Pax Ethnica

I’m enjoying this account by Meyers and Brysac of their travels to five multi-diverse societies in France, Germany, India, Russia and the United States in search of “how and why diversity succeeds.”

I’ve started with their section on Queens, New York (where I live), the largest of NYC’s five boroughs and where 2.3 million people speak 132 languages. I was particularly struck by an interview with Borough President Helen Marshall, who recounted a fine example of politics (with a small ‘p’) at its best.

She tells of an incident in the early 1990s (a time of heightened ethnic tension in the city) when a manager at a Korean-owned and all-Korean employee C-Town supermarket in Elmhurst was accused of assaulting a young African-American boy he accused of taking money from a change tin on the counter.

Although a boycott of the store was planned, Marshall, then a state assemblywoman, and a few more community leaders decided to intervene and negotiate with the store owner to resolve the crisis. The owner explained that in Korean culture, if a child was misbehaving, adults felt it their responsibility to reprimand the child (irrespective of their relationship to the child. [I don’t know enough about Korean culture to verify but surely it doesn’t involve assault]).

The end result was that the boycott was shelved and the owner of the store apologized, admitted his employee over-reacted, and agreed to add workers who were fluent in English as well as to hire an African-American manager.

I’m unaware if the employee accused of assaulting the boy was charged (if he did assault him, he should have been) but the intervention by Marshall and others to mediate resulted in a resolution that met the demands of the community and prevented the situation from escalating.

UNSC Presidential Statement on Syria

[Note: The six points below have become known as Annan’s six-point peace plan – On March 27th, Annan’s office announced that the plan had been accepted by the Syrian authorities. There has been no public response yet by the Syrian authorities nor any reported evidence that the plan is being implemented.]

“The Security Council recalls its Presidential Statement of 3 August 2011 and its Press Statement of 1 March 2012.

The Security Council expresses its gravest concern at the deteriorating situation in Syria which has resulted in a serious human rights crisis and a deplorable humanitarian situation.

The Security Council expresses its profound regret at the death of many thousands of people in Syria.

The Security Council reaffirms its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria, and to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter.

The Security Council welcomes the appointment of Joint Special Envoy for the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan, following the General Assembly resolution A/RES/66/253 of 16 February 2012 and relevant resolutions of the League of Arab States.

The Security Council expresses its full support for the efforts of the Envoy to bring an immediate end to all violence and human rights violations, secure humanitarian access, and facilitate a Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, plural political system, in which citizens are equal regardless of their affiliations or ethnicities or beliefs, including through commencing a comprehensive political dialogue between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition.

To this aim, the Security Council fully supports the initial six-point proposal submitted to the Syrian authorities, as outlined by the Envoy to the Security Council on 16 March 2012, to:

1) commit to work with the Envoy in an inclusive Syrian-led political process to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people, and, to this end, commit to appoint an empowered interlocutor when invited to do so by the Envoy;

2) commit to stop the fighting and achieve urgently an effective United Nations supervised cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties to protect civilians and stabilize the country.

To this end, the Syrian government should immediately cease troop movements towards, and end the use of heavy weapons in, population centres, and begin pullback of military concentrations in and around population centres.

 As these actions are being taken on the ground, the Syrian government should work with the Envoy to bring about a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties with an effective United Nations supervision mechanism.

Similar commitments would be sought by the Envoy from the opposition and all relevant elements to stop the fighting and work with him to bring about a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties with an effective United Nations supervision mechanism;

3) ensure timely provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting, and to this end, as immediate steps, to accept and implement a daily two hour humanitarian pause and to coordinate exact time and modalities of the daily pause through an efficient mechanism, including at local level.

4) intensify the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons, including especially vulnerable categories of persons, and persons involved in peaceful political activities, provide without delay through appropriate channels a list of all places in which such persons are being detained, immediately begin organising access to such locations and through appropriate channels respond promptly to all written requests for information, access or release regarding such persons;

5) ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists and a non-discriminatory visa policy for them;

6) respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully as legally guaranteed.

The Security Council calls upon the Syrian government and opposition to work in good faith with the Envoy towards a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis and to implement fully and immediately his initial six-point proposal.

The Security Council requests the Envoy to update the Council regularly and in a timely manner on the progress of his mission. In the light of these reports, the Security Council will consider further steps as appropriate.”

Latest Version of UNSC Resolution on Syria

[The resolution failed to pass when permanent members China and Russsa used their veto to defeat the measure in a 13-2 vote on Feb.4]

UNSCR-SYRIA-BLUE 2 Feb 2012

List of Co-Sponsors: Morocco, France, United Kingdom, United States, Germany, Portugal Colombia, Togo, Libya, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Turkey.

 The Security Council,

pp1 Recalling its presidential statement of 3 August 2011,

pp2 Recalling General Assembly resolution A/RES/66/176 of 19 December 2011, as well as Human Rights Council resolutions S/16-1, S/17-1 and S/18-1,

pp3 Noting the League of Arab States’ request in its decision of 22 January 2012,

pp4 Expressing grave concern at the deterioration of the situation in Syria, and profound concern at the death of thousands of people and calling for an immediate end to all violence,

pp5 Welcoming the League of Arab States’ Action Plan of 2 November 2011 and its subsequent decisions, including its decision of 22 January 2012, which aims to achieve a peaceful resolution of the crisis,

pp6 Noting the deployment of the League of Arab States’ observer mission, commending its efforts, regretting that, due to the escalation in violence, the observer mission was not in a position to monitor the full implementation of the League of Arab States’ Action Plan of 2 November 2011, and noting the subsequent decision of the League of Arab states to suspend the mission,

pp7 Underscoring the importance of ensuring the voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes in safety and with dignity,

pp8 Mindful that stability in Syria is key to peace and stability in the region,

pp9  Noting the announced commitments by the Syrian authorities to reform, and regretting the lack of progress in implementation,

pp10 Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria, emphasizing its intention to resolve the current political crisis in Syria peacefully, and noting that nothing in this resolution authorizes measures under Article 42 of the Charter,

pp11 Welcoming the engagement of the Secretary-General and all diplomatic efforts aimed at addressing the situation, and noting in this regard the offer of the Russian Federation to host a meeting in Moscow, in consultation with the League of Arab States,

1.Condemns the continued widespread and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities, such as the use of force against civilians, arbitrary executions, killing and persecution of protestors and members of the media, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, interference with access to medical treatment, torture, sexual violence, and ill-treatment, including against children;

2. Demands that the Syrian government immediately put an end to all human rights violations and attacks against those exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, protect its population, fully comply with its obligations under applicable international law and fully implement the Human Rights Council resolutions S-16/1, S-17/1, S-18/1 and the General Assembly resolution A/RES/66/176;

3. Condemns all violence, irrespective of where it comes from, and in this regard demands that all parties in Syria, including armed groups, immediately stop all violence or reprisals, including attacks against State institutions, in accordance with the League of Arab States’ initiative;

4. Recalls that all those responsible for human rights violations, including acts of violence, must be held accountable;

5. Demands that the Syrian government, in accordance with the Plan of Action of the League of Arab States of 2 November 2011 and its decision of 22 January 2012, without delay:

(a) cease all violence and protect its population;

(b) release all persons detained arbitrarily due to the recent incidents;

(c) withdraw all Syrian military and armed forces from cities and towns, and return them to their original home barracks;

(d) guarantee the freedom of peaceful demonstrations;

(e) allow full and unhindered access and movement for all relevant League of Arab States’ institutions and Arab and international media in all parts of Syria to determine the truth about the situation on the ground and monitor the incidents taking place; and

(f) allow full and unhindered access to the League of Arab States’ observer mission;

6. Calls for an inclusive Syrian-led political process conducted in an environment free from violence, fear, intimidation and extremism, and aimed at effectively addressing the legitimate aspirations and concerns of Syria’s people, without prejudging the outcome;

7. Fully supports in this regard the League of Arab States’ 22 January 2012 decision to facilitate a Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, plural political system, in which citizens are equal regardless of their affiliations or ethnicities or beliefs, including through commencing a serious political dialogue between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition under the League of Arab States’ auspices, in accordance with the timetable set out by the League of Arab States;

8. Encourages the League of Arab States to continue its efforts in cooperation with all Syrian stakeholders;

9. Calls upon the Syrian authorities, in the event of a resumption of the observer mission, to cooperate fully with the League of Arab States’ observer mission, in accordance with the League of Arabs States’ Protocol of 19 December 2011, including through granting full and unhindered access and freedom of movement to the observers, facilitating the entry of technical equipment necessary for the mission, guaranteeing the mission’s right to interview, freely or in private, any individual and guaranteeing also not to punish, harass, or retaliate against, any person who has cooperated with the mission;

10. Stresses the need for all to provide all necessary assistance to the mission in accordance with the League of Arab States’ Protocol of 19 December 2011 and its decision of 22 January 2012;

11. Demands that the Syrian authorities cooperate fully with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and with the Commission of Inquiry dispatched by the Human Rights Council, including by granting it full and unimpeded access to the country;

12. Calls upon the Syrian authorities to allow safe and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance in order to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid to persons in need of assistance;

13. Welcomes the Secretary-General’s efforts to provide support to the League of Arab States, including its observer mission, in promoting a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis;

14. Requests the Secretary General to report on the implementation of this resolution, in consultation with the League of Arab States, within 21 days after its adoption and to report every 30 days thereafter;

15. Decides to review implementation of this resolution within 21 days and, in the event of non-compliance, to consider further measures;

16. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.

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UN flag flies at half-mast at New York HQ on day of Kim Jong il’s funeral, Dec. 28, 2011 The 1947 UN flag code dictates that the flag flies at half-mast the day after the death of a head of state of a UN member state or on the day of the official funeral (and that […]

Iran’s Letter to UN chief Ban on US Drone

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

No. 1396                                                                                                                      
8 December 2011

Excellency,

Upon instructions from my Government, I have the honor to draw your kind attention to the provocative and covert operations against the Islamic Republic of Iran by the United States Government, which have increased and intensified in recent months.

In the continuation of such trend, recently, an American RQ-170 unmanned spy plane, bearing a specific serial number, violated Iran ‘s air space. This plane flied 250 Kilometers deep into Iranian territory up to the northern region of the city of Tabas , where it faced prompt and forceful action by the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

This is not the only act of aggression and covert operation by the United States against the Islamic Republic of Iran. In the past, the Iranian Government lodged its strong protests against similar acts by submitting several Notes including Notes No. 164440 dated 29 October 2008 and No. 268483 dated 11 February 2009 to the Government of the United States .

My Government emphasizes that this blatant and unprovoked air violation by the United States Government is tantamount to an act of hostility against the Islamic Republic of Iran in clear contravention of international law, in particular, the basic tenets of the United Nations Charter. The Iranian Government expresses its strong protest over these violations and acts of aggression and warns against the destructive consequences of the recurrence of such acts. The Islamic Republic of Iran reserves its legitimate rights to take all necessary measures to protect its national sovereignty.

My Government, hereby, calls for the condemnation of such acts of aggression and requests for clear and effective measures to be taken to put an end to these dangerous and unlawful acts in line with the United Nations’ responsibilities to maintain international and regional peace and security, in accordance with the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter.

I am sending identical letters to the President of the General Assembly and the President of the Security Council. It would be appreciated if this letter could be circulated as a document of the General Assembly under the agenda item 83 and of the Security Council.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Mohammad Khazaee
Ambassador
Permanent Representative

H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon
Secretary-General of the United Nations
New York

cc: H.E. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin
President of Security Council
United Nations, New York

cc: H.E. Mr. Nasser A. Al-Nasser
President of General Assembly
United Nations, New York

Could the election of five new U.N. Security Council members help the Palestinians?

The U.N. General Assembly will elect five new members to two-year terms on the Security Council in a vote on October 21 that could have implications for the Palestinian bid to become a full member of the United Nations.

For the Palestinians to get that, they need nine yes votes on the 15-nation council—and no veto from any of the permanent five members—to move on to a vote in the 193-member assembly where they’re guaranteed to prevail. The U.S. will veto the council measure but getting nine Security Council votes in support would represent an important moral victory for the Palestinians.

The membership bid was submitted on September 23 and is currently under review by a council committee. It’s widely accepted that a vote will not take place while other developments are ongoing in the region, namely the Quartet’s proposal to get direct talks underway on October 23 in Jordan, so the vote could be delayed until next year.

As it stands, six of the current council members support the Palestinian bid—permanent members China and Russia—and non-permanent members Brazil, India, Lebanon and South Africa, while three are considered swing votes—Bosnia, Gabon and Nigeria.

Of the nine above countries, five will end their terms on the council at the end of the year—Bosnia, Brazil, Gabon, Lebanon and Nigeria.

Togo will replace one of the African countries per an established agreement while Mauritania and Morocco will battle it out for the North African (or Arab) seat—both of these countries support the membership bid, assuring the Palestinians of one more yes vote. The situation is unclear with Togo. They have recognized the State of Palestine but, as with Gabon and Nigeria, will probably play a wait-and-see approach.

Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan are vying for Lebanon’s seat, both would vote for the Palestinians so no change there.

Guatemala, running on a clean slate, will replace Brazil on the council. The Central American country has not recognized Palestine and is an ally of the U.S., and is thus likely to abstain in any vote—one vote lost.

There’s some real competition for the Eastern European seat with Hungary, Slovenia and Azerbaijan battling it out to replace Bosnia. One of the two EU countries—Hungary or Slovenia—is likely to win out, and would presumably join the four other EU council members in abstaining.

So one gain and one loss for the Palestinians if the vote extends to the New Year. Plus ca’ change…

(Here’s a list of current Security Council members.)

George Soros Sympathizes With Anti-Wall Street Protesters

Billionaire philanthropist George Soros on Monday said he sympathizes with the anti-Wall Street protesters because of the way the government handled the bank bailouts.

Soros, speaking at the U.N. where he was announcing a $47 million gift to development projects in Africa, was asked for his view of the protesters who have entered Day 15 of their Occupy Wall Street campaign.

“Actually I can understand their sentiments, frankly, because there are a lot of people, for instance, running small businesses that saw their credit card charges being raised from 8 percent to 28 percent,” he said. “They were relying on that credit to run their businesses—a lot of them actually were put out of business.”

“At the same time, the decision not to inject capital into the banks, but to effectively relieve them of their bad assets and then allow them to earn their way out of a hole, gave the banks bumber profits and that allowed them to pay bumper bonuses,” Soros added.

The decision not to inject capital into the banks also caused a credit crunch depriving small business owners of credit lines and loans to pay salaries and expand their businesses. And while there’s been an uptick in lending recently, according to the FDIC’s latest report, there’s actually been a decrease in loans to small businesses, according to the report.

There are some 140,000 small business owners in New York City, according to Crain’s New York Business, almost half of them foreign born.