Tag Archives: United Nations

Adopting Resolution 2419 (2018), Security Council Calls for Increasing Role of Youth in Negotiating, Implementing Peace Agreements


An article from the United Nations

Recognizing the role youth could play in conflict prevention and resolution, the Security Council today urged the Secretary‑General and his Special Envoys to take their views into account in security‑related discussions, and to facilitate their equal and full participation at decision‑making levels.

Participants attend the Somali National Youth Conference held in Mogadishu, Somalia (December 2017). UN Photo/Ilyas Ahmed

Unanimously adopting resolution 2419 (2018), the Council called on all relevant actors to consider ways for increasing the representation of young people when negotiating and implementing peace agreements, recognizing that their marginalization was detrimental to building sustainable peace and countering violent extremism, as and when conducive to terrorism.  In that context, it noted the independent Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security, titled, “The missing peace”.

By other terms, the Council called on Member States to protect educational institutions as spaces free from all violence, ensure they were accessible to all youth and take steps to address young women’s equal enjoyment of their right to education.  It recommended the Peacebuilding Commission include in its advice ways to engage young people in national efforts to build and sustain peace, particularly urging appropriate regional and subregional bodies to facilitate their constructive engagement.

The Council went on to request the Secretary‑General to consider including in his reporting progress made towards young people’s participation in such processes as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and interlinked community violence reduction programmes.  He might also consider internal mechanisms to broaden young people’s participation in the work of the United Nations, the Council stated, asking him to submit, no later than May 2020, a report on the implementation of the current resolution, as well as resolution 2250 (2015).

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Question for this article

Youth initiatives for a culture of peace, How can we ensure they get the attention and funding they deserve?

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Introducing the draft, Olof Skoog (Sweden) said it built on and complemented resolution 2250 (2015).  It underlined the contribution young people could make to peace and security if actively engaged, recognizing both their diversity and the need to counter any stigmatization or homogenization.  Further, the resolution highlighted that the youth, peace and security agenda was a crucial part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Indeed, it marked an advance in the collective determination to ensure youth could play their rightful and necessary role in the Council’s work and in building peace around the world.

Gustavo Meza-Cuadra (Peru), speaking after the vote, said the resolution underscored the important role that youth were called on to play in the prevention and resolution of conflict.  Highlighting Jordan’s initiative to place the topic on the Council’s agenda in 2015, he said young people were crucial to forging an inclusive vision of a shared future.  The resolution represented a major contribution to the Council’s work and he underscored the importance of follow up on its provisions, and of combating stereotypes that perpetuated violence against women.

Karel J. G. van Oosterom (Netherlands) expressed hope that the resolution’s request for a follow‑up report would receive the attention it deserved.  The text welcomed the Council’s intention to invite youth organizations as briefers and encouraged the Secretary‑General to include information on youth participation in peace processes.  The Progress Study, meanwhile, had given voice to 4,000 young people who would not otherwise have had the chance to participate in a policy‑shaping exercise.  He expressed hope that the Council would continue to increase youth participation in issues of peace and security.

Elaine Marie French (United States), while commending Peru and Sweden for working to ensure the Council recognized the role of young people, nonetheless voiced regret that the resolution did not contain language on the prevention of violent extremism.  The concept was not new and should not be controversial, as its goal was to address the factors that motivated people towards violence.  The Council had missed an opportunity to ensure that youth were involved in action plans to prevent violent extremism.  There was no reason why it could not support such efforts.  She cautioned against rolling back language on technology and the Internet.  Instead, the Council should have used language contained in resolution 2396 (2017), which should be the baseline for going forward.

UN Launches First-Ever Global Plastics Report on World Environment Day


An article by Olivia Rosane for Ecowatch

The theme for this year’s World Environment Day, the world’s largest environmental celebration which takes place June 5, is “Beat Plastic  Pollution.” In honor of the occasion, UN Environment released the first ever “state of plastics” report, tracking government action against plastic waste, a UN Environment press release  reported.

The report, titled “Single-Use Plastics: A Roadmap for Sustainability,” found that more than 60 countries have introduced bans or levies on single-use plastics, and that bans and levies are one of the most effective ways to reduce the use of disposable plastic items.

President and CEO of WWF-Canada, David Miller, said: “WWF-Canada has worked for “The assessment shows that action can be painless and profitable—with huge gains for people and the planet that help avert the costly downstream costs of pollution,” head of UN Environment Erik Solheim said in the report’s foreword. “Plastic isn’t the problem. It’s what we do with it.”

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Question for this article:

If we can connect up the planet through Internet, can’t we agree to preserve the planet?

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The report summed up the extent of the plastic pollution crisis: Only 9 percent of all plastics ever produced have been recycled, while 12 percent have been incinerated and a full 79 percent have ended up in landfills, dumps, or the environment. Plastic bags  are especially a concern and, with Styrofoam, have been the leading subject of plastic product bans. They have been found blocking waterways and worsening natural disasters, blocking sewers and providing a breeding site for disease-carrying insects, and blocking the stomachs and airways of animals like the whale that died  in Thailand this weekend after consuming more than 80 of them.

Fifty percent of the countries that have implemented bans or levies did not have sufficient data to assess the environmental impact of the policies; of the other 50 percent, 30 percent of the bans significantly reduced the use of plastic bags within a year and 20 percent had little impact, either due to poor enforcement or lack of alternatives.

One success story was Morocco, where 421 tonnes of bags were seized after a ban and replaced almost entirely by fabrics. A failed case was Botswana, where a levy on retailers was issued but not enforced, the BBC reported.

The report also recommended that bans and levies be joined by positive measures such as improving waste management, moving towards a circular plastic production and consumption model and providing financial incentives for businesses and customers to develop and use alternative materials.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the report with Solheim in New Delhi Tuesday. India  is this year’s host country for World Environment Day, which was established by the UN in 1972 and first celebrated in 1974.

UN chief launches new disarmament agenda ‘to secure our world and our future’


An article from United Nations News

“The United Nations was created with the goal of eliminating war as an instrument of foreign policy,” Secretary-General António Guterres said, unveiling his new agenda, entitled, Securing Our Common Future, at the University of Geneva, in Switzerland.

“But seven decades on, our world is as dangerous as it has ever been,” he warned.

“Disarmament prevents and ends violence. Disarmament supports sustainable development. And disarmament is true to our values and principles,” he explained.

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The launch comes at a time when “arms control has been in the news every day, sometimes in relation to Iran and Syria, sometimes the Korean Peninsula,” said the UN chief.

The new Agenda focuses on three priorities – weapons of mass destruction, conventional weapons, and new battlefield technologies.

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Question related to this article:

Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?

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First, he stressed that disarmament of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons could “save humanity,” noting that some 15,000 nuclear weapons remain stockpiled around the world and hundreds are ready to be launched within minutes.

“We are one mechanical, electronic or human error away from a catastrophe that could eradicate entire cities from the map,” he warned.

Mr. Guterres said the States that possess nuclear weapons have the primary responsibility for avoiding catastrophe. In that regard, he appealed to Russia and the US to resolve their dispute over the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; to extend the New START treaty on strategic offensive arms, which is due to expire in just three years; and to take new steps towards reducing nuclear stockpiles.

Second, he said disarmament of conventional weapons could “save lives,” in particular those of civilians who continue to bear the brunt of armed conflict.

The UN chief said that beyond the appalling numbers of civilians killed and injured, conflicts are driving record numbers of people from their homes, often depriving them of food, healthcare, education and any means of making a living.

At the end of 2016, more than 65 million people were uprooted by war, violence and persecution, he said.

“My initiative will have a strong basis in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the world’s blueprint for peace and prosperity on a healthy planet,” he said, noting that excessive spending on weapons drains resources for sustainable development.

In fact, more than $1.7 trillion dollars was spent last year on arms and armies – the highest level since the fall of the Berlin Wall. That is around 80 times the amount needed to meet the humanitarian aid needs of the whole world, he said.

Third, he said that new technologies, when used maliciously, could help start a new arms race, endangering future generations. “The combined risks of new weapon technologies could have a game-changing impact on our future security,” he said.

Nuclear Weapon States’ Long Arm Seen Behind Deferral of Landmark UN Conference


An article by Alyn Ware for Indepth News

May 14, 2018 was supposed to see the opening at the United Nations of a three-day High-Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament, scheduled to discuss “effective nuclear disarmament measures to achieve the total elimination of nuclear weapons, including, in particular, on a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons.”

The UN General Assembly decided five years ago to hold such a conference in 2018, following a series of annual, one-day, high-level meetings at the United Nations.

Security Council meeting on Maintenance of international peace and security, Nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

The importance of the 2018 High-Level Conference only increased during these five years with a range of nuclear-weapons related conflicts heating up – Russia vs. NATO, North Korea vs. USA, India vs. Pakistan – to such an extent that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists  in January 2018 moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock to 2 Minutes to Midnight. This is the closest humanity has been to nuclear Armageddon since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Uncertainty over the future of the Iran nuclear deal following the withdrawal of the United States on May 8 has only added fuel to the nuclear fire.

A High-Level Conference (scheduled for May 14-16) would have provided a powerful platform for world leaders to support diplomacy and nuclear-risk reduction in these nuclear-related conflicts, as well as to advance nuclear disarmament measures such as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons  which was concluded by non-nuclear States at the UN in July 2017 but has not yet entered into force.

Right at a time when such a conference is needed the most, it has surprisingly been postponed to an uncertain future date.

Civil society representatives, many of whom had already booked their flights to New York for the conference, were left perplexed. The High-Level Conference had been initiated by the 120-nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which in the past has led on a number of nuclear disarmament initiatives, such as challenging the legality of the threat and use of nuclear weapons in the International Court of Justice (ICJ)  in 1994.

Many of the Non-Aligned countries were also active in the 2017 negotiations that concluded the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. So why would the NAM now reverse itself and drop such an important event?

The Indonesian Mission (Embassy) to the UN, which serves as the UN Coordinator for NAM, indicated that they had not found a suitable country to chair the conference. This indeed appears to be true. Several candidates invited to chair the conference had declined. But this still begs the question why? Wouldn’t one or more of the NAM countries want to chair the conference and elevate their standing in the international community as a broker for peace and disarmament?

It appears from informal conversations with some NAM members that there are deeper reasons, most of which fall back to the long-arm influence and intransigence of nuclear-armed States on nuclear issues. This plays out in a number of ways.

Firstly, it appears that the NAM was unsuccessful in persuading leaders of nuclear-armed and allied states to commit to coming to the UN High-Level Conference. Having a conference where these states are represented only at ambassador level (or even lower) would undermine the conference and would limit the degree to which these countries would commit to any nuclear risk-reduction or disarmament measures.

This argument would be totally understandable if the NAM had indeed put strong pressure and invested political capital to move the leaders of nuclear armed and allied states to come. But this did not seem to be the case. Leaders of countries are not moved to come to UN Summits or High-Level Conferences solely on the basis of a UN resolution.

They would be so moved if NAM leaders announced that they themselves were coming to the UN conference at the highest level (President or Prime Minister), publicly called on the nuclear armed and allied states to do the same and made this a priority in their bilateral meetings with the leaders of the nuclear armed and allied States.

The fact that NAM did not appear to do this indicates that something else is happening within NAM that appears to have reduced their collective resolve and impact on nuclear disarmament issues.

Indeed, since the end of the Cold War, a number of NAM members, like many other non-nuclear States, have developed closer trade, financial and political relationships with specific nuclear-armed States. They appear hesitant to do anything that would seriously impact on such relationships. These countries are ready to support nuclear disarmament statements and resolutions that look good but have little impact on their nuclear-armed friends. They are hesitant to adopt measures that might impact significantly on the practices of the nuclear-armed states and incur the wrath or even counter measures from them.

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Question related to this article:

Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?

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This was evident, for example, in the negotiations of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The nuclear-armed States and the allied states under extended nuclear deterrence relationships have all indicated that they won’t join the Treaty which means that the general Treaty obligations will not apply to them.

However, there were proposals to include Treaty provisions that would have had direct impact on practices of the nuclear-armed States. These included prohibiting transit of nuclear weapons in the land, sea and air spaces of Treaty parties, and to ban financing of nuclear weapons, i.e. investments in nuclear weapons corporations. The fact that the states negotiating the Treaty rejected these proposals demonstrated their unwillingness to confront the nuclear-armed States.

This was also evident in the recent case taken by the Marshall Islands against nuclear-armed States in the ICJ. This was a direct legal challenge of the nuclear-armed States violating their nuclear disarmament obligations.

However, not one other non-nuclear country joined the Marshall Islands in the case. None wanted to come into direct confrontation with the nuclear-armed States. As a result, the ICJ determined that it was not a real legal dispute regarding the disarmament obligation, and they dismissed the case.

It appears that this low level of resolve by NAM and other non-nuclear States to confront the nuclear-armed States is not the only reason for the deferral of the UN High-Level Conference.

Another reason appears to be that the heightened tensions between nuclear-armed States make it difficult for even the strongest disarmament advocates and the best ‘bridge-builders’ to succeed in bringing the nuclear-armed States together to cooperate in such a forum.

An indication of this is the responses of the nuclear-armed States to two recent initiatives by Kazakhstan, a country that had been incredibly influential and successful as a bridge-builder at the end of the Cold War. Kazakhstan was instrumental in bringing Russia and the United States together in 1991 to cooperate on nuclear threat reduction, the dismantling of the nuclear weapons in Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus and the securing of nuclear materials in these countries.

However, two of Kazakhstan’s more recent attempts to encourage cooperation between nuclear-armed States (and especially USA and Russia) have had much less success. These included the Universal Declaration for a Nuclear Weapon-Free World, which did not get unanimous support, and the Security Council session on confidence building and weapons of mass destruction which Kazakhstan President Nazarbayev chaired on January 18, 2018.

The U.S. used the opportunity of the Security Council session not to discuss confidence-building measures, but rather to launch a multifaceted attack against Russia. Russia then responded in kind. This, and other indications of increased antagonism between nuclear-armed States, appears to have convinced some NAM countries that now was not an optimum time to hold the High-Level Conference.

On the other hand, it is understood that other NAM countries believed that this dynamic and other tensions and conflicts such as in North-East Asia, were the very reason that a High-Level Conference would be so important at this time.

Many civil society organizations share the latter view. “If ever there was a time when there was a need for a high-level summit … it is now,” said Jackie Cabasso, executive director of Western States Legal Foundation speaking at a press conference at the United Nations  on March 28.

“One of the things I think we’re here to say is that this opportunity should be seized upon by the nuclear powers which are confronting each other now in a very, very dangerous way that threatens all of us,” continued Cabasso. “This high-level conference could provide support and encouragement especially as it comes between the planned summit between the two Koreas in April and the U.S.-North Korea summit in May/June.”

There is concern that the postponing of the UN High-Level Conference might be a sign of ‘wet feet’ from the Non-Aligned Movement leading to it being cancelled altogether. “NAM needs to hear from civil society and from other non-nuclear governments that the High-Level Conference must proceed, either later in 2018 or in 2019,” says John Hallam, Convener of the Abolition 2000 Nuclear Risk Reduction Working group.

“The threats to humanity and the planet from the conflicts and policies of the nuclear armed States are too high, too risky, and too important to leave to them alone. The High-Level Conference is vital to pull them back from the nuclear abyss and set the world on a path to nuclear disarmament,” he adds.

Civil society action has been successful in the past in re-building the resolve of NAM to take action in the face of strong opposition from the nuclear-armed States.

In 1993, as a result of pressure from the nuclear-armed States, the NAM withdrew their resolution to the United Nations requesting the International Court of Justice to rule on the illegality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons. At that time, it appeared as though the initiative was lost.

However, a coalition of over 700 civil society organizations took action and convinced the NAM to resist the pressure from the nuclear-armed States and to re-submit the resolution to the UN General Assembly in 1994. The result was a successful vote in the UN General Assembly, followed by an historical case where the court affirmed the general illegality of the threat and use of nuclear weapons and the universal obligation to achieve nuclear disarmament.

A similar campaign by civil society in support of the UN High-Level Conference could convince NAM to move the UN General Assembly this October to re-schedule the UN High-Level Conference for 2019. Civil society organizations are meeting in New York to discuss the issue.

Women, Peace and Security Focal Points Network meets in Berlin to promote women’s role in peace processes

. . . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . . .

An article from UN Women

About 150 representatives from UN Member States, regional and international organizations and civil society from around the world met in Berlin, Germany, for the annual capital-level Women, Peace and Security Focal Points Network (WPS-FPN) meeting on April 9-10, 2018.

UN Women Deputy Executive Director Yannick Glemarec with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and other participants at the Women, Peace and Security Focal Points Network meeting in Berlin. Photo: Xander Heinl/photothek.net

The Network, initiated by Spain in 2015 during the high-level review of the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 and launched in 2016, serves as a cross-regional forum to exchange experiences and best practices to advance the implementation of the UN agenda on women, peace and security, and to improve coordination of funding and assistance to programmes.

Today, women remain a minority in all peace processes, representing only 4 per cent of the military component of UN peacekeeping missions, and 10 per cent of the police component. Despite increases since 2010, the percentage of gender-specific provisions in peace agreements declined in 2016. Violations against women human rights defenders persist and access of women and girls to justice and security remains hindered. In addition, harmful gender norms and structural barriers continue to contribute to inequalities and violence. Women in peacekeeping operations have been found to increase the credibility of forces, gain access to communities and vital information, and lead to an increase in reporting of sexual and gender-based crimes.

In his opening address, Heiko Maas, German Foreign Minister, emphasized that “Women can and must play an active role in conflict prevention, peace talks, reconstruction, reconciliation in societies and particularly in post­conflict situations.”

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Question for this article:

UN Resolution 1325, does it make a difference?

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He noted that one objective of the meeting was to “highlight how alliances can promote this agenda – alliances with regional organizations or strong partners such as the G7, with other networks and initiatives, but also, and very importantly, with civil society.”

Organized by Germany as current Chair of the Network, in close collaboration with Spain, Namibia and UN Women, the meeting focused on “Building Alliances to Advance the Women, Peace and Security Agenda” deepening the discussion on accountability mechanisms for conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence. Resources, professionalization of data collection and evidence finding were highlighted as key to promoting accountability, while comprehensive gender-sensitive conflict analysis and budgeting processes were highlighted as mechanisms to help ensure the implementation of strategic priorities and appropriate financing for the women, peace and security agenda across sectors.

In her keynote address on the second day, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström underlined that “Gender equality is the issue of our time. It is not a women issue, it is a peace and security issue.”
UN Women Deputy Executive Director for Policy and Programme, Yannick Glemarec, urged participants to seize the opportunities offered by the Network to effect tangible changes in the way challenges of implementing the Women, Peace and Security agenda are addressed.

During the meeting, the Focal Points reflected on the critical need for streamlining the different reporting mechanisms and consultation processes on women, peace and security to foster an enabling environment for accountability by Member States and regional organizations. At the local level, they advise for specific timelines, aligned indicators, adequate budgets and the active involvement of civil society actors as key components for successful national action plans.

The Focal Points agreed on key actions for the Network from the meeting, which is reflected in a joint communiqué  which will be issued as an official document of the UN Security Council.

In closing remarks, Selma Ashipala-Musavyi, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation of Namibia, who will Chair the Network in 2019, said of the Network, “We are there to show the way for women to never give up hope.” The Network is expected to host additional meetings in New York in the coming months and during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly.

(Thank you to the Good News Agency for calling our attention to this article.)

United Nations General Assembly Concludes High-Level Debate on Sustaining Peace


A press release from the United Nations

The General Assembly capped its high-level debate on peacebuilding and sustaining peace today [April 26] with a consensus resolution welcoming the Secretary-General’s January 2018 report on those activities and deciding to further discuss his recommendations to address existing gaps.

Adoption of the text, titled “Follow-up to the report of the Secretary-General on peacebuilding and sustaining peace”, coincides with the passage of a similar one in the Security Council (please see Press Release SC/13319), both encouraging action by Member States and the United Nations to implement the “twin” sustaining peace resolutions of 2016.

By its terms, the Assembly invited the relevant United Nations bodies and organs — including the Peacebuilding Commission — to further advance, explore and consider implementation of the report’s recommendations and options during its current and upcoming sessions.

By other terms, the 193-member body requested the Secretary-General to present, during its seventy-third session, an interim report elaborating on his recommendations and options, including for financing United Nations peacebuilding activities.

During the seventy-fourth session, he was requested to submit a report in connection with the next comprehensive review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture, focusing on continued implementation of resolution 70/262 and progress in the implementation of his recommendations and options contained in his report (document A/72/707-S/2018/43).

Throughout the day, delegates commended United Nations peacebuilding assistance as an important instrument for helping States overcome conflict and preventing its recurrence, while calling for more coordinated efforts among United Nations agencies and structures. Expressing concerns about sovereignty, several speakers called for interventions to be carried out in line with the United Nations Charter and according to the desires of Member States.

Calling for more national ownership, several underscored that peacebuilding and sustaining peace were the primary responsibility of Governments. Among them was Indonesia’s representative, who said that if the affected countries did not take charge of their destiny, lasting peace could not be achieved on the ground. The international community must listen to those countries, especially as they transitioned into the post-conflict phase.

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Question(s) related to this article:

What is the United Nations doing for a culture of peace?

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Other speakers said national efforts would only succeed with predictable and sustained financing. Calling for increased contributions to help countries with capacity-building, several delegates underscored the importance of aligning resources and working effectively with regional and local partners.

In that context, Sudan’s representative called for structural changes to humanitarian assistance and a new generation of peacekeeping, with a view of boosting development. Noting that the lack of development was a main reason behind the conflict in his country, he said investment was needed to help achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adding that the transfer of peacekeeping assistance towards that agenda would have a major impact on States.

Trinidad and Tobago’s delegate highlighted the unique security concerns of small island developing States, which must rely on the rule of law, strict observance of the Charter, and collective security mechanisms to guarantee their right to a secure, sovereign and peaceful existence. In her country, sustainable development was intricately linked to the safety and security of its people.

Meanwhile, the speaker from the University for Peace stressed that without education, societies would be condemned to repeating cycles of conflict and violence. That involved education for non-violence, for social inclusion and for the rule of law, with a focus on promoting skills, values and behaviours.

Reflecting on the success of the high-level meeting, Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, said the international community had recognized that holistic approaches and a culture of peace were needed for sustaining peace. While that goal was a difficult task, the international community had not shied away. Indeed, amid conflict and crises, it had a shared responsibility to bring sustaining peace to the people on the ground.

In other matters, the Assembly adopted a draft decision titled “United Nations high-level international conference on nuclear disarmament”, postponing the conference and its one-day organizational meeting to a date to be determined.

Subsequently, the Assembly elected Chad and Italy as members of the Committee for Programme and Coordination for a term beginning on the date of election and expiring on 31 December 2020.

Also speaking were representatives of Burkina Faso, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, Serbia, Angola, Namibia, Ethiopia, Andorra, United States, Bahrain, Tunisia, Algeria, Belarus and Syria, as well as the Permanent Observers of the Holy See and the State of Palestine.

Speakers from the Inter-Parliamentary Union and International Development Law Organization also addressed the Assembly.
The representatives of Iran, Turkey and Syria spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Assembly will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Monday, 30 April, for the International Law Commission.

[Note: Individual Statements are available here.]

Voices from 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62)


A article from UN Women

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the UN’s largest annual gathering on gender equality and women’s rights. It brings together governments, women’s rights, gender experts and other actors to build consensus and commitment on policy actions to advance women’s rights.

More than 4,300 civil society representatives from 130 countries participated in the 62nd session of the Commission, which focused this year on rural women and girls. Why do they come and what do they take back with them from this UN meeting? Here are some of their voices and perspectives.

Video of Catherine Mbukwa

Catherine Mbukwa, Project Officer with the Centre for Youth Empowerment and Civic Education, Malawi

“I’m here to learn from others. Being here means [learning] new skills. Let’s say in Malawi, we are tackling child marriage, and our friends [in another country] are in the forefront of ending child marriages, what is it that they are doing in their country to promote and empower women?”

Alice Lesepen, representing the Rendille peoples of Marsabit County, Kenya

“I’m here to represent the rural women from the indigenous community of Rendille. [Coming] from a pastoral community, our livelihood depends entirely on the land. [Rural and indigenous women] need to know how we can rightfully use our land without any interference. When we talk about food security, women are the ones providing for their families. Without land, we cannot do anything…we cannot keep our animals…we would lose our identity.”

Otilia Lux de Cotí, Advisor to MADRE and part of UN Women’s Civil Society Advisory Group in Latin America and the Caribbean, Guatemala

“Socialization of the CSW agreed conclusions is very important. This is how women activists in their respective areas of specialties learn about the commitments that Member States have pledged to achieve. It allows them to hold governments accountable, and ask for those commitments to be transformed into social policies. We have to drive this change in order to really make a difference for rural women and girls.”

Marija Andjelkovic, Director and founder of the Serbian NGO, ASTRA-Anti trafficking action, Serbia, grantee of UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women

“In our part of the world, the government listens more when there are recommendations from the UN, the EU, or the US State Department report on trafficking. For example, for years now, we have been advocating for compensation for victims of trafficking. Only two out of all identified victims (500 identified in Serbia) have received a decision of compensation in their favour. We have submitted a draft law on compensation for victims of violent crime, and included trafficking. Then, the Council of Europe and the CEDAW Committee adopted the recommendation for compensation for victims. That helped us. Now the government is working on a strategy for victims of crime and have said they will look into compensation as part of that. These recommendations, such as the CSW (agreed conclusions) give us tools to advocate with our own government. We produce shadow reports before CSW, and provide our own recommendations, and then we see if our recommendations are included.”

Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo, Rural women’s rights activist, Cameroon

“Among several challenges, one is access to credit. They are not talking about petite grants or microcredit, but macro credit…Rural women also want better sexual and reproductive health services, with better access to contraceptives and family planning products. Even basic education in these areas will help them.”

Sepali Kottegoda, Academic, activist and Technical Advisor on Women’s Economic Rights and Media, Sri Lanka

“Rural women want equal pay for the work they do. They also want more sharing of work within the house. There’s a lot of emotional rhetoric around women’s unpaid work—that they do this out of love for the family. But the reality is that women do much more unpaid work and have to also take part in paid work. The rural women from Sri Lanka also want land rights. The first preference is still given to men and the male child in terms of inheritance, and especially in government settlement schemes.”

Maria Leyesa (Daryl), Rural Women Coordinator for Philippine Peasant Institute and Convention Leader for the 1st National Rural Women Congress, Philippines

“They want their voices to be heard. They want their rights to be recognized as equally as men and boys have their rights recognized. To have control over their lives, land, water resources and their bodies, to have access to education and other services, to be protected against climate change and natural disasters, and to protect their countryside against rapid urbanization and encroachment by corporations.”

Wekoweu (Akole) Tsuhah, North East Network, Nagaland, India

“Women in rural communities want to be recognized for their contribution to food and nutrition security for their families and the nation. Everyone does farming in my community, but women don’t have the status of “farmers” because they don’t own land and resources. They want a platform where they can be heard. They want access to technology that can alleviate the drudgery of their work and support for small-scale, sustainable, climate-resilient agriculture.”

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Question for this article

Do women have a special role to play in the peace movement?

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Rukmini Rao, Founder of Gramya Resource Centre for Women, India

“Rural women have the knowledge to change the world, but most of the work they do is unseen and unpaid. One of our demands at Gramya Resource Centre for Women is that women should have land titles in their names. So, we are pressing the government to recognize that women are farmers and to give them access to markets, economic goods, and all the other things that they need as farmers. Widows are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence. And when she is non-literate, she doesn’t even know where to access any government scheme. A widow is considered to be a bad omen. We ask widows not to follow all the customary practices…We find that by organizing women, many issues can be addressed.”

Helda Khasmy, Chair of SERUNI, Indonesia

“Most members of SERUNI are in rural areas, and one of their biggest challenges is access to land and ownership of land. There’s a monopoly of land ownership by big corporations in Indonesia. Women don’t inherit land as equals to men, but now their men too have very little or no land. This makes women even poorer. They go on to become low-wage workers in the palm oil, sugar or tobacco plantations, where they often work in poor conditions, for low wages, and are exposed to harmful pesticides that affect their health. When women menstruate, they can ask for holiday, but the plantation officials ask them to take off their pants to prove that they are menstruating.”

Mireille Tushiminina, Shalupe Foundation, the Democratic Republic of Congo

“If you ask the Congolese people, what is peace for them, they will tell you that they want to live in a peaceful environment, where they can live in any neighbourhood, and not be afraid to walk to school or fetch water. Gender-based violence is not only happening in eastern Congo, it’s a disease that has spread to every corner of DRC. Mothers and fathers have watched their girls being raped at gun point. How can a girl grow up to push the African vision of progress and development, the African Agenda 2063, if all she learns today is to become a seamstress? We need to invest in girls’ empowerment in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Nehad Abo El-Komsan, Lawyer, Co-founder and Chairwoman of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, Egypt

“In the recent years, there have been many positive developments in Egypt. Women’s rights were included in our constitution in 2014 and since then many legislations have been changed, especially in relation to violence against women. The Egyptian Center of Women’s Rights developed a national strategy for stopping violence against women. Sexual harassment, female genital mutilation and child marriage have been included in the law, with harsh penalties. Although these good developments have taken place, women still face challenges. Implementation of the law is a major challenge. It is very important to raise awareness of law enforcement authorities and [help them] understand it is not just a women’s issue, it is protection for the whole society.”

Nandini Chami, IT for Change, India

“Information and communication technologies are a vital part of the enabling technologies that women need for opening up various pathways to political and socio-economic empowerment. The most basic question we can start with is the question of access, because there is still a huge gender digital divide that needs to be bridged. We also know that there is a rural-urban divide. Rural women are less likely to be using the internet compared to let’s say urban educated and employed women. This intersectional divide is something we need to address. [In the meantime] governance is going digital by default. You need the internet for your basic services. Also, we have to think about the fact that many people don’t speak global languages such as English, and so how do you create context-appropriate content for women and girls?”

Purity Soinato Oiyie, Maasai girl and anti-FGM activist, Kenya

“I was only 10 or 11 years old, when my father decided to circumcise me. I talked to my class teacher and she informed the police chief. Just two hours before the cutting ceremony, the police came and took me away. Today, I work with World Vision and the Kenyan anti-FGM Board to help raise awareness among people in the villages. It’s difficult to convince people to stop FGM because it’s a cultural practice. I go to the schools and talk to the girls and the teachers, I talk to the Maasai people in our language…I tell them about the importance of education. What we need is free education for girls. The Maasai are pastoral people and many parents don’t have money to send their girls to school.”

Sohini Shoaib, Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan, Bihar, India

“There are huge farmer uprisings that are happening [in India] and they are mostly people who don’t own land. Recently there were some 40-50,000 peasants who went on a long march to Mumbai, the capital city. They walked there to ask for their rights and highlight the farmers plight and ask for climate justice. I come from the Kosi flood basins in Bihar, and every year there are massive floods in the area, on a scale that hasn’t been seen before. In most cases, floods are triggered by or escalated by manmade reasons; one of the factors is climate change. This has made the communities very vulnerable, so every year they have to start from scratch. Women are rising up, and not just women, all these people who feel they have been silenced. For so many years farmer suicides have been going on…Then there’s large scale displacement because of the huge dams that are being built and the land being taken over, GMOS being introduced, leading to a lot of changes in the environment, which has affected farming. I pushed for our friends who are actually from rural communities to be able to participate [in CSW]. But there were so many issues, from language barriers to visa procedures. And so who gets to come? I do. That’s not fair, but hopefully things will change.”

Note: All photos by UN Women/Ryan Brown

Youth Dialogue at CSW62 presents policy recommendations for inclusion of young women and girls living in rural areas


An article from UN Women

“Women and girls who live in rural areas are not at the danger of being left behind, they ARE being left behind,” said Lopa Banerjee, Director of the Civil Society Division at UN Women, opening the Youth Dialogue hosted on 17 March, at the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women. The Dialogue, focusing on the theme, “Leave No One Behind”, witnessed spirited discussions revolving around the challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of young women and girls living in rural communities, and was led by UN Women in collaboration with the UN Youth Envoy and nine civil society organizations.

Young activists gathered at the CSW62 Youth Dialogue on 17 March, 2018. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

“As young people, what all of us need to understand is that using our voice doesn’t cost anything,” said Jaha Dukureh, anti-FGM activist from The Gambia, and now UN Women’s Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Africa, emphasizing on the importance of solidarity among the youth.

The event called attention to the structural barriers faced by young women and girls in rural communities and highlighted practical solutions in the form of recommendations for policy makers.

“We are the largest generation the world has ever seen. We are 1.8 billion strong,” said Jayathma Wickramanayake, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, moderating the inter-generational dialogue with six young activists working on various issues such as access to ICT, indigenous people’s rights, and rights of people living with disabilities.

One of the panellists, Edward Ndopu from the World Economic Forum, originally from South Africa, said, “the barrier [for young people] is not in participation, the barrier is to leadership. I come from a continent with the world’s largest youth demographic. But in the African continent, when we look at the people who represent us in office, the average age of Members of Parliament is between 65 and 70.”

Shelley Cabrera from the Continental Liaison for Indigenous Women of the Americas Network, another panellist, said, “As youth, we need to take a stance and pass on the torch to those who will follow.”

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Question for this article

Youth initiatives for a culture of peace, How can we ensure they get the attention and funding they deserve?

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In a conversation with the youth, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive Director of UN Women, observed, “the first thing that worries me about the situation of young people and women is the normalization of exclusion. One challenge and responsibility of the UN is to address this normalization.” She urged young people to come together and form alliances for accelerating progress.

Throughout the day, youth participants, academics, experts and activists from rural and urban communities discussed a range of issues that impact rural youth, including health, violence, education, land rights and the environment, economic justice, and access to information and technology. A set of policy recommendations were presented in conclusion by the youth, which included: ensure access to free quality education – inclusive of digital literacy, human rights education and comprehensive sex education, ; ensure services are well-funded, survivor-centred, free, and accessible to young women, girls living and working in rural areas; increased opportunities that enable young women and girls and trans youth living and working in rural communities to meaningfully participate the labor market by investing in financial literacy programmes, providing training opportunities that lead to decent and meaningful work as well ability to unionize and to form cooperatives; adopt and enforce legislation that gives girls and young women equal inheritance rights, as well as rights to property and resources. 

Responding to the recommendations, Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said, “the recommendations will be taken to the Chair of CSW and to negotiating delegates to inform the development of the Agreed Conclusions of the CSW62.” She also encouraged the participants to take these recommendations to their own communities and disseminate widely. She assured that UN Women will support its country offices in the dissemination and advocacy.

The Vice Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth from Germany, Ms. Elke Ferner, reiterated the vital role of the youth as agents of change and promised to work more closely with the Missions to include the voices of young rural women and girls in their delegations to CSW. Canada’s Senator from Manitoba, Ms. Marilou McPhedran, committed to take all the recommendations to the Prime Minister and to the Youth Advisory Council in Canada.

Rural women and girls routinely face exclusion in all spaces, and recognizing this, Jayathma Wickramanayake insisted on data collection as one of the main components for the achievement of Agenda 2030 for rural women and girls and said that systems must be put in place for shadow reporting on SDGs and youth in rural areas.

Wrapping up the event, UN Women’s Lopa Banerjee said, “This dialogue was conceived as a space where young women and girls from rural communities can discuss how they can thrive as leaders, not simply live, not survive: but thrive. Our work at UN Women will be to make sure that these community-led solutions, whether on education, on violence, on stigma-free comprehensive sexual education, or land rights, will be taken into account in the CSW62 agreed conclusions.”

This year’s Youth Dialogue followed an inter-generational civil society dialogue  organized by UN Women and partners, which also diverse constituencies from around the globe to discuss what it would take to leave no woman or girl in any rural area behind in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Cuba a ‘Champion’ of Children’s Rights: UNICEF

. . . . . HUMAN RIGHTS . . . . .

An article from Telesur TV

The United Nations Children Fund, or Unicef , has declared Cuba a ‘champion’ in children’s rights. According to Unicef 99.5 percent of Cuban children under six years of age attend an early childhood education program or institution.

María Cristina Perceval, the regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean region, said, Cuba’s exemplary model of early education, “Educa a Tu Hijo (Educate Your Child),” is being adopted by many other nations. 

Perceval, who made the comments during a recent event in Cuba’s capital, Havana, also highlighted the significant advances made by the country in health. The Caribbean nation was the first to work towards the elimination of maternal and child transmission of HIV / AIDS in 2015. 

Health and education policies form the core of Cuba’s socialist programs. Cuba first initiated the social program focused on children’s well-being, 26 years ago. The Unicef in the region works in collaboration with the government in these social programs.

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Questions related to this article:

Rights of the child, How can they be promoted and protected?

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The ‘Educate Your Child’ initiative promotes the role of family and community in children’s formative years. Through the program, the government also prioritizes the participatory methodologies and social commitment in the area of child development. 

“The government has installed a mechanism for communities to not only deal with emergency situations, but also with other phenomena, with efficacy, professionalism, and speed,” Perceval added. 

“We are grateful to share this information that the education mechanism which incorporates childhood education, elimination of vertical transmission of HIV, and prevention of teen pregnancies. Champions, champions, champions!”

According to the 2016 Unicef report which cited the official statistics from the Ministry of Education, “There are more than 855,000 children under six years of age in Cuba, of whom 99.5 percent attend an early childhood education program or institution.”  

“Cuba has adopted a holistic approach to early childhood development (ECD), providing children under six and their families with a system of integrated services that aims to promote the best start in life for all children and the maximum development of each child’s potential,” the report added.

Perceval also pointed out that communities have played an essential role in “allowing with much humility to work on what is lacking,” adding that there is work to be done against gender violence in the region. 

“The Federation of Cuban women is immensely fierce, but we have known that violent practices could occur in public spaces and have insisted on eradication of all types of child abuse in communities and institutions,” The U.N. senior official added.

March 28: 1st meeting of UN High-Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament


A newsletter received by email from Unfold Zero

On March 28, the United Nations will hold the preparatory meeting for the 2018 UN High-Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament.

At the preparatory meeting, UN member states will appoint the President (Chair) and other officials, adopt the agenda and agree on the rules of procedure for the UN High-Level Conference, which will take place at the UN from May 14-16.

Frame from the Reach-High video to promote the UN High-Level Conference

This will include a decision on whether to restrict NGO participation in the High-Level Conference to only ECOSOC organisations, or open it up to the range of disarmament organisations that are permitted to participate in other UN disarmament forums (See UN High-Level Conference: Call for wider NGO participation).

In addition, a number of UN member states will likely use this occasion on March 28 to announce their participation (or non-participation) in the UN High-Level Conference,

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Question related to this article:

Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?

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What will be your government’s position?

Will your government announce its intention to attend the UN High-Level Conference at the highest level, in order to support and advance nuclear risk-reduction and disarmament measures?

Will your government support a wide participation of disarmament NGOs in the UN High-Level Conference, or accept a restriction to only allow ECOSOC organisations the possibility to attend?

If you have not already asked your government these questions, click here for a sample letter to send to your prime minister, foreign minister and UN ambassador (plus contacts for many of them).

The Abolition 2000 Youth Network invites young and ‘young at heart’ to be a part of a global video action to support the UN High-Level Conference.

Send to marzhan@pnnd.org your video clip of ‘reaching high for a nuclear-weapon-free world.’ They will compile the videos and show to world leaders to encourage them to take action at the High-Level Conference. Click here to view the promo video.

Best wishes and we look forward to seeing many of you in New York for the UN High-Level Conference and civil society side-events in May, 2018.

Yours sincerely