Tag Archives: United Nations

Nuclear Abolition Day: Security Council session clashes with UN High-Level Meeting


An article from Unfold Zero

The UN General Assembly held a high level meeting on nuclear disarmament on Wednesday last week (September 26) to commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

Presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and other leaders from around the world used the opportunity to promote key initiatives and measures for nuclear disarmament including the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, nuclear-weapon-free zones, de-alerting, no-first-use, stockpile reductions, the Korean peace and denuclearization process, the Iran nuclear nonproliferation deal, the recently adopted treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons and the global elimination of nuclear weapons through a nuclear weapons convention.

However, apart from India and Pakistan, the nuclear armed States were noticeably missing from the meeting. The P5 (China, France, Russia, UK and the USA) were instead down the hall in the Security Council chambers for a competing event on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction chaired by US President Donald Trump. Their absence from the High Level Meeting highlighted the fact that the P5 place very little priority on their obligations to eliminate their own weapons of mass destruction, focusing instead on preventing others from acquiring such weapons.

Photo by John Angelilio

Youth activist calls on states to ‘Move the Nuclear Weapons Money’

‘The United Nations and its member countries should focus more on disarmament for sustainable development’, says 18 year old environmental activist and youth leader Kehkashan Basu who was selected by the President of the UN General Assembly as one of the two representatives of civil society to address the September 26 UN High Level Meeting.

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Question related to this article:

Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?

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‘Every second, a person dies of hunger. Which means that by the time I finish speaking, 500 more people would have died of hunger and starvation,’ Ms Basu told the UN session. ‘And yet the nuclear-armed States continue to spend billions of dollars for building nuclear stockpiles, ostensibly in the name of security, but in reality threatening current and future generations and violating the rights of children to a peaceful and non-irradiated planet.’

‘Our banks, universities, cities, pension funds and governments continue to invest in the corporations manufacturing and promoting the nuclear arms race for their own personal gain with no consideration for the ethics of investing in death,’ she said.

‘Civil society organisations, in cooperation with parliamentarians from around the world, have launched the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money campaign to cut the $100 billion annual nuclear weapons budget and reallocate these resources into the Sustainable Development Goals and other areas of human and environmental need. This includes direct cuts to nuclear weapons budgets, and divestment from the nuclear weapons industry. Already four governments and a number of cities, banks and investment funds have adopted nuclear weapons divestment policies.’ (Click here to read the full speech and see the video of Ms Basu’s speech).

Ms Basu was also a keynote speaker at Youth, disarmament and sustainable devlopment, an international youth forum held in New York to commemorate UN Peace Day (Sep 21) and International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

Special screenings of ‘The Man who saved the World’

The International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons is held on September 26, the anniversary of the incident in 1983 when a nuclear war almost erupted by accident. On this day, the Soviet nuclear early warning center Serpukhov-15 detected ballistic missiles heading towards Moscow. Stanislav Petrov, duty officer at the time, reported a ‘false alarm’ despite the information, and probably averted a nuclear ‘retaliation’ from the Soviet Union.

The story of this incident, and the follow-up visit by Stanislav Petrov to the USA 30 years later, is told in the award winning movie ‘The Man Who Saved the World.’ The movie was shown in a number of special screenings around the world to commemorate the International Day.

UN Secretary-General’s remarks at Peace Bell Ceremony on the International Day of Peace


An article from the United Nations News Service

It is for me an enormous pleasure to be with all of you during this International Day for Peace.

We are here because we are determined and we do not give up.

We see conflicts multiplying everywhere in the world. We see links between conflicts and terrorism. We see insecurity prevailing. We see people suffering. But we don’t give up.

Secretary-General António Guterres rings the Peace Bell at the annual ceremony held at UN Headquarters in observance of the International Day of Peace. UN Photo/Mark Garten

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Question for this article

What has happened this year (2018) for the International Day of Peace?

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We know that when we appeal for combatants to have a pause to respect this day, we know that many will not respect it. But we don’t give up.

When we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we know that human rights are violated in so many parts of the world, we even know that the human rights agenda is losing ground. But we don’t give up because respect for human rights and human dignity is a basic condition for peace.

It is true that extreme poverty is being reduced but we see inequality growing. But again we don’t give up because we believe inequality is one of the most important factors of instability and conflict. So we will pursue our Agenda, the 2030 Agenda, The Sustainable Development Goals, our struggle for a fair globalization because there is no development without peace but there is also no peace without development.

We will not give up. Peace is the unifying concept that brings us together at the United Nations.

Peace is at risk. Peace is violated in so many places. But we will not give up.

Thank you for your determination and thank you for your strong commitment for our common cause.

Federico Mayor: The Culture of Peace: a credible pathway to sustaining peace


Speech by Federico Mayor at UN High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace

After the impressive Plenary Segment of this morning and afternoon; after the rich debate of this excellent Panel, I consider that to put into practice the culture of peace and non-violence, we must

Photo of Federico Mayor speaking at Forum by Bircan Unver, GMCOP

1.- have particularly in mind:

– the Programme of Action of the Resolution of the GA of 13 September 1999.

– the GA Resolution of 16 December, 2016 – Follow-up.

– the GA Resolution of 11 December, 2017 – Follow-up, as well, both of them agreed by very important number of countries. And very populated ones, as China, India, …

2.- The General Assembly has highlighted in these Resolutions, as well as in the UN High Level Forums since 2012, the necessity –more important now than ever because of the potentially irreversible processes, socially and environmentally – of the effective implementation of the culture of peace. Tomorrow can be late.

3.- Many thanks, dear Ambassador Chowdhury, for your tirelessly efforts in favour of a culture of peace and non-violence. It is completely inacceptable that every day thousands of human beings die of hunger and extreme poverty, while more than 4 billion dollars are invested in armament and military expenditures.

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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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4.- I must emphasize the relevance of the culture of peace right now, when we see again supremacism, fanaticism, racism… being widespread without an immediate reaction. Have we forgotten what happened because of the exclusion and discrimination of nazism, fascism and Japanese imperial policies, leading to the II World War?

5.- A new concept of security must be adopted, in the context of an efficient reinforcement of the crucial role of the UN System, with the complete elimination of the oligarchic and plutocratic groups (G7, G8, G20), main responsibles of the present lack of multilateral democratic governance in the world.

6.- In the new era, it is urgent the transition from a culture of domination, violence and war to a culture of encounter, dialogue, conciliation, alliance and peace. From force to word, from “para bellum” in the well known dictum “Si vis pacem, para bellum” to “para verbum”, starting with ourselves, with our every day behaviour.

7.- We had today here the leading example of Rigoberta Menchú, Nobel Peace Prize 1992. She knows well the immense and in depth terrible impact of violence and she has given us with her life the best reference of the new ways to overcome hate and aggression… and to share and live together, all different but all united. Her speech this morning has been extremely lucid and courageous. Every dawn we must take it into account.

8.- We have today here as well the Rector of UPEACE, Prof. Francisco Rojas. I wish to thank him for all he is doing to mobilize the academic and scientific communities in favour of a culture of peace. The Earth Charter is one of the main pillars of action of UPEACE.

Dear President, ladies and gentlemen: the first phrase of the UN Charter –“We, the peoples”- was premature in 1945. The human beings were being born, living and dying in some square kilometres. And they were silent, obedient and fearful. But now, “the peoples” know what happens around the world, can express themselves freely and, above all, they are men and women. Now they become world citizens and must be mobilized for the urgent transition from force to word. Now, for the first time in history “the peoples” can take in their hands the reins of the humanity common destiny, and ensure sustainable peace worldwide.

Synopsis of the UN High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace


Statement at the closing of UN High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace on behalf of the President of the UN General Assembly

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the President of the General Assembly, His Excellency, Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, I want to thank you for participating in this High-Level Forum.

Our discussions today were very rich. They brought many aspects and issues to the table. And, I will not be able to summarise them in a few minutes.

Instead, I will focus on three areas – which I think came to the fore.

Photo from the Culture of Peace Initiative

I. Sustaining Peace

First, we talked about the state our world is in, when it comes to peace.

And a lot of it was far from positive. Many of you pointed to the changing nature of conflicts. From more interstate violence…… to the proliferation of non-state and terrorist actors.

Others talked about the devastating effects of conflicts in their own countries.

So, we heard about a lot of pain and suffering. But we also listened to many messages of hope. In particular, on the topic of Sustaining Peace.

It was clear that there is wide support for this new approach. And we heard that it can be a credible pathway to a culture of peace.

For example, in Liberia. The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the country has now closed its doors. And Liberians have turned peace from an objective into a tangible part of daily life.

Also, Colombia was flagged as another example. This country was home to armed conflict for over five decades. But, now, a culture of peace is growing stronger every day.

These achievements were made possible through hard work and sustained investment

– by national actors, regional partners and the international community.
Our discussion showed that the potential of Sustaining Peace is huge. We are already harnessing some of it. But a lot remains untapped.

Many of you argued that certain tools should be used more by the United Nations

– from good offices and mediation support ……to longer-term peacebuilding partnerships. And you pointed to gaps at the regional and national levels.
So, we still have work to do.

II. Coherence Across Pillars

Secondly, I think we acknowledged something important today. Which is: if we want to achieve a culture of peace, we need to look beyond, just, peace.

Many of you stressed the vital role played by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Ms. Rigoberta Menchu told us that inequalities and exclusion can destroy the conditions needed for a culture of peace to thrive. And we heard about how poverty eradication, and inclusive growth, can increase the chances of peace taking hold.

Today’s Forum also placed major emphasis on education. I want to repeat a line from the Constitution of UNESCO, which was quoted today: “Wars begin in the minds of men”.

Of course, wars begin in the minds of both men and women. So, the sooner we can promote peace, in the minds of both men and women, the better. And that means starting from the first days of a child’s education.

Climate change also featured in our Forum. Some of you raised the warning flags. And you told us that the effects of climate change can spark or worsen conflict.

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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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We also talked about finance. We heard that too much money is flowing towards securitisation and armaments. But not enough is being used to stop conflict at its roots – and invest in drivers of peace. Other delegations argued that illicit financial flows pose a threat to peace and security. And we heard resounding calls for more predictable financing for Sustaining Peace.

Human rights form another issue which came up, again and again, today. We heard speakers and delegates from all over the world call for a human-rights-based approach to both peace and development.

Almost every delegation flagged gender equality as a priority. A culture of peace cannot exist without it. That was clear, before this Forum. But our discussions today have reaffirmed it. Some women are actors of conflict. And many, many others are agents of peace. But all must lead, participate and be counted.

Moreover, an emphasis was placed on young people. Some of you stressed that the vast majority of young people are passionate about peace. So, yes, we do need more action, to prevent young people from joining terrorist groups or mobilising for violence. But we also need far more support for the young people who are out there, on the ground, working for peace.

III. Partnerships

A third theme today was partnerships.

Governments shared some best practices. These ranged from support to the United Nations peacebuilding activities to efforts for national reconciliation or inter-religious dialogue.

Moreover, regional actors featured strongly. We heard a lot about the efforts of regional organisations – from ASEAN and the EU to the African Union- in supporting peacebuilding on the ground.

And we learned about innovative efforts, led by the United Nations, to create partnerships for peace.This includes exciting work by the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund to partner with other UN entities and national actors. But we also heard calls for more coherence, across the UN’s work. Various delegations also argued that the ongoing reform of the UN’s Peace and Security Pillar is crucial to creating a culture of peace.

And, there were calls for broader partnerships. Some of you said that the private sector should play a bigger role. Many stressed that think tanks and academic institutions, like the Peace and Justice Institute, are crucial in providing data and research.

And we heard how the media can help to spread messages of peace – particularly among children and young people.

So, in essence, we all agreed that we cannot achieve a culture of peaceon our own.


Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I want to thank you all again for taking part in this Forum. Particular thanks must go to Ambassador Chowdhury – for his commitment to this issue.

Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace.

And, as we look towards it, I want to mention one other message that came from our Forum today.

It was one of humanity.

Today, we all acknowledged our differences.

The understanding of a culture of peace differed from delegation to delegation – and person to person.

There was no uniform definition. Because, there are differences between us – whether based on religion, culture, language, or politics. But they do not need to hold us back.

Humanity can be the foundation of a culture of peace. It can be the bedrock.
Our differences and diversity, however, can give it colour.

So, we look to the 20th anniversary, next year, let’s focus more than ever on our humanity.

Because, it is our guarantee that a culture of peaceis possible.

Thank you.

(Thank you to Anwarul Chowdhury and the GMCOP for sending us this speech)

Angola to pass on peace experience to UNESCO members in Paris


An article from Xinhua Net

The Republic of Angola will convey its experience on the culture of peace and interreligious dialogue during the International Conference on Peace scheduled for Sept. 17-19 at United Nations Educational, Scientific and Culture Organization (UNESCO) headquarters in Paris.

Ambassador Sita Jose

Angola’s ambassador to UNESCO, Sita Jose, told the press on Thursday in Luanda that the meeting is an initiative of the permanent delegations to the organization, mainly of the African and Asian continents.

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Question related to this article.

Will UNESCO once again play a role in the culture of peace?

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The event will focus on intercultural and interreligious dialogue and education for a world of peace, harmony and tolerance.

The country will once again have the opportunity to pass on its experience on the role of the church in the process of consolidating peace in partnership with the states, the diplomat said.

The activity will serve as an opportunity of the countries for a profound approach to the contribution of churches in peace-building processes and dialogue among peoples, said the diplomat.

“The aim of the event is to transmit the experiences of the countries in what concerns the promotion of intercultural and interreligious dialogue and the role of education in the consolidation and construction of peace, harmony and community life,” he added.

Angola was asked to intervene, mainly, by its experience in the process of reconciliation and pacification with the contribution of the churches, for the conquest and preservation of peace, according to the diplomat.

Angola experienced a 27-year civil war that ended in 2002.

Rigoberta Menchú speaks at the UN about obstacles to the culture of peace


An article from Prensa Latina

The goodwill ambassador of Unesco, Rigoberta Menchú, highlighted today [5 Sep] in the high level forum of the UN General Assembly the obstacles that prevent the development of a culture of peace.

(click on photo to enlarge)

29 years have passed since the concept of a culture of peace was proposed at a Unesco event, and on October 6 next year will be two decades after the adoption of the Declaration and Program of Action for a Culture of Peace, recalled the indigenous leader and Nobel Peace laureate.

Currently, the legitimacy and fairness of that declaration and of the action program – as international legal norms and instruments – are unquestionable decisions that have irrefutable validity, she said.

But the good wishes tthat the culture of peace should become positive law are opposed by the historical tendencies of a culture of violence and war, she added. The culture of peace is a utopia with great obstacles and enemies.

Instead of decreasing, threats increase and multiply, she warned.

Only a hundred rich individuals concentrate the world’s wealth, while malnutrition and extreme poverty directly affect 60 percent of the world population, lamented the goodwill ambassador of Unesco.

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(Click here for the original Spanish version of the article)

Questions related to this article:

Where in the world can we find good leadership today?

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According to this calculation, four billion 408 million people are direct victims of inequalities and global exclusions, she explained.

“The arms race is a manifestation of the nuclear, chemical and bacteriological war industry and who knows what other lethal methods are being tried to annihilate human life in a massive and rapid way.”

Menchú also warned about global warming, its irreversible damage to the planet and the little that has been achieved on this issue, despite the international agreements that have been adopted.

In the same way, she spoke about the tragedy that corruption and impunity represent in the world. They violate democracy, impede sustainable development, and put the peoples at risk.

‘Once again the most horrendous practices of racism and discrimination, xenophobia and homophobia offend conscience and annihilate human dignity’.

She also called for a halt to hate-filled speeches and ttitudes that are on the increase in different corners of the planet and she gave as an example the recent actions against migrants at the borders of the United States. Confining migrant children in concentration camps reminds us of the horrors of the holocaust of World War II, she said, and she criticized the dehumanization behind practices that are assumed as a normal fact.

Menchú regretted that the Declaration and Program of Action for a Culture of Peace has suffered the same fate as other international instruments and initiatives, due to the lack of political will, especially from States, economic and political sectors.

She also highlighted the peaceful worldview of the indigenous peoples of the world and how the culture of peace should be understood again as a transversal theme.

However, this is not possible when the economic, political and social machinery goes in the opposite direction and its effects disrupt any institutional mechanism, any individual and collective will to live in peace, she concluded.

United Nations: High-level Forum on the Culture of Peace, September 2018


Letter from Miroslav Lajčák, President of the UN General Assembly

Recognizing the need to further promote the Culture of Peace, particularly in the current global context, and responding to paragraph 15 of Resolution 72/137, the President of the General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, will convene a oneday High-level Forum on the Culture of Peace, on Wednesday, 5 September 2018, at UN Headquarters, New York.

Background and Objectives

On 13 September 1999, the General Assembly adopted, by consensus and without reservation, Resolution 53/243 on the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace. The Declaration on a Culture of Peace establishes fundamental principles and reiterates political commitment to promote a culture of peace in the millennium. The Programme of Action defines a set of actions to help Governments, civil society, and individuals to foster culture of peace at national, regional and international levels.

Further, the General Assembly by its resolution 52/15 of 20 November 1997 proclaimed the year 2000 as the “International Year for the Culture of Peace” and in its resolution 53/25 of 10 November 1998, the Assembly proclaimed the period of 2001-2010 as the “International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World”.

The General Assembly resolution 72/137 of 11 December 2017, entitled “Followup to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace”, requested the President of the General Assembly to consider convening a High-level Forum on the Culture of Peace.

Through annual substantive resolutions for the last 20 years as well as annual High-level Forums since 2012, the General Assembly has highlighted the priority it attaches to the full and effective implementation of these forward-looking objectives which are universally applicable and sought after by the vast majority of peoples in every nation.

In keeping with this approach, the 5th September High-level Forum aims to highlight emerging trends that have an impact on the realization of a culture of peace and to enable Member States and Observers and other stakeholders to exchange views on how to further promote a culture of peace. 2

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has put significant emphasis on the promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence. These are essential to pave the way for the international community to engage and march towards achieving the sustainable development goals. To meet this end, we need to sustain peace. Our efforts in sustaining peace should be built upon the three pillars of the United Nations, namely peace and security, human rights and development, in order to have a holistic outcome.

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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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At the High-level Meeting on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace convened by President of the General Assembly H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák in April 2018, it was emphatically asserted that “peace is more than a ceasefire. It is more than a peace deal. And, it is more than the absence of war”. For that, there is a need to tackle conflict at its roots. There is a need to invest in achieving sustainable peace. To make peace last long for the benefit of humanity, it is essential to build a culture of peace. The High-level Meeting reiterated that “sustaining peace is not an easy task” and “making peace is harder than silencing the guns”. Therefore, a wideranging discussion on the interlinkages between these two concepts is required, to chart a credible pathway towards sustaining peace for a prosperous and more peaceful world for all.


Member States and Observers are invited to participate at the highest level possible. The meeting is also open to UN agencies, civil society organisations, including NGOs, the private sector and other stakeholders.


The Forum will consist of an opening session, a plenary segment, an interactive panel discussion and a closing segment.

The opening session and plenary segment will be held in the General Assembly Hall from 10:00am-1:00pm. The panel discussion will take place in the Trusteeship Council Chamber from 3:00pm-5.30pm, followed by closing segment from 5:30pm6:00pm. The opening session and plenary segment will feature statements by the President of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General (TBC), and will hear a keynote address by a preeminent Nobel Peace Laureate.

The plenary segment will comprise of statements by Member States and observers of the General Assembly. A list of speakers will be established in accordance with the established practices of the Assembly. The list of speakers will be open for inscriptions via the e-Speakers module of the e-Delegate platform on 16 August at 12 noon. The time limit for the statements is three minutes.

The panel discussion in the afternoon will focus on the of the 2018 High-level Forum on the Culture of Peace: “The Culture of Peace: A Credible Pathway to Sustaining Peace 3

The panel discussion will feature remarks by distinguished panelists followed by an interactive discussion. The panel will be moderated by Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury, Founder of the Global Movement for the Culture of Peace and the former Under Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States. There will be no established list of speakers for the panel discussion.

Registration of members of official delegations Official delegations and members of the parties of Heads of State or Government, Vice-Presidents and Crown Princes or Princesses will be registered by the Protocol and Liaison Service. Missions/offices are required to submit their registration requests by using the online system “e-Accreditation” available through the e-Delegate Portal at https://delegate.un.int.


A Chair’s summary of the meeting will be circulated to Member States. Further information regarding this meeting will be available on the PGA’s website.

INTERVIEW: ‘Defend the people, not the States’, says outgoing UN human rights chief


An article from the United Nations News Service

For four years, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has been taking governments across the world to task, exposing human rights violations and robustly advocating for the rights of victims.

His appointment by the Secretary-General back in 2014 was a landmark: he became the first Asian, Muslim and Arab ever to hold the post.

OHCHR: Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights meeting with indigenous community leaders in Guatemala. November 2017.

Before that, Zeid had already enjoyed a long and distinguished career, both at the UN and as a Jordanian diplomat. He served his country in several capacities, notably as Ambassador to the United States, and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, with a stint as President of the Security Council in January 2014.

Throughout his career, Zeid has demonstrated a commitment to international law, playing a major role in the establishment of the International Criminal Court, as the first President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court – turning the court from an idea into a reality – and, eight years later, overseeing the legal definition of the crime of aggression and the court’s jurisdiction over it.

In his last major interview with UN News, the UN human rights chief tells us that the “real pressure on this job comes from the victims and those who suffer and expect a great deal from us.”

“Governments are more than capable of defending themselves. It’s not my job to defend them. I have to defend civil society, vulnerable groups, the marginalized, the oppressed. Those are the people that we, in our office, need to represent,” he adds, noting that “oppression is making a comeback”.

When asked about whether his view of the UN and what it can achieve has diminished during his time spent speaking out loudly in defence of the abused and defenceless over the past four years, he says:

“It’s very difficult to tolerate abuse of the UN when I keep thinking of the heroic things that people do in the field, whether the humanitarian actors or humanitarian personnel, my human rights people, the people who are monitoring or observing. And I take my hat off to them. I mean, they are the UN that I will cherish and remember.”

UN News: When you compare the human rights landscape today to when you took over the UN human rights office back in 2014, what are the key differences that you see?

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein: When I took over, it coincided with the terrible videos put online by Daesh, or ISIS, which stoked a great deal of fear and horror. And we began to see a sort of a deepening of the crisis in Syria and in Iraq. And this then folded into two things:

One, a great determination to embark on counter-terrorism strategies, which we felt were, in part, excessive in certain respects. Every country has an obligation to defend its people, and the work of terrorism is odious and appalling and needs to be condemned and faced. But whenever there is excessive action, you don’t just turn one person against the State, you turn the whole family against the State. Ten or maybe more members could end up moving in the direction of the extremists.

And then, the migration debates, and the strengthening of the demagogues and those who made hay out of what was happening in Europe for political profit. As each year passed, we began to see a more intense pressure on the human rights agenda.

UN News: You have been very outspoken and you’ve called out governments and individual leaders around the world who have abused human rights. Do you see that as the most important role for the UN human rights chief?

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein: Yes. At the Human Rights High Commission, you’re part of the UN, but also part of the human rights movement and both are equally important. As I said on earlier occasions, governments are more than capable of defending themselves. It’s not my job to defend them. I have to defend civil society, vulnerable groups, the marginalized, the oppressed. Those are the people that we, in our office, need to represent.

I always felt that that is the principle task: we provide technical assistance, we collect information, we go public on it. But in overall terms, the central duty for us is to defend the rights of those most marginalized and those that need it.

UN News: what if you come under pressure to stay silent?

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein: Well, the interesting thing is that the pressure on this particular job doesn’t really come very much from the governments. They all attack the office because we criticize all of them, but we also point to areas where there is improvement, and I sometimes will praise the government for doing the right thing.

The real pressure on this job comes from the victims and those who suffer and expect a great deal from us. That’s the pressure that I think matters most in terms of the need to do the right thing.

UN News: Have there been times, therefore, when you’ve had to compromise a bit too much and maybe even let rights campaigners down in some way?

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein: No, not in that sense because I think I’ve been outspoken enough and I think I broke new ground when it came to High Commissioners. I can tell you in almost every meeting I sit with governments and I say things that I know they would never have heard before from someone in the UN.

No, the enormity of the suffering of people creates a feeling of inadequacy that, no matter what I do —an interview like this, a press conference, a report — it’s not going to restore a disappeared son or daughter to his or her mother. I know it won’t end the practice of torture immediately. I know that the residents in an IDP [Internally Displaced Peoples] camp, are not going to next day be moved into something more improved.

And that feeling is the pressure that I’m speaking about. It’s this sort of feeling that no matter what I do, it’s unequal to the colossal challenge that stands before us.

UN News: Have there been times when you thought it best to use quiet diplomacy to work behind the scenes?

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein: We’re always trying. We’re always trying to use quiet diplomacy. I mean, we’re constantly meeting with governments, and I send letters, and we conduct phone calls.

But on occasion we make a determination that we’ve tried these tracks, it hasn’t worked, and that I’m going to go public. Sometimes, I asked my spokesperson to do it; sometimes, I ask my regional office to do it; and other times, I’ll do it myself. But it’s carefully thought through.

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Question for this article:

Where in the world can we find good leadership today?

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There was one foreign minister, for example, I needed to speak to. We were planning to send a technical mission to his country and, for almost a year, he avoided me. I saw him here in the GA [General Assembly] and he said, “Yes, yes, yes,” and then just avoided me. So then, we got a message to him that I’m going to go public tomorrow, and he was on the phone right away.

And the lesson learned was that if you don’t sometimes threaten to speak out, you don’t grab their attention. And I would rather err on the speaking out part than staying silent.

I first worked with the UN in 1994, 1995 in the former Yugoslavia. And I saw what catastrophes silence can bring. And I think from that point on, I was determined not to be silent when the evidence before us was presented.

UN News: What’s touched you most personally in the job? What have been those moments, the encounters with people that have meant the most to you?

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein: There have been many. I think it’s very hard to listen to the suffering of people. One of the times was when I went to the Ilopango detention centre in El Salvador. [Four young women] had been sentenced to 30 years in prison. They claimed these were obstetric emergencies: miscarriages. The State claimed that these were terminations of pregnancy.

When I sat with them – I had with me a full team, my office, assistants and interpreters – I think within the space of about 10 minutes we were all weeping; we were in tears because their suffering was so extreme. One of them was telling us how her foetus was on the ground and rather than take her to a hospital, they handcuffed her and took her to prison. And I thought the cruelty, the capacity for human cruelty is amazing.

I saw the president after that and I said, “Why is it that all these girls are poor? Every single one of them?” It’s as if it’s only the poor that face these sorts of conditions. This is the point that really strikes home that time and again: the poor suffer all the consequences. And that for me was a moment that will always remain with me. And there have been quite a few like that.

UN News: Is there a specific moment that stands out as being the most difficult or perhaps even the most consequential during your tenure?

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein: It’s all been difficult. When you’re defending the rights of people, and there’s so much pressure exerted upon you from this deep inner need or desire to help them, it’s all quite tough.

But I take inspiration from the amazing human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, activists in so many countries who do amazing, brave things to highlight the plight of others; to defend the rights of others. Whatever I may want to complain about day in, day out, it’s nothing compared to the pressure that these people face, confront, overcome — often they have no fear.

These are the real leaders; these are the people that inspire. Not many of the politicians who claim to be leaders and are weak and self-serving, and are leaders in name only. The real leaders are the ones who, against all odds, will do the right thing and then often pay a price for it, and be detained for it.

And I think that’s what keeps us fuelled and working on their behalf.

Again, the point to be made is that, yes, we are part of the UN, but we’re also part of a human rights movement. The UN is creating order amongst States: with us, we look at the heart of the relationship between the governing and the governed and so, of course, it’s going to be sensitive.

People have their rights, the States have their obligations, their commitments. And we have to defend the people.

UN News: Where do you think you’ve made the biggest difference, personally? And have you made mistakes?

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein: I don’t know. The question ought to be addressed to civil society, victims’ groups, human rights defenders. And if they said, “Zeid has done a good job,” I’d be very content with that. If they said, “Zeid could have done better,” I’d have to learn to live with it and accept it. It’s really for them to quantify the extent to which I have achieved something or whether they think that I was able to undertake my responsibilities in the right manner.

UN News: you said that being High Commissioner for Human Rights is a unique job within the UN, and you seem to have followed a fairly similar path to your predecessors in making yourself unpopular with governments. Do you want to see your successor sticking to that path?

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein: The fundamental point that I mentioned earlier is that the States can defend themselves. Our job is not to defend the States, and the law is there for the protection of the weak, not in defence of the strong.

And so, we look at the law, we look at the obligations of States, and our job is to defend the individual victims, vulnerable communities, marginalized communities, or oppressed communities.

Oppression is making a comeback. Repression is fashionable again.

And so, I don’t believe anyone holding this position — even if they felt differently — can ultimately conduct business in a manner that departs too radically from the way that I, or my predecessors, have done it. If you try to depart, it will be extremely unpleasant for you because you’re going to hear it from the very people who are suffering. And there can be nothing that will tear at your conscience more, if you abandoned them. So, my belief is that the job defines the conduct.

UN News: Is there any other key advice you’d give?

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein: I would always say be in good health because it is a demanding job, and it is taxing. Whoever takes this job has to be ready for it. Some jobs in the UN system are viewed as sinecures, retirement posts for national officials. This is not one of them. This requires complete commitment.

UN News: For you, where to next? And as a seasoned ex-diplomat with so much UN experience, how has doing this job changed your view of the world?

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein: I don’t know, maybe I’ll be a journalist!

I’ve been away from my family; I need to spend time with them and then I’ll look and see what new direction I’d want to take myself. But I need a rest as well.

UN News: having walked this tightrope, do you feel perhaps a little more appreciative of what the UN does, or perhaps a little less?

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein: No, if I were to, in the future, think of the UN, I would think of the moments in the field where I see the UN doing amazing things.

It’s very difficult to tolerate abuse of the UN when I keep thinking of the heroic things that people do in the field, whether they be humanitarian personnel, my human rights people, the people who are monitoring, observing, with some threat to themselves: I take my hat off to them. They are the UN that I will cherish and remember.

To the outside world, the jargon, the terminology, seems inaccessible. I think that the work that UN personnel do in the field is much more understandable. That’s how I entered the UN, in the field, and that’s how I got to know it. And I think that’s where the UN has enormous impact and needs to continue to make the investment and do the right thing.
And you can also hear Zeid articulating his passion for international justice in a recent UN News podcast  in which he interviewed Ben Ferencz who, at 99 years of age, is the last surviving prosecutor of the post-war Nuremberg military tribunals and was one of the leading campaigners for an international court.

(Thank you to Phyllis Kotite, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

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.)