Posts Tagged ‘United Nations’

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres: We need the U.S. not to reject its leadership role

June 21, 2017

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the Trump administration on Tuesday that if the United States disengages from many issues confronting the international community it will be replaced — and that won’t be good for America or for the world.

Guterres made clear to reporters at his first press conference here since taking the reins of the United Nations on Jan. 1 that proposed cuts in U.S. funding for the U.N. would be disastrous and create “an unsolvable problem to the management of the U.N.”

But the U.N. chief stressed that he is not afraid to stand up to President Donald Trump, citing his vocal opposition to the U.S. leader’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. He said the mobilization of U.S. business and civil society in support or the climate deal is “a signal of hope that we very much encourage.”

Looking at the array of global crises, Guterres expressed concern that there could be a direct confrontation between the United States and Russia over Syria and urged a de-escalation of the dispute between Washington and Moscow over the U.S. downing of a Syrian jet.

This is very important, he said, “because these kind of incidents can be very dangerous in a conflict situation in which there are so many actors, and in which the situation is so complex on the ground.”

“So, indeed, I am concerned, and I hope that this will not lead to any escalation of the conflict that is already as dramatic as it is,” Guterres said.

The U.N. chief said he has been actively involved in trying to promote “effective mediation” in a large number of global conflicts including South Sudan, Congo, Central African Republic, Syria, Libya and more recently Afghanistan and Cyprus.

“That doesn’t mean that problems are easy to be solved,” he said. “In a world where power relations are unclear and where impunity and unpredictability tend to prevail, what we see is that the capacity of prevention and conflict resolution of the international community as a whole, but also of the U.N. in particular, are today severely limited.

Nonetheless, Guterres said: “I intend to go on very actively engaged in these kind of contacts.”

He reiterated, however, that he thought the most likely successful mediation of the dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries should be regional like the current effort led by Kuwait.

But he said if the United States gets involved in mediation, “that, of course, will be welcome if they are able to do so in an effective way.”

He also said the U.N. has not taken any initiative in mediation of the North Korean nuclear dispute, leaving the effort at the moment to the Security Council.

“We know that there are important talks taking place by different countries that have leverage and influence in relation to the countries in the region,” Guterres said.

The secretary-general, who served as U.N. high commissioner for refugees for 10 years, chose World Refugee Day for the press conference and appealed to all U.N. member states not to refuse entry to those seeking asylum and deserving protection.

He also urged rich countries to do much more to support the 80 percent of the world’s refugees living in the developing world — and to increase the number of refugees they will give new homes to.

The United States is “by far the largest resettlement country in the world” with a “very generous and positive policy,” Guterres said.

But Trump is moving to significantly reduce the number of refugees allowed to enter the United States, even as his bid to temporarily suspend admissions is stalled in the courts. His budget proposal calls for a 25 percent cut in funds for resettling refugees on American soil.

Guterres said he has strongly encouraged the United States “to come back to the levels of resettlement that we witnessed until two or three years ago.”

The secretary-general announced that he plans to visit Washington soon to engage “positively and constructively” with members of Congress on the need for the United States as the largest contributor to U.N. budgets to maintain support for the 193-member world organization.

Asked about a new world order sparked by the Trump administration’s actions, Guterres said: “I believe that if the United States disengages in relation of many aspects of foreign policy and many of international relations, it will be unavoidable that other actors will occupy that space.”

“And I don’t think this is good for the United States and I don’t think this is good for the world,” he said.

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U.N. Chief Warns U.S. of Risks of Rejecting Leadership Role

France, US agree UN draft on anti-jihadist Sahel force

June 20, 2017


© POOL/AFP/File | President Emmanuel Macron visited French troops in northern Mali in May as Paris sought to overcome US reservations about backing an anti-jihadist force in the Sahel

UNITED NATIONS (UNITED STATES) (AFP) – France and the United States have reached agreement on a draft UN resolution that would pave the way for the deployment of a five-nation African military force to fight jihadists in the Sahel region, diplomats said Tuesday.

A vote at the UN Security Council could take place as early as Wednesday on the draft resolution that welcomes the deployment but does not give it full UN authorization, according to the agreed text seen by AFP.

Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — which make up the G5 — agreed in March to set up a special counter-terrorism operation of 5,000 troops for the Sahel region.

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France had requested that the Security Council authorize the force in a first draft text circulated two weeks ago that would have given the G5 troops a UN mandate to “use all necessary means” to combat terrorism, drug trafficking and people smuggling.

The United States however had opposed UN authorization for the force, arguing that it was not legally necessary and that the mandate was too broad and lacking in precision.

The new draft resolution “welcomes the deployment” of the G5 force “with a view to restoring peace and security in the Sahel region” and drops a provision that invoked chapter 7 of the UN charter, which authorizes the use of force.

The United States had argued that a simple statement welcoming the regional force would have been sufficient, but France insisted that a full resolution was needed in line with a request from the African Union.

France carried out a military intervention in Mali in 2013 to drive out jihadist groups, some of which were linked to Al-Qaeda, which had seized key cities in the country’s north.

Although the Islamists have been largely ousted from the north, jihadist groups continue to mount attacks on civilians and UN forces in violence that has engulfed parts of central Mali.


UN to send Congo peacekeepers home over sex abuse claims

June 20, 2017


© Pacome Pabandji, AFP | Peacekeepers with the MINUSCA force patrol the streets of Bangui on October 8, 2014


Latest update : 2017-06-20

More than 600 troops from Congo Republic serving as UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic will be returning home following allegations of sex abuse and other misconduct, UN officials said Monday.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres will announce the withdrawal Tuesday during a news conference at the United Nations, officials told AFP.

The decision follows a report by the UN commander of the MINUSCA force who warned that Brazzaville should either take steps to rein in the troops or be forced to repatriate them.

Lieutenant General Balla Keita of Senegal told UN headquarters that he had sent six letters of blame to the battalion commander already this year over alleged sexual abuse, fuel trafficking and lack of discipline.

The 629 peacekeepers deployed in Berberati, the country’s third-largest city, are Brazzaville’s only contribution to UN peacekeeping.

Last year, 120 troops from the same contingent were sent back following allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation (SEA) involving at least seven victims, six of whom were children.

But following a MINUSCA assessment of the Berberati base in March, Keita said there had been “no improvements in the behavior of the Congolese battalion.”

“The battalion is notorious for SEA misconducts, fuel trafficking and poor discipline,” Keita wrote in a memo sent last month.

“The situation has deteriorated to the point that the battalion is no longer trustable because of poor leadership, lack of discipline, and operational deficiencies,” he added.

The memo and a 66-page UN assessment of the Congolese troops were released by the Code Blue Campaign of non-governmental organizations seeking to expose cases of sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peacekeepers.

Tougher response

The 12,000-strong MINUSCA force has been plagued by a wave of sexual abuse allegations since the mission began in 2014 to help restore stability to the country.

One of Africa’s poorest countries, the Central African Republic descended into bloody sectarian fighting after the 2013 overthrow of longtime leader Francois Bozize.

Former UN chief Ban Ki-moon in 2015 took the rare step of firing the then-head of the peacekeeping force over his handling of dozens of misconduct cases, including the rape of minors.

With sex abuse cases continuing to surface, Guterres vowed to toughen up the response to the damaging allegations when he took the UN helm in January.

UN critics in the United States — many of whom are in the US Congress — have pointed to the mounting cases of misconduct by UN peacekeepers in their campaign to cut funding to UN blue helmets.

In the report to UN headquarters, the force commander said the Congolese contingent showed a “poor display of leadership and military discipline” and failed to maintain basic logistics.

He noted that the unit had only 18 vehicles that were serviceable and that 44 others were awaiting maintenance.

The assessment described the shoddy state of the Berberati camp, with no proper water supply, field toilets and little fencing to restrict access to the site by civilians.


Growing Threat From African Rebels After US Ends Pursuit, UN Says

June 17, 2017

KAMPALA, Uganda — The United Nations is warning of a growing threat from an African rebel group led by one of the world’s most wanted men after the United States and Uganda gave up their pursuit.

The report by the U.N. humanitarian agency says dozens of rebels with the Lord’s Resistance Army briefly kidnapped 61 civilians in northern Congo earlier this month.

The report also says the situation has “gravely deteriorated” in northern Congo’s Garamba National Park since the end of regional military efforts against the LRA.

The U.S. and Uganda earlier this year ended military efforts to eliminate the rebel group and capture leader Joseph Kony, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

The U.S. and Uganda have said the LRA was shrunken and neutralized.

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Joseph Kony

Turkey FM heads to Doha as UN ‘alarmed’ by Gulf crisis

June 14, 2017


© AFP/File / by David Harding | Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks at a news conference in Ankara, on June 5, 2017

DOHA (AFP) – The search for a diplomatic solution to the Gulf crisis intensified Wednesday as Turkey’s top diplomat headed to Qatar while the UN voiced fears over growing humanitarian concerns in the region.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, foreign minister of one of Qatar’s strongest allies, is expected to hold talks with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, on a mission which could also see him travel to regional powerbroker Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi Arabia has the potential and capability to solve this crisis as a wise state and big brother of the region and also as a major actor,” Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Wednesday.

“We aim to involve all actors in this process.”

Riyadh is one of several countries which has imposed a political and economic “blockade” on Qatar, in protest at Doha’s support for Islamist extremist groups as well as over its ties to Shiite Iran.

The move has been backed by nations including Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt and others.

Qatar strongly denies the charges and claims neighbouring countries are trying to interfere with its foreign policy.

Before heading to Doha, Cavusoglu said that “if the programme allows I will also visit Saudi Arabia”, in quotes reported by the Anadolu news agency.

“It is very useful to take into account the opinions and suggestions of Saudi Arabia.”

He added that the situation “was causing great discomfort for everybody” especially during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — who has described the decision by Gulf states to cut political and economic ties with Qatar as “inhumane” — is expected to hold phone talks with US President Donald Trump in the coming days.

In addition, the Turkish president’s spokesman said a trilateral meeting between Ankara, Paris and Doha was planned.

The planned talks follow discussions on Tuesday between Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

– UN ‘alarmed’ –

In Geneva, concern surrounding the humanitarian situation grew Wednesday, with the intervention of the UN human rights chief.

“I am alarmed about the possible impact on many people’s human rights in the wake of the decision by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain to cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, in his first comments on the crisis.

“It is becoming clear that the measures being adopted are overly broad in scope and implementation,” he added.

The decision to isolate Qatar had led to fears that thousands of families in the Gulf would be split apart.

As well as economic and political ties, the Gulf states also ordered Qataris out within 14 days as well as calling home their own citizens.

Amnesty International has warned of “heartbreak and fear” being suffered by ordinary people in the region.

It also accused Saudi Arabia and its allies of “toying with the lives of thousands of Gulf residents”.

Bahrain and the UAE have also banned expressions of sympathy for Qatar.

Manama announced on Wednesday that it had detained a citizen for sympathising with Qatar on social media.

There have also been fears of food shortages in Qatar — so far not realised — and a disruption of imports needed for a number of capital projects in the gas-rich emirate.

Qatar is receiving food deliveries from Turkey, Iran and Morocco among others.

The 2022 World Cup host is also in the middle of building huge capital projects worth an estimated $200 billion-plus, many of which rely on suppliers in the region.

Doha-based airline Qatar Airways has been banned from using the airspace of neighbouring countries since measures were announced on June 5.

However, the carrier said services were largely unaffected by the decision in a statement Wednesday.

“Qatar Airways’ global operations continue to run smoothly, with the vast majority of our network unaffected by the current circumstances,” said chief executive Akbar Al-Baker.

Although the crisis remains a diplomatic one, there have been some fears voiced it could end in a military solution.

Also on Wednesday, Qatar announced it was withdrawing its troops from the Djibouti-Eritrea border.

by David Harding


U.N’s Zeid Warns Gulf States to Respect Rights in Qatar Row

June 14, 2017


JUNE 14, 2017, 8:30 A.M. E.D.T.

GENEVA — The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain appear to be violating people’s human rights by threatening to jail or fine them for expressing sympathy for Qatar, U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein said on Wednesday.

Those states, as well as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, have broken off diplomatic and economic relations with Qatar but must respect citizens’ rights, he said.

“It is becoming clear that the measures being adopted are overly broad in scope and implementation, and have the potential to seriously disrupt the lives of thousands of women, children and men, simply because they belong to one of the nationalities involved in the dispute,” Hussein said in a statement.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. UN Photo -Jean-Marc Ferré.

Netanyahu urges UN to dismantle its Palestinian aid agency

June 11, 2017


© POOL/AFP | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on June 11, 2017


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Sunday for the United Nations to shut down its Palestinian refugee aid agency, saying it was responsible for incitement against the Jewish state.

Netanyahu said he raised the issue during the visit in recent days of Washington’s UN envoy Nicky Haley, who has accused the United Nations of bias against Israel.

“I told her that the time had come for the United Nations to reconsider the continued existence of UNRWA,” his office quoted him as saying, referring to the UN Relief and Welfare Agency.

He said that while millions of other refugees around the world were cared for by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), only the Palestinians have their own body.

“In UNRWA’s institutions, there is a great deal of incitement against Israel,” Netanyahu said during the weekly cabinet meeting.

He also said the agency’s very existence “perpetuates and does not solve the Palestinian refugee problem”.

“Therefore it is time to dismantle UNRWA and merge its parts into the UNHCR,” he added.

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said the agency’s future could not be decided unilaterally.

“UNRWA receives its mandate from the UN General Assembly and only the UN General Assembly, by a majority vote, can change our mandate,” he told AFP, adding that in December the assembly extended the mandate for a further three years.

UNRWA runs hundreds of schools for Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, the occupied West Bank, Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

It also distributes aid and provides teacher training centres, health clinics and social services.

Israel views the agency as biased against it and its Palestinian staff as frequently hostile.

In February, the Jewish state complained the head of the UNRWA staff union in Gaza was politically active in the militant Islamist group Hamas, which rules the coastal strip.

On June 1, UNRWA discovered a section of a Hamas tunnel running under two of its schools in the strip’s Maghazi refugee camp, the agency has said.

Hamas has denied building the Maghazi tunnel, whose discovery drew condemnation from both UNRWA and Israel.

On Friday, Israel sent a letter of protest to the UN Security Council over the matter.

Over the years, Hamas has built a labyrinth of tunnels, some passing under the border into Israel in order to launch attacks.

United Nations Continues To Fight Against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing

June 10, 2017
12:04 AM June 07, 2017

We are about to celebrate the first anniversary of the entry into force of the Food and Agriculture Organization Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), the world’s first binding international treaty aimed at combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing

 Image may contain: sky, ocean, cloud, twilight, outdoor, water and nature

This illegal modality accounts for around one-sixth of all fish caught in the oceans, and constitutes a great public danger as it undermines global efforts to make sure that fish—the world’s most produced, consumed and traded animal protein—are a sustainable resource for global nutrition and food security, as well as for millions of jobs.

The PSMA, which currently has 46 parties including the European Union, marks a sea change both in its legal form and in its practical potential. Under its protocol, foreign fishing vessels must show all required operating licenses, their activity logs, and submit to inspections of their catch. Port authorities are obliged to deny services to vessels in violation of the rules and to report them to other countries, making it harder for illegal operators to offload and sell the fish they catch elsewhere.

The FAO, which brokered the treaty, is also delivering other tools to put an end to IUU fishing. It has a new initiative to improve flag-state compliance, a new set of voluntary guidelines on catch documentation schemes—a passport of sorts without which fish can lose access to markets—and is in the process on creating a transparent and comprehensive global record of fishing vessels. All of these instruments complement the PSMA.

It is noteworthy that the new treaty was in fact enhanced and expanded, not watered down, in its journey from draft text to binding law. That clearly shows how seriously the international community supports a powerful, viable and enduring instrument to end IUU fishing.

Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor, water and nature

Vietnam Coast Guard 8005 vessel allegedly hits a Vietnamese-flagged fishing boat, which had been caught by Indonesian authorities for alleged poaching in Indonesian waters. The boat sinks and Indonesian patrol personnel Gunawan Wibisono guarding it is held hostage by the Vietnamese authorities. (The Jakarta Post/Source) — May 22, 2017

I call upon all nations that have not yet joined the PSMA to become part of it.

As important as it is to make its remit universal, what is more important is making the new rules stick. Implementing the PSMA will require a host of actions, including streamlined cross-border real-time communications systems, national legislative reviews, and skilled inspectors capable of identifying actual fish both by species and likely age, as well as ascertaining whether the gear used to catch them is allowed.

The new rules’ ultimate strength will be determined by the weakest link, so all countries have a stake in making sure that no member lacks the technical capacity to deliver on treaty obligations.

The PSMA explicitly acknowledges that developing countries and small island-states may need assistance in carrying out the monitoring, control, surveillance and compliance tasks that the treaty requires, and all parties have pledged to provide that assistance.

I am confident that many countries will join the United States, Norway and Sweden, which have already confirmed their contribution to this global capacity-building program. Allow me to note that the FAO is already committing substantial resources of its own to this effort.

Ocean governance is evolving quickly, and the FAO has played a central role in steering capture fisheries toward sustainable management. With the PSMA, the international community has produced a powerful, viable and enduring instrument to serve as a basis for effectively combating illegal fishing.

José Graziano da Silva is director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

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FILE photo provided by Filipino fisherman Renato Etac —  A Chinese Coast Guard boat approaches Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Scarborough Shoal has always been part of the Philippines, by international law. China says it is happy to control fishing in the South China Sea. Credit: Renato Etac

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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

Global Peace Index: Philippines Next to Last — Only North Korea “Less Peaceful” — Duterte Government Says “Political slant somewhere”

June 9, 2017
Police round up residents during a police “One Time Big Time” operation in the continuing “War on Drugs” campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte at slum community of Tondo in Manila, Philippines, late Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. Duterte has compared his anti-drug campaign it to Hitler and the Holocaust, saying he would be “happy to slaughter” 3 million addicts. He has since apologized to a Jewish community in the Philippines for the remark. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang casted doubt on independent international survey Global Peace Index (GPI) where the Philippines was on the penultimate spot just above North Korea in the Asia-Pacific region.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that there may be a “political slant somewhere” after the report credited the downfall of the country to the bloody campaign against illegal drugs.

The findings on the Philippines ran counter to apparent aims of the Duterte administration whose political victory last year was on the back of a peace and order platform.

Citing local nationwide surveys, Abella said most Filipinos are satisfied with government performance, which for him suggests that the peace index is not as accurate.

READ: Philippines among ‘least peaceful’ in Global Peace Index

“We are really not that sure where the GPI analyst, who apparently, supposedly a local, is coming from,” the spokesperson said at a televised press briefing on Friday.

The study, however, was conducted by global think tank Institute for Economics and Peace based in Sydney is based on 23 indicators of the violence or fear of violence chosen by a panel of international experts and assisted by other research groups. The level of the Global Peace index’s robustness is similar to the Human Development Index conducted by the United Nations to measure living conditions across the globe.

Without further explaining how the index was built, the Palace official said there a political motive behind it.

“Maybe there is a political slant somewhere, but based on results, based on survey, the Filipino satisfaction is quite high,” Abella said.

The Philippines was ranked at 18 in the region with an overall score of 2.555, while the militant hermit state North Korea recorded 2.967.

“The Philippines’ overall score has deteriorated since new President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016. A bloody war against drugs and crime has been extended nationwide, and is reflected in a deterioration of the country’s Societal Safety and Security indicators,” the report read.

“The extrajudicial killings of alleged criminals, drug mules and users has significantly increased security risks, even for ordinary citizens who could potentially get caught in the crossfire,” it added.

Among the 163 nations, Iceland is the most peaceful followed by New Zealand and Portugal, while the Philippines is at 138th place.

The Global Peace Index is the world’s leading measure of global peacefulness. The report presented the most comprehensive data-driven analysis to-date on trends in peace, its economic value, and how to develop peaceful societies.

US tells UN rights forum to remove ‘chronic anti-Israel bias’

June 6, 2017

The Trump administration gave formal notice on Tuesday that it is reviewing its participation in the U.N. Human Rights Council and called for reforming the body to eliminate its “chronic anti-Israel bias”.

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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. REUTERS

GENEVA: The Trump administration gave formal notice on Tuesday that it is reviewing its participation in the U.N. Human Rights Council and called for reforming the body to eliminate its “chronic anti-Israel bias”.

“The United States is looking carefully at this Council and our participation in it. We see some areas for significant strengthening,” Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the Geneva forum in her first address.

She also called for the Council to address serious human rights violations in Venezuela and for the government of President Nicolas Maduro to give up its seat in the 47-member U.N. forum unless it gets its “house in order”.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, editing by Tom Miles)

Source: Reuters