the Yazidis.

“I am ashamed as a supporter of the United Nations that states are failing to prevent or even punish genocide because they find their own interests get in the way.”

“I am ashamed as a lawyer that there is no justice being done and barely a complaint being made about it.”

“I am ashamed as a woman that girls like Nadia can have their bodies sold and used as battlefields.”

“I am ashamed as a human being that we ignore their cries for help,” said Clooney.

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UN Refugee Summit: “No Cause for Comfort”http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-refugee-summit-no-cause-for-comfort/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-refugee-summit-no-cause-for-comfort http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-refugee-summit-no-cause-for-comfort/#comments Tue, 20 Sep 2016 03:50:20 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146996 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-refugee-summit-no-cause-for-comfort/feed/ 0 Caribbean: Rethinking Progress in Sustainable Development Erahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/caribbean-rethinking-progress-in-sustainable-development-era/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-rethinking-progress-in-sustainable-development-era http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/caribbean-rethinking-progress-in-sustainable-development-era/#comments Mon, 19 Sep 2016 09:20:31 +0000 Jessica Faieta http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146976 United Nations Assistant Secretary General and UN Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.]]>

United Nations Assistant Secretary General and UN Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

By Jessica Faieta
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 19 2016 (IPS)

Caribbean countries make a special case for development. The high and increasing exposure to hazards, combined with very open and trade-dependent economies with limited diversification and competitiveness portray a structurally and environmentally vulnerable region, composed, in the most part, of middle income countries.

As these countries start implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) we are calling for a new notion of progress. Our UN Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report for the Caribbean titled “Multidimensional Progress: human resilience beyond income, launched this week in Barbados with top regional authorities makes the case for a new generation of public policies to boost resilience and increase gains in the economic, social and environmental fronts, including peace and justice.

For the Caribbean this “multidimensional progress” entails not only adapting to shocks. It means breaking through structural obstacles that hinder growth and people’s well-being—beyond the traditional measurements of living above or below a poverty line. Nothing that reduces the rights of people and communities or threatens the environment can be considered progress.

This holistic approach is crucial, especially for the Caribbean.

After decades of persistent and volatile low growth, human vulnerability has increased. Most CARICOM countries’ Human Development Index—our composite measure of income, education and longevity— ranking has dropped over the last five years. Jamaica and Dominica, two extreme cases, have fallen 23 and 10 positions respectively.

When the human development results of the Caribbean are situated in a context of slow, volatile and low economic growth, high unemployment and under-employment especially among youth and women, a clear picture emerges showing the deep interconnectedness between human progress and the challenges of the state to cope, our report shows.

The first challenge is that, despite the very high indebtedness and the fiscal constraints affecting the region, governments should be able to implement combined public policies and interventions that foster inclusive growth: one that leaves no one behind. This also entails preventing setbacks and safeguarding hard won social, economic gains by boosting resilience, particularly among the most vulnerable groups to improve the lives of Caribbean women men and children.

To protect these achievements, economic growth alone is not enough. Our Report shows that social protection throughout people’s life cycle; expansion of systems of care for children, elderly and persons with disabilities; broader access to physical and financial assets (that act as cushions when crisis hit, like a car, a house or savings account); and continuous improvements in job skills – particularly in the case of women and youth– are vital.

In addition, many forms of exclusion transcend income and are associated with unequal treatment, discrimination, violence or stigmatization based on ethnicity, race, skin colour, identity and sexual orientation, gender, physical or mental disability, religion, migrant status or nationality. Being a woman, LGBTI, youth, a person with disabilities, being from an ethnic minority… all of these factors affect people’s life opportunities, the possibility of social and economic mobility and access to services. Closing material gaps is not enough to eradicate these forms of exclusions. A level playing field for citizenship requires implementing protection policies, affirmative action, empowering citizens and recognizing individual and collective rights.

The second challenge is to move towards a new public policy framework that can break sectoral and territorial silos and provide social protection throughout the life cycle. Part of the responsibility lies with States, which should generate and coordinate sustainable financial resources for public policies; but part also lies with the citizens, to the extent that it is necessary to build a culture of resilience and prevention in each household and community.

Like many in Latin America and the Caribbean, we believe that the challenge of sustainable, holistic and universal development are not resolved by crossing a given income threshold. There is no “graduation” from the development challenges unless appropriate answers are provided to the multiple dimensions that allow people to live a life they have reasons to value.

Now more than ever the world needs to rethink the methods for ranking development in the region’s countries that go beyond per capita income, economic growth rates and Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Caribbean countries‘ high debt hinders the ability to access finance for sustainable development, also limiting the region’s ability to achieve the SDGs.

In view of the development-financing context in the Caribbean, the report demonstrates how, for the most part, Caribbean countries are ineligible for concessional finance due to their status as middle-income countries. With average national per capita income levels above the international financial eligibility benchmark, the report makes a case for a review of eligibility criteria to access concessional financing.

In line with the SDGs, our report stresses that on the one hand it is crucial to invest in people, environment, sustainable and affordable energy, institutional efficiency, stability and security as these are key factors to boost economic growth. On the other hand, it is essential to ensure that economic growth is inclusive, empowers people, leaves no one behind—and is not achieved at the expense of the environment.

This holistic approach to improving people’s lives while taking care of the planet will help countries in the Caribbean achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, boost climate resilience, end poverty in all its forms and leave no one behind.

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How Latin American Women Fought for Women’s Rights in the UN Charterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/how-latin-american-women-fought-for-womens-rights-in-the-un-charter/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-latin-american-women-fought-for-womens-rights-in-the-un-charter http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/how-latin-american-women-fought-for-womens-rights-in-the-un-charter/#comments Thu, 15 Sep 2016 18:41:24 +0000 Phoebe Braithwaite http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146944 Bertha Lutz at the San Francisco Conference, in 1945. UN Photo/Rosenberg.

Bertha Lutz at the San Francisco Conference, in 1945. UN Photo/Rosenberg.

By Phoebe Braithwaite
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 15 2016 (IPS)

It was little-known Brazilian delegate Bertha Lutz who led a band of female delegates responsible for inscribing the equal rights of women and men in the UN Charter at the San Francisco Conference on International Organisation in 1945.

“The mantle is falling off the shoulders of the Anglo-Saxons and…we [Latin American Women] shall have to do the next stage of battle for women,” Lutz wrote in her memoir, recalling the conference.

Researchers Elise Luhr Dietrichson and Fatima Sator of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) presented this forgotten history at a recent news conference at the United Nations, wishing to publicise the true history of women’s rights in the UN Charter.

“It’s not only about representing historical facts. It’s political; it’s about how history is presented,” Luhr Dietrichson told IPS. There is, she says, little recognition of the role of nations in the global south in establishing “global norms”.

“The mantle is falling off the shoulders of the Anglo-Saxons and we Latin American Women shall have to do the next stage of battle for women,” -- Bertha Lutz.

Contrary to popular assumption, women’s rights in the charter were not achieved by Eleanor Roosevelt – this was not an American, nor a British, stipulation. It was, instead, a Latin American insistence: Lutz along with Minerva Bernadino from the Dominican Republic, and the Uruguayan Senator Isabel P. de Vidal, who insisted on the specific mention of “the equal rights of men and women” at the charter’s opening.

Lutz and those behind her were acting at a time when only 30 of the 50 countries represented at the conference had national voting rights for women. Thanks to their spirited determination, alongside support from participants in Mexico, Venezuela and Australia, she was successful in her demand to have women explicitly mentioned in Article 8, which states that men and women can participate equally in the UN system.

Australian representative Jessie Street “was very vocal, saying: ‘you need to state women specifically in the charter, or else they won’t have the same rights as men; you see this time and time again…’” explains Luhr Dietrichson. Among others in their number, Street’s and Lutz’s feminism enabled them to foresee that the rights of women would be sidelined if they were not explicitly accounted for – that it was not enough simply to enshrine the “rights of man,” as had been argued.

Lutz’ arguments were met with opposition from British and American representatives. Recalling the 1945 conference that brought the United Nations into being, Lutz described the American delegate Virginia Gildersleeve saying “she hoped I was not going to ask for anything for women in the charter since that would be a very vulgar thing to do,” trying to pre-empt any action in the name of women.

Gildersleeve rewrote a draft of the charter, omitting the specific mention of women. In the end, however, alongside Lutz and Bernadino, Gildersleeve and Wu Yi-fang, the Chinese delegate, did sign it as a whole. They were the only four women out of 850 total delegates to sign the seminal document.

A British representative, Labour Parliamentary secretary Ellen Wilkinson, assured Lutz that equality had already been achieved, saying that she had achieved a position on the King’s Privy Council. Lutz disagreed: “’I’m afraid not,’ I had to tell her, ‘it only means that you have arrived”. Such a discourse mirrors contemporary debate born out of Cheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, which celebrates individuals’ ambition and success, rather than taking a more global perspective on the systemic injustices women face.

“They were actively engaged in not fighting for gender equality… This is something that goes against everything we have been taught: that the West has been teaching us about feminism. But on this matter, on the charter, they were more than opposed,” Sator, who is from Algeria, told IPS.

“Again, it goes against everything we have been taught that the global south also has visionary ideas,” Sator said. “We only want these Latin American women to be acknowledged as much as we acknowledge Eleanor Roosevelt.”

Though Roosevelt was not involved in the creation of the charter, she became head of the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1946 and was instrumental in drafting the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Yet Western countries – including the United States, the United Kingdom and France – later worked to undermine that same declaration in the early 1950s.

As with the history of women’s rights in the UN charter, the role of countries of the global south in creating and protecting the human rights charter has been underestimated.

“It was very clear that Bertha Lutz and Minerva Bernadino they saw themselves as representing “backwards countries” – this was something they said themselves,” Luhr Dietrichson recounts. “They were so critical that these women from more [economically] advanced countries didn’t recognise where their own rights had come from.”

Speaking at the conference, Brazilian Ambassador Antonio Patriota conveyed that Lutz and this story are not at all well known even in Brazil, and welcomed this effort to share the history more widely. At the conference, Luhr Dietrichson emphasised that a sense of “ownership” can lend legitimacy, enabling the engagement and involvement of future generations.

This research is part of a wider effort to “rediscover the radical origins of the United Nations,” Professor Dan Plesch, Director at the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS, told IPS. It forms part of a wider academic project, UN History for the Future, which seeks to re-contextualise the UN, created not as “some liberal accessory” but “out of hard, realistic political necessity,” Plesch argues.

At a time when there have been widespread calls not only for a woman to finally lead the United Nations, but for a self-described feminist to be seen in the role, Sator and Luhr Dietrichson’s research is a reminder that we still have a long way to go in fulfilling the charter’s vision of equality.

Still, as Plesch asked, “if it had not been for Bertha Lutz and the work of the enlightened dictator (Getúlio Vargas) of Brazil at the time, where would gender equality be now?”

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UN Summit Won’t Resolve Refugee Resettlement Impassehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-summit-wont-resolve-refugee-resettlement-impasse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-summit-wont-resolve-refugee-resettlement-impasse http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-summit-wont-resolve-refugee-resettlement-impasse/#comments Wed, 14 Sep 2016 20:49:11 +0000 Phoebe Braithwaite http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146926 Border guards in Bangladeshrefusing entry to Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in 2012. Credit: Anurup Titu/IPS

Border guards in Bangladeshrefusing entry to Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in 2012. Credit: Anurup Titu/IPS

By Phoebe Braithwaite
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 14 2016 (IPS)

Next week’s landmark UN summit on refugees and migrants was supposed to help resettle one in ten refugees, instead UN member states have settled for vague gestures, including a campaign to end xenophobia.

Human rights organisations and humanitarian actors alike have expressed disappointment with an outcome document agreed upon by member states in advance of the summit, which falls short of creating a binding, comprehensive framework to protect migrants and refugees.

“If global leaders adopt a resolution with some nice language – but so lacking in concrete commitments it fails to make any real difference to the lives of those fleeing war and conflict – they are merely fiddling while Rome burns,” Richard Bennett, Head of Amnesty’s Office at the United Nations, told IPS.

They say that the UN’s richer member states are missing a crucial opportunity to tackle xenophobia and racism by actually resettling refugees within their own borders.

“When you actually speak to refugees, the men with Kalashnikovs are pushing them away, but the men in suits are running away,” -- Arvinn Gadgil

“When you actually speak to refugees, the men with Kalashnikovs are pushing them away, but the men in suits are running away,” Arvinn Gadgil Director of Partnerships and Policy at the Norwegian Refugee Council told IPS.

“There seemed to be an appetite from member states to actually find a mechanism for responsibility sharing. Now – perhaps naively – we thought that was true, and we are of course disappointed. That was the one key output from the summit that we now seem not to be able to get,” said Gadgil.

Gadgil described the talks as a “race to the bottom,” entailing “systematic risk-aversion” and overwhelming concern for national self-interest. “There is very little reason to be optimistic,” he said, deploring states’ negotiations, which, he says, were governed by the “lowest common denominator of shame.”

Revealing a process in which member states stripped back meaningful promises to vague re-affirmations of shared responsibility, Bennett said, “there’s this enormous crisis, and these diplomats sit in New York discussing words which may or may not even be implemented… there’s a huge gap between their rhetoric and the reality.”

Numbers of displaced people remain at unprecedented levels globally, higher than ever before in the UN’s history. With around 65 million people forced from their homes, one in every 113 people is now either a refugee, asylum seeker or internally displaced person. 21.3 million of these people are refugees; 51 percent of refugees are children.

Yet even a clause on the detention of children was considered too controversial by some member states.

Karen AbuZayd, Special Adviser on the summit, explained that the implementation of children’s right never to be detainedhad been extremely contentious for some states and amended to the principle “for children seldom, if ever, to be detained.”

In an effort to address the broad issues created by human mobility, the summit will focus on both refugees and migrants, though discussing them side-by-side has proven controversial since migration is a less settled area of international law. Internally displaced persons will not be discussed, though there are approximately 45 million people currently displaced within national borders.

Around 86 percent of refugees reside in low and middle-income countries, such as Lebanon, Jordan, Chad, Turkey, and Nauru, where Australia holds refugees, including children, in offshore detention.

Criticising those states “who are continuing to put up borders and walls,” Bennett said, “there is no trigger mechanism; there are no concrete, objective criteria for deciding how a country meets its fair share… It’s a kind of ad-hoc approach, based on largesse, of whether a country offers resettlement places or money or not.”

The outcome document says that “in many parts of the world we are witnessing, with great concern, increasingly xenophobic and racist responses to refugees and migrants” – as well as the increasing acceptability of such attitudes. Yet states themselves perpetuate these attitudes by refusing to welcome people from different countries, even when fleeing violence and persecution.

On Monday Amnesty criticised the G20 declaration calling for greater “burden-sharing” with regards to refugees, calling this “callous hypocrisy” given that many G20 countries actively blocked efforts to resettle refugees. Moreover, the term itself ‘burden-sharing’ explicitly views refugees negatively.

States, said Bennett, are “reluctant to set targets when it comes to taking and supporting refugees because there is a toxic narrative about migration and refugees which affects national politics. Another concern we have about the outcome document of the summit is that it moves in the direction of securitisation – of seeing the movement of people as a security issue, and not that refugees will make societies more diverse and actually stronger.”

Last week Angela Merkel’s party, which has consistently acted as a moral force by resettling refugees, and refusing to bow to the xenophobic electoral strategies of parties in many European countries, lost a local election to far-right populist party Alternative for Germany.

Without wishing to read too much into a single local election, said Gadgil, “this could potentially be a watershed moment in European politics, where we end up with the definitive rise of parties that are primarily motivated by xenophobic views of the world, and primarily motivated by the artificial portrayal of immigrants as essentially and only bad.”

Talks “Abstract, Academic Exercise”

September 2 2016 marked the one-year anniversary of the death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, whose picture moved publics to sympathy last summer, helping to individualise suffering on an enormous scale.

Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was recently reported saying, “nobody is ever just a refugee,” emphasising the centrality of migration in human history at the UN’s World Humanitarian Day.

At the preliminary talks, however, Bennett said: “I didn’t really hear any countries give examples of actual refugee or migrant stories… for the states this seemed like an abstract, academic exercise.”

Narratives and public statements are doubtless indispensible tools in communicating every person’s humanity, but a more sustained level of attention is needed among policy-makers, who play a critical role in shaping public opinion, to bring about real change and uphold the rights and the dignity of refugees and migrants.

Speaking on Tuesday night in New York Médecins Sans Frontières’s Executive Director Jason Cone looked to the summit, saying, “ultimately it’s political leaders that have to step up and make these decisions… These are problems that are eminently solvable with the right resources directed towards them.”

The UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants will take place at UN headquarters in New York on September 19.

Hopes now turn to the Leaders Summit on Refugees, convened the following day by Barack Obama, where he will invite heads of state and government to make national, rather than collective, resettlement pledges.

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Global Citizenship Education Aims to Break Down Artificial Barriershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/global-citizenship-education-aims-to-break-down-artificial-barriers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-citizenship-education-aims-to-break-down-artificial-barriers http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/global-citizenship-education-aims-to-break-down-artificial-barriers/#comments Wed, 14 Sep 2016 14:22:01 +0000 Phoebe Braithwaite http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146913 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/global-citizenship-education-aims-to-break-down-artificial-barriers/feed/ 0 UN Shaky on Protection of Journalists and Right to Informationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-shaky-on-protection-of-journalists-and-right-to-information/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-shaky-on-protection-of-journalists-and-right-to-information http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-shaky-on-protection-of-journalists-and-right-to-information/#comments Tue, 13 Sep 2016 17:11:23 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146896 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 13 2016 (IPS)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, one of the strongest advocates of press freedom, is facing two politically-sensitive issues which are beyond his decision-making jurisdiction: a proposal for a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) aimed at providing journalists with the right to access information, and the creation of a UN Special Envoy ensuring the safety of journalists worldwide.

Asked about the FOIA, UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq told IPS: “The Secretary-General supports the idea of transparency. But this would be an issue for member states.”

Under applicable Staff Regulations and UN policies, disclosure statements are confidential and will be accessible to, and used by the Secretary-General, the Ethics Office or by offices or persons specifically authorized in writing by the Secretary-General, according to the United Nations.

Still, the Paris-based UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which is mandated to oversee press freedom, defines Freedom of Information (FOI) as the right to access information held by public bodies.

According to UNESCO, the FOI is an integral part of the fundamental right of freedom of expression, as recognized by Resolution 59 of the UN General Assembly adopted in 1946, as well as by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which states that the fundamental right of freedom of expression encompasses the freedom to “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.

FOI has also been enshrined as a “freedom of expression” in other major international instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) and the American Convention on Human Rights (1969), says UNESCO.

Asked about the proposal for a UN Special Envoy to deal with the safety of journalists, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told IPS that In order to appoint such a person, the General Assembly or the Security Council would have to give the Secretary-General a mandate.

“I know that a number of non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) have spoken to member states about the drafting of such a resolution,” he added.

But since most member states remain undecided, there has been little progress on either of the two proposals, according to diplomatic sources.

In a letter to the Secretary-General, a coalition of over 100 NGOs has said, a Special Envoy, if approved by the General Assembly, “would bring added attention to the risks faced by journalists and, by working closely with the Secretary-General, would have the political weight and legitimacy to take concrete action to protect journalists and to hold U.N. agencies accountable for integrating the action plan into their work.

The media and human rights organizations in the coalition include the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Freedom House, Index on Censorship, International Federation of Journalists, Media Watch and World Federation of Newspapers and News Publishers.

Asked if there are any member states who have openly declared their support for the proposal for a Special Envoy, Delphine Halgand, US Director for the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF), told IPS: “Yes, we met a lot of member states these last few months.”

“A permanent group of friends of UN Ambassadors was created in the Spring and are now working continuously on the proposal”. This Group is co-chaired by France, Greece and Lithuania. “And that’s an important step.”

Spain declared its support publicly but many others have supported it in private, Halgand said.

Ian Williams, UN correspondent for Tribune and a senior analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus, told IPS while impunity is one of the managerial prerogatives of senior UN officials, Freedom of Information will be honoured as much in the breach as the observance—whatever the official policy.

Time and time again the response of UN bodies like the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) to the release of embarrassing information has been to launch an investigation into who leaked the news, he noted.

“And it has not been to honour them for efforts for FOI. Nonetheless, it should be repeated as often as possible to remove any excuses,” he added.

“The Haitian cholera debacle should be a warning that keeping the lid on often just builds up steam and causes explosions,” said Williams, who was President of the UN Correspondents’ Association (UNCA) in 1995 and 1996 and who is planning to release his next book titled “UNtold: the Real Story of the UN.”

But even then, there would be exclusions, he pointed out. Successful diplomacy, for example, depends upon exchanges of hypothetical offers, which could easily be derailed, if the details are leaked.

“But while it is a diplomat or UN official’s job to keep things secret, it is the media’s job to deliver information, so there will always be a tension. There are personnel matters that should be confidential, but preserving staff confidentiality should not be½ a cover for hiding unethical or criminal behavior, said Williams, who also writes for Salon, AlterNet and MaximsNews, among many others.

Jim Wurst, a former president of UNCA and author of the newly-released book titled ‘The UN Association-USA: A Little Known History of Advocacy and Action,’” told IPS FOIA is a good idea because the UN, like other large institutions, has serious transparency problems.

“Anything that forces the UN to fulfill its obligations to the people of the world is worth pursuing,” he added

On the proposal for a UN Special Envoy, Wurst said: “I’m torn on this one.”

He said journalists — like so many other non-combatants including medical professionals and aid workers — are increasingly being deliberately targeted by combatants. “It’s not a new problem but it is getting worse. It’s basically become standard behavior.”

On the other hand, anything that gives off the whiff of outsiders manipulating the actions of journalists is a non-starter. “I trust CPJ and RSF will always put the integrity of journalists first,” said Wurst.

According to the New York-based CPJ, 1,189 journalists have been killed since 1992, the five deadliest countries being Iraq (174 killed), Syria (94), the Philippines (77), Algeria (60) and Somalia (59).

Still, says CPJ, the killers of journalists go free nine times out of 10 – “a statistic that has scarcely budged since 2012.” The killings have been attributed not only to rebel forces and terrorist groups but also to governments in power.

Chakravarthi Raghavan, a veteran journalist and a former UN Bureau Chief for Press Trust of India (PTI), told IPS FOIA raises the question whether it is to apply to the UN Secretariat, or all UN organs, and the UN system as a whole.

If it applies to all UN organs, he pointed out that the UN Security Council (UNSC) has its own rules of procedures – for public sessions, meetings only of members, and its actions under Chapters VI and VII (decisions and actions under VII is binding on all members, and non-members) of the charter are independent of the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

Would an FOIA try to encompass UN System, UN Specialised Agencies, and those with some ambiguous status vis-a-vis the UN (the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, the World Trade Organisation?, he asked.

An FOIA (whether in the US, or in India where there is a right to information law, or UK etc) comes with some judicial authority getting jurisdiction to ensure observance when information is not provided, said the Geneva-based Raghavan, editor-emeritus, South-North Development Monitor SUNS, who has been covering trade, finance and development issues since 1978.

And who will be the authority to ensure that the UN Secretariat observes the FOIA, and adjudicate on the disputes?, he asked.

As for a UN Special Envoy to ensure safety of journalists, he said, such an envoy could raise the profile and draw and mobilise public attention and that of all governments – and will undoubtedly be of some utility.

But it also raises the question how the institution will recognise and distinguish between genuine journalists and those engaged in other activities under the guise of journalists, and whether it will involve some kind of license to practise journalism?, said Raghavan.

“These were questions that arose here a few years back when the idea of ‘protecting’ journalists, and issuing them badges or some identification to recognise a “journalist” arose.”

These are difficult questions, and one has to take care that either initiative does not end up in fact as a barrier or problem for the professionals, he warned.

However, a UN Special Envoy, focussing on these issues and reporting to the UNGA, and to the Human Rights Council will provide high visibility, particularly if the media, in its own self-interest, reports on and publicises them.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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