Friday, September 27, 2013

Burundi and Sierra Leone Report Success Stories from UN Peacebuilding

Burundi and Sierra Leone, two African States often cited as success stories in United Nations efforts to consolidate peace in countries that have been ravaged by conflict, have reported significant progress on the path to reconstruction in addresses to the General Assembly. The two countries, both recovering from years of civil war and factional fighting, were the first to be put on the agenda of the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) when it was set up in 2006, to prevent post-conflict nations from relapsing into bloodshed.

Sierra Leone is on the threshold of transformation in its engagement with the Commission as well as its socio-economic development,” Foreign Minister Samura Kamara told the Assembly’s annual General Debate. “With support from the Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Support Office, as well as other international and local development partners, Sierra Leone continues to make significant gains in the areas of good governance, human rights, gender equality and the fight against transnational organized crimes.”

Burundian Foreign Minister Laurent Kavakure reported that substantial progress has been made in conjunction with the PBC. “In light of the notable advances already made since our country was put on the agenda of the Peacebuilding Commission, Burundi thinks it is time to progressively withdraw from the Commission’s agenda to leave room for other countries which have greater need,” he said. 

Both ministers stressed the importance of the theme of this year’s 68th Assembly, which is to set the stage for long-term sustainable development in the decades following the end of the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) cycle, which seeks to slash extreme poverty and hunger and a host of other social ills.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

September 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Haiti's Prime Minister Reminds United Nations of Responsibility for Cholera Epidemic

UNGA-Haiti PMUrging the world to “give Haiti a second look”, because a new country was finally beginning to emerge, Prime Minister Laurent Salvador Lamothe told the United Nations General Assembly yesterday that his nation was slowly but surely becoming a true stakeholder in the international community. “Despite our extremely difficult legacy and countless setbacks, a new Haiti is making progress…on the path of democracy and development,” the Prime Minister said, noting that just three years ago, Haiti was in the midst of recovery from a devastating earthquake. At that time, many social and economic indicators had been in decline, but Mr. Lamothe’s Government moved resolutely and definitively forward, aiming to adopt effective measures that focused on a strategic long-term development. 

The development plans underway could not take place without a “root and branch” transformation of public administration, and in that context, his Government is reforming administrative offices, strengthening police forces and bolstering other spheres to not only improve the wider Haitian society but to encourage outside investment.

Mr. Lamothe said that the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known by the French acronym MINUSTAH, will next year to mark its 10th anniversary. In that context, Haiti welcomed the operation’s progressive drawdown, due largely in party to the positive reforms that were taking root in the country. He said that the Government is working hard to consolidate the rule of law and ensure strong and lasting institutions. It is also working to ensure that legislative elections take place as soon as possible.

Mr. Lamothe went on to spotlight the country’s ongoing efforts to improve its education system, as well as to combat poverty and hunger. Haiti invested more than $150 million into social assistance programmes to help the vulnerable. The Government has also defined a national food security policy that set out short-, medium-, and long-term aims, which included increasing national production to reduce national food dependence. “Yet, people are still dying of hunger in Haiti…this situation is intolerable,” he declared, underscoring his Government’s belief that combating extreme poverty is a major priority, as is combating disease, infant mortality and rehabilitating the country’s infrastructure. 

He also said that the “very serious: epidemic of cholera appeared in Haiti in October 2010 and is responsible for more than 8,000 deaths and 650,000 infections."  He said: "If we continue to believe that the United Nations has a moral responsibility in this epidemic, it remains true that the UN supports the efforts of the Government and various national and international agencies involved to eradicate this scourge.” 

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

September 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More Collective Effort Needed to Fight Growing Threat of Terrorism

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for strengthening collective efforts to combat terrorism, which he called “one of the greatest security challenges of our time.”  In a message to the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum, held on the margins of the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate, Mr. Ban noted that the threat of terrorism continues to grow in much of the world.   “Extremism and radicalization in the Sahel are affecting national and regional stability. In Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, people no longer know what it means to live without fear of terrorist attacks,” he stated.  “Just this weekend, hundreds died in Baghdad, Nairobi and Peshawar. Conflict zones provide fertile ground for terror groups to emerge and gain strength, as we currently witness in Syria.”  

The message, delivered by Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs and Chairman of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, described today’s meeting as a valuable opportunity to review collective efforts and build on existing partnerships to jointly address terrorism.

Mr. Ban noted that, since its launch two years ago, the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum has undertaken an “impressive” repertoire of work. “Its regional and thematic working groups have brought much-needed focus to priority issues, mobilized funding, improved capacity-building coordination and helped share best practices.”  

“The United Nations welcomes our partnership with the Forum and looks forward to collaborating more closely,” said Mr. Ban, who invited all participants to consider how to further build on existing cooperation.

The proposed Global Fund on Community Engagement and Resilience, he added, can make an important contribution to implementing the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy by providing much-needed resources to local organizations that are critical to addressing the conditions that help spread terrorism. Adopted by the General Assembly in September 2006, the Strategy is based on four pillars: tackling the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism; preventing and combating terrorism; building States’ capacity to prevent and combat terrorism and to strengthen the role of the UN system in that regard; and ensuring respect for human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis for the fight against terrorism.

Next June, Member States will conduct the fourth biennial review of the Strategy, which provides the model for international counter-terrorism cooperation. 

(UN press release)

September 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

UN Officials Urge New Efforts to Rid the World of Nuclear Threat

Senior United Nations officials have called on Member States to take renewed steps to rid the world of nuclear weapons, during what was the first high-level meeting ever held by the General Assembly devoted to this issue. “Some might complain that nuclear disarmament is little more than a dream. But that ignores the very tangible benefits disarmament would bring for all humankind,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon  said at the meeting, held on the margins of the Assembly’s high-level General Debate.

“Its success would strengthen international peace and security. It would free up vast and much-needed resources for social and economic development. It would advance the rule of law.  It would spare the environment and help keep nuclear materials from terrorist or extremist groups.  And it would remove a layer of fear that clouds all of human existence.”

In particular, Mr. Ban appealed to nuclear-weapon States to intensify their efforts to cooperate with the international community and move towards disarmament. “Today, I once again call upon the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to demonstrate its commitment towards verifiable de-nuclearization,” he said. “I urge the Islamic Republic of Iran to fulfil its pledge to enhance the transparency of its nuclear programme.”

The Secretary-General also urged countries that have not yet done so to accede to the UN-backed Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as well as the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Having entered into force in 1970, the NPT aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament. The CTBT bans all nuclear explosions in all environments, for military or civilian purposes. It was adopted by the General Assembly in September 1996 but has not yet entered into force.

Mr. Ban stressed that he would continue to explore ways to advance disarmament efforts and support existing ones, including the five-point plan he put forward in 2008 that includes recommendations on increasing security, verification, establishing a legal framework for nuclear disarmament, transparency and conventional weapons.

Adapted from a UN press release)

September 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

SCSL Affirms 50-Year Sentence for Charles Taylor

Nations Agree to Combat Anti-Gay Discrimination

Countries attending the first ministerial meeting held at the United Nations on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals today reaffirmed their commitment to work together to combat discrimination and protect the rights of all human beings regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Foreign ministers attending the meeting adopted a declaration pledging not just to protect LGBT rights but also to counter homophobic and transphobic attitudes in society at large, including through public education campaigns.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay commended their resolve to act, but stressed many more challenges remain on this issue. “Over the past decade, many countries have embarked on historic reforms – strengthening anti-discrimination laws, combating hate crime against LGBT people and sensitizing public opinion. But in spite of advances, very serious challenges remain,” she said. “In some places, things seem to be getting worse, not better. As you know, regressive new laws have been proposed or adopted in several Eastern European and African countries in the past year alone . . . . We must, all of us, look for new ways to talk about this issue with governments – especially those that are reluctant to do so.”

More than 76 countries still criminalize consensual adult same-sex relationships, while in many more countries discrimination against LGBT people is widespread – including in the workplace and in the education and health sectors.

A study carried out by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) drew on almost two decades worth of work by UN human rights mechanisms and found a “deeply disturbing pattern of violence and discriminatory laws and practices” affecting people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Ms. Pillay noted that it is not just LGBT people who face discrimination but also rights defenders speaking on LGBT issues who in many countries are routinely the victims of violence, intimidation and police harassment and risk prosecution and sometimes legal sanctions. The High Commissioner also spoke about the resistance she sometimes meets when she raises the need for measures to protect the rights of LGBT people with government representatives.  “They say that same-sex relationships and transgender identities go against their culture, religious beliefs or traditional values. My answer is that human rights are universal,” she said.

“Our campaign on behalf of marginalized communities will meet resistance, even opposition. We must not be discouraged. We must stay engaged. Let us keep voicing our concerns, let us keep finding new allies, sharing good practice and standing fast alongside local human rights defenders on the front lines of this struggle.”

Those present at the meeting included the United States Secretary of State, the foreign ministers of Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, the Netherlands and Norway, the French minister for development cooperation and senior officials from Japan, New Zealand and the European Union, as well as the executive directors of Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

(adapted from a UN Press Release)

September 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Arming the Syrian Opposition

President Obama issued a determination today that providing defense articles and services to vetted members of the Syrian opposition was essential to the national security interests of the United States.  Click here to read the presidential determination.


September 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

European Union Urges Security Council Resolution on Syria

A top official at the European Union pleaded today for the Security Council to adopt a clear resolution on Syria and end the “spiral of criminal, sectarian violence” at the heart of “the world’s most unstable region.” In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly’s high-level debate, Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, said the international community “absolutely must avoid a dreadful precedent being set on the use of chemical weapons - an abhorrent crime against humanity.” He called the role of the UN “indispensable” in the controlling and destroying Syria’s arsenal, underscored time and again by the 28 Governments of the European Union (EU).

“It is urgent for the Security Council, together with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), to take the necessary decisions to ensure the swift and secure destruction of Syria’s poison gas and nerve agent stocks,” Mr. Van Rompuy said, following UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s report and the inventory from the Syrian Government.

The head of the European Council said that a breakthrough on chemical weapons is an important political opening, “in the black wall of Syria’s doom, it will be a first crack.”  He urged continued hard work towards the so-called Geneva II meeting, which would include representatives of Syrian parties as well as senior United States, Russian and UN officials. “The European Union is ready to provide all support needed to achieve a political settlement,” said Mr. Van Rompuy. He noted, however, that reconciliation is a long process. “No longer waging war is one thing, living again together quite another.” 

Turning to the theme of this year’s debate, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, he called the EU a “faithful development partner” who “would not draw away from our responsibilities” around the world. He stressed that it is at the UN that a “new impetus” must be given for a development agenda. In his speech, Mr. Van Rompuy also highlighted the improving economics of European countries, noting that economic growth is expected in all but one of the 28 countries.

(Adapted from a UN press release)

September 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Panama Expresses Concern that Nicaragua Will Extend Its Continental Shelf by 150 Nautical Miles Beyond what the ICJ Allocated

Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly today, the President of Panama highlighted several issues related to territorial disputes of his country, while also focusing on eradication of poverty and other goals of long-term sustainable development. “For the first time in history, humanity possesses the technological means, economical and politico-social structures to eradicate extreme poverty forever,” President Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal told the high-level debate of the 68th General Assembly.

He stressed that Panama has progressed on the time-bound Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which address poverty and hunger, education, gender equality, child mortality, maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, environmental sustainability and a global partnership for development. The MDGs are in the limelight today at a special event on the follow-up efforts made towards achieving the eight targets and on laying a foundation for a sustainable development agenda in the years after 2015.

In his statement, Mr. Martinelli Berrocal said that his country supports the idea that the post-2015 agenda should place sustainable development in the centre and not leave anyone out. “The original promise of the [Goals] must be maintained and this new route to development should be transformed from reduction of poverty to ending extreme poverty,” said Mr. Martinelli Berrocal, who also noted the importance of human rights and the environment in the new agenda. 

Turning to national politics, he noted that the Government of Nicaragua plans to extend its continental shelf about 150 nautical miles past what the International Court of Justice allocated. The move “deeply and energetically” worries Panama, he said, denouncing the move.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

September 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

United States and 18 Other Countries Sign the Arms Trade Treaty; More than Half of U.N. Member States Have Now Signed the ATT

The United States and 18 other countries today signed the Arms Trade Treaty, an international agreement that will regulate the international trade in conventional arms.  

A spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said that more than half of the UN Member States have now signed the Arms Trade Treaty.  Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement that the Secretary-General, as depository of a treaty he deems important, welcomes every signature.  “It is of particular significance that the largest arms exporting country in the world, the United States, is now also among those countries who have committed themselves to a global regulation of the arms trade,” the spokesperson stressed.  

The treaty will enter into force once it receives 50 ratifications.  Six countries have already ratified the treaty, which was adopted in April 2013 by the UN General Assembly.  Among its provisions, the treaty prohibits the transfer of arms that would be used to commit genocide, crimes against humanity, and certain war crimes.

As of this afternoon, 107 countries have signed the Arms Trade Treaty.  At least two more countries are expected to sign the treaty this week.

The treaty regulates all conventional arms within the categories of battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large-calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers and small arms and light weapons.

A 2011 study commissioned by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), entitled “The Global Burden of Armed Violence,” documented that more than half a million people die as a result of armed violence every year, fuelled in many cases by the widespread availability of weapons. Many more suffer horrific injuries and abuses, including rape, while still more are forced from their homes. 

Click here for more information about the Arms Trade Treaty.

Mark E. Wojcik (mew) (Adapted from a UN Press Release)

September 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New U.N. Report on Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Progress has been made in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in putting in place a legal regime to combat impunity for human rights violations, but the rights situation in the east of the country continues to deteriorate, according to a new United Nations report presented to the press in Kinshasa today. 

The report, the latest on the rights situation in the country by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, welcomes the enactment of a law establishing a national human rights commission as well as the institution of proceedings against State agents accused of human rights violations.

However, it also deplores the “significant deterioration” of the human rights situation in the east of the country, despite the Government’s efforts, with the majority of violations being committed by security and defence forces as well as by combatants of the 23 March Movement (M23) and other armed groups.

“It is essential to establish reliable vetting mechanisms to ensure that human rights abusers are not maintained within or integrated into the security forces,” Scott Campbell, director of the UN Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC, told reporters.

Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), added at the press conference that “a true stabilization of the country and the effective protection of human rights are two directly related imperatives.

“By uniting the efforts of the UN with those of the Government of the DRC, we are confident that we can make significant progress in the fight against impunity and the protection of civilians.”

Underscoring the deterioration of conditions in the east, meanwhile, Mr. Kobler also condemned attacks on schools and hospitals by parties to the conflict there, naming in particular actions of the armed group known as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in Beni territory.

Following a joint investigation by UN and local authorities, it was found that ADF elements ransacked 11 primary schools and five health centres in July 2013, destroying furniture and looting equipment.  Four more health centres and a school were attacked in previous months.

“ADF and all other parties involved in such acts must immediately stop committing these deplorable violations of the rights of the child, which have deprived more than 7,000 children of their education and affected the provision of health services for thousands more,” Mr. Kobler said.

(Adapted from a UN press release)

September 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Estonia Highlights the Use of International Law to Preserve Internet Freedom

In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly today, the President of Estonia highlighted the use of modern information and communication technologies (ICT) to drive development and the importance of international law to preserve Internet freedom while protecting citizens from cyber crime. “The main driver of sustainable development is inclusive and responsible policies in economics,” President Toomas Hendrik Ilves told the General Debate of the Assembly’s 68th session.  Mr. Ilves added that modern ICT solutions are a key enabler to foster such growth, leading to better governance, access to public services, job creation, transparency, accountability and civil society participation.

In his statement, he stressed that cyber security and internet freedom “are intrinsically linked and in no way incompatible.”  He said that “Freedom of opinion and expression - online or off - is a cornerstone of every democracy and constitutes a fundamental human right.” He added that the UN Group of Government Experts affirmed that international law is essential in promoting an “open, secure and accessible cyberspace.”

He joins scores of world leaders and high-level Government officials in New York who will, over the next five days, present their views and comments on issues of individual national and international relevance. Delegations are focusing on a global development agenda for the period following 2015, the deadline for achieving the eight anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“The targets should leave no one behind and be applicable and achievable in every country,” Mr. Ilves said, stressing the importance of women and girls as main drivers of development. He also noted the importance of education, decent job opportunities and essential heal services, to the agenda, as well as the inclusion of topics particularly relevant to people with disabilities who have been “one of the most excluded segments of our societies.” 

Turning to the crisis in Syria, Mr. Ilves said that the use of chemical weapons is “unacceptable under any circumstances and requires complete and unreserved condemnation,” and urged the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the Security Council to move forward to destroy and verify the weapons.

The President also noted that Estonia was among the countries to join an initiative in January asking the Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC). 

In contrast, Mr. Ilves praised the presidential elections in Mali which have “paved the way for optimism,” and reiterated Estonia’s support in rebuilding the country.

Mr. Ilves also said the future looks promising in Afghanistan where “responsibility and ownership make people masters of their own fate.”

(Adapted from a UN press release)

September 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Gabon Calls for Global Support for Africa in the Battle Against Terrorism

Citing the recent deadly terrorist attack at a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, President Ali Bongo of Gabon appealed yesterday from the podium of the United Nations General Assembly for full global support for Africa in the battle against terrorism. “Africa, which is becoming a target for terrorism, must benefit from the full support and solidarity of the international community in its effort to combat this threat,” he told the Assembly on the first day of its General Debate, noting that poverty nurtures extremism around the world and the battle against poverty must therefore remain at the centre of national policies. 

Turning to the post-2015 development agenda, the theme of the 68th General Assembly, Mr. Bongo said attention must be paid to Africa’s priorities, such as energy, access to potable water and sustainable agriculture, as well as the realization of those Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that are not met by the target date of 2015. The MDGs seek to slash extreme hunger and poverty, boost access to health care and education, achieve gender equality and environmental stability, and reduce maternal and child mortality and the incidence of HIV/AIDS, all by the end of 2015, while Assembly President John Ashe says he hopes the focus on the post-2015 agenda will set the stage for sustainable development in the decades ahead. 

Mr. Bongo underscored the need for predictable funding for development from public and private sources, the importance of combating climate change and the threat to wildlife and biodiversity, and voiced his concern over conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR), praising the efforts of the UN peacekeeping mission in the former country. He repeatedly appealed for international support. “Africa cannot face all these challenges to peace and security alone,” he declared. “Its efforts must receive greater support, because the destabilization of Africa will have implications for other regions.”

(Adapted from a UN press release)

September 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Switzerland Reminds United Nations General Assembly of the Power of Negotiation

Switzerland has expressed concern that in a return to “power politics”, larger States are once again choosing to exercise their power and strength, and reaffirmed that sovereignty and equal rights are the convictions upon which the UN Charter is based. “I sincerely hope that this trend will be corrected.” the Swiss President, Ueli Maurer, told the 68th session of the General Assembly. “No country imposes its law over that of another country. Problems are not solved by diktat, but through negotiation.”

The President spoke on the opening day of the General Debate, making the point that humanitarian efforts were part of his country’s history and it was an honour for Switzerland to make its neutral soil available for peace talks. He reminded delegations that it was 150 years ago that the world renowned humanitarian organization, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was created in Geneva, and both Switzerland and the ICRC shared a tradition of neutrality and humanitarian action.

Going on to speak about the situation in Syria, Mr. Maurer said that serious and systematic violations of international humanitarian law and human rights must not be tolerated – and he called on the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

In his address, Mr. Maurer appealed to the Security Council’s permanent members to overcome their differences to “find some common ground.”  He reiterated the need for no effort to be spared for a consensus to be reached to allow for a political solution and the resumption of talks in Geneva. 

Separate from bilateral talks between Russia and the United States on a framework for the safeguarding and destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles, the United Nations-Arab League Joint Representative Lakhdar Brahimi has pressed on with efforts towards the holding of a long-proposed international peace conference on Syria, commonly referred to as “Geneva II”, after the Swiss city in which it would be held.

Mr. Maurer also said global problems need global solutions and the UN should be where that happens.  But in order to live up to that role, the UN must be “efficient, innovative and effective,” he added. Acknowledging that the UN is active in a vast range of areas, the President went on to say, “There is perhaps a risk that it has taken on too much and lost focus.” 

(Adapted from a  UN press release)

September 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sweden's Prime Minister Tells UN General Assembly that Gender Equality, Democracy, and Free Trade are Vital for Human and Economic Development

Gender equality, democracy and free trade are vital for human and economic development as the United Nations seeks to set the stage for the a new battle against poverty and its attendant ills in the decades ahead, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt told the General Assembly today. 

“These areas have the capacity to influence developments in many other areas at the same time,” he said on the first day of this year’s General Debate, stressing the prime role the UN has to play in achieving the anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and their successor targets, the post-2015 development agenda, which is the theme of the 68th General Assembly. 

The post-2015 agenda aims to set the stage for sustainable development in the decades after the expiry of the 15-year MDGs cycle that seeks to slash extreme hunger and poverty, boost access to health care and education, achieve gender equality and environmental stability, and reduce maternal and child mortality and the incidence of HIV/AIDS, all by the end of 2015.

“It is our firm belief that by ensuring gender equality you also improve a country's productivity, economy and rule of law,” Mr. Reinfeldt said, noting that every year, 1 billion women are subject to sexual or physical violence, every day 800 women die from preventable complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, and legal restrictions prevent women from owning property in many countries while many girls and women are refused access to schools and education.

“Educating girls and women leads directly to an increase in a country's economic output,” he stressed. “Educated mothers place higher value on schooling their own children. Closing the gap between male and female employment rates increases a country's GDP (gross domestic product) substantially.”

On democracy, Mr. Reinfeldt said democratic governance was key to achieving sustainable development, noting that almost one third of the world's population lives under authoritarian rule – “a serious barrier to development.”

“Only when people can freely express their political opinion - and freely participate in a thriving civil society - can they truly participate in the life of their community,” he declared. “This applies also to freedom on the Internet. Only with functioning courts do people feel safe to make investments and develop their businesses. 

On free trade and competition he said protectionism is very expensive, raising prices and lowering standards of living. “Let me illustrate this by a striking example,” he added. “According to the World Trade Organization, consumers and Governments in rich countries pay $350 billion per year supporting agriculture - enough to fly their 41 million dairy cows first class around the world.”

In other examples, he noted that when competition has been introduced for mobile phone companies in some countries, the cost of calls has fallen 30 to 50 per cent, while studies show that lowering services barriers by one third would raise developing countries' incomes by around $60 billion. “And let us also remember how important trade is for peaceful relations,” he added. “To put it very simply, no sales person wants to start a war against a country where it has customers. That would be a bad business strategy. Trade enables peace.” 

(Excerpt from a UN press release)

September 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Mike Ozekhome, Human Rights Lawyer, Kidnapped in Nigeria, Now Free

The Economist Magazine, reporting on the sad development of kidnappings in Nigeria, reported that recent persons kidnapped include human rights lawyer Mike Ozekhome.  Mr. Ozekhome was kidnapped by unknown gunman on August 24 and released around September 12.  The Economist article (in the September 14, 2013 issue, on page 57) notes that "Until policing improves and people refuse ot pay, the scourge of kidnapping will persist--and the best of lawyers and churchmen will be vulnerable."  The article notes that another person kidnapped in Nigeria is Archbishop Ignatius Kattey.



September 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Iran's New President Tells the United Nations that it Will Not Produce Nuclear Weapons

From the podium of the United Nations General Assembly, Iran’s new President, Hassan Rouhani, today foreswore the production of nuclear weapons, reasserted his country’s right to peaceful nuclear enrichment and proposed immediate “time-bound” talks to resolve the issue.

“I declare here, openly and unambiguously, that, notwithstanding the positions of others, this has been, and will always be, the objective of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he told the General Assembly on the first day of its General Debate, speaking hours after United States President Barack Obama told the same gathering that he was directing US Secretary of State John Kerry to pursue a diplomatic course with Iran on the matter.

“I listened carefully to the statement made by President Obama today at the General Assembly. Commensurate with the political will of the leadership in the United States and hoping that they will refrain from following the short-sighted interest of warmongering pressure groups, we can arrive at a framework to manage our differences,” Mr. Rouhani said.

Iran’s nuclear programme has been an international concern ever since the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported in 2003 that it had committed numerous breaches of its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) safeguards agreement in a deliberate counter-effort over many years to conceal material, facilities and activities that should have been declared. 

These covered the entire spectrum of the nuclear fuel cycle including experiments in enriching uranium and separating plutonium - potential ingredients for nuclear weapons. Throughout, Iran has insisted that its programme is solely geared to the peaceful production of energy.  

“Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran's security and defence doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions,” Mr. Rouhani said. “Our national interests make it imperative that we remove any and all reasonable concerns about Iran's peaceful nuclear programme.” 

But he said his country’s right to enrichment inside Iran and enjoyment of other related nuclear rights must be accepted and respected, stressing that its nuclear technology, including enrichment, has already reached industrial scale.  

“In this context, the Islamic Republic of Iran, insisting on the implementation of its rights and the imperative of international respect and cooperation in this exercise, is prepared to engage immediately in time-bound and result-oriented talks to build mutual confidence and removal of mutual uncertainties with full transparency,” he said, criticizing those who speak of a military option being on the table.

He stressed that his own recent election represents “a clear, living example of the wise choice of hope, rationality and moderation” by the Iranian people, condemned coercive economic and military policies and practices geared to the preservation of old superiorities, and dismissed the imaginary so-called “Iranian threat.’

“Iran poses absolutely no threat to the world or the region. In fact, in ideals as well as in actual practice, my country has been a harbinger of just peace and comprehensive security,” he said, adding that Iran seeks constructive engagement with other countries based on mutual respect and common interest, and within the same framework does not seek to increase tensions with the
United States.

Turning to issues in the Middle East, Mr. Rouhani deplored the “brutal repression” of the
Palestinian people, calling it structural violence. “Palestine is under occupation; the basic rights of the Palestinians are tragically violated, and they are deprived of the right of return and access to their homes, birthplace and homeland,” he said. “Apartheid as a concept can hardly describe the crimes and the institutionalized aggression against the innocent Palestinian people.”

On the “human tragedy” of Syria, he said there is no military solution, called for a quick end to the killing of the innocent, condemning any use of chemical weapons but welcome Syria's acceptance of the Chemical Weapons Convention. 

He deplored terrorism and the killing of innocent people as “the ultimate inhumanity of extremism and violence… Terrorism is a violent scourge and knows no country or national borders. But, the violence and extreme actions such as the use of drones against innocent people in the name of combating terrorism should also be condemned,” he said, also condemning the “criminal assassination” of Iranian nuclear scientists.

Summing up his overall view, Mr. Rouhani concluded with a message of hope. “Notwithstanding all difficulties and challenges, I am deeply optimistic about the future,” he declared. “I have no doubt that the future will be bright with the entire world solidly rejecting violence and extremism. 

“Prudent moderation will ensure a bright future for the world. My hope, aside from personal and national experience, emanates from the belief shared by all divine religions that a good and bright future awaits the world.”

(UN Press Release)

September 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

President of Liberia Thanks United Nations for Sending the Peacekeepers (UNMIL)

Achieving an average annual growth or over 7 per cent and improving governance and accountability has put Liberia on the path to “irreversible progress”, noted President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as she addressed the 68th session of the General Assembly.

Liberia has returned to the comity of nations as a “respectable and responsible partner” over the last 10 years, and while the country has come a long way “we have a long way to go,” added President Johnson-Sirleaf in her address to the Assembly’s General Debate which began at UN Headquarters today and runs through 1 October.  Thanking the Organization for extending the UN peacekeeping operation in Liberia through September 2014, the President reiterated her country’s commitment to building a competent security sector, able to tackle violent crimes, sexual and gender-based violence.

The UN has maintained a peacekeeping force in Liberia since 2003 to bolster a ceasefire agreement ending a decade of war that killed nearly 150,000 people, mostly civilians. The mandate of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) includes helping to restore the rule of law and democratic processes, as well as facilitating humanitarian assistance. In extending UNMIL’s mandate for another year, the Security Council endorsed the continued drawdown of the mission’s military component agreed upon last year by a further 1,129 personnel by next September, with the goal of leaving its military strength at some 3,750 personnel by July 2015.

Referring to the conflict in Syria, Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf said her country agonizes with the people, “particularly those innocent women and children who suffer most.” She went on to condemn the use of chemical weapons in Syria and anywhere in the world.

 (Excerpt from a UN Press Release)

September 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Book Explains the External Relations Law of the European Union

OUP EU ExternalOxford University Press has published a new book on "The Law of EU External Relations: Cases, Materials, and Commentary on the EU as an International Legal Actor."  The authors are Pieter Jan Kuijper (University of Amsterdam), Jan Wouters (University of Leuven), Frank Hoffmeister (Free University of Brussels), Geert De Baere (University of Leuven), and Thomas Ramopoulos (University of Leuven).  

The book is a usefuly volume of annotated documents and judgments relating to the foreign relations power of the European Union and the practice of the European Union in the field of international law.  It's obviously useful as a course textbook for any school lucky enough to offer specialized EU classes, but it's also going to be a useful reference tool for academics and other researchers as well as diplomats who find themselves needing a more complete understanding of the mysteries of the European Union.  It's an intelligently designed book with a great deal of useful information.  It's broken down into these chapters:

  1. Personality and Powers of the EU
  2. International Representation of the EU
  3. Treaty-Making Powers
  4. Mixed Agreements
  5. The EU in International Organizations
  6. EU Sanctions and Countermeasures
  7. Common Commercial Policy (including imports, safeguards, antidumping, antisubsidy, and trade barrier legislation)
  8. Cooperation Policies and Humanitarian Aid
  9. Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy
  10. External Environmental Policy
  11. Common Foreign and Security Policy
  12. The Status of International Law in the EU (including international agreements, the status of the World Trade Organization, the status of the United Nations within the EU legal order, and General International Law)
  13. International Agreements and Member States. 

Each of the chapters contains a great many documents, selected and edited with a great deal of care.  A lot of work went into this book.

The book is also going to be a useful reference tool for its Table of Cases, which includes citations from the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Court of Human Rights, the EFTA Court, the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of International Justice, the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization, Arbitral Tribunals, and a handful of national cases from Canada, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.  EU Treaties, Protocols, Declarations, Regulations, Directives, Joint Actions, Common Positions, Council and Commission Decisions, and other EU Documents are also extensively cited and included in the index.  Also cited are a large number of treaties, charters, agreements, and declarations, as well as national legal documents from the EU member states, the United States, and even Uruguay.  

You will want to have this book if you're writing about any aspect of the external relations of the European Union because this book will put into context the primary sources you're citing and discussing.  The introductory annotations throughout the book are easy to read and quite helpful.

The hardcover edition sells for $225 but it's also available in paperback for the student-friendly price of $85.  Click here for more information about the book (including how to buy it, of course!).

Mark E. Wojcik (mew)


September 24, 2013 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

United Nations Launches the "High-Level Political Forum"; The Forum Replaces the UN Commission on Sustainable Development

World leaders at the United Nations today inaugurated a High-level Political Forum that aims to inject new energy into the global effort to boost development for all the world’s peoples in a manner that is sustainable for future generations.  The Forum replaces the UN’s Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), which concluded its work on 20 September. The Commission was formed after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to generate action on a range of issues, including energy, oceans and sustainable consumption and production.

At the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development – known as Rio+20 – Member States called for the change from the CSD to the High-level Political Forum to ensure that sustainable development tops the agenda of the highest levels of government and is embraced by all actors.  Countries at Rio+20 agreed that progress in prosperity and social well-being – and simultaneous protection of the environment – had not been sufficient at a time when many global challenges threaten to roll back successes in fighting poverty and severe environmental threats such as climate change loom.

At the inaugural launch today, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the establishment of the Forum is a significant step towards realizing the vision adopted by Member States at Rio+20.  “Your forum is a key platform for examining today’s challenges in a holistic and integrated manner,” he said.  “This forum can be the catalyst for a strengthened global partnership for sustainable development, providing political leadership grounded in solid science,” he added. To further strengthen that effort, the Secretary-General said, he had decided to create a Scientific Advisory Board, including major researchers in varied natural, social and human disciplines.  The Board will be established by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  

General Assembly President John Ashe pointed out that the international community had made for itself this new High-level Political Forum, or HLPF, just as the 68th session began its discussions on laying the groundwork for the post-2015 development agenda.  “We have created this HLPF for the express purpose of delivering more effectively on our aspirations and agendas at a time when we realize that the practice of sustainability provides the only real bridge from our past to our present and our future, and from our planet to our peoples and our prosperity,” Mr. Ashe said.

The Forum will bring heads of State and Government together every four years under the auspices of the General Assembly to address the challenges of sustainable development. It will also meet annually at the ministerial level, under the auspices of the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Starting in 2016, the Forum will also review implementation of sustainable development by all countries and the UN system, in order to bring about accountability and a focus on action on the ground. 

The President of ECOSOC, Ambassador Néstor Osorio of Colombia, stressed that the Forum “could not and should not go it alone,” but should be integrated into the full UN structure.  Such coordination was the responsibility of his Council, he said. “People have a right to expect real results from the new Forum,” said UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo.  “There are real challenges that must be faced. “People need jobs, health care and education. And they also need food security, clean air and clean water. They need development that is sustainable, and the Forum has to deliver progress in all of these areas,” he added.

(adapted from a UN press release)

September 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)