China, US Tops for Renewable Energy But LatAm, Africa Making Strides

June 3, 2014 – Renewable sources account for 19 percent of global energy output with worldwide investment topping $200 billion last year.

China, the US, Brazil, Germany and Canada are the top five countries for total installed renewable power capacity with China and the US also investing the most in clean energy last year followed by Japan, UK and Germany, according to a new report by the Renewable Energy Network in collaboration with the UN Environmental Program.

However, as a percentage of GDP invested in renewable sources, Uruguay, Mauritius, Costa Rica, South Africa and Nicaragua were the top five in 2013.

China produces more than 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources while the figures for the EU28 and United States are 14.1 percent and 12.9 percent respectively.

Energy produced from coal declined by 19 percent in the US from 2008 to 2013 while Spain became the first country to produce more electricity from wind, 20.9 percent, than any other source, the report says. Denmark, Kenya and El Salvador also produce more than 20 percent of electricity from wind.

The report also says that in China, new renewable power capacity surpassed new capacity from fossil fuel and nuclear capacity for the first time.

Worldwide, nuclear power accounts for 2.6 percent of total energy produced.

The number of developing countries with policies supporting renewable energy has increased six-fold in the past eight years from 15 in 2005 to 95 this year, according to the report which will be launched at UN headquarters on Wednesday.

Despite increasing use of alternative sources, the use of fossil fuels for energy has not declined as demand for energy outpaces growth in renewable energy.

There are still some 1.2 billion people, one-fifth of the world’s population, without electricity, according to the World Bank, including about 550 million in Africa and 400 million in India.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz


Released Taliban Detainees are on UN Sanctions List

May 31, 2014 – Four of the five Guantanamo Bay detainees released by the United States on Saturday in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Berghdahl are subject to an assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo by the Security Council.

The four are Fazl Mohammad Mazloom, Khirullah Khairkhwa, Nurullah Nuri and Abdul Haq Wassiq while a fifth detainee released, Mohammad Nabi Omari, is not on the sanctions list. *

They were listed for the following reasons, according to the 1988 Sanctions Committee:

Fazl Mohammad Mazloom

Fazl Mohammad Mazloom was a close associate of Mohammed Omar (TI.O.4.01) and helped him to establish the Taliban government. Mazloom was at the Al-Farouq training camp established by Al-Qaida. He had knowledge that the Taliban provided assistance to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in the form of financial, weapons and logistical support in exchange for providing the Taliban with soldiers. He was a commander of approximately 3,000 Taliban front-line troops in the Takhar Province in October 2001.

Abdul Haq Wassiq 

Abdul-Haq Wassiq is allied with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Under the Taliban regime, he held successive positions as local commander in Nimroz and Kandahar provinces. He then became Deputy Director General of Intelligence, reporting to Qari Ahmadullah (TI.A.81.01). In this function, he was in charge of handling relations with Al-Qaida-related foreign fighters and their training camps in Afghanistan. He was also known for his repressive methods against Taliban opponents in the South of Afghanistan.

Khairullah Khairkhwa

Khairullah Khairkhwah was listed on 25 January 2001 as Governor of the Herat Province of the Taliban regime so falling within the provisions of resolutions 1267 (1999) and 1333 (2000) of the United Nations Security Council regarding acts and activities of the Taliban authorities. Khairullah Khairkhwah also served as Spokesperson of the Taliban regime, Governor of the Kabul Province of the Taliban regime, and Minister of Internal Affairs of the Taliban regime.

Nurullah Nuri 

Nurullah Nuri was listed on 25 January 2001 concurrently as Governor of the Balkh Province as well as Head of the Northern Zone of the Taliban regime so falling within the provisions of resolutions 1267 (1999) and 1333 (2000) of the United Nations Security Council regarding acts and activities of the Taliban authorities.

The Council passed a revised sanctions resolution in 2012 at the request of the Afghanistan Government “to support national reconciliation, including by removing names from the United Nations sanctions lists for those who reconcile, and, therefore, have ceased to engage in or support activities that threaten the peace, stability and security of  Afghanistan.” While some names have been removed, the four released on Saturday remain on the list.

In terms of the travel ban, the resolution stipulates that all countries must: “Prevent the entry into or transit through their territories of these individuals, provided that nothing in this paragraph shall oblige any State to deny entry or require the departure from its territories of its own nationals and this paragraph shall not apply where entry or transit is necessary for the fulfillment of a judicial process or the Committee determines on a case-by-case basis only that entry or transit is justified, including where this directly relates to supporting efforts by the Government of Afghanistan to promote reconciliation.”

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Image/ US DOD

*A Mohammed Omar Ghulam Nabi is on the Taliban sanctions list but unlike the other four whose location is listed as Guantanamo, the location entry for Nabi says he is belived to be in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region.

UN Human Rights Office Welcomes Supreme Court Decision on Death Penalty

May 30, 2014 – The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Friday called on US authorities to put a moratorium on executions following a Supreme Court ruling on the death penalty and people with intellectual disabilities.

The Court on Tuesday struck down Florida’s requirement that defendants facing execution show an IQ test score of 70 or below before being permitted to submit additional evidence regarding their intellectual disability.

In a 5-4 ruling the majority stated in the case of Freddie Lee Hall, a man with an IQ of 71 who killed a pregnant newlywed in 1978, that “intellectual disability is a condition, not a number.”

“The ruling will affect not only Florida, which is the state with the second-largest number of people on death row after California, but also other states that still use the death penalty in the US,” Navi Pillay’s office said on Friday. ” Judges will now be required to take a less mechanical approach to mental disability in capital cases.”

There are currently 32 US states where the death penalty is on the books. So far in 2014, there have been 20 executions in five states.

Worldwide, some 93 countries still retain the death penalty but 49 of these countries have not applied it in the past ten years.

A UN General Assembly resolution in December 2012 calling on Member States to establish moratoria on executions “with a view to abolishing the death penalty” passed with 111 states in favor, 41 against and 39 abstentions.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz


Maya Angelou, the activist who once took over the UN General Assembly

Maya Angelou records her poem “A Brave and Startling Truth” at UNHQ in 2011. (UN Photo)

Maya Angelou records her poem “A Brave and Startling Truth” at UNHQ in 2011. (UN Photo)

May 28, 2014 – Maya Angelou, who passed away on Wednesday aged 86, will be remembered for her poetic voice, commitment to civil rights and her activism, which once included taking over the balcony of the UN General Assembly.

The story, as told in the biography, “Maya Angelou,” by Vicki Cox and Miles Shapiro:

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Angelou was to return to the UN later in her life, most recently in 2011 where she recorded her poem “A Brave and Startling Truth” for inclusion in an exhibit titled, “The African Continuum: Celebrating Diversity, Recognizing Contributions of People of African Descent.”

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

China, Russia Double Veto UNSC Draft on Syria ICC Referral

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin addresses the Council, May 22, 2014. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin addresses the Council, May 22, 2014. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

May 22, 2014 – The draft resolution that would have referred the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court was defeated after vetoes from China and Russia.

It was the fourth time Beijing and Moscow cast vetoes on a resolution concerning Syria, having previously voted against resolutions in October 2011, February 2012 and July 2012.

The French-drafted text had over 60 co-sponsors including permanent Council members Britain and the US as well as non-permanent members Australia, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania, Luxembourg and South Korea.

The Council’s African members – Chad, Nigeria and Rwanda – all voted for the text but did not co-sponsor the resolution. Nor did Argentina, who also voted for the resolution, but declined to co-sponsor because of what the country’s ambassador called the “selectivity” of the draft.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

In Key Shift, UNSC Draft on Syria ICC Referral Expresses Commitment to Follow Up

May 21, 2014 – In the two situations that the Security Council has referred to the International Criminal Court – Darfur and Libya – not a single person wanted by the Court has ended up in The Hague.

Current prosecutor Fatima Bensouda expressed her frustration at the Council’s lack of support for her office when she presented her 18th report on Darfur in December last year: “Inaction and paralysis within the Council has not only prolonged the suffering of Darfur’s victims, but has bolstered Mr Al-Bashir’s resolve to ignore this Council.”

The Council appears to have taken note and unlike resolutions 1593 on Darfur (2005) and 1970 on Libya (2011), the draft text that would refer the situation in Syria to the ICC includes a support clause with operative paragraph 5 stating that the Council “expresses its commitment to an effective follow up of the present resolution.”

The follow up that the prosecutor’s office wants most is concrete action to enforce its arrest warrants. Sudan’s Bashir has travelled to more than a dozen countries since his warrant for arrest was issued including most recently to the Democratic Republic of Congo which is a state party to the Rome Statute.

While the draft Syria resolution looks set to fail by way of a Russian veto, the shift in language will be taken note of in The Hague.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Uruguay Not Co-Sponsoring UNSC Resolution on Syria ICC Referral

Security Council Meeting on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The High Representative for BiH, Valentin Inzko
May 20, 2014 –  Uruguay’s mission to the UN on Tuesday said it will not co-sponsor the draft Security Council resolution referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

The country, a strong supporter of the ICC and the first Latin American country to implement the Rome Statute into law, was among the states listed in a letter circulated on Monday by the Swiss Mission to the UN calling for other countries to co-sponsor the draft text which is expected to be voted on later this week.

“While Uruguay strongly supports such a referral, it will be unable to co-sponsor the resolution and therefore prefers not to associate itself with the call for co-sponsorship,” its mission said in a statement.

No other details were provided and calls to its mission for more information have not yet been returned.

Uruguay was one of 18 countries worldwide that lost aid for refusing to sign a Bilateral Immunity Agreement with the United States because they said it would breach their obligations under international law.

The draft resolution referring Syria to the ICC includes a clause that exempts nationals from countries outside of Syria that are not party to the Rome Statute.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Life Expectancy Increasing But Cancers, Heart Diseases Spreading

May 15, 2014 – People are living longer across the world and there are less deaths from infectious diseases but non-communicable diseases are now responsible for more than 60 percent of all premature mortality.

Globally, the average life expectancy for a girl born in 2012 is 72.7 years, and for a boy, 68.1 years. Life expectancy is highest for men in Iceland, 81.2 years, and for women in Japan, 87 years, according to a new WHO report.

There are still nine countries, all in sub-Saharan Africa, where life expectancy for both sexes is less than 55, among them Chad, Mozambique, Nigeria and Swaziland.

Syria is one of only one of a handful of countries where life expectancy has decreased, from 70 years in 1990 to 68 years in 2012 with a seven year decline in the average life expectancy of men responsible for the decrease. Other countries with a drop in life expectancy include South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland where the toll from HIV has hit hardest.

While deaths from infectious diseases are declining in developing countries, cancers, lung diseases and heart diseases are increasingly a cause of premature death due in part to urbanization which is resulting in less exercise, rising obesity rates, increased tobacco and alcohol use, and unhealthy diets.

Liberia recorded the greatest gain in life expectancy, from 42 years in 1990 to 62 in 2012, mostly as a result of the end of the country’s civil-war in 2003 as well as efforts to improve child and maternal health. Afghanistan, from 49 years in 1990 to 60 years in 2012 and Somalia, 47 to 53, also recorded gains in life expectancy.

The full report is here.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

UNSC Draft Resolution on Syria ICC Referral Exempts Saudis, Iranians and Lebanese

Security Council meeting The situation in Libya

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda Briefing the Security Council on Libya, May 13, 2014 (UN Photo)

May 13, 2014 – The draft Security Council resolution circulated by France that calls for referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court would exempt the bulk of foreign forces on both sides from investigation and prosecution.

An operative paragraph in the draft Syria text states that the resolution “decides that nationals, current or former officials, or personnel from a state outside the Syrian Arab Republic which is not a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of that state for all alleged acts or omissions arising out of or related to operations in the Syrian Arab Republic, established or authorized by the Council unless such jurisdiction has been expressly waived by the state.”

The paragraph uses the exact wording as in the two previous resolutions where the Council referred situations to the ICC – Resolution 1593 on Darfur (2005) and Resolution 1970 on Libya (2011).

In both cases, and also with the current draft Syria text, it is understood that the exemption paragraph is included at the insistence of the US.

But the paragraph exempts all non-Syrians from countries that are not party to the Rome Statute. That includes Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Qatar as well as the US, China and Russia.

When former US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, was asked about the exemption clause in 2011 as it related to non-Libyans fighting for Gaddafi, she said the ICC would focus on the “big fish” and not the “foot soldiers.”

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who refused to take questions on Syria during a press conference at UN headquarters on Tuesday, could assert her independence if – and it seems unlikely at this stage – the French-drafted resolution is adopted, she accepts the referral but rejects the limitations imposed on her investigation.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Palestine Joins 15 International Conventions

May 12, 2014 – Palestine has ratified 14 UN conventions in the past month and has become a state party to the Geneva Conventions regulating the conduct of armed conflict.

According to a search of the UN Treaty database, Palestine submitted its ratification paperwork on April 2 for the 14 conventions listed below and letters from Ban Ki-moon, in his role as depository, show that most conventions went into effect on May 2 while others go into effect on July 2.

■ Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

■ International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

■ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

■ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

■ International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

■ United Nations Convention Against Torture

■ United Nations Convention Against Corruption

■ UN Genocide Convention

■ Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid

■ Convention on the Rights of the Child

■ Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict

■ Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties

■ Vienna Convention on Consular Relations

■ Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations

Palestine also ratified the Geneva Conventions and associated protocols on April 2, according to the ICRC database.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz


Ban Ki-Moon’s Letter on Palestine ratifying the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations