Inter Press ServiceDemocracy – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 22 Jul 2017 20:24:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Parliamentarians Study Nexus of Youth, Refugees and Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/parliamentarians-study-nexus-youth-refugees-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=parliamentarians-study-nexus-youth-refugees-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/parliamentarians-study-nexus-youth-refugees-development/#respond Fri, 21 Jul 2017 18:04:54 +0000 Safa Khasawneh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151397 Held for the first time in the Arab world, an annual meeting of Asian and Arab Parliamentarians examined how regional conflicts hinder the development of effective policies to achieve sustainable development, particularly as they generate large numbers of refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants. To reach a comprehensive solution, legislators called for examining the roots […]

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Delegates of Asian and Arab Parliamentarians in Amman, Jordan. Credit: Safa Khasawneh

By Safa Khasawneh
AMMAN, Jordan, Jul 21 2017 (IPS)

Held for the first time in the Arab world, an annual meeting of Asian and Arab Parliamentarians examined how regional conflicts hinder the development of effective policies to achieve sustainable development, particularly as they generate large numbers of refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants.

To reach a comprehensive solution, legislators called for examining the roots and background of conflicts in the region."Governments should create societies where people can realize their dreams and achieve their goals." --Acting Chair of JPFP Ichiro Aisawa

The meeting kicked off Tuesday, July 18 in the Jordanian capital Amman with a focus on challenges faced by youth, including high unemployment rates and poor access to healthcare, as well as women’s empowerment and other sustainable development issues.

Around 50 legislators and experts from Asian, Arab and European countries attended the meeting, organized annually by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) which serves as the Secretariat of Japan’s Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP).

This year’s meeting was held under the theme “From Youth Bulge to Demographic Dividend: Toward Regional Development and Achievement of the SDGs” and hosted by the Jordan Senate and Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development (FAPPD).

On behalf of the conference organizers, Acting Chair of JPFP Ichiro Aisawa addressed the gathering, devoting his remarks to the need to address challenges facing youth in the region, which he described as the birthplace of two of the world’s three major monotheistic religions and which has contributed richly to humankind’s cultural heritage.

Aisawa, who is also Director of APDA, called on parliamentarians to work together to realize sustainable development for the good of all.

In his opening statement, Jordan’s Acting Senate President Marouf Bakhit reiterated his country’s commitment to promoting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adding that issues of population and development are at the “forefront” of legislation approved by Arab parliaments and that holding this event is a “positive indicator and a step in the right direction.”

Bakhit stressed that population and development problems in Arab countries are caused mainly by conflicts, wars and forced migration.

Tackling the situation in the region, Vice Chair of JPFP Teruhiko Mashiko said in his keynote “the only solution is to prepare basic conditions for development based on knowledge and understanding of social sciences and integrating youth into the economic system.”

The first session touched on regional challenges, young refugees and means of fostering social stability. Jordan’s MP Dr. Reda Khawaldeh told IPS that building peaceful and stable societies is a responsibility that must be shouldered by the state, religious leaders, media and other civil society organizations.

Picking up on the main theme of Amman meeting – a youth bulge in the region, which describes the increasing proportion of youth relative to other age groups – Aisawa told IPS that frustration is one of the reasons that led angry Arab youth (most of whom were highly educated but with no jobs) to protest in the streets and topple their leaders.

These young men had lost their hopes and dreams of having a decent life, he said, stressing at the same time that this phenomenon is not limited to Arab countries, but could happen anywhere.

“To address this key dilemma, governments should create societies where people can realize their dreams and achieve their goals. Politicians must also advocate policies based on democracy where the rule of law prevails and people identify themselves as constructive stakeholders who participate in building their country rather than be the source of disruption and chaos,” Aisawa said.

The second session discussed the demographic dividend and creating decent jobs for youth. Sharing his experience in this regard, Philippines MP Tomasito Villarin said his country has adopted five local initiatives to give youth quality education essential for enhancing their productivity in the labor market and providing them with decent jobs.

Villarin told IPS that to achieve SDGs, his country must also address other grave challenges, including massive poverty in rural areas and an armed conflict south of Manila.

Focusing on women’s empowerment in the region as a driving force for sustainable development, Jordan’s MP Dr. Sawsan Majali warned that gender inequality is still a major challenge, especially for women with disabilities.

The second day was dedicated to a study visit to a number of sites in the ancient city of Salt, some 30 km northwest of the capital, where participants had the opportunity to explore and share good practices of development projects provided by the Salt Development Corporation (SDC), aimed at supporting community services and raising public awareness.

SDC Director Khaldoun Khreisat said financial and technical support came from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), whose officials saw Salt as a similar model to the Japanese city of Hagi.

During the three-day meeting, close consultations were held on other issues, including the key role parliamentarians play in achieving the SDGs, promoting accountability and good governance.

In his closing address, Vice Chair of JPFP Hiroyuki Nagahama stressed that politicians are accountable for the outcome of their policies and they have the responsibility and power to build a society where everybody can live in dignity.

At the end of meeting, Algerian MP Abdelmajid Tagguiche proposed the establishment of a committee to follow up and implement recommendations and outcomes of the conference.

As the curtain came down on July 20, a draft statement was issued calling for examining causes of conflicts in the region to achieve the SDGs, create decent jobs for youth and provide societies with health care and gender equality.

APDA was established on Feb. 1, 1982 and since that time it has engaged in activities working towards social development, economic progress, and the enhancement of welfare and peace in the world through studying and researching population and development issues in Asia and elsewhere.

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Lawmakers in Europe Want the UN to Debate a Parliamentary Assembly. When Will Governments Follow?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/lawmakers-europe-want-un-debate-parliamentary-assembly-will-governments-follow/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lawmakers-europe-want-un-debate-parliamentary-assembly-will-governments-follow http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/lawmakers-europe-want-un-debate-parliamentary-assembly-will-governments-follow/#respond Thu, 20 Jul 2017 16:35:06 +0000 Andreas Bummel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151380 Andreas Bummel is Director of Democracy Without Borders and Coordinator of the Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly

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Andreas Bummel is Director of Democracy Without Borders and Coordinator of the Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly

By Andreas Bummel
BERLIN, Jul 20 2017 (IPS)

Earlier this month, the European Parliament adopted its annual recommendations on the European Union’s policy at the upcoming session of the United Nations General Assembly that begins in September.

Cedit: UN Photo

The document pointed out that the EU “should play a proactive part in building a United Nations that can contribute effectively to global solutions, peace and security, human rights, development, democracy and a rule-of-law-based international order.”

Among other things, the European Parliament called on EU governments to foster a debate “on the topic of establishing a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly with a view to increasing the democratic profile and internal democratic process of the organisation and to allow world civil society to be directly associated in the decision-making process.”

For more than twenty years the European Parliament has been pushing for a UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA). Six years ago it called on EU governments to promote its establishment.

The Council’s working group on the UN had a brief internal discussion at the time and concluded that the creation of a UNPA would imply a modification of the UN’s Charter which was considered unrealistic. It was also said that it would be a paradox for the UN to establish a UNPA since there are member states that do not have a democratically elected parliament. Finally, the point was made that a UNPA would entail high costs that the UN and governments would be unable to bear.

The Council did not engage with the parliament or anyone else pertaining these and other arguments. Its consideration of the issue was superficial. Ironically, it is easier for the UN to create a UNPA than to add just one single seat to the UN Security Council. Other than the Council seemed to believe, while the latter indeed requires an amendment of the Charter, the former clearly does not.

A UNPA can be created according to Article 22 which allows the General Assembly to establish subsidiary bodies as it deems necessary to fulfill its work. A UNPA could be seen as part of the assembly’s “revitalization”, a topic that has been pursued for long but did not yield much results so far.

Each year, Freedom House in Washington D.C. publishes its assessment of democracy in the world and today nearly two thirds of UN member states are considered to be “electoral democracies”. The foundation warns, however, that democracy is increasingly under threat by populist and nationalistic forces as well as authoritarian powers.

Proponents of a UNPA keep pointing out that giving parliamentarians a voice at the UN would help strengthening democracy especially in countries where it is still weak and under pressure. Opposition politicians certainly would benefit from a seat in a UNPA and the international exposure that would go along with it.

After all, it has been a key argument that if the UN’s promotion of democracy is to be credible, the world organization itself needs to democratize as well. The establishment of a UNPA could also be understood as a response to Sustainable Development Goal 16. SDG 16 targets include the development of “effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels” and ensuring “responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.” Why should the UN, of all things, be excluded from this?

A UN parliamentary body could be a useful complement to the High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development in order to review the implementation of the SDGs.

At the beginning, a UNPA need not be a monumental investment. It depends on the specifics. So far, neither the Council of the EU or anyone else has come up with a thorough calculation. How can you argue that the costs would be too high if you never calculated them in the first place?

Under US President Donald Trump multilateralism and UN funding are under threat. This should be a wake-up call. To a large degree, a UNPA would be educational. It would bring the UN closer to lawmakers in the capitals and could help strengthen budgetary support of UN member states. In the long run, strengthening the UN’s democratic profile could turn out to be a good investment.

When she was an Italian deputy, the EU’s High Representative on Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, endorsed a UNPA and last year she confirmed that she still believes that it “could be a very useful tool.”

For a long time, EU governments have been ignoring the European Parliament’s endorsement of a UNPA. Will it be different this time?

Although a debate on this topic is not unrealistic, it is premature to expect that there will be a formal push in the upcoming session of the UN General Assembly. Most UN member states, including those from the EU, never looked into the concept of a UNPA in a serious way and will have to do their homework first.

Support like it was expressed by Malta’s foreign minister George Vella, who was succeeded last month, or by the cabinet of Italy’s foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni, who is now Italy’s Prime Minister, was the exception.

In May an informal meeting in New York hosted by the Canadian UN mission in collaboration with the international Campaign for a UNPA brought together representatives of 12 governments for a briefing on the proposal. This was a sign of growing interest.

More such informal meetings seem to be the most likely way forward for the time being. In the process, several EU governments – and other UN member states – may declare their support in one way or another which eventually could bring it on the EU’s and the UN’s agenda.

In particular, it will be interesting to see what position the new French government under President Emmanuel Macron will take.

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In the New World Order, Asia Is Rising, Says Pakistan’s UN Envoyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/new-world-order-asia-rising-says-pakistans-un-envoy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-world-order-asia-rising-says-pakistans-un-envoy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/new-world-order-asia-rising-says-pakistans-un-envoy/#respond Wed, 19 Jul 2017 18:44:56 +0000 Barbara Crossette http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151363 When Maleeha Lodhi arrived at the United Nations in 2015 as Pakistan’s ambassador, she brought with her a broad background in academia, journalism and diplomacy: a Ph.D. in political science from the London School of Economics, where she later taught political sociology; the first woman to edit major newspapers in Pakistan; ambassador to the United […]

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Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN, presiding over a General Assembly session, May 5, 2017. In an interview, Lodhi said the UN imbued nations with a “spirit of cooperation.” Credit: UN/Photo

By Barbara Crossette
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19 2017 (IPS)

When Maleeha Lodhi arrived at the United Nations in 2015 as Pakistan’s ambassador, she brought with her a broad background in academia, journalism and diplomacy: a Ph.D. in political science from the London School of Economics, where she later taught political sociology; the first woman to edit major newspapers in Pakistan; ambassador to the United States twice and once as Pakistan’s high commissioner in London.

In a sense, that background is all coming together at the UN.

While Lodhi’s diplomatic priority must be putting Pakistan’s interests first, she said in an interview in her office at the Pakistani UN mission on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, she also finds time to focus on global perspectives, which makes the UN a great assignment.

From her base in New York, Lodhi stays actively involved in a number of international think tanks, including the Institute of Strategic Studies and the Middle East Center at the LSE, both in London. She is also a member of the UN Disarmament Commission and the global agenda council of the World Economic Forum.

In the interview, Lodhi ranged over Pakistan’s reputation in the UN arena, the increasing role of China in development across Asia, the rise of Islamophobia and the sad state of Western responses to an unprecedented world refugee crisis.

Although Pakistan’s national priorities remain predominant — Lodhi mentioned counterterrorism, sustainable economic development, relations with India and the decades-long impasse over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir — the UN has another 192 nations with their own interests. The rapid, spontaneous evolution of a new world order means every nation needs friends to meet the challenges.

“When you come to the UN, you see the priorities of other nations, and the dynamics at play, and the crises that are occurring,” she said. “The best thing about [the UN] is that it encourages a spirit of cooperation, and I think that’s extremely essential in the challenging times that we live in. The United Nations is about negotiating as part of a bloc of countries. No country here negotiates on its own for obvious reasons, because you need the support of other countries.”

The UN displays global changes in sharp relief, Lodhi suggested, and the West must recognize that these developments beg for a rethinking of old assumptions about international power structures.

“At a time when we see the rise of Asia — and this being described as Asia’s century — the West needs to go back to the drawing board and revisit the very notion of an international community,” she said.

Maleeha Lodhi was born into a well-to-do family in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s largest province, Punjab, and the center of the country’s cultural traditions and base for its most prominent human-rights activists and groups. That includes the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a nongovernmental group.

She has credited her career partly to her parents’ emphasis on education. But her personality came into play early. She is known to be tough but gracious, meticulous in her scholarship while outspoken in promoting Pakistan. An Indian commentator suggested that Lodhi may have been sent to the UN to keep India from getting a permanent Security Council seat, though the Council is a long way from reform and expansion.

Decades ago, Lodhi became a good friend and adviser to Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s first female prime minister, who first appointed her ambassador to the United States in 1993-1996. She served as ambassador to the US again, from 1999 to 2002, under the military government of President Pervez Musharraf.

Her years in Washington, and later in fellowships at Harvard and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, would have demonstrated to anyone that Pakistan had serious critics across the US government and research organizations.

Under Abdul Qadeer Khan, who headed Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, Pakistan was found to have shared the technology he acquired while studying and working in Europe (or help given to him by China) with North Korea, Libya and Iran. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2004 for his black-market operations but pardoned almost immediately by General Musharraf and placed under house arrest until 2009.

Asked if Pakistan’s however-notorious past relations with North Korea and China, which is the country’s biggest development aid donor, had led to any outside requests for Pakistani information on the North Korean nuclear program or suggestions that Pakistani experts might be tapped to give advice with China on the current nuclear crisis with the Kim Jong Un regime, Lodhi said no.

Pakistan is often portrayed as an oppressive Islamic society, harsh on women and minorities, a record that is increasingly shared by neighboring India. The Pakistani government and intelligence services have also been accused of having created the Taliban, though little is said or remembered of Islamabad’s earlier hosting — with full US support — of the disparate armies of the Afghan mujahedeen, who took power after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. The remnants of these warlord-led militias in Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance continue to create political havoc in Kabul.

The attitude toward Pakistan is much more positive at the UN, Lodhi said.

“Contrary to the impression given by the negative media [particularly in the US], at the United Nations you’ll find the total antithesis. If you look at Pakistan’s position within this international community, it is one of enormous respect,” she said. She noted that the country has played a key role at the UN “on all three pillars: peace and security, human rights/humanitarian action and development.”

“We have consistently remained among the top three troop contributors to UN peacekeeping,” she said. “This has been the case since 1960 onwards.” Lodhi added that much of the current deployment of Pakistani soldiers is in Africa, “where they are needed most.”

On the humanitarian front, Lodhi points to Pakistan’s record on refugee assistance.

“We’ve always pointed out that the Western countries need to show a bigger heart,” she said. “They have a big wallet, but they need to match that wallet with a bigger heart. We didn’t have much of a wallet in Pakistan, but we continue to host over two million Afghan refugees. At the peak, we had more than three million. We continue to do that, and we’ve done that for 35 years.”

Pakistan, the world’s second-most-populous Muslim majority nation after Indonesia, plays a key role in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or OIC, and its voting bloc at the UN, Lodhi said. Among the concerns of Muslims, she said, are the unfulfilled resolutions on Kashmir, still a disputed territory between Pakistan and India; and on Palestine.

“There’s such a similarity between the cases of Palestine and Kashmir, both involving Muslim nations, both involving big power politics that stood in the way and continue to stand in the way of implementation of those resolutions.”

As a Muslim, Lodhi sees Islamophobia and xenophobia as “new forms of racial discrimination,” she said. “This is the contemporary expression of effort to discriminate against people of a certain faith who also happen to be people of a certain color. Here, also, Pakistan has been active at the United Nations, raising the issue.”

China looms large in the ambassador’s perception of the most significant global changes happening on the horizon, starting with the shifting relationship between Islamabad and Beijing.

“Traditionally, it was a defense and strategic dimension that was dominant in the relationship,” Lodhi said. “Now that relationship has morphed into a much more wide-based relationship. The defense-strategic relationship is there, but in addition, there is a very strong — I would say, much stronger — economic and investment orientation because Pakistan is the pivot of China’s One Belt, One Road. We hope to be the beneficiary in a mutually advantageous way.”

The Chinese initiative was announced in 2013 by President Xi Jinping. It is a breathtakingly ambitious program involving road, rail and sea links connecting traders and investors across Central Asia, parts of South and Southeast Asia, two seas — the South China Sea and Indian Ocean –and, ultimately, Europe.

The Chinese, who never think small or pay a lot of attention to critics, have wowed Pakistan, a longtime ally that sees itself as part of “the biggest economic initiative of the 21st century by any nation,” Lodhi said. “People still invoke the Marshall Plan as having in a way created a new paradigm and shifted a whole set of circumstances at that time. But this is gigantic by comparison. It’s not about aid and assistance. It’s about investment. It’s about trade. It’s about energy cooperation.

This has the potential of transforming all of Asia — certainly the 60 countries that are participating, thrusting them into a new era of prosperity and mutual cooperation.”

(*Brought to IPS readers courtesy of PassBlue, online independent coverage of the UN, a project of the Ralph Bunche Institute, City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center)

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Not Just Numbers: Migrants Tell Their Storieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/not-just-numbers-migrants-tell-stories/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=not-just-numbers-migrants-tell-stories http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/not-just-numbers-migrants-tell-stories/#respond Mon, 17 Jul 2017 09:52:11 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151317 Every single day, print and online media and TV broadcasters show images and footage of migrants and refugees adrift, salvage teams rescuing their corpses–alive or dead, from fragile boats that are often deliberately sunk by human traffickers near the coasts of a given country. Their dramas are counted –and told– quasi exclusively in cold figures. […]

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By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jul 17 2017 (IPS)

Every single day, print and online media and TV broadcasters show images and footage of migrants and refugees adrift, salvage teams rescuing their corpses–alive or dead, from fragile boats that are often deliberately sunk by human traffickers near the coasts of a given country. Their dramas are counted –and told– quasi exclusively in cold figures.

Every now and then a reporter talks to a couple of them or interviews some of the tens of humanitarian organisations and groups, mostly to get information about their life conditions in the numerous so called “reception centres” that are often considered rather as “detention centres” installed on both shores of the Mediterranean sea.

How to participate in IOM “i am a migrant” campaign


Answer a few questions:
- Country of origin/ current country/occupation,
- At what age did you leave your country and why (and where did you go to)?
- What was your first impression?
- What do you miss from your country?
- What do you think you bring to the country you're living in?
- What do you want to do/what do you actually do for your country of origin? (Example) What's your greatest challenge right now?
- Do you have a piece of advice you'd like to give to the people back in your country?
- And to those living in your host country?
- Where is home for you?
- Share a high-resolution picture of yourself

SOURCE: IOM

It is a fact that their numbers are shocking: 101,417 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 through 9 July, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reported. Of this total, 2,353 died.

Beyond the figures, migrants and refugees live inhumane drama, are victims of rights abuse, discrimination, xenophobia and hatred–often encouraged by some politicians. Let alone that tragic realty that they fall easy pry to human traffickers who handle them as mere merchandise. See: African Migrants Bought and Sold Openly in ‘Slave Markets’ in Libya..

On top of that, another UN organisation—the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that the Central Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe is among the world’s deadliest and most dangerous migrant routes for children and women.

“The route is mostly controlled by smugglers, traffickers and other people seeking to prey upon desperate children and women who are simply seeking refuge or a better life,” it reports. See: A Grisly Tale of Children Falling Easy Prey to Ruthless Smugglers.

On this, Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe, said that this route “is mostly controlled by smugglers, traffickers and other people seeking to prey upon desperate children and women who are simply seeking refuge or a better life.”

Moreover, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has estimated that 7 of 10 victims of human traffickers are women and children.

True that statistics help evaluate the magnitude of such an inhumane drama. But, is this enough?

1,200 Migrants Tell Their Dreams and Realities

2,716 kms from home. “I’ll probably go back to Senegal to use what I have learnt here (Niger) to contribute to my country’s development and to Africa as a whole” – Fatou. Read her story. Credit: IOM/Amanda Nero

In a singular initiative, IOM launched “i am a migrant” – a platform to promote diversity and inclusion of migrants in society.

3,385 kms from home. “Before, they used to ask how I came here. Now they ask migrants why they came” – Jasmine. Occupation: Law-maker. Current Country: Republic of Korea. Country of Origin: Philippines. Read her story. Credit: IOM

It’s specifically designed to support volunteer groups, local authorities, companies, associations, groups, indeed, anyone of goodwill who is concerned about the hostile public discourse against migrants, says IOM.

i am a migrant” allows the voices of individuals to shine through and provides an honest insight into the triumphs and tribulations of migrants of all backgrounds and at all phases of their migratory journeys.”

“While we aim to promote positive perceptions of migrants we do not shy away from presenting life as it is experienced. We seek to combat xenophobia and discrimination at a time when so many are exposed to negative narratives about migration – whether on our social media feeds or on the airwaves.”

The IOM campaign uses the testimonials of migrants to connect people with the human stories of migration. Thus far, it has seen 1,200 profiles published. The anecdotes and memories shared on the platform help us understand what words such as “integration”, “multiculturalism” and “diversity” truly mean.

Through stories collected by IOM teams around the world, “diversity finally finds a human face.” While inviting migrants to share their stories with its teams, IOM informs that “i am a migrant” is part of the UN TOGETHER initiative that promotes respect, safety and dignity for everyone who has left home in search of a better life.

Read their stories here.

From the Ashes of World War II

IOM is among the world’s most experienced international agencies dealing with migrants. No wonder– it rose from the ashes of World War Two over 65 years ago.

“In the battle-scarred continent of Europe, no government alone could help survivors who wanted no more than an opportunity to resume their lives in freedom and with dignity. The first incarnation of IOM was created to resettle refugees during this post-war period,” it reminds.

The agency’s history tracks the man-made and natural disasters of the past over 65 years – Hungary 1956; Czechoslovakia 1968; Chile 1973; the Viet Nam boat people 1975; Kuwait 1990, Kosovo and Timor 1999; the 2003 invasion of Iraq; the 2004 Asian tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and Haiti’s 2010 earthquake.

Now under the United Nations umbrella as part of its system since 2016, IOM quickly grew from a focus on migrant and refugee resettlement to become the world’s leading inter-governmental organisation dedicated to the well-being, safety and engagement of migrants.

Over the years, IOM has grown into 166 member states. Its global presence has expanded to over 400 field locations. With over 90 per cent of its staff deployed in the field, it has become a lead responder to the world’s worst humanitarian emergencies.

Shall these facts –and the stories migrants tell—help awaken the consciousness of those European politicians who ignore the fact that their peoples were once migrants and refugees as a consequences of wars their predecessors provoked? And that the migration agency was born for them?

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The Arab Youth Bulge and the Parliamentarianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/arab-youth-bulge-parliamentarians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=arab-youth-bulge-parliamentarians http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/arab-youth-bulge-parliamentarians/#respond Thu, 13 Jul 2017 16:26:37 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151300 More than ever before, the Arab region now registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges such as extremely high unemployment rates –more than half of all regional jobless population–, and inadequate education and health provision, in particular among young women. These challenges come amidst increasing population pressures, advancing drought and desertification, and […]

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The Arab region registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges, such as high unemployment and inadequate education

Students from Al-Amal Preparatory School for Girls in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, participate in psychosocial support activities. Credit: © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Sarraj

By IPS World Desk
ROME/AMMAN, Jul 13 2017 (IPS)

More than ever before, the Arab region now registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges such as extremely high unemployment rates –more than half of all regional jobless population–, and inadequate education and health provision, in particular among young women.

These challenges come amidst increasing population pressures, advancing drought and desertification, and alarming growing water scarcity, all worsening as a consequence of climate change.

One of the main consequences is an increasing social unrest like the one that led to so the so-called Arab Spring in 2011. Let alone massive migration–now it is estimated that 25 to 35 per cent of Arab youth appear to be determined to migrate. (See: What Future for 700 Million Arab and Asian Youth?).

What to Do?

More than 100 Arab and Asian legislators are set to focus on these and other related challenges in Amman, Jordan, during the Asian and Arab Parliamentarians Meeting and Study Visit on Population and Development (18-20 July 2017).

Organised by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA), which is the Secretariat of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP), in close consultation with Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development (FAPPD), participants have been selected based on their needs for capacity enhancement and priority policy interventions where knowledge-sharing can be most effective.

According to APDA, over the past decades, while the Arab region has shown remarkable socio-economic improvement including education and health, it has faced profound changes and challenges. Among them is the “youth bulge,” which describes the increasing proportion of youth in relative to other age groups.

The Arab region registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges, such as high unemployment and inadequate education

Students at the Jalazone Basic School watch a performance by ‘Clowns 4 Care’. Credit: © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Riham Jafary

Such increase, together with overall Arab population pressures, has resulted in an unprecedented youth population growth in the region’s history, it adds.

One of the most challenging issues facing young Arabs are the high-unemployment rates. “The region has one of the highest regional youth unemployment rate seen anywhere in the world,” it warns, adding that in 2009, more than 20 per cent of Arab youth were unable to find a job, which constituted more than half of the total unemployment.

Such high youth unemployment, combined with a demographic youth bulge, provoked the Arab Spring, a civil uprising mainly by Arab youths, and regional instability, according to APDA.

Moreover, despite overall progress in the health sector in many Arab countries over the past years, Arab youth still suffer from inadequate health provision and poor access to health facilities, lack of access to health information and services, especially for reproductive health.

“This is especially true for young women, youth in rural areas, and youth with disabilities and putting many in a vulnerable situation. “

The Youth Bulge

Organised under the theme “From Youth Bulge to Demographic Dividend: Toward Regional Development and Achievement of the SDGs”, the Amman meeting aims at enhancing the roles of parliamentarians in enacting legislation to formulate policies and mobilize budget that takes population issues into account is a driver to promote socio-economic development.

In fact, legislators have a significant part to play in linking demographic dimensions with sustainable development and turning them into advantages to produce socio-economic outcomes.

“For instance, the youth bulge presents not only development challenges but also opportunities, if appropriate policies are adopted to invest in the youth and reap the full potential of them. “

The Amman event will be followed by one in India on mid-September, and another one in the Republic of Korea towards the end of October 2017.

The Asian Population and Development Association has supported activities of parliamentarians tackling population and development issues for 35 years.

This time, in close consultation with Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development and its Secretariat in Amman, Jordan, the event is intended to highlight and call attention of Asian and Arab parliamentarians to population perspectives in the 2030 Agenda.

As well, it will focus on parliamentarians’ important roles and tasks in addressing population issues aligned with the new goals and targets, and related policies and programmes that advance social inclusion and population stability in the region.

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Promoting Sustainable Population Growth, Key to Raising Human Rights Standardshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/promoting-sustainable-population-growth-key-raising-human-rights-standards/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=promoting-sustainable-population-growth-key-raising-human-rights-standards http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/promoting-sustainable-population-growth-key-raising-human-rights-standards/#respond Tue, 11 Jul 2017 15:31:57 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151237
Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Promoting Sustainable Population Growth, Key to Raising Human Rights Standards

Two women and a baby in a village near the city of Makeni, in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone. Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Switzerland, Jul 11 2017 (IPS)

The world population has witnessed a remarkable growth during the recent decades. In 1965, it stood at 3.3 billion people. In 2017 –52 years later– the global population reached a staggering 7.5 billion people corresponding to more than a doubling of the Earth’s residents over the last half-century.

Humans have been blessed with access to natural resources such as water, food and rare minerals that have been indispensable to the evolution and to the progress of humanity since time immemorial.

Nonetheless, the rapid increase of the world population is raising again Malthusian concerns. The Earth’s resources are finite and cannot sustain the current population growth rate in the long run; the Earth’s population is set to grow to 9.8 billion people by 2050. “When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.”

This is tantamount to saying that world population during the post WWII century will increase 3 times as much since man’s appearance on our planet. A Native American saying reminds us that uncontrolled population growth and excessive use of resources can leave the world empty-handed:

“When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.”

The 2017 World Population Day is an important occasion to raise awareness on contemporary unsustainable consumption patterns.

According to the United Nations, this year’s World Population Day will coincide with the 2017 Family Planning Summit that will focus inter alia on family planning among the world’s most marginalized and vulnerable women.

Preventative family planning is a vehicle for promoting sustainable population growth and for enhancing the status of women.

The “Protection of the Family” resolution adopted on 22 June 2017 by the United Nations upholds international human rights standards on the right to life and the right to family life, and is a good starting-point to further promoting sustainable population growth through family planning.

Child marriage is considered as a major triggering factor worsening population pressure around the world. It is referred to as a major problem in numerous countries located in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and even in Europe.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

The charity “Girls not Brides“ estimates that 1 out of 3 girls in the developed world are married before the age of 18. It also estimates that approximately 700 million women alive today were married when they were children.

According to the World Bank and the International Centre for Research on Women, child marriage accelerates population growth as women marrying before the age of 18 are prone to having more children than women marrying at a later age.

Child marriage also discourages women from pursuing higher education as their prospects of completing education diminishes drastically. In many cases, girls marrying at an early age are left with no other option than to drop out of school. This impedes the prospects for achieving economic empowerment owing to the marginalization of girls and of women.

Lack of access to family planning also remains a major concern in many countries. The 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action called upon member states of the United Nations (UN) to improve access to family planning services in an effort to resolve issues related to overpopulation.

The 1994 Cairo Declaration on Population & Development likewise called for constrained efforts to strengthen family planning particularly in the developed world. Nonetheless, the UNFPA estimates that approximately 225 million women “are not using safe and effective family planning methods.”

In order to address these challenges, I appeal to UN member States to implement concrete plans to address target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This target requires the world community to eliminate all forms of harmful practices including early and forced child marriage to advance the status of girls and women worldwide.

Addressing child marriage would further advance gender equality, increase access to education and improve the social status of girls and women. Child marriage is considered as a violation of human rights and must be eliminated in all its forms.

Enhancing family planning policies enables societies to cope with population pressures by bringing down the fertility rate to a sustainable level. This would improve the economic well-being of families and alleviate poverty and inequality. The economic burden on families would be reduced as there would be fewer mouths to feed.

However, countries should avoid implementing family planning policies reducing the fertility level below the 2.1 reproduction rate.

Addressing the depopulation of ageing advanced societies by fostering migration of population from high population growth developing countries is therefore key to optimizing growth potential and thus to move development forward.

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A Global Call for Journalists’ Safetyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/global-call-journalists-safety/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-call-journalists-safety http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/global-call-journalists-safety/#respond Sun, 09 Jul 2017 07:20:56 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151224 The UN system and its member states must develop policies to protect journalists and end impunity for crimes against them, said key stakeholders during a meeting. A multi stakeholder consultation held in Geneva brought together representatives from governments, civil society, media, and academia to discuss developments in the area of safety of journalists and the […]

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The UN system and its member states must develop policies for the safety of journalists and end impunity for crimes against them

Lusaka-based journalists march on the Great East Road campaigning for the attacks against journalists to stop. Credit: Kelvin Kachingwe/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 9 2017 (IPS)

The UN system and its member states must develop policies to protect journalists and end impunity for crimes against them, said key stakeholders during a meeting.

A multi stakeholder consultation held in Geneva brought together representatives from governments, civil society, media, and academia to discuss developments in the area of safety of journalists and the issue of impunity.

“Too many journalists are imprisoned for the wrong reasons. Too many journalists are forced to flee their countries. Women journalists face particular forms of harassment. Murder remains the most tragic form of censorship,” said UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova to participants.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), some 1,246 journalists have been killed since 1992. The deadliest countries were those in conflict situations including Iraq, Syria, Philippines, and Somalia.

There were also almost 260 journalists in jail at the end of 2016, the most CPJ has ever documented. Turkey is the world’s leading jailer of journalists with over 145 imprisoned journalists, more than China, Egypt, and Iran combined.

As censorship tactics become more complex, new challenges have arisen for journalists, underscoring the need to protect journalists and end impunity.

“Online attacks now occur at a frequency and scale that we’ve never experienced before. We need new ways to protect journalists, to deal with what technology has enabled because computational propaganda means to stifle any challenge or dissent against power,” said CEO of Philippines newspaper Rappler Maria Ressa during the consultation.

In an effort to address these complex issues, stakeholders formulated numerous recommendations to reinforce and improve the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity adopted by the UN Chief Executives Board in 2012.

Among the main challenges highlighted by stakeholders was how to translate the UN Plan of Action into national policies and practices.

“We need to reboot our thinking of the UN Plan to bridge the gap between the progress made at the international level and the situation on the ground,” said Executive Director of International Media Support at the meeting organised by UNESCO and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information Frank La Rue stressed the importance of governments to set up national mechanisms for the safety of journalists and the report on such policies to help end impunity for attacks against journalists.

Participants also emphasized the importance of UN leadership and the strengthening of the UN system to better address journalists’ safety, including enhancing inter-agency coordination and the mainstreaming of safety issues in agencies’ programming.

They also urged making better use of existing avenues and mechanisms in the UN system in order to improve monitoring and reporting on attacks against journalists, especially in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Within the internationally agreed agenda is goal 16 which calls for the creation of peaceful and inclusive societies with effective and accountable institutions and highlights the need to ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms.

Journalist safety and ending impunity are therefore essential to achieve this goal.

The recommendations will be finalised into a non-binding outcome document to help inform stakeholder actions in the future.

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Governments Support Trump’s Aim to Block Central American Migrantshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/governments-support-trumps-aim-block-central-american-migrants/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=governments-support-trumps-aim-block-central-american-migrants http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/governments-support-trumps-aim-block-central-american-migrants/#respond Mon, 03 Jul 2017 07:01:58 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151112 Trying to make it into the United States as an undocumented migrant is not such an attractive option anymore for Moris Peña, a Salvadoran who was deported from that country in 2014. “The situation in the United States is getting more and more difficult,” the 39-year-old construction worker from Chalchuapa, a city in the west […]

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Chilean President’s Apology to the Mapuche People Considered “Insufficient”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/chilean-presidents-apology-mapuche-people-considered-insufficient/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chilean-presidents-apology-mapuche-people-considered-insufficient http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/chilean-presidents-apology-mapuche-people-considered-insufficient/#respond Thu, 29 Jun 2017 01:27:00 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151087 Chilean President Michelle Bachelet’s formal apology to the country’s Mapuche Indians, for the “mistakes and atrocities” committed against them by the Chilean state, is seen by indigenous and social activists in the central region of Araucanía – the heartland of the Mapuche people – as falling short. Native leaders in that region are calling for […]

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Representatives of the Mapuche, Lonko and Machi people attend the raising of the flag in the Plaza de Armas in Vilcún, 700 km south of Santiago, one of the numerous ceremonies held in Chile on Jun. 24, declared a national holiday as We Tripantu, the Mapuche new year. Credit: Mirna Concha/IPS

Representatives of the Mapuche, Lonko and Machi people attend the raising of the flag in the Plaza de Armas in Vilcún, 700 km south of Santiago, one of the numerous ceremonies held in Chile on Jun. 24, declared a national holiday as We Tripantu, the Mapuche new year. Credit: Mirna Concha/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Jun 29 2017 (IPS)

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet’s formal apology to the country’s Mapuche Indians, for the “mistakes and atrocities” committed against them by the Chilean state, is seen by indigenous and social activists in the central region of Araucanía – the heartland of the Mapuche people – as falling short.

Native leaders in that region are calling for concrete actions and policies with regard to key questions such as their demands for self-determination, respect for their rights to their ancestral land, water use rights, and an end to violence against indigenous people.

The latest incident took place on Jun. 14, when members of the carabineros militarised police used tear gas during a raid in a school in the town of Temucuicui, which affected a number of schoolchildren and local residents.

On Jun. 27, lawyers at the government’s National Human Rights Institute filed legal action on behalf of the schoolchildren in that Mapuche town of 120 families, in the region of Araucanía.“While the question of relations between the state and indigenous people is fundamentally political, any kind of self-determination must necessarily be accompanied by management of and access to economic resources. These are the most marginalised parts of the country, and are also paradoxically where the most profitable industries operate. That is immoral.” -- Carlos Bresciani

“This apology and acknowledgment that mistakes, and especially atrocities, have been committed is important,” said Adolfo Millabur, mayor of the town of Tirúa, the hub of the Mapuche people’s ancestral territory, with respect to the Jun. 23 request for forgiveness by the socialist president, during the launch of a Plan for Recognition and Development of Araucanía.

“I think it is positive that a president of Chile has recognised mistakes and above all atrocities committed after the Chilean state’s invasion of Mapuche territory started in 1860, in the misnamed ‘Pacification of Araucanía’,” he said.

The “Pacification of Araucanía” was a brutal military campaign by the Chilean army and settlers that ended in 1881 with the defeat of the Mapuche people, leaving tens of thousands of indigenous people dead and leading to the reduction of Mapuche territory from 10 million to just half a million hectares.

But Millabur called for “concrete measures to repair the damage caused” and said “the demilitarisation of the area would be a good gesture.”

“Children are suffering, there are victims of all kinds, Mapuche people have died, and there is no indication of how the state is going to act in the immediate future, if it is going to continue to militarise the area as it is doing now,” he added.

The Association of Municipalities with Mapuche Mayors acknowledged in a communiqué that Bachelet’s apology “is aimed at gaining a better understanding between the Mapuche people and the state.”

But it also said “this gesture must be accompanied by concrete developments such as new forms and methods of dialogue, a different approach by the police in our communities…fair trials for our brothers and sisters, and the non-application of the anti-terrorism law.”

The mayors were referring to the prosecution of Mapuche activists accused of setting trucks on fire, and the continuous raids on Mapuche homes and buildings, such as the one in the school in Temucuicui.

Mapuche activists have been arrested and prosecuted under the 1984 anti-terrorism law, put in place by the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) and still in force, which allows witnesses to conceal their identity while testifying, and provides for longer periods of arrest on remand and extremely heavy sentences.

According to the last census, from 2012, 11 percent of Chile’s population of 17.7 million people identify themselves as indigenous.

Of the country’s 1.9 million indigenous people, 84 percent are Mapuche. Smaller native communities in Chile include the Aymara, Atacameño, Pehuenche and Pascuense people.

Catholic priest Carlos Bresciani, the head of the Jesuit mission in Tirúa, told IPS that “it is laudable that the president apologised, but asking for forgiveness is not enough if it is not accompanied by fair reparations.”

 During the launch of a new plan for the region of Araucania, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet apologised to the Mapuche people on Jun. 23 in the name of the Chilean state, for the “mistakes and atrocities” committed against them. Credit: Chilean Presidency


During the launch of a new plan for the region of Araucania, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet apologised to the Mapuche people on Jun. 23 in the name of the Chilean state, for the “mistakes and atrocities” committed against them. Credit: Chilean Presidency

Bresciani also believes greater dialogue with the Mapuche people will be possible “if more political questions such as self-determination or autonomy are put on the table, and if the dialogue includes all sectors, no matter how radical they might be.”

The priest was referring to the low level of representation of Mapuche leaders on the Araucania Presidential Advisory Commission, appointed by Bachelet in January 2015, which wrapped up its work in January with a package of proposals that included a suggested apology by the president.

“If she wants to talk about collective rights, (Bachelet) should be reminded of the treaties signed by Chile, such as convention 169 of the ILO (International Labour Organisation) and the United Nations Declaration on the rights of indigenous people which, among other things, declares their right to self-determination or autonomy, terms that are absent from her plan for Araucanía,” Bresciani said.

Jorge Pinto, a history professor at the Universidad de La Frontera, a university in Temuco, the capital of Araucanía, who sat on the commission set up by Bachelet, told IPS that the government’s new plan for that region is “sound and complete” and interpreted the apology as a gesture aimed at reactivating dialogue.

“We need more dialogue,” said Pinto. “I agree with the president’s call for more dialogue, without repression, because repression brings more violence.”

But the academic urged “talks with the different actors from the region who have been left out so far.”

He also said “it is not enough to guarantee rights to land ownership and water use. Control over their land by indigenous people and autonomy in managing resources are also necessary.”

“No one is proposing that the forestry and hydroelectric companies pull out of the region,” said Pinto. “What we are saying is that agreements must be reached with the local communities affected by hydropower dams, logging companies and mines, and not with the authorities.”

Jesuit missionary Bresciani said “the main issue is not poverty or marginalisation; it’s political.”

“The proposals talk about economic or development policies,” the priest said. “While the question of relations between the state and indigenous people is fundamentally political, any kind of self-determination must necessarily be accompanied by management of and access to economic resources. These are the most marginalised parts of the country, and are also paradoxically where the most profitable industries operate. That is immoral.”

According to Bresciani, the extreme poverty in Araucanía “is the result of a systematic and planned policy to appropriate resources, under an unsustainable extractivist model. The measures proposed are not aimed at modifying these structural policies, but at continuing to offer money to turn the communities into clients of the existing system.”

Social activists and indigenous leaders admit the value of some of the initiatives included in Bachelet’s plans, such as the official declaration of Jun. 24 – We Xipantu, the Mapuche new year – as a national holiday, and a stronger effort to teach Mapuzungún, the Mapuche language, in schools in their communities.

They also applaud the proposal to explicitly recognise native communities in the projected new constitution, which would replace the current one, which dates back to 1980 and is a legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship which successive democratic governments have failed to replace, implementing limited reforms instead.

Activists say however, that the measures taken so far have been inadequate, and point out that Bachelet’s term ends in just nine months.

That will make it difficult to bring about real actions in areas such as land ownership and water use rights, which are key to a regional economy dominated by the interests of large logging, hydropower and mining companies.

Former right-wing president Sebastián Piñera (2010-2014), who is the favorite in the opinion polls for the November elections as the likely candidate for the Chile Vamos alliance, supports Bachelet’s apology to the Mapuche people.

“I agree with the apology because I believe that throughout history, many injustices have been committed against the Mapuche people,” said Piñera. He added, however, that “the apology is just a gesture, and does not solve any problem.”

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Why Is International Human Rights Law Such an Easy Target?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/international-human-rights-law-easy-target/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=international-human-rights-law-easy-target http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/international-human-rights-law-easy-target/#respond Tue, 27 Jun 2017 14:40:21 +0000 Zeid Raad Al Hussein http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151064 Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaking at the Law Society in London

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Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaking at the Law Society in London

By Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein
LONDON, Jun 27 2017 (IPS)

“Earlier this month, Britain’s Prime Minister called for human rights laws to be overturned if they were to “get in the way” in the fight against terrorism. Specifically, Theresa May said there was a need “to restrict the freedom and movement of terrorist suspects when we have enough evidence to know they are a threat, but not evidence to prosecute them in full in court.”

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

For an increasingly anxious public, shaken by the recent and dreadful terrorist attacks, her remarks no doubt reflected real anger and frustration, but they also seemed intended to strike a chord with a certain sector of the electorate, and it is this expectation that truly worries me.

British Government officials would probably claim the comments should be understood in the context of a tough electoral campaign, and would presumably try and reassure us quietly that the government’s support for human rights remains steadfast and unchallengeable.

Whatever the intention behind her remarks, they were highly regrettable, a gift from a major Western leader to every authoritarian figure around the world who shamelessly violates human rights under the pretext of fighting terrorism. And it is not just the leaders.

A few days ago, citing Prime Minister May, a former Sri Lankan rear admiral delivered a petition to the President of the Human Rights Council. He demanded action be taken against my Office for “forcing” Sri Lanka to undertake constitutional reforms, and for exerting pressure on them to create a hybrid court to try perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity – when in reality, he claimed, all they had engaged in was fighting terrorism.

My first question: Why is international human rights law such an easy target? Why is it so misunderstood, so reviled by some, feared by others, spurned, attacked?

My second: If the Prime Minister meant what she said, which universal rights would the UK be willing to give away in order to punish people against whom there is insufficient evidence to justify prosecution? What, exactly, are the rights she considers frivolous or obstructive? The right to privacy? The right to liberty and security of person? Freedom of expression? Freedom of religion and belief? The principle of non-refoulement? The prohibition of torture? Due process?

And why are we fighting the terrorists in the first place, if not to defend both the physical well-being of people and the very human rights and values the Prime Minister now says she is willing, in part, to sacrifice – in order to fight the terrorists? And where would it stop?

Foregoing some rights now may have devastating effects on other rights later on. If we follow this reasoning to its logical conclusion, the eventual complete unwinding of human rights would transform us – both states and international organizations. To quote Nietzsche: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster”. We would be in danger of becoming virtually indistinguishable from the terrorists we are fighting.

So why did Prime Minister May say this? At least part of the answer may lie in market conditions. Human Rights law has long been ridiculed by an influential tabloid press here in the UK, feeding with relish on what it paints as the absurd findings of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

This viewpoint has some resonance with a slice of the public unaware of the importance of international human rights law – often seen by far too many people as too removed from everyday life, very continental, too lawyerly, too activist, ultimately too weird. How can the Court consider prisoners’ voting rights, and other supposedly frivolous claims, when set against the suffering of victims? The bastards deserve punishment, full stop!

This may be understandable, at some emotional level. However, one should also acknowledge that British ink, reflecting an enormously rich legal tradition, is found throughout the European Convention on Human Rights.

And for good reason. To recognise that even a criminal has rights is the basis of enlightened thought, a principle enshrined in common law. It lies at the very core of human civilization, and distinguishes us from a primeval horde wrapped only in retribution and cruelties. I believe, like so many others, that criminals, too, have fundamental rights, because whatever evil they have wrought, they remain human beings. Frequently their pathological behaviour has been influenced by trauma inflicted on them by others.

Let me take one, perhaps extreme, example. In Iraq, there are people who argue for the killing of as many child soldiers of Da’esh as possible, and would perhaps even support torturing them, given how monstrous their actions have been. But in Sierra Leone, many child followers of Foday Sankoh, who were once hacking off the limbs of other small children, have now largely been rehabilitated, in no small measure due to the efforts of the UN. They were children even while they were terrorists – and they have to be seen as children first.

I seek in the course of this short lecture to examine some of these attacks on international human rights law, on international law generally. You have honoured me with the request that I speak to the legacy of Hugo Grotius. What would Grotius say today, were he to be brought back to life for a few moments? Would he be surprised, almost 400 years after publication of his treatise On the Law of War and Peace, by the overall achievement? The extent of the current backlash? The struggle? Or perhaps he would not be at all surprised by any of it.

While promoting an international “society” governed by law, not by force, he well may have been surprised it took a further 300 years of treaty-making and immense bloodletting, capped by two world wars, before humanity embraced a system of international law. Or, put another way, reason alone had proven itself to be insufficient.

Only the death of some 100 million people in two world wars and the Holocaust could generate the will necessary for a profound change. Humanity had fallen off a cliff, survived, and, having frightened itself rigid, became all the wiser for it. The prospect of nuclear annihilation also sharpened post-war thinking. And soon after, States drew up the UN Charter, reinforced international law – codified international refugee law, further elaborated international humanitarian law, and created international human rights law and international criminal law.

It is precisely these bodies of international law that are now endangered.

While I ought to, in this lecture, examine all the threats to public international law, from Russia’s seizure and annexation of Crimea to the almost enthusiastic derogation by European powers of their obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention, or the seemingly deliberate bombing by major state actors of facilities protected under IHL – such as clinics and hospitals in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan – I shall confine myself for the sake of brevity to those principal threats directed against international human rights law, and pay special attention to the absolute prohibition on the use of torture. In doing so, I hope to illustrate how they are symptomatic of a broader cynicism emerging in defiance of international law more generally.

Let me first return to the struggle against terrorism, and how it is being exploited by governments the world over to roll back the advances made in human rights. The curtailing of the freedoms of expression and association – which threatens to wipe out dissent completely in countries like Egypt, Bahrain, and Turkey – is closing what is left of a democratic space, and all under the banner of fighting terrorism. And this contagion is spreading, fast.

When I emphasise this point, and highlight the excesses of government action, I am sometimes accused of showing sympathy with the terrorists, which is outrageous. I wish to be clear. I condemn terrorism unreservedly. It can never be justified, on the basis of any grievance, real or perceived.

The Da’esh, Al Qa’eda, Al Nusra, Al Shabab, Boko Haram manifestation does have a distinct ideology, and it must be dismantled at the source. If it is to be fought from a security perspective, through intelligence networks and military force, the actions must also be extremely precise. In other words, the arbitrariness and imprecision that are the hallmarks of target selection on the part of terrorists require a diametrically opposite reaction from states. The laser-like application of the law, consistent with universal human rights standards and guarantees, is the only workable antidote if this struggle is ever to be successful.

The detention, and in some cases torture, of individuals whose association with a terrorist group is non-existent but who are nevertheless charged under a vaguely-worded counter-terrorism law – simply because they have criticized the government – is not just wrong, it is dangerous and entirely self-defeating.

It transforms not only one individual, falsely charged, into a person who hates the state, but also their families, friends, possibly even their communities. Some may even go further than simple hatred. Arbitrary detention serves the terrorists, not the state; it fuels recruitment. And yet arbitrary detentions are commonplace in those states grappling with terrorism. In fact, if you believe the rhetoric of many governments, every lawyer or journalist is almost by definition a terrorist, particularly if they are human rights-focused. Present company included!

Moreover, given that prisons often become factories for converting petty criminals into violent extremists, the lawful deprivation of liberty ordered by Courts should be reserved for the most serious offenses, and non-custodial remedies sought for lesser offenses. This is not what is happening.

Instead, we see in the United States a renewed resort to very long prison sentences for those convicted of drug offenses. And rather than focus on potentially violent individuals driven by Takfiri ideology, or any other extreme ideology, the Trump Administration is pursuing its executive orders on the travel bans all the way to the Supreme Court, despite their being struck down as unconstitutional in the lower courts.

Likewise, in the weeks following the vicious terrorist attacks in Paris, in November 2015, the French authorities took broad aim and closed down 20 mosques and Muslim associations, while also undertaking some 2,700 warrantless house searches. In the United Kingdom, the Investigatory Powers Act of 2016 constituted one of the most sweeping mass surveillance regimes in the world, permitting the interception, access, retention and hacking of communications without a requirement of reasonable suspicion.

Refugees and migrants were increasingly viewed as Trojan horses for terrorists. Hysteria raged in political circles across Europe, and the terrorists must have been grinning. When it came to the management of the public’s reaction, instead of adopting a common-sense approach, fever set in.

To overcome terrorism, governments must be precise in the pursuit of the terrorists. Pretending to seal off borders — with or without walls decorated with solar panels — is an illusion, and a nasty one. Migrant children should not be detained. There should be no refoulement. Nor should there be collective push back, or decisions taken at borders by police officers, instead of judges. Or indeed, returns to countries that are manifestly not safe.

The EU deal with Turkey, in our view, has failed on several of these key points; most especially when it comes to the right of every asylum seeker to individual assessment. Taken together with the emergency measures being rushed through a number of European parliaments, which also derogate from the 1951 Refugee Convention, Europe – as a sentinel for the observation of refugee and human rights laws worldwide – finds itself enmeshed in gross hypocrisy.

The demagogues and populists across Europe and in many other parts of the world, as well as the tabloids in this country, have for years remorselessly stoked xenophobia and bigotry – the fuel that gave rise to these unwise policies. And this seemed to be paying off, with a windfall of popular support gathering in their favour.

After the referendum here in the UK, dominated as it was by the whipped-up fear of foreigners and foreign institutions, came the outcome of the US election, and the populist bandwagon seemed to be on an unstoppable roll.

The default condition of the human mind is, after all, fear. Primordial fear. That innermost instinctive mechanism protecting us from harm, from death. An emotion every extremist, skilled populists included, seeks to tap or stimulate. By manipulating it, and obliterating deductive reasoning drawn from knowledge, they more easily mould the movements they lead, and their political ambitions are well-served – at least for a while.

The emotional mechanism in the mind of a human rights defender works rather differently. To do good in our lives, and not just to some, but to all; to defend the human rights of all – this requires a continuous investment of thought, where the natural prejudices lying deep within each of us must be watched out for and rejected every day of our lives.

The default flow in the minds of humanity may be reptilian; but the internal battle to overcome it is profoundly human. To think of all, to work for all: these are the two fundamental lessons learned by those who survived the two world wars – whether we speak in relation to the behaviour of individuals or states. And they are etched into the UN Charter.

The two words “human rights” were not placed in the preamble of the UN Charter by its final author, Virginia Gildersleeve, as a literary flourish. They were written into the text – almost at the beginning, in the third line – because human rights was viewed as the only choice possible for that first beat of a new pulse. Because on 26 June 1945, the day of the Charter’s signing, killing on a scale hitherto unknown to humans had only just come to an end, with cities across the world pulverized and still smoking, monuments to immense human malevolence and stupidity.

Only by accepting human rights as the cornerstone could the rest of the edifice – success in economic development, durable peace – become possible. It is a point that even today – perhaps especially today – needs to be absorbed by the numerous political actors who only see human rights as a tiresome constraint. Indeed, many people who have enjoyed their rights since birth simply do not realise what these principles really mean. Like oxygen, they lie beyond our daily sensory perception, and only when suddenly deprived of it do we fathom their enormous significance.

To advocate for the universal rights of every human being, every rights holder, is another way of saying that only by working together, do we – as humans and as states – have a hope of ridding ourselves of the scourges of violence and war.

Tragically, the nativistic reflexes once again being peddled by populists and demagogues still seem to work. They sell supremacy and not equality, sow suspicion rather than calm, and hurl enmity against defined categories of people who are vulnerable – easy scapegoats, and undeserving of their hatred. This brand of politician seems more intent on profiting from the genuine fear of specific constituencies than promoting care for the welfare of the whole.

Thankfully, change is afoot. The populist or nationalist-chauvinistic wave in the western world, which crested in the US, has broken for now, dashed against the ballot boxes of Austria, the Netherlands and France. There may yet be other waves. Nevertheless, in Europe, the anti-populist movement, as some have called it, is now up and running.

In other parts of the world, threats to international law and the institutions upholding them are thus far unaffected by these recent, more positive developments.

The US is weighing up the degree to which it will scale back its financial support to the UN and other multilateral institutions. It is still deciding whether it should withdraw from the Human Rights Council and there was even talk at one stage of it withdrawing from the core human rights instruments to which it is party.

Last year, it was also reported that nine Arab states – the coalition led by Saudi Arabia fighting the Houthi/Saleh rebels in Yemen – made the unprecedented threat of a withdrawal from the UN if they were listed as perpetrators in the annex of the Secretary General’s report on children and armed conflict.

The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, the Inter-American Court, the Southern African Development Court, and the International Criminal Court have also not been spared such threats. Fortunately, in almost all these cases, either the threat of withdrawal has fizzled out, or, even if one or two countries did withdraw, no chain reaction ensued. But the regularity of these threats means it is increasingly probable the haemorrhaging will occur someday – a walk-out which closes the book on some part of the system of international law.

In this context, most worrisome to me is the persistent flirtation by the President of the United States, throughout his campaign and soon thereafter, with a return to torture. We are now told the US Army field manual will not be redrafted, and the US Secretary of Defence is guiding the White House on this. For now there is little danger of a return to the practice of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques”, a euphemism that dupes no-one. The mood in the US could of course change dramatically, if the country were at some stage to experience a gruesome terrorist attack. And, mindful of how the American public has, over the last ten years, become far more accepting of torture, the balance could be tipped in favour of its practice – and destroy the delicate position the Convention Against Torture is in.

It is worth recalling that the Convention against Torture, ratified by 162 countries, is the most unyielding of any existing instrument in international law. Its prohibition on torture is so absolute, it can never be lifted – not even during an emergency that “threatens the life of the nation.”

And yet, notwithstanding its broader recognition as jus cogens, and the crystal clarity of Article 2 of the Convention, the existence of so many surviving victims of torture, who remain unacknowledged, unsupported, denied justice or redress, forms a living testimony to the dreadful persistence of torture worldwide.

While only a small number of states appear to practise torture systematically, as part of state policy, 20 countries (and they are listed on our website) do not recognize the competence of the Committee Against Torture under Article 20. Accordingly, they refuse a priori any scrutiny of the alleged widespread violations.

A much larger number of states are host to isolated – or not so isolated – acts of torture and ill-treatment. Disturbingly, states in this group are simply not taking their obligations seriously enough. The levels of impunity are very high, given that most of those individuals who are found culpable face only administrative sanctions; and so-called evidence obtained under torture remains, in many states, admissible in court.

There are also a number of states – and this group may possibly be increasing – which, while having no record of practising torture, are nevertheless acquiescing to it by, for example, disregarding the principle of non-refoulement as contained in Article 3 of the Convention.

Another large majority of states parties also fully or partially disregard their obligations under Article 14 of the Convention for the redress and rehabilitation of victims, no matter where the torture occurred or by whom it was perpetrated.

Eleven years ago, noticeable progress was made with the entry into force of the Optional Protocol, which enables preventive visits to be made by the Sub-Committee for the Prevention of Torture to any place of deprivation of liberty, at any time. Some fifty national preventive mechanisms have been created, and the Sub-Committee has conducted 54 visits. However, many national preventive mechanisms are under-resourced and not empowered to deliver real results.

The fragility of the Convention is underscored by the fact that no country abides by all of its terms. No country would admit publicly that it engages in torture, but abundant evidence shows that torture is systematically practised by at least some states – that first category I referred to earlier.

It would seem all governments have been participating in a theatrical pretence of conforming with the Convention. And this may be more crucial than we initially realise, because it implies a sense of shame. Consider the alternative.

The president of the Philippines has spoken openly about extra-judicial killings. And the president of the United States of America has said that torture could be necessary in certain circumstances. There is no longer any pretence. They are breaking long-held taboos.

If other leaders start to follow the same rhetorical course, undermining the Convention with their words, the practice of torture is likely to broaden, and that would be fatal. The Convention would be scuttled, and a central load-bearing pillar of international law removed.

The dangers to the entire system of international law are therefore very real.

Today, the 26th of June, is the international day in support of victims of torture, and earlier I participated in a panel at King’s College organised by the International Bar Association to raise awareness about the absolute prohibition of torture, and the need for the legal profession to take a far more active role in preventing its use.

Human progress never glides; it will always stagger and sometimes even temporarily collapse. The common effort, for a common cause, within a common frame of understanding and regulation, will always be attacked by those more committed to the pursuit of narrower personal or national interests.

These extreme practitioners of the assertive, thin agenda are apt to dismiss many of today’s international laws and post-war institutions as anachronisms. And because, to the non-lawyer, the system of international law is so complicated, the human rights system so indecipherable to many lay-persons, it is hard to rally the general public, who may not see any immediate threat to themselves.

This brings me to the central threat to human rights today: indifference. The indifference of a large part of the business community worldwide, who would still pursue profit even at the cost of great suffering done to others. The indifference of a large segment of the intelligence and security community, for whom the pursuit of information eclipses all the rights held by others, and who describe challenges to terrible, discriminatory practices as treachery.

Some politicians, for whom economic, social and cultural rights mean little, are indifferent to the consequences of economic austerity. They view human rights only as an irritating check on expediency – the currency of the political world. For others, indifference is not enough. Their rejection of the rights agenda is expressed in terms replete with utter contempt for others, a parade of meanness.

Our world is dangerously close to unmooring itself from a sense of compassion, slowly becoming not only a post-truth but also a post-empathetic world. It is so hard for us now in the UN to generate the sums needed for humanitarian action worldwide. Our appeals for funds for the most destitute are rarely met at levels over 50%; the final figure is often far less.

What is happening to us?

My hope lies not primarily with governments, but with those people who reject all forms of terrorism, reject extreme, discriminatory counter-terrorism, and reject the populisms of the ideological outer limits. My hope lies with those who choose to elect more enlightened political leaders.

My hope also lies with the most courageous of us: the human rights defenders, often victims of violations themselves who, armed with nothing beyond their minds and voices, are willing to sacrifice everything, including seeing their children and families, losing their work, even their lives, to safeguard rights – not just their own, but the rights of others.

How stunningly beautiful is that? I am moved by them. We should all be. It is they who ensure we retain our equanimity, and it is they, not us, who bear the greater burden of defending this crucial part of our system of international law. It is they who will save us, and we in turn must invest every effort in protecting them.

I don’t think Grotius would be surprised by any of this.

The reptilian urge of the human brain is not easily overcome, and humanity will for centuries remain untrustworthy and unreliable. Our behaviour, and the behaviour of states, will long require legal scaffolding to keep what we recognize as human civilization in place. Grotius would be grateful we are still fighting, standing up, for his international society and perhaps even crack a wry smile when thinking just how prescient he was, those four centuries ago.

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“Torture Works” — in All the Wrong Wayshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/torture-works-wrong-ways/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=torture-works-wrong-ways http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/torture-works-wrong-ways/#respond Fri, 23 Jun 2017 19:09:46 +0000 Victor Madrigal Borloz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151031 Victor Madrigal-Borloz is Secretary-General of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, Copenhagen, representing 153 centres in 76 countries, and a Hilton Humanitarian Prize Laureate

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June 26 - International Day in Support of Torture Victims

Prisoners held at S-21, the Khmer Rouge regime's main torture centre, on display at what is now a genocide museum in Phnom Penh. Credit: Irwin Loy/IPS

By Victor Madrigal-Borloz
COPENHAGEN, Jun 23 2017 (IPS)

“Torture works” might rank among the most sweeping generalisations ever uttered, one brutal in its disregard of the pain and suffering created by this abhorrent practice. Indeed, torture works, but to all the wrong ends.

Torture is effective at creating enormous pain, severe trauma, and lasting damage. Victims suffer psychological symptoms such as anxiety, depression, withdrawal and self-isolation, confusion, flashbacks, memory lapses and other cognitive symptoms; as well as fatigue, insomnia and recurrent nightmares.

This can naturally lead to permanent physical impairment and is psychologically scarring, leaving victims with long-lasting illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and deep depression.

In rehabilitation centers worldwide, victims of torture report suicidal feelings and of being easily frightened and suspicious, making it extremely difficult to maintain social relationships, or to work and function in society. They often describe being disconnected from the world and from the feeling of being less than human.

In addition to psychiatric disorder, it is strongly believed that PTSD results in later serious medical problems such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and possibly dementia.

So, if the intent is to inflict severe pain and lasting suffering, torture is the tool.

Torture is also an effective mechanism to corrode the social fabric. The necessary conditions for torture include alienation — the mechanism through which the perpetrator ceases to regard his or her victim as human.

What this does to a society is difficult to describe in the abstract, but easy to perceive in any conversation with a Chilean, a Cambodian, a Croatian or a Congolese survivor of torture. All will describe how it has taken decades, and will take many more, to restore the trust among neighbors, and sometimes even family.

So, if the goal is to divide communities, torture will do.

Torture, not surprisingly, also ensures long lasting damage to democratic structures. In states in which torture is systematic or widespread, human rights defenders are invariably under threat. Justice is carried out at the peril of the prosecutor. The independence of judges is curtailed. How can you expect people to speak freely, to claim their rights or to organize politically if the response from the state is torture?

So, as a way to weaken democracy, torture does the trick. What does torture not achieve?

Torture does not work to produce reliable intelligence, to solve crime or to prevent terrorism. In her foreword to the Senate’s Intelligence Committee on the CIA Detention and Interrogation Program, Senator Diane Feinstein registered this conclusion pristinely: “Prior to the attacks of September 2001, the CIA itself determined from its own experience with coercive interrogations that such techniques ‘do not produce intelligence,’ ‘will probably result in false answers,’ and had historically proven to be ineffective.”

Yet the global consensus on an absolute prohibition of torture is vociferously questioned. Despite the vacuum of evidence of benefits, politicians across the political spectrum jump to vouch for the necessity of torture.

This shift in public discourse away from a universal and total prohibition of torture is now leading to other challenges. Traditional national donors are shrinking from their commitments and responsibilities by decreasing or stopping funding. This at a time of unprecedented demand for the crucial services performed by human rights organisations.
Despite these challenges, dedicated staff at rehabilitation centres continue, often at great personal sacrifice and sometimes at great risk, to provide outstanding physical and psychological treatment while assisting their clients to re-integrate into societies.

There is a lot of pending work in relation to torture victims. The member centres of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims treat some 100,000 victims around the world every year, but we know that this is a minuscule proportion of all affected children, women and men.

Our movement is resilient. Today, we speak with one voice to let demagogues and extremists know that, more than ever, we stand resolutely for what is right, and we are ready to work with anyone wishing to improve the lives of torture victims. We invite the support of those members of the public who share our aspiration to safer societies and understand that torture is not the answer, and who recognize that all victims of this despicable crime have the right to full rehabilitation to rebuild their lives.

As the world marks the United Nations International Day in Support of Torture Victims, Monday June 26, please join your voice to ours at http://irct.org

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The World Society Needs to Express Greater Solidarity for Refugees Worldwidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 12:02:36 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150978 Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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The World Society Needs to Express Greater Solidarity for Refugees Worldwide

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

The world is heading into troubled waters as we are witnessing an unprecedented movement of people – refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons (IDPs) alike – fleeing from misery, poverty and conflicts. The refugee crisis that has swept across Europe and the Middle East is becoming the 21st century’s most protracted crisis with no immediate solution in sight. The world has not witnessed a more complex movement of people since the end of the Second World War; thousands of human beings undertake perilous and treacherous journeys in hope for a better and a safer future. Many of them perish during these hazardous journeys. How can we forget the words the British-Somali poet Warsan Shire who said:

No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”

The 2017 World Refugee Day is an important occasion to stand united with millions of refugees around the world. This international commemorative day was announced in 2001 following the adoption of Resolution 55/76 by the United Nations General Assembly on 12 February 2001. It also marked the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the “1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.” Although the traumas of the Second World War reminded the world of the importance of never ignoring the past, the contemporary crisis calls for concerted efforts to resolve the plight of refugees worldwide as a matter of urgency and to address the root causes of mass exodus, as a long-term strategy.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 21 million refugees worldwide. In 2017, there was an estimated 5 million Syrian refugees worldwide. Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Sudan – countries located in the Arab region – are also considered as source countries of refugees owing to the proliferation of conflicts and the rise of violent extremism.

The majority of these refugees have sought refuge in countries neighbouring their country of origin. In the Middle East, countries in the Arab region are hosting one of the highest number of refugees. More than 1 million people have found refuge in Lebanon, a country that has already welcomed more than 500,000 Palestinian refugees. Jordan is home to approximately 660,000 refugees, whereas Iraq and Egypt have welcomed around 240,000 and 120,000 refugees respectively despite internal upheavals and civil strife. On top of this, one can also add Turkey that is currently hosting nearly 3 million Syrian refugees.

On the other side of the Mediterranean Sea, several European countries have showed some support to address the plights of refugees from the Arab region. Germany and Sweden have taken adequate measures to accommodate the influx of refugees by welcoming 400,000 and 100,000 refugees respectively. Other countries such as France and the Netherlands have also pleaded to relocate refugees entrenched in refugee camps in transit countries such as Italy, Greece and Hungary.

Although a certain degree of solidarity is being expressed by European countries, the number of refugees being granted protection in rich Western countries constitutes a very small one-digit percentage of the population compared with countries in the Arab region. Despite being signatories to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, many countries have decided to openly defy the acceptance of refugees belonging to certain religious faiths within their societies. Walls have been built in a misconceived attempt to exclude refugees from entering certain countries. The fearmongering and scapegoating of refugees have likewise given rise to a populist tidal wave. Right-wing movements use the contemporary refugee crisis to confer legitimacy on their aspirations to political power through whipping up xenophobia and through conflating Islam with terrorism.

During a panel debate that was held on 15 March 2017 at the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG) on the subject of “Islam and Christianity, the Great Convergence: Working Jointly Towards Equal Citizenship Rights” several panellists underscored that these types of practices are contradictory to the core principles of Islam and Christianity preaching love, peace and tolerance towards people in need. Societies should stand united in addressing the rise of populism that is pervasive in many countries.

I would also like to call upon governments in the Middle East and in the West to work jointly to address the protracted refugee crisis. Rich countries have a moral responsibility to provide development assistance to poorer countries to achieve a more equitable burden sharing arrangement for hosting refugees. Countries in the West and in the Middle East need also to step up their joint efforts to eliminate the root causes which have fuelled extremism. Peace and stability in the Middle East need to be restored before refugees can safely return to their home societies. This calls for a radical political change of approach in problem solving in the region.

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New Alert: Refugee Numbers Outpace Resettlement Spotshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/new-alert-refugee-numbers-outpace-resettlement-spots/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-alert-refugee-numbers-outpace-resettlement-spots http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/new-alert-refugee-numbers-outpace-resettlement-spots/#respond Tue, 13 Jun 2017 17:49:35 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150868 Against the backdrop of increasing refugee numbers around the globe, fuelled by crisis and insecurity, and an ever-widening gap in places to resettle them, the top United Nations official dealing with refugee issues has called on governments to “step up” and deliver places for refugees in line with the commitments they have made. “The fact […]

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Congolese refugee (Bora, second from right) arrives at Cape Town International Airport with her friends. She is being relocated to France with her children under a UNHCR scheme to resettle the most vulnerable refugees. Credit: UNHCR/James Otaway

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jun 13 2017 (IPS)

Against the backdrop of increasing refugee numbers around the globe, fuelled by crisis and insecurity, and an ever-widening gap in places to resettle them, the top United Nations official dealing with refugee issues has called on governments to “step up” and deliver places for refugees in line with the commitments they have made.

“The fact is global resettlement needs today far outweigh the places made available by governments by a factor of 13 to one, despite more countries taking part in the programme and an increase in private sector and community involvement,” on June 12 said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at the opening of the UN agency’s annual resettlement consultations in Geneva, Switzerland.

Close to 1.2 million refugees need resettling globally, but only 93,200 places in resettlement countries are expected to be available this year – 43 per cent fewer than in 2016. For refugees from sub-Saharan Africa the situation is especially acute – with just 18,000 available places for more than half a million refugees.

“The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants was a milestone in global solidarity with refugees and the mainly developing countries which host almost 9 in 10 of them. But true sharing of responsibility requires places for refugees in third countries on a scale in line with the needs. We need urgent action to get there,” Grandi said.

The UN refugees agency’s report UNHCR Projected Global Resettlement Needs in 2018 estimates some 1.2 million refugees need a third country solution in the coming year – a slight increase from the previous year.

This includes more than 510,000 refugees in 34 different countries across Africa, some 280,000 in the Middle East, 302,000 in Europe (mostly in Turkey), over 100,000 in Asia and some 1,800 in the Americas.

The UNHCR report tabled at the Geneva meeting notes that the widening gap between needs and places in 2017 follows a year of several positive achievements in the global resettlement programme.

In 2016, UNHCR submitted more than 162,500 refugees for resettlement – the highest number in 20 years – and more than 125,800 started new lives in third countries. Almost half of the refugees submitted were Syrians, while 44,000 were from sub-Saharan Africa – the highest from this region in almost 15 years.

The number of resettlement states grew to 37 in 2016, with some European governments setting up programmes for the first time and Argentina and Brazil, amongst others, making new commitments to resettle Syrian refugees, the UN agency informs.

“Despite the rhetoric against refugees in some quarters we have also seen an outpouring of good will, with ordinary citizens sponsoring refugees to live in their countries, inviting them into their homes and helping them to find jobs,” Grandi added.

He also noted that the increased engagement of civil society and the private sector embodies the spirit of the New York Declaration, which calls for all parts of society to play a role in the global response to large movements of refugees.

“Resettlement places not only help those refugees who face extreme difficulty in their first country of asylum, but are an important gesture of solidarity with countries hosting large numbers of refugees.”

The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants was adopted on 19 September 2016 by 193 Member States of the United Nations.

In it governments committed – amongst other objectives – to work on increasing resettlement places and other legal pathways for admission of refugees on a scale that would match the annual resettlement needs identified by UNHCR.

Refugees in need of resettlement are those people identified by UNHCR as having particular problems in the countries where they have sought refuge because their life, liberty, safety, health or other fundamental rights are at risk.

We need urgent action to get there,” he underscored.

“Despite the rhetoric against refugees in some quarters we have also seen an outpouring of good will, with ordinary citizens sponsoring refugees to live in their countries, inviting them into their homes and helping them to find jobs,” Grandi added, urging all partners to support ways to provide additional places for refugees.

“Resettlement places not only help those refugees who face extreme difficulty in their first country of asylum, but are an important gesture of solidarity with countries hosting large numbers of refugees,” he said.

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Child Labor in the Arab Region Does Not Belong to the 21st Centuryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/child-labor-in-the-arab-region-does-not-belong-to-the-21st-century/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=child-labor-in-the-arab-region-does-not-belong-to-the-21st-century http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/child-labor-in-the-arab-region-does-not-belong-to-the-21st-century/#respond Mon, 12 Jun 2017 19:08:57 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150860 Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Jun 12 2017 (IPS)

Today marks the 2017 World Day against Child Labor to reaffirm the goal to eliminate all forms of child labor. This year’s annual theme highlights a subject that is often neglected, namely the importance of addressing child labor in conflict areas and in disaster settings.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

The United Nations (UN) estimates that approximately 1.5 billion people live in conflict areas around the world. It is likewise projected that around 200 million people are affected annually by disasters whether related to man-made environmental devastations, to natural hazards or to other types of catastrophes.

Out of these figures, 168 million children worldwide are affected by child labor in conflict and in disaster settings. Asia and the Pacific has the highest incidence with approximately 78 million (9.3%) followed by Sub-Saharan Africa with 59 million (21%) and Latin America and the Caribbean with 13 million (8.8%). 9.2 million children – 8.4% of the total figures – are engaged in child labor in the Middle East and in North Africa.

Child labor is prohibited by several legal conventions. ILO Convention No. 182 often referred to as the “Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention” provides important guidelines on the worst types of child labor that need to be prohibited and eliminated by States. ILO Convention No. 138 entitled “Minimum Age Convention” likewise upholds in Article 7 that children at an early age should not undertake employment considered “to be harmful to their health or development.”

Although the incidence of child labor in the Middle East and in North Africa is lower than in other parts of the world, it remains a major challenge for many countries in the Arab region owing to the proliferation of conflicts.

The war in Syria is a major humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century. Several hundred thousand civilians have died, whereas it is estimated that approximately 7.6 million people are internally displaced and 4.8 million are refugees. A figure that is often left unaddressed is the incidence of child labor involving Syrian refugee and displaced children. According to several think-thanks, these children perform hazardous work and hard labor under harsh and unsustainable working conditions. Organized crime groups exploit children for financial gains. Child labor has now reached a disturbing level among Syrian refugee children.

Yemen has also witnessed the growth of child labor owing to the war that is unfolding in the country. According to a joint UNHCR-IOM press release issued in February 2017, it was concluded that the deteriorating situation in Yemen has pushed children into “danger and adversity” including child labor and hazardous work. Other Arab countries facing turmoil and civil war – such as Libya and Iraq – also experience a resurgence of child labor as a result of the disintegration and the fragmentation of these societies.

Despite this troubling context, there is hope in the horizon. I am pleased that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) underscore the importance of addressing and of ending child labor. SDG 8.7 stipulates the need to end child labor “in all its forms” by 2025. I invite all Arab states to work jointly towards the realization of this imperative goal by 2030. Arab States have showed great dedication and commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); I remain convinced that similar progress will be realized vis-à-vis the SDGs.

The deteriorating security situation and the growing threat of famine throw societies into a situation of despair and instability. The lack of employment, decent work and poverty provide fertile ground for child labor to prosper as the only hope for economically disadvantaged families is to send their children – in particular girls – to engage in child labor. To reverse this trend, war-torn societies need to be allowed to return to a modicum of peace and stability guaranteeing families safe living conditions and peaceful prospects. The return to peace is the first step towards the full elimination of child labor.

Lastly, despite a massive influx of refugees and internally displaced persons to Europe, the heaviest burden by far is borne by Muslim societies in neighbouring countries bordering war-torn countries of departure of refugees and other migrants. It is therefore important to step up the efforts of the international community to provide adequate support and assistance to such countries welcoming a high percentage of migrants and refugees including children in relation to their own population.

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This Is the Nation of 170 Million Enslaved Childrenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/this-is-the-nation-of-170-million-enslaved-children/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=this-is-the-nation-of-170-million-enslaved-children http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/this-is-the-nation-of-170-million-enslaved-children/#comments Mon, 12 Jun 2017 03:06:56 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150844 Globally over 1.5 billion people live in countries that are affected by conflict, violence and fragility. Meantime, around 200 million people are affected by disasters every year—a third of them are children. And a significant proportion of the 168 million children engaged in child labour live in areas affected by conflict and disaster. These are […]

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Credit: UN News Centre

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jun 12 2017 (IPS)

Globally over 1.5 billion people live in countries that are affected by conflict, violence and fragility. Meantime, around 200 million people are affected by disasters every year—a third of them are children. And a significant proportion of the 168 million children engaged in child labour live in areas affected by conflict and disaster. These are the facts. Up to you to reflect on the immediate future of humankind.

Conflicts and disasters have a devastating impact on people’s lives, the United Nations reminds.

“They kill, maim, injure, force people to flee their homes, destroy livelihoods, push people into poverty and starvation and trap people in situations where their basic human rights are violated.”

Of this total of 168 million children victims of modern slavery, about 100 million boys and 68 million girls.

Forced labour is estimated to generate around 150 billion dollars a year in illegal profits.

Credit: Unicef.ca, Canada

Credit: Unicef.ca, Canada

Amid such a huge human tragedy, children are often the first to suffer as schools are destroyed and basic services are disrupted, the world body reports.

“Many children are internally displaced or become refugees in other countries, and are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and child labour. Ultimately, millions of children are pushed into child labour by conflicts and disasters.”

This why on the occasion of the 2017 World Day Against Child Labour, marked June 12, the UN focuses on the impact of conflicts and disasters on child labour.

“Urgent action is needed to tackle child labour in areas affected by conflict and disaster. If the SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) Target 8.7 which aims to “eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour” is to be achieved by 2030.”

The UN stresses the need to intensify and accelerate action to end child labour, including in areas affected by conflict and disasters. “And we need to do it together.”

Child Labour No More by 2025?

Credit: Unicefusa.org

Credit: Unicefusa.org

As the world strives to achieve the elimination of child labour by 2025, on this World Day Against Child Labour, says the International Labour Organization (ILO), “let’s join forces to end child labour in areas affected by conflict and disaster!”

Child labour and forced labour in conflicts and humanitarian settings will be discussed at the IV Global Conference on Child Labour (Buenos Aires, 14-16 November 2017).

For its part, the UN Children Fund (UNICEF) warns that child labour deprives children of their right to go to school, exposes them to violence, and reinforces intergenerational cycles of poverty.

“Yet, this serious violation of human rights is not inevitable. Child labour is preventable through integrated approaches that simultaneously address poverty and inequity, improve access to and quality of education and mobilise public support for respecting children’s rights.”

11 Per Cent of World’s Children

UNICEF also reminds that, worldwide, about 168 million children aged 5 to 17 are engaged in child labour, accounting for almost 11 per cent of all children.

The most recent figures, based on statistical evidence from UNICEF, ILO and the World Bank, show a decline of about one third since 2000.

While that is positive news, progress is far too slow, the UN specialised agency reports, adding that the continued persistence of child labour poses a threat not only to the health and well being of children, but also to national economies and the achievement of global development goals.

Child labour is defined as work for which the child is too young – i.e., work done below the required minimum age.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recognises every child’s right, “to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education,” or that is likely to harm the child’s health or, “physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.”²

Other international instruments further define a child’s right to be protected from the “worst forms of child labour,” including recruitment in armed conflict, sexual exploitation and drug trafficking.

The lives and futures of millions of children are in jeopardy, UNICEF warns. “We have a choice: Invest in the most excluded children now or risk a more divided and unfair world.”

“Every child has the right to a fair chance in life. But around the world, millions of children are trapped in an intergenerational cycle of disadvantage that endangers their futures – and the future of their societies.”

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Crisis in the Gulf: Escalation or negotiation?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/crisis-in-the-gulf-escalation-or-negotiation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=crisis-in-the-gulf-escalation-or-negotiation http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/crisis-in-the-gulf-escalation-or-negotiation/#respond Thu, 08 Jun 2017 15:37:23 +0000 James M. Dorsey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150821 *Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies & co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture

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By James M. Dorsey
SINGAPORE, Jun 8 2017 (IPS)

Turkey’s parliament is this week fast tracking the dispatch of up to 3,000 troops to Qatar, home to the country’s military base in the Middle East. Certain to stiffen Qatar’s resolve to resist Saudi and UAE-led pressure to force it to change policies, the Turkish move comes amid hints that the kingdom and its allies may seek to undermine the rule of Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

The stakes for both sides of the Gulf divide could not be higher. Saudi Arabia and the UAE cannot afford to fail in their effort to force Qatar’s hand after leading several Arab and non-Arab states in a rupture of diplomatic relations and declaring an economic boycott that also targets Qatar’s food supplies. By the same token, Qatar cannot afford a cave-in to Saudi and UAE demands that would humiliate the country and effectively turn it in to a Saudi vassal.

The dispatch of Turkish troops as well as Turkish and Iranian offers to help Qatar offset the impact of the boycott by ensuring that its food and water needs are met positions the Gulf crisis and Saudi Arabia’s proxy war with the Islamic republic as a political rather than a sectarian battle. Sunni Turkey and Shiite Iran countering of the Saudi-UAE campaign undermines the kingdom’s effort to project its rivalry with Iran as both a sectarian conflict and a power struggle.

The dispatch of troops and the emergence of a pro-Qatari alliance opposed to that of Saudi Arabia also eases pressure on non-Arab Muslim states to take sides. By raising the stakes, Turkey and Iran could potentially contribute to efforts to find a political solution to the crisis.

The move to quickly dispatch troops to Qatar came a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the Saudi-UAE effort to isolate sanctions and cripple it with sanctions. Mr. Erdogan warned that the moves would fail to solve problems and said he would do what he could to end the crisis.

Kuwait is already attempting to bridge the gap between the Gulf states and Qatar while the United States and Germany have called for a political solution. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was scheduled to visit Ankara to discuss ways of resolving the Gulf crisis.

That may prove to be easier said than done. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are bent on avoiding a repeat of 2014 when Qatar failed to respond to the withdrawal of the Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini ambassadors from Doha by caving in to their demands that it halts its support for Islamists and militants. The three countries were forced to return their ambassadors after an absence of nine months with little to show for their action.

Leaders of Saudi Arabia and the UAE have moreover put their credibility on the line by not only breaking off diplomatic relations but also imposing a harsh boycott. The UAE, apparently concerned that the boycott, and particularly the targeting of food supplies, could spark domestic criticism, made expressions of sympathy with Qatar a criminal offense punishable with up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of at least US$ 136,000. Up to 40 percent of Qatar’s approximately $1 billion in food exports a year were trucked to Qatar from Saudi Arabia until this week’s eruption of the crisis.

Also raising the stakes is the fact that a Qatar capable of resisting Saudi and UAE pressure would effectively contribute to a Muslim bloc in the Middle East that stands for everything Saudi Arabia and the UAE are seeking to defeat.

Inevitably, closer Qatari ties with Turkey as well as Iran, with which the Gulf state shares the world’s largest gas field, would become a fixture of Middle Eastern geopolitics. Iran is already helping Qatar not only with food but also by allowing Qatar Airways flights to Asia to cross Iranian airspace in their bid to circumvent Saudi, UAE and Bahrain airspace that has been closed to them.

Beyond demonstrating that Qatar is not alone in its fight, the dispatch of Turkish troops would also seek to dissuade Saudi Arabia and the UAE from intervening directly in the Gulf state.

Turkey and Qatar have long pursued similar policies. Both countries supported the 2011 popular Arab revolts.

By contrast, Saudi Arabia and the UAE went to great length to thwart their success., including helping engineer the military coup that in 2013 toppled Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim brother and Egypt’s first and only democratically elected president. Saudi and UAE troops also helped Bahrain brutally squash its 2011 popular uprising.

Turkey and Qatar moreover both support the Muslim Brotherhood, rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Islamist groups in divided Libya. The UAE and Saudi Arabia alongside Egypt back the internationally recognized Tobruk-based Libyan government that joined them in breaking off relations with Qatar.

Turkey set up a military base in Qatar with some 150 troops, its first in the Middle East, as part of an agreement signed in 2014. Turkish officials have since said Turkey’s presence would be increased to some 3,000 troops.

Turkey’s move to expedite the dispatch of additional troops to Qatar came as UAE state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said that one “cannot rule out further measures. We hope that cooler heads will prevail, that wiser heads will prevail and we will not get to that.”

Accusing Qatar of being “the main champion of extremism and terrorism in the region,” Mr. Gargash insisted that “this is not about regime change — this is about change of policy, change of approach.”

Egyptian, Emirati and Saudi newspapers, none of which are known to be truly independent, reported in recent days that domestic opposition to Qatari emir sheikh Tamim was mounting.

“We have long been silent about the irrational practices of the regime in Qatar,” Sheikh Saud bin Nasser Al-Thani, a little known member of the ruling family which is believed to account for up to 20 percent of Qatar’s citizens, told Egypt’s Youm7 newspaper.

The newspaper reported that opponents of Sheikh Tamim would form a London-based opposition paper headed by Sheikh Abdelaziz Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, an uncle of the emir and former oil and finance minister, who was accused of involvement in a failed effort in 2011 by Qatari military officers to overthrow Sheikh Tamim’s father and predecessor, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.

Abu Dhabi’s The National newspaper reported that the party would advocate a Qatari policy in line with Saudi and UAE demands, including curbing the activities of Sheikh Hamad’s wife, Sheikha Mozah Al-Misnad, who heads Qatar Foundation; freezing Qatar’s relations with Iran, ending Qatari support for Islamists in Libya and Egypt, and expelling Islamist leaders from the Gulf state.

“On behalf of the Qatari people, we offer the highest apology to the people of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen and other countries that have been abused and harmed by the Qatari regime. We inform you that the Qatari people do not approve of the national policies that seek to shatter the Arab unity,” Sheikh Saud said in a statement carried by Egypt Today.

“Qataris are questioning whether this is going to end up in seeing a change in leadership itself in Qatar,” added Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, a prominent liberal intellectual, art collector and businessman who is a member of the ruling family of the UAE emirate of Sharjah.

Earlier, Salman al-Ansari, the head of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), a Washington-based lobby, warned Sheikh Tamim that he could meet the same fate as Mr. Morsi, the toppled Egyptian president.

The Arab press reports notwithstanding, there is little by which to gauge possible support for opposition to Sheikh Tamim among the military or the public in Qatar, which like others in the region controls its media but has not imposed the kind of draconic penalties on freedom of expression introduced this week in the UAE.

Whatever the case, Qatar and Turkey hope that a substantial presence of Turkish troops rather than the fact that Qatar also hosts 10,000 US troops on the largest US military facility in the Middle East, would complicate, if not dampen, any plans to force Sheikh Tamim’s exit.

Said Mr. Al Qassemi: “The Qataris should not count on that base as being a guarantee or sort of American protection when it comes to conflict with Saudi Arabia. I think the Americans would choose to side with Saudi Arabia over any other country in the region.”

The statements and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IPS.

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What Future for 700 Million Arab and Asian Youth?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/what-future-for-700-million-arab-and-asian-youth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-future-for-700-million-arab-and-asian-youth http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/what-future-for-700-million-arab-and-asian-youth/#respond Thu, 08 Jun 2017 15:11:23 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150818 With a combined population of around 400 million inhabitants, 22 Arab countries are home to nearly 300 million youth. Meantime, there are 400 million youth living in Asia and the Pacific. In both regions, these 700 million young people aged 15–24 years account for up to 60 per cent of world’s youth population. What future […]

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Women and girls in the garment industry are often subject to forced overtime and low wages, and on domestic workers because of the unprotected nature of their work. Credit: ILO / A. Khemka

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 8 2017 (IPS)

With a combined population of around 400 million inhabitants, 22 Arab countries are home to nearly 300 million youth. Meantime, there are 400 million youth living in Asia and the Pacific. In both regions, these 700 million young people aged 15–24 years account for up to 60 per cent of world’s youth population. What future for them?.

Not an easy question, especially if you consider that the Middle East and North of Africa (MENA) region faces a bulk of huge challenges: from fast growing population to increasing food insecurity; from armed conflicts (Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, Iraq) to climate driven instability and massive displacement and migration.

Let alone the widening gender gap—in fact only 13.5 per cent of female youth are economically active, compared to around 50 per cent per cent of male youth.

All the above occurs amidst record high unemployment rates, reaching and average of 30 per cent in the whole region, with peaks of up to 55 per cent in the case of war-torn Yemen.

This challenge is aggravated by the fact that young people remain nearly four times more likely to be unemployed than their adult counterparts, and as much as over four times in the Arab states.

Asian Youth
In Asia and the Pacific, youth appear not to be much better off. There, in 2015, nearly 40 million youth –12 per cent of the youth labour force– were unemployed. Although this was less than the global youth unemployment rate of 13 per cent, it varied by sub-region.

In 2015, for example, the youth unemployment rate was estimated at around 12.9 per cent in South-East Asia and the Pacific, 11.7 per cent in East Asia and 10.7 per cent in South Asia.

Here, despite relatively low youth unemployment rates, young people remain nearly four times more likely to be unemployed than their adult counterparts, and as much as 5.4 times in South-Eastern Asia (over four times in Southern Asia).

Schoolchildren in Chowrapara, Rangpur, Bangladesh. Credit: UNICEF / Tapash Paul

Schoolchildren in Chowrapara, Rangpur, Bangladesh. Credit: UNICEF / Tapash Paul

This region faces as well a huge gender gap. In South Asia, low female participation (19.9 per cent) is estimated to be nearly 40 percentage points lower than among youth males (53 per cent). And the gender gap in labour force participation rates has been widening over the last decade in South Asia.

Experts from national regional and international organisations have worked hard on finding solutions. One of them, the International Labour Organization, UNESCO, UN Population Fund, World Bank, among others, emphasise the need for education, which will determine the livelihoods of 700 million people in the these two regions and drive growth and development for generations to come.

They also coincide in warning that while significant policy developments have focused on these challenges, including school-to-work transitions and skill mismatches, further coordinated efforts are needed to address obstacles to productive employment and decent work for all youth and thereby help to properly unleash their potential.

Asian and Arab Parliamentarians to Meet
In addition to international experts, analysts and organisations, parliamentarians as direct, elected representatives of people, are set to meet next month in Amman under the theme “From Youth Bulge to Demographic Dividend: Toward Regional Development and Achievement of the SDGs.”

Organised by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) and the Secretariat of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP), this Asian and Arab Parliamentarians Meeting and Study Visit on Population and Development, will on 18-20 July discuss in the Jordanian capital, the above challenges and ways how to face them.

In spite of the rising number of women entering the labour force in Bangladesh, gender disparities persist. Credit: Obaidul Arif / IPS

In spite of the rising number of women entering the labour force in Bangladesh, gender disparities persist. Credit: Obaidul Arif / IPS

The Amman meeting will be hosted by the Jordanian Senate, the Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development (FAPPD), with the support of the Japan Trust Fund (JTF); the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

The Jordanian capital’s meeting will be followed by a two specific ones: Africa-Asia in New Delhi at mid of September, and an event on ageing, scheduled to take place in Korea end of October.

Annual Parliamentarian Meetings
Since its establishment, APDA has been holding the annual Asian Parliamentarians’ Meeting on Population and Development to promote understanding and increase awareness of population and development issues among Japanese, Asian, and Pacific parliamentarians.

APDA sends Japanese and Asian parliamentarians overseas to observe projects conducted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japanese Government.

Similarly, parliamentarians from selected countries are invited to Japan to visit facilities in areas such as population and development, health and medical care. Through exchange between parliamentarians from Japan and other countries, the programme aims to strengthen cooperation and promote parliamentarians’ engagement in the field of population and development.

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In Volatile Times, the U.A.E. calls for Tolerancehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/in-volatile-times-the-u-a-e-calls-for-tolerance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=in-volatile-times-the-u-a-e-calls-for-tolerance http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/in-volatile-times-the-u-a-e-calls-for-tolerance/#respond Thu, 08 Jun 2017 06:23:08 +0000 Rose Delaney http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150804 With terror attacks on the increase worldwide, there are more people today who believe that it has something to do with the religion of Islam. Seeds of misinformation are taking root and the divide between peoples and cultures is ever increasing. The promotion of tolerance is critically important now more than ever. Undoubtedly, bigotry has […]

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By Rose Delaney
MIAMI, Jun 8 2017 (IPS)

With terror attacks on the increase worldwide, there are more people today who believe that it has something to do with the religion of Islam.

Sheikha Lubna Al-Qasimi

Sheikha Lubna Al-Qasimi

Seeds of misinformation are taking root and the divide between peoples and cultures is ever increasing. The promotion of tolerance is critically important now more than ever.

Undoubtedly, bigotry has increased worldwide and violent hate crimes have risen exponentially. The recent epidemic of “fake news” utilized by major media outlets and the outbreak of anti-Islamic sensationalism have only worsened the situation and fueled further conflict and division.

The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E..) is widely considered to be a multicultural “marvel” of the Middle East. The country proudly hosts an ethnically diverse population with over 200 nationalities living in harmony.

The U.A.E.’s leadership promotes a positive image of Islam but also sets an example of peace and tolerance of all world religions in the country.

The U.A.E. and its multi-ethnic population aim to be an international role model for “acceptance, coexistence, and understanding.”

The U.A.E. today is considered a globalized symbol of acceptance and progression. Recently, an anti-discriminatory law was passed which forbids citizens and residents alike from discriminating against anyone on the grounds of caste, creed, culture or religion.

In 2016, U.A.E.’s first Ministry of Tolerance was officially established with Sheikha Lubna Al-Qasimi as its minister. Al-Qasimi believes that the Arab world has a great responsibility when it comes to ensuring the universal spread of tolerance and acceptance. She emphasizes the pivotal role youth and the global media play in the understanding and celebration of religious and ethnic diversity.

To instill values of cultural and religious acceptance everywhere, the government of the U.A.E. believes institutions of tolerance should be established on a global scale, especially in volatile times of terror and extremism.

The proliferation of these institutions would act as symbols of peace and co-existence, ensuring global societies that universal tolerance is achievable and can become a tangible reality.

Al-Qasimi recognizes that transparency in the media is vital during periods of fear and instability and emphasizes that the global dissemination of positive and tolerant news content is a critical form of “protection against extremism”.

At the 16th Arab Media Forum (AMF) held in Dubai last month, Al Qasimi highlighted that the media played a key role in the universal perception of Islam. The rise of “fake news” has proven detrimental to the promotion of universal tolerance. The media has a duty to “correct misconceptions about the image of the Arab world,” Al Qasimi said.

This ties in with the fact that global media content has lately been used as a weapon of divisive manipulation, rather than a method of progressing and sustaining universal harmony and acceptance.

The U.A.E.’s President, Sheikha Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, also considers the media to be a key player in the advancement of universal tolerance.

For this reason, Al Nahyan has committed to providing full support for the development of transparent media in his home nation. The U.A.E. encourages its media to disseminate, along with other institutions, the values of acceptance and open dialogue across all walks of society.

“Responsible media that fully understands its role and mission is a fundamental tool in countering extremist and terrorist ideology amid the widespread digital media that has a powerful influence on people’s thoughts and orientations,” Al Nahyan says.

Al Nahyan recognizes that the future development of tolerance rests largely on the perceptions and messages spread by the global media. “The media is not just a profession“, Al Nahyan stated. It is rather, in his belief, a vital means to spread the message of global justice and truth. In other words, it is high time the media stop being used a sensationalized tool to stir divisive controversy and “boost ratings” based on the plight of the stigmatized.

Al Nahyan highlighted the fact that the proliferation of positive media could only lead to effective nation-building and progress. Furthermore, it can help break down the negative perceptions surrounding Islam and the Middle East itself by drawing back to the multicultural and accepting values, ethics and traditions of Emirati society.

In an increasingly globalized world dominated by the trends of social media, the voice of youth undoubtedly holds a tremendous degree of power. The multicultural array of young professionals and students that make up U.A.E.’s fast growing population are actively encouraged to act as tomorrow’s leading voices in the pursuit of universal tolerance.

In the U.A.E., “the sky really appears to be the limit” for its young adult population. Its ministry of youth is led by the youngest minister in the world, 23-year-old Shamma bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui. For many Emirati youths, spreading the principles of harmonious unity and actively condemning all forms of divisive extremism are a core objective, especially for the protection and benefit of upcoming generations.

As the rise of extremism threatens global security, the U.A.E. aims to encourage all forms of tolerance with the belief that through open dialogue and a strong sense of unity, the global community could overcome adversity.

However, the question remains, are other countries willing to follow the U.A.E.’s model of peaceful co-existence, or will ongoing extremism and divisive Islamophobic media campaigns hinder the U.A.E.’s idealistic vision of universal tolerance? Only time will tell.

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How Peter Thiel Got His New Zealand Citizenshiphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/how-peter-thiel-got-his-new-zealand-citizenship/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-peter-thiel-got-his-new-zealand-citizenship http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/how-peter-thiel-got-his-new-zealand-citizenship/#comments Thu, 08 Jun 2017 00:05:06 +0000 Christopher Pala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150801 In January, the revelation that Peter Thiel, the libertarian Silicon Valley venture capitalist and Trump adviser, secretly got a New Zealand citizenship six years ago caused an uproar, mostly because he was the first to get one without pledging to live there. It didn’t help that he wasn’t even required to fly to New Zealand […]

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Peter Thiel speaking at Hy! Summit in Berlin, Germany, March 19, 2014. Photograph by Dan Taylor, www.heisenbergmedia.com

Peter Thiel speaking at Hy! Summit in Berlin, Germany, March 19, 2014. Photograph by Dan Taylor, www.heisenbergmedia.com

By Christopher Pala
WELLINGTON, Jun 8 2017 (IPS)

In January, the revelation that Peter Thiel, the libertarian Silicon Valley venture capitalist and Trump adviser, secretly got a New Zealand citizenship six years ago caused an uproar, mostly because he was the first to get one without pledging to live there.

It didn’t help that he wasn’t even required to fly to New Zealand to get his papers: the government allowed him to pick up his passport at its consulate in Santa Monica. The outrage was compounded by the government’s release in February of his 145-page naturalization file, which revealed a cascade of broken promises.Purchases by absentee foreign billionaires have been blamed for helping push up real estate prices and boosting homelessness, which at 1 percent is twice the US rate and three times the British one.

In his application dated June 2011, he described New Zealand as a utopia that “aligns more with my view of the future” than any other country. Thiel has said the maximum tax rates in the U.S. (now 39.6 percent) should be lowered to 20 percent or less and the shortfall in national income should be recovered by “disentangling some of those middle-class entitlements that people have gotten used to.”

In New Zealand, the top tax rate is 33 percent. It is the only OECD country without a capital gains or inheritance tax; it is run by the world’s most business-friendly bureaucracy and has a vibrant and under-capitalized tech sector.

Though it was the first country to give women the vote, in 1893, and has offered free dental care to schoolchildren since 1921, it swung from one of the most managed economies to one of the least regulated in the 1980s. As a result, 60 percent of its rivers are too polluted to swim in and its fisheries have been found to rest on a foundation of waste and official lies.

In 2015, Thiel bought a 193-hectare estate on Lake Wanaka, in the South Island. He also owns a mansion on Lake Wakatipu, an hour away. These and other purchases by absentee foreign billionaires have been blamed for helping push up real estate prices and boosting homelessness, which at 1 percent is twice the US rate and three times the British one. The cost of housing is the hottest issue in elections due this year.

In his citizenship application, Thiel wrote, “It would give me great pride to let it be known that I am citizen and an enthusiastic supporter of the country and its emerging high-tech industry.” He said he intended “to devote a significant amount of my time and resources to the people and businesses of NZ” and become “an active player in NZ’s venture capital industry.”

He explained that the year before, he had created an investment fund called Valar Ventures “dedicated exclusively to funding and aiding New Zealand technology companies.” Through it, he could “act in an advisory role in a way that (others) cannot because I have encountered and solved many of the problems that will confront entrepreneurs as they build their companies.”

At the government’s suggestion, according to the file, Thiel even donated NZ$1 million (830,000 U.S. dollars at the time) to an earthquake relief fund.

On July 8, 2011, three days after his application was accepted, he was the headline speaker at a conference at the Icehouse, a business development center in Auckland, the economic capital. But Thiel made no mention of his new citizenship, nor did he speak of becoming an active player on the local tech scene. Likewise, he made no mention of New Zealand to a New Yorker writer who interviewed him for a long profile headlined “No Death, no Taxes,” published that November.

“The last thing we want to do is give people the impression that our citizenship is up for sale, and this affair has certainly created that,” said Iain Lees-Galloway, the spokesman on immigration issues of the opposition Labour Party, in an interview. As for Thiel’s promises in his application, Lees-Galloway added, “He couldn’t have been all that proud (of becoming a Kiwi) because he didn’t tell anybody for six years.”

The government of the right-wing National Party glossed over the broken promises. Prime Minister Bill English, who was deputy PM in 2011, told local reporters, “If people come here and invest and get into philanthropy and are supportive of New Zealand, for us as a small country at the end of the world, that’s not a bad thing.” Thiel had been to New Zealand four times, his file showed, starting in 1993.

On February 4 came another disclosure: The Herald reported that nine months after Thiel was granted the citizenship, his Valar Ventures fund had accepted what the paper called a “sweetheart deal” from the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund, created in 2002 to encourage investments in local tech start-ups.

Valar and the fund would jointly invest in four local companies: Xero, with the largest share, as well as Vend, Booktrack and Pacific Fibre. Two years earlier, Thiel had separately invested three million dollars in Xero, a cloud-based accounting software that was already listed.

At the time, NZVIF’s standard contract had a clause that allowed the outside investor to buy, after five years, the government’s share at its initial cost, plus the yield of a five-year government bond. If the company shares went up, the investor pocketed the profits from the government’s share, too. If the shares fell, both lost equally.

In October 2016, after the shares of Xero soared, Valar Ventures exercised the clause. The exact size of its investment is not known, but the profits have been estimated at 23.5 million dollars for an investment of 6.8 million. Valar still owns 4.8 percent of Xero, down from a peak of 7 percent. Today, of the 13 companies in its portfolio, only two are from New Zealand: Xero and Vend.

Opposition politicians suggested that naïve government officials had made yet another transaction with Thiel that failed to benefit New Zealanders. “Thiel had already invested in Xero, it was hardly a risky venture,” pointed out Lees-Galloway, the Labour MP.

But while politicians denounced the deal as having essentially privatized the profits from a taxpayer-funded investment, the tech world saw things very differently.

Andrew Hamilton, the CEO of the Icehouse business center where Thiel gave his speech, declined to specify what else Thiel had done for startups, saying only: “Peter was and is awesome, and we are always grateful to people who contribute and help!”

Lance Wiggs, the founding director of the Punakaiki Fund, which invests in companies in the development and fast-growth phases, said Valar was “exactly the kind of fund New Zealand wanted to attract.” He said Thiel’s investment in Xero “was absolutely crucial at the time, he really helped them lift their game from being a local player to an international one.” Xero is now worth two billion dollars and has 1,400 employees around the world.

As for the government, Wiggs added, “I can see why they blinked and gave him a passport, though I can’t see why he needed it,” given that Thiel has a residency permit since 2006.

But unlike the permit, citizenship is “irrevocable,” as his lawyer pointed out in the application.

Adam Hunt, a tax administration specialist, offered one possible explanation: “It’s an attractive place for a rich person,” he said. Thiel could renounce his American citizenship and move to New Zealand. “If you’re rich and you move here, you can live off your capital gains,” which are not taxed. “You may have virtually no income here, and pay almost no taxes.”

Forbes estimates Thiel’s net worth at 2.7 billion dollars. He is 49 years old.

As for Thiel himself, who was born German and naturalized American, he declined to publicly defend the officials who did him the favor, or to make any new investments in New Zealand start-ups. His spokesman, Jeremiah Hall of Torch Communications in San Francisco, did not respond to three e-mails seeking comment.

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Aggression against children in the Arab region needs to come to an endhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/aggression-against-children-in-the-arab-region-needs-to-come-to-an-end/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aggression-against-children-in-the-arab-region-needs-to-come-to-an-end http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/aggression-against-children-in-the-arab-region-needs-to-come-to-an-end/#respond Sun, 04 Jun 2017 15:35:15 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150726 Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Jun 4 2017 (IPS)

On 20 February 1997, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 51/77 to promote the rights of children. This Resolution was considered a milestone in promoting and advancing the right of children in conflict and wars.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim

Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim

The resolution was also seen as a further acknowledgement of the growing number of States that had signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child that entered into force on 2 September 1990. To this day only one State has not yet ratified this seminal Convention.

Despite the broad-based ratification of the Convention, children continue to bear the burden of conflicts and calamities. They are indiscriminately targeted by belligerents owing to their vulnerability and physical weakness. According to the United Nations more than 250 million children live in countries affected by conflict.

The 2017 International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression is therefore an important opportunity to recognise the challenges and constraints children experience in the context of wars and conflicts. This day is also celebrated in commemoration of Resolution 51/77 that marked a new era in the joint commitments taken by the Member States of the United Nations (UN) to accelerate the promotion and advancement of the rights of children.

Despite the existing consensus that exists between States, there are various cases of contemporary conflicts that have indiscriminately targeted children and the Arab region is no exception.

In December 2016, UNICEF reported that approximately 2.2 million children in Yemen – out of 3.3 million people – face grave risk of hunger and malnutrition owing to the civil war in Yemen. From the period of 2015 – 2017, civil society and donor governments – in collaboration with its international partners such as WHO, WFP, UNICEF and ICRC – have allocated aid and relief assistance to the hunger-stricken population in Yemen. This has enabled several million children to benefit from the joint efforts of regional and international actors to address the severe food shortage.

The civil war in Syria – also known as the 21st century’s worst humanitarian disaster – is yet another example of a terrible humanitarian catastrophe that indiscriminately targets children. According to UNICEF, 5.8 million children in Syria are in need of help, 2.8 million children are located in conflicts areas, 281,000 living under siege whereas 2.3 million children have fled the country.

This is the gripping reality affecting children in the Arab region. They are not being spared from the adverse impacts of wars and conflicts. They are seen as the easiest victims to target. The international community needs to step up their efforts to provide the necessary aid support to the Yemeni and Syrian civilian populations.

In order to protect children from abuse, exploitation and the intensifying conflicts, peace needs to be given a chance. The conflicts in the Middle East need to come to an end through diplomacy.

It is likewise important that justice triumph in cases where abuses against children are documented. Impunity should not become the norm of societies recovering from wars and conflicts. Peacebuilding and transitional justice require that crimes against humanity be addressed in a transparent and objective manner. Perpetrators who have committed crimes against children need to be brought to justice. They should stand trial for their heinous and barbaric crimes inflicted on civilian populations.

In concluding this statement, I would also like to underscore the importance of education as a peacebuilding measure. On 12 May, I chaired a panel debate at the United Nations Office in Geneva entitled “Human rights: Enhancing equal citizenship rights through education.” The objective of this panel debate was to address the role of education in instilling a culture of peace and tolerance among children in post-conflict environments. The lessons learned from the case studies of Bahrain, Sri Lanka and Colombia underlined the potential of education in enabling children to overcome hostile mindsets – sometime resulting from family backgrounds – and to understand that differences need not beget division but can be an opportunity to celebrate diversity. Many of these countries have taken a number of initiatives in creating supportive environments to facilitate the socializing of children and their peaceful reintegration in society.

No children in the world should face conflict and war. They should spend their childhood and youth in harmony and in peaceful surroundings. Aggression inflicted on children in the Arab region and elsewhere in the world needs to come to an immediate end.

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