Fijian Peacekeepers Still Detained, Filipino Troops in Armed Standoff are Rescued

UNDOF
Aug. 29, 2014 – The UN continues to seek the release of the the Fijian peacekeepers detained in the Golan Heights and on Friday updated the number held hostage to 44.

Meanwhile, Filipino troops who were surrounded by armed elements have been evacuated to the peacekeeping mission’s headquarters in Golan in an operation aided by Irish peacekeepers.

The UN of Friday put the number of Filipino troops trapped at 72.

“Irish personnel secured a route, provided security as UNDOF troops withdrew from a UN position and escorted them to the Force Headquarters in Camp Faouar,” said a statement posted on the Irish Defence Forces website.

It is not yet known if all 72 troops have been evacuated.

The 44 Fijian troops detained by an armed group, believed to be Al Nusra, were first taken to a UN post staffed by Filipino troops, a source who had been briefed on the situation told UN Tribune. There the Filipino troops were threatened and ordered to hand over their weapons. The Filipino contingent managed to escape to another UN position and it is there they were surrounded by the armed elements who had also captured UN vehicles.

The UN is not aware of where the captive Fijian troops are being held or if all 44 are being held at the same location, a source said.

A spokesperson for the UN’s Dept. of Peacekeeping Operations declined to comment citing the sensitive nature of the ongoing situation.

Update: The UN spokesperson’s office late Friday sent the following statement to reporters:

The United Nations has received assurances from credible sources that the 44 peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) who were taken from their position on the morning of Thursday, 28 August, are safe and in good health.  UNDOF has not yet had direct contact with these peacekeepers.

“UNDOF has been informed that the intention behind those holding the peacekeepers was to remove them from an active battlefield to a safe area for their own protection.”

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Forty-three UN Peacekeepers Detained in Golan

First Phase Digital
Aug. 28, 2014 – Forty-three UN peacekeepers from Fiji serving with the UN mission in the Golan Heights (UNDOF) have been detained by an armed group while another 81 are trapped in their bases.

UNDOF monitors the line of separation between Syria and Israel following the end of the 1973 war.

“During a period of increased fighting beginning yesterday between armed elements and Syrian Arab Armed Forces within the area of separation in the Golan, forty-three peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force were detained early this morning by an armed group in the vicinity of Al Qunaytirah,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujaric said at a daily briefing. He did not name the the armed group but said many armed groups are operating in the area and some have self-identified as Al Nusra, a branch of Al Qaeda.

The Security Council released a statement condemning the detention by “Security Council designated terrorist groups and by members of non-state armed groups.” Full Statement

The detained are believed held in the southern part of the line of separation (see map).

“Another eighty-one UNDOF peacekeepers are currently being restricted to their positions in the vicinity of Ar Ruwayhinah and Burayqah,” he added. The eighty-one troops surrounded are from the Philippines. The UN has since said the number of Filipino troops surrounded is 72. The Irish contingent in the Golan Heights have been sent to reinforce positions where there is a standoff.

A source familiar with the situation told UN Tribune that Al Nusra is the group that detained the Fijian troops who he described as “tough” and not likely to capitulate.

In June, the Security Council received a report on UNDOF which described a worsening security situation in the buffer zone with frequent clashes between armed opposition and Syrian government forces. The report also said that the armed opposition have been tailing UN patrols, knowing that Syrian forces won’t fire on UN peacekeepers.

The report added that UN troops had reported seeing black flags in the Golan, the flag associated with the Islamic State.

UNDOF peacekeepers were previously detained by armed elements in March and May of 2013 and were released safely.

Those detentions prompted Austria, Croatia and Japan to withdraw their troops. Fiji and Ireland later sent troops to bolster the 1,200 strong force. On Saturday, the Philippine government said it would withdraw its troops from UNDOF at the end of their tour of duty in October citing security concerns.

The UN Security Council renewed the mandate of UNDOF in June until December 31, 2014.

Troop Contributors to UNDOF as of July 31.

1 . - Fiji
Contingent Troop  477

2 . - India
Contingent Troop 193

3 . - Ireland
Contingent Troop 133

4 . - Nepal
Contingent Troop 72

5 . - Netherlands
Contingent Troop 2

6 . - Philippines
Contingent Troop 346

Total by Mission 1,223 (source: UN DPKO)

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

One Person Killed Every Seven Minutes as Syria Death Toll Nears 200,000

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Aug. 22, 2014 – At least 191,369 people were killed in the Syria conflict from March 2011 to April 2014, according to a new report commissioned by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

That corresponds to about eight people killed every hour for the 1,095 days covered in the report or one person every seven minutes.

The report is the first update from the UN since June last year when it reported that at least 92,901 people had been killed between March 2011 and April 2013. The latest study says that was an undercount and new data has recorded 116,046 deaths in the first two years as a result of the conflict.

The research for the OHCHR was conducted by the Human Rights Data Analysis Group using five sources: 1. the Syrian Government 2. the Syrian Center for Statistics and Research 3. the Syrian Network for Human Rights 4. the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights 5. the Violations Documentation Centre.

“The total 191 369 can be understood as a minimum bound of the number of killings between March 2011 and April 2014,” the report states.

85.1 percent are male victims, 9.3 percent are female victims, and 5.6 percent of records do not indicate the sex of the victim.

“The majority of records (83.8 percent) lack information about the age of victims, which makes it impossible to draw conclusions about the distribution of violence over age categories,” the report says. “Of the records that do include age information, 2,165 indicate victims 0-9 years old, and 6,638 victims 10-18 years old.”

The highest number of documented killings was recorded in the Governorate of Rural Damascus (39,393), next highest was Aleppo (31,932), Homs (28,186), Idlib (20,040), Daraa (18,539) and Hama (14,690).

In a statement accompanying the release of the report, UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay lambasted the Security Council for its failure to hold accountable the perpetrators.

“The killers, destroyers and torturers in Syria have been empowered and emboldened by the international paralysis,” she said. “There are serious allegations that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed time and time again with total impunity, yet the Security Council has failed to refer the case of Syria to the International Criminal Court, where it clearly belongs.”

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Photo/ICRC

Pillay Pitches Stronger Security Council Role for Successor

Special Session Human Rights Council
Aug. 21, 2014, Outgoing UN human rights commissioner, Navi Pillay, on Thursday suggested her successor provide informal monthly briefings to the Security Council to avert future crises.

Pillay’s pitch came after she scolded the 15-nation body over its inaction on crises during her tenure such as Syria, Gaza, Sri Lanka and Iraq. “I firmly believe that greater responsiveness by this Council would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” she said in her final address to the Council.

The South African jurist was appointed in 2008 for a four-year term but fell foul of the US over her criticism of Israel and was only given a two-year second term.

The Council tends to act when a humanitarian situation arises out of conflict but Pillay stressed that human rights abuses are evident for years, even decades, before a major crisis erupts and the Council must must do more to prevent, rather than react to, conflicts.

Pillay also said Ban Ki-moon can do more in providing early warning to the Council on emerging crises. Ban launched the Rights Up Front plan last year in response to the UN’s “systematic failure” in responding to the final months of the 2009 war in Sri Lanka.  The plan’s aim is to prevent human rights abuses by acting on early warnings of human rights abuses.

“Within Rights Up Front, the Secretary-General can be even more proactive in alerting to potential crises, including situations that are not formally on the Council’s agenda,” she said.

Article 99 of the UN Charter empowers the secretary-general to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”

The human rights chief, who will be succeeded by Jordan’s outgoing UN envoy, Prince Zeid, also suggested the Council build on the new Arms Trade Treaty, “which requires arms exporters and importers to confirm that weapons will not be used to commit violations.”

“Where there are concerns about human rights in States that purchase arms, one condition of sale would be that they accept a small human rights monitoring team, with deployment funded by the Treaty’s Trust Fund,” she said.

The five permanent members of the Security Council are among the six biggest arms sellers in the world.

Prince Zeid assumes the role of high commissioner for human rights on Sept. 1. He has been succeeded as UN envoy by Dina Kavar, who becomes the sixth female ambassador to currently serve on the Council.

- Denis Fitzgerald 
On Twitter @denisfitz

 

Image/UN Photo

Afghan Aid Workers Exploited by UN, Other Aid Agencies

Myndir frá Afganistan
Aug. 19, 2014 – Afghan aid workers are put on the front lines by the UN and other aid organizations and are increasingly under attack while their international colleagues remain in secure compounds, the head of a local humanitarian organization told the Security Council on Tuesday.

Masood Karokhail, Director of The Liaison Office, also told the Council that humanitarian space is rapidly diminishing in the country and aid workers are seldom considered neutral from the international political and military presence in the country.

He was addressing the Council as they discussed the protection of aid workers to mark World Humanitarian Day.

Karokhail said since 2001, 895 aid workers have been attacked in Afghanistan, with 325 killed, 253 wounded and 319 kidnapped.

“Afghan aid workers account for 88 percent of those killed, 89 percent of those wounded and 89 percent of those kidnapped,” he said. “And this does not tell the whole story: many local organizations do not report attacks on their staff, the real numbers are likely to be much higher.

“Local humanitarian workers rarely receive the same security arrangements as their international colleagues,” Karokhail told the Council. “This inequality exploits the reliance of many Afghans on employment opportunities within the humanitarian sector: many have been forced to accept dangerous assignments simply to feed their families.”

“There is a need to remove the artificial hierarchy between international and local staff in protracted situations such as Afghanistan,” he said. “Rather than using funds to create a bunkerization of international aid agencies, the assistance community could increase their partnership with national organizations. This, however, should not mean transferring all the risk or responsibility to local organization, but to improving their protection.”

Karokhail said the distinction between aid workers and the political and military presence in the country is increasingly blurred. Over the past several years the UN has adopted a policy of integrating its presence in country missions. For example, for its assistance mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, the deputy special representative of the mission is also the resident humanitarian coordinator.

This dual role and the policy of integrating political, military and humanitarian functions has come in for heavy criticism from many in the aid community who say it threatens the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and operational independence. See here and here.

“Communities, and by association the insurgency, have great difficulty distinguishing between different organizations working on the ground,” Karokhail told the Council. “They associate aid organizations with the international presence of ISAF, UNAMA and view all of them as a legitimate target.”

“The fact that offices of many aid organizations, including the UN, increasingly resemble military bunkers with armed guards and usually Afghan Police are used for field travel, adversely impacts on the security of local staff and organizations working for them,” he added.

In his closing remarks, Karokhail said it was time to negotiate with all parties in Afghanistan.

“We all know that the future will hold more violence in Afghanistan,” he said. “The time has come to openly speak to all parties of the conflict and negotiate clear access principles.”

He said that “Afghans organizations understand that they will increasingly be asked to provide assistance where international organizations no longer can. Many stand ready to shoulder this burden. But the international community must do more to protect them, and enable them to protect themselves.

“We can no longer maintain the status quo, where local aid workers put their lives on the line in order to get the job done.”

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Image/ICRC

New Books on the ICC, Agenda Setting, and Irish Peacekeepers

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Aug. 18, 2014 – Three new books look at the power politics at play in the UN with respect to the International Criminal Court, the global advocacy movement, and UN peacekeeping.

In David Bosco’s rigorous account of the first ten years of the ICC, Rough Justice, the evolution of the Court is examined alongside the evolving role played by major powers, primarily the United States, but also including China, India and Russia – who were, and who mostly still are, distrustful of the Court, along with other powers who are mostly supporters of the Court – Brazil, Britain, France, Germany and South Africa.

Bosco notes that the US actively petitioned other countries to not ratify the Rome Statute but later abstained in a 2005 UN Security Council vote referring the situation in Sudan to the ICC (He also writes that later all permanent members of the Council were against the ICC indicting Sudanese Pres. Bashir). In 2011, the US voted for Resolution 1970 referring the situation in Libya to the Court, but the Council have not, as Bosco reminds us, included an enforcement mechanism or allocated funds for the investigations in both these cases.

While the Council has referred situations to the ICC, when the authors of the Goldstone Report on Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2008 concluded that the violations “fall within the subject-matter jurisdictions of the International Criminal Court,” Bosco writes that then US envoy to the UN Susan Rice “privately emphasized to Israeli President Shimon Peres the US ‘commitment not to allow the issue to move from the Security Council to the International Criminal Court.’”

He adds that there is mounting evidence that the Court prefers to avoid situations involving big powers, citing Afghanistan as another example.

Among his conclusions on the first ten years of the ICC, Bosco writes that “the court has, for the most part, become a toolkit of major powers responding to instability and violence in weaker states” but so far there is little evidence that is has altered “political power realities.”

However, “the failure of the US-led marginalization campaign and other efforts to delay or defer court processes on political grounds signal that even major powers are limited in their ability to challenge frontally justice processes that have begun… however, that inability may have opened space for less obvious mechanisms for control.”

Charil Carpenter’s Lost Causes is concerned with what issues get promoted by “global advocacy elites.” As just one instance, she notes that “internal wars are an important concern for conflict prevention analysts but gangs and urban violence are on the margins of the global security agenda” (yet most armed violence occurs in countries not in armed conflict).

Carpenter’s book is sub-titled ‘Agenda Vetting in Global Issue Networks and the Shaping of Human Security’ and her theory, which she expounds on with several examples, is that advocacy elites choose issues not based “on their merits, or mandate, or the wider political context, but partly on calculations about the structure of their institutional relationships – to other actors, to other issues.”

The material is at times dense but the book is well organized and the topics the author chooses to illuminate her theory are well chosen, and it provides good insight into how the UN, particularly the Security Council and the Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs, adopt positions. Carpenter writes that one advocate campaigning for compensation to families of civilians killed in conflict was advised not to contact the human rights officers at UN missions, who are mostly delegated to the UN’s third, or human rights, committee at the General Assembly, but instead to contact the person responsible for protection of civilians as these individuals are engaged with the Security Council which holds regular thematic debates on protection of civilians.

Michael Kennedy and Art Magennis’s Ireland, the United Nations and the Congo is a thoroughly researched account of the UN’s early peacekeeping forays using the experience of Ireland’s 6,200 troops contribution to the 1960 peacekeeping deployment to the Congo, ONUC.

Some of the insights are familiar to those who follow UN peacekeeping. That the government deploying the troops was more concerned about elevating its position and rank in the UN system than the welfare of the troops or the potential for success of the mission.

The book also examines the role of then secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold, the iconic Swede who later lost his life in a plane crash over Zambia which is still being investigated. “He had maintained strict overall command of ONUC and emerges from UN records on Congo and from his personal papers not as the neutral international servant with a ‘halo’ which is visible for a considerable distance,’ but as a calculating pro-Western and at times Machiavellian operator.”

The book is meticulously researched and while it examines events fifty years ago, there are many parallels to current debates on peacekeeping such as peace-enforcement, cover-ups of atrocities committed by blue helmets and the political calculations of troop contributing countries.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Secret Cables Reveal Intrigue and Inner Workings of UN

confidential
Aug 13, 2014 – Ban Ki-moon was privately “sympathetic to Israel’s position” when it invaded Gaza in 2008 but knew that publicly he would be “forced to shore up his image in the Arab world” and on the diplomatic front he was “worried about the Europeans seizing the initiative at the expense of the US.”

Those revelations are in one of the diplomatic cables from the US mission to the United Nations released by Wikileaks. The tranche of cables begin just prior to Susan Rice becoming US envoy.

A number of the cables recount Rice’s introductory meetings with UN officials and fellow diplomats.

In her meeting with France’s then envoy, Maurice Ripert, she is told that Paris will always consult with the US before taking any initiative in the Security Council. He also tells her that reforming the Council has to be a priority and that the “U.S. calls for Security Council reform to be directly linked to the reform of other parts of the UN, had been perceived as a containment strategy.” On a separate matter, another cable reveals that France’s representative had “described as ‘almost harassment’ the frequency with which its Perm Rep’s chauffeur has been receiving tickets while picking up the Ambassador from his residence.” 

Returning to Security Council reform, in her meeting with Japan’s envoy, Yukio Takasu, Rice told him that the “Administration agrees the Council does not currently reflect global realities and needs to adapt for its own viability and legitimacy. She added that one change in this Administration is that there is no need to link Security Council reform directly to overall UN reform.”

Rice met with Israel’s then envoy, Gabriela Shalev, the same day, Jan, 30, 2009, and was told by Shalev, “speaking confidentially,” on the discussions leading up to the adoption of Resolution 1860 that called for a ceasefire and withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza “that the Israeli delegation’s experience was that the UK and France were not trustworthy and that the U.S. was a more helpful and honest friend of Israel.”

In other meetings, Rice reports that both the Austrian and Mexican delegations – both Council members in 2009 – lamented that Resolution 1860 failed to call for respect for International Humanitarian Law, which governs the conduct of war and grave breaches of its rules constitute war crimes that can be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court. During a closed-door Council meeting with Ban Ki-moon, Austria’s representative “welcomed the Secretary-General’s statements on international humanitarian law but pressed the Secretary-General to be more explicit in his meetings on the need for its respect.”

Rice was told by then UN aid chief John Holmes that “the crossings into Gaza are a crucial matter…If dual-use goods like cement can’t get in (none has gotten in for the last 18 months), we’ll get nowhere, said Holmes. The United States needs to put pressure on Israel to open the crossings and especially to allow in building materials,” he told Rice.

Holmes later wrote a book about his time heading humanitarian operations for the UN in which he was critical of both the secretary-general and the Security Council.

In a Feb. ’09 meeting with then UNGA president Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, Rice was told by d’Escoto that he had been approached to act as a conduit for Hamas to key players and he said he had been provided with contact information by Ramsey Clark for Hamas sources in Jordan and Lebanon. D’Escoto “listened intently to the Ambassador’s arguments against that,” the cable states, with Rice “reminding d’Escoto that the UN is a member of the Quartet and has set pre-conditions for dealing with Hamas, and that the PGA is a representative of the UN.”

Libya’s UN ambassador Mohamed Shalgham, who defected in 2011, informed Rice in March ’09 that then leader Muammar Gaddafi would be attending that year’s UN General Debate and “also plans to visit Washington to meet with President Obama for one to two hours.” Rice responded “that, typically, the President would issue an invitation to a head of state, requesting a visit to Washington.”

A May 4, 2009 cable reveals US anxiety about a forthcoming UN Board of Inquiry report into death and damage to United Nations personnel and facilities in Gaza following Israel’s earlier bombardment. Rice spoke with Ban and she reported that “the Secretary-General said his staff was working with an Israeli delegation on the text of the cover letter” that would accompany Ban’s public summary of the 184-page report that has never been released. “Ambassador Rice asked the Secretary-General to be back in touch with her before the letter and summary are released to the Council.”

“Ambassador Rice spoke with the Secretary-General two additional times. In the second conversation, she underscored the importance of having a strong cover letter that made clear that no further action was needed and would close out this issue. Secretary-General Ban called her after the letter had been finalized to report that he believed they had arrived at a satisfactory cover letter.”

In a follow-up cable on possible outcomes from the Board of Inquiry, Rice stated that “we cannot be assured of blocking procedurally a Council discussion but can block any product (either by withholding consensus on a PRST or Press statement, or vetoing a resolution).” She said the US was unlikely to get the support it needed from six of the 15 Council members to block a discussion.

In a later cable, Rice reports that the Council had come to an agreement that Ban should maintain the lead on any follow-up action on the report which found the Israeli government responsible for the deaths, injuries, and physical damage that occurred in seven of the nine cases it examined.

Israel later paid compensation to the UN for damage to its property but there was no compensation for the victims. The UN said the the financial issues relating to the attacks examined by the investigation were “concluded” and there was no criminal investigation into the deaths of UN employees.

On Tuesday, Ban, speaking about Israel’s current invasion of Gaza, told reporters that “Israel’s duty to protect its citizens from rocket attacks by Hamas and other threats is beyond question.”

“At the same time, the fighting has raised serious questions about Israel’s respect for the principles of distinction and proportionality. Reports of militant activity does not justify jeopardizing the lives and safety of many thousands of innocent civilians.”

“I have called for an investigation into the repeated shelling of UN facilities harboring civilians,” Ban said, though an investigation has yet to be launched.

“I expect accountability for the innocent lives lost and the damage incurred,” he said.

The coming weeks and months will tell if Ban intends to follow through on his call for accountability.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

UN: Drought An Underlooked Catalyst for Syria Revolt

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July 26, 2014 – A five-year drought that impoverished large parts of rural Syria lead to anger and a growing sense of inequality that were catalysts for the March 2011 uprising, according to the recently released 2014 Human Development Report.

The ensuing civil-war has claimed more than 150,000 lives, including at least 1,700 in the past ten days. The UNDP report, released on Thursday, says the drought devastated millions of livelihoods in the agricultural sector, which was already suffering because of government neglect.

“The role of drought in contributing to the  Syrian crisis is less well known. From 2006 to 2010 the Syrian Arab Republic suffered an unprecedented drought, devastating much of its rural society. Impoverished farmers flooded into the slums of the cities,” the report states. “Observers estimate that 2–3  million of the country’s 10 million rural inhabitants were reduced to extreme poverty. These deprivations, combined with a lack of jobs and an inadequate state and international response, contributed to a rapid buildup of resentment and an acute awareness of group inequality, fertile ground for the civil war that started in 2011.”

The theme of this year’s Human Development Report is resilience and looks at the effects on human security caused by climate change and economic crisis with a particular focus on groups that are vulnerable because of their history and unequal treatment by the rest of society – in Syria’s case, its rural population.

The report also says that humanitarian appeals, while providing necessary immediate aid, do not address climate change as an underlying driver in crises such as in the Sahel and in Syria.

It adds that the current system of global security governance, designed post-WWII to prevent conflict between the great powers, is inadequate in dealing with today’s crises.

“The turn from interstate conflict to internal conflict has changed the focus of conflict prevention and recovery,” the report says. “The resulting governance gap limits international capacity to address pressing security issues, passing the burden to the population in conflict settings.”

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Image/WFP

Female Genital Mutilation Affecting 3.6M Girls Annually

The 29 Countries Where FGM is Most Common and the Percentage of Girls Affected ©UNICEF

The 29 Countries Where FGM is Most Common and the Percentage of Girls Affected © UNICEF

July 22, 2014 – The number of girls who will undergo female genital mutilation is set to increase by at least 15 percent in the coming decades, data released on Tuesday by the UN children’s agency shows.

The practice of FGM is most common in 29 countries in the Middle East and Africa with some 133 million women and girls living today having undergone the practice, according to UNICEF.

The risks of FGM, which is typically carried out between infancy and the age of 15, include infertility, complications in childbirth and an increased risk of newborn deaths.

“In addition to excruciating pain, cutting can cause girls to bleed profusely,” the agency said. “It may also lead to infections, including HIV, since typically the same unsterilized blade is used for all girls being cut.”

While the practice has been reduced in a number of the 29 countries, 90 percent or more girls born in Egypt, Djibouti, Guinea and Somalia have been cut.

UNICEF projects that by 2050 one in three child births will occur in the 29 countries where FGM is practiced with almost 500 million more women and girls living in those countries than there are today.

The agency projects that if the rate of decline in FGM is maintained, the number of girls affected annually will go from 3.6 million today to 4.1 million in 2050 but if there is no progress it will increase to 6.6 million.

More than half the female population in Mali, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Gambia and Egypt think the practice should continue but in 19 of the 29 countries most women and girls think it should end, according to UNICEF’s research.

Prevalence in Somalia stands at 98 percent, where the number of girls and women will more than double by 2050 while in Mali, where prevalence is 89 per cent, the female population will nearly triple.

UNICEF cites Kenya and Tanzania as positive examples – countries where FGM was highly prevalent in 1990, but despite a surge in the number of women and girls born since then, the number who have undergone FGM has declined from 1990 figures.

It says that “finding ways to make hidden attitudes” favoring the abandonment of FGM more visible is key to eliminating the practice.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

UNSC Draft on Gaza Invokes International Humanitarian Law

Palestinian Amb. Riyad Mansour Addressing the Security Council on Friday - UN Photo

Palestinian Amb. Riyad Mansour Addressing the Security Council on Friday – UN Photo

July 18, 2014 – The draft resolution that Jordan plans to circulate to Security Council members on Gaza includes a clause that explicitly refers to International Humanitarian Law.

Operative paragraph 3 of the draft textCalls upon all parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in a Time of War of August 12, 1949.”

This language was absent from Resolution 1860 that ended Operation Cast Lead in 2008/09, an omission that disappointed several Council members then.

The statement that the 15-nation body agreed on July 12 also called upon parties to observe International Humanitarian Law.

A Council diplomat speaking to UN Tribune said the inclusion of language on international humanitarian law and on the protection of civilians in Saturday’s statement was significant. Council statements, while not binding, have to be agreed on by all fifteen members.

The diplomat added that at present there is no disagreement among Council members and there was consensus at Friday’s meeting in support of the Egyptian proposal for an immediate ceasefire.

The Council will meet again on Tuesday to discuss the crisis and, unless there is an end to hostilities by then, the resolution could be put to vote. If so, the ministerial committee formed by the Arab League on July 14, which is chaired by Kuwait and includes Morocco, Egypt and Jordan, would likely head to New York, at the foreign minister level, to press for adoption of the resolution. Arab League Secretary-General Nabil El Araby is also a member of the ministerial committee.

International humanitarian law regulates the conduct of war and grave breaches of its rules constitute war crimes that can be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court, which Palestine said it will join if Israel’s Operation Protective Edge continues.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Friday reported that 268 Palestinians have been killed since July 7, including 193 civilians. Among those killed in the past eleven days are 59 children, representing 22 percent of all fatalities.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz