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EVENT: Humanitarian crises in the spotlight at Davos

While 2017 was tough, the humanitarian horizon suggests 2018 will be even worse. This week, IRIN is at the World Economic Forum in Davos where we will be discussing crises to look out for in 2018, sharing our unique perspective from the front lines to help policy makers take decisions that save lives.

Tuesday 23 January, 15:00 GMT+1:Watch the live press conference with IRIN Director Heba Aly, alongside Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Sara Pantuliano, Managing Director of the Overseas Development Institute, and moderated by Georg Schmitt, Head of Corporate Affairs at the World Economic Forum.

Wednesday 24 January, 21:00 - 23:00 GMT+1: Watch the Global Humanitarian Outlook, an IRIN-ODI event where we will be in conversation about the crises on the horizon in 2018 with UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch Kenneth Roth, Managing Director of the Overseas Development Institute Sara Pantuliano, and Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, author of 'A Theory of ISIS'.


Global Humanitarian Outlook: Fireside Chat at the Tradeshift Sanctuary, Davos

24 January 2018 21:00 - 23:00 GMT+1 | Public event | Streamed live online

Chair:

Heba Aly @HebaJournalist - Director, IRIN News

Speakers:

Mark Lowcock @UNReliefChief - Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, UN

Kenneth Roth @KenRoth - Executive Director, Human Rights Watch

Sara Pantuliano @SaraPantuliano - Managing Director, Overseas Development Institute 

Professor Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou @IHEID - The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies

Biographies

Heba Aly is the Director of IRIN, one of the world's leading sources of original, field-based journalism about humanitarian crises. A Canadian-Egyptian multimedia journalist, Heba spent one decade reporting from conflict zones in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia before becoming part of the team that successfully led IRIN's transition from the United Nations to a non-profit media organization. Her work for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Christian Science Monitor, Bloomberg News and IRIN, among others, took her to places like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Chad and Libya; and she received a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting for her work in northern Sudan.

Mark Lowcock is the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Emergency Relief Coordinator, and former Permanent Secretary to the UK Department for International Development. Mr Lowcock began his career at DFID (formerly the Overseas Development Administration) in 1985, and he served in a diverse range of roles - including overseas postings in Malawi, Zimbabwe and Kenya - in addition to holding leadership positions at headquarters. Mr Lowcock was appointed Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Emergency Relief Coordinator, in 2017.

Kenneth Roth is the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, one of the world's leading international human rights organisations, which operates in more than 90 countries. Prior to joining Human Rights Watch in 1987, Roth served as a federal prosecutor in New York and for the Iran-Contra investigation in Washington, DC. A graduate of Yale Law School and Brown University, Roth has conducted numerous human rights investigations and missions around the world. 

Sara Pantuliano is a Managing Director at ODI, where she has led the humanitarian team for six years. She is a member of the Global Future Council on the Humanitarian System of the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Managing Editor of Disasters Journal and a Trustee of IRIN news and SOS Sahel. She has recently been appointed as the Vice-Chair of the Board of Muslim Aid, and has served on a range of advisory boards, including Oxford University’s Refugees Studies Centre and the UN Association of the UK.

Professor Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Mauritania from 2008 until 2009. A Harvard University academic, Prof. Mohamedou is currently Professor of International History at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. He is a member of the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding, and is regarded as a leading international specialist on the new forms of transnational terrorism.

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EVENT: Humanitarian crises in the spotlight at Davos

While 2017 was tough, the humanitarian horizon suggests 2018 will be even worse. This week, IRIN is at the World Economic Forum in Davos where we will be discussing crises to look out for in 2018, sharing our unique perspective from the front lines to help policy makers take decisions that save lives.

Tuesday 23 January, 15:00 GMT+1:Watch the live press conference with IRIN Director Heba Aly, alongside Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Sara Pantuliano, Managing Director of the Overseas Development Institute, and moderated by Georg Schmitt, Head of Corporate Affairs at the World Economic Forum.

Wednesday 24 January, 21:00 - 23:00 GMT+1: Watch the Global Humanitarian Outlook, an IRIN-ODI event where we will be in conversation with UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch Ken Roth, Managing Director of the Overseas Development Institute Sarah Pantuliano, and Professor Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, author of A Theory of ISIS, about the crises on the horizon in 2018.


Global Humanitarian Outlook: Fireside Chat at the Tradeshift Sanctuary, Davos

24 January 2018 21:00 - 23:00 GMT+1 | Public event | Streamed live online

[embedded content]

Chair:

Heba Aly @HebaJournalist - Director, IRIN News

Speakers:

Mark Lowcock @UNReliefChief - Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, UN

Ken Roth @KenRoth - Executive Director, Human Rights Watch

Sara Pantuliano @SaraPantuliano - Managing Director, Overseas Development Institute 

Professor Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou @IHEID - The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies

Biographies

Heba Aly is the Director of IRIN, one of the world's leading sources of original, field-based journalism about humanitarian crises. A Canadian-Egyptian multimedia journalist, Heba spent one decade reporting from conflict zones in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia before becoming part of the team that successfully led IRIN's transition from the United Nations to a non-profit media organization. Her work for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Christian Science Monitor, Bloomberg News and IRIN, among others, took her to places like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Chad and Libya; and she received a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting for her work in northern Sudan.

Mark Lowcock is the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Emergency Relief Coordinator, and former Permanent Secretary to the UK Department for International Development. Mr Lowcock began his career at DFID (formerly the Overseas Development Administration) in 1985, and he served in a diverse range of roles - including overseas postings in Malawi, Zimbabwe and Kenya - in addition to holding leadership positions at headquarters. Mr Lowcock was appointed Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Emergency Relief Coordinator, in 2017.

Ken Roth is the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, one of the world's leading international human rights organisations, which operates in more than 90 countries. Prior to joining Human Rights Watch in 1987, Roth served as a federal prosecutor in New York and for the Iran-Contra investigation in Washington, DC. A graduate of Yale Law School and Brown University, Roth has conducted numerous human rights investigations and missions around the world. 

Sara Pantuliano is a Managing Director at ODI, where she has led the humanitarian team for six years. She is a member of the Global Future Council on the Humanitarian System of the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Managing Editor of Disasters Journal and a Trustee of IRIN news and SOS Sahel. She has recently been appointed as the Vice-Chair of the Board of Muslim Aid, and has served on a range of advisory boards, including Oxford University’s Refugees Studies Centre and the UN Association of the UK.

Professor Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Mauritania from 2008 until 2009. A Harvard University academic, Prof. Mohamedou is currently Professor of International History at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. He is a member of the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding, and is regarded as a leading international specialist on the new forms of transnational terrorism.

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Condemning Attacks on Aid Efforts, General Assembly Adopts Package of Texts, One Urging States to Better Protect Humanitarian Workers, Respect International Law

The General Assembly today adopted seven draft resolutions, among them texts on credentials, the culture of peace and on strengthening the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance.

Condemning in the strongest possible terms the alarming increase in threats to and deliberate targeting of aid workers, the Assembly adopted without a vote the draft resolution “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/72/L.22).  By its terms, the Assembly urged States to make every effort to ensure the full implementation of the rules of international law that protect aid workers.

Also by the text’s terms, the Assembly called upon all Governments and parties in complex humanitarian emergencies in countries in which humanitarian personnel were operating to cooperate fully with the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies and organizations and to allow those personnel to perform efficiently their task of assisting the affected civilian population, including refugees and internally displaced persons.  It also called upon all States to consider becoming parties to relevant international instruments.

Prior to taking action on “L.22” as a whole, the Assembly, by a recorded vote of 95 in favour to 12 against, with 17 abstentions, decided to retain two paragraphs referencing the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  Several speakers, including the representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that language related to the Court was worthy of inclusion.

Meanwhile, Sudan’s representative, whose delegation had requested the vote, warned against politicizing humanitarian efforts.  Stressing that the International Criminal Court was not a United Nations organ, he reiterated that it was instead “at best a threat to the peace and stability” in his country.

Also under the humanitarian assistance umbrella, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, three draft resolutions on:  international cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development; strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations; and assistance to the Palestinian people, which had been introduced on 8 December.  (See Press Release GA/11990 of 8 December).

Sharing the perspective of those providing aid, a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), highlighted two worrying gaps in the United Nations indivisible new policy on prevention, development and peace.  The first was protection, as the policy focus rested on development and peace with recognition that protection was essential to both.  If people were being attacked, forcibly displaced, looted, impoverished, besieged, unlawfully detained or were too afraid to go to hospitals and schools, they would not attain development or peace.  The second gap was neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian action.  States must respect that essential practice — rooted in the Geneva Conventions — so that vulnerable people, both under or beyond the State’s control, could be protected and assisted impartially on the basis of need.

Raising another concern, a representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said risks driven by climate change would be unevenly weighted against poorer people living in areas of low development.  As such, she encouraged all stakeholders to ensure real progress by recognizing the added value of local actors in addressing and reducing disaster risks and impacts of climate change.

Turning to its agenda item on the culture of peace, the Assembly adopted the draft resolution “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document A/72/L.29), reaffirming that interreligious and intercultural dialogue constituted important dimensions of the dialogue among civilizations.  It also condemned any advocacy of religious hatred that constituted incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence and underlined the importance of moderation as a value within societies for countering violent extremism and for further contributing to the promotion of interreligious dialogue, tolerance and cooperation.

By the terms of the draft resolution “Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace” (document A/72/L.30), adopted without a vote, the Assembly urged the appropriate authorities to provide age-appropriate education in children’s schools, including lessons in mutual understanding, tolerance, active and global citizenship and human rights.  It also underlined that early childhood development contributes to the development of more peaceful societies through advancing equality, tolerance, human development and promoting human rights.

The Assembly, by the draft’s terms, called for investment in early childhood education, including through effective policies and practices.  It also invited Member States to continue to emphasize and expand their activities promoting a culture of peace and to ensure that peace and non-violence were fostered at all levels.

Considering the Report of the Credentials Committee (document A/72/601), the Assembly adopted without a vote a resolution, contained therein, on the credentials of representatives to the seventy-second session of the General Assembly.

In other business, the Assembly also elected the following 17 members to the Committee for Programme and Coordination for a three‑year term beginning on 1 January 2018:  Belarus, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Cuba, Germany, India, Iran, Japan, Pakistan, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, United Kingdom, and United States.  It postponed to a date to be announced the appointment of members to the Committee on Conferences.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Canada (also for Australia, Liechtenstein, New Zealand and Norway) Russian Federation, Ireland, Iran, Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh, Armenia, United States, Brazil, El Salvador, as well as the State of Palestine and the Holy See.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply was the representative of Azerbaijan.

The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 12 December, to consider global health and foreign policy.

Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Assistance

ABDULLAH ABU SHAWESH, observer for the State of Palestine, said everyone must work together to ensure “no one gets left behind” in the quest for sustainable development.  All United Nations aid to the Palestinian people was strictly for relief and reconstruction.  “We cannot use these funds for true development,” he said, emphasizing that the Israeli occupation must be rejected so Palestinians could attempt to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Describing a five‑year Palestinian strategy focused on the adaptation and monitoring of development goals, he said all such progress, however, was being jeopardized by the Israeli occupation.  Despite grave scarcity of resources and problems caused by the occupation, Palestinian determination remained unshakeable.  “We are capable of overcoming all difficulties,” he said, noting all the sacrifices the Palestinian people had made to date.

PHILIP SPOERRI, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said there were two worrying gaps in the United Nations indivisible new policy on prevention, development and peace.  The first was protection, as the policy focus rested on development and peace with recognition that protection was essential to both.  If people were being attacked, forcibly displaced, looted, impoverished, besieged, unlawfully detained or were too afraid to go to hospitals and schools, they would not attain development or peace.  Inadequate detention policies also posed a risk to development and peace because inhumane detention practices could increase political grievances.  The second gap was neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian action.  States must respect that essential practice — rooted in the Geneva Conventions — so that vulnerable people, both under or beyond the State’s control, could be protected and assisted impartially on the basis of need.

ANNE CHRISTENSEN, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said risks driven by climate change would be unevenly weighted against poorer people living in areas of low development.  Those included individuals crowded in urban slums without access to reliable water and electricity sources as well as displaced persons in disaster‑prone and climate‑exposed areas.  Addressing such risks would require increased investment in local action and strong effort to ensure assistance reached those suffering the most.  Ways must be found of linking science to policy, decision‑making and action on the ground — for example, addressing climate extremes through early warning systems that reached the most vulnerable communities and enabled them to act.  Her organization had been working on quick and early action by communities and local authorities through an innovative method of advance financing based on weather forecasts.  She encouraged all stakeholders to ensure real progress by recognizing the added value of local actors in addressing and reducing disaster risks and impacts of climate change.

Prior to taking action on the draft resolution “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/72/L.22), representatives explained their delegations’ positions.

The representative of Canada, also speaking on behalf of Australia, Liechtenstein, New Zealand and Norway, regretted to note that a separate recorded vote had been called on several paragraphs of “L.22”, which sought to remove text that had been agreed upon for years.  Recent attacks on humanitarian and medical personnel in recent years only amplified the text’s relevance, she said.  Preambular paragraph 28 underscored the role the International Criminal Court could play and operative paragraph 7 called on all States to consider becoming party to the Court, she said, calling on all to vote to retain those paragraphs.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the seventy‑second session marked the second year that delegations were calling for others to review language in certain paragraphs because the draft resolution could no longer be considered consensual.  With the establishment of the International Criminal Court, the international community was expecting concrete actions to deal with impunity, settle existing conflicts and prevent new flashpoints of tension.  Yet many years into the Court’s existence, those expectations remained.  The alternative wording that had been proposed to the paragraphs in question deserved support because they considered salient issues.  Moreover, the proposed amendments should be supported because if adopted, they would return “L.22” to its consensual nature.

The representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed regret that Sudan had called for a vote on preambular and operative paragraphs in “L.22”.  The International Criminal Court was a tool to fight impunity and contribute to international peace.  Its role was to complement rather than replace existing national judicial systems, he said, also stressing that perpetrators of crimes against humanity must always be held accountable.  The fight against impunity for the most serious crimes was critical in ensuring a fair and just society.  Peace and justice were complementary and not mutually exclusive, he said, expressing support for the paragraphs in question.

The representative of Sudan expressed serious reservations regarding the inclusion of references to the International Criminal Court in “L.22”.  The Court was not an organ of the United Nations, despite some parties painting it as such.  The principle of free consent meant that only those who were party to an agreement were bound by it.  Since 2003, the Court had been an impediment to peace in Darfur, creating a wedge between peace and justice, and was “at best a threat to the peace and stability in my country”, he said, adding that the Court was also fraught with corruption and scandals and lacked independence, as half of its budget was drawn from voluntary contributions from States and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who exercised control over it.  Noting the rejection of his delegation’s proposal to replace language in preambular paragraph 28 and operative paragraph 7, he emphasized that lofty goals of humanitarian assistance must not be mixed with a political agenda.

The Assembly then decided, by a recorded vote of 95 in favour to 12 against, with 17 abstentions, to retain preambular paragraph 28 and operative paragraph 7 of “L.22”.  Acting without a vote, it adopted “L.22” as a whole.

In a point of order, the representative of Israel referenced an Assembly resolution that had been adopted in 1998 on the participation of Palestine in the work of the United Nations.  The subject matter of today’s resolution did not fall under the rules of co-sponsorship, which were clearly indicated in the rules governing the United Nations.  Any decision to disregard those rules violated United Nations resolutions and undermined the Organization’s work.

The Assembly then adopted without a vote the draft resolution “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/72/L.23).

The representative of Israel said Palestine’s participation as a co-sponsor did not fall under the rules of co-sponsorship.  Any decision to disregard those rules undermined the United Nations work.

The Assembly adopted without a vote the draft resolution “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/72/L.24).

Also without a vote, it adopted the draft resolution “Assistance to the Palestinian people” (document A/72/L.25).

An observer for the Holy See reiterated his delegation’s reservations, including the belief that abortion was not a dimension of the terms “sexual and reproductive health” and “health-care services”.  With reference to gender, that concept was not to be interpreted as a social construction.

Credentials Committee

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), Chair of the Credentials Committee, introduced the “Report of the Credentials Committee” (document A/72/601), containing a draft resolution on the credentials of the representatives of Member States to the seventy-second session of the General Assembly.  The Committee had approved that draft resolution, which would have the Assembly accept the credentials of representatives of a number of Member States.

The representative of Iran, explaining his delegation’s position, said he supported a consensus decision, but expressed reservations to parts of the report that could constitute the recognition of the Israeli regime.

The representative of Indonesia drew attention to the “unfriendly” action of Vanuatu in including on their list of delegations a non-citizen of Vanuatu who had acted in a separatist movement of West Papua.  That person had spread malicious rumours and should not be granted credentials.  Indonesia objected to that act and rejected whatever message it had intended to convey.  It violated norms of multilateral conduct and the rights of Member States, he said, adding that the accreditation of Vanuatu, with knowledge that those individuals had such a mindset, was an act of hostility against Indonesia.  Member States should not play into the hands of separatists.  As such, Indonesia requested an explanation from Vanuatu concerning their delegation.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution without a vote.

Culture of Peace

TEODORO LOPEZ LOCSIN, JR. (Philippines), introducing the draft resolution “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document A/72/L.29), said the text aimed to strengthen mechanisms and take action to promote sincere and constructive dialogue across cultural and religious divides.  The world was facing seemingly intractable conflicts and complex challenges that not only caused immense human suffering and economic loss, but also hindered socioeconomic cooperation and the pursuit of inclusive societies.  Suspicion and ignorance among various religions and civilizations were being exploited by extremist and terrorist groups to propagate their agendas.  It was essential to build on shared values and aspirations by strengthening mechanisms and actions through constructive dialogue, better understanding, moderation and promoting a global culture of peace.  He also pointed out several oral revisions to the text.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), introducing the draft resolution “Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace” (document A/72/L.30), said that the current version of the text contained four new elements.  It acknowledged the high-level event on Culture of Peace and its focus on early childhood development and recalled that General Assembly resolution 70/272 on the review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture had introduced the notion of “sustaining peace”.  In addition, “L.30” noted the establishment of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and recognized the role of the work of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations in promoting a culture of people.  The draft also reiterated the request to consider convening in September 2018 a high-level forum devoted to the implementation of the Programme of Action.

The Assembly then adopted without a vote “L.29” as orally revised.

Also without a vote, it adopted “L.30”.

The representative of Armenia, explaining his delegation’s position, said objections to some paragraphs in “L.29” were based on the fact that Azerbaijan had abused international fora.  Preambular paragraph 23 concerned an event named World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, which was a glaring example of manipulation against Armenia.  Due regard should be given to Azerbaijan’s destruction of heritage, as in the case of the obliteration of a medieval cemetery.  As such, Armenia disassociated itself from that paragraph.

The representative of the United States said his country was committed to a culture of peace through rejecting violence and promoting human rights, including by supporting efforts to enhance interreligious dialogue.  However, each country had its own development priorities.  The word “moderation” remained undefined in international law, he noted, adding that programmes and policies must respect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The representative of Canada said operative paragraph 10 in “L.29” noted that interventions countering violent extremism were context-specific.  Respect for human rights, diversity and inclusion were needed to help communities to become more resilient.  Intercultural and interreligious dialogue was needed to create mutual respect and understanding.  It was a difficult balance, but Canada was committed to working with partners to preserve it.

The representative of Brazil said his delegation endorsed the twin resolutions on the peacebuilding architecture, yet cautioned that while supporting both the culture of peace and sustaining peace concepts, those actions should run on parallel tracks to avoid conflating mandates and concepts.  The General Assembly could do more on the human rights and development elements of the culture of peace.

The representative of El Salvador said constructing a culture of peace required institutions to be strengthened, noting that “L.30” underscored the importance of development in early childhood.  It was crucial to ensure children completed their early education and for curricula to include the culture of peace.  El Salvador was a member of the Peacebuilding Commission, he said, adding that his country had experienced a transition and was now working on supporting the United Nations to facilitate a new national agreement.  It was important to create strong institutions, he said, calling on all Member States to support the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in implementing a culture of peace in connection with the Sustainable Development Goals.  He also appealed to the General Assembly President to convene a high-level forum on the implementation of the Programme of Action.  Peace could not be considered in a reductive fashion as just the absence of war; peace was an endeavour that the international community must produce together.

Right of Reply

The representative of Azerbaijan, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said multiculturalism was a long-standing tradition in his country.  “L.29” welcomed the Declaration and referred to the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue and other fora.  Yet, there was nothing surprising in Armenia’s attempts to politicize resolutions.  By obstructing efforts and challenging global initiatives because of its relation to Azerbaijan, Armenia had demonstrated that its good faith was elusive.  Regarding human rights and international humanitarian law, he said Azerbaijan had preserved its diversity to the present day.

Programme and Coordination Committee Elections

The Assembly then turned to the election to the Committee for Programme and Coordination the following members, nominated by the Economic and Social Council, for a three-year term beginning on 1 January 2018:  Belarus, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Cuba, Germany, India, Iran, Japan, Pakistan, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, United Kingdom and United States.

The Economic and Social Council had nominated Botswana, Burkina Faso and Cameroon for the three of the four seats among African States; India, Iran, Japan and Pakistan for the four seats among Asia-Pacific States; Belarus, Bulgaria and the Republic of Moldova for the three seats among Eastern European States; Brazil, Chile and Cuba for three of the four seats among the Latin American and Caribbean States; and Germany, Portugal, United Kingdom and United States for four of the five seats among the Western European and other States.

The following States were eligible for immediate re-election, after 1 January 2018:  Argentina, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Eritrea, France, Haiti, Peru, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Senegal, United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

The Economic and Social Council had postponed the nomination of one member from each of the following groups:  African States, Latin American and Caribbean States and Western European and other States for election for three-year terms beginning on 1 January 2018.  Members were also reminded of the remaining two vacancies among the Western European and other States, for terms beginning on the date of election and expiring on 31 December 2017 and 31 December 2018, respectively.

As one seat from Asia-Pacific States for a term beginning on the date of appointment and ending on 31 December 2019 remained vacant, the General Assembly President appointed China to fill that vacancy.  The General Assembly would take action to fill remaining vacancies upon the receipt of nominations by the Economic and Social Council.

The Assembly then postponed to a later date the appointment of members of the Committee on Conferences.

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Condemning Attacks on Aid Efforts, General Assembly Adopts Package of Texts, One Urging States to Better Protect Humanitarian Workers, Respect International Law

The General Assembly today adopted seven draft resolutions, among them texts on credentials, the culture of peace and on strengthening the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance.

Condemning in the strongest possible terms the alarming increase in threats to and deliberate targeting of aid workers, the Assembly adopted without a vote the draft resolution “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/72/L.22).  By its terms, the Assembly urged States to make every effort to ensure the full implementation of the rules of international law that protect aid workers.

Also by the text’s terms, the Assembly called upon all Governments and parties in complex humanitarian emergencies in countries in which humanitarian personnel were operating to cooperate fully with the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies and organizations and to allow those personnel to perform efficiently their task of assisting the affected civilian population, including refugees and internally displaced persons.  It also called upon all States to consider becoming parties to relevant international instruments.

Prior to taking action on “L.22” as a whole, the Assembly, by a recorded vote of 95 in favour to 12 against, with 17 abstentions, decided to retain two paragraphs referencing the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  Several speakers, including the representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that language related to the Court was worthy of inclusion.

Meanwhile, Sudan’s representative, whose delegation had requested the vote, warned against politicizing humanitarian efforts.  Stressing that the International Criminal Court was not a United Nations organ, he reiterated that it was instead “at best a threat to the peace and stability” in his country.

Also under the humanitarian assistance umbrella, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, three draft resolutions on:  international cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development; strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations; and assistance to the Palestinian people, which had been introduced on 8 December.  (See Press Release GA/11990 of 8 December).

Sharing the perspective of those providing aid, a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), highlighted two worrying gaps in the United Nations indivisible new policy on prevention, development and peace.  The first was protection, as the policy focus rested on development and peace with recognition that protection was essential to both.  If people were being attacked, forcibly displaced, looted, impoverished, besieged, unlawfully detained or were too afraid to go to hospitals and schools, they would not attain development or peace.  The second gap was neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian action.  States must respect that essential practice — rooted in the Geneva Conventions — so that vulnerable people, both under or beyond the State’s control, could be protected and assisted impartially on the basis of need.

Raising another concern, a representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said risks driven by climate change would be unevenly weighted against poorer people living in areas of low development.  As such, she encouraged all stakeholders to ensure real progress by recognizing the added value of local actors in addressing and reducing disaster risks and impacts of climate change.

Turning to its agenda item on the culture of peace, the Assembly adopted the draft resolution “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document A/72/L.29), reaffirming that interreligious and intercultural dialogue constituted important dimensions of the dialogue among civilizations.  It also condemned any advocacy of religious hatred that constituted incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence and underlined the importance of moderation as a value within societies for countering violent extremism and for further contributing to the promotion of interreligious dialogue, tolerance and cooperation.

By the terms of the draft resolution “Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace” (document A/72/L.30), adopted without a vote, the Assembly urged the appropriate authorities to provide age-appropriate education in children’s schools, including lessons in mutual understanding, tolerance, active and global citizenship and human rights.  It also underlined that early childhood development contributes to the development of more peaceful societies through advancing equality, tolerance, human development and promoting human rights.

The Assembly, by the draft’s terms, called for investment in early childhood education, including through effective policies and practices.  It also invited Member States to continue to emphasize and expand their activities promoting a culture of peace and to ensure that peace and non-violence were fostered at all levels.

Considering the Report of the Credentials Committee (document A/72/601), the Assembly adopted without a vote a resolution, contained therein, on the credentials of representatives to the seventy-second session of the General Assembly.

In other business, the Assembly also elected the following 17 members to the Committee for Programme and Coordination for a three‑year term beginning on 1 January 2018:  Belarus, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Cuba, Germany, India, Iran, Japan, Pakistan, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, United Kingdom, and United States.  It postponed to a date to be announced the appointment of members to the Committee on Conferences.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Canada (also for Australia, Liechtenstein, New Zealand and Norway) Russian Federation, Ireland, Iran, Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh, Armenia, United States, Brazil, El Salvador, as well as the State of Palestine and the Holy See.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply was the representative of Azerbaijan.

The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 12 December, to consider global health and foreign policy.

Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Assistance

ABDULLAH ABU SHAWESH, observer for the State of Palestine, said everyone must work together to ensure “no one gets left behind” in the quest for sustainable development.  All United Nations aid to the Palestinian people was strictly for relief and reconstruction.  “We cannot use these funds for true development,” he said, emphasizing that the Israeli occupation must be rejected so Palestinians could attempt to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Describing a five‑year Palestinian strategy focused on the adaptation and monitoring of development goals, he said all such progress, however, was being jeopardized by the Israeli occupation.  Despite grave scarcity of resources and problems caused by the occupation, Palestinian determination remained unshakeable.  “We are capable of overcoming all difficulties,” he said, noting all the sacrifices the Palestinian people had made to date.

PHILIP SPOERRI, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said there were two worrying gaps in the United Nations indivisible new policy on prevention, development and peace.  The first was protection, as the policy focus rested on development and peace with recognition that protection was essential to both.  If people were being attacked, forcibly displaced, looted, impoverished, besieged, unlawfully detained or were too afraid to go to hospitals and schools, they would not attain development or peace.  Inadequate detention policies also posed a risk to development and peace because inhumane detention practices could increase political grievances.  The second gap was neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian action.  States must respect that essential practice — rooted in the Geneva Conventions — so that vulnerable people, both under or beyond the State’s control, could be protected and assisted impartially on the basis of need.

ANNE CHRISTENSEN, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said risks driven by climate change would be unevenly weighted against poorer people living in areas of low development.  Those included individuals crowded in urban slums without access to reliable water and electricity sources as well as displaced persons in disaster‑prone and climate‑exposed areas.  Addressing such risks would require increased investment in local action and strong effort to ensure assistance reached those suffering the most.  Ways must be found of linking science to policy, decision‑making and action on the ground — for example, addressing climate extremes through early warning systems that reached the most vulnerable communities and enabled them to act.  Her organization had been working on quick and early action by communities and local authorities through an innovative method of advance financing based on weather forecasts.  She encouraged all stakeholders to ensure real progress by recognizing the added value of local actors in addressing and reducing disaster risks and impacts of climate change.

Prior to taking action on the draft resolution “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/72/L.22), representatives explained their delegations’ positions.

The representative of Canada, also speaking on behalf of Australia, Liechtenstein, New Zealand and Norway, regretted to note that a separate recorded vote had been called on several paragraphs of “L.22”, which sought to remove text that had been agreed upon for years.  Recent attacks on humanitarian and medical personnel in recent years only amplified the text’s relevance, she said.  Preambular paragraph 28 underscored the role the International Criminal Court could play and operative paragraph 7 called on all States to consider becoming party to the Court, she said, calling on all to vote to retain those paragraphs.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the seventy‑second session marked the second year that delegations were calling for others to review language in certain paragraphs because the draft resolution could no longer be considered consensual.  With the establishment of the International Criminal Court, the international community was expecting concrete actions to deal with impunity, settle existing conflicts and prevent new flashpoints of tension.  Yet many years into the Court’s existence, those expectations remained.  The alternative wording that had been proposed to the paragraphs in question deserved support because they considered salient issues.  Moreover, the proposed amendments should be supported because if adopted, they would return “L.22” to its consensual nature.

The representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed regret that Sudan had called for a vote on preambular and operative paragraphs in “L.22”.  The International Criminal Court was a tool to fight impunity and contribute to international peace.  Its role was to complement rather than replace existing national judicial systems, he said, also stressing that perpetrators of crimes against humanity must always be held accountable.  The fight against impunity for the most serious crimes was critical in ensuring a fair and just society.  Peace and justice were complementary and not mutually exclusive, he said, expressing support for the paragraphs in question.

The representative of Sudan expressed serious reservations regarding the inclusion of references to the International Criminal Court in “L.22”.  The Court was not an organ of the United Nations, despite some parties painting it as such.  The principle of free consent meant that only those who were party to an agreement were bound by it.  Since 2003, the Court had been an impediment to peace in Darfur, creating a wedge between peace and justice, and was “at best a threat to the peace and stability in my country”, he said, adding that the Court was also fraught with corruption and scandals and lacked independence, as half of its budget was drawn from voluntary contributions from States and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who exercised control over it.  Noting the rejection of his delegation’s proposal to replace language in preambular paragraph 28 and operative paragraph 7, he emphasized that lofty goals of humanitarian assistance must not be mixed with a political agenda.

The Assembly then decided, by a recorded vote of 95 in favour to 12 against, with 17 abstentions, to retain preambular paragraph 28 and operative paragraph 7 of “L.22”.  Acting without a vote, it adopted “L.22” as a whole.

In a point of order, the representative of Israel referenced an Assembly resolution that had been adopted in 1998 on the participation of Palestine in the work of the United Nations.  The subject matter of today’s resolution did not fall under the rules of co-sponsorship, which were clearly indicated in the rules governing the United Nations.  Any decision to disregard those rules violated United Nations resolutions and undermined the Organization’s work.

The Assembly then adopted without a vote the draft resolution “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/72/L.23).

The representative of Israel said Palestine’s participation as a co-sponsor did not fall under the rules of co-sponsorship.  Any decision to disregard those rules undermined the United Nations work.

The Assembly adopted without a vote the draft resolution “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/72/L.24).

Also without a vote, it adopted the draft resolution “Assistance to the Palestinian people” (document A/72/L.25).

An observer for the Holy See reiterated his delegation’s reservations, including the belief that abortion was not a dimension of the terms “sexual and reproductive health” and “health-care services”.  With reference to gender, that concept was not to be interpreted as a social construction.

Credentials Committee

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), Chair of the Credentials Committee, introduced the “Report of the Credentials Committee” (document A/72/601), containing a draft resolution on the credentials of the representatives of Member States to the seventy-second session of the General Assembly.  The Committee had approved that draft resolution, which would have the Assembly accept the credentials of representatives of a number of Member States.

The representative of Iran, explaining his delegation’s position, said he supported a consensus decision, but expressed reservations to parts of the report that could constitute the recognition of the Israeli regime.

The representative of Indonesia drew attention to the “unfriendly” action of Vanuatu in including on their list of delegations a non-citizen of Vanuatu who had acted in a separatist movement of West Papua.  That person had spread malicious rumours and should not be granted credentials.  Indonesia objected to that act and rejected whatever message it had intended to convey.  It violated norms of multilateral conduct and the rights of Member States, he said, adding that the accreditation of Vanuatu, with knowledge that those individuals had such a mindset, was an act of hostility against Indonesia.  Member States should not play into the hands of separatists.  As such, Indonesia requested an explanation from Vanuatu concerning their delegation.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution without a vote.

Culture of Peace

TEODORO LOPEZ LOCSIN, JR. (Philippines), introducing the draft resolution “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document A/72/L.29), said the text aimed to strengthen mechanisms and take action to promote sincere and constructive dialogue across cultural and religious divides.  The world was facing seemingly intractable conflicts and complex challenges that not only caused immense human suffering and economic loss, but also hindered socioeconomic cooperation and the pursuit of inclusive societies.  Suspicion and ignorance among various religions and civilizations were being exploited by extremist and terrorist groups to propagate their agendas.  It was essential to build on shared values and aspirations by strengthening mechanisms and actions through constructive dialogue, better understanding, moderation and promoting a global culture of peace.  He also pointed out several oral revisions to the text.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), introducing the draft resolution “Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace” (document A/72/L.30), said that the current version of the text contained four new elements.  It acknowledged the high-level event on Culture of Peace and its focus on early childhood development and recalled that General Assembly resolution 70/272 on the review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture had introduced the notion of “sustaining peace”.  In addition, “L.30” noted the establishment of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and recognized the role of the work of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations in promoting a culture of people.  The draft also reiterated the request to consider convening in September 2018 a high-level forum devoted to the implementation of the Programme of Action.

The Assembly then adopted without a vote “L.29” as orally revised.

Also without a vote, it adopted “L.30”.

The representative of Armenia, explaining his delegation’s position, said objections to some paragraphs in “L.29” were based on the fact that Azerbaijan had abused international fora.  Preambular paragraph 23 concerned an event named World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, which was a glaring example of manipulation against Armenia.  Due regard should be given to Azerbaijan’s destruction of heritage, as in the case of the obliteration of a medieval cemetery.  As such, Armenia disassociated itself from that paragraph.

The representative of the United States said his country was committed to a culture of peace through rejecting violence and promoting human rights, including by supporting efforts to enhance interreligious dialogue.  However, each country had its own development priorities.  The word “moderation” remained undefined in international law, he noted, adding that programmes and policies must respect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The representative of Canada said operative paragraph 10 in “L.29” noted that interventions countering violent extremism were context-specific.  Respect for human rights, diversity and inclusion were needed to help communities to become more resilient.  Intercultural and interreligious dialogue was needed to create mutual respect and understanding.  It was a difficult balance, but Canada was committed to working with partners to preserve it.

The representative of Brazil said his delegation endorsed the twin resolutions on the peacebuilding architecture, yet cautioned that while supporting both the culture of peace and sustaining peace concepts, those actions should run on parallel tracks to avoid conflating mandates and concepts.  The General Assembly could do more on the human rights and development elements of the culture of peace.

The representative of El Salvador said constructing a culture of peace required institutions to be strengthened, noting that “L.30” underscored the importance of development in early childhood.  It was crucial to ensure children completed their early education and for curricula to include the culture of peace.  El Salvador was a member of the Peacebuilding Commission, he said, adding that his country had experienced a transition and was now working on supporting the United Nations to facilitate a new national agreement.  It was important to create strong institutions, he said, calling on all Member States to support the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in implementing a culture of peace in connection with the Sustainable Development Goals.  He also appealed to the General Assembly President to convene a high-level forum on the implementation of the Programme of Action.  Peace could not be considered in a reductive fashion as just the absence of war; peace was an endeavour that the international community must produce together.

Right of Reply

The representative of Azerbaijan, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said multiculturalism was a long-standing tradition in his country.  “L.29” welcomed the Declaration and referred to the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue and other fora.  Yet, there was nothing surprising in Armenia’s attempts to politicize resolutions.  By obstructing efforts and challenging global initiatives because of its relation to Azerbaijan, Armenia had demonstrated that its good faith was elusive.  Regarding human rights and international humanitarian law, he said Azerbaijan had preserved its diversity to the present day.

Programme and Coordination Committee Elections

The Assembly then turned to the election to the Committee for Programme and Coordination the following members, nominated by the Economic and Social Council, for a three-year term beginning on 1 January 2018:  Belarus, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Cuba, Germany, India, Iran, Japan, Pakistan, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, United Kingdom and United States.

The Economic and Social Council had nominated Botswana, Burkina Faso and Cameroon for the three of the four seats among African States; India, Iran, Japan and Pakistan for the four seats among Asia-Pacific States; Belarus, Bulgaria and the Republic of Moldova for the three seats among Eastern European States; Brazil, Chile and Cuba for three of the four seats among the Latin American and Caribbean States; and Germany, Portugal, United Kingdom and United States for four of the five seats among the Western European and other States.

The following States were eligible for immediate re-election, after 1 January 2018:  Argentina, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Eritrea, France, Haiti, Peru, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Senegal, United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

The Economic and Social Council had postponed the nomination of one member from each of the following groups:  African States, Latin American and Caribbean States and Western European and other States for election for three-year terms beginning on 1 January 2018.  Members were also reminded of the remaining two vacancies among the Western European and other States, for terms beginning on the date of election and expiring on 31 December 2017 and 31 December 2018, respectively.

As one seat from Asia-Pacific States for a term beginning on the date of appointment and ending on 31 December 2019 remained vacant, the General Assembly President appointed China to fill that vacancy.  The General Assembly would take action to fill remaining vacancies upon the receipt of nominations by the Economic and Social Council.

The Assembly then postponed to a later date the appointment of members of the Committee on Conferences.

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Rohingya death count, war games, and a non-coup in Zimbabwe: The Cheat Sheet

Every week, IRIN’s team of specialist editors scans the humanitarian horizon to curate a reading list on important and unfolding trends and events around the globe:

Plus ça change in Zimbabwe

It all started with tanks; except the military vehicles globally reported on the outskirts of Harare on Tuesday evening weren’t tanks at all, but infantry fighting vehicles. Anyway, things like tanks on the streets, the president under house arrest, a man in uniform on state TV insisting it’s all a temporary measure, everything will return to normal shortly. Has to be a coup, right? Not so fast. It’s increasingly apparent that Zimbabwe’s army has no intention of effecting fundamental political changes. It may have determined it’s time for President Robert Mugabe, 93, in power since 1987, to leave office, but they haven’t actually yet deposed him, and still refer to him as the head of state. And, as this article published by African Arguments postulates, what’s really been happening in recent days is a “realignment” and an “internal settling of scores” within the long-ruling ZANU-PF party. “This is no revolution giving the power to the people. The army has done its duty in giving power back to the party,” it concludes. For more on life after Mugabe, read our recent analysis (Not that we’re claiming we saw this coming).

Libya’s descent

Libya is hell for migrants, with rape, extortion, and imprisonment rife. Utter chaos in the country has allowed smugglers – allied with some of the country’s militias and competing political forces – to run rampant. Two months ago, the UN launched an action plan to get an “inclusive political process” going again and establish some sense of stability. But Ghassan Salamé, the UN’s special representative in Libya, hinted in a Thursday briefing to the Security Council that it would be a complicated and long road ahead: “Elections should not take place until we are certain that they will not add a third Parliament or fourth government.” It’s in part thanks to political instability that Libya’s economy is in a bad way. Despite a small rebound in oil outputs, inflation is rising and the country is unable to fund much in the way of food imports or defend its foreign reserves. On the ground – with many going unpaid and food prices rising steadily – some Libyans are getting desperate. Reuters reports that in Tripoli, people are selling foreign currency and jewelry to pay for medical care. Whose fault is the economic collapse? According to Libya’s Central Bank Governor Sadiq al-Kabir earlier this week: “everyone”.

Tracking deaths in Bangladesh’s swelling Rohingya camps

Health authorities in Bangladesh are investigating a measles outbreak in the crowded Rohingya camps of Cox’s Bazar, to where more than 620,000 refugees have fled since late August. In that time, there have been at least 412 cases. Aid groups have warned that disease outbreaks are likely in the makeshift camps, where authorities have struggled to keep pace with the swelling refugee numbers and even basic water and sanitation systems are severely inadequate. Ongoing tests of drinking water sources in the camps, for example, found 83 percent tested positive for faecal contamination. It’s forced health authorities and aid groups to keep a close eye for early signs of problems. Health providers have set up an early warning reporting system in Cox’s Bazar, tracking everything from severe diarrhoea and respiratory infections to a recent, worrying uptick in cases of “unexplained fever” – there were more than 36,000 reported cases as of early November. This surveillance system is also a thorough, if dispassionate, record of what’s killing people in the camps, which now have the population, but none of the infrastructure, of a bustling city. Until 4 November, the system recorded 143 deaths since the most recent influx began. For more, read some of IRIN’s recent reporting looking at the monumental task of setting up a health system from scratch, and the very real problem of severe malnourishment among new refugees – particularly children.

In Rakhine, official restrictions loosen as informal pressures tighten

While health workers struggle with the influx in Bangladesh, humanitarian groups continue to face obstacles delivering aid back in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, where the UN and international NGOs have also become the target of simmering anti-Rohingya sentiment. After being barred from operations in much of the state for three months, the World Food Programme delivered food aid to 119,000 people in October. But restrictions on NGO staff are still a problem; as of this week, more than 150 national staff employed by aid organisations were blocked from working in camps or villages in central Rakhine, according to the UN’s emergency aid coordination body, OCHA. While the aid restrictions stem from official refusal of work permissions or travel authorisations, the tensions also see more informal constraints levied on Muslim people remaining in central Rakhine State – away from the northern Rakhine border areas that were the flashpoint of this year’s refugee crisis. In townships like Minbya, Mrauk-U and Kyauktaw, ethnic Rakhine community leaders continue to pressure people not to do business with Muslim communities, according to OCHA. This means that people in Muslim communities have had difficulty even working, buying or selling food in local markets, or accessing public services. For insight into how aid groups have become tangled in Rakhine’s religious and ethnic tensions, read IRIN’s recent analysis: While the international community mulls action, deep-rooted Buddhist distrust of aid groups grows in Rakhine State. It’s a crucial but thorny issue for the UN and aid groups who plan to continue operating in Rakhine; read more about the behind-the-scenes debate on this here.

Event:

Coming up soon, World Toilet Day (on Sunday) is a time to celebrate the benefits of a good lav, and salute the return of the unforgettable #FecalSludge hashtag on Twitter. But doing your business is serious business (see Bangladesh camps above). Diarrhoea from dirty water is still a major killer of children. More than 800 million people don't have a toilet to use and defecate in the open. Among the puns, promos, and campaign materials bubbling up for the bug day, this video from the International Rescue Committee really caught our eye.

Did you miss it?

Peeking through the cracks into Yemen’s war

IRIN Middle East Editor Annie Slemrod recently gained rare access inside Yemen. Her reporter’s diary is a raw, personal account on a conflict and a humanitiarian crisis that can never get enough attention. It is also a must-read. Good thing there’s more to come.

War games

On a single day in June 1859 some 40,000 Italian soldiers were killed or wounded in the battle of Solferino. Visiting Swiss businessman Henry Dunant was so appalled by the suffering of the injured that he dedicated himself to persuading the world to inject rules into the treatment of wounded combatants and medical personnel during armed conflicts. Five years later, 16 countries adopted the first Geneva Convention, a pillar of what is now known as International Humanitarian Law. In its key role as the guarantor and chief advocate of the Conventions (there are now four), the organisation Dunant went on to found, the International Committee of the Red Cross, has now launched an online quiz, “Don’t Be Numb”, which offers virtual medals to those who know that targeting civilians, medical staff and facilities, or religious shrines, or torturing anyone, or looting cultural artifacts, violate the laws of war. It’s a message the ICRC’s Virtual Reality Unit (VRU) has also been gently persuading developers of violent computer games to integrate into their products. As Rolling Stone magazine recently reported, most companies ignored the ICRC’s overtures, which led to erroneous media claims that the Geneva-based organization was calling for 600 million gamers to be prosecuted for alleged digital war crimes. But Dunant would, no doubt, be delighted to learn that his mores have been taken on board by Bohemia Interactive, the creator of the Arma series of games. Is this partnership, which has led Bohemia to donate some of its profits to the ICRC, a model for similar collaborations? “The door is open,” VRU head Christian Rouffaer told the magazine.

am-bp-as-il/ag

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Obligations of States Parties Should Include Destroying Existing Nuclear Arsenals, Speakers Say, as Talks on Legally Binding Instrument Continue

Speakers voiced support for the requirement that all States parties destroy their existing nuclear arsenals, as the Conference convening to codify a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons and lead towards their total elimination entered its second day.

During a discussion on the “general obligations” section of the draft Convention (document A/CONF.229/2017/CRP.1) — which many speakers described as the document’s core — delegates considered the obligations to be borne by States parties, including pledges never to develop or produce such weapons or assist others attempting to do so.

The draft document lists prohibited activities related to the development, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession and stockpiling of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

Cuba’s representative, noting that the Convention’s current wording remained incomplete and insufficient, said the full prohibition of nuclear weapons also required a ban on their design and research.  Thailand’s representative, stressing that those prohibition lines must refer not only to States parties but also to any person or entity, also underlined the need to include a reference to the “threat of use” in the text’s general obligations — a sentiment echoed by a number of other speakers.

Austria’s representative, meanwhile, said his delegation was mainly concerned about whether the Convention could be implemented and verified.  It would be better to follow the usual terms employed in similar treaties, including in the area of financing, he said, stressing:  “It has to be implementable.”

In her introduction of that section — contained in Article 1 of the draft text — Conference President Whyte Gómez (Costa Rica) recalled that many of the aspirations outlined by delegates during the meeting’s previous session, in March, had also centred on ensuring that the Convention could one day be universally accepted.

Prior to that discussion, participants concluded their first reading of the draft Convention’s preamble, considering references to such issues as the 1996 International Court of Justice advisory opinion on the “Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons” and the “delegitimization” of the nuclear deterrence doctrine.

The representative of the Netherlands expressed concern that the preamble in its current form lacked any reference to international peace and security, which he described as a critical element.  Algeria’s representative — along with the representatives of Brazil and Venezuela, among others — called for the inclusion of a paragraph highlighting the peaceful use of nuclear energy, which he called a “sovereign and inalienable right” of all States.

Switzerland’s representative emphasized that the text should in no way restrict States’ rights to trade, research and military cooperation.  Cuba’s representative, meanwhile, proposed the insertion of new language underscoring the importance of respecting international environmental agreements, including relevant General Assembly resolutions.

A number of civil society representatives — including survivors of nuclear weapons testing — voiced support for the inclusion of language recognizing the disproportionate impact that nuclear weapons testing had historically had on indigenous peoples around the world.  The representative of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, recalling that her father had been blinded by the United Kingdom’s nuclear tests conducted in the Outback of South Australia in 1953, emphasized that the emotional, physical and mental suffering inflicted by nuclear weapons’ testing affected generations of survivors.

The representative of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons echoed those concerns, also calling for the inclusion of specific language requiring the reallocation of resources currently supporting the maintenance and modernization of nuclear arsenals to environmental and humanitarian purposes.  “Nuclear weapons have no legitimate purpose whatsoever,” she stressed.

Also participating in today’s discussions were representatives of the Philippines, Egypt, Mozambique, Indonesia, New Zealand, Lichtenstein, Ecuador, Sweden, Iran, Mexico, Fiji, Ireland, Peru, Chile, Ghana, South Africa, Argentina, Guatemala, Singapore, Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Fiji, Uganda, Costa Rica, Viet Nam and Bangladesh.

The observers for the State of Palestine and the Holy See also took the floor, as did representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Western States Legal Foundation, the World Council of Churches, Soka Gakkai International and the Global Security Institute.

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