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)

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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)

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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!


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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

UN Human Rights Council Extends Mandate of Syria Panel

The United Nations Human Rights Council today voted to extend the mandate of the independent panel probing abuses in Syria, and called on all parties to put an end to all forms of violence. 
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, established in September 2011 by the Geneva-based Council, reported earlier this month that the scale and frequency of gross human rights violations in Syria has significantly increased in recent weeks, with indiscriminate attacks against civilians occurring on a daily basis in many areas of the country. Syria has been wracked by violence, with an estimated 19,000 people, mostly civilians, killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 18 months ago.

Today’s resolution was adopted by the 47-member Council by a vote of 41 in favour to three against (China, Cuba and Russia), with three abstentions (Philippines, India and Uganda). 

The Council strongly condemned the “continued widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms” by the Syrian authorities and the Government-controlled militia known as the Shabiha. It also strongly condemned the “increasing number of massacres” taking place in Syria, and requested the Commission to investigate all massacres. Strongly condemning the massacre that took place earlier this year in the village of Al-Houla near Homs, where the forces of the Syrian Government and members of the Shabiha were found by the Commission to be perpetrators of “outrageous and heinous” crimes, the Council stressed the need to hold those responsible to account.

In the report presented earlier this month, the Commission said it had found reasonable grounds to believe that Government forces and members of the Shabiha had committed war crimes, gross violations against human rights and crimes against humanity. Violations conducted by Government forces include murder, summary executions, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, sexual violence, violations of children’s rights, pillaging and destruction of civilian objects – including hospitals and schools.

Anti-Government armed groups have also committed war crimes, including murder and torture, the panel found. In addition, children under 18 years of age are fighting and performing auxiliary roles for anti-Government armed groups.

A confidential list of individuals and units that are believed to be responsible for violations will be provided to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, the panel said.

(UN Press Release)

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

Bangladesh Urges More Support for the Least Developed Countries

The world’s poorest countries need more international support to help them alleviate the consequences of rising food and energy prices, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, told the United Nations General Assembly today. Linking the price increases to climate change, Prime Minister Hasina said they had “dangerous implications” for UN-designated Least Developed Countries.

“They need greater international support for socio-economic security,” she said, adding that what is important to them is gaining duty-free and quota-free market access for their products, seeing donor countries fulfil their official development assistance commitments, being given an “equal voice” in institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and being allowed free international movement of labour for their respective workforces. “We should also ensure documentation and safe migration, and protection of the rights of migrant workers, especially women and children, as a shared responsibility of sending and receiving states within the WTO (World Trade Organization),” she said.

The Prime Minister said Bangladesh’s progress on development had been “hindered by the unjust climate change developments like increasing poverty, property loss, human displacements, and consequent terrorism.”

“The inevitable sea level rise would create mass movements of displaced migrants,” she said. “A new legal regime ensuring social, cultural and economic rehabilitation of climate migrants… must be put in place.” She noted that she had called for such a regime during the 64th session of the General Assembly three years ago.

Prime Minister Hasina stated that her country had managed to advance economically despite the obstacles before it, citing a 10 percent reduction in poverty, in addition to other favourable economic statistics. “Our achievements have earned us global recognition,” she said. In her statement to the Assembly, the Bangladeshi premier also mentioned the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, terrorism and the need for UN reform.

(UN Press Release)

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Island Nation of Comoros Warms of Dangers from Climate Change; Leader Also Urges Action on Syria and Reform of the UN Security Council

The leader of the Indian Ocean archipelago of Comoros, President Ikililou Dhoinine, took the podium at the United Nations General Assembly yesterday to appeal for international help to help small countries like his confront the potentially devastating impact of climate change. “The time has come to re-launch with greater resolve several international projects that have been suspended, notably those that favour mitigation and adaptation measure in the face of climate change,” President Dhoinine told the 67th Assembly on the third day of its annual General Debate, at UN Headquarters in New York.

“We must react effectively to this phenomenon that affects the whole planet, but especially small island states like Comoros,” he said, noting that two weeks of unusually torrential rains in April had delivered a disastrous blow to his country’s economy.

Turning to the general world situation, President Dhoinine called for rapid action to put an end to the “terrible suffering” of the people of Syria, where over 18,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands of others driven from their homes since an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad erupted 18 months ago. 

He also called for full UN membership for a Palestinian state based on a two-state solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side within secure and recognized borders, and condemned attacks against civilians and the destruction of sacred sites in northern Mali, where Islamic militants seized control earlier this year. 

As other African leaders have done at the General Debate, he also called for reform and expansion of the 15-member Security Council to give Africa the representation it deserves.

(From a UN Press Release)

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

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Security Agreements for Sudan and South Sudan

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today congratulated the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan for signing agreements on security, the common border and economic relations during talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. “These agreements provide vital elements in building a strong foundation for a stable and prosperous future between the two countries,” said a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson. 

The Secretary-General commended Presidents Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan and Salva Kiir of South Sudan “for demonstrating the statesmanship that made a comprehensive agreement possible, and for having once again chosen peace over war.”   

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 has been threatened in 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.

Mr. Ban praised the “serious and constructive” participation, by both sides, in the talks, as well as the continuing leadership of the Panel led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki in facilitating and mediating the talks. “The Secretary-General calls on both Governments to find solutions to the future of the disputed and claimed areas and the final status of Abyei,” the statement said. “He urges both countries to now embark on the implementation of the agreements they have signed and to finalize the processes they have initiated.”

(From a UN Press Release)

September 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

African Leaders Voice Concerns at UN General Assembly

Malawi’s President Joyce Banda yesterday called on the United Nations General Assembly to ensure that an ambitious programme adopted last year to spur development and economic growth in the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) be fully and speedily implemented.  “In particular, duty-free quota-free market access and supply side capacity must be ensured to the least developed countries,” President Banda told the Assembly on the second day of its annual General Debate, adding that implementation must be “in its entirety and in an effective and timely manner.”

The Istanbul Programme of Action, adopted at a UN summit in the Turkish city in May 2011, outlines a 10-year plan to support the most vulnerable countries in efforts to overcome poverty, calling on the private sector to play a greater role in the fight, urging wealthy nations to step up aid commitments and demanding the elimination of many trade barriers. The summit focused on ways to harness the potential of the 48 countries – many of them in sub-Saharan Africa – classified as LDCs so that they can lift themselves out of poverty and develop economically. Under the programme, affluent countries have committed to realize the target of spending 0.15 per cent to 0.20 per cent of their national incomes on official development assistance. The plan also calls for the abolition or reduction of arbitrary or unjustified trade barriers, and the opening up of markets in wealthier countries to products from poorer nations.

President Banda also welcomed the outcome of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Brazil in June, when countries renewed their political commitment to sustainable development, including the development of a strategy for sustainable development financing. “Most least developed countries are facing the adverse effects of climate change, which is causing flooding, land degradation as well as drought,” she said. “Implementation of these agreements is very crucial for our future.”

The Malawian leader joined other African countries in demanding an expansion of the 15-member Security Council to include at least two permanent and five non-permanent seats for the continent. “Africa makes the single largest region within the United Nations and a very significant proportion of issues discussed in the Security Council concern the African continent,” she noted.

In his remarks to the General Debate, King Mswati III of Swaziland said full representation of all regions in the Council will ensure that “we all own the decisions of this important security organ.” He called for Africa to have two permanent seats on the Security Council and five seats in the non-permanent category. “We should all be given equal treatment. No region or country should impose its influence over others. We wish to see finality to this urgent matter since it has dragged on for a very long time now.”

Making a similar argument in his remarks to the gathering, Mali’s Prime Minister Mohamed Abdoulaye Dit Modibo Diarra noted the current “imbalance” affecting Africa on the issue. He also said that only the deployment of forces from the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS), under UN authorization, would succeed in recovering northern Mali from Islamic militants who seized control there earlier this year, imposing strict Sharia law, including amputation of limbs as punishment, and leading to the flight of 350,000 people, both internally and as refugees to neighbouring countries.

In his statement to the Assembly, Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh, calling for Africa’s full representation on the Council, criticized the current structure as a stumbling block to urgent action in crisis flashpoints such as northern Mali, Syria, and Guinea-Bissau. “The paralysis displayed by our common security mechanisms is astounding,” he said. “Geopolitical interests have trampled the goodwill and humanitarian concerns that should compel us all to address these raging infernos, be it in the Middle East, Asia or Africa.”

“Our collective security will continue to be undermined by geo-political considerations unless and until we find the courage to reform the Security Council,” President Jammeh continued. “Ongoing conflicts in Mali, Guinea-Bissau and Syria are recent cases in point. The Security Council should not be the stumbling block in the settlement of disputes by peaceful or other means.”  The Gambian leader also called for full implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action, warning that it “must not be written in the language of broken promises, unfulfilled commitments and weak resource mobilization.”

Addressing the General Debate, Foreign Minister Mohamed Bazoum of Niger joined Mali in calling for a Security Council resolution authorizing ECOWAS military action in northern Mali. Action “must be immediate without any delay because it is well known that battle is deferred to one’s own detriment,” he said. “Consequently the international community, in particular the Security Council must with out delay take charge of the Mali crisis in order to restore a united, democratic and secular Mali,” he said.

Côte d’Ivoire’s Foreign Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan, in his remarks to the General Debate, echoed the concerns of his colleagues, calling on the Council to endorse an ECOWAS force in northern Mali. “The presence of movements linked to terrorist groups in northern Mali constitutes a veritable threat that can entail, if nothing is done, the implosion of the whole West African and Sahel region.”

In his statement to the Assembly, the Central African Republic’s Foreign Minister, Antoine Gambi, stressed that an expansion of the Security Council and a revitalization of the General Assembly would fulfil the legitimate aspirations of developing countries and of Africa in particular. Such changes would increase the UN’s “authority and its effectiveness, reinforce its capacity to confront new threats and new challenges and allow it to better assume the mission entrusted to it by its Charter.”

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

September 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kiribati Warns of Rising Sea Levels

The President of Kiribati, a mainly low-lying Pacific archipelago that is one of the states most threatened by rising seas, appealed yesterday to the United Nations to step up efforts to curb global greenhouse emissions and help in mitigation measures, including possible migration. “We are grateful that the General Assembly agrees that climate change is a matter warranting the attention of the Security Council,” Kiribati’s President Anote Tong told the UN General Assembly on the second day of its annual General Debate, at UN Headquarters in New York. “I applaud the commitment of our Secretary-General to this particular security threat, but he needs the support of all nations to take the necessary action to address it. We must step up our collective efforts to mitigate global greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

The Kiribati leader called on development partners to provide resources and technology to enable his country to deal with the current impacts of climate change and prepare for an uncertain future. “While we are taking adaptation measures to ensure that Kiribati remains habitable for as long as possible, we are also preparing for a future where our islands may no longer be able top sustain our population,” President Tong stated in his speech.

“We are looking to improve the skills of our people to a level where they are able to compete for jobs in the international labour market. We want our people to have the option to migrate with dignity should the time come that migration is unavoidable. And all the science is telling us that it is just a matter of time,” he said.  He added, “I frequently find myself watching my grandchildren and wondering what sort of a future we are leaving them.”

President Tong is one of scores of world leaders and other high-level officials presenting their views and comments on issues of individual national and international relevance at the Assembly’s General Debate, which ends on 1 October.

(UN Press Release)

September 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Moldova's President Reminds World of Transnistrian Conflict; Also Calls for UN Security Council Reform

The President of Moldova, Nicolae Timofti, yesterday highlighted the need to resolve issues stemming from the armed conflict which broke out in its Transnistrian region 20 years ago. “It is a tragic period of our past, but also a serious challenge of the present,” President Timofti said in his statement to the 67th Assembly’s General Debate at UN Headquarters in New York. “Since the end of the hostilities, Moldova has firmly embarked on the road of the peaceful settlement of this conflict, while twenty years of negotiations strengthened our belief that this is the only viable path to follow towards reaching a political settlement.”

He noted that the perpetuation of the conflict undermines Moldova’s national security and territorial integrity, hampers economic development and divides society, keeps the population of the Transnistrian region in isolation, incites human rights violations and generates economic stagnation on the left bank of Nistru River on which the region is located and which also has Russian forces present. “The current political and economic trends show that preserving the status-quo is not a viable scenario anymore. All our international partners share the view that there is no alternative to a reunified Moldova,” he said. “Our message in this regard is firm – twenty years are enough to overcome the mistrust of the past and it is the time to start building a shared future.” The Moldovan leader stated that his country’s ultimate goal is to reintegrate itself within its internationally recognized borders as “a functional state with a clear European perspective,” with the Transnistrian region granted self-governance and a special status. 

He said that Moldova’s international partners have provided an essential contribution in bringing the situation with Transnistria to an end.  “Now the negotiation process needs a strong impulse and we believe that our international partners can demonstrate the necessary political will to this end,” he stated. “We call on the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe], Russian Federation, Ukraine, European Union and the United States to unite their efforts and work together towards the final resolution of the Transnistrian conflict and reintegration of the Republic of Moldova.”

“It is also important to reiterate that the Russian forces, that are still present on the territory of the Republic of Moldova without host-nation consent and in contradiction with constitutional
framework and international commitments, should be finally withdrawn,” he added.

On the subject of UN reform, the Moldovan leader said that globalization and the global financial crisis suggested the need to reform the world body in order to ensure the strengthening of the UN.  “I am particularly referring to the Security Council reform to which a compromise solution should be found,” he stated. “We believe that any proposal of its reform should take into account the legitimate aspirations of all regional groups, including granting an additional non-permanent seat to the Eastern-European Group.”

In his statement, President Timofti also spoke about a range of other topics, including UN relations with regional organisations, the strengthening of the rule of law and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

(adapted from a UN Press Release)

September 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)