Inter Press ServiceArmed Conflicts – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 18 Jan 2019 20:26:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Syria’s Kurds: The new frontline in confronting Iran and Turkeyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/syrias-kurds-new-frontline-confronting-iran-turkey/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=syrias-kurds-new-frontline-confronting-iran-turkey http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/syrias-kurds-new-frontline-confronting-iran-turkey/#respond Thu, 17 Jan 2019 16:37:57 +0000 James M. Dorsey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159693 US President Donald J Trump’s threat to devastate Turkey’s economy if Turkish troops attack Syrian Kurds allied with the United States in the wake of the announced withdrawal of American forces potentially serves his broader goal of letting regional forces fight for common goals like countering Iranian influence in Syria. Mr Trump’s threat coupled with […]

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Fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) line up during military exercises at a training facility in the northeastern Syrian Kurdish town of Derik, June 1, 2017. Photo: AFP

By James M. Dorsey
Jan 17 2019 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

US President Donald J Trump’s threat to devastate Turkey’s economy if Turkish troops attack Syrian Kurds allied with the United States in the wake of the announced withdrawal of American forces potentially serves his broader goal of letting regional forces fight for common goals like countering Iranian influence in Syria.

Mr Trump’s threat coupled with a call on Turkey to create a 26-kilometre buffer zone to protect Turkey from a perceived Kurdish threat was designed to pre-empt a Turkish strike against the People’s Protection Units (YPG) that Ankara asserts is part of the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), a Turkish group that has waged a low-intensity war in predominantly Kurdish south-eastern Turkey for more than three decades.

Like Turkey, the United States and Europe have designated the PKK as a terrorist organisation.

Turkey has been marshalling forces for an attack on the YPG since Mr Trump’s announced withdrawal of US forces. It would be the third offensive against Syrian Kurds in recent years.

In a sign of strained relations with Saudi Arabia, Turkish media with close ties to the government have been reporting long before the October 2 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul that Saudi Arabia is funding the YPG. There is no independent confirmation of the Turkish allegations.

Yeni Safak reported in 2017, days after the Gulf crisis erupted pitting a Saudi-UAE-Egyptian alliance against Qatar, which is supported by Turkey, that US, Saudi, Emirati and Egyptian officials had met with the PKK as well as the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey says is the Syrian political wing of the PKK, to discuss the future of Syrian oil once the Islamic State had been defeated.

Turkey’s semi-official Anadolu Agency reported last May that Saudi and YPG officials had met to discuss cooperation. Saudi Arabia promised to pay Kurdish fighters that joined an Arab-backed force USD 200 a month, Anadolu said. Saudi Arabia allegedly sent aid to the YPG on trucks that travelled through Iraq to enter Syria.

In August last year, Saudi Arabia announced that it had transferred USD 100 million to the United States that was earmarked for agriculture, education, roadworks, rubble removal and water service in areas of north-eastern Syria that are controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces of which the YPG is a significant part.

Saudi Arabia said the payment, announced on the day that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in the kingdom, was intended to fund stabilisation of areas liberated from control by the Islamic State.

Turkish media, however, insisted that the funds would flow to the YPG.

“The delivery of $100 million is considered as the latest move by Saudi Arabia in support of the partnership between the U.S. and YPG. Using the fight against Daesh as a pretext, the U.S. has been cooperating with the YPG in Syria and providing arms support to the group. After Daesh was cleared from the region with the help of the U.S., the YPG tightened its grip on Syrian soil taking advantage of the power vacuum in the war-torn country,” Daily Sabah said referring to the Islamic State by one of its Arabic acronyms.

Saudi Arabia has refrained from including the YPG and the PKK on its extensive list of terrorist organisations even though then foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir described in 2017 the Turkish organisation as a “terror group.”

Mr Trump’s threat this week and his earlier vow to stand by the Kurds despite the troop withdrawal give Saudi Arabia and other Arab states such as the United Arab Emirates and Egypt political cover to support the Kurds as a force against Iran’s presence in Syria.

It also allows the kingdom and the UAE to attempt to thwart Turkish attempts to increase its regional influence. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt have insisted that Turkey must withdraw its troops from Qatar as one of the conditions for the lifting of the 18-month-old diplomatic and economic boycott of the Gulf state.

The UAE, determined to squash any expression of political Islam, has long led the autocratic Arab charge against Turkey because of its opposition to the 2013 military coup in Egypt that toppled Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brother and the country’s first and only democratically elected president, Turkey’s close relations with Iran and Turkish support for Qatar and Islamist forces in Libya.

Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt support General Khalifa Haftar, who commands anti-Islamist forces in eastern Libya while Turkey, Qatar and Sudan support the Islamists.

Libyan and Saudi media reported that authorities had repeatedly intercepted Turkish arms shipments destined for Islamists, including one this month and another last month. Turkey has denied the allegations.

“Simply put, as Qatar has become the go-to financier of the Muslim Brotherhood and its more radical offshoot groups around the globe, Turkey has become their armourer,” said Turkish scholar Michael Rubin.

Ironically, the fact that various Arab states, including the UAE and Bahrain, recently reopened their embassies in Damascus with tacit Saudi approval after having supported forces aligned against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for much of the civil war, like Mr Trump’s threat to devastate the Turkish economy, makes Gulf support for the Kurds more feasible.

Seemingly left in the cold by the US president’s announced withdrawal of American forces, the YPG has sought to forge relations with the Assad regime. In response, Syria has massed troops near the town of Manbij, expected to be the flashpoint of a Turkish offensive.

Commenting on last year’s two-month-long Turkish campaign that removed Kurdish forces from the Syrian town of Afrin and Turkish efforts since to stabilise the region, Gulf scholar Giorgio Cafiero noted that “for the UAE, Afrin represents a frontline in the struggle against Turkish expansionism with respect to the Arab world.”

The same could be said from a Saudi and UAE perspective for Manbij not only with regard to Turkey but also Iran’s presence in Syria. Frontlines and tactics may be shifting, US and Gulf geopolitical goals have not.

Dr James M Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and co-host of the New Books in Middle Eastern Studies podcast. He is the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, and a book with the same title, among several others.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Acts of Terror Will Not Undermine Our Resolvehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/acts-terror-will-not-undermine-resolve/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=acts-terror-will-not-undermine-resolve http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/acts-terror-will-not-undermine-resolve/#comments Wed, 16 Jan 2019 14:29:49 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159666 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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President Kenyatta addresses the Nation on 16 Jan 2019. “I also commend the civilians who looked after one another. For every act of evil that led to injury yesterday, there were a dozen acts of compassion, overflowing patriotism and individual courage,” Credit: KBC

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 16 2019 (IPS)

On 15 January 2019, terror struck Nairobi’s 14 Riverside Drive.

Kenya is in mourning following a senseless act on innocent and defenseless civilians by individuals preoccupied with contemptible and misplaced ideology; who hope to intimidate others through violent acts of terror. Like in their other past attempts, they have failed, and Kenya remains unbowed.

As President Kenyatta has noted in his address; “We will allow no one to derail or frustrate our progress….We have prevailed and shall always prevail over evil. Let us now go to work without fear and continue with our work of building our nation.”

Our thoughts are with all the affected and families who are experiencing the most inconsolable pain and trauma of this heinous act. The UN Country Team in Kenya stands in solidarity with the families who are suffering the most inconsolable pain and will live for a long time with the trauma of this terrible attack.

As the intelligence and security apparatus continue with investigations, our message to Kenyans remains that, we cannot give in to fear or the temptation to define the attack as a war between races or religions. That has always been the narrative that the perpetrators of terror would wish to spread.

Fortunately, they have always been on the losing side of history. The attack on 14 Riverside Drive should not deter Kenya’s resolve, but should further strengthen the country’s determination to overcome adversity and challenges that threaten its social fabric.

We applaud the work of Kenya’s security emergency rescue services and first responders, who mobilised in remarkable timeliness, demonstrated exceptional professionalism and heroism, thereby keeping the number of fatalities to a minimum. We also commend Kenyans for their heroic acts and solidarity for one another during this time.

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in his message “has strongly condemned the terrorist attack in Nairobi and extends his condolences to the families of the victims and wishes those injured a swift recovery. The Secretary-General expresses his solidarity with the people and Government of Kenya(GoK)”.

Terrorism remains a global threat and presents a challenging test for intelligence and law enforcement agencies worldwide. No country is immune. Kenya has done remarkably well in preventing numerous other attacks.

The reality is that a multitude of stresses impact vulnerable populations around the world, leaving many disproportionately susceptible to extremist ideologies — driven by factors such as surging youth unemployment — which terror groups take advantage as a considerable reservoir for recruits. There is a need for concerted efforts to weaken the terror groups’ narrative and win the battle of ideas.

The UN remains steadfast in its support to Kenya’s development agenda, including commendable initiatives by the government based on a long view of the prevention of violent extremism in line with the UN Development Assistance Framework.

Together we can pursue smart, sustainable strategies that augment security with what the UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner describes as the triple nexus, “Achieving the 2030 Agenda and ensuring no one is left behind requires a pro-active, evidence-based and holistic approach to risk, resilience and prevention across humanitarian, development and peace effort.” This approach will be a long-term antidote to terrorism and the key to preventing violent extremism.

Already our partnership is underway with several local initiatives that are bearing fruit. Previously characterized by belligerence based on competition for resources, the border regions of Eastern Africa are slowly changing the narrative, replacing aggression with dialogue and socio-economic transformation.

A stand-out initiative is the Kenya-Ethiopia Cross Border Programme, launched in December 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and the former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia. This initiative is supported by IGAD, the European Union and Japan and implemented by the United Nations family in Kenya and Ethiopia together with local authorities on both sides.

Such initiatives represent determination and hope. They are a declaration that the soul of those on the right side of humanity can never be destroyed or prevented from living freely by terrorists.

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Interview with Brian Hook: We call Iran regime what it is – a ‘kleptocracy’http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/interview-brian-hook-call-iran-regime-kleptocracy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=interview-brian-hook-call-iran-regime-kleptocracy http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/interview-brian-hook-call-iran-regime-kleptocracy/#respond Mon, 14 Jan 2019 20:58:15 +0000 Ehtesham Shahid http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159627 Brian Hook, the US Special Representative for Iran and Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State, was in Abu Dhabi as part of Mike Pompeo’s delegation touring eight nations across Gulf and Middle East. Hook sat down with Al Arabiya English for an exclusive conversation. Here is the entire interview: Al Arabiya English: Let […]

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Brian Hook at the State department in Washington, DC, on August 16, 2018. (AFP)

By Ehtesham Shahid
Jan 14 2019 (Al Arabiya)

Brian Hook, the US Special Representative for Iran and Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State, was in Abu Dhabi as part of Mike Pompeo’s delegation touring eight nations across Gulf and Middle East. Hook sat down with Al Arabiya English for an exclusive conversation. Here is the entire interview:

Al Arabiya English: Let me start with the agenda behind Secretary Pompeo’s visit. I know we are still in the middle of it, but going by what has happened so far, how do you see it going. What are the highlights and what do you hope to achieve?

Brian Hook: We are in the region for a visit to nine countries and the Secretary has now made a number of visits to the region, and it’s always a great pleasure for him to be in Abu Dhabi and to see His Highness, to meet with the foreign minister, and to keep working bilaterally. The ties between the United States and the United Arab Emirates couldn’t be any better, and we’re enjoying such close relations at all levels. The Secretary in Cairo announced that we will be convening a global ministerial on the Middle East in February, that’s going to be hosted by the US and co-hosted by Poland in Warsaw, and there will be countries from every region in the world. It’s a chance to talk about how to promote security and stability in the region and we’re very excited about that meeting.

Al Arabiya English: The Cairo speech set the tone for Secretary Pompeo’s visit to the region. He said that when America retreats it leads to chaos, and the perception that has existed for a while now that there is a retreat happening. Isn’t that a contradiction that he is having to ride out?

Brian Hook: It’s hard to argue that we’ve been retreating after largely defeating ISIS. It is not a distant memory to recall people being beheaded on beaches, and a terrorist army in the very heart of the Middle East and we have liberated almost all of the so-called caliphate. When the President had come into office, he ran on defeating ISIS and made it a priority from the very beginning. We have been enormously successful, and I think people often lose sight of how much we have accomplished. How can you say we are disengaging when the President’s first international trip is to Riyadh? In the meeting in Riyadh, representatives of 55-57 countries attended. His first trip internationally as president was to this region. We have adopted an entirely new strategy when it comes to Iran, one that doesn’t have any historical precedent. We have imposed the largest number of sanctions in one day against Iran in American history.

I can go on, we have a very robust agenda and we’re very happy with our foreign policy accomplishments in less than two years. I can also talk about Syria where our mission has not changed at all. We will continue to crush ISIS, we have demonstrated that we have credibility in that issue. After taking 80-90 percent of territory away from ISIS, we are in a position to say that we will continue to crush ISIS. Our troops are leaving Syria, but that’s going to be done, as the president said, in a very deliberate and prudent manner, and we will take all necessary action to ensure that ISIS is not able to emerge and so, the mission had not changed at all. People should not misinterpret that.

Al Arabiya English: I have been watching a couple of your addresses directed at the Iranian people, and that seems a very unique way of engaging with the Iranian people. Where did the idea come from and how has it gone so far?

Brian Hook: It has been a priority of Secretary Pompeo, from the time he entered office. And then when he asked me to be Iran envoy he made it clear that he wants our standing with the Iranian people to be central to what we’re doing. If I had to categorize our strategy to different categories, it’s around: maximum economic pressure, restoring deterrence against regional aggression, and standing with the Iranian people. And not only the secretary, but the president, the vice president, have consistently talked about how the longest suffering victims of the Iranian regime are the Iranian people. Iranian people know that, they appreciate the fact that the president speaks up for them.

This is a regime that robs their people blind. We’re coming up to the 40th anniversary of the [Iranian] Revolution. It’s been 40 years of broken promises. The Iranian economy, it’s a kleptocracy that benefits the governing elite, and people understand the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime. We call that regime for what it is. And the Iranian people know that they have a friend in Secretary Pompeo.

Al Arabiya English: Is there evidence to suggest that the sanctions have actually weakened the regime? And if that is the case, will that mean more sanctions or will it be as things stand now?

Brian Hook: Yes, our sanctions are weakening the regime. We have denied them billions of dollars of revenue through the loss of oil exports and there will be billions more that they will be losing. When we started our campaign, when the President announced he was leaving the deal, Iran’s oil exports were at 2.7 million barrels a day. You may have seen press reports, Iran’s November exports are below a million. So 2.7 to below a million in about eight months, 80 percent of Iran’s revenue comes from oil exports. So they are facing a liquidity crisis and they are also seeing a collapse in the Riyal. There will be more sanctions to come.

Al Arabiya English: Do you have time frame in mind? How much time it will take for the regime to actually realize that confrontation isn’t the way forward?

Brian Hook: That’s a good question. The Iranian regime today faces a choice: they can either start behaving like a normal country or they can watch their economy crumble. And our sanctions have only been in effect for a couple of months, but even prior to our sanctions being imposed against the regime, not the people, we saw a number of nations leaving the Iranian market. We’ve had over 100 major corporations disinvest from Iran. The SWIFT financial system has disconnected 50 or almost all major Iranian banks.

We have a target of bringing Iran’s oil exports, crude imports to zero. It’s taking its toll on the regime, but this is the price the regime pays for being a revolutionary regime. It’s the last revolutionary regime on earth. It is a force of destabilization in the Middle East and beyond, as in Europe. I would say our coalition to counter Iran has been getting bigger. EU for the first time, a few days ago, imposed sanctions against Iranian regime, for the first time since adoption of Iran nuclear deal. They have conducted bomb plots and assassinations and assassination attempts in Europe, and I think Europe is increasingly frustrated with this regime’s outlaw behavior.

Al Arabiya English: Starting with the visit by President Trump to Riyadh, the Saudi-US relations have gone from strength to strength. Where do you see this partnership going forward, especially in the context of the coalition building that Secretary Pompeo has been doing?

Brian Hook: The Saudi Energy Ministry, specifically Khalid al-Falih, had been very helpful in increasing production as we were taking off over a million barrels of Iranian crude between May and November. When the President announced that he’s leaving the Iran deal in May, oil was at $74. When we re-imposed sanctions, six months later, we took off roughly a million barrels of Iranian crude, and oil went to $72.

We were able to do that through close cooperation with Saudi Arabia and they have helped to ensure that as we take off Iranian crude we have a stable and well supplied oil market. And so, I can only speak about the Iran piece, I don’t speak about the broader global energy issues. But Saudi Arabia has been very helpful, we have called for an urgent end to the fighting in Yemen, but we have also said that Saudi Arabia and the Emirates [UAE] need to defend themselves against the Iranian-backed Houthi attacks.

And the Houthis continue to violate the ceasefire. We have a lot of confidence in UN envoy Martin Griffiths. He’s doing a great job. What has been underreported especially by the US press is the role Iran has played to prolong and deepen the war in Yemen. Iran bears a lot of responsibility for the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen and I think the blame had been misallocated, and it’s important for people to understand that Iran has spent hundreds of millions of dollars organizing training and equipment for the Houthis to fight at a level well beyond what makes any sense for the Houthis.

And as we work toward bringing an end to the fighting and a political solution, we have to keep our eye on Iran. We cannot allow Iran to do in Yemen what it accomplished in Lebanon, we cannot permit them to Lebanonize Yemen on Saudi’s southern border. And we know that Iran will try to become a power broker in Yemen, they have no legitimate interest in Yemen and they need to get out.

This article was first published in Al Arabiya English.

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Preventing a New Euro-Missile Racehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/preventing-new-euro-missile-race/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=preventing-new-euro-missile-race http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/preventing-new-euro-missile-race/#comments Wed, 09 Jan 2019 15:00:15 +0000 Daryl G. Kimball http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159564 Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director, Arms Control Association

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Russia's 9M729 missile reportedly has been tested using a mobile launcher system similar to that used by the 9K720 Iskander-M pictured here on September 18, 2017. Credit: Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

By Daryl G. Kimball
WASHINGTON DC, Jan 9 2019 (IPS)

Next month, it is very likely the Trump administration will take the next step toward fulfilling the president’s threat to “terminate” one of the most far-reaching and most successful nuclear arms reduction agreements: the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which led to the verifiable elimination of 2,692 Soviet and U.S. missiles based in Europe.

The treaty helped bring an end to the Cold War and paved the way for agreements to slash bloated strategic nuclear arsenals and to withdraw thousands of tactical nuclear weapons from forward-deployed areas.

On Dec. 4, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that Russia had fielded a ground-launched missile system, the 9M729, that exceeds the INF Treaty’s 500-kilometer range limit. He also announced that, in 60 days, the administration would “suspend” U.S. obligations under the treaty and formally announce its intention to withdraw in six months unless Russia returns to compliance. Suspension will allow the administration to try to accelerate the development of new missiles currently prohibited by the treaty.

Noncompliance with the treaty is unacceptable and merits a strong response. But Trump’s public declaration that he will terminate the treaty and pursue new U.S. nuclear capabilities will not bring Russia back into compliance with the INF Treaty. Worst of all, blowing up the INF Treaty with no substitute plan in place could open the door to a dangerous new era of unconstrained military competition with Russia.

Without the treaty, already severe tensions will grow as Washington considers deployment of new intermediate-range missiles in Europe and perhaps elsewhere and Russia considers increasing 9M729 deployments and other new systems.

These nuclear-capable weapons, if deployed again, would be able to strike targets deep inside Russia and in western Europe. Their short time-to-target capability increases the risk of miscalculation in a crisis. Any nuclear attack on Russia involving U.S. intermediate-range, nuclear-armed missiles based in Europe could provoke a massive Russian nuclear counterstrike on Europe and on the U.S. homeland.

In delivering the U.S. ultimatum on the treaty, Pompeo expressed “hope” that Russia will “change course” and return to compliance. Hope that Russia will suddenly admit fault and eliminate its 9M729 system is not a serious strategy, and it is not one on which NATO leaders can rely.

Instead, NATO members should insist that the United States and Russia redouble their sporadic INF Treaty discussions, agree to meet in a formal setting, and put forward proposals for how to resolve issues of mutual concern about the treaty.

Unfortunately, U.S. officials have refused thus far to take up Russia’s offer to discuss “any mutually beneficial proposals that take into account the interests and concerns of both parties.” That is a serious mistake. Failure by both sides to take diplomatic engagement more seriously since the 9M729 missile was first tested five years ago has bought us to this point.

Barring an unlikely 11th-hour diplomatic breakthrough, however, the INF Treaty’s days are numbered. Doing nothing is not a viable option. With the treaty possibly disappearing later this year, it is not too soon to consider how to head off a dangerous and costly new missile race in Europe.

One option would be for NATO to declare, as a bloc, that none of them will field any INF Treaty-prohibited missiles or any equivalent new nuclear capabilities in Europe so long as Russia does not field treaty-prohibited systems that can reach NATO territory. This would require Russia to remove those 9M729 missiles that have been deployed in western Russia.

This would also mean forgoing Trump’s plans for a new ground-launched, INF Treaty-prohibited missile. Because the United States and its NATO allies can already deploy air- and sea-launched systems that can threaten key Russian targets, there is no need for such a system. Key allies, including Germany, have already declared their opposition to stationing new intermediate-range missiles in Europe.

In the absence of the INF Treaty, another possible approach would be to negotiate a new agreement that verifiably prohibits ground-launched, intermediate-range ballistic or cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads. As a recent United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research study explains, the sophisticated verification procedures and technologies already in place under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) can be applied with almost no modification to verify the absence of nuclear warheads deployed on shorter-range missiles.

Such an approach would require additional declarations and inspections of any ground-launched INF Treaty-range systems. To be of lasting value, such a framework would require that Moscow and Washington agree to extend New START, which is now scheduled to expire in 2021.

The INF Treaty crisis is a global security problem. Without serious talks and new proposals from Washington and Moscow, other nations will need to step forward with creative and pragmatic solutions that create the conditions necessary to ensure that the world’s two largest nuclear actors meet their legal obligations to end the arms race and reduce nuclear threats.

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Excerpt:

Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director, Arms Control Association

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One Hundred Years of Solitude: Memories and Genocidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/one-hundred-years-solitude-memories-genocide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=one-hundred-years-solitude-memories-genocide http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/one-hundred-years-solitude-memories-genocide/#respond Wed, 09 Jan 2019 07:48:51 +0000 Jan Lundius http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159553 Denis Villeneuve´s film Blade Runner 2049 depicts a future where “bioengineered replicants” are used as slaves and killed if they misbehave. Replicants are manufactured and individualized as if they were real humans. They are even implanted with artificial memories, a measure intended to make them more “mental stable”, able to cope with their wretch existence […]

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By Jan Lundius
STOCKHOLM/ROME, Jan 9 2019 (IPS)

Denis Villeneuve´s film Blade Runner 2049 depicts a future where “bioengineered replicants” are used as slaves and killed if they misbehave. Replicants are manufactured and individualized as if they were real humans. They are even implanted with artificial memories, a measure intended to make them more “mental stable”, able to cope with their wretch existence as slave labourers. Dr. Ana Stelline, a character in the movie, explains how she manufactures memories:

– They all think it’s about more detail. But that’s not how memory works. We recall with our feelings. Anything real should be a mess.

The movie implies that memories often are fictional, created by ourselves, based on our immediate environment and thus influenced by views and manipulations of others. The author Gabriel García Márquez, was like the movie´s Dr. Stelline, a creator of dreams and memories. In all his writing remembering and forgetting are prevalent themes. His most famous novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, portrays a fictitious village called Macondo. In reality a description of García Márquez’s memories of his childhood village it becomes an archetype of all Latin American villages. He retells dreams and stories stored in the minds of Macondo´s inhabitants. García Márquez declared:

– Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers in order to recount it.

One Hundred Years of Solitude shows that memories are not only individual, they are collective as well, shared with an entire community. In 1983, the historian Eric Hobsbawm edited a book called The Invention of Traditions, which described how concepts of ethnicity and nationality create shared identities by endorsing, and even inventing, cultural traits that underscore the uniqueness of certain groups of people. Invented traditions and memories tend to minimize communal crimes committed by flag-waving bigots. They may even serve as a motive for genocide, i.e. “acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.”1

Genocides are generally blamed on fanatic individuals, thus covering up the fact that horrendous crimes of such magnitude cannot be committed without logistic support and massive propaganda from powerful organisations, mostly national governments, which foster xenophobia to strengthen their own power. Such is the case of each and every one of the genocides committed during the past century. Atrocities like German mass killings of Herero and Namaqua in Namibia, 1904-1908 (between 34,000 to 110,000 civilians were slaughtered),2 mass killings of Armenians in Turkey, 1914-1922 (700,000 to 1,800,000 dead, at the same time an estimated 500,000 to 900,000 Greeks and 200,000 to 750,000 Assyrians were killed), Italian mass killings in Libya, 1923-1932 (leaving 80,000 to 125,000 dead), mass killings committed by Croatian Ustaše, 1941-1945 (350,000 to 600,000 dead, while Serbian Chetniks killed 47,000 to 65,000 Croats and Bosnians), Indonesian mass killings, 1965–66 (500,000 to one million dead), Bangladesh mass killings, 1971 (300,000 to 3 million dead), Burundian mass killings, 1972-1983 (80,000 to 210,000 dead), mass killings in East Timor, 1975-1999 (85,000 to 196,000 dead), mass killings in Cambodia, 1975-1979 (14,000 to 3 million dead), mass killings of Somalian Isaaqs, 1988-1991 (50,000 to 200,000 dead), mass killings of Bosnians, 1992-1995 (8,000 to 39,000 dead), Rwandan mass killings, 1994 (500,000 to one million dead), mass killings of Iraqi Kurds, 1986-1989 (50,000 to 200,000 dead), mass killings of Congolese Bambutis, 2002-2003 (60,000 to 70,000 dead).

State sponsored killings were extreme when it comes to crimes committed in the name of National Socialism and Bolshevism (particularily in its Stalinist shape), two political systems based on control and exclusion not only of human beings, but of history and memories as well. Nazi Germany caused the death of 5 to 6 million Jews, 3 million USSR prisoners of war, more than 12 million civilians in occupied territories, and between 130,000 and 500,000 Romani people. Leaders of Stalinist Soviet Union were guilty of the Holdomor, a man-made famine killing between 2 and 7 million Ukrainians and 1,5 million dead in Kazakhstan under similar circumstances, 200,000 deaths during forced migration of Chechens, 110,000 deaths during NKVD operations in Poland and between 100,000 and 300,000 Poles killed in Volhynia and Galicia.

Few Governments like to be reminded of such atrocities. Some are even forgotten by the general public, or furiously denied by populist nationalists. For them massacred people are as worth- and featureless as out-of-order replicants were to their owners in Blade Runner 2049.

The climax of García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude is based on a true event not far from the author´s birthplace. In 1928, Colombian military opened fire on striking plantation workers, killing an unknown number. In the novel, the company’s director summons up a whirlwind washing away not only Macondo, but any recollection of the massacre. In the novel´s final scene we learn that it is a tale based on a manuscript that a mysterious visitor had left with an ancestor of one of the main characters: “Melquíades had not put events in the order of man´s conventional time, but had concentrated a century of daily episodes in such a way they coexisted in one instant.”

A beautiful picture of how our memories work. They erase some episodes, while amplifying others. The novel finishes on a tragic note. The manuscript declares that what is lost, is lost forever. The past century has left us with the weight of millions of dead. They did not learn from history. “Races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.” We will probably experience the same fate. We erect monuments over wars and heroes, but prefer to forget, or minimize, horrendous crimes committed in the name of distorted memories, a falsified history glorifying a past that never existed.

1The UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. http://www.hrweb.org/legal/genocide.html
2These and other figures are based on the lowest and highest estimates found in relevant literature.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

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Renew Nuclear Arms Control, Don’t Destroy Ithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/renew-nuclear-arms-control-dont-destroy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=renew-nuclear-arms-control-dont-destroy http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/renew-nuclear-arms-control-dont-destroy/#respond Wed, 02 Jan 2019 13:09:04 +0000 Andrew Lichterman and John Burroughs http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159455 Andrew Lichterman is Senior Research Analyst for Western States Legal Foundation, based in Oakland, California. John Burroughs is Executive Director of Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, based in New York City.

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A Soviet inspector examines a BGM-109G Tomahawk ground-launched cruise missile prior to its destruction pursuant to INF Treaty, October 18, 1988, at Davis-Monthan US Air Force Base in Arizona. Credit: US Department of Defense

By Andrew Lichterman and John Burroughs
NEW YORK, Jan 2 2019 (IPS)

A hard-earned lesson of the Cold War is that arms control reduces the risk of nuclear war by limiting dangerous deployments and, even more important, by creating channels of communication and understanding. But President Donald Trump and his National Security Advisor John Bolton appear to have forgotten, or never learned, that lesson.

In late October, Trump announced an intent to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo subsequently stated that the US will suspend implementation of the treaty in early February. While US signals have been mixed, initiation of withdrawal at that point or soon thereafter appears likely.

Agreed to in 1987 by the United States and the Soviet Union, the INF Treaty prohibits the two countries from deploying both nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges between 310 and 3420 miles.

The main reason cited for withdrawal is that Russia has tested and deployed ground-launched cruise missiles the treaty prohibits. Russia denies that the missiles violate the treaty and has made its own accusations, foremost that US ballistic missile defense launchers installed in Eastern Europe could be used to house treaty-prohibited cruise missiles.

On December 21, the United States opposed a Russia-sponsored UN General Assembly resolution calling for preservation of the treaty and for the two countries to consult on compliance with its obligations. The Russian representative said that US withdrawal “is the start of a full-fledged arms race.”

The US representative conveyed that the only way to save the treaty is for Russia to stop violating it. On behalf of the European Union, which opposed the resolution as a diversion, an Austrian diplomat said that erosion of the treaty will have critical consequences for Europe and beyond, dialogue between the US and Russia remains essential, and Russia should demonstrate compliance.

A representative of China, which supported the resolution, said the treaty is important for global stability, and cast doubt on prospects for making it multilateral. The General Assembly rejected the resolution by a vote of 46 against to 43 in favor, with 78 abstentions.

The INF Treaty allows either party to withdraw on six-month’s notice “if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests.” The treaty also includes a bilateral mechanism for resolving disputes over compliance. The Trump administration has firmly asserted that Russia has violated the treaty, and NATO states have backed that assertion.

But the administration has not made the case that the missiles in question pose a threat that significantly affects the military balance between Russia and the very large and capable forces of the United States and its NATO allies, much less constitute an “extraordinary” development jeopardizing US “supreme interests.”

On December 14, a Russian official stated that Russia is open to mutual inspections regarding claimed violations.

President Trump has also indicated that withdrawal is premised in part on a buildup of intermediate-range missiles by China, which is not a party to the treaty. Here too no case has been made that these missiles, which are based in China’s national territory, are best answered in kind by US deployment of intermediate-range missiles.

Nor has it been demonstrated that peace and stability in that region or the world will be enhanced by repudiating the treaty rather than seeking more comprehensive arms control measures aimed at braking an emerging multipolar arms race. Further, in either Europe or Asia, US ground-based intermediate-range missiles would have to be deployed in other countries.

This likely would spark opposition from their populations—a factor that three decades ago contributed to the negotiation of the INF Treaty itself.

In sum, the INF Treaty should not be abandoned lightly. It remains a key element of the arms control framework limiting nuclear weapons and arms racing. Often forward deployed and intermingled with other forces, the missiles the treaty prohibits are among the weapons most likely to lead to miscalculation or misadventure in a crisis.

And the danger of crisis miscalculation, of a disastrous misunderstanding of an adversary’s mindset, is real. At the time the INF Treaty was being negotiated, some US strategists viewed their nuclear-armed missiles in Europe as useful for convincing “demonstration” shots to show a commitment to defend Europe with nuclear weapons with less risk of escalation to a catastrophic nuclear war.

A 1987 Washington Post article summarized NATO thinking: “A final advantage of the INF weapons is that NATO planners believe that they could use a single Pershing II or cruise missile, rather than another nuclear weapon, with somewhat less risk of triggering an all-out nuclear war.”

But we now know that Soviet military leaders, strongly influenced by the World War II national trauma of a homeland devastated and millions dead, saw things quite differently. In an article published in Survival only last year, Alexei Arbatov, a Russian arms negotiator and parliamentarian, notes that in 1983 Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov, head of the Soviet General Staff, made clear that the Soviet Union would not allow itself to be taken by surprise, as it had been in 1941. Ogarkov stated, “We will start the offensive if we are obliged to do it, and as soon as we discover the first evidence of the beginning of nuclear attack by NATO.” And in so doing, he said, “We will deliver dozens and, if need be, a hundred nuclear strikes to break through NATO’s deep defense echelon.”

Arbatov recounted this little-known history to support a subtle but critical point about arms control. Even when prospects for arms control progress seem dim, constant efforts to negotiate create channels of communication that are invaluable in a crisis. They also build institutions devoted to understanding not only the capabilities of an adversary but also their intentions, their fundamental interests and their deepest fears.

But a long hiatus in serious arms control efforts and a climate of deepening hostility have eroded the diplomatic and military-to-military contacts between Russia and the United States. And in the triumphalism of the long post-Cold War period, U.S. arms control institutions such as the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency were downgraded or allowed to atrophy.

With tensions growing among nuclear-armed countries in potential flashpoints from Ukraine to the South China Sea, it is long past time to rebuild the capacity of the US government to negotiate intelligently with its nuclear-armed adversaries.

The best course would be to use the dispute over the INF Treaty as a moment to renew, rather than discard, the negotiating frameworks and institutions that played a significant role in avoiding catastrophe during the Cold War.

However, Trump and Bolton have expressed general hostility to any international obligation that might limit US use of force or military capabilities. Both see negotiations as a zero-sum game to be won or lost. Neither seems capable of imagining international agreements that benefit all parties and make the world a safer place.

So Congress must act, to preserve enough of a fragile status quo to leave space for future diplomacy. As former senator Russell Feingold has explained, there is a legitimate question as to whether it is constitutional for a president to withdraw from a Senate-ratified treaty over Congressional opposition.

However, such core foreign policy controversies seldom are finally resolved by the courts. Congress in any case has the practical power to prevent the administration from taking action contrary to the INF Treaty. Most important, it can refuse to fund weapons testing, production, or deployment that would violate the treaty.

Senator Jeff Merkley and six colleagues already have introduced the Prevention of Arms Race Act of 2018 (S.3667). It characterizes withdrawal from the INF Treaty without consultation with Congress as “a serious breach of Congress’s proper constitutional role as a co-equal branch of government,” and erects barriers to spending on missiles that would violate the treaty.

Despite intense antagonism during the Cold War, the US and Russia were able to negotiate agreements like the INF Treaty to address the riskiest elements of their nuclear confrontation. The time to start building a climate for negotiations is now. Waiting for a crisis may be too late.

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Excerpt:

Andrew Lichterman is Senior Research Analyst for Western States Legal Foundation, based in Oakland, California. John Burroughs is Executive Director of Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, based in New York City.

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Of Cockroaches and Humanshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/of-cockroaches-and-humans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=of-cockroaches-and-humans http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/of-cockroaches-and-humans/#respond Wed, 19 Dec 2018 11:47:24 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159365 Rita Levi-Montalcini, the Italian Nobel laureate honoured for her work in neurobiology, once gave a splendid conference with the title “The imperfect brain”. There she explained that man has a brain that is not used completely, while the reverse is true for the cockroach. In the growing fog that envelops the planet and its inhabitants, […]

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By Roberto Savio
ROME, Dec 19 2018 (IPS)

Rita Levi-Montalcini, the Italian Nobel laureate honoured for her work in neurobiology, once gave a splendid conference with the title “The imperfect brain”. There she explained that man has a brain that is not used completely, while the reverse is true for the cockroach.

In the growing fog that envelops the planet and its inhabitants, looking at things from the point of view of a cockroach would probably give us a new perspective. Also because the cockroach survived the atomic bomb in Nagasaki, it is 300 million years old, and it is distributed around the planet in over 4,000 species. All things that give it a great advantage over man.

Roberto Savio

Obviously, both are part of the animal kingdom. But man does things that other animals do not. For example, torture. Man has a level of consciousness and intelligence that no other animal possesses. But he does not, for example, learn from mistakes, which all other animals do.

Today, 70 years after its adoption, we are celebrating the Declaration of Human Rights, but we are recreating all the conditions that led to the Second World War, so much so that we talk about the “New Thirties”.

We have returned to waving the well-known flags of “In the name of God” and “In the name of the nation”, flags under which millions of people died.

We have been questioning ourselves about the climate since the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). Rio de Janeiro gave rise to the Kyoto Protocol for the control of climate change which, despite its good intentions, has had negligible results. Finally, after years of negotiations, we managed to convene the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in Paris in 2015, with the participation of all the world’s countries.

For it to happen, every country was left free to set its own goals for reducing carbon monoxide emissions and responsible for monitoring their application. (Just think what would happen if we left citizens the same rules for their taxes). We now know that the result of the commitments made in Paris is leading to a 3.6°C increase in the planet’s temperature. Since 1992, the work of climate scientists has been to calculate how far the temperature can rise from the days of the Industrial Revolution without causing too much damage.

The consensus is 1.5°C, and that at more than two degrees the consequences of heating become irreversible and escape man’s control. For example, the permafrost of Siberia would melt, releasing a quantity of methane, an element 25 times more harmful than carbon monoxide. And the Paris agreement does not include methane, which is already massively produced by livestock farms, planes, ships and much more.

This month will go down in history as the date on which the international system formally entered into crisis and the revolt of the excluded can no longer be ignored, with Trump as a central protagonist.

Long before the Rio Conference, in 1988, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) had created the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which brought together the climate scientists of 90 countries to present reports on the state of the climate. These reports have progressively identified human activity as responsible for the increase in temperature, obviously with the opposition of the fossil, oil and coal sectors.

But the figures speak clearly. CO2 emissions have continued to increase, even after the Paris Conference. And the latest report of the 2018 “emissions gap report” sounds a brutal alarm: at the current rate, we need to triple efforts to stay within the famous 1.5 degree mark, because we will get there within the next 12 years. Only 57 countries are on the correct path.

Now we have entered into the realm of myth. That of indefinite development, in which science and the market will be the saviours of the planet. The Trump administration has even presented a report to the annual Conference of the Parties (COP) defending fossil fuels, with the support of producer countries (Russia, Saudi Arabia, etc.).

As for science, there is no doubt that it is playing a positive role. But science has become a market variable. If its findings are not used, they count for little. And history shows us that the free market uses them only if they can give immediate profits and do not create conflict with the sources of profit already in use. An easy example is that of the automotive industry.

Without the progressively introduced regulations, we would have cars that are much inferior to those of today if we were to increase their safety and efficiency, and reduce their pollution. And the myth of the efficiency of the free market, which has been left without checks and controls since the fall of the Berlin Wall, has created some winners, but many losers, who wear yellow jackets and bring revolt to Paris.

To keep to the theme, total subsidies to the fossil industries currently amount to 250 billion dollars a year, while those in the renewables sector now stand at 120 billion… and the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission’s science and knowledge service, has calculated that inaction on climate change will cost Europe 240 billion euro a year, with southern Europe as the major victim.

Then the worst that could happen to the climate happened: it became no longer a problem of survival of the planet, but a political confrontation.

Trump withdrew from the Paris agreement for three reasons: i) to undo what his predecessor Barack Obama had done, which is one of Trump’s automatic reflexes; ii) to satisfy the North American fossil world, which runs from unemployed miners to the billionaires of the fossil sector like the Koch brothers, who invested (their declaration) 900 million dollars in the last US presidential elections – a good example of democracy in a country where corporations have the same rights as citizens); and iii) to oppose any international agreement because America must play its role of great power without being harnessed into any multilateral agreement.

And his world echoes him: the new Brazilian foreign minister, Ernesto Araújo, has declared that “climate change has been used to increase the regulatory power of states over the economy, and the power of international institutions over nations and their population, as well as slowing economic growth in democratic capitalist countries, and promoting the growth of China.”

And here, by mechanical logic, the battle against climate change has become a thing of the left (as have peace, solidarity and social justice). It is the thesis by which Trump withdraws from the Paris agreements and has declared that he does not believe the three reports of his administration on climate change, including one of 1,700 pages.

And since he has become a specialist in putting Draculas to administer the various blood banks that for him represent the various administrations inherited from Obama, the administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is opening national parks and protected areas to the exploitation of fossil companies, just like newly-elected Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro declares he wants to open the Amazon to deforestation and the production of soy.

Moreover, this is the common thread that connects us with two other major events of December 2018 – the United Nations conferences in Katowice, Poland (on climate change), and Marrakech, Morocco (on migration). These, along with the revolt of the “yellow jackets” in France, mean that this month will go down in history as the date on which the international system formally entered into crisis and the revolt of the excluded can no longer be ignored, with Trump as a central protagonist.

 

UNFCCC Secretariat | COP24 opening plenary

 

The Marrakech conference was about adopting a document of principles on migration, for coordinated action, with respect for the human rights of migrants. It ended up leaving every state to establish its own policy. It was a non-binding document, which was not even signed.

In Marrakech, the United States revolted, issuing a statement which, among others, stated: “We believe the Compact [Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration] and the process that led to its adoption, including the New York Declaration [for Refugees and Migrants], represent an effort by the United Nations to advance global governance at the expense of the sovereign right of States to manage their immigration systems in accordance with their national laws, policies, and interests.”

This was enough for the quick formation of a coalition of sovereignists, xenophobes and populists who boycotted the agreement. After Austria, here come Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Croatia, Switzerland and Trump’s allies, such as Israel, Australia and Chile. And it is here that migration, like the climate, becomes something that is of the left… and the Belgian government loses the far-right party of Flemish autonomy and is forced to redo its coalition, because it decides to participate in the Marrakech conference. And Germany and Italy pass the buck to their parliaments. All this over a non-binding document of principles!

What is apparently incomprehensible is that a serious debate about migration continues to be avoided. The great phenomena of migration, like that of Syria, were caused by international intervention to change the regime, without even thinking about the aftermath of invading.

Obviously there are those who flee from poverty, and not only from conflicts. But this distinction is becoming increasingly blurred. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), every two seconds one person is expelled from their territory due to conflict and persecution: the result is an unprecedented total of 68.5 million migrants in the world. Of these, 24.5 million are refugees, and more than half are under the age of 18.

The number of authoritarian states has been on the increase over the last 10 years, and those fleeing from them has also been increasing, also for political reasons. But those who flee for ethnic, religious or political reasons are refugees (and not economic migrants, who have no rights). And there are 10 million people (like the Rohingya in Myanmar) who are denied nationality, and do not have access to basic rights, such as education, health and freedom of movement: they do not legally exist.

And now comes a new category that does not exist legally: that of environmental refugees who, according to the European Union number 258 million people, forced to leave their homes for climatic reasons. But this is a whole new and difficult discussion. While it is clear who are the victims of a hurricane or an earthquake, it is more difficult in the case of desertification.

Let’s think about the case of island countries like the Maldives where an increase of just one metre in sea level would be enough for them to disappear physically. You can send an immigrant who comes to another country to escape hunger back to Senegal for example, but where do you send back people who no longer have their country?

One of the laws of physics is that of communicating vessels. Africa will double its population in a few decades. Nigeria alone will grow to 400 million inhabitants. Sixty percent of Africans are under 25, compared with 32 percent for North Americans, and 27 percent for Europeans.

According to the United Nations, Europe will need at least twenty million immigrants to maintain its pension system and its competitiveness. Even Japan, which has always struggled to keep its identity and ethnic and cultural purity intact, is opening its doors without fanfare in the face of the aging of its citizens.

European statistics are public, but ignored. In Italy, immigrants totalling five million out of a population of 60.6 million have produced 130 billion euro, 8.9 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, an amount larger than the GDPs of Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia. And Italy now has seven births against 11 deaths. In the last five years, 570,000 new businesses out of six million have been created by immigrants in Italy, and the complaint of entrepreneurs, especially in agriculture, is that an Italian workforce cannot be found.

At global level, according to William Swing, former director-general of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), although immigrants account for only 3.5 percent of the world’s population, they produce nine percent of the world’s GDP. But this is not what people believe.

According to a survey by the European Union on the myths and reality of immigration, Italians believe that immigrants account for 20 percent of the population while the figure is actually 10 percent. They believe that 50 percent are Muslims while they are really 30 percent, and that 30 percent are Christians while they are 60 percent. They also believe that 30 percent of them are unemployed while the figure is 10 percent, not far from the national average.

These Italian myths are actually shared by the whole of Europe, and with Trump by the United States. Fox News, Trump’s television arm, now refers to immigrants as “invaders”, and Trump wants to erect the most expensive wall in history, after the Great Wall of Chinese, to keep out criminals and drug traffickers.

And here comes the central theme of this article, which is too short to deal with issues that are apparently unrelated to each other in an effective way. Who elected the Trumps, the Salvinis, the Orbans, the Bolsonaros, and who sees peace and the fight against climate change as leftist positions, international cooperation as a plot in favour of the Chinese and immigrants as invaders? Well, the Catalan nations where a far-right party, born from nothing, won 400,000 votes can be very useful for understanding the revolt of the “yellow jackets” in France.

In Andalusia, the arrival of Vox has messed up all the cards. It took votes from the electorate of the right-wing parties, the Popular Party and Ciudadanos. After 23 years of governing the region, the PSOE, the Social Democrats, has lost control. How did it happen? In order of importance, the arguments of the voters were: 1) Vox fights against immigrants, who are an invasion;2) the party fights corruption, which is instead widespread in traditional parties; 3) it wants a strong government, because with the struggle for the independence of Catalonia Spain is becoming dismembered; and 4) why should a Spaniard go hungry, or be evicted for not paying rent, when food and a roof are being given to arriving immigrants? There was a heavy female vote, despite the anti-gay statements and anti-feminist slogans such as WOMEN IN THE HOME.

Now the place where Vox took more votes than any other party is the town of El Ejido, in the province of Almeria, which has become the nursery of Spain. It has a population of 86,000, of whom one-third are foreigners and one in five is Moroccan. These work in the nurseries surrounding the town, in precarious conditions and exploited. Unemployment is lower than the Spanish average. The town has no library, and a total of 600 newspapers a day are sold. It is evident that immigrants, many of them not registered, do a job that Spaniards do not want to do. If one-third of the population was to leave, that would be the end of prosperity. And who employs immigrants, at 41 euro for eight hours of work (35 for those who are not registered)? They are Spanish citizens. The situation is identical for immigrants in the south of Italy, exploited by local farmers who say that they manage to survive with cheap labour. Otherwise, they would have to shut down.

In other words, immigration has become a myth. America first has become Spain First, Italy First, and so on. The mayor of Almeria sums the situation up: Vox is the voice of anger.

How was this anger reached? It was not born today, but has been created over three decades. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the threat of communism has disappeared, social concerns have fallen, and the market has replaced man as the central element of society. Spending that is not immediately productive (health, education, assistance for the elderly) has been progressively decreased. The rich, because they are productive, receive a progressive reduction in taxation, unlike the poor.

Globalisation has led the rich to become richer, and the poor poorer; it has delocalised businesses and reduced the purchasing power of the middle class, while finance has grown in a world of its own, free from business. The class of craftsmen/women and small traders is disappearing, if it has not already disappeared, devoured by the likes of IKEA and supermarkets.

Cities become increasingly important, and the countryside increasingly empty and poor. A farmer’s product is sold to intermediaries for one-quarter of the final price. Where voters once identified themselves with a factory, with a trade union, with a community of peers, today they are atomised in a vacuum without incentives. And because, after the end of the Soviet Union, the new ethics is to become as rich as possible (today 80 people possess the same wealth as 2.3 million people) and the value of individual competition is increasing the frustration of the losers. Finally, the financial crisis of 2008.

The arrival of the Fourth Industrial Revolution with technological development, which is eliminating technology that has not been updated from the market, creates a situation of fear and insecurity; the losers no longer feel represented in politics, which seen at the service of the elites and in the hands of a self-referential, corrupt political class, which is directed to satisfying above all the world of the city, the elites, the system. Institutions are perceived as serving the system, and the same fate awaits international institutions, the European Union and the United Nations. Anti-politics is born, and the wave is ridden by parties born largely after the 2008 financial crisis. The struggle of anti-politics against politics becomes stronger than the division between right and left.

This struggle leads, for example, to Brexit, where cities vote to remain in the European Union and the countryside to leave, something that was repeated recently in the Polish elections. It is the same policy of fear and redemption of the losers that led to the power of Trump, who lost in the cities, in the rich states, and won among the poor, in the rural world, in the world of closed factories and abandoned mines, among voters motivated by rancour, anger and fear.

In all small cities, the phenomenon is the same. An investigation in Montauban, one of the most active towns in the “yellow jackets” revolt with less than 60,000 inhabitants, found that there were 27 butchers before the arrival of Carrefour. There are four left. The same happened with greengrocers, with many clothing stores and craft workshops after the arrival of supermarkets. In all, around 900 shops had closed down. Respected citizens considered middle-class suddenly found themselves marginalised and ignored.

Through television, they basically see programmes from cities and a world that is changing in which they have no future. Is it any wonder that this turns into resentment towards the system and those who belong to it? Le Monde has published a table on salaries, which shows that those in a higher intellectual profession earn an average of 2,732 euro a month, which falls to 1,672 for farmers, artisans and traders, but plunges to 1,203 for those in precarious activities. And the “yellow jackets” revolt was triggered by a 10 euro cent increase in the tax on diesel fuel. One of the demonstrators’ slogans was: ‘Macron fears the end of the world, we fear the end of the month’.

Now, to remain in France, Macron has failed to understand that for the losers rational analysis of efficiency increases their estrangement. Life is above all a human fact, and no one is concerned with this aspect any longer. Schumpeter’s model – that the efficiency of the market creates a process of economy that grows thanks to the market’s capacity for creative destruction – is for the losers proof that the system is made only for the winners, and that neither they nor their children will ever have the ability to escape the situation in which they have come to find themselves through no fault of their own.

The ‘Yellow Jackets’ movement has been very successful, because many categories feel ignored. When frustration increases with the passing of the years, of governments, and is reduced only to an economic problem of subsidies, the passage to violence, from dignity that is awakened, is unstoppable. And those who present themselves as “the man of providence”, capable of listening and understanding, opening fights against corruption, for the restoration of law, for traditional society, for the world in which everything went well – from the old independent Britain to the great factories and steel mills of the United States – will have unshakable support.

In reality, there was once a social contract, also regulated by intermediary forces such as trade unions, by a sense of hope and collective identity, such as being a worker or a railwayman. This sense of community has disappeared, almost all places of aggregation have disappeared, such as clubs or dance halls, replaced today by the halls of supermarkets and discos, to which only young people have access.

It would also be necessary to open a chapter on the impact of technology, with internet and social media, which instead of leading to greater communication, have led to a self-referential and narcissistic world, where each one organises their own virtual world, escapes from real society, creating aggregations among peers and no longer dialogue with others. Another instrument that is felt as exclusion for generational reasons.

Even though the revolt of the ‘Yellow Jackets’ was made possible by Facebook, which brought together hundreds of thousands of people aggregated against the common enemy: the system, which ignored and marginalised them. However, it should be clear that robotisation and artificial intelligence will put more people on the margins of society than immigration ever will, with new priests of the system, technicians who will manage the world of artificial intelligence.

It is thus now clear that without social justice, we will not go far. Macron who lifts taxes from the rich to attract investments to France lives in a world that is different from that of most of its citizens. And above all, in a world of numbers and Excel tables. A world in which “men of providence” will lead us inexorably towards a war.

Exploiting fear and injustice works politically for obtaining votes. The battles of the losers of globalisation have been opened by social movements, by the World Social Forum. But who uses them is not the left, which with Tony Blair’s ‘third way’ thought it could ride the wave of globalisation, when it only managed to lose its base: the battle of the losers is used by right that is not ideological but of the gut.

Creating a new social pact as existed before the fall of the Berlin Wall is not easy. Money – which is no longer there – is necessary. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) tells us that world debt exceeds 182 trillion dollars. In just one year, it has increased by 18 trillion dollars. Since the 2007 crisis, it has increased by 60 percent. We are all living on credit, and Macron, who now would like to use social justice to restore peace, has no funds to do so.

Moreover, as always in a world that has lost its compass, the money would be there. Every year, countries’ tax authorities collect 150 billion dollars less than they could because of tax havens that could easily be outlawed in a very short time. It is always the same: if we could introduce social justice as the first objective, it would be easy, even on a global scale.

The United States, for example, spent the absurd sum of 5.9 trillion dollars in military operations and armaments after the attack on the Twin Towers. In 2017, 1.719 billion dollars were spent on armaments worldwide, a figure never before reached in history. And if military expenses could be considered necessary by some, I do not see who defends the spending for corruption: in the last year, according to the United Nations, this amounted to one trillion dollars, and the money stolen in governments another 2.6 trillion. Another proof of the efficiency of the free market!

And now let’s go back to our cockroach. According to scientists, we are heading towards the sixth crisis of extinction of the animal and plant kingdom. Extinction is a natural phenomenon, affecting one to five species each year. But scientists estimate that the current rate is at least a thousand times higher, with dozens of species every day. It is believed that by the middle of the century at least 30 percent of existing species will have disappeared.

Obviously, the cockroach is not one of these. It is estimated that a building in New York has at least 36,000 cockroaches.

But men have come to the conclusion that it is necessary to find a way to give animal proteins in a different, more sustainable way, and that the path to follow is to eat insects. There are cultural resistances (not in China and other countries), but they can be overcome with an appealing presentation …

And our cockroach can only desire that the bunglers of the animal kingdom, called men, get out of the way as soon as possible. The entire animal and plant kingdoms, and probably also the mineral one, are asking for this.

Certainly, without man, in the space of twenty years the planet would become ideal for nature…

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“No One Listened to Us!” The Ixiles of Guatemalahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/no-one-listened-us-ixiles-guatemala/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-one-listened-us-ixiles-guatemala http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/no-one-listened-us-ixiles-guatemala/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 13:32:06 +0000 Jan Lundius http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159268 According to the Mexican Interior Ministry more than 7,000 Central American migrants have during the last month arrived at the US-Mexico border. Despite warnings by officials that they will face arrests, prosecution and deportation if they enter US territory, migrants state they intend to do so anyway, since they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence. […]

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By Jan Lundius
Stockholm/Rome, Dec 17 2018 (IPS)

According to the Mexican Interior Ministry more than 7,000 Central American migrants have during the last month arrived at the US-Mexico border. Despite warnings by officials that they will face arrests, prosecution and deportation if they enter US territory, migrants state they intend to do so anyway, since they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence. This is not new, in 1995 I visited Ixil and Ixcan, two Guatemalan areas mainly inhabited by Ixiles. My task was to analyse the impact of a regional development programme aimed at supporting post-conflict indigenous communities. United Nations has estimated that between 1960 and 1996 more than 245,000 people (mostly civilians) had been killed, or “disappeared” during Guatemalan internal conflicts, the vast majority of the killings were attributed to the army, or paramilitary groups.

A rainy day I visited a camp for returnees. After living in Mexico, Ixiles were awaiting land distribution. Behind wire and monitored by soldiers, they huddled among their meagre belongings, sheltered by plastic sheets stretched across wooden poles. They expressed their hopes for the future. They wanted to be listened to, allowed to build up their villages, gain respect and become accepted as coequal citizens in their own country. While asked what they wanted most of all, several returnees answered: “We need a priest and a church.” I wondered if they were so religious. “No, no,” they answered. “We need to rebuild our lives, finding our place in the world, be with our ancestors. The priest will make us believe in ourselves and trust in God. That will give us strength. We need a church so we can build our village around it. We all need a centre and every village needs one as well.”

Ixil tradition emphasizes the importance of land and ancestry. A few days before my visit to the camp I had interviewed an aj’kin, a Maya priest. Aj means “master of” and kin “day”. Aj´kines perform rituals and keep track of the time – the past, the present and the future. Like many old Ixiles the aj´kin did not speak any Spanish and the Ixil engineer who accompanied me translated his words. The engineer suggested that I would ask the aj´kin to “sing his family”. The old man then delivered a long, monotonous chant, listing his ancestors all the way back to pre-colonial days. When I asked him what the singing was about the aj´kin explained: “The world belongs to those who were here before us. We only take care of it, until we become one of them. All the ancestors want from us is that we don´t abandon them, making them know that we remember them. Memory and speech is the thread that keeps the Universe together.”

In the camp, Ixiles told me they had been ignored for hundreds of years and that this was the main reason for the violent conflict. Uniformed men had arrived in their villages and first, people had assumed they were government soldiers, becoming enthused when the strangers declared that it was time for Ixiles to have their voices heard, their wishes fulfilled. However, the “liberators” could not keep their promises. They did not represent the Government, they were guerilleros, proclaiming they had “freed” the peasants, when all they had done was to “speak a lot” and create “revolutionary committees”, only to retreat as soon as the Government troops arrived. These were much stronger and more ruthless than the guerilleros and stated that Ixiles had become “communists”. They murdered and tortured them, burned their fields. What could they do? They asked their Catholic priests for help, but the Government accused the Church of manipulating them through its ”liberation theology”; by preaching that Jesus had been on the side of the poor. The soldiers even killed priests. One woman told me that she and her neighbours one morning had found the parish priest’s severed head laying on the church steps. Some peasants joined the guerrilla, others organized militias to keep it at a safe distance:

    “Some of the guerilleros were our own sons and daughters, but what could we do? As soon as guerrilleros appeared and preached their socialism, the army arrived, killing us. The guerrilleros were not strong enough to fight the soldiers. We were left to be slaughtered. The only solution we could find was to arm ourselves and with weapons in hand ask the guerrilleros to stay away from our villages. However, all over the world they declared that we were supporting a corrupt and oppressive regime. We found ourselves between two fires, solutions were almost non-existent. No one listened to us”

A Catholic priest living in the camp explained: “They tend to be very religious, but their faith is mostly about human dignity. Ixiles want to be masters of their lives. They need to be listened to. Every day I sit for hours listening to confessions. They talk and talk. It makes them content when someone is listening to them. This is one of the problems we Catholics face. Ixiles are abandoning our faith for the one of the evangelicals.”

For centuries the Church had told Ixiles what to do, but finally both Catholics and peasants had been persecuted. In 1982, under the presidency of Ríos Montt, violence reached its peak. A scorch earth campaign lasting for five months resulted in the deaths of approximately 10,000 indigenous Guatemalans, while 100,000 rural villagers were forced to flee their homes, most of them over the border, into Mexico. Ríos Montt was a “born-again Christian” and in the aftermath of the violence evangelical sectarians appeared in the Ixil areas. Many of the remaining Ixiles became evangelicals, stating this was their only way to avoid persecution and come in contact with the “High Command” of the unconstrained army forces.

The loudspeakers of evangelical churches amplified their voices, allowing Ixiles to confess their sins and praise the Lord. However, were their voices finally heard? Their well-being improved? Do they have a say in the governing of their country? Many Ixiles are once again leaving their homes, hoping to reach the US. Research indicates a difference between migration patterns of El Salvador and Honduras and Guatemala. In the former two countries migration decision is more often the result of immediate threats to safety, while in Guatemala it stems from chronic stressors; a mix of general violence, poverty, and rights violations, especially among indigenous people.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

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Q&A: Conflict in Africa makes Migration Compact Uselesshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-conflict-africa-makes-migration-compact-useless/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-conflict-africa-makes-migration-compact-useless http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-conflict-africa-makes-migration-compact-useless/#respond Wed, 12 Dec 2018 21:33:08 +0000 Danielle Engolo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159215 IPS Correspondent Danielle Engolo interviews EVANS TEKENGE MANUIKA, head of All for the Integration of Migrants in Morocco (ATIMA)

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The Global Compact for Migration will be useless as long as there are still areas of conflict in Africa. Credit: Jared Ferrie/IPS

By Danielle Engolo
MARRAKECH, Morocco, Dec 12 2018 (IPS)

The recently adopted Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration continues to generate enormous debate as to its pros and cons. Evans Tekenge Manuika, head of Association des Travailleurs Immigrés au Maroc, who spoke to IPS at the  conference, warned that the Compact will remain a dead letter without peace in Africa.

Inter Press Service (IPS): As an association working with migrants, what do you think of the recently adopted Global Compact on Migration?

Evans Tekenge Manuika (ETM): The Global Compact for Migration will be useless as long as there are still areas of conflict in Africa. We came here as part of civil society to take concrete action instead of just talking. We talked a lot. It is high time to make migration safe, orderly and regular. We have brought ideas for the great powers to campaign for peace in conflict zones in Africa. We must also give hope to the people, acting upstream at the level of the countries of departure.

IPS: How should the Compact be implemented?

ETM: We ask the United Nations to take concrete action, instead of just denouncing. We must campaign for peace in areas where there is conflict of interest between great powers. We must promote development and think also about the future of Africa’s youth. What we also ask for as a solution to the question of migration, is to act at the level of the countries of origin and departure and not at the countries of arrival.

If we address the issue of migration at the host country level, it will be a waste of time. It must be treated at the source. If in the country of departure there are still wars, there will always be people who will immigrate. African youth is sacrificed; their future is unclear—that’s why people keep immigrating.

IPS: Do you think that African States, that are generally criticised for not respecting their national legislation, will be able to respect the provisions of the Compact?

ETM: It is true that Africa’s Heads of State are often criticised in that regard, but let’s try to give them a chance this time with this compact and sit at the same table to find adequate solutions for migration. Let us give them the opportunity to make efforts for the implementation of the provisions of this Compact, so as to better manage migration on our continent. So, wait and see to judge.

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Excerpt:

IPS Correspondent Danielle Engolo interviews EVANS TEKENGE MANUIKA, head of All for the Integration of Migrants in Morocco (ATIMA)

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70 Years since the Universal Declaration on Human Rights – Hope Against Hopehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/70-years-since-universal-declaration-human-rights-hope-hope/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=70-years-since-universal-declaration-human-rights-hope-hope http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/70-years-since-universal-declaration-human-rights-hope-hope/#comments Mon, 10 Dec 2018 09:41:01 +0000 Prince Al Hassan bin Talal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159109 “Save the Children estimates that 84,701 children under five have died in Yemen from untreated cases of severe acute malnutrition between April 2015 and October 2018.” “The grim analysis of United Nations data comes as intense fighting has again erupted in Yemen’s strategic port city of Hodeidah.” Meanwhile, the UN considers Yemen the world’s biggest […]

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By HRH Prince Al Hassan bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
GENEVA, Dec 10 2018 (IPS)

“Save the Children estimates that 84,701 children under five have died in Yemen from untreated cases of severe acute malnutrition between April 2015 and October 2018.”

“The grim analysis of United Nations data comes as intense fighting has again erupted in Yemen’s strategic port city of Hodeidah.”

Meanwhile, the UN considers Yemen the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis and warns that without an end to the fighting, the country, in which more than half the population is already at risk of famine, faces the worst famine in decades.

Such have been the headlines day after day since the start of the war in Yemen in 2015. The tragedy is that statistics, coupled with the sensationalism of news, swiftly lose their impact. We become inured to the human catastrophe unfolding before our eyes as we turn the pages of our newspapers or flick channels on our television sets in search of something less distressing (OR less demanding).

This year sees the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, proclaimed in Paris by the United Nations General Assembly on the 10th December 1948. Following the unmitigated horrors of the Second World War, it was a milestone in the history of human rights. Yet, seventy years on, the river of human history continues to be poisoned by injustice, starvation, displacement, fear, instability, uncertainties and politicised sectarian and ethnic divisions.

Today it seems we are moving further away from the concept of Universal rights, in favour of my rights, even if at the expense of yours (although the other may be you yourself), with a callous disregard for the Declaration’s two key ethical considerations: a commitment to the inherent dignity of every human being and a commitment to non-discrimination.

The schisms in the world today have become so numerous, the inequities so stark, that a universal respect for human dignity is something that must be brought back to the consciousness of the international community.

Recognition of religion and individual cultural identities are a crucial part of the mix. Unlike citizenship – the legal membership of a sovereign state or nation, identity encompasses the totality of how one construes oneself, including those dimensions that express continuity with past ancestry and future aspirations, and implies affinity with certain groups and the recognition of common ties. In brief, it demands the recognition of the totality of the self, of one’s human dignity, irrespective of background, ethnicity or financial clout. A call to be empowered to fulfil one’s potential, without kowtowing to a social construct or relinquishing any part of one’s heritage.

We need to be proactive in addressing the growing global hunger for human dignity for it goes to the very heart of human identity and the polarity / plurality divide, and without it, all the protections of the various legal human rights mechanisms become meaningless.

We have gone from a world of symmetries and political and military blocs, to a situation of fearful asymmetries and violent, armed non-state actors.

The polarity of hatred among people is corrosive, not only in the Mashreq/Levant, but across the globe. The retrenchment into smaller and smaller identities is one of the most striking paradoxes of globalisation. Binary fallacies lead nations to dead ends; to zero sum games.

Cross border themes of today, water, energy and human dignity, must be discussed at a regional level, as a creative common, rather than country by country. The neglect of these themes has meant that the West Asia area has become a breeding ground for rogue and extremist actors. The complex dynamics among the three greatest forces shaping our planet – man, nature, technology – require a whole new outlook. Yet there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

In drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, its proponents [OR the drafting committee] sought to underpin a shared ideal, a common standard for all peoples and all nations, a code of conduct of rights and responsibilities if you will.

I should like to pay tribute to my late mother-in-law, the Begum Shaista Ikramullah. When she, the first Muslim Indian (as she then was) woman to gain a PhD from the University of London, working in 1948 with Eleanor Roosevelt on the Declaration of Human Rights and Convention Against Genocide, declared:

It is imperative that there be an accepted code of civilized behaviour.

Adding later:

The ideas emphasized in the [Declaration] are far from being realized, but there is a goal which those who believe in the freedom of the human spirit can try to reach.

To date we have fallen far short. Nonetheless the UDHR, not only provided the first step towards the creation of the International Bill of Human Rights (completed 1966, came into effect 1976), but gave rise to numerous conventions and international agreements which should give us cause for hope. I would like to mention but a few.

Of personal interest is the 1948 Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide which was worked on and signed by the late Begum Ikramullah. She strongly supported the work of Professor Raphael Lemkin who lost 24 members of his family in the Holocaust. Raphael Lemkin defined genocide as “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves“.

Some years later, the Helsinki Final Act (1975) “provided a basis for creating conditions favourable to peace in Europe and made human rights a common value to be respected by all nations in a world which was divided into East and West camps in that period”. It gave rise to the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, a non-governmental organisation of people in Europe, dedicated to the promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms, peace, democracy and pluralism and to our own Middle East Citizens’ Assembly.

More recently I had the honour to serve on the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, whose fundamental purpose was to empower those living in poverty through increased protections and rights – thereby addressing simultaneously, exclusion, loss of dignity, and the link between poverty and lack of access to the law.

The basic premise of its report (published in 2008) was that the law should work for everyone, and included as a key underpinning, state/governmental investment in the conditions of labour.

Despite these positive steps, the three main challenges identified by the Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues (ICIHI): man against man, man against nature and man-made disasters, summarised in the title of our report: Winning the Human Race? continue to prevail (OR there is much much more to be done.)

In a world where nearly one person is forcibly displaced every two seconds as a result of conflict or persecution, and where 85% of the worlds’ displaced are being hosted by developing countries, ill-equipped to do so, of which Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, Jordan and Lebanon are in the forefront and in which 15% of all mankind live in areas somewhat euphemistically described as ‘fragile states’, the moral lobby that is still strong across the world must act in cohesion. Together we must ensure that equal citizenship rights and human dignity are at the forefront of all development efforts. Further that the shift towards viewing human dignity as an individual, and not collective attribute, is realised.

This means placing human welfare firmly and definitively, at the centre of national and international policy-making.

We continue to hear of a security order or an economic order, neither of which have succeeded in creating a Universal order from which all of humanity benefits. In the face of this disharmonious logic, it is time for an humanitarian order based on the moral and ethical participation of the peoples of the world, as well as an intimate understanding of human nature.

We have, in the reports mentioned above and in other projects, a well-honed tool box of critical issues and agendas which should form the multi-stakeholder platform of our commitment to the universal ideals we all cherish. As with the UDHR, these reports are a clarion call to action – it is up to us to ensure they also represent a continuation of imaginative thinking for a universally beneficial creative process.

It is time to take off the blinkers of thinking only of ourselves – of our tribe and of our nation against all others – and consider how much can be achieved by drawing on the whole pool of our talents and resources to address common concerns on the basis of our shared humanity. We need an inclusive approach to meeting challenges, one that accounts for both the natural and the human environment. Only thus can we attain the desired organic unity between man and nature and the ethics of universal responsibility. This may sound idealistic; it is, but whether we are talking about water scarcity, food security, poverty, education, the ability for everyone to fulfil their potential, we need to focus on human dignity both in its ontological dimension by virtue of our very humanity and in its operative dimension as enhanced by our self-accomplishment.

We were not put on this earth to go forth and multiply, desecrate and destroy, but to bring life as well as hope for future generations.

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Why Bother about World War Ihttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/bother-world-war/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bother-world-war http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/bother-world-war/#comments Wed, 05 Dec 2018 06:59:20 +0000 Jan Lundius http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159033 Why do we still need to be concerned about a war that ended a hundred years ago? Sure, it caused the death of at least 37 million people, but why bother about that now? Anyhow France´s president Emmanuel Macron believed it was worthwhile to commemorate the end of World War I and seventy world leaders […]

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By Jan Lundius
Stockholm/Rome, Dec 5 2018 (IPS)

Why do we still need to be concerned about a war that ended a hundred years ago? Sure, it caused the death of at least 37 million people, but why bother about that now? Anyhow France´s president Emmanuel Macron believed it was worthwhile to commemorate the end of World War I and seventy world leaders were invited to attend the centennial ceremony by Paris´s Arc de Triomphe.

In pouring rain Macron delivered a speech in which he reminded the gathered leaders that “old demons” were once again emerging all over the world, threatening peace and global co-operation. A common theme for these forces is Nationalism. We all know what that is all about – an intense form of loyalty to one’s country, or to what is often labelled as “our people”, exaggerating the value and importance of our own nation, placing its interests above those of other countries.

In his speech Macron declared that: “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism, which in fact is a betrayal of patriotism. By saying ´our interests first; who cares about the others?´, we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what makes it great, and what makes it essential — its moral values.” Upholding moral values requires listening to others, efforts to co-operate and understand one another. We have to accept that the fate of all humans is intertwined and “giving into the fascination for withdrawal, isolationism, violence and domination would be a grave error” for which future generations will hold us all accountable.

Listening to this speech was the US President Donald Trump, a leader who once tweeted about Kim Jong Un: “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” and who is supporting Saudi Arabia´s devastating war in Yemen. Present was also Russia´s president, Vladimir Putin, whose regime supports a long-winding war in the Ukrainian Donetsk Oblast and bombed civilian targets in Syria. Trump, who like Putin proudly has ¬declared himself a nationalist, sat stony-faced during Macron´s speech, but smiled broadly as he exchanged a handshake with Putin, who flashed him a thumbs-up sign.

Like any other statesman Trump also gives speeches, maybe not as eloquent as Macrons´, but nevertheless quite forceful:

      You know what a globalist is, right? You know what a globalist is? A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country so much. And you know what? We can’t have that.

Why bother about all this? What is the use of remembering World War I? The reasons to this overwhelming affliction were manifold; political, territorial and economic. However, the main cause of the disaster was the growth of nationalism and imperialism, fuelled by a breakdown of the European power balance. The crumbling of the Austro-Hungary and Ottoman Empires. The unification of Italy and Germany, combined with a grave intoxication of nationalism, which appeared to have poisoned every European nation.

A case in point was England, with an anthem that declared Rule, Brittania, Britons never, never will be slaves and where the press constantly warned about German, Russian or French aggression, as well as the Yellow Peril and the danger of losing admirable hereditary genetic characteristics due to the influx of and mixing with “inferior races”. Such “invasion literature” depicted the Germans as cold, cruel and calculating. Russians were described as uncultured barbarians. The French were above all leisure-seeking nonentities, while the Chinese were murderous, opium-smoking savages and Africans childish and underdeveloped.

Germans sang Deutschland, Deutschland über alles. Über alles in der Welt, Germany, Germany above all. Above all in the world and celebrated German culture as humanity´s most perfect creation, protected and backed up by a splendid Prussian war machine. In Russia, more than 80 ethnic groups were forced to speak Russian, worship the tsar and practice the Russian Orthodox religion. Africa, the Middle East and Asia were being “carved up” and economically exploited by European powers, while people of almost every ethnic European group were convinced that they, their nation, or the one they aspired to create, occupied or would be destined to obtain a position of cultural, economic and military supremacy. With provocative remarks and high-flown rhetoric, politicians, diplomats, authors and journalists contributed to this divisive and eventually destructive mind set.

The result? Millions of dead, wounded, bereaved, bewildered and starving people all over the world. Did humanity learn anything? Twenty years after the armistice a great part of the world was plunged into the abyss of another devastating war, even worse than the first one. And now? Have we learned anything? What are we doing now? We are once again listening to the siren song of nationalists. Please – let us take warning from what has happened before and pay attention to other tunes:

Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?
Gone to graveyards, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
                                     (Pete Seeger & Joe Hickerson)

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

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Quiet steps towards peacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/quiet-steps-towards-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=quiet-steps-towards-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/quiet-steps-towards-peace/#respond Tue, 04 Dec 2018 20:36:08 +0000 Arifa Noor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159058 With the opening of the Kartarpur corridor, Prime Minister Imran Khan has been handed a diplomatic victory in his first 100 days, which beats his domestic score card hollow. But there are few who are willing to see this as a game changer in the stalemate that has been India-Pakistan relations in recent years. The […]

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By Arifa Noor
Dec 4 2018 (Dawn, Pakistan)

With the opening of the Kartarpur corridor, Prime Minister Imran Khan has been handed a diplomatic victory in his first 100 days, which beats his domestic score card hollow. But there are few who are willing to see this as a game changer in the stalemate that has been India-Pakistan relations in recent years.

Arifa Noor

The prime minister, of course, put a more optimistic spin on it. In his speech at the ceremony held on this side of the border, he brought up the old rivalry between Germany and France to illustrate that hope springs eternal.

In this, he is not alone. The European Union is an example used by many an optimist to suggest that a rosy future awaits Pakistan and India. But can the subcontinent follow the European example? The EU was not simply the result of a devastating war having inflicted such a heavy toll on two powers that overnight they opted for love and cooperation. Instead, the European Community as we see it was a long time coming, and continues to remain a work in progress.

It is important to recall how it began.

The first effort after the Second World War came in the shape of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951 and included six countries including France and Germany. And while it did expand trade between the member countries, it is not seen as a complete success. Its greatest achievement is seen as laying the foundation for greater cooperation and the Treaty of Rome, which established the common market for the member states.

The France-Germany example should not be seen to imply that the subcontinent can tread the same path.

Still, even the ECSC cannot be seen in isolation. It went hand in hand with Nato and the Marshall Plan which also encouraged European cooperation. But more than that, perhaps the world wars — and the lessons learnt from them — were the biggest motivating factor behind the ECSC.

Washington made it clear at the end of the Second World War that its aim was an independent Germany (after the disaster that was the Treaty of Versailles). For France, this meant that it had to rethink its past policies of invading German territory to ensure French security as had been done after the First World War. It now needed a new strategy — the alternative was the ECSC to ensure Germany could not use its steel and coal to build another ‘war machine’. In fact, after the end of the Second World War, the coal-dominated German region had been placed under an international body established by the allied powers, which was later replaced by the ECSC.

In other words, the idealistic idea of a united Europe was born of the necessities of realpolitik. There was some domestic opposition — Charles de Gaulle was an opponent of the ECSC. In Germany, political parties which aimed at a united Germany were against the community as they felt it pushed West Germany towards Europe.

And let’s not forget the biggest realpolitik reason of all — the threat from the Soviet Union, which is also seen to have provided an impetus to bringing the European countries together (as well as the rationale for Nato and the Marshall Plan).

In the subcontinent, at present, there are few parallels to draw — no outside external threat; no superpower assistance for larger cooperation; and, especially, no debilitating war which could have put paid to aggressive ambitions against one another’s enemies.

Here perhaps we have a slower process at work — an increasing realisation (especially on the part of Pakistan) of the need for peace for economic growth. Perhaps the harsh battle the country has fought internally has refocused some of its priorities — though this cannot at any scale compare to the devastation of the world wars.

In other words, there is no harm in using the France-Germany example to argue that long-standing enemies can move on to better relations and cooperation. But this should not be seen to imply that the subcontinent can tread the same path. Ours will be rather different — if and when it happens. Slow steps to improve the atmospherics (such as the Kartarpur corridor) and trade, rather than grand treaties providing large cooperative frameworks.

And this hopefully will slowly create a constituency for peace and an environment in which we can consider resolving the more contentious issues. A dispute such as Kashmir may have to become irrelevant before it can be resolved. This is to say that perhaps we shouldn’t look for a repeat of the Musharraf approach — to address Kashmir first.

As for the baby steps that can be taken, the film and cinema industry is a case in point. The cinema theatre industry in Pakistan would not have revived had the exhibition of Indian films not been allowed. Once the Indian films were exhibited, investors found it profitable to establish cinema theatres. The availability of cinema theatres in turn allowed local film-makers to make films, confident that they could be exhibited and a profit made (provided the movie was worth watching). And this led to the rebirth of the Pakistani film industry. And despite all this, the same industry (or parts of it) continues to also push for special favours for the local films vis-à-vis the Indian ones. But without the Indian films, would we even have Pakistani ones being made?

In fact, when Indian films were banned from cinema theatres towards the end of 2016 due to Pakistan-India tensions, it didn’t last long. The losses the cinema theatre owners faced necessitated a change within months.

This is one example of a peace constituency on our side of the border.

Is it wrong to assume that there can be more such examples of cooperation and trade? Small and unnoticed ones that quietly build up constituencies of peace? (Ideally, even Kartarpur should have been a quiet step so that it didn’t turn into a point-scoring exercise between the two rivals.) The power of quiet should never be underestimated.

The writer is a journalist.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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South Sudan Faces one of the World’s Worst Displacement Criseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/south-sudan-faces-one-worlds-worst-displacement-crises/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-sudan-faces-one-worlds-worst-displacement-crises http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/south-sudan-faces-one-worlds-worst-displacement-crises/#respond Fri, 30 Nov 2018 15:34:42 +0000 Daniel Sullivan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158963 Daniel Sullivan is Senior Advocate for Human Rights at Refugees International

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Refugees in South Sudan. Credit: UN photo

By Daniel Sullivan
WASHINGTON DC, Nov 30 2018 (IPS)

South Sudan is facing one of the worst displacement crises in the world today. More than half of the population is food insecure and, if not for international humanitarian aid, the country would almost certainly have already faced famine.

A new peace agreement is bringing cautious hope to the displaced and is driving discussions of returns from both within and outside of South Sudan, particularly for those in UN-hosted Protection of Civilian sites (PoCs) within the country.

However, security concerns and humanitarian needs remain immense, and rushed returns risk fueling ethnic tensions and costing lives.

These challenges are amplified by the broader realities of ongoing instability in some pockets of the country and active manipulation of aid by the South Sudanese government and opposition authorities.

Aid manipulation takes many forms, from the use of instability as an excuse to block aid delivery to opposition areas, to the blatant diversion of aid away from civilians and into the hands of soldiers.

One of the most egregious ways that aid risks being manipulated is in reinforcing the dislocation of ethnic groups, or what some observers even have described as ethnic cleansing.

Ethnic minorities have been targeted with violence throughout South Sudan’s civil war, dramatically altering the ethnic makeup of some areas of the country by displacing their populations.

Several large towns and other areas have been depopulated of their traditional ethnic communities and are now being repopulated by members of the dominant Dinka ethnic group.

Returns of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and provision of aid that fails to consider this context risk reinforcing demographic shifts born of atrocities and the inequalities, impunity, and ethnic tensions that go with these shifts.

The UN, international donors, and international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) have played – and must continue to play – a vital role in providing protection and life-saving humanitarian aid to millions of people in South Sudan. INGOs and UN agencies have taken several measures to counter aid manipulation; such efforts must continue and be enhanced.

If aid is to be used to maximum effect, however, international actors must speak with a unified voice, backed by credible threats of consequences, against the worst instances of such manipulation.

Moreover, any returns, starting with those from the PoCs, must include measures that ensure they are truly safe, voluntary, and dignified, and do not inadvertently fuel the very suffering international actors seek to mitigate.

Ensuring the safety and dignity of returns from PoCs, avoiding aid manipulation, and preventing the forced dislocation of ethnic groups are critical issues that the government of South Sudan, international organizations, and donor governments must urgently address.

They are important in and of themselves but also will have far-reaching implications for the prospects of return and well-being of millions of South Sudanese displaced both within and outside of the country.

Recommendations

TO UN AGENCIES, INTERNATIONAL DONORS, AND INTERNATIONAL NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS:

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the UN Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) should refrain from closure of PoC sites until transparent plans for safe, voluntary, and dignified returns are in place. The plans should include the following:
o Adherence to international guidelines on returns.
o Intentions surveys to ensure that IDPs are informed and willing to leave the PoCs.
o Security and conflict sensitivity assessments of the proposed areas of return.
o Facilitated “go-and-see” visits so IDPs can assess the conditions in areas of return.
o Measures to address housing, land, and property (HLP) issues.
o Programs to supply basic services and livelihood opportunities in the areas of return.
o Coordination of returns and PoC closures and sharing of lessons learned across the humanitarian community through a mechanism such as the National Durable Solutions Working Group, an existing but largely inactive body of UN agencies and NGOs working on PoCs and IDP issues.

UNMISS should focus its patrols on areas of potential return and areas with specific protection concerns. Such concerns should be identified through ongoing dialogue with humanitarian organizations and PoC residents and should include the ability of women to collect firewood and visit markets. UNMISS, with political support from the UN Security Council, should assert its right to patrol where and when risks are highest to civilians, including nighttime.
UNMISS should improve protection in PoCs through such measures as providing better lighting, securing border fences, and exploring ways to better address criminality.
• UN agencies, donors, and humanitarian groups should take strong, unified action in response to aid manipulation. Attacks or threats against aid workers, or aid diversion to armed actors should be met with diplomatic censure at the highest levels, targeted action against responsible officials, and, in the worst cases, withholding of aid to specific areas where continuing to provide aid would do more harm to civilians than good.
UN agencies, donors, and humanitarian organizations should take the following steps to combat aid manipulation:
o UN country leadership should empower the UN Office of the Coordinator of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), and donors should further support OCHA with resources to track and record incidents of aid manipulation more comprehensively.
o UN leadership and donor representatives in country should address incidents immediately and directly at the highest levels of government.
o UN agencies, donors, and humanitarian organizations should support OCHA and groups like the South Sudan NGO Forum, the main NGO networking body in the country; and the Conflict Sensitivity Resource Facility (CSRF), a joint donor initiative to better inform programming decisions and strategies, to expand efforts in sharing information on aid manipulation.
o Humanitarian organizations should build stronger internal awareness of aid manipulation through the collection of lessons learned and rigorous handovers for new staff.
o UN agencies and humanitarian organizations should continue to strengthen risk management efforts, including through implementation of the Contractor Information Management System, a common system for agencies to screen contractors; and increased biometric registration.
Fully fund the humanitarian response in South Sudan at sustained levels.
Ensure that funding of resilience and recovery projects do not inadvertently reinforce ethnic dislocation in the country. The UN Development Program (UNDP), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and others involved with the Partnership for Recovery and Resilience should ensure that projects are informed by adequate conflict-sensitivity analysis.
The Commission of Human Rights on South Sudan, mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, should investigate the ethnic dislocation taking place in the country.
The United States should re-appoint a U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan. The envoy should have experience and stature in the region and enjoy the backing of the White House. The envoy should prioritize support for the peace process and combatting aid manipulation and ethnic dislocation.

TO THE TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT OF SOUTH SUDAN:

Pass the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Act, which would commit the government to focusing greater attention and providing more funding to IDP issues in line with global standards, and join the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of IDPs in Africa (the Kampala Convention).

Grant an official government body the authority and responsibility for addressing internal displacement and provide that body with dedicated funding.

Establish a Special Court for adjudicating housing, land, and property (HLP) issues arising in the context of ethnic dislocation taking place in towns like Malakal and Wau.

Ensure accountability for atrocities committed during the civil war by establishing the hybrid African Union–South Sudanese court called for in the September 2018 peace agreement to try those responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

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Excerpt:

Daniel Sullivan is Senior Advocate for Human Rights at Refugees International

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Breaking Bread with Violence: Connecting the Dots Between Conflict & Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/breaking-bread-violence-connecting-dots-conflict-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=breaking-bread-violence-connecting-dots-conflict-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/breaking-bread-violence-connecting-dots-conflict-hunger/#respond Fri, 30 Nov 2018 12:18:19 +0000 Herve Verhoosel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158955 Herve Verhoosel is Senior Spokesperson UN World Food Programme (WFP)

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Fatima Shooie sits between her 85-year-old mother and 22-year-old daughter who are both receiving treatment for cholera at a crowded hospital in Sana’a. Credit: WHO/S. Hasan

Fatima Shooie sits between her 85-year-old mother and 22-year-old daughter who are both receiving treatment for cholera at a crowded hospital in Sana’a. Credit: WHO/S. Hasan

By Herve Verhoosel
GENEVA, Nov 30 2018 (IPS)

Last week I met with Aamir, a 29-year-old Yemenite, living in Geneva since October 2018 and waiting for his application for asylum to be finalized.

We met outside a café on a brisk, overcast autumn day, where I offered to treat him to a coffee or a tea in exchange for the chance to listen to his story, one that he was worried to share. Worried for his family back in Yemen.

We took a small table amongst the quiet chatter of the café. Although I insisted, he politely declined my offer for the coffee or the tea. He paused for a moment, shifted his eyes away from mine, and began to share his story. A 16-month journey from Yemen to Geneva, via Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Greece – for 14 months in a camp in the Island of Chios – and Italy.

In Yemen, before the conflict Aamir was an electrician by apprenticeship. Now, he is starting over again, beginning first with French classes. Only if his status is fully granted, he will start a 4-year program so he can eventually gain the credentials to practice his trade in Switzerland.

Aamir left the country that he loves. Alone. “People have no food, no job, no more money, and of course no security. The war created all this” he told me. “How can I stay without work, without food, and unsure each day if I will live to see the next. I decided to leave my country, to leave my family and take my chance, far away from that violence…”

Hundreds of millions of people around the world caught up in armed conflict are living stories similar or much worse, having been pushed into hunger because they are stuck in the middle of a fight that is not their own. Some, like him decide to leave the country. Many others stay hoping for help. Your help, our help.

The fact that conflict fuels hunger is no secret. Today, there are 815 million hungry people on the planet- roughly 100 times the population of New York City. 60% of these people (489 million) are living in conflict-stricken areas.

That is almost half a billion people that are more than twice as likely to be undernourished as those living in countries at peace are.

In 2018 conflict and insecurity were the primary drivers of hunger in 18 countries where 74 million people require urgent food aid (Africa: 11 countries (37m) Middle East: 4 countries (27m), Asia: 2 (8m), and the Ukraine).

There is a growing understanding that hunger may also contribute to conflict when coupled with poverty, unemployment or economic hardship. People who have no other options to earn money and thus nothing to lose may be more easily convinced to join armed groups that they otherwise may not have.

This is the reality in Somalia where a study by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) of why people joined Al Shabab found that economic reasons were the biggest single factor. For some people the financial incentives may be the only way they can feed themselves and their families.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram is reported to pay up to US$600 to recruit members to its movement and in recent studies by ISS, economic incentives have been demonstrated to be a stronger driver of recruitment than religious extremism.

I met some of these youths involved in armed groups or violence during my two years living in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic while working for the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA).

Most of these young people are, in fact, very positive and kind parents, sisters, brothers, who unfortunately reached a point where they have no other way to feed their families- a situation that can be exploited by armed groups.

At times, parties to a conflict may also exploit conflict-induced food insecurity, and attempt to leverage the threat of famine to their advantage – and target farms, markets, mills storage sites and other infrastructure needed for food production and distribution – an act that is condemned and may constitute a war crime.

Once this vicious cycle gains momentum, humanitarian agencies like the UN World Food Programme and partners face increased challenges in stopping it. As conflict-affected regions slip further into violence, access to deliver vital supplies is often severed, leading to more people suffering from hunger, disease, and societal collapse.

Prevention must be at the heart of development. Earlier and longer-term interventions to improve food security and invest in agriculture is one way to address the growing connections between conflict and hunger. In a world where we have the finances and technology to ensure that nobody goes to bed hungry, this goal is more realistic today than it has ever been before.

The final battle against hunger and conflict will occur in the minds of people – our political leaders – and involves tackling the fundamental factors that fuel hunger and conflict.

Until then, WFP will continue to operate every day in Yemen, Somalia, Central African Republic and many of the world’s toughest active conflict zones, delivering food and saving lives. However, it shouldn’t have to be this way.

The post Breaking Bread with Violence: Connecting the Dots Between Conflict & Hunger appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Herve Verhoosel is Senior Spokesperson UN World Food Programme (WFP)

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Executive Director of the Geneva Centre: Israel’s de facto annexation of East Jerusalem violates the Palestinian people’s right to self-determinationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/executive-director-geneva-centre-israels-de-facto-annexation-east-jerusalem-violates-palestinian-peoples-right-self-determination/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=executive-director-geneva-centre-israels-de-facto-annexation-east-jerusalem-violates-palestinian-peoples-right-self-determination http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/executive-director-geneva-centre-israels-de-facto-annexation-east-jerusalem-violates-palestinian-peoples-right-self-determination/#respond Thu, 29 Nov 2018 07:01:16 +0000 Geneva Centre http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159009 In observation of the 2018 International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue Ambassador Idriss Jazairy appealed to the international community to express solidarity to the endeavours of the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination. Ambassador Jazairy stated that […]

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By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Nov 29 2018 (Geneva Centre)

In observation of the 2018 International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue Ambassador Idriss Jazairy appealed to the international community to express solidarity to the endeavours of the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination.

Ambassador Jazairy stated that Israel’s de facto annexation of East Jerusalem impedes the prospects of a two-state solution and hinders the realization of regional peace and security. The decision of several countries to move their embassies to Jerusalem, thus recognising the latter as the capital of Israel, contradicts the provisions set forth in the Arab Peace Initiative that calls for the normalization of relations between Arab states and Israel once the latter cedes, inter alia, its military occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem.

The Arab Peace Initiative was adopted during the 2002 Arab League Beirut Summit. It was subsequently re-endorsed at the Arab League Summit held in Jordan from 23 to 29 March 2017. In view of the prospects of attaining peace and identifying a peaceful resolution to the conflict, the Geneva Centre’s Executive Director said:

The Arab Peace Initiative lays the foundation for the creation of genuine and long-term peace and stability in the Middle East and between Palestinians and Israelis. A two-state solution – with the creation of an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital – the return of Palestinian refugees in line with the provisions set forth in UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 11 December 1948 and the return of occupied land are key conditions that must be fulfilled.

The Arab Peace Initiative is the blueprint for building a peaceful and stable Middle East. The decision to rubber-stamp the proclamation or recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is a serious set-back to joint aspirations of Arab countries to achieve a peaceful resolution to one of the world’s most enduring and bitter conflicts.”

Against this background, the Geneva Centre’s Executive Director considers that the enduring occupation of Palestinian land including East Jerusalem impedes the Palestinian people’s right to “decide their own destiny. The current situation is deplorable as the occupation of Palestinian land is intensifying in force. The Wall of Shame that has been erected to separate Palestinian Territories further restricts the Palestinians’ freedom of movement across Jerusalem. The Wall of Shame has now become the symbol of the 21st century’s Berlin Wall. The illegal occupation of Palestine must come to an immediate end.”

In addition, Ambassador Jazairy added that the removal of all illegal settlements is a prerequisite for the creation of peace and for the establishment of a viable Palestinian State in which its citizens can live freely without having their human rights violated on a daily basis, as highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories Mr. Michael Lynk in his latest report submitted to the UN General Assembly.

In order to reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Geneva Centre’s Executive Director appealed to the international community to show greater determination and resilience in addressing the main issues impeding the realization of peace and stability. Ambassador Jazairy concluded:

Without addressing the question of Jerusalem, peace will not prevail. A two state-solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine remains a prerequisite for the creation of peace and for the establishment of a viable state in which the Palestinian people can live freely without having their human rights violated on a daily basis.”

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Multilateralism Undermined by Globalization’s Discontentshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/multilateralism-undermined-globalizations-discontents/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=multilateralism-undermined-globalizations-discontents http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/multilateralism-undermined-globalizations-discontents/#comments Wed, 28 Nov 2018 06:17:05 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158915 On 24 October 1945, the world’s most inclusive multilateral institution, the United Nations, was born to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, … reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, … establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and […]

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By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 28 2018 (IPS)

On 24 October 1945, the world’s most inclusive multilateral institution, the United Nations, was born to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, … reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, … establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” (UN Charter: Preamble).

Thus, one major purpose of the UN is to foster international cooperation to resolve the world’s socio-economic problems and to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms (UN Charter: Article 1.3).

Anis Chowdhury

Hence, all Members are obliged to “refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state” (Article 1.4), and to give the UN “every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with [its] Charter” (Article 1.5).

For many, however, the world today is increasingly at odds with the ideals of the UN Charter. Wars and conflicts are causing unprecedented humanitarian crises, worsened by rising intolerance and xenophobia.

Important international organizations and treaties are being threatened by unilateral withdrawals, non-payment of dues, virtual vetoes and threats of worse. Meanwhile, bilateral and plurilateral trade and other agreements are undermining crucial features of the post-Second World War order.

Little incentive to cooperate
Before the opening of the General Debate of the UN General Assembly, Secretary-General António Guterres warned that “multilateralism is under attack from many different directions precisely when we need it most.”

Pundits have identified many causes such as the proliferation of multilateral institutions, often with overlapping mandates, undermining one another, sometimes inadvertently, but nonetheless effectively. Institutional resistance to reform has also frequently made them unfit for purpose.

While design of the post-war order at Bretton Woods, Yalta and San Francisco envisaged a post-colonial multilateral order, it was not long before new arrangements for hegemony, if not outright dominance prevailed as the old imperial powers reluctantly retreated from their colonies, often with privileges largely intact.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Without Roosevelt, the World War Two Allies were soon engaged in a bipolar ‘Cold War’, demanding the loyalty of others. By the 1960s, many ‘emerging countries’ sought national political and policy space through ‘non-alignment’ and the emerging bloc of developing countries called the Group of 77 (G77).

Profitable globalization
By the 1980s, the Thatcher-Reagan-led ‘neoliberal’ counter-revolution against Keynesian and development economics seized upon Soviet economic decline under Brezhnev to strengthen private corporate interests, by extending property rights, privatization, liberalization and globalization.

The new patterns of international economic specialization saw significant industrialization and growth, especially where governments pro-actively made the most of the new opportunities available to them, especially in East and South Asia.

Much of the new prosperity in the North was neither inclusive nor shared, resulting in new economic polarization unseen since the 1920s. Much of this was easily blamed on the ‘other’, with immigrants and cheap foreign imports blamed for stealing good jobs.

Meanwhile, a new generation of social democrats in the West embraced much of the neo-liberal agenda, even rejecting Keynesian counter-cyclical fiscal policies after failing to check the libertarian revolt against progressive taxation.

Successful in achieving their political ambitions, the ‘new social democrats’ offered a culturally alien, new ‘identity politics’ as ideological surrogate. This, in turn, later served to fuel the reactionary ascendance of ‘ethno-populism’ by the ‘new right’.

Thus, neoliberalism’s triumph – with enhanced corporate prerogatives, privatization, economic liberalization and globalization, in the embrace of Western social democratic leaders’ abandonment of their own purported class base – led to corporatist populist reactions, reminiscent of earlier fascist resurgences.

International solidarity undermined
Narrow reactionary ethno-nationalisms are rarely conducive to international cooperation, often depicted as a variant of their ostensible enemy – (neoliberal) globalism! This has not only weakened international solidarity, but also undermined multilateral engagement, let alone cooperation.

Roosevelt’s protracted leadership of the ascendant post-WW2 US and recognition of the urgent need to transcend the limited imperialist multilateralism of the League of Nations were crucial. Thus, despite its limitations, the UN system met the need for an inclusive post-colonial multilateralism after WW2.

Ironically, the ongoing undermining of multilateralism, especially with the rise of US ‘sovereigntism’ after the end of the Cold War, has gained new momentum as backlashes to globalization and its pitfalls have spread from developing countries to transition economies and declining industrial powers.

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Troubled tieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/troubled-ties/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=troubled-ties http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/troubled-ties/#respond Mon, 26 Nov 2018 16:53:53 +0000 Touqir Hussain http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158971 US president Donald Trump has triggered another spat. But such wrangling is not new. It has lived with the relationship since its inception. The reasons are many. At the heart of these reasons is the reality that it is not a normal bilateral relationship. Trump’s remarks reflect this reality better than the public and official […]

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By Touqir Hussain
Nov 26 2018 (Dawn, Pakistan)

US president Donald Trump has triggered another spat. But such wrangling is not new. It has lived with the relationship since its inception. The reasons are many. At the heart of these reasons is the reality that it is not a normal bilateral relationship.

Touqir Hussain

Trump’s remarks reflect this reality better than the public and official reaction of Pakistan. The fact is, it is not Pakistan but its services that have been important to Washington. And the value of the relationship has depended on the quality of the service. Pakistan is naïve in seeking gratitude for what it has done or sympathy for what it has suffered. Americans always look at what lies ahead. That is the psyche behind ‘do more’. You cannot negotiate with them backwards.

Pakistan has no permanent importance for Washington, nor any lasting place in its foreign policy. Pakistan’s importance has varied according to fluctuating American interests in the region, putting it sometimes alongside Washington, and sometimes against it. Even when the two countries were fully aligned, there were different reasons for that. No wonder each side’s interests have historically been met only partially, and at the cost of some other important interests. That is why the relationship never really enjoyed a strategic consensus in either country, nor did it develop enduring public support.

It is not Pakistan but its services that have been important to the US.

But why has the relationship persisted? Because at times both have faced challenges that neither could solve without the other’s help. The US critically needed Pakistan’s intel and military help in Afghanistan at the time of the final battle of the Cold War, and then post 9/11. And Pakistan’s leadership at the time was desperate for the American embrace as it searched for security assistance and aid for the troubled national economy. The relationship served some important strategic and security interests of the US. But its value for Pakistan remained questionable. Between the military rule and the fallout of the US connection, Pakistan has never been the same again.

Americans understood the relationship well. But Pakistan got addicted to it and remains so even if the times have changed. Pakistan has to understand it is dealing with a capitalist country with an advanced democracy, where foreign policy is heavily influenced by domestic politics and is produced by the mechanics of many different pulls and pushes. Issues like terrorism, jihadism and a failing Afghanistan war incited high public concern and put the spotlight on Pakistan.

A largely misinformed American public and an aggrieved US military, unhappy about Pakistan’s unhelpful role in Afghanistan and often speaking through the Congress, thus ended up weighing negatively on the relationship. If Pakistan was not delivering, why are we giving it any money, they ask. The fact that Pakistan is living beyond its means and always looking for bailouts does no favour to the country’s image. Pakistan is not a front-line ally that can override such public scrutiny.

Pakistan also did not realise that US foreign policy decisions are not always made in the best national interests of its own or those of its allies. The political leadership in the US is constantly experiencing a tussle between the electoral calendar on the one hand and strategic imperatives on the other, between America’s own interests that are global, and those of its allies that are local and regional. On top of that, it has also to contend with congressional oversight, special interests, lobbies, and a cumbersome inter-agency process. That does not make for the best public policy.

It is also ironical that ties with Pakistan address strategic inter¬ests but through the framework of a transactional relationship, as Pakistan does not have permanent strategic value for the US. In fact, the emerging regional and geopolitical context gives Pakistan a negative strategic value. It is now better for America’s adversaries than for America. Not just the ordinary public but the foreign policy community in Washington too ends up finding Pakistan as the wrong ally. Trump speaks for both strands of opinion.

The sad reality is Pakistan did have a part to play in the failure of the Afghan war. Washington finds Pakistan’s Afghan Taliban policy as indefensible as its support for jihadists. Unfortunately, the feeling in the US is that Pakistan has become a negative force for US interests in the region by allying with Washington’s rival China and having tense ties with US allies like India.

The relationship with Washington is important. But Pakistan should never walk into it blindly again. It must set the terms of engagement beforehand as America has no sense of history except its own. If it is ‘America first’ on one side it should be ‘Pakistan first’ on the other. Let the chips fall where they may.

The writer, a former ambassador, is adjunct faculty Georgetown University and Syracuse University.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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African Nations Show Rare Transparency in Military Spendinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/african-nations-show-rare-transparency-military-spending/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=african-nations-show-rare-transparency-military-spending http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/african-nations-show-rare-transparency-military-spending/#respond Mon, 26 Nov 2018 12:06:31 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158867 When the United Nations began publishing annual reports on arms expenditures, starting in 1981, not all 193 member states voluntarily participated in the exercise in transparency– primarily because most governments are secretive about their defense spending and their weapons purchases. The original goal of the reports, according to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), […]

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A panel discussion on the politics of peace. Credit: SIPRI

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 26 2018 (IPS)

When the United Nations began publishing annual reports on arms expenditures, starting in 1981, not all 193 member states voluntarily participated in the exercise in transparency– primarily because most governments are secretive about their defense spending and their weapons purchases.

The original goal of the reports, according to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), was to facilitate reductions in military budgets, particularly in the context of the trillions of dollars in annual global military spending– reaching a staggering $1.7 trillion in 2017.

The United Nations has vociferously – but unsuccessfully – long campaigned for a significant diversion of military budgets into development aid, including a much-needed $100 billion by 2020 to curb carbon emissions and weather the impact of climate change.

According to UNODA, a total of 126 UN Member States have submitted reports to the UN Secretary-General regularly or at least once.

But only a minority of States report in any given year, while a small number of States consistently report every year. In addition, there are significant disparities in reporting by States among different regions.

Transparency in armaments, according to the UN, contributes to international security by fostering trust and confidence among countries.

And in a rare exercise in transparency, countries in sub-Saharan Africa have consistently reported on their military expenditures, according to a new report released last week by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

Asked to single out the most transparent, and the least transparent, of the African countries, Dr Nan Tian, Researcher at SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Programme, told IPS that based on SIPRI’s analysis, countries with relatively high transparency include Burkina Faso, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania, among others.

He said the least transparent include Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi, Lesotho, Gambia, Equatorial Guinea and Djibouti.
According to UNODA, information on military matters, particularly transparency on military expenditures, helps build confidence between countries.

At the same time, it can also help governments determine whether excessive or destabilizing accumulations of arms are taking place.

The new SIPRI report says transparency in military spending in sub-Saharan Africa is higher than expected.

Between 2012 and 2017, 45 of the 47 states surveyed published at least one official budget document in a timely manner online.

‘Contrary to common belief, countries in sub-Saharan Africa show a high degree of transparency in how they spend money on their military,’ says Dr Tian.

He says citizens everywhere should know where and how public money is spent. It is encouraging that national reporting in sub-Saharan Africa has

In a joint statement Dr Tian and Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher in SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Programme, told IPS global participation in reporting of military expenditure to the UN, on the other hand, has decreased to a very low level.

“The latest information we have is that in 2018, only 32 countries submitted data about their military spending in 2017.”

In the period 2008–17, only five states in sub-Saharan Africa reported at least once, and no reports were submitted during the years 2015–17.

“2018 has not yet ended but, as far as we know, no African country reported this year.”

Still, SIPRI data shows that governments in 45 countries in the region made either military expenditure budgets or figures on actual military expenditure publicly available in the period 2012–16, said Dr Tian and Wezeman.

These states could have opted to simply use this information in a submission to the UN using either their own format or the simplified form.

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 latest SIPRI report contains good news for analysts and advocates concerned about global transparency on military expenditures.

She said SIPRI has documented the publication of military spending reports in 45 of 47 countries in sub-Saharan Africa for at least one year between 2012 and 2017.

The United Nations has a long-standing instrument that is intended to collect information on UN members’ military expenditures.

Unfortunately, participation in that instrument has been low in recent years. And the vast majority of the countries that reported on their 2017 budgets in 2018 are countries in Europe.

The other regions of the world are vastly underrepresented.

“It’s ironic that so many countries in Africa are publishing their individual reports on military spending, but are choosing not to report the same data to the United Nations,“ said Dr Goldring, who also represents the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy at the United Nations, on conventional weapons and arms trade issues.

She pointed out that UN Member States regularly describe “reporting fatigue,” with numerous – and sometimes overlapping – reporting requirements imposing burdens on agencies and departments that are chronically understaffed.

“One possible solution would be to try to reduce the number of reports and to create standard forms to gather data that would otherwise be submitted in multiple reports.”

“Although the inclusion of virtually all sub-Saharan countries in the SIPRI report is good news, knowing the monetary value of military budgets only gets you so far. Military budget numbers are often not good proxies for countries’ military power”.

For example, the horrendous destructive power of the small arms and light weapons that are being used in conflicts all over the world is completely out of proportion to their relatively modest cost, she added.

Asked how most Asian, Latin American and Middle Eastern countries compare with transparency by African countries, Dr Tian and Wezeman told IPS they do not make any comparisons in the report, nor an extensive assessment of other regions in the past few years.

“Still based on SIPRI’s continuous monitoring of military spending in the world we can sketch the situation in other regions.”

Military spending transparency in Latin America is relatively high, for all countries useful and often detailed information is available, they said.

In Asia, transparency varies a lot. In India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Malaysia, Kazakhstan and Indonesia, very useful military spending data is published by the governments.

However in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, North Korea, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, military spending is kept secret, while military spending data in China is incomplete.

Also in the Middle East transparency varies highly.

Turkey, Israel, Iran and Jordan publish quite detailed information, but public reporting on military spending in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt and Iraq is low to minimal, “whereas we have not found any useful military spending data for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Rohingya Protest Against Return to Myanmar and Halt Repatriationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/rohingya-protest-return-myanmar-halt-repatriation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingya-protest-return-myanmar-halt-repatriation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/rohingya-protest-return-myanmar-halt-repatriation/#respond Fri, 16 Nov 2018 08:37:00 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158693 Thousands of Rohingya refugees in camps in Cox’s Bazar, the southern-most coastal district in Bangladesh, protested on Thursday, Nov. 15, against an attempt to send them back to Myanmar. The voluntary repatriation was scheduled to begin Thursday as per a bilateral agreement reached at the end of October between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh. […]

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Rohingya refugees protested on Thursday, Nov. 15, against their voluntary repatriation to Myanmar. Credit: Mohammad Mojibur Rahman/IPS

By Naimul Haq
COX'S BAZAR/DHAKA, Nov 16 2018 (IPS)

Thousands of Rohingya refugees in camps in Cox’s Bazar, the southern-most coastal district in Bangladesh, protested on Thursday, Nov. 15, against an attempt to send them back to Myanmar.
The voluntary repatriation was scheduled to begin Thursday as per a bilateral agreement reached at the end of October between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh. They had agreed to the repatriation of 2,260 people from 485 families at the rate of 150 people per day over 15 days. However plans for repatriations were postponed in the face of massive demonstrations which started Thursday in several of the 27 camps that now host over a million refugees.

Men, women and even children began protesting soon after midday at one of the smaller camps in Unchiprang near the Myanmar border and protests soon spread across other camps, including the biggest camp Kutupalong.

They chanted slogans and waved placards that read—‘We won’t go back,’ ‘We demand safety,’ ‘We want citizenship,’ ‘We demand justice,’—as rows of buses arrived outside Unchiprang camp. The buses were to transport refugees some 15km from Cox’s Bazar to the Bangladesh border of Gundum, from where they would have been taken to Tumbru in Myanmar.

Bangladesh officials in charge of repatriation waited outside the camp asking the families to board the buses but none were willing.

Since last August, more than 700,000 Rohingya—some 60 percent of whom where children, according to the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF)—fled atrocities in Myanmar’s Rakhine state into Bangladesh.

Many still carry fresh memories of their experiences, which include rape, sexual violence and the torching of homes with people still inside.

“Why should we return?” shouted Nahar, a 26-year-old mother of three who arrived last July. She said that returning to Myanmar means going to a death camp.
Yousuf Ali, a resident of neighbouring Shamlapur camp said, “You want us to commit suicide?” A fellow refugee from Jamtoli camp said, “There is no guarantee that we would survive once we return.”

The government of Bangladesh along with local and international aid organisations and U.N. agencies have been working together to provide shelter, medical services, schooling and food to almost one million people.

Mohammad Abul Kalam, Bangladesh’s Refugee, Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner, and also a magistrate attached with Cox’s Bazar district office, told IPS, “We were prepared for the repatriation. Earlier we had sought a voluntary decision and made informed choices on the return of the refugees. No one responded with the decision to return home in Myanmar and so we had to postpone the programme.”

On Tuesday, 50 of the identified families selected for return, were interviewed by the U.N. to find out whether families agreed to return. None agreed, according to Kalam.

“They refused to go now but we remain prepared to facilitate their return home. Our counterpart from Myanmar was also present on the other side of the border … So far we know Myanmar had also taken all preparations for the much-expected repartition [that was] to start today,” Kalam said.

The government of Bangladesh along with local and international aid organisations and U.N. agencies, have been working together to provide shelter, medical services, schooling and food to almost one million people. Credit: Mohammad Mojibur Rahman/IPS

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet this week urged Bangladesh to halt the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, saying the move would violate international laws. “With an almost complete lack of accountability — indeed with ongoing violations — returning Rohingya refugees to Myanmar at this point effectively means throwing them back into the cycle of human rights violations that this community has been suffering for decades,” Bachelet said.

In October chair of the U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar, Marzuki Darusman, said that the Myanmar government’s “hardened positions are by far the greatest obstacle” to repatriation. He had also said, “Myanmar is destined to repeat the cycles of violence unless there is an end to impunity.” The U.N. has called the full investigation into genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Rakhine State.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali briefed the media on Thursday evening in the capital Dhaka, saying that Bangladesh would not forcibly return Rohingyas to Myanmar.
“There have been campaigns [saying] that the Bangladesh government is sending them back forcibly. From the beginning we have been saying that it will be a voluntary return. There is no question of forcible repatriation. We gave them shelter, so why should we send them back forcibly?” he said.

Mia Seppo, U.N. resident coordinator in Dhaka, told reporters at the joint press conference that, “The U.N. actually welcomes the commitment of the government of Bangladesh to stick to the principle of voluntary repatriation, which has been demonstrated today.”

Abu Morshed Chowdhury, President of Cox’s Bazar Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of Cox’s Bazar Civil Society NGO Forum, told IPS, “There were some flaws in the plans for the Rohingya repatriation. How can the refugees return, even if it’s voluntary, without ensuring their citizenship? The U.N. agencies have the responsibility to ensure this.”
He added that U.N. should have “been more active in their roles to allow smooth repatriation.”

Rezaul Karim Chouwhury, Executive Director of COAST Bangladesh, one of the leading NGOs working to address the Rohingya crisis also echoed the same concerns.

“There were flaws in the plans too, because we know that sooner or later the Rohingyas have to return to settle back. The bilateral agreement paved the way for the initiation of the repatriation and rehabilitation but the key players (international) in my opinion have not been so active,” he told IPS.

Caroline Gluck, Senior Public Information Officer, U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Cox’s Bazar, told IPS that every refugee has the right to freely decide their own future and the right to return.  Their decisions should be based on relevant and reliable knowledge of the conditions within the country of origin.

“Access restrictions in Rakhine State currently limit UNHCR’s ability to provide such information. Only refugees themselves can make the decision to exercise their right to return and when they feel the time is right for them. It is critical that returns are not rushed or premature,” she said. She added that the UNHCR supported the voluntary and sustainable repatriation of Rohingya refugees in safety and dignity to their places of origin or choice.

“We will work with all parties towards this goal. However, we do not believe that current conditions are conducive to returns in line with international standards. The responsibility for creating these conditions lies with Myanmar.”

*Additional Reporting by Mohammed Mojibur Rahman in Cox’s Bazar

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Inside a Wagon in the Forest of Compiègnehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/inside-wagon-forest-compiegne/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=inside-wagon-forest-compiegne http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/inside-wagon-forest-compiegne/#respond Sun, 11 Nov 2018 14:26:10 +0000 Manuel Manonelles http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158629 What is the link between the current civil war in Syria, the austerity policy imposed by Germany during the last economic crisis or the Arab-Israeli conflict? Its origin, which lies in the world that was born a hundred years ago, inside a wagon in the middle of the Forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris. Indeed, […]

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Picture taken after the signature of the armistice in the Forest of Compiègne. Credit: Public Domain

By Manuel Manonelles
GENEVA, Nov 11 2018 (IPS)

What is the link between the current civil war in Syria, the austerity policy imposed by Germany during the last economic crisis or the Arab-Israeli conflict? Its origin, which lies in the world that was born a hundred years ago, inside a wagon in the middle of the Forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris.

Indeed, it was on November 11, 1914 that the signature of the Armistice between the Allied powers and the German Empire took place, in the above-mentioned wagon. This event marked de facto the end of World War I (1914-18), a conflict that changed the world and still today projects its shadows.

The Armistice was followed by the Paris Peace Conference and, as a consequence, the Treaty of Versailles, that of Sèvres and many others. The birth of the League of Nations, the policy of “reparations” or the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian, German and Ottoman empires, and in part the Russian one, were other outputs of the end of the Great War. The consequences of some of these historical events are still present today in the international agenda and determine the lives of millions of people, one century later.

 

The Middle East, Kurdistan and Syria

The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, through the Treaty of Sèvres of August 1920, opened a Pandora’s Box that we still strive to close today. Three examples: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the civil war in Syria and the case of the Kurdistan.

Let us start with the last one, with Kurdistan. Sèvres foresaw the holding of a referendum to decide its future, a referendum that never took place. The uprising of Kemal Atatürk in Turkey, the subsequent war and the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) were the main causes, but the disunity between the Kurds we could call “pragmatic” and the supporters of a greater Kurdistan also influenced. Similarly, the fact that Sèvres planned to include the oil rich province of Mosul within the territory of an eventual free Kurdistan (which the British were coveting) helped to tip the balance in favor of Turkish interests.

Another unfortunate legacy is, in part too, the current civil war in Syria. It is widely known that the origin of this conflict is related to the emergence of the Arab Spring, the resilience of the al-Assad regime, the infiltration of radical jihadist groups, and the interests of many regional and global powers.

However, part of the current war’s cruelty is intimately related to a State, Syria, resulting from the end of the WWI, with their borders designed to satisfy, exclusively, the French and British colonial interests. A division based on a Franco-British secret agreement taken before the end war, the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916, that unscrupulously mixed and divided diverse ethnic and religious groups.

Even more, we cannot ignore the icing on the cake of all conflicts, the Arab-Israeli conflict. Its origin is linked to the Balfour declaration (1917) before the end of the Great War. This declaration was assumed by the San Remo Conference (1920) -also linked to the Paris Peace Conference- within the framework of the complex maneuvers of the great powers, and other influential groups of interests, during the reshaping of borders of the post-Ottoman Levant.

 

Inheritances in financial policy

In another vein, one of the main elements that also defined the treaties resulting from the Paris Peace Conference, and especially the Treaty of Versailles, was the policy of “reparations”. This policy mainly entailed that the countries that lost WWI had to face the payment of enormous sums to compensate the Allies.

This policy, so aggressive, led to the resignation of a young economist from the British delegation at the Peace Conference, called Keynes, who warned of the destabilizing effects in the economic and financial field that this could have. Indeed, this was one of the main causes of the German hyper-inflationary crisis of the years 1920-23, in which a loaf of bread reached the cost of billions of German marks. The influence of this crisis on the discrediting of the Weimar Republic and the consequent rise of Nazism is well known.

This sequence of events is at the base of the almost pathological animosity of the German economists to inflation. Since the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany, German official economic and financial policy has been always conditioned by a strict control of inflation: perceived as the mother of all possible and imaginable evils. This was the policy that Chancellor Merkel imposed, not only in Germany but also in the rest of Europe, during the last economic and financial crisis; a restrictive policy that would avoid the supposed danger of inflation. With the consequent austerity policies and their consequences…

All of this and more, a hundred years ago, started in a wagon inside the Forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris.

Manuel Manonelles is the Delegate of the Government of Catalonia in Switzerland, as well as Visiting Professor at the University Ramon Llull – Blanquerna (Barcelona)

 

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