Sunday, September 30, 2012

Uzbekistan Stresses Water Conservation as Key to Regional Security

In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly last week, the Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan, Abdulaziz Kamilov, underlined the commitment of his country - a landlocked nation in Central Asia – to a United Nations convention protecting water resources in his water-scarce region as part of a larger effort to ensure regional peace and stability.  “In the modern world, given climate change and the worsening ecological situation on a global scale, ensuring reasonable and rational use of water resources becomes the most acute problem,” Mr. Kamilov told the 67th Assembly on the fourth day of its annual General Debate, at UN Headquarters in New York.  Click here for a copy of his statement.

A report released last year by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) noted how boosting cooperation between countries sharing the waters of the Amu Darya, Central Asia’s longest river, could be key to the future peace and security of the region and urged the four main nations involved – Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – to ratify the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes.  The report further notes that water resources in the region are already depleted by decades of often-unsustainable development dating back to the Soviet era, when large-scale engineering projects diverted flows from the river into cotton, wheat and fodder farming in arid and desert regions.

In reference to plans by neighbouring Tajikistan to build a major dam – the Rogun hydropower station – Mr. Kamilov urged that the region’s limited water resources be used “first, to meet potable and sanitary needs, and only after that to ensure food security, ecological needs and the needs of industry.” In addition, he stressed that all construction projects of hydropower facilities in the upper stream basins of the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers be subjected to international authoritative appraisal under UN auspices, and be in line with the Convention.

Located on the Vakhsh River in the country’s south, the Rogun project has reportedly caused some regional tensions. According to media reports, Uzbekistan has opposed construction on the basis that it will negatively impact the region’s environment, as well as adversely impact its agricultural sector.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

September 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

U.S. Supreme Court Hears ATS Case (Kiobel) as it Opens 2012-13 Term

US Supreme Court SealThe U.S. Supreme Court begins its 2012-13 Term tomorrow on October 1, the first Monday in October.  The court will hear two cases tomorrow.  The first is Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., No. 10-1491.  The issue in that case is whether the issue of corporate civil tort liability under the Alien Tort Statute ("ATS"), 28 U.S.C. § 1350, is a merits question or an issue of subject matter jurisdiction.  The Supreme Court must decide whether a federal district court can hear a claim under the ATS when the calim arose out of conduct in a foreign country.

The petitioner, Esther Kiobel, filed a class action under the ATS against the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company (incorporated in the Netherlands), Shell Transport and Trading Company (incorporated in the United Kingdom), and the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (incorporated in Nigeria). The members of the class are individuals from the Ogoni region in Nigeria.  They had organized the "Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People" to protest the detrimental effects that oil exploration had in their homelands.

The petitioners allege that the oil companies assisted the Nigerian government in acts of violence against the Ogoni people who were protesting oil exploration and development in their region of Nigeria. They allege that the Nigerian military used rape, murder, beatings, and unlawful arrests to get them to stop their protests against oil exploration and development.  The petitioners claim that the oil companies provided the Nigerian military with transportation, foot, compensation, and other support that facilitated the attacks against the Ogoni.

The petitioners claim standing under the ATS because the hisotry, text, and purpose of the statute support application of the ATS to actions that arose in foreign countries.  

The oil companies argue that U.S. law does not apply extraterritorially and that the ATS is not an exception to that general rule.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit had dismissed the claim against the oil companies because the ATS had never previously been used as a basis of liability for corporations.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case on February 28, 2012 and on March 5, 2012 ordered re-argument on the question of whether the ATS allows litigation in the United States when the events did not occur within the territory of the United States. 

Tomorrow the U.S. Supreme Court will also hear Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, No. 11-626, where the Court will decide whether an indefinitely moored houseboat is a "vessel" for purporses of federal maritime jurisdicition.


September 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Tells UN that there is "No Alternative to Peace, Stability and Mutually Beneficial Regional Cooperation

Azerbaijani and Armenian communities of the Nagorno-Karabakh region will “one day live shoulder-to-shoulder,” Azerbaijan’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Elmar Mammadyarov, told the United Nations General Assembly Debate last week. “We sincerely believe there is no alternative to peace, stability and mutually beneficial regional cooperation,” the Foreign Affairs Minister told the 67th Assembly’s General Debate, taking place at UN Headquarters in New York. “Azerbaijan is the most interested party in the earliest negotiated settlement of the dispute.” 

In his statement, Mr. Mammadyarov also addressed his country’s participation in the Security Council in the 2012-2013 term, highlighting how his country, which served as President of the 15-member body in May, organizing a meeting under the so-called Arria Formula – a  mechanism that allows Member States greater flexibility in the way they are briefed on a particular issue – to “encourage a frank exchange of views . . . on the role of mediation, judicial settlement and justice in promoting durable and international law-based peace and reconciliation.”

The Foreign Affairs Minister expressed Azerbaijan’s concern over the Middle East peace process, which he said has “been at a standstill,” and called on the parties to create the necessary conditions conducive to the resumption of negotiations. In addition, he said Azerbaijan remained “deeply concerned” over both the violence and the “socio-economic and humanitarian situation” in Syria, and expressed deep concern over the “recent escalation provoked by blasphemy against Islam” – indirectly referring to a recent anti-Islam video made in the US which led to violent reactions in various cities around the world.

Click here to read a copy of his statement.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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ICJ Doubles Workload Since 1990

Last week, the President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Peter Tomka addressed the High Level Meeting on the Rule of Law at the United Nations General Assembly. During his speech, he emphasized that the work pace of the Court has doubled since 1990. In the last 22 years, the Court has issued twice as many judgments as it did in its first 44 years (a rate of 2.72 per year). He also pointed out that approximately one-third of the States in the international community have accepted the Court's compulsory jurisdiction while more than 300 treaties call for dispute resolution to be performed by the Court.


September 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Omar Kadr Released from Guantanamo and Returned to Canada

According to news reports this weekend, Omar Kadr, the youngest detainee at Guantanamo Bay and a Canadian citizen, has been transferred to Canada to serve out the remainder of his eight-year sentence (in addition to the eight years spent at Guantanamo Bay) pursuant to his plea bargain agreement in which he pled guilty to killing a US soldier.


September 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

United Arab Emirates Calls for Resolution of Dispute with Iran Over Three Islands in the Persian Gulf

The Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, called on the international community to urge Iran to respond to the calls for a just settlement of the dispute over three islands in the Persian Gulf region. Addressing the General Assembly’s high-level debate at UN Headquarters in New York, the Foreign Minister expressed his Government’s regret regarding “the continued Iranian occupation of our three islands: Abu Musa, and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs.” He also voiced the UAE’s demands for the restoration of full sovereignty over these islands.  “We emphasize that all actions and measures taken by the Iranian occupation authorities are null and void, and are contrary to international law and to all norms and common human values,” said the Foreign Minister.  Click here for a full copy of his statement at the United Nations.

He also called on the international community to urge Iran to respond to the UAE’s “repeated peaceful, sincere calls” for a just settlement, either through direct negotiations or by referral to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to settle the dispute. 

“We hope the Iranian Government will deal with this sensitive and important issue in a positive and just manner, in order to establish good neighbourly relations, build bridges of cooperation, preserve the common interests between our two countries, and strengthen security and stability in the region as a whole,” he said.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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Saudi Arabia Calls for Deepening of Dialogue Among Religions to Prevent Conflicts

United Nations Member States must spread a culture of tolerance and understanding and deepen the dialogue among cultures and religions to prevent conflicts, the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, Prince Addulaziz bin Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, said in his statement to the world body’s General Assembly on Friday. “In order to maintain this noble humanitarian requirement promoted by all religions, we must disseminate and deepen the dialogue with a view to achieve peace between human beings, to avoid conflicts, to put an end to acts of aggression and arrogance, to respect religious, cultural, and civilizational particularity of peoples, and to encourage pursuit of positive interaction between civilizations, cultures, and religions,” Mr. Bin Abdulaziz told the gathered delegates at the 67th Assembly’s General Debate at UN Headquarters in New York.  Click here for a copy of his statement.

Saudi Arabia strongly condemns the act of “an irresponsible group who produced an offensive movie about the Prophet Muhammad,” he said – referring to an anti-Islam video produced in the US and which has led to a violent reaction in various cities across the world - and noted that in this context, his country renews its calls to enact laws and regulation that forbid the defamation of religious symbols.  Mr. Bin Abdulaziz stressed that Saudi Arabia also condemns the acts of violence that followed the release of the film against United States foreign missions, and underlined that diplomats around the world must be protected. The US Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, along with others, was recently killed in the eastern Libya city of Benghazi in violence believed to be linked to the anti-Islam video.  “Diplomatic envoys are protected by inviolability and immunity that is urged by our noble religion first and international treaties as well, due to the importance of diplomacy in preserving international interests,” the Vice Minister said.

He also urged the international community to act on the Syrian crisis which has reached “exacerbated and complicated limits,” and reiterated that Saudi Arabia stands ready to work through legitimate international frameworks in accordance to humanitarian law. However, he noted with regret that the Security Council has not been able to reach agreement on united action to put a stop to the violence in the Middle Eastern country, in which more than 18,000 people have been killed since an anti-government uprising erupted 18 months ago. “We regret that this regime continues to believe that it can proceed with its suppressive procedures to control the situation without any due regard to the high humanitarian losses,” he said. “The Security Council, which is entrusted with the responsibility of keeping peace and security, has failed so far to take a decision about the Syrian crisis and to stop the bloodshed therein.”   He added that “this matter gave the Syrian regime a green light to proceed with its crimes against the Syrian people, in a race against time, to accomplish its objectives using the most advanced means of killing and destruction.”

A new strategy that aims to achieve a peaceful transition to power and that surpasses the previous plan put forward by the former Joint envoy of the UN and the League of Arab States on the Syrian crisis, Kofi Annan, is vital, the Saudi official said, adding that the current UN-Arab League Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, will not be able to move forward unless the Security Council provides him with the support he needs to deal with the crisis at a political and humanitarian level.

Regarding the Middle East peace process, Mr. Bin Abdulaziz told the General Assembly that his country believes the way this protracted conflict can be solved is by responding to the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, particularly their right to establish an independent State. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which grants the Palestinian issue top priority, urges the international community represented by the United Nations to swiftly put an end to the tragedy of the Palestinian people and to provide its National Authority with all forms of support and assistance,” he said, adding that Saudi Arabia “is sparing no effort to meet all its obligations towards the peace process and towards our Palestinian brothers by the provision of various types of support and assistance.”

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

September 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

European Ministers Highlight Failure to Unite Over Situation in Syria

Croatia’s Prime Minister, Austria’s Vice-Chancellor and Sweden’s Foreign Affairs Minister lamented the lack of unity in the United Nations Security Council over the conflict in Syria as they addressed the UN General Assembly today, while Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister joined those speakers in speaking out on the need for strong human rights protections. Differences between the Council’s members over what steps to take amid Syria’s unfolding violence formed the backdrop to the speakers’ remarks at the 67th Assembly’s General Debate. 

“The lack of univocal action against the most severe violations of the UN Charter is deeply troubling,” said the Prime Minister of Croatia, Zoran Milanovic. “We must resolutely counter this obsession with violence and repression. We should not shy away from our responsibilities.”  Click here for a copy of his statement.

Austria’s Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister for European and International Affairs, Michael Spindelegger, described the victims of Syria’s violence, and its 2.5 million people who are in need of humanitarian assistance, as being a “stark reminder” for the United Nations to act. “The Security Council in particular must assume its responsibility for the ever aggravating situation in the country,” he said.  Click here for a copy of Austria's statement.

For the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Carl Bildt, the Syrian conflict reminded the world of a simple truth: “Violence is easy to start, but difficult to stop.” He said the “divided” Security Council needed to put “global responsibilities above narrow national interests.”

Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore, spoke extensively on the issue of human rights, while his colleagues from Croatia, Austria and Sweden also addressed that subject. “Ireland’s commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights has been shaped by our history,” he said. “As a small island nation, which has experienced the impact of colonialism, civil war and conflict, we learned the hard way that human rights can never be taken for granted.”  Click here for a copy of Ireland's statement. 

Ireland is seeking election for the first time to the UN Human Rights Council, in accordance with the country’s pledge to do so this year at the Council’s 2006 launch. “We want to see a principled Council that provides real leadership,” said Deputy Prime Minister Gilmore. “We also value and support the full participation of small states in the work of the Council.”

Croatia’s Prime Minister Milanovic spoke of the promotion of human rights internationally as being “one of the cornerstones of the UN role in the world.”

Noting Austria became an elected member of the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, Vice-Chancellor Spindelegger said the body was best placed to react swiftly in case of human rights emergencies. “Its special sessions on Syria and Libya illustrated that the international community will not turn a blind eye on gross human rights violations and indiscriminate attacks against the civilian population,” he said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Bildt, who highlighted that Sweden was the largest financial contributor to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), spoke of his country’s upcoming candidacy for membership of the Human Rights Council – and pledged it would take every opportunity to champion online freedom of expression. “The fight for freedom on the Net is the new frontline in the fight for freedom in the world,” he said.  Click here for a copy of his statement.

Though Foreign Affairs Minister Bildt did not make direct reference to the presence on the Internet and elsewhere of the anti-Islam video made in the United States which led to violent reactions in various cities around the world, both Prime Minister Milanovic and Vice-Chancellor Spindelegger addressed the violence that erupted around the production.

The two spoke specifically of the killing of the US Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, in the eastern Libya city of Benghazi in violence believed to be linked to the anti-Islam video.

“People come from different cultures, legal traditions, historical backgrounds and forms of government,” said Croatia’s Prime Minister Milanovic. “But violence can never be an acceptable response to the freedom of speech.”

Vice-Chancellor Spindelegger expressed Austria’s “strongest” condemnation of all the attacks that occurred against diplomatic missions and personnel. “To attack an embassy and its personnel is not only contrary to international law, but an attack on the very idea the United Nations stands for, namely, the peaceful cooperation of member states to jointly build a better future,” he said.

All four speakers addressed an array of additional topics. Topics covered in their remarks included justice and the rule-of-law by Croatia’s Prime Minister Milanovic; Vice-Chancellor Spindelegger’s expression of Austria’s concern about weapons of mass destruction; and development issues addressed by both Foreign Affairs Minister Bildt of Sweden and Deputy Prime Minister Gilmore of Ireland.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

September 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

International Parental Child Abduction and Implementation of the Hague Abduction Convention

The U.S. Special Advisor for Children’s Issues, Ambassador Susan Jacobs will visit Costa Rica from October 1-3, 2012.  While in Costa Rica, Special Advisor Jacobs will meet with government and judicial officials to discuss international parental child abduction and implementation of the Hague Abduction Convention.

(Hat tip to the US State Department)

September 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Iran's News Agency Thinks US Comic Newspaper Story is Real

A parody newspaper in the United States, called the Onion, makes up the funniest news stories.  These stories are not real, but Iran's news agency picked up one of the stories and published it as a true story.  Click here to read more.  We're still laughing here about it!


September 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Andorra Says that for all its Shortcomings, the World is a Much Better Place Thanks to the United Nations

In what may have been the nicest and most hopeful address this week in New York, Andorra’s Foreign Minister, Gilbert Saboya Sunyé, told the UN General Assembly Debate on Friday that for all its shortcomings, the world was still a much better place thanks to the United Nations.  “Although the way the United Nations system works is indeed far from optimal, we should not forget however that what today is reality seemed an unattainable dream a century ago,” he said. “We should move on from talk of dreams and progress to talk of ambition. We should move on from dreaming about change to having the ambition to change.”   Click here for a copy of his full statement.  

(Adapted from a UN Press Release) (mew)

September 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Iceland and Montenegro Call for Stronger UN

The year and a half of deadly violence in Syria is clear testimony of the need to reform the United Nations to strengthen its preventive capabilities, European ministers told the General Assembly today.    “The truth is that the Security Council has become an obstacle to international efforts to address and solve situations such as in Syria,” Iceland’s Foreign Minister said in his speech to the 67th Assembly’s General Debate, at UN Headquarters in New York.  Click here for a copy of his statement.

More than 18,000 have been killed and hundreds of thousands more driven from their homes in fighting between the Government and opponents in the Middle Eastern country. “The Syrian problem is also a wake-up call for the UN with regard to the Security Council. Syria has demonstrated how arcane the Council is, and how out-of-tune it is with the needs of the modern world,” he added of the 15-member body, in which a veto from one of its five permanent members can trump a decision by all 14 others.    

Resolutions to address the Syrian situation have twice been vetoed in the past year, most recently in July.    

“Thousands of innocent people, not least innocent children, are losing their lives due to an oppressive regime,” he told the gathered delegates. “The international community must unite to end the violence and we must make a better effort to seek a political and peaceful solution for the sake of the Syrian people.  We must also ensure that those, on both sides, who commit atrocities, will at the end of the day face their responsibility in an international court of law.”   

The Foreign Minister also strongly criticized Israel for its blockade of Gaza and the violation of the human rights of the Palestinians in the West Bank. He also appealed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to bomb Iran over that country’s nuclear programme and to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not to build a nuclear bomb.   

The call for strengthening the UN to endow it with the capability to forestall crises such as the one now engulfing Syria was echoed by Foreign Minister Nebojša Kaluderovic of Montenegro.  Click here for a copy of his statement. “The scale and consequences of violence in Syria serve as a stern reminder of the importance of preventive measures in preserving international peace and security, which requires enhancement of the UN preventive capacities and the role of dialogue and mediation in peaceful conflict resolution,” he said to the Assembly.  “Montenegro strongly advocates an approach that strives towards an early prevention and elimination of threats before they evolve into sources of conflict,” he added, pledging to increase his country’s participation in peacekeeping operations in accordance with its capacities.   

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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Kazakhstan Says Nuclear Weapons Are No Guarantee of a Country's Safety

The inability of nuclear weapons to guarantee a country’s security or independence was highlighted in the speech of Kazakhstan’s Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kairat Umarov, to the United Nations General Assembly today.   Click here for a copy of his statement.

“The threat of proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology, along with the spectre of their acquisition and use by terrorist entities, has been one of the most daunting challenges to humanity,” the Foreign Affairs Minister told the 67th Assembly’s General Debate at UN Headquarters in New York today.  “It is our strong view that the possession of weapons of mass destruction is not a guarantee of security or greater independence. Kazakhstan's own record goes to show that countries reap huge benefits from the renunciation of nuclear weapons,” he added.  

The Central Asian nation closed down its nuclear weapons site Semipalatinsk, one of the largest test sites in the world and located in the country’s north-east, in 1991. As a result of this, the Foreign Affairs Minister noted, Kazakhstan has “won more friends and [has] become a more prosperous, stable and influential country.”  

“This year, we will complete the project to enhance physical security of the former Semipalatinsk test site,” he said. “We view this project, which is being implemented jointly with the United States and Russia, as our significant contribution to the global non-proliferation regime.”   

Mr. Umarov said that Kazakhstan fully supports a proposal by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to adopt a nuclear weapons convention, noting the suggestion of his country’s president that, as an important step in that direction, the United Nations should adopt a Universal Declaration of a Nuclear Weapon-Free World.  “This will, undoubtedly, facilitate our advancement towards a nuclear weapon-free world and an early adoption of a nuclear weapons convention,” the Foreign Affairs Minister said, while also calling for the “early establishment” of a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East.   

In relation to Afghanistan, Mr. Umarov noted his country’s active involvement in multilateral cooperation efforts there, stating that for these efforts to be successful, its economic situation should be a priority.    “The efforts to stabilize the situation should be bolstered by reforms aimed at sustainable development and the improvement of socio-economic indicators in the country, its level of education and other human standards,” he said.  

Other topics covered in his remarks to the Assembly included the crisis in Syria, energy security, intercultural dialogue and human rights, to which Kazakhstan “attaches special importance.” The Central Asian is seeking a seat on the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council for the 2012-2015 period.  “If elected, Kazakhstan will participate, with a full sense of responsibility, in the proceedings of that important human rights body, on the basis of an open, impartial, non-politicized and mutually respectful dialogue between the Member States of the United Nations,” Mr. Umarov said.  

(UN Press Release)

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Algeria and Mauritania Call for UN Reform

African ministers at the United Nations General Assembly to day called for expanding the Security Council to include permanent representation for their continent and stressed the vital role of socio-economic in ensuring peace.   “The working methods of the Security Council must be revised to ensure democratization, and its membership must be expanded to include new permanent and non-permanent members of the developing world, particularly Africa, the cradle of civilization,” Algeria’s Foreign Minister, Mourad Medelci, said in his remarks to the 67th Assembly’s General Debate.  Click here for a copy of his remarks.  

In his statement, Mr. Medelci also highlighted the need for economic development as an essential pillar for ensuring lasting stability. “We firmly maintain that development, peace and security are indivisible and that UN strategies, in particular those of the Security Council aimed at a lasting peace, must be devised in full harmony with policies for socio-economic development,” he said.      

In his address to the General Debate, Mauritania’s Foreign Minister, Hamadi Ould Baba Ould Hamadi, reaffirmed his country’s support for UN reform, in particular by expanding the Council to include a permanent seat for Africa and another for the Arab group.  Reciting a litany of problems facing developing countries, from unemployment and the rise in food prices to an economic slowdown stemming from the global economic crisis, he appealed to the developed world to live up to its commitments.   “We ask the rich countries and the donor organizations to honour their pledge to make contributions, however insignificant, to finance development, above all for the least developed countries, so as to achieve acceptable levels of access to public services to guarantee civil peace, stability and the social cohesion of these countries in order to safeguard world peace,” he said.   

The two ministers also voiced alarm at new threats of terrorism and the situation in Mali, where Islamic militants have seized control of the north, imposing strict Sharia law and sending more than 260,000 refugees fleeing into neighbouring countries, more than 110,000 of them in Mauritania.   

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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Tajikistan Calls for UN Reform; Also Calls Attention to Illicit Drug Trafficking and the Situation in Afghanistan

The need for reform of the United Nations, illicit drug trafficking and the situation in Afghanistan were among the topics covered in the speech by Tajikistan’s Foreign Minister, Hamrokhon Zarifi, to the UN General Assembly today.  Click here for a copy of his statement.

“The recent developments in the world proved once again that it is impossible to address global and regional issues without strengthening the central role of the United Nations in the international affairs and without collective initiatives in world politics, with due respect of the norms of international law,” the Foreign Minister told the 67th Assembly’s General Debate, at UN Headquarters in New York.  “In this regard, it is becoming obvious that it is necessary to carry out a rational reform of the Organization, as a result of which the renewed United Nations will emerge capable to respond to the developments in the world in a quick and adequate manner, and to effectively meet numerous global challenges and threats of a new generation,” he added.  

Turning to his country’s southern neighbour, Afghanistan – which will acquire “an exclusive importance not only for the region but for the world” with the departure of the International Security Assistance Force in 2014 – Mr. Zarifi said that its social and economic development will be “the key” for ensuring its stable peace.  “For this reason, the international assistance rendered to Afghanistan should be aimed, first and foremost, at its utmost economic rehabilitation, further strengthening of its social sphere, job creation, etc,” he said. “In this regard, realization of projects on construction of railroads, motorways, power transmission lines, gas pipelines and etc. that connect Afghanistan with Tajikistan and other countries of the region is of utmost importance.”  

The prevention of illicit drug trafficking, the Foreign Minister stated, demands cooperation from the international community. Due to it shared borders with Afghanistan – a major drug-producing country – an estimated 15 per cent of all of Afghanistan’s opiates and 20 per cent of its heroin is trafficked through Tajikistan, according to estimates of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  “It is essential that the international community unite the measures aimed at reducing both the demand and supply of drugs, and integrate the efforts undertaken at the national level into the international strategy for drug control,” he said, adding that Tajikistan has started developing a new anti-narcotics strategy for the 2013-2020 period.  

In relation to human rights, Mr.Zarifi noted its place, alongside peace, security and development, as one of the pillars of the work of the United Nations, and how Tajikistan seeks a bigger role in this area with a seat on the Geneva-based Human Rights Council for the 2015-2017 period.  “Being a signatory to the major international treaties on human rights, Tajikistan, in a consistent manner, undertakes relevant measures aimed at ensuring protection and promotion of human rights in the country,” the Foreign Minister said.  

Other topics touched upon in his statement to the Assembly included respect for cultural and religious diversity, the harm caused by anti-personnel mines and sustainable development.  

(Adapted from a UN Press release)

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Cambodia, Singapore, and Malaysia Call for UN Security Council Reform

Speakers representing a trio of Southeast Asian countries called for reform of United Nations bodies today, with Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Minister framing their arguments for change mainly around development and economic urgencies, and Malaysia’s Foreign Affairs Minister focusing more on what he characterized as failures of the UN Security Council. 

The significance of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies featured in the speeches of both Singaporean Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong to the 67th General Assembly’s high-level debate, at UN Headquarters in New York. 
Mr. Shanmugam cited the G-20 as being one of the “smaller and exclusive groups,” beyond the United Nations, to which countries had turned because of a “growing frustration” over the inability of existing multilateral institutions to deal with various global challenges, among them rising income disparities, climate change and worries about food security.  Click here for a copy of his statement.

But, he said, the world body ultimately had the advantage of being able to come up with global solutions because of its universal membership. “We should therefore support ongoing and new efforts aimed at strengthening the UN, instead of denigrating it,” Mr. Shanmugam said. In outlining his country’s vision for a reformed UN, the Foreign Minister said Singapore wanted to see an “effective system of international law and resilient mechanisms for peaceful dispute settlement.” He stated that this would “provide a platform for states under threat to bring their problems before these mechanisms with confidence, rather than trying to resolve them by force.” Mr. Shanmugam also emphasized the importance of the rule of law at the international level, saying it was “particularly important” for the survival of small states such as Singapore for a “predicable and stable rule-based system” to exist. 

For his part, the Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister said the G-20 had a “crucial role” to play in meeting a series of global challenges, among them rising oil and food prices, while noting that a more empowered General Assembly could play a “leading role” in addressing the world’s problems.  Click here for a copy of the Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister's statement. 

“The reform of the UN will no doubt render it more effective in preserving international peace, security and stability, as well as in realizing justice in the international economic system,” said Deputy Prime Minister Hor, who also serves as his country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. In addition to empowering the Assembly and calling for an expansion of the 15-member Security Council, Mr. Hor said the 54-member UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) should be “strengthened to effectively coordinate international cooperation and efforts to tackle social and economic challenges.” 

In his General Assembly address, Malaysia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Anifah Aman, addressed the topics of UN reform and the rule of law while, while also commenting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the question of Palestinian membership of the UN.  Click here for a copy of the Malaysian Foreign Affairs Minister's address.

“This is just one of a host of reasons . . . why the United Nations, especially the Security Council, needs to be reformed,” he said. Citing in particular the Council, Mr. Aman added that there were “so many instances (where) it has failed to take action when action is needed the most.” He ascribed the inaction on the “veto power conferred to the five permanent members.” Mr. Aman also shared Malaysia’s position on what he called the “distasteful and insulting” anti-Islam video, made by a US citizen, which recently sparked protests in a number of predominantly Muslim countries around the world. 

“While we condemn the irresponsible actions of those who intentionally incite hatred, we are equally saddened by the violent reactions that ensured,” he said, mentioning the deaths of the US Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and others, in the eastern Libya city of Benghazi, during demonstrations believed to be linked to the video.  He called for the events to spark a deeper questioning of the relationship between freedom of expression and social responsibilities. “A line should be drawn when the prejudicial effect outweighs everything else,” Mr. Aman said. 

Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister Hor also expressed his country’s “regrets” over the deaths of Ambassador Stevens and others, but added that Cambodia also understood the “legitimate anger” linked to “disregarding . . . the Muslim religion.” 

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

September 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sudan's Foreign Minister Highlights Cooperation Treaty with South Sudan

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, Sudan’s Foreign Minister, Ali Ahmed Karti, today highlighted, among other issues, his country’s role in reaching a key framework agreement for cooperation – particularly in security, the common border and economic relations – with South Sudan, at talks this week in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.  Click here for a copy of his statement.

The agreement with South Sudan would not have taken place without Sudan’s willingness to cooperate and its commitment to peace, stability and development, the Foreign Minister told the 67th Assembly’s General Debate, held at UN Headquarters in New York. In light of this, he added, attempts to distort the image of his country or its leadership were devoid of any substance.  

South Sudan became independent from Sudan in July last year, six years after the signing of the peace agreement that ended decades of warfare between the north and the south. However, the peace between the two countries had come under threat over recent months by armed clashes along their common border and outstanding post-independence issues that have yet to be resolved.  The talks, held under the auspices of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel, were designed to enable the two nations to fulfil their obligations under a so-called roadmap aimed at easing tensions, facilitating the resumption of negotiations on post-secession relations and normalizing the relations between the two countries.  

Sudan, Mr. Karti noted in his speech, remained determined to tackle the reasons for war and strife, despite unfair sanctions imposed on it by the United States, and would require assistance during this “sensitive stage,” with its debts cancelled and its economy supported.   The country’s good neighbourly approach was further evidenced in its support for a range of agreements to do with the final status of the Abyei territory, which straddles the border area between Sudan and South Sudan and which both nations contest, he said.  “We have turned a page in Darfur,” Foreign Minister said in relation to the west Sudanese region, referring to the so-called Doha Document, an agreement signed in Qatar last year between the Sudanese Government and the Liberation and Justice Movement rebel group.   

Since 2003, conflict between the Sudanese Government and Darfur rebel groups has led to the deaths of tens if not hundreds of thousands of Darfuris and the displacement of nearly two million.  Mr. Karti called on the international community to protect and secure the gains made with the Doha Document by countering other rebel groups which had refused to take part in it. He urged UN Member States to attend a donors’ conference for rebuilding Darfur, to be held in Qatar in the coming months.  

Other topics mentioned in the Foreign Minister’s speech included the need to avoid offending religious beliefs and reform of the main and subsidiary bodies of the United Nations. He also  raised concerns about the concepts of humanitarian intervention, economic and political sanctions and the principle of the responsibility to protect.  

(UN Press Release)

September 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Zealand Calls on Security Council Members to Consider Limited Use of Veto Right

New Zealand today called on the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to give up their veto rights on issues involving mass atrocities, saying their inability to act in Syria was depriving them of credibility in the eyes of fair-minded people.  “If 25,000 deaths, countless thousands injured and many more thousands displaced and homeless is not enough to get the Security Council to act, then what does it take?” New Zealand’s Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, asked the 67th General Assembly on the fifth day of its high-level debate, at UN Headquarters in New York. 

“It would be difficult for me to overstate the level of frustration of the people I represent with the complete inability of the United Nations Security Council to act in relation to Syria,” he said, with regard to the humanitarian toll in Syria since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad erupted 18 months ago.  “And it would be even more difficult to overstate the extent to which the Security Council is at risk of losing its credibility in the eyes of reasonable and fair minded people through its inability to act,” he added, referring to the failure – through the use of veto powers – of the 15-member body to reach agreement on a united course of action on the crisis in the Middle Eastern country.   

Mr. McCully welcomed the leadership the Arab League had shown on the issue and suggested that in the absence of leadership from the Council, the Assembly will need to find ways to play a more activist role. “But from all this, the case for reform of the Security Council has become utterly compelling,” he noted.  “There are now compelling reasons for us to ask the P5 to voluntarily accept restrictions of the use of veto,” he said, referring to the five permanent states – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States – which have the veto right. “To go further and seek its abolition is pointless – it simply will not happen.” 

He called on the five to use their veto only when their vital national interests are at stake – the argument they used when they insisted on being granted the right at the UN’s creation in 1945.  “My challenge to them today is to consider a process by which they collectively and voluntarily agree to confine their use of the veto to those issues that clearly and directly affect their vital national interests, and that they voluntarily agree not to use their veto in situations involving mass atrocities.” Mr. McCully stated.  

He also called on the Council to agree to the request from the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) to endorse action by it to confront the situation in Mali, where Islamic militants have seized control of the north and imposed strict Sharia law, leading to an exodus of some 260,000 refugees. 

Turning to PIF regional issues, Mr. McCully noted that there was more the UN and particularly the Security Council can do to support regional leadership on peace and security matters, citing the major role the oceans and their resources play in the lives of the small island states.  “For many of the poorer states within our region, their fisheries resources is the major economic asset they hold,” he said. “Yet due to illegal fishing practices, unreported catch and inadequate management regimes, these countries have received far too small a return on the resources.”  

(Excerpt from a UN Press Release)

September 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Mozambique Highlights Need for UN Reform

Citing a range of challenges to peace in Africa and elsewhere around the world, in his address to the General Assembly today, Mozambique’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Oldemiro Baloi, highlighted the need for reform of the United Nations, as well as the revitalization of the Assembly itself. “The nature of the challenges that we face in the areas of international peace and security led us to affirm before this Assembly, the increasing relevance of multilateral mechanisms for the resolution of disputes or situations of conflict through peaceful means,” the Foreign Minister told the 67th Assembly’s General Debate, taking place at UN Headquarters in New York, noting that Mozambique took satisfaction that, throughout more than a half a century of its existence, the United Nations had reached “irrefutable achievements in maintaining peace, prevention and in the resolution of conflicts.”

“In order to effectively respond to the growing challenges to the resolution of conflicts, we are compelled to pursue, with more energy, the agenda for the reform of the United Nations system, the Security Council in particular and, the revitalization of the functioning of the General Assembly,” he added.  The Foreign Minister listed five areas which would underpin an approach for the reform of the two UN organs: a global strategic plan of action and a detailed program that addresses conflict situations; reinforcing the capacity of resource mobilization for peacekeeping missions; negotiating and implementing sustainable political solutions; engaging with a long-term perspective; and, the Security Council having a more proactive role in the solution of conflicts through the full implementation of the resolutions that it adopts.

“Thus, we reiterate the validity of the principles embedded in the United Nations Charter and of other international instruments that shall continue to be the main source of inspiration in the search for political and lasting solutions for the current conflicts,” Mr. Baloi said.

The Foreign Minister noted “with concern” tension and instability in parts of Africa, mentioning the situation in Madagascar, the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan, and in Mali. He also cited the issue of Palestine, conflict in the Middle East, the status of Western Sahara and the economic embargo against Cuba as other areas of concern for Mozambique.

(UN Press Release)

September 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Bhutan Would Like a Seat on the UN Security Council

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly, the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Jigmi Y. Thinley, today highlighted a range of challenges and areas of progress before the international community, while also affirming his country’s intent to seek a seat on the Security Council. “As with most sessions of the General Assembly, we are sharing, yet again our common fears and frustrations in a world that is going wrong. We have no stories except fleeting moments, to fill our sinking hearts with hope in our near or distant future. Ours is a narrative of mounting challenges and doubts,” the Prime Minister told the 67th Assembly’s General Debate at UN Headquarters in New York.  Click here for his statement.

“Deep in our hearts, we know that our very survival on this fragile planet is under threat. Yet, we share no common vision and fail to think and act in concert and with faith. And so, we find ourselves being overwhelmed by the forces that our irresponsible and discordant actions have unleashed,” he added. “All that we have achieved individually, as nations, as regions and as a species, face the threat of loss and reversal. As we argue and falter, the world we have built is falling apart.”

The Bhutanese leader cited climate change and its impact on ecosystems, the depletion of natural resources due to the growth in extractive industries, growing costs in food and energy, a rise in the number of conflicts as well as looming conflicts, economic insecurity, and a lack of respect for human rights as among the ills affecting the world. However, he noted, despite the slew of challenges on the international agenda, the realization that the world’s problems – be they economic, social, ecological or political – are interconnected has helped. “Although the United Nations has been a house of gloom in recent years, it does have its shining moments, projecting rays of hope,” he said, noting the Assembly’s past acceptance of well-being and happiness as a developmental goal “binding all of humanity with a common vision and pursuit – that it should bring about a holistic, sustainable and inclusive approach to development.”

The small Himalayan kingdom has introduced a new measurement of national prosperity, focussing on people’s well-being rather than economic productivity – in recent years, there has been growing interest in this concept, known as ‘gross national happiness.’ In 2011, the General Assembly adopted a resolution, sometimes referred to as the ‘happiness resolution,’ which noted, inter alia, that the traditional gross domestic product indicator “does not adequately reflect the happiness and well-being of people in a country.” That Assembly resolution led to Bhutan hosting a high-level meeting on the new economic paradigm at UN Headquarters in April, with hundreds of participants from governments, academia, civil society and religious bodies. The outcome of the conference also informed negotiations related to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Brazil in June.

Rio+20 was attended by some 100 world leaders, along with more than 40,000 representatives from non-governmental organizations, the private sector and civil society, all seeking to help shape new policies to promote global prosperity, reduce poverty and advance social equity and environmental protection. At the end of the gathering, participants agreed on an outcome document which called for a wide range of actions, such as beginning the process to establish sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Referring to the outcome document, Prime Minister Thinley noted that it “fell far short of what we ought to have achieved” with many people seeing it as a missed opportunity. “Not so my country and people who, with minimum expectations, came away with reason for hope. The agreement to develop universal sustainable development goals that would integrate the economic, environmental and social dimensions of development was a substantive outcome, consistent with the (General Assembly) resolution and the efforts that my own country is taking,” Prime Minister Thinley said.

He added, “What inspired me even more at Rio was the indomitable spirit of the hundreds of side events, several of which I was honoured to participate in. These were organized by civil society, grassroots organizations and the private sector. They came to share best practices and learn from each other but, more importantly, to demonstrate that sustainable development was not just an idle dream but that there are individuals and organizations who are breathing and living lives to realize what is profound and necessary.”

The Bhutanese leader said he was also inspired by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s appointment of a High-Level Panel to advise on the global development agenda beyond 2015, the target date for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The eight MDGs, agreed on by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000, set specific targets on poverty alleviation, education and environmental stability, in addition to other areas.

In his speech, the Prime Minister said that Bhutan has benefited from the international community throughout its 42 years of UN membership in the United Nations, while his country has provided “modest although focused” contributions to it in the areas such as the cause of peace, development, and the rule of law – and re-affirmed that his country is seeking a seat on the Security Council for the 2013-2014 term.  “As a responsible member of the international community, committed to the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, Bhutan is now prepared and seeks to engage directly in the process of building a more secure world through non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council,” he noted. “This we regard, not only as a privilege, but also, as a responsibility of UN membership.”

“Never having served nor sought membership on the Council before, we are convinced that all states, regardless of size, population, level of development, must be permitted the opportunity to contribute by bringing diversity of thought, approach and indeed, their will, to the work of the Council,” he said.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

September 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)