Inter Press Service » G77 Turning the World Downside Up Sun, 29 Mar 2015 08:27:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Rich Countries Pony Up (Some) for Climate Justice Wed, 26 Nov 2014 14:24:04 +0000 Oscar Reyes Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosted the Climate Summit 2014 at UN headquarters in New York on Sep. 23. Credit: Green Climate Fund

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosted the Climate Summit 2014 at UN headquarters in New York on Sep. 23. Credit: Green Climate Fund

By Oscar Reyes
WASHINGTON, Nov 26 2014 (IPS)

It’s one of the oldest tricks in politics: Talk down expectations to the point that you can meet them.
And it played out again in Berlin as 21 countries—including the United States—pledged nearly 9.5 billion dollars to the Green Climate Fund, a U.N. body tasked with helping developing countries cope with climate change and transition to clean energy systems.Despite its green mandate, the Green Climate Fund may also support an array of “dirty energy” projects—including power generation from fossil fuels, nuclear power, and destructive mega-dam projects.

The total—which will cover a four-year period before new pledges are made—included three billion dollars from the United States, 1.5 dollars billion from Japan, and around one billion dollars each from the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.

That’s a big step in the right direction. But put into context, 9.5 billion dollars quickly sounds less impressive.

Floods, droughts, sea level rises, heat waves, and other forms of extreme weather are likely to cost developing countries hundreds of billions of dollars every year. And it will take hundreds of billions more to ensure that they industrialise more cleanly than their counterparts did in North America, Europe, Japan, and Australia.

Developed countries should foot a large part of that bill, since they bear the greatest responsibility for causing climate change.

The politics of responsibility

Determining who pays for what is an integral part of achieving an international climate deal. And so far, pledges from rich countries have tracked far behind previous requests and recommendations.

Back in 2009, developed countries signed the Copenhagen Accord, which committed them to move 100 billion dollars per year by 2020 to developing countries. A year later, the U.N. climate conference in Cancún called for the Green Climate Fund to be set up to channel a “significant share” of the money developing countries need to adapt to climate change.

Earlier this year, the G77—which is actually a grouping of 133 developing countries—called for 15 dollars billion to be put into the Green Climate Fund. U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres set the bar lower at 10 billion dollars. The failure to even reach that figure is likely to put strain on negotiations for a new multilateral climate agreement that is expected to be reached in December 2015.

But it’s not just the headline figure that’s important. Plenty of devils are likely to be lurking in the details.

Delivering on the U.S. pledge requires budgetary approval from a hostile Congress, although a payment schedule stretching over much of the next decade could make that more politically feasible than it initially sounds.

More concerning are the conditions attached to the U.S. pledge, which include a threat that some of the money could be redirected to other funds—likely those run by the World Bank—if “the pace of progress” at the Green Climate Fund is inadequate. Given that the United States is advocating rules on how the fund makes decisions that would tip the balance of power in favor of contributor countries, the threat is far from innocuous.

France will provide a significant proportion of its share as loans rather than grants, while the small print of the UK contribution is likely to reveal that part of its money comes as a “capital contribution,” which can only be paid out as loans.

Those restrictions could limit the scope of activities that the fund can finance, since much of the vital support and infrastructure needed to support community resilience in the face of climate change is too unprofitable to support loan repayments.

Future of the fund

Looming over these issues is the larger, unresolved question of what the fund will actually finance. Some donor countries—including the United States—are pushing for a fund that would support transnational corporations and their supply chains, helping them turn profits from investments in developing countries.

Despite its green mandate, the Green Climate Fund may also support an array of “dirty energy” projects—including power generation from fossil fuels, nuclear power, and destructive mega-dam projects. That’s the subject of an ongoing dispute on the fund’s 24-member board and a persistent complaint from a range of civil society organisations.

That battle is not yet lost.

Despite its shortcomings, the Green Climate Fund has great potential to support a global transition to renewable energy, sustainable public transport systems, and energy efficiency. And with its goal of spending 50 percent of its funds on “adaptation” activities, it could also serve as a vital lifeline for communities already facing the impacts of climate change.

An important milestone was passed with the billions pledged to the Green Climate Fund. But achieving a cleaner, more resilient world will take billions more—along with a commitment to invest the money in projects that mitigate climate change rather than cause it.

This article is a joint publication of Foreign Policy In Focus and

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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OPINION: The Group of 77 & IPS at 50 Thu, 23 Oct 2014 19:11:32 +0000 Mourad Ahmia

Mourad Ahmia is the Executive Secretary of the Group of 77, the largest single coalition of developing countries at the United Nations

By Mourad Ahmia

When the Group of 77 commemorated its 50th anniversary recently, Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency was not far behind.

Established in 1964 as the largest news agency of the global South, IPS has been the voice of both developing nations and the Group of 77 for the past 50 years.

Mourad Ahmia. Courtesy of the G-77

Mourad Ahmia. Courtesy of the G-77

Both are linked together by a single political commitment: to protect and represent the interests of the developing world.

The 50th anniversary celebration of the G-77 and IPS represents an opportunity to enhance and strengthen the joint partnership in projecting and promoting the concerns of the countries of the South.

For five decades the agency has, in its own way, provided technical help to delegations of the South in promoting the global development agenda of the South.

The integral role played by the Group of 77 in economic diplomacy and projecting the development interests of the global South is a testimony to its continued relevance in the ongoing global development dialogue.

IPS’s priceless contribution in that endeavor translates into promoting a new platform for global governance through critical information and communication.

IPS supported the publication for many years of the first ever G-77 newsletter: “The Journal of the Group of 77,” as well as publishing special editions of Terra Viva on various occasions, particularly the celebration of anniversaries of the Group of 77 and the South Summits.

The initiative to establish a global network of news agencies of the South, launched in 2006 by the G-77 and IPS under the chairmanship of South Africa, is still a work in progress.

Meanwhile, the G-77 has its own 50-year history of accomplishments.

When it was established on Jun. 15, 1964, the signing nations of the well-known “Joint Declaration of Seventy-Seven Countries” formed the largest intergovernmental organisation of developing countries in the United Nations to articulate and promote their collective interests and common development agenda.

Since the First Ministerial meeting of the G-77 held in Algeria in October 1967, and the adoption of the “Charter of Algiers”, the Group of 77 laid down the institutional mechanisms and structures that have contributed to shaping the international development agenda and changing the landscape of the global South for the past five decades.

Over the years, the Group has gained an increasing role in the determination and conduct of international relations through global negotiations on major North-South and development issues.The G-77 adheres to the principle that nations, big and small, deserve an equal voice in world affairs... Today the Group remains linked by common geography and shared history of struggle for liberation, freedom and South-South solidarity.

The Group has a presence worldwide at U.N. centres in New York, Geneva, Nairobi, Paris, Rome, Vienna, and Washington D.C., and is actively involved in ongoing negotiations on a wide range of global issues including climate change, poverty eradication, migration, trade, and the law of the sea.

Today, the G-77 remains the only viable and operational mechanism in multilateral economic diplomacy within the U.N system. The growing membership is proof of its enduring strength.

From 77 founding member states in 1964 to 134 and counting in 2014, it is the largest intergovernmental organisation of the global South dealing with the Development Agenda.

The Group was created with the objective to collectively boost the role and influence of developing countries on the global stage when it became clear that political independence, to be meaningful, required changes in the economic relations between North and South.

Thus, political independence needed to be accompanied by economic diplomacy with the ultimate objective of the reform of the international economic order.

Today, the G-77 represents the greatest coalition of humanity and remains a vital negotiating instrument in economic multilateral diplomacy, and for ensuring international peace and justice through international cooperation for development within the framework of the United Nations.

This has been the thrust of the joint expression of South-South solidarity since the Group’s creation, and its collective voice has spread to every institution and international organisation representing the hopes and aspirations of the majority of humanity.

The integral role played by the G-77 in economic diplomacy and projecting the development interests of the global South is a testimony to its continued relevance in the global development dialogue.

The Group has, through its compact Executive Secretariat limited resources, managed to work successfully with its development partners to analyse issues and propose alternative solutions to development challenges.

For 50 years the G-77 contributed to the formulation and adoption of numerous U.N. resolutions, programmes, and plans of action, most of which address the core issues of development. Its role in generating global consensus on the issues of development has been widely acknowledged by world leaders, diplomats, parliamentarians, academia, researchers, media and civil society.

It is a tribute to the historical validity of the conception, purposes, and endeavours of the Group, which have withstood the test of time.

The essential rationale for the Group was, and remains, to strive for a wider participation of developing countries in global economic decision-making and for inserting a development dimension in international institutions and policies within the framework of the United Nations system.

The Group presently consists of 134 countries, comprising over 80 per cent of the world’s population and approximately two-thirds of the United Nations membership.

The Group is the world’s second largest international organisation after the 193-member United Nations, and many countries, from emerging developing economies to least developed countries and small island developing states have chaired the Group, ranging in regions from Africa, Asia-Pacific to Latin America and the Caribbean.

2014 marks a milestone in the life of the Group with the celebration of the fiftieth year of its establishment, a period during which it has nearly doubled in membership and multiplied its south-south cooperation achievements while continuing to operate as a coalition of nations in promoting North-South dialogue for development.

It is remarkable that with such a diverse membership and without a formal constitution it has managed to endure the world’s political and economic turbulence for 50 years and remain true to its original mission in promoting the United Nations’ development agenda.

The G-77 has devoted five decades working to achieve development. It adheres to the principle that nations, big and small, deserve an equal voice in world affairs.

Today the Group remains linked by common geography and shared history of struggle for liberation, freedom and South-South solidarity.

In its 50 years, the Group of 77 has solidified the global South as a coalition of nations, aspiring for a global partnership for peace and development.

Today, the Group of 77 is recognised for its work to promote international cooperation for development towards a prosperous and peaceful world.

The commitment and dedication of the Group in selflessly shaping world affairs has benefited billions of lives worldwide, and such recognition of its significant contribution during the Group’s fiftieth anniversary is most appropriate.

Happy 50th anniversary for both G-77 and IPS!

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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OPINION: International Relations, the U.N. and Inter Press Service Fri, 22 Aug 2014 14:37:48 +0000 Roberto Savio This is the first in a series of special articles to commemorate the 50th anniversary of IPS, which was set up in 1964, the same year as the Group of 77 (G77) and UNCTAD.]]> IPS's then Director-General Roberto Savio honours the director-general of the International Labour Organisation, Juan Somavía of Chile, Oct. 29, 1999. Credit: UN Photo/Susan Markisz

IPS's then Director-General Roberto Savio honours the director-general of the International Labour Organisation, Juan Somavía of Chile, Oct. 29, 1999. Credit: UN Photo/Susan Markisz

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Aug 22 2014 (IPS)

In 1979, I had a debate at the United Nations with the late Stan Swinton, then the very powerful and brilliant director of Associated Press (AP). At one point, I furnished the following figures (which had been slow to change), as an example of Western bias in the media:

In 1964, four transnational news agencies – AP, United Press International (UPI), Agence France Presse (AFP) and Reuters – handled 92 percent of world information flow. The other agencies from industrialised countries, including the Soviet news agency TASS, handled a further 7 percent. That left the rest of the world with a mere 1 percent.In a world where we need to create new alliances, the commitment of IPS is to continue its work for better information, at the service of peace and cooperation.

Why, I asked, was the entire world obliged to receive information from the likes of AP in which the United States was always the main actor? Swinton’s reply was brief and to the point: “Roberto, the U.S. media account for 99 percent of our revenues. Do you think they are more interested in our secretary of state, or in an African minister?”

This structural reality is what lay behind the creation of Inter Press Service (IPS) in 1964, the same year in which the Group of 77 (G77) coalition of developing countries saw the light. I found it unacceptable that information was not really democratic and that – for whatever reason, political or economic – it was leaving out two-thirds of humankind.

We set up an international, non-profit cooperative of journalists, in which – by statute – every working journalist had one share and in which those like me from the North could not account for more than 20 percent of the membership.

As importantly, we stipulated that nobody from the North could report from the South. We set ourselves the challenge of providing journalists from developing countries with the opportunity to refute Northern claims that professional quality was inferior in the South.

Two other significant factors differentiated IPS from the transnational news agencies.

First, IPS was created to cover international affairs, unlike AP, UPI, AFP and Reuters, where international coverage was in addition to the main task of covering national events.

Second, IPS was dedicated to the long-term process and not just to events. By doing this, we would be giving a voice to those who were absent in the traditional flow of information – not only the countries  of the South, but also neglected actors such as women, indigenous peoples and the grassroots, as well as issues such as human rights, environment, multiculturalism,  international social justice and the search for global governance…

Of course, all this was not easily understood or accepted.

We decided to support the creation of national news agencies and radio and TV stations in the countries of the South because we saw these as steps towards the pluralism of information. In fact, we helped to set up 22 of these national news agencies.

That created distrust on both sides of the fence. Many ministers of information in the South looked on us with suspicion because, while we were engaging in a useful and legitimate battle, we refused to accept any form of state control. In the North, the traditional and private media looked on us as a “spokesperson” for the Third World.

In 1973, the Press Agencies Pool of the Non-Aligned Movement agreed to use IPS, which was growing everywhere, as its international carrier. At the same time, in the United Nations, the call was ringing for the establishment of a New International Economic Order (NIEO) and was approved by the General Assembly with the full support of the Security Council.

It looked like global governance was on its way, based on the ideas of international economic justice, participation and development as the cornerstone values for the world economic order.

In 1981 all this came to an end. Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom decided to destroy multilateralism and, with it, the very concept of social justice.

One of the first actions taken was to ask all countries working with IPS to cut any relation with us, and dismantle their national systems of information. Within a few years, the large majority of national news agencies, and radio and TV stations disappeared.  From now on, information was to be a market, not a policy.

The United States and the United Kingdom (along with Singapore) withdrew from the U.N. Scientific, Cultural and Educational Organisation (UNESCO) over moves to establish a New International Information Order (NIIO) as a corollary to NIEO, and the policy of establishing national systems of information disappeared. The world changed direction, and the United Nations has never recovered from that change.

IPS was not funded by countries, it was an independent organisation, and even if we lost all our clients from the world of national systems of information, we had many private media as clients. So we survived, but we decided to look for new alliances, with those who were continuing the quest for world governance based on participation and justice, with people interested in global issues, like human rights, the environment and so on.

It is worth noting that the United Nations was moving along a parallel path. In the 1990s, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the sixth U.N. secretary-general, launched a series of world conferences on global issues, with the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) – also widely known as the ‘Earth Summit’ – the first in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

For the first time, not only we of IPS – a non-governmental organisation (NGO) recognised by the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) – but any NGO interested in and concerned with environmental issues could attend.

Actually, we really had two conferences, albeit separated by 36 kilometres: one, the inter-governmental conference with 15,000 participants, and the other the NGO Forum, the civil society conference with over 20,000 participants. And it was clear that the civil society forum was pushing for the success of the Earth Summit much more than many delegates!

To create a communication space for the two different gatherings, IPS conceived and produced a daily newspaper – TerraViva – to be distributed widely in order to create a sense of communality. We continued to do so at the other U.N.-organised global conferences in the 1990s (on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993, on Population in Cairo in 1994, on Women in Beijing in 1995, and the Social Summit in Copenhagen, also in 1995).

We then decided to maintain it as a daily publication, to be distributed throughout the United Nation system: this is the TerraViva that reaches you daily, and is the link between IPS and members of the U.N. family.

Against this backdrop, it is sad to note that the world suddenly took a turn for the worse with the end of the Cold War at the end of the 1980s, when an endless number of unresolved fault lines that had been frozen during the period of East-West hostility came to light.

This year, for example, the number of persons displaced by conflict has reached the same figures as at the end of the Second World War.

Social injustice, not only at national but also at the international level, is growing at an unprecedented speed. The 50 richest men (no women) in the world accrued their wealth in 2013 by the equivalent of the national budgets of Brazil and Canada.

According to Oxfam, at the present pace, by the year 2030 the United Kingdom will have the same level of social inequality as during the reign of Queen Victoria, a period in which an unknown philosopher by the name of Karl Marx was working in the library of the British Museum on his studies of the exploitation of children in the new industrial revolution.

Fifty years after the creation of IPS, I believe more than ever that the world is unsustainable without some kind of global governance. History has shown us that this cannot come from military superiority … and events are now becoming history fast.

During my life I have seen a country of 600 million people in 1956, trying to make iron from scraps in schools, factories and hospitals, turn into a country of 1.2 billion today and well on the road towards becoming the world’s most industrialised country.

The world had 3.5 billion people in 1964, and now has over 7.0 billion, and will be over 9.0 billion in 20 years’ time.

In 1954, sub-Saharan Africa had 275 million inhabitants and now has around 800 million, soon to become one billion in the next decade, well more than the combined population of the United States and Europe.

To repeat what Reagan and Thatcher did in 1981 is therefore impossible – and, anyhow, the real problem for everybody is that there is no progress on any central issue, from the environment to nuclear disarmament.

Finance has taken a life of its own, different from that of economic production and beyond the reach of governments. The two engines of globalisation, finance and trade, are not part of U.N. discourse. Development means to ‘be more’, while globalisation has come to mean to ‘have more’ – two very different paradigms.

In just 50 years, the world of information has changed also beyond imagination. The internet has given voice to social media and the traditional media are in decline. We have gone, for the first time in history, from a world of information to a world of communication. International relations now go well beyond the inter-governmental relations, and the ‘net’ has created new demands for accountability and transparency, the bases for democracy.

And, unlike 50 years ago, there is a growing divide between citizens and public institutions. The issue of corruption, which 50 years ago was a hushed-up affair, is now one of the issues that begs for a renewal of politics. And all this, like it or not, is basically an issue of values.

IPS was created on a platform of values, to make information more democratic and participatory, and to give the voice to those who did not have one. Over the last 50 years, through their work and support, hundreds and hundreds of people have shared the hope of contributing to a better world. A wide-ranging tapestry of their commitment is offered in The Journalists Who Turned the World Upside Down, a book written by over 100 personalities and practising journalists.

It is evident that those values continue to be very current today, and that information continues to be an irreplaceable tool for creating awareness and democracy, even if it is becoming more and more a commodity, event-oriented and market-oriented.

But, in my view, there is no doubt that all the data show us clearly that we must find some global governance, based on participation, social justice and international law, or else we will enter a new period of dramatic confrontation and social unrest.

In a world where we need to create new alliances, the commitment of IPS is to continue its work for better information, at the service of peace and cooperation … and to support those who share the same dream.

Roberto Savio is founder of IPS and President Emeritus.

Edited by: Kitty Stapp

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Op-Ed: First Decolonisation, Now ‘Depatriarchilisation’ Mon, 09 Jun 2014 22:42:21 +0000 Lakshmi Puri Young Bangladeshi women raise their fists at a protest in Shahbagh. Credit: Kajal Hazra/IPS

Young Bangladeshi women raise their fists at a protest in Shahbagh. Credit: Kajal Hazra/IPS

By Lakshmi Puri

At the end of this week leaders of the Group of 77 and China will meet in Bolivia to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the group.

From the original 77, this group now brings together 133 countries, making it the largest coalition of governments on the international stage. Promoting an agenda of equity among nations and among people, sustainable and inclusive development and global solidarity have been at the heart of the G77’s priorities since its inception. But none of it will be achieved without fully embracing the agenda of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Two weeks ago, I travelled to Bolivia to attend a historic international meeting in preparation for the G77 Summit, exclusively dedicated to women and gender equality. More than 1,500 women, many of them indigenous, packed the room, full of energy. Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, was also present – a testimony to his commitment and leadership to this critical agenda.

At this meeting, a message emerged, loud and clear. If we want the 21st century to see the end of discrimination, inequality and injustice, we must focus on women and girls – half the world’s population, which continues to experience discrimination every day and everywhere. The 20th century saw the end of colonisation. Now the 21st century must see the end of discrimination against women.  From decolonisation, we must move to depatriarchilisation.

Lakshmi Puri, deputy executive director of UN Women, speaks at a press conference on the International Day to End Violence Against Women. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

Lakshmi Puri, deputy executive director of UN Women, speaks at a press conference on the International Day to End Violence Against Women. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

This meeting took place at a critical time and in a significant place. Latin America has lived through its own struggles against discrimination and oppression. In a continent that used to be marked by striking inequalities and violent dictatorships, a vibrant movement has emerged to put the region on the path of social justice, democracy, and equality. In Bolivia there is a constitutional law against violence against women and a law against political violence, making it a pioneer in the region and beyond.

This hope for a brighter and more just future must now spread to the world as a whole, and the G77 can play a defining role. The elaboration of the Post-2015 development agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is coming to a critical point. The Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals is about to complete its work and member states will finalise the new development agenda in the course of next year.

This coincides with the 20-year review and appraisal of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the landmark international framework to achieve gender equality and women’s rights. Beijing+20 provides us with an opportunity to drive accelerated and effective implementation of the gender equality and women’s rights agenda and to ensure that it is central to the new development framework.

We need to take full advantage of these processes and their interconnections to ensure that gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment feature prominently in the new development agenda and to accelerate implementation.

We have a historic opportunity and a collective responsibility to make the rights and well-being of women and girls a political priority; both globally and within every country. To this end, the new framework must adopt a comprehensive, rights-based and transformative approach that addresses structural inequality and gender-based discrimination.

This comprehensive approach must include targets to eliminate discrimination against women in laws and policies; end violence against women; ensure the realisation of sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and adolescent girls throughout their life cycles; and the recognition, reduction and redistribution of unpaid care work.

Now is the time to put the full political weight behind passage of long-pending legislation to eliminate discrimination against women and promote gender equality.

Now is the time to allocate the resources to fund services for victims and survivors of violence against women.

Now is the time to strengthen national data collection and undertake a time use survey to better understand unpaid care work or a survey on violence against women.

Now is the time to make public spaces safe for women and girls.

Now is the time to improve rural infrastructure to strengthen women’s access to markets and help tackle rural feminised poverty.

Now is the time to showcase champions of gender equality, to recognise role models that have overcome stereotypes and helped level the playing field for girls and women in all areas, in politics and business, in academia and in public service, in the home and the community.

Mahatma Gandhi rightly said that true freedom from colonialism will not be achieved unless each and every citizen is free, equal and is able to realise his or her potential. The 21st century must see the end of the centuries’ old practice of patriarchy and gender discrimination, and unshackle women and girls so they can fully enjoy their human rights.

When the G77 meets later this week at its 50th anniversary commemorative Summit, I have high hopes that they will make this defining agenda of gender equality and women’s empowerment a centerpiece of their global development and freedom project for the next 50 years.


*Lakshmi Puri is the deputy executive director of U.N. Women, based in New York.

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Developing Nations Seek U.N. Retaliation on Bank Cancellations Thu, 10 Apr 2014 23:07:29 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

The 132-member Group of 77, the largest single coalition of developing nations, has urged Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to provide, “as soon as possible…alternative options for banking services” in New York City following the mass cancellation of bank accounts of U.N. missions and foreign diplomats.

The draft resolution, a copy of which was obtained by IPS, is an “agreed text” which has the blessings of all 132 countries, plus China.

Responding to a demand by member states for reciprocal retaliation, the G77 requests the secretary-general to review the “U.N. Secretariat’s financial relations with the JP Morgan Chase Bank and consider alternatives to such financial institutions and to report thereon, along with the information requested.”

Chase bank handles billions of dollars in the accounts maintained by the United Nations and its agencies in New York city. Credit: UN Photo/Milton Grant

Chase bank handles billions of dollars in the accounts maintained by the United Nations and its agencies in New York City. Credit: UN Photo/Milton Grant

Currently, the bank handles billions of dollars in the accounts maintained by the United Nations and its agencies in New York City.

The Group expresses “deep concern” over the decisions made by several banking institutions, including JP Morgan Chase, in closing bank accounts of mostly developing countries, and diplomats accredited to the United Nations and their relatives.

The resolution, which is subject to amendments, cites the 1947 U.S.- U.N. headquarters agreement that “guarantees the rights, obligations and the fulfillment of responsibilities by member states towards the United Nations, under the United Nations Charter and international law.”

Additionally, it cites the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations as a regulatory framework for states and international organisations, in particular the working relationship between the United Nations and the City of New York.

Citing the two agreements, the G77 is calling for all “necessary measures to ensure permanent missions accredited to the United Nations and their staff are granted equal, fair and non-discriminatory treatment by the banking system.”

Asked for an official response, U.N. Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told IPS: “We would not comment on a draft resolution.”

At a closed-door meeting of the G77 last month, speaker after speaker lambasted banks in the city for selectively cutting off the banking system from the diplomatic community, describing the action as “outrageous”.

Their anger was directed mostly at JP Morgan Chase (formerly Chemical bank) which was once considered part of the U.N. family – and a preferred bank by most diplomats – and at one time was housed in the secretariat building.

The G77 is expected to hold consultations with member states outside the Group, specifically Western nations, before tabling the resolution with the 193-member General Assembly later this month.

If any proposed amendments are aimed at weakening the resolution, the G77 will go for a vote in the Assembly with its agreed text, a G77 diplomat told IPS Thursday.

But with the Group having more than two-thirds majority in the Assembly, the resolution is expected to be adopted either with or without the support of Western nations.

If adopted by a majority vote, the secretary-general is expected to abide by the resolution and respond to its demands.

The draft resolution also requests the secretary-general to review and report to the General Assembly, within 120 days of its adoption, “of any obstacles or impediments observed in the accounts of permanent missions or their staff at the JP Morgan Chase Bank in the City of New York, and the impact these impediments have on the adequate functioning of their offices.”

And to this end, the G77 invites all members to provide the secretary-general with relevant information that will facilitate the elaboration of such report.

In an appeal to the United States, the G77 has also underscored the importance of the host country taking the necessary measures to ensure that personal data and information of persons affected by the closure of accounts is kept confidential by banking institutions, and requests the secretary-general to work with the host country in that regard and to report to the General Assembly within 90 days.

The closure of accounts was triggered by a request from the U.S. treasury, which wanted all banks to meticulously report every single transaction of some 70 “blacklisted” U.N. diplomatic missions, and individual diplomats – perhaps as part of a monitoring system to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing.

But the banks have said such an elaborate exercise is administratively expensive and cumbersome.

And as a convenient alternative, they have closed down, or are in the process of closing down, all accounts, shutting off banks from the diplomatic community in New York.

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U.N. Diplomats, Cut Off from Banks, Seek Haven in Mattresses Tue, 25 Mar 2014 17:33:55 +0000 Thalif Deen Chase handles most of the accounts and money transfers of the United Nations and its agencies, running into billions of dollars. Credit: Jim the Photographer/cc by 2.0

Chase handles most of the accounts and money transfers of the United Nations and its agencies, running into billions of dollars. Credit: Jim the Photographer/cc by 2.0

By Thalif Deen

Addressing a closed-door meeting of the Group of 77 (G77) developing countries last week, a visibly angry Latin American delegate recounted the growing new hostility towards foreign diplomats in New York city.

In some residential buildings, he said, there were covert signs conveying an unfriendly message: “Pets and diplomats not welcome.”

It is bad enough for U.N. diplomats to be lumped together in the company of dogs and cats in the city’s high-rise buildings, he bluntly told delegates, but now “the banking sector is treating us as criminals.”

At a meeting of the 132-member G77, the largest single coalition of developing countries, speaker after speaker lambasted banks in the city for selectively cutting off the banking system from the diplomatic community, describing the action as “outrageous”.

Their anger was directed mostly at JP Morgan Chase (formerly Chemical bank) which was once considered part of the U.N. family – and a preferred bank by most diplomats – and at one time housed in the secretariat building.

G77 Strikes Back

The Group of 77 developing countries is currently in the process of drafting a resolution, which will eventually go before the 193-member General Assembly, condemning the actions of the banks and asking the secretary-general to intervene.

The draft, which is expected to undergo changes at the next G77 meeting, will request the secretary-general to review and report to the General Assembly, within the next 120 days following the adoption of the resolution.

The G77 wants to specifically single out "any obstacles or impediments" observed in the accounts opened by the Permanent Missions of Member States or their staff, and the impact these impediments have on the adequate functioning of their offices.

The draft resolution also requests the secretary-general to submit to the General Assembly, a set of recommendations and a proposal oriented to reviewing the U.N. Secretariat's financial relation with banks, specifically JP Morgan Chase, and considering alternatives to such financial institutions.

The resolution further requests the secretary-general, to provide member states with alternative options regarding banking services in New York City, to allow them to adequately manage and maintain their accounts, assessed budgetary contributions, voluntary contributions, transfers and other financial activities directly related to their membership to the United Nations, and their Permanent Missions.

The G77 is asking the secretary-general to hold "proper negotiations on this matter in his capacity as U.N. chief administration officer, including with the host country, that all Permanent Missions and their staff will be granted an equal, fair, and non-discriminatory treatment from the referred institutions when conducting their respective accounts."

Additionally, it requests the host country, the United States, to take the necessary measures to ensure that personal data and information of persons affected by closure of accounts is kept confidential by the banks, and to report on those measures to the Secretary General within two to three months after the adoption of this resolution by the General Assembly.

When the dispute first erupted in 2011, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations sent a letter sent to all member states in which it said that JP Morgan Chase is a private sector bank and its decisions are made for 'business reasons alone'.

"The government of the United States has no authority to force banks to continue to serve their customers or to open or close any accounts," it said.

Chase also handles most of the accounts and money transfers of the United Nations and its agencies, running into billions of dollars.

The U.S. treasury apparently has informed all banks that every single transaction of some 70 “blacklisted” U.N. diplomatic missions, and even individual diplomats, be meticulously reported back to Washington (perhaps as part of a monitoring system to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing).

The banks have responded that such an elaborate exercise is administratively expensive and cumbersome. So as a convenient alternative, they have closed down, or are in the process of closing down, all accounts, shutting out the diplomatic community in New York.

As one diplomat warned, if this situation continues, “we may have to request cash in diplomatic pouches from our home countries, and bank our money under mattresses.”

There are reports that some diplomatic missions want to pay their annual dues to the United Nations in hard cash, while others, citing “diplomatic reciprocity”, want the Secretariat to retaliate by closing its own accounts with these banks.

Ian Williams, a longstanding U.N. correspondent and senior analyst at Foreign Policy in Focus, wonders why banks should even bother monitoring U.N. missions and diplomats when the U.S National Security Agency (NSA) can perhaps do a better job.

The NSA, which has already been accused of tapping telephones and monitoring the movements of diplomats, could probably provide details of all bank transactions entered electronically, he said, because they are known to have the capacity to do so.

“Unless you can find a bank that uses paper ledgers and an abacus,” Williams told IPS, with tongue firmly entrenched in his cheek.

When the United Nations decided to locate its secretariat in the city of New York, the United States signed a ‘headquarters agreement’ back in 1947 not only ensuring diplomatic immunity to foreign diplomats but also pledging to facilitate the day-to-day activities of member states without any hindrance.

Williams said the United States has never been enthusiastic at accommodating itself to international law, as was proven when the General Assembly temporarily relocated to Geneva because Washington refused a visa for Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat to visit New York in December 1988.

In his address to the General Assembly session in Geneva, perhaps the only one of its kind, Arafat took a swipe at Washington when he prefaced his statement by saying “it never occurred to me that my second meeting with this honourable Assembly, since 1974, would take place in the hospitable city of Geneva”.

The story about the new dispute between the diplomatic community and the banks surfaced in the Inner City Press blog last week.

But IPS ran a detailed story titled Banks Blacklist U.N. Missions back in January 2011, when financial institutions first imposed this rule on some U.N. missions, but not on diplomats.

At the G77 meeting, the most vocal country was China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, which complained that its bank accounts were closed in 2011.

The problem was not the closed accounts per se, said a Chinese delegate, “but more serious was the issue that some countries were targeted, mostly developing countries.”

An Asian diplomat told IPS that to the best of his knowledge, the bank accounts of most, or all, Western missions were left untouched.

“Why this double standard?” he asked.

Besides China, the countries that led the protest at the G77 meeting included Bolivia (the current G77 chair), Colombia, Argentina, Iran, Kenya, Sudan, Algeria, Zimbabwe, Honduras and Sri Lanka.

Ambassador Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka’s permanent representative to the United Nations, told IPS there has been a suggestion that the U.N. Secretariat wield its considerable commercial clout by ceasing to deal with banks which have closed the accounts of certain diplomatic missions and diplomats attached to such missions

“The U.N.’s transactions amount to many billions of dollars per year,” he noted. “If the diplomats of member states and their missions are not welcome at these banks, why should the United Nations, which is an organisation of the same member states, continue to deal with them?”

Williams said there is an underlying principle of ‘do as we say, not do as we do’.

Presumably, under the Vienna Conventions, diplomatic bank accounts should have similar protections as other diplomatic communications, but the banks would need assurances from the U.S. authorities to exempt them from the Orwellian scrutiny they subject everybody else to, he added.

“So the missions will now be forced to send cash – tending to suspicions of money laundering. Indeed, we know some missions have done just that, but U.S. insularity now gives them an excuse for their behavior,” said Williams, U.N. correspondent for the Tribune and author of “U.N. for Beginners”.

Asked for an official response, U.N.’s Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq told IPS the secretary-general shares the concerns of the Group of 77, and the U.N. has taken up the issue with the host country and Chase.

“The Secretariat has also initiated discussions with other financial institutions to assist with finding alternative banking arrangements for the affected missions and their staff,” he added.

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Storm Brews at U.N. Climate Talks Thu, 21 Nov 2013 20:58:29 +0000 Wambi Michael NGO representatives lead by Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International’s executive director, stormed out of the climate change talks in Warsaw, Poland. Courtesy: Wambi Michael

NGO representatives lead by Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International’s executive director, stormed out of the climate change talks in Warsaw, Poland. Courtesy: Wambi Michael

By Wambi Michael
WARSAW, Nov 21 2013 (IPS)

Hundreds of representatives from various NGOs walked out of the negotiating rooms at the United Nations climate talks in Poland on Thursday in protest against the reluctance by developed nations to commit towards achieving a global climate treaty.

Donning white T-shirts with the slogan: “polluters talk, we walk”, the protestors, which included representatives from Oxfam InternationalGreenpeace International, the International Trade Union Confederation, and ActionAid International, marched quietly towards the conference exits as U.N. security ensured they left peacefully. Their departure from the talks sets the stage for renewed civil society pressure on governments to take meaningful action against climate change.

Oxfam International’s executive director Winnie Byanyima told IPS that they walked out because there was almost no progress on the key issues that they had expected the COP19 climate summit to deliver on.

“This is a wakeup call to our governments, particularly the rich countries that are behaving irresponsibly by failing to take responsibility for the climate crisis. We are going out to mobilise so that they cannot ignore the voices of their citizens,” said Byanyima.

She said NGOs had expected to see pronouncements by developed nations for the provision of funds for adaptation and meeting the emission reduction targets, but with the conference ending on Nov. 22, this did not appear to be a possibility.

This comes a day after the G77+China group of 133 developing countries walked out of negotiations on a new international deal to combat climate change in protest against developed countries’ reluctance to commit to loss and damage.

“We as civil society are ready to engage with ministers and delegations who actually come to negotiate in good faith. But at the Warsaw conference, rich country governments have come with nothing to offer,” said a statement issued by the group of organisations that led the walkout here.

“Many developing country governments are also struggling and failing to stand up for the needs and rights of their people. It is clear that if countries continue acting in this way, the next two days of negotiations will not deliver the climate action the world so desperately needs,” the statement said.

Mithika Mwenda, the general secretary of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, said if rich industrialised countries continued to block the talks, they would “hold them to account”.

“We will not accept delay and we will demand our governments withdraw from an unsatisfactory outcome,” he told IPS.

COP19, according to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, is mainly for planning purposes ahead of next year’s conference in Lima, Peru and the 2015 conference in France. It is not expected to have pronouncements from governments.

But Byanyima said that NGOs and social movements expected Warsaw to build the momentum towards next year’s conference in Lima, Peru. She said instead of doing this, governments were going in circles on issues that have been on the table for close to five years.

“It was intended to be a planning COP but we see no plans, we see no clear road map regarding emission targets, regarding resources. We are not going to get an agreement in an environment of no trust, in an environment of no plan,” said Byanyima.

Hajeet Singh of ActionAid International told IPS they wanted a clear roadmap on emissions reductions by 2015.

“This is not coming out. There is no money on the table, which was promised to us last year. We don’t see the loss and damage mechanism coming up and yet that is want we want to deal with disasters like what we have just experienced in Philippines. There is nothing that we are achieving here and that is why we are walking out.”  On Nov. 8 super-typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, killing over 2,300 and affecting over 11 million people.

Singh said that the NGOs and social movements had expected governments in Warsaw to agree on concrete steps to devote political energy to mobilising climate finance. He said they wanted to ensure that a clear trajectory was agreed on to scale up public finance towards 100 billion dollars per annum by 2020.

Matthias Groote, the head of the European Parliament’s delegation at the Warsaw talks, said in a statement shortly after the walkout that the negotiations had reached a critical stage and called on the COP presidency to act so COP19 did not end in failure.

“There is a growing sense of frustration here in Warsaw, and the concern is over how few results have been achieved so far. We need to agree on the steps towards a global climate agreement. Instead some are backtracking on their previous commitments,” said Groote.

The EU has offered to increase emission reductions by 30 percent if other major emitter countries commit themselves to comparable terms.

But Mwenda said the failure of industrialised nations at Warsaw to agree on an instrument for compensation for loss and damage was a betrayal to poor and least developed countries that increasingly face climate–related losses and damages.

“It is a disaster for many of our countries, especially when there is empirical and scientific evidence to show that climate change-related losses are on the increase,” he said.

A World Bank report released at Warsaw warned that the costs and damage from extreme weather were growing.

It said while all countries are impacted, developing nations bear the brunt of mounting losses. The report said that the loss and damage from disasters have been rising over the last three decades, from an annual average of around 50 billion dollars in the 1980s to just under 200 billion dollars each year in the last decade.


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G77 Walk-out at COP19 as Rich Countries Use Delaying Tactics Wed, 20 Nov 2013 18:30:45 +0000 Claudia Ciobanu By Claudia Ciobanu
WARSAW, Nov 20 2013 (IPS)

The G77+China group of 133 developing countries negotiating a new international deal at COP19 in Warsaw to combat climate change walked out of the talks in the wee hours of Wednesday morning to protest developed countries’ reluctance to commit to loss and damage.

“Today at 4 a.m. the delegation of Bolivia and all delegations of G77 walked out because we do not see a clear cut commitment by developed countries to reach an agreement,” said Bolivian negotiator Rene Orellana speaking on Wednesday morning at the COP19 climate summit.

What seems to have happened at the closed night-time session of the so-called contact group of loss and damage is that Juan Hoffmaister, the Bolivian negotiator on loss and damage, who was representing the entire G77 + China group, walked out in the name of developing countries. The walk-out has a strong symbolic value and is unprecedented in the last decade of climate talks.

Orellana further explained that the walk-out was sparked by the attitude of developed countries, among them Norway, which proposed that loss and damage be discussed not under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as developing countries requested but under the looser Rio+20 sustainable development framework.

“G77 put forward a very constructive proposal on loss and damage and have been engaging meaningfully with all countries, but [during the loss and damage session taking place into the early hours of Nov. 20], Australians were behaving like high school boys in class, their behaviour was rude and disrespectful,” commented Harjeet Singh from the NGO ActionAid International on Wednesday.

“On top of that, in the middle of the night, Norway came up with a proposal whereby they rejected everything, they rejected discussing socioeconomic losses, non-economic losses, rehabilitation, compensation,” added Singh. “But these are the crucial elements of loss and damage; if you do not discuss these, how can you discuss loss and damage?”

Developing countries negotiating at COP19 have repeatedly stated that creating an international mechanism under UNFCCC to address loss and damage is the biggest expectation they have of the Warsaw meeting.

G77+China last week proposed a text meant to provide the basis of negotiations for creating such an international mechanism for loss and damage, which called for this issue to be treated as a third, separate, pillar in the UNFCCC process, in addition to mitigation and adaptation.

The super-typhoon Haiyan which hit the Philippines right before COP19 started brought even more to the fore the fact that some countries are already suffering the deadly impacts of climate change, having moved into the so-called “post-adaptation” phase. For these countries, assistance to deal with the loss and damage already caused by climate change would be crucial, argued G77+China.

But developed countries have been reluctant to give such a prominent role under UNFCCC to loss and damage.

According to a U.S. document outlining Washington’s negotiating position at COP which was leaked to the media during the first week of the Warsaw meeting, accepting loss and damage as a third pillar would mean “focusing on blame and liability”. That is, developed countries would have to accept historical responsibility for emissions causing climate change and commit to paying the price.

Australia and Norway appear to have carried this reluctance towards loss and damage into the midnight session.

Speaking on Wednesday, UK negotiator Ed Davey confirmed his country’s support for the developed countries’ resistance. Davey said, “We do not accept the argument on compensation. I don’t think the compensation analysis is fair and sensible, but that does not mean we are not committed to helping the poorest countries adapt.”

EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard stated that it was concerning that developing countries took such a tough stance and made an appeal for countries not to backtrack on talks.

While the walk-out makes developing countries vulnerable to the accusation of being responsible for holding back the Warsaw negotiations, developing countries and NGOs are pointing out that it was the attitude and behaviour of developed countries that forced them to issue such an ultimatum in the first place.

“We are very disappointed by the slow process on negotiations on loss and damage, the most important measure of success here in Warsaw,” said Philippines negotiator Yeb Sano on Wednesday.

“The walk-out happened because a very strong proposal for a loss and damage mechanism put forward by G77 and China did not receive enough traction,” explained Meena Raman from the NGO Third World Network. “This is a postponing tactic by developed countries in order not to make a decision on loss and damage here in Warsaw.”

Since COP19 began on Nov. 11, developed countries have given few signs of being committed to a meaningful international climate deal.

This week, Japan announced that it would cut a previous commitment of reducing CO2 emissions by 25 percent by 2020 to a three percent cut only. Australia recently announced an intention to scrap an existing carbon tax, while Canada indicated it might not meet a pledge to reduce emissions made at the Copenhagen 2009 COP.

Developing countries have indicated that they are ready to discuss more if developed countries take a more serious stance. As an example, Indian Minister of Environment Jayanthi Natarajan declared Wednesday upon arrival in Warsaw that her country would be open to temporarily using the existing Green Climate Fund for doing immediate disbursements for loss and damage, until a proper international mechanism is set in place.

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U.N. Accused of Playing Down Nuke Disarmament Conference Mon, 06 May 2013 18:36:30 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is one of the most vociferous advocates of a world free of nuclear weapons.

The lack of publicity stands in contrast to the strong public stand taken by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has consistently called for the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Credit: Bomoon Lee/IPS

The lack of publicity stands in contrast to the strong public stand taken by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has consistently called for the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Credit: Bomoon Lee/IPS

“Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation are not utopian ideals,” he says. “They are critical to global peace and security.”

Still, the Group of 77, the largest single coalition of 132 developing countries, implicitly accuses the United Nations of falling short in its efforts to publicise a meeting on nuclear disarmament scheduled to take place Sep. 26.

Ambassador Peter Thomson of Fiji, the G77 chair, last week described the upcoming talks as “the first-ever high level meeting of the General Assembly on nuclear disarmament.”

He said the meeting is of importance to developing nations, and therefore, all efforts should be made to give it timely and wide publicity.

A G77 delegate told IPS the conference is not getting the advance publicity it should, probably because three of the big powers, the United States, UK and France, are not supportive of the meeting.

“We have not seen anything on the high level meeting so far,” he added.

The lack of coverage stands in contrast to the strong public stand taken by the secretary-general, who has consistently called for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

Asked about the significance of the upcoming meeting, Dr. John Burroughs, executive director of the New York-based Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, told IPS the meeting is a chance for world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama and others, to give direction to the nuclear disarmament enterprise, “which is now drifting aimlessly despite much rhetoric over the past five years.”

“Of course they should reassert that the global elimination of nuclear weapons is a shared aim of the international community,” he said.

But they can and should do more, he said, specifically to set in motion concrete, multilateral processes to achieve that objective.

“If there can be a Nuclear Security Summit process, focused on securing nuclear materials, why can there not be a Nuclear Disarmament Summit Process?” he asked.

Or definitive action could be taken to overcome the 16-year deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament, if necessary by establishing a separate process, Dr Burroughs said.

The resolution calling for the high-level meeting, which was sponsored by Indonesia and the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement, was adopted last December in the General Assembly by a vote of 179 to none against, with four abstentions (Israel, and three of the five permanent members of the Security Council, namely France, UK and the United States).

The other two permanent members, China and Russia, voted for the resolution.

All five permanent members are the world’s five declared nuclear powers, with India, Pakistan, Israel, and more recently North Korea, outside the P-5 nuclear club.

In an explanation of his country’s decision to abstain on the vote, Guy Pollard, deputy permanent representative of the UK, told delegates last December, “We question the value of holding a high-level meeting (HLM) of the General Assembly on nuclear disarmament when there are already sufficient venues for such discussion.”

He cited the General Assembly’s First Committee (on Disarmament), the U.N. Disarmament Commission, and the Conference on Disarmament.

“We are puzzled about how such a HLM will further the goals of the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) Action Plan that was agreed by consensus in 2010,” Pollard said.

“In our view,” he said, “this roadmap of actions offers the best way of taking forward the multilateral nuclear disarmament agenda, along with related issues.”

“We continue to believe that nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament are mutually reinforcing and therefore regret that this high level meeting doesn’t treat both of these aspects in a balanced manner,” Pollard said.

Meanwhile, in a new study released last month, George Perkovich, director of the Nuclear Policy Programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, points out one of the few ways that President Obama could restore confidence in U.S. intentions would be to update the declaration of the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. security policy, including in defence of its allies.

“In his searching Nobel Peace Prize speech (in December 2009), Obama recognised the occasional inescapability of war and the imperative of waging it justly,” Perkovich said.

So, too, Obama now could examine how the ongoing existence of nuclear arsenals, even if temporary, can be reconciled with the moral-strategic imperative to prevent their use, says the study titled “Do Unto Others: Toward a Defensible Nuclear Doctrine.”

“The president could articulate a limited framework for the legitimate use of nuclear weapons that the United States believes would be defensible for others to follow as long as nuclear weapons remain,” it says.

Such a nuclear policy, says Perkovich, could then be conveyed in the U.S. Defence Department’s Quadrennial Posture Review, which is due later this year.

Dr. Burroughs told IPS that non-nuclear weapon states have been doing their best to create opportunities to set a clear course on disarmament.

At the initiative of Austria, Mexico and Norway, the General Assembly in 2012 established an open-ended working group on taking forward proposals on multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations, scheduled to meet for three weeks this summer in Geneva.

Norway hosted a conference in Oslo in March on the humanitarian impact of nuclear explosions.

And Indonesia and the Non-Aligned Movement proposed the resolution last year that scheduled the September high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament.

“However, the P-5 in the Security Council have been recalcitrant. So far they have said they will not participate in the open-ended working group,” said Dr. Burroughs.

They also declined the invitation to participate in the Oslo meeting. And last year the UK, the United States, and France, along with Israel, abstained on the resolution scheduling the high-level meeting, expressing doubt as to its value, he added.

“So the personal engagement of heads of state/government and foreign ministers is clearly necessary,” Burroughs said.

At lower levels, the Permanent Five officials have been floundering, he added.

“Unless there is a change of tune coming from the very top, the September meeting will turn out to be a fruitless exercise,” he said.

The crisis on the Korean peninsula should be a wake-up call.

The nuclear threats exchanged by North Korea and the United States have once again laid bare an often underappreciated fact, the unacceptable risks arising from reliance on nuclear weapons.

In September, P-5 leaders and other governments possessing nuclear arsenals should seize the moment to signal clearly, to their own governments as well as to the world, that they will now engage constructively with non-nuclear weapon states on a process for the global elimination of nuclear weapons, he said.

Parliamentarians, mayors, and civil society groups working for a nuclear weapons-free world should also take advantage of this global platform, which surprisingly is the first time a General Assembly high-level meeting will be held on nuclear disarmament, Dr Burroughs said.

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Q&A: Moving Away from “Elite Multilateralism” Wed, 10 Apr 2013 18:07:44 +0000 Marzieh Goudarzi

Marzieh Goudarzi interviews Dr. Jose Antonio Ocampo

By Marzieh Goudarzi

As the global South claims a greater share of the world’s GDP, is it also progressing in terms of overall human development? How has this southward tipping of the scale affected the dynamics of international trade? What is the role of global governance in mediating this period of change?

José Antonio Ocampo. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

José Antonio Ocampo. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

The 2013 U.N. Human Development Report entitled, “The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World” and its lead author, Khalid Malik, suggest that as the South grows economically, its citizens experience an “expansion of human capabilities and choices” that is leading to further social and political development.

Others are more sceptical of the purported “rise of the South”, pointing to the world’s widening income inequality, the lack of correlation between economic growth and equitable and sustainable socio-economic policies, and relatively unchanging global power dynamics.

On Monday, Columbia University’s Committee on Global Thought hosted a conference to discuss these issues with panelists including Malik, U.N. Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba of Mexico, and Dr. Jose Antonio Ocampo, a professor at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs and a former U.N. Under-Secretary-General of Economic and Social Affairs.

Ocampo called Malik’s characterisation of the rise of the South as a “tectonic change” a bit strong.

While he recognises the important changes that are occurring now, with regard to overall human development Ocampo says, “It’s a process that will have long-term implications.”

Excerpts from IPS’s interview with Ocampo on the impact of newly rising economies in international trade and global governance follow.

Q: Both you and Ambassador de Alba agree on the importance of multilateral global governance in terms of human development. Ambassador de Alba addressed the shortcomings of current institutions and, in particular, the U.N.’s inefficient decision-making processes. Discuss what productive, multilateral global governance would look like.

A: I have written extensively on the G20 and my perspective is that these informal institutions, which I call “elite multilateralism”, are not the best form of global governance. I like “the G’s” when they are part of multilateral institutions.

Global governance derives its legitimacy at the global level just as governance does at a national level, from universality. You have to have universal membership. For that purpose, the best way for these “G’s” to work is within a formal multilateral setting.

At the same time, I agree that you have to have effective decision-making mechanisms. Smaller decision-making bodies, in which everyone is directly represented, are fundamental. In all democracies, decisions are taken by a limited number of actors at the end, but those actors have to be representing all of the membership.

Q: What is the state of South-South trade relationships today? What constitutes an ideal South-South partnership that allows for progress toward a more advanced, dynamic economy?

A: There is one sort of South-South trade that is really part of North-South trade. For example, Southeast Asia is producing parts and capital goods that are assembled in China and then exported to the U.S.

In the case of China-India, it’s a huge deficit for India and surplus for China. There is a second China-centered relationship, in which China essentially imports raw commodities and exports manufactured goods. I would say, for commodity producers – i.e. sub-Saharan African, South America, and some of the Middle East – that’s an opportunity. But it’s still a very imbalanced trade relationship. In the long-term, you have to diversify away from that.

There is a third type which are legitimately South-South flows in which you have, more or less, a balanced relationship. For example, the inter-regional trade in Latin America is one relationship of that type – it starts and ends in developing countries. I think that’s the most positive of all, but it’s less common.

Q: As these newly rising economies close the income gap that separates them from developed countries, what do you think characterises fair and mutually-beneficial North-South partnerships?

A: In the past, the North-South relationship was considered to be an asymmetric relationship in which the North had to support the development of the South so it could cash out. I think that concept has become obsolete because of the heterogeneity of developing countries.

Ambassador de Alba mentioned this almost sacred principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”. In the past, developing countries wanted to be treated according to the second part of that principle – “differentiated” – and I think, as de Alba pointed out, the “differentiated” still has to be considered today.

Even major emerging economies are developing countries – they are technologically dependent, they still have a large share of the labour force in low productivity activities, and the GDP per capita is still a fraction of that of developed countries. So they have a right to be treated with some differences internationally. But they are, at the same time, responsible and the responsibility those countries have is very important.

Q: How have Southern governments been an obstacle to human development and, on the other hand, what should they be prioritising in order to create positive conditions for growth?

A: The basic problem is that power ends up in the hands of the elite that uses power to further its own interests. This has been associated with developing countries, but it can also happen in developed countries, particularly in the financial sector. There has been a change in that regard during the recent crisis; now there is a bit more hope that financial policy will be detached from financial interests.

Successful human development strategy has to include very active social policy, including education, health, and social protections, and at the same time very active economic development policy, particularly the generation of employment.

We have seen so many cases of countries that have improvements in education and when an educated labour force comes to the market, there is no employment to absorb that population. You have to have an active social policy but also an active economic policy and the basic connection between the two is called employment.

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U.N.’s Dollar-a-Year Jobs Under Critical Scrutiny Fri, 05 Apr 2013 19:05:03 +0000 Thalif Deen Bill Clinton (right), former U.S. President and UN Special Envoy for Haiti, and newly-elected Haitian President Michel Martelly (second from right) visit a housing and green technology expo in Port-au-Prince. Credit: UN Photo/Logan Abassi

Bill Clinton (right), former U.S. President and UN Special Envoy for Haiti, and newly-elected Haitian President Michel Martelly (second from right) visit a housing and green technology expo in Port-au-Prince. Credit: UN Photo/Logan Abassi

By Thalif Deen

The 132-member Group of 77, the largest single coalition of developing nations, is challenging the longstanding prerogative of successive U.N. secretaries-general to appoint “special envoys” whose services are deemed gratis – and who are on nominal “one-dollar-a-year” employment contracts.

The appointment of these envoys is outside the traditional guidelines laid down, or supervised by, the U.N.’s Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), the Administrative and Budgetary Committee (also known as the Fifth Committee) and the 193-member General Assembly, the U.N.’s highest policy making body.

Over the years, there have been scores of special envoys, including former U.S. president Bill Clinton who oversees Haiti; Terje Rod-Larsen, a Norwegian diplomat who was the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process and now oversees Lebanon; and Jeffrey Sachs, a professor at Columbia University who is the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

While their primary incomes come from other positions they hold outside the United Nations, they are on a nominal dollar-a-year salary, but are entitled to lavish perks and benefits, including travel and hotel accommodation while on their assignments.

The ACABQ was told the appointments “did not entail the establishment of posts, and that extra-budgetary funds had been used to meet the costs associated” with their assignments.

But there has been little or no transparency either on the guidelines for the appointments or expenses incurred by the special envoys.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a G77 source told IPS that all U.N appointments are subject to rules and regulations, including guidelines relating to equitable geographical distribution, gender balance and highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity. But, on the face of it, none of these apply to special envoys, he said.

These envoys are mostly at senior levels in the U.N. totem pole – ranking either as directors (D-1 and D-2), assistant secretaries-general (ASGs) or under secretaries-general (USGs).

Last week the Fifth Committee, on the initiative of the G77 and China, finalised a draft resolution which “expresses concern at the lack of oversight of the recruitment of individuals at the D-1 level and above on $1-a-year contracts.”

The resolution stresses that “$1-a-year contracts should only be granted under exceptional circumstances, and be limited to high-level appointments.”

And most importantly, it requests Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to prepare, for the first time, “guidelines regarding the use of these contracts and to report thereon to the General Assembly at the main part of the 69th session,” beginning September 2014.

The resolution, which is expected to be adopted by the General Assembly next week, warns that “no $1-a-year contracts shall be granted until the aforementioned guidelines have been considered by the General Assembly.”

Asked for an official response, U.N. spokesperson Farhan Haq told IPS, “The General Assembly, in its draft resolution on human resources [A/C.5/67/L.29], stressed that one-dollar-a-year contracts should only be granted under exceptional circumstances and be limited to high-level appointments, which is the current practice.”

He said the Assembly also requested the secretary-general to prepare guidelines regarding the use of these contracts similarly to what was established for ‘When Actually Employed’ appointments.

“The issuance of guidelines for dollar-a-year contracts will ensure more consistent management of such appointments,” he added.

Lastly, he pointed out, the General Assembly requested the secretary-general to inform the ACABQ of the issuance of dollar-a-year contracts, as well as the establishment of certain categories of posts and positions such as “when actually employed”.

“This request has no impact on the authority of the secretary-general to issue such contracts or establish such posts,” Haq said.

And the secretary-general is not required to seek ACABQ’s endorsement, but simply to make them aware of actions he has taken in this regard, he added.

Meanwhile, the resolution also “reiterates its concern over the increase in the use of consultants, especially in the core activities of the Organisation.”

The secretary-general has been told that the use of consultants “should be governed by the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly”, including the need for potential candidates to be drawn from the widest possible geographical basis, and requests him “to make the greatest possible use of in-house capacity.”

During the 2010-2011 biennium, a total of 267 consultancy/ individual contractor contracts had been awarded to former staff members whose last recorded grade was at the level of USG, ASG, D-2 or D-1, according to the ACABQ report released last week.

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Fiji’s Leadership of G77 a ‘Rare Opportunity’ for the Pacific Mon, 15 Oct 2012 07:48:55 +0000 Catherine Wilson By Catherine Wilson
BRISBANE, Oct 15 2012 (IPS)

For the first time in 48 years, a Pacific Small Island Developing State (PSIDS) is gearing up to assume chairmanship of the Group of 77 developing nations plus China.

In 2013, the Republic of Fiji – located between Vanuatu and Tonga in the South Pacific and currently under a military government led by Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama – will take leadership of the largest intergovernmental coalition within the United Nations, replacing the incumbent chair, Algeria.

“Fiji’s election to the Chair of the Group of 77 and China (G77) for 2013 demonstrates the international community’s (confidence in us) to preside over the 132-member organisation in its endeavour to advance international matters that are of great importance to all developing countries,” Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, Fiji’s minister for foreign affairs and international cooperation, told IPS.

The G77 was formed in 1964 with 77 founding member states, representing a collective ambition by developing nations to advance their international voice and influence on world trade.

Since then, the G77, now comprising 132 member states, has championed South-South cooperation as a key strategy to boost standards of living and economic fortunes in the global South.

The intergovernmental group, which has identified the eradication of poverty as one of its greatest challenges, was also influential in developing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

According to a United Nations report last year, South-South cooperation has boosted development and investment between developing countries and is a formidable driver of economic growth.  Between 1990 and 2008 world trade expanded four-fold, while South-South trade multiplied more than 20 times.

Fiji’s rising role

Fiji’s new role within the U.N. was confirmed at the G77 foreign ministers’ meeting in New York on Sep. 28.

The island state, with a population of about 868,000 spread over more than 330 islands, has an economy dominated by the sugar and tourism industries, as well as the highest national human development ranking within the Pacific sub-region of Melanesia.

However, an ongoing struggle for political power between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians – descendants of nineteenth century Indian immigrant labourers – has fuelled four military coups since 1987.

During the most recent one in 2006, Bainimarama, commander of Fiji’s military forces, took over the presidency and dissolved parliament in an alleged attempt to stifle corruption.

His declared aim is to reform the race-based electoral system and draft a new constitution, following nationwide consultations, ahead of planned democratic elections in 2014.

But Fiji’s refusal to hold democratic elections by 2010 led to international sanctions and its suspension in 2009 from the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Forum, a regional intergovernmental group of independent and self-governing states.

The government of Fiji currently receives significant economic aid and political support from China.  It also remains politically engaged in the South-west Pacific as an active member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), an intergovernmental group comprising Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia.

Nikunj Soni, board chair of the Pacific Institute of Public Policy (PIPP), an independent regional think tank based in Port Vila, Vanuatu, told IPS that with the emergence of a range of advocacy platforms, such as the MSG and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Pacific Islands Forum was no longer the sole organisation through which the islands could coordinate a voice.

“Fiji’s chairmanship of the G77 will give the country’s leadership a chance to reach out to the rest of the region by way of consultation in order to make sure a regional voice can be heard on the international stage,” Soni told IPS. “The Pacific will have a rare opportunity to represent itself on the global stage…”

This is becoming increasingly important for the Pacific Islands as neighbouring superpowers like China and the U.S. set their sights on the archipelago as a crucial geo-strategic location.

China is increasing its investment and presence in the islands, while the U.S. has made moves to renew its engagement with the Pacific region in areas ranging from aid to security, and has deepened defence ties with Australia.

The Pacific Islands are also rich in mineral, forest and marine resources. The PIPP emphasised that increasing the region’s international voice on issues of security and resource management in the context of climate change was a top priority.

“With the Pacific Ocean covering half of the world’s ocean area and one third its total surface area, the region contains some of the largest unexploited natural resources and some of the most climate vulnerable nations on earth,” Soni explained.

“It remains important that small island developing states are not used by larger powers as proxies for their own geopolitical battles. At the same time, we must be able to protect our natural resources for the benefit of our own peoples.”

The global influence of the G77 will only increase as developing countries, especially Brazil, China and India, emerge as the new leaders of world economic growth. According to this year’s U.N. global economic outlook, developing countries will grow an average of 5.9 percent in 2013, while developed countries are likely to average only 1.9 percent growth.

But this year’s G77 Ministerial Meeting in New York also highlighted many challenges ahead for the coalition of developing nations, including the impact of the global financial crisis on world trade, food security, the fight against poverty, technology transfers and efforts to combat the severe effects of climate change.

“More recently, the G77 has taken on negotiating positions in areas of climate change and sustainable development, the two areas which PSIDS focuses on in New York,” Kubuabola stated.

“These are the two areas Fiji wishes to place emphasis on to ensure that the interests of all developing countries, including those of PSIDS, are effectively addressed.”

During a speech at the G77 meeting in September, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for economic and social affairs, Wu Hongbo, pointed out that the G77 also had an influential role to play in drafting the global Sustainable Development Goals, one outcome of the Rio+20 Earth Summit held in Brazil in June.


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Rio Outcome Bleak With No New Funding* Tue, 19 Jun 2012 21:53:10 +0000 Thalif Deen Children displaced by drought line up to receive food in Mogadishu. The poor are hardest hit by climate change and other problems. Credit: Abdurrahman Warsameh/IPS

Children displaced by drought line up to receive food in Mogadishu. The poor are hardest hit by climate change and other problems. Credit: Abdurrahman Warsameh/IPS

By Thalif Deen
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jun 19 2012 (IPS)

Amidst recrimination, anger and charges of “strong arm tactics”, negotiators eventually endorsed a global plan of action for sustainable development following marathon sessions lasting over six weary days.

A proposal for a 30-billion-dollar global fund for sustainable development – initiated by developing countries – was shot down even before it could get off the ground.

The United States and the 27-member European Union (EU) refused to approve the proposal, leaving in doubt how an ambitious blueprint for sustainable development, titled “The Future We Want,” is to be financed over the next decade.

“Without funding commitments, the Rio+20 outcome is likely to go the same way as previous documents of this nature, adopted with much fanfare and at great cost by world leaders,” Ambassador Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka’s permanent representative to the United Nations, told Terra Viva.

The funding is essential for most developing countries if they are to implement the lofty aspirations expressed in the 49-page outcome document.

“If developing countries are not brought on board, the outcome document will remain a pious list of unfulfilled dreams. The future that we all want must be a future that we all can have,” said Kohona, a former chief of the U.N. Treaty Section, who has been closely monitoring negotiations both at Rio+20 and the politically-disastrous 2009 climate change conference in Copenhagen.

But all is not lost, according to Martin Khor, executive director of the South Centre, a Geneva-based think tank of developing nations.

“The document is quite fair and balanced, given the current negative state of international cooperation for development,” he said.

Khor told TerraViva that at least the final document reaffirmed the Rio principles, including the common but differentiated responsibilities, which is precious for developing countries as it spells equity in sharing the costs of shifting to an environmentally friendly economy.

“Until almost the last day it seemed like some developed countries would refuse to even reaffirm what was committed at Rio 20 years ago,” Khor said.

It is a sad state of affairs, he said, that a reaffirmation of Rio, which in previous times would have been automatic, would now be considered a success of Rio+20.

“A weakness is that there is no commitment by the North for new funding or for concrete technology transfer,” he added.

However, the 132 member Group of 77 (G77) developing countries, plus China, managed to get a decision to start a U.N. General Assembly process to consider a new financial and a new technology mechanism. But it will be a tough fight to actually set these up.

“The global economic crisis has thrown a long shadow over Rio+20. Nevertheless, the G77 and China won a victory in having most of their issues accepted in the document,” Khor said.

Secretary-General of the Rio+20 summit Sha Zukang admitted the hurdles that had to be cleared before reaching final agreement.

“We think the text contains a lot of action. And, if this action is implemented, and if follow-up measures are taken, it will indeed make a tremendous difference in generating positive global change.”

Of course, he added, this document is the product of intensive protracted negotiations. And therefore, it is a compromise text.

“Like all negotiations, there will be some countries that feel the text could be more ambitious. Or, others who feel their own proposals could be better reflected. While still others might prefer to have their own language. But, let’s be clear: multilateral negotiations require give and take.”

Meena Raman, a negotiation expert at the Malaysia-based Third World Network said, “The outcome document does not have the ambition needed to save the planet or the poor but it has not taken us backwards, particularly given our initial fears that Rio+20 might be Rio-40.”

“This minimal outcome signals a lack of political courage, leadership and commitment from developed countries, and those campaigning for the future we really want will have to redouble our efforts.”

Ambassador Kohona said, “It is not going to be clever to disguise disinclination with clever terminology. We all know how donor countries mobilised massive funds at very short notice to deal with the financial crisis for which they themselves were responsible.”

“The environment may be approaching a much more serious crisis level,” he warned.

*This story was originally published by IPS TerraViva.


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RIO+20: Developing Countries Accept Green Economy* Sun, 17 Jun 2012 16:46:09 +0000 Diana Cariboni By Diana Cariboni
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jun 17 2012 (IPS)

It’s not true that developing countries conditioned the inclusion of the green economy in the final document at Rio+20 on clearly defined provisions for financing, the head of the Venezuelan delegation, Claudia Salerno, told TerraViva.

“That is an unfounded rumour,” she said.

Venezuela’s chief negotiator Claudia Salerno. Credit: IISD

On Thursday Jun. 14, the Group of 77 (G77) developing countries plus China walked out of a core working group on the green economy, complaining that rich countries were standing in the way of progress on “means of implementation” – transfer of money and technology – for bringing about a change in production and consumption patterns.

On Friday, the talks hit an impasse in other areas, and on Saturday Brazil presented a document in search of consensus before the heads of state reach this city for the final three days of the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, Jul. 20-22.

Developing countries “started the negotiations on the green economy and the changes needed,” and they were going “marvellously well” until the debate reached the question of means of implementation, Salerno said.

How can it be possible “that we, with the fight against poverty that we face, are more prepared for that transformation than those who are supposedly in a better position to undertake the changes?”

The proposals for the greening of the economy that the industrialised North put on the table in January would have created new trade barriers, “which we have been fighting since then and have managed to modify,” she said.

The agreement “cannot destroy 20 years of negotiations in the World Trade Organisation and everything that has been adopted in terms of the environment because you are having a crisis,” she said, referring to the European Union.

However, the debate got back on track and the chapter on the green economy “is now one of the areas where agreement has been reached on the largest proportion of text,” she said. “Why hasn’t a consensus been reached on a single paragraph on means of implementation? Because the rich countries don’t want it.”

The world’s nations have agreed to limit the prescriptive approach to the idea of the green economy and replace it with green economy policies, recognising that countries must maintain the capacity to define how to adapt it to their specific circumstances, said Alex Rafalowicz, legal adviser to the Third World Network, which is closely following the debates.

The world’s leaders must decide “if a crisis or specific circumstances can keep politicians from seeing things with a 20-year perspective,” Salerno said. “Everyone has a different crisis. Europe complains about its own and keeps bringing it up, as a justification.”

Last week’s announcement of a 30 billion dollar fund “is an agreement, and we are not going to revise it. If they (the U.S. and EU) back out of what developing countries themselves raised as the big political banner at the climate change conference in Copenhagen, things are pretty bad.” But, “we have even seen that,” she added.

The delegations from Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela, which coordinate their positions in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA), had harsh words Saturday for the setbacks in the area of financing.

“The G77 pulled out of the talks on the green economy because it was ALBA and Bolivia that observed that the means of implementation are heading in such a mistaken, absurd direction that private charity has appeared as a source of financing,” René Orellana, Bolivia’s chief climate change negotiator, told TerraViva.

“We don’t know if they are mocking us or if they actually want to dismantle international cooperation,” he said. “Where does it say that the obligations undertaken in numerous international treaties are suspended during hard times?”

Bolivia “has hopes for the Rio+20 process,” but “we want to see a document that expresses the right to development, the rights of Mother Earth, harmony with nature, and an anti-poverty focus.”

Bolivia, Venezuela and other Latin American oil, gas and coal producing nations are facing a dilemma: how to achieve sustainable development with an economy based on “dirty” forms of production.

“We are heavily dependent on these non-renewable resources, and because we are vulnerable we cannot overcome that dependency overnight without the transfer of technology that is essential for moving from non-renewable to renewable energy sources,” Orellana said.

But, he added, “we are only responsible for 0.03 percent of all greenhouse gases…And suddenly they want countries that are not guilty of climate change to assume a huge responsibility in reducing emissions. If we do that from one day to the next, our countries will be left without any sources of income.”

*This story was originally published by IPS TerraViva.

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U.N. Political Body Digresses into “Non-Security” Issues Fri, 17 Jun 2011 13:58:00 +0000 Thalif Deen

Analysis by Thalif Deen

By Thalif Deen

When the U.N. Security Council, the only political body empowered to declare war and peace, decided to include climate change on its agenda back in 2007, the 131-member Group of 77 (G77) launched a vociferous protest.

Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan, then chairman of the G77 – the largest single coalition of developing nations – said climate change was not a threat to “international peace and security” and therefore should not find a place on the Council agenda.

“The concept of the Security Council, as I read the U.N. charter, is that the Council comes into action when there are actual threats to peace, and breaches of the peace,” he argued.

But over the years, and even before the G77 protest, the political landscape has been changing, slowly but steadily, as the U.N.’s most powerful body has continued to take up several “non-security” related issues, including children and armed conflict (Aug. 1999), women, peace and security (Oct. 2000), climate change (Apr. 2007) and for the second time last week, HIV/AIDS.

Addressing the Security Council last Tuesday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that more than 10 years ago, then U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, pushed for the first discussion of HIV/AIDS in the Council chamber.

“Ambassador Holbrooke was the consummate diplomat,” said Ban, “but he was determined to raise the issue of HIV and AIDS even when it was undiplomatic.”

“We have come a long way since health issues were first discussed in this Council,” Ban added, hinting at the changing agenda of the Council.

Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, was sceptical about the impact of HIV/AIDS on international peace and security.

The July 2000 Security Council resolution (1308) stressed that “the HIV/AIDS pandemic, if unchecked, may pose a risk to stability and security”.

“With the highest prevalence rates and disease burdens being in societies that have nothing to do with conflict,” Puri told delegates, “HIV and AIDS has not created conditions of instability and insecurity, notwithstanding the apprehensions in U.N. Security Council resolution 1308.”

Asked about the growing trend, Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury, who presided over the Security Council (SC) meeting which adopted the historic resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, told IPS: “I surely believe that the SC has to change the way it looks at the threats to peace and security and how those threats could be addressed effectively”.

Chowdhury said that this is a major challenge to the Council which is predominantly influenced by the P-5 (the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China) which are the traditionalists in this context.

“But that militaristic approach to peace and security has to change and would change,” he added.

Also, the concept of human security has to be considered very seriously by the Council, said Chowdhury, a former U.N. Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of Least Developed and Land-locked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.

The so-called “non-security” issues that the SC has taken up so far, particularly resolution 1325 for the involvement of women in all decision-making levels, has the potential of making a real difference in the opportunities for success in the efforts of the SC in a substantive way, he declared.

Ambassador Colin Keating, executive director of the Security Council Report that closely monitors the activities of the Council, told IPS that the Security Council for many years now – well over a decade – has been actively addressing a wide range of thematic issues.

During that period, he said, a very large number of thematic Council resolutions and statements have been adopted by consensus.

“So there is clearly very wide support for this. And it is clearly not new [but] is a long established practice,” said Keating, a former Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations.

He pointed out that many leading members of all regional groups, during their terms as elected members of the Council, have supported this thematic agenda.

And in many cases, he said, G77 members have taken the lead in promoting new thematic issues: South Africa on women, during its last term on the Council, is one example; Brazil this year on the importance of development to achieving security, is another example; and Gabon this month on HIV/AIDS is another.

“It is fair to say from analysing statements of members of the General Assembly participating in open Council debates on thematic issues – that there is a wide acceptance in the U.N. generally that it is both important and legitimate for the Council to enter into these thematic areas, provided that there is a genuine connection with peace and security,” Keating added.

Chowdhury told IPS it is not appropriate to call these issues ‘non-political’. “All these issues – women, HIV/AIDS – all have political elements inherent in them.”

It is the SC’s mindset that refused to accept these issues that its permanent members (P-5) thought were not “hardcore” peace and security issues, he added.

Another similar issue which attracted Council attention is “children and armed conflict”, said Chowdhury. “It was considered before the 1325 resolution, when in 1999 the SC adopted the first resolution on children and armed conflict.”

For the HIV/AIDS, Chowdhury pointed out, “the driving force was U.S. Ambassador Holbrooke and, you can guess, no opposition would sustain long when he pursued something.” More so, when one of the P- 5 took the initiative to bring the issue into the SC, opposition was temporary, he added.

Keating told IPS that, “when you examine the Council decisions in detail, you will see that the Council always focuses on the thematic issues in the security context.” Thus its work on women and children is concentrated on the problems that emerge for women and children in conflict situations.

Similarly, he said, its decision last week on HIV/AIDS is also directly linked to the impact of HIV/AIDS in conflict situations and the role that U.N. peacekeepers can play to assist – and there was very wide support for this.

The issue of climate change, by contrast, remains controversial, said Keating.

There is not yet a consensus about the extent to which it is a threat to international security. However, one important change in recent years is that the G77 is now divided on this issue, he said.

Quite a large number of G77 members argue that climate change threatens their security in an existential sense – that their countries very survival is threatened by sea level rise.

“They strongly want the Security Council to take up the issue not for the purpose of taking decisions but to allow them to highlight the threat,” Keating said. Other G77 members remain cautious, perhaps concerned about the precedent if the issue is taken up in the Council.

“I think it is fair to say that there is very wide acceptance that climate change is a potential threat to peace and security, but disagreement as to whether it is yet an actual threat,” Keating pointed out.

The issue now is interpreting what is meant by the word “threat”.

Some see the word as including potential risks of conflict. Others prefer a more narrow definition, Keating explained. “Clearly there is a spectrum and a threshold point along that spectrum at which consensus could emerge. It remains to be seen what level of agreement on climate change can be reached in the Council in 2011.”

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Global Development Blueprint Reveals Urgent Uphill Battle Fri, 10 Sep 2010 15:34:00 +0000 Aprille Muscara

Aprille Muscara

By Aprille Muscara

A document outlining the U.N.’s strategy to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 was finalised Thursday after months of heated negotiations.

The text, titled “Keeping the Promise – United to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals”, will be formally signed off on by world leaders at the upcoming MDG summit, which is to be held here from Sep. 20-22.

The final 27-page version, obtained by IPS, differs considerably from the 14-page “zero draft” base text from which member states inserted, amended and removed passages.

However, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) worry that the completed text, called an outcome document, falls short of the substantial action plan it was hoped to be and is instead a rehash of already-made promises and generalised commitments.

“This document lacks the adrenaline boost to accelerate the MDGs, and with only five years left, world leaders coming together in New York must commit to concrete actions that will ensure all people are lifted from poverty in our lifetime,” said Emma Seery, a spokesperson for Oxfam International.

Over the years, NGOs and aid groups have advocated for a human rights-based approach to tackling the MDGs. A review of the document at different draft stages reveals the addition of key human rights language, such as inclusion of the right to development, the right to food, the right to health and the right to education.

“We recognize that the respect, promotion and protection of human rights is an integral part of effective work towards achieving the MDGs,” the final document states.

But notably absent from the list is access to clean water and sanitation, which the U.N. in a resolution declared a basic human right in late July. The resolution proved to be a divisive one, however, with 41 countries, including the United States, Britain and Canada abstaining from the vote.

Although water and sanitation is not explicitly framed as a human right in the final outcome document, they appear frequently throughout as basic needs essential to achieving the MDGs.

Absent, as well, is the assertion “that gender equality is a basic human right, a fundamental value and an issue of social justice” – a statement that was inserted during the draft process but failed to make it through to the end. The final version reads: “We acknowledge the importance of gender equality and empowerment of women to achieve the MDGs.”

Indeed, the evolution of the outcome document, which at one point ballooned to 38 pages, reflects a process of political wrangling over touchy wording. With its numerous additions and amendments, the final product is at once more specific in its language yet still general in its pledges.

Language on peace and security matters appears to have been especially contentious. For instance, references to “armed violence,” present in the zero draft, and “transnational crime” and “trafficking in persons,” introduced in subsequent drafts, as posing threats to the attainment of the MDGs have been removed entirely in favour of the more benign “conflict.”

However, one instance of both “foreign occupation” and “terrorism” – new additions – as hindering achievement of the MDGs appear in the final version, reflecting a political compromise between the Group of 77, a coalition of developing countries, and the European Union and the United States.

In the final stages of ironing out problematic language, the E.U. and U.S. and the G77 were often on opposing sides in typical developed-developing, North-South fashion.

It is common practice, a U.N official told IPS, for the relevant parties to go to extremes in their proposed amendments in anticipation of having to make concessions.

Thus, the G77’s insertions that claim the current global financial structure – from trade to aid – is “non- inclusive,” “ineffective” and “inadequate” for developing countries were removed in place of more watered down wording stressing the need to further reform international financial systems.

A greater focus on the particular needs of the developing world, rural populations and specific mention of regional efforts by the global South in attaining the MDGs are also additions, reflecting G77 bargaining.

Meanwhile, the importance of parliaments, national ownership in developmental efforts and mutual accountability for commitments made towards achieving the MDGs suggest concessions made to the West.

Among the other numerous differences from the zero draft is an acknowledgement of the impact of the world financial crisis, volatile food and energy prices and humanitarian emergencies in stunting developmental gains. And of the eight goals, the document characterises maternal health, MDG5, as making the slowest progress.

Also added is a litany of references to U.N. conventions, agreements and agencies, which serves to reinforce the commitments and goals made in those forums, but also highlights the world body’s role in ensuring the accountability of governments.

To this end, the final document requests a “Special Event” to take place during the 68th session of the general assembly in 2013, two years shy of the deadline, to follow up on efforts made toward achieving the MDGs.

Ultimately, despite its acknowledgement of the uneven advances made thus far, the document reflects the urgent uphill battle left on the path to 2015.

“Progress on other MDGs is fragile and must be sustained to avoid reversal,” it states.

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