Inter Press ServiceArmed Conflicts – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 23 Oct 2017 07:17:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 Austrian Elections: The Crisis of Europe Continueshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/austrian-elections-crisis-europe-continues/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=austrian-elections-crisis-europe-continues http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/austrian-elections-crisis-europe-continues/#respond Sat, 21 Oct 2017 19:06:32 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152640 Roberto Savio is co-founder of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and its President Emeritus. He is also publisher of OtherNews.

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Roberto Savio is co-founder of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and its President Emeritus. He is also publisher of OtherNews.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Oct 21 2017 (IPS)

The Austrian elections show clearly that media have given up on contextualising events. To do that, calls for a warning about Europe’s future, as a vehicle of European values is required. Europe has been weakened by all the recent elections, with the notable exception of France. Common to all, France included, were some clear trends, that we will hastily, and therefore maybe imperfectly, examine.

Roberto Savio

The decline of the traditional parties.

In every election, since the financial crisis of 2009, the parties we have known to run their country since the end of the Second World War, are on the wane ( or practically disappearing, like in the last French elections). In Austria, the far right Freedom Party of Austria (FPO) secured 26 per cent of the vote, just a few votes behind the Social Democrats who took 26.9 per cent of the votes. The social democrats have been in power practically since the end of the war. And the other traditional party, the conservative Austrian People’s Party (OVP), won the elections with 31.5 per cent. Together the two parties used to have more than 85% of the votes. In the Dutch elections held in March, Geert Wilder’s far-right Party for Freedom PVV, came second after the ruling People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy VVD, at the expense of all other parties. And in September in Germany, the far right anti immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) enjoyed historical success, becoming the third party while the two traditional parties, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union of Germany CDU and the social democrat Social Democratic Party of Germany SPD, suffered the worst results in more than a half a century. According to polls, next year Italian elections will see a populist movement, with the 5 Stars taking over the government.

Austria is the best example to understand how European national politics have changed. It is important to note that no right wing party was really visible in Europe, (except Le Pen in France), before the financial crisis of 2009. That crisis brought insecurity and fear and in the same year the Austrian far right, under the charismatic leadership of Jorg Haider, got the same percentage of votes as of today. And the conservative Prime minister of the time, Wolfgang Schlussel broke a taboo by bringing the Freedom Party into the government. Everybody in Europe reacted with horror, practically isolating Austria. And the FPO, lost all its lustre in the government, going down to 5%, and with the death of Haider even further down. There Are no gasps of horror now in Europe over any far right wing parties getting in to govern.

What has fuelled the decline of the traditional parties

The traditional parties were facing already a loss of participation and trust by the electors at the end of the last century but in 2009 Europe imported the financial crisis which racked the US in 2006. And, 2009 saw hardship and unemployment all over Europe. And that year Greece became the battleground of two visions in Europe. The Southern countries wanted to push out of the crisis with investments and social relief, while the bloc of Northern countries, led by Germany, saw austerity as the only response. Germany wanted to export it’s experience: they were doing well thanks to an internal austerity reform started by Schroeder in 2003, and they did not want to take on other reforms at any cost.

Greece was just 4% of the European economy and could have been rescued without problems. But the German line won and today Greece has lost 25% of its properties; pensions went down by 17%, and there is a massive unemployment. Austerity was the response to the crisis for all of Europe and that aggravated fear and insecurity.

It is also important to remember that until the invasions of Libya, Iraq and Syria, in which Europe played a key role (2011- 2014), there were few immigrants and this was not a problem. In 2010, immigrants numbered 215.000, in a region of 400 millions. But during the invasions, a very fragile balance between Shite and Sunni, the two main religious branches of Islam, collapsed. Civil war, and the creation of ISIS in 2015 pushed many to try to reach Europe to escape the civil wars. So, in 2015 more than 1.2 million refugees, the majority coming from countries in conflict, arrived in Europe, which was not prepared for such a massive influx. And, if we study the elections before then, we can see that the far right parties were not as relevant as they are now.

Therefore it should be clear that austerity and immigration have been the two main factors for the rise of the right wing. Statistics and data show that clearly. Statistics also show that immigrants, of course with exceptions, (that media and populism inflates), basically want to integrate, accept any kind of work, and are law abiding and pay their contributions, which is obviously in their interest. Of course the level of instruction plays a crucial role. But the Syrians who come here were basically middle class. And of course it is an inconvenient truth that if Europe did not intervene in the name of democracy, the situation would be different. NATO estimates that more than 30 billion dollars have been spent on the war in Syria. There are now six million refugees, and 400.00 dead.

And Assad is still there. Of course, democracy has a different value in countries which are closed and rich in petrol. If we were serious about democracy, there are so many African countries which need intervention. Book Haram has killed seven times more people than ISIS; and Mugabe is considering running for re-election after dominating Zimbabwe for nearly four decades. But you will never hear much on those issues in the present political debate.

How the far right is changing Europe

Nigel Farage is the populist who led a far right party, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) which fought for leaving Europe. UKIP received the greatest number of votes (27.49%) of any British party in the 2014 European Parliament election and gained 11 extra Member of the European Parliament MEPs for a total of 24.[55] The party won seats in every region of Great Britain, including its first in Scotland.[56] It was the first time in over a century that a party other than Labour or Conservatives won the mosti votes in a UK-wide election.

But Farage lost the elections held just before Brexit, in June 2016. His declaration to the media was: Infact, I am the real winner, because my agenda against Europe now is the basis for politics in all the traditional parties. Brexit did follow.

And this is what is happening now everywhere. The Austrian elections did not see only the FPO rise. They also saw the conservative OVP taking immigration, security, borders and others part of the far right agenda of the populist agenda in the electoral campaign. A full 58% of the voters went for the far right or the right, with the social Democrats also moving more to the center. The new Dutch governement took a turn to the right, by reducing taxes on the rich people, and to companies. The same turn to the right can be expected by the new coalition led by Merkel, with the liberals aiming to take over the ministry of Finance. Its leader, Christian Lindner, is a nationlist and has several times declared his aversion to Europe. In that seense, he will be worse than the inflexible Schauble, who just wanted to Germanize Europe, but was a convinced European. And it is interesting that the main vote for the far righ party AfD came from East Germany, where immigrants are few. But in spite of investing the staggering amount of 1.3 trillions Euro in the development of East Germany, important differences in employment and revenues with West Germany remain. No wonder that the President of South Korea has warned President Trump to avoid any conflict. They have decided a longtime ago, looking at the German reunification that they would not have the resources required by annexing with success, North Korea.The rocketman, as Trump calls Kim, after the decertification of Iran, can claim that the only way to be sure that US will not intervene, is to show that he has a nuclear intercontinental ability, because US does not respect treaties.

Those considerations done, a pattern is clear everywhere. The agenda of the right wing has been incorporated in the traditional parties; they bring in the governing coalition, like Norway did , or they try to isolate them , as did Sweden. This does not change the fact that everybody is moving to the right. Austria will now tilt to the Visegrad group, formed by Poland , Hungary, Czech and Slovakia, which are clearly challenging Europe and looking to Putin as a political model ( all the right wing does).

The only active European voice is Macron, who clearly is not a progressist guy either. The real progressist, Corbyn, is ambigous about Europe, because the Labour Party has a lot of eurosceptic.

The new German government has already made clear that many of it’s proposals for a stronger Europe are not on the agenda, and austerity remains the way. Unless a strong growth comes soon (and the IMF doubts that), social problems will increase. Nationalism never helped peace, development and cooperation. Probably , we need some populist movement to be in the government to show that they have no real answers to the problems. The victory of 5 stars in Italy will probably do that. But this was the theory also for Egypt. Let the Muslim Brotherhood take the government , and it will be a failure. Pity that the General El Sisi did not let this happen. Our hope is that we do not get any El Sisis in Europe.

If only young people went back to vote, this would change the situation in Europe…this is the real historical loss of the left in Europe.

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One of the World’s Most Dangerous PIaces For Aid Workershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/one-worlds-dangerous-piaces-aid-workers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=one-worlds-dangerous-piaces-aid-workers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/one-worlds-dangerous-piaces-aid-workers/#respond Thu, 19 Oct 2017 09:14:35 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152583 António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

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António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 19 2017 (IPS)

I will travel to the Central African Republic early next week to spend United Nations Day with a peacekeeping operation in order to pay tribute to peacekeepers across the world.

Peacekeeping operations are among the international community’s most effective tools for meeting the challenges of global peace and security. Peacekeepers show tremendous courage in volatile environments and great dedication in helping countries rise from the depths of armed conflict.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo

I thank the uniformed and civilian personnel for their contributions and the troop contributing countries for their commitment and generosity. This service too often claims the lives of those who serve. Since the beginning of the year, 67 peacekeepers have died in the line of duty. We honour their sacrifice.

In the Central African Republic, 12 peacekeepers have been killed from hostile acts this year alone. It is important to remember that five years ago, the Central African Republic was experiencing mass atrocities, and United Nations peacekeepers helped avert the worst.

Today, the situation remains very troubling. My visit also aims to draw attention to a fragile situation that is often far from the media spotlight. Across the country, communal tensions are growing. Violence is spreading. And the humanitarian situation is deteriorating.

Since the beginning of this year, the number of internally displaced persons has almost doubled, reaching 600,000. The number of refugees in neighbouring countries has surpassed 500,000. About one out of four people in the Central African Republic have been forced from their homes since the beginning of the crisis.

Despite these rising needs, humanitarian personnel and aid workers are being targeted and access restricted. This year alone, 12 humanitarians have been killed in the Central African Republic, making it one of the world’s most dangerous places for aid workers to serve.

Meanwhile, our appeals for emergency aid are only 30 per cent funded. My upcoming visit will be an opportunity to engage with the Government and others in order to ease suffering, halt the current backsliding, and strengthen international support for peace.

I also aim to give impetus to the new United Nations approach to addressing and preventing sexual exploitation and abuse. We know that the good work and the tremendous sacrifice of peacekeepers around the world has been tarnished by the appalling acts of some UN personnel who have harmed the people they were meant to serve.

I am pained that some peacekeepers are alleged to have committed egregious acts of sexual exploitation and abuse against the people of the Central African Republic. During my visit, I will be accompanied by Jane Connors, who I appointed recently to serve as the Organization’s first Victims’ Rights Advocate. We are determined to ensure that the voices of victims are heard – I will myself be ready to meet with victims and their families – in and beyond the Central African Republic. Victims must be at the centre of our response if we want our zero-tolerance policy to be successful.

This is a critical moment for the Central African Republic. Much has been accomplished, including the election of a president and a government, following the inclusive Bangui Forum.

A special criminal court has been established with the help of the United Nations to ensure accountability, and in several aspects there has been progress towards recovery.

We need to do everything we can to preserve these achievements, support the UN peacekeeping operation and sustain peace. I have just asked the Security Council to increase the ceiling of troops in the Central African Republic and also to increase their capacity, their mobility and their ability to address the very dramatic challenges they face.

But there is no military solution to this crisis. We will continue to cooperate with the African Union and strongly support the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation, and I urge all partners to move this process forward, under the leadership of the Government of the Central African Republic, in line with the so-called Libreville Roadmap.

The country has seen enough brutality, enough division, enough conflict. It is time to consolidate the fragile gains and transform them into a sustained investment in peace and stability for the people of the Central African Republic.

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Peace and stability must be restored in the Middle East and North Africa so as to alleviate povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/peace-stability-must-restored-middle-east-north-africa-alleviate-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=peace-stability-must-restored-middle-east-north-africa-alleviate-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/peace-stability-must-restored-middle-east-north-africa-alleviate-poverty/#respond Tue, 17 Oct 2017 09:26:26 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152540 On the occasion of the 2017 International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue H. E. Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim observed that the unprecedented rise of violence and insecurity in the Arab region combined, breed poverty and societal decline. He noted […]

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By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Oct 17 2017 (IPS)

On the occasion of the 2017 International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue H. E. Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim observed that the unprecedented rise of violence and insecurity in the Arab region combined, breed poverty and societal decline.

Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

He noted that the Middle East and the North Africa region was once at the forefront of progress to alleviate poverty and hunger – in line with the provisions set forth in Millennium Development Goal 1 – but noted, however, that a multitude of factors have contributed to a reversal of progress undermining the alleviation of poverty as stipulated in Sustainable Development Goal 1 to end poverty in all its forms everywhere by 2030.

In this context, he stated that “the spread of conflict and violence have left a social and political vacuum that has been filled by violent and extremist groups. The persistence of political and social unrest in the Arab region have become the main drivers of poverty. Approximately 2/3 of the population in Syria are now living below the poverty line. In Yemen, more than 50% of the population live in extreme poverty, whereas this malaise now affects around 1/3 of Libya’s population. Insecurity driven poverty and fragile societies – gripped by violence and conflict – have thrown Arab countries into chronic poverty and societal decline.”

He further added that “the failure of diplomacy to create peace and stability in countries affected by conflict and violence has triggered a massive movement of people escaping insecurity and sectarian violence. Refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons in the region experience extreme poverty in a way unbeknownst to them hitherto. They have lost livelihood opportunities and have inadequate access to basic services. Forcibly displaced people remain stuck in limbo as they are either unwanted or forced to live in destitution in refugee or detention camps, after having witnessed the destruction of their home societies. The current situation undermines the prospects of recovery of conflict-affected societies from the adverse impact of armed conflict owing to the destruction of human capital and of a stable middle class.”

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman further observed that “the adverse impact of climate change has contributed to exacerbating all forms of poverty and food insecurity in the Arab region as a result of lack of access to renewable and non-renewable resources. Depletion of resources, desertification and water scarcity are indiscriminately affecting countries in the Middle East and North Africa. It has given rise to an ecological crisis affecting the livelihood of millions of people and forcing people to flee.”

He concluded stating that addressing the multidimensional elements of poverty in the Arab region requires adopting a holistic approach addressing the root-causes of extreme poverty in the Arab region.

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Can the Kenyan Lion Kick High Enough to Be the South Korean Tiger of Africa?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/can-kenyan-lion-kick-high-enough-south-korean-tiger-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-kenyan-lion-kick-high-enough-south-korean-tiger-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/can-kenyan-lion-kick-high-enough-south-korean-tiger-africa/#respond Mon, 16 Oct 2017 11:52:14 +0000 Mary Kawar and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152505 Dr Mary Kawar is Country Director of the ILO for Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Follow her on twitter: @mary_kawar

Mr Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya. Follow him on twitter: @sidchat1

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Taekwondo a Korean martial art also practiced in Kenya. Credit: Capital FM

By Mary Kawar and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 16 2017 (IPS)

In 1953 South Korea emerged from the ravages of a debilitating war, yet the total gross domestic product in nominal terms has surged 31,000 fold since 1953.

Consider this: in 1950 the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita of South Korea was US$ 876 and Kenya’s was US$ 947. In 2016, the GDP per capita of South Korea rose to US$ 27,539 and Kenya’s to US$ 1,455.

South Korea over the past four decades has demonstrated incredible economic growth and global integration to become a high-tech industrialized economy. In the 1960s, GDP per capita was comparable with levels in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia. In 2004, South Korea joined the trillion-dollar club of world economies.

In South Korea the Gini coefficient is 0.30 (extent of inequality) whereas in Kenya it is much higher at 0.45. Despite posting some of the highest GDP growth rates globally, countries in Africa continue to have the worst poverty and unemployment rates, with Kenya being one of those countries where the gap between rich and poor is widening.

While the majority of these Kenyans are occupied in the agricultural industry, technology advances and the rising prominence of the service industry is threatening to render many of these superfluous unless urgent shifts in growth models are undertaken to create quality jobs.

Lessons from economic structural transformation abound especially from the Asian tigers. Once an agricultural country like Kenya, South Korea spent much of the 20th century driving modern technologies and is now regarded as one of Asia’s most advanced economies. Among the focus areas for the country were facilitating industrialization, high household savings rates, high literacy rates and low fertility rates.

What South Korea achieved was fast economic growth underpinned by a strong industrial base that led to full employment and higher real wages. When the 1997 financial crisis threatened employment and welfare of its citizens in 1997, the country engaged in ambitious structural adjustment that introduced social protection measures for workers, the unemployed and poor people, in addition to reigniting the drivers of growth.

The international experience suggests that, for a given increase in the labor force, GDP growth should be at least double that rate to prevent unemployment from rising, and even higher if unemployment is to be reduced. With Kenya’s labor force growing at 3 percent corresponding to one million youth entering the job market each year, GDP should keep growing at 6 percent.

But this may not be enough as there is a lot of slack in the labor market to be absorbed. Kenya has one of the highest informal sector employment rates in the continent. With about three out of four workers employed in casual jobs whose key features include unpredictable incomes, poor working conditions and low productivity.

According to the latest data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), employment in the informal economy has grown much faster than in the formal economy, rising by nearly 4 million versus 60,000 since 2009, with the corresponding share of the formal economy in total employment shrinking to 17 percent from 19 percent.

Income inequality remains a challenge in Kenya, with the highest 10 percent earning almost 15 times higher than the lowest 10 percent, which is double of that in South Korea.

There are grounds for optimism, as Kenya seeks to move from being a regional leader to local innovator. In August 2016, Kenya hosted the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), which was the first on African soil. Kenya is also developing policy and institutional reforms to increase export through better trade logistics and greater regional integration.

Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and Korean Agency for Technology and Standards (KATS) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to boost standardization activities between the two countries. Credit: Citizen TV


In addition, Kenya’s internet prices are low at half of even lower than those in neighboring countries. Innovations in mobile phone-based banking and related technological platforms have resulted in more financial inclusion that has reached 75 percent of the population. A large population of educated youth is already employed in these areas that have high job creation potential.

Kenya’s policies will need to consider the effects of technological innovations on the labor market and their socioeconomic impact. Household incomes improve when the largest number of people get involved in technology-based productive work. Even agriculture needs to be high-tech and include agro-processing.

Underlying this is the ability of the education and training system to adapt and promote the creation of a sustainable and inclusive economy. Kenya’s policies will therefore need to assess the effects of technological innovations on the labor market and their socioeconomic impact.

Kenya is moving ahead on education with its more than 1000 post-secondary institutions, 22 public and more than 30 private universities that produce the largest numbers of highly trained and skilled persons in the East African Community.

However, Kenya has substantial disparities in access to education. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, children in capital city Nairobi have about 15 times more access to secondary education than those living in Turkana, one of the poorest counties.

In addition to education, that increases employability on the labor supply side but does not in itself create jobs, more emphasis should be given to policies that increase labor demand. With an increasing youthful population, Kenya faces a window of demographic opportunity not only numerically.

Today’s youth are more educated than their parents and are “waiting in the wings”, not yet active but ready and willing to do so. But for this to happen and thus reduce youth and educated unemployment, there is a need to ensure that there are enough opportunities for them to participate actively in the economy and society.

Unfortunately, about 43 percent of Kenya’s youth are currently either unemployed or working yet living in poverty. Not unrelated to the few employment opportunities at home, many job seekers emigrate. The International Organization of Migration (IOM) reports for Kenya a skilled emigration rate of 35 per cent reaching 51 percent among health professionals. These rates are among the highest in the world. A continued lack of decent work opportunities as a result of insufficient or misapplied investments can perpetuate, if not increase, emigration and lead to an erosion of the basic social contract underlying democratic societies.

Still within the area of labor markets, good governance is critical for linking employment growth to decent employment creation. A recent meeting on the Future of Work organized by the Ministry of Labour, the Kenya Federation of Employers and the Kenya Federation of Trade unions in collaboration with the International Labour Organization discussed the implications for the 4th industrial revolution and its impact on Kenya. The discussion confirmed that laws, policies and institutions can be improved through social dialogue that would also include the informal sector.

For women, access to family planning and maternal health services – as well as education for girls is the best bet for improved economic opportunity. Global data shows that the highest benefits from reducing unintended pregnancies would accrue to the poorest countries, with GDP increases ranging from one to eight percent by 2035. There are few interventions that would give as wide-reaching impacts.

Finally, Kenya would need to address the rural/urban divide. Urban population growth is naturally fueled from growth in the population already living in cities but in Kenya, more than in many other African countries, urban growth comes from significant internal migration. This suggests that the country side is becoming increasingly less attractive. The share of population living in slums remains high at 55 percent with no discernible decline since 1990.

In conclusion, increases in real wages and decent employment creation will remain elusive as long as growth is not inclusive while educated job seekers are not employed in sectors that require new skills. The shifting population of Kenya provides many opportunities for growth. With a median age of 18, investing in Kenya’s youth would reap a demographic dividend. Key investments have to be in education and skills, empowerment of women and girls, a Marshal plan of employment and equity. These would help accelerate Kenya’ march to prosperity and help end poverty.

When this happens, Kenya will increase its ability to introduce more comprehensive and effective social protection policies that would add to the income security provided by decent employment. And unlike South Korea, Kenya should not wait to do so after a financial crisis.

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Forcing Displaced Nigerians May Worsen Humanitarian Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/forcing-displaced-nigerians-may-worsen-humanitarian-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=forcing-displaced-nigerians-may-worsen-humanitarian-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/forcing-displaced-nigerians-may-worsen-humanitarian-crisis/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 09:11:46 +0000 Jan Egeland http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152462 Jan Egeland is Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council and a former United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator.

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“Boko Haram came in the dark of night,” recalls Haja (17). “They killed my husband.” She fled with their young baby, Mommodu. Credit: Norwegian Refugee Council / Michelle Delaney

By Jan Egeland
Maiduguri City, Nigeria, Oct 13 2017 (IPS)

Haja grabbed her eight children and fled as Boko Haram set her home ablaze two years ago. Today we sit in her hut in a displacement camp, and she wonders how she is going to keep her children fed. I’ve spoken to many families in Nigeria’s north-eastern Monguno town. Their stories paint a horrifically detailed picture of the brutal violence these communities have endured over the past eight years.

The Nigerian Armed Forces have been at war with the Islamic extremists Boko Haram since 2009, fighting a battle that has seen well over 20,000 people killed. Recent military gains have pushed the jihadists back. In response, Boko Haram has stepped up attacks on softer targets like marketplaces and camps sheltering displaced people. Civilians have become the preferred pawns in this senseless conflict.

Borno State – the crisis’s epicentre – saw the highest number of attacks this year since 2013. Also on the rise is the appalling use of children as human bombs. We have seen four times as many so far this year, compared to the whole of last year. Here in northeast Nigeria, no place is sacred, no person is safe.

Despite these dangers, many government officials are keen to see communities move back home. This is usually a cause we should all champion. But the unfortunate truth is that pushing people back now will have harmful consequences.

Too scared to return

In the largest report of its kind to date, the Norwegian Refugee Council surveyed over 3,400 households – representing 27,000 displaced people – in Borno State, to find out whether communities were ready to return home. The results were undisputable.

Eighty-six per cent of people interviewed say they are too scared to return in the immediate future. Over 80 per cent of those cite insecurity as the main factor preventing them returning. An overwhelming majority tell us they feel safer in camps than where they were before. A startling statistic, considering camps are increasingly the target of suicide attacks.

Even if the security situation improves, our Not Ready to Return report found that half of the displaced people interviewed say their homes were destroyed in the conflict. There’s nothing left waiting for them.

Let them decide

Communities who decide to return home must do so of their own free will. Reports of coercion to expedite people moving home are most concerning. Returns must be safe, voluntary and informed.

Before displaced Nigerians return home, two key things must be done. Firstly, the overall security situation must improve. Communities must be, and feel, safe. This is the primary responsibility of the government and its armed forces.

Secondly, resources must be channelled into rebuilding homes and re-establishing livelihoods. Families need a roof over their head and the prospect of making a living if they are to have any chance of starting anew. This is where the international community can support.

We can provide them with the tools to do so – construction material, farming equipment, start-up capital and livestock. My organisation also counsels returnees on housing, property and legal rights. This is just a first step.

A toxic mix

Forced returns and new bouts of violence are just two ingredients adding to the danger that is stewing in the northeast. We managed to avert a famine striking Nigeria, for now. But let’s not forget that the food crisis persists. More than 5.2 million Nigerians do not have enough to eat.

The violence, coupled with food insecurity and a push to move people home prematurely, will certainly create a toxic mix ideal for exasperating the humanitarian crisis in the northeast.

Now is the time for long-term strategies, not short-term thinking – for Hajja’s sake and the 1.8 million other Nigerians anxiously waiting to return home.

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Need for Inclusive Peace Efforts in South Sudan: No More ‘Compassion Fatigue’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/need-inclusive-peace-efforts-south-sudan-no-compassion-fatigue/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=need-inclusive-peace-efforts-south-sudan-no-compassion-fatigue http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/need-inclusive-peace-efforts-south-sudan-no-compassion-fatigue/#respond Wed, 04 Oct 2017 17:56:29 +0000 Lindah Mogeni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152359 “Peace is not a one-day affair or event, it requires our collective effort,” said South Sudan’s Vice President, General Taban Deng Gai, while addressing the General Assembly at the UN. South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, celebrated its six-year anniversary on July 9 this year, with its president, Salva Kirr, marking 2017 as the ‘Year […]

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An Oxfam staffer helps a woman at UN House in Juba carry home some of the emergency supplies she has just received. Credit: Anita Kattakhuzy/Oxfam

By Lindah Mogeni
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 4 2017 (IPS)

“Peace is not a one-day affair or event, it requires our collective effort,” said South Sudan’s Vice President, General Taban Deng Gai, while addressing the General Assembly at the UN.

South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, celebrated its six-year anniversary on July 9 this year, with its president, Salva Kirr, marking 2017 as the ‘Year of Peace and Prosperity.’

A mere two years after its split from Sudan, a country plagued by decades-long of ethnic-based civil war between Arab and non-Arab tribes, the independent state of South Sudan erupted in conflict when President Kiir, a Dinka, accused his then vice president, Riek Machar, a Nuer, of attempting a coup.

Amid heightening political tensions, violent skirmishes flared up in the nation’s capital of Juba in mid-December 2013 between loyalist soldiers from both parties. South Sudan has been mired in conflict ever since – much to the dismay of its citizens who hadn’t imagined they would carry the torch of war into their new republic.

Three months into a peace agreement signed by both parties in August 2015, the conflict reached a boiling point in December 2015 when President Kiir dissolved South Sudan’s 10 regional states and established 28 new states, resulting in a surge of violence beyond the capital, to several areas of the country.

A transitional government formed by both parties in April 2016, with the peace agreement as a precursor, failed to temper the violence as clashes continued country-wide. Further, President Kiir’s appointment of General Gai, Machar’s political ally, as his new vice president inflamed Machar and his loyalists, resulting in a split within the opposition – thus fueling the conflict.

A government ceasefire, declared after Machar fled the capital, crumbled shortly thereafter.

With lengthy, arduous peace efforts failing and confidence in ending the conflict flailing, South Sudan is facing its gravest humanitarian situation in years.

“This is the last chance of salvaging the peace agreement in South Sudan…we must resolve now, both individually and collectively, to do more to end this conflict,” said Ambassador Nikki Haley, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, while addressing the UN Security Council last week.

More than 2.5 million people have been displaced by the South Sudan conflict. An estimated 830,000 have fled to neighboring countries, mainly Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda, according to Oxfam America.

Harassment and arbitrary detention of journalists, forced recruitment of child soldiers, widespread sexual violence and restricting movement of UN peacekeepers by both sides characterize the conflict in South Sudan, according to prominent human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

“In over 30 years working in South Sudan, Oxfam has never responded to such dire needs under such difficult conditions,” said Oxfam America’s president, Abby Maxman, speaking on South Sudan at the UN.

Asked about the country’s grim situation, Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam’s Senior Policy Advisor for Humanitarian Response, told IPS that, “with the conflict hitting many parts of the country simultaneously, with more access to advanced firepower, with a collapsing economy, with food insecurity and famine on the rise and, most especially, with no resounding commitment from the international community, South Sudan is more vulnerable than it has ever been.”

The suffering of communities in South Sudan has reached unprecedented levels.

“The situation is South Sudan is dire but not hopeless…when a situation is seen as hopeless and when the rhetoric surrounding it makes it seem ‘too complex’ and diminishes on-the-ground efforts, compassion fatigue arises,” said Gottschalk.

Though it is the responsibility of the significant parties in South Sudan to root out the source of the problem, it is the duty of the international community to navigate a peaceful outcome for the sake of 12 million South Sudanese who have not given up.

“We have not given up on them and we have not forgotten them…they have a friend and advocate in the US,” said Haley.

The UN, African Union (AU) and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) recently agreed to pool their efforts to support the revitalization of the political process in South Sudan.

The primary goal in mind, for this joint communiqué, is to adequately represent all significant parties and encourage them to focus on the full implementation of the August 2015 Peace Agreement, under a permanent ceasefire.

“This is the last chance at salvaging the peace agreement in South Sudan…the different parties to the conflict must use the next several weeks to commit themselves to this process and to conclude it,” said Haley.

Before undertaking these well-intended collective measures, it is important to understand the nature of the conflict in South Sudan.

“To get the country back on its feet, we must first recognize this conflict for what it is and what it isn’t…it’s not a tribal conflict, because ethnic identity doesn’t determine allegiance on the ground, it’s not a military conflict, because civilians, not soldiers, are bearing the brunt of the violence…in many ways it’s not even a political conflict, because that would imply that it’s about competing visions for governing this nation…what it is, is a hostage situation,” said Maxman.

In July this year, the AU Commission, South Sudanese officials, and UN representatives met in Juba to discuss the establishment of an independent Hybrid Court for South Sudan, envisioned under the 2015 Peace Agreement, and agreed on plans to finalize the court’s statute by August, according to Human Rights Watch.

Notably, South Sudan is not a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC). As such, its leaders can only be held accountable by the ICC through a request from the Sudanese government or a referral by the UN Security Council.

Though a lack of accountability is a conflict-accelerant, a more immediate focus is required in the inclusive peace efforts geared towards helping the people in South Sudan.

“It’s high time we throw our lot in with the hostages, not the hostage-takers,” said Maxman.

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Women and Girls: The Hardest Hit Rohingya Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/women-girls-hardest-hit-rohingya-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-girls-hardest-hit-rohingya-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/women-girls-hardest-hit-rohingya-refugees/#respond Tue, 03 Oct 2017 06:52:11 +0000 Paolo Lubrano http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152329 Paolo Lubrano is Oxfam’s Regional Humanitarian Manager for Asia

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Women and Girls: The Hardest Hit Rohingya Refugees

A group of young Rohingya girls collect drinking water for their families from a local pump in Balhukali settlement, Bangladesh. Credit: Aurélie Marrier d'Unienville/Oxfam

By Paolo Lubrano
BANGLADESH, Oct 3 2017 (IPS)

Of the nearly half a million Rohingya refugees who’ve fled across the border and have sought refuge in Bangladesh, women and girls are the most at risk, sleeping under open skies, roadsides, and forest areas with little or no protection.

More than two-thirds have no shelter, half have no drinking water, and with the existing camps and host communities underequipped to deal with such a large influx, the ground situation is chaotic and volatile. We at Oxfam are seriously concerned about abuse and exploitation of women and children.

The majority of Rohingya refugees are women and children. Initial assessments suggest that 53% are female, 58% percent are under the age of 18, and 10% are either pregnant or lactating mothers. Many have lost their families, communities, and all their possessions, and after an emotionally and physically grueling journey across the border, they are left with little hope.

They are greeted with overburdened camps and impoverished communities. The already appalling ground conditions have only been made worse by the recent torrential downpours which have also slowed delivery of aid and construction of facilities like wells, toilets, and shelter. There are reports of outbreaks of fevers, respiratory infections, dysentery, and diarrhea.

The scale of the needs is enormous with a majority struggling for life-saving essentials like clean drinking water, food, medical supplies and essential facilities. In early September, the humanitarian partners estimated that 58 million liters of water is needed daily, 1.5 million kilos of rice is needed every month, and that 60,000 shelters, 20,000 toilets, and identifying land for more camps are among the most pressing needs. As the influx grows, so do the needs, and those of women, girls, and young children must be more carefully assessed and elaborated.

As of 25th September 2017, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), identified 180 cases of sexual violence against women and girls. Given the lack of safe spaces and reporting mechanisms, this figure can only be seen as the tip of the iceberg. Further, as William Lacy Swing, the Director General of the UN Migration Agency rightly puts it in his media statement, it is impossible to understand the scale of violence just by the number of reported cases.

Women and Girls: The Hardest Hit Rohingya Refugees

Razida, 35 carries her ten month old son Anisul through Unchiprang Camp in Bangladesh. Razida arrived in Bangladesh 20 days ago after walking for six days with her eight children. She brought nothing with her when she fled Myanmar and had to ask for food from people on the way. Credit: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

The forms of violence include, and is not limited to, rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, and emotional abuse. A significant number of teenage girls are married, many are with children and pregnant, which makes the challenge of supporting them even more urgent.

Oxfam has so far supported nearly 140,000 people by providing clean drinking water and emergency food supplies, and by building facilities like tube wells and toilets in camps. Our dignity kits will include hygiene items for women, girls, and children.

We are also supporting local government and partners to design and build camps that are better equipped to meet the needs of the refugee population, especially women and girls. We advocate for adequate facilities to ensure that their safety and wellbeing are protected. For example, separate toilets, bathing areas, social spaces, and well-lit and safe access paths are essential to ensure protection of women and children. When there is a lack of child and women-friendly spaces, the risk of exploitation and violence is much higher.

Prevention of and support to the survivors of sexual and gender-based violence must be increased significantly. We underline the need for psycho-social support for all women, girls, and children, and especially those who’ve survived acts of violence.

We commend the efforts of the Bangladesh government, humanitarian partners, and local communities in providing life-saving assistance for the nearly half a million refugees. However, less than half the funding for the $77 million USD appeal launched by the humanitarian community a month ago has been committed so far.

Since then, the number of refugees has nearly doubled, the influx continues, and the needs of the more vulnerable populations such as women, girls, and children are yet to be fully responded to. Oxfam asks the governments, donors, and individuals to act now so that we can provide life-saving support immediately.

To learn more and support Oxfam’s response, please visit: oxf.am/Rohingya-Crisis

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Non-violence and lasting peace are key to secure the long-term stability of the Arab regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/non-violence-lasting-peace-key-secure-long-term-stability-arab-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=non-violence-lasting-peace-key-secure-long-term-stability-arab-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/non-violence-lasting-peace-key-secure-long-term-stability-arab-region/#respond Mon, 02 Oct 2017 10:26:17 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152306 International Day of Non-Violence – 2 October 2017

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International Day of Non-Violence – 2 October 2017

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
Geneva/Dubai, Oct 2 2017 (IPS)

The Chairman of the Geneva Centre Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim is calling on the international community to address the surge of extremist violence exacerbating the volatile security situation in the Arab region. This appeal was made by Dr. Al Qassim in relation to the commemoration of the 2017 International Day of Non-Violence observed on 2 October 2017.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

The Arab region is witnessing yet again a wave of extremist violence owing to the proliferation of local and international conflicts. Armed conflicts and internal upheavals in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen have resulted in the displacement of millions of people. Hundreds of thousands of people have died as a result of the surge of extremist violence and armed conflict which undermine the long-term stability of the Arab region,” Dr. Al Qassim said.

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman warned against extremist violence and related external military interventions in the Arab region which “provide fertile ground for terrorist groups to spread and justify its heinous and deadly ideology in countries in the Middle East and North Africa. “

In order to address the volatile security situation in the Arab region, Dr. Al Qassim appealed to “countries in the West and in the Arab region to work together to defeat all extremist and violent groups causing destruction and death in societies in the West, the Middle East and North Africa alike. All societies – regardless of religious beliefs and geographical location – are targets of the poisonous ideology of such extremist and violent groups.”

Dr. Al Qassim also noted that military victory over terrorism will “only bring a short-term solution to the Arab region as building lasting and sustainable peace requires addressing inter alia the root-causes of conflict, injustice, inequality, poverty and lack of social development.” He therefore stated that “the international community must provide an enabling environment allowing countries in the Arab region – affected by conflict and violence – to rebuild their societies through reconciliation, dialogue, respect for human rights and non-violence.”

He further noted that the spirit of the great Statesman of the Global South – Mahatma Gandhi like his African counterpart Nelson Mandela – should serve as an example for international decision-makers in promoting peace and justice in every corner of the world. In this regard, he stated that “the 2017 International Day of Non-Violence – observed today in commemoration of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi – is an opportunity for world society to commemorate the non-violent ideology of a world Statesman who believed in promoting peace and justice worldwide.”

Non-violence and lasting peace are key to securing the long-term stability of the Arab region and to promoting a sustainable future. On the commemoration of the International Day of Non-Violence, let the spirit of Gandhi guide the efforts of decision-makers in achieving this goal and in bringing justice, to all countries and in particular to those that suffer most in the Arab region,” concluded Dr. Al Qassim.

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Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in the Arab Region: Where Do We Stand?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/gender-equality-womens-empowerment-arab-region-stand/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-equality-womens-empowerment-arab-region-stand http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/gender-equality-womens-empowerment-arab-region-stand/#respond Fri, 29 Sep 2017 14:18:44 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim and Ambassador Idriss Jazairy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152286 Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, Ambassador Idriss Jazairy Executive Director of the Geneva Centre and H. E. Ms. Naela Mohamed Gabr member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

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From left to right, H. E. Mr. Amr Ramadan, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt ; Ambassador Idriss Jazairy, Executive Director of the Geneva Centre, H. E. Dr. Hanif Al Qassim, Chairman of the Board of Management of the Geneva Centre, H. E. Ms. Hoda Al-Helaissi, Member of Saudi Arabia's Shura Council and Dr. Susan Carland, Director of Monash University's Bachelor of Global Studies in Australia, during the panel discussion on “Women’s rights in the Arab world: between myth and reality” organized by the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue on 15 September 2017, at the UN Geneva.

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim and Ambassador Idriss Jazairy and H. E. Ms. Naela Mohamed
GENEVA, Sep 29 2017 (IPS)

Women’s empowerment and gender equality should remain a central objective of the world community. The recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) includes specific provisions to member States of the United Nations – notably through SDG 5 – to commit to enhancing gender equality and to give women a stronger voice in the fight for equality. The Preamble of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls for “equal rights” to be enjoyed by “men and women”: 69 years later, gender equality has not only been recognised for what it is: a fundamental human right, it is also becoming a guiding principle in the efforts of States to attain the highest ideals of a just and inclusive society and the highest rate of growth.

No society in the world can claim to have a society exempt from discrimination against women and girls. All regions of the world face their specific challenges related to the promotion and advancement of women’s rights. In the Arab region as in the West, the enhancement of the social status of women is of high importance. The barriers and the challenges which stand in the way of making impeding gender equality a reality cannot be seen as attributable solely to one region; charting a more inclusive agenda to enhance gender equality requires all regions to identify a suitable framework responding to its specific needs.

Amidst growing instability and social unrest as currently witnessed in the Middle East and North Africa region, encouraging developments are taking place in the Arab region. Tunisia, Lebanon and Jordan have recently decided to repeal discriminatory laws enabling rape perpetrators to escape justice if they would opt for marrying their female victims. Tunisia has just initiated ground-breaking measures in favour of women. In the national parliaments of Algeria, Tunisia and Iraq, women occupy more than 20% of the proportion of seats for parliamentarians. The United Arab Emirates and Egypt have likewise introduced legislation enabling women to benefit from equal rights and opportunities as their male compatriots. Other countries in the Arab region have likewise taken similar initiatives to advance the status of women. These developments show that the promotion and the enhancement of women’s rights in the Arab region have gained strong social acceptance within Arab societies.

Despite these encouraging signs, misperceptions and stereotyping of Arab women have become prolific news sources for mainstream media in depicting and offering a misleading picture of Arab women. The rise of extremism, Islamophobia and right-wing populism have further contributed to exacerbate the popular stereotyping of women as weak and voiceless. Societies as a whole are held further “guilty” for the alleged failures of Arab countries in advancing women’s rights. Hence the need to correct “orientalist” misperceptions.

The relations between Islam and women’s rights have also been the subject of widespread debate among women’s rights experts. Some people lacking perceptiveness consider that Islam is incompatible with women’s rights and gender equality, and that Islamic principles are hostile and discriminatory towards women. Generating simplistic solutions to challenges deriving from societal and cultural challenges – with no root in the teachings of Islam – will not solve “the mystery of Islam as a hostile religion to women.” We need to ask Arab women themselves whether they consider Islam as an emancipating factor in their efforts to achieve gender equality. According to the findings of the book “Fighting Hislam: Women, Faith and Sexism” written by Dr. Susan Carland in 2017, Arab women do not see Islam as an obstacle to fight sexism, discrimination and marginalization of women. Indeed Islam’s egalitarian spirit guides women in their efforts and commitments to advance their own rights. The fact that Islam has played an important role in redefining women’s rights in modern societies is hardly given any recognition in mainstream media. This shows that we have an uphill task ahead of us.

The deconstruction of existing myths regarding the status of Arab women will enable decision-makers and women’s rights experts to identify a common agenda to promote gender equality at a global level. It will enable women’s rights experts from the Arab region and the West to shift from “naming and shaming” and proclamations of moral superiority to the enhancement of women’s rights through constructive dialogue and the identification of joint solutions. Advancing the status of women requires a unified attempt by the Arab region and the West to safeguard women’s rights from adverse policies impeding the realization of gender equality. This idea was explored during the “Women’s rights in the Arab region: between myth and reality” panel debate held on 15 September at the United Nations Office in Geneva. Now is the time to join forces and work together to make this a reality.

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Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty a Significant Milestonehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/nuclear-weapons-ban-treaty-significant-milestone/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nuclear-weapons-ban-treaty-significant-milestone http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/nuclear-weapons-ban-treaty-significant-milestone/#respond Wed, 27 Sep 2017 15:55:19 +0000 Jonathan Granoff http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152263 Jonathan Granoff is President of the Global Security Institute

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Jonathan Granoff is President of the Global Security Institute

By Jonathan Granoff
NEW YORK, Sep 27 2017 (IPS)

Presently, the entire world is hostage to a nuclear crisis expressed in the language of war and destruction by the leaders of North Korea and the United States We can look over the abyss and the reality of the consequence of the uses of nuclear weapons strikes fear and terror in the hearts of any sane person.

Master of Ceremonies Jonathan Granoff

There is no alternative to international coordinated diplomacy. We believe a broad perspective is valuable now to deal with this crisis and prevent others from arising in the future

In a speech, titled “Global Nuclear Disarmament A Practical Necessity, a Moral Imperative then United Nations,” High Representative Sergio Duarte reminded us that even before Hiroshima, on 11 June 1945, fifteen days before the UN Charter was signed, Manhattan Project scientists issued the “Franck Report, which stated with prescience: “Unless an effective international control of nuclear explosives is instituted, a race of nuclear armaments is certain to ensue following the first revelation of our possession of nuclear weapons to the world.”

Appropriately, the first UN General Assembly resolution, focused on the elimination of nuclear weapons. Last week, a step was taken at the United Nations to fulfill that vision of a nuclear weapons free world.

Since September 20, 2017, 53 nations have signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, popularly known as the Ban Treaty. It will enter into force after it is ratified by 50 states. UN Secretary General Guterres opened the signing of what he referred to as a “milestone” worthy of celebration.

The Treaty prohibits developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, possessing, stockpiling and deploying nuclear weapons, transferring or receiving them from others, using or threatening to use them, or allowing any stationing or deployment of nuclear weapons on national territories of signatories, and assisting, encouraging, or inducing any of these prohibited acts.

The Treaty requires each signatory state to develop “legal, administrative and other measures, including the imposition of penal sanctions, to prevent and suppress” these prohibited activities.

Criticism has been made that the Treaty is not supported by the nine states with nuclear weapons. Critics from nuclear weapons states argue that the Treaty does not address the threat of North Korea, undermines the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and will not advance nuclear disarmament.

The Treaty exemplifies an effort to establish a universal formal legal prohibition to end the incoherence of the states with nuclear weapons asking others to do as we say, not as we do.

Nothing stimulates nuclear proliferation so much as strong states and coalitions such as NATO claiming they need these weapons for their security while claiming they create dangers for the world when others have them. There are no good hands for such horrible arms.

We agree with the Nobel Peace Laureates who joined former South Korean President and Nobel Laureate Kim Dae Jung and stated in the Gwanju Declaration of Nobel Peace Laureates: If we are to have stability, we must have justice. This means the same rules apply to all. Where this principle is violated disaster is risked.

In this regard we point to the failure of the nuclear weapons states to fulfill their bargain contained in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to negotiate the universal elimination of nuclear weapons. To pursue a nuclear-weapons-free Korean Peninsula or Middle East or South Asia, without credible commitment to universal nuclear disarmament is akin to a parent trying to persuade his teenagers not to smoke while puffing on a cigar.

There are steps available to make progress in this area and they include: (a) Completing a treaty with full verification mechanisms cutting off further production of highly enriched uranium or plutonium for weapons purposes. (b) Universal ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, now ratified by 176 nations. (d) Taking the arsenals of Russia and the US off of hair trigger, launch on warning high alert. d. Legally confirmed pledges by all states with nuclear weapons never to use them first. (e) Making cuts in the US and Russia’s arsenal irreversible and verifiable.

The NPT requires the US, China, Russia, UK, and France to negotiate the elimination of nuclear weapons. Each of these states are either modernizing their nuclear arsenals and/or expanding them rather than fulfilling their legal obligations to negotiate their elimination.

It is time they began to fulfill their disarmament duties by either joining the Ban Treaty and addressing its limitations of verification and other technical issues or move forward in the arduous process of negotiating a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention to their liking. Sitting on the sidelines and offering no better way forward is inadequate.

The Treaty, in its preamble, highlights, “the ethical imperative” to achieve a nuclear weapons free world. The Treaty is designed, in its intent and substance, to stimulate, support, and advance humanity’s quest for the security of a nuclear free world. Obviously, more work is needed. Rather than only criticize that the Treaty does not do everything at once, critics should get to work on moving forward.

The Treaty states “that any use of nuclear weapons would be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, in particular international humanitarian law.” The Treaty deftly highlights prohibitions on the use of nuclear weapons that apply to all states now, including those with the weapons.

Existing international humanitarian law (law of war) limits the use of force in armed conflict, compels distinctions between civilians and combatants, sets forth requirements that force be proportionate to specific military objectives, prohibits weapons of a nature to that causes superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering and provides rules for the protection of the natural environment. The Treaty further emphasizes “that any use of nuclear weapons would also be abhorrent to the principles of humanity and the dictates of public conscience.”

The Treaty makes clear that even today should North Korea bomb Tokyo with a nuclear weapon, should a conflict take place, that it would be illegal and indeed criminal. This scope of the existing illegality of such uses of the weapon applies to all states, including those that have not signed on to the Treaty.

The Ban Treaty presents a challenge to the nuclear weapons states to help make humanity great by joining in efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. GSI was honored to participate in the Treaty negotiations along with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and hundreds of other passionate civil society advocates who for decades have laid the groundwork for this step forward.

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Trump’s Threat of Total Destruction Is Unlawful & Extremely Dangeroushttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/trumps-threat-total-destruction-unlawful-extremely-dangerous/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trumps-threat-total-destruction-unlawful-extremely-dangerous http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/trumps-threat-total-destruction-unlawful-extremely-dangerous/#respond Mon, 25 Sep 2017 15:40:49 +0000 John Burroughs and Andrew Lichterman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152236 John Burroughs is Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy; Andrew Lichterman is Senior Research Analyst, Western States Legal Foundation.

The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”
– President Donald Trump, speech at United Nations, 19 September 2017

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Security Council meeting: Maintenance of international peace and security. Nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

By John Burroughs and Andrew Lichterman
NEW YORK, Sep 25 2017 (IPS)

President Trump’s threat of total destruction of North Korea is utterly unacceptable. Also deplorable is the response of North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho on 23 September at the United Nations.

He said that North Korean nuclear forces are “a war deterrent for putting an end to nuclear threat of the U.S. and for preventing its military invasion,” referred to “our rockets’ visit to the entire U.S. mainland,” and called Trump “mentally deranged”.

Instead of exchanging threats and insults, the two governments should agree on a non-aggression pact as a step toward finally concluding a peace treaty formally ending the 1950s Korean War and permanently denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

The U.S. and North Korean threats are wrong as a matter of morality and common sense. They are also contrary to bedrock requirements of international law. Both countries, by engaging in a cycle of threats and military posturing, violate prohibitions on the threat of force to resolve disputes and on threats to use force outside the bounds of the law of armed conflict.

Trump’s threats carry more weight because the armed forces of the United States, backed by an immense nuclear arsenal, could accomplish the destruction of North Korea in short order.

A threat of total destruction negates the fundamental principle that the right to choose methods and means of warfare is not unlimited:
• Under the law of armed conflict, military operations must be necessary for and proportionate to the achievement of legitimate military objectives, and must not be indiscriminate or cause unnecessary suffering. Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions prohibits threatening an adversary that there will be no survivors or conducting hostilities on that basis. The Nuremberg Tribunal found the Nazi concept of “total war” to be unlawful because it runs contrary to all the rules of warfare and the moral principles underlying them, creating a climate in which “rules, regulations, assurances, and treaties all alike are of no moment” and “everything is made subordinate to the overmastering dictates of war.”
• Conducting a war with the intention of destroying an entire country would contravene the Genocide Convention, which prohibits killing “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group ….”
• Limits on the conduct of warfare apply to both aggressor and defender states. Thus Trump’s statement that total destruction would be inflicted in defense of the United States and its allies is no justification. Moreover, the U.S. doctrine permitting preventive war, carried out in the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq, means that Trump’s reference to “defense” does not necessarily rule out U.S. military action in the absence of a North Korean attack or imminent attack.
• While the United States likely would not use nuclear weapons first in the Korean setting, it remains true that Trump’s references to “fire and fury” and “total destruction” raise the specter of U.S. nuclear use. North Korea has explicitly warned of use of its nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons cannot be used in compliance with the law of armed conflict, as the recently adopted Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons recognizes. Threats of use of nuclear weapons are likewise unlawful. The illegal character of the threat or use of nuclear weapons is especially egregious where the express intent is to “totally destroy” an adversary, a purpose that from the outset rules out limiting use of force to the proportionate and necessary.

U.S. and North Korean threats of war are also unlawful because military action of any kind is not justified. The UN Charter prohibits the threat or use of force except in self-defense against an armed attack or subject to UN Security Council authorization:
• Article 51 of the UN Charter permits the use of force as a matter of self-defense only in response to an armed attack. No armed attack by either side has occurred or is imminent.
• The Security Council is addressing the matter and has not authorized use of force. Its resolution 2375 of 11 September 2017 imposing further sanctions on North Korea was adopted pursuant to UN Charter Article 41, which provides for measures not involving the use of force. There is no indication whatever in that and preceding resolutions of an authorization of use of force. Moreover, the resolution emphasizes the need for a peaceful resolution of the dispute with North Korea. That approach is mandated by the UN Charter, whose Article 2(3) requires all members to “settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.”

It is urgent that diplomatic overtures replace threats.
In the nuclear age, the first principle of diplomacy should be that adversaries talk to each other to the maximum possible extent, and in moments of crisis directly and unconditionally. We learned during the Cold War that even when the prospects for any tangible progress seem dim, negotiations between nuclear-armed adversaries have other positive results. They allow the military and political leaderships of the adversaries to better understand each other’s intentions, and their fears, and build broader channels of communication.

Accordingly, the United States should declare itself ready and willing to engage in direct talks with North Korea, and a commitment to denuclearization should not be a precondition for such talks. To facilitate negotiations, the United States and South Korea should immediately cease large-scale military exercises in the region, providing North Korea with an opportunity to reciprocate by freezing its nuclear-related testing activities.

The immediate aim of negotiations should be a non-aggression pact, as a step toward a comprehensive peace treaty bringing permanent closure to the Korean War and providing for a nuclear-weapon-free Korean peninsula.

Success in denuclearizing the Korean peninsula will be much more likely if the United States, Russia, China and other nuclear-armed states also engage, as they are obligated to do, in negotiations for a world free of nuclear weapons.

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Torturing Detainees Is Immoral and Ineffective, Says UN Human Rights Chiefhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/torturing-detainees-immoral-ineffective-says-un-human-rights-chief/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=torturing-detainees-immoral-ineffective-says-un-human-rights-chief http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/torturing-detainees-immoral-ineffective-says-un-human-rights-chief/#respond Mon, 25 Sep 2017 07:00:17 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152213 A Manual for Investigative Interviewing to abolish torture among detainees suspected of crime is in the pipeline, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said today. At an event held on the sidelines of the General Assembly, Al Hussein slammed the practice of torture and called upon countries to abolish it entirely. […]

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Eritreans protesting in Tel Aviv. Credit: Jillian Kestler-D’Amours/IPS

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 25 2017 (IPS)

A Manual for Investigative Interviewing to abolish torture among detainees suspected of crime is in the pipeline, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said today.

At an event held on the sidelines of the General Assembly, Al Hussein slammed the practice of torture and called upon countries to abolish it entirely. In recent years, numerous studies have shown that information obtained through torture is not reliable, and from the interrogator’s perspective, even counterproductive. This is in part because flagrant abuse of human rights provokes anger among communities.

“This destruction of public trust is profoundly damaging. When added to the perception that police abuses and humiliation of specific communities is tolerated – based on economic, geographic, ethnic, religious or other distinctions – it will certainly exacerbate tensions and may lead to serious violence,” Al Hussein said.

Al Hussein did not shy away from mentioning psychological abuse and waterboarding, which had been practised by many countries, including the United States, in its “war on terror”.

Citing an example of a recent case he reviewed, in which a detainee had died from dehydration before his trial, the chief human rights commissioner cited the gaps between police actions and legal principles.

“Officials required to enforce the law should not undermine the rule of law,” he added. “If police break the law in pursuit of law enforcement, the message is one of capricious and abusive power. The institution which should protect the people becomes unmoored from principle; unresponsive to the law, it is a loose cannon.”

This is why a manual, which will be used by UN police officers, is necessary, he said. The Convention against Torture Initiative and the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights are also preparing similar guidance.

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The Crisis of Refugees and Their Sufferings Call for a Solutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/crisis-refugees-sufferings-call-solution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=crisis-refugees-sufferings-call-solution http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/crisis-refugees-sufferings-call-solution/#respond Thu, 21 Sep 2017 16:06:02 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152191 Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Sep 21 2017 (IPS)

The pursuit of international peace and security has been on the agenda of international decision-makers ever since the establishment of the League of Nations on 10 January 1920. There has been a constant ambiguity about the way this commitment has been translated to practice. The Covenant of the League of Nations committed itself “to promote international co-operation and to achieve international peace and security”: nevertheless, the eruption of violence and geopolitical confrontations lead to another major confrontation two decades later. This reinforced the determination of the world community to redouble its efforts to promote peace and security. The Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue said that the UN Charter – adopted on 26 June 1945 – did not prevent the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and of Nagasaki less than two months later. The disastrous consequences of the Second World War was a terrible reminder of humanity’s ability to bring the world close to apocalypse. Partly for such reasons more than 60 million people continue to be forcibly displaced today and peace continues to be so elusive.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

This year’s annual theme for the 2017 International Day of Peace “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All” draws the attention of the need of the world community to unite its forces in support of people up-rooted and separated from their kith and kin. Dr. Al Qassim noted that the refugee and migrant crisis have become the symbol of the world’s inability to live up to the ideals of the Founders of the UN to promote peace and justice worldwide. Foreign invasions exacerbating resort to terrorist violence keep peace in jeopardy. So does the simultaneous rise of right-wing populist parties in the West which has become the driving force of xenophobia, bigotry, racism and marginalization of the Other. The combination of these elements once the symbol of a world undermining the peace that its peoples yearn for.

The Chairman has also concluded that the Arab region has been adversely affected by the rise of violent extremism and the proliferation of local and international conflicts. The civil wars and/or internal upheavals in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Iraq have resulted in the forced displacement of millions of people. In total, more than 13 million people have been forced to leave their home societies owing to the lack of security and the surge of violence. Millions of people have embarked on perilous and hazardous journeys over the unpredictable Balkan route. As the latter is being sealed off, they engage on the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa. Walls and fences have been built – and even detention camps – to respond to the unprecedented rise of people on the move. These liberal societies which cursed the Berlin Wall cordoning off the free flow of ideas now advocate new walls to cordon off the free flow of people in distress. He asked: How come that Europe cannot accommodate displaced people counting for less than 1% of Europe’s total population when certain countries in the Middle East provide protection to refugees and migrants accounting for more than 20% of their own populations? Making matters worse, Islamophobia is also on the rise in Southeast Asia where the ominous policy of ethnic cleansing has reared its head once again.

Guided by the vision of promoting peaceful societies and addressing the plight of people on the move, the Geneva Centre will be organizing a panel debate on 15 December 2017 entitled “Migration and human solidarity, a challenge and an opportunity for Europe and the MENA region.” He hoped that the debate will further promote a joint response of stakeholders from the Global North and the Global South responding with one voice to the injustice that is targeting people on the move in the Arab region and in other regions of the world. He called upon decision-makers should remain guided by the principles of international solidarity and justice in addressing the plight of refugees and migrants. We can no longer remain indifferent to a crisis that has become the symbol of the world’s inability to promote peace and justice.

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UN Report Falls Short on Humanitarian Crisis Around Lake Chadhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/un-report-falls-short-humanitarian-crisis-around-lake-chad/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-report-falls-short-humanitarian-crisis-around-lake-chad http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/un-report-falls-short-humanitarian-crisis-around-lake-chad/#respond Thu, 21 Sep 2017 15:09:30 +0000 Florian Krampe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152187 Dr Florian Krampe is a Researcher, Climate & Risk Project, at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

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Fishing boats, Lake Chad. Credit: Mustapha Muhammad/IPS

By Florian Krampe
STOCKHOLKM, Sweden, Sep 21 2017 (IPS)

It is encouraging to see that the United Nations Security Council is beginning to acknowledge the transboundary dimensions of fragility and conflict, as demonstrated by its newly launched Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the Lake Chad Basin region. The report, which was presented in the Security Council on 13 September 2017, emphasizes the need for regional responses and enhanced cooperation of different UN and humanitarian agencies as an important step to addressing the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

However, while a regional response to address the regional security challenge is desirable, the report would have been stronger if it had highlighted the underlying environmental contributions of the region’s fragility.

Multiple stressors converge in the Lake Chad region, which lies at the southern end of the Sahara desert. In the region around the lake–which borders Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria–unemployment, poverty and conflict interact with environmental change and degradation. The mismanagement of water resources, for instance in form of increased water withdrawal for irrigation from the lake’s tributaries, as well as prolonged severe droughts, have contributed to a 90 per cent shrinking of Lake Chad in the past 40 years.

In addition, the ongoing insurgency by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria further exaggerates the reduction of livelihood security for communities in the region. According to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP), the conflict with Boko Haram has caused over 10 000 deaths between 2009 and 2016.

The military interventions of the Multinational Joint Task Force and armed forces of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria achieved a sizeable reduction in Boko Haram’s activities. Nonetheless, according to the newly published report: “From April to June 2017, 246 attacks were recorded, resulting in the deaths of 225 civilians.’

The ongoing insurgency and the continued shrinking of Lake Chad, which is the main source of livelihood for millions of inhabitants, is causing a massive humanitarian crisis and intensifies the fragile security situation and increased cross-border displacement of populations.

The Report of the Secretary-General points out: ‘Some 10.7 million people across the Lake Chad Basin region currently need humanitarian assistance, including 8.5 million in Nigeria.’ According to the report, 7.2 million people currently suffer severe food insecurity, of which 4.7 million are located in the north-eastern part of Nigeria.

The food and water insecurities caused by environmental change and mismanagement have exacerbated the humanitarian crisis caused by the Boko Haram insurgency. Although there is a lack of consistent monitoring around Lake Chad, the available data clearly indicates that the region has experience significant environmental changes.

For every year since 2000, the annual temperature anomaly, based on the 1961 to 1990 average temperature, was continuously above 1°C. Research agrees that environmental degradation—and especially the predicted impacts of climate change—will further exacerbate these pressures on the states and societies around Lake Chad.

During the 2017 Stockholm Forum, experts from the region outlined the complex dependencies of local livelihoods on natural resources, in particular the Lake Chad ecosystem, and how important ecological factors are to understanding and addressing the regions vulnerability and fragility.

As Sweden’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Olof Skoog, pointed out during the Security Council debate on 13 September: ‘The effects of climate change and its links to the stability and security are evident. We cannot hide from this reality if we want to truly address the challenges in the region. The lack of follow-up in this area in the Secretary-General’s report once again underlines the need for improved risk assessments and risk management strategies by the UN, as clearly highlighted by the Security Council in Resolution 2349 (2017): ‘The Council must remain alert to the threats to stability as a result of the adverse effects of climate change.”

By acknowledging the adverse effect of climate change in the Lake Chad Basin region, the UN report should have emphasized the inevitable pathways for addressing the current crisis. Managing natural resources sustainably is one of the key factors to achieving regional stabilization, reducing people’s vulnerability, increasing resilience and thereby thwarting the fertile grounds for insurgent group recruitment.

This is only possible when the UN Security Council and other peacebuilding agencies begin to integrate the linkages of environmental, social, and political issues in their peacebuilding efforts in the Lake Chad Basin.

About Resolution 2349:
At the end of March 2017, the United Nations Security Council unanimously issued a Resolution 2349 against terrorism and human rights violations in the Lake Chad Basin. It recognized the role of climate change in exacerbating human insecurity—particularly around food insecurity and livelihood vulnerabilities—which are linked to the Basin’s complex conflicts: ‘the adverse effects of climate change and ecological changes among other factors on the stability of the Region’.

The resolution was initiated by the Security Council member states’ travel to the Lake Chad region earlier in 2017. The resolution tasked the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, to provide an assessment of the situation. A direct mention of climate and environmental change is absent in the newly published report.

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Macron Defends Globalist Approach at UN General Assemblyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/macron-defends-globalist-approach-un-general-assembly/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=macron-defends-globalist-approach-un-general-assembly http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/macron-defends-globalist-approach-un-general-assembly/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 13:59:33 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152160 French President Emmanuel Macron delivered a sombre speech at the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, denouncing Myanmar’s “ethnic cleansing,” and calling for better protection of refugees in the world. His decisive speech at the lectern took a sharp turn from the U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech earlier that morning, who focused on a nationalist agenda, […]

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By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 20 2017 (IPS)

French President Emmanuel Macron delivered a sombre speech at the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, denouncing Myanmar’s “ethnic cleansing,” and calling for better protection of refugees in the world.

Emmanuel Macron. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

His decisive speech at the lectern took a sharp turn from the U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech earlier that morning, who focused on a nationalist agenda, urging leaders to put their countries first as he invoked his “America First” vision. Macron led his speech with a multilateral approach, and vowed instead, to fight climate change with all member countries. In a press conference later, he added that he would try to persuade Trump to reconsider his decision to pull out of the Paris agreement.

Macron, a centrist who ran his recent presidential campaign on open borders, kept in line with his advocacy for protecting refugees as a “moral duty.” He addressed human trafficking along the Mediterranean route, and said that greater checks and a “humanitarian infrastructure” should be put in place to stem blatant flouting of “fundamental human rights” by traffickers.

While Trump touted topics that invoked a mainstream media frenzy—but are nevertheless important national security issues—such as threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea, and reiterating his critical views of the 2015 Iran deal by slamming it as an “embarrassment,” Macron led the speech in a more conventional way, as is convention, in essentially the headquarters of world diplomacy.

Macron said that he was willing to open dialogues with the North Korea’s leader, and added that migration and terrorism, which are political challenges, couldn’t simply be addressed by “short-term” strategies. Similarly, he committed to contribute to developmental aid, and said that the process, for him, began with investing in education. “We must give the opportunity to young boys and girl to obtain an education to choose their own future, not the future that is imposed on them by need but the future that they should choose for themselves,” he said.

In the end, in spite of criticising the world body as a “club for people to get together, talk and have a good time” before, Trump praised the UN body for its immense potential to bring deliberations at the world stage.

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Aung San Suu Kyi: A Leader in Denial?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/aung-san-suu-kyi-leader-denial/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aung-san-suu-kyi-leader-denial http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/aung-san-suu-kyi-leader-denial/#comments Wed, 20 Sep 2017 06:23:09 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152150 After finally breaking silence with a much anticipated address on the ongoing crisis in Rakhine State, Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has disappointed the world as she refuses to acknowledge the plight of her country’s Rohingya community. In a 30-minute televised address, Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi said that her […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 20 2017 (IPS)

After finally breaking silence with a much anticipated address on the ongoing crisis in Rakhine State, Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has disappointed the world as she refuses to acknowledge the plight of her country’s Rohingya community.

Aung San Suu Kyi

In a 30-minute televised address, Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi said that her government does not fear “international scrutiny” over its management of the crisis in Rakhine.

Suu Kyi, who decided not to attend the ongoing UN General Assembly in New York, said she nevertheless wanted the international community to know what her government was doing.

“We condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence,” she said in her first public address since violence reignited after the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked security posts on 25 August.

“We feel deeply for the suffering of all the people caught up in the conflict.”

However, her speech was filled with claims considered dubious by many worldwide as she refused to address the reality on the ground in Rakhine including the military’s alleged campaign of killing and burning villages.

“Her speech was disingenuous at best and dishonest at worst,” founder of Fortify Rights Matthew Smith told IPS, adding that some of her claims were “grotesquely untrue.”

A Denial of Atrocities

Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize Suu Kyi said that security forces are exercising “all due restraint” and that there have not been any “clearance operations” since 5 September.

However, Human Rights Watch released new satellite imagery showing that at least 62 villages in northern Rakhine were burned between August 25 and September 14, some of which can even be seen hundreds of kilometers away at the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.

Numerous global figures have reiterated the urgent scale of the crisis, including the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein who called it a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Suu Kyi that she has a “last chance” to reverse the army’s offensive and if she doesn’t, the crisis will be “absolutely horrible” and may not be reversible in the future.

The spike in refugees fleeing the conflict since 5 September indicate ongoing violence, which Suu Kyi also denied, stating that most Muslims have stayed in Rakhine and that the crisis is not as severe as the international community thinks.

“It’s incredulous,” said head of Amnesty International’s UN Office Sherine Tadros to IPS about Suu Kyi’s statement.

Rakhine State has a population of approximately three million, one million of whom are Rohingya Muslims.

The UN has estimated that over 400,000 Rohingya have already fled to Bangladesh in just three weeks. They have warned that up to one million—representing the entire Muslim population of Rakhine State—could flee to the neighboring nation by the end of the year.

“She has the responsibility to speak out, and at the very least we would expect for her to acknowledge what is going on in the ground in her own country,” Tadros said.

Balancing a Political Tightrope

Though it is unclear why she continues to support a military that placed her under house arrest for 15 years and has prevented her from becoming the President, some say Suu Kyi is walking a tightrope in protecting her own political interests.

This includes keeping the Myanmar’s powerful military, known as the Tatmadaw, happy.

After winning the 2015 elections, Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy, entered a power-sharing agreement with the Tatmadaw which includes control over a quarter of all seats in parliament.

The military also retains control over its own budget and key ministries including home affairs, defense, and borders, making it the real power in northern Rakhine.

And the head of Tatmadaw General Min Aung Hlaing has explicitly and consistently spoken out against the Rohingya community, claiming that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar cannot “accept and recognize” them.

“Rakhine ethnics [Buddhists] are our indigenous people who had long been living there since the time of their forefathers,” he said in a Facebook post.

Myanmar’s Buddhist-majority population have also had little sympathy for the Rohingya since 2012, when deadly violence between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims left at least 200 dead and displaced 90,000.

It seems that Suu Kyi may be between a rock and a hard place. However, many believe that she does not only have the responsibility, but also the power to advance human rights in the country.

“As the moral leader of the country and as the senior most political leader, she is certainly in a position to shape the way that people in the country think about human rights, the way they think about the situation in Rakhine state,” Smith told IPS.

Tadros echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating: “Even if you don’t have much power over the military, you don’t have to be an apologist for them.”

“She has political concerns and that is a normal thing for any leader, but the fact that the political concerns are taking precedence over the killing and injuring of thousands of people…it’s just beyond words,” she continued.

Suu Kyi also reminded the international community in her speech that Myanmar is a newly democratic country that is still learning its way, stating: “After half a century or more of authoritarian rule, now we are in the process of nurturing our nation.”

“We are a young and fragile country facing many problems, but we have to cope with them all… we cannot just concentrate on the few,” she continued.

Tadros said that excuse is not good enough and that she can show leadership without the state collapsing.

“Myanmar has had decades to deal with the issue and has never done it in an effective way and the Suu Kyi administration is no different,” Smith said.

A History of Violence

Though Suu Kyi claimed that her government has made efforts in recent years to improve living conditions for Muslims living in Rakhine without discrimination, Myanmar’s government has long disputed the Rohingya people’s status as citizens.

Since 1982 when they adopted the biased citizenship law, the country has enacted a series of discriminatory policies including restrictions on movement and exclusion from healthcare, rendering the majority of the group stateless and impoverished.

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

However, Suu Kyi has consistently remained silent on the plight of the Rohingya and has instead perpetuated their discrimination and exclusion.

In her address, Suu Kyi refused to use the “Rohingya” by name, only referencing it when she spoke of ARSA which she said are responsible for “acts of terrorism.”

When asked if this continues to perpetuate the narrative that Rohingyas are terrorists, Smith said yes.

“She is in a position now to actually save lives, she is in a position now to stop atrocities. Not only is she failing to do that, but she is making matters worse,” he told IPS.

He added that she is contributing to a narrative that may push more civilians to attack Muslim populations in the country.

Suu Kyi said all those who have fled to Bangladesh will be able to return after a process of verification, and added that she wants to find out what the “real problems” are in Rakhine.

“We want to find out why this exodus is happening. We’d like to talk to those who have fled, as well as those who have stayed,” she said.

Though there is no end in sight to the country’s crisis, Smith expressed concern that her promised actions may coerce the population to disavow their ethnic identity.

“That is not a [verification] process to allow the population to self identify as Rohingya, it’s a process to try to systematize and document this population as Bengali and it’s not a pathway to full citizenship.”

Tadros questioned the fate of Rohingya that do return, stating: “The people who have fled have the right to return. But return to what? Return to what sort of conditions? Return to a country where they have no rights and for this cycle of violence to happen again?”

“This isn’t about being able to physically cross the border to go back to your house anymore, this is about using this moment to actually get the Rohingya the rights that they deserve,” she added.

She urged for Suu Kyi and the international community to do everything in their power to stop the violence, while Smith called on the Security Council to declare the crisis as a threat to international peace and security.

“What is needed right now is action. The Security Council needs to start preparing itself to act towards international justice,” he concluded.

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“We are a World in Pieces”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/we-are-a-world-in-pieces/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=we-are-a-world-in-pieces http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/we-are-a-world-in-pieces/#respond Tue, 19 Sep 2017 18:38:30 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152134 António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his address to the General Assembly

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António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his address to the General Assembly

By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 19 2017 (IPS)

I am here in a spirit of gratitude and humility for the trust you have placed in me to serve the world’s peoples. “We the peoples”, and our United Nations, face grave challenges. Our world is in trouble. People are hurting and angry. They see insecurity rising, inequality growing, conflict spreading and climate changing.

The global economy is increasingly integrated, but our sense of global community may be disintegrating. Societies are fragmented. Political discourse is polarized. Trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo

We are a world in pieces. We need to be a world at peace. And I strongly believe that, together, we can build peace. We can restore trust and create a better world for all. I will focus today on seven threats and tests that stand in our way. For each, the dangers are all too clear. Yet for each, if we act as truly United Nations, we can find answers.

First, the nuclear peril.
The use of nuclear weapons should be unthinkable. Even the threat of their use can never be condoned. But today global anxieties about nuclear weapons are at the highest level since the end of the Cold War.

The fear is not abstract. Millions of people live under a shadow of dread cast by the provocative nuclear and missile tests of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Within the DPRK itself, such tests do nothing to ease the plight of those who are suffering hunger and severe violations of their human rights.

I condemn those tests unequivocally. I call on the DPRK and all Member States to comply fully with Security Council resolutions. Last week’s unanimous adoption of resolution 2375 tightens sanctions and sends a clear message regarding the country’s international obligations.

I appeal to the Council to maintain its unity.

Only that unity can lead to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and — as the resolution recognizes — create an opportunity for diplomatic engagement to resolve the crisis.

When tensions rise, so does the chance of miscalculation. Fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings.

The solution must be political. This is a time for statesmanship. We must not sleepwalk our way into war. More broadly, all countries must show greater commitment to the universal goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The nuclear-weapon states have a special responsibility to lead.

Today proliferation is creating unimaginable danger, and disarmament is paralyzed.

There is an urgent need to prevent proliferation and promote disarmament. These goals are linked. Progress on one will generate progress on the other.

Second, let me turn to the global threat of terrorism.
Nothing justifies terrorism — no cause, no grievance. Terrorism continues to take a rising toll of death and devastation. It is destroying societies, destabilizing regions and diverting energy from more productive pursuits. National and multilateral counter-terrorism efforts have disrupted networks, reclaimed territory, prevented attacks and saved lives.

We need to intensify this work. Stronger international cooperation remains crucial. I am grateful to the General Assembly for approving one of my first reform initiatives: the establishment of the UN Office on Counter-Terrorism. Next year, I intend to convene the first-ever gathering of heads of counter-terrorism agencies of Member States to forge a new International Counter-Terrorism Partnership.

But it is not enough to fight terrorists on the battlefield or to deny them funds. We must do more to address the roots of radicalization, including real and perceived injustices and high levels of unemployment and grievance among young people. Political, religious and community leaders have a duty to stand up against hatred and serve as models of tolerance and moderation.

Together, we need to make full use of UN instruments, and expand our efforts to support survivors.

Experience has also shown that harsh crackdowns and heavy-handed approaches are counterproductive. As soon as we believe that violations of human rights and democratic freedoms are necessary to win the fight, we have lost the war.

Third, unresolved conflicts and systematic violations of international humanitarian law.
We are all shocked by the dramatic escalation of sectarian tensions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. A vicious cycle of persecution, discrimination, radicalization and violent repression has led more than 400,000 desperate people to flee, putting regional stability at risk.

The authorities in Myanmar must end the military operations, and allow unhindered humanitarian access. They must also address the grievances of the Rohingya, whose status has been left unresolved for far too long.

No one is winning today’s wars. From Syria to Yemen, from South Sudan to the Sahel, Afghanistan and elsewhere, only political solutions can bring peace. We should have no illusions. We will not be able to eradicate terrorism if we do not resolve the conflicts that are creating the disorder within which violent extremists flourish.

Last week I announced the creation of a High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation. Those eminent individuals will allow us to be more effective in brokering peace around the world. The United Nations is forging closer partnerships with key regional organizations such as the African Union, the European Union, the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

We continue to strengthen and modernize peacekeeping – protecting civilians and saving lives around the world. And since taking office, I have sought to bring together the parties to conflict, as well as those that have influence on them.

As a meaningful example, I am particularly hopeful about tomorrow’s meeting on Libya.

Last month, I visited Israel and Palestine. We must not let today’s stagnation in the peace process lead to tomorrow’s escalation. We must restore the hopes of the people. The two-state solution remains the only way forward. It must be pursued urgently.

But I must be frank: in too many cases, the warring parties believe war is the answer.

They may speak of a willingness to compromise. But their actions too often betray a thirst for outright military victory, at any cost. Violations of international humanitarian law are rampant, and impunity prevails. Civilians are paying the highest price, with women and girls facing systematic violence and oppression.

I have seen in my country, and in my years at the United Nations, that it is possible to move from war to peace, and from dictatorship to democracy. Let us push ahead with a surge in diplomacy today and a leap in conflict prevention for tomorrow.

Fourth, climate change puts our hopes in jeopardy.
Last year was the hottest ever. The past decade has been the hottest on record.

Average global temperature keeps climbing, glaciers are receding and permafrost is declining.

Millions of people and trillions of assets are at risk from rising seas and other climate disruptions.

The number of natural disasters has quadrupled since 1970. The United States, followed by China, India, the Philippines and Indonesia, have experienced the most disasters since 1995 – more than 1600, or once every five days. I stand in solidarity with the people of the Caribbean and the United States who have just suffered through Hurricane Irma, the longest-lasting Category 5 storm ever recorded.

We should not link any single weather event with climate change. But scientists are clear that such extreme weather is precisely what their models predict will be the new normal of a warming world.

We have had to update our language to describe what is happening: we now talk of mega-hurricanes, superstorms and rain bombs.

It is high time to get off the path of suicidal emissions. We know enough today to act. The science is unassailable. I urge Governments to implement the historic Paris Agreement with ever greater ambition. I commend those cities that are setting bold targets.

I welcome the initiatives of the thousands of private enterprises — including major oil and gas companies — that are betting on a clean, green future. Energy markets are telling us that green business is good business. The falling cost of renewables is one of the most encouraging stories on the planet today. So is the growing evidence that economies can grow as emissions go down.

New markets, more jobs, opportunities to generate trillions in economic output. The facts are clear. Solutions are staring us in the face. Leadership needs to catch up.

Fifth, rising inequality is undermining the foundations of society and the social compact.
The integration of the world’s economies, expanding trade and stunning advances in technology have brought remarkable benefits. More people have risen out of extreme poverty than ever before. The global middle class is also bigger than ever. More people are living longer, healthier lives.

But the gains have not been equal. We see gaping disparities in income, opportunity and access to the fruits of research and innovation. Eight men hold the same wealth as half of humanity.

Whole regions, countries and communities remain far removed from the waves of progress and growth, left behind in the Rust Belts of our world. This exclusion has a price: frustration, alienation, instability. But we have a blueprint to change course — to achieve fair globalization. That plan is the 2030 Agenda.

Half our world is female. Half our world is under 25 years of age. We cannot meet the Sustainable Development Goals without drawing on the power of women and the enormous energy of young people. We know how fast transformation can take place in our day and age. We know that with global assets and wealth worth trillions, we are not suffering from a lack of funds.

Let us find the wisdom to use the tools, plans and resources already in our hands to achieve inclusive and sustainable development — a goal in its own right but also our best form of conflict prevention. The dark side of innovation is the sixth threat we must confront — and it has moved from the frontier to the front door.

Technology will continue to be at the heart of shared progress. But innovation, as essential as it is for humankind, can bring unintended consequences. Cybersecurity threats are escalating. Cyber war is becoming less and less a hidden reality — and more and more able to disrupt relations among States and destroy some of the structures and systems of modern life.

Advances in cyberspace can empower people, but the dark web shows that some use this capacity to degrade and enslave. Artificial intelligence is a game changer that can boost development and transform lives in spectacular fashion. But it may also have a dramatic impact on labour markets and, indeed, on global security and the very fabric of societies.

Genetic engineering has gone from the pages of science fiction to the marketplace – but it has generated new and unresolved ethical dilemmas. Unless these breakthroughs are handled responsibly, they could cause incalculable damage. Governments and international organizations are simply not prepared for these developments.

Traditional forms of regulation simply do not apply. It is clear that such trends and capacities demand a new generation of strategic thinking, ethical reflection and regulation. The United Nations stands ready as a forum where Member States, civil society, businesses and the academic community can come together and discuss the way forward, for the benefit of all.

Finally, I want to talk about human mobility, which I do not perceive as a threat even if some do. I see it as a challenge that, if properly managed, can help bring the world together.

Let us be clear: we do not only face a refugee crisis; we also face a crisis of solidarity.
Every country has the right to control its own borders. But that must be done in a way that protects the rights of people on the move.

Instead of closed doors and open hostility, we need to reestablish the integrity of the refugee protection regime and the simple decency of human compassion. With a truly global sharing of responsibility, the numbers we face can be managed. But too many states have not risen to the moment.

I commend those countries that have shown admirable hospitality to millions of forcibly displaced people. We need to do more to support them. We also need to do more to face the challenges of migration. The truth is that the majority of migrants move in a well-ordered fashion, making positive contributions to their host countries and homelands. It is when migrants move in unregulated ways that the risks become clear – for states but most especially for migrants themselves exposed to perilous journeys.

Migration has always been with us. Climate change, demographics, instability, growing inequalities, and aspirations for a better life, as well as unmet needs in labour markets, mean it is here to stay.

The answer is effective international cooperation in managing migration to ensure that its benefits are most widely distributed, and the human rights of all concerned properly protected. But from ample experience, I can assure you that most people prefer to realize their aspirations at home.

We must work together to make sure that they can do so. Migration should be an option, not a necessity. We also need a much stronger commitment of the international community to crack down on human traffickers, and to protect their victims.

But we will not end the tragedies on the Mediterranean, the Andaman Sea and elsewhere without creating more opportunities for regular migration. This will benefit migrants and countries alike.

I myself am a migrant, as are many of you. But no one expected me to risk my life on a leaky boat or cross a desert in the back of a truck to find employment outside my country of birth.

Safe migration cannot be limited to the global elite. Refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants are not the problem; the problem lies in conflict, persecution and hopeless poverty.
I have been pained to see the way refugees and migrants have been stereotyped and scapegoated – and to see political figures stoke resentment in search of electoral gain.

In today’s world, all societies are becoming multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious.
This diversity must be seen as a richness, not a threat. But to make diversity a success, we need to invest in social cohesion, so that all people feel that their identities are respected and they have a stake in the community as a whole.

We need to reform our world, and I am committed to reforming our United Nations. Together, we have embarked on a comprehensive reform effort:
— to build a UN development system to support States in bettering peoples’ lives;
— to reinforce our ability to safeguard people’s peace, security and human rights;
— and to embrace management practices that advance those goals instead of hindering them.
We have launched a new victims-centred approach to preventing sexual exploitation and abuse.
We have a roadmap to achieve gender parity at the United Nations – and we are already on our way.

We are here to serve: to relieve the suffering of “we the peoples”; and to help fulfil their dreams.
We come from different corners of the world. Our cultures, religions, traditions vary widely — and wonderfully. At times, there are competing interests among us. At others, there is even open conflict. That is exactly why we need the United Nations. That is why multilateralism is more important than ever.

We call ourselves the international community. We must act as one. Only together, as United Nations, can we fulfil the promise of the Charter and advance human dignity for all.

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Out of Africa: Understanding Economic Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/africa-understanding-economic-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-understanding-economic-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/africa-understanding-economic-refugees/#comments Tue, 19 Sep 2017 15:19:45 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152132 Anis Chowdhury, a former professor of economics at the University of Western Sydney, held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok.
Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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Young African migrants seek opportunities abroad as the World Bank projects that “the world’s extreme poor will be increasingly concentrated in Africa”. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Sep 19 2017 (IPS)

Not a single month has passed without dreadful disasters triggering desperate migrants to seek refuge in Europe. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at least 2,247 people have died or are missing after trying to enter Europe via Spain, Italy or Greece in the first half of this year. Last year, 5,096 deaths were recorded.

The majority – including ‘economic migrants’, victims of ‘people smugglers’, and so on – were young Africans aged between 17 and 25. The former head of the British mission in Benghazi (Libya) claimed in April that as many as a million more were already on their way to Libya, and then Europe, from across Africa.

Why flee Africa?
Why are so many young Africans trying to leave the continent of their birth? Why are they risking their lives to flee Africa?

Part of the answer lies in the failure of earlier economic policies of liberalization and privatization, typically introduced as part of the structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) that many countries in Africa were subjected to from the 1980s and onwards. The World Bank, the African Development Bank and most Western donors supported the SAPs, despite United Nations’ warnings about their adverse social consequences.

SAP advocates promised that private investment and exports would soon follow, bringing growth and prosperity. Now, a few representatives from the Washington-based Bretton Woods institutions admit that ‘neoliberalism’ was ‘oversold’, condemning the 1980s and 1990s to become ‘lost decades’.

While SAPs were officially abandoned in the late 1990s, their replacements were little better. The Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) of the World Bank and IMF promised to reduce poverty with some modified policy conditionalities and prescriptions.

Meanwhile, the G8 countries reneged on their 2005 Gleneagles pledge to provide an extra US$25 billion a year for Africa as part of a US$50 billion increase in financial assistance to “make poverty history”.

Poor Africa

Thanks to the SAPs, PRSPs and complementary policies, Africa became the only continent to see a massive increase in poverty by the end of the 20th century and during the 15 years of the Millennium Development Goals. Nearly half the continent’s population now lives in poverty.

According to the World Bank’s Poverty in Rising Africa, the number of Africans in extreme poverty increased by more than 100 million between 1990 and 2012 to about 330 million. It projects that “the world’s extreme poor will be increasingly concentrated in Africa”.

The continent has also been experiencing rising economic inequality, with higher inequality than in the rest of the developing world, even overtaking Latin America. National Gini coefficients – the most common measure of inequality – average around 0.45 for the continent, rising above 0.60 in some countries, and increasing in recent years.

While the continent is experiencing a ‘youth bulge’, with more young people (aged 15-24) in its population, it has failed to generate sufficient decent jobs. South Africa, the most developed economy in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), has a youth unemployment rate of 54%.

The real situation could be even worse. Discouraged youth, unable to find decent jobs, drop out of the labour force, and consequently, are simply not counted.

Surviving in Africa
Most poor people simply cannot afford to remain unemployed in the absence of a decent social protection system. To survive, they have to accept whatever is available. Hence, Africa’s ‘working poor’ and underemployment ratios are much higher. In Ghana, for example, the official unemployment rate is 5.2%, while the underemployment rate is 47.0%!

Annual growth rates have often exceeded 5% in many African countries in the new century. SAP and PRSP advocates were quick to claim credit for the end of Africa’s ‘lost quarter century’, arguing that their harsh policy prescriptions were finally bearing fruit. After the commodity price collapse since 2014, the proponents have gone quiet.

With trade liberalization and consequently, greater specialization, many African countries are now even more dependent on fewer export commodities. The top five exports of SSA are all non-renewable natural resources, accounting for 60% of exports in 2013.

The linkages of extractive activities with the rest of national economies are now lower than ever. Thus, despite impressive economic growth rates, the nature of structural change in many African economies have made them more vulnerable to external shocks.

False start again?
Africa possesses about half the uncultivated arable land in the world. Sixty percent of SSA’s population work in jobs related to agriculture. However, agricultural productivity has mostly remained stagnant since 1980.

With agriculture stagnant, people moved from rural to urban areas, only to find life little improved. Thus, Africa has been experiencing rapid urbanization and slum growth. According to UN Habitat, 60% of SSA’s urban population live in slums, with poor access to basic services, let alone new technologies.

Powerful outside interests, including the BWIs and donors, have been advocating large farm production, claiming it to be the only way to boost productivity. Several governments have already leased out land to international agribusiness, often displacing settled local communities.

Meanwhile, Africa’s share of global manufacturing has fallen from about 3% in 1970 to less than 2% in 2013. Manufacturing’s share of total African GDP has decreased from 16% in 1974 to around 13% in 2013. At around a tenth, manufacturing’s share of SSA’s output in 2013 is much lower than in other developing regions. Unsurprisingly, Africa has deindustrialized over the past four decades!

One cannot help but doubt how the G20’s new ‘compact with Africa’, showcased at Hamburg, can combat poverty and climate change effects, in addition to deterring the exodus out of Africa, without fundamental policy changes.

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Why Aung San Suu Kyi Chooses Silencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/aung-san-suu-kyi-chooses-silence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aung-san-suu-kyi-chooses-silence http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/aung-san-suu-kyi-chooses-silence/#respond Fri, 15 Sep 2017 08:46:03 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152086 On 23rd August, just days before thousands of Rohingyas began fleeing their homes from Rakhine State, Aung San Suu Kyi’s recently appointed Rakhine Advisory Commission, established in 2016, submitted its final report. The engaging of an independent Commission, tasked with recommending newer ways of improving the lives of Rohingya Muslims, Myanmar’s most deeply persecuted minority […]

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The photo was taken at Thae Chaung camp in Rakhine state. Credit: UNHCR/Stephen Kelly/2013

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 15 2017 (IPS)

On 23rd August, just days before thousands of Rohingyas began fleeing their homes from Rakhine State, Aung San Suu Kyi’s recently appointed Rakhine Advisory Commission, established in 2016, submitted its final report. The engaging of an independent Commission, tasked with recommending newer ways of improving the lives of Rohingya Muslims, Myanmar’s most deeply persecuted minority group, carried some weight of diplomacy.

In that week, when clashes broke out between Rohingya militants and security forces, Myanmar’s Army responded by doubling down on its attacks against Rohingyas in Rakhine State, killing at least 400 people, only 29 of whom were militants. What appeared as a window of opportunity to test the findings of the report, which recommended reviewing a citizenship law that revoked the rights of Rohingyas as citizens of Myanmar in 1982, collapsed at its feet. Instead, a record numbers of Rohingyas, more than 300,000, were forced to flee to Bangladesh.

Recently, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, in a speech to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, shed light on harrowing details of the conflict. He denounced the government’s “cynical ploy” to only allow refugees who could produce “proof of nationality” back into the country, and condemned the State’s strategy to lay landmines along the borders of Bangladesh. He even warned that the government should “stop claiming that the Rohingyas are setting fire to their own homes and laying waste to their own villages.”

This recent wave of violence, is in many ways, both old and new. In 1977, when Burmese authorities conducted a set of screenings, called Operation Nagamin (Dragon King), to register its citizens for a national census, almost 200,000 Rohingyas were forced to flee. Although authorities claimed that it was simply screening out foreigners, refugees who primarily fled to Bangladesh, and who were largely Rohingya Muslims, disputed the claims and alleged widespread police brutality.

Similarly, this February, four months after a group of Rohingya militants broke into prominence by killing nine police officers in October 2016, the UN released its first findings of the long standing conflict, laying bear the horrific killings, gang rapes, and “crimes against humanity” committed by the State’s military in it’s retaliation to the attack.

IPS spoke to Matthew Smith, an expert on the topic, and the co-founder of Fortify Rights, an NGO that vigilantly documents human rights violations in Southeast Asia, about the rise of armed insurgencies staged by a group of Rohingya militants.

The group, called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), is relatively small. Believed to have been backed by donors in the Middle East, the group wields its sense of power from the support of its community. When Matthew spoke with fighters of ARSA; he explained that, militants who have carried out its most recent attacks by using knives and home-made bombs, were acting on the promise of being aided with more automatic weapons, and newer fighters. However, when that plan failed, Myanmar fell into the hands of the Army. ARSA was no match to the military’s prowess.

ARSA fighters, many of whom partially blame themselves for the cataclysmic turn of events, first picked up ammunition to break away from this very sense of helplessness. For them, there was simply no other option. Inadvertently, a combination of threats posed by ARSA and a public maneuvering by a government long prejudiced against Rohingyas, gave way to support for the military among Burmese citizens. Most citizens, who otherwise remain very skeptical about the military’s role in domestic politics, found new ground with the army to quash any militant threats.

A renewed sense of public consensus that backed the government’s strategy of driving out Rohingya from the country pushed into maximum effect in the last few weeks. In spite of international pressure to rein in violence, Aung San Suu Kyi is walking on a tightrope, and is keeping silent, for now.

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Secretary-General Talks Myanmar, Trump Ahead of General Assemblyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/secretary-general-talks-myanmar-trump-ahead-general-assembly/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=secretary-general-talks-myanmar-trump-ahead-general-assembly http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/secretary-general-talks-myanmar-trump-ahead-general-assembly/#respond Thu, 14 Sep 2017 06:47:38 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152070 In an environment full of major threats, countries must work together towards peace and stability, the Secretary-General said ahead of the General Assembly. As the UN gears up for the 72nd Session of the General Assembly, when leaders from around the world will convene, the Secretary-General pointed to pressing issues and actions to be discussed […]

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Secretary-General António Guterres addresses a press conference ahead of the 72nd session of the General Assembly, which begins on 19 September. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 14 2017 (IPS)

In an environment full of major threats, countries must work together towards peace and stability, the Secretary-General said ahead of the General Assembly.

As the UN gears up for the 72nd Session of the General Assembly, when leaders from around the world will convene, the Secretary-General pointed to pressing issues and actions to be discussed over the course of the week.

“Global leaders will gather here next week at a time where our world faces major threats—from nuclear peril to global terrorism, from inequality to cyber crime,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said of his first General Assembly session since assuming office in January 2017.

“No country can meet these tests alone. But if we work together, we can chart a safer, more stable course, and that is why the General Assembly meeting is so important,” he continued.

Among the most pressing issues that is expected to be discussed during the annual meeting is the humanitarian crisis and escalation of violence in Myanmar, which Guterres described as “catastrophic” and “unacceptable.”

“I call on the Myanmar authorities to suspend military action, end the violence, uphold the rule of law, and recognize the right of return of all those who had to leave the country,” Guterres said, recommending that Rohingya Muslims be granted citizenship or at least a legal status that allows them to leave a productive life.

Sparked after the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked a security post on August 25, Myanmar’s military has launched “clearance operations” which has left a path of destruction in its wake.

Security forces have reportedly systematically targeted Rohingya communities, including by burning their homes and indiscriminately shooting at villagers.

Over 370,000 Rohingya Muslims have since fled into neighboring Bangladesh, a figure that tripled in just one week.

In response to the violent outbreak, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said that the treatment of Rohingya Muslims seems to be a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

When asked if he agrees that the Rohingya population is facing ethnic cleansing, Guterres stated: “When one-third of the Rohingya population have to flee a country, can you find a better word to describe it?”

However, he stopped short of describing the atrocities as genocide, instead calling it a “dramatic tragedy.”

“The question here is not to establish a dialogue on the different kinds of technical words…people are dying and suffering at horrible numbers and we need to stop it. That is my main concern.”

Amid mounting criticism over her response to the latest iteration of the crisis, Nobel Peace laureate and Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi recently cancelled her trip to the UN meeting this year.

In her address to the General Assembly in 2016, Suu Kyi said that her government did not fear international scrutiny over its treatment of the Rohingya population.

“We are committed to a sustainable solution that will lead to peace, stability and development for all communities within the State,” she said.

Myanmar is reportedly sending its Second Vice President Henry Van Thio in Suu Kyi’s place.

The Security Council (UNSC) has also faced criticism for its silence and lack of action on the situation in Myanmar.

The group last met behind closed doors at the end of August but issued no formal statement or proposal to end the crisis.

The Secretary-General wrote a letter to the 15-member council asking it to “undertake concerted efforts to prevent further escalation of the crisis.”

During a press conference, Guterres highlighted his personal commitment to the issue, stating: “This is a matter that I feel very deeply in my heart…the suffering of the people is something I feel very strongly about.”

UNSC held another closed-door meeting on Wednesday which many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are saying is insufficient and are urging for a public meeting.

“[UNSC] needs to take control of the issue and show that they are really concerned about it,” said Human Rights Watch’s UN Director Louis Charbonneau at a press conference on the Myanmar crisis.

“The Security Council is supposed to be the guardian of international peace and security. This is an international peace and security crisis. It is a nightmare—people are dying, there is destruction, there is no excuse for them to keep sitting on their hands,” he continued.

In an effort to advance the UN’s work on peace and security, Guterres also announced a new High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation.

The 18-member group, which includes personalities such as President of Chile Michelle Bachelet and President of the International Crisis Group Jean-Marie Guéhenno, will advise the Secretary-General on mediation efforts and challenges.

Guterres also said that he aims to discuss the Myanmar crisis along with other challenges such as climate change with the United States’ President Donald Trump who is due to attend and speak at the general debate on 19 September.

Since taking office, President Trump has butted heads with the UN, threatening to significantly cut funds to UN programs and even eliminating all funds to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) after citing concerns that the agency conducts “coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization” in China.

Earlier this year, Trump also announced the U.S.’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, a landmark commitment made by 195 countries to address and combat climate change.

In response to such challenges, Guterres highlighted the efforts being made to make the U.S.-UN relationship a constructive one and hopes that it will be a message that the President will also convey in his address.

“It is my deep belief that to preserve the American interests is to engage positively in global affairs and to engage positively in support to multilateral organizations like the UN,” Guterres said.

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