Libya Still Without Vote in UN General Assembly

August 1, 2017 – Libya remains in arrears to the United Nations and will not be allowed vote for the remainder of the General Assembly’s 71st session, which ends next month.

Sudan and Venezuela also had their voting rights suspended this year for non-payment of dues but have since made the necessary payment to put them back in good standing.

Article 19 of the UN Charter states that countries will lose their UNGA vote if their “arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two full years.”

In all, a total of 116 countries have paid their 2017 dues, according to the Committee on Contributions, but noticeably, permanent members France and the United States have yet to pay.

The US typically makes a payment in October when its financial year begins.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Number of Migrants Globally Reaches 244 Million

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Jan. 12, 2016 – The number of people living outside their home countries increased by more than 40 percent since 2000, according to new figures from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Europe hosts 76 million of the world’s 244 million migrants, closely followed by Asia, 75 million, and North America, 54 million.

At the country level, there are 46 million migrants living in the United States, almost a fifth of the global total; followed by Germany and Russia, 12 million each; Saudi Arabia, 10 million; the UK, 10 million; and the UAE, 8 million.

The biggest source country for migrants is India, 16 million; followed by Mexico, 12 million. Other countries with large numbers of citizens living outside their borders are Russia, 11 million; China, 10 million; Bangladesh, 7 million; Pakistan and Ukraine, 6 million.

As a percentage of the total population in Europe and North America, migrants make up 23 percent of Australia’s population; 21 percent in Canada, 17.5 percent in Austria; 17 percent in Sweden; 16 percent in Ireland; 15 percent in Germany; 14.5 percent in the US; and 14 percent in the UK.

The figures are much higher for Gulf countries with migrants making up 88 percent of the UAE’s population; 75 percent in Qatar; 73 percent in Kuwait; 50 percent in Bahrain; 41 percent in Bahrain; and 32 percent in Saudi Arabia. Men make up the majority of migrants in these countries, recruited mostly to work in the energy and construction sectors.

Overall in Asia, there are 44 million male migrants and 32 million female migrants.

Sixty-seven percent of international migrants reside in just 20 countries with nine located in Asia, seven in Europe and two in North America.

Women account for 49 percent of international migrants and the average age for all migrants is 39 with 72 percent of migrants aged between 20 and 64. Just 12 percent of migrants are aged 65 or over with the authors of the report noting that many migrants return to their home country for retirement.

– Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Related: Moving Migration into the Post-2015 Development Agenda

Kosovo Falls Three Votes Short in UNESCO Bid

Kosovo_State_Flag-1
Nov. 9, 2015 –  NATO members Spain and Slovakia were among the countries on Monday that voted against Kosovo’s bid to join UNESCO while the United States and Israel were banned from voting because of non-payment of dues to the organization.

Pristina needed 95 votes for admission to the Paris-based UNESCO but fell three votes short of the target with Balkan neighbors Bosnia among the abstaining countries along with EU members Greece, Poland and Romania.

Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt and Tunisia were also among the countries that abstained.

The BRICS countries all voted against Kosovo’s application as did Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and EU member Cyprus.

Serbia, which vigorously opposed the Kosovo bid, voted for Palestine’s 2012 application to join UNESCO, which may be why Palestine voted against Kosovo’s request.

Cyprus, Spain and Morocco likely voted No because of the situations regarding Northern Cyprus, Catalonia and Western Sahara respectively.

The United States stopped its funding to UNESCO after Palestine’s admission, as did Israel.

Iran, Iraq and Ukraine were among the countries that did not attend Monday’s vote.

The recorded vote was 92 in favor, 50 against and 29 abstentions.

Voting NO on Kosovo’s admission to UNESCO: South Africa, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, China, Cyprus, Congo, Cuba, Ecuador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, the Russian Federation, Georgia, Guatemala, Equatorial Guinea, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Morocco, Mauritius, Mozambique, Mexico, Myanmar, Namibia, Nicaragua, Uganda, Palestine, Paraguay, Philippines, Syria, Moldova, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Lao, People’s Democratic Republic (North) Korea, Serbia, Slovakia, South Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

Voting YES for admission of Kosovo to UNESCO: Afghanistan, Albania, Germany, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, East Timor, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lesotho, Latvia, Liberia, Libya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malaysia, Malawi, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Nauru, Netherlands, Niger, Norway, New Zealand, Oman, Pakistan, Palaos, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Qatar, the Dominican Republic, Tanzania, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Somalia, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Tonga, Turkey, Tuvalu, UAE, United Kingdom, Vanuatu, Yemen.

Abstention countries: Algeria, Bangladesh, Barbuda, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burundi, Cameroon, Comoros, Egypt, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mali, Nepal, Nigeria, Peru, Poland, Central African Republic, Republic of (South) Korea, Romania, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Seychelles, Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Vietnam, Zambia.

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Impunity Fueling Sexual Abuse and Exploitation by UN Peacekeepers

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June 11, 2015 – When UN peacekeepers commit acts of sexual abuse and exploitation, they do so knowing that their crimes have every chance of never being punished.

Under the current system, when a country contributes troops to a peacekeeping mission, it enters into an understanding with the United Nations that it will pursue cases of misconduct by its troops and report back to the UN, but in reality the UN has no way to enforce this and, at present, no way to sanction troop contributing countries (TCCs) who fail to act on cases of misconduct.

As it stands, the UN merely has administrative jurisdiction over its military contingents. Under the Status of Forces Agreement, which the UN negotiates with the the host state, each TCC retains exclusive jurisdiction to prosecute and otherwise discipline its military personnel. This immunity cannot be waived by the Secretary-General since jurisdiction is exclusive to the TCC (the immunity can be waived in the case of UN employees).

Most militaries have a poor record of holding their personnel accountable for violations. In the majority of cases, perpetrators are sent home – sometimes to a state where there is no legislation for sexual crimes or where such crimes are not taken seriously – and no further action is taken.

Similarly, when women give birth to babies fathered by UN peacekeepers, the United Nations policy is to assist the mother in making a claim for financial support but that claim is then forwarded to the troop contributing country for consideration. NGOs have called for the UN to establish a Trust Fund for victims and children who are born to peacekeepers, but no action has been taken on this.

While it’s unlikely that troop contributing countries will cede jurisdiction for their troops, the UN could enforce sanctions on troop contributing countries who fail to act on cases of misconduct such as barring them from future UN missions and garnishing pay of peacekeepers who father children while on duty. What is lacking right now is the will to push through such measures but if the UN is to live up to its promise, the Secretariat, member states and troop contributing countries must all do a lot more to eliminate sexual abuse and exploitation from UN peacekeeping.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Post-2015 Must Address Plight of Poor Urban Mothers and their Children

Child in slum in Kampala, Uganda next to open sewage -  Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Child in slum in Kampala, Uganda next to open sewage – Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

May 8, 2015 – Save the Children says UN member states must make a commitment to tackling inequality in the post-2015 development agenda and in particular the disparities in urban settings where the poorest kids are twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday as the richest.

The organization’s annual State of the World’s Mothers report examined child death rates in cities. And from Delhi to Washington DC, the data showed that the poorest lack access to pre-natal care, skilled birth attendance and proper nutrition resulting in “alarmingly high risks of death,” according to the report released this week.

“We specifically looked at the urban inequities because more and more families are going to cities to have a better life for their families,” Save the Children CEO Carolyn Miles told UN Tribune. But the poor are often confined to slums without access to proper sanitation and clean water supply.

“It really is about inequity and for us it’s about how do you reach those poorest children and more and more of those children are in urban slums,” Miles said.

The report says the post-2015 agenda must set specific targets for improving the wellbeing of urban mothers and children. While generally there has been good progress in reducing child and maternal mortality globally, this is not the case for the urban poor.

Specifically, Save the Children says the post-2015 framework should:

Ensure that all mothers, newborns and children have access to quality essential health services and other basic resources no matter where they live, how wealthy they are, or on the basis of their ethnic identity.

Include an explicit commitment that no target will be considered to have been met unless it has been met for all social and economic groups. This means that the proposed targets for child and newborn mortality should be achieved by all sectors of society within a country, not just at the national level.

Asked what low-cost high-impact interventions work best for tackling hight rates of child mortality in urban settings, Miles explained the work her organization does in community healthcare.

“A big part of what we do in urban settings are these community healthcare programs. They are local people – they could be women or men – who live in those communities and we train them on basic healthcare and we train them on working with mothers during pregnancy and making sure they’re eating the right things as much as possible, they’re going to the clinics for regular checkups, they have a plan for when they give birth for where they’re going to go – they’re not going to have their baby at home – they’re actually going to go to a hospital,” Miles explained.

“Those community health workers are really important and they look after that baby in that first really critical month for newborns,” she added. “You can implement that program for not a lot of money and you can do it in large numbers in urban slums, it’s very effective.”

Besides economic inequities, there are gender inequalities too with more girls than boys dying in their first five years. This is often a result of the prioritizing of boys over girls when it comes to health and nutrition, Miles said.

There are also more poorer women than men living in urban areas due to a number of factors including employment and wage discrimination and an increase in lone-mother households.

It is no surprise then that the report found that countries that come tops for gender equality – the Nordic states – are also the best places to be a mother while countries that rank low on gender equality indexes are at the bottom.

Top Five Countries
1 Norway
2 Finland
3 Iceland
4 Denmark
5 Sweden

Bottom Five Countries
175 Niger
176 Mali
177 Central African Republic
178 Democratic Republic of the Congo
179 Somalia

Source: Save the Children 2015 Mothers’ Index  Rankings

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

NPT Conference to Open With Little Progress Made Since Last Review

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April 24, 2015 – The five-year review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) opens in New York on Monday but little has been accomplished in advancing the objectives of the treaty since the 2010 conference.

That review ended with agreement on a 64-point action plan on disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy as well as agreement to hold a conference in 2012 on the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

A new research publication from Reaching Critical Will states that of the 22 actions related to disarmament in the 2010 Action Plan, only five have seen definite progress as compared to 12 of 23 non-proliferation commitments and 11 of 18 related to nuclear energy.

“It has become clearer than ever during the course of this review cycle that the nuclear-armed states are not willing to fulfill their disarmament obligations or to take on any concrete, time-bound commitments that might assist with meeting their obligations,” the report states.

Meanwhile, the conference on creating a WMD weapons-free-zone in the Middle East, slated to be be held in Finland, never took place due to gaps in the positions of Arab states along with Iran and that of Israel.

Israel remains one of only four countries, along with Pakistan, India and South Sudan, not to have signed the NPT. North Korea was a signatory but has since withdrawn from the treaty. South Africa is the only country to have ever built nuclear weapons and then voluntarily destroyed them, which it did in the early 1990s. Libya abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

As a result of the intransigence of nuclear-weapons states with regard to fulfilling their obligations under the NPT, there is now support for negotiating a legally binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons.

“The 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—to be marked in August 2015—is widely seen as an ‘appropriate milestone’ by which to launch the diplomatic process to negotiate such a treaty,” Reaching Critical Will say in their report.

As it stands, nuclear-weapons states – Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States – possess approximately a combined 15,650 nuclear weapons and are in the process of modernizing their nuclear arsenal, a sure sign that disarmament is a long way off.

The NPT was opened for signatory in 1968 and came into force in 1970. A review conference is held every five years to assess progress. This year’s review conference will run from April 27 – May 22.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Needs Far Outstrip Resources as Syria Donors Prepare to Meet

Syrian Refugee Camp in Iraqi Kurdistan.  (C. McCauley/Wikimedia Commons)

Syrian Refugee Camp in Iraqi Kurdistan. (C. McCauley/Wikimedia Commons)

March 25, 2015 – With the campaign against ISIS dominating headlines from Syria, the United Nations will convene a donors conference on March 31st in Kuwait to raise much needed funds to address the ever-growing humanitarian crisis inside and outside Syria’s borders and to re-ignite awareness of the world’s worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.

More than half of Syria’s population is displaced, some 7 million inside the country and another almost 4 million have fled the country with the majority residing in camps in neighboring Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Jordan.

An $8.5 billion UN appeal was launched at the beginning of the year but only seven percent of the requested funds have been received, with just 23 countries contributing so far in 2015.

Despite the media and donor fatigue, the humanitarian situation in Syria is dire and atrocities continue, including more reports of chemical agents used as weapons. The Security Council this month adopted a resolution condemning the use of weaponized toxic chemicals following the OPCW’s finding “with a high degree of confidence, that chlorine had been used as a weapon in three villages in northern Syria from April to August 2014.”

An estimated one million Syrians have suffered injuries in the past five years, according to Handicap International with tens of thousands of those in need of prosthetic limbs. And a recent report from Physicians for Human Rights said that in the year from March 15, 2014 to Feb. 28, 2015, 162 medical personnel in Syria were killed. There were 82 attacks on medical facilities inside the country, including 32 attacks on 24 facilities using barrel bombs, the report added.

As well as seeking much needed funds, the United Nations will also hope that Western countries will share the burden of hosting Syria’s refugees. So far, only five percent of those who have fled the country have found refuge in EU countries, with the majority finding shelter in Germany and Sweden.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

The Report on Sexual Abuse by UN Troops and Staff That Ban Ki-moon Quashed Now Made Public

Special Event:  United Nations Official Commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Ban Ki-moon speaks at event commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in Nov. 2014 (UN Photo)


March 17, 2015 – When Ban Ki-moon sent his report on “Special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse” in UN missions to the Security Council on March 13, he wrote that “the total number of allegations received (51) is the lowest recorded since special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse were first put in place.”

As part of the UN’s efforts to eliminate sexual exploitation and abuse in UN missions, Ban wrote that “an independent team of experts was appointed to assess how four peacekeeping missions were addressing the challenge.” The independent experts submitted their report to Ban in Nov. 2013 but the UN chief has never made it public.

Contrary to Ban’s statement that allegations are at an all-time low, the independent experts report that, “The UN does not know how serious the problem of SEA [sexual exploitation and abuse] is because the official numbers mask what appears to be significant amounts of underreporting of SEA.”

The independent report was highly critical of how the UN secretariat and troop contributing countries (TCCs) handle SEA allegations against United Nations peacekeepers and civilian staff. It says that the United Nations does not know how serious the problem is; there is extreme caution with regard to the rights of the accused but far less for the accuser; that victims are often paid off for their silence; that a number of allegations that are later classified as “unsubstantiated” by the UN are in fact never fully investigated because the UN lacks the expertise and the will to fully investigate; and that the UN pass the buck to troop contributing countries to investigate even though most allegations are against UN civilian staff.

But Ban’s attempt to quash the report have been undercut by the Aids-Free World NGO who were sent a copy of the independent report by a UN staffer who rightly feared that it would be shelved because of the poor reflection it casts on UN headquarters, TCC’s, and civilian personnel working for UN missions.

A copy of the independent experts report has been sent to UN Tribune along with a public letter from Aids-Free World who declare that the report from the independent experts “should be seen by all the Member States of the United Nations.”

The experts were tasked to investigate sexual exploitation and abuse allegations at UN missions in the DRC, Haiti, South Sudan and Liberia.

The full report is below.

– Denis Fitzgerald 
On Twitter @denisfitz

2013 Expert Team Report

UN Mali Mission Fast Becoming Deadliest Ever for Peacekeepers

MINUSMA troops carry casket of fallen Nigerian peacekeepers killed in Oct. 2014 ambush (UN Photo).

MINUSMA troops carry caskets of fallen Nigerian peacekeepers killed in Oct. 2014 ambush (UN Photo).

March 10, 2015 – The two-year old UN peacekeeping mission in Mail suffered its thirty-sixth fatality through a malicious act over the weekend when a United Nations base was hit by rocket fire on Sunday in an attack that injured another 11 blue helmets along with three civilians.

The killed peacekeeper was the eighteenth from Chad to lose his life serving with MINUSMA, the 12,000-strong mission that was established in April 2013. In addition to the 36 peacekeepers killed in action, another ten have lost their lives through accidents or illness serving in Mali.

Of the 16 current UN peacekeeping missions, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon has suffered the most fatalities since its establishment in 1978 with a total of 308 blue helmets losing their lives since then, with 93 of those killed in action (another 130 more were killed in accidents, according to UN data).

But only one UNIFIL peacekeeper has been killed in action in the past seven years – that was in late January when a Spanish soldier was hit by Israeli artillery fire.

At the current rate of two peacekeeping fatalities per month from attacks on the force, MINUSMA is on track to become the most dangerous mission ever for UN peacekeepers.

Among the other current dangerous missions for blue helmets are Darfur, where 69 troops have been killed in action since 2008, and DRC, where 43 blue helmets have been killed since 2001 in what the UN terms malicious acts.

Congo was the site of the first UN peacekeeping mission with significant military force when ONUC was established in 1960. The mission was in place for five years and the 135 peacekeepers killed in action over that span is the most ever for a blue-helmeted force.

Countries that Have Lost Most Troops Serving with UN Peacekeeping Forces:
1. India – 158
2. Nigeria – 144
3. Pakistan – 137
4. Ghana – 133
5. Bangladesh – 123
6. Canada – 122
7. France – 111
8. UK – 103
9. Ethiopia – 98
10. Ireland – 90

Source
: UN Peacekeeping

– Denis Fitzgeald
On Twitter @denisfitz

UN Rights Official Cites Progress, Setbacks in Death Penalty Abolition

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March 4, 2015 –  A senior UN human rights official on Wednesday said the number of countries that have abolished the death penalty is at a record high but executing countries are increasing the frequency of its use.

UN assistant secretary-general for human rights, Ivan Simonovic, in an address to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, said that some 160 countries have abolished, either legally or in practice, the use of the death penalty.

“In the last six months, the death penalty was abolished in Chad, Fiji and Madagascar,” he said. “However, despite this progress, there remain challenges: while we are seeing movement towards abolishing the death penalty in some countries, elsewhere, we are seeing moves towards its preservation, or even reintroduction.”

Ivanovic told the Council that despite the record number of abolitionist countries the number of states executing and the number of executions increased from 2012 to 2013.

More than 50 countries still retain the death penalty and it was used by 22 countries in 2013, resulting in a 15 percent rise in the number of people executed from 2012. Indonesia, Kuwait, Nigeria and Viet Nam resumed the death penalty in 2013.

In all, some 778 people were executed in 2013, according to Amnesty International, excluding China where the death penalty is regarded as a state secret and reliable figures are not available.

Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia were responsible for more than three-quarters of reported executions while the US remained the only country in the Americas to use the death penalty, with the majority of executions taking place in Texas, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Arizona. Eighteen of the 50 US states have abolished the death penalty.

Ivanovic noted that some countries still retain the death penalty for drug offenses, “with the argument that this harsh punishment is needed for deterrence purposes. However, there is no evidence that the death penalty deters any crime,” he said.

China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Singapore are among the countries that execute persons convicted of drug offenses.

Regionally, Europe and the Americas are tops for death penalty abolition while only eleven of 54 African countries use the death penalty. Sudan is Africa’s leading executioner.

All countries in the Middle East and North Africa retain the death penalty but some countries, such as Algeria, Mauritania and Qatar effectively have a moratorium on its use, while Israel has only ever executed one person, Adolf Eichmann, who was hanged in 1962 for war crimes.

Eight countries have applied the death penalty so far in 2015 with more than 100 of the 192 executions occurring in Iran alone. Of the 192 people executed in the eight countries this year, nine were women.

The other countries where executions have taken place in 2015 are Afghanistan, China, Indonesia, Jordan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz