Tag Archives: United Nations

UN General Assembly Adopts Resolution Demanding Immediate Humanitarian Ceasefire in Gaza, Parties’ Compliance with International Law, Release of All Hostages

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A meeting report from the United Nations

Demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, the General Assembly today adopted a resolution reiterating its insistence that parties to the conflict there comply with international law, all hostages be released immediately and without conditions, and humanitarian access be ensured.

The Assembly adopted the resolution titled “Protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations” (document A/ES-10/L.27) by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to 10 against (Austria, Czech Republic, Guatemala, Israel, Liberia, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, United States), with 23 abstentions, during a resumption of its tenth Emergency Special Session on Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.


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Prior to adopting the resolution, the Assembly failed, by a recorded vote of 89 in favour to 61 against, with 20 abstentions, to adopt an amendment introduced by Austria, which inserted “held by Hamas and other groups” after “hostages” and “immediate” after “ensuring” (document A/ES-10/L.28).  The Assembly also failed, by a recorded vote of 84 in favour to 62 against, with 25 abstentions, to adopt an amendment introduced by the United States, which added an unequivocal condemnation of heinous terrorist attacks by Hamas that took place in Israel starting 7 October and the taking of hostages (document A/ES-10/L.29).

In opening remarks, Dennis Francis (Trinidad and Tobago), President of the General Assembly, said it is incumbent upon the United Nations to bring an immediate end to the suffering of innocent civilians.  “Right now, what we are seeing is an onslaught on civilians, the breakdown of humanitarian systems and profound disrespect for both international law and international humanitarian law,” he said.  “The carnage must stop.”

The representative of Egypt, speaking for the Arab Group, introduced draft resolution “L.27”, describing it as simple, clear and explicit.  Israeli aggression has destroyed Gaza’s public health system, he said, characterizing the argument about the right of Israel, the occupying Power, to defend itself as a pretext.  Israel is not above international humanitarian law, he said.  By the text, the Assembly demands an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and reiterates its demand that all parties comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, notably regarding the protection of civilians.  Through the text, the resolution also demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and ensuring of humanitarian access.

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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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Introducing “L.28”, the representative of Austria welcomed recent humanitarian pauses that enabled the release of some hostages and provision of urgently needed humanitarian aid.  Recognizing the right of Israel to defend its citizens in line with international law and international humanitarian law, he said his country’s amendment is based on agreed language from Security Council resolution 2712 (2023).

The representative of the United States, introducing “L.29”, said the last two months have been nothing short of devastating.  “Devastating for Palestinians who have lost their homes and their loved ones because of a conflict that Hamas set into motion; and devastating for Israelis who still face a barrage of rocket fire, even as they continue to reel from Hamas’ barbaric attacks on 7 October,” she said, adding that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire and requires urgent and sustained attention.

Civilians desperately need food, water, shelter and medical care, she said, noting that a distressing number of innocent people have been killed and expressing support for the release of all hostages, immediately and unconditionally.  She said Member States should speak out with one voice to condemn Hamas for the terrorist attacks on 7 October.  “Why is that so hard?”, she asked.  “It should not be that difficult.”

Israel’s delegate, speaking after the vote, said the adopted resolution will prolong death and destruction.  On 6 October there was a ceasefire, and it was violated by the Hamas attack.  “What would your country do if it were in Israel’s shoes?  What would Moscow do?  What would Beijing do?”, he asked.  Hamas is refusing to release hostages or give the Red Cross access to the hostages, he said, adding that Israel has allowed the entry of aid into Gaza, but that United Nations bodies are refusing to solve logistical difficulties to allow its entry.

A ceasefire will only benefit Hamas, he said.  “What will happen the day after the ceasefire?”, he asked.  By voting in favour of the resolution, Member States are supporting terrorists and the exploitation of Palestinians, he said.  The time has come to put the blame where it belongs.  The resolution does not even mention Hamas by name or condemn Hamas.  If States want a real ceasefire, they should call Hamas leaders and ask for a release of the Israeli hostages.  This disgraceful resolution only allows Hamas to continue its reign of terror, he said, adding that Israel believes in life and peace.

“Israel has dropped 25,000 tons of explosives on Gaza, nearly the equivalent of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” said Pakistan’s delegate.  “Israel’s goal is to erase […] the entire idea of Palestine,” he added, noting his country’s support of the adopted draft resolution.

Syria’s representative noted the Security Council on Friday failed to adopt a resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza because of the United States’ veto.  “The United States insists on giving Israel the green light to continue its brutal aggression in Gaza,” he said.

Tunisia’s delegate echoed concerns about such inaction.  “The Council is clearly unable to shoulder its responsibilities, both moral and legal,” he said.  His delegation voted for the draft resolution, as it calls for a humanitarian ceasefire and end to the barbaric aggression against Palestinian civilians.  “These attacks have led to unprecedented humanitarian tragedies,” he said.

UN Asked to Submit its Call for “An Immediate Ceasefire in Gaza” for Signature by the Peoples of the World

. . HUMAN RIGHTS . .

A letter from Mouvement de la Paix

Dear Mr. Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations,

As an NGO member of the United Nations ECOSOC Commission, we took part in the meeting organized by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr Ryder, in Geneva at the beginning of November. We expressed our support for the UN’s efforts to bring about a political solution to current conflicts, and for the preparation of the UN’s Avenir 2024 plan.

At this meeting, we suggested that the UN, in the name of the United Nations and in the name of “We the Peoples”, take an initiative enabling the peoples of the world, outraged both by the massacres committed by Hamas on October 7, 2023 and by the carnage currently being committed by the Israeli government in Gaza, to demand that the Israeli government immediately cease bombing civilian populations.


If we have condemned the massacres committed by Hamas on October 7, 2023, it is not to accept that the government of Israel is currently committing, with the means of a State, a carnage that strikes civilian populations.

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(click here for the article in French or click here for the article in Spanish.).)

Question related to this article:

How can war crimes be documented, stopped, punished and prevented?

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We have lent our support to the families of all the victims, whether Israeli or Palestinian, and it is in the name of our common humanity that we take the liberty of formulating a proposal to the UN and its Secretary-General.

Faced with a situation that is as unprecedented as it is monstrous and dangerous, we need to take decisions that will enable public opinion, “We the Peoples”, to support the UN’s demand for an immediate halt to the bombing of Gaza, and for emergency humanitarian aid.

We propose that the UN submit its call for “an immediate ceasefire in Gaza”, with the appropriate means and forms, for signature by the peoples of the world: an end to the bombardments which are affecting thousands of women and children, and the immediate implementation of permanent humanitarian aid to respond to the intolerable suffering of the population, and to deal with a catastrophic food and humanitarian crisis.

This appeal for support could be launched by the appropriate means and with the appropriate words, in all possible languages. Just a few days before International Human Rights Day, it would be a way of “proclaiming once again our faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person”, as proclaimed in the preamble to the United Nations Charter.

At the same time, we express our support for the work of the United Nations in building a world of peace.

Yours respectfully for Le Mouvement de la Paix

Roland Nivet, National Spokesman for Le Mouvement de la Paix

Paris, Friday, December 8, 2023

Nuclear Abolitionists Occupy New York

DISARMAMENT & SECURITY .

An article by Robert Dodge from Common Dreams (reprinted according to provisions of Creative Commons)

This past week New York City was invaded by nuclear abolitionists from around the world coming together as part of civil society, scientific, and affected communities, to support, strengthen, and move forward with the universalization of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, TPNW, as the United Nations convened the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty . They gathered to celebrate what has been achieved and with hope and conviction for the complete elimination of these weapons to achieve a future free from the threat of their use.

closer to nuclear war  than any time since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 78 years ago. This risk is heightened by the current war in Ukraine, where Russia has threatened the use of nuclear weapons, the ongoing nuclear weapons research by North Korea, the buildup of China’s arsenal and the current war and humanitarian crisis in Israel/Palestine, where there have been suggestions of using nuclear weapons against Palestinians. The risk of nuclear war by intent, miscalculation, or accident coupled with the growing concern over cyber-terrorism and AI is growing.

The new arms race is driven in large part by the United States’ modernization of its entire arsenal in the coming decades at an estimated cost of between $1.5 and $1.7 trillion. The false illusion of deterrence theory has been the largest driver of the new arms race, resulting in every other nation following suit at modernizing and/or enlarging their new arsenals to not be outdone. This reality was acknowledged by this week’s meeting of state’s parties that correctly identifies deterrence as a significant security problem.

Trillion dollar question

The Treaty on the Probation of Nuclear Weapons arose out of the realization of the humanitarian consequences of even limited nuclear war, and the fact that all of life and everything we care about is at risk from a large scale nuclear war. A limited nuclear war using less than 3% of the global arsenals in a distant region could result in nuclear famine  killing over 2 billion people in the years that follow. The International Committee of the Red Cross notes that there is NO adequate humanitarian or medical response to nuclear war. Understanding this, the global majority represented and supported by civil society, has come together, refusing to be held hostage or bullied by the nine nuclear nations.

The entire cycle of nuclear weapons from mining, manufacture, testing, storage, and potential use impacts communities every day. Their very existence threatens communities around the world. As stated by the author Arundhati Roy, “It is such a supreme folly to believe that nuclear weapons are deadly only if they’re used. The fact that they exist at all, their presence in our lives, will wreak more havoc than we can begin to fathom. Nuclear weapons pervade our thinking. Control our behavior. Administer our societies. Inform our dreams. They bury themselves like meat hooks deep in the base of our brains. They are purveyors of madness. They are the ultimate colonizer. Whiter than any white man that ever lived. The very heart of whiteness.”

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Question related to this article:
 
Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?

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While the United States and other members of the P5 appear to be ignorant of, or oblivious to, these humanitarian consequences by giving lip service to them or simply ignoring them, there is a growing chorus in each of these nations supporting the Treaty.

While the United States and other members of the P5 appear to be ignorant of, or oblivious to, these humanitarian consequences by giving lip service to them or simply ignoring them, there is a growing chorus in each of these nations supporting the Treaty. In the U.S. this comes from the grassroots level and from a growing number of local elected officials who recognize that nuclear weapons are a local issue. A letter was presented to Biden from over 230 local elected officials  asking his administration to send an observer to the meeting. This largest U.S. intersectional movement to abolish nuclear weapons is “Back from the Brink” and has been endorsed by 471 organizations, 334 municipal and state officials, seven state legislative bodies and 76 cities and counties across the United States.

Back from the Brink works in coalition for a world free of nuclear weapons and advocates for common sense nuclear weapons policies to secure a safer, more just future. It calls on the United States to lead a global effort to prevent nuclear war by:

*Actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear-armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals

*Renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons first

*Ending the sole, unchecked authority of any U.S. President to launch a nuclear attack

*Taking U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert

*Cancelling the plan to replace the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal with enhanced weapons

Supporting this effort in the United States Congress is H. Res. 77  introduced by Representatives Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon that embraces the goals and provisions of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and Back from the Brink’s comprehensive policy prescriptions for reducing nuclear risks and preventing nuclear war. Currently there are 42 members of congress cosponsoring. Every member of Congress must be asked to take a stand and make their views of this greatest existential threat known.

Forty years after Carl Sagan and other scientists first described the concept of nuclear winter following a large scale nuclear war, the world is moving together for the total elimination of these weapons.

94 nations participated in this week’s Meeting of States Parties. The Treaty currently has 93 signatories and 69 States Parties whose nations have ratified the Treaty. In the closing declaration of the meeting the nations stated:

“We are resolutely committed to the universalization and effective implementation of the Treaty… We will work relentlessly to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons for the sake of current and future generations. We undertake and recommit to ensure that nuclear weapons are never again used, tested or threatened to be used, under any circumstances, and will not rest until they are completely eliminated.”

United Nations: West votes against democracy, human rights, cultural diversity; promotes mercenaries, sanctions

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An article from Geopolitical Economy

Western governments frequently claim that their foreign and domestic policies are motivated by “human rights” and “democracy”. They often even lecture their adversaries for purportedly failing to respect these concerns.

But on the international stage, Western capitals have shown their commitments to be merely rhetorical, as they have consistently voted against these noble causes and refused to support measures that would tangibly protect them, in flagrant violation of the will of the vast majority of the international community.

These stark double standards were on display on November 7 in the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly’s Third Committee, which is devoted to social, humanitarian, and cultural issues.

In this three-hour session, the West opposed draft resolutions that called for promoting democracy, human rights, and cultural diversity, while simultaneously supporting the use of mercenaries and the application of unilateral coercive measures, commonly known as sanctions.

The extended West voted against the rest of the world on these issues. Its positions were virtually uniform as a bloc, led by the United States, including Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Japan.

In fact, the chair of the General Assembly’s Third Committee is Austria’s representative to the United Nations, Alexander Marschik, and even he could not help but laugh in the session at the constant protestations of the US representative, who dominated the debate, speaking out against nearly every resolution to explain why the world should join with Washington in voting against it. (Marschik could not contain his laughter despite the fact that his own country, Austria, voted along with the US on each resolution.)

Geopolitical Economy Report has created maps that illustrate the clear political divide between the West and the rest.

(Editor’s note: We are sometimes asked what is meant by the “American Empire.” In response, these maps are a good definition.)

Sanctions

In the November 7 session, nations debated a draft that condemned unilateral coercive measures, or sanctions, for violating the human rights of civilians in targeted countries.

The resolution passed with 128 votes in favor and 54 against, and no abstentions.


Promoting “a democratic and equitable international order”

The General Assembly’s Third Committee likewise considered a measure that called for the “promotion of a democratic and equitable international order”.

The resolution passed with 123 votes in favor and 54 against, plus 7 abstentions (from Armenia, Chile, Costa Rica, Liberia, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay).


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(Click here for a version in French.)

Question(s) related to this article:

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

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Respecting “human rights and cultural diversity”

Another resolution sought to promote “human rights and cultural diversity”.

The measure passed with 130 votes in favor and 54 against, and no abstentions.



Promoting “equitable geographical distribution” in human rights treaty bodies

The Third Committee deliberated a draft that called for the “promotion of equitable geographical distribution in the membership of the human rights treaty bodies”.

The resolution passed with 128 votes in favor and 52 against, and no abstentions.


Mercenaries

Another measure condemned the “use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination”.

The resolution passed with 126 votes in favor and 52 against, plus 6 abstentions (from Kiribati, Liberia, Palau, Mexico, Tonga and Switzerland).


The United Nations published a full video of the Third Committee’s session on November 7, in the 48th plenary meeting of the General Assembly’s 78th session.

(Thank you to the Transcend Media Service for calling our attention to this article.)

Update on UN response to Israeli destruction of Palestine

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

Synopsis of data as of November 29 from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency

Situation in Gaza

As of 29 November, nearly 1.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) were sheltering in 156 UNRWA installations across all five governorates of the Gaza Strip, including in the North and Gaza City.  The average number of IDPs in UNRWA shelters is 9,500, more than four times their capacity. Around 1.8 million people (or over 80 per cent of the population) have been displaced across the Gaza Strip since 7 October.

(Editor’s note: The definition contained in Article II of the UN Convention describes genocide as a crime committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, in whole or in part.)


Palestinians moving within the Gaza Strip during the humanitarian pause, 27 November 2023. © 2023 UNRWA Photo by Ashraf Amra

In the Gaza Strip, on 27 and 28 November, 160 bodies were recovered from the rubble, according to the Government Media Office (GMO) in Gaza. The office reported that, since the start of hostilities, more than 15,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including about 6,150 children and 4,000 women.

As of 29 November, 111 UNRWA colleagues have been killed since the beginning of the war

As of 29 November, UNRWA was able to verify that 104 incidents have occurred at 82 UNRWA premises since the beginning of the war. Thirty installations were hit directly and 52 sustained collateral damage. In addition, UNRWA received reports of the military use of its facilities on at least five occasions

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Question related to this article:

Presenting the Palestinian side of the Middle East, Is it important for a culture of peace?

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Since the beginning of the conflict, at least 218 internally displaced people sheltering in UNRWA schools have reportedly been killed and at least 894 have been injured.

Situation in West Bank

In the West Bank, According to OCHA, since 7 October, 238 Palestinians, including 63 children, have been killed by the Israeli Forces in the West Bank. In addition, eight people, including one child, have been killed by Israeli settlers. 

Medical and psychological emergency in Gaza

On 29 November, nine (out of 22) UNRWA health centres were still operational in the Middle and Southern areas, recording 10,312 patients visits, including Palestine Refugees and non-refugees.

UNRWA teams, including 196 social workers in the shelters, provided psychosocial first aid and other specialized protection services to IDPs. Since 7 October, 81,102 people (over 60 per cent of whom are females) have been reached. UNRWA school counsellors in collaboration with other organizations reached around 375,000 children with recreational activities.

Lack of food, drinking water and sanitation in Gaza

UNRWA distribution of flour outside of shelters continued on 29 November in the southern governorates. A total of 30,222 families have been reached so far.

UNRWA continues to operate eight water wells pumping about 9,000 cubic metres to provide potable and domestic water supply. Potable water trucking operations to the shelters in Rafah and Khan Younis areas continue.

Provision of potable water through tankers of Coast Municipalities Water Utility started to have the shelters provided with potable water in Rafah.

Solid waste collection from the camps, emergency shelters and transfer to landfills continues in the Middle, Khan Younis and Rafah areas. About 45 loadings were transferred to temporary dumping sites on 29 November.  There is an urgent need for additional sanitation trucks and vehicles.

Secretary-General Tells Security Council Open Debate ‘Standing with Women Is Good for the World’, Stresses Patriarchy ‘a Massive Obstacle’ to Culture of Peace

. . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . .

An article from the United Nations

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Security Council annual open debate on women, peace and security, in New York today:

Thank you for inviting me to brief the Council on this vital issue.  And for reminding us of the key contribution Bertha Lutz made to the UN Charter and to women’s rights.

Many of you here today will have visited the exhibition on display outside the United Nations building.  You will have seen the images of the women who embody the agenda we are discussing — women who are fighting injustice, building peace, and taking their rightful place at the table.  It is a snapshot of the immense contribution women are making to peace and security around the world and a testament to the power of women’s leadership.

The world must take note.  And it must take inspiration.  Because today, we are on a knife’s edge.  Conflicts are raging.  Tensions are rising.  Coups are erupting.  Authoritarianism is on the march.  The nuclear threat has mushroomed.  Climate chaos is inflaming security challenges.  And mistrust is poisoning global politics — weakening our ability to respond.

The figures speak for themselves on the dire state of our world: military spending is at a record high; displacement due to violence, conflict and persecution is at a record high; and 50 per cent more women and girls are living in countries threatened by fighting than in 2017.

Where wars rage, women suffer, where authoritarianism and insecurity reign, women and girls’ rights are threatened.  We see this around the world.  In Sudan and Haiti — women and girls brutalized and terrorized by sexual violence.  In Afghanistan — the denial of women’s basic rights is wrecking lives and depriving people of life-saving assistance.  And women and girls fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are at risk of being preyed on by traffickers and abusers.

In the Middle East, women and girls are disproportionately affected by the ongoing violence, bloodshed and displacement.  Women and girls are among the many victims of Hamas’ brutal atrocities.  And women and children are more than half the victims of the relentless bombing of Gaza.  Tens of thousands of pregnant women are desperately struggling to access essential health care.

This grim backdrop gives renewed urgency to efforts to ensure women’s full and meaningful participation in peace and security.  Twenty-three years after this Council adopted resolution 1325 (2000), women’s participation should be a default, not an afterthought.

But that is not the case.  Women are leading efforts on peace, justice and rights around the world. But still, far too many women’s organizations struggle to fund their essential work, as military spending soars; far too many perpetrators of sexual violence walk free; and far too many peace processes exclude women.

Of 18 peace agreements reached last year, only one was signed or witnessed by a representative of a women’s group or organization.  Despite our best efforts, women represented just 16 per cent of negotiators or delegates in the peace processes led, or co-led, by the United Nations.

We live in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture.  Centuries of patriarchy are a massive obstacle to gender equality and, in turn, to a culture of peace.  Around the world, women’s rights are under attack.  So are the people that defend them.  At least seven women who briefed this Council last year report facing reprisals for having done so.

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Questions related to this article:

UN Resolution 1325, does it make a difference?

Does the UN advance equality for women?

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Violence against women — both on and offline — is endemic; a massive barrier and disincentive to participation in civil and political life.  At the current rate of progress, it will be almost another half century before women are fairly represented in national parliaments.

Addressing this is not a favour to women.  It is a matter of rights, justice and pragmatism.  Standing with women is good for the world.  We know processes involving women lead to more enduring peace.  We know gender-equal parliaments are more likely to increase spending on health, education and social protection, and reduce corruption.

There are pockets of hope.  This year’s report shows good practice and success stories on the women, peace and security agenda from around the world:  from gender parity in Colombia’s peace negotiations to perpetrators of sexual violence in Iraq, Syria and the Central African Republic being brought to justice.

The United Nations is committed to working with countries to drive progress on women, peace and security.  Our operations are supporting women, highlighting their vital work, and amplifying their voices.  The Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund of the United Nations has supported more than 1,000 local women’s organizations since it was established in 2016. And we’ve made progress towards gender balance within peacekeeping missions.  But overall, when it comes to women peace and security, the world must urgently bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality.

This annual debate regularly has the longest speakers’ list of the year.  But concrete progress is slow, stagnant or even going backwards.  We need to implement the women, peace and security agenda in full, now.  Because women have had enough of being shut out of the decisions that shape their lives; enough of their work going unrecognized; enough of threats and violence; [and] enough of promises left unfulfilled.  Women demand concrete actions to make real strides forward.

First, that means steps to ensure women are in the room for peace talks.  I encourage Governments supporting conflict mediation to set ambitious targets for women on negotiating teams.

Second, it means money on the table.  If you want to stand with women driving change, if you want to support women enduring conflict, if you want to remove barriers to participation, and if you want women’s organizations to deliver, we need to pay for it.  Yet, the latest figures show aid funding for gender equality in conflict falling.  I urge countries providing overseas development assistance, or ODA, to allocate 15 per cent to gender equality.  Fifteen per cent of funds for mediation work must support women’s participation.

I also call on countries providing ODA to allocate 1 per cent — at a bare minimum — to direct assistance to women’s organizations mobilizing for peace.  By the end of 2025, the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund Invest-in-Women campaign aims to raise $300 million.  I urge you to throw yourselves behind this effort.

Third, we need concrete measure to secure women’s full, equal and meaningful participation at all levels of decision-making on peace and security, and all levels of political and civil life.  That means pushing fair representation in national and local governments, cabinets and parliaments.

I was a prime minister and leader of a political party.  I know quotas, targets and incentives work.  We need robust, comprehensive legislation to tackle violence against women — both on and offline — and to put an end to impunity for perpetrators.

And we need to make the most of the Summit of the Future next year to push for progress on women, peace and security.  The Summit is a chance to reform and revitalize multilateralism so that it meets the challenges of today.  In preparation, the policy brief on “A New Agenda for Peace” puts women’s leadership and participation at the centre of decision-making. I urge you to consider its proposals carefully.

Amidst a world in chaos, the clock is ticking down to the twenty-fifth anniversary of resolution 1325 (2000).  A quarter century is ample time to make progress.  We need to translate the energy, commitment and focus in this room into change on the ground and money on the table.  No more stalling, no more coasting, no more delays.

We need to back the change-makers whose images we proudly display outside this building, starting today.  The state of the world demands it.  And women and girls, rightly, expect nothing less.  Thank you.

UN Rights Chief Says Israel’s Collective Punishment in Gaza Is a War Crime

. . HUMAN RIGHTS . .

An article by Jessica Corbett from Common Dreams (licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk declared  Wednesday that “the collective punishment by Israel of Palestinian civilians amounts… to a war crime, as does the unlawful forcible evacuation of civilians.”

Frame from video interview with Commissioner Türk at the Rafah Crossing

Israel’s monthlong war on Gaza has killed over 10,500 Palestinians, wounded thousands more, displaced 70%  of the strip’s 2.3 million residents, and decimated civilian infrastructure, including homes, religious buildings, and hospitals.

Türk’s comments came after he visited the Rafah border crossing that connects Egypt to Gaza, which he described as “the gates to a living nightmare—a nightmare where people have been suffocating, under persistent bombardment, mourning their families, struggling for water, for food, for electricity and fuel.”

Long before October 7, when a Hamas-led attack killed over 1,400 Israelis and triggered Israel’s retaliation, Gaza was “described as the world’s biggest open-air prison… under a 56-year occupation and a 16-year blockade by Israel,” he highlighted.The U.N. rights chief also stressed that “the atrocities perpetrated by Palestinian armed groups… were heinous, brutal, and shocking. They were war crimes—as is the continued holding of hostages.” Israeli officials say there are about 240 hostages.

“We have fallen off a precipice. This cannot continue,” he warned. “Even in the context of a 56-year-old occupation, the current situation is the most dangerous in decades, faced by people in Gaza, in Israel, in the West Bank, but also regionally.”

Türk emphasized that “parties to the conflict have the obligation to take constant care to spare the civilian population and civilian objects,” and as an occupying power, Israel is required “to ensure a maximum of basic necessities of life can reach all who need it.”

“I call—as a matter of urgency—for the parties now to agree [to] a cease-fire on the basis of three critical human rights imperatives: We need urgent delivery of massive levels of humanitarian aid, throughout Gaza,” he declared.

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Questions related to this article:
 
How can war crimes be documented, stopped, punished and prevented?

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The official also called for all hostages to be freed without condition and said that “crucially, we need to enable the political space to implement a durable end to the occupation, based on the rights of both Palestinians and Israelis to self-determination and their legitimate security interests.”

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres—who has also been pushing for a cease-fire—called out  Israel’s aerial and ground operations for their impact on civilians during a Reuters conference on Wednesday.

“There are violations by Hamas when they have human shields. But when one looks at the number of civilians that were killed with the military operations, there is something that is clearly wrong,” he said.

“We have in a few days in Gaza thousands and thousands of children killed, which means there is also something clearly wrong in the way military operations are being done,” the U.N. leader added.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, the Israeli war against Hamas has killed over 4,300 children.

“It is also important to make Israel understand that it is against the interests of Israel to see every day the terrible image of the dramatic humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people,” Guterres said. “That doesn’t help Israel in relation to the global public opinion.”

While French President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to hold a Gaza-focused “humanitarian conference” in Paris on Thursday, the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is refusing to participate in the event.

Ahead of the conference, 13 human rights and relief groups called on attendees “to do everything in their power to achieve an immediate cease-fire; take concrete steps to free civilian hostages and protect all civilian populations; and ensure the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza and respect for international humanitarian law.”

Among them was Amnesty International—which, over the past month, has compiled  “damning evidence of war crimes as Israeli attacks wipe out entire families.”

Some global experts and critics have demanded  action from the International Criminal Court on “escalating Israeli war crimes and genocide of the Palestinian people” in Gaza.

In a resignation letter to Türk last month, Craig Mokhiber, who was serving as the New York director for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemned  Israel’s war as “a textbook case of genocide.”

“In the immediate term,” Mokhiber wrote, “we must work for an immediate cease-fire and an end to the long-standing siege on Gaza, stand up against the ethnic cleansing of Gaza, Jerusalem, and the West Bank (and elsewhere), document the genocidal assault in Gaza, help to bring massive humanitarian aid and reconstruction to the Palestinians, take care of our traumatized colleagues and their families, and fight like hell for a principled approach in the U.N.’s political offices.”

UNESCO: How can young people become actors of peace?

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION .

An article from UNESCO

On the celebration of the UNESCO Associated School Networks’ 70th anniversary, more than 10.000 students from 68 countries were gathered for a series of three digital Campuses in three languages.

Peace, intercultural dialogue and understanding, sustainable development, and quality education. These are the foundations of the UNESCO Associated School Network (ASPnet), who is commemorating its 70th anniversary.

With many regions of the world facing war and armed conflict, actions on how to build lasting peace remain crucial more than ever. To this end, UNESCO Campus  organized a series of campuses, in three different languages, to reach English, French and Spanish-speaking students and teachers. A unique opportunity to celebrate the first day of the 42nd UNESCO General Conference.  

The dialogues between the experts, students, and teachers led to a list of actions and activities that not only promote peace but enrich our understating on how to be multi-level active global citizens. 
 
Starting from an international point of view, cooperation of different actors, such as international organizations and civil society groups, is essential. Firmin Edouard Matoko, Special Advisor Africa for the Director-General at UNESCO emphasised on cultivating a culture of peace. Historically, peace was defined as the absence of armed conflict and hostilities. However, peace is composed of values, attitudes, and behaviours, which we can all learn from a young age. Peace is a continuous action, in which everyone can contribute to. 

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(Click here for a French version of this article.)

Question(s) related to this article:

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

How can just one or a few persons contribute to peace and justice?

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Peace is not only the absence of war. All situations of personal or collective conflict, social or economic insecurity and environmental instability contribute to the absence of peace. Each generation has a mission to accomplish: to guarantee peace for the generations to follow.

– Firmin Edouard Matoko, Special Advisor Africa, Director-General, UNESCO

Important goals can also be achieved at the national and community level. Actions for peace are essential in conflict and post-conflict zones. In this kind of situation an operation of mediation is vital to settle the situation.

To inspire students and to enlighten them about the sheer of mediation, Saurea Didry Stancioff, West Africa Program Manager at Promediation, shared her experience. Mediation is a key tool to establish trust and dialogue between the contending parties of a conflict. The mediation process can help build the first blocks to establish lasting peace, through creating a bridge of dialogue to find innovative solutions. 
 
Talking about the local point of action, Panji Haryo Purnomo, Teacher of Pradita Dirgantara High School, School leader of Fostering Global Citizens through the Memory of the World, provided students and teachers with an example of a successful local peace initiative. His commitment to education and his unwavering dedication to nurturing the youth through knowledge and culture have fostered a sense of peace among his community in Boyolali, Indonesia. Through conflict resolution, the empowerment of youth and the preservation of a shared cultural heritage is fundamental. 

Peacebuilding is not abstract; it’s made of actions and conversations. Let’s be ambassadors of peace, champions of dialogue, and preservers of heritage. Together, we can turn the dream of peace into a tangible reality.

– Panji Haryo Purnomo, Teacher of Pradita Dirgantara High School, School leader of “Fostering Global Citizens through the Memory of the World”

The multiple questions by students and teachers led to a lively discussion on how each one of us can act for peace. Within our day-to-day lives, the experts left the participants with the inspiration on how each one of us can act for peace. For Firmin Edouard Matoko, it is to embrace diversity and seeing it as a strength. For Saurea Didry Stancioff, each of us can start by active listening. Lastly, for Panji Haryo Purnomo, it starts with respect for everyone and everybody. 
 
Fostering peace exists and can be done at multiple levels. All it takes is the courage to start.
 
This event has made possible thanks to TECH4ALL and with the support of France. 

United Nations High-Level Meeting on Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION

An article from the United Nations

With the catastrophic potential inherent in nuclear weapons hanging over the fate of humankind, the only way to prevent the use of such arsenals — and the Armageddon such an act would unleash — is to completely eliminate them, speakers said today during the General Assembly’s annual high-level commemoration of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.


Dennis Francis (General Assembly President) in video of the High-Level Meeting on Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres observed that “nuclear sabres are again being rattled” in a world that has “spent too long under the shadow of nuclear weapons” as he delivered opening remarks.  “Let’s make history by consigning nuclear weapons to history,” he added.

To do so, however, nuclear-weapon States must lead the way, he stressed, calling on them to meet their disarmament obligations.  Any use of nuclear weapons would unleash a humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions.  “This is the timeless message of the hibakusha — the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” he said, adding that the “New Agenda for Peace” can help usher in a nuclear-weapon-free world.

Also delivering introductory remarks was Dennis Francis (Trinidad and Tobago), President of the General Assembly, who stated:  “The risk of nuclear annihilation is not a chapter from our past; it is a haunting reality of our present.”  The more agitated people and nations become, the higher the risk of stumbling mistakenly into a nuclear nightmare.  “There is only one path to avoid nuclear Armageddon: that is the complete and absolute elimination of nuclear weapons,” he emphasized.

In the ensuing discussion, nearly 80 speakers took the floor to present various approaches towards creating a world free of such weapons.  Many delegates pushed for the advancement of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and commitment to the existing nuclear-disarmament-and-non-proliferation regime.  Some speakers, however, expressed frustration over the slow pace of disarmament and warned against ongoing nuclear modernization that is creating arsenals of improved speed, accuracy and stealth.

“The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us,” said Ali Sabry, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, borrowing the words of former United States President John F. Kennedy, who addressed the General Assembly in 1961.  These words of caution are directly relevant to today’s world, he said.  For its part, Sri Lanka prides itself in offering a sense of forward movement through its accession to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons just days ago.

Yashar T. Aliyev (Azerbaijan), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, said that nuclear-weapon States’ lack of progress towards the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals remains an issue of deep concern to the Movement, urging  concrete steps in this area.  He added that the annual observance of the International Day is an effective means with which to draw the international public’s attention to the unacceptable dangers posed by nuclear weapons.

Keith McBean (Ireland) said that today’s meeting occurs at a time of crisis, spotlighting the Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine along with its accompanying nuclear threats.  Urging Moscow to refrain from such rhetoric,  he stressed:  “Any and all nuclear threats, whether explicit or implicit and irrespective of circumstance, are unacceptable.”  He also expressed regret that the Kremlin blocked agreement on a final outcome at the tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Charles Jose, Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and International Economic Relations in the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, said that — despite reductions in the deployment of nuclear weapons since the cold war — “not a single one has been physically destroyed under any treaty”.  This, coupled with the alarming modernization and proliferation of nuclear arms, calls for urgent action, he said, joining a growing call for nuclear-weapon States to completely disarm.

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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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In the same vein, Zaheer Laher, Chief Director of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, warned that greater emphasis on nuclear weapons’ role in security doctrines heightens the possibility of a new nuclear arms race.  In this “hypocrisy of nuclear apartheid”, he pointed out that the security of some risks the security of all humanity.  The establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones, such as the one in Africa, is an important disarmament and non-proliferation measure, and he expressed support for the establishment of new zones — especially in regions of tension such as the Middle East and Europe.

On that, Osama Mahmoud Abdelkhalek Mahmoud (Egypt), speaking for the Arab Group, stressed the importance of establishing a Middle East free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.  Expressing concern over Israel’s nuclear stockpiles, he underlined the need to avoid an arms race in the region.  As such, he commended the participation of States — while spotlighting Israel’s absence — in conferences aimed at establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. 

“Latin America and the Caribbean have done their part,” said Inga Rhonda King (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), who spoke for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).  “It is well known that the countries of our region do not possess nuclear weapons,” she said, referring to the Treaty of Tlatelolco, which established a nuclear-weapons-free zone in that region.

Similarly, Tarek Ladeb (Tunisia), speaking for the African Group, underscored its commitment to the Treaty of Pelindaba, which declared Africa a nuclear-weapons-free zone.  This prohibits, among other things, the stationing or testing of nuclear explosive devices on the continent.  He urged all Member States — especially nuclear Powers and those under the so-called “nuclear umbrella” — to urgently sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and pursue the goal of a world free of such weapons.

Hala Hameed, head of the Bilateral Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Maldives, was among those who recalled the very first Assembly resolution — adopted in 1946 — which identified nuclear disarmament as a leading goal of the United Nations.  To that end, the Maldives joined the 68 States that have ratified or acceded to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, she noted, urging all Member States who have not done so to ratify the instrument.

While many speakers echoed the call to advance that accord, Ishikane Kimihiro (Japan) was among those who underlined the importance of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Urging nuclear-weapon States to proactively fulfil their obligations under the latter, he also pledged to cooperate with the international community to address non-proliferation issues related to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran.

In the absence of his counterparts from certain top nuclear-weapon States at today’s meeting, Geng Shuang (China) said that his country has consistently upheld a nuclear strategy of self-defence.  Beijing, he stated, “always keeps its capabilities at the minimum level required” to safeguard national security, never engages in arms races with other nuclear-weapon States and neither provides a nuclear umbrella nor deploys weapons abroad.

As well, Sanjay Kumar Verma, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs of India, said that his country is a responsible nuclear-weapon State and is committed to maintaining credible minimum deterrence with a posture of “no first use” and “non-use against non-nuclear-weapon States”.

Meanwhile, Zahra Ershadi (Iran) noted that allocations by the United States and the United Kingdom of $50.9 billion and £3 billion, respectively, to their nuclear-weapon programmes clearly indicate the ongoing failure of nuclear Powers to meet their disarmament obligations.

On that, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, warned that global military spending grew for the eighth consecutive year in 2022 to reach an all-time high of $2.24 trillion. Calling this “scandalous”, he said that millions of dollars spent on nuclear weapons should go to alleviate poverty and hunger.

Building on that was Michael Bootii Nauan, Minister for Tourism, Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives of Kiribati, who detailed the impacts of nuclear-weapon testing in 1958 on his country’s people.  Unaware of the dangers of such tests, many would later complain about all sorts of untreatable illnesses and die.  He therefore issued a demand to safely dissemble all nuclear weapons and re-direct their “nuclear profits” to peace and industrial development.

A Global Call for Peace in Ukraine Emerges at UN General Assembly

. .DISARMAMENT & SECURITY. .

An article by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies in Common Dreams ( reprinted according to Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

As it did last year, the 2023 United Nations General Assembly has been debating what role the United Nations and its members should play in the crisis in Ukraine. The United States and its allies still insist that the UN Charter  requires countries to take Ukraine’s side in the conflict, “for as long as it takes” to restore Ukraine’s pre-2014 internationally recognized borders.

They claim to be enforcing Article 2:4 of the UN Charter that states “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

By their reasoning, Russia violated Article 2:4 by invading Ukraine, and that makes any compromise or negotiated settlement unconscionable, regardless of the consequences of prolonging the war.

Other countries have called for a peaceful diplomatic resolution of the conflict in Ukraine, based on the preceding article of the UN Charter, Article 2:3: “All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.”

They also refer to the purposes of the UN, defined in Article 1:1, which include the “settlement of international disputes” by “peaceful means,” and they point to the dangers of escalation and nuclear war as an imperative for diplomacy to quickly end this war.

As the Amir of Qatar  told the Assembly, “A long-term truce has become the most looked-for aspiration by people in Europe and all over the world. We call on all parties to comply with the UN Charter and international law and resort to a radical peaceful solution based on these principles.”

This year, the General Assembly has also been focused on other facets of a world in crisis: the failure to tackle the climate catastrophe; the lack of progress on the Sustainable Development Goals  that countries agreed to in 2000; a neocolonial economic system that still divides the world into rich and poor; and the desperate need for structural reform of a UN Security Council that has failed in its basic responsibility to keep the peace and prevent war.

One speaker after another highlighted the persistent problems related to U.S. and Western abuses of power: the occupation of Palestine; cruel, illegal U.S. sanctions against Cuba and many other countries; Western exploitation of Africa that has evolved from slavery to debt servitude and neocolonialism; and a global financial system that exacerbates extreme inequalities of wealth and power across the world.

Brazil, by tradition, gives the first speech at the General Assembly, and President Lula da Silva  spoke eloquently about the crises facing the UN and the world. On Ukraine, he said,

The war in Ukraine exposes our collective inability to enforce the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. We do not underestimate the difficulties in achieving peace. But no solution will be lasting if it is not based on dialogue. I have reiterated that work needs to be done to create space for negotiations… The UN was born to be the home of understanding and dialogue. The international community must choose. On one hand, there is the expansion of conflicts, the furthering of inequalities and the erosion of the rule of law. On the other, the renewing of multilateral institutions dedicated to promoting peace.

After a bumbling, incoherent speech by President Biden, Latin America again took the stage in the person of  President Gustavo Petro of Colombia:

While the minutes that define life or death on our planet are ticking on, rather than halting this march of time and talking about how to defend life for the future, thanks to deepening knowledge, expand it to the universe, we decided to waste time killing each other. We are not thinking about how to expand life to the stars, but rather how to end life on our own planet. We have devoted ourselves to war. We have been called to war. Latin America has been called upon to produce war machines, men, to go to the killing fields.

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Question related to this article:

Can the culture of peace be established at the level of the state?

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They’re forgetting that our countries have been invaded several times by the very same people who are now talking about combatting invasions. They’re forgetting that they invaded Iraq, Syria and Libya for oil. They’re forgetting that the same reasons they use to defend Zelenskyy are the very reasons that should be used to defend Palestine. They forget that to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, we must end all wars.

But they’re helping to wage one war in particular, because world powers see this suiting themselves in their game of thrones, in their hunger games and they’re forgetting to bring an end to the other war because, for these powers, this did not suit them. What is the difference between Ukraine and Palestine, I ask? Is it not time to bring an end to both wars, and other wars too, and make the most of the short time we have to build paths to save life on the planet?

…I propose that the United Nations, as soon as possible, should hold two peace conferences, one on Ukraine, the other on Palestine, not because there are no other wars in the world—there are in my country—but because this would guide the way to making peace in all regions of the planet, because both of these, by themselves, could bring an end to hypocrisy as a political practice, because we could be sincere, a virtue without which we cannot be warriors for life itself.

Petro was not the only leader who upheld the value of sincerity and assailed the hypocrisy of Western diplomacy. Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves  of St. Vincent and the Grenadines cut to the chase:

Let us clear certain ideational cobwebs from our brains. It is, for example, wholly unhelpful to frame the central contradictions of our troubled times as revolving around a struggle between democracies and autocracies. St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a strong liberal democracy, rejects this wrong-headed thesis. It is evident to all right-thinking persons, devoid of self-serving hypocrisy, that the struggle today between the dominant powers is centered upon the control, ownership, and distribution of the world’s resources.

On the war in Ukraine, Gonsalves was equally blunt. “…War and conflict rage senselessly across the globe; in at least one case, Ukraine, the principal adversaries — the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and Russia — may unwittingly open the gates to a nuclear Armageddon… Russia, NATO, and Ukraine should embrace peace, not war and conflict, even if peace has to rest upon a mutually agreed, settled condition of dissatisfaction.”

The Western position on Ukraine was also on full display. However, at least three NATO members (Bulgaria, Hungary and Spain) coupled their denunciations of Russian aggression with pleas for peace. Katalin Novak, the President of Hungary, said,

…We want peace, in our country, in Ukraine, in Europe, in the world. Peace and the security that comes with it. There is no alternative to peace. The killing, the terrible destruction, must stop as soon as possible. War is never the solution. We know that peace is only realistically attainable when at least one side sees the time for negotiations as having come. We cannot decide for Ukrainians about how much they are prepared to sacrifice, but we have a duty to represent our own nation’s desire for peace. And we must do all we can to avoid an escalation of the war.

Even with wars, drought, debt and poverty afflicting their own continent, at least 17 African leaders took time during their General Assembly speeches to call for peace in Ukraine. Some voiced their support for the African Peace Initiative, while others contrasted the West’s commitments and expenditures for the war in Ukraine with its endemic neglect of Africa’s problems. President Joao Lourenço  of Angola clearly explained why, as Africa rises up to reject neocolonialism and build its own future, peace in Ukraine remains a vital interest for Africa and people everywhere:

In Europe, the war between Russia and Ukraine deserves our full attention to the urgent need to put an immediate end to it, given the levels of human and material destruction there, the risk of an escalation into a major conflict on a global scale and the impact of its harmful effects on energy and food security. All the evidence tells us that it is unlikely that there will be winners and losers on the battlefield, which is why the parties involved should be encouraged to prioritize dialogue and diplomacy as soon as possible, to establish a ceasefire and to negotiate a lasting peace not only for the warring countries, but which will guarantee Europe’s security and contribute to world peace and security.

Altogether, leaders from at least 50 countries spoke up for peace in Ukraine at the 2023 UN General Assembly. In his closing statement, Dennis Francis, the Trinidadian president of this year’s UN General Assembly, noted,

Of the topics raised during the High-Level Week, few were as frequent, consistent, or as charged as that of the Ukraine War. The international community is clear that political independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity must be respected, and violence must end.

You can find all 50 statements at this link on the: CODEPINK website