Inter Press ServiceArmed Conflicts – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 25 Apr 2018 00:04:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 The Nowhere People: Rohingyas in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/nowhere-people-rohingyas-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nowhere-people-rohingyas-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/nowhere-people-rohingyas-india/#respond Wed, 25 Apr 2018 00:04:26 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155451 A devastating fire in a shanty at Kalindi Kunj, a New Delhi suburb, that gutted the homes of 226 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, including 100 women and 50 children, has trained a spotlight on India’s ad hoc policy on international migrants. Already persecuted in their country of origin, Rohingyas — the largest stateless population in […]

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Rohingya refugees in India face discrimination and threats of deportation back to Myanmar. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Rohingya refugees in India face discrimination and threats of deportation back to Myanmar. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Apr 25 2018 (IPS)

A devastating fire in a shanty at Kalindi Kunj, a New Delhi suburb, that gutted the homes of 226 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, including 100 women and 50 children, has trained a spotlight on India’s ad hoc policy on international migrants.

Already persecuted in their country of origin, Rohingyas — the largest stateless population in the world at three million — have found shelter across vast swathes of Asia including in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there are more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh alone, who now face the onset of the monsoon season in flimsy shelters."As a big regional player, the refugee crisis presents India with a unique opportunity to set an example and work out a long-term resolution to this humanitarian crisis." --Dr. Ranjan Biswas

Demographers note that the Rohingyas’ displacement, while on a particularly dramatic scale, is illustrative of a larger global trend. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the world is witnessing the highest level of displacement on record with 22.5 million refugees, over half of them under 18, languishing in different parts of the world in search of a normal life.

Often referred to as the boat people – because they journey in packed boats to escape their homeland — around 40,000 Rohingyas have trickled into India over the past three years to cities like New Delhi, Jaipur, Hyderabad and Jammu where their population is the largest. Some had settled in the Kalindi Kunj camp that was set up in 2012 by a non-profit on a 150-odd square metre plot that it owns.

The camp’s occupants worked as daily wage labourers or were employed with private companies. A few even ran kirana (grocery) kiosks near the camp. Most of these refugees had landed in Delhi after failed stints in Rohingya camps in Bangladesh or Jammu (a northern Indian city), where they were repeatedly targeted by radical Hindu groups.

Nurudddin, 56, who lost all his belongings and papers in the Kalindi Kunj fire, told IPS that he has been living like a vagabond since he fled Myanmar with his wife and four children in 2016. “We left Myanmar to go to Bangladesh but we faced a lot of hardships there too. I couldn’t get a job, there was no proper food or accommodation. We arrived in Delhi last year with a lot of hope but so far things haven’t been going too well here either,” said the frail man with a grey beard.

Following the Kalindi Kunj fire, and public complaints about the government’s neglect of Rohingya camps, the Supreme Court intervened. On April 9, the apex court asked the Centre to file a comprehensive status report in four weeks on the civic amenities at two Rohingya camps in Delhi and Haryana, following allegations that basic facilities like drinking water and toilets were missing from these settlements.

Senior Supreme Court lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the Rohingyas told the court that the refugees were being subjected to discrimination with regard to basic amenities. However, this was refuted by Additional Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta who, appearing for the Centre said there was no discrimination against the Rohingyas. The court will again take up the matter on May 9.

A Rohingya campsite in New Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

A Rohingya campsite in New Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

The Rohingya issue entered mainstream public discourse last August when the ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party government abruptly asked the country’s 29 states to identify illegal immigrants for deportation –  including, the guidance said, Rohingya Muslims who had fled Myanmar.

“As per available estimates there are around 40,000 Rohingyas living illegally in the country,” India’s junior home minister Kiren Rijiju then told Parliament: “The government has issued detailed instructions for deportation of illegal foreign nationals including Rohingyas.”

In its affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the Centre claimed that Rohingya refugees posed a “serious national security threat” and that their deportation was in the “larger interest” of the country. It also asked the court to “decline its interference” in the matter.

The Centre’s decision to deport the Rohingyas attracted domestic as well as global opprobrium. “It is both unprecedented and impractical,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, told Scroll.in. “It is unprecedented because India has never been unwelcoming of refugees, let alone conducting such mass deportation,” she said. “And I would call it impractical because where would they [the Indian government] send these people? They have no passports and the Myanmar government is not going to accept them as legitimate citizens.”

Some critics also pointed out that the Rohingyas were being targeted by the ruling Hindu Bhartiya Janata Party government because they were Muslims, an allegation the Centre has refuted.

Parallels have also been drawn with refugees from other countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan who have comfortably made India their home over the years. However, to keep a strict vigil against the Rohingyas’ influx, the Indian government has specially stationed 6,000 soldiers on the India-Bangladesh border.

Activists say that despite thousands of refugees and asylum seekers (204,600 in 2011 as per the Central government) already living in India, refugees’ rights are a grey area. An overarching feeling is that refugees pose a security threat and create demographic imbalances. A domestic legal framework to extend basic rights to refugees is also missing.

Since the government’s crackdown, Rohingya groups have been lobbying to thwart their deportation to their native land. In a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court of India titled Mohammed Salimullah vs Union of India (Writ Petition no. 793 of 2017), they have demanded that they be allowed to stay on in India.

However, the government has contented that the plea of the petitioner is untenable, on grounds that India is not a signatory to the UN Convention of 1951. The convention relates to the status of refugees, and the Protocol of 1967, under the principle of non-refoulement. This principle states that refugees will not be deported to a country where they face threat of persecution. The matter is now in the Supreme Court of India which is saddled with the onerous task of balancing national security with the human rights of the refugees.

However, as Shubha Goswami, a senior advocate with the High Court points out, while India may not have signed the refugee convention, it is still co-signatory to many other important international conventions like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes the principle of non-refoulement, and it is legally binding that India provide for the Rohingyas.

There’s growing public opinion as well that the government should embrace and empower these hapless people.

“Rather than resent their presence, India should accept the Rohingyas as it has other migrants,” elaborates Dr. Ranjan Biswas, ex-professor sociology, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. “As a big regional player, the refugee crisis presents India with a unique opportunity to set an example and work out a long-term resolution to this humanitarian crisis which will usher in peace and stability in the region.”

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Exhibition of Artifacts Stolen From Ethiopia Revives Controversyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/exhibition-artifacts-stolen-ethiopia-revives-controversy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=exhibition-artifacts-stolen-ethiopia-revives-controversy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/exhibition-artifacts-stolen-ethiopia-revives-controversy/#respond Mon, 23 Apr 2018 00:01:08 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155390 A new exhibition that opened April 5 at London’s famous Victoria and Albert museum of ancient treasures looted from Ethiopia has revived debate about where such artifacts should reside, highlighting the tensions in putting Western imperialism in Africa and the past to rest. The exhibit comprises 20 royal and religious artifacts plundered during the Battle […]

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A manuscript from Maqdala now at the British Library. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By James Jeffrey
LONDON, Apr 23 2018 (IPS)

A new exhibition that opened April 5 at London’s famous Victoria and Albert museum of ancient treasures looted from Ethiopia has revived debate about where such artifacts should reside, highlighting the tensions in putting Western imperialism in Africa and the past to rest.

The exhibit comprises 20 royal and religious artifacts plundered during the Battle of Maqdala in 1868, when a British force laid siege to the mountain fortress of Ethiopian Emperor Tewodros.  “We have both a growing opportunity and growing responsibility to use the potential of digital to increase access for people across the world to the intellectual heritage that we safeguard.” -- Luisa Mengoni, head of Asian and African collections at the British Library

After their victory, the British force was at liberty to take what it wanted. The scale of the treasures stolen by the army isn’t widely known—inside the British Library are hundreds of beautiful Ethiopian manuscripts taken too.

While the argument for returning such artifacts appears strong, and perhaps obvious to most, legal issues surrounding a museum’s responsibility as a global custodian, as well as how best to make items available to the public, make the matter more nuanced than it seems.

“Museums have a global responsibility to better understand their collections, to more fully uncover the histories and the stories behind their objects, and to reveal the people and societies that shaped their journeys,” says Tristram Hunt, the Victoria and Albert museum’s director. “To this end, we want to better reflect on the history of these artifacts in our collection – tracing their origins and then confronting the difficult and complex issues which arise.”

The V&A website describes the museum’s collection of Ethiopian treasures as an “unsettling reminder of the imperial processes which enabled British museums to acquire the cultural assets of others.”

Hence efforts over the years by those like Richard Pankhurst, recognised as arguably the most prolific scholar in the field of Ethiopian studies, who helped found the Association for the Return of the Ethiopian Maqdala Treasures (AFROMET), and focused his efforts on the roughly 350 Maqdala manuscripts that ended up in the British Library.

“It is not widely known what happened,” said Pankhurst before his death in 2017. “The soldiers were able to pick the best of the best that Ethiopia had to offer. Most Ethiopians have never seen manuscripts of that quality.”

Tewodros had the country scoured for the finest manuscripts and collected in Maqdala for a grand church and library he planned to build.

“They are so lavish as they were made for kings,” says Ilana Tahan, lead curator of Hebrew and Christian Orient studies at the British Library, whose staff take their duties of guardianship as seriously as those trying to get the manuscripts returned to Ethiopia.

The front page of one of the Makdala manuscripts given to the British Library, on which is written: Pres. [Presented] by H. M. the Queen [Queen Victoria] 21 Jan. 1869. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

The front page of one of the Makdala manuscripts given to the British Library, on which is written: Pres. [Presented] by H. M. the Queen [Queen Victoria] 21 Jan. 1869. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

“It’s true that the level of care and quality in Briton is much better than ours, but if you come to the Institute of Ethiopian Studies where we have a few Maqdala items previously returned you can see how well they are kept and made available to the public,” says Andreas Eshete, a former president of Addis Ababa University—which houses the institute—and another AFROMET co-founder. “These manuscripts are among the best in the world and one of the oldest examples of indigenous manuscripts in Africa, and they need to be studied carefully by historians here.”

Tewodros had actually admired Britain, even hoping they would help develop his country. But a perceived snub when Queen Victoria didn’t reply to a letter of his, led to him imprisoning a small group of British diplomats, resulting in General Robert Napier mounting a rescue mission with a force of 32,000.

On Easter Monday, 13 April 1868, with the British victorious in the valleys surrounding his mountaintop redoubt Maqdala and about to launch a final assault, Tewodros bit down on a pistol—a previous present from Queen Victoria—and pulled the trigger.

In Ethiopia today, Tewodros remains revered by many for his unwavering belief in his country’s potential, while the looting of Maqdala continues to spur the efforts of AFROMET and others continuing the activism of Richard Pankhurst.

“Though Richard was unsuccessful with the British Library manuscripts, there was the return of a number of crosses, manuscripts from private collections,” says his son, Alula Pankhurst, himself a historian and author.

Alula Pankhurst notes that the family of General Napier recently returned a necklace and a parchment scroll to the Institute of Ethiopian Studies.

“My father would have argued that the items should be returned as they were wrongly looted,” Alula Pankhurst says. “There is now the technology available to make copies [of the manuscripts] that are indistinguishable from the originals and microfilms mean that copies could be retained.”

But such technology is also seen by those at the British Library as a reason why the manuscripts can remain where they are.

“We have both a growing opportunity and growing responsibility to use the potential of digital to increase access for people across the world to the intellectual heritage that we safeguard,” says Luisa Mengoni, head of Asian and African collections at the British Library.

One of the items in the V&A exhibit: a gold and gilded copper crown with glass beads, pigment and fabric, made in Ethiopia, 1600-1850. Photo courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

One of the items in the V&A exhibit: a gold and gilded copper crown with glass beads, pigment and fabric, made in Ethiopia, 1600-1850. Photo courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The British Library is continuing its efforts to make the manuscripts accessible to the public through new exhibits. And during the next two years the library plans to digitise some 250 manuscripts from the Ethiopian collection, with 25 manuscripts already available online in full for the first time through its Digitised Manuscripts website.

“The artwork suffers when it is digitalised, plus many of the manuscripts have detailed comments in the margins—there are many reasons scholars need to attend to the originals and which are not met by digital copies,” Andreas says.

But the return of the manuscripts is actually out of the library’s hands. New legislation would have to be passed by the British Parliament for the manuscripts, or any artefacts held in British museums, to be returned.

“While some restitutionists may grumble that the majority of items have not been returned, much has been done to spread knowledge of their existence – and great artistry – to Ethiopian scholars, and to the world at large,” says Alexander Herman, assistant director of the Institute of Art and Law,  an educational organisation focused on law relating to cultural heritage. “This has been made possible by the willingness of the British Library to invest in this once-overlooked part of its collection.”

The complex issue of repatriating looted objects has rumbled on in Europe and the United States for years without much resolution, though now there appears an increasing openness to engage with the issue, both on the part of major Western museums and governments.

President Emmanuel Macron of France said in November that the restoration of African artefacts was a “top priority” for his country, and at a speech in Burkina Faso said that “African heritage can’t just be in European private collections and museums.”

In the meantime, other options treading a middle ground are beginning to be talked about more openly. Hunt says he is “open to the idea” of a long-term loan of the objects to Ethiopia, a move Alula Pankhurst says “would be a step in the right direction.”

But that’s still not good enough for others.

“The restitution of Ethiopian property is a matter of respecting Ethiopia’s dignity and fundamental rights,” says Kidane Alemayehu, one of the founders of the Horn of Africa Peace and Development Center, and executive director of the Global Alliance for Justice: The Ethiopian Cause.

“Looting another country’s property and offering it on loan to the rightful owner should evoke the deepest shame on any self-respecting country.”

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Child Soldiers Released, But Risk Remainshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/child-soldiers-released-risk-remains/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=child-soldiers-released-risk-remains http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/child-soldiers-released-risk-remains/#respond Fri, 20 Apr 2018 16:22:15 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155369 More than 200 child soldiers were released by armed groups in war-torn South Sudan, and help will be needed to ensure their safe and bright future, according to a UN agency. The release took place in Western Equatoria State and follows a similar release last month that saw 300 children freed. Both releases are part […]

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Child soldiers released by armed groups in Yambio, South Sudan. Credit: UN Photo/Isaac Billy

By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 20 2018 (IPS)

More than 200 child soldiers were released by armed groups in war-torn South Sudan, and help will be needed to ensure their safe and bright future, according to a UN agency.

The release took place in Western Equatoria State and follows a similar release last month that saw 300 children freed.

Both releases are part of a series, supported by the UN’s children’s agency (UNICEF), that will see 1,000 children freed from armed groups.

“No child should ever have to pick up a weapon and fight” said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan.

“For every child released, today marks the start of a new life. UNICEF is proud to support these children as they return to their families and start to build a brighter future,” he said.

Laying Down of the Guns

During a ceremony, known as the ‘laying down of the guns,’ the released children were formally disarmed and given civilian clothes.

The 112 boys and 95 girls that were disarmed were from the South Sudan National Liberation Movement and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

“UNICEF, UNMISS and government partners have negotiated tirelessly with parties to the conflict so as to enable this release of children. But the work does not stop here.” Mdoe said.

“The reintegration process is a delicate one and we must now ensure the children have all the support they need to make a success of their lives.”

Counselling and Psychological Services

UNCIEF says that the priority will now be medical screenings, counseling and psychosocial services.

Recent research from Child Soldiers International, a rights group that aims to stop and end all child recruitment, illuminated some of the horrific realities that children face when they fall in with armed groups.

The report, based on interviews with ex-child soldiers, detailed everything form forced murders, spying on neighbors and family members, denial of education and healthcare to forced cannibalism.

For girls, the trauma can be even deeper. It was found that a majority suffered sexual abuse and violence. Rapes, forced marriages and pregnancy are all common for girls caught in armed groups.

Such experiences for girls, CSI reported, are compounded when they return home, as many are ostracized by their families and labelled ‘prostitutes’ by their communities.

“Every effort will be made to ensure the correct psychological services. There will be immense trauma to overcome.” Mdoe said.

Families will also need support in order to facilitate reintegration.

Other reintegration services

The children involved in this release will also have access to vocational training as well as age-specific education services in schools and accelerated learning centers.

Their families will also be provided with three months’ worth of food assistance to support reintegration.

The South Sudanese Government has committed to halt child recruitment by armed groups in the country.

Child recruitment ‘far from over’ in South Sudan

Yet despite their commitment and the U.N’s tally of releasing 2,000 children in the country, advocacy groups say that some 19,000 children remain caught in South Sudan’s armed forces and groups.

As peace talks resume, the UNICEF has called on all parties to the conflict to end the use of children and to release all children in their ranks.

But with conflict lingering into its sixth year in the world’s youngest nation, the risk that children will be used in fighting remains.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

UNESCO Courier*

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

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

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

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

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

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By António Guterres
GENEVA, Apr 4 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And these facts represent only a snapshot of the devastation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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I Am a Migrant: Integrating Through Syrian ‘Hummus’http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/migrant-integrating-syrian-hummus/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrant-integrating-syrian-hummus http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/migrant-integrating-syrian-hummus/#respond Wed, 04 Apr 2018 07:45:46 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155140 Khaled left Syria in 2015, when his country was already in its fourth year of war. He is 27 years old and can clearly remember what his life was like then in Damascus: a happy life, with a happy family, in a happy country. Despite coming from a land now devastated by war, Khaled does […]

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Trump Hurtles Toward Three Nuclear Criseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/trump-hurtles-toward-three-nuclear-crises/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-hurtles-toward-three-nuclear-crises http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/trump-hurtles-toward-three-nuclear-crises/#respond Fri, 30 Mar 2018 15:04:14 +0000 Daryl G. Kimball http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155108 Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director, Arms Control Association*

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Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director, Arms Control Association*

By Daryl G. Kimball
WASHINGTON DC, Mar 30 2018 (IPS)

One year into the unorthodox presidency of Donald Trump, the United States faces an array of complex and dangerous foreign policy challenges that require principled leadership, pragmatism, patience, and smart diplomacy.

Credit: Ronny Hartmann/AFP/Getty Images

So far, Trump has not exhibited any of these traits. Nevertheless, he will soon make consequential decisions affecting the future of the successful 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the course of the North Korean nuclear crisis, and the potential for renewed strategic nuclear competition with Russia.

Unfortunately, his appointment of the bellicose John Bolton to serve as national security adviser (Trump’s third in 16 months), along with hawkish CIA Director Mike Pompeo as secretary of state, could tilt the malleable president in the wrong direction. The result could be three full-blown nuclear crises.

The Iran deal. By May 12, Trump must extend waivers on nuclear-related sanctions to avoid violating U.S. commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. A decision to not extend the waivers will worsen proliferation risks in the Middle East and undermine U.S. credibility.

Trump has threatened to blow up the Iran deal if European partners do not agree to impose additional missile- and nuclear-related restrictions on Iran. The Europeans have made it abundantly clear they will support additional measures to address Iranian ballistic missile and arms transfers that violate UN Security Council resolutions.

But because “a deal is a deal,” they will not seek to renegotiate certain nuclear-related requirements already agreed to under the existing agreement. Unfortunately, Bolton, who has long advocated bombing Iran instead of pursuing a deal to verifiably curb its nuclear program, has said he wants the United States to abrogate the accord with Tehran.

There is no rational reason why Trump, without cause, should trigger another Middle East proliferation crisis. It would be the greatest U.S. foreign policy blunder since the 2003 invasion of Iraq under false claims about weapons of mass destruction.

The argument that the deal can or needs to be “fixed or nixed” is misplaced and dangerous. Common sense suggests the United States should strictly enforce the deal and build on it, rather than scrap it without a Plan B.

There is nothing in the deal that constrains the United States and Europe from pursuing a follow-on agreement to reduce Iran’s incentives to expand its nuclear program once certain restrictions on uranium enrichment and fuel cycle activities expire.

North Korea negotiations
. Trump’s appointment of Bolton is odd in that Bolton’s policy prescriptions on North Korea run counter to Trump’s stated policy and that of ally South Korea of using sanctions pressure and diplomatic engagement, including a summit with Kim Jong Un, to halt and reverse North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

In the early 2000s, Bolton was among those in the George W. Bush administration who called for confrontations and ultimatums rather than dialogue with North Korea, an approach that ultimately allowed North Korea to advance its nuclear program and test nuclear weapons.

More recently, Bolton argued that it would be legal for the United States to launch a “preventive attack” on North Korea, which would result in a catastrophic war. Three days before his appointment in March as national security adviser, Bolton said that if the summit takes place, Trump should not offer economic aid nor should the United States offer security assurances to North Korea, the latter being the very basis of Kim’s offer to negotiate about his nuclear weapons program.

Bolton’s formula is a recipe for confrontation and possibly war. Instead, Trump should recognize that his planned summit with Kim, at best, can solidify the suspension of North Korean nuclear and missile testing and launch serious sustained negotiations on steps toward denuclearization and a peace regime on the peninsula.

Avoiding a new arms race with Russia. In the next year or so, Trump will also need to decide whether to engage in talks with Russia to extend the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which is due to expire in 2021. Bolton has never supported the treaty, calling it “an execrable deal.”

As U.S.-Russian relations have deteriorated, New START serves an even more important role in reducing nuclear risks, and it continues to enjoy strong support from the U.S. military. Now is the time for the two presidents to agree to extend the treaty for five years, until 2026, which is essential to avoiding an unconstrained arms race. It would also buy time for the two sides to explore new, follow-on approaches to maintain strategic stability at lower nuclear force levels.

Given Trump’s new set of advisers, Congress and U.S. allies will need to play a stronger role to steer him in the right direction and away from avoidable nuclear crises.

*The link to the original article: https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2018-04/focus/trump-hurtles-toward-three-nuclear-crises

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Excerpt:

Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director, Arms Control Association*

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Conflicts Force Up Global Hunger Levelshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/conflicts-force-global-hunger-levels/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=conflicts-force-global-hunger-levels http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/conflicts-force-global-hunger-levels/#respond Wed, 28 Mar 2018 14:23:50 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155063 Largely driven by conflict, the number of hungry people has dramatically increased around the world, reversing decades of progress, according to a new report. Launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), the Global Report on Food Crises 2018 has exposed the worrisome scale and […]

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Almost 400,000 famine victims who fled to the Mogadishu for aid at the height of famine, are still living in one of the many refugee camps outside Mogadishu. Credit: Abdurrahman Warsameh/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 28 2018 (IPS)

Largely driven by conflict, the number of hungry people has dramatically increased around the world, reversing decades of progress, according to a new report.

Launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), the Global Report on Food Crises 2018 has exposed the worrisome scale and magnitude of today’s crises.

“It’s been a very difficult year,” FAO’s Senior Strategic Adviser and lead author of the report Luca Russo told IPS in response to the staggering figures.

The UN agencies found that almost 130 million people across 51 countries face severe food insecurity, an 11 percent rise from the previous year.

Russo pointed out that insecurity has increasingly become the main driver of food insecurity, accounting for 60 percent, or 74 million, of the global total. If this population made up a country, it would be larger than the United Kingdom and France combined.

The report attributes the increase to new and intensified conflict in countries such as Myanmar, Nigeria and Yemen.

Russo expressed particular concern for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan, both of which have become Africa’s largest humanitarian crises.

In the DRC, an escalation of violence and political clashes has left over 13 million Congolese in need of humanitarian aid, including 7.7 million who are severely food-insecure.

In 2017, the UN declared the DRC a level three humanitarian emergency—the highest possible classification on par with Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

The UN Security Council echoed Russo’s concern and highlighted the need to “address the presence of armed groups in the country” and called for “transparent, credible, and inclusive elections.”

While an international conference has been organized for April to mobilize funding for the DRC’s 1.7-billion-dollar humanitarian appeal, South Sudan also continues to struggle with low humanitarian funding and a population at the brink of famine.

Both FAO and WFP warned that without sustained humanitarian assistance and access, more than 7 million—almost two-thirds of the population—could become severely food-insecure in the coming months while over 150,000 may be pushed over the line to famine.

“Unless these humanitarian gaps are addressed, we may have to declare again a famine in South Sudan,” Russo said.

So far, just 8 percent of the country’s 1.7 billion appeal has been funded.

However, while humanitarian aid can help save lives, Russo noted that such assistance won’t provide long-term solutions.

“Because of the fact that the conflicts continue, you have more and more people on the brink of famine…with humanitarian assistance, we are able to keep them alive but we are not able to provide sustainable solutions,” he said.

While the outlook for 2018 remains bleak, not all hope is lost.

Russo highlighted the importance of working along the humanitarian-development nexus in order to move beyond focusing on short-term assistance to addressing long-term issues which can help secure peace.

Most recently, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) brought together South Sudanese pastoralists and farmers who have long clashed with each other over land and resources.

To this end, the meeting allowed the two parties to discuss methods of conflict resolution and establish a mutually beneficial agreement in order to prevent future conflict.

Though it may be a small step in a small part of the country, such efforts can help to reduce tensions and create a more substantial chance for peace.

Russo urged for the international community to act on global crises, pointing to the case of Somalia’s 2011 famine which only saw assistance and action after over 250,000 died and the UN’s declaration of a famine in July 2011.

“Even if some of these situations are not in the media, they are there and they exist and they are likely to expand. We should not wait for a famine to be declared to act,” he said.

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Chemical Weapons in Syria? Time for Outragehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/chemical-weapons-syria-time-outrage/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chemical-weapons-syria-time-outrage http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/chemical-weapons-syria-time-outrage/#respond Wed, 28 Mar 2018 13:43:33 +0000 Tariq Raheem http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155060 US Defense Secretary James Mattis dropped a political bombshell last week when he said the U.S. has no evidence to confirm reports that the Syrian government had used the deadly chemical sarin on its citizens. Arguing half-heartedly that he was not rebutting the reports, Mattis told a Pentagon news briefing Friday: “We have other reports […]

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Since the conflict erupted in March 2011, Syria has witnessed unprecedented devastation and displacement. More than 5 million Syrians have fled the country and 6 million are internally displaced. With more than 13 million people in need of assistance, the conflict has caused untold suffering for Syrian men, women and children. Credit UN photo

By Tariq Raheem
NEW YORK, Mar 28 2018 (IPS)

US Defense Secretary James Mattis dropped a political bombshell last week when he said the U.S. has no evidence to confirm reports that the Syrian government had used the deadly chemical sarin on its citizens.

Arguing half-heartedly that he was not rebutting the reports, Mattis told a Pentagon news briefing Friday: “We have other reports from the battlefield from people who claim it’s been used. We do not have evidence of it.”

The statement by Mattis made a virtual mockery of a rash of presidential statements and proposed resolutions by the UN Security Council which has routinely accused the Syrian government of continuing to use chemical weapons on civilians, which President Bashar al-Assad had denied.

Nor has the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) made any irrefutable claims on chemical weapons use.

Still, in April, the United States fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria in response to what it said it believed was a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 100 people.

Last month, the Reuters news agency reported that French President Emmanuel Macron warned that “France will strike” if chemical weapons are used against civilians in the Syrian conflict in violation of international treaties, but that he had not yet seen proof this was the case.

Meanwhile, at the 37th session of the Human Rights Council, the UK mission in Geneva accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta.

And Western diplomats proclaim that Syrian authorities should not be referred to as a “government” but as a “regime“ even though there is no official listing of such member-states—either as “governments” or “regimes,” any more than procedures for officially demoting a member-state from the 1st to the 2nd grade status.

In the current international scenario, the far right seems to have all the access it needs – specifically in the Western media—to advocate its cause. But regrettably, there are those whose voices are silenced, and who say that the gravity of crimes is not necessarily related to the quantity of decibels they generate on the battlefield or in the mainstream TV channels.

Take for instance two hospitals in Syria: one is bombed and destroyed, human shields or no human shields. A war crime indeed.

Another stands proudly on the horizon but its activity is paralysed by unilateral coercive sanctions: blockage of supply of spare parts make it impossible to get the theatre to operate gravely wounded people; prostheses are no longer available for amputees; electrical supply breaks down because of ban on imports of generators; water is polluted for lack of imported filters and people die in the hospital from water-borne ailments; and no medicines are available for the dying or gravely ill.

Even in the streets, people die or fall gravely ill because of the rocketing prices of basic food stuffs due to the sanctions. But everyone is told this situation is created by bad governance. Or that the Government is preventing access. This may be the case sometimes, especially if fighters can’t be separated from civilians.

The civilized world anticipated it all and the sanctions are benevolent for the civilian population because all accept the “humanitarian exception”. No one of course mentions that the SWIFT international fund transfer system has been blocked preventing Syria from importing these humanitarian supplies or indeed anything else, imposing on it a comprehensive stranglehold, as was the case previously in Iraq.

And chemical weapons of Syria today are reminiscent of the non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction of yesteryear. Are all these wanton deaths not also war crimes?. We are told to believe they are not.

All wars are won in the media and through propaganda, as well as on the battlefield. This is the case also for Syria. The fact is Syria is finally winning the war on the battlefield to regain control over its own territory. As they disentangle the enemy fighters from the civilians, tens of thousands of the latter are taking refuge with the protection of the government.

So the scenario is collapsing. The only possibility of counter-attack that is left is through mobilizing, in the real sense of the word, the media. The fig leaf is human rights which are being violated by all combatants (have you ever heard of squeaky-clean snow white war in human history?) but also by those that are supplying heavy weapons to groups that they heretofore listed as terrorists.

The indictment justifying this? Human rights violation by the other side while the accuser merrily continues imposing his stranglehold on the civilian population for which he “weeps” The crime committed by the winners on the battlefield is to have called into question the geo-strategic objectives of others which the latter believed was within their reach a few years ago.

But the architects of this strategy may take advantage of this change of reality as compared to their expectations to pause and think. Those fighting in the Ghouta against the government are not democratic forces but the reincarnation of those terror groups of El Qaeda and ISIS and no one else. Crocodile tears about these “freedom fighters” seem indeed out of place when they are listed as terrorist organizations in the very countries that now cry for them.

Remember September 11? Would the strategists really want to replicate in Syria the Libyan experience or do they not fear that a new Karzai in Damascus would be disastrous in terms of reinvigorating those very terrorist groups the world has just succeeded in eradicating in Iraq and Syria?

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The Dark Chapter of Zimbabwe’s History That Won’t Go Awayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/dark-chapter-zimbabwes-history-wont-go-away/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dark-chapter-zimbabwes-history-wont-go-away http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/dark-chapter-zimbabwes-history-wont-go-away/#respond Mon, 26 Mar 2018 00:02:47 +0000 Ignatius Banda http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155021 With Zimbabwe’s new President Emmerson Mnangagwa just concluding a 100-day timeline to address what he considered the country’s most pressing issues, which focused on economic revival, human rights activists have their own timeline. Survivors of the 1980s Gukurahundi atrocities, where a campaign by government soldiers claimed thousands of civilian lives, are demanding that the new […]

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Former President Robert Mugabe in 2015. From early 1983 to late 1987, the Zimbabwe National Army carried out a series of massacres of Ndebele civilians called the Gukurahundi, deriving from a Shona language term which loosely translates to "the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains". Credit: www.kremlin.ru./cc by SA 3.0

By Ignatius Banda
BULAWAYO, Mar 26 2018 (IPS)

With Zimbabwe’s new President Emmerson Mnangagwa just concluding a 100-day timeline to address what he considered the country’s most pressing issues, which focused on economic revival, human rights activists have their own timeline.

Survivors of the 1980s Gukurahundi atrocities, where a campaign by government soldiers claimed thousands of civilian lives, are demanding that the new president address the country’s dark past."People want to be able to openly express their pain without being policed and told to 'get over it.' A gross human rights violation occurred." --Velempini Ndlovu

Activists accuse President Mnangagwa, serving military and top government officials of perpetrating crimes against humanity more than three decades ago and see Mnangagwa’s rise to power as an opportunity that was denied them by former President Robert Mugabe to address the atrocities, which various researchers say claimed up to 20,000 lives.

Mugabe, accused of ordering the brutal campaign against civilians, notoriously brushed off what others have called a genocide as a “moment of madness” and refused to issue an apology.

In the past while still serving under Mugabe, Mnangagwa raised the ire of surviving victims and relatives of the Gukurahundi killings when he appeared to dismiss calls for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission by telling the nation that there was no need to revisit that troubled past.

Modelled along South Africa’s TRC which sought closure on apartheid-era human rights violations, disappearances and state-sponsored political murders, the commission would see perpetrators coming forward and giving public apologies in what researchers have called restorative justice.

Instead of getting prison terms, the perpetrators would get amnesty and pardons from their victims.

Charles Gumbo is one such Gukurahundi survivor. He has bayonet scars on his head and is now an activist agitating for the southwest of Zimbabwe’s autonomy. Gumbo says President Mnangagwa, senior members of the ruling party ZANU PF and military commanders who propped Mnangagwa’s rise to power must answer to the Gukurahundi atrocities.

“We know them,” he told IPS. “All of them are still in government and going about with impunity. We will never rest until this is resolved to our satisfaction,” Gumbo said.

However, there is skepticism that President Mnangagwa will institute any official government inquiry when he is largely seen as “accused number one” in what remain unresolved “crimes against humanity,” as Gumbo put it.

When the Gukurahundi campaign was launched in the 1980s, ostensibly to quell an insurgency by dissents in Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland and Midlands regions that saw the deployment of the military, Mnangagwa as the security minister became the face of the brutal crackdown.

Presence Shiri, who was retired as commander of the Air force of Zimbabwe to take up a post in President Mnangagwa’s new cabinet as lands minister was commander of the 5th Brigade, the military unit trained by North Koreans to carry out the Gukurahundi tortures and killings.

He too has over the years refused to answer questions about the human rights violations.

“This government has no will to solve the Gukurahundi issue,” said Zenzele Ndebele, a Zimbabwean journalist and filmmaker whose 2007 documentary “Gukurahundi: A Moment of Madness” has never been shown in Zimbabwe.

The film was launched in neighbouring South Africa after the authorities failed to grant permission for public screenings.

“The incompetency of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission works in government’s favour,” Ndebele told IPS.

In January this year, only weeks into his elevation with assistance from the military, President Mnangagwa signed into law the Peace and Reconciliation Bill which established the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) to “promote national healing.”

However, since the NPRC launched countrywide public meetings in February, activists have demanded that government address the Gukurahundi issue, something that the commissioners are accused of not being eager to include in their agenda.

As Gukurahundi demonstrations greeted Mnangagwa’s rise to power, special presidential advisor Christopher Mutsvangwa told the nation last December that continued discussion of Gukurahundi was “unhelpful” and “irresponsible,” in comments that were seen as reflecting the president’s views.

Velempini Ndlovu, an independent researcher documenting oral testimonies of the Gukurahundi, said victims seek closure and lament that they have been denied the opportunity to formally engage government.

“People want to be able to openly express their pain without being policed and told to ‘get over it.’ A gross human rights violation occurred,” Ndlovu told IPS.

Gukurahundi continues to polarise Zimbabweans, heating up online bulletin boards with some insisting the new president’s focus should be efforts to resuscitate the economy in a country where labour unions say more than 80 percent of the population are without jobs, while others say for the country to find peace and move on, the Gukurahundi must be discussed openly.

Other activists are demanding reparations with reports that thousands have failed to obtain legal documents such as birth certificates in the absence of their deceased parents killed during Gukurahundi.

“Victims want to be allowed to get identification as they are many who because their parents couldn’t get death certificates they also couldn’t get birth certificates and IDs,” Ndlovu said.

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A New Low for Security Council as Russia Takes Syrian Human Rights Off the Tablehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/new-low-security-council-russia-takes-syrian-human-rights-off-table/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-low-security-council-russia-takes-syrian-human-rights-off-table http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/new-low-security-council-russia-takes-syrian-human-rights-off-table/#respond Thu, 22 Mar 2018 17:52:57 +0000 Sherine Tadros http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154990 Sherine Tadros is Head of Amnesty International’s UN Office in New York

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Except for Syria, Middle East Disappeared from U.S. Network News in 2017

Syrian boy brings bread back from underground bakery in severly damaged area of Aleppo. Credit Shelly KittlesonIPS

By Sherine Tadros
NEW YORK, Mar 22 2018 (IPS)

There is nothing controversial about saying the UN Security Council has failed Syria.

Diplomats have openly admitted it, journalists have written about it, human rights organizations have declared it – several times over in the past seven years. But what happened this week was deplorable and unacceptable, even by the very low standards we now have for the Council when it comes to Syria.

On Monday, the 15 member states of the Security Council gathered to hear a briefing on the human rights situation in Syria by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al- Hussein. But before he could start, Russia used its prerogative to call for a procedural vote on the agenda – effectively to stop the UN’s own human rights chief from telling the Council about the situation on the ground.

Russia claimed discussions on human rights are not pertinent to the Security Council’s agenda. Or in other words, the body charged with maintaining international peace and security is not a forum to discuss human rights violations taking place.

It may sound absurd, but this was not the first time Russia had made this claim. They tried the same tactic to block discussions on the human rights situations in other countries including Ukraine, and previously on Syria.

The difference is that this time, they won. They got the votes and successfully stopped High Commissioner Zeid from speaking.

Russia, China, Bolivia and Kazakhstan voted against the agenda, while the African countries on the Security Council – Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea and Ivory Coast – abstained, leaving only seven countries in favour, one less than was needed for the briefing to happen.

This was a disgraceful moment for the Security Council. When it is blocked from simply discussing human rights in Syria, it has clearly lost all credibility to find a solution. Worse than that, it has become part of the problem.

Instead of using their power and influence to stop the war crimes taking place in Eastern Ghouta, Afrin, Idlib – Russia, and those Russia convinced of their warped logic, instead used it to suffocate discussion about those atrocities.

Members of the Council, led by France along with the USA, the UK, Sweden, Poland, Holland and Peru, quickly called for an informal meeting – known as an Arria Formula – and invited the High Commissioner to give his briefing outside the chamber in one of the UN conference rooms. All 15 members of the UNSC attended in another show of how dysfunctional the Council has become.

So what is happening in Syria that Russia and friends went to such lengths to prevent being discussed?

At the informal meeting, which will not be recorded as an official Security Council meeting, High Commissioner Zeid told it like it is. He begun by declaring definitively that “the Syrian conflict is characterized by its absolute disregard for even the most minimal standards of principle and law”.

The UN human rights chief went on to detail the gross violations taking place in different parts of Syria today, including the repeated targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure by Syrian forces, with the backing of Russia.

The current siege on Eastern Ghouta by the Syrian government, Zeid said, involves “pervasive war crimes” including the use of chemical weaponry, enforced starvation, denial of aid and unjustifiable mass internment accompanied by torture and ill-treatment. To a lesser extent, he remarked, non-state armed groups are also committing crimes, including sexual violence.

In concluding, Zeid said these violations should be referred by the Security Council to the International Criminal Court. He urged the permanent members of the Security Council to stop blocking efforts to bring justice and instead end the violence, particularly war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Zeid then left member states with a reflection on what had happened earlier at the Council and Russia’s justification for blocking the briefing. He said an experienced colleague in the field had given him wise advice: “The severe human rights violations of today are the inevitable conflicts of tomorrow.” He went on to say that most conflicts begin when serious human rights violations open the way for unchecked policy decisions, including the waging of war.

Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Bolivia, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea and Ethiopia – history will not forget this vote and the dangerous precedent it has set for human rights at the Security Council.

If only there were an initiative that committed member states not to vote against vital efforts to stop human rights atrocities, you might think?

Well guess what. There is.

The Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) group Code of Conduct on the Security Council politically and publicly commits its signatories not to block measures to prevent or end war crimes and other atrocities. It currently has 115 (out of 127) state signatories, including nine members of the Security Council. Kazakhstan and the Ivory Coast, either of whose vote would have been enough to allow this week’s briefing to happen, are signatories of the Code.

But the Code is not legally binding, and instead there was no place for a discussion on human rights at the Security Council this week. Most unjustly of all, the ones that pay the price for this colossal UN failure are the people in Syria being killed, maimed, starved and tortured every day.

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Excerpt:

Sherine Tadros is Head of Amnesty International’s UN Office in New York

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Is UN’s Ambitious Global Compact the Last Word on the Migrant Crisis?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/uns-ambitious-global-compact-last-word-migrant-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uns-ambitious-global-compact-last-word-migrant-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/uns-ambitious-global-compact-last-word-migrant-crisis/#comments Fri, 16 Mar 2018 17:38:36 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154859 As the death toll keeps mounting and the humanitarian crises continue unabated, the life of the average migrant or refugee has largely turned out to be an unmitigated nightmare. The litany of woes include life-threatening midnight runs in dangerous waters, victims of human trafficking, suffering under deplorable working conditions, and subject to rampant sexual abuse […]

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Numbers or people? Migrants at Lampedusa. Credit: IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 16 2018 (IPS)

As the death toll keeps mounting and the humanitarian crises continue unabated, the life of the average migrant or refugee has largely turned out to be an unmitigated nightmare.

The litany of woes include life-threatening midnight runs in dangerous waters, victims of human trafficking, suffering under deplorable working conditions, and subject to rampant sexual abuse and violence in households.

The United Nations, in an attempt to resolve the ongoing crisis, is pinning its hopes on a proposed Global Compact on Migration (GCM), a 24-page document that covers a wide range of issues, including labour rights, access to legal assistance, open borders, consular protection, cheaper transfer of migrant remittances and the re-integration of migrants and refugees into society.

The ongoing negotiations – the last round of talks ended March 15, with a final round scheduled for July – will culminate in an intergovernmental conference on international migration in Morocco in December this year, with a view to adopting the GCM by all 193 member states.

UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric put it this way: “The Global Compact for Migration will be the first inter-governmentally negotiated agreement, prepared under the auspices of the United Nations, to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner.”

He pointed out that the negotiating process will require further discussion on several outstanding issues, including differentiation between irregular and regular migration, differentiation between migrants and refugees, implementation and capacity-building, as well as follow-up and review.

Matthew Reading-Smith, Senior Communication Officer at CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance based in Johannesburg, told IPS there are over a quarter billion migrants and refugees in the world. Over 5,000 died last year on their dangerous journeys.

And the United Nations has been moved to act, he said, pointing out that the Global Compact is meant to protect the rights of those displaced and help address the root economic, environmental and social drivers that are compelling people to leave their communities and countries.

In a blog posting, CIVICUS said a key area where the document falls short is on commitments to tackle the primary causes of migration. A stated aim of the Global Compact is to “mitigate the adverse drivers and structural factors that hinder people from building and maintaining sustainable livelihoods in their countries of origin”.

However, the current text lacks actionable commitments to control the numerous man-made forces underlying global mass migration.

“The reasons are different for every migrant and diaspora, but we know that natural disasters are the number one cause of internal and international displacement. With rising sea levels, desertification and extreme weather events, climate action must be a part of any meaningful agreement. “

Emele Duituturaga, Executive Director of the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), said “climate induced displacement is upon us. Coastal communities are being evacuated and relocated the world over.”

“In sea locked countries of the Pacific Ocean, disappearance of our island homes is imminent”, he warned.

To protect the growing number of climate migrants, a necessary starting place for the compact is to reaffirm the importance of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and accelerate efforts to limit global average temperature rise to 1.5°C, instead of the more conservative and ambiguous target to keep the world “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Missing just one of these targets will lead to millions of people being displaced, said Duituturaga.

Speaking at an international Forum in Paris in January, William Lacy Swing, Director General, International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN’s migration agency, said the Forum was remarkable in its timing, given recent developments signaling that this is truly a new era for migration – a “mega-trend” of our time.

To mention only two of these milestones, he singled out the formal recognition of migration as a force for sustainable human development– with the formal inclusion of migration-related targets in Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals; and, Secondly, he said, the historic adoption of the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants, and the resulting consultations, stock-taking phases; the Secretary-General’s Report; and the much-awaited “Zero Draft” that will form the basis for formal negotiations — all leading us towards the adoption of a “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.”

Sarnata Reynolds, Global Displacement & Migration Policy Advisor at Oxfam told IPS that overall, Oxfam welcomes much of the contents of the zero draft to the Global Compact on Migration.

“It consistently recognizes that all migrants have human rights, including the right to be treated with dignity and respects their right to access education, health care, due process and justice before the law.”

At the same time, she said, the zero draft is written from the perspective of states rather than the experience of rights holders. While this state-led process requires that political leaders ultimately agree to the contents of the GCM, implementation won’t be possible or credible if the experiences of migrants, their families and the communities who work alongside them are not fully integrated.

As the negotiations unfold, Oxfam urges states to commit to increasing the safe passage of migrants by providing sufficient work opportunities, education, family reunification and protection visas that meet the needs of families and industry, and lifesaving assistance when migrants are caught in crisis. In particular, the experience of women as migrants themselves and oftentimes as the primary caretaker of migrant families, must be integrated into all programs and approaches, to ensure that their ability to exercise agency and take up fair and safe employment is promoted.

As another priority, Oxfam is calling for the legal recognition and protection of migrants forced across borders due to disasters and/or climate change.

Oxfam welcomes the inclusion of these vulnerable migrants throughout the zero draft, and will work alongside favorable states to ensure that the final compact includes a process toward the formal protection of those crossing borders for these reasons, and a concrete timetable to realize these goals.

Kate Gough, a researcher at the Washington-based Center for Global Development (CGD) who specializes on migration issues, told IPS the draft is ambitious and covers a lot of ground.

“The GCM is a significant and critical opportunity that we can’t afford to miss. Member States have a chance to pragmatically tackle how migration is governed, in line with current and future migration realities.”

She said the immense benefits migration can bring can be amplified: migrants can significantly and positively contribute to the countries they move to and the countries they move from, but maximizing the positive impacts that are possible requires policies that enable migrants’ contributions rather than stifle them.

Gough also pointed out that the issue of returns is dominating discussions right now.

This is understandable given the scale of arrivals, but ultimately counterproductive. Return efforts alone will not deter future migration. The coming demographic realities mean migration will continue, and new legal pathways for migrants will be essential to managing these migration pressures, she noted.

“The conversation on returns is valid and relevant, but should not be the only part of the discussion. In fact, new lawful migration channels paired with enhanced enforcement could be an effective migration management tool, (as we laid out in a recent brief looking at the U.S. Bracero example). This is one example of the types of pragmatic and realistic policy discussions that could help move the negotiations forward,” she declared.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Water Stress Poses Greatest Threat to MENA Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/water-stress-poses-greatest-threat-mena-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-stress-poses-greatest-threat-mena-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/water-stress-poses-greatest-threat-mena-region/#respond Thu, 15 Mar 2018 15:00:35 +0000 Sopho Kharazi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154830 This year, World Water Day, celebrated annually on 22 March, is themed “Nature for Water”, examining nature-based solutions (NBS) to the world’s water problems. The campaign – “The Answer is in Nature” – promotes a sustainable way to normalize the cycle of water, reduce harms of climate change and improve human health through planting trees […]

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Water In Judean Desert - Credit: Bigstock

By Sopho Kharazi
ROME, Mar 15 2018 (IPS)

This year, World Water Day, celebrated annually on 22 March, is themed “Nature for Water”, examining nature-based solutions (NBS) to the world’s water problems.

The campaign – “The Answer is in Nature” – promotes a sustainable way to normalize the cycle of water, reduce harms of climate change and improve human health through planting trees to replenish forests, reconnecting rivers to floodplains, and restoring wetlands.

An estimated 2.1 billion people have no access to drinkable water because of the polluted ecosystems affecting quantity and quality of water available for human consumption. At the same time, the number of individuals living in the water-scarce areas equals 1.9 billion and may reach 3 billion by 2050, while about 1.8 billion people drink water coming from an unimproved source which puts them at risk of water-borne diseases. All of these negatively influence human health, education and livelihoods.

The most water-scarce region in the world is the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) where more than 60% of the population has little or no access to drinkable water and over 70% of the region’s GDP is exposed to high or very high water stress.

Water scarcity in MENA involves multiple factors such as climate change leading to droughts and floods, low water quality, and poor water management in the context of fragility, conflict, and violence. This is one of the reasons why at the World Economic Forum 2015, experts on the MENA region stated that the water crisis is “the greatest threat to the region—greater even than political instability or unemployment”.

Poor water quality in the region is caused by unsustainable water consumption, pollution and untreated wastewater. The cost of these in the region represents 0.5-2.5% of the GDP annually. This causes multiple problems, ranging from waterborne diseases to the pollution of fresh water necessary for ecosystem services such as fisheries. For this reason, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 17% of freshwater species in the region are on the brink of extinction.

Globally, MENA reports to have the highest loss of freshwater in its food supply chain. Some MENA countries lose from 80 to 177 cubic meters per capita of freshwater resources in the food supply annually. At the same time, MENA does not collect half of the wastewater and returns 57% of the collected wastewater to the environment untreated, causing health problems and high level of wasted water resources.

Climate change is one of the main factors leading to the increased water stress. It causes decreased rainfalls (in some parts of the world) and an increase in temperatures which influence water supply and demand. Climate change also increases surface water stress in the countries with political and environmental problems.

For this reason, regarding MENA, scientists predict that Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, and Syria will experience high “surface water stress” in the following years. At the same time, climate change leads to the sea level rise that increases possibility of floods which are the most frequent natural disasters in MENA. It should also be recognized that the most vulnerable group of people to the “weather-related shocks” is the poor part of the population.

Precisely planned water management is needed to sustainably solve water problems and to propose water services affordable for both consumers and governments. At the same time, water management is necessary to reduce costs and social instability followed after floods, droughts and water scarcity as water problems can contribute to the economic, social and political unrest in the countries. In 2016, World Bank estimated that MENA will lose 6-14% of its GDP because of water scarcity caused by climate change by 2050.

As climate change and damaged ecosystems play an important role in water-related problems, NBS would represent a sustainable way for solving the challenges. The main goals of NBS are the following: 1) increasing water supply and availability; 2) improving water quality; and 3) managing risks.

Hence it follows that NBS can contribute to the following SDGs: zero poverty and hunger, good health, increased employment, affordable and clean energy, industry, infrastructure and innovation, sustainable cities and communities, and responsible consumption and production.

One of the main contributors to the solution of water-related problems is the World Water Council, an international organization which leads World Water Forums every three years. On 18-23 March 2018, WWC organizes the 8th World Water Forum in Brazil to lead the decision-making process on water in order to achieve sustainable management of the resource.

The organization’s political and institutional scope transforms the Forum into democratic dialogue between people from different sectors of international community.

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Male Survivors of Sexual Violence Suffer in Silence Due to Stigmahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/male-survivors-of-sexual-violence-suffer-in-silence-due-to-stigma/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=male-survivors-of-sexual-violence-suffer-in-silence-due-to-stigma http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/male-survivors-of-sexual-violence-suffer-in-silence-due-to-stigma/#respond Wed, 14 Mar 2018 16:09:21 +0000 Zack Baddorf http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154816 Zack Baddorf is an All Survivors Project Researcher

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Rampant sexual violence against women and girls takes place all over the Central African Republic. I discovered a discernible pattern of sexual violence against men and boys as well

Credit: Zack Baddorf

By Zack Baddorf
BANGUI, Mar 14 2018 (IPS)

In the Central African Republic, 45-year-old “Theodore” was captured by an armed group in February 2017 during an attack on his village of Mingala in the country’s southeast. He was taken with 21 other men to a nearby ad hoc rebel military base and locked up in a house-turned-prison guarded by six armed men.

The guards attacked him and the others, beating them relentlessly.

“I was first abused and beaten and weakened,” recounted Theodore, who fishes and farms for subsistence. “After five days of detention, I no longer had strength to resist so they took advantage of my powerlessness and had sex with me like a woman.”

Theodore was anally raped more than four times over a week in detention. He said he wasn’t able to defend himself.

“When it was happening, when you are in that position, tied up and bent over with the person coming from behind, what control do you have?” he said.“I thought I was dead. Thanks to God, I survived.”

The impunity has permitted rampant sexual violence against women and girls to take place all over the country with the UN documenting hundreds of cases. In fieldwork I conducted for the non-profit organization All Survivors Project in late 2017, I discovered a discernible pattern of sexual violence against men and boys like Theodore as well.

Theodore was also forced to watch other detainees being raped by their captors.

“There were many cases that happened in the same room,” he said from the safety of the capital Bangui.“So, I cannot count how many people were victims. Since there were also dead bodies, there was blood on the floor.”

The attackers on that occasion were members of the mostly-Muslim armed group Unity and Peace in Central African Republic (UPC). In 2013, Muslim militias called the Seleka took power of Central African Republic in a bloody coup. Christian militias known as the anti-Balaka fought back. Sexual violence against men and women has been committed by all parties to the conflict in CAR. The conflict left thousands dead and more than a million displaced inside and outside the country.

Violence continues today with 14 armed groups controlling roughly 60-70 percent of the countryside, according to the non-profit advocacy organization Enough Project. The result is a continuing human rights and a humanitarian crisis throughout the country. The lack of government control has created a lawless environment with little justice.

The impunity has permitted rampant sexual violence against women and girls to take place all over the country with the UN documenting hundreds of cases. In fieldwork I conducted for the non-profit organization All Survivors Project in late 2017, I discovered a discernible pattern of sexual violence against men and boys like Theodore as well.

For my research, I spent about three weeks in the capital Bangui and another 10 days in the far southeast town of Obo, talking to more than 50 medical professionals, humanitarian workers, gender-based violence (GBV) experts, community leaders, and members of civil society organisations. I examined the extent and patterns of conflict-related sexual violence against men and boys in the country, while also assessing the medical, psychosocial, protection and legal humanitarian response for these male survivors.

The Gender Based Violence Information Management System (GBVIMS), run by the United Nations Population Fund, recorded 11,110 cases of gender based violence, which includes rape, sexual assault, physical assault, forced marriage, denial of resources, and psychological violence, for just 2016. About 14 percent, approximately 1,555 cases, involved men or boys.

Yet, I was able to find only four male survivors of sexual violence willing to tell me about sexual violence perpetrated against them. One humanitarian worker told me how people often “laugh like crazy” if they hear about such a case. “It’s funny for them. They can’t imagine that a man can be raped,” he said.

Indeed, Theodore had not told anyone else about his experience including his family.

“A man should not suffer this, so for me it’s taboo. So I personally did not want to share what happened,” he told me at a location in Bangui far from anyone who might recognize him.

After being released from detention in February 2017, Theodore had made his way to Bangui to seek medical care for his injuries. He went to the capital’s community hospital where he was tested for HIV, given tetanus and Hepatitis B vaccinations, and treated for an infection. However, he didn’t disclose his sexual violence to doctors, fearing being shamed.

Theodore still suffers pains throughout his body, including his chest and anus, as a result of the violence.

Medical and psychosocial care for all survivors of sexual violence is available for free, provided and funded by international non-governmental organizations like Doctors Without Borders.

However, men and women face significant challenges in accessing care and support due to lack of adequate public services, prohibitive costs, and insecurity. Additionally, care designed for male survivors is practically inexistent.

Many aid workers acknowledged to me that the lack of attention to men and boys in humanitarian programming is a weakness. Their focus is also almost exclusively on women and children.

In the small town of Obo in the country’s far southeast, with a population of about 10,000, I found some signs of steps taken to help the community address sexual violence against males.

An international provider of psychosocial support and other gender-based violence services working in Obo reported having received 121 male survivors of sexual violence in its facilities in the town between January and October 2017. Ninety-three (76 percent) were abused by members of non-state armed groups, predominantly the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Other males who have been sexually violated have managed to escape LRA capture and return home.

A neighborhood chiefin Obo told me how he had mediated the families of two men who had been sexually victimized by the LRA. He facilitated discussions between the two men and their wives, leading to increased understanding and acceptance by the women that what had happened was not the fault of their husbands and the men should not be rejected on account of it.

The neighborhood chief credited training from an NGO-run sensitization program on gender-based violence for helping him manage this mediation.

All Survivors Project is calling for more focus and attention for male survivors of sexual violence against males in the Central African Republic. In our report on the subject released on March 5, we call for a variety of actions by humanitarians, the UN, national authorities, and other stakeholders on how to better support male survivors of sexual violence and prevent sexual violence against women and men in CAR.

Survivors like Theodore deserve to receive the care and attention they desperately need.

 

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Excerpt:

Zack Baddorf is an All Survivors Project Researcher

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Merchants of Death Ultimate Winners in Escalating Military Conflictshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/merchants-death-ultimate-winners-escalating-military-conflicts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=merchants-death-ultimate-winners-escalating-military-conflicts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/merchants-death-ultimate-winners-escalating-military-conflicts/#comments Tue, 13 Mar 2018 15:20:40 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154795 In most military conflicts worldwide, the ultimate winners are not one of the warring parties– but the world’s prolific arms traders, described by peace activists as “merchants of death”. While fighting keeps escalating, the hunger for conventional weapons continues unabated, as exemplified in several ongoing battles. The conflicts include the six-year civil war in Syria […]

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Armed for battle. Credit: SIPRI

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

In most military conflicts worldwide, the ultimate winners are not one of the warring parties– but the world’s prolific arms traders, described by peace activists as “merchants of death”.

While fighting keeps escalating, the hunger for conventional weapons continues unabated, as exemplified in several ongoing battles.

The conflicts include the six-year civil war in Syria where multiple warring factions are being armed either by the US, Russia or Iran; the three-year armed conflict in Yemen where American weapons are being used indiscriminately by Saudi Arabia, mostly against civilians; and the simmering 50-year old Israeli-Palestinian conflict which has transformed the heavily-armed Jewish state into a formidable military power described as far superior to the collective might of all the Arab states put together.

And arms are also pouring uninterruptedly into Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Iran, India, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The world’s five major arms suppliers include the four permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) – namely the US, Russia France and China– plus Germany (which is engaged in a longstanding battle for a permanent seat in the UNSC). Together, these five biggest exporters, have accounted for about 74 per cent of all arms exports during 2013–17

The weapons of war include sophisticated jet fighters, combat helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, missiles, warships, battle tanks, armoured personnel carriers, heavy artillery and small arms.

According to a new study, released March 12 by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the world’s five major arms suppliers include the four permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) – namely the US, Russia France and China– plus Germany (which is engaged in a longstanding battle for a permanent seat in the UNSC).

Together, these five biggest exporters, have accounted for about 74 per cent of all arms exports during 2013–17, according to the latest SIPRI figures.

The fifth permanent member of the UNSC, namely Britain, – which finalized an estimated $5 billion dollar arms agreement with Saudi Arabia for the sale of 48 Typhoon jet fighters last week, as reported in the Wall Street Journal March 10 — is not far behind. The proposed agreement also involves trade and investments between the two countries.

“All five permanent members of the Security Council”, ridicules one UN diplomat, “preach the doctrine of peaceful coexistence and the principles of disarmament — while having no compunctions in simultaneously selling lethal weapons in battle zones.”

The mostly strife-torn Middle Eastern nations alone more than doubled their arms purchases over the last 10 years, says SIPRI.

‘Widespread violent conflict in the Middle East and concerns about human rights have led to political debate in Western Europe and North America about restricting arms sales,’ says Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.

“Yet the USA and European states remain the main arms exporters to the region and supplied over 98 per cent of weapons imported by Saudi Arabia,” he noted.

Wezeman told IPS the current ongoing violent conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Sinai, Libya, Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey– and the prevalent view that military force is an important, if not the main instrument to deal with these conflicts– are major reasons for the demand for arms in the region.

In addition, he pointed out, these conflicts are closely linked to the aspirations of several states to be regional powers, in particular Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Iran, Qatar and Turkey, which in turn, leads to deeply entrenched threat perceptions between Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran, and between Israel and Iran.

In addition, he said, the rapidly developed deep rift between Saudi Arabia together with the UAE, on the one hand, and Qatar on the other, shows once again how fast new tensions can develop in the region, even between states that were military allies only shortly before.

“Preparing for such unforeseen tensions is likely to be a motive for regimes in the region to modernize, or as in the case of Qatar, rapidly expand their arsenals. The fast pace of arms procurement by several countries in the region risks becoming a multi-facetted and asymmetric regional arms race,” Wezeman declared.

Arms supplying states, he noted, have shown little signs of restraint aimed at cooling off the situation. The economic, and partly, the perceived security benefits of arms exports, remain a driving force for continuing aggressive arms marketing in the region.

Such marketing, he said, also plays into other non-security or power aspirations related reasons for arms procurement, namely prestige and the opportunities that arms procurement offers for corruption

Dr. Natalie J. Goldring, Senior Fellow with the Security Studies Program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, told IPS “the new SIPRI data on the global arms trade represent good news for arms dealers and bad news for the rest of us.”

The new data, she pointed out, confirm a disturbing trend, with the United States widening its lead over Russia, the world’s second largest arms exporter from 2013-2017.

She said the United States retains its title as “the leading merchant of death”. US manufacturers supplied more than a third of the value of the major conventional weapons delivered around the world from 2013-2017, the period covered by this report.

“The situation isn’t likely to get better any time soon, with a report from Reuters earlier this year indicating that the Trump Administration plans to loosen controls on weapons exports and task embassy officials with being more active in pursuing sales”.

This initiative is reportedly a “Buy American” plan, which effectively treats weapons as if they were simply another consumer commodity.

“It seems clear that President Trump is going to continue the unfortunate pattern of previous administrations, exercising little control over US weapons exports. Rather than seeing the risks inherent in unfettered arms transfers, he merely seems to see dollar signs,” said Dr Goldring, who also represents the Acronym Institute at the United Nations on conventional weapons and arms trade issues.

One hopeful sign, she pointed out, is that “Congress is taking a more critical look at some US arms exports. Last summer, for example, the US Senate fell just three votes short on a resolution to block a sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia. That more critical perspective should also be applied to sales of major conventional weapons to Saudi Arabia.”

“SIPRI reports that arms transfers to the Middle East have doubled in the last decade. If more weapons made people safer, the Middle East should be a remarkably peaceful place. The opposite seems closer to the truth, with continued conflict across the region,” Dr Goldring declared.

Meanwhile, India was the world’s largest importer of major arms in 2013–17 and accounted for 12 per cent of the global total. Saudi Arabia was the world’s second largest arms importer, with arms imports increasing by 225 per cent compared with 2008–12, according to SIPRI.

Arms imports by Egypt—the third largest importer in 2013–17—grew by 215 per cent between 2008–12 and 2013–17. The United Arab Emirates was the fourth largest importer in 2013–17, while Qatar (the 20th largest arms importer) increased its arms imports and signed several major deals in that period.

‘The tensions between India, on the one side, and Pakistan and China, on the other, are fuelling India’s growing demand for major weapons, which it remains unable to produce itself,’ said Wezeman.

By contrast, he said, China is becoming increasingly capable of producing its own weapons and continues to strengthen its relations with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar through arms supplies.

Asked about the driving force for arms purchases in the Middle East, Wezeman told IPS the data SIPRI collects about arms transfers for military use includes paramilitary forces, such as militarised police or so-called ‘internal security forces’, which exist in most if not all states in the Middle East, including for example, the Federal Police in Iraq and the National Guard in Saudi Arabia.

He said more or less all countries in the region are involved in armed conflicts. Many both in internal conflict and in military interventions outside their borders.

The use of heavy arms in internal conflict is common in Turkish operations against Kurdish groups; by the different groups in Syria; by US and European forces against the Islamic State (IS); by Egyptian forces in the Sinai; by Israel against Hezbollah and Hamas; and in Iraq and Yemen.

Therefore, demand for arms in the region is driven by an increased demand for weapons by all military actors. The largest deals in terms of value are usually for the regular armed forces, he added.

For example, in Saudi Arabia, the import of combat aircraft and their armaments account for the bulk of the arms imports. These aircraft are heavily used against the comparatively lightly armed Houthi rebels in Yemen, he added.

Deals for arms intended for use in internal operations, against rebel forces or even against unarmed opposition can also be substantial.

A typical example, Wezeman pointed out, is the sale of a large number of armoured vehicles made in Canada for the Saudi National Guard, worth over $10 billion.

The deal has become the subject of major debate in Canada, as critics have argued that earlier-delivered Canadian armoured vehicles were used in 2017 by the National Guard against the Shiite minority in Saudi Arabia.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Three Ways the Global Compact Can Better Serve Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/three-ways-global-compact-can-better-serve-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=three-ways-global-compact-can-better-serve-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/three-ways-global-compact-can-better-serve-refugees/#respond Mon, 12 Mar 2018 16:44:15 +0000 Kitty van der Heijden http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154779 Kitty van der Heijden is Director of the Washington-based World Resources Institute Europe and WRI Africa

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Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh wait in limbo. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Kitty van der Heijden
WASHINGTON DC, Mar 12 2018 (IPS)

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has a tall task: deliver a “Global Compact for Refugees” to the United Nations’ General Assembly by the end of 2018.

The release of a “zero draft” – which will be discussed at a second round of negotiations beginning March 12 — should hearten advocates. Of course, the final version is still many months of hard negotiations away. But the mere existence of the draft—at a time when refugee crises are growing in complexity, severity and number—is testament to the UN’s strong will.

Such a document must not only detail how to help refugees, it should attempt to understand the root causes of migration, and describe how world leaders might begin to reduce the pressures that drive people from their homes.

It is great, then, that there is at least some attention in the “zero draft” to environmental degradation as one of the root causes of migration. Environmental degradation leads to human deprivation, and, often, to displacement.

Nevertheless, as decision-makers review the draft, they should consider 3 ways it can better incorporate this analysis into the text.

More Discussion of Root Causes

Just look at how little real estate is dedicated to root causes. Too few of the 24-page document’s 11,500 words address environmental pressures that contribute to displacement and migration. “Environment” only comes up 8 times—and two of those uses have nothing to do with natural resources.

Many analysts expect climate change to be the major driver of migration in the 21st century. Already it places pressure on populations, both directly—through drought, for example—and indirectly, as a contributor to conflict. Yet “climate” gets only 5 hits.

The result is even worse for “food”: just one mention, and that only in context of access to food during detention. How can a global compact on refugees do so little to outline why people leave their homes in the first place?

Who Is Accountable?

While there are some pretty phrases, it is entirely unclear “who does what” to achieve the intended outcomes on environmental stewardship.

The document does encourage “investment in programmes that accelerate fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals to minimize the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin…including climate change.” But it is not clear who will invest, through which institutions, and where.

Next Steps Need to Be Clearer

There are scant references to environmental challenges. But, even worse, there is an action plan without any action.

The “Actionable Commitments,” captured in 22 Objectives, contain no deadlines; in the Implementation and Follow-Up and Review sections, the environmental (and other) pressures are no longer mentioned. Neither is a plan for monitoring progress on these pressure points.

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Excerpt:

Kitty van der Heijden is Director of the Washington-based World Resources Institute Europe and WRI Africa

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The Politicization of Humanitarian Aid Through Budget Cutshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/politicization-humanitarian-aid-budget-cuts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=politicization-humanitarian-aid-budget-cuts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/politicization-humanitarian-aid-budget-cuts/#respond Mon, 12 Mar 2018 14:58:19 +0000 Ann-Kathrin Pohlers http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154776 Ahead of the pending ‘list of shame,’ the Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflicts, child protection actors share concerns about the politicization of humanitarian aid putting child protection capacities at a disadvantage. UNICEF described 2017 a “nightmare year” for children living in war-affected regions. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed […]

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MONUSCO Peacekeepers Help Launch Soccer Schools in Goma, DRC. Credit: UN Photo

By Ann-Kathrin Pohlers
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 12 2018 (IPS)

Ahead of the pending ‘list of shame,’ the Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflicts, child protection actors share concerns about the politicization of humanitarian aid putting child protection capacities at a disadvantage.

UNICEF described 2017 a “nightmare year” for children living in war-affected regions.

Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba stated the progress made last year was outweighed by the “extremely worrisome situation” for children exposed to escalations of violence and denials of humanitarian aid.

“States don’t want to be on the same list as terrorist groups so they’ll do anything to stay off those lists. Blackmail is the most blatant example of politicization of humanitarian aid,” Dragica Mikavica, Advocacy Officer for Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, told IPS.

Saudi Arabia was the most recent publicized example of blackmail when former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon removed the Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen from the U.N. blacklist because its supporters threatened to cut U.N. funding. Saudi Arabia denied the allegations.

To deepen Saudi Arabia’s commitment to protecting children, current Secretary-General António Guterres added the Saudi-led Coalition to the annexes again — for killing and injuring 683 children in Yemen and 38 attacks on schools and hospitals in 2016, all incidents verified by the United Nations.

Though, according to Watchlist’s recommendations for the 2018 Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict, this year’s report draws a line between parties “that have put in place measures during the reporting period aimed at improving the protection of children” and parties who haven’t.

It’s a ploy to still list but concurrently appease Saudi Arabia.

“They’re on the list but there is a list A and list B. On list A are parties that have not taken any measures to protect children and list B is for parties that have taken “positive measures.” The Saudis went straight to B because they are taking positive measures although none of us know what these measures are,” said Dragica Mikavica.

Child protection actors like Watchlist and Human Rights Watch now demand more transparent updates on the criteria for these lists. “Of course this is in the spirit of trying to be more proactive about efficiency in peacekeeping, it’s just gone under the radar that U.N. agendas have been undermined as a result.”

Mikavica presumes a much more substantial danger for agendas being eroded from below, “Member states essentially use budget negotiations to undermine agendas at the U.N.”

While some contributions are treaty-based and therefore compulsory, the United States provides 22 percent of the United Nations’ operating budget and around 28 percent for peacekeeping.

When the U.S. government pressed to cut financial assistance to member states that vote in favor of the U.N.’s calling for the U.S. to withdraw from its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, they eventually secured a $285 million cut.

The 2015 report of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations previously pointed out that “too often, mandates and missions are produced on the basis of templates instead of tailored to support situation-specific political strategies, and technical and military approaches come at the expense of strengthened political efforts.”

Political agendas threaten peacekeeping’s principle of aid neutrality.

Negotiations within the United Nation’s budget committee recommended the General Assembly to adopt a $5.3 billion budget for the 2018/2019 biennium, five percent less than the budget approved for the previous biennium.

According to UNA-UK, the $5 billion budget saves member states around one billion dollars, but it’s a
reduction that small missions would not save enough. Resources of large missions need to be drastically reduced, putting particularly child protection capacities at risk, notably in the war-affected regions of South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic.

Last year’s budget negotiations for MINUSCA, the mandate in the Central African Republic, suggested cutting off human rights posts of which 90 were intended for child protection.

In 2016, the number of child casualties in the Congo had increased by 75 percent compared to the previous year. One of the UN’s most complex missions, the Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), will see a budget reduction of $96 million; however, the budget was reduced by much less than the United States had initially demanded.

As of August 2017, due to the lack of access to medical aid and excessive rates of malnutrition among children, over one million South Sudanese have fled to Uganda alone. The 1.0 percent budget cut to UNMISS, the U.N. Mission in South Sudan, came after a significant budget increase request and meant a fall by 10 percent to the number the U.N. projects the Mission will need.

These consequences fundamentally affect the security of children because of their unique vulnerability and exposure to exploitation and violence. “Rapidly shrinking place for the protection of children is given,” Dragica Mikavica concluded.

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