Archive | August, 2011

Nigerian Unrest

26 Aug

The bombing today in Abuja has many potential causes, including the possibility that this is one more attack by the group Boko Haram.  But another which bears investigation was suggested by one of the staff of the joint RtoP/Genocide Prevention office.  In some areas of Nigeria, calls for the UN to respond directly and robustly to what has been some very difficult — even violent — exchanges between local groups in the east and north and the Nigerian military.  In Nigeria as elsewhere, people yearn for a swift UN response to regional ethnic conflict that is rarely forthcoming.   Anger at the UN, rightly or wrongly, in such places is growing steadily as the UN fights the reputation of being on the side of governments rather than on the side of people.

As you know, we are organizing to perform trainings for the Nigerian military in 2012 on their protection of civilians responsibilities.   The bombing will not change those plans except cause us to wish that we could do it sooner.  Nigeria’s importance to the stability of west and central Africa can hardly be overstated.   We and our UN partners have a strong vested interest in having a presence on the ground in Nigeria, both for skills development and to help enhance the UN’s shaky stature in that country.



GA High-level Meetings for September

23 Aug

1. High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (19–20 September 2011) 

2. High-level Meeting of the General Assembly addressing desertification, land degradation, and drought in the context of sustainable development and poverty reduction (September 20)

3. High-level Meeting to Commemorate 10th anniversary of Durban Declaration and Program of Action (September 22)

4. Conference on the Facilitation of the Entry-into-Force of the CTBT (September 23)




International Day Against Nuclear Tests, August 29th

19 Aug

Events associated with the observance of the International Day and 20th anniversary of the closure of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site:

High-level Workshop: From here to 2015: Meeting the Targets of the NPT Action Plan

Thursday, September 1, 3-6pm, Conference Rm C in NLB (co-hosted by Mission of Kazakhstan and EastWest Institute)


Sergio Duarte, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

Libran Cabactulan, Ambassador the Philippines and Chair of NPT Review Conference 2010

Marcie Ries, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for USA, Bureau of Arms Control

Annika Thunborg, Representative of Executive Secretary of the Prep Commission for the CTBTO

Informal Meeting of the GA to mark the observance of the 2nd International Day Against Nuclear Tests

Friday, September 2, 10am, Conference Rm 2 NLB


Amb. Joseph Deiss, President of UNGA 65

Asha-Rose Migiro, Deputy SG

Ermek Kosherbayev, Deputy Governor, East Kazakhstan

Geoffrey Shaw, Representative for Director of IAEA

Other member states, NGOs, etc.

Upcoming at GA66: mediation, dispute settlements and the role of women

18 Aug

The role of mediation to reconcile opposing claims and appease resentment was recognized in the 1907 Hague Convention. The concept continues. The upcoming opening General Assembly debate the role of mediation in the settlement of disputes by peaceful means, chaired by Qatar, will build upon the Assembly’s  June 2011 Resolution on strengthening the role of mediation – recognizing the importance of: women’s participation, resources from member states, quality mediation, continued SG support and UN capacity, international, regional and subregional organizations and civil society.

Qatar has put the role of mediation as a “key priority” during its term as president as the “high-level debate” is to be held at the opening of the Assembly’s 66th session.

There is an abundance of literature on peace mediation best practice. Going by the evidence, the General Assembly’s resolution is on the right track – at least in rhetoric –  especaily with its recognition of the the gender dimension:  increased participation of and leadership of women in mediation.

However, the UN itself might be a good place to start. GAPW is a member of the Working Group on Women Peace and Security (NGOWG). In an open letter to UN member states, NGOWG  stated that despite the UN recognition of the important role of women in mediation, they remain:

“overwhelmingly excluded from mediation efforts, and their rights and concerns are not consistently and concretely included in regular mediation practice. At the international level, the United Nations has still never appointed a women as a high level mediator, as called for most recently in A/RES/65/283, OP 9.

Given the continuing barriers that women in particular face in gaining access to these processes, and the differential impact that armed conflict often has on women, we encourage you to emphasize the following key points in your statement at this year’s General Debate:

  • The importance of ensuring women’s rights are fundamental to all guidelines and good practice established regarding mediation;

  • The necessity of embedding women’s rights in content of all peace agreements, and the role of mediators in assisting negotiating parties as to how this can be done;

  • The central role women can play in all prevention efforts, and the need to support and promote women’s participation in all these efforts;

  • The urgent need for the UN to appoint senior women mediators appointed by the UN, which would set an important example for promoting women’s participation in peace policies and processes; and

  • It would be particularly striking for you to speak of any examples of support your country has given to women’s inclusion in mediation processes and ensuring women’s rights in peace agreements. Publicizing women’s engagement in mediation would send a strong signal to the international community of your national commitment to women’s empowerment.”

If the UN is sincere about this issue, action over rhetoric is required. Can the UN deliver? Will the role of women in mediation be properly addressed?

Arms Trade Treaty goes domestic

3 Aug

Predictably, reactionary news networks, along with their followers, are on the defense over the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), many warning that domestic rights are being compromised as “anti-gun elites” run rampant at the United Nations.

We’ve heard it all before: ‘United Nations’ End Run Around Constitution?’, ‘NRA Takes on ‘Anti-Gun Elitists’ at UN’, ‘Sen. Moran & 44 Senators Tell Obama Administration Second Amendment Rights’. Most of this is of course reactionary crazy-talk – baseless assumptions of a UN conspiracy against US gun-owners.

Most citizens would of course recognize the importance of such a treaty. The ATT is about international arms transfers. Currently, the global trade in conventional weapons (warships, battle tanks, fighter jets, machine guns) is unregulated; internationally agreed standards do not exist to ensure that arms are only transferred for appropriate use, not into the hands of those abusing human rights, including terrorists and criminals, and helping to prevent needless armed conflicts and killings around the world.

A recent rebuttal of the far fetched claims came from GAPW’s Robert Zuber. In an article by ‘Opposition mounts to UN gun control treaty opposition mounts to UN gun control treaty’, followed with over 20o comments – he responded with the following:

“Since neither the author of this piece nor those writing comments (so far) was in the room as UN delegates were making final preparations for Arms Trade Treaty negotiations, perhaps a bit of a reality check is in order.

 Once again, the NRA has done a splendid job of reaching out to select US media. However, the individual from the NRA who was given a platform at the UN to make a US-focused speech at the ATT Prep Com (a courtesy which is rarely extended and then normally only to groups exhibiting a broader geographical interest), walked out of the building once his remarks were concluded.   Neither did he apparently bother to attend the sessions leading up to his remarks.  Apparently, like so many sharing opinions on this issue, it was better not to taint his outrage with too much direct experience.

It is certainly predictable to have media folks whip up a frenzy about the UN taking away peoples’ guns and rendering them helpless against the alleged tyranny of the state.  However, as the chief US negotiator to the ATT process — someone who has not been the most congenial presence in the Prep Com room — would readily acknowledge, the ATT is not a disarmament treaty.  It does not propose to destroy weapons or to eliminate their legal possession.  It provides guidelines for arms transfers and seeks to end diversion by which arms traded legally end up in the hands on non-state actors such as criminals and terrorists, are used to violate the human rights of populations, or are ‘re-gifted’ by recipient governments to line their own pockets.   Which of these three diversion potentials the NRA, your readers, the author of this piece, or even our DC legislators would refuse to support is their own call to make, but to refuse to support any of these objectives is simply beyond reason.

I was a gun owner for much of my life.  I respect but don’t fear weapons.  Nor do I fear the ATT or the non-existent ‘power’ of the UN to strip citizens of their guns.   Readers are free to hate the UN.  They are also free to act as though the second amendment is the only legally relevant, binding aspect of the US Constitution.  But what some are accusing the ATT process of promoting is simply nonsense as even 20 attentive minutes inside the Prep Com room would readily reveal.”

Follow discussion on the ATT process:

– Kees Keizer