Inter Press Service » Extra TVUN News and Views from the Global South Thu, 27 Apr 2017 18:45:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 New York City Rejects Singling Out Muslims for Surveillance Fri, 25 Mar 2016 19:28:27 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK, Mar 25 2016 (IPS)

With the rise in terrorist attacks in Europe, the Muslim community in New York City is fast becoming the centre of attention in the US presidential campaign currently underway.

But the city’s Police Commissioner William Bratton strongly denounced a statement attributed to Republican Presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz of Texas who called on the police to “patrol and secure” Muslim communities.

Addressing a press conference, Bratton told reporters that Cruz was “out of line” and unfit for the White House and pointed out there were 900 Muslim members in the New York Police Department (NYPD).

Bratton’s comments were backed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio who shared the stage with the Police Commissioner as they faced reporters.

Currently, there are over 600,000 Muslims in a city with a population of more than 8.5 million people. New York is considered one of America’s most culturally and religiously diverse cities.

The political rhetoric against Muslims – erroneously perceived as being potential terrorists or sympathizers with global terrorism – has been rising in the current presidential campaign with the Republican front runner Donald Trump calling for a temporary halt to all Muslim visitors entering the US.

Referring to Cruz’s comments, Bratton told reporters: “He doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about, to be frank with you.” “While he’s running around here, he probably has some Muslim officers guarding him.”

“If he’s that short-sighted, I can understand why the American public would repudiate his efforts to run this great country,” said Bratton. “You’ve got to be careful when you paint with a broad brush, because you tend to spill some of that paint on yourself,” he warned.

NYPD Deputy Police Commissioner John Miller, who is in charge of counter-terrorism, said the call for “patrol and secure” had a sub-text: “occupy and intimidate”.

He said the NYPD has more than 15,000 in its Counter-Terrorism task force and has no plans to intrude into Muslim communities in violation of their civil rights.

Miller said the NYPD has been sending investigate teams to France, Belgium and Tunisia following several terrorist attacks in these countries.

The current rhetoric, he said, is reminiscent of the internment of over 110,000 Japanese-Americans in 1942 (after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour) and the “red scare” of Communism during the McCarthy era in the 1950s when thousands of Americans were falsely accused of being Communists and a threat to the United States.

Bratton said New York City has, without a doubt, the most effective and extensive counterterrorism capacity of any city in this country — and virtually any city in the world.

These, he said, include: the Joint-Terrorism Task Force, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the Critical Response Command, deploying more than 500 highly trained and thoroughly equipped officers to critical sites and potential targets; the NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau, which encompasses both the Joint Terrorism Task Force and Critical Response Command, including a 40-officer bomb squad; a 150-officer World Trade Center Command; radiological detection water vessels and aircraft; the NYPD Intelligence Bureau; and the NYPD Domain Awareness System consisting of one of the most sophisticated networks of cameras, license plate readers and radiological censors in the world.


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Survivors Speak Out to End Genital Mutilation Tue, 09 Feb 2016 19:24:58 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

“I had no identity, I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t know what I was going to do, I didn’t know what my place was in society because of what I went through,” Inna Modja said while recounting her experience with female genital mutilation (FGM).

FGM, which consists of procedures involving partial or total removal of female external genitalia, is a deeply ingrained cultural practice with devastating medical, psychological, and social consequences for young girls and women, as well as for their families and communities.

While speaking to IPS, Modja, a young musician from Mali, told her story of undergoing FGM against the will of her parents. “My mom was out and when she came back, my grandmother’s sister took me and cut me, so it was a terrible moment for my family,” she described. She was just four years old.

Modja is one of millions of girls and women around the world who have had and continue to experience FGM. According to a report by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), approximately 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone the harmful practice in 30 countries. UN agencies including the World Health Organisation have described FGM as an extreme form of discrimination against women.

Though more governments have increasingly outlawed FGM, the cultural practice remains strong in many communities. To discuss and raise awareness of the issue, Modja was one of the speakers at a UN high-level event marking the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.

“It took a lot away from what I could achieve as a teenager…cutting me was telling me I was not good enough,” she told delegates.

When asked what her biggest challenges were, Modja told IPS that it was those who strongly believe in traditions and do not want change.

“I once was brutally assaulted by a family of a girl I was taking care of because she had surgery to repair her mutilation and she was staying at my place. And her brother and dad assaulted us both,” she recounted. “I think traditions are great when they’re not harmful like FGM,” she continued.

In Mali, 89 percent of women and girls experience FGM.

Also speaking at the event, “Mobilizing to Achieve the Global Goals Through the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation by 2030” organized by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF, was Keziah Bianca Oseko, a FGM survivor from Kenya.

She was eight years old when she experienced FGM. “The scar still remains fresh in me,” Oseko said in a blog post. She described that in her village, all girls had to undergo the practice.

“I didn’t have any option but to follow the community traditions and it’s the community that dictates, not you,” she continued.

The practice of FGM is not isolated to African communities. In Indonesia, more than half of girls under the age of 12 have undergone some form of FGM.

Patricia Tobón, a lawyer from Colombia and another panelist, said about the prevalence of FGM among the Emberá indigenous community. The practice, which many thought did not exist in the country, came to light in 2007 following the deaths of two newborn Emberá girls.

Tobón said that though legislation banning FGM is important, working at the community grassroots level and promoting dialogue is essential to ending the harmful practice.

Modja and Oseka echoed similar sentiments. “It’s going to be from villages to villages, from countries to countries, it’s going to be the fieldwork that is going to make the difference,” she told IPS while stressing the importance of speaking directly to families to change attitudes to FGM.

Oseka also highlighted the need to include boys and men in the conversation, stating: “If they stand up and speak about it, we can make a milestone in ending FGM.” “We are together in this,” Oseka remarked, looking over to Modja and then to participants.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) includes a commitment to eliminate all harmful practices, including FGM.


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Academics & Activists Discuss Poverty, Inequality, Conflict Thu, 14 Jan 2016 19:28:24 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

Poverty, inequality and global conflict are issues that remain under-prioritised, said President of Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca in a recorded message, kicking off a conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

“Poverty and inequality are now recognized worldwide as causes of violent conflict…the sad truth is that not enough is being done to uphold the rights of vulnerable people,” she continued.

Delving into these issues further were a group of almost 30 representatives from the academic community and civil society who gathered for a workshop on ‘Poverty, Inequality and Global Conflict’.

Jointly organized by the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR), and the Chicago-based People Programme International (PP), the workshop explored the complex relationships underlying the three issues.

Among the attendees were Edward Palmer, Director of Programme International and the Black Press Institute, Glyn Ford, former member of the European Parliament, and Arturo Muyshondt, El Salvadorian actor and producer.

Speaking to IPS, Richard Rubenstein, Professor at S-CAR and one of workshop’s organisers, commended the group’s diversity and collaboration, stating: “I have not attended meetings at which academic experts from various parts of the world were able to meet with community activists, professionals, journalists, and artists to discuss problems that all agreed were of urgent global importance and to begin to explore creative political solutions.”

Chief of UNAI Secretariat Ramu Damodaran echoed similar sentiments, noting the significance of the workshop for the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “One of the aspects of these goals, is the creation of truly inclusive societies with an aspect of peace and conflict resolution,” Damodaran told IPS.

“This is really the start of seeing how the academic community can come to terms with every aspect of the sustainable development goals,” he continued.

The interactive discussion examined whether poverty and inequality are structural causes to global conflict and to what extent; actors involved in the denial of human rights and incitement of violence, including States and corporations and; potential solutions to end or mitigate these issues, not only in developing nations, but also in developed countries.

“One important aspect of its mission is to make clear the powerful connection between systems of social domination and global violence,” Rubenstein told IPS.

For instance, Cedric Herring and Loren Henderson, professors from the University of Maryland, analysed structural violence within the United States by discussing the wealth gap along racial lines.

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2013, the average wealth of white households was 13 times higher than the median wealth of black households, the highest levels observered in 30 years by the organisation.

More internationally, Dean of the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University Andrea Bartoli, revealed the denial of rights in the Basque Country which resulted in one of the longstanding conflicts in European history.

Participants explored a range of top-down and bottom-up solutions, from cross-sector fair trade to global youth engagement to reduce poverty and inequality.

Though the gathering did not culminate in a final position on the issues, Damodaran and Rubenstein noted that this is only the start.

“A conference is really very much, in many ways, an abbreviated conversation. And what we are trying to do is to start a conversation on something that is really unfamiliar,” Damodaran told IPS.

Rubenstein said the conference, which not only generated conversations but also created a collaborative scholar and activist network, has set the stage for follow-up workshops. The group has already been invited to continue the discussion in Washington, D.C. and Malta later this year.

In the coming weeks, UNAI will publish a report concluding the workshop’s findings and recommendations. “The idea really is to sustain the conversation,” Damodaran concluded.


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Homelessness in New York City Has Exploded, Says Police Commissioner Thu, 24 Dec 2015 19:57:19 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen
Dec 24 2015

Police Commissioner William Bratton has publicly declared that homelessness in New York City has “exploded” over the last two years.

He blamed the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio for playing down the problem far too long. “A mistake the administration made early on was not validating what everyone was seeing”: the rise in street homelessness, he noted.

“It hasn’t crept on us,” Bratton told a panel discussion on quality-of-life issues at the Manhattan Institute, described as a conservative think tank.

Providing stark statistics and confirming the growing problem, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development said the State of New York alone has an estimated 75,323 homeless people — out of a total population of about eight million.

But New York City, described as the world’s political and cultural capital, accounts for over 58,000 homeless people, largely living in publicly-funded shelters.

The problem of homelessness, which affects millions of people in the developing world, is fast becoming a socio-economic problem in one of the world’s most affluent nations.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are more than 610,000 people who remain homeless on any given night in the US.

The news of the rising homeless population coincided with an announcement by de Blasio for a 2.5 billion dollar, 15-year plan to build 15,000 housing units—largely for veterans and mentally-disabled people.

De Blasio said homeless people on the streets of New York City “make many New Yorkers uncomfortable, and even fearful.”

The Mayor plans to launch a new initiative called NYC Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement Street Action Team or HOME-STAT.

The primary objective of HOME-STAT, which will be fully operational in March 2016, is to collect data and track the homeless in real time.

“In the face of skyrocketing housing costs, wages remaining flat, and the plummeting number of rent-regulated apartments, thousands upon thousands of families simply can’t afford their rent,” he told business leaders.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the city spends billions of dollars annually on homeless programs and plans to spend an additional one billion dollars over the next four years.

De Blasio said: “I want to make something clear. It is not illegal to be homeless, and those experiencing this painful reality take no joy in it.”

“But it is illegal, “said the Mayor, to harass New Yorkers, use drugs, erect a makeshift shelter, urinate in public and commit other quality-of-life crimes.”


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Analysis: Paris Climate Accord Lacks Legal Commitment Wed, 23 Dec 2015 19:21:39 +0000 Dr. Palitha Kohona

Former Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United Nations

By Dr. Palitha Kohona

Over 195 countries gathered in Paris and agreed on a set of broad measures to address the looming threat to human existence of global warming and climate change. A beaming UN Secretary-General, for whom climate change has been “one of the defining priorities of his tenure”, described the Paris Accord as heralding a generation with climate hope and a “monumental triumph for people and the planet”.

The French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, who Chaired COP21, with emotion written all over his face, gaveled the meeting closed. The global web movement Avaaz, described the Paris Accord as a “brilliant and massive turning point in human history”. The 79 member Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Countries group (ACP), most with relatively small economies, enthusiastically welcomed the accord.

In Paris, the international community agreed, by consensus, to curtail GHG emissions and limit global warming to 2 degrees celsius by 2050, with an aspirational target of 1.5 celsius. Importantly, 188 countries pledged to implement measures unilaterally to realise this goal. They have submitted the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) to the Climate Change Secretariat, to be reviewed every five years.

There is also a commitment to provide $100 billion to developing countries by 2020 for adaptation and mitigation and at least that amount afterwards. The most vulnerable countries will receive over $250 million. Some opine that, if sincerely operationalised, the Paris Accord will have the potential for decarbonising the world economy by the middle of the current century.

The Paris Agreement will be open for signature at the UN in New York from 22 April 2016 and will enter in to force upon ratification/accession by 55 countries that account for at least 55% of the global emissions.

While the exhausted negotiators left for their distant homes, after much backslapping, hugs and teary farewells, some doubts continue to remain on whether humanity has really succeeded in meeting this overwhelming challenge to its very existence.

Even with the INDCs faithfully implemented, global temperatures will continue to rise at least till 2030. Comprehensive changes to human economic activity are essential to achieve the target of limiting global warming by at least 2c by 2050.

Past experience does not engender too much confidence in this regard. The Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, concluded by consensus in 1997, was also welcomed with joyous acclaim.

But the US, the biggest emitter of GHGs at the time, having actively participated in the negotiations, signed, but never became party to, the accord. A new administration in Washington ensured that the US would not only not become party but would stridently oppose the Kyoto Protocol.

While the US, now the second biggest emitter of GHGs, played a central role in consensus building in Paris, President Obama’s tenure as president will end in 2016. The Republican Party which has not thrown its weight behind the need to control emission levels, continues to control Congress. Republican presidential hopefuls are anything but sympathetic to limiting GHG emissions. The US policy approach to climate change would provide the excuse for many others to dither.

Canada which also participated enthusiastically in the Kyoto negotiations, formally denounced the Protocol in 2011 largely due to its inability to fulfil its commitments. Australia, another key player in Kyoto, is a major exporter of coal and gas. As to whether countries such as Australia and Canada have the economic ability and the political will to change their fossil fuel export dependent economies will remain a question.

Similarly, harmful industrial agricultural practices, especially large scale animal farming, may present difficult hurdles. Subsidised exports of fossil fuel consuming power plants by developed countries such as Germany, will tie up developing countries to years of fossil fuel use.

Similarly the fast growing economies of China and India which have only recently dragged millions of their people out of poverty, largely through the use of fossil fuels, may face huge challenges domestically in any effort to curtail GHG emissions.

About 60% of GHGs emanate from just five countries, the USA, China, India, Russia and Japan. The EU is responsible for 12% of global emissions. The above countries and the EU can on their own make a significant contribution to decarbonising the world economy.

Furthermore, the Paris Accord contains no legal commitment to curtail emissions in accordance with the INDCs. It requires parties only to meet every five years to review progress. This process could be subject to different pressures, especially from domestic industry.

While some developing countries may be capable of realising the INDCs on their own, many will need funding and climate safe technology to achieve the transition. Much of the climate safe technology is already available although at a high cost.

Developed countries agreed to provide US 100 billion to developing countries till 2020. This figure refers only to funds made available through public sources, although where exactly the full amount will come from is not exactly clear.

The World Bank estimates the funding requirement to facilitate the transition to low carbon and climate resilient economies by developing countries to be in the trillions of Dollars. For its part, it will increase the proportion of funds available to 28% of its portfolio. The Bank hopes that once financing from partners and associated private sector funders are included, the grand total available would be a potential $29 billion per year by 2020.

The World Bank will use the INDCs to develop country specific programmes for its client countries. The US has pledged $800 million. What has been offered still falls far short of the $100 billion that has been agreed to be made available by 2020.

The rapidity with which the developed world produced trillions to rescue the staggering banking system after the financial crisis prompted the present High Commissioner For Human Rights, and the then Permanent Representative of Jordan to the UN, Prince Zeid, to suggest that the climate crisis be described as a banking crisis.

An insurance mechanism for loss and damage and population displacement, relocation, etc., is recognised in the accord but may not be adequate to deal with the emerging crisis. Vast population displacements and climate refugees could be a consequence of global warming. Some writers have alluded to the possibility of Europe’s present refugee crisis, at least partly, having its roots in climate change.

The Paris Accord does not refer to “new and additional funding”, leaving room for official development assistance to be mixed up with climate assistance. Already private sector lending is being counted by some countries as development assistance. Efforts to hold historic polluters responsible for the current crisis have been effectively quashed.

One recalls the abortive effort by Palau and Trinidad and Tobago to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on responsibility for global warming. Funding for the Sustainable Development Goals, despite the Addis Ababa Accord on funding for development, will remain a competing challenge. With climate change adding to the burden, some needs will miss out.

One bright spot might be the encouragement that the renewable energy industry will receive from the Paris outcomes. China, today’s leading emitter of GHGs, with a long term policy approach guiding its industry, is investing heavily on renewable energy in an apparently targeted manner. This has resulted in specific industrial sectors, such as the manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines, booming. The environment will benefit.

Given the complexity of the problem of climate change, the enormous estimated cost of addressing it comprehensively and the inevitable resistance from vested interests, consideration should be given by governments to approaching the challenge through key economic sectors, including power generation, motor transport, railways, etc.


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New York Vows to Stop Terrorist Attacks on City Thu, 26 Nov 2015 19:48:35 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK, Nov 26 2015 (IPS)

When New York city launched a new counter terrorism unit, immediately following the terrorist attacks in Paris, Mayor Bill de Blasio was emphatic in his reaction: “We can say more certainly than ever before that no city in America is better prepared to defend against terrorism.”

Speaking at a news conference during the launch of the new Critical Response Command (CRC), based in Randall’s Island, De Blasio said New York city was using “every tool in our arsenal to stop the terrorists and protect the safety of the people of this city.”

The heavily-armed new unit has been described as a standby force ready for emergency operations at short notice and operating round the clock.

Although there were no threats against the city, the New York Police Department (NYPD) is training its entire 35,000-member force to thwart any Paris-style attacks. With the upcoming Christmas holidays, security in the city has been tightened –even as there are fears of a marked drop in tourists next month.

As part of its counter terrorism operations, the Police performed a drill in an abandoned subway station, as an exercise responding to a potential terrorist attack.

Responding to a video from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Police Commissioner William Bratton said the video had been pieced together from old footage of some of the tourist spots in the city.

“Quite frankly, there is nothing new about this video”, Bratton told a press conference, and advised New Yorkers: “Beware, but do not be afraid.” And emphasizing the safety of the city, he took a subway ride.

Still, despite the assurances, several schools in neighouring New Jersey and Long Island, have cancelled plans for visits to the city by students – primarily due to safety concerns.

Reacting to the Paris attacks, the 15-member UN Security Council adopted a unanimous resolution November 20 urging member states to take “all necessary measures” against attacks by ISIS.

But such action should be taken “in compliance with international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law, on the territory under the control of the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL)”, also known as ISIS.


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UN Staff Union Warns Pay Cuts Will Largely Undermine Women Mon, 09 Nov 2015 06:23:34 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

The UN’s 60,000-strong international staff union is challenging some of the proposed cuts both on salaries and allowances which will “damage living standards, working conditions and family lives” of some 32,000 staffers “working in the world’s most dangerous locations.”

After a meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Friday, Ian Richards, President of the Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations (CCISUA), told lPS: “We were glad to be able to raise our concerns with the Secretary-General on behalf of the 32,000 UN staff who will be affected by the first stage of the compensation review. Staff will experience cuts to pay and leave arrangements equivalent to up to 10 per cent of their income, after a three-year pay freeze.”

“The Secretary-General was frank with us and said he shared many of our concerns about the review.”
These, Richards said, included the impact on single parents, the majority of whom are women, who will lose the most — if the ICSC proposals are implemented. (undermining the UN’s role as one of the strongest advocates of women’s rights)

The 15-member International Civil Service Commission (ICSC), an independent expert body, which regulates and coordinates the conditions of service of staff in the U.N. system, has already recommended the new salary structures.
But the final decision will be taken later this month by the U.N.’s Administrative and Budgetary Committee (also known as the Fifth Committee) which will begin discussions November 9.

In a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, CCISUA said: “When Pope Francis visited New York in September, you asked His Holiness to bless the staff and called us “the heart and soul” of the UN’s work.”

“Now you are being asked by the ICSC to accept cuts to the pay and leave arrangements for the very same ‘heart and soul.’“

The letter says the ICSC proposals would: “Cut pay and allowances for sections of the professional staff in hardship stations by up to 10 per cent; make it more difficult and expensive for us to take leave to see our families and get medical check-ups; and undermine the UN’s ambition for a more diverse staff with more women in diverse roles.”

Additionally, the proposals “would also damage the UN’s ability to move staff quickly to danger zones where we are needed to save lives; take most from single parents and parents with a working spouse; reduce the right to leave for parents whose families join them at duty stations; and make pay discrimination against single parents, mainly women, worse than it is already. “

This will widen the pay and allowances gap between single parents and parents who are in couples with one income, and delay progress on the pay scale for length of service and performance, so that for the lowest grades rising through the pay scale will take 19 years instead of 10, the letter said.

Since 2000, 319 UN staffer and contractors have been killed in service, 325 injured and 164 kidnapped.

The personal risks for staff in danger zones already deter all but the most highly motivated.

“We ask: Who will work in the frontlines in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and South Sudan if they do not feel valued by the UN?”

The CCISUA has said it is “in strong agreement with the UN Agency Chiefs who have submitted that the changes would negatively impact the “fitness for purpose” of the pay structure and its ability to meet your ambitions for the staff of more diversity, more women in more diverse positions, greater mobility and support for staff health and well-being, especially mental health.”

Richards told IPS “We have pointed out that the changes will make it more difficult and more expensive for frontline staff to take leave to see their families and get medical check-ups, and the Secretary-General said it was important to protect leave arrangements and that adequate rest and recuperation is essential for health and wellbeing, as well as productivity.”

Ban also said he was concerned to avoid any negative impact on the UN’s ability to rapidly deploy staff to frontline field stations.

“We can’t believe the ICSC intended its review to have negative impacts on this scale, and we think the detail of how staff will be affected has not been fully taken into account, “ Richards said.

“We will be asking the Fifth Committee to take a view on whether the ICSC needs to do more work on this.”

The UN, he noted, needs a pay structure that supports its strategy for a highly motivated, internationally mobile staff with the necessary skills and experience, and for a more diverse staff with more women in senior roles.

“The ICSC proposals don’t meet that ambition,” Richards declared.

The writer can be contacted at

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UN Frontline Staff Consider Their Options as Pay Cuts Loom Tue, 03 Nov 2015 09:23:50 +0000 Ian Richards Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations]]>

Ian Richards, president of the Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations

By Ian Richards
Nov 3 2015

When the world’s most powerful ambassadors gathered in New York last week to celebrate the United Nations’ 70th anniversary, it would have been undiplomatic to mention the looming crisis facing the UN’s proudest achievement – its humanitarian aid programmes.

But the diplomats and political leaders at the anniversary concert in the General Assembly Hall with Lang Lang and the Harlem Boys Gospel Choir were well aware that they have just a few months to avert a fundamental threat to the UN’s ability to deliver its aid programmes effectively.

UN professional staff who deliver emergency relief in some of the most dangerous places in the world are now considering their options after learning that the value of their pay and allowances, including the right to family leave, will be cut by up to 10% next year, after a three year pay-freeze. The cuts will be heaviest at the lower grades, thereby falling disproportionately on staff recruited from the same developing countries that the UN is trying to help.

When the cuts were announced to World Food Programme workers in South Sudan, a staff association representative who was there said: “Everyone looked like they’d been punched in the stomach.”

With the UN weathering allegations of corruption and retaliations against whistle-blowers, the last thing it should do is undermine the humanitarian aid programmes that justify its existence and uphold its reputation across the developing world.

In the tragedy that is Syria today, the UN can at least say that it is providing food, shelter and places of safety for the displaced population and people in insecure areas.

The World Food Programme has just over 200 staff in Syria, organising daily food rations for 4.25 million people. The staff regularly cross front lines between Government and opposition control in conditions of extreme danger. Work like this has led to 319 UN staff and contractors being killed in service, 325 being injured and 164 kidnappings since 2000.

Lourdes Ibarra, WFP’s Head of Programmes for Syria, and an experienced manager in South Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq and other “hardship stations” says: “We work in dangerous, challenging conditions. Some colleagues leave because of the conditions and the strain on their families, and we have lost colleagues who were killed in armed attacks and bombings.

“What keeps us working here is knowing that we can save lives, and to do that takes a highly committed, highly motivated staff.

“One of the most stressful situations is not actually the physical danger – it is the feeling of not being supported by some people we work with, and more so by the UN itself.

“If my staff are not being supported, and conditions mean we cannot make a difference, what do we think will keep them working here?”

Any Member State that votes in favour of these cuts needs to be able to answer that question.

Staff have set up the Fairness for Frontline Workers campaign asking the public across the world to put pressure on their Governments to reject these flawed proposals.

The cuts have been put forward by the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC), the pay advisory body for global public sector organisations, in the context of budget constraints forced by austerity. This year’s package affects 32,000 globally mobile UN staff; next year the ICSC turns its attention to the 62,000 local staff.

The ICSC has struggled to justify the unbalanced impact of the cuts, which take the most from single parents, who are mainly women, at a time when Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has pledged to increase the number of women in senior field positions.

The cuts will make it more difficult and more expensive for workers posted in the most difficult and dangerous locations to take leave to see their families and get medical checkups. The UN’s medical directors have said: ‘This is an area of great concern’ because family leave and respite breaks ‘prevent stress-related symptoms and disorder in the long term.’ Mental health problems already account for 25 per cent of UN sickness leave and 40 per cent of the costs.

An unusual aspect of the situation is the strong degree of agreement between UN staff unions and management. UN aid agency chiefs have warned that effective aid programmes and humanitarian interventions will be severely compromised without experienced, motivated staff to run them.

Further, the chiefs of all UN agencies including UNICEF, the World Food Programme and the UNHCR have jointly voiced their concern that the pay changes are ‘not fit for purpose’ in terms of meeting the UN’s stated ambitions for a more diverse staff with more women in senior roles, or for increased ‘mobility’ – moving staff quickly to danger zones where they are needed to save lives.

They warn that the cuts will make it harder to attract ‘the brightest and best,’ and have a negative impact on staff motivation – when the personal risks for staff in danger zones already deter all but the most highly motivated.
We believe the cuts are penny wise, dollar foolish – saving some agencies 1 per cent of their budgets next year, but costing far more in the medium term when experienced aid managers, with years under the belt in the world’s most remote locations, leave and cannot be replaced.

If that happens, the UN won’t have much to celebrate when its 80th anniversary comes around.


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Haider Rizvi: a Rebel Who Battled Many Causes Sun, 01 Nov 2015 18:51:00 +0000 an IPS Correspondent Haider Rizvi IPS UN Correspondent

Haider Rizvi
IPS UN Correspondent

By an IPS Correspondent
Nov 1 2015 (IPS)

Haider Rizvi, who spent nearly 20 years as a reporter for IPS covering the United Nations, died October 29 in Lahore, Pakistan, his home country.

At the news of his death, his former colleagues and friends were quick to pay tributes to a journalist who had so much to offer – but, regrettably, failed to achieve the journalistic stature he rightly deserved because he just ran out of time.

Kitty Stapp wrote: Haider was always filled with energy. He had a loud, infectious laugh that put a smile on the face of anyone within range (which was a fair-sized area). As a journalist, he was always true to his ideals of justice and equality, and a passionate advocate of the underdog.

There wasn’t an ounce of snobbery or superiority in Haider. He would happily talk to anyone about anything, and could recite poetry or argue politics with equal fluency.

Haider never earned much money, and he managed to hold onto even less, but he was always generous with what he had. His bank balance might have been low, but his happiness index was high. In the end, that’s what counts the most. He will be sorely missed.

Thalif Deen wrote: Haider Rizvi was a passionate rebel who relentlessly fought for many ideological causes – and the political ideals he stood for. He was both a radical and a liberal who never sacrificed his beliefs even under the most trying circumstances.

Haider began with IPS South Asia back in 1993 and eventually landed in the United States, reporting both from the IPS UN Bureau and later from Washington DC. In between, he grabbed a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Columbia University, New York.

Haider’s writings faithfully reflected the causes he fought for. He passionately advocated the rights of African-Americans, Hispanic minorities and native Americans in the US and indigenous people in Latin America; highlighted student protests in the US; advocated the Palestinian’s right to statehood; battled for the eradication of hunger and poverty in the developing world; joined the global campaign for nuclear disarmament; and covered the “Occupy Wall Street” protests (which for him, also meant “Un-Occupy Palestine”).

After the 9/11 attacks on New York, Haider was physically beaten up in the mean streets of Brooklyn where a group of Hispanic thugs mistook him for a bearded Taliban supporter (and threatened to throw him out of a high rise building.) Even as he was being pummeled, he told the misguided attackers: “Brother, why are you beating me? We are all fighting for the same cause.” And, for a moment, he put them to shame.

The next day, Haider was up and running – and all over the pages of New York newspapers, and also being interviewed on morning TV shows. Still, he stood defiant and refused to dispense with his beard – continuing to maintain a striking resemblance to a mujahideen from the battlefields of Afghanistan.

At UN press stakeouts outside the Security Council chamber, he usually looked aggressive, fueled mostly by Dutch courage. At one of the stakeouts, he apparently looked so threatening that UN security officers were on the verge of carrying him out – feet first. But he did not give UN security the pleasure of that privilege.

Kanya d’Almeida wrote: The first time I met Haider I was just an intern. I sought out his company because he was one of the few journalists at the UN who didn’t seem to be afraid of speaking his mind. He refused to recognize the state of Israel. He referred to India/Pakistan as the Indus Valley Civilization, rejecting the British-imposed partition of the country.

He talked loudly about revolution and wrote poetry in his office at night. He was full of love. Sometimes, in moments of deep intoxication, he became unbearable; but when he emerged from these bouts he displayed a brilliant mind and a deep passion for justice.

He called everyone his “brothers” and “sisters”, even when they scorned him. He adored Che and Fidel. He dreamed of a brotherhood of humankind but was too drunk too much of the time to realize his own dreams.

Latin America was a beacon of hope for him, a place where people were closer than anywhere else in the world to throwing off the yoke of capitalism and being free. He identified with the wretched of the earth and indigenous people everywhere.

He was, in many ways, a prophet — someone who saw past the veil to the terrible realities in the world. He spoke the truth so he was dismissed as a madman. I’ve never met anyone else quite like him and I doubt I ever will.

Marty Logan wrote: I remember walking with Haider one night in Manhattan, in 2003, after one of our cheap dinners. I happened to mention that another US-based writer for IPS had left for Iraq to report on the US-led invasion.

He became incensed, and started yelling at me on the street because I hadn’t given him the opportunity to go (although it hadn’t, been my decision to send the other writer). That’s when I realised that while his passion often manifested itself in Haider’s love for the sensual, it also made him deeply committed to reporting on injustice.

Michael Khatana wrote: It is obvious that Haider lived a tortured existence. Nonetheless, he was a free soul. Always broke, but would not hesitate in expressing his views. May the Creator give him a good job in the hereafter, so that he does not have to struggle any more. May God give him peace and bless his soul.


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Indonesia and US Sign 12 Investment Deals Tue, 27 Oct 2015 18:43:30 +0000 Razeena Raheem By Razeena Raheem
WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct 27 2015 (IPS)

Following a state visit to the US, Indonesian President Joko Widodo finalized 12 investment deals estimated at over 20 billion dollars.

The investments, with major US corporations, are expected to spur power generation, enhance linkages in the gas sector and further drive developments in Indonesia’s renewable energy infrastructure, according to a press release.

These transactions include: Pertamina and Corpus Christie Liquefaction, a subsidiary of Cheniere Energy: Shale gas sales and purchase agreements valued at 13 billion dollars; Coca-Cola: A five-year 500 million dollar investment, announced earlier this year, that will enable the company to strengthen its infrastructure and create additional jobs in Indonesia; General Electric (GE): An investment of up to 1.0 billion dollars over a period of five years in the power, oil and gas, and healthcare sectors to support Indonesia’s accelerated economic growth.

GE also announced various agreements relating to four infrastructure projects. This includes three projects related to the power sector that may contribute an estimated 3 gigawatts (GW) in capacity in Indonesia. It also includes a further letter-of-intent for a multi-year maintenance service agreement for 50 diesel-electric locomotives in Indonesia.

Additionally, there was an agreement with Caterpillar and Fluidic, Inc for the launch of the “500 Island Project,” which will provide reliable and renewable based electricity to 500 remote villages and islands, serving more than 1.5 million people.

“Indonesia has one of the largest economies in Asia and a rapidly-growing middle class. These new partnerships will help Indonesia and the U.S. realize the full potential of our economic relationship as Indonesia diversifies and grows its economy,” said President Widodo.

“I look forward to working together with public and private sector leaders in the U.S. to achieve shared prosperity. Now is the time to invest: Indonesia is open for business.”

Indonesia is the largest economy in Southeast Asia. With more than 60 million Indonesians projected to join the middle class in the next ten years, Indonesia is a growing market for U.S. companies.

The two Presidents also concluded the following agreements/arrangements:

• Memorandum of Understanding on Maritime Cooperation between the Government of The Republic of Indonesia and the Government of the United States of America

• Joint Statement on Comprehensive Defense Cooperation

• Memorandum of Understanding Between the Government of the Republic of Indonesia and the Government of the United States of America Concerning Cooperation on Energy

And a Memorandum of Understanding between the Federal Aviation Administration Department of Transportation of the United States of America and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) of the Ministry of Transportation of the Republic of Indonesia on the Promotion of Sustainable Aviation Alternative Fuels and Renewable Energy.

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South African Students Win Fight Against Rising School Fees Tue, 27 Oct 2015 18:37:30 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Oct 27 2015 (IPS)

(GIN) – In an official response from President Jacob Zuma to massive student protests, the proposed 10% hike in school fees has been cancelled for 2016.

It was a major victory for students after protests which began this fall caused the shutdowns of 15 universities. “We agreed that there will be a zero increase in university fees in 2016,” the President said following a meeting with student leaders.

Outside of the meeting, however, police fired stun guns and water cannons and students who tried to force their way into the premises.

The fee issue is not the only grievance felt by students who have cited racism at the previously all-white institutions, and the need for free, quality education.

On Monday, at a senate meeting of the University of the Witswatersrand in Johannesburg, students occupied the venue and cancelled the meeting.

The senate’s special meeting was supposed to deliberate on the continuing protests and to decide on the resumption of the academic program, including postponed exams and lectures.

“This university is under new management now, it is the students that are in charge … this is the struggle we will fight until we win,” said student leader Vuyani Pambo, who is also the chair of the Economic Freedom Fighters, a group led by political activist Julius Malema.

The students had earlier held their own meeting at the Senate House – which they have renamed Solomon House – to come up with a strategy for their renewed #FeesMustFall movement.

Meanwhile, another group of students demanded to be allowed to take their exams and picketed outside the Great Hall.
Lengthy meetings were held on Saturday and Sunday, with students debating how to proceed with the campaign that started at their institution two weeks ago, and spread to other campuses across South Africa.

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Opinion: Africa’s Agricultural Potential Begins on the Ground Fri, 16 Oct 2015 12:31:57 +0000 Howard G Buffett

Howard G. Buffett is a farmer and Chairman and CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. He has farmed for over 35 years, and the Foundation has invested over $150 million in research to improve agriculture and an additional $350 million in agriculture-related programs globally.

By Howard G. Buffett
LONDON, Oct 16 2015 (IPS)

My friend Kofi Boa is a Ghanaian agronomist who is probably the biggest advocate for conservation farming in Africa. For decades, Kofi has taught farmers how to increase their yields using no-till, cover crops and other techniques.

He once showed me a demonstration plot I’ve never forgotten: it was a sloped field planted with corn, divided into three equal areas. On the first section, he used traditional plowing and at the bottom were five barrels full of soil – the run-off from a single rainy season. The second plot he strip-tilled, and there was one barrel of soil that had washed down. On the third section he never tilled the soil at all. That field had a strong harvest – its soil run-off barrel was almost empty.

Kofi’s demonstration is one that every farmer and everyone working in agricultural development needs to see, understand and appreciate. I have heard philanthropists and others say things like “Africa can feed the world,” but it’s vital that we first focus on Africa feeding itself. Growing sufficient food for Africa’s fast-rising population demands preserving and enriching its fragile soils.

The continent is home to dramatically diverse landscapes from the vast Tanzanian Serengeti savannahs; to the hilly, volcanic, jungle landscape of the Democratic Republic of Congo; to the Afromontagne and coastal forests that span the entire continent. But what’s often overlooked is that less than 10 percent of Africa has what are considered high-quality soils for agriculture.

When you see photographs of dense jungle or animal migrations, it can be hard to imagine that Africa has such poor soils. The fact is that during early periods of soil formation while glaciers deposited valuable minerals and rich sediments in regions such as the American Midwest, the Ukraine, and Argentina, Africa was shortchanged. It is home to some of the oldest and most weathered stretches of land anywhere. While there are some regions with good soils in lower West Africa, and within several countries including Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique, most of Africa’s 54 countries did not receive equivalent soil resources.

And unfortunately, the picture for soil never improved: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that 65 percent of agricultural land throughout Africa has been degraded by human activity, including farming and overgrazing. Recently the Montpellier Panel, a prominent group of agriculture, ecology and trade experts from Africa and Europe, estimated that these degraded soils are too damaged to sustain viable food production.

There is no quick fix. Reversing this picture means overcoming physical, cultural, and political impediments. The history of Africa’s soils and land use also complicates the picture. For example, while visiting Eastern Congo last month, I stood on a high ridge overlooking the Virunga National Park. The air was hazy and the landscape was dotted with several dozen or more small, smoky fires that signal the practice of “slash and burn” agriculture, which is widespread in Africa. For centuries people have used fire to convert jungle and forests to farmland and to burn crop residues. Unfortunately, this destroys important ecosystems, offering only a few seasons of fertility before farmers must keep slashing into surrounding forests to find land with enough nutrients to support a crop.

Understanding these complex dynamics is essential to making a real, practical difference. Many one-size-fits-all plans are designed by academics, bureaucrats and others with little or no input from farmers themselves. Above all, we must beware of solutions that involve simply transplanting Western farming techniques. Generally speaking, approaches that reduce diversity and rely heavily on synthetic fertilizer, hybrid seeds, and expensive equipment are not practical for millions of Africa’s smallholder farmers, at least not today.

Western farming is also focused on a small number of staple crops such as corn and soybeans. Pushing African farmers toward mono-cropping systems can actually increase hunger. More research aimed at improving African seed types is important, but many crops Africans rely on are not on the list of the 20 crops with historical importance in the world. Therefore they are largely ignored by researchers and seed companies.

As Kofi proves every day, however, there are immediate tools available to help solve Africa’s challenges. At our foundation, we look at Africa’s potential for agriculture through a different lens than some in development. We are focused on what we call a “Brown Revolution.” That means a heavy emphasis on protecting and remediating soils. Regardless of terrain, crops, wildlife, culture, or history, every farmer in the world needs productive soil to grow food. The critical element is to appreciate the unique conditions on the ground in each region. In the Eastern Congo I reviewed soil maps of a relatively small region where the soil quality ranged from nearly “dead”—lacking organic matter and key nutrients—to very rich. Each of those different soil profiles requires a different recipe of ideal crop rotations and farming techniques to achieve maximum production from the land.

This work demands good information about where we are today and the communication of practical ideas for improvement. Our foundation has produced an in-depth analysis that we hope achieves both goals, called Africa’s Potential for Agriculture, now available for download at We shared this publication at the 2015 World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue where Kofi and I joined Imperial College’s Sir Gordon Conway and Argentinian agronomist Alejandro Lopez to talk about the importance of soil health and the role of conservation agriculture. Food security is one of the most fundamental challenges the world faces and these are critical conversations.

When I travel to Africa I always visit with smallholder farmers who, despite backbreaking work every day, frequently experience hunger. There is something terribly ironic about farmers who are hungry. In many parts of the world, farmers farm to survive, not for profit. We must realize these different dynamics and risk profiles when proposing solutions that are realistic and applicable in situations that are quite different from our own.


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Over 100 Cities Pledge to Fight Hunger & Reduce Food Waste Thu, 15 Oct 2015 18:16:10 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

Over 100 cities around the world have come together in Milan to sign the Urban Food Policy Pact, promising to develop equitable and sustainable food systems.

During the Mayors Summit on Oct. 15, the pact was signed by Milan’s Mayor Giuliano Pisapia along with his counterparts from cities worldwide including Belo Horizonte, Barcelona, Dakar, and Moscow.

The agreement was proposed by Mayor Pisapia at the Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) Summit in 2014 and was launched during his city’s Expo 2015 whose theme was “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.”

The pact includes five core actions: engage with relevant stakeholders to ensure an enabling environment; promote sustainable diets and nutrition; ensure equitable access to food; promote rural-urban food production and supply; and reduce food waste.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General José Graziano da Silva lauded the initiative, noting that urban centers are key actors in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially the eradication of hunger by 2030.

“Cities have a key role to play in ending hunger and improving nutrition,” said Da Silva in his address to the summit.

“A majority of the population of the world already lives in cities and the urban population is going to increase, particularly in developing countries…nevertheless food security and nutrition remains overlooked in urban planning and development,” Da Silva continued.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 50 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. By 2050, the global urban population is expected to increase to 66 percent, making access to affordable and sustainable food a key priority.

Da Silva also underlined the link between food security and climate change, stating that sustaining the SDGs in the long-term will require reducing emissions and tackling climate change.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made similar comments during a High-Level Working Lunch on Climate Change on Sept. 27.

“Food production and agriculture contribute as much to climate change as transportation,” Ban remarked. He particularly pointed to food waste as a contributor to climate change.

According to FAO, one third of all food is wasted. The energy that goes into the production and transportation of uneaten food generates more than 3.3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases.

If food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind the U.S. and China. Food waste in cities is particularly and increasingly higher, said Da Silva at the summit.

During the High Level Meeting, Ban also noted the social implications of food waste, stating that it is “shameful when so many people suffer from hunger.”

Though world hunger has decreased since 1990, almost 800 million people still go hungry every day.

The Urban Food Policy Pact was developed with FAO as well as key stakeholders from governments, the private sector, and civil society. It is described as “one of the most important legacies of Expo 2015.”

The signed text will be presented to the UN Secretary-General on Oct 16.


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Opinion: 1325 a Groundbreaking Initiative for Women, Peace & Security Tue, 13 Oct 2015 05:57:14 +0000 Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury

Ambassador Anwarul K.Chowdhury was the initiator of UNSCR 1325 when he was Security Council President.

By Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury
NEW YORK, Oct 13 2015 (IPS)

2015 is a year of UN anniversaries as the calendar tells us. Of course the big one is the United Nations’ own seventieth birthday. I find two other anniversaries very significant in their relevance to humanity’s quest for peace and development in general and for goals and objectives of the UN’s work in particular.

I am referring to the 20th anniversary of the world’s biggest-ever conference on women held in Beijing in 1995 advancing women’s equality and empowerment. Five years later it was by followed by a groundbreaking initiative resulting in the adoption by the UN Security its landmark Resolution 1325 on “Women and Peace and Security” on 31 October 2000.

The Security Council will hold an open debate to undertake its High Level Review of the 15 years of the implementation of 1325. Curiously, the Global Study that has been undertaken for this had its formal launch Monday.

UNSCR 1325 is very close to my intellectual existence and my very small contribution to a better world for each one of us. To trace back, 15 years ago, on the International Women’s Day in 2000, as the President of the Security Council, following extensive stonewalling, I was able to issue an agreed statement that formally brought to global attention the unrecognized, underutilized and undervalued contribution women have always been making towards the prevention of wars and building peace.

The Council recognized in that statement that peace is inextricably linked with equality between women and men, and affirmed the value of full and equal participation of women in all decision-making levels. That is when the seed for Resolution 1325 was sown.

The formal resolution followed this conceptual and political breakthrough on 31 October of the same year giving this issue the long overdue attention and recognition that it deserved. This inexplicable silence of the Security Council on women’s contribution for 55 long years was broken on the 8th of March 2000.

Adoption of 1325 opened a much-awaited door of opportunity for women who have shown time and again that they bring a qualitative improvement in structuring peace and in post-conflict architecture. When women participate in peace negotiations and in the crafting of a peace agreement, they have the broader and long-term interest of society in mind.

We recall that in choosing the three women laureates for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, the citation referred to 1325 saying that “It underlined the need for women to become participants on an equal footing with men in peace processes and in peace work in general.”

The Nobel Committee further asserted that “We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society.” 1325 is the only UN resolution so specifically noted in the citation of the Nobel Prize.

Thanks to 1325, the Security Council is gradually accepting that a lasting peace cannot be achieved without the participation of women and the inclusion of gender perspectives and participation in peace processes. The Council has also met with women’s groups and representatives of NGOs during its field missions on a fairly regular basis.

Much, nevertheless, remains to be done. We continue to find reports that women are still very often ignored or excluded from formal processes of negotiations and elections and in the drafting of the new constitution or legislature frameworks.

The driving force behind 1325 is “participation”. I believe the Security Council has been neglecting this core focus of the resolution. There is no full and equal participation of women at any level. There is no consideration of women’s needs in the deliberations.

The main question is not to make war safe for women but to structure the peace in a way that there is no recurrence of war and conflict. That is why women need to be at the peace tables, women need to be involved in the decision-making and as peacekeepers to ensure real and faithful implementation of 1325.

Gender perspectives must be fully integrated into the terms of reference of peace operations related Security Council resolutions, reports and missions. A no-tolerance, no-impunity approach is a must in cases of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers.

As a matter of fact, I would recommend that all prospective peace-keepers must pass the “1325 test” before they leave their countries and there should be no relaxation with regard to this qualifier. Troop contributing countries should be aware that repeated violations by their contingents would put them on a global blacklist.

Analysts are of the view that the passage of 1325 is an impressive step forward for women’s equality agendas in contemporary security politics. However, they also believe, that the historic and operational value of the resolution as the first international policy mechanism that explicitly recognized the gendered nature of war and peace processes has been undercut by the disappointing record of its implementation, particularly for lack of national level commitments.

According to them, the poor record of the implementation of 1325 has fuelled rather well-founded suspicions about the complicity of the Security Council in international practices that make women insecure, basically as a result of its support of the existing militarized inter-state security arrangements.

I believe strongly that we would not have to be worrying about countering extremism if women have equality in decision-making enabling them to take measures which would prevent such extremism.

I recall Eleanor Roosevelt’s words saying “Too often the great decisions are originated and given shape in bodies made up wholly of men, or so completely dominated by them that whatever of special value women have to offer is shunted aside without expression.”

It is a reality that politics, more so security, is a man’s world. Empowering women’s political leadership will have ripple effects on every level of society and the global condition. When politically empowered, women bring important and different skills and perspectives to the policy making table in comparison to their male counterparts.

Here I would add emphatically that, to be true to its own pronouncements, I believe it is absolutely high time that in its seven decades of existence, the United Nations should appoint the first woman as the next Secretary-General.

After 15 years of the adoption the UNSCR 1325, our sole focus should be on its true and effective implementation. In real terms, National Action Plan (NAP) is the engine that would speed up the implementation of Resolution 1325.

It should be also underscored that all countries are obligated as per decisions of the Security Council to prepare the NAP whether they are in a so-called conflict situation or not. So far, only 50 out of 193 UN Member-States have prepared their plans after 15 years. This is a dismal record!

There are no better ways to get country level commitment and involvement to implement 1325 other than the NAPs. I believe very strongly that only NAPs can hold the governments accountable. There has to be an increased and pro-active engagement of the UN secretariat leadership to get a meaningfully bigger number of NAPs – for example, setting a target of 100 NAPs by 2017. UN Women needs to work more proactively with the Member States so that their 1325 NAPs are commenced and completed without any further delay.

Another missing element is a greater, regular, genuine and participatory involvement of civil society in implementing 1325 both at national and global levels. The role and contribution of civil society is critical. At the global level, the UN secretariat should not only make it a point to consult it, but at the same time, such consultations should be open and transparent. Very limited opportunity provided to civil society at tomorrow’s High Level Review is not what we expect.

Let me end by asserting that anniversaries are meaningful when they trigger renewed enthusiasm amongst all. Coming months will tell whether 1325’s 15th anniversary has been worthwhile and able to create that energy.

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Africa Week Focuses on Challenges Facing the Continent Fri, 09 Oct 2015 18:07:58 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent

The United Nations will be commemorating Africa Week (October 12-16), beginning Monday when strategic international partners will gather in New York to support an ambitious plan aimed at a brighter future for the African continent.

The plan, adopted by the African Union (AU) in June 2015, is expected to provide answers to many of the challenges facing African countries, including the eradication of poverty, silencing guns and sustaining peace, fighting terrorism, addressing irregular migration, abiding by human rights, and improving the economy and its infrastructure.

Called “Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want”, the AU’s plan is designed to create “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens…”. Agenda 2063 will be implemented under five 10-year plans.

The plan will be the focus at the fifth commemoration of Africa Week, an annual event held on the margins of the General Assembly debate on Africa’s development.

According to a press release, the AU and its partners aim to achieve by 2063 a prosperous, integrated Africa bolstered by good governance, peace, the continent’s strong cultural identity, women and youth empowerment. A successful implementation of the plan would mean that Africa will play its role on the international stage as an influential partner.

Under-Secretary-General Maged Abdelaziz, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on Africa, said “investing in Africa is investing in the world’s future,” pointing out that “Africa needs massive investment to substantially improve infrastructure such as roads and power plants in order to transform the lives of its people and sustain its future as envisioned in Agenda 2063.”

He added that “Africa is not looking for handouts; it is already mobilizing funds at home. Rather, Africa, which will have the world’s largest work force by 2035, is offering an opportunity to everyone to invest in the world’s future.”

Africa Week is organized by the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA) in close collaboration with its strategic partners that include Member States, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the Department of Public Information, the AU, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) Secretariat and the African Regional Economic Communities (RECs).


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Africa’s Progress in Key Areas Either Stalled or Reversed Thu, 08 Oct 2015 18:04:29 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Oct 8 2015 (IPS)

(GIN) – The cheap gas boom has not been the best of news for African countries where oil and other raw materials have been the basis of their export economies since colonial times.

Gas and oil are not the only raw materials to suffer as economies in Asia and the west contract and investors take wait and see positions while they look for the next promising trend.

The region’s difficulties were highlighted in the latest Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), a comprehensive survey started by Sudanese billionaire Mo Ibrahim as an independent project to promote better governance and economic development in Africa.

“We can’t pat ourselves on the back and pretend everything is hunky-dory,” declared Ibrahim, who earned billions of dollars installing some of Africa’s first mobile phone networks. “It’s not.”

“While Africans overall are certainly healthier and live in more democratic societies than 15 years ago, the 2015 IIAG shows that recent progress in other key areas on the continent has either stalled or reversed, and that some key countries seem to be faltering.”

This year’s rating of 50.1 on a 100-point scale, while up from 46.5 when the index was first issued in 2000, is down from a peak of 50.4 in 2010. Under the Ibrahim Index, 100 represents a prosperous, democratic utopia.

When times were good, short-sighted governments in Angola and Zambia, among others, put insufficient money aside for improving education, health care and roads at a time when commodity prices were high and government coffers were flush, said Nathalie Delapalme, the Ibrahim Foundation’s executive director for research and policy.

Now, with commodity prices falling, even the most well-intentioned of the continent’s governments will have a harder time lifting their citizens out of poverty, she said. “They could have been better positioned to confront the crisis that is in front of them.”

Spending cuts, such as those threatened in Kenya and other nations, have made the poorly-paid and under-housed resentful and angry.

“Many countries that most need economic takeoff aren’t getting it because their politicians don’t support widespread growth,” said Johannesburg-based economist Thabi Leoka. “We don’t have exemplary leaders to tell other leaders they should be doing well.” “The whole Africa rising story is in question,” she added.

Published annually, the IIAG provides a comprehensive assessment of every African country using 93 indicators across the following four categories: safety & rule of law, participation & human rights, sustainable economic opportunity and human development.

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War Crimes Charges for Demolishing Ancient Malian Shrines Wed, 07 Oct 2015 19:17:30 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
Oct 7 2015

(GIN) – The International Criminal Court will hear charges of war crimes against Ahmad al Faqi Al Mahdi for the deliberate destruction of religious or historical monuments in Timbuktu, Mali. It is the first prosecution of this type by the court which is based in The Hague. Legal proceedings against the suspected Islamist will begin in January.

Mahdi, a Malian citizen, is accused of ordering his followers to flatten at least nine tombs and the Sidi Yahia mosque that had each been carefully maintained and considered holy since in the Middle Ages. The monuments had been named World Heritage sites by the United Nations. The designation makes their destruction a criminal act.

Prosecutors called al Mahdi the leader of an ‘Islamist morality squad’ called al Hesbah, which carried out the orders of a so-called Islamic court that was formed during the occupation.

The suspected rebel told the court: “My name is Ahmad al Faqi a Mahdi, and I am from the Tuareg tribe. I was born about 40 years ago. I am a graduate of the teachers’ institute in Timbuktu and I was a civil servant in the education department… beginning in 2011.” No plea was entered during the court session.

Meanwhile, in Timbuktu, news of the trial was greeted with jubilation. “The people of Timbuktu are very, very, very, happy! Very, very, very happy. That man is a criminal!” roared Alhassan Hassaye, the city’s 73-year-old master mud mason. His family had been in charge of replastering the monuments each year since the Middle Ages.

“It shows that we will have justice for what he and his followers did…that there are people who will defend the people of Timbuktu,” Hassaye said.

Ancient monuments have found themselves at risk in recent years, threatened by a generation of jihadists who seek to destroy any structures deemed un-Islamic. In 2001, Afghanistan’s Taliban, allied with al Qaeda, dynamited a pair of sixth-century Buddha statues carved into sandstone cliffs.

In August, the group leveled a fifth-century Catholic monastery in Syria and blew up a 2,000-year-old Roman temple. But the razing of Timbuktu’s shrines was a particularly heavy loss for the people of the outpost which has long marked a gateway between sub-Saharan Africa and the world, reported Drew Hinshaw of the Wall Street Journal.

The mosques, made of mud, and patched up with more mud yearly, constitute some of Africa’s most venerable architecture. But in 2012, al Qaeda drove into the city and within months, the group and its local allies began bulldozing monuments. The militants shrugged off U.N. threats that they would be tried for war crimes.

The city’s mud masons, however, hatched a plan to rebuild the shrines—using the same clumps of mud that the Islamists had left on the ground.

In 2013, when French paratroopers liberated the city, Western preservationists poured in, offering to help with computer modeling software. This year, the masons completed all 14 of the monuments they said were destroyed.

“It’s for all humanity,” said Hassaye, the lead mason. “The world has a need for Timbuktu.”

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U.N. Rejects Bribery as “Business-as-Usual” in World Body Tue, 06 Oct 2015 18:04:24 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was shocked and deeply troubled to learn of the allegations against Ambassador John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda, a former President of the General Assembly.

The charges against Ashe, he said, goes into the heart of the integrity of the United Nations.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who is leading the investigation, has charged Ashe with conspiracy and bribery – accusing the ambassador of accepting over one million dollars in bribes from a Chinese real estate mogul and his business partners.

The charges have also been made against five others, including Ambassador Francis Lorenzo of the Dominican Republic.
Striking a note of sarcasm, Bharara told reporters: “We will be asking: Is bribery business-as-usual at the U.N.?”
But U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric was quick to refute those charges when he told reporters Tuesday: “First of all, corruption is not business-as-usual at the UN.”

“Second of all, we have… we had not been informed of the investigation by the US Attorney’s Office. Our Office for Legal Affairs and other senior officials were not aware of the case until it was read about in the press.

Obviously, if we’re contacted by the relevant US authorities, we will cooperate with them,” he added.

Asked to confirm or deny the existence of a U.N. document relating to a proposed conference centre in Macau, Dujarric initially said the U.N. had not been able to find that document.

But he later said the document had been found, which is a standard letter from a Permanent Representative to the Secretary-General asking him to circulate it as an official document of the General Assembly: document A/66/748.]

The current President of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft of Denmark told reporters corruption has no place at the United Nations or anywhere else.

“I am deeply shocked regarding the news today concerning the President of 68th session of the UN General Assembly. It means, like the Secretary-General said this morning, that this is a very hard attack of the integrity of the United Nations.”

Lykketoft said neither he, nor his Office have been contacted by US authorities. “Of course, we stand ready to engage with all concerned as necessary,” he added.

“I think the United Nations and its representatives should be held to the highest standards of transparency and ethics,” he added.

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UK Detains 5 in Pursuit of Nigerian Oil Ministry Laundered Funds Tue, 06 Oct 2015 06:09:56 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK , Oct 6 2015 (IPS)

(GIN) – Nearly half a dozen suspects, including the former Minister of Petroleum Resources of Nigeria, were swept up by UK authorities in a crackdown on corruption coordinated with Nigerian President Muhammed Buhari.

According to multiple media accounts, Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) obtained a court order to seize 27,000 pounds ($41,000) from the London apartment of Diezani Alison-Madueke, the former Nigerian oil minister, long linked to financial scandals.

Alison-Madueke was scheduled to appear in court on Friday, where bail was granted. That same day, her “palatial home” in the Asokoro district of Abuja was sealed in an operation led by the anti-theft Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, according to Nigerian media reports.

If found guilty of money laundering and bribery, she could face up to 14 years in jail.

Diezani Alison-Madueke served as oil minister from 2010 until May 2015 under former president Goodluck Jonathan. She was also the first woman to head OPEC as alternate president from 2014-2015.

The arrests by the NCA’s International Corruption Unit (ICU), are part of an investigation into economic crimes at the ministry. A spokesman for Nigeria’s presidency, Garba Shehu, said: “The government of Nigeria is collaborating with the UK authority in the investigations and her trial.”

The ICU is specifically empowered to trace and recover the proceeds of international corruption. In the case of Nigeria, it is claimed that between 20 and 50 billion Nigerian dollars disappeared during former president Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.

Former Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi highlighted the disappearance of billions of petrodollars a year ago in a 300 page report of extensive documentation, for which he was fired.

Before being stripped of his post, Sanusi described what he called “leakages” of cash from Nigeria’s oil industry. Oil accounts for around 95 percent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings. If Nigeria continued to leak cash at the rate described in his report, the consequences for the economy would be disastrous, he said.

According to Sanusi, between $10.8 billion and $20 billion out of $67 billion worth of oil sales by the state oil company in the previous 19 months was unaccounted for.

The state oil group has denied any wrongdoing.

The crackdown comes as the U.S. government scrutinizes the former Nigerian oil minister and her associates, according to the Wall Street Journal’s reporter Drew Hinshaw. The State Department, he said, has been looking at whether she or her relatives benefited from her position and whether to ban her from entering the U.S. where she is said to have several homes.

Shehu, speaking for President Buhari, said: (The President) thinks there should be a world-wide movement to help countries such as Nigeria to get back what has been looted from them.”

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Social Media Giant Unveils Internet Plan for Rural Africa Mon, 05 Oct 2015 18:57:41 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Oct 5 2015 (IPS)

(GIN) – A new satellite could soon be bringing remote parts of Africa onto the internet, according to Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

In an announcement this week, the social media giant said Facebook would be using aircraft, lasers and drones to beam internet access “down into communities from the sky.” A satellite, called AMOS-6 would be leased from the Israeli company Spacecom and shared between a French company, Eutelsat, and Facebook. Eutelsat will expand its paid broadband connections in the region for businesses and well-off individuals.

“Facebook’s mission is to connect the world and we believe that satellites will play an important role in addressing the significant barriers that exist in connecting the people of Africa,” said Chris Daniels, VP of, in a statement.

The satellite could launch as early as next year and service would start in the second half of 2016.

The initiative is undertaken in partnership with – a charity Facebook runs. asks internet service providers (ISPs) to help provide “free basics” to countries where wired internet penetration is sparse or non-existent, touting the virtues of developing markets and appealing to the tech world’s charitable instincts.

Earlier this year, Facebook announced they had developed a gigantic solar-powered drone that could stay in the stratosphere for months at a time, beaming broadband internet to rural and hard-to-reach areas.

The drone, called Aquila, is the baby of Facebook’s year old Connectivity Lab. During the day it will cruise in circles at 90,000 feet, soaking up solar power. At night it will save energy by drifting down to 60,000 feet.

To get the Internet, a laser system will connect the ground and the drone. A Facebook team working on the laser technology in California, says it has achieved speeds of tens of gigabytes per second – enough to allow hundreds of thousands of people to access broadband Internet simultaneously;

Until relatively recently, internet in Kenya was largely provided by satellite through a large dish in the Rift Valley; four large submarine fiber-optic cables radically changed the way the country received the web beginning in 2009 under the acronym The East African Marine System (Teams), and now several multinational internet companies have a strong presence in the country, notably Alcatel-Lucent and Fujitsu.


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