Inter Press Service » Extra TVUN Turning the World Downside Up Mon, 01 Sep 2014 15:30:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 U.N. Chief Applauds AoC For Building Bridges to Peace Sun, 31 Aug 2014 10:35:53 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent

Speaking at the Sixth Global Forum of the U.N. Alliance of Civilization (AoC) in Bali, Indonesia last week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon applauded the AoC for expanding its valuable work addressing the sources of conflict and planting new seeds of peace.

“I welcome its commitment to promoting inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue,” he added.

These are essential tools to preventing and resolving conflicts. “I count on your support for efforts by the Alliance and by the entire United Nations system,” Ban said.

Addressing delegates, the High Representative for AOC Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser said: “As we look around the world, it is clear that identity-based tensions are a persistent source of conflict”.

Whether it is religion, culture, ethnicity or another vector of identity, brother is being pitted against brother, he added.

“We see this clearly in the heartbreaking violence in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Myanmar, Sri Lanka among other places. Beyond these immediate crises, there are longer-term trends that present difficulties,” he said.

The AOC is in its seventh year of operations and the Bali event is the first global forum to be held under the leadership of al-Nasser.

The High Representative pointed out that conflict, deprivation, climate change, and the absence of economic opportunity are forcing millions around the world to leave their homes.

When people cross borders, he said, often little infrastructure exists to accommodate them into their new host societies.

Moreover, as migrants, they often face discrimination. Even if only at a small scale, we must face these problems and come up with viable solutions.

With a humble budget, the Alliance directly collaborates with individuals on the ground to come up with scalable models to address these problems.

In its work, the Alliance has placed special emphasis on the need to mobilize individuals across diverse communities, across fault lines. The Alliance does so with limited resources and a small staff.

Appealing to the U.N.’s 193 member states, Al-Nasser said: “The truth is that Alliance can do a lot more with its knowhow and relationships at both the grassroots and governmental levels, but it can only do so with your help and support: member States, communities, civil society, and the general public.”

“This is my main message to you, our friends in the media and the international community,” he added.

The secretary-general said: “I see many disasters in today’s world. The natural calamities are heart-breaking. What is most saddening in many ways, these man-made tragedies are even worse”.

He said too many of the world’s worst crises are driven by those who exploit fear for power. And “too many societies are fracturing along cultural, religious or ethnic lines.”

Wars begin in people’s minds, he said, and the way to peace is also through people’s hearts.”

He said the Alliance of Civilizations was created to reach the hearts and minds of people and build bridges to peace.

“I applaud High Representative Ambassador Al-Nasser for working with many grassroots groups around the world,” Ban declared.

Under his leadership, the Alliance is making a difference on the ground.

It is helping Pakistani university students take the lead in healing sectarian divisions. It is supporting theatre by Kenyan citizens to prevent young people from joining terrorist movements.

And it is encouraging Muslim-Christian volunteerism in Mindanao.

In Israel-Palestine, the Alliance works to join families from both sides who have lost loved ones in the conflict.

By having a dialogue with each other, they challenge their leaders to do the same, the secretary-general added.

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EBOLA COULD SINK AFRICA’S RISING DREAMS Mon, 25 Aug 2014 07:47:13 +0000 a Global Information Network correspondent By a Global Information Network correspondent
NEW YORK, Aug 25 2014 (IPS)

An airlift of emergency supplies needed for those treating Liberians with the virus Ebola was launched last weekend by the U.N. children’s fund, Unicef.

“The largest component of the supplies was chlorine,” for disinfection, said Unicef’s representative in Liberia, Sheldon Yetts. Other supplies in the airlift were oral rehydration salts and sodium lactate to help ensure people are rehydrated, and about 900,000 gloves for infection control.

“Health workers have suffered a disproportionate number of casualties from Ebola,” said Yetts. “We need to make sure that health centers are disinfected and that people in Liberia feel safe to return to health centers.”

Ebola, say some experts, is much less contagious than other more common diseases. The virus, much like HIV or hepatitis, is spread through blood or bodily fluids and is not airborne.

Still, some countries in Africa are rejecting the World Health Organization’s advisory and are slamming their doors on visitors from West Africa. Travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are banned from entering South Africa. Citizens returning home from these areas must undergo a strict screening process, a health ministry statement said.

Senegal has closed its border with Guinea, while Chad closed its border with Nigeria.

Air Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria’s Arik Air, Togo’s ASKY Airlines, British Airways, Emirates Airlines and Kenya Airways have together cancelled over 200 flights to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Kenya Airways froze routes to Liberia and Sierra Leone after Kenya’s ministry of health called the Ebola outbreak “vastly underestimated” and that is was “expected to continue for some time”.

Only Brussels Airlines and Dutch airline KLM say they will continue flights. “Travelers are highly unlikely to be infected with Ebola, which cannot be transmitted under normal hygiene conditions”, said KLM.

With apparently conflicting health advisories sowing confusion and fear, a Zimbabwe blogger penned her concern that the upbeat picture of “Africa Rising” was getting a black eye.

Writing in the Mail & Guardian’s Voice of Africa,“ blogger Fungai Machirori observed: “Over the last few years, meticulous work has gone into crafting the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative – namely rising economies (like South Africa and Nigeria), tech and innovation (think Kenya) and the growth of a middle class we might call ‘post-African’ – savvy, urban, cosmopolitan with no flies to swat off their faces and no begging bowls in their manicured hands.

“While the statistics do point to a truth, another truth still prevails,” she cautioned.

“Across Africa I have seen the consumerist dream (high-end malls, cars, mansions and general financial exuberance) coexist with abjection, poverty and depleted social services. The rich do exist, but they are not the majority.

“The spread of Ebola shows up the Africa Rising narrative …Quite instantly, Ebola has become ‘the great leveler’ among Africans, re-perpetuating stereotypes of barbarism and savagery; that Africans eat ‘strange foods’ like fruit bats and bush meat and other ‘filthy creatures’, that we are unclean, diseased and therefore dangerous.

“Ebola has opened up the way for the ‘dark continent’ narrative to re-emerge, if it ever really disappeared,” she said. “Africa is collapsed into one territory, one country, one race, even if the fatality of Ebola represents about 0.15% of the continent.

A dominant global hysteria has emerged that lends itself to racial profiling and generalisations. I’m wondering how far, if at all, the discourse around blackness has progressed.

At the same time, “Ebola is serving to deepen regionalism (west Africa versus the rest of Africa) and the dangerous sort of nationalism that has often led to ineffectual collaboration across the continent…

“If Africa – given its wealth of human and natural resources – cannot contain Ebola, then we must sober up and accept that we haven’t risen to where we should be, given the accompanying discourse of booming economies and commodity markets.”

(Fungai Machirori runs Zimbabwe’s first web-based platform for women, Her Zimbabwe, and is an advocate for social media)  w/pix of Liberian women washing hands with chlorinated water from “Ebola buckets”


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SOCIAL MEDIA CONFAB IN SOUTH AFRICA Mon, 25 Aug 2014 07:45:14 +0000 a Global Information Network correspondent By a Global Information Network correspondent
NEW YORK, Aug 25 2014 (IPS)

Some 400 delegates from 36 African countries are expected to fill the halls at the 18th annual Highway Africa conference for media activism which takes place Sept. 7-8 at Rhodes University, Grahamstown.

The two-day event will explore how social media has impacted all aspects of our lives in the last ten years. Dan Gillmor, a U.S. professor of digital media literacy at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Community is the keynote speaker.

Gillmor, the author of We the Media (2004), describes the Internet as an opportunity for independent journalists to challenge the consolidation of traditional media and contains his widely cited realization: “my readers know more than I do.”

The book offers a guide to new internet tools for journalists, including weblogs, RSS, SMS, peer-to-peer, and predicts how these tools will change journalism. His latest book, Mediactive, is on digital media literacy.

The conference will have a mix of panel discussions, training workshops, book launches and networking dinners. There are four distinct tracks in the program catering to the different core constituencies that are attending, ranging from mainstream journalists, academics, community media activists, to journalism students.

The conference will be preceded by council meetings of the African Editors Forum and the South African National Editors Forum.

In a related development, the African Media Initiative (AMI) this month launched a Pan-African campaign against hate speech at a panel discussion held in Nairobi, Kenya.

The panel brought together leading media figures from the Kenyan broadcasting station, NTV, which is part of East Africa’s largest media conglomerate, the Nation Media Group; Eric Chinje, Chief Executive Officer of AMI; Nanjira Sambuli, researcher on online hate speech at the iHub; Fatuma Abdulahi, owner of Warya Post, Africa’s fastest growing website; and Boniface Mwangi, award-winning photographer and social activist.

Examples of hate speech cited by conference organizers included the Ugandan media’s attack on the LGBT community. In one case “the 200 top homosexuals” were highlighted under the banner “Exposed!” on the front page of the paper Red Pepper.

“It’s happening all around us,” said AMI director Eric Chinje. “All of a sudden, Africa again is becoming the land of strife. It’s not like Rwanda in 1994 but there is a growing sense of exclusion on the continent, and the media appears to be a part of it.”

“The #TurnthePageonHateSpeech campaign serves as a call to media leaders and operators in Africa to lend their full support to efforts to turn the tide against the rise of hate speech on the Continent,” AMI said.

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UN AoC Focuses on Youth & Peace Building Thu, 21 Aug 2014 08:19:36 +0000 Joel Jaeger By Joel Jaeger

Speaking to 75 youths representing 75 countries, U.N. Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson offered a sweeping assessment of the United Nations’ place in the world and outlined his hopes for the future.

“We are right now in a time when we are testing multilateralism [and] testing international cooperation,” Eliasson said. “The whole new global landscape is changing so quickly.”

According to Eliasson, the proliferation of information in today’s day and age has spurred expectations for immediate results.

“We have to deliver, both nation states and international organizations.”

Wednesday’s event, Youth and Peacebuilding at the United Nations, was organized as a part of the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations – Education First (UNAOC-EF) Summer School.

Participants in the summer school were selected based on their involvement in intercultural and interfaith dialogue and youth issues. One third of the attendees came from countries in conflict, in a reconciliation process or at high risk of conflict.

In the face of the challenges confronting the United Nations, the Deputy Secretary General identified four sources of hope.

The first was sitting right in front of him. “You are the hope,” he said to the young people who had gathered to hear him speak.

He expressed his encouragement at the eagerness and capacity of new generations for positive change.

Women’s empowerment was the second reason why Eliasson expected the future to be brighter than today.

“This century… women will finally for the first time in history play the role that they deserve,” he said.

The advancement of science and technology and the promise of international institutions were his last two sources of hope.

The U.N.’s job, according to Eliasson, is to “make a little difference between the world as it is and the world as it should be. I won’t say that we can or should even try to close that gap, we won’t do that, but we should at least diminish that gap.”

Cecile Mazzacurati, Youth and Gender Policy Advisor at the U.N.’s Peacebuilding Support Office, also spoke at the event, directly addressing the topic of youth and peace.

Peace workers often think of young people as perpetrators or victims of violence instead of potential peacebuilders, she said.

“We tend to see… a large youth population as a potential threat and not as a resource and not a demographic dividend that we should build on.”

The Security Council has never addressed the nexus of youth, peace and security. However, Mazzacurati said that the Peacebuilding Support Office, along with civil society and NGOs, has created a set of guiding principles for youth participation in peacebuilding. She hoped that the topic would gain more prominence in the future.

UNAOC-EF Summer School participants asked the panellists a number of questions on topics such as violence against journalists, religious extremism, and how to get involved with the U.N., their curiosity and engagement further bolstering the panellists’ confidence in the new generation.

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UNICEF Offers Psychosocial Support to Traumatised Children in Gaza Thu, 21 Aug 2014 08:17:57 +0000 Gloria Schiavi By Gloria Schiavi

Children in Gaza are in desperate need of psychosocial support to cope with the violence and destruction they have witnessed, both on a physical and emotional level, a U.N. official saidThursday.

Addressing a news conference here, Pernilla Ironside, head of the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) office in Gaza, told reporters: “We’re on a very slippery slope in terms of Gaza’s children, I would say we are possibly on a precipice.”

Currently, a total of 50 psychologists are on the ground providing counselling to 3,000 children. UNICEF estimates at least 373,000 are in immediate need of psychosocial first aid and it is likely that the programme will take years.

“We are still working with kids from the last conflict”, the U.N. official remarked, adding that a 7-year-old child would have experienced three conflicts by now.

Following the latest escalation of violence in Gaza, the death toll among children is 469, figure that includes the nine who were confirmed dead just in the last 48 hours. Over 3,000 children were injured and 400,000 people displaced.

The U.N. agency, which focuses on children, aims at re-instilling the sense of security they need. Kids feel there is no safe place in Gaza and their parents cannot help either, as they are traumatised too: every single family in Gaza, according to Ironside, has experienced direct loss.

The Fund is also providing water, blankets, some basic services and it is appealing for lifesaving drugs and vaccines. The situation reached a point where children wished they had died rather than enduring this continuing suffering, the UNICEF official said, recounting a conversation she had with a young girl. These children have lost hope.

Education has a very important role in these young lives in this delicate time when they are very impressionable. “We risk having children sliding to sentiments of intolerance and hatred and potentially even extremism unless we give them a reason to believe that there is a more hopeful future available for them”, Ironside warned.

Teaching should resume on 24 August but with more than 200 schools being used as shelters, this is impossible, she said. UNICEF and the Ministry of Education will launch a “back to school” campaign, to renovate school buildings and provide pupils with the necessary means to learn.

Children should not be reminded of the horror of the war when they go back to school, in the same premises where they fled looking for safety and found suffering and death instead.

Gaza’s economy is also depressed as the unemployment rate has kept soaring even before this conflict, with 80 percent of the people dependent on some sort of aid.

Ironside called for a change in the current system of administration of goods in which Israel is strongly in control.

At the current state of things Ironside says that it would take 18 years to rebuild the 17,000 housing units that have been destroyed.

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U.N. Commemorates World Humanitarian Day Paying Tribute to Aid Workers Wed, 20 Aug 2014 09:01:53 +0000 Joan Erakit By Joan Erakit

The United Nations Tuesday commemorated World Humanitarian Day paying tribute to aid workers who risk their lives to bring relief to those in need.

In 2013 alone, 460 aid workers suffered violence or attacks, and 155 were killed, according to a new report by the U.N. Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA

 To highlight the plight of those working in the field, OCHA convened a panel discussion hosted by The Huffington Post.

The participants included former New York Police Department officer turned Peacekeeper, Ken Payumo, Syrian clarinettist Kinan Azmeh, former child soldier and now activist and actor, Emmanuel Jal, and Pernille Ironside , currently working in Gaza.

The panellists not only discussed what it meant to be a humanitarian worker, but also to recount personal experiences of working in the field.

Asked to define the duties of a humanitarian worker, Ironside, an aid worker with UNICEF equated it to “selflessness” and added that, “advocating for the protection of civilians at all times,” was a major characteristic of the job.

Payumo, a peacekeeper who was working in South Sudan at the brink of the conflict in 2013 recounted a harrowing verbal altercation with local forces when thousands of civilians sought refuge at the UNMISS compound he was working on.

“Impartiality is central to us,” Payumo added, emphasizing the need for aid workers to neither judge, nor condemn civilians who sought protection during times of unrest.

Jal, a rapper and peace activists offered his perspective on the recent crisis in South Sudan pointing out there was “no coup, it was something the government created.”

Asked what people could do to help the situation in his former country, Jal said lobbying, awareness and discussion were integral to addressing any kind of political, or social crisis.

By putting a spotlight on a “dark” place, local and national issues were brought to the forefront and governments would feel the pressure to handle them.

In a statement released here, the President of the General Assembly John Ashe said a people-centred approach to dealing with conflict seemed to be the important message for World Humanitarian Day.

“As we look to implement a new sustainable development agenda, eradicating poverty while maintaining peaceful societies based on an inclusive, people-centered approach will be essential components if we are to achieve success and build a just and prosperous future for all the world’s citizens.”

Ashe’s sentiments were echoed by all panelists when they were asked what citizens all over the world could do to be more of a humanitarian.

“Start at home,” Payumo asserted, implying that not all humanitarian workers needed to travel abroad to work in conflict zones to help others.

Ironside asked the audience to consider, “giving a voice to the voiceless or for those who feared to speak out.”

In the light of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, where violence has escalated after an 18 year old unarmed Mike Brown was fatally shot by police, and in Gaza where tensions between the Palestinians and Israelis continues to claim the lives of men, women and children, World Humanitarian Day put a spotlight on the work that many undertake selflessly in hot spots.

As Ashe said in his statement: “World Humanitarian Day is not only an opportunity for our international community to celebrate the spirit of humanitarian work, but also to underscore the need to do more, as growing humanitarian crises continue to threaten millions of the most vulnerable communities where lives have been torn apart by war and other natural disasters.”

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UNFPA Supports Abducted Nigerian Girls’ Transition to Normal Life Wed, 20 Aug 2014 09:00:10 +0000 Gloria Schiavi By Gloria Schiavi

When Boko Haram abducted more than 200 girls from their schools in Chibok, Nigeria last April, an international outcry was heard across the world under the slogan #bringbackourgirls.

They have not been brought back, but some of them have escaped and returned to their community. While the search effort is mostly in the hands of the Nigerian government, the United Nations and relief organisations are looking after those who are back.

Explaining the role of the U.N., Ratidza Ndhlovu, head of the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) in Nigeria, said: “We are supporting girls who have returned and also pre-positioning and getting ready for the girls when they come out. [We are] also helping the communities to be ready to receive the children”

This translates into programmes targeting, for example, sexual and reproductive health. UNFPA has undertaken a screening plan for the girls and provided “home delivery kits” and means to restore the dignity of women.

“The issue of sexual violence is very serious” Ndhlovu said, as most of the girls have been raped “both by the insurgents and by other men who take advantage of the situation”.

UNFPA also provides education and brings mainstreaming family planning into an emergency response situation, in terms of healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy.

“It is not the best time to be pregnant, when you can hardly sleep in your house, when there are no clinics, and when you are running all the time”, Ndhlovu said.

The community is still shaken by the insurgency and the violence, and is left with very little services. The psycho-social support to the girls has achieved very good results, she said.

“Initially they didn’t want to hear anything about going back to school, because they were at school when [the abduction] happened”. But after less than two weeks of psychosocial counselling, they were ready to go back.

At the time, Malala Yousafzai , the Pakistani school girl who was shot by the Taliban, had just visited Nigeria, Ndhlovu added, and that helped the programme to be more effective.

She said counseling has been provided in order to prepare traditional leaders welcoming the girls back and not stigmatising them. Men and boys were also trained with regard to their responsibility towards the girls. A lasting hope, of course, is to see the rest of the girls back, she added.

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OPINION: Violations of International Law Degenerate U.N. Tue, 19 Aug 2014 08:07:39 +0000 Somar Wijayadasa By Somar Wijayadasa
NEW YORK, Aug 19 2014 (IPS)

The United Nations was founded “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights. To meet that objective, the Preamble of the UN Charter provides “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”.

 The United Nations has played a major role in defining, codifying, and expanding the realm of international law – which defines the legal responsibilities of States in their conduct with each other, and their treatment of individuals within State boundaries.

Historically, violators of international law are not only the countries branded as evil and belligerent but also countries that preach democracy and human rights. That undermines the efforts of the United Nations to maintain law and order.

Since the Second World War, these good and evil countries have waged hundreds of wars in which nearly 50 million people have been killed, tens of millions made homeless, and countless millions injured and bereaved. No part of the world has escaped the scourge of war. The countless mechanisms enshrined in the UN Charter to resolve conflicts by peaceful means have rendered useless.

Let’s forget Hiroshima, Vietnam, Korea and a few other major disasters. Let’s look at what happened after the Cold War ended in 1989, and the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 – leaving the United States as the only Super Power.

The mass murders in Rwanda and Sudan proved that neither the United Nations nor superpowers wished to intervene. Wars in the Balkans, and fragmentation of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia are now forgotten history.

US and NATO authorized bombings in Kosovo and Serbia in the 90’s. Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen is over. International law was violated in all these instances, and these countries now are in disarray.

United States has been criticized for turning away from internationalism by abandoning the Kyoto Protocol, ignoring the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, repudiating the Biological Weapons Convention, repealing the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, refusing to sign the Treaty establishing the International Criminal Court, and condoning the continued Israeli violence against Palestinians in occupied territories.

In 2011, following the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration embarked on a strategy of unilateralism, disregarding the UN and international law. Worst of all is its military strategy of “pre-emptive strikes” which defies the UN Charter by allowing the US to use illegal force against other states.

Despite UN opposition, the Bush administration took a series of unilateral actions. The most damaging was the war in Iraq waged on bogus claims of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and the war in Afghanistan.

After a decade of devastation, the expectations of democracy, freedom and human rights have vanished – and there are no winners in these wars despite continuing mayhem and casualties.

US President Barack Obama revealed that the two wars have cost US taxpayers over $1 trillion. A study by American researchers (including Noble Laureate Joseph Stieglitz and experts from Harvard and Brown), estimate that the costs could be in the range of $3-4 trillion.

A major challenge to international law today is the US policy of using aerial drones to carry out targeted killings.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) estimates that as many as 4,000 people have been killed in US drone strikes since 2002 in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Of those, a significant proportion were civilians.

UCLA believes that “The US policy instigated in 2006 is violating universally recognized customary international law on numerous counts: failure to discriminate between military and civilian objects, indiscriminate attacks, extrajudicial executions, attacks against places of worship.

Ironically, the drone strikes could actually be classified as “international terrorism,” since they appear to have been often intended to coerce the civilian population and to influence the Pakistani government.”

Another major obstacle to peace in the Middle East and world security is the Israeli Occupation and expansion of settlements in occupied territories – acts that undermine International Law.

According to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention — to which both Israel and the United States are signatories — prohibits any occupying power from transferring “parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

Also, a landmark 2004 decision by the International Court of Justice confirmed the illegality of the Israeli settlements.

Since 1948, the UN has passed scores of resolutions declaring that all Israeli settlements outside of Israel’s internationally recognized borders are illegal but blatantly ignored by Israel.

Condemning the recent Israeli attacks on homes, schools, hospitals, and UN shelters in Gaza that killed thousands of innocent civilians – a gross violation of the Geneva Conventions – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said that “Israel was deliberately defying international law in its military offensive in Gaza and that world powers should hold it accountable for possible war crimes.”

Pillay said she was appalled at Washington consistently voting against resolutions on Israel in the Human Rights Council, General Assembly and Security Council.

Another inconspicuous violation is the application of “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) approved by the UN, in 2005, which is now subtly used for regime changes.

The US and NATO invoked R2P for military intervention in Libya on the pretext of a “no-fly zone” but ended in regime change. Today Libya is fragmented and is in the hands of rebels forcing United States to evacuate its embassy staff and other foreign personnel in Libya.

US attempted to invoke R2P mechanism in Syria even though there was no proof that Assad regime killed its own people with chemical weapons.

President Obama was about to wage a war against Syria when a last minute solution was found by the Russians to avert the war by removing Assad’s chemical weapons. War weary people all over the world (including Americans) are deeply divided over the use of unilateral (even lawful) military force to solve international problems.

But the US and its allies showed no interest in invoking R2P in the case of Darfur or in Israeli aggression against Palestinians in Gaza where over 2000 civilians were killed.

Also no one is screaming to invoke R2P in East Ukraine despite the fact that already over 2000 Ukrainians have been killed by Ukrainian military forces.

The United Nations has not played a fair role when invoking the Responsibility to Protect.

In 2002, the International Criminal Court (ICC) was established with a mandate to consider genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. But it is unfortunate that ICC mainly focuses on criminal cases in Africa, without looking at so many breaches of the law elsewhere.

United States is not a signatory to the ICC but it cannot escape from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) where cases can be initiated by one state against another.

Actions of many powerful countries prove that they are sticking to the Rule of Power instead of enhancing the Rule of Law.

For over 200 years, America has been a devout apostle of equality and freedom – defending peace, democracy, justice and human rights. It is in this sense that a few former US Presidents believed in peace and not war.

President Truman said, “The responsibility of the great states is to serve and not dominate the peoples of the world” and President Kennedy said, “Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.”

It is inconceivable that America, today, with its democratic history and unrivaled power constantly violates International Law instead of morally guiding the world towards peace, justice and prosperity.

Such actions, not only erode the prestige of the United States and violate the UN Charter, but also the effectiveness of the United Nations.

(Somar Wijayadasa is a former Representative of UNAIDS at the United Nations)

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Malala, U.N. Chief Push for Action on MDGs Mon, 18 Aug 2014 07:46:41 +0000 Joel Jaeger By Joel Jaeger

Malala Yousafzai and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon spoke with 500 young people at a U.N. event Monday, marking 500 days until the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Malala, the famous Pakistani student who was shot by the Taliban on a school bus in 2012, focused on her signature issue: education. She brought in experience from a whirlwind year of travel and advocacy.

“Every place that I go to there are so many incredible children, girls and boys, who are speaking up for their rights,” she said.

“When I went to Kenya, I met amazing girls who loved their books, who loved their pens, and who loved going to school. I haven’t seen such love ever before, and I saw how education has brought change in their community.”

In Nigeria, Malala met with parents of girls who were abducted by Boko Haram. She also spoke with several of the girls who had escaped from the militant group, and was astonished to hear that they were not receiving education or any help coping with their trauma.

“People are highlighting it on Twitter, but no one is really helping these girls,” she said.

Ever the optimist, Malala said her recent visit to Trinidad and Tobago gave her hope for the future.

“I went there and their education is free. Primary education is free, secondary education is free, tertiary education is free, and even if you want to do a Masters, half of the money is paid by the government.”

Even though Trinidad and Tobago is not particularly rich, she said, the country is developing because it uses its oil and gas revenues for education instead of losing it to corruption.

According to the most recent MDG report, primary education enrolment in developing countries increased from 80 percent in 1990 to 90 percent in 2012.

Ninety percent is not enough for Malala. Fifty-eight million primary-school-age children around the world still did not have access to education as of 2012.

“It was my dream to see every child going to school and it still is my dream,” Malala said.

Ban Ki-moon called the Pakistani schoolgirl “a daughter of the United Nations” and praised her for changing the landscape of the U.N.’s commitment to the MDGs, particularly in regard to education.

The U.N. hopes that Monday’s event, titled “500 Days of Action”, will build up momentum for the final stretch of the MDGs.

The MDGs have been the most successful anti-poverty campaign in history, according to the United Nations. Since 1990, extreme poverty has been reduced by more than half and child mortality has almost halved. However, much work remains to be done, particularly in terms of education.

“500 days are left, but that doesn’t mean that after 500 days we won’t do anything,” said Malala. She pointed to the U.N.’s preparations for the Sustainable Development Goals, which will extend the concept of the MDGs out to 2030.

Malala, for her part, lives her values. She brought her homework to the U.N. to work on in her free moments.

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U.N. Underlines Key Role for Youth and Sports on Development Mon, 18 Aug 2014 07:45:29 +0000 Gloria Schiavi By Gloria Schiavi

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Nanjing, China, last week for the opening ceremony of the Second Youth Olympic Games.

With 500 days before the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), he stressed upon the key role young people hold in this challenge.

Addressing youth delegates Saturday, Ban said China has made remarkable progress towards the reduction of poverty and achieving development goals. He also said young people in China have the energy necessary to push the campaign further.

Sport, a universal language uniting groups and nations, offered another communication platform for his message.

“The United Nations strongly believes in the power of sport. Sport has a very unique, extraordinary power to bring people together and to drive social change”, Ban said.

“When we see countries competing together on playing fields, we know they can work together in negotiating rooms”.

The UN and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the governing body for the Games, have a strong relationship: they share similar values and work towards similar targets.

As defined by the Olympic Charter, the IOC’s mission is “to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society combined with the preservation of human dignity”.

Olympic values support an approach to sport on the basis of mutual understanding, no discrimination and a spirit of friendship, fair play and solidarity.

Enhancing peace and development and also bridging the gap between and among different ethnicities and religions and people and traditions”: this is the legacy Ban hopes these Games will leave behind.

Non-discrimination, sustainability, universality and solidarity are shared Olympic and United Nations principles.

On Tuesday, the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee reported on the possibility of using sport and Olympic ideals to promote human rights, combat discrimination and racism, prevent conflict and build peace. The committee issued recommendations related to education and suggested ways to achieve these goals, with special attention to women inclusion.

Earlier this year, the former and now honorary President of the IOC Jacques Rogge of Belgium was nominated Special Envoy for Youth Refugees and Sport: an important step to underline the role sport can play in physical rehabilitation and also in rebuilding the social network destroyed by conflict or natural disasters.

The IOC has observer status at the UN since 2009 and the two institutions run projects to promote peace, development, environment protection and gender equality.

Currently, UNAIDS runs an educational booth at these Youth Olympic Games on sexual health and HIV prevention.

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International Youth Day Focuses on Mental Health Tue, 12 Aug 2014 07:47:37 +0000 Gloria Schiavi By Gloria Schiavi

They survived mental illnesses and escaped suicides. They found new reasons to live, new hope and they grew stronger.

These young people were invited Tuesday to participate in an event that marked International Youth Day with a focus on mental health.

They shared their stories with the world in an attempt to reach further and help others in need, because they knew that speaking out is a way to fight a mental health condition, overcome the stigma around it and encourage others to seek help.

According to a report issued Tuesday by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), 20% of the world’s young people experience a mental health condition each year. This makes for 1.2 billion people aged 15 to 24.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “The United Nations wants to help lift the veil that keeps young people locked in a chamber of isolation and silence”.

People with mental health conditions are ashamed and they don’t seek help: they are left alone when they most need to be supported.

According to various testimonies at the meeting, speaking out makes affected people stronger.

The stigma associated with having a mental health condition leads to neglect and discrimination, Ban added. Awareness needs to be raised at all levels, education is crucial to create an environment that allows people to “flourish, making valuable contribution to our collective future”. The aim is to promote their full participation in the society and prevent their exclusion.

Young people are particularly vulnerable because they are in a critical moment of their life: “A safe and healthy passage from adolescence into adulthood is the right of every child”, said Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director at the UN Population Fund.

“Being healthy means not merely the absence of illness, but complete physical, mental and social well-being” he added. As he launched the UNFPA’s #showyourselfie campaign, that calls for inclusion of the world’s youth in future policies and particularly in the post-2015 development agenda, he remarked that “Young people were not in focus in the Millennium Development Goals. They cannot be forgotten again”.

Ban said: “We have just about 500 days to reach the Millennium Development Goals. We must support all young people, especially those who are vulnerable, to succeed in this historic campaign.”

The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Philippe Lazzarini, joined the chorus of voices and stressed the dire situation of children in war zones, who are forced to join armed groups, grow up in the streets or lose their parents to the conflict.

“Such an experience would be overwhelming in any environment, but it is even more difficult in a country where the issue of mental health is not prioritised and mental health services are minimal”.

The calls seem to be unanimous. In Lazzarini’s words: “What we need is nothing less than a paradigm shift in policies and attitudes towards the role of youth in order to empower and place them at the core of the development agenda”.

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Political Tensions Threaten Iraq’s Already Dwindling Security Mon, 11 Aug 2014 07:54:29 +0000 Zafirah Mohamed Zein By Zafirah Mohamed Zein

Threatened with slaughter if they descend what is now known as the “Mountain of Death” and at risk of dying of dehydration if they stay, tens of thousands of Yezidis have been driven to peril by the Islamic State (also known as ISIL).

About 200 000 people have been displaced in the last nine days, adding to the 650 000 who had to leave their homes since June 9, when ISIL seized Mosul, a city in northern Iraq. ISIL has since ravaged swiftly across the country, leaving a trail of horror and fear in their wake.

An estimated 1.5 million, including Syrians taking refuge in Iraq, are currently in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

Aid to Mount Sinjar has arrived in the form of airdrops of food and water, delivered by the United States, Britain and France.

However, “the situation of people still on the mountain are absolutely dire,” according to Kieran Dwyer, spokesperson for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“The people trapped on the mountains are absolutely exposed to the heat and it is searing hot here,” said Dwyer, speaking from Iraq.

“People coming off the mountain every single day are in much worse condition than the day before.”

People are trapped in multiple locations on the rough, barren expanse of rock. The south of Mount Sinjar exposes those trapped to armed militants, who are now making religious minorities choose between their lives and their faith.

Alarming reports from inside Iraq however, have revealed that militants have been conducting indiscriminate executions and barbaric torture of all those vulnerable, including women and children.

Up to 500 women are being held in a prison in Mosul after being abducted by armed groups. Of the 200 000 displaced, half are children under the age of 15. 56 children have died since the crisis broke out last week. This excludes the number of those still trapped on Mount Sinjar.

On the north side near the Syrian border, Kurdish and other security forces have assisted some thousands in escaping, although safety is not guaranteed once they get down.

A seven-hour walk greets them at the start of their journey to relative safety. After surviving harsh conditions on higher ground, they cannot be certain of not being confronted by violence down below.

About 16 schools have been set up in the town of Dohuk and serve as emergency shelters for those displaced. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has four communal kitchens in place, providing around 1.6 million meals in the last week alone.

Although humanitarian coordination from local, regional and international authorities is stepping up, security measures are not yet underway, posing a constant challenge to adequate provision of emergency assistance.

“We need to stress that security is critical for humanitarian access. Security is key for us to deliver life-saving support,” said Dwyer.

Amidst this instability, Iraqi President Fuad Masum has named Haider al-Abadi as the new prime minister, replacing Nuri al-Maliki. Maliki has long been seen by the United States as a contributor to sectarian and ethnic discord in the country.

Although U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has commended Masum for adherence to the Iraqi constitution in his nomination of al-Abadi, he is concerned that heightened political tensions paired with the security threat of ISIL could plunge Iraq into an unprecedented crisis.

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African Writers Rip U.S. Summit Mon, 11 Aug 2014 07:46:12 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
Aug 11 2014 (IPS)

Charles Onyango-Obbo of The East African, a Kenyan daily, joined a growing number of writers and scholars questioning the aims of the US-Africa Summit. Where, he asked, were the wives?

“Africa’s Big Men but none of its Big Women made it to the meeting,” he observed in a wrap up of the ballyhooed three day affair which brought over 40 African heads of state and staff to the U.S.

Uchenna Ekwo of the NY-based Center for Media and Peace Initiatives faulted the U.S. press. “Nothing exemplifies the ignominy of Africa in international policy agenda than for the President of the United States to hold a press conference to discuss the outcome of a three day summit that literally uprooted Africa to Washington DC only for reporters to divert the attention of the president to other issues.”

“Only one question by Nairobi’s Standard newspaper specifically referenced Africa and the Summit that necessitated the press conference in the first place,” said a steamed-up Ekwo. “All other questions focused on Israel-Palestine, the Ukraine- Russia imbroglio, immigration reform, and other domestic policy issues.”

Reporters who travelled from Africa filed out in disappointment and despair, he said, while two senior journalists – from Nigeria’s Channels Television and Cameroon’s Radio Television – shrugged it off saying the summit was for the benefit of America.

Among the topics to get short shrift were women’s issues. One highly billed event featured presidential wives Michele Obama and Laura Bush on the stage at the Kennedy Center engaged in friendly banter. African first ladies were seated in the audience – they barely filled the first two rows – alongside a grinning ex-President George Bush posing for pictures with the women.

Jill Biden, wife of the Vice President, was the Summit pick for a keynote speech on women’s empowerment and education. Several news articles focused on her African print dress.

Despite a letter signed by over 600 African and U.S. groups pleading for “official space during the Summit for participation by African civil society activists,” there was no room at the inn except at a parallel summit held Monday.

The letter signers had urged Obama “to send a strong and clear message that the U.S. considers these independent voices to be an equally vital part of the conversation.”

Signers included centers of democratic studies in Uganda, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Mali, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Nigeria, Guinea, Angola, Malawi and South Africa.

Among those officially wined and dined were President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia whose toxic remarks on gays had been condemned in Washington; President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the head of oil-rich yet impoverished Equatorial Guinea, and Swaziland’s King Mswati III, Africa’s last monarch where political parties may not take part in elections.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and Sudan’s leader Omar el-Bashir were banned.

“Beyond the investment deals and moneys,” wrote Onyango-Obbo, “a new pragmatism is beginning to set in. If Africa is to continue on its growth path, it must be polygamous in the way it does business. It should trade with the East, West, North, and South — and with devils and angels, in appropriate measure.

“Secondly, it should look to Africa. The next China-Africa, EU-Africa, India-China, or US-Africa summit should take place, where else, in Africa.”

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Women’s Peace & Security Important in Post-2015 Development Agenda Thu, 31 Jul 2014 05:05:46 +0000 Zafirah Mohamed Zein By Zafirah Mohamed Zein

In precarious environments all around the world, women are being seized into the throes of conflict and poverty. Where war is being waged, women are either caught in the crossfire or bear the brunt of exclusion and attacks on their family, livelihood and emotional wellbeing.

“It is hard to see how we can make true progress on poverty eradication if we do not also address peace and security including that of women,” said Greta Gunnarsdottir, Iceland’s Ambassador to the United Nations.

She was speaking at a lecture series entitled ‘Women, Peace, Security – a critical component of the post-2015 development agenda.’

She added, “The woman are really suffering in Gaza,” – a reality for women that is proving devastatingly true in countries beset by violence.

At the discussion, organised by the Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein, Gunnarsdottir highlighted that the peace and security of women was a critical issue for the post-2015 development agenda. The inclusion of women in decision-making, as well as investing in the potential of “half the world’s assets” has been witnessed to improve development efforts.

Amina J. Mohammed, the U.N. Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Post 2015 Development Planning, stated that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was a good foundation to build upon progress towards social inclusion, economic transformation and environmental protection. However, she stressed that it was just the beginning, posing the question “now we’ve got the ingredients, can we bake the cake?”

Having received her primary education in Nigeria, Mohammed spoke of the investments and inclusion that were present at that time to nurture educated girls.

As Nigeria becomes increasingly associated with the actions of Boko Haram and the kidnapping of 200 schoolgirls in April, the Special Advisor expressed, “This is not what my country should be defined by. We need to search back the root causes that explain our young men taking young girls from our community and using them as fodder for conflict.”

Political will and robust planning placing governments, peaceful societies, respect for the rule of law and access to justice at the center will enable progress and successful implementation of the development agenda, according to Mohammed. Context is also important to consider when attempting to breakdown barriers to women and young girls participating in such ambitious development planning.

“To assume that a good education emancipates and empowers you in totality without really thinking of cultural-religious settings is one assumption too far,” said Mohammed. “We need to bring everyone on board in order not to sow seeds of discontent, where women are at the other end of that discontent.”

The potential of the rising cohort of young people that can help pave the way towards change was also addressed. Aside from expertise, modern day development efforts can benefit from a young generation that is actively engaged in current affairs and are able to see beyond boundaries and differences. Elderly people, too, should be viewed as assets that can offer depth of experience and an important historical tract that often gets forgotten.

The inclusion and participation of all sectors of civil society, as well as stronger institutional settings, are needed to support the path towards sustainable development beyond the poverty agenda.

Recognizing that governments worldwide had their respective visions and plans, Mohammed said of the SDGs, “What our set of goals will do is to lift that ambition, bring more clarity and get us to a global village that is more equal.”

Equality nonetheless requires the spread of knowledge and learning through dialogue between all stakeholders. Everyone needs to be at the center of development, including women and girls, Mohammed reminded. No one should be left behind.

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Portuguese-Speaking Nations Endorse FAO Director-General for Second Term Thu, 24 Jul 2014 11:14:02 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent
DILI, East Timor, Jul 24 2014 (IPS)

A summit meeting of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP), also known as Comunidad de Paises de Lengua Portuguesa, last week reaffirmed the right to food and called for the eradication of hunger.

The high level meeting of political leaders from Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, Sao Tome & Principe, Timor-Leste and Equatorial Guinea also endorsed the re-election of the FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva, for a second term in July 2015.

The resolutions adopted at the Dili summit: reaffirmed the CPLP commitment to strengthening the human right to adequate food – both at national and community levels – while recognizing their role in eradicating hunger and poverty in the CPLP through the inclusion of the theme “Food Security and Nutrition” on the agendas of CPLP Presidencies and the Summits of Heads of State and Government until 2025;

Additionally, the resolutions also reaffirmed the need to implement the Action Plan of the CPLP Strategy on Food Security and Nutrition (ESAN-CPLP), including activities such as the operation of the CPLP Council on Food Security and Nutrition (CONSAN-CPLP) and the positive impact generated by the launch of the Campaign “Together against Hunger”, in all Member States and in the international community;

The summit highlighted the importance of the establishment of “Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries Without Hunger” in light of the technical cooperation agreement between CPLP and FAO in the framework of cooperation for the eradication of hunger and poverty in the CPLP Member States;

The nine world leaders also welcomed the set of actions that have been undertaken within the International Year of Family Farming, responsible for promoting the role of family farming in the fight against hunger and malnutrition and in the development of sustainable food systems;

They recognized the opportunity presented by the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), to be held next November in Rome, to reinforce nutrition as a standing issue on the international agenda, and also as a public issue.

Also highlighted was the CPLP’s support to the current FAO administration’s policies aimed at to eradicating hunger and poverty, and recommended its continuation in the coming years in order to succeed in achieving its objectives.

The summit highlighted the common political commitment to promote CPLP’s visibility through the promotion of candidatures from its member states to positions and functions in international organizations, as expressed by the CPLP’s endorsement of the following candidatures in the UN system: (i) Angola as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, for the term 2015-2016; (ii) Portugal for the United Nations Human Rights Council, for the term 2015-2017; (iii) Brazil for the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), for the term 2015-2017; (iv) Brazil for the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission (CO-CCP), for the term 2015-2016; (v) Brazil for the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), for the term 2016-2020; (vi) Brazil for the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), for the term 2017-2019.

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Study Shows Worsening Humanitarian Disaster in CAR Thu, 24 Jul 2014 10:21:30 +0000 Chau Ngo By Chau Ngo

Violence has resulted in widespread deaths in the Central African Republic (CAR) in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

One in three families surveyed lost at least one family member between November 2013 and April 2014, the medical humanitarian organisation by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, said in a report.

About 95 percent of the over 2,000 casualties examined derived from gunshot, grenade or other blast wounds, it said.

“It is a disaster characterised by unspeakable violence targeted against civilian populations, catastrophic levels of preventable disease and death,” said Sylvain Groulx, MSF Head of Mission in CAR. “CAR has devolved into a nightmare of even graver proportions.”

The country of 4.6 million people in central Africa has been wracked by violence between the anti-Balaka Christian militants and the Seleka-aligned Muslims.

A country rich in oil, gold and uranium, CAR has one of the world’s lowest gross national income per capita, at 320 dollars in 2013, according to the World Bank (WB). Its life expectancy is also among the shortest, at 49 in 2012.

Violence targeted at the Muslim minority has driven nearly all the Muslim population in the western area of the country to fled in several months, said MSF. However, they continued to face risks while seeking refuge in neighboring countries.

Hundreds of people died during the transfer to Chad, most of them due to violence, MSF said, adding that Chad’s decision to close its border for security reasons in May has complicated the situation of the Central African refugees. More than 120,000 people have sought refuge in Chad since last December.

“While Chad has the legitimate right to maintain the security of its territory, it is crucial that the fundamental right for people to flee violence is guaranteed and respected,” said Dounia Dekhili, Deputy Manager of MSF Emergency Programmes.

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Less Vulnerability & Better Resilience, Urges HDR Thu, 24 Jul 2014 10:15:48 +0000 Zafirah Mohamed Zein By Zafirah Mohamed Zein

Although global poverty is declining, human development growth across all regions is slowing down, according to the 2014 Human Development Report (HDR) launched Thursday by the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP).

Income inequality has also risen in several regions, though Latin America and the Caribbean still carry the highest instances of income disparity. Increased levels of violent crime continue to threaten the lives of people, despite its many achievements in human development.

Such crises and threats significantly hinder progress towards sustainable development. Other than physical insecurity and income inequality, the report cites food insecurity, health risks and natural disasters as shocks that prevent people from overcoming vulnerability.

Almost 800 million people are at risk of falling back into poverty if problems arise, which is more frequently becoming the case in a world where rising instances of conflict are thrusting people into states of insecurity.

“The eradication of poverty is not just about ‘getting to zero’ – it is also about staying there,” states UNDP administrator Helen Clark. She also added that as long as people remain at risk of slipping back into poverty because of structural factors and persistent vulnerabilities, development progress remains uncertain.

The report – “Sustaining Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience” – thus asserts that progress is neither equitable nor sustainable unless comprehensively tackled by policies and social norms.

It takes on a people-centred approach with a human development lens in order to consider vulnerability and resilience and makes recommendations in dealing with these factors.

More than 15 percent of the world’s people remain vulnerable to multi-dimensional poverty. The report states that restricted core capabilities in areas such as education and health as well as limited choices caused by social obstacles prevent them from effectively tackling shocks and setbacks.

Khalid Malik, Director of UNDP’s HDR Office, said at a press briefing, “There may be instances in which equal opportunities require unequal treatment. Greater resources and services may need to be provided to the poor, the excluded and the marginalized to enhance everyone’s capabilities and life choices.”

He also talked about “historic exclusions” such as that experienced by India’s Dalits, and suggested collective action be taken in addressing this deep-rooted issue and supporting people’s rights.

The report promotes “a more equal society” where people are placed first, in order to secure gains and sustain progress. It advocates for the universal provision of basic social services, stronger social protection and a commitment to full employment.

“Markets alone cannot provide adequate social and environmental protection,” said Malik. He recognized that fair and responsive institutions have to exist in order to foster social cohesion and expand the capacity for disaster preparedness and recovery.

He also added that “jobs are far more important than the wages” being attained from employment because of the social dividends – such as social cohesion and stability – that exceed the private benefit.

In many parts of the world, youth expectations in the labour market are not being met. As witnessed in the Arab Spring, a youth bulge coupled with limited jobs, amongst other socio-political issues, led to an explosion of dissatisfaction with the state.

The report argues that changing social forces and greater global interconnection require that a better relationship be forged between states and their citizens.

In order to do this, people need to be empowered and supported by their governments, through social protections and policies that build resilience to weather shocks. It also calls for universalism, an improvement in global coordination and stronger collective action in the path towards sustainable development.

As preparations for the conclusion of the post-2015 development agenda negotiations are being made, the report serves as a timely and valuable analysis. It urges the inclusion of “an international consensus on universal protection” in the upcoming plan.

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Ethiopia Shoulders Heavy Refugee Burden Wed, 23 Jul 2014 10:23:38 +0000 Joel Jaeger By Joel Jaeger

Ethiopia plays host to a refugee population higher than the entire population of Luxembourg, in large part due to the recent conflict in South Sudan.

On Wednesday, John Ging, Operations Director of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, spoke about his recent trip to Ethiopia, stressing the seriousness of South Sudan’s crisis and the sacrifice of the Ethiopian government and people.

“Ethiopia sets a global standard for its generosity and its humanity with regard to hosting so many refugees,” Ging told reporters. “There are now over 600,000 in total in Ethiopia in over 22 locations in the country.”

Already the destination of refugees from Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea, Ethiopia has faced an increased burden as 180,000 South Sudanese have poured across the border into its Gambella region since January.

With an original population of only 300,000, the Gambella region may soon be overwhelmed.

Ging highlighted the needs of both the South Sudanese refugees and their Ethiopian hosts.

“We shouldn’t just look at a response for the refugees. We must also look at a response for the host communities who themselves are impoverished,” he said.

“The influx of refugees compounds the challenges that they face themselves in terms of their own economic status and prospects.”

Ging praised the current response by the Ethiopian authorities and the U.N. Refugee Agency’s “very strong cadre of humanitarian staff,” but made clear that the refugees’ plight was not receiving enough attention.

“The appeal for the refugee component in this crisis is only 25 percent funded. That means that across the board the delivery of services does not meet what the refugees are entitled to,” he said.

In addition to the insufficient level of contributions, the timing of the funding has been causing headaches. Ging lamented that since the humanitarian appeals did not receive upfront funding, the U.N. could not distribute aid until the rainy season had begun, creating an expensive logistical nightmare.

The camps face substantial shortfalls in water, sanitation and food.

About 90 percent of Ethiopia’s refugee population consists of women and children. More than 30 percent of the children suffer from malnutrition.

“Food distribution is funded until September but if there is not new funding the food distribution will stop,” said Ging.

He called on the rest of the international community to shoulder its share of the burden.

Amid the bad news, Ethiopia’s willingness to welcome its neighbours still inspires, said Ging. It has recently given university scholarships to more than 1,700 Eritrean students.

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CAR With the “Most Abandoned People,” Says Mia Farrow Wed, 23 Jul 2014 05:42:10 +0000 Zafirah Mohamed Zein By Zafirah Mohamed Zein

“I came away thinking that the people of the Central African Republic (CAR) were surely the most abandoned people on earth,” said Mia Farrow.

The Hollywood actress, one of UNICEF’s first Goodwill Ambassadors, addressed the media at a press briefing Tuesday, on her recent trip to CAR and her concerns about the severe humanitarian crisis afflicting the country.

She had visited CAR twice before – in 2007 and 2008.

CAR is one of the world’s poorest countries, plagued by decades of political turmoil. Despite being engulfed in extreme violence and chaos, the conflict-torn nation is one the international community has paid least attention to. Observers have likened the current situation in the country to genocide.

On her trip in 2013, Farrow talked of the fragility of the situation in Bangui, and the ethnic cleansing that had taken place. “Nobody was safe. By the time I came back in June-early July, the town of Bossangoa had been cleansed of the entire Muslim population.”

Religious tensions have been brewing in the country between minority Muslims and Christians since the March 2013 ouster of President Francois Bozize and subsequent capture of Bangui by the Seleka rebel coalition.

The current absence of governance in CAR is described by Farrow as an “open invitation to any kind of extreme groups,” and the country is seeing an influx of armed militants from politically unstable countries such as Libya, adding to the onslaught of bloodshed by both sides.

Despite this, Farrow is against the notion that the situation in CAR is a religious conflict. “A country like CAR is able to be trained and used as [extreme groups] wish. That doesn’t make it a religious conflict. It means people of two different faiths have lined up on different lines. It is a sense of otherness.”

She talked of the precise division in which the country’s Muslims and Christians live by, and the immense anger felt on both sides. However, the explosion of violence has blurred these lines, as Christian militias that form the Anti-balaka group have been reported to be killing, raping and robbing Christian civilians as well.

In two clinics she visited – one Christian, the other, Muslim – Farrow met two young mothers, both teenagers uncertain and fearful of their children’s future. One of them had travelled a whole day in the forest, carrying her baby on her shoulders and crossing the river.

“There was no clean water where she was, nothing to eat but leaves, and her baby was dying. As soon as the baby was strong enough, she was going to cross that river and go back.” The young mother was certain staying in the area would result in their deaths.

Around 2.3 million people is said to have been displaced by the conflict, and up to 10,000 children recruited by armed militias on both sides. “It’s the children you worry about the most. The fear in the faces of women and children is something you can never forget,” said Farrow.

On the work of the United Nations and other international humanitarian agencies in CAR, the actress noted their increased presence and voiced her appreciation for the French troops that have been striving to restore order in the country.

“Where I saw the troops in action, they absolutely made it better,” she said. “There aren’t enough of them and they can’t cover enough ground but tens of thousands of people would be dead had they not been there.”

The French mission in the CAR has been extended till the end of the year, and 12,000 U.N. soldiers are to be deployed in September.

On Monday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urged the people of CAR to seize the opportunity of the three-day Brazzaville peace talks taking place in the Republic of Congo to pave the way towards reconciliation.

Farrow reiterated the urgency of the situation in CAR and called for peace in order for its people to live even a semblance of ordinary lives.

“I wish for the cessation of the violence in CAR so that people can reclaim the tatters of their lives and rebuild. This kind of destruction will take time. There’s been too much killing. Maybe all will be forgotten in a month or a year. But I want to see the road towards peace.”

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U.S. Counter-Terrorist Sting Ops Overstep Proper Bounds Mon, 21 Jul 2014 11:05:29 +0000 Joel Jaeger By Joel Jaeger

In its zealous pursuit of terrorism since September 11, 2001, the U.S. government created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals in sting operations and alienated the American Muslim community, according to a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released Monday.

The report, “Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Procedures”, documents cases against American Muslim defendants in which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) overstepped its bounds.

“The United States government has failed to meet its international legal obligations with respect to its investigations and prosecutions of terrorism suspects, as well as its treatment of terrorism suspects in custody,” says the report.

More than 500 individuals have been prosecuted in federal courts for terrorism or related offences since 2001. Many prosecutions have respected the law, according to HRW, but an alarming number have not.

One of the most disturbing trends in US counterterrorism policy is the prevalence of discriminatory sting operations.

In a sting operation, a law enforcement informant collaborates with a suspected terrorist in the planning of an attack, sometimes providing financial support or fake weaponry, and then arrests the individual when he or she attempts to carry out the plan.

Problems arise when the government persuades or pressures a hesitant individual to act. These investigations often target individuals with intellectual and mental disabilities and the indigent, according to the report.

“In some cases the Federal Bureau of Investigation may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by conducting sting operations that facilitated or invented the target’s willingness to act,” the report says.

In the report, a former FBI agent questioned the efficacy of sting operations. “When the FBI undercover agent or informant is the only purported link to a real terrorist group, supplies the motive, designs the plot and provides all the weapons, one has to question whether they are combatting terrorism or creating it,” he said.

Almost 15 percent of federal counterterrorism convictions involved a sting operation in which the informant played an active role in the plot.

In recent years, the U.S. government has attempted to build trust with American Muslim communities, but its controversial counterterrorism measures have undercut its own efforts.

For example, the arrest of Adel Daoud in autumn 2013 raised an uproar in Chicago’s Muslim community over the use of sting operations. Daoud was only 17 when undercover FBI employees began to cultivate a fake plot with him to attack a Chicago bar through an online Islamic forum.

His eventual arrest prompted “speculation about why the FBI deployed undercover agents to ensnare the teenager, rather than contact his parents or community leaders,” the report says.

According to HRW, unscrupulous law enforcement practices in terrorism cases “have alienated the very communities the government relies on most to report possible terrorist threats and diverted resources from other, more effective ways, of responding to the threat of terrorism.”

Building on the criticisms it raises, HRW ends its report by calling on the U.S. government to restrict and regulate the use of informants and develop rights-respecting partnerships with local community groups.

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