Kosovo Says Seeking UNESCO Membership

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July 22, 2015 – Serbia has vowed to fight any move by Kosovo to join the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci announced on his Facebook page late last week that he expects Pristina’s application to join the organization will be voted on in November though no formal application has been submitted yet, according to UNESCO.

Sapo aplikuam për anëtarësi në UNESCO, agjencionin e OKB për arsim, shkencë dhe kulturë. Ky veprim vjen pas një…

Posted by Hashim Thaçi on Thursday, July 16, 2015

 

The move to join UNESCO, which is responsible for promoting press freedom, defending freedom of expression, and preserving cultural artifacts, is reminiscent of Palestine’s 2011 successful bid to join the organization.

Like Palestine, Kosovo is not a UN member state and veto-wielding Russia is sure to block any future bid, but the country is recognized by 108 United Nations member states. To join UNESCO it will need the support of a simple majority of the Paris-based organization’s 195 member states (besides Palestine, Niue is also UNESCO member but not a UN member state). Palestine’s bid to join UNESCO received 107 votes in support.

As it stands, representatives from Kosovo are allowed speak at UN Security Council meetings on Kosovo but behind a nameplate that lists the speaker’s name, not the country – as it is not a recognized UN member state.

The presidents of Kosovo and Serbia participate in a UNSC meeting, May 27, 2014. (UN Photo)

The presidents of Kosovo and Serbia participate in a UNSC meeting, May 27, 2014. (UN Photo)

Belgrade says an application by Kosovo to join UNESCO violates Resolution 1244 and the move will also likely provoke debate over the protection of Serbian Orthodox churches in Kosovo. Some 150 of these churches were destroyed from 1999-2004 and several more were reportedly destroyed in 2008 unrest.

In 2012, the government of Kosovo announced that it was forming a special police force consisting of Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs to protect Serbian Orthodox churches.

Two of Kosovo’s Orthodox monasteries are on UNESCO’s world heritage list. The monasteries are protected by troops from KFOR, the international security force in Kosovo.

Kosovo has also been fighting for the return of 1,200 artifacts, some dating from the Neolithic period, that it says were appropriated by Belgrade after 1999.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

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UN Tourism Conference Held In Cambodia Where Children are Sold to Vacationers

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Feb. 9, 2015 – A first-ever world tourism and culture conference was held in Cambodia last week as that same country’s record on protecting children came under review by the Child Rights Committee in Geneva.

The conference, organized by the UN World Tourism Organization and UNESCO, concluded on Friday – a day after the UN committee released a blistering report on Cambodia’s compliance with the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

In its report on Thursday, the committee said it “deeply regrets that preventive measures regarding offenses prohibited by the Optional Protocol remain inadequate and fragmentary.”

In particular, the committee said they were concerned about “orphanage tourism, which seems to be a growing phenomenon where children in institutions and orphanages are being exposed to sexual exploitation by foreigners, such as tourists and volunteer workers.”

It also asked the government of Cambodia to revise its laws by “defining and criminalizing all forms of sale of children and child pornography.”

An estimated one-third of prostitutes in Cambodia are under the age of 18 and the country’s laws do not specifically define or prohibit the prostitution of children.

The committee asked Cambodia’s government to push its tourism agencies and travel agents to sign up the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism published by the UNWTO – the same agency that held its inaugural tourism and culture conference in Cambodia last week.

Some 37 percent of the victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in Cambodia are children, according to UNICEF, and up to 30 percent of boys and girls reported experiencing forced sex in their lifetimes.

The UNWTO/UNESCO tourism conference made no note of child sex tourism in its press release following the conference’s conclusion but on Monday it was announced that Carol Bellamy, a former executive-director of UNICEF and New York City councilwoman, had been appointed as chair of the UNWTO child protection network.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Samantha Power Says No to Any Palestinian Push to Join UN Agencies

United States Permanent Representative of Briefs Press on Ukraine
April 2, 2014 – Samantha Power on Wednesday told members of the US Congress that she will firmly oppose any Palestinian bid to join UN and other international agencies and treaties.

The US envoy was speaking before the House Subcommittee that authorizes funds for UN activities on the same day that Palestine’s UN envoy, Riyad Mansour, said his country may seek to join more multilateral organizations including possibly acceding to the International Criminal Court.

“We are fighting every day — on numerous fronts — to end the bias against Israel that has long pervaded the UN system,” Power said in her testimony before the House Subcommittee on Appropriations for State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. “This solemn commitment also extends to our firm opposition to any and all unilateral actions in the international arena, including on Palestinian statehood, that circumvent or prejudge the very outcomes that can only come about through a negotiated settlement.”

On Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced he was submitting applications to join 15 international organizations and treaties. He said the decision to do so was because Israel had not released the final batch of prisoners it agreed to release in a deal made nine months ago.

“When they violated that agreement, we were free to do whatever we feel that we need to do and what we did is legal,” Mansour said at UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday.

Palestine joined UNESCO in October 2011 in a move that was supported 107 of the organization’s member states including Security Council permanent members China, France and Russia. The United Kingdom abstained.

The US Congress immediately froze funds to the organization that supports literacy and free expression. As a result of not paying dues to UNESCO for two consecutive years, the US lost its voting rights in November last year.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

photo: UN Photo/Mark Garten

UN Condemns Attack on Aleppo University

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More than 60,000 people have been killed in the past 22 months in Syria, according to the UN Human Rights Office 

Jan. 16, 2013 – Tuesday’s attack on the University of Aleppo has been condemned by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who said deliberately targeting civilians or civilian institutions is a war crime.

Two explosions struck the university – one of Syria’s biggest – on the first day of exams, reportedly killing more than 80 people, and injuring 160.

“The secretary-general strongly condemns the appalling attack at Aleppo University yesterday, in which scores of people have been reported killed and wounded,” Ban’s office said in a statement Wednesday.

“Deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian targets constitutes a war crime. Such heinous attacks are unacceptable and must stop immediately,” the statement said.  “All combatting parties in Syria must abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law.”

Ban called “for a reflection by all Syrians about the degradation of a conflict that is tearing their nation apart, and stresses the urgent need for a peaceful political solution that ends the violence and meets the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people.”

The head of UNESCO has also condemned the attack.

“It is truly shocking and distressing to see so many young people dedicated to pursuing their education in the midst of strife lose their life to senseless violence,” Director-General Irina Bokova said Wednesday. “This is a dark day indeed for the entire country.” 

Aleppo University is Syria’s oldest institution of science and technology. The university has about 60,000 students. Tuesday’s explosions reportedly struck an area between the university’s halls of residence and the architecture faculty.

– Denis Fitzgerald