Despite Attack on MSF Hospital, Ban Ki-moon Omits U.S. From Report on Child Rights Violators

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May 31, 2016 – Ban Ki-moon’s annual report on children and armed conflict does not list the United States among the parties that have bombed hospitals in 2015.

The report includes two annexes of parties that commit any of the six grave violations against children, which includes recruiting, killing, maiming, rape and other sexual violence, abductions, and attacks on schools and hospitals. The first annex is for situations that are on the Security Council agenda, such as Syria and Afghanistan and the second annex for situations of armed conflict that are not on the Security Council’s agenda, such as the Philippines.

One party added to the annex this year is the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen.

(Update June 6: Following a protests from the Saudi UN mission, Ban has removed the Saudi coalition from the listing pending a join investigation by the UN and Saudi coalition)

But Ban has not named permanent Security Council member the United States even though it bombed a MSF hospital in Kunduz in October 2015 killing 42 health workers and patients.

Ban came in for wide criticism last year when he declined to include Israel in the annex despite a UN report blaming Israel for bombing seven schools during its summer 2014 invasion of Gaza.

Ban’s 2015 report does note the Kunduz attack and attributes it to international forces.

From the report:

Verified attacks on hospitals and health personnel (125) significantly increased compared with 2014 [for Afghanistan]. In the attacks, at least 63 health-care personnel, including vaccinators, were killed or injured, 66 abducted and 64 intimidated and assaulted. A total of 75 incidents were attributed to the Taliban; 14 to ISIL-affiliated groups; 1 to TTP; 19 to undetermined armed groups; 14 to the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces and pro-Government militias; and 1 to international forces. For example, 49 medical staff were killed or injured in an air strike by international forces on the Médecins sans frontières hospital in Kunduz on 3 October.

Human Rights Watch’s Deputy UN Director Akshaya Kumar says accountability for crimes against children took a hit because of Ban’s refusal to name the U.S. as the responsible party.

“Accountability depends on being able to name perpetrators when they are known,” Kumar said to UN Tribune. “The UN Secretary General missed an opportunity to combat impunity by using a euphemism when the fact that the U.S. was responsible for the Kunduz attack is not in dispute.”

Ban’s office has yet to respond to request from UN Tribune to explain why he avoided naming the U.S. as the responsible party.

In total, 62 parties in 14 countries are named in the annexes to Ban’s report including government forces in Syria, Sudan, Yemen and the Afghan national police.

The full report is here.

 - Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

(story updated June 6 with comments from Human Rights Watch)

Italy, Sweden and Netherlands Vie for Two Available Security Council Seats

UN-Sicherheitsrat_-_UN_Security_Council_-_New_York_City_-_2014_01_06 May 23, 2016 – Elections for five non-permanent members of the Security Council take place next month with contested races in three of the five UN regional groups. Bolivia is running uncontested to replace Venezuela for the one available seat for Latin America.

The elections are taking place four months earlier than normal to give new members additional time to prepare for the ever increasing Security Council workload. The five new members will join the Council on Jan. 1 2017 for a two-year term. The Eastern Europe seat, currently held by Ukraine, is not up for election this year.

The most talked about race inside the UN is for the Western Europe and Others Group where EU members Italy, Netherlands and Sweden will battle it out for two available seats.

Candidate countries must secure the votes of 129 member states to secure a seat on the Council and it looks, at this stage, that Sweden will take one of the two seats being made vacant by New Zealand and Spain, with guaranteed support from fellow Nordic as well as Baltic states.

Sweden has served on the Council three times previously, most recently in 2000 and is one of the top aid donors to the UN, contributing $356 million so far this year, far more than either the Netherlands ($94M) and Italy ($16M).

The battle would then seem to be between Italy and the Netherlands. Rome is the biggest EU troop contributor to UN peacekeeping with more than 1,000 troops currently deployed and it is also at the fore of dealing with the migrant crisis with the country often the first intended destination for migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean. It last served on the Council in 2008.

The Dutch angered permanent Security Council member the United States back in September when they refused a request to resettle two Guantanamo Bay inmates and this may hinder their bid for a seat. While the US only has one vote out of 193, its influence is much bigger than that particularly among states that are beneficiaries of US aid.

The Netherlands are well served by their foreign minister, Bert Koenders, who until his appointment with the Dutch government was head of the UN mission in Mali, where Dutch troops are also serving.

For their part, the Dutch are keen to stress that the Kingdom of the Netherlands constitutes four distinct countries, including the Caribbean islands of Saint Marten, Curacao and Aruba. Their hope is that the 40 or so small island states will lend their support to Amsterdam with the promise that their voices will be heard on the Security Council.

In the Asia-Pacific group, Thailand and Kazakhstan are in a race for the seat being made vacant by Malaysia. No former Soviet country from Central Asia has served on the Council. Kazakhstan voluntarily renounced its nuclear arsenal, then the world’s fourth largest, when it became independent in 1991 and it was a key driver of Central Asia becoming a nuclear-weapons-free-zone. It would appear to have the edge on Thailand in the race for a seat.

Thailand is currently ruled by a military junta after a 2014 coup and scheduled elections since have been repeatedly postponed.

Kenya and Ethiopia are both seeking the African seat currently held by Angola. Both countries are home to a large UN presence with the UN Environmental Program and UN Habitat headquartered in Nairobi. Kenya is also home to the Dadaab refugee camp complex, where almost 350,000 refugees live. The Kenyan government announced earlier this month its intention to shut down the camp, a move Ban Ki-moon said could have “potentially devastating consequences.”

Ethiopia is host to one of the largest UN country teams in the world – 27 UN programs and agencies have resident offices there.

That Kenya’s president and deputy president were both subject to indictments from the International Criminal Court and given Nairobi’s vocal campaign against the ICC, there’s speculation that it would use its seat on the UNSC to rail against the ICC. Advantage Ethiopia in this race.

- Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Related: How Much is a UN Security Council Seat Worth and Which Countries Get Elected?

UN And MSF At Odds Over Future of Humanitarian Work

May 10, 2016 –  Medecins Sans Frontiers’ decision last week to withdraw from the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) taking place later this month highlights the tension between aid organizations and the United Nations over the future of humanitarian work.

In a statement, MSF said the summit threatens “to dissolve humanitarian assistance into wider development, peace-building and political agendas.”

The Nobel-prize winning group, which has lost several staff members and had its hospitals bombed over the past year in conflict zones, added that it failed to see how the WHS would address the urgent needs of people living in conflict in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan and other areas of armed violence.

At the heart of the matter is the UN’s desire to promote resilience in doing humanitarian and development work. While MSF say that humanitarian work should be kept separate from development work, the United Nations increasingly sees the two working in tandem.

Those inside the UN advocating for a joint approach point out that countries that emerge from conflict or other complex emergencies do not have a stronger society or systems when the emergency or conflict is over, and very often have a recurrence within five or ten years. For this reason, the UN and the WHS are asking how can countries that have repeated crisis be put on a sustainable path after a crisis.

With this in mind, there is a push to have humanitarian and development actors work in tandem, unlike the traditional sequential approach where aid workers come in and do their work and once they leave development workers come in and try to rebuild the society.

However, because of the core humanitarian principles of impartiality, neutrality and independence, humanitarian actors avoid working with local governments and once they leave the society is no more robust nor does it have a better emergency response system because aid organizations set up their own parallel systems that bypass the local governments, which should be the first line of response.

Another reason for the push towards resilience is that many crises are slow onset and protracted and it’s not necessarily a humanitarian response first and then a development response. Syria is a case in point where the crises is in its sixth year and it is both a humanitarian crisis – tending to the wounded and feeding the hungry – and a development crisis – establishing schools, devising cash for work programs – and it is also a transnational crisis affecting primarily its neighboring countries but also beyond, as in the case of Europe and the debate over refugees.

One can only admire the great work that MSF does around the globe in responding to emergencies and the great sacrifices it has made in doing so, and it it easy to sympathize with their decision not to attend the WHS.

Yet, an opportunity may have been lost in exploring how best to respond to future emergencies with the decision of MSF not to attend, given its status in the humanitarian world. Natural disasters are increasing and new conflicts continue to emerge and escalate at an alarming rate. Dealing with these crises exogenously is not going to work – outsiders going in and then leaving.

Core humanitarian principles – neutrality, independence, impartiality – need to be respected but they do not preclude the recognition and use of local systems. The question is how can local systems be used by respecting impartiality and neutrality and independence. 

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

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