Inter Press ServiceMiddle East & North Africa – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 18 Aug 2017 18:02:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 Civilians Increasingly Bearing Burden of Armed Conflicts in Arab Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/civilians-increasingly-bearing-burden-armed-conflicts-arab-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civilians-increasingly-bearing-burden-armed-conflicts-arab-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/civilians-increasingly-bearing-burden-armed-conflicts-arab-region/#respond Fri, 18 Aug 2017 11:32:17 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151695 The author is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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World Humanitarian Day / Syrian boy brings bread back from underground bakery in severly damaged opposition-held area of Aleppo. August 2014. photo credit Shelly KittlesonIPS

Syrian boy brings bread back from underground bakery in severly damaged opposition-held area of Aleppo. August 2014. photo credit Shelly KittlesonIPS

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Switzerland, Aug 18 2017 (IPS)

The war in Syria has now entered its 6th year and is becoming the world’s worst man-made disaster.

The humanitarian calamity in Syria has affected millions of lives; more than half of Syria’s pre-war population has been forced to flee, including 6.3 million internally displaced persons and 5.1 million refugees living in refugee camps in the Middle East and in Europe. It is also estimated that approximately 465,000 people have lost their lives because of this enduring conflict with no immediate end in sight.

Arab civilians are also suffering in other major armed conflicts in the Middle East. According to UNHCR and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, at least 3 million Iraqis have been displaced as a result of the civil strife in Iraq.

Iraq Body Count estimates that more than 50% of the war-related deaths – following the 2003 Iraq invasion – were civilians.

In Yemen, the United Nations estimates that more than 10,000 civilians have perished from the fighting between Yemeni government forces and the Houthi rebels. On top of this, IOM and UNHCR estimates that around 3 million Yemeni civilians have been displaced from their homes since the beginning of the conflict.

World Humanitarian Day / Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim. Credit: United Nations Library at Geneva

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim. Credit: United Nations Library at Geneva

The high civilian tolls witnessed in these conflicts reveal that civilians are increasingly bearing the burden of armed conflicts in the Arab region.

The pattern of modern warfare has changed: battles that were once fought in the unpopulated shores of Normandie and in the desert of El Alamein are now being fought in the urban centres of Gaza, Mosul, Baghdad and Aleppo affecting the lives of millions of civilians.
The theme of the 2017 World Humanitarian Day – Civilians caught in conflict are not a target – reaffirm the vision expressed in the 10 May 2017 report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict calling for “collective action to strengthen the protection of civilians in armed conflict.”

A “global protection crisis” has emerged – noted the Secretary General in the same report – owing to the rise of use of force of which civilians are ultimately the main victims. Since the end of World War II, it is estimated that between 60-90% of war-related deaths are primarily among civilians. Civilians have become the primary casualties of war in the 21st century.

The irregular and black market arms trade have fuelled the rise of violent and extremist groups in numerous countries in the Arab region.

The illicit arms trade has enabled terrorist groups to thrive in countries affected by conflict and violence. Disturbing images of civilian infrastructure such as schools and hospitals being bombed in Palestine, in Syria and in Iraq show that civilian infrastructure is increasingly being targeted by belligerents.

Although the Arms Trade Treaty sought to regulate the international arms trade, the flow of arms and weapons to violent and extremist groups continues to fuel bloody conflicts in the Arab region owing to the lack of ratification of the Treaty by the member states of the United Nations.

Warfare and armed conflicts are increasingly being fought in urban centres in the Arab region. It has brought the war closer to people. The pattern of modern warfare has changed: Battles that were once fought in the unpopulated shores of Normandie and in the desert of El Alamein are now being fought in the urban centres of Gaza, Mosul, Baghdad and Aleppo affecting the lives of millions of civilians.

World Humanitarian Day / Civilians are Not a Target

The use of heavy weapons, so-called strategic bombardments and the use of modern technologies such as drones have increased the likelihood of inflicting collateral damage on civilians during armed conflicts. The disproportionate use of force has caused immense suffering leading to abuse and to killings of civilians. Collateral damage has emerged as an acceptable term to justify errors and the indiscriminate use of force.

In order to respond to the need to provide protection to civilians in armed conflict, the world has a moral responsibility to end the illegal trade of arms and weapons fuelling the growth of violent and extremist groups.

States need to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty and comply with its provisions so as to end the illicit arms trade that is currently estimated to lie at around 10 billion US dollars per year. Weapons and arms should not end up in the hands of extremist groups such as DAESH that commit heinous and unscrupulous crimes on civilian populations in the Arab region.

I also appeal to the international community to ensure that all parties to conflict comply with their provisions to protect the lives of civilians in line with the provisions set forth in the Convention for the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War commonly known as the Fourth Geneva Convention.

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

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Jordan Makes Strides Toward Inclusive Green Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/jordan-makes-strides-toward-inclusive-green-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=jordan-makes-strides-toward-inclusive-green-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/jordan-makes-strides-toward-inclusive-green-economy/#respond Thu, 10 Aug 2017 00:37:08 +0000 Safa Khasawneh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151635 Jordan may be one of the smallest economies in the Middle East, but it has high ambitions for inclusive green growth and sustainable development despite the fact that it lies in the heart of a region that has been long plagued with wars and other troubles, says the Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute […]

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Safa Khasawneh interviews the Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Dr. Frank Rijsberman. Credit: Safa Khasawneh/IPS

Safa Khasawneh interviews the Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Dr. Frank Rijsberman. Credit: Safa Khasawneh/IPS

By Safa Khasawneh
AMMAN, Aug 10 2017 (IPS)

Jordan may be one of the smallest economies in the Middle East, but it has high ambitions for inclusive green growth and sustainable development despite the fact that it lies in the heart of a region that has been long plagued with wars and other troubles, says the Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Dr. Frank Rijsberman.

In a wide-ranging interview with IPS, Rijsberman stressed that Jordan has shown a strong commitment towards shifting to a green economy, and has made significant strides in the area of renewable energy.The demand for water and energy is increasing due to the influx of more than one million Syrian refugees.

Following months of intensive cooperation with GGGI, the government of Jordan – represented by the Ministry of Environment with contributions by line ministries and other stakeholders – launched its National Green Growth Plan (NGGP) in December 2016, Rijsberman said.

Highlighting GGGI’s key role in helping Jordan launch its NGGP and develop a clear vision towards green growth strategy and policy framework in line with the country’s vision 2025, Rijsberman said that his institute will also play a critical part in mobilizing funds and investments to enable green growth.

Rijsberman, who is currently visiting Amman to check on projects funded and implemented by GGGI and the German government, underscored Jordan’s accelerated steps towards preserving its natural resources, leading the country into a sustainable economy, fighting poverty and creating more jobs for young people.

Rijsberman told IPS that the NGGP, which was approved by the cabinet, lists 24 projects in six main sectors, including water, agriculture, transport, energy, waste and tourism, the most pressing of which are water and energy, two of Jordan’s most limited resources.

The demand for these two resources is increasing due to the influx of more than one million Syrian refugees, Rijsberman said, adding that the GGGI water projects take into consideration that Jordan is one of the world’s poorest countries in terms of water. According to World Bank data, the availability of water per capita stands now at 145 m3 /year but is projected to decline to 90 m3 /year by 2025.

“In terms of water, our projects in Jordan aim to preserve the country’s efficiency of water distribution system, provide clean drinking water, maximize the use of treated wastewater for agricultural and industrial purposes and prevent pollution by cleaning some of the polluted rivers,” he told IPS.

Rijsberman, who is also an expert in water issues, revealed that one of the GGGI’s important near future projects in Jordan is the “Master Plan for Cleaning and Rehabilitation of Zarqa River Basin,” a heavily polluted river located 25 kilometers east of the Jordanian capital Amman.

The GGGI also works to address Jordan’s energy challenges, Rijsberman said, adding that the Kingdom imports 97 percent of its energy needs, and its annual consumption of electricity rises by 5 percent annually.

“In the energy sector, our primary focus is on the efficiency of this resource, since Jordan has already made good progress in setting up solar energy plans, and the need lies on storing this energy,” he said.

During his visit to Jordan, Rijsberman said that he had talks with officials in the ministries of energy, environment and planning on ways to exploit solar energy for battery technology, another renewable technology that can store extra solar power for later use. This new technology, Rijsberman explained, will provide the country with the opportunity to shift to renewable energy and reduce imports of fossil fuels.

In transportation, Jordan has also made further progress by introducing eco-friendly hybrid cars with greater fuel efficiency and lower carbon emissions.

In order to move to a green economy, another step in the right direction was made by the Ministry of Environment, which established a “Green Economy Directorate (unit)”, he said, adding that the GGGI is truly impressed by the full support the unit is receiving from the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Energy.

As Jordan faces new geopolitical challenges and an unprecedented influx of refugees, Rijsberman revealed that GGGI is working with government on a Country Planning Framework (CPF), which is a five-year in-country delivery strategy that identifies and operationalizes the institute’s value additions to national development targets in partner countries.

As a strategic and planning document, the CPF aims at delivering in-country development targets that are in alignment with the overarching GGGI Strategic Plan and Corporate Results Framework. It also elaborates a clear and logical assessment of development challenges and enabling conditions, identifies GGGI’s comparative advantage in country and sets priority interventions, he explained.

In Jordan, he explained, there is political will and determination to create green jobs, green businesses, a healthy environment, and secure and affordable supply of energy for all. What the country lacks is the capacity and technical skills as well as adequate financing mechanisms to encourage the private sector to implement green growth projects.

“So a big part of our job is capacity-building to come up with bankable projects that are green and sustainable, and as we know that the government can’t fund projects by itself, therefore it is very important to build partnerships between the private and public sector to reach this end,” the DG told IPS.

According to official data, four workshops were organized in 2016 to enhance capacity among green growth stakeholders in Jordan. A total of 177 participants attended these workshops in Amman, Jordan, and Abu Dhabi, and the UAE. Eighty-two percent of participants responded to surveys conducted after the workshops, indicating an improvement in their knowledge and skills as a result of their participation.

Rijsberman stressed that although Jordan has made tremendous progress in its approach, there is still a long way to go and a lot of work to do.

Despite accelerating degrees of environmental degradation and depletion of resources in the region because of wars, poverty and high unemployment, the GGGI official said he was impressed by how rapidly some Arab countries such as the UAE and Qatar are shifting towards green growth.

The concept of green growth is starting to take hold in the region, Rijsberman said, adding that there is a sustainability week held annually Abu Dhabi, the GGGI has offices in Masdar city in UAE, Jordan started implementing its National Green Growth Plan and the Arab League has requested to share this plan be with its 22 members.

The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) is a treaty-based inter-governmental organization dedicated to supporting and promoting strong, inclusive and sustainable economic growth in developing countries and emerging economies.

Established in 2012 at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, GGGI is accelerating the transition toward a new model of economic green growth founded on principles of social inclusivity and environmental sustainability.

With the support of strong leadership and the commitment of stakeholders, the GGGI has achieved impressive growth over the last several years and now includes 27 members with operations in 25 developing countries and emerging economies.

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Zaatari Camp Marks Fifth Year With 80,000 Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/zaatari-camp-marks-fifth-year-80000-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zaatari-camp-marks-fifth-year-80000-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/zaatari-camp-marks-fifth-year-80000-refugees/#respond Tue, 01 Aug 2017 15:00:00 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151525 Jordan’s Zaatari camp, which opened in 2012 as a makeshift camp to house Syrian refugees fleeing the war, marked its fifth year on June 28. The camp was opened by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the United Nations (UN) to cope with the humanitarian crisis in Syria—which has recorded the world’s largest refugee movement […]

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A view of the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, where nearly 80,000 Syrian refugees are living. Credit: UN Photo/Sahem Rababah

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 1 2017 (IPS)

Jordan’s Zaatari camp, which opened in 2012 as a makeshift camp to house Syrian refugees fleeing the war, marked its fifth year on June 28.

The camp was opened by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the United Nations (UN) to cope with the humanitarian crisis in Syria—which has recorded the world’s largest refugee movement since WWII—with a clear goal to house refugees temporarily.

Between then and today, more than 80,000 Syrian refugees have settled in the camp, making it the world’s largest Syrian refugee camp.

Far from being a makeshift settlement today, the camp has a bustling economy, with many teaching young children—who make up more than half of all refugees—to read and write. The NRC has set up educational centers and centers for vocational activities.

“Now the camp is completely different. There are many more facilities and services. There are no more tents, everyone is living in prefabs. We feel more at home now,” Anwar, one of the first refugees to enter the camp from Daraa, says in a report by the NRC.

“We struggled at the beginning. We used to have shared washrooms. Water lacked sometimes. We had no electricity. The shops weren’t there,” he continued.

All that, of course, has changed. Today, Anwar teaches carpentry and painting to others. Similarly, because many haven’t been able to leave the camp, new businesses have thronged the area.

Still, the very permanence of the camp illustrates the protracted nature of the Syrian conflict, now in its seventh year. Many children have been born in the camp, and the UN has urged other governments to share in this humanitarian responsibility to ensure a better life for all.

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Yemen Records 400,000 Cholera Caseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/yemen-records-400000-cholera-cases/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yemen-records-400000-cholera-cases http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/yemen-records-400000-cholera-cases/#respond Thu, 27 Jul 2017 06:37:59 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151450 The directors of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO) released a joint statement today shedding light on a deadly cholera epidemic engulfing war-torn Yemen. More than 400,000 cases of cholera are suspected, and nearly 1,900 people have died from associated cases in the last three months alone. […]

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More than 400,000 cases of cholera are suspected in Yemen, and nearly 1,900 people have died from associated cases in the last three months alone.

Tents set up at Alsabeen hospital in Sana'a Yemen for screening suspected cholera cases.

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 27 2017 (IPS)

The directors of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO) released a joint statement today shedding light on a deadly cholera epidemic engulfing war-torn Yemen.

More than 400,000 cases of cholera are suspected, and nearly 1,900 people have died from associated cases in the last three months alone.

The dire situation results from a culmination of factors, such as modern tactics of warfare that destroy water pipelines, as well as continuous bombing of schools and hospitals. More than 60 percent of the population remains uncertain of their next meal as famine looms.

Nearly 2 million children are suffering from malnutrition, and are easy targets of the water-borne disease. The report estimates that nearly 80 percent of all children need immediate humanitarian assistance.

Amid the lack of adequate international support, community leaders have stepped up to the task—more than 16,000 volunteers visit families from door-to-door to raise awareness about cholera, and assist them with information to protect themselves.

Many health-care workers, as many as 30,000, haven’t been paid in nearly 10 months. Still, that doesn’t keep them from their work.

Similarly, international organisations like UNICEF and WHO have set up nearly 1,000 diarrhoea treatment centers to provide key supplies, like food and medicine. They are also similarly assisting, with the help of the community, to rebuild the local infrastructure.

There is hope, and more than 99 percent who are now showing cholera-related symptoms have a good chance of surviving.

The two-year deadly conflict in Yemen between the Saudi-led Coalition (SLC) and Houthi rebels in one of the most poorest Arab countries has produced devastating results—one report in 2016, which was quickly withdrawn, estimated that nearly 60% of children died from attacks by the SLC.

The UN agency leaders, Anthony Lake (UNICEF), David Beasley (WFP) and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (WHO) urged the international community to “redouble its support for the people of Yemen,” following a trip to the country themselves.

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No Justice, No Peace for Yemeni Childrenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/no-justice-no-peace-yemeni-children/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-justice-no-peace-yemeni-children http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/no-justice-no-peace-yemeni-children/#respond Fri, 21 Jul 2017 14:09:04 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151395 Human rights groups are urging the UN Secretary-General to include the Saudi-led Coalition (SLC) in a child rights’ “shame list” after documenting grave violations against children. Save the Children and the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict have documented at least 23 SLC airstrikes which injured or killed children, prompting an urgent call for the […]

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'Zuhoor_Yemen' : One-year-old Zuhoor was forced to have the fingers of her right hand amputated after being seriously injured by an airstrikes near Sana'a. Credit: Mohammed Awadh/Save the Children

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 21 2017 (IPS)

Human rights groups are urging the UN Secretary-General to include the Saudi-led Coalition (SLC) in a child rights’ “shame list” after documenting grave violations against children.

Save the Children and the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict have documented at least 23 SLC airstrikes which injured or killed children, prompting an urgent call for the UN to help protect children caught in the midst of the deadly two year-long conflict.

“Everywhere you go in Yemen you see the devastation caused by airstrikes…all parties have been responsible for the unnecessary deaths of children in Yemen, and the Saudi Arabia-led coalition is among them,” said Save the Children’s Yemen country director Tamer Kirolos.

“The UN Secretary-General must put the interests of children first – and hold all of those responsible to account,” he continued.

The human rights groups compiled evidence of “grave violations” in an effort to push Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to include the SLC in a report on child rights violations in conflict, expected to be released next month.

The annual Children and Armed Conflict report documents grave violations including the killing and maiming of children and attacks on schools and hospitals. It also includes an annex which names and shames perpetrators of such violations.

The coalition was initially listed in the 2016 report, only to be removed a few days later after the Gulf state reportedly threatened to withdraw funding from critical UN programs.

“I had to make a decision just to have all UN operations, particularly humanitarian operations, continue,” former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said following the move.

“I also had to consider the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would defund many UN programs,” he added.

The 2016 report found that the coalition was responsible for 60 percent of all recorded child deaths and injuries.

This pattern has only continued as Save the Children and Watchlist documented the killing and maiming of more than 120 children.

In one incident, multiple airstrikes on a market in Hajjah in March 2016 left 25 children dead and four injured.

Multiple bombings of schools and hospitals have also been recorded, including attacks on two different Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)-supported hospitals.

Beyond the immediate and devastating effects on children, such attacks have exacerbated a humanitarian crisis in the country including the “world’s worst cholera outbreak.”

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), children under the age of 15 account for 40 percent of the almost 300,000 suspected cholera cases and make up a quarter of cholera-related deaths.

The 1.8 million acutely malnourished children under five are particularly vulnerable to such communicable diseases.

However, the health system remains unable to respond to the needs of the population as only 45 percent of health facilities remain with limited functionality.

“As war grinds on and children’s lives are blighted not just in Yemen but around the world, the Secretary-General’s annual list has rarely been more important,” the organisations said in a briefing.

“It offers an opportunity to stand up for children caught in today’s brutal conflict to say that their lives and rights have value,” they continued.

In order to hold perpetrators accountable, the list must be “executed without fear or favour” where every party to the conflict that has committed grave violations is included, they added.

Though listing the SLC is not an end in itself, failure to include a key party to the conflict will set a “dangerous precedent” that others around the world will take note of.

“It would also betray the families whose loved ones were killed, the children who suffered life-changing injuries in airstrikes last year…Yemen’s children deserve accountability for the attacks committed against them,” Save the Children and Watchlist concluded.

The coalition is comprised of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan. Because of an ongoing diplomatic rift, Qatar is no longer a part of the SLC.

More than 4,000 children have been killed or injured by all sides of the conflict.

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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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Death Toll Rises in the Mediterranean Sea as EU Turns Its Backhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/death-toll-rises-mediterranean-sea-eu-turns-back/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=death-toll-rises-mediterranean-sea-eu-turns-back http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/death-toll-rises-mediterranean-sea-eu-turns-back/#respond Thu, 06 Jul 2017 21:05:51 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151194 The failure of European Union (EU) to buckle up safety for migrants and refugees reaching its shore has been condemned by Amnesty International in a report today. The most notorious instances in the seas of the Mediterranean plummeted with stricter actions from the EU in the wake of dooming deaths in 2015. The image of […]

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The failure of European Union to buckle up safety for migrants and refugees reaching its shore has been condemned by Amnesty International

A wide view of the Security Council meeting on the Situation in Libya. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 6 2017 (IPS)

The failure of European Union (EU) to buckle up safety for migrants and refugees reaching its shore has been condemned by Amnesty International in a report today.

The most notorious instances in the seas of the Mediterranean plummeted with stricter actions from the EU in the wake of dooming deaths in 2015. The image of a three year old Syrian boy, who was found dead off the shores of Turkey, shook the world to pay more attention to the plight of refugees fleeing war.

Two years on, efforts to ensure the safety of migrants and refugees have once again dropped off the radar of EU.

In the first half of the year alone, 2000 refugees died in the Mediterranean sea, three times the numbers from 2015.

Smugglers off the coast of Libya, for instance, often hurl refugees onto inflatable rubber boats that are inadequately equipped, or have insufficient fuel.

Migrants in large numbers arrive in Libya to ultimately make their way across the sea to Italy. This year alone, 73,000 refugees reached Italy.

The EU, disconcerted by its own fragmentation of agenda in the region, has largely neglected the safety of persons crossing the high seas. Instead, the European bloc has focussed on policies to disrupt smugglers and stall the departure of boats all together.

This strain of policy—strengthening Libyan coastguards and keeping boats at bay—to rein in the numbers from capsizing boats has largely failed.

This is why, ministers from the EU met today in Tallin to commit to better cooperation with NGOs to navigate the deadly waters of this route, a senior campaigner at Amnesty International, told IPS News.

The only way to ensure safety for migrants and refugees is offering safe and alternative routes as well as breaking up smuggling operations off the coast of Libya, a country already marred with instances of human rights abuse.

“European states have progressively turned their backs on a search and rescue strategy that was reducing mortality at sea in favour of one that has seen thousands drown and left desperate men, women and children trapped in Libya, exposed to horrific abuses,” said John Dalhuisen, director of Amnesty International in Europe.

The senior campaign manager, in an email to IPS news, called upon the international community’s help to end the strongmanship of Libyan coastguards, and for compliance with the Refugee Convention of 1951.

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“Long March to Justice”: Appointed Judge to Investigate Syrian War Crimeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/long-march-justice-appointed-judge-investigate-syrian-war-crimes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=long-march-justice-appointed-judge-investigate-syrian-war-crimes http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/long-march-justice-appointed-judge-investigate-syrian-war-crimes/#respond Thu, 06 Jul 2017 13:01:55 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151185 A former French judge has been appointed as the head of an independent team tasked with investigating war crimes in Syria. Catherine Marchi-Uhel was appointed by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to lead a panel known as the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism which aims to gather, preserve, and analyze potential evidence of serious violations of international […]

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What remains of a street in Aleppo. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 6 2017 (IPS)

A former French judge has been appointed as the head of an independent team tasked with investigating war crimes in Syria.

Catherine Marchi-Uhel was appointed by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to lead a panel known as the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism which aims to gather, preserve, and analyze potential evidence of serious violations of international law committed in Syria since 2011 for use by courts or an international tribunal.

The legal team, established in Geneva, was created by the UN General Assembly in December 2015 after facing longstanding resistance from Russia which has used its veto power eight times in the Security Council to block investigations and action on the conflict.

Marchi-Uhel is the first head of the panel and has extensive experience in international criminal law, previously serving as an international judge with the UN mission in Kosovo and in Cambodian courts prosecuting leaders of the Khmer Rouge. She was the Head of Chambers at the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and worked in various legal positions at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with UN peacekeeping missions.

Most recently, Marchi-Uhel has been serving as the ombudsperson for the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Qaeda.

Many applauded the move, including Human Rights Watch who noted that the team is “critical” for the “long march to justice,” stating: “For victims who have known nothing but suffering, despair, and abandonment, the creation of this team represents a small step in the difficult struggle for justice, redress and an end to impunity that has marked the bloody conflict.”

Though the exact figure is uncertain, estimates of casualties from the 7-year long war range from 320,000 to over 400,000.

A UN International Commission of Inquiry has comprehensively documented atrocities committed by all parties to the conflict, including systematic attacks on hospitals and schools.

One of the deadliest attacks in Syria came in October 2016 when a series of airstrikes hit a complex of schools in Haas, killing a total of 36 civilians, 21 of whom were children between the ages of 7 and 17. Another 114 people were injured in the attack including 61 children. Afraid of future attacks, the school was closed.

“A Syrian Air Force attack on a complex of schools in Haas (Idlib), amounting to war crimes, is a painful reminder that instead of serving as sanctuaries for children, schools are ruthlessly bombed and children’s lives senselessly robbed from them,” the commission stated.

Such attacks in Syria are estimated to account for half of global attacks on schools from 2011 to 2015.

Several countries have already begun their own investigations into war crimes in Syria including Sweden which prosecuted a former Syrian opposition fighter for war crimes in December 2016.

The International Mechanism headed by Marchi-Uhel is expected to further these efforts around the world.

However, the team, funded by voluntary contributions, has only received half of the $13 million that its work is estimated to cost in its first year with 26 contributing countries as of June.

Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Switzerland, and Qatar are among the group’s top donors.

Regardless, many are hopeful that the team can send an important message to parties of the conflict.

“Their work should help to ensure that the horrendous atrocities committed in Syria over the past six years cannot be swept away with a veto,” said Human Rights Watch.

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Mideast: Water Use Innovations ‘Crucial’ to Face Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/mideast-water-use-innovations-crucial-face-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mideast-water-use-innovations-crucial-face-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/mideast-water-use-innovations-crucial-face-climate-change/#respond Wed, 05 Jul 2017 17:11:15 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151170 In the Near East and North Africa region, the per capita renewable water availability is around 600 cubic metres per person per year –only 10 per cent of the world average- and drops to just 100 cubic metres in some countries, the United Nations warned. “Arab states must continue to seek innovations to overcome water […]

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Arab states must continue to seek innovations to overcome water scarcity in the face of climate change,” said FAO's Director-General José Graziano da Silva

The Initiative on water scarcity will make governments, international organisations, civil society and the private sector work together to seek participatory and innovative policy, governance and management options for the sustainable use of water scarce resources, which are vital for the food security of the Near east and North Africa countries. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jul 5 2017 (IPS)

In the Near East and North Africa region, the per capita renewable water availability is around 600 cubic metres per person per year –only 10 per cent of the world average- and drops to just 100 cubic metres in some countries, the United Nations warned.

“Arab states must continue to seek innovations to overcome water scarcity in the face of climate change,” said the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General José Graziano da Silva at an event co-hosted by the Arab League on the side-lines of the UN specialised agency’s biennial Conference (3-8 July 2017).

“In the Near East and North Africa region, the per capita renewable water availability is around 600 cubic metres per person per year --only 10 per cent of the world average- and drops to just 100 cubic metres in some countries.”

He praised Near East and North African countries’ progress, despite the challenges, in areas such as desalination, water harvesting, drip irrigation and treating wastewater. “It is fundamental to promote ways for agriculture, and food production in general, to use less water, and use it more efficiently”.

“Population growth and the impacts of climate change will put more pressure on water availability in the near future. Climate change, in particular, poses very serious risks.”

Agriculture Accounts for over 80% of Freshwater Withdrawals

Farmers and rural households should be at the centre of strategies to address water scarcity, Graziano da Silva said. “Not only to encourage them to adopt more efficient farming technologies, but also to secure access to drinking water for poor rural households. This is vital for food security and improved nutrition.”

Agriculture accounts for more than 80 per cent of all freshwater withdrawals in the region, reaching peaks above 90 per cent in some countries including Yemen and Syria. Sustainable and efficient water management practices in agriculture are therefore key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger.

“The future of the Arab region is tightly linked to the problem of water scarcity,” said for his part the Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Abul-Gheith.

Arab states must continue to seek innovations to overcome water scarcity in the face of climate change,” said FAO's Director-General José Graziano da Silva

Water use innovations crucial to face climate change in Arab countries. Credit: FAO

“There is a major gap between supply and demand when it comes not only to water but also food in the Arab region. This gap leads to dire political, economic and security consequences.”

He also urged better collaboration with countries that are home to rivers that flow into the region, and noted that water levels in the Euphrates and Nile Rivers are decreasing steadily.

Climate Change to Compound Water Scarcity

Unrestrained demand for water for agriculture in the region has led to groundwater over‐drafting, declines in water quality and land degradation including salinization, FAO reports. “Climate change is expected to compound these trends and agriculture will be one of the hardest hit sectors.”

More frequent and intense heat waves and reduced rainfall will curb growing seasons. With less rain, there will be a reduction in soil moisture, river runoff and aquifer recharge. Increased uncertainty will affect productivity, and make agricultural planning more difficult.

In collaboration with the Arab League, FAO launched a Regional Initiative on Water Scarcity in the Near East in 2013, which supports the coordination of a Regional Collaborative Strategy.

Building on this, the UN agency launched a Global Framework, Coping with water scarcity in agriculture, at COP 22 in Marrakesh last year. It encourages cooperation among stakeholders and will help develop technology and governance based on good science.

New Global Action Programme for SIDS Countries

Meantime, new United Nations global action programme launched on 4 July at FAO seeks to address pressing challenges related to food security, nutrition and the impacts of climate change facing the world’s Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

The initiative was developed jointly by FAO, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and the Office of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS).

Arab states must continue to seek innovations to overcome water scarcity in the face of climate change,” said FAO's Director-General José Graziano da Silva

Global Action Programme (GAP) on Food Security and Nutrition in Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Credit: FAO

Because of their small size and isolation, SIDS are particularly threatened by natural disasters and the impacts of climate change, says the UN specialised body. “Many have limited arable agricultural land and are dependent on small-scale agriculture, ocean resources and high priced imports.”

The Global Action Programme aims to achieve three objectives: i) create enabling environments for food security and nutrition; ii) promote sustainable, resilient nutrition-sensitive food systems; and, iii) empower people and communities for improved food security and nutrition.

On this, Graziano da Silva stressed that the Global Action Programme is the fruit of wide-ranging consultations in the SIDS regions where food security and nutrition must be addressed together with issues such as climate change, the health of oceans, land degradation, social inclusion education and gender equality.

“The impacts of climate change are particularly worrisome. They affect everything that we plan to do in the SIDS countries,” he said, referring to their vulnerability to rising ocean levels and the increase in extreme weather events such as tsunamis, storms, floods and droughts.

Regarding the nutrition situation, FAO chief said that “the triple burden of malnutrition is a reality among many SIDS countries. This means that undernourishment, micronutrient deficiency and obesity coexist within the same country, same communities and even the same households.”

For his part, the President of the Republic of Palau, Tommy Remengesau Jr. pointed to the need to “curb the alarming trends” in the SIDS such as, in the case of the Pacific region, the high rate of mortality caused by non-communicable diseases including cancer and heart attacks, to which poor nutrition is a major contributor.

“In my view the Global Action Programme is an important mechanism to empower our communities and peoples,” Remengesau said, underscoring the need to gradually shift people in the SIDS towards “wholesome nutrition and healthy lifestyles.”

“I call on the international community, development partners, intergovernmental organizations and fellow SIDS to work together to help our communities and our people,” he said.

UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson, who is also Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the UN, said at the event that the launch of the programme “represents an important step towards implementation of the (SDG) Sustainable Development Goals targets as related to the SIDS for addressing poverty, health, water, sanitation, economic development, inequalities, climate change, and of course the oceans”.

Thomson noted that the Global Action Programme stems from the SIDS Acclerated Modalities Of Action (S.A.M.O.A.) Pathway – the outcome of the Third International Conference on SIDS held in Apia, Samoa in 2014, where FAO was invited to develop a global framework for action.

Focus on the Small Island Developing States

FAO has scaled up its work with the SIDS in recent years including in areas aimed at improving the management and use of natural resources; promoting integrated rural development; and building resilience to extreme weather events.

Last month during the Ocean Conference in New York, FAO presented a commitment to increase economic benefits to SIDS countries through the Blue Growth Initiative. In particular, this will be done through three specific regional SIDS projects, with funding of some 16 million dollars from this agency’s budget.

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Is the United States Preparing for a War in Syria?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/is-the-united-states-preparing-for-a-war-in-syria/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-the-united-states-preparing-for-a-war-in-syria http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/is-the-united-states-preparing-for-a-war-in-syria/#comments Mon, 03 Jul 2017 13:53:21 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151152 Although US policies during the past few months have been quite puzzling and unpredictable, the events of the past few days have been truly bewildering and alarming. On Monday 26th June, the White House released a statement saying that the United States had “identified potential preparations for another chemical attack by the Assad regime…” It […]

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A civil defence team search for survivors after a barrel bomb attack in Aleppo Syria in August 2014. Credit: Shelly Kittleson/IPS

A civil defence team search for survivors after a barrel bomb attack in Aleppo Syria in August 2014. Credit: Shelly Kittleson/IPS

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Jul 3 2017 (IPS)

Although US policies during the past few months have been quite puzzling and unpredictable, the events of the past few days have been truly bewildering and alarming. On Monday 26th June, the White House released a statement saying that the United States had “identified potential preparations for another chemical attack by the Assad regime…” It went on to say: “If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

The threats were not limited to the Syrian government. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, followed that statement by tweeting: “Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people.”

It is of course beside the point to ask how US officials have “identified” that Syria was preparing for another chemical attack, while after so many years of fighting ISIS and other terrorists, they have not yet been able to find out who is supplying them with weapons, funds and organization.

Farhang Jahanpour

With these strange and unsubstantiated statements, the Trump Administration is introducing a new element of uncertainty to the developments in the Middle East. As if the situation in that volatile region was not bad enough, these warlike statements have made it much worse. Many people are asking whether the US Administration is preparing the ground for a major confrontation in the Middle East with unimaginable consequences.

Some 14 years ago, in total violation of international law, former US President George W. Bush launched a barbaric attack on Iraq on the basis of fabricated intelligence, which destroyed that country, killed and wounded more than a million people, and gave rise to ISIS that has afflicted the world ever since.

Far from having learned any lessons from that disastrous mistake, the Trump Administration seems intent on committing a similar mistake on a grander scale. During the campaign, Candidate Trump accused the former US Administration of having created ISIS, not indirectly but deliberately. He spoke about America having spent six trillion dollars on illegal wars in the Middle East and having nothing to show for it. He vowed that he would not be interested in regime change and was intent on resolving international disputes through negotiations and deals.

Whether he has changed his mind or whether the neocons in the Administration have infiltrated and dominated his administration makes little difference. The clear fact is that the Trump Administration seems to have opted for the logic of war, instead of resolving the conflicts by peaceful means.

During the past few weeks, US forces have launched a number of attacks on the positions of the forces allied with the Syrian government. On 18th May and 6th June, American aircraft bombed pro-Syrian militias in southern Syria. They shot down two Iranian-made drones on 8th and 20 June, and on 18th June a US fighter shot down a Syrian aircraft that was attacking ISIS bases west of Raqqa.

On 6th April, after an alleged Syrian chemical attack on Khan Shaykhun, a US frigate fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at the air base from which the Syrian aircraft had taken off. This was despite the fact that the United Nations was still investigating the source of the attack, and some leading investigative reporters and even the Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity who were on the ground had cast doubt on the Syria government’s involvement in the chemical attack.

It is strange that as Syrian forces, backed by Russia and Iran, are gaining the upper hand and liberating most of Syria from the terrorists, the intensity of Israeli and American attacks on Syrian government forces has increased.

From the start of the crisis in Syria, there have been a number of theories based on some leaked information that claimed that the entire debacle in Syria was part of a vicious plot by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States, initially supported by Turkey and Qatar, to isolate Iran and to cut off any links between Iran and Hezbollah through Syria.

Whether those theories about US involvement in Syria in support of Israel and against Iran were correct or not, the fact remains that the Trump Administration is engaged in an illegal and dangerous course of action that may result in a an unwanted war between Russia and Iran on the one hand, and the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia on the other.

In view of these developments it is important to point out:

  1. US actions are in clear violation of the UN Charter and are acts of aggression against a sovereign state.
  2. While Russian and Iranian forces are fighting in Syria against the insurgents at the invitation of the Syrian government, America as an uninvited guest has been fighting against the Syrian forces.
  3. If the Trump Administration is sincere in wanting to eliminate ISIS it should support Russia and Iran to liberate the remaining territory occupied by the terrorists.
  4. If the Trump Administration believes in democracy, free elections and the rule of law, it should call for elections in Syria under UN supervision after the defeat of the insurgents, and then accept the election results, rather than keep calling for the ouster of the Syrian president.
  5. Before launching into a dangerous adventure against Russia and Iran, the Trump Administration must carefully consider the consequences of such a major confrontation.
  6. If the Trump Administration is determined to push for war in Syria, US allies should make it clear that they will not support another unnecessary war in the Middle East.
  7. Meanwhile, instead of being only concerned about possible threats to the state of Israel, it is time to take serious steps to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict with some justice for the hard-pressed Palestinians who have lived under a brutal occupation for more than 50 years. Finding a fair solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict would ensure Israel’s security more than any attempts at regime change in other countries.
  8. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump strongly criticized President Obama for having set a red line regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and then failing to punish Syria. President Trump should realize that by issuing similar ultimatums to the Syrian government on the hypothetical use of chemical weapons, he is giving an open invitation to the terrorists to undertake such false flag operations, and then he will have to act, whether the Syrian government had been responsible for the use of chemical weapons or not.

Finally, to add an element of farce to the entire episode, on June 28th Defense Secretary James Mattis announced that the Syrian government had heeded the US warning and had changed its mind about the use of chemical weapons.

The situation in the world is too serious for the leading superpower in the world to pursue such confused and contradictory policies. It is time for the US government to adopt serious and sane approaches towards the Middle East before the world is engulfed in another major catastrophe.

 

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Scholar at Harvard. For the past 30 years he has been teaching courses on the Middle East at the Department of Continuing Education and is a member of Kellogg College at the University of Oxford

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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Civilian Casualties Rise in Raqqa as Fighting Intensifieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/civilian-casualties-rise-raqqa-fighting-intensifies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civilian-casualties-rise-raqqa-fighting-intensifies http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/civilian-casualties-rise-raqqa-fighting-intensifies/#respond Thu, 29 Jun 2017 11:23:38 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151094 As US-backed Syrian rebels plow ahead in the fight to take back Raqqa from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria, the stake of civilian lives, who number as many as 100,000 in the city, has raised concerns among top UN officials. Among them, at least 40,000 are children. According to […]

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Civilian Casualties Rise in Raqqa as Fighting Intensifies

On 3 June 2017 in the makeshift camp at Ain Issa, 50 km north of the Raqqa in the Syrian Arab Republic, a boy carries a jerrycan filled with water. More than 6,000 people live in harsh conditions and the numbers continue to rise as violence escalates in the area. Credit: UNICEF/UN067440/Souleiman

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 29 2017 (IPS)

As US-backed Syrian rebels plow ahead in the fight to take back Raqqa from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria, the stake of civilian lives, who number as many as 100,000 in the city, has raised concerns among top UN officials.

Among them, at least 40,000 are children.

According to the UN Human Rights Office, at least 173 civilians have been killed by air and ground strikes since June 1. Even though the estimated numbers provide the international community with a sense of the killings, the actual numbers are likely much higher.

“The intense bombardment of Al-Raqqa over the past three weeks has reportedly left civilians terrified and confused about where they can seek refuge as they are caught between ISIL’s monstrosities and the fierce battle to defeat it,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Wednesday.

Reports of civilian casualties continue to stream out of the region as escape routes are strategically choked off. Hospitals and schools have also been allegedly attacked. In fact, modern urban tactics of warfare, such as the use of humans shield in densely populated areas, has wreaked havoc in the region.

“The large number of civilian casualties indicates that much more needs to be done by the parties to ensure protection of the civilian population,” Zeid stressed.

Fleeing civilians face the risks of landmines and getting caught in the crossfire. Those who have managed to escape have had to pay hefty sums of money, sometimes to smugglers affiliated with ISIL.

There are also allegations that the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have looted homes and abducted children to join the fight against ISIL in cities where they enjoy control, like Tabqa.

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said Tuesday that Washington may continue to supply Syrian Kurdish fighters with weapons even after the ISIL is ousted from its de facto capital Raqqa.

Zeid has called on all parties in the war to review their tactics to minimize loss of civilian lives, and commit fully to international law.

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Did Arab Coalition Threaten to Pull Out of UN in Protest?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/arab-coalition-threaten-pull-un-protest/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=arab-coalition-threaten-pull-un-protest http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/arab-coalition-threaten-pull-un-protest/#respond Wed, 28 Jun 2017 20:36:46 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151084 When Saudi Arabia – which has been spearheading a coalition of Arab states in a devastating war against Yemen since 2015 – was accused of bombing civilians, and particularly children caught up in the conflict, the government in Riyadh threatened to cut off humanitarian funding to the world body. As a result of the looming […]

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Children sitting in front of a school that was badly damaged in the conflict in Yemen. Credit: UNICEF/Abu Monassar

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 28 2017 (IPS)

When Saudi Arabia – which has been spearheading a coalition of Arab states in a devastating war against Yemen since 2015 – was accused of bombing civilians, and particularly children caught up in the conflict, the government in Riyadh threatened to cut off humanitarian funding to the world body.

As a result of the looming threat, Saudi Arabia was de-listed from the “offending” annex to a UN report last year, by then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, largely in order to appease the Saudis.

But the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of Jordan, with close links to the Jordanian royal family, has cited a report that nine Arab states – the Saudi coalition 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 new revelation by Zeid– a former Jordanian Permanent Representative to the United Nations and a former Ambassador to the United States – has shed new light on a hitherto unknown threat by the Arab coalition, coordinated perhaps by the Saudis.

Besides Saudi Arabia, the nine-member Arab coalition includes Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, Kuwait and Qatar (whose role in the coalition has been suspended since the emergence of a new crisis among Gulf nations early this month).

Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics & Coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, told IPS “this threat by Saudi Arabia and its allies may indeed be unprecedented. Personally, I say call their bluff.”

“It’s important to stick to principle, particularly in regard to international humanitarian law. The reason more countries haven’t actually withdrawn is that they recognize that being part of the United Nations is on balance to their advantage, so it would be their loss and they would eventually return,” declared Zunes.

He said that “countries have threatened, and at times actually pulled out of certain US committees and agencies in protest, but pulling out of the UN itself is almost unprecedented.”

He pointed out that Indonesia pulled out of the UN in January 1965 in protest of Malaysia being elected to the Security Council, but resumed participation after the coup later that year.

Technically, there are no provisions for withdrawal, so the President of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) simply referred to it as a “cessation of cooperation” and allowed for Indonesia’s return with little fanfare, said Zunes whose areas of specialization include the United Nations and the Security Council.

He said some right-wing elements in Israel and the United States have threatened to pull out over criticisms of Israel and there are periodic attempts by Republicans for a pullout (currently there is an “American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2017” (H.R. 193) introduced by Rep. Mike Rogers, but won’t be going very far.)”

In a statement last year, Amnesty International (AI) said the credibility of the United Nations was on the line “after it shamefully caved in to pressure to remove the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition from the UN’s list of states and armed groups that violate children’s rights in conflict.”

The statement followed an announcement by the spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about the change to the list published as part of an annual report by his Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.

“The move was a direct result of diplomatic pressure from Saudi Arabia, angry at the UN’s conclusion that coalition operations had led to the death and suffering of children in the armed conflict in Yemen”, AI said.

“It is unprecedented for the UN to bow to pressure to alter its own published report on children in armed conflict. It is unconscionable that this pressure was brought to bear by one of the very states listed in the report,” said Richard Bennett, Representative and Head of Amnesty International’s UN Office.

Speaking before the Law Society in London June 26, Zeid also said 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,” he warned.

Martin S. Edwards, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University, told IPS that even though he had not heard of the threat, he would suspect that “this is going to get more common, not only with autocracies under duress, but with countries getting inspired by this White House’s maddening inconsistency with multilateralism.”

“I’m no expert on Saudi foreign policy, but I’d be surprised if it was actually couched in this way. After all, how can the Saudis speak for other countries? I’m sure the Saudi’s own threats to rethink any financial contributions would have been potent enough as it is,” said Edwards who monitors the politics of the United Nations.

Zeid also told the meeting in London that 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,” he added.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Refugee Protection an Obligation Under International Lawhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/refugee-protection-obligation-international-law/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=refugee-protection-obligation-international-law http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/refugee-protection-obligation-international-law/#respond Wed, 21 Jun 2017 14:40:50 +0000 Antonio Guterres SG http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150992 UN Secretary-General António Guterres on the occasion of the World Refugee Day

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Refugee Protection an Obligation Under International Law

A young refugee girl pushing a wheelbarrow of rubbish through the refugee camp in Obock, Djibouti. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By Secretary-General António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 21 2017 (IPS)

It is impossible to be ten years as High Commissioner for Refugees, doing my best to try to help the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, without changing your life. And, indeed, not only witnessing the suffering of people but also learning [about] the extraordinary courage, resilience and capacity to permanently generate hope of refugees is something that has changed my perspective of the world and, to a large extent, changed my life.

And this was the reason why I became candidate for Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Now we are witnessing the largest number of refugees ever. But it is important to say that refugee protection is not a matter of solidarity or generosity, refugee protection is an obligation under international law – the ‘51 Convention and many regional instruments of binding nature. And, as a matter of fact, during the ten years in which I was High Commissioner for Refugees, I have to say that, by large, international law was respected.

Borders were, in general, open, very few situations where refugees were rejected or sent back to their countries of origin, where they might face persecution – what is technically called refoulement. The number of resettlement opportunities offered by developed countries for refugees living in camps and other dramatic situations in the developing world has doubled during those ten years and there was, in general, a strong acceptance by Member States that refugee protection was something that was needed and had to be granted.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo

The situation has considerably changed now. It’s true that we are still witnessing a very large number of countries doing an enormous effort to provide protection to refugees in very dramatic circumstances. I’ll be flying tonight to Uganda. Uganda has been receiving, very generously, refugees from the neighbouring countries – it has now more than 1.3 million refugees, 950,000 from South Sudan alone – and providing them not only with protection, but even with plots of land and the capacity to live not in camps, but in the society, in a way that is much more humane but, of course,, that requires a much stronger solidarity from the country itself.

We are still witnessing many remarkable examples of solidarity in today’s world. But at the same time, we are seeing more and more borders being closed, we are seeing more and more refugees being rejected and, namely in countries of the developed world, we are seeing the opportunities for resettlement in richer countries of refugees coming from the global South being decreased in number at the present moment.

And this is particularly worrying, especially when associated to forms of political populism, xenophobia, racism, in which refugees become a target, many times being accused of being part of the terror threat when refugees are not terrorists – they are the first victims of terror, they are fleeing terror; that is why they are refugees. And this is the reason why I believe it is important to make today five very strong appeals to the international community. Five very strong appeals that I believe are absolutely necessary for the right of refugees to be again fully respected.

First: I call Member States that are not doing it, to re-establish the integrity of the international protection for refugees regime, which means to have the right, obviously, to manage their borders in a responsible way, but managing them also in a protection-sensitive way, and not refusing entry to those seeking asylum and deserving protection, which means asking countries not to send back people to where they might face persecution, which means asking countries to increase their resettlement quotas and to grant protection to a larger number of refugees that are living in very dramatic circumstances in crowded camps or in the slums of cities in abject poverty.

Second: recognizing that there is no humanitarian solution for the refugee plight, the solution is political and it is related to the solution of the conflict that generate refugees in larger numbers; to ask all parties to different conflicts in the world and all countries that have an influence on the parties to each conflict to come together and understand that all those conflicts are now conflicts that are causing tremendous suffering in which nobody is winning, everybody is losing, that are becoming a threat not only to the refugees themselves but a threat to the whole world, as those conflicts are becoming also more and more interlinked to problems of global terrorism.

Third: humanitarian support for refugees is still largely underfunded. I believe that, grosso modo, appeals made are funded at about 50%. That means that the majority of the refugees live below the poverty line — that many cannot bring their children to school, that many cannot guarantee adequate nutrition to their children, that many have not adequate health support, that most of them have no jobs and no hopes or perspective to have a dignified life. It is absolutely crucial that humanitarian appeals are fully funded and that international solidarity is expressed in relation to refugees, not forgetting that 80% of the world’s refugees live in the developing world.

Fourth: I appeal to countries in the developed world to be able to express a much stronger solidarity to countries of first asylum in the global South; those that host, as I mentioned, 80% of the world’s refugees, and sometimes with a dramatic impact on their economy, on their society, not to mention the impact on their security with the conflict next door.

If one looks at countries like Lebanon, where one third of the population is refugees, if one looks at countries like Uganda or Kenya or Ethiopia – they have now more than one million refugees- in societies that are poor, that lack resources, that have huge development gaps and huge development problems; it is absolutely crucial not only to support refugees but to support those communities. And that requires effective development cooperation with these countries.

I must praise the World Bank that was able to create new financial instruments, namely for middle-income countries that are hosting a large number of refugees, in the cases of Lebanon and Jordan innovating financially, to allow these countries to have a little bit more support than the one that they were receiving from the international community.

But the truth is that at the same time, countries are asking those in the developing world that host the largest number of refugees to keep them but are not providing the necessary support for that to be possible. Stronger solidarity with refugee-hosting countries in the global South is absolutely a must.

And finally: I ask countries in the developed world to increase their resettlement quotas at least to the levels that we had two or three years ago, to be able to offer an effective responsibility-sharing with those that are hosting millions of refugees in the deep South.

Just to give you an idea about the differences between the global North and the global South, I’m going to Uganda, as I mentioned. Uganda, last year, received three times more refugees from South Sudan than those crossing the central Mediterranean, and you all know the enormous impact in public opinion and in political debates that the movement through the central Mediterranean caused last year. Well, Uganda received three times more, and Uganda is a tiny country with a relatively small economy and with an enormous generosity in the hearts of the people and the decisions of the Government.

I’d also like to remind you that beyond those that are able to cross the border to seek protection outside their country, we have an even larger number, probably about double, of people that are displaced within the borders of their own country, internally displaced people. And those are under the authority either of their Governments or of different non-State actors that occupy parts of the territory.

And they have been systematically, in many parts of the world, victims of dramatic violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. And so I also would like to make a very strong appeal to all actors in all the conflicts to respect international humanitarian law and to respect human rights law and for the international community to be able to implement those methods of accountability to make sure that those that are responsible for the worst atrocities to be effectively accountable and to be punished for what they are doing, because that’s probably the only way to stop the kind of tragic impact we are having in the life and dignity of now more than 65 million people around the world.

I also think it’s important to underline that the difficulties faced by refugees are also linked to the fact that the migration debate has become quite irrational in today’s world. We are talking about two different situations: refugees crossing borders, fleeing conflict or prosecution, [and] economic migrants who aspire legitimately to have a better life and move from one country to another, aiming at a better future for them and their children.

They do not have the same rights as refugees, countries are not forced to grant them protection, but they also have human rights that also need to be respected and their dignity needs to be respected. Now, the truth is that the debate about the migration became largely an irrational debate. Migration has been present in the world since [forever], and as a matter of fact, if one looks at demographic and economic projections of different parts of the world, migration is a necessary element of establishing different forms of equilibrium in the global society and the global economy.

In my country, my mother is assisted by some people, she is 93 years old, and those that are assisting her – they are not Portuguese. They are from different countries, they are migrants in my country, and Portugal is a relatively poor country in the context of the European Union. And so migration is necessary. If something is necessary, it’s better to control it and to do it regularly than to let smugglers and traffickers be in charge of these movements.

And so my strong appeal in relation to migration is that a rational debate become possible about migration, that of course countries have the right to apply their own migration policies, but that they do that in full respect of human rights, that at the same time, development cooperation policies are able to address the problems of human mobility, to create opportunities in countries of origin for migration to be out of choice, not out of necessity, and much stronger cooperation of States among themselves to crack down on smugglers and traffickers, but also a much big offer of opportunities of legal, regular migration.

I think if migration can be discussed in a rational way, that will create a much better environment in our societies that are all multiethnic, multicultural, multireligious, and at the same time that will also help refugees benefit more easily from the protection rights they are entitled to receive.

We will have two very important debates in the General Assembly next year for two compacts: on migration and refugees. And my appeal to all Member States is to engage positively in those debates and to allow for the international community to be able to define, both in [terms of] refugees and in migration, adequate policies that are assumed by the whole of the international community, respecting human rights, taking into account the legitimate interests of States, but also the opportunities that are generated by human mobility in our world.

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Half of World’s Civilian War Deaths Occurred in Syria, Iraq and Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/half-worlds-civilian-war-deaths-occurred-syria-iraq-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=half-worlds-civilian-war-deaths-occurred-syria-iraq-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/half-worlds-civilian-war-deaths-occurred-syria-iraq-yemen/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 19:38:13 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150985 Between 2010 and 2015, nearly half of all civilian war deaths worldwide occurred in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, a major independent, neutral organisation ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of war and armed violence informs. According to a new report ‘I Saw My City Die‘ by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), […]

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Between 2010-2015, nearly half of all civilian war deaths worldwide occurred in Syria, Iraq & Yemen, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross

On the road going east from Mosul, people fleeing the fighting cross through Gogjali, a Kurdish village located on the way to Al Khazer displaced camp. Credit: CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / ICRC / A. Qusay

By IPS World Desk
ROME/GENEVA, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

Between 2010 and 2015, nearly half of all civilian war deaths worldwide occurred in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, a major independent, neutral organisation ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of war and armed violence informs.

According to a new report ‘I Saw My City Die‘ by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), five times more civilians die in offensives carried out in cities than in other battles.

“Over the past three years, our research shows that wars in cities accounted for a shocking 70% of all civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria”, said the ICRC’s Regional Director for the Middle East, Robert Mardini.

“This illustrates just how deadly these battles have become. This is all the more alarming as new offensives get underway in cities like Raqqa in Syria, or intensify in Mosul, Iraq. A new scale of urban suffering is emerging, where no one and nothing is spared by the violence.”

The research findings are based on preliminary analysis of battle trends and data over the past three years in Iraq and Syria.

The report includes testimony from residents in Syria’s Aleppo, Iraq’s Mosul and Yemen’s Taiz, and expert analysis. It vividly illustrates the effects of siege warfare, the use of explosive weapons and the extensive damage caused to key infrastructure.

The conflicts in these countries have resulted in internal displacement and migration levels unprecedented since WWII, says the Geneva-based ICRC.

Ahmad Ali has just arrived home with a bag of Kudam, a local Yemeni bread. His dry lips tell of his fatigue and the difficult life he leads. He earns a pittance working as a cobbler. “I keep hoping we can soon go back to our home town and the peaceful lives we used to lead. Life here is very difficult. There is no water, no food, no medicine, and no stability,” he says. Credit: CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mohammed Yaseen

17 Millions Fleeing Home

More than 17 million Iraqis, Syrians and Yemenis have fled their homes. And these battles risk becoming even more protracted if real political solutions are not found soon, says the report.

Wars in cities are so devastating because of the way in which they are being fought. Armed parties are failing to distinguish between military objectives and civilian infrastructure – or worse, they are using or directly targeting them, it adds.

“It’s beholden on those with power to act. Warring sides must realise the full impact the fighting has on the people they ultimately hope to govern. Will the victors be able to keep the peace if people feel they have respected neither the law nor the basic humanity of local citizens? The consequences of this violence will resonate for generations and there is the very real danger that cities experiencing these conflicts will simply act as incubators for further violence in the future”, said Mardini.

“States supporting parties to conflict must also do their utmost to restrain their allies and ensure better respect for international humanitarian law. And once the guns fall silent, it is local people and organisations which must play a full part in the rebuilding of the communities.”

The report also considers Lebanon’s 15-year civil war and examines the lessons Beirut can offer to help ensure the recovery of urban communities after such overwhelming and protracted violence.

According to ICRC, findings on the proportion of civilian casualties in cities are based on preliminary research in the Iraqi provinces of Anbar, Ninewah and Salahuddin and Syrian governorates of Aleppo, Deir Ezzor, Rif Damascus and Damascus, based on data available between January 2014 and March 2017.

The proportion of deaths in Iraq, Syria and Yemen is based on a yearly average of around 90.000 global conflict-related deaths between 2010 and 2015, during which time the yearly average of deaths in Iraq, Syria and Yemen was of 42.000 conflict-related deaths i.e. 47 per cent of the total casualties worldwide.

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VIDEO: Yusra Mardini, A Young Refugee, Finds Safety in Her New Homehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/video-yusra-mardini-young-refugee-finds-safety-new-home/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=video-yusra-mardini-young-refugee-finds-safety-new-home http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/video-yusra-mardini-young-refugee-finds-safety-new-home/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 16:21:56 +0000 UNHCR http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151070 The United Nations Department of Public Information has launched a new animated video on the dramatic story of Yusra Mardini, a young refugee from conflict-torn Syria who achieved her dream to compete in the Olympics last year. Yusra Mardini was appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN […]

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The United Nations Department of Public Information has launched a new animated video on the dramatic story of Yusra Mardini, a young refugee from conflict-torn Syria who achieved her dream to compete in the Olympics last year.

The United Nations Department of Public Information has launched a new animated video on the dramatic story of Yusra Mardini, a young refugee from conflict-torn Syria who achieved her dream to compete in the Olympics last year.

By UNHCR
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

The United Nations Department of Public Information has launched a new animated video on the dramatic story of Yusra Mardini, a young refugee from conflict-torn Syria who achieved her dream to compete in the Olympics last year. Yusra Mardini was appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on 27 April 2017. The video was produced by the Education Outreach Section in support of the Together Initiative to mark World Refugee day on 20 June and highlight the advent of the International Day of Peace on 21 September.

 
 

 
 

Nearly 66 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes last year, the United Nation refugee agency has reported.  Around 20 people are newly displaced every minute of the day, according to a new report. In its annual Global Trends report, the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR has recorded unprecedented and concerning levels of displacement around the world.
The figure equates to “one person displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports, stressing the “very high” pace at which conflict and persecution is forcing people to flee their homes.

“We are used to looking at the world and seeing progress, but there is no progress to be made in terms of conflict and violence that is producing people who have had to flee,” said the Director of UNHCR’s New York Office Ninette Kelley, ahead of World Refugee Day.

In just two decades, the population of forcibly displaced persons doubled from 32 million in 1997 to 65 million in 2016, larger than the total population of the United Kingdom.

Much of the growth was concentrated between 2012 and 2015, and driven largely by the Syrian conflict which, now in its seventh year, has forcibly displaced over 12 million representing over half of the Middle Eastern nation’s population.

 

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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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Housing Refugees of the Middle East Conflicts: Where Will They Go?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/housing-refugees-middle-east-conflicts-will-go/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=housing-refugees-middle-east-conflicts-will-go http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/housing-refugees-middle-east-conflicts-will-go/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 20:39:42 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150927 Prolonged conflicts in the Middle East have led to a deadly humanitarian crisis, with as many as 17.5 million people displaced in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. In Syria alone, 11.5 million people have fled their homes—more than three people a minute—since the beginning of war in 2011. Five million have fled the country, and six […]

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Housing Refugees of the Middle East Conflicts: Where Will They Go?

Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon signs the ICRC guest book, as Mr. Maurer Looks on; 3rd Oct., 2016. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 16 2017 (IPS)

Prolonged conflicts in the Middle East have led to a deadly humanitarian crisis, with as many as 17.5 million people displaced in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

In Syria alone, 11.5 million people have fled their homes—more than three people a minute—since the beginning of war in 2011. Five million have fled the country, and six million live in ad-hoc shelters across the country.

The new numbers, in a report by the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) highlight the sheer magnitude of movement in the region, and the struggle of everyday life in first-hand accounts.

“When the siege of east Aleppo started last Ramadan [2016], the situation grew even more difficult as people were stranded for 190 days. The situation there was in a state of paralysis. My son was always hungry as there was nothing to eat or drink. Food was extremely expensive. We were forced to eat different kinds of lentil-based food. As a result, I lost 25 kilos,” said Yasser, a businessman in Aleppo, who watched his son die as his building collapsed after a bombing.

Aleppo, a flourishing economic hub in northern Syria, laid in ruins after four years of hellish fighting between varying warring groups. When the fighting finally ended on Dec. 15, 2016, 35,000 people were evacuated to neighbouring areas in just one week. As residents move back into the city, livable housing remains a major problem.

In Ramadi, Iraq, which was recently liberated from the Islamic State, fighting damaged almost 80 percent of the city. By March, more than a year since the war ended, only 60 percent of its civilians were able to return to the city. Nationwide, even before the Iraqi offensive on Mosul began in October 2016, almost a tenth of Iraqis were uprooted from their homes.

In Mosul, at the beginning of April this year, nearly 274,000 remained displaced from their homes in the city.

In all cases, the extent of damage has been complicated by tactics of urban warfare—firing in densely packed cities, and employing sieges against civilians.

In three cities—Foua, Kefraya and Madaya—in eastern Aleppo, for instance, nearly 60,000 civilians were trapped in a siege that lasted 190 days in 2016. Similarly, in a 15-month siege in Taiz, Yemen, nearly 200,000 people were caught in the cross-fire.

Matters are made worse by continual use of high-impact weapons that destroy urban infrastructure—a single broken pipe, for instance, can deprive 100,000 people of water.

“What we are witnessing is a sustained assault on, and massive disregard for, the provision of health care during times of conflict,” said ICRC President Peter Maurer and Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) President Dr Joanne Liu in a co-written editorial for The Guardian.

The report urges parties involved in the conflict to uphold the rules of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), protect urban settings, and work to the pressing concerns of civilians.

On May 3, 2016, spurred by ongoing attacks on volunteers and medical facilities, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2286, which called on all warring parties to protect medical facilities and personnel.

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Drought Pushes 1 in 3 Somalis to a Hunger Knife-Edgehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/drought-pushes-1-3-somalis-hunger-knife-edge/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drought-pushes-1-3-somalis-hunger-knife-edge http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/drought-pushes-1-3-somalis-hunger-knife-edge/#respond Thu, 15 Jun 2017 17:55:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150897 This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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FAO massive famine-prevention campaign in Somalia--12 million animals treated so far against livestock diseases and illness. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 15 2017 (IPS)

Another famine in former European colonies in Africa and another time in its Eastern region, with Ethiopia and Somalia among the major victims of drought and made-made climate disasters mainly caused by US and European multinational business.

While an estimated 7.8 million people are food insecure in Ethiopia, where drought has dented crop and pasture output in southern regions, in the specific case of Somalia, the United Nations reports that 3.2 million people—that’s one third of its estimated 11 million inhabitants, are now on a ‘hunger knife-edge.’

Meanwhile, more than six million people are affected, of whom only about three million have been reached with food rations.

Key Numbers

· Animals provided with life-sustaining care so far: 12.3 million

· People supported by those animals: 1.8 million pastoralists

· Approximate cost of each FAO treatment per animal: $0.40

· Cost to a pastoralist to replace one dead animal: $40

· Cumulative value of prevented livestock losses so far: $492 million

SOURCE: FAO

“The humanitarian crisis has deteriorated more rapidly than was originally projected,” the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Raisedon Zenenga, few weeks ago told the Council in New York.

People Are Dying. Survivor, Forced to Migrate

“People are dying and need protection, particularly women and children, as drought conditions force them to migrate from rural areas to town, and as sexual violence increases in displacement camps.”

Worldwide, land degradation, severe droughts and advancing desertification are set to force populations to flee their homes and migrate.

Over the next few decades, worldwide, close to 135 million people are at risk of being permanently displaced by desertification and land degradation, says Monique Barbut, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

“If they don’t migrate, the young and unemployed are also at more risk of falling victim to extremist groups that exploit and recruit the disillusioned and vulnerable, “ added Barbut in her message on the occasion of this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) marked on June 17.

They are missing out on the opportunity to benefit from increasing global demand and wider sustained economic growth. In fact, the economic losses they suffer and growing inequalities they perceive means many people feel they are being left behind, Barbut said.

“They look for a route out. Migration is well-trodden path. People have always migrated, on a temporary basis, to survive when times are tough. The ambitious often chose to move for a better job and a brighter future.”

Famine-prevention: The livestock protection campaign is vital for vulnerable pastoralists who rely on their animals to survive. Credit: FAO

One in every five youth, aged 15-24 years, for example is willing to migrate to another country, she noted, adding that youth in poorer countries are even more willing to migrate for a chance to lift themselves out of poverty.

“It is becoming clear though that the element of hope and choice in migration is increasingly missing. Once, migration was temporary or ambitious. Now, it is often permanent and distressed.”

Saving Animals Saves Human Lives, Livelihoods

In parallel, concerned United Nations agencies have been strongly mobilised to help mitigate the new famine facing African countries. One of them, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has been pushing forward with a massive campaign that has so far treated more than 12 million animals in less than three months.

The objective is to protect the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of families who rely on their livestock’s meat and milk for survival. By mid-July, the UN specialised body will have reached 22 million animals, benefiting over 3 million people.

“Saving animals saves human lives and livelihoods. When animals are weakened by drought, they stop producing milk or die which means people go hungry and families are pushed out of self-reliance,” said Richard Trenchard, FAO Representative in Somalia.

Worsening drought conditions have left hundreds of thousands of Somalis facing severe food and water shortages. Credit: OCHA Somalia

Around 3.2 million people in Somalia are on a hunger knife-edge, the agency reports, adding that the majority live in rural areas and livestock such as goats, camels, sheep and cattle are their main source of food and income.

“What we have heard again and again from displaced people in camps is that when they lost their animals, everything collapsed. It is a steep, long climb for them to get back on their feet again. We have stepped up our response to reach families before that happens,” added Trenchard. “Livelihoods are their best defence against famine”.

In Somalia, 6.7 million people face acute hunger as threat of famine persists, according to a FAO new assessment.

The UN agency is deploying 150 veterinary teams across Somalia to treat goats and sheep as well as cattle and camels – up to 270,000 animals each day. The teams are made up of local Somali veterinary professionals.

Simple, Cost-Effective Care

Livestock badly weakened by the lack of feed and water are highly susceptible to illnesses and parasites but are too weak to withstand vaccination, the specialised organisation reports.

As part of an integrated response program to improve the conditions of livestock, animals are treated with multivitamin boosters, medicines that kill off internal and external parasites, deworming, and other treatments to fight respiratory infections.

The simple and cost-effective care being provided by the FAO vet teams is reinforcing animals’ coping capacity and keeping them alive and productive. (See Key Numbers Box).

Meanwhile, through its Famine Prevention and Drought Response Plan, the UN specialised body is delivering large-scale, strategic combinations of assistance to prevent famine in Somalia.

In addition to livestock treatments, this includes giving rural families cash for food purchases, helping communities rehabilitate agricultural infrastructure, and providing farmers with vouchers for locally-sourced seeds along with tractor services that reduce their labour burden.

Any serious reaction from Africa’s former colonisers?

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Mideast: Drought to Turn People into Eternal Migrants, Prey to Extremism?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/mideast-drought-to-turn-people-into-eternal-migrants-prey-to-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mideast-drought-to-turn-people-into-eternal-migrants-prey-to-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/mideast-drought-to-turn-people-into-eternal-migrants-prey-to-extremism/#respond Tue, 13 Jun 2017 15:31:40 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150865 This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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Credit: UNCCD

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 13 2017 (IPS)

Worldwide, land degradation, severe droughts and advancing desertification are set to force populations to flee their homes and migrate. In the specific case of the Middle East and North of Africa (MENA), such an obliged choice implies the additional risk to turn peoples into easy prey to extremist, terrorist groups.

This quick conclusion does not come out of the blue–the MENA region, which is home to around 400 million people, is one of the world’s most impacted areas by drought and fast advancing desertification.

The situation is such that several scientific researches have been handling the scary scenario that the MENA region may become inhabitable in very few decades from now, even as soon as 2040.

On this, study-based reports are bold clear. See for instance: New Evidence Confirms Risk That Mideast May Become Uninhabitable. And Will the Middle East Become ‘Uninhabitable’?

The international community is set to mark this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) on June 17, under the theme: “Our Land. Our Home. Our Future.” The Day will precisely examine the important link between land degradation and migration.

The WDCD is observed every year to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification.

What Desertification Is All About?

Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. It is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations, according to the United Nations.

“Desertification does not refer to the expansion of existing deserts. It occurs because dryland ecosystems, which cover over one third of the world‘s land area, are extremely vulnerable to over-exploitation and inappropriate land use. Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing and bad irrigation practices can all undermine the productivity of the land.”

Over 250 million people are directly affected by desertification, and about one billion people in over one hundred countries are at risk, the world body reports. “These people include many of the world‘s poorest, most marginalized and politically weak citizens.”

Bandiagara, a town in the semi-arid central plateau of Mali inhabited by mainly agricultural Dogon people. Credit: UN Photo/Alejandra Carvajal

Bandiagara, a town in the semi-arid central plateau of Mali inhabited by mainly agricultural Dogon people. Credit: UN Photo/Alejandra Carvajal

The World Day to Combat Desertification is a unique moment to remind everyone that land degradation neutrality (LDN) is achievable through problem solving, strong community involvement and co-operation at all levels,” according to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

“Environmental degradation, political instability, food insecurity and poverty are causes of migration and development challenges.”

In fact, the Bonn-based UNCCD secretariat timely reminds that in just 15 years, the number of international migrants worldwide has risen from 173 million in 2000 to 244 million in 2015.

Drought, the Big Unknown

Drought, a complex and slowly encroaching natural hazard with significant and pervasive socio-economic and environmental impacts, is known to cause more deaths and displace more people than any other natural disaster, says the UN Convention secretariat.

By 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and two thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions.

Meanwhile, UNCCD reports that the demand for water is expected to increase by 50 per cent by the year 2050. As populations increase, especially in dryland areas, more and more people are becoming dependent on fresh water supplies in land that are becoming degraded. Water scarcity is one of the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century.

“Drought and water scarcity are considered to be the most far-reaching of all natural disasters, causing short and long-term economic and ecological losses as well as significant secondary and tertiary impacts.”

Ten Times Less Available Fresh Water

Per capita availability of fresh water in the region is now 10 times less than the world average, the United Nations has recently warned. Moreover, higher temperatures may shorten growing seasons in the region by 18 days and reduce agricultural yields a further 27 per cent to 55 per cent less by the end of this century.

Add to this that the region’s fresh water resources are among the lowest in the world, and are expected to fall over 50 per cent by 2050, according to the United Nations leading agency in the field of food and agriculture.

Moreover, 90 per cent of the total land in the region lies within arid, semi/arid and dry sub/humid areas, while 45 per cent of the total agricultural area is exposed to salinity, soil nutrient depletion and wind water erosion, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) adds.

On this, UNCCD says that to mitigate these impacts, drought preparedness that responds to human needs, while preserving environmental quality and ecosystems, requires involvement of all stakeholders including water users and water providers to achieve solutions for drought.

“Action on mitigating the effects of drought should be implemented considering comprehensive drought early warning and monitoring systems, vulnerability and risk assessment, upstream-downstream water uses, the link between water and land use; livelihood diversification strategies for drought affected people, etc. For example, addressing land degradation upstream improves access to water on site and downstream.”

The health of land is critical in the search for sustainable solutions to water resource provision and management, the UN Convention secretariat informs. “It is essential for countries to be proactive (rather than reactive); be coordinated at regional level (in addition to the country level actions); holistic and multi-sectoral (rather than silos) and to treat drought as a ‘constant risk’ (rather than a ‘crisis’).”

The global observance of #2017WDCD will be on 15 June in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The Day will be hosted by le Ministère de l’Environnement, de l’Economie Verte et du Changement Climatique.

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification

Established in 1994, UNCCD is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management. It addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.

Its 195 parties work together to improve the living conditions for people in drylands, to maintain and restore land and soil productivity, and to mitigate the effects of drought.

The UNCCD is particularly committed to a bottom-up approach, encouraging the participation of local people in combating desertification and land degradation. Its secretariat facilitates cooperation between developed and developing countries, particularly around knowledge and technology transfer for sustainable land management.

As the dynamics of land, climate and biodiversity are intimately connected, the UNCCD collaborates closely with the other two Rio Conventions; the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to meet these complex challenges with an integrated approach and the best possible use of natural resources.

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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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