Sunday, October 4, 2015
The Higher Regional Court of Stuttgart, Germany, has ruled against the President and Vice-President of the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda, also known as FDLR, which has committed war crimes in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). On 28 September 2015, the court sentenced Ignace Murwanashyka and Straton Musoni to 13 and 8 years of imprisonment, respectively, for holding a leadership role in a foreign terrorist organization and for aiding in the commission of war crimes in DRC.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, commended Germany for conducting this trial and, thereby heeding the Security Council’s repeated call on all States to prosecute FDLR elements in their territories,” said a statement issued by his spokesperson.
“This judgement is the first one of its kind and represents an excellent example of how national criminal courts and the United Nations can work together, in accordance with the principle of complementarity, to fight impunity and ensure that those alleged to have committed serious international crimes are held accountable.”
Mr. Ban reiterated the importance of swiftly neutralizing the FDLR and other armed groups in eastern DRC in order to bring stability to the country and the Great Lakes region.
(Adapted from a UN press release)
It has long been a bit of an irony that the United States, one of the oldest democracies in the world, and Somalia, one of the most politically unstable countries in the world, were the remaining two countries that had not ratified the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). That changed this past week when the government of Somalia ratified the CRC. The United States now stands alone as the only member of the United Nations that has not joined the Convention.
The CRC promotes respect for the human rights of children by setting forth a set of goals for members states to achieve on behalf of their children, including the right to life, adequate nutrition and healthcare, and free primary education, as well as a right to a family life, and a right to be free from violence or discrimination.
The Administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton signed the CRC in 1995 but neither he nor subsequent presidents have submitted it to the U.S. Senate for its advice and consent to ratification. Some groups have raised concerns about interference with U.S. sovereignty or interference with the parent-child relationship. Other groups have been quite vocal in support, arguing that the Convention will help the United States protect children at home and abroad. To learn more about the campaign in favor of US ratification of the CRC, click here.
Saudi Arabia Deplores Lack of UN Action to Save Syrians from the "Killing Machine" that Has Devastated Their Country
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly last week, Abdel Ahmed Al-Jubeir, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia expressed deep concern that the international community has been unable to save innocent Syrians from the “killing machine” that has devastated their country and led to the world’s most tragic humanitarian crisis.
Opening his address, he said the question of Palestine had long been on the agenda of the General Assembly. Noting that Palestinians continued to suffer, he denounced Israel’s flagrant violations of international law. The Palestinian people deserved to live in dignity, he declared, and urged action to that end that is in line with relevant Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.
Turning to the Syrian crisis, he said that tragic conflict, which is entering its fifth year, has devolved into the worst humanitarian disaster of the current era. “Yet, the international community continues to be unable to save the Syrian people from the killing machine that is being operated by Bashar al-Assad,” he said, underscoring that the conflict has claimed some 300,000 lives and driven millions of desperate people from their homeland.
Calling for urgent collective action to bring an end to the suffering of the Syrian people, Mr. Al-Jubeir said every effort must be extended to arrive at a political solution as set out in the 2012 Geneva Communique. That framework outlined, among others, the steps to formulate a transitional council to govern the county, but President Assad and “other perpetrators of crimes” should be part of that process. “Those whose hands are stained with the blood of the Syrian people” have no place in a “new Syria.”
As for Yemen, Mr. Al-Jubeir said the use of military force had been “the last option” in addressing the situation, but Saudi Arabia conducted the intervention at the request of the legitimate Yemeni Government, following the seizure of the presidential palace by the Houthis rebel group. The intervention had seen the liberation of the port city of Aden and other areas. A political solution based on the initiative of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, known as GCC, is necessary.
Calling for the destruction of all nuclear weapons in the region, he welcomed the Iran nuclear deal. However, that country should exercise good neighbourliness and stop making negative interventions in the affairs of Arab nations. On development, he stressed the importance of taking into account specific aims and level of development in each country. Finally, he underscored the need for the United Nations to reinvigorate itself to adapt to a rapidly changing world.
(Adapted from a UN press release)
The Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, took to the podium of the General Assembly last week to deplore the lack of action by the Security Council, the United Nations body with legally binding powers, over its failure to end the bloodbath in Syria, blaming in particular the paralyzing power of veto held by the body’s five permanent members.
“All Council members carry responsibility for ending the misery in Syria and beyond,” saidMr. Key, whose country is currently a non-permanent member of the 15-member body, calling for the right of veto to be limited in cases of mass atrocities.
“The consequences of inaction are not theoretical. The human toll is real. A three-year-old boy dead, washed up on a Turkish beach; hundreds of thousands killed and millions forced to flee their homes,” he added, citing the Council's failure to act over the past four years.
“It is time for the Council to step up. It's time for it to stop talking about what's right and do what's right. It's time for the Council to do the job for which it was created. It's time for its members to set aside their vested interests and historical alliances in order to stop the violence and end the suffering,” he declared.
“It's time for the Council to do its duty for those who have lost their lives and loved ones, and for the millions who have been displaced. We cannot afford to let the Council go from an institution with failings to a failed institution.”
Mr. Key said the veto power held by the five permanent members – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States – creates an extraordinary imbalance that is exacerbated by their practices of pre-negotiating outcomes before engaging with the 10 elected members, and of taking no action when one of them does not agree.
“The permanent members have become used to exercising power and are protective of their privileged position,” he declared, calling the veto a constraint on the Council’s effectiveness and voicing support for proposals to limit the use of veto in mass atrocity situations.
“The conflicts and human suffering in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan and a long list of other countries, show how far we are from achieving the aspirations of our founders and of today's members.”
(Adapted from a UN press release)
With his homeland awash in the blood of its people, who were making a valiant stand against terrorism, Syria’s Foreign Minister criticized world leaders at the United Nations last week for taking only half-hearted steps to end the crisis in his country and for providing haphazard support to Syria’s fight against extremism until the scourge began spreading to Europe.
“You have been witnessing countries spawning extremist ideology until it reached Europe…where it is now as evident as it has been in the Middle East. The sleeper cells are now waking up, as bombings and assassinations have [begun] to appear in the West,” declared Walid Al-Moualem, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Syria.
“What is the guilt of the innocent people of your countries who [are starting] to pay the price of terrorism supported by some of your politicians?” he asked at the annual General Debate and emphasized the implications of this, stating that terrorism “recognizes no boundaries.”
Indeed, if the flow of terrorists to Syria and the Member States that support it is not stopped, “the fire that has broken out in Syria, Iraq and Libya will continue to spread.” Syria could not implement any democratic political measures as long as terrorism was striking at home and threatening innocent civilians.
“The terrorism of Da’esh [also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL], Al-Nusrah Front and other Al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist organizations is killing the innocent, capturing women and launching mortar shells on civilians,” said Mr. Al-Moualem.
That terrorism was also cutting off drinking water and destroying history and cultural sites, including those inscribed on the UN World Heritage List, which belong to all humankind.
“The duty of international community is to stop this flow of terrorists coming to Syria from 100 countries, according to United Nations data, in order to create a Caliphate State, which, as you all know, will not be limited in Syria or Iraq,” he declared.
Meanwhile, he applauded Russia’s efforts in collectively combating terrorism and undertaking air strikes at the request of the Syrian Government. Yet, he said that terrorism cannot be fought only from the air, and all of the previous operations to combat it have only served its spread and outbreak.
“Air strikes are useless unless they are conducted in cooperation with the Syrian Army, the only force in Syria that is combating terrorism,” said the Minister.
The Syrian Minister also commented on the UN Security Council’s resolution under Chapter VII and described them as "only ink on paper." He said that certain governments are still funding, sponsoring and supporting terrorism and thereby fuelling extremism in the region.
Syrians nevertheless believed in the “political track,” the preservation of national sovereignty and unity. As the only way to achieve a political solution was through Syrian-led national dialogues and without interference, his country had agreed to participate in relevant conferences as well as in the brainstorming committees of experts proposed by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy.
“How can we ask the Syrian people to head to the ballot boxes, while they are not safe in the streets and inside their homes, while they are under the missiles and mortar shells launched by terrorist groups supported by well-known countries?” he underscored.
(Adapted from a UN press release)
The Prime Minister of Cambodia, Namhong Hor highly commended the United Nations on its adoption of Agenda 2030, and stressed that the General Assembly should be more empowered to enhance global governance and manage global issues.
The Prime Minister noted the new framework “is an ambitious vision to build an inclusive society for sustainable development and put the world on a more equitable prosperity for all by 2030.”
On poverty and food insecurity issues, he stressed the need to bolster “good governance, policy reform and more investment.”
“In light of the world’s new reality, Cambodia supports reform aiming to make the UN more democratic and more effective to cope with the crucial challenges the world is facing,” Prime Minister Hor said, emphasizing that the Assembly should be more empowered in the UN system to enhance global governance.
Turning to the threat of climate change, he said the Government officially launched the Cambodia Climate Change Strategic Plan 2014-2023 two years ago as the first-ever comprehensive plan to respond to climate change through adaptation, mitigation and low-carbon development. Cambodia has also launched its National Council of Green Growth aiming at promoting green economy.
On broader issues, Mr. Hor said his Government expressed “deep compassion” over the recent tragedies involving maritime migrants in Europe. In addition, the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States was welcomed by Cambodia, as was the recent agreement between international negotiators and Iran over that country’s nuclear programme.
Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly, Ri Su Yong, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) denounced the United States for abusing its powers at the UN Security Council and thereby violating the ‘sovereignty, dignity, peace and security of our nation.’
“The same year when the UN was founded, our nation was liberated from the Japanese colonial rule, yet divided into the north and the south by a foreign force. The same foreign force now sits on the Security Council as a permanent member State,” he said.
“In today’s world, there exists international law that defines the use of outer space as a sovereign right of every individual country and there are more than 10 countries that launch satellites. However, the UN Security Council has passed a ‘resolution’ on prohibiting the DPRK only from launching its satellites,” he asserted.
He also stressed that such actions make it difficult to assess “which one takes precedence between the UN Charter and UN Security Council resolution.”
Additionally, he spoke about the DPRK’s referral to the UN Security Council regarding “the aggressive and provocative large-scale joint military exercises’ of the United States and South Korea to be placed on the Council’s agenda.”
“The UN Security Council, however, remained silent on the referral every time. What measures can the UN take when it is the ‘UN Commander’ who commands large-scale war exercises that create a vicious cycle of heightened tensions?” he asked.
“In the long run, it means that the ‘UN Command’ can never be dismantled so long as the United States as a permanent member of the UN Security Council with veto agrees to it,” he stressed.
On other issues, he said that having gone through the “August incident that made northeast Asia and the entire world hold their breadth in anxiety,” it has become a crucial issue today to replace the armistice agreement with a peace treaty immediately.
With regard to safeguarding peace on the Korean peninsula, he said there are issues to be addressed between north and south, as well as other issues to be discussed between his country and the United States.
Several European leaders took to the podium last week at the UN General Assembly’s annual debate, highlighting that the world is again living in restless times, especially in light of the unprecedented scale of humanitarian crises, including the migrant and refugee crisis.
Speaking on behalf of Germany, the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs said the old balance of power is under pressure. “Powerful new players have emerged on the world stage,” Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, noting that above all, it is non-state actors who are increasingly responsible for war and violence, and for whom “there are no rules.”
The Minister highlighted that the world today is more closely interconnected than ever before with borders becoming indistinct making all countries neighbours. “Act as good neighbours!” he advised.
“Nobody is investing so much hope in this spirit of good neighbourliness today than the millions of women, men and children who have fled their homes,” he declared, adding that his country has assumed responsibility for them over the past months. Since the start of the year, Germany has reportedly taken in 600,000 refugees, with up to 10,000 new refugees currently arriving every day.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier also underlined how he finds it “scandalous” that UN agencies helping people in need are so under-funded that they have to cut food rations and medical aid. “I therefore met with the G7 States and other partners the day before yesterday, and am delighted to report that together we have raised an additional 1.8 billion dollars – of which over 100 million come from Germany.”
Regarding the recent agreement forged between Iran, Germany, and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (United States, France, United Kingdom, China, and Russia), the German minister said after 10 years of negotiations, it’s been ensured that “Iran will never have an atomic bomb.”
He also called on countries to work together to end the “brutality of Assad’s dictatorship” to stop the slaughter in Syria. “At the risk of repeating myself, let me stress that when dealing with a humanitarian catastrophe as horrifying as the one in Syria, we are all neighbours!”
Meanwhile, neighbouring country Austria was represented at the General Assembly today by its Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, who called for a “comprehensive approach” to the migrant and refugee crisis.
Sebastian Kurz said efforts should focus on confronting the root causes, namely terrorism and civil war, in the countries of origin. While the current political leadership of Syria could not be part of a long-term solution, to make peace, “we don’t talk only to friends,” he stated.
At the global level, Mr. Kurz insisted that more unity is required and that the international community can make a difference only if the United States and the Russian Federation “pull in one direction.”
He also underlined that the Russian-Ukrainian conflict remains a challenge to the peace of Europe, and said his country supports a “peaceful settlement based on dialogue”, which would allow Ukraine to be free and stable, enjoying strong ties with Europe and Russia.
In addition, he voiced his support for restraint on the use of the Security Council veto in cases of mass atrocities.
Moving North, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland, Charles Flanagan, said his country will always speak out to defend the vulnerable, and that Ireland feels “ a strong sense of responsibility to protect the reputation” of UN peacekeepers. The country currently has 370 troops serving in seven UN peacekeeping missions.
(Adapted from a UN press release)
Saturday, October 3, 2015
Positions Available at the Center of Excellence For International Courts (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)
Here's a reminder that iCourts (Center of Excellence for International Courts), The Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen, Denmark is seeking applications for two or three positions as postdoc within the research area of one of the Faculty’s research centres - iCourts (the Center of Excellence for International Courts). The positions are available from 1st February 2016, and for duration of two (2) years. Start date is negotiable under special circumstances. Click here for more information.
Hat tip to Phillip Martens, University of Copenhagen
Thursday, October 1, 2015
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, Alexis Tsipras, the Prime Minister of Greece, said his country is striving to bolster regional security and supporting all efforts promoting peace and stability, even as it copes with three complex challenges – an economic crisis, unprecedented migration flows, and huge numbers of refugees from outside the region.
He first described the consequences Greece has faced since the 2008 economic downturn. Due to structural weaknesses of its economy and its high debt and budgetary deficits, Greece was hit hard. The country lost 25 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP), the debt to GDP ratio grew to 180 per cent while unemployment reached 27 percent and the migration of graduates to European countries accelerated.
“What we faced was a firm commitment of some to the idea that Greece must exit the Eurozone, or that the institutional and structural reforms that we need, have to be combined with austerity measures and welfare and wage cuts,” the Prime Minister told the annual General Debate. Greece eventually agreed to a new stabilization programme that included reforms in public administration, pension and tax system, which stabilized its economy by settling the foundation for a re-profiling of its debt. These measures hampered its society and the economy further.
“We have to realize that we need a global financial and economic system oriented to fostering national growth strategies and our post 2015 development agenda. We have to discuss the issue of debt restructuring in all competent forums – including this one – in connection to developing growth and not austerity – strategies,” he stressed.
The second challenge, said the Prime Minister, is the rising number of refugees and migrants on the move in Europe – and entering Greece in large numbers.
“Since the beginning of the year, over 300,000 people – mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan – have entered the country with the aim of transiting to Western European countries. Greece –like all other European countries – was taken aback by this development. Nevertheless, the people of Greece showed their solidarity by providing food and shelter to the refugees,” he explained.
He added that in cooperation with the European Union (EU) and other international organizations, Greece is trying to manage these flows in an effective and humane way. The country has been improving reception facilities and identification procedures as well as setting up hot spots to facilitate relocation.
“Nevertheless, for some the only way to deal with this challenge is to build walls higher, to repel migrants by force or to ensure that they remain someone else's responsibility – as far away as possible. We do not believe that the future of Europe, or our world, can be built on ever-higher walls, or children dying at our doorstep. Neither can we forget that many of our ancestors were refugees and migrants. We cannot allow racism and xenophobia to destroy our common principles,” he asserted.
He also suggested building necessary resettlement mechanism from countries neighbouring Syria, while also supporting them directly in hosting refugees and dismantling trafficking networks. Such a resettlement mechanism, together with the existing relocation mechanism in Europe, will give hope to these people, discouraging them from trusting traffickers.
Further, more assistance must be provided to the European countries facing the refugee crisis ‘in their effort to manage these flows.’
The Prime Minister further said that Greece is also at the centre of a third security crisis that causes this refugee crisis. Greece lies at the heart of a triangle of destabilization, with Ukraine to the North and the conflicts in Libya and in the Middle East, to the Southwest and Southeast.
“We do not have the luxury to make foreign policy choices without examining in advance, what their consequences will be,” he said. “Nevertheless, again, we hear some, insisting that we should embark on unilateral initiatives without considering their prospects and consequences. Or leave the conflicts to be settled by themselves without contributing to stabilization or reconstruction. Yet, these are exactly the mistakes that brought us here in the first place,” he stressed.
He added that the Middle East Peace process is of key importance for the region. He declared that a new momentum for a solution must be promoted, with a view to the creation of a state of Palestine on the basis of the pre-1967 borders (with East Jerusalem as its capital) that coexists peacefully with Israel.
The Prime Minister also extended Greece’s full support to intercommunal talks to resolve the Cyprus issue, reflecting a similar suggestion made by President Nicos Anastasiades of Cyprus at the UN General Assembly earlier in the week.
Prime Minister Tsipras also reported that Greece has been making steady efforts to improve cooperation with Turkey through a wide range of initiatives, including the promotion of the dialogue on confidence-building measures.
(UN Press Release)
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Despite what some people may say about its effectiveness, the Sultan of Brunei today told world leaders in the General Assembly that the United Nations has no equal, and 70 years of existence is a testament to its relevance.
“With a membership of 193, the expectation is inevitably high on what our Organization can do to address ever-increasing range of issues,” said Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah. “So, I am pleased that our new development agenda has encapsulated most if not all of these concerns.”
The Sultan was referring to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted by all 193 UN Member States last Friday to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change over the next 15 years.
“Brunei Darussalam firmly believes that tolerance, compassion and social harmony are essential for lasting peace and security,” the Sultan of the Southeast Asian nation continued. “This has resulted in the close-knit community we have and enjoy today.”
He noted that in his region, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member States share principles of territorial integrity, non-interference, rule of law, and good governance which guide efforts towards closer cooperation for peace.
“It is these national and regional experiences which constitute our contribution to the UN as part of the multilateral process,” he explained. “And it is through the UN, that I envision the creation of a close-knit global community with similar values and principles, which can unleash our potential to work and achieve greater things together.”
He proposed that one way to achieve this is through cultural exchanges to foster greater understanding and empathy with one another, and which could also help prevent new conflicts.
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah also underlined that according to the World Bank, the average cost of civil war is equivalent to more than 30 years of [gross domestic product] growth for a medium-size developing country.
“So, preventive diplomacy is a cost-effective means of addressing conflict and certainly an integral part of conflict prevention efforts,” he added.
On the issue of terrorism, he stated that since the last General Assembly, the global community has witnessed tragic loss of lives caused by “inhumane” terrorist acts in various parts of the world.
“It is crucial for us to address the root causes of terrorism and extremism in a comprehensive manner,” the Sultan declared. “We need to ensure that irresponsible parties do not exploit others' despair and suffering to fuel their own extremist agendas.”
(UN Press Release)
Recalling the heart-rending story of the little boy whose lifeless body washed up on a beach in Turkey last month, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu today urged the United Nations to take swift action to address the deepening crisis in Syria and to protect the millions of people “fleeing war and tyranny.”
“The tragic story of the three-year-old Aylan should serve as a reminder of what the UN should stand for,” Mr. Davutoglu said, adding that the child’s body had washed ashore after a boat his family was on capsized in the Aegean Sea. “[They were] trying to escape from the indiscriminate barrel bombs in his town somewhere in Syria, onto an imagined land of hope, anywhere in Europe.”
The Prime Minister declared: “This tragedy will not end before the people of Syria have a legitimate Government that truly represents their will and enjoys their full consent. Until then, the international community must act swiftly to provide them safety in their homeland, a ‘safe zone,’ free from aerial bombardment by the regime and ground assault by Da’esh [also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL] other terrorist organizations.
Turkey, for its part, has offered protection for two million Syrians and 200,000 Iraqis fleeing conflict, calling this the largest number of refugees anywhere in the world.
“And our doors will remain open. And our hearts will remain open,” he said.
To date, he said, 66,000 Syrian babies had been born in Turkey; 6,000 would-be migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean; 55,000 sea-borne migrants have been rescued by Turkish lifeguards; 5 million Syrians have fled chemical weapons and indiscriminate bombing; and 12 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), almost half of which are children, are “in desperate need of help.”
With all this in mind, Mr. Davutoglu said his delegation had proposed the inclusion of the item ‘Global awareness of the tragedies of irregular migrants in the Mediterranean basin with a specific emphasis on Syrian asylum-seekers’ in the Agenda of the Assembly’s 70th session.
That proposal had ben accepted last week and would provide an opportunity to examine viable responses to the tragedy of migrants, through partnership between countries of origin, destination and transit. “This is now a priority agenda for all humanity,” he said.
Mr. Davutoglu also turned to other issues of concern, saying “the Palestinian tragedy continues unabated.” He also welcomed the raising of the Palestinian flag at UN Headquarters today which, he said, would give Palestine “equal footing at the table,” and ultimately lead to equitable and sustainable peace.
Turning his attention to the subject of terrorism, he said that it was without justification and it was “patently mistaken” to affiliate terrorism with any religion. He noted the rise of Da’esh, as well as the increase in the number of foreign terrorist fighters in the region.
“This threat needs to be addressed at the source,” he said.
He then noted the link between development and global stability, saying that Turkey had given $3.5 billion in official development aid and that it wished to see that “no one is left behind,” particularly women and the most vulnerable, as well as refugees and IDPs.
Mr. Davutoglu also said that Turkey, as the Chair of the Global Forum on Migration and Development for 2014-15, looked to promote the linkages between these two subjects.
He closed his statement by echoing the calls of other leaders for UN reform, particularly with regard to the Security Council.
“The UN must remain relevant and effective,” said Mr. Davutoglu. “The change in the UN is not comprehensive enough to make it fit for purpose.”
(UN Press Release)
A new non-profit organization devoted to elevating the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community globally, launched publicly today and announced the selection of its founding boards of directors.
The new organization is called Alturi.
U.S. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), a member of the LGBT Equality Caucus, and U.S. Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI), who has introduced the Global Respect Act to protect the basic human rights of the international LGBTI community, expressed support for addressing LGBTI issues at the Capitol Hill press conference.
Alturi is an online platform that enables individuals from all walks of life to take a stand against the violence and discrimination confronting the international LGBTI community and provide direct help for LGBTI advocates around the world. With marriage equality secured at last in the United States, the LGBTI rights movement is turning its attention in new directions, and Alturi is committed to making the worldwide human rights of LGBTI people a priority.
"At this historic moment, Americans have the opportunity to learn about and support the people on the frontlines of the struggle for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people's rights and dignity around the globe," said Steve Roth, director and co-founder of Alturi. "Even as we celebrate marriage equality and other advances for the LGBTI community in the U.S., same-sex relations are still a crime in nearly 80 countries around the world, and even punishable by death in some. Our work is not complete. We must continue to fight for equality and respect for LGBTI people everywhere, and Alturi makes that possible."
"In a time when countries like Russia outlaw an individual from being themselves, and promote fear and disinformation, we are at a crossroads at how to lead globally," said Sanchez. "Organizations like Alturi and their partners are moving us forward. We must hold those countries accountable that resort to hatred and misinformation. We stand ready to work with you all."
"I was delighted to join in today's press conference to underscore the importance of addressing international LGBTI issues," said Cicilline. "It's critical that we continue to build momentum around efforts to guarantee respect for basic human rights of all people around the world, including members of the LGBTI community."
"Grassroots organizing and online activism played a central role in shifting the entire debate about what equality means for the LGBT individuals across the county," said Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI). "While we are still fighting issues like workplace discrimination here at home, I'm proud to see LGBT activists and organizations, like Alturi, now turn their energy to the struggles of the global LGBT community."
Alturi is designed to help Americans learn about the issues facing LGBTI people around the world and take action in support of LGBTI advocates creating change worldwide. Alturi features real-life stories, accessible analysis, and a curated newsfeed to help visitors make sense of the issues affecting the lives of LGBTI people across the globe. The website also highlights international and U.S.-based organizations doing and funding cutting-edge advocacy abroad and enables donations to them, with 100 percent of contributions going directly to the recipient organizations.
Alturi draws inspiration from the lives and work of people like Angeline Jackson, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Quality of Citizenship Jamaica and a survivor of "corrective" rape who has become a leading voice for LGBTI rights - especially for women - in Jamaica. On his visit to Jamaica in April, President Obama recognized Jackson as a "remarkable young leader" who provides "an example of what is possible, even in the most difficult of circumstances." Jackson is a member of Alturi's Global Advisory Board.
"I'm thrilled to be a part of Alturi at its very founding," said Jackson. "LGBTI people across the globe are fighting for our own survival and dignity in the face of extraordinary violence and oppression. Alturi promises to play a key role in the worldwide movement for LGBTI human rights for decades to come."
Alturi is also pleased to welcome two volunteer boards of advisors: its Executive Board and its Global Advisory Board.
The Executive Board consists of leaders in communications, marketing, finance, and advocacy who are responsible for providing guidance on Alturi's strategic direction and programs, securing funding, and serving as public champions of Alturi's work. Its members are:
- Warren Brown, Out Caribe
- Martín Diego Garcia, Latino Victory Project
- Steve Dumas, Westfield Corporation Architecture Studio
- Stephen Farragher, Xylem Inc.
- Jack Harrison-Quintana, Grindr for Equality
- Fabrice Houdart, World Bank
- Vincent Jones, Reinvent Communications
- Tony Lima, SAVE
- Rebecca Rittgers, Proteus Fund
- Dr. Chloe Schwenke, Georgetown University
- Greg Willenborg, Willenborg Productions
- Oscar Yuan, Ipsos Strategy3
The Global Advisory Board is composed of human rights practitioners and leaders from around the world whose perspectives will inform Alturi's global strategy, ensure accountability to international advocates and LGBTI people on the ground, and provide a voice for Alturi's work. Its members are:
- J. Bob Alotta, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice
- Markéta Hronková, La Strada Czech Republic
- Zeenia Irani, World Food Program USA
- Angeline Jackson, Quality of Citizenship Jamaica
- Paul Akio Kawata, National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC)
- Graeme Reid, Human Rights Watch
- Melissa Tilling, Funway Holidays
- Czeslaw Walek, Prague Pride
- Dr. John Waters, Centro de Orientación e Investigación Integral (COIN)
- Bob Witeck, Witeck Communications, Inc.
"We are privileged to have these leaders in advocacy, development, industry, and philanthropy at the table as we forge a path toward global LGBTI equality," said Charlie Rounds, Alturi co-founder and senior advisor. "We welcome them, and you, to this new stage in our movement."
A fiscally sponsored project of Bolder Giving, Alturi is named for the gay World War II codebreaker Alan Turing, who was later persecuted by his own government for his sexual orientation. The name is a tribute to him, and to the idea that all LGBTI people worldwide deserve the opportunity to live to their full potential.
The organization's website currently features a petition to end the travel ban of Belize against LGBT travelers.
Citing Violations of International Law, Ukraine Urges the United Nations to Remove Russia's Right to Veto
Ukraine is suffering from a brutal violation of the fundamental norms and principles of the United Nations Charter, President Petro Poroshenko told world leaders yesterday at the annual General Assembly debate.
“The aggressor is Russia – a neighbouring country, former strategic partner that legally pledged to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of the borders of Ukraine,” President Poroshenko declared.
“In February 2014, Russia conducted an open and unprovoked aggression against my country, having occupied and annexed Crimea,” he continued. “Bluntly and brutally violating international law and shocking the whole world community […] Despite the fact the until now Russia refuses to officially admit its direct military invasion, today there is no doubt that this is an aggressive war against my country.”
Since the conflict began in eastern Ukraine in mid-April 2014, the UN reports that close to 8000 people– including Ukrainian armed forces, civilians and members of the armed groups– have been killed, and more than 17,800 injured.
The Ukrainian leader warned that to mislead the world community, Russian leadership orders that insignias be taken of its military servicemen and identification marks of its military equipment, to abandon its soldiers captured on the battlefield, and to “cynically use mobile crematoriums to eliminate traces of its crimes in Ukrainian soil.”
He noted that over the past few days, the global community heard “conciliatory statements from the Russian side” in which it called for the establishment of anti-terrorist coalition.
“Cool story, but really hard to believe! How can you urge an anti-terrorist coalition if you inspire terrorism right in front of your door?” President Poroshenko asked.
Meanwhile, he said he was taking the opportunity during his address to express his gratitude to the international community for the considerable efforts in providing necessary assistance to the people in need in his country.
“However, we must recognize that in the 21st century our Organization lacks an effective instrument to bring the aggressor-country to justice, which has stolen the territory of another sovereign State,” he added.
Since the beginning of the conflict, Russia has used its veto right twice while the Security Council was considering questions related to Ukraine.
“At the outset, Russia blocked a draft resolution condemning ‘fake referendum’ on Crimea's annexation in March 2014,” he stated. “The second time, Russia put its shameful veto on the draft resolution on establishment of the International Tribunal to investigate and bring to justice all responsible for Malaysian MH17 plane crash.”
President Poroshenko insisted that Ukraine stands for the gradual limitation of the veto right with its further cancellation.
“I welcome the initiative of my French colleague President Hollande, supported by President Peÿa Nieto of Mexico, on the Political Declaration to restrain from the veto right among the ‘P5 members’ [of the UN Security Council, United States, France, United Kingdom, China, and Russia] in case of mass atrocities.”
Furthermore, the Ukrainian leader said combatting terrorism should be one of the top priorities for the General Assembly 70th session, adding that he strongly believes that one of the most important aspects of fighting against terrorism is keeping and sharing the memory of the victims.
“In this context, I propose that [the] 70th Session of the General Assembly consider the establishment of the International Day of Commemoration of Memory of the Victims of Terrorist Acts,” he stated.
He also called upon the UN to launch a worldwide campaign to pressure Russian authorities to immediately release all Ukrainian citizens who have been held hostage or sentenced. He said this includes Nadiya Savchenko, Oleg Sentsov, Olexandr Kolchenko, as well as Oleg Sentsov, a respected filmmaker sentenced to 20 years in prison “only for being Ukrainian patriot.”
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Lamenting the fact that nearly two decades after its negotiation the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) has still not entered into force, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week urged world leaders gathered at the United Nations to demonstrate the necessary political will to usher in a nuclear-weapon-free world.
“A breakthrough is long overdue,” Mr. Ban said at a conference on facilitating the entry into force of the CTBT, held on the margins of the General Assembly’s high-level debate.
“I welcome all the Treaty’s steadfast supporters here. I am also pleased to see representatives from States that have not yet either signed or ratified the Treaty. I count on you to do so quickly.”
Adopted by the General Assembly in September 1996, the CTBT now has 164 State parties. For the Treaty to enter into force, ratification is required from the so-called Annex 2 States. Of these, China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States have yet to ratify it.
To the eight remaining Annex 2 States, Mr. Ban said: “You have a special responsibility. You must not wait for others to act before ratifying.”
Noting that more than 20 States not listed in Annex 2 have either not signed or ratified the Treaty, he called on them to take this step as soon as possible.
“We need every person in this room to show leadership on the urgent international imperative of ending nuclear tests,” said the Secretary-General.
(Adapted from a UN press release)
Twelve UN agencies called this week for an end to violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) adults, adolescents and children, and set out specific steps to protect these individuals.
“This is the first time that so many members of the UN family have joined forces in defence of the basic rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people,” said Charles Radcliffe, the Chief of Global Issues for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
“It’s both an expression of commitment on the part of UN agencies, and a powerful call to action for Governments around the world to do more to tackle homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination and abuses against intersex people,” he added in a news release.
At a high-level event on LGBT rights, held in New York on the margins of the annual debate of the General Assembly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon applauded the agencies for “speaking in one voice” on this critical issue.
“When the human rights of LGBT people are abused, all of us are diminished. Every human life is precious – none is worth more than another,” he stated.
“This United Nations I lead will never shirk in the fight against discrimination. We will never shy away from protecting the most marginalized and vulnerable people. This is not just a personal commitment – it is an institutional one.”
The event highlighted the linkages between protecting the rights of LGBT people and progress towards achieving the new set of global development goals that world leaders adopted last week.
“There are 17 sustainable development goals all based on a single, guiding principle: to leave no one behind. We will only realize this vision if we reach all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Mr. Ban stated.
Ending marginalization and exclusion of LGBT people is a human rights priority – and a development imperative, he continued.
“We are here together to break down the barriers that prevent LGBT people from exercising their full human rights. When we do that, we will liberate them to fully and productively contribute to our common economic progress…. We can show future generations that the best way to advance our shared goals is to embrace all members of our human family – regardless of who they are or whom they love.”
In at least 76 countries, discriminatory laws criminalize private, consensual same-sex relationships, exposing millions of individuals to the risk of arrest, prosecution and imprisonment – and even, in at least five countries, the death penalty.
The joint statement outlines how laws are used to harass, detain, and discriminate against LGBTI people, while laws that criminalize cross-dressing are used to arrest and punish transgender people. These discriminatory laws perpetuate stigma and discrimination, police abuse and torture, and negatively affect public health by hampering vital access to health and HIV treatment and services.
In addition, the statement sets out steps for Governments to stop violence and discrimination against the LGBTI community, including measures to improve the monitoring, reporting and investigation of hate crimes.
In addition to OHCHR, the joint statement has been endorsed by the following UN entities:
- the International Labour Organization (ILO),
- the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS),
- the UN Development Programme (UNDP),
- the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),
- the UN Population Fund (UNFPA),
- the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),
- the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF),
- the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC),
- the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women),
- the World Food Programme (WFP), and
- the World Health Organization (WHO).
(Adapted from a UN Press Release) (mew)
UN Secretary-General Urges Use of All Tools Available to Solve Problems in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today called for using all the tools available to the United Nations to help steer the Middle East and North Africa towards a path of freedom, safety and dignity, citing in particular the obligation of the international community to ensure a peaceful solution to the conflict in Syria and accountability for serious crimes committed there.
“Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen are our common concern, and their resolution is our shared responsibility,” Mr. Ban told a ministerial-level meeting of the Security Council on the settlement of conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa and countering the terrorist threat in the region.
He said the region is in the midst of some of the deadliest conflicts and worst humanitarian emergencies ever, with terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Al-Qaida affiliates “elevating the horror and complicating the search for solutions.”
While each is very different, the crises and conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen all expose similar horrors, Mr. Ban said.
“Syria has proven to be the most intractable,” he stated. “It has generated one peril after another: the use of chemical weapons, the rise of ISIL and other extremist groups, the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War and the displacement of 8 million people inside the country.”
He appealed to the Council to strongly support the efforts of his Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, to promote a comprehensive and credible political transition based on the 2012 Geneva Communiqué, which sets out a clear roadmap for a democratic transition and remains the basis for any peaceful settlement.
Mr. Ban went on to note that conflicts, governance failures and systematic violations of human rights are affecting not only the Middle East and North Africa, but the world at large. “Women and girls are facing systematic brutality. Young people are having their futures taken away from them before they have barely had a chance to dream,” he noted.
“We must work together to stop this downward spiral, using all UN tools. The people of the Middle East and North Africa deserve our full support in meeting these tests and steering the region towards a path of freedom, safety and dignity for all.”
On the subject of terrorism, Mr. Ban said “it is not enough to counter terrorism; we must also prevent violent extremism, while taking care not to take steps that only breed the resentment and alienation on which violent extremism feeds.”
To that end, he said, the UN is working with partners to expand capacity-building assistance to Member States, including to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and to address the related ills of illicit drug-trafficking and cybercrime.
“During the course of this General Assembly, I will present to the Member States a comprehensive plan of action outlining ways we can work together in this endeavour,” he said.
Today’s Security Council meeting was chaired by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia, who holds the rotating Council presidency for the month of September.
(UN Press Release)
The peaceful resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh problem remains one of the most salient issues in the South Caucasus, the President of Armenia told world leaders attending the General Assembly this week, while highlighting that the establishment of the UN has been one of the “greatest achievements of humankind” that consolidated nations around shared aspirations and principles.
“I shall note that aggressive policy pursued by Azerbaijan resulted in the absence of any meaningful progress in negotiations for the conflict settlement, and the situation drifts toward increasing tension,” said President Serzh Sargsyan at the annual debate in New York.
An autonomous region during Soviet times, Nagorno-Karabakh has been at the centre of a dispute between the neighbouring countries since they became independent in the early 1990s.
“Just a few days ago in the bordering area of Armenia, three women fell victim to Azerbaijani bombardment,” the President recalled. “It is obvious for us that the Azerbaijani leadership has irreversibly lost both the sense of reality and of norms of human conduct.”
He further noted that Azerbaijan “completely disdains” five joint statements issued by the leaders of the United States, Russia and France, as well as the efforts of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group.
“Shall it continue such an aggressive policy, it will not leave Armenia any other choice but to take necessary legal and political-military steps to provide the Republic of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh Republic with the opportunity to develop in security and peace,” President Sargsyan warned.
Meanwhile, he recalled that last year, one the eve of the Armenian Genocide Centennial, he expressed gratitude to the nations that recognized the Armenian Genocide and named them all individually.
“Today, from this very podium, I thank Pope Francis, and acknowledge the historical Mass he served; the European Parliament, and recall the Resolution it adopted; the German President, and, believe me, his well-known statement will thenceforth take part in the pages of our nation's history textbooks,” the President continued.
He also thanked the legislative bodies of Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, for their recent recognition of the 1915 genocide.
“Our determination to keep the prevention of the crime of genocide on the international agenda is [exemplified] by the resolutions we periodically table at the Human Rights Council,” Armenia’s leader underlined.
Furthermore, President Sargsyan said the global community is today witnessing “unspeakable cruelty” in the Middle East, and that his country has been directly affected by the atrocities unfolding there, since they result in the destruction of the Armenian spiritual and cultural heritage artefacts, as well as the murder and expulsion of the numerous Armenians residing in Iraq and Syria.
“The Armenian community of Syria, whose history is centuries-long, shares and experiences all hardships that the Syrian people are undergoing in these difficult times,” he declared.
“We are trying to aid the refugees to the best of our abilities: until this day, Armenia received more than 16,000 refugees from Syria. By this sheer figure, Armenia is one of the first among recipient European countries.”
He also highlighted the historical agreement made on the nuclear programme of Iran, which he noted is an “immediate neighbour” of Armenia.
“All these come to prove that when there is political will to bridge disagreements and emphasize the spirit of cooperation, it is indeed possible to find solutions for the most complicated issues,” the President highlighted.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Australia Praises the Unanimous Adoption of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
Speaking to the 70th United Nations General Assembly, Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, commended the unanimous endorsement and adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the UN and its Member States.
“Should we realize all 17 Goals, we will transform our world for the betterment of humankind. We must ensure that the remarkable spirit of cooperation displayed during the negotiation process is maintained as we work to turn these ambitious Goals into reality,” she told the annual General Debate this week.
She also called for the collective participation of all countries in the combat against climate change, saying the phenomenon is a challenge for all nations, and decisive action is required to affectively address it.
“We will only succeed in reducing global emissions if there is engagement by the entire UN membership,” said Ms. Bishop. “Australia has announced a strong, responsible and achievable post-2020 contribution to international climate action. We are committed to ensuring the UN Climate Conference in Paris is the platform needed to secure a collective approach to the 2 degree goal,” she added.
As for her country’s contribution to meeting Goal 5 of the SDGs, she said Australia has established a $50 million fund to accelerate support for gender equality in development programmes it delivers in the Indo-Pacific. “We must step up the fight against the global scourge of violence against women and girls,” she stressed.
Regarding the Europe refugee crisis, Ms. Bishop commended the neighbouring countries to war-torn Syria and Iraq and pledge Australian support in terms of humanitarian assistance.
“The humanitarian consequences of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq are devastating. I commend neighbouring countries – Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey – which continue to bear the brunt of the population of displaced persons.”
She said that Australia has provided $230 million in humanitarian assistance since the start of the conflicts. The massive flows of displaced people across the Middle East and into Europe have stretched response capacities to breaking point. In this environment, people smugglers will strive to prosper from their dangerous and criminal trade, she added.
Julie Bishop is among the many leaders who will address the general debate of 70th General Assembly which opened this year with the adoption of Agenda 2030 and 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Made up of all the 193 Member States of the UN, the Assembly provides a forum for multilateral discussion of international issues covered by the UN Charter.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Citing Violations of Agreements, Palestinian President Renounces Political and Security Accords with Israel
On the day that the Palestinian flag was raised at United Nations Headquarters for the first time, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today renounced political and security accords with Israel, saying it must now resume its responsibilities as occupying Power, due to its continual violations of the 20-year-old agreements.
“They leave us no choice but to insist that we will not remain the only ones committed to the implementation of these agreements, while Israel continuously violates them,” he announced from the General Assembly podium, referring to the so-called Oslo accords to set up a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with interim terms governing security and economic cooperation.
But at the same time, he held out the prospect of peace if Israel fully respects the accords.
“My hands remain outstretched for the just peace that will guarantee my people's fights, freedom and human dignity. I say to our neighbours, the Israeli people, that peace is in your interest, in our interest, and in the interest of our future generations,” he declared.
“I hope that you will consider the dangerous reality on the ground and look to the future and accept for the Palestinian people what you accept for yourselves. Then, you will find that the achievement of peace will be possible, and you will enjoy security, safety, peace and stability.”
Speaking on the third day of the Assembly’s 70th annual General Debate shortly before the official flag-raising for Palestine as an Observer State, Mr. Abbas cited continual Israeli violations of the accords, which originally set full Palestinian independence for 1999, from non-stop settlement of territory slated for the Palestinian State to deadly attacks by Jewish extremists.
“Is it not time to end the racist, terrorist, colonial settlement of our land, which is destroying the two-State solution,” he said, referring to the establishment of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security.
“Is it not time to end this injustice? Is it not time to stop this suffering? Is it not time for the racist annexation wall to be dismantled? Is it not time for the humiliating and degrading checkpoints and barriers set up by the Israeli occupying forces in our land to be removed, for the Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip to be lifted, and for our people to move in freedom and dignity in their own homeland and outside?”
Voicing deepest gratitude to the countries that voted by a massive majority in favour of the resolution allowing the Palestinian flag to fly at UN Headquarters, he said the day is not far off when the flag of Palestine will be raised in East Jerusalem.
“The policies and practices of the Israeli Government and the positions of its Prime Minister and cabinet members lead to a clear conclusion: it is working extremely hard to destroy the two-State solution that we are seeking on the basis of the resolutions of international legitimacy,” Mr. Abbas declared.
But he again stressed, in a reference to both Muslim and Jewish festivals coinciding at this: “From this rostrum at the United Nations and in this period of religious holidays, I also extend a sincere call to the people of Israel for peace based on justice, security and stability for all.”
Speaking at the flag-raising ceremony, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called today a day of pride and hope for Palestinians around the world and urged renewed efforts to achieve the two-state solution.
“Now is the time to support initiatives which will preserve the two-State solution and create the conditions for a return to meaningful negotiations on the basis of an agreed framework,” he said. “Now is the time to restore confidence by both Israelis and Palestinians for a peaceful settlement and, at last, the realization of two states for two peoples.
“I sincerely hope that a successful peace process will soon yield a day when we unfurl the Palestinian flag in its proper place – among the family of nations as a sovereign Member State of the United Nations.”
General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft also stressed the need to implement the two-state solution.
“On this day, we are of course keenly aware of the urgent need for real improvements on the ground and a peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – one that fulfils the vision of an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine living side by side in peace and security with Israel,” he said.
(UN Press Release)