Inter Press Service » Newsbriefs News and Views from the Global South Mon, 29 May 2017 18:23:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 UN Unable to Fully Investigate Chemical Weapons Allegations in Sudan Wed, 05 Oct 2016 04:42:29 +0000 Lindah Mogeni By Lindah Mogeni

The UN has only limited access to Jebel Marra, the location in Sudan where Amnesty International alleges Sudanese government forces have used chemical weapons, UN Peacekeeping Chief Herve Ladsous said here Tuesday.

‘’We have not come across any evidence regarding the use of chemical weapons in Jebel Marra,’’ Ladsous told the UN Security Council, noting that UN mission’s consistently restricted access into Jebel Marra has hindered effective monitoring and reporting.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has also assessed that no conclusions regarding Amnesty’s conclusions can be made without further investigation.

In a report released on September 30, Amnesty pointed to the alleged use of chemical weapons by Sudanese government forces against civilians in Darfur, resulting in an estimated 200-250 deaths since January 2016.

Amnesty alleges that chemical weapons have been deliberately targeted towards civilians in the remote region of Jebel Marra in Darfur at least 30 times in the past eight months.

The Amnesty investigation was conducted remotely, from outside Jebel Marra, mostly due to access restrictions. It therefore relied upon satellite imagery, extensive interviews, and expert analyses of survivors’ injuries.

According to the report, interviewed survivors witnessed a ‘’poisonous black smoke that gradually changed colour and smelled putrid’’ during the attacks in their villages.

‘’It smells like someone burning plastic, mixed with the smell of rotten eggs…’’said Kobei, a senior armed opposition group commander, in an interview in the report.

Survivors witnessed a ‘’poisonous black smoke that gradually changed colour and smelled putrid.’’

Disturbing images from the investigation show injuries ranging from weeping blisters, bloody lesions and darkened skin peeling off. Other reported injuries include eye problems, severe respiratory problems, involuntary seizures, red urine, miscarriages, bloody vomiting and diarrhea.

The report mentioned that children were generally more affected than adults after the alleged exposure. Further, injured survivors have had ‘’no access to adequate medical care.”

Both chemical weapons experts who reviewed the evidence stated that the victims experienced a variety of symptoms that “strongly suggest an exposure to chemical weapon agents.”

Identifying the specific chemical agents requires collecting samples from those allegedly exposed, from the environment and from weapon remnants used during the attacks. Given the severe access restrictions into Jebel Marra, Amnesty have not been able to do this.

Sudan is currently a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention that bans the use of chemical weapons.

The Sudanese government has refuted the allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Jebel Marra and said that it will to cooperate with the OPCW investigation.

In a letter dated 27 September 2016, Sudan’s Minister of Justice, Awad Hassan Elnour, said that the evidence in the report is “unreliable, contradictory and unsubstantiated ’’ and alleged that ‘’the survivors and witnesses in the report were either members of the opposition or influenced under fear.”

Elnour questioned whether the satellite imaging relied on in the report showed government forces wearing protective suits and helmets against chemical weapons as they stood on the very ground supposed to be targeted with such weapons. She additionally questioned the alleged death toll of 200 people, considering no such information was available in any health centers in the country.

The report however alleges that the chemicals were released primarily through air bombs and rockets and that the victims had no access to medical treatment.

Peacekeepers from the UN-African Union force in Darfur have been denied access into Jebel Marra where the alleged chemical weapon attacks occurred, according to Ladsous, in his briefing to the UN Security Council on October 4.

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Thailand’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy and the Sustainable Development Goals Fri, 26 Aug 2016 12:05:21 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands 0 Chatterjee, new Resident Coordinator, to lead 25 UN agencies in East Africa Fri, 26 Aug 2016 05:48:47 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent
NAIROBI, KENYA, Aug 26 2016 (IPS)

Siddharth Chatterjee, the Representative of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Kenya, has been appointed UN Resident Coordinator, where he will lead and coordinate 25 UN agencies in East Africa. At the same time, he will also serve as the Resident Representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

At UNFPA, he and his team spearheaded efforts to reduce the unacceptably high maternal deaths in Kenya putting the spotlight on the challenges faced by adolescent girls, including child marriage, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and sexual and gender based violence.

Before he joined UNFPA, Chatterjee served as the Chief Diplomat and Head of Strategic Partnerships and was also responsible for resource mobilization at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) since 2011.

In 1997 he joined the UN in Bosnia and over the next two decades served in Iraq, South Sudan, Indonesia, Sudan (Darfur), Somalia, Denmark, and Kenya. He has worked in UN Peace Keeping, UNICEF, UNOPS, the Red Cross and UNFPA.

Welcoming the appointment, Ruth Kagia, Senior Advisor, International Relations and Social Sectors in the Office of the President of Kenya said, “Sid’s insightful understanding of clients’ needs as the UNFPA Representative in Kenya has translated into tangible gains in maternal, child and adolescent health. His relentless energy and focus on results has helped build relationships and networks of trust and confidence with the highest levels of Government, civil society, the private sector and development partners.”

Chatterjee is expected to continue his advocacy for women’s empowerment in Kenya where he has led notable initiatives to advance reproductive, maternal, neo-natal, child and adolescent health.

Chatterjee is expected to continue his advocacy for women’s empowerment in Kenya where he has led notable initiatives to advance reproductive, maternal, neo-natal, child and adolescent health.

Dr Julitta Onabanjo, UNFPA’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa said, “Sid resolutely pushed UNFPA’s mandate in the hardest to reach counties and service of the most vulnerable.  He mobilized resources and partners in the private sector to join this drive to leapfrog maternal and new-born health. This bold initiative was highlighted by the World Economic Forum in Davos and Kigali”.

Among Chatterjee’s other career achievements include mobilizing the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement to join the eradication of polio initiative; negotiating access with rebel groups to undertake a successful polio immunization campaign in the rebel controlled areas of Darfur; leading UNICEF’s emergency response when conflict broke out in Indonesia’s Aceh and the Malukus provinces; and overseeing UNICEF’s largest demobilization of child soldiers in South Sudan in 2001.

A prolific writer, Chatterjee’s articles have featured on CNN, Al Jazeera, Forbes, Huffington Post, Reuters, the Guardian, Inter Press Service, as well as the major Kenyan newspapers.  He was recently profiled by Forbes magazine in an article titled, “Passionate Leader of UNFPA Kenya Battles Violence against Women, FGM and Child Marriage.” 

His early career was in a Special Forces unit of the Indian Army, where he was decorated in 1995 for bravery by the President of India. Chatterjee holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Princeton University, USA and a Bachelor’s degree from the National Defence Academy in India.

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Developing Nations Seek Tax Body to Curb Illicit Financial Flows Mon, 08 Aug 2016 10:04:04 +0000 Thalif Deen 0 Q&A: Representing Developing Countries at the United Nations in New York Mon, 01 Aug 2016 07:11:58 +0000 an IPS Correspondent UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) meets with Virachai Plasai, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to the United Nations and Chair of the Group of 77.  Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) meets with Virachai Plasai, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to the United Nations and Chair of the Group of 77. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By an IPS Correspondent

IPS spoke with the Virachai Plasai, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to the United Nations and Chair of the Group of 77 about what it’s like to represent 134 developing countries, including China, at UN meetings in New York. Plasai spoke about some of the group’s priorities for 2016, including the selection of the ninth UN Secretary-General, the 2030 Development Agenda, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and the implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

IPS: The UN is currently selecting a Secretary-General for 2017 and G77 members have had the opportunity to question most of the candidates. Has this process been beneficial to G77 members? Do you think that this new, more open selection process will help ensure that the next Secretary-General will be somebody who understands the interests of developing countries?

Ambassador Plasai: The selection and appointment of the Secretary-General this year benefits from efforts to bring greater transparency and openness to the process, which G77 wholeheartedly support.

Of particular importance is the informal dialogues with candidates organised by the President of the General Assembly as mandated by the General Assembly. The Chair of G77 and several G77 members took part actively in these informal dialogues by posing questions on issues of interest to developing countries to the candidates. In addition, the Group have positively responded to the request from the candidates who wished to present their vision as Secretary-General to the Group and interact with the Group members.

These exercises have brought issues of concern for G77 members to the attention of the candidates. We can thus reasonably expect that the successful candidate will be well aware of the issues of concern for developing countries.

IPS: How would you describe the role of the G77 at the UN in ensuring early implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development?

Plasai: The G77 have been committed to and have contributed constructively in ensuring early implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The Group has called for a sincere and effective follow up on global commitments of all actors, particularly developed countries. We believe that the United Nations has a critical role to play in urging national leaders and actors to follow up on their commitments, especially in the Financing for Development Forum and the High Level Political Forum (HLPF).

In this regard, the Group called for an intergovernmental process to discuss the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda in the form of a General Assembly resolution. The Group advocates for the following points in such a process:

All 17 goals are integrated and indivisible, ambitious and evolving. The review should be systematic, and promotes a holistic understanding of the significant interlinkages across the goals and targets.

All inputs and reports, including from functional commissions, should be fed into the HLPF.

It is up to each Member State to decide how to present the voluntary national review at the HLPF. It is important not to overburden countries, especially those with limited capacities and resources.

The follow-up and review at the regional level and sub-regional levels can, as appropriate, provide opportunities for peer learning, sharing of best practices and discussions on shared targets. It is important to build on existing mechanisms.

It is important to reinforce the existing modalities of Groups of countries in special situations, including the most vulnerable ones, in particular LDCs, LLDCs, SIDS and African countries. Particular challenges facing the middle-income countries in achieving SDGs should also be recognized and supported by the international community. Moreover, we must not leave peoples and countries under foreign occupation behind.

The UN system must support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda by ensuring coherent and integrated support of the system-wide strategic planning implementation and reporting.

The Secretariat must support member states in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and must not work in silos.

IPS: The high-level signature ceremony for the Paris Agreement took place in New York on 22 April 2016 – what were some of the highlights of the day for the G77?

Plasai: The Group highlighted the following key points:

First, the Agreement is a result of the collective and tireless efforts of all parties working constructively in a spirit of compromise. It represents a step forward in our efforts on climate change.

Second, we must not forget the urgent need to enhance pre-2020 ambition, including the ratification of the Doha amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, which will provide a strong basis for post-2020 efforts under the Paris Agreement. We also need to address the significant gap between the aggregate effect of Parties’ mitigation pledges in terms of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 and aggregate emission pathways consistent with the target to holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. We should also make efforts to limit this temperature increase to 1.5º C.

Third, the focus now should both be on the entry into force of the Paris Agreement and on delivering the major tasks to enhance pre-2020 implementation. This includes action on adaptation which is an urgent priority for developing countries. Financing for adaptation is critical; and securing the continued role of the Adaptation Fund pre 2020 and beyond 2020 is welcomed and should be enhanced.

Fourth, on mitigation, developed countries should continue taking the lead by undertaking and increasing economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets for their pledges and nationally determined contributions (NDCs). For developing countries, capacity-building support for climate action is critical. This support should be based on and responsive to national needs and country ownership. The process of capacity-building must be participatory, country-driven, and cross-cutting. Enhanced financial and technological support from developed countries will allow effective implementation and enhance ambition of developing countries.

Fifth, transformation of our economies to low carbon development pathways requires adequate, predictable and sustainable climate financing. Means of implementation is a key pillar for the implementation of the Agreement. We welcome the approval of the first projects by the Green Climate Fund. We envision that a substantive decision on increasing climate finance will be an important outcome of COP 22 in Morocco.

IPS: What are the challenges and opportunities for the Group of 77 with regard to the global indicator framework for the 2030 Agenda?

Plasai: The challenge is that the development of the global indicators is a technical process which should continue to be led by the national Statistical Offices. At the same time, it has political implications. We believe that the political balance and ambition of the 2030 Agenda should be preserved without reinterpreting the scope or intent of the targets. The tricky part is that our national Statistical Offices need to understand the inherent political sensitivity of the SDG negotiations.

In this regard, we need to avoid undue haste to prematurely conclude the work of the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goals Indicators (IAEG-SDGs). The adoption of the Report of the IAEG-SDGs by the Statistical Commission in March is just a starting point of the work on the global indicators. Further methodological work will be required with a view to continuously improving the indicators and the availability of data to address their shortcomings.

The opportunity lies in our insistence for a coordinated effort in the United Nations System to enhance statistical capacity in developing countries. Capacity-building is needed to strengthen statistical capacities at national and sub-national levels.

IPS: Achieving the SDGs will require a rethinking of how public and private funds are spent. In 2015, G77 countries called for global tax cooperation as one way to help governments in developing countries to increase their budgets. Is establishing a global tax cooperation body still a priority for the G77 countries? How will tax cooperation help developing countries to fund the SDGs?

G77 have continuously urged an upgrade of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters to an inter-governmental subsidiary body.

We believe that such a global tax body can contribute to a coherent global tax system, less double taxation and double-non-taxation, stronger implementation, fair and consistent global action against tax havens, and more financing for development in the poorest countries.

Besides, such a global tax cooperation body will also allow all Member States to take part in and make decisions on tax matters, on a truly equal footing, and in a more accountable and transparent manner. This is all the more important in light of the recent high-profile international tax evasion cases.

It can be expected that such a global tax cooperation body can result in more effective tax policy and a more efficient domestic tax collection. At the same time, unfair international tax distortion and tax evasion can be reduced. More effective mobilization of domestic resources undoubtedly benefits the implementation of SDGs, and thus should be part of national sustainable development strategies.

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