Latest Panel of Experts Report on Yemen

Screenshot 2017-02-23 at 4.02.17 PM Feb. 23, 2017 – The latest UN Security Council panel of experts report on Yemen states that the Houthi-Saleh alliance is one of convenience and unlikely to last. It also states that the massive air bombardment by Saudi Arabia and its allies has not made a significant impact in dislodging the Houthi-Saleh military alliance holding sway over much of the country. Further, the report states that the panel are investigating the laundering of $84 million in Saleh family funds to a company named Raydan investments over a three-week period in Dec. 2014. A previous report by the panel stated that Saleh was worth $60 billion, amassing $2 billion a year during his 30-year reign of corruption. Earlier this month, the United Nations appealed for $2.1 billion to stave off famine and address the dire humanitarian situation in the country. Only three countries have maintained a diplomatic presence in the capital Saana: Iran, Syria and Russia.

Full report: Panel of Experts Yemen Jan 31 2017

Double Standards, Politics Blight UN’s Children in Conflict Report

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August 2, 2016 – On Tuesday the Security Council discussed Ban Ki-moon’s report on children and armed conflict amid uproar that the Saudi-led coalition were removed from the list despite violations in Yemen.

The coalition were named in the annex of the report when it was released in June (first reported by UN Tribune in May) but after complaints from Riyadh, Ban removed the coalition pending review.

The reaction from NGO’s was fast and furious with Human Rights Watch going so far as releasing a crude cartoon of Ban getting his mouth stuffed with dollars, implying that the Saudis had bought their way off the list.

While the reaction was understandable, Ban was left stranded by both member states and, in particular, the permanent five members of the Security Council –  had he received backing from member states and especially the P5 he could have withstood the Saudi pressure and stuck by his initial report, but none was forthcoming.

The report is now in danger of losing all credibility, and not just over the removal of the Saudi-led coalition. Last year, Ban refused to name Israel in the annex of the report despite the recommendation of his special envoy for children in armed conflict.

And this year, Ban left Ukraine off the report, which covers Jan to Dec 2015. UNICEF has documented the killing and maiming of children in the Ukraine conflict throughout 2015, as well as the recruitment of children by both sides to the conflict, the bombing of schools and hospitals and the use of schools by military forces.

The situation in Ukraine clearly belonged in the report but no mention was made of it because both sides have the support of powerful members of the Security Council, i.e. Russia and the US. And despite the outcry by NGO’s over the Saudi removal from the list, only Watchlist 1612 has specifically highlighted the absence in the report of the situation in Ukraine and called for an end to the report’s double standards.

Absent too from the report are international forces supporting the Syrian government. Russian bombing of hospitals and schools and maiming and killing of children in Syria has been documented by Human Rights Watch but Moscow is not not named in the report.

The US bombing of an MSF hospital in Kunduz is mentioned in the report but it is attributed to nondescript “international forces” despite it being very clearly carried out by US forces.

If the report is to have an impact then UN member states, especially the most powerful, must support the inclusion of all parties that commit any one of the six grave violations even if it means that they themselves – that’s you Russia and the United States – are named as violators.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

UN General Assembly Debate – Day 1 Wrap

Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin at the leaders lunch hosted by Ban Ki-moon (UN Photo)

Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin at a leaders lunch hosted by Ban Ki-moon on Monday (UN Photo)

Sept. 28, 2015 – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the 70th General Debate with a speech in which he called for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court and said that five countries – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Turkey and the United States – are key to finding a solution to the conflict, now in its fifth year, and which has claimed more than 250,000 lives.

Three of those countries – the United States, Russia and Iran – spoke in the morning session with U.S. President Barack Obama telling delegates that the US is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to find a solution but there is ultimately no place for Bashar Al Assad in a future Syrian government. He called for a “managed transition away” from Assad who he held responsible for killing tens of thousands of his own citizens and creating the conditions that led to the emergence of ISIS, who he called “an apocalyptic cult.” Obama said military power alone is not sufficient to resolve the situation in Syria. Preempting criticism from Putin, he said the U.S. learned a “hard lesson” in Iraq and that after the 2011 intervention in Libya, U.S. and other NATO members did not do enough for the country after the killing of Muammar Gaddafi and this had contributed to the collapse of institutions there.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, making his first appearance at the UN in ten years, told the General Assembly that foreign interference in the Middle East and North Africa had lead to the “flagrant destruction of national institutions” and that “nobody cares a bit about human rights, including the right to life.” He said arming opposition forces in Syria only leads to more arms going to, and people joining, ISIS. Putin said it should “be acknowledged” that Assad forces and Kurdish militia are the only ones “truly fighting ISIS.” Russia has been supplying arms to Assad forces and recently moved military logistics equipment into Syria. Putin called for a coalition to fight terrorism “similar to the anti-Hitler coalition” and that the Sept. 30 ministerial Security Council meeting under the Russian presidency is aimed at agreeing on a resolution on coordinating actions on fighting ISIS and other terrorist groups.

Neither Obama nor Putin made any mention of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in their addresses. Nor did either mention the deteriorating situation in Yemen.

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, began his speech by saying mismanagement by Saudi Arabia had led to last week’s Haj tragedy that left more than 800 pilgrims dead, including more than 200 Iranians. He called for an independent investigation and immediate consular access to help identify the bodies. Rouhani said the agreement reached with the E3+3 on Iran’s disputed nuclear program had opened up a “new chapter in Iran’s relations with the world.” He said his country is “prepared to assist in the eradication of terrorism and … are prepared to help bring about democracy in Syria and Yemen.” He blamed U.S. intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan and its support for Israel, which he called the “Zionist regime,” for the current situation in the Middle East. He closed by declaring “ultimate victory will be won by those with good-natured piety.” Iran provides arms and financing for Hezbollah, which is currently fighting in Syria in support of Assad forces. Members of Iran’s Republican Guards are also fighting on Assad’s behalf in Syria. A recent UN Security Council report stated that an Iranian vessel had delivered 180 tons of arms to a Yemen port under Houthi control.

In the afternoon, Obama held a leaders summit on peacekeeping and said some 50 countries had pledged to contribute an additional 30,000 troops to current and future peace operations. He added that the US would double the number of military advisers serving in UN peacekeeping operations. In a separate memo, Obama said he would not relinquish command over any troops deployed to UN peace operations. The US currently has 78 personnel deployed in UN missions. The total number of current peacekeepers deployed in 16 missions is more than 106,000. The U.S. is the biggest financial contributor to peacekeeping operations – assessed at 28 percent of the more than $8 billion annual budget.

China’s President Xi Jingpin said his country would provide 8,000 troops to a UN peacekeeping standby force as well as providing $100 million to the African Union for peacekeeping operations. Beijing, which is the largest troop contributor among the permanent five members of the Security Council, will also take the lead in establishing a standing UN police force.

Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, said his country – currently the fourth largest troop contributor with more than 7,500 Pakistanis deployed in blue-helmet operations – vowed continuing support for peacekeeping, including pledging additional utility helicopters, an infantry battalion, and a canine unit. He said UN peacekeeping should not be used for counter-terrorism operations.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the summit that troop contributing countries do not have a role in the decision-making process to form a peacekeeping operation. He also said troop contributing countries lack representation in senior management posts and as force commanders. India, which UN insiders say covets the top peacekeeping job currently held by France, is the third biggest troop contributor, and has served in 48 of 69 peacekeeping mission and lost 161 troops. Modi pledged an additional 850 troops for new operations as well as three police units. In closing, he called for reform of the Security Council to keep the UN relevant.

Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi spoke of his country’s contributions to peacekeeping, which includes heading the UN mission in Lebanon, a 10,000-strong force. He proposed establishing a peacekeeping unit that would be tasked with preserving cultural heritage.

Among the some 50 countries also speaking was the Netherlands. The country’s prime minister, Mark Rutte, announced that the current deployment of 450 Dutch troops with MINUSMA in Mali would be extended by one year. He also said the Netherlands, in conjunction with the U.S., is devising a training program for peacekeepers on protection of civilians. The country is still grappling with shame over the decision by its troops to handover Bosnian Muslims to Serb forces in 1995 when they were sheltering in a UN compound. A court in the Hague last year found the Netherlands liable for the deaths of 300 Bosnian Muslim men killed in the Srebrenica massacre.

– Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz 

A Ceasefire or Humanitarian Pause: What’s Happening in Yemen?

Airstrike in Sana'a photo: Ibrahem Qasim - Licensed by Creative Commons

Airstrike in Sana’a photo: Ibrahem Qasim – Licensed by Creative Commons

July 25, 2015 – Media reported on Saturday that a five-day ceasefire (Reuters) or humanitarian ceasefire (CNN) was to take hold in Yemen beginning on Sunday between the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels.

The source of the news was a Saudi Press Agency (SPA) report announcing a “humanitarian truce.”

So which is it?

It seems certain from the SPA report that what is planned is not a ceasefire, which would mean both sides have agreed to a longterm cessation of violence in conjunction with a political process to resolve the conflict.

Instead, it appears that the announced five day cessation of hostilities is a humanitarian pause, such as what was planned for earlier this month but which never took hold, and its sole purpose to allow in desperately needed aid supplies.

Here is a useful glossary from UN OCHA on pauses during conflict.
AccessMechanismsWhile the news of a pause to allow the delivery of aid is welcome, and absolutely vital, it seems like none of the parties is committed to a political process to resolve the conflict, and the UN appears unable to negotiate one.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Related Stories:

UN Yemen Appeal Only 15 Percent Funded

Yemen’s Saleh Worth $60 Billion Says UN Sanctions Committee

UN Yemen Aid Appeal Only 15 Percent Funded

Airstrike in Sana'a photo: Ibrahem Qasim - Licensed by Creative Commons

Airstrike in Sana’a, May 2015 – photo: Ibrahem Qasim – Licensed by Creative Commons

July 14, 2015 –  Gulf countries are conspicuous by their absence on the list of donors to the UN’s $1.6 billion humanitarian appeal for Yemen where more than 80 percent of the population are in need of assistance.

The United Arab Emirates is the sole donor among the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), having committed $18 million towards the $284 million received so far, according to information from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs.

More than 3,200 people have been killed and some 16,000 more injured since a Saudi Arabia-led mission to restore the former Yemeni government began in March after an offensive by Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former president Saleh.

The government in Riyadh has pledged $244 million to the UN appeal but has not delivered the funds. Similarly, Kuwait has pledged $100 million but has also not yet committed.

Oman, Qatar and Bahrain have neither pledged nor committed funds to the appeal. With the exception of Oman, all members of the GCC reportedly have fighter jets taking part in the Saudi-led mission while the United States is providing intelligence and logistical support and has speeded up the sale of arms to the coalition.

Also not among the donors to the UN appeal is Iran. A UN Security Council sanctions committee report last month stated that an Iranian vessel delivered 180 tonnes of weapons in March to a Yemen port under Houthi control.

The US is the top donor to the appeal, having committed $75 million, or 26 percent of the funding received to date.

The UN last week declared the situation inside Yemen a Level 3 humanitarian crisis, the highest level. Only three other humanitarian crisis are designated L3 – Iraq, South Sudan and Syria.

More than 3,500 schools have been closed in Yemen and almost 2 million children are out of school, according to the latest humanitarian situation report from OCHA.

An outbreak of dengue fever has reached six governorates and the UN says it needs to preposition cholera kits ahead of an expected outbreak.

There are increasing cases of measles and rubella and a high risk of a polio outbreak, according to OCHA. At least 160 health facilities are affected by a lack of power and shortages of medicines, IV fluids and surgical supplies.

A delivery of 10,000 doses of Oxytocin has been made to the Ministry of Health to assist women in labor, OCHA says.

A humanitarian pause that was due to take hold over the weekend never materialized.

The full list of donors to the UN appeal for Yemen is below.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Yemen aid appeal

UN Rights Council Adopts Resolution Supporting LGBT Rights

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Sept. 26, 2014 – More than half the members of the 47-nation Human Rights Council on Friday supported a resolution that affirms the dignity of all people irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity and condemns acts of violence and discrimination against people based on these grounds.

Twenty-five countries voted for the text while seven abstained and 14 voted against it. The resolution, sponsored by Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay, asks human rights commissioner Zeid Hussein to provide a report to the Council on best practices to overcome discrimination and violence against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

 

Of the 13 African countries on the Council, South Africa was the only one that voted for the resolution while Congo, Sierra Leone and Namibia abstained. Benin did not vote while the nine other countries including Botswana, Algeria, Morocco, Ivory Coast and Kenya voted no.

 

In the Asia group, the Philippines, South Korea, Japan and Vietnam voted for the resolution while India abstained and Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is punishable by death, voted against the text as did Pakistan, Maldives, Kazakhstan, UAE, and Indonesia.

 

All members of the Western Europe group supported the resolution. Russia voted against it while other members of the Eastern European group, including Estonia and Romania, supported the resolution.

“The resolution does not seek to create any new rights but simply affirms the application of existing international standards and law to those who face human rights abuses and violations simply because of who they are and who they love,” said Italy’s representative to the Council on behalf of EU states before the vote.

 

-Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Breakdown of $1.5 Billion Raised at Syria Aid Conference

Feb. 4, 2013 – Thirty-eight countries plus the European Commission pledged more than $1.5 billion in humanitarian aid for Syria at a donors conference in Kuwait last week.

The amounts ranged from $20,000, from Cyprus, to $300 million, by three countries – Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and UAE. 

Japan, $65 million; Finland, $4.5 million; Poland, $500,000; and Botswana $50,000 were among the donors.

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About one-third of the funds raised are targeted for the UN humanitarian response plan for delivering aid inside Syria. That plan requires $519 million from January to June 2013 to assist 2.5 million Syrians. More than 50 percent of hospitals inside Syria have been damaged and about one-third are out of service. The National Hospital in Damascus has been completely destroyed, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. There are also shortages of food, fuel and medicines. The disbursement of aid is contingent on donor countries following through on their pledges.

The remaining funds are targeted to assist the ever growing number of refugees in neighboring countries. The number of Syrians who have fled to neighboring countries currently exceeds 750,000, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

At least 60,000 people have been killed in Syria since March 2011 when the government started using lethal force to suppress anti-government protests.

Denis Fitzgerald

57 Countries Urge UN Security Council to Refer Syria to ICC

Jan. 14, 2013 – Switzerland, on behalf of 57 countries, on Monday sent a letter to the president of the Security Council urging the 15-nation body to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

Among the signers of the letter were permanent Council members Britain and France as well as non-permanent members Australia, Luxembourg and South Korea. 

Libya and Tunisia were the only Arab countries to sign the letter.

China and Russia, not surprisingly, did not sign on to the letter but neither did Sweden, the United States and current non-permanent Council member Argentina. 

The letter was sent the same day the International Rescue Committee released a report detailing “horrific levels” of sexual violence recounted by refugees who’ve fled Syria in the past 22 months. 

-Denis Fitzgerald 

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Record One Billion Tourists in 2012: UN

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A record 1 billion people visited other countries in 2012, a more than 50% increase from the amount of people who traveled abroad in 2000. (The figures in the chart above also show numbers for 1970 (166 million), and 1950, (25 million) source: UNWTO.

Jan. 10, 2013 – There were more than one billion tourists in 2012, according to figures from the UN World Tourism Organization, more than double the amount of tourists in 2000 when 435 million people traveled abroad.

Europe was the destination for more than half the tourists last year and was also where more than half the world’s tourists came from. Asia accounted for about 225 million tourist arrivals, the Americas next at some 160 million, followed by Africa and the Middle East which each received more than 50 million tourists last year, according to projected data.

France had the highest number of tourists in the world in 2012 with about 85 million visitors, followed by the US with some 65 million, China, 60 million, Spain, 58 million, and Italy, about 48 million. Smaller European countries showed strong growth too with Ireland receiving close to 8 million tourists and Finland, 4.5 million.

Outside of the US, Mexico had the highest number of tourists in the Americas with close to 24 million visitors, followed by Argentina, about 6 million, Brazil, 5.5 million and Chile, more than 3 million.

South Africa was the top destination for the African continent, receiving almost 10 million visitors last year followed by Morocco with about 9.5 million.

In the Middle East, Egypt witnessed an estimated 32% increase in tourists from 2011, with some 10 million people visiting last year. Saudi Arabia had the highest number of visitors in the region in 2021, with about 18 million arrivals. Syria, not surprisingly, is projected to record a 40% reduction in tourists in 2012 with about 5 million people estimated to have visited the country last year.

The WTO says tourism accounts for one of 12 jobs globally and for about 9 percent of global GDP.

Denis Fitzgerald

$11.8bln Donated to UN Aid Appeals in 2012 – EU, US Top Givers

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The UN’s top aid official, Valerie Amos, meets child refugees in Kabul, May 2012 (photo: UN Photo/Fardin Waezi)

Jan. 6, 2013 – Almost $12bln was donated to UN aid appeals last year with the European Union and the United States contributing more than half that amount.

The European Union (European Commission + 27 Member States) was the largest donor providing $4.9bln while the U.S. was the largest individual donor providing $3.1bln to humanitarian aid appeals in 2012.

A breakdown of the EU number shows that the European Commission – the legislative arm of the EU – donated $1.8bln to UN aid appeals last year while member states provided just over $3bln. The biggest member state donors were Britain ($809mln) and Sweden ($684mln).

Non-EU members Norway and Switzerland donated $493mln and $324mln respectively.

Outside of Europe and the US, Japan was the largest provider of aid to the UN, donating $658mln last year, followed by Canada who gave $496mln, and Australia, $296mln.

Among emerging donors, Brazil provided $54mln to UN humanitarian relief in 2012 while the UAE gave $43mln, Russia, $39mln, China $27mln, and Saudi Arabia $27mln. BRICS countries combined contributed $126mln last year with South Africa giving 3.5mln and India $2.7mln..

The Republic of South Sudan ($792mln), Somalia ($676mln), and Sudan ($588mln) were the biggest recipients of UN aid in 2012.

A tally of the top donors is here.

Denis Fitzgerald