Inter Press Service » Armed Conflicts http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 28 Mar 2017 16:25:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.16 Syrian Regime Survives on Russian Arms & UN Vetoeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/syrian-regime-survives-on-russian-arms-un-vetoes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=syrian-regime-survives-on-russian-arms-un-vetoes http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/syrian-regime-survives-on-russian-arms-un-vetoes/#comments Tue, 28 Mar 2017 16:25:57 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149679 Syrian conflict. Credit: UN Photo

Syrian conflict. Credit: UN Photo

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 28 2017 (IPS)

As the devastating civil war in Syria entered its seventh year last week, President Bashar al-Assad has continued to survive— despite faltering efforts by the United States and the UN Security Council (UNSC) to rein him in, or impose sanctions on his beleaguered regime.

Assad, who did his post-graduate studies in the UK and was trained as an ophthalmologist in London, is not your average, run-of-the mill Middle East dictator.

Nadim Houry of Human Rights Watch calls him an “Arab dictator 2.0” – technologically upgraded from the likes of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi, both of whom died in the hands of their captors.

“He is a different kind of blood thirsty dictator who shops online on his I-pad,” says Houry, describing Assad as more dress-conscious and technologically sophisticated in an age of the social media.

According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres: “For six years now, the Syrian people have been victims of one of the worst conflicts of our time” – and under Assad’s presidency.

The death toll is estimated at nearly 400,000, according to the United Nations and civil society organizations monitoring the conflict.

And the Syrian President’s political survival has depended largely on three factors: Russian vetoes in the Security Council (aided occasionally by China) protecting his presidency; a wide array of Russian weapons at his command; and the sharp division among multiple rebel groups trying unsuccessfully to oust him from power.

Assad, however, is not unique in the protection he receives from a divided Security Council. Israel continues to be protected by the US and Morocco by France.

After losing Iraq and Libya — two of its former military allies who were heavily dependent on Russian weapons– Moscow has remained determined to prevent any Western-inspired regime change in Syria.

Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics & Coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, told IPS: “Although the harsh U.S. criticism of Russia and China for the abuse of their veto powers is in itself quite reasonable, it should be noted that while Russia and China have now vetoed six resolutions challenging violations of international legal norms by Syria, the United States has vetoed no less than 43 resolutions challenging violations of international legal norms by Israel.”

Though the Russian and Chinese vetoes of these modest and quite reasonable resolutions on Syria have been shameful, Assad would probably still be in power regardless, he said.

“None of these resolutions allowed for foreign military intervention or anything that would have significantly altered the power balance. The opposition is too divided and, despite the regime’s savage repression, it still has the support of a substantial minority of Syrians, particularly given popular fears of a takeover by Salafist radicals if Assad was overthrown,” he noted.

Furthermore, even the Assad regime’s harshest Western critics have never appeared ready to dramatically escalate their support for Syrian rebels or their direct military intervention regardless of whether or not they had UN authorization to do so, said Zunes who has written extensively on the politics of the Security Council.

In a statement last week, the office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee [Democtat-California] pointed out that “President Trump recently deployed 400 troops to Syria and reports indicate that the Pentagon is planning to send 1,000 additional troops in the coming weeks, marking the latest front in this endless war.”

The UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is currently involved in a fifth round of intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, described as “Geneva V”.

A coalition of civil society organizations, however, warned last week that Geneva IV failed to deliver tangible progress to improve the lives of our people. “Unless there are consequences for the continued killing of civilians, Geneva V will suffer the same fate.”

“As this new round of talks begins, we appeal to you to bring leverage to the table – otherwise your presence does nothing to increase the chances of success. We know what we want for our future and how we should get there. We need what we can’t deliver and what has always been missing: pressure on and leverage over the regime and its allies to enforce Security Council resolutions, which are clear and explicit.”

In a guest editorial in the current issue of the magazine published by the UN Association of UK, Lakhdar Brahimi, who served as UN and Arab League Envoy to Syria from 2012 until 2014, said: “Yes, the UN failed to stop the bloodshed in Syria, but a deeper understanding is needed of why the UN fails when it fails, and why the UN succeeds when it succeeds.

Asked about the continued vibrant military relationship between Syria and Russia, Dr. Natalie J. Goldring, a Senior Fellow with the Security Studies Program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, told IPS the Syrian conflict is seemingly intractable.

Bashar al-Assad has remained in power, despite a conflict that has persisted since 2011. She said Russian support, including arms transfers, has helped President Assad stay in power.

“The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has documented small quantities of weapons transfers to Syria from China, Iran, and North Korea, as well as possible transfers from Belarus. But over the last 15 years, Russia has been by far the Assad regime’s dominant arms supplier.”

President Assad has remained in power, but at great cost, said Goldring, who also represents the Acronym Institute at the United Nations on conventional weapons and arms trade issues

Russia has remained the largest single arms supplier dating back to a 25-year Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed by Syria with the then Soviet Union in October 1970.

Syria’s military arsenal includes over 200 Russian-made MiG-21 and MiG-29 fighter planes, dozens of Mil Mi-24 attack helicopters and SA-14 surface-to-air missiles, and scores of T-72 battle tanks, along with a wide range of rocket launchers, anti-aircraft guns, mortars and howitzers.

But most of these are ageing weapons systems, purchased largely in the 1970s and 1980s costing billions of dollars, and badly in need of refurbishing or replacements. As in all military agreements, the contracts with Russia include maintenance, servicing, repairs and training.

Goldring said Syria is yet another example of the costs of proxy warfare. Continued arms transfers fuel the conflict, and the Trump Administration’s plans for US forces in Syria magnify this risk. She said the pattern of the conflict suggests that a military solution is unlikely.

When one group has been able to attain an advantage, it has been temporary, as another group has responded. “Rather than perpetuating the conflict through weapons transfers, the suppliers should stop supplying weapons and ammunition to ongoing conflicts, including in Syria,” said Goldring.

Singling out the role of the United Nations in resolving international crises over the years, Zunes told IPS “the Syrian dictator is not the only autocratic Arab dictator to have received support from a divided Security Council.”

He pointed out that Moroccan King Hassan II and his successor Mohammed VI’s ongoing occupation of Western Sahara, and refusal to go ahead with the promised referendum on the fate of the territory, has put Morocco in violation of a series of Security Council resolutions.

But France—and, depending on the administration, the United States as well—has prevented the United Nations from enforcing these resolutions through Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

As with Indonesia’s 24-year occupation East Timor, he pointed out, Morocco’s permanent member backers have never had to formally exercise their veto power as has Syria’s allies, but the threat of a veto has prevented the United Nations from carrying through with its responsibilities to uphold the right of Western Sahara, as a legally-recognized non-self-governing territory, to self-determination.

Today, more than four decades after the UNSC initially called on Morocco to pull out and allow for self-determination, the occupation and repression continues, he noted.

“If anything, the case for UN action in Western Sahara is legally more compelling. While the death toll and humanitarian crisis in Syria is far worse, it is primarily an internal conflict taking place within that country’s sovereign internationally-recognized borders, while Western Sahara—as an international dispute involving a foreign military occupation–is clearly a UN responsibility,” Zunes declared.

“Though the Russian and Chinese vetoes of these modest and quite reasonable resolutions on Syria have been shameful, Assad would probably still be in power regardless.”

“None of these resolutions allowed for foreign military intervention or anything that would have significantly altered the power balance.”

He said the opposition is too divided and, despite the regime’s savage repression, it still has the support of a substantial minority of Syrians, particularly given popular fears of a takeover by Salafist radicals if Assad was overthrown.

Furthermore, even the Assad regime’s harshest Western critics have never appeared ready to dramatically escalate their support for Syrian rebels or their direct military intervention regardless of whether or not they had UN authorization to do so, he added.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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UN to Investigate Violations Against Rohingyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/un-to-investigate-violations-against-rohingya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-to-investigate-violations-against-rohingya http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/un-to-investigate-violations-against-rohingya/#comments Mon, 27 Mar 2017 20:03:32 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149667 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Credit: IPS

Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 27 2017 (IPS)

A top UN human rights group has decided to investigate human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

The UN Human Rights Council agreed to send an international fact-finding mission to investigate alleged killings, torture, and rape by security forces against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims.

Since October, Myanmar’s military has been conducting an ongoing offensive in the Northwestern state of Rakhine following attacks on border guard posts.

After speaking to hundreds of Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh following the retaliation, Special Rapporteur on Myanmar’s human rights Yanghee Lee found cases of sexual violence, extrajudicial killings, torture and enforced disappearances by military and police forces.

Nearly half of the 220 Rohingya interviewed by the UN said a family member had been killed, while 52 out of 101 women interviewed said they had experienced some form of sexual violence from security forces.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said the actions indicated “the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.”

The government of Myanmar has denied the abuse allegations and expressed disappointment in the Council’s move.

“Such kind of action is not acceptable to Myanmar as it not in harmony with the situation on the ground and our national circumstances. Let the Myanmar people choose the best and the most effective course of action to address the challenges in Myanmar,” said Myanmar’s Ambassador Htin Lynn.

Myanmar’s investigatory committee had recently interviewed alleged victims and is due to announce its findings by August.

Proposed by the European Union, the resolution was adopted without a vote in the 47-member Human Rights Council and called for “full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims.”

India and China did not back the decision, stating that they, along with Myanmar, would “disassociate” themselves from the mission.

Though Lee had initially urged for a full international commission of inquiry, many human rights groups applauded the move.

“[An] international fact-finding mission is crucial for ensuring that allegations of serious human rights abuses in Burma are thoroughly examined by experts, and to ensure that those responsible will ultimately be held accountable,” said Human Rights Watch’s Advocacy Director John Fisher.

“Burma’s government should cooperate fully with the mission, including by providing unfettered access to all affected areas,” he continued.

Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific Champa Patel echoed similar sentiments, stating that the mission is “long overdue” and that Myanmar’s government should “welcome” it.

“The world has a right to know the full truth of events,” she stated.

Myanmar’s government has long disputed the Rohingya people’s status as Burmese citizens and enacted several discriminatory policies, rendering the majority of the group stateless and impoverished.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) previously described the Rohingya community as one of the most “excluded, persecuted, and vulnerable communities in the world.”

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Food Security in the Middle East Sharply Deterioratedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/food-security-in-the-middle-east-sharply-deteriorated/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=food-security-in-the-middle-east-sharply-deteriorated http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/food-security-in-the-middle-east-sharply-deteriorated/#comments Mon, 27 Mar 2017 15:41:26 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149663 An Egyptian farmer feeding cows fresh fodder. Credit: FAO

An Egyptian farmer feeding cows fresh fodder. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME/CAIRO, Mar 27 2017 (IPS)

Food security and nutrition levels in the Near East and North Africa have sharply deteriorated over the last five years, undermining the steady improvement achieved before 2010 when the prevalence of undernourishment, stunting, anaemia and poverty were decreasing, a new UN report warns.

According to the FAO Regional Overview of Food Insecurity in the Near East and North Africa, issued on March 27, the deterioration is largely driven by the spreading and intensity of conflicts and protracted crises.

The assessment made by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) using the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) shows that the prevalence of severe food insecurity in the adult population of the Near East and North Africa was close to 9.5 per cent in 2014-2015, representing approximately 30 million people.

“The region is facing unprecedented challenges to its food security due to multiple risks arising from conflicts, water scarcity and climate change,” said Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa. “War and conflicts are the worst enemies of food security, ” Graziano da Silva

Countries of the region need to implement long-term and comprehensive sustainable water management to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of ending hunger by 2030, he added. “A peaceful and stable environment is an absolute pre-condition for farmers to respond to the challenges of water scarcity and climate change.”

“Wars, Conflicts, Worst Enemies of Food Security”

José Graziano da Silva, FAO director general, said in a recent visit to Lebanon, “We are reminded once again that war and conflicts are the worst enemies of food security.

“Our own reports and other have described, sometimes in rather horrible detail, the unrelenting process through which the conflicts in the region are destroying people’s lives and livelihoods, disrupting agriculture production, increasing food prices, stoking fears and insecurity and triggering large-scale displacement of people and alarming flows of refugees.”
Lebanon, a small country that has itself suffered the misfortunes of war and internal conflict, has courageously and generously hosted more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees, da Silva added.

“To put that in perspective, that’s the third of the country’s population, the proportional equivalent of the European Union taking in more than 170 million people… The unprecedented influx of refugees has put extraordinary pressure on Lebanon’s economic and social infrastructure, its food security and its social cohesion.”

According to FAO, the Syria crisis in particular has deepened during the period 2015-2016, leaving more than half of the population in need of food assistance and 4.8 million refugees, mostly in neighbouring countries. The numbers of food insecure and the internally displaced are also rising in Iraq and Yemen.

The Water Factor

Beyond conflicts and crises, the report argues that water scarcity and climate change are the most fundamental challenges to ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture by 2030.

Workers cleaning up the main Al Jazeera irrigation canal as part of a project to resupply water for agricultural production in Iraq. Credit: FAO

Workers cleaning up the main Al Jazeera irrigation canal as part of a project to resupply water for agricultural production in Iraq. Credit: FAO

Water scarcity is the binding factor to agricultural production in the Near East and North Africa region and the driver of the region’s dependency on food imports.

Building on the evidence accumulated in the framework of FAO’s Regional Water Scarcity Initiative in the Near East and North Africa, the report shows that climate change is expected to affect food security in terms of availability, access, stability and utilisation. Most of the impacts of climate change will affect water availability.

The FAO Regional Overview underlines the urgency to develop and implement strategies for sustainable management of water resources and to adapt to the impact of climate change on water resources and agriculture.

It documents several positive experiences in sustainable management of water resources and climate change adaptation in the region and highlights the importance of accelerating investments aimed at improving water efficiency and water productivity as well as the need for a shift in cropping patterns towards less water-consuming crops.

The report explores other major options for the adaptation to climate change impacts on water and agriculture, including the need for designing and implementing social protection measures for building resilience of farmers to extreme events, cutting food losses and improving trade policies.

The report stresses the importance of building a strong evidence base for assessing the impact of climate change on food security and for the formulation of sound and flexible water adaptation measures and agricultural policies.

It calls for strengthened regional collaboration to face the massive challenge of water scarcity and climate change, building on the strong political will expressed by the leaders of the region and building on the positive experiences in many countries.

Ould Ahmed noted that, “sustainable agriculture and water management should include strategies and policies to improve irrigation efficiency, establish sustainable ground water management, promote incentives for farmers to shift to crops with higher economic returns per drop, cut food losses and waste, and enhance resilience of vulnerable population and farmers to climate-induced shocks.”

“Achieving food security is still at hand, provided we take concerted efforts and make the right moves now.”

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Slaveshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/slaves/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=slaves http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/slaves/#comments Mon, 27 Mar 2017 11:33:55 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149659 Young women in Colombia forced into sexual exploitation. Credit: UNICEF/Donna DeCesare

Young women in Colombia forced into sexual exploitation. Credit: UNICEF/Donna DeCesare

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Mar 27 2017 (IPS)

For over 400 years, more than 15 million men, women and children were the victims of the transatlantic slave trade, one of the darkest chapters in human history. Slavery is, nevertheless, far from being just a chapter of the past—it still there, with estimated 21 million victims of forced labour and extreme exploitation around the world–nearly the equivalent to of the combined population of Scandinavian countries.

According to the UN report 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, issued in late-December, victims of trafficking are found in 106 of 193 countries. Many of these are in conflict areas, where the crimes are not prosecuted. Women and children are among the main victims.

The legacy of slavery resounds down the ages, and the world has yet to overcome racism. While some forms of slavery may have been abolished, others have emerged to blight the world, including human trafficking and forced and bonded labour.

Add to all the above, the crime of human trafficking, which once more affects millions of women, and girls, who fall prey to sexual exploitation, another form of slavery.“79 per cent of all detected human trafficking victims are women and children,” UN

In fact, millions of women and girls are sold for sexual exploitation and slavery, according to this new report elaborated by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Just as tragically, 79 per cent of all detected trafficking victims are women and children.

From 2012-2014, UNODC estimates that more than 500 different trafficking flows were detected and countries in Western and Southern Europe detected victims of 137 different citizenships.

These figures recount a story of human trafficking occurring almost everywhere.

In terms of the different types of trafficking, sexual exploitation and forced labour are the most prominent.

The report also shows that trafficking can have numerous other forms including: victims compelled to act as beggars, forced into sham marriages, benefit fraud, pornography production, organ removal, among others.

A young woman from a fishing community in West Bengal in eastern India. She comes from a village that is known for high levels of trafficking of women and girls to other major cities. Credit: UN Women/Anindit Roy-Chowdhury

A young woman from a fishing community in West Bengal in eastern India. She comes from a village that is known for high levels of trafficking of women and girls to other major cities. Credit: UN Women/Anindit Roy-Chowdhury

The United Nations estimates the total market value of illicit human trafficking amounted to 32 billion dollars in 2005, a figure that most likely has doubled, or even tripled, in view of the massive waves of persons who have been forced to either migrating due to the growing poverty caused by climate change or the deepening inequality, or fleeing brutal armed conflicts.

Human Rights First, a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organisation based in New York, Washington D.C., Houston, and Los Angeles, says that human trafficking is a “big business”.

In a detailed report, Human Rights First informs that human trafficking earns profits of roughly 150 billion dollars a year for traffickers, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The following is a breakdown of profits, by sector:
– 99 billion dollars from commercial sexual exploitation
– 34 billion dollars in construction, manufacturing, mining and utilities
– 9 billion dollars in agriculture, including forestry and fishing
– 8 billion dollars is saved annually by private households that employ domestic workers under conditions of forced labour

While only 22 per cent of victims are trafficked for sex, sexual exploitation earns 66 per cent of the global profits of human trafficking, reminds Human Rights First.

And adds that the average annual profits generated by each woman in forced sexual servitude (100,000 dollars) is estimated to be six times more than the average profits generated by each trafficking victim worldwide (21,800 dollars), according to the Organization for Security and Co operation in Europe (OSCE).

OSCE studies show that sexual exploitation can yield a return on investment ranging from 100 per cent to 1,000 per cent, while an enslaved labourer can produce more than 50 per cent profit even in less profitable markets (e.g., agricultural labour in India).

A close-up from the memorial on the legacy of slavery. Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

A close-up from the memorial on the legacy of slavery. Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

Meanwhile, the United Nations marks every year on 25 March, the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade that, it says, offers the opportunity to honour and remember those who suffered and died at the hands of the brutal slavery system.

The Day also aims to raise awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice today.

“We must never forget this dark chapter of human history,” UN secretary general António Guterres on March 24 told a General Assembly meeting to commemorate the abolition of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, ahead of the Day.

“We must always remember the role played by many of our countries – including my own country of Portugal – in carrying out the largest forced migration in history and in robbing so many millions of people of their dignity and often also of their lives,” Guterres said.

The legacy of slavery resounds down the ages, and the world has yet to overcome racism. While some forms of slavery may have been abolished, others have emerged to blight the world, including human trafficking and forced and bonded labour, he stressed.

And Peter Thomson, the president of the UN General Assembly, called for the protection of human rights and an end to racism, xenophobia and modern forms of slavery, including human trafficking, forced labour and child labour.

The consequences of slavery had not ended with emancipation, but continued to this day, he emphasised. Some were negative, but others positive, he said, underscoring the contributions made by descendants of slavery to shaping multicultural societies.

Shortly before, on March 21, the UN marked the InternationalDay for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination under the theme: Racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration.

Every person is entitled to human rights without discrimination, the UN reminds, while adding that the rights to equality and non-discrimination are cornerstones of human rights law.

“Yet in many parts of the world, discriminatory practices are still widespread, including racial, ethnic, religious and nationality based profiling, and incitement to hatred.”

Racial and ethnic profiling is defined as “a reliance by law enforcement, security and border control personnel on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin as a basis for subjecting persons to detailed searches, identity checks and investigations, or for determining whether an individual is engaged in criminal activity,” according to a recent report to the UN Human Rights Council by the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

“Refugees and migrants are particular targets of racial profiling and incitement to hatred.”

In the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted in September 2016, United Nations member states strongly condemned “acts and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance against refugees and migrants, and committed to a range of steps to counter such attitudes and behaviours, particularly regarding hate crimes, hate speech and racial violence.”

This and so many other Declarations, treaties, conventions, etc., are systematically signed by most of world’s countries—not least the US and Europe. Are these countries seriously committed to honour them? When?

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Women and Tribal Leaders Call for “Balanced” Libyan Peace Processhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/women-and-tribal-leaders-call-for-balanced-libyan-peace-process/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-and-tribal-leaders-call-for-balanced-libyan-peace-process http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/women-and-tribal-leaders-call-for-balanced-libyan-peace-process/#comments Thu, 23 Mar 2017 22:42:42 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149611 "Women attend a workshop on advantages of reconciliation and peace-making in Sabha City."  Credit: MAFO

"Women attend a workshop on advantages of reconciliation and peace-making in Sabha City." Credit: MAFO

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 23 2017 (IPS)

A delegation of Libyan tribal leaders and women leaders has called on the UN to take a balanced approach to the Libyan peace process.

The delegation from the National Movement for Libya (NML) met with UN officials and U.S. government representatives while visiting New York and Washington D.C. to discuss the UN-led peace process in Libya.

“We don’t have a state, we don’t really have a government to control everything. The whole institution has collapsed after 2011,” said Libya Institute for Advanced Studies’ Head of the Mediation Department Ali Masoud to IPS.

“The only thing to help people find a solution and help peace-building is the tribal leaders or community leaders,” he continued.

Despite a UN-brokered peace deal known as the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) in 2015, which established the internationally-backed unity government headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, armed factions have continued to battle for control over the oil-rich nation.

Most recently, pro-unity government armed forces expanded their control in the capital of Tripoli, fighting rival militias including groups allied with former Prime Minister Khalifa Ghweli.

Ghweli was ousted from power when al-Sarraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) took office and has refused to recognize the new administration, instead forming his own Government of National Salvation (GNS).

Khalifa Haftar, who leads troops for a third rival government in the Eastern region of the country, also opposes the UN-backed GNA but has focused on battling Islamist militias including the al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Al-Sharia and Islamic State (ISIS). His Libyan National Army (LNA) recently recaptured major oil ports from militias.

The NML was formed to address the country’s complex conflicts and engage in reconciliation efforts. However, community leaders have been left out of the peace process.

“[The UN] has carried on with the political track with politicians who are really not representative of the Libyan people,” Masoud told IPS.

"Women attend a workshop on advantages of reconciliation and peace-making in Sabha City."  Credit: MAFO

“Women attend a workshop on advantages of reconciliation and peace-making in Sabha City.” Credit: MAFO

“They failed to start the tribal track which is really very important to engage tribes in Libya where they feel they own this political agreement and own the [dialogue] process,” he continued, adding that the dialogues stopped inviting tribal leaders as they were hosted outside of Libya.

Another NML representative Nour Elayoun Mohamed Abdul Ati Alobeidi highlighted the role that women have played in mediation, pointing to a case in the southern Libyan town of Ubari where Tuareg and Tebu tribes have clashed.

“In that war, men tried to mediate to stop the fire, but it was only when women decided to build a mobile tent in the middle of the shooting—only then the war stopped immediately because of those brave women who initiated this even though it was risky but they weren’t scared because they wanted the war to stop,” she told IPS.

Alobeidi said that tent was established to bring together the two sides to have a dialogue.

“This led both sides of women to understand that their pain is the same. And those women, the same women who were against each other, helped in bringing peace back to the Ubari area,” she continued.

Masoud and Alobeidi called on the inclusion of community leaders to create a National Charter that represents and ensures the rights of all Libyans.

“There is no national charter, no constitution, no surveys to understand what Libyan people demand, what they would like exactly, and what kind of a system they hope to have after this era of dictatorship,” Masoud told IPS.

They believe that creating a National Charter is essential before holding elections in order to help unite Libyans.

They also called on the international community to support inclusive tribal and political tracks that focus on building institutions rather than on one person or politician.

“All these tracks should feed each other, and when a national agreement is reached, then we will shrink the power of these politicians–they will have no space for violence, only the vision of Libyans that they should rely on,” Masoud told IPS.

The NML consists of tribal groups that both supported and opposed Gaddafi during the 2011 revolution. The delegation of tribal and women leaders was sponsored by the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers and the Libya Institute for Advanced Studies, with the support of Finn Church Aid.

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Former Boko Haram Abductees Speak Outhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/former-boko-haram-abductees-speak-out/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=former-boko-haram-abductees-speak-out http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/former-boko-haram-abductees-speak-out/#comments Sat, 18 Mar 2017 22:39:31 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149482 Chibok girls who survived Boko Haram, Sa'a (left) and Rachel (right) at a press conference moderated by Vikas Pota, CEO, Varkey Foundation, at the Global Skills and Education Forum, Dubai. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Chibok girls who survived Boko Haram, Sa'a (left) and Rachel (right) at a press conference moderated by Vikas Pota, CEO, Varkey Foundation, at the Global Skills and Education Forum, Dubai. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
DUBAI, UAE, Mar 18 2017 (IPS)

Though still fearful for her life and the safety of her family, one of the girls who escaped abduction by Boko Haram in Nigeria has appealed to global leaders to intervene and help bring back 195 schoolgirls still being held by the terrorist network.

Next month it will be three years since the Nigerian militants abducted more than 270 girls from the town of Chibok in northeastern Nigeria.

Last October, the Boko Haram fighters freed 21 of the girls, including one with a baby that triggered global outrage and spurred the social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls.

Telling our story

“We have to share our story and tell the world about it for the world to know,’ the student, using a pseudonym to protect her identity, Sa’a* (20) said at press conference on the sidelines of the two-day Global Education and Skills Forum.

Earlier SAA and another girl, identified as Rachel*, who lost her father and siblings to Boko Haram, told the Forum that the kidnapping of the schoolgirls was a painful episode that the world should not forget.

“The only thing we need to do is to ask the world leaders to bring back the girls. We cannot do anything other than speak out,” said SAA, who escaped from the clutches of Boko Haram. She jumped off a moving truck when the group attacked and burnt her school and books in Borno State in April 2014.

Sa’a, who was moved from Nigeria and is currently studying in the United States, said the traumatic ordeal should not be allowed to happen to any student. Her resolve to continue her schooling was the reason she has come out publicly about her experience.

“Every child needs to be educated and to go to school,” Sa’a said. “We must never forget this until all the girls are safely back. Next month it will not be three days but three years and they are not back. It is painful.”

Sa’a told the conference that after they were abducted and forced at gunpoint into trucks, she decided to jump off a moving truck together with a friend who sustained injuries. They were helped by a shepherd and made their way to safety.

Emmanuel Ogebe is a human rights lawyer and director of the Education Must Continue Initiative, which has assisted child victims and IDPs from conflicts, primary Boko Haram. Most of the victims are in Nigeria and a handful in the United States.

“Most venerable targets of Boko Haram have been educational institutions and religious institutions. Pastors have been killed in thousands and over 600 teachers have been killed by Boko Haram and we see vulnerability in both areas,” Ogebe told IPS.

“It is a painful situation of what happened to the girls because we understand that there were early warnings that the terrorists were going to strike and supported by the fact that teachers escaped and left the girls. The sense of failure to protect is very story in addition to the fact that the government did not protect the girls at school even when they were warned.”

Since January this year, Sa’a has started college under a project by the Education Must Continue Initiative, a charity which has helped about 3000 other internally-displaced children go to school. She now has an ambition to study science and medicine.

Hope persists

“My dream is to be a medical doctor in the future and inspire others and go back to my home country and help those kids to go back to school and assist others get the education they deserve,” Sa’a says.

Rachel, who is back at school in Nigeria, says she wanted to be medical doctor as well but would now like to be a top ranking military officer after what happened to her father and three brothers.

“I would like to contribute to a better nation. I am not conformable because of what I have seen and I feel bad,” Rachel said. “Some girls cannot go to school now because of what happened and do not value education because without education they can survive. This is sad.”

Rachel is a teenager that went to school in northeast Nigeria. Her father was a plainclothes policeman who had moved his family with him to a smaller town where he thought it would be safer. He was assigned to protect the local church. Rachel’s mum found a job working in the Education department of the church that her father was on security detail to.

Then one day in late 2014, Boko Haram terrorists attacked the church that her father had been assigned to protect.  Rachel’s father fled to his house to gather his children. Unfortunately, as they tried to escape, they ran into the terrorists who shot dead her father and three younger brothers on the spot. They were 14, 12 and 10 years old and in secondary and primary school, respectively.

Vikas Pota, Chief Execuive of the Varkey Foundation, the hosts of the Global Education Forum, said the Boko Haram question is wider than simply the question of the girls, and is related to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria and elsewhere. He said collective action was needed to make the world more inclusive thereby creating an environment to access education to all.

“I think it is ridiculous in today’s age that so many girls and all the human intelligence that exists that we do not know where these girls are. It shows we do not care,” Pota told IPS, adding that,” As a father, how can we tolerate this situation? I think the government not – just the Nigerian one but governments around the world – should help and make sure this situation is resolved.”

*True identities have been changed to protect their families.

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From Barriers to Bridges: Transformation of the Kenya-Ethiopia Border Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/from-barriers-to-bridges-transformation-of-the-kenya-ethiopia-border-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=from-barriers-to-bridges-transformation-of-the-kenya-ethiopia-border-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/from-barriers-to-bridges-transformation-of-the-kenya-ethiopia-border-region/#comments Fri, 17 Mar 2017 14:02:24 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149471 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya. ]]> President Kenyatta of Kenya and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn lay the foundation for the Kenya-Ethiopia cross border program in the border town of Moyale on 07 Dec 2015. Photo Courtesy of PPS

President Kenyatta of Kenya and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn lay the foundation for the Kenya-Ethiopia cross border program in the border town of Moyale on 07 Dec 2015. Photo Courtesy of PPS

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 17 2017 (IPS)

Consider this. The communities around the Kenya-Ethiopia border in Moyale-Borona area, have long been associated with internecine violence, extreme poverty, and environmental stress. These have led to disastrous societal consequences, including displacement, criminality and violent extremism.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Siddharth Chatterjee

The 2012-2013 intercommunal clashes in Moyale town, claimed the lives of over 200 people, destroyed thousands of properties, including schools and other social amenities. The region has been viewed as largely peripheral, both economically and politically, and therefore attracted limited public and private resources.

However, an innovative, comprehensive and integrated cross-border programme initiated by the Kenyan and Ethiopian governments, in partnership with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the United Nations (UN) is changing this narrative.

During the recent visit to Kenya by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, President Uhuru Kenyatta specifically mentioned, the Kenya-Ethiopia cross-border programme and noted the importance of this innovative area-based development programme, which he said has the potential of being replicated elsewhere.

President Kenyatta hoped that the initiative would help transform the region. “The programme will see Moyale being turned into the Dubai of Africa,” he said.

The strong commitment of the two governments is reflected in an article the Foreign Ministers of Kenya and Ethiopia, co-authored. Kenya and Ethiopia: A cross-border initiative to advance peace and development.

President Kenyatta and UN Secretary-General meet at the State House on 08 March 2017. Photo @StateHouse

President Kenyatta and UN Secretary-General meet at the State House on 08 March 2017. Photo @StateHouse


The initiative is driven by the need to foster peace and sustainable development in the cross-border area of Marsabit County, Kenya, and the Borana/Dawa Zones, Ethiopia. It was launched in December 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia.

The European Union Ambassador to Kenya, Dr Stefano Dejak remarked, “I am seeing positive signs of change and therefore the European Union has decided to partner with the UN and IGAD, to expand the cross-border programme to include Mandera Triangle (Kenya-Ethiopia-Somalia), the Omo (Kenya-South Sudan) and Karamoja (Kenya-Uganda) clusters”.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn witness as former Foreign Minister Ethiopia, Tedros Adhanom and Foreign Minister Kenya, Amb Amina Mohamed sign an MOU to create jobs, reduce poverty and foster trade in their restive borderlands, where conflict had intensified in recent years. Photo: UN Kenya

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn witness as former Foreign Minister Ethiopia, Tedros Adhanom and Foreign Minister Kenya, Amb Amina Mohamed sign an MOU to create jobs, reduce poverty and foster trade in their restive borderlands, where conflict had intensified in recent years. Photo: UN Kenya


Among the positive signs is a determination to establish peace as the basis for integration. Local peace committees, comprising of different ethnic groups, have been working relentlessly to maintain the peace and promoting harmonious coexistence. The elders also testified to the fact that the number of young people getting radicalised and tempted to join extremist/terror groups had declined significantly.

Devolution has also empowered local authorities and communities, and has contributed to poverty reduction and effective service delivery in Marsabit County. The Isiolo-Merille-Marsabit-Moyale road, is now complete; and it will be a transformational as it will link the region to Ethiopia, the second most populous country in Africa, and promote cross-border trade. In addition, this completes the Trans-Africa highway linking South Africa to Egypt.

The Isiolo-Moyale-Borona highway has had a massive positive impact on the region’s security, having opened up an area that was previously viewed as “marginalized”. Photo media commons

The Isiolo-Moyale-Borona highway has had a massive positive impact on the region’s security, having opened up an area that was previously viewed as “marginalized”. Photo media commons


The region’s socio-economic development potential is great. The large numbers of livestock can be harnessed for leather, meat and dairy industries. The cross-border trade between the border communities could generate tremendous revenue for both countries. The region’s diverse and rich culture and heritage, evidenced by its historical and geographical sites, present huge tourism potential. There is also a latent resource for clean and renewable energy exploitation, as proven by the recent launch of the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project that is expected to generate 310MW into the national grid and power one million households.

The UN is collaborating with development partners to tap this enormous potential to reduce poverty and spur development in various ways. This will especially benefit women who are significantly involved in cross-border trade. The UN will soon launch a “HeforShe” initiative/campaign to empower women and address the problem of gender inequality, and enhance women’s participation in the development process in both regions.

Lake Turkana Wind Power Project. Photo Media commons

Lake Turkana Wind Power Project. Photo Media commons


A UN supported “Biashara Centre” – a business incubation centre – was opened in Marsabit Town to empower the youth and address the problem of youth unemployment, and promote small and medium enterprises.

Studies carried out, in collaboration with the communities, are helping to understand the causes, drivers, dynamics and impacts of conflict in the cross-border areas, and possible factors or stakeholders that could contribute to sustainable peace in the region. This is an important parameter of the African Union vision on peace and security in the first plan of action under the progressive Agenda 2063.

A UN supported Biashara center.Photo Credit: @undpkenya

A UN supported Biashara center.Photo Credit: @undpkenya


The UN has worked with Marsabit County to review and mainstream the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into the County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP). The revised CIDP aims at improving the living standards of the people of Marsabit County through employment creation, reduction of poverty and creation of wealth and expanding public service delivery in general.

Though integration and trade along the border is still in nascent stages, there is reason for optimism that it will have long-term positive macroeconomic and social ramifications such as food security and income generation, particularly for populations who would otherwise suffer from social exclusion.

Ms Ruth Kagia, in the Office of the President of Kenya who coordinates the programme says, “This initiative if properly executed may well be a game changer by turning cross border barriers into bridges of opportunity. Especially among the marginalized and poor communities to expedite the achievement of a core goal of the SDGs and ending poverty by 2030”.

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UN FARMS to Create One Million Days of Work for Mideast Migrantshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/un-farms-to-create-one-million-days-of-work-for-mideast-migrants/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-farms-to-create-one-million-days-of-work-for-mideast-migrants http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/un-farms-to-create-one-million-days-of-work-for-mideast-migrants/#comments Wed, 15 Mar 2017 17:18:40 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149437 Fedah sayah Irshaid (42 years old) tends to some of her grape vines with the help of her husband and daughter. Fedah is a recipient of a Revolving loan for her plant nursery and rabbit raising business. She received the loan from the Al Khaldiyah Cooperative for Military Retired. Copyright: ©IFAD/Ivor Prickett/Panos

Fedah sayah Irshaid (42 years old) tends to some of her grape vines with the help of her husband and daughter. Fedah is a recipient of a Revolving loan for her plant nursery and rabbit raising business. She received the loan from the Al Khaldiyah Cooperative for Military Retired. Copyright: ©IFAD/Ivor Prickett/Panos

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Mar 15 2017 (IPS)

The problem is rather complex and often not recognised: in one of the major regions of both origin and destination for migrants and refugees — the Near East and North of Africa, 10 per cent of rural communities is made up of forcibly displaced persons, while more than 25 per cent of the young rural people plan to emigrate.

This has a strong rural dimension, with large numbers of displaced people originating in rural areas, and now living in rural host communities within or outside their home countries.

In recent years, forced displacement has become a global problem of unprecedented scale, driven by conflict, violence, persecution and human rights violations.

While the total number of displaced people reached an all-time high of more 65 million people, global attention has focused on the Near East and North Africa (NENA) region, where continued conflict and violence most acutely affect Iraq, Syria, Yemen and neighbouring countries.

The total impacted population in the region is estimated at around 22 million people, a fact that generates additional pressure on both the host areas and the sending areas.

The UN, through its Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), designed an innovative response to the on-going crisis: FARMS (Facility for Refugees, Migrants, Forced Displacement and Rural Stability), which was announced at the UN World Summit on Migration held in September last year at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

Internally Displaced, Migrants, Refugees

IPS asked Khalida Bouzar, Director, Near East, North Africa and Europe Division, who is in charge of FARMS at IFAD, if the Facility is meant for displaced rural persons within each country or if it also includes migrants and forcibly displaced persons fleeing conflicts and/or natural and man-made disasters?

Bouzar explains that in terms of displaced people, FARMS will cover both international refugees (people displaced across borders) and internally displaced people (forced to flee from their homes due to conflict or other extraneous factors but remaining within their country), she adds.

Khalida Bouzar greeting Sudan's Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Badr Al Din Mahmoud Abbas.  Credit: IFAD

Khalida Bouzar greeting Sudan’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Badr Al Din Mahmoud Abbas. Credit: IFAD

FARMS will also address the needs of host communities (the local population) to reduce the stress on natural resources and economic opportunities. In origin communities, it will create opportunities for the entire community.

Specifically, Bouzar said that in host areas, the local communities will be supported in coping with the influx of displaced people by making their agriculture more productive and sustainable. The displaced, in turn, will be better able to contribute to their host communities, and better prepared to return home when the situation improves.

Regarding the “sending areas”, economic opportunities will be created so that people who have left have something to return to, and those who remain have a chance to build their livelihoods. “With FARMS, we seek to deliver long-term peace and development dividends. It is paramount to create a healthy climate for economic opportunities, and enable displaced people to return to their communities,” says Bouzar.

So far, about USD 20 million has been identified for the facility, with the goal of reaching USD 100 million.

FARMS resources will be provided in the form of co-financing support for the on-going IFAD portfolio of about USD 1.2 billion in the NENA region as well as stand-alone grants or activities and communication products to raise global awareness of the issues.

According to Bouzar, FARMS will strengthen the resilience of rural host areas to the impacts of large inflows of refugees, and will also create resilient livelihoods in the origin areas to break the cycle of migration and incentivise the eventual return of migrants.

One Million Days of Work

FARMS will create one million days of work, including at least 20,000 opportunities for youth. “This will be achieved over the life of the projects, and therefore over the next 5 to 6 years,” says Bouzar.

Other objectives are to implement at least 500 community infrastructure projects, and to increase social resilience by strengthening community and local government capacity to manage their development, resolve conflicts, and address the needs of refugees.

FARMS also aims at improving governance and management of natural resources, particularly land and water, as well as to improve the policy and regulatory frameworks to address the needs of rural host and sending communities.

Regarding the main causes of displacement, the IFAD’s Director, Near East, North Africa and Europe Division explains that these could be conflict, natural disasters, or climate-change related vulnerabilities and pressures. Often the cause is a combination of different factors.

Ten Priority Countries

Bouzar informs that the initial priority countries include: Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey and Yemen.

In the first phase, the facility will focus on the NENA region where the current crisis is most acute, with the possibility of scaling up globally in the future. In fact, says Bouzar, after the initial pilot of projects in the NENA region, FARMS could be scaled up to potentially include displacement in other regions.

Asked about the countries, which have been supportive of FARMS and about the amount of financial resources allocated to this project, Bouzar says the IFAD has received support from a wide range of IFAD members.

“Countries in the region have stepped up as crucial early partners, too. The Government of Jordan is collaborating with IFAD, and more partnerships are being designed with Iraq, Lebanon and Sudan.”

Why IFAD? According to Bouzar, the Fund is well positioned to be a key partner in bridging the gap between humanitarian and sustainable development responses in rural areas, and is already actively engaged in many of the most affected regions.

In fact, the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda recognised IFAD’s comparative advantage as a major investor in poor rural people and affirmed that rural development could achieve “rich payoffs across the SDGs,” she adds.

IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since its creation in 1978, it has provided 18.5 billion dollars in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached about 464 million people.

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Suffering of Children in War-Torn Syria ‘Hits Rock Bottom’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/suffering-of-children-in-war-torn-syria-hits-rock-bottom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=suffering-of-children-in-war-torn-syria-hits-rock-bottom http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/suffering-of-children-in-war-torn-syria-hits-rock-bottom/#comments Mon, 13 Mar 2017 19:26:44 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149397 Displaced families from Reyadeh and 1070 neighbourhoods take shelter at a kindergarten in western Aleppo city. Conditions are still extremely basic. Credit: UNICEF/Khuder Al-Issa

Displaced families from Reyadeh and 1070 neighbourhoods take shelter at a kindergarten in western Aleppo city. Conditions are still extremely basic. Credit: UNICEF/Khuder Al-Issa

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

The suffering of children in war-torn Syria “hit rock bottom” in 2016 with the highest number of grave violations against them since verification began in 2014, underscored the United Nations children’s agency.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), at least 652 children were killed last year – a 20 per cent increase ccompared to 2015 – 255 among them were killed in or near a school.

Maiming and recruitment of children also rose sharply as violence across the country saw a drastic escalation, UNICEF on March 13 said UNICEF in a grim assessment of the conflict’s impact on children, as the war reaches six years.

Verified instances of killing, maiming and recruitment of children increased sharply last year in a drastic escalation of violence across the country.

• At least 652 children were killed – a 20 per cencent increase from 2015 – making 2016 the worst year for Syria’s children sinnce the formal verification of child casualties began in 2014.

• 2555 children were killed in or near a school.

• More than 850 children were recruited to fight in the conflict, more than double the number recruited in 2015. Children are being used and recruited to fight directly on the frontlines and are increasingly taking part in combat roles, including in extreme cases as executioners, suicide bombers or prison guards.

• There were at leaast 338 attacks against hospitals and medical personnel .

“The depth of suffering is unprecedented. Millions of children in Syria come under attack on a daily basis, their lives turned upside down,” said the UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Geert Cappelaere, announcing the study Hitting Rock Bottom – How 2016 became the worst year for Syria’s children.

“Each and every child is scarred for life with horrific consequences on their health, well-being and future,” he added.

A seven-year-old child stands in front of her damaged school in Idleb, Syria. October 2016. Credit: UNICEF

A seven-year-old child stands in front of her damaged school in Idleb, Syria. October 2016. Credit: UNICEF


The UN agency also highlighted that challenges accessing several parts of the country obstructed a full assessment of children’s suffering and delivering urgently needed humanitarian assistance.

The most vulnerable among Syria’s children are the 2.8 million in hard-to-reach areas, including 280,000 children living under siege, almost completely cut off from humanitarian aid.

“Beyond the bombs, bullets and explosions, children are dying in silence often from diseases that can otherwise be easily prevented. Access to medical care, lifesaving supplies and other basic services remains difficult,” read the release.

UNICEF also warned that coping mechanisms are eroding both within Syria and across its borders – families are taking extreme measures just to survive, oftten pushing children into early marriage and child labour.

After six years of war, nearly six million children now depend on humanitarian assistance, a twelve-fold increase from 2012. Millions of children have been displaced, some up to seven times.

According to estimates, over 2.3 million children are now living as refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq.

However, there are some “remarkable stories” of children determined to pursue their hopes and aspirations, added the UN agency.

“We continue to witness the courage of Syria’s children,” said Cappelaere. “Many have crossed frontlines just to sit for school exams. They insist on learning, including in underground schools. There is so much more we can and should do to turn the tide for Syria’s children.”

“Beyond the bombs, bullets and explosions, children are dying in silence often from diseases that can otherwise be easily prevented. Access to medical care, lifesaving supplies and other basic services remains difficult.”

UNICEF also warned that coping mechanisms are eroding both within Syria and across its borders – families are taking extreme measures just to survive, oftten pushing children into early marriage and child labour.

After six years of war, nearly six million children now depend on humanitarian assistance, a twelve-fold increase from 2012. Millions of children have been displaced, some up to seven times.

According to estimates, over 2.3 million children are now living as refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq.

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Global Harvests Robust, Yet 37 Countries Need Food Aidhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/global-harvests-robust-yet-37-countries-need-food-aid/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-harvests-robust-yet-37-countries-need-food-aid http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/global-harvests-robust-yet-37-countries-need-food-aid/#comments Tue, 07 Mar 2017 17:07:41 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149300 Young boys head home after fishing for a day in the swamps of Nyal, South Sudan. Credit: FAO

Young boys head home after fishing for a day in the swamps of Nyal, South Sudan. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Mar 7 2017 (IPS)

Global food supply conditions are robust, but access to food has been dramatically reduced in areas suffering from civil conflicts, while drought conditions are worsening food security across swathes of East Africa, according to the United Nations.

In a new edition of its Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) informs that some 37 countries require external assistance for food, 28 of them in Africa as a result of lingering effects of last year’s El Niño-triggered droughts on harvests in 2016.

Yet, while agricultural production is expected to rebound in southern Africa, protracted fighting and unrest is increasing the ranks of the displaced and hungry in other parts of the world, the report adds.

Famine has been formally declared in South Sudan and the food security situation is of grave concern in northern Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen.

“This is an unprecedented situation. Never before have we been faced with four threats of famine in multiple countries simultaneously,” said FAO Assistant Director-General Kostas Stamoulis, head of the Economic and Social Development department.

“It demands swift action which should consist of immediate food assistance but also livelihood support to ensure that such situations are not repeated.”

Millions Facing Famine

The UN specialised body cites several examples.

In South Sudan, 100,000 people were facing famine in Leer and Mayendit Counties, part of former Unity State, while there was an “elevated risk” that similar conditions existed in two nearby counties. Over all, about 4.9 million people across the country were classified as facing crisis, emergency or famine.

That number is projected to increase to 5.5 million, or almost half the country’s population, at the peak of the lean season in July.

In northern Nigeria, 8.1 million people are facing acute food insecurity conditions and require urgent life-saving response and livelihood protection. That comes despite the above-average cereal harvest in 2016 and reflects the disruption caused by conflict as well as the sharp depreciation of the Naira.

Meanwhile in Yemen, FAO reports that 17 million people or two-thirds of the population are estimated to be food insecure, while almost half of them are in need of emergency assistance, with the report noting that “the risk of famine declaration in the country is very high.”

And in Somalia, the combination of conflict, civil insecurity and drought have resulted in more than double the number of people – now estimated at 2.9 million – being severely food insecure from six months ago.

“Drought has curtailed fodder for pastoralists and the third consecutive season of poor rainfall is estimated to have reduced crop production in southern and central regions to 70 per cent below average levels, leaving food stocks depleted.”

Conflicts and civil unrest in Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Myanmar and Syria are also exacerbating food insecurity conditions for millions of people as well affecting nearby countries hosting refugees. In addition, the drought in East Africa in late 2016 has heightened food insecurity in several countries in the sub-region, according to the new report.

Worldwide Trends

Cereal production made quite strong gains in the world overall in 2016, with a record recovery in Central America, and larger cereal crops in Asia, Europe and North America.

Looking ahead, FAO’s first global wheat production forecast for 2017 points to a 1.8 per cent decline from last year’s record level, due mostly to a projected 20 per cent output drop in the United States, where the area sown to winter wheat is the lowest level in over 100 years.

Prospects are favourable for the 2017 maize crop in Brazil and Argentina and the outlook is generally positive for coarse grains throughout the Southern Hemisphere. Prospects for rice are mixed, but it is still too early to make firm predictions for many of the world’s major crops, according to FAO.

Maize harvests in Southern Africa, slashed by El Niño, are forecast to recover this year, with South Africa’s output expected to increase by more than 50 per cent from 2016, with positive trends likely in most nearby countries. However, an outbreak of armyworms, along with localized flooding in Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, could limit larger production gains in 2017.

The 37 countries currently in need of external food assistance are Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

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These Women Cannot Celebrate Their Dayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/these-women-cannot-celebrate-their-day/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=these-women-cannot-celebrate-their-day http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/these-women-cannot-celebrate-their-day/#comments Mon, 27 Feb 2017 14:18:56 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149132 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds that IPS is launching on the occasion of this year's International Women’s Day on March 8.]]> Belinda Mason, Silent Tears “Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation, public health pandemic and serious obstacle to sustainable development.” Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary-General

Belinda Mason, Silent Tears “Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation, public health pandemic and serious obstacle to sustainable development.” Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary-General

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Feb 27 2017 (IPS)

This is a story that one would wish to never have to write—the story of hundreds of millions of life-givers whose production and productivity have systematically been ‘quantified’ in much detailed statistics, but whose abnegation, human suffering and denial of rights are subject to just words.

It is the story of those women who witness their children die while fleeing wars, or are kidnapped to sell their organs, or recruited as child soldiers.

It is the story of those women who fall prey to human traffickers and are sold as sexual slaves. (The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports that women and girls comprise 71 per cent of human trafficking victims.)

And it is the story of those women and girls who become victims of abhorrent violence by their male relatives; whose rights as workers are routinely abused by their employers, and are even killed by their partners. (In some countries, up to 7 in 10 women will be beaten, raped, abused or mutilated in their lifetimes, according to UN Women).

It is the story of millions of young girls who are forced into inhumane early marriage and pregnancy; of those who are subjected to female genital mutilation. (The UN recognises this practice as a human rights violation, torture and an extreme form of violence–Female genital mutilation denies women and girls their dignity and causes needless pain and suffering, with consequences that endure for a lifetime and can even be fatal, reminds the UN Secretary-General António Guterres.)

“We envisage a world where all women and girls have equal opportunities and rights by 2030. Step It Up asks governments to make national commitments that will close the gender equality gap – from laws and policies to national action plans and adequate investment. NOW is the time to Step It Up!” Credit: UN Women.

“We envisage a world where all women and girls have equal opportunities and rights by 2030. Step It Up asks governments to make national commitments that will close the gender equality gap – from laws and policies to national action plans and adequate investment. NOW is the time to Step It Up!” Credit: UN Women.

Africa and the Arab region are among those areas where FGM is commonly practised. (The African Union concludes that it is an excruciatingly painful practice that violates basic human rights).

Its impact on young girls and women is multi-faceted and touches various aspects of their lives, including their physical, psychological and social well-being, with scars lingering on for the rest of their lives.

It is the story of millions of girls who have no access to education, and when they have it, most of them flee school because of the lack of sanitary services. (A study by the UN human rights office (OHCHR) covering the years spanning 2009 to 2014 reports thousands of attacks against schools in at least 70 different countries, many of which were targeted for advocating girls’ education.)

It is the story of nearly two-thirds of world’s inhabitants who suffer from lack of proper access to reproductive and maternity health care services. (The UN Population Fund stresses that universal access to reproductive health affects and is affected by many aspects of life. It involves individuals’ most intimate relationships, including negotiation and decision-making within these relationships, and interactions with health providers regarding contraceptive methods and options.)

Credit: UNODC

Credit: UNODC

It is also the story of very young girls who are abducted by terror groups to brutally satiate their sexual appetites and blackmailing, such as has been the case of Boko Haram in Nigeria.

And it is the story of those indigenous women who care for whatever remains of their lands, which guard 80 per cent of world’s biodiversity, but whose rights and ancestral knowledge are ignored and even disdained.

It is the story of those women farmers who produce up to 80 per cent of food but have no right to own their land, to agricultural inputs, resources or small credits.

And of those millions of domestic workers whose rights were lately acknowledged – though not sufficiently applied.

And it is the story of a flagrant growing inequality. (OXFAM estimates that, at current trend, it will take women 170 years to be paid the same as men are…Let alone the fact that half of world’s health is in the pockets of just eight individuals—all of them men).

This year’s International Women’s Day will be marked on March 8 under the theme “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50by 2030”.

The United Nations says that it will be “a time to reflect on progress made, to consider how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda, building momentum for the effective implementation of the long awaited goals of achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.”

The world body has set some key targets of that 2030 Agenda:

• By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes.

• By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.

• End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.

• Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.

• Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

The United Nations also notes that the world of work is changing, with significant implications for women. “We have globalisation, technological and digital revolution and the opportunities they bring, and on the other hand, the growing informality of labour, unstable livelihoods and incomes, new fiscal and trade policies and environmental impacts—all of which must be addressed in the context of women’s economic empowerment.”

All these words and good wishes sound great.

Yet International Women’s Day will represent, above all, another slap in the face of humankind who is still unable (unwilling?) to duly, effectively honour those who gave them life.

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Aid Arrives for Rohingya After Violencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/aid-arrives-for-rohingya-after-violence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aid-arrives-for-rohingya-after-violence http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/aid-arrives-for-rohingya-after-violence/#comments Fri, 24 Feb 2017 18:06:52 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149100 The Muslim Rogingya minority in Myanmar is being victimized by murders, rapes and the burning of their villages by police and military forces in Myanmar, a United Nations official said. Photo courtesy of European Commission DG/European Union/Flickr

The Muslim Rogingya minority in Myanmar is being victimized by murders, rapes and the burning of their villages by police and military forces in Myanmar, a United Nations official said. Photo courtesy of European Commission DG/European Union/Flickr

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 24 2017 (IPS)

A Malaysian aid convoy has arrived in Myanmar with supplies for ethnic Rakhine civilians and Rohingya Muslims.

The Malaysian government sent hundreds of tons of food and other necessities including clothing and hygiene kits to Myanmar’s Yangon region which were then delivered to Rakhine State’s capital of Sittwe. Military ships also offloaded supplies in neighboring Bangladesh which has seen an influx of Rohingya refugees since violence was reignited in 2016.

Myanmar’s military has been conducting an ongoing offensive in the Northwestern state of Rakhine following attacks on border guard posts in October.

According to a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) , cases of sexual violence, extrajudicial killings, torture and enforced disappearances by military and police forces have emerged since the retaliation. OHCHR said the actions indicated “the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.”

The government of Myanmar has denied the abuse allegations.

Approximately 90,000 people have since fled the area with an estimated 66,000 Rohingya crossing the border into Bangladesh.

In its annual report, Amnesty International said that there has been little improvement since the new government, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, took power in 2015 including ongoing conflict and restricted humanitarian access.

Myanmar’s government reportedly tried to block the Malaysian aid ship, stating that it had not acquired official permission to enter the country. The government later only issued clearance for the port in Yangon, declining Malaysia’s application to deliver aid directly to Sittwe and the surrounding townships. They also required that supplies be delivered to both ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya in the region.

The Malaysian government has been particularly vocal regarding the plight of Rohingya Muslims.

In December, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak called on its Asian neighbors and the international community to address the crisis, stating: “The world cannot sit by and watch genocide taking place… We must defend them [Rohingya] not just because they are of the same faith but they are humans, their lives have value.”

Violence first erupted in 2012 when Rohingya Muslims clashed with the Buddhist majority.

Myanmar’s government disputes the Rohingya people’s status as Burmese citizens and have enacted discriminatory policies including restrictions on movement and exclusion from healthcare, rendering the majority of the group stateless and impoverished.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) previously described the Rohingya community as one of the most “excluded, persecuted, and vulnerable communities in the world.”

Myanmar’s government is currently seeking to investigate the situation in the border state, while the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar is due to present her final report on her recent trip in March.

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Unrest Brings North-East Nigeria Next to Starvationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/unresolved-brinks-north-east-nigeria-to-starvation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unresolved-brinks-north-east-nigeria-to-starvation http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/unresolved-brinks-north-east-nigeria-to-starvation/#comments Fri, 24 Feb 2017 15:23:27 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149091 The military crackdown on Boko Haram has destroyed the economy around Lake Chad. Credit:Kristin Palitza/IPS

The military crackdown on Boko Haram has destroyed the economy around Lake Chad. Credit:Kristin Palitza/IPS

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 24 2017 (IPS)

Years of violence and unrest in North-East Nigeria have left millions of people at risk of starving to death. Both the violent up surging of Boko Haram and the government’s harsh military crackdown have left already historically marginalised communities with next to nothing.

Some towns have already seen all of their children aged less than five years of age die from starvation, according to Toby Lanzer, the UN’s coordinator for the region.

The violence, which began in North-East Nigeria has spilled over into the three other countries bordering Lake Chad: Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

A donor’s conference in Oslo, Norway on Friday raised $672 million dollars for the crisis – well short of the target of $1.5 billion.

IPS spoke to Sultana Begum, Oxfam Advocacy and Policy lead for the Lake Chad Basin crisis, who was in New York ahead of the donor’s conference.

The emphasis on responding militarily to the crisis has left already historically marginalised communities worse off, Begum told IPS.

“It isn’t just Boko Haram. It is the governments and the militaries of the region and the way that they are fighting this war,” she said. “In order to cut off Boko Haram from food and supplies, they have also cut off the lifeline of the civilian population.”

International governments have also been providing military and counter terrorism support in the region, says Begum, but she hopes they will also help support Nigeria to increase the humanitarian response through providing the funding needed to help people affected by the conflict.

“In order to cut off Boko Haram from food and supplies, they have also cut off the lifeline of the civilian population.” -- Sultana Begum, Oxfam

The military has also been funding vigilantes as a way to fight Boko Haram, a strategy which could potentially backfire and do further harm to local communities, according to a new report released Wednesday by the International Crisis Group.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian military has also been leading parts of the humanitarian response, such as running refugee camps, says Begum.

“New areas that the military has retaken, it is very militarized,” she says. “As soon as possible the military needs to hand (the camps) over to the civilian authorities, to humanitarians.”

However the vast majority of displaced people sheltered in the region are living in the homes of relatives, distant acquaintances and even strangers, who have opened their homes.

“These communities have been so incredibly generous some of them have taken 5, 6 families into their own homes,” said Begum.

“They’ve shared the little food that they have and they have very little themselves. They’ve really opened their hearts. Really they’re the heroes of the story, and they haven’t just been helping for 6 months, 5 months, many of them have been hosting these families in their homes for 2 to 3, sometimes 4 years. Some of the host communities hope that people will pay rent but people really can’t afford to pay rent.”

“There are some taking major, major risks to continue fishing.” -- Sultana Begum - Oxfam. Credit: Mustapha Muhammad/IPS.

“There are some taking major, major risks to continue fishing.” — Sultana Begum – Oxfam. Credit: Mustapha Muhammad/IPS.

Begum says that these communities are hosting some eighty percent of the people who are displaced in the region even though they themselves have their own struggles.

“If you look at Maiduguri, for example its an urban area, its an area that is historically been neglected. There are already issues to do with do people not having enough services like access to water, education.”

These host communities ”are really struggling themselves now,” says Begum. “They don’t have that much. There’s an economic crisis in Nigeria on top of everything else that’s going on. You know the price of food is really high. They have very little themselves and they need assistance.”

Sultana also notes that it’s important to recognise that people living on the edge economically may begin to see these groups as an option.

“When research has been done in terms of peoples’ motivations for joining Boko Haram, especially youth and young men in particular, the motivations are often to do with economics,” she said.

“Boko Haram offers them money. They offer them motorbikes. They offer them incentives. They offer them wives. You know these are all things that young men, they want. They need jobs, they need livelihoods and they want to get married and they want to have families and things like that. And those are opportunities they weren’t being offered.”

“So we’re hearing less about the ideological reasons why people are joining Boko Haram and more issues around the financial incentives.”

However in some cases the military crackdown has taken away what little economic opportunities these communities have.

Over the border in Niger, Begum says that emergency measures have destroyed the economy in the Diffa region.

“The two major economies are smoked fish and small pepper production.”

The small pepper “was so lucrative for the region,” people called it ‘red gold’.

“The emergency measures that were bought in banned fishing, banned the selling of fish, basically restricted peoples access to fuel and fertilizer, banned motorbikes, brought in curfews. So what that meant was that people stopped fishing. Most of these fishermen relied on fishing for 89 percent of their income,” she says.

“There are some taking major, major risks to continue fishing.”

“Some people have been killed by Boko Haram (or) they have been picked up by the military and accused of being Boko Haram, put into detention, or have disappeared.”

“The farmers are taking part in illegal trade. They are out trying to get hold of fuel and fertilizer illegally.”

This week the UN warned that North-East Nigeria alongside Yemen and Somalia, are at imminent risk of famine, after South Sudan on Monday became the first country to declare famine since 2012. In North-East Nigeria alone more than 5 million people now face serious food shortages, according to the UN.

In all of these four countries the current food crisis is considered man-made, the result of years of unresolved conflict.

However, despite their roots in conflict, much more than a military response is needed to end these crises.

Update: This article has been updated to include information about the funds raised in Oslo. An earlier headline has also been corrected.

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Still in Limbo, Somaliland Banking on Berberahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/still-in-limbo-somaliland-banking-on-berbera/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=still-in-limbo-somaliland-banking-on-berbera http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/still-in-limbo-somaliland-banking-on-berbera/#comments Fri, 17 Feb 2017 13:10:31 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148992 In the capital people encounter a mishmash of chaotic local market commerce existing alongside diaspora-funded construction including glass-fronted office buildings, Wi-Fi enabled cafes and air-conditioned gyms, all suffused with characteristic Somali energy and dynamism. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

In the capital people encounter a mishmash of chaotic local market commerce existing alongside diaspora-funded construction including glass-fronted office buildings, Wi-Fi enabled cafes and air-conditioned gyms, all suffused with characteristic Somali energy and dynamism. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By James Jeffrey
HARGEISA, Somaliland, Feb 17 2017 (IPS)

Crossing African borders by land can be an intimidating process (it’s proving an increasingly intimidating process nowadays in Europe and the US also, even in airports). But crossing from Ethiopia to Somaliland at the ramshackle border town of Togo-Wuchale is a surreally pleasant experience.

Immigration officials on the Somaliland side leave aside the tough cross-examination routine, greeting you with big smiles and friendly chit chat as they whack an entry stamp on the Somaliland visa in your passport.“If you look at the happiness of Somalilanders and the challenges they are facing, it does not match.” --Khadar Husein, Operational director of the Hargeisa office of Transparency Solutions.

They’re always happy to see a foreigner’s visit providing recognition of their country that technically still doesn’t exist in the eyes of the rest of the political world, despite having proclaimed its independence from Somalia in 1991, following a civil war that killed about 50,000 in the region.

A British protectorate from 1886 until 1960 and unifying with what was then Italian Somaliland to create modern Somalia, Somaliland had got used to going on its own since that 1991 declaration, and today exhibits many of the trappings of a functioning state: its own currency, a functioning bureaucracy, trained police and military, law and order on the streets. Furthermore, since 2003 Somaliland has held a series of democratic elections resulting in orderly transfers of power.

Somaliland’s resolve is most clearly demonstrated in the capital, Hargeisa, formerly war-torn rubble in 1991 at the end of the civil war, its population living in refugee camps in neighbouring Ethiopia. An event that lives on in infamy saw the jets of military dictator Mohammed Siad Barre’s regime take off from the airport and circle back to bomb the city.

But visitors to today’s sun-blasted city of 800,000 people encounter a mishmash of impassioned traditional local markets cheek by jowl with diaspora-funded modern glass-fronted office blocks and malls, Wi-Fi enabled cafes and air-conditioned gyms, all suffused with typical Somali energy and dynamism.

“We are doing all the right things that the West preaches about but we continue to get nothing for it,” says Osman Abdillahi Sahardeed, minister for the Ministry of Information, Culture and National Guidance. “This is a resilient country that depends on each other—we’re not after a hand out but a hand up.”

Non-statehood deprives Somaliland of direct large-scale international support from the likes of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. For these members of the Somaliland Seaman’s Union at Berbera Port’s docks, it means they are not paid the same wages—they earn about $220 a month—as paid to foreign workers due to not belonging to an internationally recognised organisation. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Non-statehood deprives Somaliland of direct large-scale international support from the likes of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. For these members of the Somaliland Seaman’s Union at Berbera Port’s docks, it means they are not paid the same wages—they earn about $220 a month—as paid to foreign workers due to not belonging to an internationally recognised organisation. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Increasing levels of exasperation within Somaliland’s government and among the populace are hardly surprising. Somaliland’s apparent success story against the odds remains highly vulnerable. Its economy is perilously fragile. Non-statehood deprives it of direct large-scale international support and access to the likes of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (I.M.F.).

As a result, the government has a tiny budget of about 250 million dollars, with about 60 percent spent on police and security forces to maintain what the country views as one of its greatest assets and reasons for recognition: continuing peace and stability. Also, it relies heavily on the support of local clan elders—it is hard for any government to prove its legitimacy when essential services need the help of international humanitarian organizations, local NGOs and the private sector.

Indeed, Somaliland survives to a large extent on money sent by its diaspora—estimated to range from $400 million to at least double that annually—and by selling prodigious quantities of livestock to Arab countries.

All the while, poverty remains widespread and swathes of men on streets sipping sweet Somali tea and chewing the stimulating plant khat throughout the day testify to chronic unemployment rates.

“About 70 percent of the population are younger than 30, and they have no future without recognition,” says Jama Musse, a former mathematics professor who left Italy to return to Somaliland to run the Red Sea Cultural Foundation center, which offers cultural and artistic opportunities for Hargeisa’s youth. “The world can’t close its eyes—it should deal with Somaliland.”

Peace and security hold in Somaliland, so effectively that moneychangers can safely stash bundles of cash on the street. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Peace and security hold in Somaliland, so effectively that moneychangers can safely stash bundles of cash on the street. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

For now, Somaliland’s peace holds admirably well.

“If you look at the happiness of Somalilanders and the challenges they are facing it does not match,” says Khadar Husein, operational director of the Hargeisa office of Transparency Solutions, a UK-based consultancy focused on civil society capacity building in Somaliland and Somalia. “They are happy because of their values and religion.”

But others speak of the risks of encroaching Wahhabism, a far more fundamental version of Islam compared to Somaliland’s conservative though relatively moderate religiousness, and a particular concern in a volatile part of the world.

“Young men are a ready-made pool of rudderless youth from which militant extremists with an agenda can recruit,” says Rakiya Omaar, a lawyer and Chair of Horizon Institute, a Somaliland consultancy firm helping communities transition from underdevelopment to stability.

Almost everyone acknowledges the country’s present means of sustainment—heavily reliant on the private sector and diaspora—must diversity. Somaliland needs greater income to develop and survive.

Abdi Muhammad, a veteran of the Somali civil war, makes his feelings clear. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Abdi Muhammad, a veteran of the Somali civil war, makes his feelings clear. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

For many, the key to Somaliland’s much needed economic renaissance lies in tapping into the far stronger economy next door: Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country and its fastest growing economy, according to the I.M.F.

Crucial to achieving this is Berbera, a name conjuring images of tropical quays and fiery sunsets. Once an ancient nexus of maritime trade, Berbera has long been eclipsed by Djibouti’s ports to the north. But Berbera Port is now on the brink of a major expansion that could transform and return it to a regional transportation hub, and also help fund Somaliland’s nation-building dreams.

In May 2016, Dubai-based DP World was awarded the concession to manage and expand Berbera for 30 years, a project valued at about 442 million dollars, including expanding the port and refurbishing the 268-kilometer route from the port to the border with Ethiopia.

Landlocked Ethiopia has long been looking to diversify its access to the sea, an issue of immense strategic anxiety. Currently 90 percent of its trade goes through Djibouti, a tiny country with an expanding network of ports that scoops at least 1 billion dollars in port fees from Ethiopia every year.

Somaliland would like about 30 percent of that trade through Berbera, and Ethiopia is more than happy with that, allocating such a proportion in its latest Growth and Transformation Plan that sets economic policy until 2020.

Ethiopia and Somaliland had already signed a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) covering trade, security, health and education in 2014, before in March 2016 signing a trade agreement on using Berbera Port. And Ethiopia could just be the start.

“It would be a gateway to Africa, not just Ethiopia,” says Sharmarke Jama, a trade and economic adviser for the Somaliland government during negotiations on the port concession. “The multiplying benefits for Somaliland’s economy could be endless.”

Somaliland officials hope increased trade at the port will enable greater self-sufficiency to develop the country, while also chipping away at the international community’s resistance over recognition.

“As our economic interests align with the region and we become more economically integrated, that can only help with recognition,” Sharmarke says.

Perhaps. The political odds are stacked against Somaliland due to concerns that recognizing Somaliland would undermine decades of international efforts to patch up Somalia, and open a Pandora ’s Box of separatist claims in the region and further afield around Africa.

But greater self-sufficiency would undoubtedly result from a resurgent Berbera, and without this crucial infrastructure revival Somaliland’s economic potential will remain untapped, trapping its people in endless cycles of dependence, leaving those idle youth on street corners.

On April 13, 2016, up to 500 migrants died after a boat capsized crossing the Mediterranean. Most media reported that a large portion of those who died were from Somalia. But in Hargeisa following the tragedy, locals noted how many of those who died were more specifically Somalilanders.

“Why are they leaving? Unemployment,” says Abdillahi Duhe, former Foreign Minister of Somaliland and now a consultant in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. “Now is a very important time: we’ve passed the stage of recovery, we have peace—but many hindrances remain.”

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No to Palestinian Peace Envoy: US to UNhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/no-to-palestinian-peace-envoy-us-to-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-to-palestinian-peace-envoy-us-to-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/no-to-palestinian-peace-envoy-us-to-un/#comments Tue, 14 Feb 2017 01:11:01 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148937 The flags of UN observer states the Vatican and Palestine. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak.

The flags of UN observer states the Vatican and Palestine. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 14 2017 (IPS)

The failed appointment of former Palestinian-Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as the UN’s peace envoy to Libya has shown that divisions over Palestine still run deep at the world body.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ pick as his Special Representative in Libya, was quickly vetoed by U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on Friday 10 February.

Haley said on Friday that the United States was “disappointed” to see a letter indicating Fayyad would be appointed for the role.

By Monday Fayyad was no longer under consideration

In Dubai on Monday, Guterres described the turn of events as a “loss for the Libyan peace process,” describing Fayyad as “the right person for the right job at the right moment.”

Guterres also noted the importance of appointment given the ongoing instability in Libya.

“Let’s not forget that Libya is not only relevant in itself, Libya has been a factor of contamination to the peace and stability in a wide area, namely in Africa, in the Sahel, and to bring an end to the conflict in Libya is in everybody’s interest.”

However few if any conflicts have remained on the UN’s agenda as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Indications that the Palestinian question – as it is referred to in UN Security Council meetings – may become a source of tension between the United Nations and the Trump – Republican administration began before Trump had taken office.

On December 22, the United States under then President Barack Obama allowed Security Council Resolution 2334 condemning Israeli settlements to pass by abstaining – the resolution was supported by the 14 other Security Council members, including U.S. allies such as New Zealand, the United Kingdom and France.

The resolution stated that “Israel’s establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, had no legal validity.”

In an apparent break from protocol for a President-elect, Donald Trump appeared to respond to the vote on December 23 with a Tweet stating: “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th.”.

Haley later described the resolution as “a terrible mistake,” in her confirmation hearing for the role of U.S. Ambassador to the UN.

Following the vote Israel passed a law on 6 February retrospectively recognising Jewish Settelements built on confiscated Palestinian land in the occupied territories.

Kofi Annan, Chair of The Elders and former UN Secretary-General, described the law as “highly damaging” to “prospects for peace.”

“Prime Minister Netanyahu should show leadership to overturn this law, paying heed to the objections of Israel’s Attorney General, broad segments of Israeli society, and members of his own Likud Party,” said Annan.

The United States has remained Israel’s closest ally both for strategic reasons as a partner in the Middle East and due to domestic support for Israel. This support comes in part from America’s Jewish population. While the current administration supports Israel, their support for Judaism is less clear, after the White House failed to refer to Jews or Judaism in its statement issued on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Meanwhile support for Israel also comes from groups such as Christians United for Israel who say on their website that they have over 3 million members. The group’s website homepage also includes a pop-up campaign calling to defund the United Nations.

The United States provides 22 percent of the UN budget, making it the largest single member state contributor.

There is yet to be any concrete indication from either Trump or Haley that the U.S. intends to reduce U.S. funding to the UN other than through a leaked draft Executive Order published by some media outlets.

However some Republican lawmakers have been more open in their opposition to the UN’s seeming sympathy towards Palestine, presenting a bill, which has not yet passed, to withhold U.S. funding to the UN until Resolution 2334 has been repealed.

Palestine has been a non-member observer state at the UN since 2012. In a symbolic gesture, the UN began flying the Palestinian flag in September 2015, alongside the Holy See – Vatican – which is also an observer state.

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Human Rights For Rohingya Worsening, Warns Special Rapporteurhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/human-rights-for-rohingya-worsening-warns-special-rapporteur/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=human-rights-for-rohingya-worsening-warns-special-rapporteur http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/human-rights-for-rohingya-worsening-warns-special-rapporteur/#comments Wed, 08 Feb 2017 21:59:12 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148862 Refugees Rohingya from Myanmar. Credit: IPS

Refugees Rohingya from Myanmar. Credit: IPS

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

A UN Special Rapporteur has expressed grave concern over escalating violence and discrimination against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar.

Following a fact-finding mission, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee expressed concern over atrocities committed against the Rohingya, as well as the government’s denial of allegations.

“For the Government to continue being defensive when allegations of serious human rights violations are persistently reported, that is when the Government appears less and less credible,” she said during a press conference.

Lee added that this response is “not only counterproductive but is draining away the hope that had been sweeping the country,”

After half a century of military rule, Myanmar saw its first democratic elections when Aung San Suu Kyi led the National League for Democracy (NLD) to a majority win. However, she faced criticism for failing to protect Myanmar’s minority groups, namely the Muslim Rohingya minority.

Myanmar’s government disputes the Rohingya people’s status as Burmese citizens and have since enacted discriminatory policies including restrictions on movement and exclusion from healthcare, rendering the majority of the group stateless and impoverished.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) previously described the Rohingya community as one of the most “excluded, persecuted, and vulnerable communities in the world.”

Violence once again reignited following attacks on border guard posts in October in Rakhine state, prompting Myanmar’s military to conduct an ongoing offensive.

According to a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), cases of sexual violence, extrajudicial killings, torture and enforced disappearances by military and police forces have emerged since the retaliation.

In one incident, an eyewitness told OCHR that the military beat their grandparents, tied them to a tree and set them on fire. The UN office also found that more than half of the 101 women interviewed experienced rape or other forms of sexual violence, including pregnant women and pre-adolescent girls.

The attacks “seem[ed] to have been widespread as well as systematic, indicating the very likely commission of crimes against humanity,” the report stated.

Approximately 90,000 people fled the area since the attacks with an estimated 66,000 Rohingya crossing the border into Bangladesh.

Lee said the government’s response to her regarding the military attacks was that it had “rightly launched a security response.” Though authorities must respond to such attacks, Lee noted that the response must be in full compliance with the rule of law and human rights.

“I saw with my own eyes the structures that were burnt down in Wa Peik, and it is hard for me to believe that these are consequent to actions taken in a hurry or haphazardly,” she stated.

OHCHR found that hundreds of Rohingya houses, villages and mosques were deliberately burned down with one eyewitness noting that only Buddhist houses in her village were left untouched.

Human Rights Watch estimates at least 1500 buildings were destroyed, further driving Rohingya from their homes.

The government has denied these allegations, telling Lee that it was villagers who had burnt down their own houses in order to lure international actors to help build better houses. Authorities also said that this was part of the Rohingya’s propaganda campaign to smear the country’s security services.

“I find it quite incredible that these desperate people are willing to burn down their houses to be without a home, potentially displaced…just to give the Government a bad name,” Lee said.

“I must remind again that these attacks took place within the context of decades of systematic and institutionalized discrimination against the Rohingya population,” she continued.

Those that do flee face further challenges in host nations. Bangladesh has been one of the primary hosts of displaced Rohingya, but due to population pressure and security concerns, the South Asian country has been pushing back on refugees. According to Amnesty International, Bangladeshi authorities have denied Rohingya refugees asylum and have detained and pushed hundreds back to Myanmar.

The government had also proposed a plan to relocate refugees to an island.

“We cannot just open our doors to people coming in waves,” said Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. In a country of an estimated 160 million people, her government has its own share of issues to take care of.

The crisis has prompted international groups and leaders to call for actions including unfettered humanitarian access to all parts of northern Rakhine state.

Though Myanmar’s government announced the creation of a committee to investigate the situation in the border state, Human Rights Watch also urged the government to invite the UN to assist in an impartial investigation.

“Blocking access and an impartial examination of the situation will not help people who are now at grave risk,” Human Rights Watch’s Asia Director Brad Adams said.

In December, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak also called on Asian neighbors and the international community to address the crisis.

“The world cannot sit by and watch genocide taking place,” Razak said while protesting violence against the Rohingya minority.

““We must defend them [Rohingya] not just because they are of the same faith but they are humans, their lives have values,” he continued.

In addition to accepting assistance from international actors, Lee encouraged the Government of Myanmar to “appeal to all communities…to be more open and understanding of each other, to respect each other instead of scapegoating others for the sake of advancing their own self-interests.”

“I stand ready to assist in the journey towards a more free and democratic Myanmar,” Lee concluded.

The Special Rapporteur is due to present her final report on her trip to the UN Human Rights Council in March.

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Syrian Prison, a “Human Slaughterhouse” – Amnesty Internationalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/syrian-prison-a-human-slaughterhouse-amnesty-international/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=syrian-prison-a-human-slaughterhouse-amnesty-international http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/syrian-prison-a-human-slaughterhouse-amnesty-international/#comments Wed, 08 Feb 2017 12:19:42 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148860 Prison beatings. © Amnesty International / Mohamad Hamdoun

Prison beatings. © Amnesty International / Mohamad Hamdoun

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Feb 8 2017 (IPS)

At Saydnaya Military Prison, “the Syrian authorities have quietly and methodically organised the killing of thousands of people in their custody,” according to a new Amnesty International (AI) report.

The AI report says that “the murder, torture, enforced disappearance and extermination carried out at Saydnaya since 2011 have been perpetrated as part of an attack against the civilian population that has been widespread, as well as systematic, and carried out in furtherance of state policy.”

“We therefore conclude that the Syrian authorities’ violations at Saydnaya amount to crimes against humanity.” Amnesty International urgently called for an independent and impartial investigation into crimes committed at Saydnaya.

Every week, often twice per week, between 20 and 50 people are taken from their cells to be hanged, in the middle of the night, says AI, adding that as many as 13,000 people have been killed in Saydnaya since 2011, in utmost secrecy, between September 2011 and December 2015.

According to this global movement of more than 7 million people campaigning for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all, many other people at Saydnaya have been killed after being repeatedly tortured and systematically deprived of food, water, medicine and medical care.

“The bodies of those who are killed at Saydnaya are taken away by the truckload and buried in mass graves. It is inconceivable that these large-scale and systematic practices have not been authorized at the highest levels of the Syrian government.”

Before they are condemned to death, adds AI, victims face what the Syrian authorities call a “trial” at the Military Field Court. “In reality, this is a one or two-minute procedure in an office, in front of a military officer, where effectively the detainee’s name is logged into a death registry.”

On the day of the execution, which prison guards refer to as “the party”, they collect those who will be executed from their cells in the afternoon, says AI. “The authorities inform the detainees they will be transferred to one of the civilian prisons, which many believe have much better conditions. They are instead brought to a cell in the basement of the building, where they are severely beaten.’

Amnesty International reported that a former prison guard described how detainees are severely beaten throughout the night before being driven to an “execution room”: “The execution room at Saydnaya was expanded after June 2012, so that more people could be executed at once. Nooses line the wall. On entry to the room, the victims are blindfolded, and do not know that they are about to be killed.”

AI reported that they are then asked to place their fingerprints on statements documenting their death. Finally they are taken, still blindfolded, to concrete platforms, and hanged.

“They do not know how or when the execution will be carried out until the nooses are placed around their necks. Detainees held in the building in the floors above the execution room reported that they sometimes heard the sounds of these hangings.”

To this day, “detainees are still being transferred to Saydnaya, and ‘trials’ at the Military Field Court in al-Qaboun continue. There is therefore no reason to believe that executions have stopped,” according to Amnesty International.

Middle East, Scenario of Torture

Like other major human rights organisations, Amnesty International also denounced cases of torture in other Middle East and the so-called “Greater Middle East” countries.

In addition to abuses in the U.S. military base Bagram near Afghanistan capital Kabul, Amnesty International focused on “human rights violations for which the US-led Multinational Force is directly responsible and those which are being committed by Iraqi security.”

In its Mar. 6, 2006 report “Beyond Abu Ghraib: Detention and torture in Iraq”, AI said: “since the invasion in March 2003 tens of thousands of people have been detained by foreign forces without being charged.”

“Many cases of torture and ill-treatment of detainees held in facilities controlled by the Iraqi authorities have been reported,” AI added. “Amnesty International is calling on the Iraqi, US and UK authorities to take urgent, concrete steps to ensure that the fundamental human rights of all detainees in Iraq are respected.”

For his part, Human Rights Watch’ senior legal adviser Clive Baldwin on Jan. 27, 2017 wrote: “Last week, the United Kingdom Supreme Court delivered several key rulings about the application of human rights protections to British military detention overseas and accountability for alleged involvement of British forces in torture in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. The rulings are mixed in terms of ensuring the rule of law and prevention of torture.”

A high number of cases of rights violations and torture have also been denounced by major international human rights organisations in other Middle East states, some of them considered close allies of Western countries.

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Insecurity Fuelling Food Shortages in Lake Chad Basin: UN Coordinatorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/insecurity-fuelling-food-shortages-in-lake-chad-basin-un-coordinator/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=insecurity-fuelling-food-shortages-in-lake-chad-basin-un-coordinator http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/insecurity-fuelling-food-shortages-in-lake-chad-basin-un-coordinator/#comments Mon, 30 Jan 2017 19:30:59 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148730 Toby Lanzer, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel speaks at the International Peace Institute. Credit: L Rowlands / IPS.

Toby Lanzer, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel speaks at the International Peace Institute. Credit: L Rowlands / IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands
Jan 30 2017 (IPS)

Children under five years of age are not surviving due to severe food shortages in some parts of the Lake Chad region, says Toby Lanzer, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel.

“I saw adults sapped of energy who couldn’t stand up, I saw an entire town devoid of two-year olds, three-year olds, four-year olds, and when we asked where are the children – and I get upset when I say this – we were told that they had died, they had starved.”

This was the situation Lanzer saw on a visit to the town of Bama in Northern Nigeria in 2016. He described the visit at a discussion with policy makers, diplomats and journalists at the International Peace Institute – a New York think tank – on Wednesday 25 January.

Communities across the Lake Chad basin have lost the last three planting seasons - Toby Lanzer.

The crisis has left millions of people living on the edge in the Lake Chad basin, due to a combination of abject poverty, climate change and violent extremism, said Lanzer. Four countries – Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria – border Lake Chad, which has shrunk dramatically since the 1960s.

“Around Lake Chad there are now well over 10 million people who I could categorise as desperately in need of … life-saving aid,” he said, including 7.1 million people categorised as “severely food insecure.”

In response to a question from IPS, Lanzer described how ongoing violence in the region has contributed to the food shortages:

“About 85 percent of people across this part of the world depend on the weather and agriculture livestock – it’s an agro-pastoralist community.”

“If your movement is confined you may not plant and communities across the Lake Chad basin have lost the last three planting seasons if you don’t plant than you don’t harvest and if you don’t harvest than you don’t have food,” he said.

“If your cattle or your goats or your livestock isn’t moving cows that don’t walk get sick and they die and then you’ve lost your livelihood,” he added.

Lanzer, whose humanitarian career has seen him work in Sudan, South Sudan, Timor-Leste, and the Central African Republic said that the poverty in the Lake Chad region is some of the worst he has witnessed.

“I don’t think I’ve been to villages before where people don’t have flip-flops, where people don’t have plastic,” he said.

However Lanzer noted that ongoing violence in the region – including due to extremist group Boko Haram – was one of the biggest factors disrupting the lives of people in the region.

Els Debuf, Senior Adviser and Head of Humanitarian Affairs at the International Peace Institute said that although the crisis in the Lake Chad region is one of the most severe it is also one of the most under-reported.

She noted that despite the region’s extreme poverty, communities were also sheltering refugees and internally displaced persons:

“Close to two and half million refugees and internally displaced people – the vast majority of whom are children – are sheltered throughout the region by communities who are themselves among the poorest and most vulnerable in the world,” she said.

The governments of Norway, Nigeria and Germany are planning a pledging conference to raise funds for the crisis in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region on 24 February in Oslo, Norway.

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Pakistani Reporters in the Crosshairshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/pakistani-reporters-in-the-crosshairs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pakistani-reporters-in-the-crosshairs http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/pakistani-reporters-in-the-crosshairs/#comments Mon, 30 Jan 2017 13:32:55 +0000 Ashfaq Yusufzai http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148714 Journalists in Peshawar protest an attack on Dawn News near the Peshawar Press Club in November 2016. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

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

By Ashfaq Yusufzai
PESHAWAR, Jan 30 2017 (IPS)

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas located on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border remain one of the most perilous places in the world to be a reporter, with journalists walking a razor’s edge of violence and censorship.

FATA has been a bastion of Taliban militants since they crossed over to Pakistan and took refuge when their government was toppled in neighbouring Afghanistan by the U.S.-led Coalition forces towards the end of 2001.“Most of the 200 reporters from FATA have migrated outside their districts and do their work from safer places. We are unsafe. There’s no protection at all.” --Muhammad Ghaffar

Militants have used the area as a base to target security forces as well as journalists whom they perceive as pro-government.

Muhammad Anwar, who represents FATA-based Tribal Union of Journalists (TUJ), said that excessive violence, threats and intimidation remain a fact of life.

“There are two options with FATA’s journalists: either to face death or stay silent over what is going on there,” he said.

Hayatullah Khan was the first journalist killed, in June 2006 after being kidnapped in December 2005 in Waziristan. Since then more than 20 journalists have been killed in the seven agencies of FATA, allegedly by Taliban militants who were unhappy over their reporting.

“Taliban militants set on fire a newspaper stall when they saw news highlighting their activities. They also warned the reporters to stay away from coverage of the Taliban’s punishments of local people,” Muhammad Shakoor, a journalist from North Waziristan, told IPS.

Shakoor, who now lives in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), one of Pakistan’s four provinces, recalls how militants’ threats have prompted many journalists to flee to other parts of the country.

The situation in Swat district in KP also turned sour for journalists during the unlawful rule of the Taliban from 2007 to 2009. “Taliban militants intimidated local journalists. At least three of them were killed because they were disliked by the Taliban militants or the Pakistan Army,” Muhammad Rafiq, a local journalist, told IPS.

Reporters fear for their lives and take extreme caution while filing their stories. “We are stuck between militants and the army. We don’t know about the killers of our colleagues who have fallen in the line of their duties,” Rafiq said.

The Taliban may have disappeared as a result of military operations, but they still have the capability to target journalists, he said.

“Most of the 200 reporters from FATA have migrated outside their districts and do their work from safer places. We are unsafe. There’s no protection at all,” Muhammad Ghaffar said.

Ghaffar, who works with an Urdu newspaper in Mohmand Agency, said that it’s not only insurgents. They also face threats from the local political administration who wants them to toe the line.

“It is almost impossible to do independent reporting due to lack of protection. Journalists are surrounded by a host of problems, due to which they have to remain careful,” he said.

Journalists in Pakistan are targeted from “all sides” even as the conditions for media in the country improved slightly.

“Journalists are targeted by extremist groups, militant organisations and state organisations,” says a new report on press freedom by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The report, released early in January, showed that Pakistan had jumped 12 spots to 147 in RSF’s in 2016 World Press Freedom Index, up from 159 in 2015 and 158 in 2014.

Pakistan stands at number two in the international index of the most dangerous places for journalists, who face harassment, kidnappings and assassinations, RSF said. During the last 10 years, more than 100 journalists have been killed in Pakistan, with almost 98 per cent belonging to FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan province.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists has demanded that the government file cases or reopen old investigations into dozens of murdered journalists but there has so far been no action.

Last year, the International Federation of Journalists reported that Pakistan was amongst the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, with 102 journalists and media workers having lost their lives since 2005.

The IFJ’s report said that since 2010 alone, 73 journalists and media workers have been killed — almost one journalist every month. It termed Balochistan province a ‘Cemetery for Journalists’, where 31 journalists were killed since 2007.

“The armed insurgency and sectarian violence account for a number of these killings but many of them raise suspicions of the involvement of the state’s institutions,” it said.

The killers of journalists mostly walk free, as Pakistan has so far recorded only three convictions.

Mar. 16, 2016 marked a rare occasion for journalists in Pakistan to celebrate the third verdict convicting a murderer of journalist when a district court in KP sentenced a man named Aminullah to life imprisonment for the killing of journalist Ayub Khattak on Oct. 11, 2013 for his reporting on the drug trade, in which Aminullah was involved.

In March 2016, senior journalist Hamid Mir was targeted by unknown assailants who inflicted grievous injuries. The attackers were never found.

Mir, who later received the “Most Resilient Journalist” award by International Free Press in Holland in November, said he escaped the assassination attempt but wouldn’t leave Pakistan because people stood behind him. He dedicated his award to the people of Pakistan for showing bravery against militancy and terrorism.

“The award is recognition of my sacrifices for advancement of journalism, which encourages me,” he said.

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Trump, the Banks and the Bombhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/trump-the-banks-and-the-bomb/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-the-banks-and-the-bomb http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/trump-the-banks-and-the-bomb/#comments Sat, 07 Jan 2017 07:59:40 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148435 Nuclear weapon test at Bikini Atoll in 1946. Credit: United States Department of Defense via Wikimedia Commons

Nuclear weapon test at Bikini Atoll in 1946. Credit: United States Department of Defense via Wikimedia Commons

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jan 7 2017 (IPS)

When pro-nuclear disarmament organisations last October cheered the United Nations decision to start in 2017 negotiations on a global treaty banning these weapons, they probably did not expect that shortly after the US would elect Republican businessman Donald Trump as their 45th president. Much less that he would rush to advocate for increasing the US nuclear power.

The United Nations on Oct. 27, 2016 adopted a resolution to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons, putting an end to two decades of paralysis in world nuclear disarmament efforts.

At a meeting of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, which deals with disarmament and international security matters, 123 nations voted in favour of the resolution, 38 against it and 16 abstaining.

The resolution will set up a UN conference beginning in March 2017, which will be open to all member states, to negotiate a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. The negotiations will continue in June and July this year.

The Geneva-based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a civil society coalition active in 100 countries, hailed the adoption of the resolution as a major step forward, marking a “fundamental shift in the way that the world tackles this paramount threat.”

“For seven decades, the UN has warned of the dangers of nuclear weapons, and people globally have campaigned for their abolition. Today the majority of states finally resolved to outlaw these weapons,” said ICAN’s executive director, Beatrice Fihn.

Despite arm-twisting by a number of nuclear-armed states, the resolution was adopted in a landslide. A total of 57 nations were co-sponsors, with Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa taking the lead in drafting the resolution.

European Parliament’s Resolution

The UN vote came just hours after the European Parliament adopted its own resolution on this subject – 415 in favour, 124 against, 74 abstentions– inviting European Union member states to “participate constructively” in the 2017 year’s negotiations, ICAN noted.

Nuclear weapons remain the only weapons of mass destruction not yet outlawed in a comprehensive and universal manner, despite their well-documented catastrophic humanitarian and environmental impacts, the anti-nuke campaign chief warned.

“A treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons would strengthen the global norm against the use and possession of these weapons, closing major loopholes in the existing international legal regime and spurring long-overdue action on disarmament,” said Fihn.

“Today’s [Oct. 27, 2016] vote demonstrates very clearly that a majority of the world’s nations consider the prohibition of nuclear weapons to be necessary, feasible and urgent. They view it as the most viable option for achieving real progress on disarmament.”

Biological weapons, chemical weapons, anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions are all explicitly prohibited under international law. But only partial prohibitions currently exist for nuclear weapons.

ICAN also recalls that nuclear disarmament has been high on the UN agenda since the organisation’s formation in 1945. “Efforts to advance this goal have stalled in recent years, with nuclear-armed nations investing heavily in the modernisation of their nuclear forces.”

Other pro-nuclear disarmament organisations also welcomed the UN resolution. They included PAX, a partnership between IKV (Interchurch Peace Council) and Pax Christi; Soka Gakai International (SGI), a community-based Buddhist organisation that promotes peace, culture and education centered on respect for the dignity of life; and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), just to mention a few.

US Must Greatly Strengthen, Expand Its Nuclear Capability – Trump

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C.  Photo: Gage Skidmore. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Wikipedia

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Gage Skidmore. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Wikipedia

The global ani-nuke movment, however, soon saw its joy being frustrated by the US president-elect Donald Trump, who in a tweet on Dec. 22, 2016, wrote:

Donald J. Trump Verified account ‏@realDonaldTrump : “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.

Trump’s announcement, if materialised, would imply one of the most insourmountable hardles facing the world anti-nuclear movement.

Is Your Bank Funding Nuclear Bombs?

Meanwhile, the international campaign to prevent private banks and financial companies from funding the production and modernisation of nuclear weapons has achieved a further step forward.

“Governments have decided to negotiate a nuclear weapons ban treaty in 2017, and now is the time for banks, pension funds and insurance companies to get ready and end financial relations with companies involved in nuclear weapons,” says Susi Snyder from PAX and author of a the Hall of Fame report.

“Around 400 private banks, pension funds and insurance companies continue to fund –with their clients’ money– the production of nuclear weapons.”

According to this study, 18 banks, controlling over 1.7 trillion Euros, are ready not to collaborate in the funding of atomic weapons, with policies that strictly prohibit any investment of any type in any kind of nuclear weapon-producing company.

These 18 banks are profiled in the Hall of Fame of the Don’t Bank on the Bomb 2016 edition, which was issued on Dec. 7, 2016. These Hall of Fame institutions are based in Australia, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The report also shows there are another 36 financial institutions with policies that specifically name nuclear weapons as a concern, and limit investment in some ways.

“Even though these policies have loopholes, they still demonstrate there is a stigma associated with investments in nuclear weapons. PAX calls on these institutions to strengthen their policies and Don’t Bank on the Bomb offers tailored recommendations for each financial institute in the Runners-Up.”

Investments are not neutral, warns the report. “Financing and investing are active choices, based on a clear assessment of a company and its plans. Institutions imposing limitations on investing in nuclear weapons producers are responding to the growing stigma against these weapons, designed to kill indiscriminately.”

All of the nuclear-armed countries are modernising their nuclear weapon arsenals, and Don’t Bank on the Bomb details how 27 private companies are producing key components to make nuclear weapons as well as the 390 banks, insurance companies and pension funds that still invest in nuclear weapon-producing companies, the report adds.

“As a new treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons is to be negotiated in 2017, states should include a prohibition on financing to provide an added incentive for the financial industry to exclude nuclear weapon associated companies from their investment universe, and raise the economic cost of nuclear weapons deployment, stockpiling and modernisation.”

Some Striking Facts about Nukes

The International Campaign against Nuclear Weapons summarises the most striking facts about this weapon of mass destruction:

Which countries have nuclear weapons and how many?

What are their effects on health and the environment?

Who supports a global ban on nuclear weapons?

What are the most significant events of the nuclear age?

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