Tag Archives: media

International Media and the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms

10 Sep

“Sparse” would describe the level of attention international media has been paying to the Review Conference for the UN Programme of Action on small arms and lights weapons (UNPoA). The reasons are manifold and can obviously not be reduced to a general rule of thumb. The personal dedication of the individual journalist willing to push a story or topic that might not be as newsworthy as others in the eyes of the editor or outlet would be one reason. Needless to say, every media representative today, in particular those who are publishing with corporate media outlets, has to deal with an entirely new framework of restrictions and guidelines.

Newsworthiness has been redefined, often but not always to the detriment of quality of information. On the other hand, tangible results are still more likely to make it into the paper than theoretical discourses, which often exclude the every-day-reader. The counterargument for that statement would be the journalist’s ability to break down, analyze and communicate complex, specialized contexts. Not all journalists can, not all of them want to, not all of them have the time to, and not every outlet is suitable for such analyses.

These various arguments can be directly applied to the UNPoA Review Conference.

For many, the failure of the arms trade treaty (ATT) negotiations in July, although different in nature and objectives, has been paralyzing whereby UN stereotypes surrounding effectiveness and pace of implementation have certainly resurfaced. Additionally, discussions on language or meeting details, as has been the case for some of the first week of the Review Conference, are simply of no interest to the every-day-reader, while they are very important in a UN context when multiple cultures with particular political boundaries are trying to come to an agreement on complex political matters, such as national military build-up or the eradication of the illicit arms trade.

Nevertheless, as in most situations in life, there is a way to cover solid middle ground. Numerous side events at the UNPoA Conference have offered a high level of practicality and result-driven implementation that is well -worth communicating to the outside world of political ordinaries. For example, the launch of the publication A decade of Implementing the UNPoA on SALW: Analysis of National Reports by Sarah Parker and Katherine Green from the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) provided a summary of the degree of national implementation of the UNPoA, and although the provision of national reports is voluntary and therefor incomplete, the study could be a basis from which effectiveness or ineffectiveness could be much better quantified.

Another event worth covering was hosted by the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), which focused on physical security and stockpile management and demonstrated a very tangible and reportable result of UNPoA implementation by coordinating UN actors for emergency response as well as creating national focal points in areas of crisis for humanitarian organizations. As Global Action’s Katherine Prizeman writes, “To date, UNMAS has destroyed over 180,000 landmines and unexploded ordnances (UXO) in Libya through 23 deployed clearance teams.”

What creates international headlines a day after the UNPoA had started is the fact that “The legal international trade in small arms, light weapons, their parts and ammunition is worth at least $8.5 billion annually”— more than double the previous estimate in 2006, according to a survey by independent researchers released at UN headquarters last week. The Small Arms Survey 2012 said the increase from the last estimate of $4 billion is due to several factors — large-scale government spending especially during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, increased purchases of small arms and ammunition from foreign countries by American civilians, and better information and improved methods of calculating the value of transfers”, as UN-Correspondent Edith Lederer writes in Bloomberg’s Businessweek.

What will it take to make peace that profitable and hence newsworthy? According to the Small Arms Survey, there are an estimated 875 million small arms in circulation worldwide, produced by more than 1,000 companies from nearly 100 countries. A concerning situation this PoA conference is dedicated to and would indeed deserve extensive, global media attention.

–Lia Petridis Maiello

“Caravan for Peace and Justice”- Profile of Activist Javier Sicilia

16 Aug

Global Action’s Media Consultant, Lia Petridis Maiello, has been busy undertaking a series of interviews for a forthcoming publication on the UN media structure and its functioning in the wider UN system. Lia recently interviewed Mexican political activist Javier Sicilia and his work on raising awareness around the drug war in Mexico. Javier is leading a “Caravan for Peace and Justice” across the continental US this summer and championing the “shared responsibility” of all in combating this dangerous trade.

For the full profile of Javier, please click here.

For more information on matching:points, our media project, please see our website.

Information in the Times of New “Social Journalism”

26 Apr

Traditional media outlets have experienced constant alterations since social media forums became new, revolutionary tools of communication and interconnectedness. Social media outlets have been establishing themselves since the late 1990s turning journalism as we know it into “Social Journalism”.  A cooperation between in-depth research and the striving for objectivity on one hand, personal opinion and instant news gratification on the other.

Woody Lewis, a social media strategist defines a social journalist as a person with a “premeditated watchdog role who uses social media to communicate and collaborate with readers.” As the impact of social media emerges, conventional journalists representing print, radio, and TV are gradually losing their status of final authority or opinion-making on a specific subject. We experience revitalization and an overall new definition of writers’ and audiences relationships. Traditional journalists have to endure a critical audience and implement checks and balances for media representatives. While salaries within the traditional media market have been decreasing steadily and lifelong contracts are highly unusual today, social journalists often contribute for free, which not only means that new media is frequently not reimbursed for its work, but it also means that prize standards for the entire industry are going to be redefined and often to the disadvantage of the traditional journalist/editor.

A realistic option exists, that necessary quality standards in social media reporting might not be maintained. Because social media sites are not reliable news sources, unless they have an official news section, fact checking while blogging and tweeting is crucial. Social media outlets are at risk of distributing false information, which can as a result, skew public opinion. At the same time certain traditional news outlets within the US-American and international media landscape are skewing public opinion deliberately. On the contrary, of course, a wide and strong flow of information can bring forward social movements and as a result democracy.

This summary of notes and research looks at how traditional and social media can produce profound results when in cooperation.

–Lia Petridis Maiello

Women, RtoP and the Media

21 Nov


In a recent interview posted on The Daily Beast, Abigail Disney recently interviewed Major General Patrick Cammaert to comment on the pervasive and distressing issue of rape as an instrument of war. In response, Major Cammaert described ways in which we can act to deal with such crimes as through increasing women’s participation in policy, through training sessions, and through media—in particular using films as tools to educate the public and promote accountability. But, what is missing throughout the interview is any notion of state responsibility to protect women from such crimes; ending impunity but also preventing them from occurring in the first place.  

The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) norm was first affirmed in 2005 with the aim to protect civilians from crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, and ethnic cleansing. RtoP has three pillars: Primary responsibility to protect lies with the state. The international community has a responsibility to assist states in fulfilling this primary function. If a state proves unwilling or unable to protect civilians, then the international community can take collective, protective action, primarily to prevent violence but also to halt violence in situations where less coercive measures have failed to do so.

While RtoP has gained additional acceptance since its initial affirmation, there are still issues regarding the use of force and the full participation of women in all aspects of RtoP policy and practice that remain unresolved. On the implementation side, there is widespread concern that the Security Council is unresponsive to ‘early warning’ signs of atrocities, preferring to respond to fires than heading the smoke. Moreover, the Council refuses to conduct vigorous assessment of resolutions and mandates that could help prevent ‘mission creep’ or ensure that all preventive measures have been exhausted before military options are proposed.

 And with regard to gender, there is concern that states have not done enough on the prevention end to eliminate any and all possibilities that rape could be used as a war tactic, nor has the international community been sufficiently robust in its efforts—despite welcomed legal attention by the ICC—to end impunity for gender violence, especially that authorized or committed by states and their agents.

However, in addressing these other concerns, women’s perspectives and voices must also be fully incorporated into the conversation to ensure that their needs are met practically and their skills and capacities are integrated successfully. Societies characterized by women who are full participants in social and political life can play a tremendous role in mobilizing other women to support more robust priorities towards increasing participation and ending impunity. As part of this mobilization, Major Cammaert notes, film can play an important role in educating local women about rape and inspiring women to work on behalf of victims. Likewise, in the broader discourse on gender and RtoP, media of all forms can do more to educate women about a state’s responsibility to protect, highlight the gender gaps in RtoP policy and implementation, identify work that still needs to be done in the protection area, and inspire cultures that promote and support “women as agents of change.”


For more information on the interview, please visit: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/11/07/rape-in-wartime-can-be-eradicated-u-n-peacekeeper-says.html


–         Melina Lito

Where are the Women Mentors in the Media?

16 Nov

As a young professional working in the field of ‘Women, Peace and Security,’ I continue to be surprised by the lack of mentors available to women and young girls and, in particular, the lack of media attention- at least among popular media outlets—focused on educating women and young girls on these issues in order to inspire a generation of active participants.

It has become obvious to me just how narrowly women are portrayed in popular media, from music videos to periodicals. These sources tend to focus their attention on body image issues or trying to instill an image of self-confidence, which in turn only works to make women more self-conscious about their appearance. While body image and self-confidence are important issues, there is not much attention on the barriers that affect women’s participation- where is the attention on the barriers that rural women face in accessing resources, education, employment? Where is the support for those women trying to have a voice at decision making tables? Where is the education for those trying to overcome the community stigma of having fought in combat? Where are the mechanisms for overcoming the cultural stigma that prohibits women’s participation in patriarchal societies? Thinking practically, we all face the same challenges. For example, domestic violence is an issue that affects all women, regardless of their ethnic or social backgrounds. The circulation of weapons and small arms that often leads to women as victims of gun violence is an issue of worldwide concern, yet you rarely see this covered in popular media. Accessibility issues, along with institutionalizing women’s participation at decision making tables, and the stories of how these women overcome such difficult circumstances, are not typically covered by the more popular periodicals.

Here at GAPW, we work to promote women’s full participation in social and political life and promote women as agents of change. Our work is solidified by the emphasis and promotion of women mentors who encourage and support women in their struggles of participation. But, this hard work becomes even harder without the support of the media. Media outlets are a viable source for showcasing mentors and inspiring adoption of a norm of ‘women as agents of change’ rather than strictly victims. The need for highlighting women mentors is necessary to educate future generations that to be a confident woman is not just about body image, but also about how to change and overcome the barriers that get in the way of full participation.

-Melina Lito

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 USnews.com ‘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