Inter Press ServiceArmed Conflicts – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 22 Jan 2018 17:32:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.5 Groups Condemn U.S. Cuts to Palestinian Refugee Agencyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/groups-condemn-u-s-cuts-palestinian-refugee-agency/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=groups-condemn-u-s-cuts-palestinian-refugee-agency http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/groups-condemn-u-s-cuts-palestinian-refugee-agency/#comments Fri, 19 Jan 2018 06:04:16 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153938 International organizations have criticized the United States’ decision to cut more than half of planned funding to a UN agency serving Palestinian refugees. This week, the U.S. administration announced that it is withholding 65 million dollars from a planned 125-million-dollar aid package for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). UNRWA serves […]

The post Groups Condemn U.S. Cuts to Palestinian Refugee Agency appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Displaced children in a UN-run school in the Shujaiyeh neighbourhood of Gaza.Credit: Khaled Alashqar/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 19 2018 (IPS)

International organizations have criticized the United States’ decision to cut more than half of planned funding to a UN agency serving Palestinian refugees.

This week, the U.S. administration announced that it is withholding 65 million dollars from a planned 125-million-dollar aid package for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).

UNRWA serves over 5 million refugees with education, healthcare, social services, and emergency assistance in the Middle Eastern region.

As the U.S. was the agency’s biggest donor, contributing over 350 million dollars in 2017, UNRWA is now facing its biggest financial crisis.

“At stake is the dignity and human security of millions of Palestine refugees in need of emergency food assistance and other support…at stake is the access of refugees to primary healthcare including pre-natal care and other life-saving services. At stake are the rights and dignity of an entire community,” said UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl.

“The reduced contribution also impacts regional security at a time when the Middle East faces multiples risks and threats, notably that of further radicalization,” he added.

Former UN Undersecretary General and current Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland noted that the funding cut will have devastating consequences for vulnerable Palestinian refugee children who depend on the agency for their education.

“It will also deny their parents a social safety net that helps them to survive, and undermine the UN agency’s ability to respond in the event of another flare-up in the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict,” he said.

UNRWA provides education to over half of a million boys and girls in 700 schools and manages more than 9 million refugee patient visits at over 140 clinics.

Human Rights Watch’s Deputy UN Director Akshaya Kumar noted that many Palestinian refugees live in poverty, including the majority of those in Syria who require humanitarian assistance to survive.

“Unless other governments fill the gap soon, the U.S. cuts will jeopardize children’s schooling, vaccinations, and maternal health care for refugees,” she said.

Politics Over Humanitarianism?

The Trump administration said that the decision was made as a way to press for unspecified reforms in the agency.

Though the State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the move was not made to pressure Palestinians to enter negotiations, President Donald Trump suggested otherwise in a series of tweets just weeks before the decision.

“We pay the Palestinians HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect…with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?” he tweeted.

Kumar pointed out that UNRWA is an aid agency rather than a party to the peace process.

“The administration seems intent on holding them hostage—and ultimately punishing vulnerable Palestinian refugees—as an indirect way to put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to join peace talks,” she said.

Head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) U.S. delegation Husam Zomlot echoed similar sentiments, stating that refugees’ access to basic humanitarian services is not a “bargaining chip, but a U.S. and international obligation.”

“Taking away food and education from vulnerable refugees does not bring a lasting and comprehensive peace and [the] rights of Palestinian refugees will not be compromised by a financial decision,” he said.

Egeland also tweeted that cutting aid is a “bad politicization of humanitarian aid.”

UNRWA has long been controversial since its establishment in 1949.

Though it has evolved into a quasi-government, the agency was first set up to temporarily assist those who fled or were forced from their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

However, as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continued, so did UNRWA’s existence.

The agency allows refugee status to be passed down from generation to generation and does not remove people from its list who have gained citizenship elsewhere, contributing to an ever expanding population and questions as to who qualifies as a refugee.

From the approximately 700,000 Palestinians who fled after the 1948 war, there are now over 5.2 million registered refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories.

While UNRWA has been criticized for not working to resettle refugees, Israel has not granted refugees the right to return and other countries such as Lebanon have largely denied Palestinians citizenship and access to employment or land.

Even if the funding cut is meant to target Palestinian authorities, many note that vulnerable Palestinian refugees will bear the brunt of the impact as they will be left in a renewed state of limbo.

UNRWA has since launched a global fundraising campaign to try to close its funding gap before it is forced to cut safety-net services.

Donors have begun to step up including the Government of Belgium which pledged 23 million dollars to UNRWA soon after the move was announced.

“For a lot of Palestinian refugees the UNRWA is the last life buoy,” said Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.

“Let us draw our strength from the Palestine refugees who teach us every day that giving up is not an option. UNRWA will not give up either,” Krahenbuhl said.

The post Groups Condemn U.S. Cuts to Palestinian Refugee Agency appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/groups-condemn-u-s-cuts-palestinian-refugee-agency/feed/ 2
“The World Has Gone in Reverse”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/world-gone-reverse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-gone-reverse http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/world-gone-reverse/#comments Thu, 18 Jan 2018 07:06:34 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153922 A year into his position, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said that peace remains elusive and that renewed action must be taken in 2018 to set the world on track for a better future. Around the world, challenges such as conflicts and climate change have deepened while new dangers have emerged with the threat […]

The post “The World Has Gone in Reverse” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Secretary-General António Guterres briefs the General Assembly on his priorities for 2018. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 18 2018 (IPS)

A year into his position, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said that peace remains elusive and that renewed action must be taken in 2018 to set the world on track for a better future.

Around the world, challenges such as conflicts and climate change have deepened while new dangers have emerged with the threat of nuclear catastrophe and the rise in nationalism and xenophobia.

“In fundamental ways, the world has gone in reverse,” said Guterres to the General Assembly.

“At the beginning of 2018, we must recognize the many ways in which the international
community is failing and falling short.”

Among the major concerns is the ongoing and heightened nuclear tensions.

Guterres noted that there are small signs of hope, including North Korea’s participation in the upcoming winter Olympics as well as the reopening of inter-Korean communication channels.

“War is avoidable—what I’m worried is that I’m not yet sure peace is guaranteed, and that is why we are so strongly engaged,” he said.

Despite UN sanctions, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has refused to surrender the country’s development and stockpile of nuclear missiles.

During a meeting in Canada, United States’ officials warned of military action if the Northeast Asian nation does not negotiate.

“It is time to talk, but they have to take the step to say they want to talk,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told foreign ministers.

A recently released nuclear strategy also outlines the U.S. administration’s proposal to expand its nuclear arsenal in response to Russian and Chinese military threats which may only sustain global tensions.

Guterres has also pinpointed migration and refugee protection as priorities for the year.

Though arrivals have dropped, refugees and migrants from Honduras to Myanmar still embark on dangerous journeys in search of economic opportunity or even just safety. However, they are still often met with hostility.

“We need to have mutual respect with all people in the world. In particular, migration is a positive aspect—the respect for migrants and diversity is a fundamental pillar of the UN and it will be a fundamental pillar of the actions of the Secretary-General,” Guterres said.

The UN Global Compact for Migration is set to be adopted later this year after months of negotiations. The U.S. however has since withdrawn from the compact and is seemingly increasingly abandoning its commitments to migrants and refugees.

Most recently, U.S. President Donald Trump allegedly made offensive comments about immigrants from Caribbean and African nations.

The African Group of UN Ambassadors issued a statement condemning the “outrageous, racist, and xenophobic remarks” and demanded an apology.

UN human rights spokesperson Rupert Colville echoed similar sentiments, stating: “There is no other word one can use but racist. You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”

Guterres expressed particular concern about U.S. cuts to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) which has served more than five million registered refugees for almost 70 years.

“UNRWA is providing vital services to the Palestinian refugee population…those services are extremely important not only for the wellbeing of these populations—and there is a serious humanitarian concern here—but also it is an important factor of stability,” he said.

Just a day after the Secretary-General’s briefing, the U.S. administration announced that it will cut over half of its planned funding to the agency.

Former UN Undersecretary-General and current Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland urged the government to reconsider its decision.”

“Cutting aid to innocent refugee children due to political disagreements among well-fed grown men and women is a really bad politicization of humanitarian aid,” he said in a tweet.

In light of the range of challenges, Guterres called for bold leadership in the world.

“We need less hatred, more dialogue, and deeper international cooperation. With unity in 2018, we can make this pivotal year that sets the world on a better course,” he concluded.

The post “The World Has Gone in Reverse” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/world-gone-reverse/feed/ 1
Pakistan, Facing Military Aid Cuts, One Step Ahead of UShttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/pakistan-facing-military-aid-cuts-one-step-ahead-us/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pakistan-facing-military-aid-cuts-one-step-ahead-us http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/pakistan-facing-military-aid-cuts-one-step-ahead-us/#respond Tue, 16 Jan 2018 14:27:11 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153886 When the United States abruptly cuts off military supplies to its allies for political or other reasons, the reaction has been predictable: it drive these countries into the arms of the Chinese, the Russians and Western European weapons suppliers. So, when the Trump administration decided recently to withhold about $2.0 billion in aid to Pakistan, […]

The post Pakistan, Facing Military Aid Cuts, One Step Ahead of US appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

'Rafale B', French Air Force combat jets.

By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK, Jan 16 2018 (IPS)

When the United States abruptly cuts off military supplies to its allies for political or other reasons, the reaction has been predictable: it drive these countries into the arms of the Chinese, the Russians and Western European weapons suppliers.

So, when the Trump administration decided recently to withhold about $2.0 billion in aid to Pakistan, the government in Islamabad was one step ahead: it had already built a vibrant military relationship with China and also turned to UK, France, Sweden, Turkey and Italy for its arms supplies.

In the Middle East, some of the longstanding US allies, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt and Kuwait, are known not to depend too heavily on American weapons systems—and their frontline fighter planes include not only F-15s and F-16s (US-supplied) but also Rafale and Mirage combat jets (France), the Typhoon (a UK/France/Italy joint venture) and Tornado and Jaguars (UK), all of them in multi-billion dollar arms deals.

The primary reason for multiple sources is to ensure uninterrupted arms supplies if any one of the suppliers, usually the US, withholds military aid – as it did in the 1990s when Washington suspended security assistance to Pakistan under the so-called Pressler amendment which called for a certification that Pakistan did not possess nuclear weapons. (It did)

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) latest data for 2012-2016, the US accounted for about a third of the entire global market in major conventional weapons.

SIPRI reports that Pakistan has received significant quantities of weapons from both the United States and China in recent years. Deliveries from China in the last several years reportedly include combat aircraft, tanks, submarines, and other naval vessels.

US deliveries have included armored personnel carriers and systems to modernize US F-16s that were previously supplied to the Pakistani military.

Derek Bisaccio, Middle East/ Africa & Eurasia Analyst at Forecast International Inc., a US-based defense research company, told IPS the two primary arms suppliers to Pakistan are the United States and China.

American arms agreements with Pakistan, he said, have totaled between $5-6 billion since 2001; much of this stems from the sale of F-16 fighter planes.

“Although Chinese arms sales to Pakistan are more difficult to put a dollar figure to– owing to a lack of transparency on both sides– it is expected that Chinese arms sales have eclipsed American arms sales on an annual basis in recent years as Pakistan and China have deepened their military-technical cooperation,” he noted.

In the past decade, China has sold naval patrol vessels, submarines, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems to Pakistan. The two have partnered on projects like the JF-17 fighter jet, assembled and manufactured locally by the Pakistanis.

Other arms suppliers include Ukraine, with whom Pakistan has partnered on its fleet of battle tanks, and Turkey.

Pakistan and Turkey have negotiated in the past few years over Pakistan’s possible purchase of attack helicopters and corvettes. Pakistan has purchased airborne early warning & control aircraft from Sweden and may well acquire more in the coming years, Bisaccio said.

In the past, Pakistan has contracted the United Kingdom, France and Italy for some of its purchases; many naval vessels and aircraft operated by Pakistan are French-origin, he added.

According to a report in the Washington Times last week, China is planning to build a military base in Pakistan, which would be its second overseas military base, after Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.

The naval installation will be erected in a key strategic location: the Pakistani town of Jiwani, a port near the Iranian border on the Gulf of Oman and near the Straits of Hormuz, which resides at one of the six proposed economic corridors of the One Belt One Road Initiative, commonly called the Silk Road Economic Belt, the Times said.

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 Trump administration’s decision to halt military aid to Pakistan is long overdue. Pakistan’s human rights record is deplorable, as documented in annual reports from the State Department.”

However, that decision was not justified on human rights grounds, she noted. Instead, the administration argues that the Pakistani government is not doing enough to combat terrorism.

“This argument that Pakistan is harboring terrorists is not new. The US-Pakistani relationship frequently features policy cycles that include critical statements by US officials, attempts to reduce or halt aid, and an eventual return to the status quo,” said Goldring, who also represents the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy at the United Nations, on conventional weapons and arms trade issues.

“Ironically, the Trump decision to put a hold on military assistance to Pakistan comes at the same time as Reuters reports that the administration is planning to be even more aggressive in pursuing global arms sales. Embassy staffs are apparently going to be asked to promote US arms sales more actively to their host governments. This is reminiscent of similar moves during the Reagan administration.”

She also pointed out that advocates of arms sales often argue that countries can find other suppliers if the US government refuses a sale.

“Yet by avoiding selling sophisticated US weapons to unstable regimes, we may significantly reduce the risk that members of our armed forces will end up fighting our own weapons. And in the end, the US government needs to set ethical standards for arms sales, not merely economic ones.”

Reacting to the US aid cuts, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif was quoted as saying: “We do not have any alliance” with the US. “This is not how allies behave.”

Trump said on Twitter that Pakistan had “given us nothing but lies and deceit” and accused Islamabad of providing “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan.”

But Islamabad may still retaliate by closing down US supply routes to Afghanistan which goes through Pakistan. Currently, there are over 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan.

Bisaccio of Forecast International Inc told IPS that due to decades of partnership, the Pakistani military has a large amount of U.S.-supplied equipment, either provided directly from the U.S. or a third party, in its force structures, either in active use or in storage.

Much of the Army’s aviation wing is composed of Western-supplied aircraft, with a lot of American systems.

Asked if the Pakistani military can survive if the US suspends military aid– and halts maintenance, servicing and spares to US-made equipment—Bisaccio said it can certainly survive, but in some areas of the military such moves to end cooperation would be painful.

He said the suspension of maintenance, servicing, and the provision of spare parts– should the U.S. decide to enact such a move– would be particularly problematic for the Pakistani F-16 fleet.

Pakistan has already encountered difficulty acquiring new F-16s, as the U.S. Congress blocked Pakistan from using foreign military financing to purchase eight jets in 2016. Inability to acquire maintenance or armaments would impact fleet readiness, especially over time as the F-16s face attrition. Posturing against rival India would suffer as a result, he added.

Moreover, the ability of the Army to carry out counter-insurgency operations could be impacted should Pakistan not be able to obtain servicing for the Army’s aviation assets, especially the AH-1 attack helicopters.

“Pakistan, in recognition that reliance on one supplier could create vulnerability, has over the years diversified its supplier base and worked to build up its own defense industry, which does have the effect of lessening its military dependence on the U.S,” Bisaccio pointed out.

The dispute with President Trump, he pointed out, is a symptom of the longer-running tension between the U.S. and Pakistan, but, in Pakistan’s view, the latest row with the Trump administration provides further validation for this policy.

In an interview with the Financial Times in September 2017, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi reiterated that his country would like to purchase F-16s from the U.S., but could seek alternatives from France or China if need be.

Pakistan’s missile deterrent against India is a key element of the country’s national security and Pakistan was able to develop its missile program without American assistance.

“The gradual fraying of relations between the U.S. and Pakistan has occurred amid a deepening of relations between China and Pakistan. Their joint cooperation on a range of matters, including military-technical issues, will help blunt the impact of the U.S. cutting off aid to Pakistan.”

The volume of security assistance provided to Pakistan from China is unknown but is likely to increase moving forward, offsetting to some extent the temporary or permanent loss of American assistance, he added.

The post Pakistan, Facing Military Aid Cuts, One Step Ahead of US appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/pakistan-facing-military-aid-cuts-one-step-ahead-us/feed/ 0
Thousands Still Dying at Sea En Route to Europehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/thousands-still-dying-sea-en-route-europe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thousands-still-dying-sea-en-route-europe http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/thousands-still-dying-sea-en-route-europe/#respond Mon, 15 Jan 2018 07:39:23 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153861 Amid concerns that 160 people may have drowned while attempting to cross the Mediterranean this week alone, the UN refugee agency have urged countries to offer more resettlement places. Though the influx of refugees and migrants has slowed, many are still embarking on dangerous journeys to Europe. “[We] have been advocating for a comprehensive approach […]

The post Thousands Still Dying at Sea En Route to Europe appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Somali refugees on the Tunisian desert. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 15 2018 (IPS)

Amid concerns that 160 people may have drowned while attempting to cross the Mediterranean this week alone, the UN refugee agency have urged countries to offer more resettlement places.

Though the influx of refugees and migrants has slowed, many are still embarking on dangerous journeys to Europe.

“[We] have been advocating for a comprehensive approach to address movements of migrants and refugees who embark on perilous journeys across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean,” said spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) William Spindler.

On Monday, the Italian coastguard picked up 60 survivors and recovered eight corpses. Up to 50, including 15 women and 6 children, are feared to have drowned.

Most recently on Wednesday, an inflatable boat carrying 100 refugees sank off the coast of Libya. Libya is among the major countries of departure for refugees.

Approximately 227,000 refugees are estimated to be in need of resettlement in 15 priority countries of asylum and transit along the Central Mediterranean route.

Despite appealing for just 40,000 resettlement places last year, UNHCR has thus far received 13,000 offers of resettlement places.

“Most of these are part of regular established global resettlement programmes and only a few represent additional places,” Spindler said.

After stories of migrants being sold at an auction and being held in horrific conditions in detention centers were revealed, both UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have helped evacuate hundreds of vulnerable refugees from Libya to Niger.

However, the European Union has continued its policy of assisting the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept and return migrants in the Mediterranean.

“The suffering of migrants detained in Libya is an outrage to the conscience of humanity…what was an already dire situation has now turned catastrophic,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, adding that the EU’s policy is “inhuman.”

“We cannot be a silent witness to modern day slavery, rape and other sexual violence, and unlawful killings in the name of managing migration and preventing desperate and traumatized people from reaching Europe’s shores,” he continued, calling for the decriminalization of irregular migration in order to help protect migrants’ human rights.

Human rights officials have also criticized the EU-Turkey deal which returns migrants who have entered the Greek islands to Turkey. Many have found that asylum seekers are also not safe in Turkey as the country does not grant asylum or refugee status to non-Europeans.

UNHCR called for efforts to strengthen protection capacity and livelihood support in countries of first asylum, provide more regular and safe ways for refugees to find safety through resettlement or family reunification, and address the root causes of refugee displacement.

The post Thousands Still Dying at Sea En Route to Europe appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/thousands-still-dying-sea-en-route-europe/feed/ 0
The Reality of North Korea as a Nuclear Powerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/reality-north-korea-nuclear-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=reality-north-korea-nuclear-power http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/reality-north-korea-nuclear-power/#comments Thu, 11 Jan 2018 11:12:46 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153823 With a track record of six underground nuclear tests between 2006 and 2017, North Korea is desperately yearning to be recognized as the world’s ninth nuclear power – trailing behind the US, UK, France, China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Israel. But that recognition seems elusive– despite the increasing nuclear threats by Pyongyang and the continued […]

The post The Reality of North Korea as a Nuclear Power appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Credit: UN photo

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 11 2018 (IPS)

With a track record of six underground nuclear tests between 2006 and 2017, North Korea is desperately yearning to be recognized as the world’s ninth nuclear power – trailing behind the US, UK, France, China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Israel.

But that recognition seems elusive– despite the increasing nuclear threats by Pyongyang and the continued war of words between two of the world’s most unpredictable leaders: US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Arguing that North Koreans have little reason to give up their weapons program, the New York Times ran a story last November with a realistically arresting headline which read: “The North is a Nuclear Power Now. Get Used to it”.

But the world’s five major nuclear powers, the UK, US, France, China and Russia, who are also permanent members of the UN Security Council, have refused to bestow the nuclear badge of honour to the North Koreans.

North Korea, meanwhile, has pointed out that the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the ouster of Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi, were perhaps facilitated by one fact: none of these countries had nuclear weapons or had given up developing nuclear weapons.

“And that is why we will never give up ours,” a North Korean diplomat was quoted as saying.

Dr M.V. Ramana, Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia, told IPS there is, however, hope in the recent placatory moves by North and South Korea.

“I think that the situation can return to a calmer state, although it is entirely possible that this calmer state would involve North Korea holding on to nuclear weapons. I suspect that for the time being the world will have to live with North Korea’s nuclear arsenal,” he added.

“Although that is not a desirable goal, there is no reason why one should presume that North Korea having nuclear weapons is any more of a problem than India, Pakistan, or Israel, or for that matter, China, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, or the United States,” said Dr Ramana, author of The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India, Penguin Books, New Delhi (2012).

“I think the greater problem is the current leadership of the United States that has been making provocative statements and taunts. I think it is for the powerful countries to start the process of calming down the rhetoric and initiate negotiations with North Korea.”

Also, any peace process should be based on reciprocal moves: one cannot simply expect North Korea to scale down its programs without corresponding moves by the United States, he declared.

Jayantha Dhanapala, a former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs (1998-2003), told IPS there is little doubt that North Korea, (also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), has acquired a nuclear weapon capability and the means of delivering it to the mainland of the USA.

That this is clearly in defiance of international norms and a violation of international law and Security Council resolutions is also clear, he noted.

Those norms, quite apart from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), now include the recently negotiated Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, or the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty, the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons, with the goal of leading towards their total elimination.

It was adopted on 7 July 2017, but neither the USA nor the DPRK have acceded to it, said Dhanapala a former President of Pugwash (2007-17),

He also pointed out that the persistent efforts of the DPRK since the end of the Korean War to conclude a just and equitable peace with the USA have been rebuffed again and again.

“Past agreements and talks both bilateral and multilateral have failed and we are now witnessing the puerile antics of two leaders engaged in the mutual recrimination of two school-yard bullies asserting that one man’s nuclear button is bigger than the other’s while tensions reminiscent of the Cold War build up alarmingly.”

Such escalation reached dangerous proportions at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis where the historical record proves that the world was saved from nuclear catastrophe by sheer luck.

“We cannot trust to luck anymore,” he warned.

“Some small steps between the two Koreas hold promise of a dialogue beginning on the eve of the Winter Olympics. This must be the opportunity for all major powers to intervene and resume negotiations. The Secretary-General of the UN must act and act now,” he added.

The number of nuclear weapons in the world has declined significantly since the end of the Cold War: down from approximately 70,300 in 1986 to an estimated 14,550, according to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

According to US intelligence sources, North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is anywhere between 20 to 50 weapons. The US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) estimates a total of over 50 weapons.

Joseph Gerson, President of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security, told IPS that successive North Korean governments have pursued their nuclear weapons program for two primary reasons: to ensure the survival of the Kim Dynasty and to preserve the survival of the North Korean state.

“As Scott Snyder (a Senior Fellow for Korea Studies and Director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy Council on Foreign Relations) taught us years ago, there is a logic – potentially deadly as is the case with any nuclear weapons program – to the development of North Korea’s deterrent nuclear arsenal.”

Beginning with the Korean War, the United States has threatened and or prepared to initiate nuclear war against North Korea. These threats have added resonance for North Koreans as a consequence of the United States military having destroyed 90% of all structures north of the 38th parallel during the Korean War.

Gerson said it is also worth noting that in the wake of the 1994 U.S.-DPRK nuclear crisis, North Korea was prepared to trade its nuclear weapons program in exchange for security guarantees, normalization of relations and economic development assistance.

The United States failed to fulfill its commitments under the 1994 Agreed Framework, by refusing to deliver promised oil supplies and endlessly delaying its promised construction of two light water nuclear reactors in exchange for the suspension of the DPRK nuclear weapons program.

In 2000, former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright negotiated a comprehensive agreement with North Korea. And President Clinton was to travel to Pyongyang to finalize the agreement, but with the political crisis caused by the disputed outcome of the 2000 Presidential Election, he did not make that trip.

Among the first disastrous orders of business of the Bush Administration was the sabotaging of that agreement. This, in turn, led to North Korea’s first nuclear weapons test, said Gerson, author of “Empire and the Bomb: How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World”, “The Sun Never Sets…Confronting the Network of U.S. Foreign Military Bases”, and “With Hiroshima Eyes: Atomic War, Nuclear Extortion and Moral Imagination”.

While expectations for the meeting of North and South Korean officials, currently underway, are low, said Gerson, the world should be celebrating South Korean President Moon’s winter Olympic-related diplomatic initiatives and the resulting functional Olympic Truce.

By welcoming North Korean athletes to participate in the Olympics and by postponing threatening U.S.-South Korean military “exercises,” President Trump’s “my nuclear button is bigger than yours” –ratcheting up of dangers of war have been sidelined– he pointed out.

Following his inauguration last year, President Moon announced that he had a veto over the possibility of a disastrous U.S. initiated second Korean War. Having exercised that veto and forced Trump’s hand, he has opened the way for deeper diplomacy and peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Gerson said: “There remains, of course, the danger the Olympic Truce will simply serve as a temporary reprieve, with President Trump, beleaguered by the Muller investigation and seemingly endless scandals, again ratcheting up tensions. Disastrous war remains a possibility should the nuclear monarch opt for a desperate and deadly maneuver in his struggle for political survival.”

There never was, nor will there be, a military solution to the U.S.-North Korean nuclear crisis, and as U.S. military authorities have repeated warned, given Seoul’s proximity to North Korean artillery, even a conventional U.S. military attack against North Korea would result in hundreds of thousands of South Korean casualties and could escalate to uncontrollable and genocidal nuclear war.

The way forward requires direct U.S.-North Korean negotiations, possibly in multi-lateral frameworks like the Six Party Talks, Gerson noted.

As the growing international consensus advocates, resolution of the tensions will necessitate some form of a “freeze for freeze” agreement, limiting North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs in exchange for halting U.S. threats to destroy or overturn the North Korean government and to implement previous commitments to normalization of relations.

With this foundation in place, future diplomacy can address finally ending the Korea War by replacing the Armistice Agreement with a peace treaty and building on numerous proposals for the creation of a Northeast Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone.

In the end, Gerson said, the only way to prevent similar nuclear weapons proliferation crises is for the nuclear powers to finally fulfill their Article VI Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligation to negotiate the complete elimination of their nuclear arsenals.

As the Nobel Peace Laureate and senior Manhattan Project scientists Joseph Rotblat warned, humanity faces a stark choice. “We can either completely eliminate the world’s nuclear weapons, or we will witness their global proliferation and the nuclear wars that will follow. Why? Because no nation will long tolerate what it perceives to be an unjust hierarchy of nuclear terror.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

The post The Reality of North Korea as a Nuclear Power appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/reality-north-korea-nuclear-power/feed/ 2
Disasters Bring Upheaval to Sri Lanka’s Rural Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/disasters-bring-upheaval-sri-lankas-rural-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=disasters-bring-upheaval-sri-lankas-rural-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/disasters-bring-upheaval-sri-lankas-rural-economy/#respond Fri, 05 Jan 2018 00:01:09 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153753 Last year was an annus horribilis for 52-year-old Newton Gunathileka. A paddy smallholder from Sri Lanka’s northwestern Puttalam District, 2017 saw Gunathileka abandon his two acres of paddy for the first time in over three and half decades, leaving his family almost destitute. The father of two had suffered two straight harvest losses and was […]

The post Disasters Bring Upheaval to Sri Lanka’s Rural Economy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The worst drought in 40 years has forced thousands in Sri Lanka to abandon their livelihoods and seek work in cities. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The worst drought in 40 years has forced thousands in Sri Lanka to abandon their livelihoods and seek work in cities. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Amantha Perera
PERIYAKULAM/ADIGAMA, Jan 5 2018 (IPS)

Last year was an annus horribilis for 52-year-old Newton Gunathileka. A paddy smallholder from Sri Lanka’s northwestern Puttalam District, 2017 saw Gunathileka abandon his two acres of paddy for the first time in over three and half decades, leaving his family almost destitute.

The father of two had suffered two straight harvest losses and was over 1,300 dollars in the red when he decided to move out of his village and look for work in nearby towns.

“What am I to do? There is no work in our village, all the fields have dried up, everyone is moving out looking for work,” Gunathileka told IPS.

He was left to work in construction sites and tobacco fields for a daily wage of about five dollars. When jobs became scarcer, his wife joined the search for casual work. The couple, who have been supporting their family off casual work for the last four months, is unsure whether they will ever return to farming despite the drought easing.

Gunathileka is not alone. Disasters, manmade and natural, are increasingly forcing agriculture-based income earners, especially small farmers, out of their villages and into cities looking for work.

In the village of Adigama, in the same district, government officials suspect that between 150 and 200 villagers, mainly youth, have left looking for work in the last two years. Sisira Kumara, the main government administrative officer in the village, said that the migration has been prompted by harvest losses.

“There was no substantial rain between October of 2016 and November 2017. Three harvests have been lost. Unlike in the past, now you cannot rely on rain patterns which in turn makes agriculture a very risky affair,” he said.

“In Sri Lanka, poverty, unemployment, lack of livelihood options and recurring climate shocks impact the food security of many families, resulting in migration to find secure livelihoods,” the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said last year in a joint communiqué with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation to commemorate World Food Day.

Women, particularly single breadwinners, have been left vulnerable in Sri Lanka’s poverty-stricken former northern war zone. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Women, particularly single breadwinners, have been left vulnerable in Sri Lanka’s poverty-stricken former northern war zone. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Climate shocks have been severe in Sri Lanka in the past few years. In 2017, a drought affected over two million people and floods impacted an additional 500,000. The vital paddy harvest was the lowest in over a decade, falling 40 percent compared to the year before. The UN has termed the 2017 drought as the worst in 40 years..

According to M.W, Weerakoon, additional secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, paddy farmers have to work throughout the year just to stay above the poverty line. He estimates that a paddy farmer needs to cultivate 2.6 acres without a break just to make the 116 dollars (Rs 17,760) needed monthly for a family of four to remain above the poverty line.

“That is not possible with the unpredictable rains, so farmers are moving out,” he said. Around 20 percent of Sri Lanka’s population of 21million are internal migrants, according to government statistics, and experts like Weerakoon say that this movement is heightened by climate shocks.

Staying in their native villages and continuing to farm pushes victims further into a debt trap. Last August, when the drought was at its peak, a WFP survey found that the family debt of those surveyed had risen by 50 percent compared to a year back. And as formal lenders like banks shy away from lending to them, these farmers tend to seek the help of informal lenders.

Human-made disasters are also pushing the poor out of their homes to seek jobs elsewhere. In Sri Lanka’s North and East, ravaged by a deadly civil war till 2009, high poverty rates are forcing vulnerable segments of society like war widows to seek work elsewhere.

In the Northern Province where the war was at its worst, female unemployment rates are almost twice the national rate of 7 percent, at 13.8 percent. There is no data available for single female-headed households of which there are at least 58,000 out of the provincial total of 250,000.

Nathkulasinham Nesemalhar, a 52-year-old war widow from the North, spent three harrowing months in Oman after being duped by job agents. Credit: Nathkulasinham Nesemalhar family

Nathkulasinham Nesemalhar, a 52-year-old war widow from the North, spent three harrowing months in Oman after being duped by job agents. Credit: Nathkulasinham Nesemalhar family

Last year, the Association for Friendship and Love (AFRIEL), a civic group based in the province, located 15 women stuck in Muscat, Oman, after being sent there by job agents. At least four were from the war zone and none had been paid for months and were being moved around the Omani capital daily working in odd jobs.

Nathkulasinham Nesemalhar a 54-year-old war widow who was part of the group, said that they were being sent for casual work by the job agents to recoup costs. “All of us could not work in the households due to various issues, so for three months we kept doing odd jobs, so that the agents made their money,” she said. The group was finally brought back to Sri Lanka after the government intervened.

AFRIEL head Ravidra de Silva told IPS that women like Nesemalhar were among the most vulnerable due to almost zero chances of jobs in their villages. “So they will take any chance that is offered to them. What we need are long-haul policies that target vulnerable communities.”

Unfortunately, there have been few such interventions since the war’s conclusion.

The IOM office in Colombo said that climate-driven migration was fueled by complex and diverse set of drivers and required multi-dimensional risk assessments and interventions.

Government official Weerakoon said that one of the main ambitions of the government in 2018 was to increase the planted extent of paddy and other crops. The government also plans to introduce measures to increase value addition among farmers who remain by and large bulk suppliers of raw produce.

The post Disasters Bring Upheaval to Sri Lanka’s Rural Economy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/disasters-bring-upheaval-sri-lankas-rural-economy/feed/ 0
Argentine Soldiers Rest in Peace in the Malvinas/Falkland Islandshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/argentine-soldiers-died-malvinasfalkland-islands-rest-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=argentine-soldiers-died-malvinasfalkland-islands-rest-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/argentine-soldiers-died-malvinasfalkland-islands-rest-peace/#respond Thu, 04 Jan 2018 14:01:23 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153740 Julio Aro, a veteran of the 1982 Malvinas/Falklands war, returned to the islands in 2008. When he visited the Argentine Military Cemetery he found 121 tombs that read: “Argentine soldier only known by God”, and he resolved to return their identity to his fellow soldiers. Today he can say that, to a large extent, he […]

The post Argentine Soldiers Rest in Peace in the Malvinas/Falkland Islands appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Julio Aro in the Argentine Military Cemetery (or Darwin Cemetery), in Malvinas/Falkland Islands. The former combatant worked since 2008 with the aim of identifying the Argentine soldiers buried on the islands. Credit: Courtesy of Julio Aro

Julio Aro in the Argentine Military Cemetery (or Darwin Cemetery), in Malvinas/Falkland Islands. The former combatant worked since 2008 with the aim of identifying the Argentine soldiers buried on the islands. Credit: Courtesy of Julio Aro

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Jan 4 2018 (IPS)

Julio Aro, a veteran of the 1982 Malvinas/Falklands war, returned to the islands in 2008. When he visited the Argentine Military Cemetery he found 121 tombs that read: “Argentine soldier only known by God”, and he resolved to return their identity to his fellow soldiers. Today he can say that, to a large extent, he has achieved his goal.

More than 35 years after the war between Argentina and Great Britain in the South Atlantic, 88 Argentine families are receiving news that those soldiers who never returned home – their sons, husbands, or brothers – were identified and are buried in the Darwin Cemetery.

“In some cases, the family members are given rings, crucifixes, gloves or other belongings that had been buried with the bodies. It’s very moving,” said Julio Aro in an interview with IPS.

“The families all react differently. Some are happy, some are sad… I met a father who still hoped his son would return from the islands. It has been 35 years of anguish because these people have been subjected to enormous cruelty,” he added.

The process of truth and reparations is expected to be concluded in March or April, when a ceremony will be held on the Malvinas/Falklands islands, with relatives of the fallen, where the names of the previously unidentified soldiers will be placed at each grave.

Increasingly weakened and up against the wall because of revelations of its human rights violations, the 1976-1983 Argentine military dictatorship invaded the Malvinas/Falkland Islands in 1982, in response to a long-standing nationalist aspiration shared even today by a large part of the population of this South American country: to recover the Islands occupied by Great Britain since 1833.

However, the British government of prime minister Margaret Thatcher reacted quickly sending troops to the South Atlantic, and in two months defeated Argentina, which suffered 649 casualties. Britain regained control of the islands, which aggravated the crisis facing the Argentine military government and paved the way for the country to return to democracy the following year.

The initiative to try to heal the wound that remained open for many families began in December 2016 with an agreement between Argentina and Great Britain, which gave rise to the so-called Humanitarian Project Plan (PPH).

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was entrusted to identify the Argentine soldiers buried in anonymous graves in the Malvinas/Falklands.

In June 2017, after a long period of interviews and collecting DNA samples from 107 relatives who had never recovered their loved ones, a team of 14 forensic experts from Argentina, Australia, Chile, Great Britain, Mexico and Spain disembarked in the Malvinas/Falklands.

Luis Fondebrider and Mercedes Doretti belong to the prestigious Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF), who together with forensic experts from other countries managed to identify 88 Argentine soldiers buried in the Malvinas/Falklands islands, 35 years after the war. Credit: Daniel Gutman / IPS

Luis Fondebrider and Mercedes Doretti belong to the prestigious Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF), who together with forensic experts from other countries managed to identify 88 Argentine soldiers buried in the Malvinas/Falklands islands, 35 years after the war. Credit: Daniel Gutman / IPS

For seven weeks, in the middle of the cold Southern hemisphere winter on the islands, the experts worked at the cemetery, exhuming 122 corpses (there were 121 graves, but one of them held two bodies), taking DNA samples at a morgue temporarily fitted out with hi-tech equipment, placing the remains in new coffins and burying them again in the same graves.

The genetic analysis of the samples and the comparison with the ones taken from the relatives were later carried out in the laboratory of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) in Córdoba, whose forensic experts participated in the whole process. In parallel, two other laboratories from Great Britain and Spain carried out a cross-comparison and confirmed the results.

The EAAF is a prestigious multidisciplinary team created in 1984 to identify the remains of victims of forced disappearance killed by Argentina’s military dictatorship.

Since then, the EAAF has been working in many countries around the world identifying remains of victims of human rights violations, supporting processes of truth, justice and reparation.

Forensic anthropologist Luis Fondebrider, director of the EAAF, explained to IPS that despite the time that had passed, the bodies in the Darwin cemetery were in relatively good condition due to the work carried out in 1982 by British colonel Geoffrey Cardozo.

“When the war ended, Cardozo spent six weeks gathering all the bodies of Argentine soldiers who were on the battlefield or in the cemetery of Puerto Argentino (Port Stanley, capital of the Malvinas/Falklands). Then he resolved to create a military cemetery, with geat dignity and respect for the fallen,” said Fondebrider.

Fondebrider said that each body, before being buried was wrapped together with its belongings in three bags by Cardozo, who also made a map with references to the cemetery and a report.

That map and report were safeguarded by Cardozo for decades. In 2008, the British officer gave it to former Argentine combatant Julio Aro, when he visited London invited by a group of local war veterans.

Aro was obsessed with the need to identify the Argentine soldiers buried in the Malvinas/Falklands, and Cardozo knew that the documents would be of great help.

“I had returned to the Malvinas more than 25 years after the war to find a bit of the person I had left there in 1982,” Aro said.

“And when I saw those tombs with that inscription, I could not stand it,” he recalled.

Aro then began knocking on doors, convinced that one day the families who had never heard again from their loved ones could obtain an answer.

In 2011, when everything seemed more difficult than ever, Gaby Cociffi, a journalist who had covered the war and got involved in the project, was given the email address of British rock star Roger Waters, who was on a world tour that attracted crowds and would be performing in Buenos Aires the following year.

Waters quickly became publicly involved in the cause and, when he was received at the Casa Rosada government house by the then Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, he raised the issue.

It was then that Fernández took the issue into her own hands, and on Apr. 2, 2012, on the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the Malvinas/Falklands war, she announced that she had sent a letter to the ICRC, asking it to intercede with Great Britain to try to identify the Argentine soldiers.” Now, finally, their families can have peace.

The post Argentine Soldiers Rest in Peace in the Malvinas/Falkland Islands appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/argentine-soldiers-died-malvinasfalkland-islands-rest-peace/feed/ 0
US Faces Collective Defiance at UN Over Jerusalemhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/us-faces-collective-defiance-un-jerusalem/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-faces-collective-defiance-un-jerusalem http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/us-faces-collective-defiance-un-jerusalem/#respond Fri, 22 Dec 2017 18:45:22 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153682 When the UN General Assembly condemned the United States for its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the vote was described as a “collective defiance” of the international community against public threats against the United Nations and its member states by a politically unpredictable and predictably wavering US President. Turkish Foreign Minister […]

The post US Faces Collective Defiance at UN Over Jerusalem appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

UN voting -- electronic board. Credit: UN Photo

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 22 2017 (IPS)

When the UN General Assembly condemned the United States for its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the vote was described as a “collective defiance” of the international community against public threats against the United Nations and its member states by a politically unpredictable and predictably wavering US President.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, speaking on behalf of a country that has been a longstanding American ally, declared that Donald Trump’s threat last week to cut off American aid to countries voting for the UN resolution, as an act of “bullying,” and the General Assembly “would not bow to such bullying”.

“It is unethical. The votes and dignity of member states are not for sale– and it was unacceptable for a member state to threaten other member states. A vote in favour of the Palestinian people would place Member States on the right side of history”, he noted.

Stewart Patrick, a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations, was quoted by the New York Times as saying: “I think this was a significantly self-inflicted wound and really unnecessary, clumsy diplomacy on the part of the United States.”

“More than that, I think it symbolizes the self-defeating notion that for the United States, ‘it’s my way or the highway,’” he said.

Regrettably, there is no love lost between Trump and the United Nations, which he once denounced as just another “social club” – a remark made more through sheer ignorance than a well-thought-out diplomatic pronouncement.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, went one step further by not only warning member states but also the United Nations itself. In an implicit threat on US funding for the UN, she said: “We will remember it (the voting against the US), when we are called upon once again to make the world’s largest contribution (22 percent of the regular budget) to the United Nations”.

The final tally on the vote was 128 in favour to 9 against (Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Togo, United States), with 35 abstentions.

The non-binding General Assembly resolution, which expressed “deep regret” over recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem, also stressed that the future of the Holy City “is a final status issue to be resolved through negotiations in line with relevant UN resolutions” – and, in a stinging rebuke to the US, declared “null and void” any actions intended to alter Jerusalem’s character, status or demographic composition.

Adopted at an emergency special session of the General Assembly on Thursday, the resolution was a devastating attack against Trump’s recent unilateral decision to recognize the historically disputed city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and a pledge to relocate the US embassy from its current location in Tel Aviv—the only country to do so.

The 128 member states supporting the resolution included four of the five permanent members of the Security Council: the UK, France, China and Russia. The fifth permanent member is the US.

Last week, speaking on the impending UN vote, Trump blustered he will not tolerate “all of these nations that take our money and then vote against us in the Security Council and at the General Assembly. They take hundreds of millions of dollars and then they vote against us. Well we’re watching those votes.”

But some of his threats, which is rare for a head of state, have proved to be empty. Trump threatened to hold up aid to Pakistan if it did not cooperate more on US counter-terrorism efforts and also warned he will withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) if it did not increase its joint military spending.

US economic and military aid to American allies such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan, run into billions of dollars annually—but all of these countries voted for the resolution.

One of the strongest denunciations came from Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi of Pakistan who told delegates that the unilateral actions of one country were set to undo decades of work by the international community and to defy international law.

She said Pakistan rejected the decision by the United States to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate its embassy to the Holy City in contravention of several provisions of Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.

“Member States must recommit to thwarting any attempts to violate the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the ultimate goal of a two State solution”.

Expressing her support for the Palestinian cause, she said it was a key pillar of Pakistan’s foreign policy, recalling that her country had led and sponsored the Assembly’s first ever resolution on Jerusalem.

“In that regard, Pakistan was proud to join the international community once again in adopting a landmark draft resolution to reject the “revisionist” decision of the United States,” declared Dr Lodhi.

Riad al-Malki, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Palestine, said while the State of Palestine respected the sovereignty of all States, it refused to have that principle used as an excuse to deny Palestinians their rights.

“We stand today united for justice,” he declared, stressing “the veto will not stop us”. The State of Palestine would not accept any justification — security, religious or otherwise — to excuse Israel’s continued occupation, he said. The United Nations was today undergoing an unprecedented test “with Palestine as its headline”.

The General Assembly resolution followed a failed attempt by the 15-member Security Council last week to adopt a similar text reflecting regret about “recent decisions regarding the status of Jerusalem.” But that resolution, despite a vote of 14 to 1, was vetoed by the United States, a permanent member of the Security Council.

Both the General Assembly and the Security Council votes have underlined the increasing isolation of the Trump administration—amongst its Western allies and at the United Nations.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

The post US Faces Collective Defiance at UN Over Jerusalem appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/us-faces-collective-defiance-un-jerusalem/feed/ 0
Our Right of Passage Should be Safe Migration, Not Leaky Boatshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/right-passage-safe-migration-not-leaky-boats/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=right-passage-safe-migration-not-leaky-boats http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/right-passage-safe-migration-not-leaky-boats/#respond Mon, 18 Dec 2017 15:55:08 +0000 William Lacy Swing http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153598 William Swing is the Director General of IOM, the UN Migration Agency

The post Our Right of Passage Should be Safe Migration, Not Leaky Boats appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

By William Lacy Swing
GENEVA, Dec 18 2017 (IPS)

“I’m a migrant, but didn’t have to risk my life on a leaky boat or pay traffickers. Safe migration cannot be limited to the global elite.” Thus spoke United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres in September 2017.

With a memorable turn of phrase, he captured what is perhaps one of the overriding challenges facing the world today. While we live at a time when a privileged elite considers global mobility virtually its birth-right, it is denied to countless others trapped in hopelessly bad economic or conflict circumstances.

But something else has changed to bring this self-evident reality into the grinding gears of global politics with often tragic consequences.

Not long ago a sort of insider/outsider code-of-conduct meant that what the elite got barely mattered to the global poor, who were only dimly aware of the opportunities to reach a better life beyond the confines of their country`s borders. That was then.

Today, the world’s greatest leveller, the smartphone—which now is in the hands of more than 2 billion across the world—continues to change all that. In less than a decade, smartphones have provided many outsiders with intimate knowledge of heretofore “elite” goings on.

What’s happening is that two coexisting, if starkly diverging realities are clashing on the same planet, turning the hitherto somnolent politics of many countries unpredictable—and, indeed, volatile.

On the one hand, freedom of movement is virtually guaranteed for a privileged and surprisingly broad global citizenry, for whom it has become natural to move safely, freely and relatively inexpensively around the world. This includes tourists, students, visiting family members, migrant workers from the global south (over 2 million Filipinos and 1 million Sri Lankans etc.) as well as the businesspersons who keep our globalized world humming.

What we so easily forget in the discourse about migration is that millions are traveling in ever greater numbers. They move safely and in an orderly way, passing through security on the way to the gate, checking Facebook feeds and instant messages as they go. Above all, they move in a regular way, with passports (and visas) in hand.

So why, one might ask, has migration become such a toxic issue, leading the news headlines and providing fuel for political populism?

Part of the answer may well lie in our brushing over the challenges of integration and being too quick to judge popular hostility towards migration as irrational or worse. Politicians ignore the values people adhere to at their peril.

Equally, if uninterrupted, global mass movements of people are seen to be so orderly, normal and beneficial for all that they do not draw comment, we will need to figure out how to cope with the majority denied mobility because of circumstances.

Hundreds of millions who are not part of the growing, truly global labor talent market find themselves outside looking in, and looking onto a world they can only dream of. They face enormous income disparities and hardships and no chance of getting a visa or a work permit.

It comes as no surprise then that vast armies of hopeful young migrants want to climb aboard the “leaky boats” referred to by the Secretary General. Pushed by lack of economic opportunity, often exacerbated by climate change, they too are vulnerable to the siren song of social media.

That’s where smuggling networks, human traffickers and modern day enslavers ply their trade these days with complete impunity. These cruel deceptions go unchecked, as the social media giants chase new markets in the global south

This is the type of migration that we see on the news and that at its worst has led to the shocking reality—first revealed by IOM—of African migrants being sold as slaves and indentured servants. As population growth and economic failure drive migrants to throw caution to the wind and leave their homes, the inevitable result is populism at the receiving end where communities are also struggling with unemployment and identity issues.

This is why I place so much hope in a global compact for migration, expected to be adopted at the end of 2018. It will be negotiated by Member States under the auspices of the United Nations and aims to address international migration in a comprehensive manner. The first planned inter-governmental agreement of its kind, it crucially is not expected to intrude on nation state sovereignty nor be legally binding, probably just as well given the tinderbox nature of the subject matter.

There is a great deal of existing common ground and it hinges on the understanding that migration isn’t so much a problem to be solved as a human reality to be managed. If we stop to think about the strict and mandatory rules which enable over 34.5 million flights per year that enable the equivalent of 44 per cent of the world’s population to take off and land safely, it should be possible to find some common rules in order to allow many more to travel, migrate and return home freely and safely. We need to offer hope to those facing economic despair, to provide legal pathways for more migrants or circular migration options for those who wish to work and return home.…because if we don’t come up with solutions the smugglers will do it for us, at great cost to human life and to the fabric of our societies.

The post Our Right of Passage Should be Safe Migration, Not Leaky Boats appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/right-passage-safe-migration-not-leaky-boats/feed/ 0
“We Need to Be Strong” – Award Spotlights Courageous Journalistshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/need-strong-award-spotlights-courageous-journalists/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=need-strong-award-spotlights-courageous-journalists http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/need-strong-award-spotlights-courageous-journalists/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 17:00:06 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153578 As press freedom becomes increasingly limited, journalists are frequently finding themselves in more dangerous predicaments than ever before. Every year, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) honors courageous journalists from around the world at the International Press Freedom Awards. “Journalists around the world face growing threats and pressure,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Those […]

The post “We Need to Be Strong” – Award Spotlights Courageous Journalists appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Awardees Pravit Rojanaphruk, Patricia Mayorga, Afrah Nasser with Joel Simon and Christiane Amanpour. Credit: CPJ/Barbara Nitke

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 15 2017 (IPS)

As press freedom becomes increasingly limited, journalists are frequently finding themselves in more dangerous predicaments than ever before.

Every year, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) honors courageous journalists from around the world at the International Press Freedom Awards.

“Journalists around the world face growing threats and pressure,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Those we honor are the most courageous and committed. They stand as an example that journalism matters.”

Among the awardees is award-winning Yemeni reporter and blogger Afrah Nasser, who noted that being a journalist in Yemen is like walking through a minefield.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) found that the Houthi rebel group is the second biggest abductor of journalists following the Islamic State. When they are not victims of air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition, journalists are constantly at risk of detention, forced disappear-ance and assassination.

“I was getting death threats – even subjected to my family – and I was also getting pressure from my family out of protection and love not to write,” Nasser told IPS.

In 2011, as the uprising began in Yemen, Nasser started writing about human rights viola-tions and gender issues in the country, which were soon followed by death threats due to her critical coverage of the regime.

She became a political refugee in Sweden later that year where she now lives and continues to report on Yemen.

“I always believed in the strong power of stories… Freedom of expression is a very vital tool for any community to bring change,” Nasser said.

Though women are often expected to talk about soft topics, Nasser said that she had to express herself.

“I’m not a male, white, Western journalist writing about Yemen…I thought that nobody would take me seriously,” she told IPS about her reaction to CPJ’s award.

But she took the opportunity to highlight the plight of Yemenis and call for international action.

“Being here is not to represent Yemeni journalists only but all Yemenis who feel abandoned by world leaders and international media that are not covering their suffering sufficiently…let’s make sure international media are on the right side of history,” Nasser told attendees.

Like Nasser, Patricia Mayorga also had to seek protection after her colleague was killed in the northwestern state of Chihuahua.

Miroslava Breach Velducea, who covered politics and crime in Chihuahua, was shot eight times in March. A note was found at the crime scene which read, “For being a snitch.”

Mayorga worked alongside her, reporting on the links between politics, corruption, and organized crime. After publishing a story about political candidates ties to organized crime, both Mayorga and Velducea began receiving threats.

“In this moment, I don’t feel fear. I felt courage that I wanted to shout there needs to be justice. But at the same time, you feel like you are living under anesthesia and you have to sort of give yourself up to the experts…because everything got worse,” she told IPS.

Soon after Velducea was killed, Mayorga sought refuge in Peru.

She noted that organized crime was not the only issue for journalists, but also the government’s campaign to silence media on reporting on the reality on the ground.

“When reporters start to question the government, the government starts using surveillance against them. They do campaigns to discredit and criminalize them,” Mayorga said.

“Press freedom isn’t just for journalists, it’s for the people,” she continued.

Mexico continues to be the Western Hemisphere’s deadliest country for the media. An estimated 100 journalists have been murdered since 2000.

“Two months before they killed her in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, Miroslava Breach and I asked ourselves why we kept going. She refused to be complicit, and I refused to betray the people who had put their trust and final hope in journalism,” Mayorga told attendees.

“We need to be strong because Mexico needs us to be strong and clear.”

Other journalists who were honored were Thai reporter Pravit Rojanaphruk, Cameroonian corespondent Ahmed Abba, and managing editor of PBS NewsHour Judy Woodruff.

The post “We Need to Be Strong” – Award Spotlights Courageous Journalists appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/need-strong-award-spotlights-courageous-journalists/feed/ 0
South Sudan: a Nation Tormented by a Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/south-sudan-nation-tormented-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-sudan-nation-tormented-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/south-sudan-nation-tormented-crisis/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:05:56 +0000 Kujiek Ruot http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153553 I come from Panyijar County, South Sudan, just south of where famine was declared in February this year and one of thousands of places badly hit by the conflict which enters its fifth year today. With each year the fighting continues, the hopes that I and my fellow South Sudanese had when voting for independence […]

The post South Sudan: a Nation Tormented by a Crisis appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Oxfam in South Sudan

By Kujiek Ruot, Oxfam, South Sudan
PANYIJAR COUNTY, South Sudan, Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

I come from Panyijar County, South Sudan, just south of where famine was declared in February this year and one of thousands of places badly hit by the conflict which enters its fifth year today. With each year the fighting continues, the hopes that I and my fellow South Sudanese had when voting for independence in 2011 are dimmed.

Home has become a place where our worst memories are made in recent times. Another year passes and I wonder if I should start to ignore it, to move on and avoid more hurt. But how can you forget home? This is my home. My South Sudan.

Let me tell you a bit about my home.

If I ask you to imagine what my old home looked like, most people would picture the bad bits. You might think of the fighting that has forced people to flee for their lives, of barren lands, and of the suffering that thousands of people are currently going through.

But for me, Panyijar was always somewhere completely different; a beautiful and natural place with some of the kindest people around. It’s because of these memories that I cry when I see what is happening there today.

Panyijar County sits in the heart of huge swamps, some of the largest in the world. The waters are dotted by dozens of small islands, with lilies and natural vegetation floating in between. Rare eagles compete with the roosters to wake you in the morning. Not much plastic has reached here yet, so the waters are clear of rubbish.

The people of Panyijar have maintained the natural state of this palm tree-laden land. Were South Sudan a peaceful and developed nation, tourism would be a big earner here! And then there are the people.

Panyijar is famous for its culture of giving and sharing. Caring for others is encouraged from childhood. People tell folk tales of the perils of greed to discourage selfishness. It has even been known for families to trace the lineage of potential spouses for meanness, before getting married.

I remember you could move from one corner of the county to the next, meeting friendly faces all the way. You worried little about where to find food or a place to spend the night: someone would always welcome you. Because people had more, they had more to share when others were in need.

I cannot say there were no challenges before the conflict, but Panyijar was peaceful at least. Today, it’s a different story; a story of crisis. When the guns started blazing, thousands of people fled to the islands where they found some kind of safety but little to survive on except boiled water lily bulbs. With few latrines and clean water difficult to find, deadly diseases and suffering have followed.

The talk of the towns was once of cattle arriving from towns nearby. Now you hear of desperate people arriving, forced to flee from their homes. Diseases seem to be killing more than ever.

When, as a child, I felt unwell in the morning, my mother would give me some herbs and by late afternoon I would be back in the field playing with friends. The difference? Back then I ate nutritious food until I was full to the brim, but now the children are almost always hungry.

Food production has declined. There are few places safe enough to farm and fewer young people to do the work as many of them have been sucked into the conflict. We all keep giving and sharing whatever we may have, but with less to go around, our efforts are stretched thin.

It’s heart-breaking to see the state of a place with such huge potential. On my recent return I saw some signs that there can be better days. Community gardens set up with Oxfam’s help were flourishing, supplying some of the only vegetables in the markets.

It can’t be enough to feed the ever-growing population of the islands, but hopefully in better times more people will adopt them. I want nothing more than this place of natural beauty and wonderful people to grow and flourish.

For now, we must avert disaster. Aid agencies like Oxfam are doing all they can to stop things getting even worse and we must all keep working together to bring back my home’s lost glory and better times for South Sudan.

Peace is where it all begins.

The post South Sudan: a Nation Tormented by a Crisis appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/south-sudan-nation-tormented-crisis/feed/ 0
Arming Poor Countries Enriches Rich Countrieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/arming-poor-countries-enriches-rich-countries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=arming-poor-countries-enriches-rich-countries http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/arming-poor-countries-enriches-rich-countries/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 09:35:42 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153534 Anis Chowdhury, Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney University and the University of New South Wales; held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

The post Arming Poor Countries Enriches Rich Countries appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

The iconic statue of a knotted gun barrel outside U.N. headquarters. Credit:Tressia Boukhors/IPS.

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY/KUALA LUMPUR , Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

Although the Cold War came to an end over a quarter century ago, international arms sales only declined temporarily at the end of the last century. Instead, the United States under President Trump is extending its arms superiority over the rest of the world.

The five biggest importers were India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), China and Algeria. Indian arms imports increased by 43 per cent. Its imports during 2012–2016 were far greater than those of its regional rivals, China and Pakistan, as Pakistan’s arms imports declined by 28 per cent compared to 2007–2011. UAE imports increased by 63 per cent while Saudi Arabia’s rose a staggering 212 per cent
Meanwhile, some fast-growing developing countries are now arming themselves much faster than their growth rate. Such expensive arms imports mean less for development and the people, especially the poor and destitute who constitute several hundred million in India alone.

The end of the Cold War in the early 1990s had raised expectations of a ‘peace dividend’. Many hoped and expected the arms race to decelerate, if not cease; the resources thus saved were expected to be redeployed for development and to improve the lives of ordinary people.

But the arms trade has continued to grow in the new millennium, after falling briefly from the mid-1990s. And without the political competition of the Cold War, official development assistance (ODA) to developing countries fell in the 1990s. Such ODA or foreign aid only rose again after 9/11, the brutal terroristic attack on US symbols of global power, only to fall again after the global financial crisis.

 

Arms sales

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) latest report on the world’s arms trade offers some revealing new data. The volume of international transfers of major weapons in 2012–2016 was 8.4 per cent more than in 2007–2011, the highest for any five-year period since 1990.

As Figure 1 shows, international arms exports rose steeply until the early 1980s, after a brief decline during 1955–1960. It fell once again from the mid-1980s as Mikhail Gorbachev sought to end the Cold War which had diverted resources to military build-ups in developing countries.

Foreign sales of military arms and equipment across the world totalled $374.8 billion in 2016, the first year of growth (by 1.9 per cent), after five years of decline. American companies had a $217.2 billion lion’s share of foreign arms sales. Seven out of ten of the world’s top arms companies were American, earning $152.1 billion, with Lockheed Martin leading with $40.8 billion.

 

Arms Sales: Arming Poor Countries Enriches Rich Countries - Source: SIPRI Arms Transfer Database (20 Feb. 2017) Note: The bars show annual totals while the line shows the five-year moving average, with each data point representing an average for the five-year period ending that year. The SIPRI trend-indicator value (TIV) measures the volume of international transfers of major weapons.

Figure 1. International transfers of major weapons, 1950–2016. Source: SIPRI Arms Transfer Database (20 Feb. 2017) Note: The bars show annual totals while the line shows the five-year moving average, with each data point representing an average for the five-year period ending that year. The SIPRI trend-indicator value (TIV) measures the volume of international transfers of major weapons.

 

Arms exporters

The five biggest exporters during 2012–2016 were the United States, Russia, China, France and Germany (Figure 2).

 

 

Arms Sales: Arming Poor Countries Enriches Rich Countries - Source: SIPRI Arms Transfer Database (20 Feb. 2017)

Source: SIPRI Arms Transfer Database (20 Feb. 2017)

 

US exports of major weapons increased by 21 per cent during 2012–2016 compared to 2007–2011. The major destination was the Middle East which accounted for 47 per cent. The USA exported major weapons to at least 100 states during 2012–2016, significantly more than any other supplying country.

Russian major weapons exports increased by only 4.7 per cent. It sold weapons to only 50 states, with exports to India alone accounting for 38 per cent. Meanwhile, China’s exports increased by 74 per cent, as its share of global arms exports rose from 3.8 to 6.2 per cent. China’s arms exports to Africa grew most, by 122 per cent, to account for 22 per cent of its total arms exports.

 

Arms importers

The five biggest importers were India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), China and Algeria. Indian arms imports increased by 43 per cent. Its imports during 2012–2016 were far greater than those of its regional rivals, China and Pakistan, as Pakistan’s arms imports declined by 28 per cent compared to 2007–2011. UAE imports increased by 63 per cent while Saudi Arabia’s rose a staggering 212 per cent! Saudi Arabia is the largest buyer of US weapons followed by South Korea.

India, the world’s largest arms importer, has more of the world’s abject poor (280 million) than any other country, accounting for a third of the world’s poor living below the international poverty line of US$1.90 a day. Using a US$3.10 a day poverty line, more appropriate for a middle-income country, the number of poor in India goes up dramatically to 732 million.

A study in 2014, led by the former chairman of the Indian Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, C Rangarajan, estimated that 363 million, or 29.5 per cent of India’s 1.2 billion people, lived in poverty in 2011–2012, i.e., on less than Rs 32 daily in rural areas, and below Rs 47 a day in urban areas.

Asia and Oceania was the main importing region in 2012–2016, accounting for 43 per cent of global imports, followed by the Middle East, with 29 per cent, and African states accounting for 8.1 per cent. Between the two five year periods, arms imports in Asia and Oceania increased by 7.7 per cent and in the Middle East by 86 per cent. Arms imports by European states fell by 36 per cent while African arms imports declined by 6.6 per cent.

Tensions in Southeast Asia have driven up demand for weapons. Viet Nam’s arms imports increased by 202 per cent, pushing it to become the 10th largest arms importer in 2012–2016 from being 29th in 2007–2011. This was the fastest increase among the top ten importers. Philippines’ arms imports increased by 426 per cent while Indonesia’s grew by 70 per cent.

 

Fuelling conflicts

Six rebel groups are among the 165 identified recipients of major weapons in 2012–2016. Even though deliveries to the six accounted for no more than 0.02 per cent of major arms transfers, SIPRI argues the sales fuel conflicts.

Conflict regions alone accounted for 48 per cent of total arms imports to sub-Saharan Africa. According to SIPRI, governments fighting rebel groups used major arms against anti-government rebels.

The post Arming Poor Countries Enriches Rich Countries appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/arming-poor-countries-enriches-rich-countries/feed/ 0
Libya: Up to One Million Enslaved Migrants, Victims of ‘Europe’s Complicity’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/libya-one-million-enslaved-migrants-victims-europes-complicity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=libya-one-million-enslaved-migrants-victims-europes-complicity http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/libya-one-million-enslaved-migrants-victims-europes-complicity/#comments Wed, 13 Dec 2017 13:37:53 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153523 “European governments are knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by Libyan immigration authorities in appalling conditions in Libya,” Amnesty International charged in the wake of global outrage over the sale of migrants in Libya. In its new report, ‘Libya’s dark web of collusion’, Amnesty International […]

The post Libya: Up to One Million Enslaved Migrants, Victims of ‘Europe’s Complicity’ appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

In Libya, dozens of migrants sleep alongside one another in a cramped cell in Tripoli's Tariq al-Sikka detention facility. Credit: UNHCR/Iason Foounten

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 13 2017 (IPS)

“European governments are knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by Libyan immigration authorities in appalling conditions in Libya,” Amnesty International charged in the wake of global outrage over the sale of migrants in Libya.

In its new report, ‘Libya’s dark web of collusion’, Amnesty International (AI) details how European governments are actively supporting a sophisticated system of abuse and exploitation of refugees and migrants by the Libyan Coast Guard, detention authorities and smugglers in order to prevent people from crossing the Mediterranean.

The Geneva-based UN International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that the number of migrants trapped in Libya could amount to up to one million, and it is now rushing to rescue the first 15,000 victims through a massive repatriation emergency plan. A major airlift is underway as IOM starts flying 15,000 more migrants from Libya before year end.“European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses... they are complicit in them” -- John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International

“Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in Libya are at the mercy of Libyan authorities, militias, armed groups and smugglers often working seamlessly together for financial gain. Tens of thousands are kept indefinitely in overcrowded detention centres where they are subjected to systematic abuse,” said John Dalhuisen, AI’s Europe Director, on Dec 12.

“European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses; by actively supporting the Libyan authorities in stopping sea crossings and containing people in Libya, they are complicit in these abuses,” Dalhuisen affirmed.

“By supporting Libyan authorities in trapping people in Libya, without requiring the Libyan authorities to tackle the endemic abuse of refugees and migrants or to even recognise that refugees exist, said Dalhuisen, European governments have shown where their true priorities lie: namely the closure of the central Mediterranean route, with scant regard to the suffering caused.

Another EU ‘Shame’ Pact

AI’s revelation of such collusion between the European Union and Libya comes amidst a worldwide wave of denunciations against the measure adopted in 2016 by the EU member states –particularly Italy—aiming at closing off the migratory route through Libya and across the central Mediterranean.

These measures have been implemented with little care for the consequences for those trapped within Libya’s lawless borders, AI said, adding that Europe’s cooperation with Libyan actors has taken the following three-pronged approach:

Firstly, they have committed to providing technical support and assistance to the Libyan Department for Combatting Illegal Migration, which runs the detention centres where refugees and migrants are arbitrarily and indefinitely held and routinely exposed to serious human rights violations including torture.

Secondly, they have enabled the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept people at sea, by providing them with training, equipment, including boats, and technical and other assistance.

Thirdly, they have struck deals with Libyan local authorities and the leaders of tribes and armed groups – to encourage them to stop the smuggling of people and to increase border controls in the south of the country.

UNHCR teams in Libya have been responding to the urgent humanitarian needs in and around Sabratha, a city located some 80 kilometres west of the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Credit: UNHCR

“Auctioned as Merchandise”

Meanwhile, after shocking images showing an auction of people were captured on video, UN human rights experts have urged the government of Libya to take immediate action to end the country’s trade in enslaved people.

“We were extremely disturbed to see the images which show migrants being auctioned as merchandise, and the evidence of markets in enslaved Africans which has since been gathered,” the UN human rights experts said in a joint statement.

It is now clear that slavery is an “outrageous reality” in Libya, they affirmed, adding that the auctions are reminiscent of “one of the darkest chapters in human history, when millions of Africans were uprooted, enslaved, trafficked and auctioned to the highest bidder.”

Slavery, Trafficking, Extortion, Rape, Torture…

The UN human rights experts also warned that migrants in Libya are “at high risk of multiple grave violations of their human rights, such as slavery, forced labour, trafficking, arbitrary and indefinite detention, exploitation and extortion, rape, torture and even being killed.”

“The enslavement of migrants derives from the situation of extreme vulnerability in which they find themselves. It is paramount that the government of Libya acts now to stop the human rights situation deteriorating further, and to bring about urgent improvements in the protection of migrants.”

The UN member states must “stop ignoring the unimaginable horrors endured by migrants in Libya, must urge countries to suspend any measures,” they urged.

AI, a global movement of more than 7 million people in over 150 countries campaigning to end human rights abuses, has also warned that the criminalisation of irregular entry under Libyan law, coupled with the absence of any legislation or practical infrastructure for the protection of asylum seekers and victims of trafficking, has resulted in “mass, arbitrary and indefinite detention becoming the primary migration management system in the country.”

The UN Migration Agency (IOM) provides lifesaving equipment to Libyan authorities as part of a wider intervention to strengthen the Government’s humanitarian capacity. Credit: UN Migration Agency

“Horrific Treatment”

Refugees and migrants intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard are sent to detention centres where they endure “horrific treatment,” AI warned.

Up to 20,000 people currently remain contained in these overcrowded, unsanitary detention centres. Migrants and refugees interviewed by Amnesty International described abuse they had been subjected to or they had witnessed, including arbitrary detention, torture, forced labour, extortion, and unlawful killings, at the hands of the authorities, traffickers, armed groups and militias alike.

Dozens of migrants and refugees interviewed described the “soul-destroying cycle of exploitation” to which collusion between guards, smugglers and the Libyan Coast Guard consigns them. Guards at the detention centres torture them to extort money, AI informs.

“If they are able to pay they are released. They can also be passed onto smugglers who can secure their departure from Libya in cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guard. Agreements between the Libyan Coast Guard and smugglers are signalled by markings on boats that allow the boats to pass through Libyan waters without interception, and the Coast Guard has also been known to escort boats out to international waters.”

Libyan Coast Guard officials are known to operate in collusion with smuggling networks and have used threats and violence against refugees and migrants on board boats in distress, AI has denounced.

IOM Moves to Relieve Plight of Migrants

Backing an African Union-European Union plan, adopted in the two blocs’ summit (29-30 November 2017 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire), IOM’s director general William Lacy Swing committed his organisation to fully support this initiative to alleviate the plight of thousands of migrants trapped in Libya.

In the wake of “shocking reports about rampant migrant abuse and squalid and overcrowded conditions across multiple detention centers” in Libya, talks at the AU-EU Summit led to a major stepping up of measures to tackle smuggling and mistreatment of migrants on the central Mediterranean migration route, which claimed 2,803 migrant lives to drowning this year alone, IOM on 1 December informed.

IOM is now rapidly scaling up its voluntary humanitarian return programme, which has brought more than 14,007 migrants back to their home countries so far in 2017.

A large-scale airlift is already underway in which IOM expects to take a further 15,000 migrants home from detention in Libya by end of the year. The establishment of a planned joint task force with all concerned parties is aimed at ensuring that the migration crisis in Libya is dealt with in a coordinated way.

“Scaling up our return programme may not serve to fully address the plight of migrants in Libya, but it is our duty to take migrants out of detention centers as a matter of absolute priority,” IOM director general Swing said.

He added that IOM intends to work with all UN partners and ensure proper coordination and prompt referral of any persons for whom return may not be suitable. These initiatives come following the IOM director general’s discussions with African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, as well as with EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini and UN Secretary General.


Addressing the UN Security Council, Secretary-General António Guterres highlights the need for global solidarity to tackle the security challenges in the Mediterranean.

Up to One Million Migrants Trapped in Libya

To date IOM has registered more than 400,000 migrants in Libya, and it estimates their number to be more than 700,000 to 1 million. The scaling up of the assistance will also include migrants wishing to go back home but who are not in detention centers.

“Large numbers of migrants are held in overcrowded detention centers, in conditions that fall far short of basic and humane standards. A large number of those migrants have expressed a wish to return to their countries of origin and IOM is now scaling up its air operations out of Libya to assist those men, women and children who may wish to return home.”

IOM’s initial effort will focus on 15,000 migrants, which it aims to help return and reintegrate in countries of origin before the end of the year. “This is a choice people make voluntarily, hoping for a new start at home,” said Othman Belbeisi, IOM’s chief of Mission in Libya.

The post Libya: Up to One Million Enslaved Migrants, Victims of ‘Europe’s Complicity’ appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/libya-one-million-enslaved-migrants-victims-europes-complicity/feed/ 1
The Journey to Oslohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/the-journey-to-oslo/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-journey-to-oslo http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/the-journey-to-oslo/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 16:14:33 +0000 Christian Ciobanu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153496 Christian Ciobanu is the senior associate, Global Security Institute.

The post The Journey to Oslo appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

ICAN Meeting with the President of the Norwegian Parliament, Mr Olemic Thommessen.
(From left to Right) President of the Norwegian Parliament, Mr Olemic Thommessen, Ms Beatrice Fihn (ICAN), Ms. Grethe Östern (Norwegian People’s Aid), Mr Akira Kawasaki (Peace Boat), and Ms Susi Snyder (PAX). Credit: Christian Ciobanu

By Christian Ciobanu
OSLO, Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

On December 10 in Oslo, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. ICAN started as a grassroots campaign in 2007. Its aim was to shift the paradigm of discussion about nuclear weapons from security and deterrence to the environmental and humanitarian effects of nuclear explosions. As the prize demonstrates, ICAN has succeeded brilliantly. But, as ICAN acknowledges, this is still only the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.

A key development was the holding of three governmental conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in Norway, Mexico, and Austria. At every turn, the nuclear weapon states and their allies would claim the humanitarian narrative was reckless and dangerous. IAN remained unwavering in its message: Nuclear weapons must be banned.

By the conference in Mexico, held in early 2014, ICAN was calling for the commencement of negotiations on establishing an international legally binding instrument to ban nuclear weapons. After all, land mines, chemicals and biological weapons were banned through their respective instruments, and then global norms were established against their use.

The negotiations for the ban treaty concluded in July 2017. 122 states voted to adopt the treaty. It opened for signature on September 20 and more than 50 states have signed it. It will enter into force when ratified by 50 states, probably in the next one to three years.

At the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, the Nobel Committee Chair Berit Reiss-Andersen praised ICAN and condemned the use and threat of nuclear weapons on humanitarian, moral and legal grounds.

Speaking at the ceremony, ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn stated that it is insanity to allow ourselves to be ruled by these weapons. Many critics of this movement suggest that we are the irrational ones, the idealists with no grounding in reality. That nuclear-armed states will never give up their weapons.

But we represent the only rational choice. We represent those who refuse to accept nuclear weapons as a fixture in our world, those who refuse to have their fates bound up in a few lines of launch code.

She further asserted “It’s an affront to democracy to be ruled by these weapons. But they are just weapons. They are just tools. And just as they were created by geopolitical context, they can just as easily be destroyed by placing them in a humanitarian context.”

Fihn further addressed the nuclear umbrella states, including Norway, in her closing remarks. She stated:

To the nations who believe they are sheltered under the umbrella of nuclear weapons, will you be complicit in your own destruction and the destruction of others in your name?

To all nations: choose the end of nuclear weapons over the end of us!

This is the choice that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons represents. Join this Treaty.

Following Fihn’s speech, Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, recounted her harrowing survival of the atomic blast that annihilated her school. She heard a voice in the distance, which told her to keep pushing towards the light.

She explained that “Our light now is the ban treaty. To all in this hall and all listening around the world, I repeat those words that I heard called to me in the ruins of Hiroshima: “Don’t give up! Keep pushing! See the light? Crawl towards it.”

Indeed, the new light and hope is the ban treaty. This treaty must enter into force and it is time for all nations to sign it. All responsible leaders will sign this treaty and history will judge harshly those who reject it as highlighted.

Since humanity now has the choice to either accept nuclear annihilation or ban nuclear weapons, it is vital for all states to sign and ratify the treaty. For the time being, it seems unlikely that nuclear-armed states will join the treaty. As to nuclear umbrella states, the situation is fluid. Such states, including Norway, boycotted the negotiations, with the exception of the Netherlands. In fact, in late March, the Secretary of State of Norway, Marit Berger Røsland, mentioned that “Norway and our allies have an aim for a world without nuclear weapons, but as long as others have nuclear weapons, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance.”

However, the Norwegian parliament is set to take a vote on convening an inquiry in which parliamentarians, with the engagement of civil society, will examine the consequences of signing and not signing the ban treaty. Furthermore, both the Prime Minister, President, and Chair of the Committee on Defense and Security met with representatives of the ICAN in Parliament.

At the press event with the President of Norway, Ms. Grethe Östern, Head of the Norwegian People’s Aid’s Nuclear Disarmament Project, said that it is absolutely vital for the Norwegian parliament to engage in discussions about the utility and the risks related to nuclear deterrence.

Building upon Östern’s statement, Ms. Susi Snyder of ICAN and Pax explained that parliaments in Switzerland, Sweden, and Italy have passed resolutions in which they have instructed their respective governments to explore the ratification of the ban treaty. Snyder concluded her remarks by stating that the parliamentarians will have to think about the consequences of not joining the treaty. They must think about the following question: Are you willing to then be complicit in using nuclear weapons?

We now have the choice to live a world free of nuclear weapons. It is time for the people everywhere to discuss this momentous choice.

Thank you ICAN, for changing the status quo in the nuclear disarmament field.

The post The Journey to Oslo appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/the-journey-to-oslo/feed/ 0
Civil Society Summit Calls for International Action on Climate Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/civil-society-summit-calls-international-action-climate-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-summit-calls-international-action-climate-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/civil-society-summit-calls-international-action-climate-migration/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 14:37:46 +0000 Megan Darby http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153489 Campaign groups meeting in Suva, Fiji, urged recognition of climate change in the global compact for migration due to be negotiated in 2018

The post Civil Society Summit Calls for International Action on Climate Migration appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

The riverfront in Suva, Fiji. Credit: Flickr/Michael Coghlan

By Megan Darby
SUVA, Fiji, Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

Civil society leaders from more than 100 countries called for action on climate-induced displacement at a summit in Suva, Fiji last week.

Their declaration urges the international community to uphold the human rights of people compelled to move as a result of global warming impacts.

Climate change should be recognised as a driver of migration in the global compact due to be negotiated by countries in 2018, say the campaign groups, which include Oxfam Pacific, 350.org and Act Alliance.

Danny Sriskandarajah, head of Civicus, the network convening the meeting, talked to Climate Home News by Skype from Suva. Climate-related displacement is “marginal both to the climate change negotiations and to the human rights negotiations,” he said.

“We think there is a real gap here. We know already there are people being displaced as a result of climate change and it is only going to get worse.”

The declaration follows the Trump administration’s decision to pull the US out of the developing global compact on migration. Sriskandarajah described that as a “hugely disappointing” development, adding that he hoped it would not discourage other countries.

In the Pacific, sea level rise is already making some island communities unviable. In 2014, Vunidogoloa in Fiji moved 2 kilometres inland, the first of 30 villages earmarked for relocation. Around 1,000 residents of Taro, in the Solomon Islands, are preparing to move.

Brianna Fruean, climate campaigner from Samoa, told Climate Home News even moving short distances was a wrench for islanders. “In the western world, it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing – you are moving from one neighbourhood to another – but in a Pacific context it can be heartbreaking, because we are very tied to our land, to where our ancestors are buried,” she said.

That is partly why island campaigners have pushed strongly for a global warming limit of 1.5C: beyond that, low-lying coral atolls are set to be swallowed by rising seas.

Despite the adoption of 1.5C as an aspirational target in the Paris climate agreement, islanders are reluctantly preparing for the possibility of leaving their countries altogether.

“Climate change has been working faster than our talking,” said Fruean. “It is the sad reality.”

In other parts of the world, desertification, flooding and intensifying tropical storms can be triggers for people to leave their homes either temporarily or permanently. On the whole, they do not identify as “climate refugees” or “climate migrants” and may have multiple reasons for moving.

While international law has established rules about giving asylum to victims of political persecution, there is no special status for people displaced by climate change.

New Zealand, which has longstanding relationships with a number of Pacific island states, is planning to create the world’s first humanitarian visas geared towards climate-displaced people.

Sriskandarajah welcomed the initiative, but added: “We cannot rely on ad hoc responses by certain governments; we need multilateral action that is based on rights and responsibilities.”

The “global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration” was conceived in September 2016 in a New York declaration that mentions climate change five times. The end result is expected to establish voluntary guidelines for a more humane treatment of migrants.

Dina Ionesco heads a team at the International Organization for Migration focused on the links between environmental change and migration.

While she is optimistic the global pact will acknowledge the issue, Ionesco does not see much appetite among nations to create a system for designating people as “climate migrants”. “This is extremely sensitive,” she told Climate Home News.

As in the climate negotiations, some vulnerable countries are keen to discuss the subject but most have other priorities – in this context, border management, labour and human rights.

“We are focusing on supporting states so that they can have the necessary evidence and arguments to advocate for the recognition of climatic and environmental factors as drivers of migration,” said Ionesco.


This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific and small island states who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world met in Suva, Fiji from 4-8 December for International Civil Society Week.

The post Civil Society Summit Calls for International Action on Climate Migration appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/civil-society-summit-calls-international-action-climate-migration/feed/ 0
The Protracted Refugee and Migrant Crisis: A Challenge to Multilateralismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/protracted-refugee-migrant-crisis-challenge-multilateralism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=protracted-refugee-migrant-crisis-challenge-multilateralism http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/protracted-refugee-migrant-crisis-challenge-multilateralism/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 10:52:47 +0000 Idriss Jazairy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153482 Ambassador Idriss Jazairy, is Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

The post The Protracted Refugee and Migrant Crisis: A Challenge to Multilateralism appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Ambassador Idriss Jazairy, is Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Idriss Jazairy
GENEVA, Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

It is an incontrovertible fact that more people are on the move owing to globalization. Fifteen percent of the world’s population are on the move worldwide. In other words, of the world population of 7 billion, one billion are on the move. Seven hundred and forty million people are referred to as internal or as domestic migrants within their countries of origin. The number of internally displaced persons reaches about 60 million. On top of this, the world has more than 244 million international migrants who cross borders often into the unknown. Lastly, there are 22.5 million refugees – encompassing the 5.3 million Palestinian refugees – registered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees who have been forced to flee their home societies as a result of violence and armed conflict. The first two decades of the 21st century will go down in history as the era in which the world has witnessed the most complex and massive movement of people since the end of the Second World War.

Idriss Jazairy

Although we can conclude that global human mobility is an integral part of the Earth’s DNA, the unprecedented cohorts of people on the move has resulted in the emergence of new challenges that call for urgent attention and action. The inflow of displaced people to Europe has been exploited by a populist tidal-wave to fuel xenophobia and in particular Islamophobia. Walls and fences are being built in the North in flawed attempts to prevent displaced people from reaching their destination countries and to criminalize migrants and refugees. Although the arrival of displaced people to Europe only add up to 0.2% of Europe’s population, human solidarity and justice are being frayed by the fear of the Other.

On the eastern and southern side of the Mediterranean Sea, millions of people have sought refuge and protection. They have found shelter in countries of the Arab region as the right to free movement further to the North has been “postponed” and denied to displaced people. Lebanon – a country of approximately 4 million people – is providing protection and refuge to approximately 1 million displaced people. Jordan – neighbouring both Iraq and Syria – has accommodated around 1.2 million refugees. Although Iraq and Egypt face internal turmoil, Bagdad and Cairo are hosting about 240,000 and 120,000 people respectively. Turkey has likewise given refuge to roughly 3 million refugees, primarily Syrians. In summary, the majority of the burden in hosting and in providing assistance and protection to, displaced people is being taken up by countries in the less developed parts of the world despite the fact that they often lack adequate resources to respond to the influx of displaced people.

While rich countries in the North bicker about burden-sharing between them of inflows of migrants representing 0.2% of their global population, MENA countries provide access without blinking to inflows that may add up to 25% of their own nationals!

How can the world move forward to respond in unison to address the resulting rise of populism and the lack of social justice that prevails in our modern societies in relation to human mobility?

“No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land,” said the British-Somali poet Warsan Shire in response to the growing number of people who perish on a daily basis in their perilous and hazardous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea. According to IOM, the 2017 migrant death tolls in the Mediterranean has exceeded 2,950 casualties. Despite that, migrants risk their lives to seek protection. Populist and right wing extremist forces continue – in a flawed and misleading attempt to promote policies of exclusion – to depict migrants and refugees as the source of instability, although the adverse impact of globalization is mainly to blame. The campaign of fear waged against migrants and refugees is bringing back the spectre of nationalism and chauvinism that threatens international cooperation and peace over the long run.

How can this threat be overcome? We need to return to a climate in which diversity is embraced and celebrated. I often refer to the example of the United States as a shining example of a country that became one of the world’s most successful owing to the fact that it embraced and celebrated diversity in earlier times, if not currently. If contemporary nations want to repeat the successes of the United States and of other countries with strong traditions in upholding and harnessing the power of diversity, they must resort to the promotion of equal and inclusive citizenship rights for all peoples regardless of religious, cultural, ethnic, and/or national backgrounds. Societies that demonstrate respect for human dignity are the ones most likely to be winners in the long run.

Governments in the Middle East and in the West should address jointly the protracted refugee and migrant crisis in a multicultural context. The UN Global Compact for Refugees to be convened in 2018 will offer an opportunity to proceed along these lines. Enhancing international cooperation among countries in Europe and in the Arab region is indeed key to identifying a more equitable burden – and responsibility-sharing system in response to the current situation in which displaced people are restricted in the exercise of their right to seek refuge and protection.

This goal can be achieved through inter alia the allocation of resources, development aid as well as through internationally funded capacity-building programmes to raise the preparedness level for hosting large numbers of displaced people. In the words of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration Mr. Peter Sutherland – in his 2015 report:

“States must agree on how to address large crisis-related movements, not only to save people on the move from death or suffering, but also to avoid the corrosive effect that ad hoc responses have on our political institutions and the public’s trust in them.”

Identifying new approaches to promote equitable burden – and responsibility-sharing mechanisms would enable countries in Europe and in the Arab region to speak with one voice and to build coalitions on a variety of issues related to the safe and orderly movement of people in accordance with international law. The international community needs to commit to sharing responsibility for hosting displaced people more fairly and proportionately, being guided by the principles of international solidarity and justice. This is an occasion for all to recommit themselves to the lofty aims of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Global problems require global solutions. Attempts to regionalize such issues – as witnessed in many societies – are doomed to failure.

Over the long term the international community must act to eradicate the underlying causes leading to an excessive flow of destitute migrants. That means phasing out foreign military interventions, respecting sovereignty, supporting democracy and human rights through peaceful means only and joining forces to address impoverishment of the Global South as a result of climate change.

The post The Protracted Refugee and Migrant Crisis: A Challenge to Multilateralism appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/protracted-refugee-migrant-crisis-challenge-multilateralism/feed/ 0
No One Country Can Do It Alone — Towards a Migration Compacthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/no-one-country-can-alone-towards-migration-compact/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-one-country-can-alone-towards-migration-compact http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/no-one-country-can-alone-towards-migration-compact/#respond Fri, 08 Dec 2017 16:27:08 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153418 International commitment and cooperation is critical to reap the benefits and overcome the challenges of migration, stressed a leading official at the conclusion of a UN meeting. Over 400 delegates from 136 countries convened in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to review data and recommendations for the creation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular […]

The post No One Country Can Do It Alone — Towards a Migration Compact appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Credit: UNICEF

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

International commitment and cooperation is critical to reap the benefits and overcome the challenges of migration, stressed a leading official at the conclusion of a UN meeting.

Over 400 delegates from 136 countries convened in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to review data and recommendations for the creation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration.

“We stand today tasked with the mandate to weave these challenges and opportunities into a global effort to enhance State cooperation in the management of migration,” said UN Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbour at the end of the three-day meeting.

Arbour reminded delegates of the “tragedy of large mixed flows of people on the move and how to deal with those who are ineligible for international refugee protection yet for whom humanitarian assistance and longer-term solutions are no less urgent.”

In an effort to respond to the unprecedented numbers of people fleeing conflict and poverty, member states adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants in 2016 which included an agreement to develop two global compacts for migration and refugees.

The preparatory meeting in Mexico kickstarts the formal process to create these compacts.

“It’s a historic opportunity to have such a compact,” UNICEF’s Associate Director for Gender, Rights & Civic Engagement Susana Sottoli told IPS.

The compact can help trigger political action towards the development of a longer-term global migration response, she added.

Though disappointed in the watered-down declaration which failed to include more concrete commitments, Amnesty International’s Senior Campaigner for Refugee and Migrant Rights Denise Bell told IPS that the compact is still “an important set of principles.”

Sottoli urged for a heightened and continued focus on migrant and displaced children for the compact.

Nearly half of the world’s refugees are children, while another 22 million children have been uprooted from their homes due to poverty and other factors.

Over 300,000 have been documented traveling unaccompanied around the world in recent years, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.

“We have seen evidence that tell us about terrible situations of children and adolescents in detention centers…in conditions that none of us would ever imagine is acceptable for our own children,” Sottoli told IPS.

In Libya, the main entry point to the Mediterranean Sea and thus Europe, militias hold migrants in detention centers in order to ask their families for ransom money. Women and children have been found living in cramped spaces in militia-run detention centers with little basic services or even access to the outdoors.

In one of the centers, UNICEF spoke to 16-year-old Patti who fled war and poverty in Nigeria.

“The journey was hard. Very hard…we walked for two weeks to reach Libya, sometimes walking and going without water for two days,” she said.

Patti was captured at sea, brought back, and arrested in Libya.

“When I was in the sea, I was so scared. I was just comforted by my dreams of going to Europe and making a good life for myself and my siblings,” she said.

Footage revealing migrants being sold at an auction has also garnered international outrage, prompting the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to evacuate and help hundreds of West African migrants including children return home.

“We are trying to bring these people back into the daylight of our time where they are known and they are assisted and protected,” IOM’s Director-General William Lacey Swing told the UN.

The United States has seen a surge in child migrants fleeing violence in Central America in recent years. In 2014, border agents apprehended almost 70,000 minors, a 77 percent increase from the year before.

The unaccompanied children are often held in detention centers in unsanitary and cramped living conditions and for an indefinite period of time.

UNHCR is now considering providing help to unaccompanied minors crossing the border in light of new policies preventing them from seeking safe refuge.

The new administration has ended a program that allowed children fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to apply for refugee status before leaving home and making the dangerous trip to the border.

The government has also reduced the refugee cap to 45,000, the lowest level since 1980.

Most recently, just hours before the preparatory meeting in Mexico, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley announced that the country was withdrawing from the non-binding global compact, claiming that it would restrict U.S. sovereignty on migration policy.

“The U.S. pulling out of this is a further abdication our global leadership on the refugee crisis…pulling out of this sends a terrible message to refugee host countries and resettlement countries about their need to keep up their commitments,” Bell told IPS.

“The world’s most vulnerable are being punished again and again—first through the slashing of refugee admission numbers to this withdrawal from the Compact,” she added.

A group of U.S. civil society organizations that took part in the meeting also issued a statement calling the move “deeply disappointing” and for the North American nation to recommit to the multilateral process.

“Migration is a global phenomenon which requires a global response. The United States is not immune from the global forces of conflict, economic coercion, and climate change that drive human migration,” they stated.

Sottoli echoed similar sentiments, saying that no one country on its own can protect children as they move across borders.

“We are hopeful that the challenges of tacking this complex agenda will be addressed and that many countries will continue collaborating and look forward to shape a new compact,” she told IPS.

In their ‘Beyond Borders’ report, UNICEF calls to protect child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, to end the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating, and to keep families together as the best way to protect children.

The report provides case studies of effective methods to protect child refugees and migrants, including that of Greece which established the National Centre for Social Solidarity (EKKA) to help track and monitor unaccompanied children in detention and ensure they are placed in safe accommodation and care.

“Policy decisions need to be made on the basis of acts, experiences, and proven solutions. This is the moment to take stock of what is out there and what is working…solutions are out there,” Sottoli said.

Bell called on the international community to not only protect the rights of refugees and migrants, but also redouble their commitments to resettlement.

“We have to come back to a story of migrants that is historically accurate…migration has always been a positive story,” Swing said.

The next step in the process towards creating the Global Compacts is the Secretary-General’s report on migration, expected to be released in January followed by intergovernmental negotiations. The Global Compacts will be presented for adoption at a conference in Morocco in December 2018.

The post No One Country Can Do It Alone — Towards a Migration Compact appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/no-one-country-can-alone-towards-migration-compact/feed/ 0
Should Foxes Rule the Chicken Coop? Reflections on Security Council Reformhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/foxes-rule-chicken-coop-reflections-security-council-reform/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=foxes-rule-chicken-coop-reflections-security-council-reform http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/foxes-rule-chicken-coop-reflections-security-council-reform/#respond Fri, 08 Dec 2017 13:54:51 +0000 James A. Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153411 James A. Paul, a writer and consultant, was Executive Director of Global Policy Forum (1993-2012), an NGO monitoring the work of the United Nations, and author of the newly-released book “Of Foxes and Chickens: Oligarchy & Global Power in the UN Security Council.” He was also for many years an editor of the Oxford Companion to Politics of the World.

The post Should Foxes Rule the Chicken Coop? Reflections on Security Council Reform appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

A meeting of the UN Security Council. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

By James A. Paul
NEW YORK, Dec 8 2017 (IPS)

Since the end of the Cold War, the UN Security Council has dramatically increased its activity and authority. Though the Council has exercised unprecedented global power, it has remained a very insular, secretive and undemocratic body, dominated by its five Permanent Members, armed with their notorious vetoes and benefiting from perpetuity in office.

The United States holds the leading position in this oligarchy. It is the “capo dei capi” – the boss of bosses – ruling with overwhelming authority and towering above the other four: the United Kingdom, France, China and Russia.

The Council’s 10 Elected Members, serving for only two years, have very little ability to influence Council action even though they have the electoral backing of all the other member states.

For the past 25 years, most of the world’s governments have insisted on the need for Council reform to overcome these retrograde arrangements, made more than 70 years ago in a very different world.

They have sought to create a more open, representative and democratic Council. In 1994, the UN General Assembly set up a Working Group to consider far-reaching reform for a new era.

The New Zealand ambassador, who had served on the Council during the Rwanda genocide, said that the Council’s practices were “nothing short of primitive.” The Mexican Ambassador told the General Assembly that Permanent Membership was “obsolete.”

From that time to the present, the Council oligarchy has continued to infuriate the international community by defending the status quo, while the UN General Assembly has continued to press for Council reform.

Some proposals, especially reform in Council membership, involve a change in the UN Charter, requiring a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly, followed by a two-thirds endorsement by all national parliaments – subject, of course, to P5 veto.

Assembly members are well aware of this high hurdle, but they have examined hundreds of specific proposals and engaged in spirited debates on the issues. In light of the difficulty of Charter change, opposition by the Permanent Five (P5), and other problems, the Assembly has been unable to adopt noteworthy reforms.

In the shadows of all the debates, the P5 have firmly defended their privileges. To those that want to change the Council’s stifling procedures, they have said that the General Assembly has no right to interfere in the Council, no right to tell the P5 how to run their shop. P5 resistance to change has at times been fiercely aggressive. Washington has forced governments to recall prominent UN ambassadors who have pushed too hard for change.

To blunt public engagement with the reform debates, the US has also pushed for heavy cuts in the UN’s public affairs budget. P5 anti-reform leverage is backed up by economic and military power.

Beyond the oligarchs’ opposition, there is another source of blockage – the inability of the other 188 member states to stand together and take up a common reform program. Most countries believe that new members on a reformed Council should be elected, but the so-called “rising powers” want to become permanent members themselves.

They want to join the Council oligarchy rather than to work to eliminate this odious privilege. So those who have the most clout to push through significant reforms have hijacked the reform debate to promote their own narrow interests.

The aspirants include Germany and Japan, India and Brazil, South Africa and Nigeria. They have insisted self-servingly that they themselves are the key to a diverse and fair Council, working to promote the peace.

The aspirants have insisted that their permanency would be a “realistic” approach to reform, but in fact their approach has proven to be far from realistic. The P5 remain unwilling to accept them into the inner circle. Nor do the aspirants command the two-thirds majority needed to advance their cause in a Charter amending process.

A bloc of regional rivals oppose new permanencies. Italy works against a German seat; South Korea and China are against Japanese permanency; and Argentina is unhappy about the elevation of Brazil. Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa vie for the hoped-for two African permanent seats. This complex political geometry makes success for the aspirants virtually impossible.

Adding a proposed six new permanent members, each with a veto, would create an impossible blockage on the Council. With more than twice as many veto-wielders, each one protecting their particular interests and manipulating the Council’s machinery to suit their purposes, the Council would be even more oppressive than it is today.

The P5’s multiple advantages in the UN system raise another set of issues. Would the new permanent members expect to have the same privileges as the P5 — their own judge on the World Court, for example, or control of certain high-level appointments in the Secretariat?

The campaigning aspirants say nothing negative about the institution of permanency and they mute their comments about the existing system and its many abuses. They curry favor with the P5 so as to avoid a future veto – if and when their candidacy reaches the ultimate stage.

This favor-currying has been going on for twenty-five years and it has had poisonous effects on the reform process and on the regular business of the Council too. In recent years, when the aspirants have joined the Council as Elected Members, they have generally played a muted and unimpressive role. This is definitely not a pathway towards constructive Council renovation.

For years, the aspirants’ campaign for new permanent members has overshadowed all other reform discussions. It has diverted energy from serious alternatives. Smaller states alone simply cannot challenge P5 domination without hefty assistance from the middle powers.

Presently, reform progress depends on the support of strong non-aspirant states like Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Korea, Indonesia, Egypt, Mexico and Argentina, in combination with the rest of the democratically-inclined UN membership.

Germany, where elite opinion about a permanent seat has long been divided, could break the ice and renounce its aspirations for permanency, leading the march towards a different future.

Political crises over the past twenty-five years have revealed the Council’s despotic failures. They have shown that the foxes cannot be expected to protect the global chicken coop.

As crises multiply, it is time to step up efforts to radically reform this outworn institution, to mobilize broad support for fundamental change and to energize a world-wide citizen movement for Council transformation and UN renewal.

The post Should Foxes Rule the Chicken Coop? Reflections on Security Council Reform appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/foxes-rule-chicken-coop-reflections-security-council-reform/feed/ 0
Trump-Mideast: Much More than a ‘Kiss of Death’ to Palestinianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/trump-mideast-much-kiss-death-palestinians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-mideast-much-kiss-death-palestinians http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/trump-mideast-much-kiss-death-palestinians/#comments Thu, 07 Dec 2017 15:59:56 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153387 US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital does not represent only a ‘kiss of death’ to the two-State solution, but also a strong blow in the face of 57 Muslim countries, let alone igniting fire in this easily inflammable region, providing more false arguments to criminal terrorist groups to escalate their […]

The post Trump-Mideast: Much More than a ‘Kiss of Death’ to Palestinians appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Southern aerial view of the Temple Mount, Al-Aqsa in the Old City of Jerusalem. Al-Aqsa Mosque is considered to be the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. Credit: Godot13. Attribution: Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 4.0. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 7 2017 (IPS)

US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital does not represent only a ‘kiss of death’ to the two-State solution, but also a strong blow in the face of 57 Muslim countries, let alone igniting fire in this easily inflammable region, providing more false arguments to criminal terrorist groups to escalate their brutal attacks, in addition to taking a step further in Washington’s new conflict with Iran and the ‘restructuring’ of the Middle East.

These are the main conclusions both Middle East analysts and international policy experts reached as soon as Trump announced on 6 December 2017 his decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thus recognising as capital of Israel this Holy City, home to essential shrines of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The ‘Old City’ of Jerusalem has been steadily considered by Palestinians to become the capital of their future State, should all international agreements –including the United Nations General Assembly—implement their commitment for the two-State solution, one Israeli and one Palestinian.

Israeli captured Arab East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war and since then has gradually annexed against all international protests and non-recognition. The ‘Old City’ in Jerusalem hosts Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina.

Palestinian leaders have already warned that Trump’s move could have dangerous consequences, calling for massive popular mobilisations that are feared to lead to new bloodshed in the occupied West Bank and Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

“This is much more than a kiss of death to the longstanding international consensus to establish two-States as the sole feasible solution,” a former Egyptian high-ranking military official told IPS under condition of anonymity.

“[Trump’s] decision will add more dangerous fuel to the current rekindled flame over hegemony dispute between Shias lead by Iran and Sunnis lead by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, which fire President Trump has now contributed to strongly blow on.”

Donald Trump. Photo: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

According to the retired high military official who participated in secret regional negotiations over the Middle East conflict, “The US has visibly shown its strategy to support the Sunni States in the Arab Gulf… Just see president Trump’s new weapons sale deal –worth 100 billion dollars—with the Saudi regime, and its tacit support –and even physical involvement—in the ongoing genocidal war against Yemen.”

Gulf Sunni Arab countries are home to a high percentage of Shias who have been systematically ruled by Sunni regimes. In some of them, like Bahrain, it is estimated that the Shias represent up to 60 per cent of the total population in spite of which they are considered minorities.

Oil, that “Black Gold”

The Egyptian analyst would not exclude a new armed conflict between the Gulf Arab Sunni states and Shia Iran. Such an armed conflict would break the already fragile stability in the region, leading to a strong rise in oil prices.

“This eventually would clearly benefit the US fossil energy sector, would weaken the oil-dependent European economies, let alone striking a strong blow to the also foreign oil-dependent China.”

Hatred, Terrorism

Another immediate, dangerous consequence of President Trump’s decision is a feared new wave of terrorist attacks against US, Israel and Western interests worldwide.

In fact, the Palestinian radical movement Hamas, which rules Gaza, has already urged Arabs and Muslims worldwide to “undermine U.S. interests in the region” and to “shun Israel.”

On this, Lebanese Muslim Shia cleric A. Khalil, expressed to IPS his “deep fear that the [Trump’s] decision will help criminal terrorist groups, falsely acting in the name of Islam, to exploit the furious anger of lay people against the US-led aggression against Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen… to commit more and more brutal, inhumane attacks.”

This will tragically and dangerously unleash a new wave of hatred and Islamophobia that will only add fuel to popular anger, to the benefit of terrorist groups, added the cleric.

For his part, Ahmed El-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar – which is considered the world’s highest institution of Sunni Islamic learning– announced on 5 December 2017 that Al-Azhar rejects Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“The US president’s decision denies the rights of Palestinians and Arabs to their holy city; it ignores the feelings of one-and-a-half-billion Muslims as well as millions of Arab Christians who have a connection to Jerusalem’s churches and monasteries,” he said in a statement issued following Trump’s announcement.

Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church and Al-Azhar issued statements warning of the “serious potential consequences” of Trump’s plan to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to relocate the US embassy there.

“Politically Correct” Words

Meanwhile, politicians have reacted to president Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel. Here some examples:

Mahmoud Abbas, president of Palestinian Authority, alerted of its “dangerous consequences,” while Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas chief, talked about “igniting the sparks of rage.”

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stressed his country’s firm stance on preserving the legal status of Jerusalem within the framework of international references and relevant UN resolutions, stressing the need to ensure that the situation in the region is not complicated by measures that undermine the chances of peace in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia expressed “grave and deep concern,” while King Abdullah II of Jordan warned of “dangerous repercussions.”

Haider al-Abadi, Iraqi prime minister expressed “utmost concern,” and Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, secretary general of the Arab League, which groups all 22 Arab countries, characterised Trump’s decision as a “dangerous measure.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Jerusalem is a “red line for Muslims,” threatening cutting relations with Israel.

And Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary general, opposed Trump’s “unilateral action,” while Frederica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy representative, called for resolving Jerusalem’s status through negotiations.

Will words and “politically correct” statements reverse this new situation? Most likely they will not, at least if you judge by what’s happened over the last 98 years, i.e. since the then British Empire released its 1919 Balfour Declaration granting Israel a national home in Palestine.

The post Trump-Mideast: Much More than a ‘Kiss of Death’ to Palestinians appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/trump-mideast-much-kiss-death-palestinians/feed/ 1
Post-Nuclear Nightmares Still Linger Over Pacific Islandshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/post-nuclear-nightmares-still-linger-pacific-islands/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=post-nuclear-nightmares-still-linger-pacific-islands http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/post-nuclear-nightmares-still-linger-pacific-islands/#respond Thu, 07 Dec 2017 08:31:35 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153377 The Pacific islands have long remained victims of nuclear crimes – but the perpetrators, three of the world’s major powers with permanent seats in the UN Security Council, never paid for their deadly sins. The testing grounds in the Pacific, included the Marshall Islands (Bikini and Enewetak), and also Johnston Atoll and Christmas Islands in […]

The post Post-Nuclear Nightmares Still Linger Over Pacific Islands appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

An atmospheric nuclear test conducted by the United States at Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands, on 1 November 1952. Credit: US Government

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 7 2017 (IPS)

The Pacific islands have long remained victims of nuclear crimes – but the perpetrators, three of the world’s major powers with permanent seats in the UN Security Council, never paid for their deadly sins.

The testing grounds in the Pacific, included the Marshall Islands (Bikini and Enewetak), and also Johnston Atoll and Christmas Islands in Kiribati.

The so-called “Pacific Proving Grounds”, which included the Marshall Islands and a few others on the Pacific Ocean, was the site of US nuclear testing between 1946 and 1962.

France tested its weapons on Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls in French Polynesia, with French naval vessels clashing with Greenpeace anti-nuclear campaigners.

The United Kingdom, along with the US, conducted several nuclear tests in and around Kiribati in the late 1950s. But the islanders were not evacuated exposing them to radiation from the blasts.

All of these tests, which left behind environmental hazards and radioactive waste, came to an inglorious end – or so it seems. But the nuclear nightmares over the Pacific continue to linger on.

According to the London Guardian, the Marshall Islands Nuclear Claims Tribunal awarded more than $2.0 billion in personal injury and land damage claims arising from the nuclear tests, but stopped paying after a compensation fund was exhausted.

After 67 tests, US nuclear experiments in the Marshall Islands ended in 1958. But in a 2012 report, UN Special Rapporteur Calin Georgescu, said “near-irreversible environmental contamination” had led to the loss of livelihoods and many people continued to experience “indefinite displacement”.

And a projected sea-level rise, triggered by climate change, is threatening to unearth the radioactive waste and spill it into the high seas.

According to two researchers, Barbara Rose Johnston and Brooke Takala Abraham, U.S. medical scientists traveled to the Marshall Islands, for nearly four decades, in order to document degenerating health and conduct related experiments, “all without informed consent.”

All told, 1,156 men, women, and children were enrolled in studies exploring the acute and late effects of radiation.

Among the findings of this research: radiation exposure generated changes in red blood cell production and subsequent anemia; metabolic and related disorders; musculoskeletal degeneration; cataracts; cancers and leukemia; and significant impact on fertility as evidenced by miscarriages, congenital defects, and infertility.

“Their experiences also demonstrate how chronic and acute radiogenic exposure compromises immunity, creating population-wide vulnerability to infectious and non-communicable disease”, Johnston and Abraham wrote.

Bob Rigg, a former senior editor with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and ex-chair of the New Zealand National Consultative Committee on Disarmament, told IPS: “It is impossible to make sweeping generalisations about the entire Pacific region, which is both vast and diverse”.

But US attention, he pointed out, was focused in particular on Micronesia, which includes most of the islands bitterly fought over in the latter years of World War II.

“The US wields disproportionate influence over this sub-region, where most of its 1,054 nuclear tests were conducted,” he added.

The US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, said Rigg, can be defined as the first example of US nuclear testing, given that a principal motive for both attacks was to facilitate large-scale research into the effects of nuclear weapons on living human beings, a subject which was a closed book even to the world’s leading nuclear scientists at the time.

As soon as the war ended, he said, “the US hastened to establish political control over a number of strategically important islands forming an “island chain” in the Pacific – a chain of US military and political influence cementing US control of major trade routes, while also enables it to contain the growing power and influence of Communist China.”

Ironically enough, the US island chain has something in common with China’s South China Sea outposts which today draw the ire of the US, he added.

Robert Alvarez, an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C. and an Adjunct Professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced Strategic International Studies, told IPS that three major international conferences—in Oslo, Mexico City, and Vienna— focused on the humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons, and on establishing a new international legal instrument that would outlaw nuclear weapons.

The humanitarian initiative and the Marshall Islands lawsuits—including one in US federal courts and the other with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague — received a chilly, some might say hostile reception from the nuclear weapons states, for an understandable reason, he pointed out.

The nuclear weapons countries are engaged in costly modernization efforts that all but guarantee the continued existence of nuclear weapons for decades, and perhaps beyond. The Marshalls lawsuits and the humanitarian initiative both seek to make the nuclear states seriously negotiate toward nuclear disarmament, he noted.

In an article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists back in May 2015, Alvarez said the damage did not end with nuclear testing.

In the 1960s, islands of the Enewetak Atoll were stripped of topsoil and used for explosive crater experiments, to see how US missile silos would hold up to enemy missiles.

And in October 1968, the US Navy conducted a biological warfare experiment in which Staphylococcal enterotoxin B, a virulent bacterium, was released over the Enewetak Atoll from fighter aircraft.

“The pathogen proved to be harmful to experimental animals over a 1,500 square mile area. Since the late 1950s, the Kwajalein Atoll and lagoon have served as an anti-ballistic missile launch site for testing against possible missile attacks,” he noted.

Nearly every US intercontinental ballistic missile was test fired at Kwajalein. Now home to the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, the $4 billion US Air Force complex on Kwajalein is considered a key strategic asset for anti-ballistic missile testing, military space projects, and intelligence gathering, wrote Alvarez, who was also a Senior Professional Staff member for the U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, where he conducted an investigation into the conduct of the U.S. nuclear weapons program in the Marshall Islands.

Rigg told IPS Truman had no qualms about bombing Japan and seizing control of several Micronesian Islands where America’s many subsequent nuclear tests could be conducted. Indigenous populations were frequently marginalised, displaced, and impoverished.

Traditional ways of living, cultivating food and eating were frequently replaced within one generation with a barbarised version of US consumer culture. The key operational assumption was that Pacific Islanders represented an inferior culture which, in the patronising words of one US scientist, at least had more in common with civilised westerners than laboratory mice, he said.

“Like the Japanese, Pacific Islanders were viewed through the prism of mainstream US racism. The example of Rongelap Island, which was seriously affected by fallout from the huge Castle Bravo test, is perhaps most instructive.”

When the islanders repeatedly lobbied for permission to return to their home, said Rigg, the US Atomic Energy Commission declared it safe for re-habitation, with US scientists privately noting that “the habitation of these people on the island will afford most valuable ecological radiation data on human beings.”

As a major environmental polluter, he argued, the US contributes to global warming which disproportionately affects many small Pacific Island states whose highest point is in some cases just a couple of metres above sea level.

“Such islands are also acutely vulnerable to the climate change-induced violent storms which increasingly inflict massive destruction on both vegetation and homes. As many of these islands are desperately poor there is all too often no money to rebuild infrastructure and homes, with more than 95% of damaged buildings being uninsured.”

Trump’s America First policy has already produced a 30% cut in State Department funding which will dramatically curtail expenditure on Pacific islands which are not part of the militarised US island chain. Australia abjectly proclaims that it is “joined at the hip” with the US, slavishly following in the wake of Uncle Sam in all things, Rigg said.

“Fortunately, there is one small ray of hope: New Zealand has just elected a new Labour Government which is signalling its willingness to adopt innovative approaches to political problem-solving, including in the region.”

The new Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, he pointed out, has already signalled her government’s willingness to view Pacific Islanders fleeing their submerged islands as refugees. At present Australia’s immigration policies exclude such “environmental refugees.”

This New Zealand initiative could eventually necessitate the re-negotiation of the UN Convention on Refugees, to accommodate a new category of environmental refugees, he added.

In the words of a recent report to a congressional committee, even before the election of Trump, the US had pursued a “policy of benign neglect towards the South Pacific nations.

“Too often have we relied on Australia and New Zealand to determine what US policy should be in the region.” If this was true before Trump, it will be doubly true now.”

Possibly with at least some support from New Zealand, Pacific Island states will have to continue to seek political support from outside their region, as recently, when Fiji and Germany jointly hosted the November meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP23) in Bonn.

The elevation of Fiji to this prominent role reveals that, in the complete absence of support from both Trump’s US and Malcolm Turnbull’s Australia, there is a heartening emerging international awareness of the extent to which the very existence of some Pacific Island states is already under threat from climate change, he noted.

“But words must be backed up by large quantities of hard cash, without which some small Pacific Island states will undoubtedly go under.”


This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world are currently meeting in Suva, Fiji, through 8 December for International Civil Society Week.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

The post Post-Nuclear Nightmares Still Linger Over Pacific Islands appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/post-nuclear-nightmares-still-linger-pacific-islands/feed/ 0