Tag Archives: United Nations

European Parliament Calls for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly and a UN Reform Summit in 2020


An article from the DWFed, Democratic World Federalists

In a resolution adopted today [July 27], the European Parliament called on the EU’s governments to advocate “the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly” (UNPA) and to support a “UN 2020 summit” that will consider “comprehensive reform measures for a renewal and strengthening of the United Nations.”

TAccording to the European Parliament, a UNPA should be established “within the UN system in order to increase the democratic character, the democratic accountability and the transparency of global governance and to allow for better citizen participation in the activities of the UN and, in particular, to contribute to the successful implementation of the UN Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The directly elected parliament of the EU’s citizens called on the EU’s 28 member states represented in the Council of the EU to advocate the creation of a UNPA at the upcoming 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly which will start in September.

European parliamentarian Jo Leinen (S&D) who had initiated the call for a UNPA said that “the UN urgently requires more openness and stronger democratic foundations.” He added that “the European Parliament therefore calls for the establishment of a Parliamentary Assembly within the United Nations system” and that “the European Union and its member states should now play an active role in the implementation of this innovation.”

The European Parliament’s rapporteur on this year’s recommendations on the EU’s UN policy, Eugen Freund (S&D), said that since he first encountered UN reform forty years ago “unfortunately, not much has changed.” He added that “the General assembly has more members now, but it is still a body of unelected diplomats. Therefore, the idea of eventually complementing them with elected parliamentarians is a very appealing one. They would certainly be closer to the populace and thus would have to regularly answer to their constituency. Whether that would also streamline the decision-making processes remains to be seen.”

Other supporters of the call for a UNPA in the parliament’s committee on foreign affairs included Elmar Brok (EPP), Soraya Post (S&D), Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D), Helmut Scholz (GUE/NGL), and Andrey Kovatchev (EPP).

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Question for this article:

Proposals for Reform of the United Nations: Are they sufficiently radical?

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The European Parliament’s resolution was welcomed by Ivone Soares, a parliamentarian from Mozambique and a member of the African Union’s Pan-African Parliament. “With resolutions passed by the European Parliament, the Pan-African Parliament and the Latin-American Parliament, the time has come for progressive governments in these three major world regions to consider the creation of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly,” Soares said.

Daniel Jositsch, a member of the Swiss Council of States commented that “the escalating crisis in international cooperation shows that new ways must be found to combat global problems. It is therefore very positive that the European Parliament is calling on the European states to speak out in favour of the creation of a UN Parliament. It is important that they will not simply pay lip service to this goal, but that concrete implementation measures are being taken.”

“From the many initiatives in favor of a more peaceful, fair and democratic world the creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly is the decisive one. The recent support given by the European Parliament to this proposal shows that the members of the most important supranational parliamentary body are ready to work for its creation,” commented Fernando Iglesias, a member of the Chamber of Deputies of Argentina.

Jo Leinen, Ivone Soares, Daniel Jositsch and Fernando Iglesias are co-chairs of the parliamentary advisory group of the international Campaign for a UNPA which has been endorsed by over 1,500 elected representatives worldwide. The campaign’s secretary-general, Andreas Bummel, said that the European Parliament’s call for a UNPA was “a bold and important step at a time when multilateralism is under attack.” “Governments interested in defending and strengthening the UN and democracy worldwide should urgently work for the democratisation of global institutions and a UN Parliamentary Assembly is a key to achieve this,” he added. Recently, the Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney stated that Ireland was “open minded” relative to proposals for a UNPA.

The European Parliament’s resolution on the EU’s UN policy also recommended, among other things, the establishment of “an open and inclusive intergovernmental preparatory process under the auspices of the UN General Assembly for a UN 2020 summit, on the occasion of the UN’s 75th anniversary” that would consider “comprehensive reform measures for a renewal and strengthening of the United Nations.”

Earlier this year Jo Leinen and Andreas Bummel published a book on the history, today’s relevance and future implementation of the proposal of a world parliament and on improving democratic world governance.

The Emergence of Global Institutions for the 21st Century


Abstract of Global Governance and the Emergence of Global Institutions for the 21st Century by Augusto Lopez-Claros, Arthur Dahl, and Maja Groff

This proposal builds upon structures for international cooperation existing at least since the creation of the UN. The proposed institutions and processes aim to strike a balance between overly ambitious proposals with little chance of acceptance, and more politically feasible ones that fail to solve the multiple problems of today’s world. 

We propose revisions to the UN Charter that provide the legal basis for a new system of global governance, supplemented by other reforms not requiring Charter amendment. 

The powers, composition and voting method of the General Assembly (GA) are revised, giving it some powers to legislate with direct effect on member states, mainly in the areas of security, maintenance of peace and management of the global environment. These powers would be explicitly enumerated in the revised Charter, also specifying those which remain vested with member states. The system of representation in the GA is revised to enhance its democratic legitimacy. 

A Second Chamber is proposed, deriving its authority directly from the global citizenry; its representatives would serve as advocates of particular issues of global concern, rather than representing the interests of their respective states. At the outset, the chamber would have advisory powers, but would be gradually integrated into the international constitutional order, attached to the GA, thus creating a bicameral world legislature. 

An Executive Council, composed of 24 members, elected by the GA and operating under its jurisdiction, would replace the UN Security Council. Its focus would shift to implementation, management and effective operation of the UN. The veto power of the five permanent members of the current Security Council would be eliminated. An executive arm of the new UN, the Council would have broad authority to monitor, supervise and direct various aspects of its work in security, conflict prevention and management of the global environment, as well as other areas of priority identified by the GA. The Executive Council would provide general oversight and ensure good governance, transparency, efficiency and coherence of an effective, new UN system. The Secretary General would chair the Executive Council, facilitating continuity within the UN system and linking to the UN Secretariat. 

A UN International Security Force would be created, deriving its ultimate authority from the GA via the Executive Council. This two-part Force would consist of a Standing Force and a Security Force Reserve, both composed of volunteers. The Standing Force would be a full-time body of professionals, numbering from 500,000 to 1,000,000 as determined by the GA. The Force would provide for security and promote peace around the world, firmly anchored in the notion that force may at times be necessary to deliver justice and the rule of law. It would also address one of the main flaws of our current UN system: namely, the absence of a reliable, legitimate international mechanism to enforce decisions made by the Security Council. Subject to a number of safeguards, the International Security Force will be vital to enhancing the credibility of the UN, and to preventing conflicts and maintaining peace and security throughout the world. 

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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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The peaceful settlement of international disputes and enforcement of international law will become mandatory, giving the International Court of Justice (ICJ) compulsory jurisdiction over all substantive matters pertaining to the interpretation and/or enforcement of international law for all UN members, overturning the current requirement for states’ agreement to adjudicate. A revised Charter would also make acceptance of the statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) mandatory. An International Human Rights Tribunal would be established for systematic, binding adjudication and review, significantly strengthening the existing weak and non-binding human rights oversight mechanisms. The substantive rights adjudicated by the international Tribunal will include key UN human rights treaties, many of which currently have non-binding individual complaint mechanisms. 

To reassure the people of the world that basic individual rights will not be violated in the exercise of the UN’s strengthened mandate, a new Bill of Rights prescribing parameters for UN action would include fundamental human rights protections to be applied and interpreted by a new, specialized chamber of the ICJ. 

Recognizing that a strengthened UN system with a broader set of responsibilities and institutions would need reliable funding, we propose a mechanism linking national contributions to the UN budget to a fixed proportion of indirect tax collection, similar to mechanisms currently operating in the EU. Additional funding mechanisms will be explored balancing universal participation and the ability to pay.

Implementation will require UN Charter reform, building on existing Charter amendment provisions, and mechanisms for built-in flexibility through future amendments. Most of the broader UN system of bodies, commissions, programmes and specialized agencies will be retained, evolving under the new system as necessary. A World Conference on Global Institutions in 2020 is proposed as a starting point for the reform process.

Beyond the above structural components, we address specific challenges to the global order as examples of implementation. Effective security requires general disarmament, and we propose a binding, staged approach to reduce armaments to only those needed for internal security. To address growing income inequality and begin global management of the world’s resources will require a new multilateral specialized agency. The corruption undermining effective governance requires a global response through new international implementation and enforcement tools for existing mechanisms. Education will be an important support to the reforms.

The model corrects the failures in the present UN Charter that prevent its security function from operating effectively, enabling the UN to implement the decisions taken in the global interest. It creates a legally-binding international legislative function, beginning with security, maintenance of peace, and management of the global environment, given significant current and emerging global challenges and risks, as climate change accelerates and population growth threatens planetary carrying capacity and boundaries. It places the core values necessary for a global community at the heart of international governance and action, builds on the existing positive accomplishments in global governance and international consensus, and opens the door to widespread civic participation and acceptance.

(Thank you to Transcend Media Service for bringing this to our attention.)

An unprecedented upsurge of movements for women’s rights: UN Women annual report 2017-2018

. . . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . . .

Foreward to Annual Report by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

In 2017 we saw an unprecedented upsurge of movements for women’s rights, equality, safety and justice. The tireless work of activists has been central to this global drive, and women all over the world continue to demonstrate the power of many voices speaking as one. Together, we are calling for opportunity and accountability, drawing momentum from grass-roots networks and forging coalitions that stretch right up to the leaders of governments, businesses and civic institutions.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka visited a camp for people displaced by conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Despite the terrors of war and sexual violence, women leaders are forging ahead to make new, better lives for themselves and other women in the camp.

There is a profound hunger for change in women’s lives, and a growing recognition that when women band together they can achieve it—whether online through social media or offline through more traditional mobilization. They are confronting, challenging and condemning the practices that have normalized gender inequality, poverty, sexual miscon- duct, exclusion and discrimination across every area of life.

As our Annual Report shows, UN Women is supporting women politicians, electoral officials, voters, lawmakers, civil society activists and many others to claim their equal right to lead and be heard. The report highlights the experiences of a multitude of formidable women, from individuals like Alice Wahome, Kenyan parliamentarian, to the combined success story of the 14,000 Nepalese women who won an unprecedented 41 per cent of local government seats in 2017.

We salute these women leaders in formal positions as well as all those who have bravely spoken out against sexual harassment and violence through the #MeToo movement, and others. We commend the women who spoke out in the International Criminal Court against those who used rape as a weapon of war. We celebrate activists who campaigned for equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

We recognize those who advocated for legal reform in countries such as Tunisia, to end a provision that allowed rapists to escape persecution if they married their victims. We acknowledge those who have taken to the streets in India to condemn the murder and rape of young children, turning protests into broader-based movements that engage entire communities. We honour the indigenous leaders who have stood up for their custodial rights to land and traditional practices, and the human rights defenders who have even lost their lives for their cause.

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Question for this article

Does the UN advance equality for women?

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Through our report we celebrate individuals we have supported, whose life experiences represent hundreds of thousands of others like them, and whose achievements are accelerating progress towards gender equality. Small business owner Olga Macz of Guatemala told us about the increased income, independence and mobility that came with learning professional production and marketing skills.

Training also brought her increased understanding and assertion of her rights. In Egypt, more than 17,000 women from the poorest and most marginalized rural areas now have their first access to community-based village savings and loan associations, building not just savings and busi- ness opportunities but confidence and increased autonomy.

The time is now to end all forms of gender inequality. The culture of gender-based poverty, abuse and exploitation has to end with a new generation of equality that lasts for all women and girls, no matter where they live, or how they live. We must leave no one behind.

UN Women has a special relationship with the women’s movement; we arose from that activism. Civil society has had a historically crucial role in leading global action on gender equality by promoting reform, highlighting the complexities of the challenges facing women, influencing policies, participating in monitoring, and upholding ac- countability. We are working to create stronger support for women’s political activism and a broader space for women’s civil society voices so that our efforts combine to benefit those who truly need change most.

At the same time, we also need a movement of male feminists, and young men and boys who value and respect women and girls. Today’s activism needs to alter the way we listen to women and the way we look at them, recog- nizing the power of stereotypes to influence how we value people. Activists and leaders in the HeForShe movementin 2017 found tangible and scaleable solutions for inequal- ities, like the 3,500 child marriages annulled in Malawi by local chiefs, or the practical accountability actions taken in Iceland to make sure that companies put the equal pay law into practice.

At the 2018 UN Commission on the Status of Women, youth captured the urgency of the moment. They highlighted the importance of being present and participating fully in all the issues that affect their lives. They emphasized working in an intergenerational context so that they can learn from those who have been around for much longer and contrib- ute to giving us direction for the future.

The time is now to hold ourselves and our leaders accountable for progress, for all women.

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