Inter Press ServiceArmed Conflicts – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 17 Oct 2018 15:43:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Q&A: Using Data to Predict Internal Displacement Trendshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/qa-using-data-predict-internal-displacement-trends/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-using-data-predict-internal-displacement-trends http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/qa-using-data-predict-internal-displacement-trends/#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 17:18:53 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158207 Carmen Arroyo interviews ALEXANDRA BILAK, director of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

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When isolated by floodwaters, families, like this one in Morigaon, India, have no choice but to use boats for transportation; even children must learn the survival tool of rowing. Credit: Priyanka Borpujari/IPS

By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 16 2018 (IPS)

This year the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) noted that 2017 saw the highest number of displacements associated with conflict in a decade-11.8 million people. But this is not a situation that is going to be resolved any time soon, says the organisation which has been reporting on displacements since 1998.

These numbers were published in the World Migration Report 2018, which was released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) last month. The report also stated that an average of 25.3 million people are displaced each year because of natural disasters. “This will only get worse with climate change,” said IDMC’s director Alexandra Bilak in an interview with IPS.

Bilak has over 15 years of experience with NGOs and research institutes working on African conflicts. She lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 2004 to 2008 and in Kenya for the next five years. In 2014, she joined IDMC. The biggest change for her, claimed Bilak, was “disconnecting from the field and connecting to high political levels of decision making.”

The IDMC, part of the Norwegian Refugee Council, is the leading international institution of data analysis on internal displacement. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the centre works towards creating dialogues on displacement and providing accurate metrics. IDMC, according to Bilak, takes data analysis to the next level: “We combine many methodological approaches to provide a databased to build research agendas. It is a very interest combination of quantitative and qualitative research, but not from an academic perspective.” She added: “The analysis wants to be practical and policy-relevant.”

Under Bilak, the institute has changed its focus. While three years ago the IDMC understood displacement as a human rights issue, now it treats it with a more comprehensive approach. “By doing that, it wasn’t having the right kinds of conversations,” claimed Bilak. Now, their employees are not only lawyers and political scientists, they are also anthropologists, geographers, and data analysts.

With a calmed voice, Bilak tells IPS that this shift was a team effort, and that she is very happy with the results. Excerpts of the interview below.

Inter Press Service (IPS): How did your interest on displacement start?

AB: I started my work in the Great Lakes region in Rwanda, but when I moved over to Eastern Congo I was exposed to the full scope of conflict impact. Displacement was a major issue. I was really struck with the capacity of communities to cope with the problem. That’s where my interest started.

Then I moved from one job to another and narrowed down on the issue of displacement. Now, at IDMC we are very interested in understanding the connections between internal displacement and wider migratory flows, cross border movements, and broader development challenges. At Geneva, you can bring the experience from the field to the higher level and see where it all ties in together.

IPS: What are your goals for the future of IDMC?

AB: I think we want to maintain this position as global authority and consolidate our expertise on data. We cannot rest on our laurels. We have to keep up our efforts. We need to continue building trust-based relationships with national governments. They are the change agents when it comes to finding solutions for internal displacement. You can’t achieve anything if you avoid them.

IPS: If national governments are the change agents, what’s the role of international organisations in displacement?

AB: Although it is a development issue for the national governments, there are many humanitarian implications that need to be addressed. International organisations provide that immediate protection and assistance that international displaced people need. This is the role they must continue playing, despite their reduced budgets. Also let’s keep in mind that there are many diplomatic efforts to prevent these conflicts.

This is the development, humanitarian and peace building nexus. They need to go hand in hand for a comprehensive approach. But yes, ultimately, it still boils down to political will.

IPS: What about natural disasters? How can we predict them to avoid their consequences?

AB: There are already models that project into the future and give a good sense of the intensity of natural hazards in the future. IDMC has actually developed a global disaster displacement risk model. There’s a way of having a sense of the scale and scope of what to expect in the future.

But our message has always been the same. This is only going to get worse with climate change, unless there is a significant investment in preventative measures like disaster-risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

We know which are the countries that are going to be most affected. The latest report from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) on climate clearly pointed out what communities are going to be more affected in the future. This will impact internal displacement.

IPS: So, what would be your recommendation to a national government to manage this situation?

AB: There are many recommendations for those countries that suffer from the impacts. They need better early warning systems and preparedness measures, so people can be quickly evacuated in the right way.

Our recommendation is also to build on the good practices governments that have already been implemented. For example, in the Philippines displacement figures are part of their disaster loss database. It would be great if every country could have the same kind of national data system in place.

Other recommendations come from processes of relocation. In the Pacific, entire communities that are at risk of climate change impact have to be relocated. How are these communities going to be moved in a dignified way respecting their cultural heritage?

Finally, there also needs to be a gender perspective to make sure that women and children can be consulted in the process.

IPS: What do you predict for the next 12 months in terms of displacement?

AB: Based on what we are monitoring, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East will continue to be areas of concern for us due to conflict. We are looking at a recent peak in displacement in Ethiopia. This is not a situation that is going to be resolved any time soon, so we will see a displacement crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria… also in Syria. We will look at high displacement figures next year.

In terms of disaster displacement, we will see massive hurricanes in Asia, which will have long-term consequences. There are pockets of displaced people that remain so for large periods of time, also in high-income countries like Japan.

The post Q&A: Using Data to Predict Internal Displacement Trends appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Carmen Arroyo interviews ALEXANDRA BILAK, director of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

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Cyber Attacks Growing Problem in Developing Nationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/cyber-attacks-growing-problem-developing-nations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cyber-attacks-growing-problem-developing-nations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/cyber-attacks-growing-problem-developing-nations/#respond Mon, 08 Oct 2018 14:00:30 +0000 Silvia Baur-Yazbeck http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158038 Few experiences undermine a digital financial services (DFS) customer’s finances and trust in DFS like becoming the victim of a cybercrime. This is especially true of low-income customers, who are least able to rebound from the losses, and of the newly banked, whose trust in financial services may be fragile. Unfortunately, cybercrime is a growing […]

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Credit: Dinh Manh Tai, 2012 CGAP Photo Contest

By Silvia Baur-Yazbeck
WASHINGTON DC, Oct 8 2018 (IPS)

Few experiences undermine a digital financial services (DFS) customer’s finances and trust in DFS like becoming the victim of a cybercrime. This is especially true of low-income customers, who are least able to rebound from the losses, and of the newly banked, whose trust in financial services may be fragile.

Unfortunately, cybercrime is a growing problem in developing countries, where customers often conduct financial transactions over unsecure mobile phones and transmission lines that are not designed to protect communications.

In Africa, the number of successful attacks against the financial sector doubled in 2017, with the biggest losses hitting the mobile financial services sector. DFS providers must adopt stronger cybersecurity measures to protect themselves and their customers. But which threats pose the greatest risk today?

In 2017, CGAP surveyed 11 DFS providers operating in Africa to understand how they perceive and mitigate cyber risks. We learned that all of them have been affected by cybersecurity incidents and are at various stages of implementing cybersecurity measures in their organizations.

While they are still most concerned about better-known types of fraud in DFS, such as malicious employees and agents, they are seeing themselves confronted with four types of risks emerging in cyberspace.

Social engineering

In a social engineering attack, the criminal tricks the victim into revealing sensitive information or downloading malware, which opens the doors to physical locations, systems or networks. The idea is to exploit a vulnerable person rather than a vulnerable system. DFS providers from Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia told us that fraudsters had duped their employees into sharing their user login details and then accessed corporate information systems.

Most DFS providers consider careless or unaware employees to be a major factor in their organization’s cyber risk exposure. But DFS customers are a vulnerability, too. The newly banked are more likely to fall victim to this type of scheme because of their limited experience with digital fraud.

Providers can guard against social engineering through regular awareness and education campaigns. It is also important to appropriately manage user access rights, introduce system log monitoring processes and require two individuals for completing sensitive transactions (i.e., maker-checker controls).

Data breaches

Using malware or social engineering, hackers can gain access to valuable information, such as credit card numbers, customer personal identification numbers, login credentials and government-issued identifiers. Weak patch management, legacy systems and poor system log monitoring were cited as the main reasons why DFS providers’ systems are susceptible to hacking attacks.

In addition to financial losses that can result from a data breach, providers’ reputation and customers’ trust are at risk. In 2017, thieves breached a DFS provider’s systems in Kenya and stole hundreds of customers’ identities. The fraudsters accessed sensitive customer information, such as account types and last transactions, which allowed them to pass as legitimate customers and apply for loans in the victim’s name.

To protect against data breaches, DFS providers need to regularly update their systems and software, patch their systems, use strong encryption for data at rest and in transit and implement 24/7 system log monitoring.

Outages & denial of service attacks

DFS providers sometimes experience system outages during routine system upgrades or patches. Earlier this year, an upgrade gone awry left DFS users in Zimbabwe without access to their digital money for two days. Systems unavailability can also be the result of a cyberattack.

For example, in 2017, M-Shwari customers in Kenya were left without access to their savings and loan products for five days. And, after the outage, several found inconsistencies in their account balances. The most frequent form of attacks that cause system unavailability are denial-of-service attacks.

In a denial-of-service attack, cyber criminals overwhelm a server by flooding it with simultaneous access requests, depriving legitimate users of access to the system. In most cases, the objective is to harm the business. Yet, in some cases, cyber criminals have launched denial-of-service attacks to distract attention from an attempt to gain access to the system.

Effective countermeasures include continuous network traffic monitoring to identify and detect attacks while allowing legitimate traffic to reach its destination, a solid and tested incident response plan that allows for quick reaction in an emergency and strong change management processes and disaster recovery planning.

Third-party threats

DFS providers rely on third parties for a range of services, such as mobile network, information technology and data storage solutions. Sometimes, these providers misuse their system rights to access confidential customer information that they can sell or use for social engineering.

Also, a third party that handles sensitive information may not have appropriate safeguards against cyberattacks, putting at risk the confidentiality and integrity of the DFS provider’s customer data.

To address third-party threats, DFS providers should implement due diligence reviews of current and potential partners, including reviews of their security policies and practices.

Impact on low-income customers

If physical money used to be kept safe in bank vaults, what is protecting money now that it is digital? This is a financial inclusion question because the answer is especially important for low-income customers. In developed countries, it is usually the financial services provider that is legally responsible for bearing the cost of fraud. In developing countries, it is often the customer.

The experience of fraud and rumors of fraud experienced by others causes mistrust in DFS, especially among lower-income consumers. The DFS providers we spoke with in Africa recognize their need to invest more in cybersecurity for both themselves and their customers. They acknowledge that better safeguards are needed to mitigate threats and be better prepared to respond to incidents.

Failure to take the relevant steps could deter people from entering the formal financial system and significantly harm consumers and markets.

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Without Food Security, There Is No Peacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/without-food-security-no-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=without-food-security-no-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/without-food-security-no-peace/#comments Thu, 27 Sep 2018 05:33:09 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157799 Reversing years of progress, global hunger is on the rise once again and one of the culprits is clear: conflict. A high-level side event during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly brought together, U.N. officials, governments, and civil society to assess and recommend solutions to the pressing issue of conflict-based food insecurity.  […]

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Two mothers and their children look to shore after arriving by boat to Mingkaman, Awerial County, Lakes State, South Sudan. In 2014 in less than a month close to 84,000 fleeing the fighting in Bor crossed the river Nile. South Sudan has been mired in civil conflict since December 2013. Some 2.8 million people, a majority of whom depend on livestock for their livelihoods, are now facing acute food and nutrition insecurity, according to FAO. Credit: Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 27 2018 (IPS)

Reversing years of progress, global hunger is on the rise once again and one of the culprits is clear: conflict.

A high-level side event during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly brought together, U.N. officials, governments, and civil society to assess and recommend solutions to the pressing issue of conflict-based food insecurity. “The use of hunger as a weapon of war is a war crime. Yet, in some conflict settings, parties to conflict use siege tactics, weaponise starvation of civilians, or impede life-saving humanitarian supplies to reach those desperately in need." -- Action Against Hunger’s CEO Veronique Andrieux

“Conflict-related hunger is one of the most visible manifestations to human suffering emerging from war…this suffering is preventable and thus all the more tragic,” said United States’ Agency for International Development’s (USAID) administrator Mark Green.

According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018, the number of hungry people increased to over 820 million in 2017 from approximately 804 million in 2016, levels unseen for almost a decade.

The Global Report on Food Crises found that almost 124 million people across 51 countries faced crisis-level food insecurity in 2017, 11 million more than the year before.

Conflict was identified as the key driver in 60 percent of those cases.

The report predicts that conflict and insecurity will continue to drive food crises around the world, including in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Panellists during the “Breaking the Cycle Between Conflict and Hunger” side-event noted food insecurity is often a tell-tale sign of future potential conflict and can lead to further insecurity.

“Building resilience…is indeed fundamental for strengthening social cohesion, preventing conflict, and avoiding forced migration. Without that, there is no peace,” said Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO) director-general Jose Graziano da Silva.

World Food Programme’s executive director David Beasley echoed similar sentiments, stating: “If you don’t have food security, you’re not going to have any other security. So we have to address the fundamentals.”

In an effort to address conflict-based hunger and the worrisome reversal in progress, the U.N. Security Council for the first time recognised that armed conflict is closely linked to food insecurity and the risk of famine earlier this year.

The group unanimously adopted resolution 2417 condemning the use of starvation as a weapon of war and urged all parties to conflict to comply with international law and grand unimpeded humanitarian access.

While participants lauded the historic resolution, they also highlighted that it alone is not enough.

“Humanitarian action and technical solutions can mitigate the effects of food crises but we desperately need political solutions and we need to implement [resolution] 2417 if we are to reverse the shameful, upwards trajectory of hunger primarily resulting from conflict,” said Action Against Hunger’s CEO Veronique Andrieux.

In order to prevent food crises and thus conflicts from escalating, the international community must take a holistic, preventative approach and strengthen the humanitarian-development nexus.

Before the long-running war began, Syria faced a drought which caused a spike in prices and led to food shortages. Many theorise that it was these very conditions that set off the civil war in 2011. This is a picture dated August 2014 of the then rebel-held Aleppo city, Syria. The government has since taken control of the city. Credit: Shelly Kittleson/IPS

Beasley pointed to the case of Syria where a seven-year long conflict has destroyed agricultural infrastructure, local economies, and supply chains and has left over six million food-insecure.

“The cost for us to feed a Syrian in Syria was about 50 cents a day which is almost double the normal cost because it is a war zone. If that same Syrian was in Berlin, it would be euros per day,” he told attendees.

“It is a better investment if we address the root cause as opposed to reacting after the fact,” Beasley added.

Before the long-running war began, Syria faced a drought which caused a spike in prices and led to food shortages. Many theorise that it was these very conditions that set off the civil war in 2011.

“Early action response to early warning is critical. We cannot wait for the conflict to start. We know that it will start,” said Graziano da Silva.

And it is data that can help establish early detection and prevent such crises, Graziano da Silva along with the other panelists stressed.

The Global Network against Food Crises (GNFC), which publish the Global Report on Food Crises, brings together regional and national data and analysis to provide a comprehensive picture of food insecurity globally.

It was the GNFC that enabled agencies to mitigate food crises and avert famine in northern Nigeria and South Sudan.

Just prior to the side event, FAO and the European Commission partnered to boost resilience and tackle hunger by contributing over USD70 million.

Panelists stressed the importance of such partnerships in addressing and responding to the complex issue of conflict-based food insecurity.

“At the ground, when we work together, it’s not only that we do better…we are much more efficient,” Graziano da Silva said.

Andrieux highlighted the need to uphold respect for international humanitarian law and that the U.N. and member states must hold all parties to the conflict to account.

“The use of hunger as a weapon of war is a war crime. Yet, in some conflict settings, parties to conflict use siege tactics, weaponise starvation of civilians, or impede life-saving humanitarian supplies to reach those desperately in need,” she said.

“We believe this is failing humanity,” Andrieux added.

Green pointed to the conflict in South Sudan where fighters have blocked desperately needed humanitarian assistance and attacked aid workers.

The African nation was recently ranked the most dangerous for aid workers for the third consecutive year.

“All the parties to the conflict are culpable, all the parties to the conflict are guilty, and they have all failed themselves, their people, and humanity,” Green told attendees.

Though the task of tackling conflict-based hunger is not easy, the solutions are there. What is now required is commitment and collective action, panelists said.

“All of us working together with effective solutions—we can truly end world hunger,” Beasley said.

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Q&A: An Uncertain Future Ahead for Rohingya in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-uncertain-future-ahead-rohingya-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-uncertain-future-ahead-rohingya-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-uncertain-future-ahead-rohingya-bangladesh/#respond Wed, 26 Sep 2018 08:45:09 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157770 IPS Correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage talks to AMBASSADOR MASUD BIN MOMEN, permanent representative of Bangladesh to the U.N about the Rohingya' crisis.

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A Rohingya woman and her child at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 26 2018 (IPS)

Over one year ago, Bangladesh opened its doors in response to what is now the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. But questions still remain on how to rehabilitate the steadily growing population. 

After a military crackdown on suspected terrorists in August 2017, over 700,000 Rohingya fled from their homes in Rakhine State, Myanmar to Bangladesh, bringing with them stories of the horrors they have experienced.

The United Nations described the military offensive as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and a recent fact-finding mission called for the investigation and prosecution of top officials from Myanmar’s military for possible crimes of genocide.

However, recurring cycles of violence can be traced back to 1978 and now 1.3 million Rohingya reside in Bangladesh, leaving the small South Asian nation straining for resources to provide to grief-stricken refugees and overcrowded camps.

So far, only one third of the humanitarian appeal for refugees and local host communities have been met and still many challenges remain from environmental stress to trafficking to the lack of shelters.

Bangladesh’s prime minister Sheikh Hasina, who was in Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people of 2018, has been lauded for her humanitarian gesture and her government’s work in addressing the crisis.

Many international and national organizations are working to support the Rohingya refugees. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in particular and its head William Lacy Swing have worked relentlessly to not only provide support to the refugees but also to find a lasting solution to the crisis. Swing has worked closely with the prime minister and her government and engaged with the many parties involved to bring about an end to the tragedy.

In recognition of his untiring efforts, Inter Press Service (IPS) is honouring Swing with the Person of the Year Award at an event to be held at the U.N. headquarters on Sept. 27. The prime minster will receive the IPS U.N. North America’s Humanitarian Award for her decision to give shelter to the over one million Rohingya refugees who were driven out of their homes, tortured, burnt, raped and left stateless and hopeless.

Ahead of the Hasina’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly, which is expected to focus on the Rohingya crisis and call for international action to resolve the crisis, IPS spoke to ambassador Masud Bin Momen, permanent representative of Bangladesh to the U.N.about the ongoing challenges, support, and future action plans.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): Could you talk about the situation in Bangladesh—are refugees still arriving? What conditions are Rohingya refugees arriving in and what conditions are they seeing and living with in Bangladesh?

Masud Bin Momen (MBM): The situation in Cox’s Bazar is terrible. Having to shelter more than 700,000 Rohingyas from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which is the fastest-growing crisis of its kind in the world, and provide them with humanitarian support is an onerous responsibility. It was the bold decision of our honourable prime minister to take up such a huge responsibility responding to humanity’s call. It takes a lot of courage and magnanimity of heart to make such a politically sensitive decision.

And the influx of Rohingyas has not stopped. It is continuing although in much smaller numbers. The freshly-arrived Rohingyas are still giving a grim picture of the ground situation in the Rakhine state. They are telling us about insecurity, threat, persecution, hunger, lack of livelihood opportunities, which is forcing them to leave Myanmar.

IPS: What has the government been doing as of late with regards to supporting Rohingya refugees there now? What have been some of the challenges to support these refugees?

MBM: The camp conditions in Cox’s Bazar may not be perfect and surely, one would understand how difficult it is for a developing country to cater to the humanitarian needs of such a huge population. But our government is trying its best to further improve the camp conditions to ensure basic necessities of the Rohingyas.

The challenges are manifold, I would mention only a few. Providing them with the basic amenities has been the biggest challenge.

For firewood, the Rohingyas have destroyed the forest and vegetation around the camps creating serious threat to the ecology of the area. The shelters that they have built on the slope of the hills are vulnerable to landslide during the monsoon.

For livelihood they are competing with the locals. This is reducing employment opportunities of the local population thus creating concern among the host communities. Their presence is affecting the local law and order situation. The possibility of radicalisation looms large. As their stay lingers, there is the possibility of mingling with the local population which could make their repatriation more difficult.

A Rohingya girl proudly holds up her drawing at a UNICEF school at Balukhali camp, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

IPS: Could you talk about the controversies surrounding repatriation? Why has it been stalled, and are conditions favourable or safe for Rohingya refugees to go back to Myanmar right now? 

MBM: Although Rohingyas want to return to their homes in Rakhine they would not return to Myanmar until and unless the ground condition in the Rakhine state is conducive for their return. This is the singular impediment to return. Improving ground conditions is entirely Myanmar’s responsibility. Since the ground condition is not yet conducive, the Rohingyas are not signing the declaration for voluntary return and hence repatriation is being delayed.

IPS: If refugees cannot return to Myanmar yet, what does Bangladesh plan to do with regards to support? Are there future actions planned to enhance camps and living conditions?

MBM: If they do not return in the foreseeable future we perhaps have no other option but to continue to give them refuge. We would not send them back against their will. As our prime minister said, we would share our meals with them (Rohingyas). There cannot be a more poignant message of our goodwill to the Rohingyas. Our government is relentlessly working to improve the camps and the living conditions therein. We are also developing an island for relocation of some of the Rohingyas.

IPS: What are your thoughts to the criticism that the island which you mentioned is not safe to live, particularly due to violent weather and high risk of floods? 

MBM: This is an entirely wrong perception. Keeping the entire Rohingya population in a geo-politically sensitive place like Cox’s Bazar is not feasible at all. Cox’s Bazar simply does not have the physical capacity or the infrastructure to sustain such a huge Rohingya population. So, they have to be relocated and the island you are talking about is one such place for possible relocation.

Initially about 100,000 Rohingyas are planned to be relocated. The criticism that you have referred to is baseless coming from ill-informed quarters. Our government is working hard to make the island livable with self-sustaining livelihood options. And until it is made entirely livable, Rohingyas are not going to be relocated there.

IPS: What are your thoughts on the International Criminal Court (ICC) launching a preliminary examination? 

MBM: We feel that this is a positive development in ensuring accountability of the perpetrators. If the ICC can come up with some concrete outcome, it might also serve as an important factor in building confidence among the Rohingyas which will facilitate their repatriation.

IPS: Do you have a response or message to Myanmar’s government regarding the crisis? And perhaps a message to the International community in addressing the situation? 

MBM: We would urge upon Myanmar to make ground conditions in the Rakhine state conducive for return and take back the Rohingyas as soon as possible. The comprehensive implementation of the Kofi Annan Commission’s recommendations would be able to address the root causes of the Rohingyarians.

We urge upon the international community is to take custodianship of the bilateral arrangements for return that Bangladesh and Myanmar have signed and impress upon Myanmar to take back the Rohingyas.

*Interview has been edited for length and clarity

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Excerpt:

IPS Correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage talks to AMBASSADOR MASUD BIN MOMEN, permanent representative of Bangladesh to the U.N about the Rohingya' crisis.

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Recognising the Debilitating Nature Conflict Has on Food Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/157707/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=157707 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/157707/#respond Fri, 21 Sep 2018 09:00:54 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157707 Nyalen Kuong and her daughters fled to safety after an attack on their village in South Sudan in which Kuong’s husband and two sons where killed and the family’s cattle lost. Kuong, her daughters and other families from their village fled to islands surrounded by swamp land. There, she had little to eat. And soon […]

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For many people affected by conflict, agriculture is their only means of survival, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Sep 21 2018 (IPS)

Nyalen Kuong and her daughters fled to safety after an attack on their village in South Sudan in which Kuong’s husband and two sons where killed and the family’s cattle lost. Kuong, her daughters and other families from their village fled to islands surrounded by swamp land. There, she had little to eat. And soon began suffering from diarrhoea, brought on by acute malnutrition.

Eventually she was taken to a hospital camp where she was treated and was placed on an intravenous feeding drip. This is Kuong’s story as told by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). When she recovered she was given fishing equipment by FAO, which she now uses to supply her own food.

South Sudan is Africa’s newest state, but it has been mired in civil conflict since December 2013. Some 2.8 million people, a majority of whom depend on livestock for their livelihoods, are now facing acute food and nutrition insecurity, according to FAO.

The debilitating nature of conflict

Kuong’s experiences continue to be replicated in conflict zones around the world. Conflicts cost livelihoods and drive hunger and malnutrition, some of the most pressing development challenges today.

In May 2018, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2417 (2018), explicitly acknowledging the link between conflict and hunger and calling on all partners to protect civilians as well as their means to produce and access food.

Hunger has been on the rise for three years in a row, the U.N. found in a new report published this September. The global body says 821 million people are now hungry and over 150 million children stunted, putting the goal of hunger eradication at risk.

FAO is using its mandate to end hunger and malnutrition and to cultivate peace. This will ultimately enable food and nutritional security, which are linked to the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Agenda 2030.

“Agenda 2030 clearly links sustainable development and peace and calls for improved collaboration on conflict prevention, mitigation, resolution and recovery,” Enrique Yeves, director of communications at FAO, told IPS. “Sustaining peace encompasses activities aimed at preventing outbreak and recurrence of conflict.”

Yeves emphasised that interventions in support of food security, nutrition and agricultural livelihoods for conflict prevention and sustaining peace, are fundamentally important as they address not only the symptoms but also the root causes of conflict.

As the world marks the International Day of Peace on Friday, Sept. 21, the impact of conflict on humanity is a call to build a peaceful world. Sustainable Development Goal #16 underscores promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

“It is time all nations and all people live up to the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognises the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human race,” said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, in a message ahead of the International Day of Peace. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Food after the fight

For many people affected by conflict, agriculture is their only means of survival, according to FAO.

The U.N. body says agriculture accounts for two-thirds of employment and one-third of GDP in countries in protracted crises. Since 2000, 48 percent of civil conflicts have been in Africa where access to rural land underpins the livelihoods of many. In 27 out of 30 interstate conflicts in Africa, land issues have played a significant role.

In 2018, FAO partnered with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development to facilitate peaceful livestock movement between Kenyan and Ugandan cross-border areas.

In 2017, FAO signed a USD 8.7 million agreement with Colombia’s Rural Development Agency to help boost agricultural competitiveness and restore rural areas affected by armed conflict between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the government of Colombia.
FAO believes promoting food security and livelihoods can help address some of the conflict drivers.

“In conflict and post-conflict situations the humanitarian agenda takes the place of states that have failed, including welfare issues such as food, but also to some extent security functions in refugee camps. For example, thus the driving forces for it become global rather than local, with all the problems that it will entail,” David Moore, a researcher and political economist at the University of Johannesburg, told IPS.

Moore noted that conflicts are complications that a simplistic “helping hand” cannot resolve — but where there are local actors influencing and acting with global agencies, like FAO, some issues can be addressed and perhaps alleviated.

Strengthening government and private sector engagement for food and peace

Recognising that food security can support peace building, the FAO-Nobel Peace Laureates Alliance for Food Security and Peace was established by the director general of FAO Jose Graziano da Silva and currently there are 10 Nobel Peace Laureates as members, said Yeves.

He added that the aim of the Alliance is not only to raise awareness and champion the links between food security and peace building, but also highlight the leadership of FAO in agricultural and food security policies and actions that promote peace, rural development and food security.

The Alliance members include Muhammad Yunus, Oscar Arias Sánchez, Tawakkol Karman, Betty Williams, Juan Manuel Santos, Frederik Willem de Klerk, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Jose Ramos-Horta and Mairead Maguire.

This year, on Sept. 24, the Alliance is inducting a new member from Africa during the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit, a U.N. General Assembly high-level plenary on global peace

Graça Machel, humanitarian and widow of former South African president Mandela, will be named an honorary member of the Alliance this month in recognition of her late husband’s struggle for freedom and peace.

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25 years Since the Oslo Accords: Israeli Security Depends on Palestinian Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/25-years-since-oslo-accords-israeli-security-depends-palestinian-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=25-years-since-oslo-accords-israeli-security-depends-palestinian-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/25-years-since-oslo-accords-israeli-security-depends-palestinian-rights/#comments Fri, 14 Sep 2018 12:51:10 +0000 Jan Egeland http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157620 Jan Egeland is Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. He co-organized the secret talks between Israel and Palestine that led to the historic 1993 Oslo Accords.

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Jan Egeland is Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. He co-organized the secret talks between Israel and Palestine that led to the historic 1993 Oslo Accords.

By Jan Egeland
OSLO, Norway, Sep 14 2018 (IPS)

Twenty-five years ago, on 13 September 1993, I sat on the White House lawn to witness the landmark signing of the Oslo agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Diplomats around me gasped as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shook hands with former foe, Chairman Yasser Arafat. But for some of us present, the handshake came as no surprise.

Jan Egeland, former UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs

Weeks earlier we watched the midnight initialing of the same accord in Oslo. It had been the culmination of an intense eight months of secret talks in Norway, a private back-channel we initiated to end hostilities.

Previous peace diplomacy efforts had failed. A triad of occupation, violence and terror had reigned for many years. The Oslo Accords led to a rare epoch of optimism in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

When our back-channel began, neither Israeli nor American officials were allowed to meet with the Palestine Liberation Organization. The signing momentarily changed everything. The two sides exchanged letters of official recognition, thousands of Palestinians secured jobs in Israel, joint industrial parks were planned, the Israeli stock exchange soared, and the country’s Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Gaza could become a “Singapore of the Middle East.”

Our optimism may seem naïve today. Hindsight can raise many worthwhile critiques about what that handshake missed. Importantly, the Oslo “Declaration of Principles” was no peace agreement, but rather a five-year time plan for how to negotiate peace through increased reconciliation and cooperation.

Peace antagonists took little time to tear down our efforts to facilitate agreements on Jerusalem, settlements, refugees, and the status and borders of a future Palestine. Israeli terrorists killed Prime Minister Rabin and Muslims at prayer in Hebron, while a terror campaign from Hamas and other armed groups targeted buses and marketplaces in multiple Israeli cities.

Before final status issues could be fleshed out, the tide of optimism gave way to more terror, violence and brutal crackdowns. The following years brought a second intifada, record expansion of illegal settlements, an increasingly entrenched military occupation, division among Palestinian factions, and the closure of Gaza. Instead of recognition and a commitment to sit at the same table, the political context devolved into extreme polarization and mutual provocation.

Twenty-five years later, it is time to learn from the past.

Too few concrete steps were made during the initial months when mutual trust existed. Political elites on both sides did too little to enable reconciliation, justice and security in their own backyards. We also made mistakes as international facilitators in underestimating the counterforces against peace. As in so many places where peace diplomacy fails, humanitarians had to step in to provide a lifeline. In the absence of a long-term solution, urgent needs only increased.

Today, I lead a large international aid organization assisting millions of people displaced across the world, including Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria. I have rarely seen, felt or heard as much despair as among Palestinian youth locked into hopelessness in camps and behind closed borders. Unemployment for Gaza’s youth sits at 58 percent, according to the World Bank.

In a time when peace efforts are at a standstill, it has been more difficult than ever to deliver humanitarian assistance to Palestinians. Relief funding is diminishing, while humanitarian needs are on the rise. Partisan lobby groups and politicians hostilely question aid agencies focused on protecting human rights, more than any time in recent years.

Young men and women I met recently in Gaza told me they feel betrayed: “You told us to study hard, stay out of trouble and believe in better days. Now we are further away than ever from finishing our studies, let alone getting a job, a home or an escape from this cage.”

As Palestinians increasingly struggle to meet basic needs, economic opportunity is stifled by endless occupation. This is bad news for Israelis and Palestinians. It is not in Israel’s interests to oppress future generations of Palestinians, contributing to increasing bitterness in its own neighborhood.

Despite the grim trends, there is still a way out of the vicious cycle of conflict. Perhaps precisely therefore, in this bleak hour, we may have the foundation for a genuine peace effort. It can only be a matter of time before Israeli leadership realizes its long-term security is squarely dependent on equal rights and dignity for millions of disillusioned Palestinian youth.

Bridging humanitarian funding gaps and allowing aid delivery would raise real GDP in the Gaza Strip by some 40 percent by 2025, according to the World Bank. Such short-term gains can be bolstered by long-term investments in employment and increasing connectivity between the West Bank and Gaza.

Financial aid and other forms of investment in the Palestinian economy are urgently needed, but they are stop-gap measures, not the solution itself. Without a final political agreement, there can be no end to the human suffering.

Only a “just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement” will lead to “peaceful coexistence and mutual dignity and security.” These principles remain as true now as they were 25 years ago. But they must be rooted in reverence for international law. Palestinians are as entitled to basic human rights as are Israelis or Americans. Any future positive gains are only sustainable when fortified by a commitment to a political solution that upholds the rights and security of all people in the region.

No external actor has more potential for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than the United States. Only Americans have real leverage on the parties and the ability to provide the security guarantees needed.

A new U.S.-effort is sorely needed as tensions build once again, humanitarian work becomes more difficult, and tens of thousands of youth take stock of their lack of options.

However, unless America’s “ultimate deal” delivers equal rights, justice and security, grounded in respect for international law, it will only serve to strengthen political extremism among Israelis and Palestinians, further destabilize a volatile region, and ensure that too many Palestinians will continue to live under seemingly endless military occupation.

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Excerpt:

Jan Egeland is Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. He co-organized the secret talks between Israel and Palestine that led to the historic 1993 Oslo Accords.

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The US vs. UNRWA: Who’s the Real Loser?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/us-vs-unrwa-whos-real-loser/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-vs-unrwa-whos-real-loser http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/us-vs-unrwa-whos-real-loser/#comments Fri, 07 Sep 2018 14:36:44 +0000 Mona Ali Khalil http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157516 Mona Ali Khalil, PassBlue*

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For the first time, students from the West Bank met students from Gaza through an UNRWA summer program. Here, they say farewell after a camping activity, July 20, 2017. The US decision to end funding to the UN agency that administers to Palestinian refugees will damage everyone in the region, including Israel, the author argues. Credit: FADI THABET/UNRWA

By Mona Ali Khalil
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 7 2018 (IPS)

It is entirely the United States’ prerogative to cut off its voluntary contributions to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA.

In her statements about why the Trump administration has decided to do so, however, Ambassador Nikki Haley misses the mark on who should be grateful for her country’s past largess and whose interests will actually be hurt.

On Aug. 29, Haley said, “The Palestinians continue to bash America . . . this is the government, not the people,” but “they have their hand out wanting UNRWA money.” On a separate occasion, Haley also said that “as of now, they’re not coming to the table, but they ask for aid. We’re not giving the aid, we’re going to make sure they come to the table and we want to move forward with the peace process.”

Contrary to what Haley said, US funding to UNRWA is not a favor to the Palestinian people or to the Palestinian government. It is, in fact, a favor to Israel.

As any occupying power, Israel is obliged, under international humanitarian law, to ensure the welfare and well-being of the occupied population, including maintaining public order and public health and providing food and medical care.

These are among the forms of assistance that Unrwa delivers to the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and as refugees in neighboring countries.

Accordingly, when Unrwa fulfills its UN mandate, it is fulfilling Israel’s responsibilities. Nonetheless, Israel retains ultimate responsibility for meeting these obligations.

So, if the UN agency is ever unable to continue to provide these services, then Israel will, at least as a matter of international law, resume its responsibility for doing so.

Moreover, when the US generously grants $300 million in annual contributions to help Unrwa heal, educate and shelter Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, it is thus adding a stipend of $300 million to its far more generous $5 billion annual contribution to Israel.

It is ironic that with the same $300 million in grants, Israel can buy about 10 F-15s or 15 Apache helicopters — US-made weapons — which it uses to make another kind of delivery, bombs and missiles, to Palestine and occasionally to neighbouring countries.

Despite the asymmetry of her government’s generosity, Haley demands gratitude from Unrwa’s beneficiaries — the besieged people of Gaza and the millions of refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria but not from Israel — one of the wealthiest and most militarily and technologically advanced nations in the world.

As for that peace table that Haley keeps referring to, she should be reminded that Washington appears to have found a faster and easier path to “peace” that dispenses with tables as well as with fairness to, and equality between, the parties.

Instead, the Trump administration has chosen unilateral decrees on the final-status issues — not only deciding for the parties but also doing so consistently in favor of one party.

So why bother inviting the other party to a table when everything has seemingly been determined: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel; the Palestinian refugees are no longer refugees and therefore no longer have a right of return; the illegal settlements in the West Bank will define the borders of Israel; and Israel is a uniquely Jewish state, although a third of its citizens are Christian or Muslim.

The current US policy will not help those who want peace and security for both the Israeli and Palestinian people. It won’t help American standing in the region or in the world at large. It won’t even help Israel. According to Israel’s own military and intelligence officials, it might help the radicals and violent extremists.

Did the architects of this flawed policy want to reduce the prospects of peace in the Middle East by design or by default?

*PassBlue is an independent, women-led digital publication offering in-depth journalism on the US-UN relationship, as well as women’s issues, human rights, peacekeeping and other urgent global matters, reported from its base in the UN press corps.

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Excerpt:

Mona Ali Khalil, PassBlue*

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“We Should Not Wait” — Action Needed on Myanmarhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/not-wait-action-needed-myanmar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=not-wait-action-needed-myanmar http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/not-wait-action-needed-myanmar/#comments Tue, 04 Sep 2018 08:57:23 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157443 After the release of a scathing report on Myanmar’s human rights violations, next steps to achieve accountability and justice remain elusive and uncertain.   A year after the re-escalation of violence that forced almost a million people to flee to neighbouring countries, a fact-finding mission found a “human rights catastrophe” in Myanmar. “The gross human […]

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Rohingya alight from a boat as they arrive at Shahparir Dip in Teknaf, Bangladesh in 2017. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 4 2018 (IPS)

After the release of a scathing report on Myanmar’s human rights violations, next steps to achieve accountability and justice remain elusive and uncertain.  

A year after the re-escalation of violence that forced almost a million people to flee to neighbouring countries, a fact-finding mission found a “human rights catastrophe” in Myanmar.

“The gross human rights violations and abuses committed in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States are shocking for their horrifying nature and ubiquity,” the report states.

“Many of these violations undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law,” it continued.“The U.N. system really failed the people of Myanmar particularly the Rohingya by treading softly.” -- Human Rights Watch’s U.N. Director Louis Charbonneau

Triggered by insurgent attacks on security forces, the report pointed a finger to Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, for committing the gravest of crimes including indiscriminate killing, burning of houses, and sexual violence.

The investigators identified six generals, including the commander in chief of the Tatmadaw Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and recommended that they be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court (ICC) or at an alternative tribunal.

“There needs to be an unequivocal message sent that Myanmar’s military cannot act with impunity against ethnic minorities in Myanmar again,” Amnesty International’s Asia Advocacy Manager Francisco Bencosme told IPS.

“Never again has to mean never again – and the entire world is watching to see what the international community does,” he continued.

Like Bencosme, Human Rights Watch’s U.N. Director Louis Charbonneau also told IPS that the Security Council should refer the situation in Myanmar to the ICC or create a special criminal tribunal for prosecution.

But how did we get here?

Years of systematic oppression against Myanmar’s ethnic minorities made the crisis “foreseeable”—so what happened?

A System-Wide Failure

In 2008, the U.N. failed to heed warnings of increasing violence between the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and did not report evidence of widespread government violations and casualties.

A 2012 internal review found that various U.N. agencies including the Security Council failed at every level to protect civilians and meet their responsibilities in the last months of the civil war in the South Asian nation.

In the wake of the fiasco, the U.N. implemented the Human Rights Up Front Initiative to ensure a better system of monitoring and responding to international crises. Though Myanmar was identified as a situation requiring the Action Plan’s human rights response to crises, the approach was rarely, if ever, used, the report stated.

Instead, U.N. agencies continued to prioritise development goals, humanitarian access, and quiet diplomacy—an approach which “demonstrably failed.”

“The U.N. system really failed the people of Myanmar particularly the Rohingya by treading softly,” Charbonneau told IPS.

“Now instead of us saying ‘never again’ after Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Srebrenica—here we are saying well yet again it happened. The U.N. didn’t do what it was supposed to be doing, it didn’t raise the alarm bells to the extent that they could have,” he continued.

The Security Council’s response, or lack thereof, has been equally disappointing. The U.N. organ has had only a handful of meetings on Myanmar and none have resulted in any resolution.

In contrast, Syria has received special attention over the last seven years with numerous meetings in the “triple digits.”

“Given the scale of the crisis in Myanmar, it is difficult to reconcile the different responses of the Security Council particularly given a situation where the U.N. for sometime has been warning about the possibility of the ‘g’ word that is genocide,” Charbonneau said.

“It would be good to see an attempt to really push the Council to try something. We haven’t seen that yet and I don’t know if we will see it,” he continued.

China and Russia, Security Council members with veto power, have consistently pushed back on efforts to act on Myanmar’s crisis, stating that the crisis should only be resolved by the parties directly affected including Bangladesh where over 700,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to.

In the Security Council’s first open meeting on Myanmar in eight years, Russia’s ambassador Vasily Nebenzya warned against claims of ethnic cleansing and blaming Myanmar’s authorities as it “will make it more difficult to achieve lasting interethnic peace inside the country.”

Whether it is genocide or crimes against humanity, Bencosme highlighted the need for the international community to act with respect to Myanmar.

“We don’t need a legal diagnosis to understand that something desperately tragic and clearly unlawful has been happening in Myanmar. What matters most is that a civilian population is under attack because of its race or religion, and that these violations must stop immediately,” he told IPS.

Myanmar has repeatedly denied accusations of violations including those most recently published through the fact-finding mission’s report.

“Myanmar authorities have shown themselves to be both unable and unwilling to investigate and prosecute those responsible. As a result, the ICC is the appropriate route to deliver justice,” Bencosme said.

However, since Myanmar is not a member of the ICC, only a member of the Security Council can bring the case to the tribunal.

“The time for rhetoric is over – there needs to be action. There needs to be genuine accountability and justice. There needs to be an honest conversation about referring the situation to the International Criminal Court. We need to pursue all avenues of justice for these victims and their families who are the heart of the crisis,” Bencosme concluded.

Urgent Action Needed

While Charbonneau expressed hope that the new report will “reenergise” the U.N., he noted that we should not idly wait.

“I don’t think we should be waiting around for the Security Council—too often the Council doesn’t move on issues and it’s more deadlock than ever these days. We may have to keep using these work-arounds like the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council,” he told IPS.

Among the alternative avenues for action is the establishment of an impartial mechanism by the Human Rights Council or General Assembly to collect, analyse, and preserve evidence for future potential criminal proceedings in the ICC or another criminal tribunal.

The report also recommends that the U.N. urgently adopt a common strategy to address human rights concerns in Myanmar in line with the Human Rights Up Front Action Plan, as well as a comprehensive inquiry into whether the U.N. did everything possible to prevent or mitigate Myanmar’s crisis.

“The time has past for these feeble condemnations or expressions of concern that we are so used to from the U.N.—we just really need action,” Charbonneau said.

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Damning U.N. Report Outlines Crimes Against Rohingya As Children Suffer from Trauma One Year Laterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later/#respond Mon, 27 Aug 2018 23:38:55 +0000 Farid Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157366 At 12, Mohammed* is an orphan. He watched his parents being killed by Myanmar government soldiers a year ago. And he is one of an estimated half a million Rohingya children who have survived and been witness to what the United Nations has called genocide. According to accounts in a U.N. fact-finding report released today, […]

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A damning reporting by the United Nations on the Myanmar’s army crimes against the Rohingya may come too late for these Rohingya children, many of whom remain traumatised as witnesses of the genocide. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

By Farid Ahmed
DHAKA, Aug 27 2018 (IPS)

At 12, Mohammed* is an orphan. He watched his parents being killed by Myanmar government soldiers a year ago. And he is one of an estimated half a million Rohingya children who have survived and been witness to what the United Nations has called genocide.

According to accounts in a U.N. fact-finding report released today, the children were likely witnesses to their homes and villages being burnt down, to mass killings, and to the rape of their mothers. As girls, they would have likely been raped themselves.

It has been a year since the atrocities in Myanmar’s Rakhine state led to the exodus of some 700,000 Rohingya—some 60 percent of whom where children, according to the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF)—into neighbouring Bangladesh and to the coastal Cox’s Bazar district were the refugee camps have been set up.

And life remains difficult for the children in these camps.

While some who live in the squalid camps find it hard to envision themselves returning to a normal life; others, like Mohammed, dream of justice.

“I want justice… I want the soldiers to face trial,” he tells IPS, saying he wants justice from the soldiers who “ruined his life”.

“They killed our people, grabbed our land and torched our houses. They killed both my mother and father. I am now living with my sister,” he says.


A year ago, on Aug. 25, Myanmar government forces responded to a Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attack on a military base. But, according to the report by the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, “the nature, scale and organisation of the operations suggests a level of preplanning and design on the part of the Tatmadaw [Myanmar’s military] leadership.”

The report outlines how  “the operations were designed to instil immediate terror, with people woken by intense rapid weapons fire, explosions, or the shouts and screams of villagers. Structures were set ablaze and Tatmadaw soldiers fired their guns indiscriminately into houses and fields, and at villagers.”

It also notes that “rape and other forms of sexual violence were perpetrated on a massive scale” and that “sometimes up to 40 women and girls were raped or gang raped together. One survivor stated, “I was lucky, I was only raped by three men.””

The report calls for a full investigation into genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, calling for Myanmar’s top generals to be investigated for genocide in Rakhine state.

Senior-general Min Aung Hlaing is listed in the report as an alleged direct perpetrator of crimes, while the head of state, Aung San Suu Kyi, was heavily criticised in the report for not using her position “nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events, or seek alternative avenues to meet a responsibility to protect the civilian population.”

While rights agencies have responded to the report calling on international bodies and the U.N. to hold to account those responsible for the crimes, local groups have been calling for long-term solutions to aid the surviving Rohingya children.

A Rohingya girl proudly holds up her drawing at a UNICEF school at Balukhali camp, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Since their arrival in Bangladesh many Rohingya children have not received a proper education, while the healthcare facilities have been strained by the large numbers of people seeking assistance.

While scores of global and local NGOs, aid groups, U.N. agencies and the Bangladesh government are working to support the refugees, aid workers are concerned as many of the children remain traumatised by their experiences.

While they are receiving trauma counselling, it is still not enough.

“Whenever there is a darkness at night, I’m scared and feel somebody is coming to kill us… sometimes I see it in my dream when I’m asleep… sometimes I see our room is filled with blood,” 11-year-old Ayesha Ali*, who was studying at a madrassa at Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, tells IPS.

UNICEF in an alert last week warned that denial of basic rights could result in the Rohingya children becoming a “lost generation”.

“With no end in sight to their bleak exile, despair and hopelessness are growing among the refugees, alongside a fatalism about what the future has in store,” the alert states.

It is estimated that 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are housed in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh. Credit: Mojibur Rahaman Rana/IPS

A number of children in the camps have lost either one or both parents. Last November, Bangladesh’s department of social services listed 39,841 Rohingya children as having lost either their mother or father, or lost contact with them during the exodus. A total of 8,391 children lost both of their parents.

“Most of the children saw the horrors of brutality and if they are not properly dealt with, they might have developed a mind of retaliation. Sometimes the small children talk like this: ‘We’ll kill the army…because they killed our people.’ They are growing up with a sort of hatred for the Myanmar army,” aid worker Abdul Mannan tells IPS.

And while there are 136 specialised, child-friendly zones for children and hundreds of learning centre across Cox Bazar, UNICEF notes it is only now “developing a strategy to ensure consistency and quality in the curriculum.”

BRAC, a development organisation based in Bangladesh, points out current learning centres and other facilities for children are not enough for the proper schooling and future development of the children.

“What we’re giving to the children is not enough to stand them in good stead,” Mohammed Abdus Salam, head of humanitarian crisis management programme of BRAC, tells IPS.

Newly arrived Rohingya refugees enter Teknaf from Shah Parir Dwip after being ferried from Myanmar across the Naf River. Credit: Farid Ahmed/ IPS

Salam says that the children and women in the camps also remain vulnerable. “Especially the boys and girls who have lost their parents or guardians are the most vulnerable as there was no long-term programme for them,” he says, adding that many were still traumatised and suffered from nightmares. Cox Bazar is a hub of drugs and human traffickers, and children without guardians remain at risk.

Both the Bangladesh government and international aid officials say that they are trying hard to cope with the situation in Cox Bazar which is the largest and most densely-populated refugee settlement in the world.

But Salam says that it is urgent to formulate long-term plans for both education and healthcare if the repatriation process was procrastinated. “Otherwise, many of the children will be lost as they are not properly protected,” he says.

*Names changed to protect the identity of the children.

Additional reporting by Nalisha Adams in Johannesburg.

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Kofi Annan Strengthened the U.N.’s Dignity with the Help of Two Brazilianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/kofi-annan-strengthened-u-n-s-dignity-help-two-brazilians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kofi-annan-strengthened-u-n-s-dignity-help-two-brazilians http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/kofi-annan-strengthened-u-n-s-dignity-help-two-brazilians/#respond Tue, 21 Aug 2018 22:30:31 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157305 Kofi Annan’s stature as a global leader grew after he finished his second term as United Nations Secretary-General in 2006. Time confirmed his excellence in defending the principles and values of multilateralism, which is currently on the decline and subject to all kinds of attacks. Some of the crucial actions carried out by Annan, who […]

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Kofi Annan, U.N. Secretary General from 1997 to 2007 and 2001 Nobel Peace Prize-winner, who died on Aug. 18, seen together with Brazilian diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello (left), one of his right-hand men and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, who died in Baghdad in 2003. Credit: Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation

Kofi Annan, U.N. Secretary General from 1997 to 2007 and 2001 Nobel Peace Prize-winner, who died on Aug. 18, seen together with Brazilian diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello (left), one of his right-hand men and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, who died in Baghdad in 2003. Credit: Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation

By Mario Osava
RÍO DE JANEIRO, Aug 21 2018 (IPS)

Kofi Annan’s stature as a global leader grew after he finished his second term as United Nations Secretary-General in 2006. Time confirmed his excellence in defending the principles and values of multilateralism, which is currently on the decline and subject to all kinds of attacks.

Some of the crucial actions carried out by Annan, who died on Aug. 18, such as condemning the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, had the key backing of two Brazilian diplomats.

Sergio Vieira de Mello, who died in Baghdad on Aug. 19, 2003, was U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and Annan’s right-hand man in dealing with conflicts and rebuilding shattered nations.

He was sent to Iraq as the secretary-general’s special representative in May 2003, two months after the invasion, a spectacle of violence and bombings instantly reported by the global media.

A truck bomb destroyed the Canal Hotel used as a U.N. office in Baghdad.

Vieira and 21 other U.N. officials were killed in the suicide attack by the Al-Zarqawi organisation, the seed of what would later call itself the Islamic State (IS), according to Carolina Larriera, Vieira’s Argentine widow and a member of his team who survived in the rubble.

In memory of the victims, the U.N. General Assembly decided in 2008 to designate Aug. 19 as World Humanitarian Day, dedicated to all those who risk their lives to assist people affected by armed conflicts and other crises.

Vieira, a Brazilian who worked at the U.N. since he was 21, died at the age of 55 as a hero of humanitarian and peace operations in the most dangerous situations, in Bangladesh, Sudan, Cyprus, Mozambique, Peru and Iraq.

He mediated conflicts in Cambodia, Lebanon, Rwanda and other countries, while in Kosovo and East Timor he supported the “building of new nations.”

Between 1999 and 2002 he led the U.N. peacekeeping forces that oversaw the transition to independence of East Timor, a former Portuguese colony occupied by Indonesia since 1975.

The son of a Brazilian diplomat, Vieira rose through the ranks of the United Nations, occupying positions in its refugee and human rights agencies.

He reached the peak of his career in the missions commissioned by Annan, such as the operation in East Timor. Many even pointed to him as a possible successor to the secretary general because of his proven capacity and extensive experience.

“Annan was a giant at the United Nations,” the last great promoter of multilateralism, which has recently lost momentum, overtaken by the current wave of nationalism,” said Clóvis Brigagão, a political scientist who headed the Centre for the Study of the Americas at a university in Rio de Janeiro.

Born in Ghana 80 years ago, Annan was the first black U.N. secretary-general. He held the position from 1997 to 2006.

He was recognised as perhaps the last global head of state that the powers-that-be allowed the world and as a leader who promoted human rights as a priority and strengthened the mechanisms of peace, democratisation and development.

One of his triumphs was to achieve a consensus on the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that set 17 targets to reduce poverty, hunger, child and maternal mortality, among other scourges of humanity, from 2000 to 2015.

Expanded and renewed, 169 targets now make up the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDOs), the heirs to the MDGs, seeking to promote social, human, environmental and economic advances by 2030.

For his work, Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the U.N. in 2001.

But it was the tragedy in Iraq that marked his two terms at the General Secretariat, as the first career staffer to be promoted to the top post in the U.N.

During that crisis, in addition to Vieira he also had the support of another Brazilian diplomat, José Mauricio Bustani, in adopting a position against the invasion by the U.S.-led coalition that also included Great Britain, Australia and Poland.

Bustani had led the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) since it was created in 1997 to enforce the international convention that seeks to eradicate these weapons worldwide.

His reports were key to the U.S. government’s decision to attack Iraq under George W. Bush (2001-2009), in what was known as the second Gulf War (2003-2011) after the one that took place between 1990 and 1991.

The pretext for the attack was the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction, mainly chemical weapons, in the hands of the regime of Saddam Hussein.

In 2001, Bustani was negotiating Iraq’s accession to the OPCW, which would allow for inspections and would prove, according to him, the absence of such weapons in the country.

This was a challenge to the U.S. government, which exerted pressure that led to Bustani’s removal from the organisation in 2002. A year later, Iraq was bombed under a justification that was never proven, which reinforced Annan’s condemnation of the Iraq war, which he deemed “illegal”.

Bustani shared his experience in the article “Brazil and OPCW: Diplomacy and Defence of the Multilateral System Under Attack,” published in late 2002, and continued his career, as Brazil’s ambassador to Britain and France, before retiring in 2015.

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Chairman of the Geneva Centre highlights the need to protect civilians in armed conflictshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/chairman-geneva-centre-highlights-need-protect-civilians-armed-conflicts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chairman-geneva-centre-highlights-need-protect-civilians-armed-conflicts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/chairman-geneva-centre-highlights-need-protect-civilians-armed-conflicts/#respond Fri, 17 Aug 2018 20:56:59 +0000 Geneva Centre http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157232 On the occasion of the 2018 World Humanitarian Day – observed annually on 19 August -, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim calls for increased solidarity with civilians who are indiscriminately targeted by belligerents in armed conflicts. In this connection, Dr. Al Qassim […]

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

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

By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Aug 17 2018 (Geneva Centre)

On the occasion of the 2018 World Humanitarian Day – observed annually on 19 August -, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim calls for increased solidarity with civilians who are indiscriminately targeted by belligerents in armed conflicts.

In this connection, Dr. Al Qassim referred to the humanitarian situation in Syria that has resulted in immense human suffering. “In Syria, there are more than 5 million and 6 million internally displaced persons and refugees respectively. It is estimated that more than 500.000 civilians have perished as a result of the war. The humanitarian situation in Syria has become the 21st century greatest humanitarian tragedy,” the Geneva Centre’s Chairman said.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

Other countries in the Arab region, such as Yemen, Iraq and Libya, bear witness of the suffering and injustice that is being inflicted on the civilian populations. Armed conflict and violence – Dr. Al Qassim said – is the main cause of the humanitarian suffering and the massive abuses on civilians in times of war. The Geneva Centre’s Chairman stated:

The Arab region is witnessing one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the 21st century. Invasions and the rise of extremist violence have kept peace in jeopardy. Non-violence and lasting peace are key to securing the long-term stability of the Arab region and to promoting a sustainable future.”

To enhance the protection of civilian population, Dr. Al Qassim appealed to decision-makers to meet “funding requirements identified by the UN in relation to addressing the acute humanitarian needs of refugees and people suffering from conflict worldwide.” Providing aid and humanitarian assistance to people in need contributes to alleviate their vulnerability and to become more self-reliant.

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman concluded his statement by saying: “I appeal to the international community to ensure that all parties to a conflict comply with provisions to protect the lives of civilians in line with the provisions set forth in the Convention for the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War commonly known as the Fourth Geneva Convention.

“Respect for international law must guide the actions of belligerents in armed conflicts. Widespread crimes against humanity affecting civilians must be condemned uniformly by world leaders regardless of where they take place. Civilians should not bear the burden of the devastating consequences of military conflicts.”

 

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Palestinian Children, the True Victims of the Conflicthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/palestinian-children-true-victims-conflict/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=palestinian-children-true-victims-conflict http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/palestinian-children-true-victims-conflict/#respond Wed, 15 Aug 2018 06:57:07 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157188 Over 500 to 700 West Bank children are arrested and prosecuted each year by Israeli military forces. Palestinian child rights organisation, Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP), says that between 2012 and 2017 the organisation represented more than 700 children, some 72 percent of whom endured violence after their arrest. With the release of Palestinian teen activist […]

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Over 700 West Bank children were detained by Israeli military forces between 2012 and 2017, with 72 percent of them enduring physical violence after the arrest, according to Defense for Children International Palestine. Photo credit: UNICEF/El Baba

By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 15 2018 (IPS)

Over 500 to 700 West Bank children are arrested and prosecuted each year by Israeli military forces. Palestinian child rights organisation, Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP), says that between 2012 and 2017 the organisation represented more than 700 children, some 72 percent of whom endured violence after their arrest.

With the release of Palestinian teen activist Ahed Tamimi in late July, the constant arrests of Palestinian children by Israeli forces have been in the spotlight once again.“Reforms undertaken by Israeli military authorities tend to be cosmetic in nature rather than substantively addressing physical violence and torture by Israeli military and police forces.” -- Brad Parker, international advocacy officer and attorney at Defense for Children International Palestine.

“Ill-treatment of Palestinian child detainees by Israeli forces is widespread, systematic and institutionalised throughout the Israeli military detention system,” Brad Parker, international advocacy officer and attorney at DCIP, told IPS.

July was an eventful month for Palestine. On the one hand, the observer state of Palestine was chosen to lead the Group 77 at the United Nations, making it a big win for Palestine and increasing the tensions with Israel. G77 is the largest bloc of developing countries, currently with 135 countries, and Palestine spoke at the General Assembly. Palestine will assume leadership of the G77 by January 2019, replacing Egypt.

On the other hand, some days later the 17-year-old Palestinian activist, Tamimi, was released after an eight-month stay in an Israeli prison. She was arrested after she hit an armed Israeli soldier at the entrance of her village, Nabi Saleh. The scene was recorded and the video made her well known worldwide.

Commenting on Tamimi’s case, Parker said: “Ahed’s detention, prosecution, plea agreement, and sentencing in Israel’s military court system is not exceptional, but illustrates the widespread, systematic, and institutionalised ill-treatment of Palestinian child detainees by Israeli forces and the fair trial denials inherent in Israel’s military detention system.”

“Now that she has been released, attention will likely wane but she has and continues to highlight the plight of the hundreds of other Palestinian child detainees that continue to be detained and prosecuted in Israel’s military court system,” he added.

Palestinian child arrests are becoming pervasive and the legitimacy of the methods used to process their arrests is quite questionable. Of the 727 children processed by Israeli military courts that DCIP represented, 700 had no parent or legal counsel present during the interrogation.

Additionally, 117 spent more than 10 days in solitary confinement. For Parker, “the ill-treatment of Palestinian child detainees by Israeli forces has been one of the more high profile Palestinian rights issues raised by the international community.”

With Palestine’s new leadership position at the U.N., the observer state could draw international attention towards this issue. But some experts remain sceptical as to whether this will prove to be true. Vijay Prashad, director at Tricontinental Institute for Social Research, said: “The G77 is hampered as countries that once were stalwarts in the fight against colonialism—such as India—are now hesitant. They need to be called to account.”

Asked about the role of the international system and institutions such as the U.N. to stop Palestinian child abuses in the West Bank, Prashad was adamant that there must be more action.

“The U.N. must be more vigorous. It is one thing to have declared the settlements as illegal and another to do nothing about it,” he said.

He went on, stating, “there needs to be more action by countries that abhor this policy of colonisation. Much more vocal condemnation, more stringent policies against the Israeli government [is needed].” 

Parker called the Israeli authorities to responsibility.

“Despite sustained engagement by [U.N. Children’s Fund] UNICEF and repeated calls to end night arrests and ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention, Israeli authorities have persistently failed to implement practical changes to stop violence against Palestinian child detainees or guarantee due process rights and basic fair trial rights,” he said.

In response to the question of whether there had been any reforms within the Israeli military, Parker answered: “Reforms undertaken by Israeli military authorities tend to be cosmetic in nature rather than substantively addressing physical violence and torture by Israeli military and police forces.”

The international community is taking a stand with, for example, briefings and reports by different U.N. agencies and the current United States bill that focuses on the rights of Palestinian children detainees called the “Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act”.

According to Parker, this is not enough as Israel keeps breaking international justice agreements.

“Regardless of guilt or innocence or the gravity of an alleged offence, international juvenile justice standards, which Israel has obligated itself to implement by ratifying the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, demand that children should only be deprived of their liberty as a measure of last resort, must not be unlawfully or arbitrarily detained, and must not be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” Parker said.

When asked whether the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem— enacted by U.S. president Donald Trump—has increased tensions, Prashad said: “Israeli policy has been whipped past illegality long before Trump became president. It has certainly intensified. But it is the same U.S. policy of appeasement of Israel’s ambitions.”

Parker, on the other hand, did see changes.

“Large-scale demonstrations, marches and clashes throughout the West Bank following the Trump administration’s decision to publicly recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December corresponded with a spike in the number of Palestinian child detainees held in Israeli military detention,” Parker said.

“Systemic impunity is the norm when it comes to Israeli’s 50-plus year military occupation of Palestinians, so demanding justice and accountability and ultimately an end to occupation is what is needed to end grave human rights violations against children,” he said.

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Along with Peace, Eritreans Need Repression to Endhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/along-with-peace-eritreans-need-repression-to-end/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=along-with-peace-eritreans-need-repression-to-end http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/along-with-peace-eritreans-need-repression-to-end/#respond Wed, 08 Aug 2018 14:50:43 +0000 Laetitia Bader http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157137 Laetitia Bader is a senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch

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The rugged landscape of Tigray, Ethiopia’s most northern region, stretches away to the north and into Eritrea. Once Eritrea was Ethiopia’s most northern region until gaining independence in 1991. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

The rugged landscape of Tigray, Ethiopia’s most northern region, stretches away to the north and into Eritrea. Once Eritrea was Ethiopia’s most northern region until gaining independence in 1991. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By Laetitia Bader
ROME, Aug 8 2018 (IPS)

“Military service was the only prospect on my horizon — I didn’t want that,” a 20-year-old Eritrean who fled the country last year told me. “My dad had spent his whole life in military service.”

The young man, whom I recently met at an informal settlement in Rome, dreaded Sawa camp, where most Eritrean students spend their final year of high school before indefinite national service. To avoid that system, which has destroyed citizens’ lives since the border war with Ethiopia began in the late 1990s, hundreds of thousands of people, including children, have fled into exile. One young Eritrean we recently spoke to described national service as “bad treatment without any end in sight.”

On July 9, in a significant turn of events, Eritrea’s long-serving president, Isaias Afewerki, and Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, signed a declaration announcing “a new era of peace and friendship” between the countries.

Since then, each government has appointed an ambassador to the other country and reopened telephone, road and air connections for the first time in decades. Officials now discuss the possibility of land-locked Ethiopia using Eritrea’s Red Sea ports, unimaginable only a year ago. Ethiopia’s official news agency even announced a friendly football match scheduled for late August.

 

Peace has been a long time coming

In May 1998 a bloody border war erupted, and an estimated 100,000 people, mainly soldiers, are believed to have died and countless civilians were displaced, detained or summarily deported.  While active fighting ended in December 2000, enmity did not: Ethiopia rejected an international border commission’s ruling that the town of Badme, where the war began, was Eritrean territory.

Laetitia Bader - Along with Peace, Eritreans Need Repression to End

Laetitia Bader

President Isaias and Eritrea’s ruling elite have used this “no war no peace” as a justification to hold much of the country’s population largely hostage. Many of those with contrary or critical views of governance were jailed or forced to flee, deemed to have undermined Eritrea’s national security.

Repression is well-entrenched. The president has refused to hold elections since independence in 1993 and to implement the constitution with its bill of rights. The country has no functioning legislature nor independent judiciary.

Eritrea’s horrific prison system is bursting with political prisoners. The government has effectively eliminated independent public criticism. It is one of the leading jailers of journalists in Africa,  and does not permit independent domestic media, non-governmental groups, or opposition political parties. Rare public protests – such as November 2017 protests at a private Islamic school in Asmara against the arrest of the school’s nonagenarian honorary president – are met with mass arrests and occasionally with lethal force.

Freedom of religion, seen as a threat to loyalty to the nation, is severely restricted. Members of “unrecognized” religions are regularly incarcerated until they renounce their faith.

Eritrea’s horrific prison system is bursting with political prisoners. The government has effectively eliminated independent public criticism. It is one of the leading jailers of journalists in Africa, and does not permit independent domestic media, non-governmental groups, or opposition political parties.

Indefinite endless national service — which channels Eritreans, some underage, into either the military or civilian positions — is ultimately the government’s main system of control over the population. Inside, they face serious abuses, including torture, lack of food, and insufficient pay to support a family.  In 2016, a United Nations Commission of Inquiry characterized national service as “enslavement.”

But with the July 9 declaration, the Eritrean government’s– never legitimate justification for its repressive policies and system suddenly disappeared.

In recent weeks, there have been unconfirmed reports in the media of a handful of releases of detainees, including Jehovah’s Witnesses.

But the jury is still out as to whether the government will start to dismantle the systematic repression. Many Eritreans have taken to social media calling for key rights reforms, but so far, such reforms have not occurred.

President Isaias has often been impervious to condemnation for this human rights record, but regional and international entities reengaging with Eritrea should encourage him to take concrete steps to end government repression.

They should urge the government to immediately release the surviving members of a group of 21 journalists and prominent government officials held incommunicado since September 2001, at least 10 of whom are believed to have died in detention, and confirm the whereabouts and conditions of other political prisoners held incommunicado.  The government should also immediately release prisoners held for their religious beliefs, including the patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox church and at least 53 Jehovah’s Witnesses, 3 of whom have been held for 24 years.

International actors should call on the government to cooperate with United Nations’ and African Commission’s independent experts and allow them to visit the country to monitor detention facilities. The government should also make a public commitment to abide by the 1997 constitution, which would provide a framework for more substantial reforms.

Finally, it should announce a timetable for demobilizing national service conscripts and start by immediately releasing those who have served more than five years.

High-level public rapprochement is important, but if Eritrea wants the full benefits of peace, it needs allow its citizens the freedom to enjoy them and give its youth the chance to hope again.

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Excerpt:

Laetitia Bader is a senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch

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Farmer-Herder Conflicts on the Rise in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/farmer-herder-conflicts-rise-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=farmer-herder-conflicts-rise-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/farmer-herder-conflicts-rise-africa/#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2018 15:51:42 +0000 Juliana Nnoko-Mewanu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157073 Juliana Nnoko-Mewanu is a women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch who has done extensive work on land rights issues.

 
This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

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The post Farmer-Herder Conflicts on the Rise in Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Juliana Nnoko-Mewanu is a women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch who has done extensive work on land rights issues.

 
This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

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Winds of Change on Kenya’s Northern Bordershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/winds-change-kenyas-northern-borders/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=winds-change-kenyas-northern-borders http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/winds-change-kenyas-northern-borders/#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2018 15:09:48 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157082 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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At the Global Peace Leadership Conference in Uganda, President Museveni flanked by high level leaders from Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, Inter-Governmental Authority for Development(IGAD). Credit: State House 03 August 2018

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 6 2018 (IPS)

Previously characterised by belligerence, based on competition for resources, the border regions of Eastern Africa can sense the blissful wind of peace approaching.

It is not a wind being blown by strict military enforcement of borders, but rather by the opening up of them, and empowerment of former warring neighbours to find collective coping mechanisms for environmental and economic shocks which have previously driven them to battle.

The charm of soft power as an alternative to aggression and inter-tribal warfare was a key highlight at the 6th annual Global Peace Leadership Conference held in Kampala, and whose theme was Moral and Innovative Leadership: New Models for Sustainable Peace and Development.

In the region, the new paradigm is being inspired by successes of the Kenya-Ethiopia Cross Border Programme, which was launched in December 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and the former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia. In a joint article by Ambassador Amina Mohamed, the former Foreign Minister of Kenya and Dr Tedros Adhnom, the former Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, said, “peace and development initiative offers hope of resolving conflicts in border areas of Kenya and Ethiopia”.

The initiative, driven by the need to foster peace and sustainable development in the cross-border area of Marsabit County, Kenya, and the Borana/Dawa Zones, Ethiopia, is supported by IGAD, the European Union and Japan and implemented by the United Nations family in Kenya and Ethiopia together with local authorities on both sides.

“The programme we are launching today is transformative in its ambition…our task is to end the conflict, make certain that Kenyans and Ethiopians along the border have the same opportunities as those of other citizens in the two countries,” remarked Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta during the launch of the programme.

That programme was ignited by the United Nations, under the leadership of the former Resident Coordinator, Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas. The current Country Team has given it momentum, and it has morphed into what is now recognized as a global best practice.

In an independent assessment, the United Nations University Centre for Policy Research hailed Kenya’s multidimensional cross-border programme for “simultaneously addressing violent extremism, human trafficking, economic development, local governance and inter-communal peace with mutually reinforcing objectives and means”.

The initiative slots in well with the vision of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his report on Peace-building and Sustaining Peace, which observed that UN agencies must “rally stakeholders to action within the entire peace continuum – from prevention, conflict resolution and peacekeeping to peacebuilding and sustainable long-term development”.

The programme has now inspired a similar initiative in what is known as the Karamoja Cluster, also a conflict-prone border region shared by four countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda.

Map of the Karamoja area

On 26 July 2018, ministers from the four countries held consultations in Uganda, where they signed a communique on cooperation for the development of cross-border areas in the Cluster.

It was signed by Uganda’s State Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Hon Musa Ecweru, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and ASAL Areas Hon. Eugene Wamalwa, Ethiopia’s Minister for Livestock and Fisheries Prof Fekadu Beyene and South Sudan’s Minister for Environment and Forestry Hon. Josephine Napwon.

“The conflicts in South Sudan, Congo and Somalia are causing proliferation of arms into Kenya and Uganda, and this is curtailing the development in the area. What we are doing now will give a more lasting solution,” said Uganda’s Minister for Karamoja Affairs Hon. John Byabagambi.

Kenya’s Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said that “peace will not prevail in the absence of basics such as water and food, and in the case of pastoralists, pasture for their herds“.

The Governments of Kenya and Uganda supported by their respective UN Resident Coordinators are developing a concept note that will put in place concrete modalities of cooperation by the affected countries. The mission is to develop the Karamoja Cluster as a single socio-economic zone, with joint policies and programs that will build resilience to overcome resources and erode current fault-lines–critical if this region is to realise SDGs.

The long term vision is that prevention strategies will be driven by private investment as a sustainable pathway to countering inequity and promoting inclusivity for the region’s peripheral communities.

There are already some good vibes coming from the region; last April 2018, leaders from South Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda joined their counterparts from Kenya in the fourth edition of the Turkana Cultural Festival in Lodwar, Kenya.

In place of belligerence, the speeches harped on forging of trade relationships and unifying the region’s populations. Clearly, falling back into the safety of tribal enclaves is now recognised as an outdated sophism.

Slowly but surely, a light of peace is piercing through the Pearl of Africa, and it is sure to cause a rainbow of friendship between communities in the region.

The UN Country Teams in the region have the persistency of purpose, the determination to continue as the ‘sinews of peace’, so that neighbour shall not be forced by socio-economic circumstance to rise against neighbour.

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Jalalabad Attack Claims Life of IOM, IRC Colleagues Among Civilianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/jalalabad-attack-claims-life-iom-irc-colleagues-among-civilians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=jalalabad-attack-claims-life-iom-irc-colleagues-among-civilians http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/jalalabad-attack-claims-life-iom-irc-colleagues-among-civilians/#respond Wed, 01 Aug 2018 15:08:48 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157003 It is with profound sadness that the United Nations family in Afghanistan confirms that an employee of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was killed in yesterday’s attack on the Department of Refugees and Returnees in Jalalabad. Our immediate thoughts are with her family and friends. The United Nations expresses its deep sense of revulsion […]

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By International Organization for Migration
KABUL, Aug 1 2018 (IOM)

It is with profound sadness that the United Nations family in Afghanistan confirms that an employee of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was killed in yesterday’s attack on the Department of Refugees and Returnees in Jalalabad.

Our immediate thoughts are with her family and friends.

The United Nations expresses its deep sense of revulsion at this senseless attack that claimed the lives of at least 13 civilians. Among the 20 others injured was another IOM colleague. The UN wishes him and all the injured a speedy and full recovery.

“I condemn this heinous crime which has already taken the life of one of our brave IOM colleagues in Jalalabad yesterday and left another grievously injured. It is a loss for IOM, our partners and Afghanistan,” said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.

“Equally tragically the attack claimed the lives of at least 13 civilians, including an IRC colleague. My heart goes out to the families of all the victims. Everyone in IOM is thinking of our colleagues working in difficult conditions across the country on behalf of the Afghan people in the aftermath of this senseless attack,” added DG Swing.

Our colleague’s life was taken while she was working in the noble cause of assisting some of the most vulnerable communities in Afghanistan. There is no justification for such acts of terror. She is one of thousands of Afghans who form the backbone of the daily work of the United Nations in the country to help the most in need, supporting development and contributing to the restoration of peace and stability.

This young woman, who was 22, lost her husband in a bombing in Kabul three years ago. She leaves behind a six-year old daughter, now an orphan.

“We mourn the loss of our colleague and, in tribute, commit ourselves to re-double our work to serve Afghanistan and its peoples,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

The deliberate targeting of civilians and the places where they work, such as the department in Jalalabad, is an appalling crime. The architects of this crime must be brought to justice.

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After Elections, Hard Work Starts for Zimbabwe’s Civil Societyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/elections-hard-work-starts-zimbabwes-civil-society/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=elections-hard-work-starts-zimbabwes-civil-society http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/elections-hard-work-starts-zimbabwes-civil-society/#respond Fri, 27 Jul 2018 13:06:15 +0000 Teldah Mawarire http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156923 Teldah Mawarire is a campaigns and advocacy officer with global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

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Women activists in Zimbabwe have long demanded a fair share of power. Credit: Mercedes Sayagues/IPS

By Teldah Mawarire
HARARE, Zimbabwe, Jul 27 2018 (IPS)

For many Zimbabwean voters, casting their ballots on July 30 is sure to be a somewhat surreal experience. For the first time since the country’s independence, the ever-present face of Robert Mugabe will not be staring back at them on the ballot paper.

But that new experience – while perhaps inspiring hopes for positive change among some – is likely to be preceded by an old, familiar feeling of déjà vu. The road to the 2018 general election has been littered with the same potholes of electoral irregularities and restrictive laws of previous polls.

And for Zimbabwe’s embattled civil society, the fact that none of the repressive laws that were used against them have been touched since a bloodless military coup eight months ago is cause for concern.

This vote is proving difficult to call. It’s not the first time the race has seemed too close to call for analysts and opinion pollsters. The 2008 poll posed the same dilemma. It later emerged that the opposition was cheated of victory and a government of national unity among the political opponents was later formed.

The latest survey released by think tank, Afrobarometer last month showed that the ruling Zanu-PF party would get 42%, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) 31% and the voting intentions of the remaining 26% of respondents were unknown.

Whilst these figures create the picture of a competitive race, it does not mean the conditions on the ground are favourable for a fair and credible election.

The incumbent Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s former right-hand man and vice president who took power after the coup, is desperate for a win to rip off the “coup plotter’’ tag on his back.

The opposition, coming from a troubled and fractured past, have been re-energised by emergence of a more youthful leader, Nelson Chamisa and need a win badly to avoid being again relegated to the dustbins of ineffectiveness. The poll’s outcome will be highly contested and could spill over into the courts, if not the streets.

Zimbabweans have been concerned with electoral irregularities, particularly related to a voters’ roll that has not been made fully transparent, and issues concerning the validity of profiles of voters appearing on the roll.

Questions have also been raised around the independence of the poll’s administrators, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and allegations that the printing of the ballot paper was compromised and done without consultation with all contesting parties. Civil society concerns however, go beyond the administration of the electoral process.

Although there is a notable peace and an absence of the politically motivated violence that has hounded Zimbabwean elections since 2000, conditions impacting freedom of assembly, association and expression remain constrained by restrictive legislation.

Zimbabwe’s civil society at home and abroad have no time to rest after the historic election and must already be strategising on giving the next administration a timeline on intentions to open civic space.

Before the coup, CIVICUS Monitor, a tool that tracks threats to civil society in all countries, rated Zimbabwe’s rated civic space as a ‘repressed’. That assessment remains – just one step away from the worst rating: ‘closed’. The Democratic Republic of Congo currently the only nation in the Southern Africa Development Community region regarded as ‘closed’.

On the eve of the election, outstanding human rights issues remain largely untouched and unamended restrictive laws are yet to be aligned to the constitution the country adopted in 2013, remain active, casting doubt on the country’s ability to hold a truly credible and fair election.

This legislation includes the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which was used to persecute and harass journalists. Under AIPPA, it is compulsory for all media houses, foreign and local journalists to be registered with it with restrictive requirements and expensive costs. Even non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that produce publications for small or specialised audiences must be licensed.

Another law needing reform is the Broadcasting Services Act, which in its current form is an impediment to media freedom and the growth of independent media, and has been used by government for political interference in the news media sector.

While the political opposition has been largely able to assemble with less administrative and physical interference from security agents post-Mugabe, the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) remains a huge concern.

Provisions that violate the right to assemble and protest such as protesters’ needing to give police four days’ written notice of an intended demonstration or the power of police to ban a gathering for three months if they believe it would endanger public safety, awkwardly remain.

NGOs will also have to work hard to have the law governing NGO registration and operations amended. The Private Voluntary Organisations Act (PVO) creates a web of bureaucratic red tape for NGO registration, which can take three months to a year Organisations that work to protect LGBTIQ rights are unable to operate openly and require specific legislation protecting their freedom to exist and operate.

It is also no secret that NGOs operating in rural areas at the district level have been routinely and illegally made to secure police clearance and sign a memorandum of understanding with the District Administrator to operate. This control over NGO activities has contributed to the strangling civic space in the rural areas.

And of course, there remains the glaring lack of protection for human rights defenders who have borne the brunt of brutal attacks under Mugabe. For the rights community, it has also not inspired confidence that there is still no meaningful investigation into the case of Itai Dzamara, an activist who disappeared on 9 March 2015.

Whichever way the election results swings, civil society has much work that is essential to holding Mugabe’s successors to the promise of opening civic space, so desperately needed in Zimbabwe.

The post After Elections, Hard Work Starts for Zimbabwe’s Civil Society appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Teldah Mawarire is a campaigns and advocacy officer with global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

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Peace & Equal Political Participation of Women in the DRChttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/peace-equal-political-participation-women-drc/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=peace-equal-political-participation-women-drc http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/peace-equal-political-participation-women-drc/#respond Fri, 27 Jul 2018 12:12:45 +0000 Justine Masika Bihamba http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156920 Justine Masika Bihamba is President of Synergie des Femmes, a women’s organization based in Goma, DRC, and partner of global women’s group Donor Direct Action.

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Congolese Women's Forum Meets in Kinshasa, DRC in Sept 2017

By Justine Masika Bihamba
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 27 2018 (IPS)

I am a women’s human rights defender and President of Synergie des Femmes, a platform of 35 organizations working for the improvement, promotion, defense, respect and protection of women’s rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

We offer particular support to women who are victims of sexual violence, and work towards the establishment of lasting peace in North Kivu in the east of the country.

On July 26th I briefed the United Nations Security Council on the current situation for women in the DRC in the areas of the UN mission (MONUSCO), the growth of insecurity and the increase of cases of sexual violence against women and girls, and the tense political climate following the failure to hold elections before the constitutional deadline.

The recent decision to close some bases of MONUSCO has exposed the civilian population in sensitive areas. We are left in a precarious position. Despite the rapid deployment, interventions often arrive too late, when irreparable damage has already been done.

Following a decrease in financial resources, the Joint Human Rights Office is no longer present on the ground and, as a result, can no longer effectively document the cases of serious human rights violations that are now reported.

We fear disorder during the proposed elections at the end of this year and really hope that MONUSCO will ensure that Congolese police are properly trained so that order can be maintained and that polling stations can be secured. This is extremely important as fair and transparent elections are at the core of ensuring a peaceful and prosperous nation.

Meanwhile, the situation of women – and particularly those victims of sexual violence – is worsening day by day. The increase in armed groups as part of the ongoing war here has meant that mass rapes have continued, while populations have been displaced. In North Kivu alone, cases of rape and violence have increased this year by more than 60%.

The political climate has also made things more dangerous. Things are very tense at the moment as elections were not held before the end of last year as expected. This goes against our constitution.

At the time various demonstrations were shut down by the police, civilian deaths occurred, material damage was extensive (especially convents and Catholic churches), arbitrary arrests took place of the leaders of the citizen movement, of human rights defenders and of opposition politicians.

With only five months to go before the elections are due to take place (again), the political environment continues to be extremely difficult.

In addition to this political instability and the brutal repression of dissident voices, several legal reform projects initiated by the Congolese government have further reduced Congolese freedom of expression and civic spaces. One of these aims to change how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are run here, which could have major ramifications.

Against this backdrop the participation of women in the electoral process – a tried and trusted way of increasing the chance of lasting peace – has remained very low. A problematic electoral law brought in at the end of 2017 is a serious obstacle to our rights and freedoms.

It imposes many constraints, including the requirement of candidates to reach a threshold of support of at least 1% of votes at the national level. As a result, no provincial election nomination file was filed by the deadline date in some constituencies.

This law also discriminates specifically against women in the electoral contest and doesn’t take into account their socio-economic conditions. It states that a deposit of $ 1,000 must be made by candidates. This is an astronomical sum for women and young people living for the most part on an income of less than $1 per day.

UN Security Council Resolution 1325, adopted in October 2000, calls for an increase in the participation of women in all peacebuilding and security efforts. In late 2017, I co-ordinated a group of over 60 women from all provinces of the DRC to make this a reality for Congolese Women.

We set up the Congolese Women’s Forum to be able to achieve this and have pleaded with the government to change this discriminatory law, which is likely to reduce rather than increase women’s political participation in the DRC.

The upcoming elections will also be problematic in terms of how they are likely to be run. The proposed use of the voting machines will cause significant challenges and may lead to fear of electoral fraud. The DRC currently has a population that is 65% illiterate – mostly women and young people – who would have enormous difficulties using these machines.

This is the environment in which we currently live in the DRC. Every day we have new obstacles to overcome but we are also hopeful for a better future. In my statement to the Security Council and Member States I recommended that five steps are taken.

We want them to put pressure on the DRC government to implement policies which truly promote women’s participation in decision-making and women’s candidatures for elections.

We want them to ask the government to respect the freedom of expression, the right to demonstrate and the civic space of the Congolese population, that the New Year’s Eve Agreement, the Constitution and the rule of law are all respected, that MONUSCO restore its bases in sensitive areas to ensure the effective protection of civilians, that it supports the ongoing electoral process and ensures that the Joint Human Rights Office effectively documents human rights violations.

Finally, we recommended that the Security Council really supports civil society organizations that work for the promotion and defence of women’s rights – particularly in training women in leadership to be able to access decision-making positions. This is a key component of ensuring we finally see lasting peace in this country.

The post Peace & Equal Political Participation of Women in the DRC appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Justine Masika Bihamba is President of Synergie des Femmes, a women’s organization based in Goma, DRC, and partner of global women’s group Donor Direct Action.

The post Peace & Equal Political Participation of Women in the DRC appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Silence from Judiciary Increases Self-Censorship, Pakistan’s Journalists sayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/silence-judiciary-increases-self-censorship-pakistans-journalists-say/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=silence-judiciary-increases-self-censorship-pakistans-journalists-say http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/silence-judiciary-increases-self-censorship-pakistans-journalists-say/#respond Thu, 26 Jul 2018 14:53:33 +0000 Aliya Iftikhar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156901 Aliya Iftikhar* is Asia Research Associate at the Committee to Protect Journalists

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Journalists in Pakistan protest against the killing of their colleagues. Credit: Rahat Dar/IPS

By Aliya Iftikhar
ISLAMABAD, Jul 26 2018 (IPS)

When it comes to the military and the judiciary, Pakistan’s journalists are “between a rock and a hard place,” Zohra Yusuf, of the independent non-profit Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, told CPJ.

In recent months the judiciary, which has a history of siding with Pakistan’s powerful military, has remained largely silent amid attempts to censor or silence the press.

Ahead of yesterday’s elections, CPJ documented how journalists who are critical of the military or authorities were abducted or attacked, how the army spokesman accused journalists of sharing anti-state and anti-military propaganda, and how distribution of two of Pakistan’s largest outlets–Geo TV and Dawn–was arbitrarily restricted.

The judiciary, which has power to take up cases on its own, did not intervene on behalf of the press. But it has continued its practice of threatening legal action against its critics.

Some journalists and analysts said that by not taking action, the judiciary has added to a climate of fear and self-censorship.

The judiciary has at times been seen as a strong supporter of democratic values, but Yusuf said the perception among many people in Pakistan is that the judiciary and the military “seem to be on the same page on certain aspects of our democracy.”

“Now … democracy and media are being presented as a problem,” Yusuf said, adding that journalists are bending over backwards to avoid provoking either institution.

Madiha Afzal, an adjunct assistant professor of global policy at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and the author of Pakistan Under Siege: Extremism, Society, and the State, told CPJ she thinks the judiciary is an “all too willing pawn in the military’s hands.” Afzal added, “I also think that it is in broad agreement with the military in its stance on Pakistan’s politics.”

The judiciary did not respond to CPJ’s email and calls requesting comment. Pakistani authorities certainly appear to be taking a tougher stance toward the press.

The country’s media regulator issued a statement this month warning news channels not to air any statements “by political leadership containing defamatory and derogatory content targeting various state institutions, specifically judiciary and armed forces.”

And Ahmad Noorani, a senior journalist with The News, told CPJ that some media houses received instructions from “certain forces” not to cover anything that favored former prime minister Nawaz Sharif or went against the judiciary. Noorani did not provide further details.

Owais Ali, the founder of the Pakistan Press Foundation, said a free media was crucial for free and fair elections. “Whatever the political issues are, they need to be discussed. These include criticisms of the judiciary and the military in the forthcoming elections. The media should not have a price to pay simply for reporting what is being discussed by the politicians and political parties.”

The lack of judicial support does not appear to be linked to court capacity. Pakistan’s chief justice came under criticism from political analysts this year for “judicial activism” — taking on suo motu cases, cases taken on the court’s initiative, Reuters reported. The court has launched inquiries on issues ranging from water shortages, police encounters, and milk prices.

Suo motu cases seem to be taken up “at the drop of a hat,” but when Geo asked the Supreme Court to take on its case, the court refused, Imran Aslam, president of Geo TV, told CPJ, referring to how cable operators arbitrarily blocked the broadcaster’s transmission earlier this year. “I certainly think the judiciary could have done something about Geo.”

The judiciary is supposed to provide justice to the media houses and media workers, but failed to take notice of the situation that the leading news channel of the country was facing, Noorani said. The court could easily have issued an order or at least asked for a report from the relevant regulatory authority, but they didn’t provide any relief to Geo, he said.

Afzal said she thinks the restrictions on Geo and Dawn undermined the outlets’ credibility. “[It] means that many in Pakistan don’t get to hear liberal voices or voices that are critical of the military, which in turn ensures that they remain pro-military and skeptical of liberal voices,” she said.

News outlets that criticize the judiciary often find themselves threatened with legal action. Nearly every major news organization has been served contempt of court notices, Yusuf said.

Last year, Noorani and his paper’s publisher, Jang Group, were served two notices, including one over Noorani’s report on the Inter-services Intelligence. Noorani said the court withdrew the notice after he presented records of his communication and evidence backing the story.

A contempt of court order brought against TV journalist Matiullah Jan and Waqt TV in February, over claims the higher court was insulted on Jan’s talk show, was dropped after the station’s management apologized and Jan said he would exercise more caution, according to Dawn.

Fakhar Durrani, a reporter at The News, said that when he reported last year on judges who were allegedly vying for plots of land that were part of a housing scheme case they were hearing, his organization came under pressure to stop reporting. Durrani, who did not specify where the pressure came from, said he was not able to publish any follow-up stories.

“During that era, my organization was facing contempt of court notices on other issues so they tried not to indulge in any other legal matter,” Durrani said.

Issuing a contempt of court notice to just one news outlet in Pakistan is a sufficient message to all the media houses because it comes from the highest court in the country and there is no way to appeal a Supreme Court order, Noorani said. If the Supreme Court orders the closure of a news station it sends a message to all other media houses to either fall in line or face the consequences, Noorani said.

The uncertainty over what could draw a contempt of court notice exacerbates the situation.

Aslam, of Geo TV, said criticism of any kind is looked upon as almost treasonous. He added, “It’s a scary situation because you don’t know when you’ll be called up in the courts, and this has led us to tread more carefully.”

He added that objective reporting has been skewed in Pakistan because of the constraints “looming” over the media all the time. “What it induces is self-censorship, even if word doesn’t go down to reporters and everybody else, they are looking over their shoulders.”

*Prior to joining CPJ, Aliya Iftikhar was a research assistant at the Middle East Institute and interned at the U.S. Department of State. She has worked with Amnesty International and written for Vice News.

The link to the original article: https://cpj.org/blog/2018/07/silence-from-judiciary-over-media-attacks-increase.php

The post Silence from Judiciary Increases Self-Censorship, Pakistan’s Journalists say appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Aliya Iftikhar* is Asia Research Associate at the Committee to Protect Journalists

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IOM Launches USD 22.2M Appeal for Gedeo, West Guji Displacement Crisis in Ethiopiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/iom-launches-usd-22-2m-appeal-gedeo-west-guji-displacement-crisis-ethiopia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=iom-launches-usd-22-2m-appeal-gedeo-west-guji-displacement-crisis-ethiopia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/iom-launches-usd-22-2m-appeal-gedeo-west-guji-displacement-crisis-ethiopia/#respond Tue, 24 Jul 2018 14:39:56 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156861 Today (24/07), IOM the UN Migration Agency launched an appeal for USD 22,200,000 to respond to the internal displacement crisis in Ethiopia’s Gedeo (SNNPR region) and West Guji (Oromia region) zones. Since April 2018, some 970,000 people have fled their homes due to fighting between communities along the border of the two regions; the vast […]

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IOM constructs safe sanitation facilities for displaced communities in Gedeo zone.
Photo: Olivia Headon/IOM 2018

By International Organization for Migration
DILLA, Ethiopia, Jul 24 2018 (IOM)

Today (24/07), IOM the UN Migration Agency launched an appeal for USD 22,200,000 to respond to the internal displacement crisis in Ethiopia’s Gedeo (SNNPR region) and West Guji (Oromia region) zones. Since April 2018, some 970,000 people have fled their homes due to fighting between communities along the border of the two regions; the vast majority were displaced in June alone.

“Leaving with what little they could carry and typically losing these possessions on their journey to safety, the displaced communities in Gedeo and West Guji are in great need of humanitarian support to help them get through Ethiopia’s cold and rainy season,” said William Lacy Swing, IOM Director General.

“The international community must rally for the people and Government of Ethiopia. Some partners have already begun to do so, and we thank them, but the current funding levels for a sudden onset crisis of this scale – nearly one million people displaced such a short period of time – are nowhere near acceptable,” added Director General Swing.

Since June, IOM has been scaling up its response in Gedeo and West Guji. However, urgent funding is required to continue to provide life-saving assistance. The IOM appeal outlines funding requirements for the next six months in line with the Government’s West Guji-Gedeo response plan.

Many of the displaced population are staying with local communities, while others are sheltering at collective sites like schools, Government properties and disused or unfinished buildings. Those staying in the local community still come to the collective sites during the day to access humanitarian assistance. The collective sites are overcrowded with thousands of people sheltering in buildings not fit for habitation and thousands more are sleeping outside on the muddy ground with only a sheet of tarpaulin to protect them from the cold and wet weather. Both situations raise major concerns from protection and health perspectives.

IOM operations focus on providing humanitarian assistance to displaced populations in collective sites and within host communities through an integrated approach, including core relief distributions, primary health care, shelter and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Through site management support, IOM is facilitating the improvement of humanitarian service delivery, as well as the local authorities’ capacity to address protection concerns in displacement sites. In addition, IOM is supporting the overall humanitarian community’s response by monitoring population movements and needs through its Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM).

In the past two weeks, IOM has distributed over 2,000 blankets and is currently transporting more items to the collective sites like blankets and emergency shelter kits, which include tarpaulin and rope, through a UK Department for International Development (DFID) in-kind donation. For those who are sheltering outside buildings, IOM has begun the construction of 40 communal shelters, of which four have been completed. IOM is also building communal kitchens for the displaced communities at collective sites: five of these have so far been completed.

With so many people sheltering in sites not prepared to host them, access to safe sanitation is another major worry. In just over two weeks, IOM has constructed more than 200 latrines of a planned total of 450. IOM is also promoting safe hygiene practices among the displaced population through the formation of committees, household visits, group sessions and information campaigns.

Health needs are also high but the capacity of local hospitals and clinics to address these needs is outweighed by the sheer number of people displaced in such a small area and short span of time. IOM plans to support local health infrastructure through staff and mobile health clinics.

Access the detailed appeal here.

For more information, please contact Olivia Headon in Ethiopia, Tel: +251902484062, Email: oheadon@iom.int

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