Tag Archives: United Nations

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

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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

2023 United Nations High-Level Forum on The Culture of Peace

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by CPNN

Every year CPNN carries articles about the United Nations High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace that has been convened annually by the President of the UN General Assembly since 2012. This year it took place at UN headquarters on August 31.


Scene at beginning of Forum, taken from UN video. (Note that in previous years, the room was filled with representatives of civil society and Member States)

A concept note with background about the culture of peace was published this year prior to the forum by the President of the General assembly saying that it would be dedicated to the theme “Promoting Culture of Peace in the Digital Era.”

As was the case in 2022, the United Nations did not publish a general article about the forum. The order of the programme was published in the UN Journal along with links to statements from 22 Member States, but a summary of the event was not published in the UN websites for meetings or press releases.

A three-hour video of the forum is available from the UN media center and a separate video of the presentation by Sri Lanka is available on YouTube.

In this article we have sought excerpts from other articles, including speeches delivered at the forum.

The following description of the event was published in Bangladesh

“Convened by President of the General Assembly Csaba Korosi, the forum’s inaugural session featured addresses from distinguished speakers, including the Under-Secretary General for Policy, Director of UNESCO’s New York Office, and the Head of UN Affairs of ITU.

“Later a panel discussion was held under the theme, “Promoting Culture of Peace in the Digital Era,” which was chaired by Ambassador Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani, Permanent Representative of the State of Qatar, and participated by member states, observers and the civil society.

“Apart from Member States, expert speakers including the Secretary General’s Tech Envoy, Rector of the University for Peace and representative of Google presented remarks in the panel discussion.

“Applauding Bangladesh’s leadership in promoting culture of peace, the President of the General Assembly highlighted that sustaining a culture of peace in the digital age entails nurturing an inclusive online space that encourages respect and tolerance.

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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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“This involves countering online hate speech and discrimination and addressing the risks of misusing new technologies without depriving those who require them,” he said stressing the importance of collective involvement, he underscored that success hinges on robust multilateral cooperation.”

Since there was not other news coverage of the event, one needs to listen to the UN video to learn more.

The Director of UNESCO’s New York Office spoke from minutes 25-30. He did not mention UNESCO’s history with the culture of peace, such as its responsibility for the UN International Year for the Culture of Peace (2000) and the succeeding Culture of Peace Decade, nor the fact that it prepared and submitted the Draft Declaration and Programme of Action for a Culture of Peace eventually adopted by the General Assembly in 1999.

A prominent place was given to Google. The representative of Google, Zoe Darme, was one of the five presenters in the panel discussion, her presentation taking place from minutes 80 to 87 in the video. She also took an active role in the general discussion that followed, being the final speaker of the day. Curiously, a search by the Google Search Engine reveals photos of her at the forum, but no mention of the content of her remarks.

There was much less participation of the civil society this year. Unlike in previous years, the civil society organizations affiliated with the UN Department of Public Information were not allowed to participate. And Ambassador Chowdhury, who had mobilized civil society participation in previous years was not included in the planning. Back in 1999, when he was Ambassdor from Bangladesh, Chowdhury resisted opposition by the EU and United States and chaired the nine-month negotiations that led to the adoption of the above-mentioned Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace.

According to a recent article written by Chowdhury, the “cold-shoulder” given to the culture of peace for this forum this year is part of a more general rejection of the culture of peace by the current United Nations administration. Neither of the two general agendas for action – “Our Common Agenda” (OCA), and “New Agenda for Peace” (NAP) – mention “culture of peace” at all.

– – – –

Here are texts of some of the speeches submitted to this year’s Forum that are available on the Internet:

President of the General Assembly

Representative of the Vatican

Representative of the European Union

Representative of the United States

Representative of Bangladesh

Representative of the University for Peace

Submitted speeches from 17 other countries, as well as the International Telecommunication Union, are available online from the UN Journal.

UN-AUSC Youth Forum: The Role of Young People in the 13Th African Games

.. DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION ..

Excerpts from an announcement from the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations

DRAFT CONCEPT NOTE

BACKGROUND

. . . The United Nations acknowledges the value of the youth in peacebuilding through the development of United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) 2250 (2015), 2419 (2018), and 2535 (2020) on Youth, Peace, and Security that called upon the United Nations (UN) entities and Member States to improve capacity-building by integrating the Youth, Peace, and Security agenda into their technical assistance plans. Also, the African Youth Charter recognizes that “youth are partners, assets and prerequisite for sustainable peace and prosperity of Africa with a unique contribution to make to the present and future development.”

Through unique engagement, such as sports, the youth have led and sustained peacebuilding and development conversations across societies. Sports have historically played a significant role in disseminating positive values worldwide and across civilizations and cultures, thus making it a powerful vector for developing efforts to promote peace and prevent and counter violent extremism. . . .

PROPOSAL

The Global Sports Programme will organize a Youth Forum on the role of young people in the upcoming 13th Edition of the African Games (Accra, Ghana, set to commence in March 2024) in partnership with the AUSC, which oversees the coordination and organization of the African Games—building on the power of sport to promote increased youth participation in the organization of major sporting events. Other partners are the 13th African Games Local Organising Committee (LOC) which comprises key Ghanaian stakeholders, the Ghana National Peace Council which is responsible for implementing the National PVE Strategy, and the UN Country Team.

OBJECTIVES

Raise awareness of integrating youth in major sporting events, particularly from an African perspective.

Establish a dialogue between youth and decision-makers about the power of sports and major sporting events to prevent violent extremism, showcasing unique youth approaches, including those targeting the vulnerable youth population.

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Questions for this article:

How can sports promote peace?

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● Encourage more investment and support towards youth-led sport-based PVE initiatives and increased youth participation in major sporting events.

● Concrete guidelines on the greater inclusion of young people in PVE-based activities within the context of a major sporting event.

TIME AND PLACE

• 21-22 November 2023 (2 days) in Accra, Ghana

FORMAT

● We count on the participation of approx. 15 African civil society leaders between 18 and 35 years old and involved in major sporting events, decision-making, and/or sport for PVE. ● This Forum will feature ‘safe and brave spaces,’ working groups, presentations, etc.

● The young people will have the opportunity to go into dialogue with the organizers of the upcoming 13th African Games, including the AUSC and the LOC, as well as other PVE-through-sport/sport for peace stakeholders, including civil society organizations and the UN.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES

● Raised awareness of the role and significance of sport in PVE. ● Inclusion of strategies for PVE interventions while organizing major sporting events and its integration into NAPs.

● Compiled recommendations on integrating young people in organizing major sporting events and related sport-for-PVE initiatives.

SELECTION OF PARTICIPANTS

● Due to limited slots, participants will be subjected to a selection process that will consider the relevance of their application, their experience, the motivation and interest demonstrated, as well as their potential contribution to the discussions. To the extent possible, the selection committee will balance age, gender, and diversity of backgrounds (cultural, educational, professional) among selected participants.

ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA

● Age: 18-35 years of age

● Region: African Union Member States

● Interest in themes: the applicant demonstrates some experience and knowledge (or a great interest in getting involved) in issues related to PVE (through sport), the organization of major sporting events, sport for development and peace, and/or meaningful youth engagement.

● Future impact and follow-up: the applicant expresses a strong commitment to further engage on the topics and has the ability to consult with and reach a wider group of young people, audiences, or networks, including leading initiatives at the grassroots and community levels.

● Experience and potential: experience in the development of policies and guidelines and advocacy in PVE.

UN pushes disarmament talks amid fears that drums of nuclear war are beating again

DISARMAMENT & SECURITY .

An article from The United Nations

As United Nations-led talks on nuclear disarmament continued in Geneva, New York and Vienna, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned on Sunday that “the drums of nuclear war are beating once again”. 

In a message to mark the 78th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Mr. Guterres urged the international community to learn from the “nuclear cataclysm” that befell the Japanese city on 6 August 1945.


Secretary-General Guterres

The drums of nuclear war are beating once again; mistrust and division are on the rise,” the UN chief said in a statement to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, delivered by UN’s High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu. “The nuclear shadow that loomed over the Cold War has re-emerged. And some countries are recklessly rattling the nuclear sabre once again, threatening to use these tools of annihilation.”

UN chief’s peace agenda

Pending the total elimination of all nuclear weapons, Mr. Guterres appealed to the international community to speak as one, as outlined in his New Agenda for Peace. Launched in July this year, the Agenda calls on Member States to urgently recommit to pursuing a world free of nuclear weapons and to reinforce the global norms against their use and proliferation.

“States possessing nuclear weapons must commit to never use them,” he insisted, as he stressed the UN’s commitment to continue working to strengthen global rules on disarmament and non-proliferation, notably the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

NPT talks are taking place at the UN in the Austrian capital until 11 August, where Ms. Nakamitsu reiterated her warning to the forum that not “since the depths of the Cold War” has the risk of a nuclear weapon being used so high – just as the rules-based order intended to prevent their use has never been “so fragile”.

“This is, to a large extent, because of the volatile times in which we live,” Ms. Nakamitsu continued, pointing to the “existential” threat facing the world today, which is the result of “the highest level of geopolitical competition, rising tensions and deepening divisions among major powers in decades”.

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

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Trillion dollar question

Coupled with rising global tensions is a record level of world military expenditure which reportedly reached a $2,240 billion in 2022.

This situation has led to an increased emphasis on nuclear weapons, “through modernization programmes, expanded doctrines, allegations of growing stockpiles and most alarmingly…threats to use them”, explained the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.

“The fact that in the last 12 months nuclear weapons have openly been used as tools of coercion should worry us all,” she added.

The 1968 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) is one of the only international agreements signed by both nuclear and non-nuclear states, aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and furthering the goal of nuclear disarmament.

After entering into force in 1970, 191 states have since become party to the treaty – the most signatories of any arms limitation agreement.

Bold goals

The treaty centres on the idea that non-nuclear States agree to never acquire weapons and nuclear-weapons states in exchange agree to share the benefits of the technology, whilst pursuing efforts towards disarmament and elimination of nuclear arsenals.

In addition to the Vienna talks now under way and which come ahead of the NPT’s five-yearly review in 2026, countries have also exchanged on disarmament and non-proliferation issues at the UN’s Conference on Disarmament in Geneva in the past week.

In recent days – and despite ongoing concerns that the Conference remains deadlocked by geopolitical developments – the forum’s 65 Member States heard briefings from the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the battlefield.

The aim of such discussions is to establish a mechanism that allows for regular multilateral dialogue and the inclusion of the views of countries that are not actively involved in the development of artificial intelligence, to ensure the responsible development and deployment of AI in the military domain.

The Conference on Disarmament – which was established in 1979 – is not formally a UN body but reports annually, or more frequently as appropriate, to the UN General Assembly.Its remit reflects the Organization’s conviction that disarmament and non-proliferation remain indispensable tools to create a security environment that is favourable to human development, as enshrined in the UN Charter.

In addition to convening the Conference on Disarmament, Member States gather in Geneva to discuss a range of multilateral disarmament agreements and conferences including the Anti-Personnel Landmine Convention (APLC), the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), The Convention on Cluster Munitions, The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), as well as NPT review panels.

Dismantle Israel’s carceral regime and “open-air” imprisonment of Palestinians: UN expert

. . HUMAN RIGHTS . .

An article from the United Nations Human Rights Commission

Israel’s military occupation has morphed the entire occupied Palestinian territory into an open-air prison, where Palestinians are constantly confined, surveilled and disciplined,” a UN expert said today (July 10).

“Over 56 years, Israel has governed the occupied Palestinian territory through stifling criminalisation of basic rights and mass incarcerations,” said Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, in a new report to the Human Rights Council.


Frame from UN video of the Albanese press conference

“Under Israeli occupation, generations of Palestinians have endured widespread and systematic arbitrary deprivation of liberty, often for the simplest acts of life and the exercise of fundamental human rights,” Albanese said. Without condoning violent acts that Palestinians may have committed during decades of Israel’s illegal occupation, most of their criminal convictions have resulted from a litany of violations of international law, including due process violations, that taint the legitimacy of the administration of justice by the occupying power.

The report finds that since 1967, over 800,000 Palestinians, including children as young as 12, have been arrested and detained under authoritarian rules enacted, enforced and adjudicated by the Israeli military. Palestinians are subject to long detention for expressing opinions, gathering, pronouncing unauthorised political speeches, or even merely attempting to do so, and ultimately deprived of their status of protected civilians. They are often presumed guilty without evidence, arrested without warrants, detained without charge or trial and brutalised in Israeli custody.

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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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“Mass incarceration serves the purpose of quelling peaceful opposition against the occupation, protecting the Israeli military and settlers, and ultimately facilitating settler-colonial encroachment,” the Special Rapporteur said.

“Bundling Palestinians as a collective “security threat”, Israel has used draconian military orders to punish the exercise of basic rights. These measures have been used as tools to subjugate an entire population, depriving them of self-determination, enforcing racial domination and advancing territorial acquisition by force,” she said. 

Albanese noted that Israel’s “carceral regime” haunts Palestinian life even outside prisons. Blockades, walls, segregated infrastructure, checkpoints, settlements encircling Palestinian towns and villages, hundreds of bureaucratic permits and a web of digital surveillance, further entrap Palestinians in a carceral continuum across strictly controlled enclaves.

“The widespread and systematic arbitrariness of the occupation’s carceral regime is yet another expression of the apartheid imposed on the Palestinians and strengthens the need to end it immediately,” the UN expert said.

“The mass and arbitrary deprivation of liberty that Palestinians have been collectively subjected to for decades aims to protect Israel’s annexation of Palestinian territory, a project with unlawful aims pursued by unlawful means,” Albanese said. “This macroscopic violation of fundamental principles of international law cannot be remedied by addressing some of its most brutal consequences. For Israel’s carceral regime to end, and its inherent apartheid with it, its illegal occupation of Palestine must end,” she said.

Albanese called on Member States to uphold their obligations not to aid or recognise Israel’s settler-colonial occupation and incremental annexation, and use all diplomatic, political and economic measures under the UN Charter to bring it to an end and make sure its architects are brought to justice.

Francesca Albanese is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

(Editor’s note: Not surprisingly, Albanese is under vicious attacks by Israel and it supporters. This is described in detail in the an article from the Jordan News.

United Nations: Behind at halftime, but all still to play for in race to 2030 as top political forum closes

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article from the United Nations

This year’s High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) concluded in New York on Wednesday, laying the groundwork for the crucial SDG Summit in September

Over the past ten days, world leaders, policymakers, and key stakeholders gathered to review progress, share experiences, and discuss strategies for advancing sustainable development.

The HLPF serves as a central platform for monitoring and reviewing the implementation of the SDGs, which were adopted by all UN Member States in 2015. These goals encompass a wide range of objectives, including eradicating poverty, promoting gender equality, ensuring access to quality education and healthcare, and protecting the environment.
Focused on the theme of Sustainable and Resilient Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic, this year’s HLPF recognized the unprecedented challenges posed by the global health crisis.

Far-reaching impact of COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching impacts on all aspects of society, exacerbating existing inequalities and hindering progress towards the SDGs. The forum aimed to identify solutions and strategies for building back better in a post-pandemic world.

Admitting that the world is “woefully off track” to achieve the SDGs by the 2030 deadline, top UN officials, ministers and policy makers as well as representatives of the private sector and major public groups discussed the ways to push forward the implementation of five out of the 17 SDGs.

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Question for this article:

Sustainable Development Summits of States, What are the results?

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They put under scrutiny progress made so far in universal access to clean water, sanitation and power, and reviewed ways to take advantage of new technology, also discussing the crucial role of urban development.

Lachezara Stoeva, President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), who spearheaded the work of the Forum, emphasized the importance of innovation, technology, and high-impact partnerships. 

“We are halfway to 2030 and yet nowhere near to achieving the SDGs. The bad news is we’ve lost seven years. The good news is, we still have seven years and victory is within our reach,” she said.

One of the objectives that the ECOSOC President had for the Forum was to increase participation of young people. 

“Needless to say, engaging young people in the discussion is not a courtesy, it is an absolute imperative if we are serious about meeting the Goals,” Ms. Stoeva underscored. 

National reviews

Throughout the HLPF, participants engaged in over 200 high-level panel discussions, interactive dialogues, and Voluntary National Reviews. Thirty-eight countries provided data on their progress towards achieving the SDGs – one of the key components of the development agenda. Notably, for the first time ever, the European Union presented its review. 

One of the important takeaways from the HLPF was the recognition that achieving the SDGs requires a collective effort involving governments, civil society, businesses, and individuals.

It is crucial to foster multi-stakeholder partnerships and mobilize resources to accelerate progress towards the goals. The private sector, in particular, has a vital role to play in driving sustainable and inclusive economic growth through responsible business practices and investments. 

As the HLPF ends, it is essential to carry forward the momentum generated during this week, participants concluded. The deliverables laid bare at the Forum, are crucial for the success of the SDG Summit in September. 

“Together we must do our best to have our messages heard at the Summit. It is a critical opportunity we must not miss,” Lachezara Stoeva encouraged the HLPF participants, concluding the Forum’s session. 
 

G77 Statement to High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

A statement from The Group of 77 at the United Nations

Statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China by H.E. Mr. Alejandro Gil Fernández, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Planning of the Republic of Cuba, at the general debate of the high-level segment of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development under the auspices of ECOSOC (New York, 17 July 2023)


Image from Wikipedia

Her Excellency Ms. Lachezara Stoeva, President of ECOSOC,

I have the honor to deliver this statement on behalf of the G77 and China.

As we approach the midpoint of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we have witnessed how many are still lagging behind.

We meet today at a time of extremely critical juncture, in which developing countries face multiple challenges, particularly those concerning economic and social recovery from the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, enormous financial and debt difficulties, rising food prices, escalating climate emergency and an unbalanced economic order that perpetuates inequalities and poverty.

Humanity has before it a thick and complex set of documents, based on basic principles, which in theory are the basis for our sustainable development. However, the progress achieved is still insufficient for the realities of the poorest and most vulnerable. Let us not forget that poverty eradication is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.

The increasing global challenges, including the negative effects of climate change that threatens the very survival of many developing countries especially of Small Island developing states and deepen the vulnerability of all, the rising global interest rates, tightened financial conditions, high cost of debt and risks of debt distress, have deeply impacted economies in the Global South, especially in low and middle income countries. In this regard, the G77 and China expects to have a meaningful debate on the centrality of development finance to overcome those challenges.

Concrete actions by developed countries to deliver on previous commitments, as well as on the reform of the international financial architecture are essential for the transformation we are advocating.

Madam President,

It has been almost a decade since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. Multiple pledges have been made since then.

Contrary to the notion of progress, we find ourselves in a situation where our people is even more in need now than years before. The IMF is forecasting that a third of the global economy will be in recession in 2023. For the first time, UNDP has found that human development is falling in nine out of 10 countries.

The high cost of borrowing prevents the capacity of developing countries to invest in the SDGs and it also raises the risk of debt default. For developing countries in the Global South interest rates can be eight times higher than those in developed countries, as highlighted by the Secretary General, who has pointed out as well that today 25 developing economies are spending over 20 per cent of government revenues solely on servicing debt.

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Question for this article:

Sustainable Development Summits of States, What are the results?

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Madam President,

Since its inception, the G77 and China has been advocating for a new international economic order. Now it´s more evident than ever that these transformations cannot wait any longer. The UN Secretary General recently recognized that the Global Financial System is biased, morally bankrupt and skewed to benefit wealthy countries. This is no longer a plea only from developing countries.

The reform of the international financial architecture, especially of IMF and the World Bank, cannot continue to wait. We need to strengthen the participation of developing countries in international economic decision-making, norm-setting and global economic governance, so as in order to adapt to changes in the global economy. We look forward to fulfill the commitment of IMF to revisiting the adequacy of quotas and continuing the process of governance reform under the sixteenth general review of quotas and to conduct the shareholding review of the World Bank.

We welcome the UN Secretary-General’s proposal for an “SDG Stimulus” for developing countries, in particular the most in need and distressed countries, which aims at massively scaling up affordable long-term financing for development and aligning financing flows with the SDGs. We call upon the international community to follow up on the SG’s proposal.
We urge developed countries to fulfill their unmet ODA commitments to developing countries to achieve the target of 0.7 % of gross national income and 0.15 to 0.20 % of ODA to the least developed countries.

We urge the initiation of an United Nations intergovernmental process to establish measures that go beyond GDP in order to have a more inclusive approach to international cooperation and financing for development.

The Group emphasizes the need for special and differential treatment for developing countries in harnessing the developmental benefit of international trade and the importance of a multilateral trading system that relies on universal, rule-based, open, transparent, inclusive and non-discriminatory rules as embodied in the WTO agreements.

In this connection, the Group remains deeply concerned and rejects the increasing trend by developed countries to impose unilateral and protectionist measures that undermine the multilateral trading system and would constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination between countries or a disguised restriction on international trade, such as unilateral and discriminatory border adjustment mechanisms and taxes, negatively impacting the access of developing countries’ exports to the global markets.

The climate change agenda must be fully implemented in accordance with the UNFCCC and its Paris Agreement and upholding the principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. In this regard, it is critical to increase ambition on mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation, and materialize the provision and mobilization of resources by developed countries to tackle climate change. We are deeply disappointed that the goal to mobilize 100 billion dollars by developed countries per year up to 2020 was never met and we strongly call developed countries to fulfill this pledge. We also urge the full operationalization of the loss and damage fund by COP28.

It is critical an urgent promotion of technology transfer and capacity building as well as technological and scientific cooperation from developed to developing countries in order to foster sustainable development in its three dimensions and the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Finally, we emphasize that as stated in the 2030 Agenda, States are strongly urged to refrain from promulgating and applying any unilateral economic, financial or trade measures not in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations that impede the full achievement of economic and social development, particularly in developing countries.

Madam President,

The actions just mentioned have been enunciated in several occasions by the leaders of the Global South. The lack of progress must not be attributed to a lack of solutions. Actions are there. What it is required urgently is political will to implement what we all know is needed to overcome one of the most complex crises humanity has seen in the modern history.

We, as leaders from the developing world, have the responsibility to come all together and claim with a united voice the changes needed to ensure a sustainable future for the current and coming generations.

I thank you.