Category: PeaceProcess

Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

The Deputy Secretary-General this morning briefed the Security Council during its open meeting on women, peace and security in the Sahel.The Deputy Secretary-General returned yesterday from a joint UN-African Union mission to South Sudan, Niger …

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Arab summit calls for probe into chemical attack in Syria

DHAHRAN – The 29th Arab League summit, dubbed “Jerusalem Summit’, ended on Sunday evening with adoption of the Dhahran Declaration, which called for fostering joint action to protect the Arab world from dangers as well as to ensure its security and sta…

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ECOSOC United Nations Economic and Social Counci : Amid Divisions over Jerusalem, Korean Nuclear Programme, General Assembly Hears Defence of Diplomacy, Dialogue to End Crisis, Put World on Sustainable Path

Secretary-General, Other Leaders Raise Alarm about Climate Change, Terrorism, Warning Safety of Millions Dependent on Robust Action, Funding

Convening for its seventy-second session amid a multilateral system overwhelmed by cris…

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Amid Divisions over Jerusalem, Korean Nuclear Programme, General Assembly Hears Defence of Diplomacy, Dialogue to End Crisis, Put World on Sustainable Path

Secretary-General, Other Leaders Raise Alarm about Climate Change, Terrorism, Warning Safety of Millions Dependent on Robust Action, FundingConvening for its seventy-second session amid a multilateral system overwhelmed by crises, the General Assembly …

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Syrians find troubled homes in Egypt

Haifa Koraida Shehada’s eyebrows are painted on. Six years ago she lost all of her hair, which never grew back, after a barrel bomb fell on her apartment complex in the outskirts of Damascus.

They arrived five months ago from Sudan after paying smugglers $200 per head to drive them to Egypt. The trip from Syria took five days, says the 32-year-old mother of two.

  • View of Cairo. Egypt hosts over 211,000 refugees. Around 123,000 are Syrian. (Photo: euobserver)

“The only available route for us was Egypt. We can’t go to Turkey or Lebanon but we can come to Egypt,” she told reporters at a centre in the outskirts of Cairo earlier last week.

Last year, Jordan sealed its border with Syria. Turkey won’t let Syrians cross, and the Lebanese army is arresting people along the border.

On top of a humanitarian funding shortage to help the millions displaced inside the war-torn country, relatively few are being resettled into Europe, while Syria’s pariah president, Bashar al-Assad, consolidates control.

The only option for Haifa and her family, she says, was to fly to Sudan – a visa-free country.

Haifa had brought her 12-year-old daughter, Batul, to the Syrian al Gad Relief Foundation in Obour city, some 35 km north-west of Cairo. Like many of the children being helped by the EU-funded foundation, Batul suffers from intense anxiety.

One of the aid workers at the foundation says they have received over 2,000 Syrian families, arriving from Sudan, in the past three years.

“We are getting more families all the time,” she noted.

New Syrian arrivals to Egypt have spiked to 11,350 so far this year, up until August – compared to only 3,400 for the whole of 2015.

Syria al Gad Relief provides some of the people with free medicine. It also offers programmes on education, and aims, among other things, to integrate refugees into the host community.

Despite the similarities in culture and language, Haifa and her family are finding it difficult to fit in.

“I tell my family not to come to Egypt,” she says.

The EU sponsors a number of similar programmes run by NGOs, including safe spaces for battered women in Maadi, outside Cairo, and a refugee community centre near the port city of Alexandria.

Life is hard given a near total collapse of the Egyptian economy, triggered in part by harsh structural reforms imposed early last year by the Washington-based International Monetary Fund.

The Egyptian pound has dropped in value by over 120 percent since November. The price of food has since more than doubled.

Government subsidies for fuel and gas are also being removed as part of a broader scheme to liberalise a shattered economy under the repressive rule of Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Even the buildings surrounding Tahrir square in Cairo, where massive protests helped topple the regime in 2011, appear to be crumbling amid the dust, dirt and grime of a city overcrowded by 20 million people and counting.

Egypt’s shaky stability

The EU wants a stable Egypt given the chaos in neighbouring Libya. It also sees Egypt, despite its waning influence, as a broker in the Middle East peace process.

But the EU’s ambassador in Cairo, Ivan Surkos, in an emailed statement, said for Egypt “to achieve stability, it is essential to establish a modern and democratic state that delivers benefits equitably to all people.”

That effort comes with some €1.3 billion in EU money from government grants. Egypt’s vast offshore natural gas fields also present the potential for an energy network to Europe.

As for the country’s 92 million people, including the 123,000 registered Syrians hosted there, a “modern and democratic state” are distant dreams.

President el-Sisi’s authoritarianism and disdain for human rights is common currency. Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch, in a report, accused Egypt’s regular police and national security officers of routinely torturing political detainees.

Female genital mutilation and Syrian girls

Poverty has increased and, with it, so has violence against women and girls.

Reports are now emerging of young Syrian refugee girls in Egypt having their genitals mutilated – a widespread practice among Egyptians – by Syrian parents.

Cases of what is also known as “female genital mutilation” (or FGM) began to surface months ago.

“Syrian refugees started adapting the culture, [and] they started accepting things we are trying to abandon,” Aleksandar Bodiroza, who heads the United Nations Population Fund, told reporters in Cairo.

Though outlawed in Egypt, the vast majority of married Egyptian women have been cut. Often relatives hold down the girl while a midwife or doctor removes or cuts the labia and clitoris.

The tradition is not limited to Muslims. Christian communities in Egypt are also known to force the procedure onto their daughters – some as young as 8 years old or less.

“It is very specific for Egypt – you don’t have it in the Gulf, you don’t have it in Jordan, you don’t have it in Palestine, you don’t have it in Syria. We were caught by surprise,” said Bodiroza.

Zaid M. Yaish, who also works at the UN fund, said poverty and desire to marry off daughters are among the likely factors that contribute to the abuse.

“I noticed that Syrians are starting to adapt this FGM – this is a surprise to me. I mean, in Syria, there was never FGM before and that is due to the social pressure,” he said.

Nobody knows yet how prevalent FGM is among Syrians in Egypt, or if the reported cases are isolated.

But like almost all Egyptians, Syrians and other refugees are facing crushing unemployment. While Syrians have access to health and education, they require work permits.

Public services are dire and the financial woes, felt by all, are particularly harsh among those who have fled war only to survive on threadbare diets and wages, if any, which are even lower than Egyptian standards.

“The price of meat went from 40 pounds to over 160 pounds per kilo. Everything is increasing, we can’t keep up,” said Maher El-leilani, a refugee in his late 50s from Homs in Syria, who now lives on the outskirts of Alexandria.

The EU is attempting to alleviate the inflation by injecting some €2 million into a broader cash-assistance programme, distributed by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

Syrian families can get anywhere between 600 to 2,800 Egyptian pounds per month. Six-hundred Egyptian pounds, as of this month, is roughly equivalent to €28. Last October, the same amount would have equated to around €62.

“We have seen a deteriorating situation, an increasing vulnerability, with more people becoming more vulnerable when compared to six months ago,” said Aldo Biondi, an expert on Egypt from the European Commission’s humanitarian aid department.

“More and more families are falling under poverty, so they knock at the UNHCR,” he added.

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“We are a World in Pieces”

Aid, Armed Conflicts, Climate Change, Crime & Justice, Democracy, Development & Aid, Featured, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Migration & Refugees, Peace, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations | Opinion

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his address to the General Assembly

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 19 2017 (IPS) – I am here in a spirit of gratitude and humility for the trust you have placed in me to serve the world’s peoples. “We the peoples”, and our United Nations, face grave challenges. Our world is in trouble. People are hurting and angry. They see insecurity rising, inequality growing, conflict spreading and climate changing.

The global economy is increasingly integrated, but our sense of global community may be disintegrating. Societies are fragmented. Political discourse is polarized. Trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo

We are a world in pieces. We need to be a world at peace. And I strongly believe that, together, we can build peace. We can restore trust and create a better world for all. I will focus today on seven threats and tests that stand in our way. For each, the dangers are all too clear. Yet for each, if we act as truly United Nations, we can find answers.

First, the nuclear peril.
The use of nuclear weapons should be unthinkable. Even the threat of their use can never be condoned. But today global anxieties about nuclear weapons are at the highest level since the end of the Cold War.

The fear is not abstract. Millions of people live under a shadow of dread cast by the provocative nuclear and missile tests of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Within the DPRK itself, such tests do nothing to ease the plight of those who are suffering hunger and severe violations of their human rights.

I condemn those tests unequivocally. I call on the DPRK and all Member States to comply fully with Security Council resolutions. Last week’s unanimous adoption of resolution 2375 tightens sanctions and sends a clear message regarding the country’s international obligations.

I appeal to the Council to maintain its unity.

Only that unity can lead to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and — as the resolution recognizes — create an opportunity for diplomatic engagement to resolve the crisis.

When tensions rise, so does the chance of miscalculation. Fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings.

The solution must be political. This is a time for statesmanship. We must not sleepwalk our way into war. More broadly, all countries must show greater commitment to the universal goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The nuclear-weapon states have a special responsibility to lead.

Today proliferation is creating unimaginable danger, and disarmament is paralyzed.

There is an urgent need to prevent proliferation and promote disarmament. These goals are linked. Progress on one will generate progress on the other.

Second, let me turn to the global threat of terrorism.
Nothing justifies terrorism — no cause, no grievance. Terrorism continues to take a rising toll of death and devastation. It is destroying societies, destabilizing regions and diverting energy from more productive pursuits. National and multilateral counter-terrorism efforts have disrupted networks, reclaimed territory, prevented attacks and saved lives.

We need to intensify this work. Stronger international cooperation remains crucial. I am grateful to the General Assembly for approving one of my first reform initiatives: the establishment of the UN Office on Counter-Terrorism. Next year, I intend to convene the first-ever gathering of heads of counter-terrorism agencies of Member States to forge a new International Counter-Terrorism Partnership.

But it is not enough to fight terrorists on the battlefield or to deny them funds. We must do more to address the roots of radicalization, including real and perceived injustices and high levels of unemployment and grievance among young people. Political, religious and community leaders have a duty to stand up against hatred and serve as models of tolerance and moderation.

Together, we need to make full use of UN instruments, and expand our efforts to support survivors.

Experience has also shown that harsh crackdowns and heavy-handed approaches are counterproductive. As soon as we believe that violations of human rights and democratic freedoms are necessary to win the fight, we have lost the war.

Third, unresolved conflicts and systematic violations of international humanitarian law.
We are all shocked by the dramatic escalation of sectarian tensions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. A vicious cycle of persecution, discrimination, radicalization and violent repression has led more than 400,000 desperate people to flee, putting regional stability at risk.

The authorities in Myanmar must end the military operations, and allow unhindered humanitarian access. They must also address the grievances of the Rohingya, whose status has been left unresolved for far too long.

No one is winning today’s wars. From Syria to Yemen, from South Sudan to the Sahel, Afghanistan and elsewhere, only political solutions can bring peace. We should have no illusions. We will not be able to eradicate terrorism if we do not resolve the conflicts that are creating the disorder within which violent extremists flourish.

Last week I announced the creation of a High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation. Those eminent individuals will allow us to be more effective in brokering peace around the world. The United Nations is forging closer partnerships with key regional organizations such as the African Union, the European Union, the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

We continue to strengthen and modernize peacekeeping – protecting civilians and saving lives around the world. And since taking office, I have sought to bring together the parties to conflict, as well as those that have influence on them.

As a meaningful example, I am particularly hopeful about tomorrow’s meeting on Libya.

Last month, I visited Israel and Palestine. We must not let today’s stagnation in the peace process lead to tomorrow’s escalation. We must restore the hopes of the people. The two-state solution remains the only way forward. It must be pursued urgently.

But I must be frank: in too many cases, the warring parties believe war is the answer.

They may speak of a willingness to compromise. But their actions too often betray a thirst for outright military victory, at any cost. Violations of international humanitarian law are rampant, and impunity prevails. Civilians are paying the highest price, with women and girls facing systematic violence and oppression.

I have seen in my country, and in my years at the United Nations, that it is possible to move from war to peace, and from dictatorship to democracy. Let us push ahead with a surge in diplomacy today and a leap in conflict prevention for tomorrow.

Fourth, climate change puts our hopes in jeopardy.
Last year was the hottest ever. The past decade has been the hottest on record.

Average global temperature keeps climbing, glaciers are receding and permafrost is declining.

Millions of people and trillions of assets are at risk from rising seas and other climate disruptions.

The number of natural disasters has quadrupled since 1970. The United States, followed by China, India, the Philippines and Indonesia, have experienced the most disasters since 1995 – more than 1600, or once every five days. I stand in solidarity with the people of the Caribbean and the United States who have just suffered through Hurricane Irma, the longest-lasting Category 5 storm ever recorded.

We should not link any single weather event with climate change. But scientists are clear that such extreme weather is precisely what their models predict will be the new normal of a warming world.

We have had to update our language to describe what is happening: we now talk of mega-hurricanes, superstorms and rain bombs.

It is high time to get off the path of suicidal emissions. We know enough today to act. The science is unassailable. I urge Governments to implement the historic Paris Agreement with ever greater ambition. I commend those cities that are setting bold targets.

I welcome the initiatives of the thousands of private enterprises — including major oil and gas companies — that are betting on a clean, green future. Energy markets are telling us that green business is good business. The falling cost of renewables is one of the most encouraging stories on the planet today. So is the growing evidence that economies can grow as emissions go down.

New markets, more jobs, opportunities to generate trillions in economic output. The facts are clear. Solutions are staring us in the face. Leadership needs to catch up.

Fifth, rising inequality is undermining the foundations of society and the social compact.
The integration of the world’s economies, expanding trade and stunning advances in technology have brought remarkable benefits. More people have risen out of extreme poverty than ever before. The global middle class is also bigger than ever. More people are living longer, healthier lives.

But the gains have not been equal. We see gaping disparities in income, opportunity and access to the fruits of research and innovation. Eight men hold the same wealth as half of humanity.

Whole regions, countries and communities remain far removed from the waves of progress and growth, left behind in the Rust Belts of our world. This exclusion has a price: frustration, alienation, instability. But we have a blueprint to change course — to achieve fair globalization. That plan is the 2030 Agenda.

Half our world is female. Half our world is under 25 years of age. We cannot meet the Sustainable Development Goals without drawing on the power of women and the enormous energy of young people. We know how fast transformation can take place in our day and age. We know that with global assets and wealth worth trillions, we are not suffering from a lack of funds.

Let us find the wisdom to use the tools, plans and resources already in our hands to achieve inclusive and sustainable development — a goal in its own right but also our best form of conflict prevention. The dark side of innovation is the sixth threat we must confront — and it has moved from the frontier to the front door.

Technology will continue to be at the heart of shared progress. But innovation, as essential as it is for humankind, can bring unintended consequences. Cybersecurity threats are escalating. Cyber war is becoming less and less a hidden reality — and more and more able to disrupt relations among States and destroy some of the structures and systems of modern life.

Advances in cyberspace can empower people, but the dark web shows that some use this capacity to degrade and enslave. Artificial intelligence is a game changer that can boost development and transform lives in spectacular fashion. But it may also have a dramatic impact on labour markets and, indeed, on global security and the very fabric of societies.

Genetic engineering has gone from the pages of science fiction to the marketplace – but it has generated new and unresolved ethical dilemmas. Unless these breakthroughs are handled responsibly, they could cause incalculable damage. Governments and international organizations are simply not prepared for these developments.

Traditional forms of regulation simply do not apply. It is clear that such trends and capacities demand a new generation of strategic thinking, ethical reflection and regulation. The United Nations stands ready as a forum where Member States, civil society, businesses and the academic community can come together and discuss the way forward, for the benefit of all.

Finally, I want to talk about human mobility, which I do not perceive as a threat even if some do. I see it as a challenge that, if properly managed, can help bring the world together.

Let us be clear: we do not only face a refugee crisis; we also face a crisis of solidarity.
Every country has the right to control its own borders. But that must be done in a way that protects the rights of people on the move.

Instead of closed doors and open hostility, we need to reestablish the integrity of the refugee protection regime and the simple decency of human compassion. With a truly global sharing of responsibility, the numbers we face can be managed. But too many states have not risen to the moment.

I commend those countries that have shown admirable hospitality to millions of forcibly displaced people. We need to do more to support them. We also need to do more to face the challenges of migration. The truth is that the majority of migrants move in a well-ordered fashion, making positive contributions to their host countries and homelands. It is when migrants move in unregulated ways that the risks become clear – for states but most especially for migrants themselves exposed to perilous journeys.

Migration has always been with us. Climate change, demographics, instability, growing inequalities, and aspirations for a better life, as well as unmet needs in labour markets, mean it is here to stay.

The answer is effective international cooperation in managing migration to ensure that its benefits are most widely distributed, and the human rights of all concerned properly protected. But from ample experience, I can assure you that most people prefer to realize their aspirations at home.

We must work together to make sure that they can do so. Migration should be an option, not a necessity. We also need a much stronger commitment of the international community to crack down on human traffickers, and to protect their victims.

But we will not end the tragedies on the Mediterranean, the Andaman Sea and elsewhere without creating more opportunities for regular migration. This will benefit migrants and countries alike.

I myself am a migrant, as are many of you. But no one expected me to risk my life on a leaky boat or cross a desert in the back of a truck to find employment outside my country of birth.

Safe migration cannot be limited to the global elite. Refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants are not the problem; the problem lies in conflict, persecution and hopeless poverty.
I have been pained to see the way refugees and migrants have been stereotyped and scapegoated – and to see political figures stoke resentment in search of electoral gain.

In today’s world, all societies are becoming multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious.
This diversity must be seen as a richness, not a threat. But to make diversity a success, we need to invest in social cohesion, so that all people feel that their identities are respected and they have a stake in the community as a whole.

We need to reform our world, and I am committed to reforming our United Nations. Together, we have embarked on a comprehensive reform effort:
— to build a UN development system to support States in bettering peoples’ lives;
— to reinforce our ability to safeguard people’s peace, security and human rights;
— and to embrace management practices that advance those goals instead of hindering them.
We have launched a new victims-centred approach to preventing sexual exploitation and abuse.
We have a roadmap to achieve gender parity at the United Nations – and we are already on our way.

We are here to serve: to relieve the suffering of “we the peoples”; and to help fulfil their dreams.
We come from different corners of the world. Our cultures, religions, traditions vary widely — and wonderfully. At times, there are competing interests among us. At others, there is even open conflict. That is exactly why we need the United Nations. That is why multilateralism is more important than ever.

We call ourselves the international community. We must act as one. Only together, as United Nations, can we fulfil the promise of the Charter and advance human dignity for all.

 

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