The UN’s Poor Record on Gender Equality

The eight UN secretaries-general.

The eight UN secretaries-general.

March 7, 2014 – The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) convenes at the UN’s New York headquarters next week for its annual review of progress the world is making toward gender equality and it will do so in a building where few women are appointed to senior positions and among member states who are often indifferent to women’s rights.

Only 19 of the 108 personal and special representatives, envoys and advisors appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon are women. There’s also never been a female secretary-general and the heads of peacekeeping and political affairs have always been men.

The Security Council’s adoption of Resolution 1325 in October 2000, the first to address the impact of armed violence on women, called for the participation of women in peace processes, the prevention of violence against women and the protection of women and children during armed conflict. But its application has been uneven, with a greater emphasis on the protection of women and children and far less on its other two pillars.

“Yes, we need to have women protected but just the protection aspect leaves women as victims. Women should be negotiators,” Carolyn Stephenson, Professor of Political Science at the University of Hawaii, told UN Tribune. “The emphasis of the resolution was equal but in terms of success, the success has been more on the protection. Women need to be protected. Then there’s the ‘women and children’ – one word – are to be protected. Well women and children are very different.”

“It is certainly easier to talk about protecting women than advocating for their participation, in peace negotiations, for example. It fits in well with the popular representation of women as a vulnerable group – women can be outsiders whose protection hinges upon the interest, will and resources of the powers-that-be,” said Soumita Basu, Professor of International Relations at the South Asian University in Delhi, India, in an interview with UN Tribune. “It is harder to open up spaces for greater participation of women within the system, or even more radically, talk about conflict prevention in ways that would challenge the status quo-ist nature of politics that sustains the UNSC.”

According to research conducted by UN Women, of 31 major peace processes between 1992 and 2011, only 4 per cent of signatories, 2.4 per cent of chief mediators, 3.7 percent of witnesses and nine percent of negotiators were women.

The theme of this year’s CSW is achievements and challenges of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls. The challenges outweigh the achievements, according to a draft of the outcome document. One positive is that gender parity has been achieved in primary school education, but women are underrepresented in second and third-level education. It also says there are an unacceptably high number of maternal deaths, that the number of women living with HIV, malaria and other infectious diseases is increasing globally since 2001, and that the target for safe sanitation will not be met, with serious implications for women and girls.

Moreover, it says that “several critical gender equality issues were not covered by the MDGs such as violence against women and girls, women’s disproportionate share of unpaid care work, women’s equal access to assets and productive resources, the gender wage gap, women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights and women’s equal participation at all levels of decision-making.”

These are the shortcomings that UN member states and Ban Ki-moon’s panel advising him on the post-2015 agenda will have to address in devising goals to succeed the MDGs in September 2015. Ultimately, it is the 193 member states that has to approve the post-2015 goals.

“Understandably, much of the UN’s work depends on the contributions of its member states and the lack of political will when it comes to women’s issues is widely recognized,” Soumita Basu says. “In spite of this, the women’s agenda has made many important advances since 1945,” she says, citing Resolution 1325 and the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

“To move forward with this, it is important that the UN takes more seriously the notion that people are central to its work and that women – in all their diversity – are an integral part of this constituency.”

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Russia Isolated in UNSC Over Ukraine Incursion

Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin at UN Security Council Meeting, Marc 3, 2014 (UN Photo/Evan Schneider)

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin Addresses Security Council Meeting, March 3, 2014 (UN Photo/Evan Schneider)

March 3, 2014 – Russia received no support for its takeover of the Crimea region in Ukraine at an emergency meeting of the Security Council on Monday.

On his way to the Council chamber, Moscow’s UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin, told reporters that he requested the meeting “to explain in considerably more detail” his country’s actions in Ukraine.

He told the 15-nation body that troops were there to protect Russian citizens and compatriots and the that the actions of Russia were “fully appropriate and legitimate.”

Churkin also read a letter from ousted president Viktor Yanukovych requesting Moscow’s help in restoring law and order. He added that Russia was “defending the most important right, the right to life.”

When her turn came to speak, US envoy Samantha Power said listening to her Russian colleague, “you would think Russia was the rapid response arm of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.”

“Russia has every right to wish that events in Ukraine had turned out differently, but it does not have the right to express that unhappiness by using military force or by trying to convince the world community that up is down and black is white,” she said.

In response to the letter from Yanukovych, Britain’s UN envoy, Mark Lyall-Grant, said Yanukovych had “abandoned his office, his capital and his country” and his pronouncements carried no legitimacy.

Nigeria UN ambassador, Joy Ugwu, reminded parties to the Budapest Convention -Ukraine, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States – that they are required to meet in a time of crisis. No such meeting has yet taken place.

Even Russia’s ally China offered no support for Moscow’s incursion into Crimea with Amb. Liu Jieyi telling the Council that Beijing “believes in non-interference in the internal affairs of a country.” He added that China is closely following events in Ukraine.

Kiev’s envoy, Yuryi Sergeyev, told the Council that there are now an estimated 16,000 Russian troops in Crimea. He earlier sent a letter to all UN missions outlining Russia’s actions in his country.

This was the third emergency meeting of the Council on Ukraine in the past four days but other than offering up a heated debate, there is little it can do to address a crisis involving one of its permanent members other than to convince Russia to agree to a joint UN-OSCE mediation mission.

Churkin said he supported the visit of Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson to Ukraine – Eliasson travelled to Kiev yesterday – but he could not speak about “my country’s position on the OSCE because I am ambassador to the UN.”

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Ukraine Envoy to UNSC: Russia Violating Budapest Memorandum

Ukraine's UN Ambassadir, Yuriy Sergeyev, speaking at an emergency meeting of the Security Council, March 1, 2014.

Ukraine’s UN Ambassador, Yuriy Sergeyev, speaking at an emergency meeting of the Security Council, March 1, 2014.

March 1, 2014 – Russia is violating the 1994 agreement it made with Ukraine when the former Soviet state abolished its nuclear weapons program, Kiev’s UN ambassador told an emergency meeting of the Security Council on Saturday.

“The Russian Federation doesn’t comply with its obligations as state guarantor of Ukraine under Budapest Memorandum which obliges Russia as well as other permanent members of the Security Council to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity of Ukraine.” Amb. Yuriy Sergeyev said.

In recognition of Ukraine joining the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Russia, Britain and the United States agreed under the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and not launch aggressive actions against the country.

US President Barack Obama also told his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, that Moscow’s takeover of the Crimea region violates the agreement while William Hague invoked the agreement earlier on Saturday when he tweeted that the UK supported Ukraine’s request for an urgent meeting of the Council.

Russia’s UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, made no mention of the text in his remarks to the Council, instead saying Russian troops were invited to the pro-Moscow region and he blamed EU officials for meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs.

Speaking to reporters later, this month’s president, Luxembourg’s Amb. Sylvie Lucas, said the Council will continue discussions on a US proposal to send a mediation team consisting of UN and OSCE officials to Crimea.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s envoy to Ukraine, Robert Serry, had planned to visit Crimea on Saturday but after speaking with officials there, he said the visit was “not possible.” Serry is scheduled to brief Ban in Geneva on Sunday.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

UN Report on a Changing Al Qaeda

Crowd Fleeing After Attack on Westgate Mall, Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 2013 (image/ wikimedia)

Crowd Fleeing After Attack on Westgate Mall, Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 2013 (image/wikimedia)

Feb. 26, 2014 – Al Qaeda’s new leaders are younger, there is growing support for the group in sub-Saharan Africa, and it has become adept at exploiting gaps in governance to launch attacks and find new spaces to operate.

The latest report from the Security Council’s Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee also says that the influence of Ayman al-Zawahiri is rapidly waning and Al Qaeda affiliates mostly ignore his operational instructions.

The new leaders of Al Qaeda affiliates are in their late 30s and 40s whereas previous leaders ranged in age from the late 40s to 70s.

“Growing
sub-Saharan African support for the Al-Qaeda ideology is one of the most significant trends to watch,” the report states, noting that the The Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO)  recruits from the Songhai and Fulani tribes. It also notes “the involvement of sub-Saharan and West Africans in recent attacks in Algeria and the Niger.”

Al Qaeda and its affiliates have increasing capacity to take advantage of internal conflicts, as in Yemen and Syria, as well as becoming adept at exploiting gaps in governance in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq. The Tibesti Mountains, on the borders between Chad and Libya, are a venue for terrorist training, the report says, and Mount Chaambi in Tunisia, on the border with Algeria, has also become a refuge for terrorists.

Payment of ransom to Al Qaeda and its affiliates is a main source of financing with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) receiving $120 million between 2011 and 2013, the report says. “A total of 1,283 kidnappings motivated by terrorism were reported in 2012, and a single hostage could deliver a seven-figure ransom into the hands of terrorists.”

Improvised explosive devices are the primary weapon of choice for Al Qaeda affiliates. “These remain a versatile and dangerous weapon and the principal cause of civilian casualties in many terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda affiliates.”

The full report is here.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Security Council Unite on Syria Humanitarian Aid Resolution

84780a3cd21f9493455d646179c5d3c9
Feb. 22, 2014 –  The Security Council on Saturday voted unanimously to adopt Resolution 2139 which demands unhindered access for humanitarian relief operations in Syria.

It specifically demands that the Syrian government allow aid delivery across international borders, a move which Australia’s UN envoy, Gary Quinlan, a co-sponsor of the resolution, said will allow humanitarian agencies to urgently provide assistance to more than one million people.

Luxembourg’s UN ambassador, Sylvie Lucas, another co-sponsor, said the implementation of the resolution will be “closely monitored by the Council.”

“We will see the first report from the secretary-general in 30 days and then every 30 days thereafter. This means that individuals and entities who are obstructing will be able to be held accountable. It also means that in the case of non-compliance there will be a trigger for further Council action.”

Najib Ghadbian, the opposition Syrian Coalition representative to the UN, said the Council must be ready to back up its threat of further action if the Syrian government does not comply.

“Failing that, we urge responsible nations to work with humanitarian agencies to deliver aid directly across Syria’s borders even without the consent of the regime,” he said in a statement. “The overwhelming humanitarian need and the strong international consensus to alleviate it provide all the legal justification that is required.”

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

(Image courtesy of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent)

 

UNSC Draft Syria Resolution Demands Unhindered Humanitarian Access

Destruction in Homs (source: wikimedia)

Destruction in Homs (source: wikimedia)

Feb. 21, 2014 – The draft UN Security Council resolution to be voted on Saturday morning calls for a lifting of the sieges on the Old City of Homs, Yarmouk, Eastern Ghouta and Darayya.

It also demands that all parties allow unhindered access to humanitarian agencies “including across conflict lines and across borders.”

It demands that all parties respect the principle of medical neutrality and calls for the immediate demilitarization of medical facilities.

The draft asks Ban Ki-moon to report to the Council 30 days after the resolution is adopted and “expresses its intent to take further steps in the case of non-compliance.”

Russia is understood to be sympathetic to the draft but it is not clear if Moscow will abstain or vote for the text.

The United States, United Kingdom, South Korea and Lithuania have expressed their intention to join Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg as co-sponsors of the draft, according to a Council diplomat. Other states will likely follow before tomorrow morning.

A copy of the draft resolution is below.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Syria Humanitarian Draft Resolution

Early UNSC Challenge for Newcomers Jordan and Lithuania, a Female Presidency Three-Peat and World Cup Draw Produces Council Battles

image

Jordan’s FM Nasser Judeh congratulated following his country’s election to a two-year term on the Security Council. (UN Photo/Amanda Voisard)

Dec. 6, 2013 – Jordan’s election to a two-year term on the Security Council on Friday sees them with less than a month to get ready to assume the council’s presidency on January 1 when the Hashemite Kingdom, filling the spot vacated by Saudi Arabia in October, takes over the alphabetically rotating mantle from current holders France.

Jordan’s UN ambassador, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad, served with the United Nations Protection Force in the former Yugoslavia in the mid-1990s and was also a candidate for secretary-general in 2006.

Lithuania, the first Baltic country to be elected to a non-permanent seat on the 15-nation body, take over the reins on February 1.

The country’s UN ambassador, Raimonda Murmokaite, will preside over the beginning of an unprecedented three-month span when the council will be headed by female ambassadors. Her presidency will be followed by that of Luxembourg’s Sylvie Lucas in March who will be succeeded by Nigeria’s Joy Ugwu in April. Two other current council members are represented by female ambassadors, permanent member United States, represented by Samantha Power, and non-permanent member Argentina, represented by Maria Perceval.

Meanwhile, the 2014 World Cup draw on Friday saw eight current council members, along with the UK’s England, discover their fate in the group stages of the Brazil-hosted finals which begins in June. Non-permanent members Australia and Chile will battle in out in Group B alongside powerhouses Spain and the Netherlands, who contested the 2010 final.

Group F sees fellow non-permanent council members Argentina and Nigeria up against Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina, the latter are also both on the Security Council’s agenda.

Russia finds itself pitted against another non-permanent member, South Korea in Group H, along with Algeria and Belgium. England face Costa Rica, Italy and Uruguay in Group D, while France are up against Ecuador, Honduras and Switzerland in Group E and Group G sees the US face Germany, Ghana and Portugal.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Libya Case Provides Lessons for OPCW Inspectors in Syria

image

OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü speaks to reporters after announcement that the organisation had won the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize (photo/opcw)

Oct 11, 2013 – When Libya joined the Chemical Weapons Convention in January 2004, Muammar Gaddafi declared to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) that the country possessed some 1,400 tonnes of chemical agents and precursor chemicals, more than 3,500 chemical weapons munitions, as well as three production facilities.

Almost ten years later, two of the production facilities have been demolished, the third one converted to produce pharmaceuticals, while the declared munitions have been flattened by bulldozers – but only about half the stockpile of chemical agents and precursor chemicals have been destroyed, according to the OPCW.  

That makes the proposed mid-2014 deadline for the newly minted Nobel Peace Prize winners to verify the destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal seem ambitious at the very least – the Assad regime is reported to possess about 1,000 tonnes of agents and precursor chemicals.

And something else that the Hague-based organization is sure to keep in mind as it tackles the Syria operation is that Gaddafi lied to the OPCW in 2004 and it was only after his downfall that the new government in Tripoli in November 2011 discovered previously undeclared stockpiles. 

There’s little reason to trust Assad’s declarations at this stage – just days before admitting his regime possessed chemical weapons, he denied that it possessed those same weapons.

But the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) includes a mechanism whereby any state party can initiate a challenge inspection if it suspects non-compliance by another member. This is where the UN Security Council comes into play. Resolution 2118, adopted on Sept. 27, states that OPCW inspectors must have “unfettered access to and the right to inspect, in discharging their functions, any and all sites, and by allowing immediate and unfettered access to individuals that the OPCW has grounds to believe to be of importance for the purpose of its mandate.

Failure to do so calls for a Chapter VII resolution. It would be beyond credibility for Russia or China to veto a resolution that would call on a state party to honor its treaty commitments.

The OPCW has now given Libya until the end of 2016 to complete destruction of its chemical weapons program, after it missed the original April 29, 2012 deadline. CWC members Iraq, Russia and the US have also not yet completed destruction of their chemical arsenal while Angola, Egypt, Israel, Myanmar, North Korea and South Sudan have not joined the treaty.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

UN Lag on Female Peacekeepers

 June 24, 2013 – Less than four percent of the UN’s 90,551 uniformed peacekeepers deployed in 16 missions throughout the world are women, according to the most recent figures available from the Dept. of Peacekeeping Operations.

These numbers came into focus today as the Security Council debated Resolution 1325, passed in 2000 and which calls for women’s full and equal participation in peacemaking and for an end to sexual violence in conflict. According to the resolution, recruiting more female military or police officers is a means of better protecting the safety and rights of women and girls.

In 2009, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a campaign to increase the number of  women peacekeepers to 20 percent in police units by 2014, and to 10 percent in military contingents.

Those targets are nowhere near being met. Women comprise about 10 percent of UN peacekeeping police units (1,251/12,480) and less than 3 percent of the military contingents (2,259/78,091). 

But the UN is hardly to blame for these numbers as it relies on member states to contribute troops for its peacekeeping missions and, globally, women are under-represented in police and army forces.

Just 7 percent of Delhi’s police force are women and 16 percent of the NYPD’s most recent graduating class were women.

On the military side, women make up about 15 percent of active US army service members, while in Norway, which tops many gender equality indexes, only about 10 percent of the country’s military is female. 

– Denis Fitzgerald

(photo: UN Photo/Saw Lwin)       

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 

imageimage