Archive | September, 2011

Disarmament and the General Assembly’s high-level plenary session: who said what?

30 Sep

As usual, Reaching Critical Will has done a fabulous jobs of monitoring and tracking mentions of disarmament at the General Assembly’s 66th opening high-level plenary session. RCW’s index highlights the issues to be detailed during the Assembly’s First Committee, starting on 3 October.

SG Ban Ki-Moon‘s opening address spoke of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, for the international community “to keep pushing on disarmament and non-proliferation … [and to fulfill the dream of] a world free of nuclear weapons.”

1. Consequences of nuclear testing and conflict

It was saddening to hear from a few countries whose citizens had suffered greatly from nuclear testing and weaponry used on their territories. Laos and Lebanon still suffer from the impact of cluster munitions and explosives contamination – and urged the international community to do more. The Marshall Islands made it clear that fallout from nuclear testing on its territory is ongoing and that justice has been limited.

2. Nuclear Non-Proliferation and other treaties / conventions

Many states expressed a commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the ultimate goal to eliminate nuclear weapons. A number of states expressed alarm over nuclear weapons programs in DPR Korea, Iran and Israel. Support was also shown for a number of other treaties and conventions: the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. General opposition to Weapons of Mass Destruction and concern for nuclear terrorism was also expressed by many states. While Uruguay urged the international community to make the most of recent progress on nuclear disarmament talks and the Mauritius called the current political environment as ‘the best ever’, the Central African Republic suggested that the nuclear powers need to assume full responsibility. Key statements of action came from: Kazakhstan – as chair of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation – will use the opportunity to focus on international and regional security, building Islamic-West relations and enhancing the regimes of non-proliferation of WMD; and Ireland who “will continue to push for the UN’s disarmament machinery to become more responsive to 21st century imperatives”. Australia, Poland and Austria expressed reservation about the lack of progress in the Conference on Disarmament (with the latter suggesting the need for a new body).

3. Nuclear weapons-free zones (NWFZ) 

Brazil, Iraq and Palau made it clear that their constitutions disallow nuclear weapons, which in Iraq’s words is a ‘clear position’ and a demonstrates a ‘commitment’. CambodiaUkraine, Kygristan, Papua New GuineaUruguay and Kazakhstan all spoke about major achievements at their respective regional level nuclear-free status’s; Mongolia was adamant that its nuclear free status could serve as an “impetus” for expanding NWFZs. Egypt, Syria, Oman and the UAE expressed commitment to a Middle East NWFZ. More generally, Cambodia, Nepal and Vietnam mentioned positive (Asia-Pacific and ASEAN) regional efforts aimed at disarmament and confidence building; and Taijkistan spoke about their efforts towards establishing a Landmine Free Central Asia.

4. Small arms and the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)

A number of Latin American and Caribbean countries highlighted the importance of combatting the small arms trade in the region where ‘criminal groups’: traffickers, narcotic gangs and others operate, making it “one of the most violent areas on earth” – in the words of Nicaragua‘s delegate. Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago, Peru, the Bahamas and Barbados spoke of the importance of the ATT, and backed up by Jamaica who is “committed to ensuring that the 2012 Diplomatic Conference on the ATT results in a legally binding, comprehensive, objective and transparent Treaty.” Others, notably Antigua and Barbuda, mentioned the significance of the CARICOM Declaration in the context of regional progress on combatting small arms. A number of African delegates were equally vocal concerning the small arms trade and the urgent need for ATT progress. Mali and Nigeria spoke of serious arms issues in their sub-regions; Niger suggested that further sub-regional efforts were required; Burundi spoke of national-led progress on disarming criminals; and Ghana considered the ATT as an “indispensable step [to prevent] the flow of conventional arms to destinations where they are likely to wreak havoc and mayhem by either fueling conflict and undermining both national and regional peace, security and development or exacerbating tensions.”

5. Militarization and Military Spending

Iran‘s leader spoke of other countries’ high military budgets, stockpiling of nuclear warheads, supporting chemical weaponry, and role in arms sales, bombing and occupation. In similar rhetoric Venezuela spoke about US militarization but also called for a “broad peace-based alliance against war: with the supreme aim of avoiding war at all costs.”  Many other states also raised the issue of high military spending, with some contrasting to a lack of human development spending: Montenegro called it ‘unjust’; Poland expressed concern over a new ‘arms race’, while Kazakhstan reiterated its initiative to redirect spending to a peacekeeping fund.

Many words were used to describe alternatives to militarism –  cooperation, dialogue, war prevention, mediation, diplomacy, multilateralism – which came from many different states. The Republic of Korea and China for example spoke for need for ongoing dialogue with DPR Korea; St. Vincent and the Grenadines suggested that the role of mediation should be a ‘firm resolution’ of the General Assembly.

Be sure to follow our work, and that of Reaching Critical Will,as these issues will be detailed in the General Assembly’s First Committee, starting on 3 October, 2011.

– Kees Keizer

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First Committee

28 Sep

The First Committee on Disarmament and International Security of the UN General Assembly’s 66th session will begin on Monday, October 3rd. All member states will be invited to engage in general debate as well as thematic cluster conversations on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, conventional weapons, and disarmament machinery. Following these exchanges, member states are free to submit resolutions for consideration under all agenda items.

GAPW, along with our disarmament partners, will be contributing to the First Committee Monitor weekly digest of the committee’s work. Please see Reaching Critical Will for all back issues and further information.

Side events calendar

First Committee Monitor

Provisional programme of work

 

 

 

 

 

 

Responsibility to Protect: the crucial gender dimension for lasting peace

24 Sep

So the UN’s R2P is heading in the right direction: no-one likes genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity or ethnic cleansing. These highest-level crimes, or threat of, are lumped together as ‘Mass  Atrocity Crimes’ under R2P’s principles. First declared in 2005, R2P aims to make states accountable to protecting its own civilians – making sovereignty a responsibility. A breach of that responsibility will result in external intervention.  

As the debate rolls on, the R2P in its current form consists of three parts.

  1. A State has a responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing (mass atrocity crimes).
  2. If the State is unable to protect its population, the international community has a responsibility to assist the state by building its capacity. This includes building early-warning capabilities, mediating conflicts between political parties, strengthening the security sector, and mobilizing standby forces.
  3. If a State is clearly failing to protect its citizens from mass atrocities and peaceful measures have been exhausted, the international community has the responsibility to intervene: first diplomatically, then more coercively; and as a last resort, with military force.

Much work lies ahead. Largely missing from the R2P text is the gender dimension, which in its current form receives just two mentions. Strides towards gender equality and increased participation were made through UNSCR 1325 (2000) and the Beijing Platform for Action (2010). Bizarre as it may sound, while these documents outline obligations of the international community, governments and civil society to incorporate gender elements into policy making, they have been largely ignored by R2P.

Empowering women

The gender dimension of conflict is nothing new. Through Women’s Groups and other civil society community-based groups, women are often well-placed to sound the alarm in pre-conflict phrase. If R2P is serious about early warning and preventative action, they should take advantage of this phenomenon. During conflict, again, women play an important societal role and are often at the forefront of engagement and negotiations. Simultaneously, women are more vulnerable to civilian abuse (including rape), so gender sensitivity policies are even more urgent.

In the post-conflict phase women are often neglected, despite having often played an important mediation role. There are many areas where there is a need for greater participation of women:  in demobilization, disarmament, reintegration, justice and reconciliation, community policing, and other areas such as humanitarian relief, land reform, political and economic development. These are many examples for women to participate; the impact of such programs on the female population must be given full consideration by the international community. Or to put it another way, without a focus on gender parity (which includes voices, perspectives, gender equality and non-discrimination) in post-conflict reconstruction, lasting peace – for which R2P strives for – remains at risk.

Clearly, the international community needs to work harder on incorporating all relevant aspects of civilian protection into policy: the role of women (or lack of) could not be clearer.

– Kees Keizer

List of Speakers at UNGA Plenary 2011

21 Sep

This is the list of speakers for the GA Plenary Session, September 21, 2011

For the full text of speeches, please consult Reaching Critical Will. RCW has also prepared an ongoing monitoring tool of disarmament-related issues during the high-level plenary. See here.

  • 1. Report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Organization: presentation by the
  • Secretary-General of his annual report (A/66/1) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . [110]
  • 2. Opening of the general debate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . [8]
  • 3. Address by Her Excellency Ms. Dilma Rousseff, President of the Federative Republic of Brazil
  • 4. Address by His Excellency Mr. Barack Obama, President of the United States of America
  • 5. Address by His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar
  • 6. Address by His Excellency Mr. Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, President of the United Mexican States
  • 7. Address by His Excellency Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan
  • 8. Address by His Excellency Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the French Republic
  • 9. Address by Her Excellency Ms. Cristina Fernández, President of the Argentine Republic
  • 10. Address by His Excellency Mr. Michel Sleiman, President of the Lebanese Republic
  • 11. Address by His Excellency Mr. Lee Myung-bak, President of the Republic of Korea
  • 12. Address by His Excellency Mr. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President and Head of State of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea
  • 13. Address by His Majesty King Abdullah II Bin Al Hussein, Head of State of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
  • 14. Address by Her Excellency Ms. Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland
  • 15. Address by His Excellency Mr. Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, President of the Republic of Colombia
  • 16. Address by His Excellency Mr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, President and Commanderin-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
  • 17. Address by His Excellency Mr. Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of the Republic of Estonia
  • 18. Address by Her Excellency Ms. Micheline Calmy-Rey, President of the Swiss Confederation
  • 3 p.m. . . . . . . . . . . 12th plenary meeting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . General Assembly Hall
  • 1. Address by His Excellency Mr. Porfirio Lobo Sosa, President of the Republic of Honduras
  • 2. Address by His Excellency Mr. Viktor Yanukovych, President of Ukraine
  • 3. Address by His Excellency Mr. Fernando Lugo Méndez, President of the Republic of Paraguay
  • 4. Address by His Excellency Mr. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda
  • 5. Address by His Excellency Mr. Željko Komšić, Chair of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • 6. Address by His Excellency Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, President of the Republic of Guyana
  • 7. Address by His Excellency Mr. Elbegdorj Tsakhia, President of Mongolia
  • 8. Address by His Excellency Mr. Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa
  • 9. Address by His Excellency Mr. Adris Bērziņš, President of the Republic of Latvia
  • 10. Address by His Excellency Mr. Álvaro Colom Caballeros, President of the Republic ofGuatemala
  • 11. Address by His Excellency Mr. Abdoulaye Wade, President of the Republic of Senegal
  • 12. Address by His Excellency Mr. Armando Emilio Guebuza, President of the Republic ofMozambique
  • 13. Address by His Excellency Mr. Hâmid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic ofAfghanistan
  • 14. Address by His Excellency Mr. Evo Morales Ayma, Constitutional President of thePlurinational State of Bolivia
  • 15. Address by His Excellency Mr. Danilo Türk, President of the Republic of Slovenia
  • 16. Address by His Excellency Mr. Idriss Déby Itno, President and General of the Army of the Republic of Chad

Rebuilding Tsunami ravaged Rekuzentakata

15 Sep

We were privileged yesterday to be joined by Kiyoshi Murakami (Goodwill Ambassador and representative of Aid TAKATA) who explained to us the  rebuilding efforts in his city of Rekuzentakata in Japan’s Northeast. Rikuzentakata was among the most violently hit during the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Approximately 10 percent of its 24,000 residents were killed, including one third of its city officials as its downtown turned to rubble.

Ambasssdor Kiyoshi highlighted the redevelopment plans. The city has a 10 year plan with a vision to increase its population to 100,000. The “Model City” is to be built on strong infrastructure to resist natural disasters and is ecology-oriented centered on sustainable energy. The idea is to utilize its local industry to create value added products and to create attractive employment opportunities for the diversified population.

This a certainly a forward thinking vision for a city whose population has suffered enormously. Hearing about this scenario first hand from Ambasssdor Kiyosh, who has been in the center of the efforts, was a great opportunity.

To find out more about the project, such as the contributions of external assistance and the diverse work of Aid TAKAKA in the city, see the attached powerpoint:          Tsunami Report City of Rikuzentakata: Aid TAKATA

This event was jointly run by GAPW and Soka Gakkai International

– Kees Keizer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Status Quo is Unmaintainable!”

14 Sep

A passionate plea for the reevaluation of Palestine’s political status quo, including a possibility of a UN recognition of statehood, was delivered this week at the United Nation’s Church Center. A panel with Professor Rashid Kahlidi of Columbia University and Professor of Law Karima Bennoune of Rutgers University reflected on the Palestinian leadership’s decision to take their case of statehood to the UN General Assembly on 23rd of September. The panel discussion was co-sponsored by the Global Policy Forum and the NGO Working Group on Israel-Palestine.

Dr. Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University, and Director of the Middle East Institute of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. His academic work has been focused on national identities in the Middle East and the impact of external powers on development.

His remarks on Monday not only demonstrated the urge to readdress the Israel-Palestine conflict, but to also transfer it back to an international platform, namely the United Nations, and therefore seek a multilateral channel to bring peace to the region. Dr. Khalidi criticized the imbalanced role the United States, as a super power, was playing since the Madrid Conference in 1991 and the consequential Oslo Accords.

The Madrid Conference convened on October 30, 1991 and lasted for three days. The international community attempted early on to initiate a peace process through negotiations involving Israel and the Palestinians and other Arab nations, such as Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. The conference was hosted by the government of Spain, as well as the USA and the USSR. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was not invited.

At the time, US President George H.W. Bush formulated the framework of objectives and extended a letter of invitation in cooperation with the Soviet Union. The Madrid Conference was followed by secret negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel that led to the Oslo Accords in September of 1993, which conveyed a set of mutually agreed-upon general principles that guaranteed a five year interim period of Palestinian self-rule. A number of so-called “permanent status-issues”, such as Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and cooperation with other neighbors,  were deferred to later negotiations.

The Accords ensured the creation of a Palestinian National Authority (PNA), which was to administer the territory under its control. The Accords also obliged the Israel Defense Force (IDF) to partially withdraw from parts of the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

The agreements came under fire for not taking into consideration the impact of outside factors caused by the ongoing hostile relations between Palestinians and Israelis. The Cave of the Patriarchs massacre and the ongoing Israeli settlements have fundamentally shaken trust on both sides. The incident took place in February 1994 and is a terrorist attack executed by Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli settler and supporter of the far-right Israeli Kach movement, who shot unarmed Palestinian Muslims praying inside the Mosque of Abraham at the Cave of the Patriarchs site in Hebron.

 

“Rather than international resolutions being the basis for the proposed settlements, the US clearly imposed their rules,” Khalidi explained during the panel. Hence the implemented policies after 1991 were, from Khalidis viewpoint, “debates for the continuation of the Palestinian occupation, not the peaceful solution to the conflict.”

The ongoing, global discussion leading up to the 66th General Assembly, and the very likely claim by President Mahmoud Abbas for Palestinian statehood, has been out of proportion in the eyes of many. “Much too much has been made out of this issue”, Khalidi explains, “This will not lead to the liberation of Palestine.”

Khalidi also referred to the planned cut in US Congressional funds for the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a troublesome side effect of the request for Palestinian statehood. Although Mahmoud Abbas seems to take the realist road: “Of course it’s a problem!” he was recently quoted by Time magazine, adding: “PA coffers are already empty as Middle Eastern states preoccupied with the Arab Spring lag on promised contributions.” Coming up short is, according to Abbas, nothing new for the Palestinian people.

If anything, Khalidi gave the impression that he values Abbas’ plan as a sincerely brave move as a sort of contemporary uproar in the spirit of David against Goliath taking into account the dramatic shift in power that is impacting world policy due to the slow but steady “economic regression” of the US and the rise of countries such as Brazil, India, South Africa or Turkey. “The US is facing much more mobilized public opinion in the Arab world today. Countries like Egypt and Turkey and the weight of their political decisions cannot be ignored any longer”, Kahlidi finished his statement.

Following Khalidi’s remarks, Professor Karima Bennoune of Rutgers Law School delivered the legal parameters of the Palestinian Authority according to the Montevideo Convention of 1933. As outlined in the Convention, the determining factors to claim statehood are:

A permanent population

A defined territory

Government

The capacity to enter into relations with other states

Bennoune appealed to the recent work of John Quigley, The Statehood of Palestine: International Law in the Middle East Conflict. Quigley himself wrote a chapter on “Montevideo meets Reality” and reassesses the effective implementation of the framework by explaining, ”The Montevideo criteria are said to provide those standards, but even if they are relevant to Palestine under occupation, they have not, in fact, been applied rigorously by the international community in making determinations about statehood. (…) Entities that lack substantial control over their own affairs have been accepted as states. Ukraine and Belorussia during the Soviet period are two often-noted examples.” Supporting Quigley’s argument, Bennoune stated that the “danger of getting lost in the formalities of International Law” could significantly hinder progress to achieving peace in the region.

Bennoune deemed the expected US veto in the Security Council regarding Palestinian statehood “distressing because the status quo is unmaintainable.” She also warned of unpredictable, political consequences in the Palestinian areas and reminded the audience of the tragic consequences the Israeli West Bank barrier constitutes for the Palestinian people. “The Wall is easy to underestimate in terms of the impact it has on human rights.”

Considering the ongoing political and diplomatic heat the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has created globally, and the incomprehensible suffering it has caused on both sides, a longing for settlement is understandable. Obviously it has to be a settlement that is just and creates equal peace and prosperity for Palestinians and Israelis.

The urge to receive attention on the international stage for the Palestinian cause is understandable, as much as the fear that unilateral action on behalf of the PA may lead to new conflict. Maybe now is not the point in time to lose sight of bilateral negotiations with Israel, but rather to follow a step by step solution and by doing so achieve an even higher level of international credibility as a state.

Instead of provoking a very possible escalation at the Security Council, because the veto by the US-government regarding Palestinian statehood seems inevitable, why not upgrade from an observer entity to a non-member state, such as the Holy See? No Security Council hearing is needed and it would open the door for the PA to level charges against Israel in the International Criminal Court (ICC) – as it would give Israel the chance to counter sue the Palestinians in the ICC over missiles fired from Gaza. The last word would be in any case with the ICC, because the court itself has very strict rules of procedure governing the admissibility of cases.

“Referrals must be of situations, not specific cases. This means that although one party to a situation may make the referral, it will give the Court jurisdiction over all parties involved. A Palestinian referral will give the Court jurisdiction over alleged crimes by members of the PA as well as by Israelis”, John Washburn from the Coalition for the International Criminal Court states.

A group of U.S. diplomats are visiting the region this week to try and negotiate resuming peace talks and the prevention of the U.N. plea for statehood. In order for that to happen Israel would probably have to agree to a stop of settlement building, another alternative would be an agreement to use the 1967 borders as a parameter for negotiations.

Both concessions seem unrealistic for now.

Lia Petridis Maiello

 

 

Women, security and participation: a no-brainer

14 Sep

The evidence is clear: increased participation of women in policy and practice makes a massive contribution to development, peacebuilding and other areas of societal progress.

The UN GA Resolution 1325 in 2000 promotes the “role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, and in peacebuilding, and … their equal participation and full involvement of all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.” The Security Council formally approved indicators to track implementation. While encouraging rhetoric from many states has been heard and a limited number have adopted National Action Plans to implement 1325, many experts on women’s participation have been disappointed by states’ commitments to fully implement 1325.

Women’s subject to violence and lack of security remains a huge impediment to progressing the participation of women. A lack of security immobilizes women which excludes them from education (a key MDG). And greater education means greater participation in political decision making. Luckily there have been a few success stories of post-conflict transitional opportunities has seen increased role for women. Through education and training, women are filling gaps previously held by men.

Education, training and assisting with grass-roots orientated programs, and improving domestic security are clearly ways forward. See GAPW’s statement to the
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s urging for action on this pressing issue:

www.globalactionpw.org/wp/wpcontent/uploads/cedaw_gapw.pdf

– Kees Keizer