Development and Disappearances in Central America

el-salvador-20151Thanks to two of our most extraordinary program affiliates, Ms. Marta Benavides and Dr. Virginia Cawagas, GAPW recently completed a successful trip to El Salvador and Costa Rica for teaching, reflection on post-2015 development priorities, and the building of new program partnerships.

There were many highlights and surprisingly few frustrations associated with this trip, although the continuing marginalization of indigenous peoples in the development of policies that directly impact their communities is a source of great sadness.

Among the many highlights in El Salvador was our time with Asociación Pro Búsqueda, a group of mostly young professionals dedicated to investigating incidences of childhood disappearances during the long civil war in that country, as well as facilitating the reunification of hundreds of families.  They are now seeking reparations for some victims through the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

We were also moved by our participation in the commemorative events surrounding the 1980 assassination of Monsignor Romero who has, in light of the recent political tensions in El Salvador, achieved an even more important status as the embodiment of the values and social aspirations that once seemed within reach of all segments of that country’s population.

We then collaborated with the UN-mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica on a course focused on Women, Peace and Security.  We hope to turn this teaching experience into a el-salvador-1deeper,sustainable connection with the students and faculty of U Peace.

It is important for the health and effectiveness of our work that we connect our policy activities at UNHQ whenever possible with the goals, aspirations and contexts of our partners and their constituents throughout the Americas.    The past two weeks only confirmed the wisdom of this priority.

For information on U Peace, click here.

For a review of El Salvador’s post-2015 development priorities, “The Country We Want,” click here.

For information on Asociación Pro Búsqueda, click here.

Panel Discussion Highlights Rule of Law Obligations

5316211The Rule of Law thematic has been on the UN’s agenda frequently this winter with open debates and panel discussions taking place across complementary processes. From the post-2015 development agenda to the work of peacekeeping missions in conflict and post-conflict settings, it seems that there is ample space and opportunity for this issue to be integrated in many important security, human rights and development discussions.

Following up to the Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels, a panel discussion was held on 27 February 2014 focusing on rule of law, peace and security, human rights and development. The Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson provided the introductory remarks and moderated the discussion. In his remarks, he highlighted that “[t]he rule of law, based on human rights, underpins peace and security.” Reflecting on the rule of law at the international level, he highlighted the role of the UN Charter and peaceful settlement of disputes while at the national level, justice and law are important in preventing conflict and mitigating grievances accordingly. Rule of law also makes significant contributions in fostering and promoting economic growth and building strong institutions which are integral to sustainable development and to the well-functioning of societies.

For the complete discussion from Melina Lito click here.

For the UN Webcast on the panel discussion, click here.

For the statement by the Deputy Secretary-General, click here.

Supporting Leadership Development and Dialogue with New Military Leaders

cadetsGlobal Action recently had the honor of welcoming cadets from West Point for a day long reflection on the psychology of war and peace.

The reflection was a component of a West Point Colloquium in Psychology, “Giving Psychology Away,” taught by Colonel Diane Ryan.

The colloquium’s focus is on civic engagement and action learning. Students utilize small groups and individual work to tackle a real-world problem alongside GAPW and other NYC partner organizations. The site visit to GAPW by cadets was intended to assess specific organizational needs and develop a mutually agreed upon final project to adequately address these requirements.  Final presentations will be held during the “West Point Projects Day,” May 1, 2014. GAPW will be present on that day to see what our cohort of cadets was able to come up with.

GAPW, in association with the New York chapter of Women in International Security (WIIS), will also travel to West Point on March 8 to participate in the Corbin Women’s Leadership Summit with the theme of “Beyond the Brass Ceiling: Educating, Inspiring and Empowering for the Future.”   GAPW enjoys a valuable partnership with WIIS on this and other program activities impacting women serving in the security sector.

For more information about the Corbin Summit, click here.

New African Leaders Take Up Conflict-Related Challenges

african-leaders-002-21On February 4, Global Action was honored to facilitate a four hour discussion with diverse African participants in the International Visitors Leadership Program organized by the US Department of State.

These particular visitors, like many others before them, have been recognized as current or potential leaders in government, politics, the media, education, and other fields.  More than 200 current and former Heads of State, 1,500 cabinet-level ministers, and many other distinguished world leaders in government and the private sector have already participated in the Program.  Our group was from Benin, Guinea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville) and Zimbabwe.

The theme for our discussion was conflict – both how to prevent it and how to recover in situations where violence has not been prevented successfully.

In addition to GAPW staff, participants were joined by a diplomat from the Permanent Mission of Guinea-Bissau who talked about efforts in his country to recover from political violence, as well as the need to build capacity among journalists and civil society organizations to help develop national skills and assist the government in fulfilling its complex, post-conflict responsibilities.

Participants particularly stressed the need for Africans to do more on their own behalf, to avoid ‘one size fits all’ solutions, to integrate the skills and aspirations of youth, and to create African narratives through traditional and social media that balance challenges and hopeful opportunities.

Participants received many materials to continue their discussions as well as a promise from Global Action to provide as needed additional policy guidelines and practical suggestions for strengthening local civil society to better identify and address conflict-related threats.

Holocaust Remembrance: Honoring Albanian Heroes


January 27, 2014| United Nations Headquarters

On 27 January 2014, in commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Permanent Mission of Albania to the UN in collaboration with B’Nai B’rith International hosted an event discussing A Community Saved: The Rescue of Jews in Albania. The purpose of the event was to highlight how Albania, a country that was occupied during World War II, became a place of refuge for the Jewish community during the Holocaust.

The event featured introductory remarks from Allan J. Jacobs, President of B’nai B’rith International, Ambassador Ferit Hoxha of the Permanent Mission of Albania to the UN, and presentations from Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi, Johanna Neumann, Majlinda Myrto, and GAPW’s Melina Lito. The presentations provided the historical and political background of the rescues, and stories from survivors and families of rescuers. Speaking in her personal capacity, Melina Lito shared the story of her paternal grandfather, a medical professional, who saved a group of sixty Jewish prisoners from the concentration camp in Prishtina, Kosova by helping them escape to Albania. Overall, many speakers noted that almost 2000 Jews were rescued in Albania and references were made to the religious tolerance, courage, and hospitality of the Albanian people.

The event was moderated by Daniel S. Mariaschin, Executive Vice President of B’nai B’rith International and took place at UN Headquarters.

To watch the event, please visit UN Webcast -


john-dean11Global Action was sad to learn of the passing of Jonathan Dean on the evening of January 15, 2014.

Jonathan was one of three founders of the original Global Action to Prevent War project along with Professor Saul Mendlovitz and Dr. Randall Forsberg.   Among other accomplishments, he was instrumental in producing the GAPW ‘Program Statement,’ an important guiding document in our early years.

His last travel in a GAPW context was all the way to Brisbane, Australia for a 2008 conference co-organized by then board chair, Professor Kevin Clements.

Jonathan, as is widely known, was a seminal figure in US arms control policy.  Among his many professional associations were the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Project on Defense Alternatives, the Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies, and the Council for a Livable World.  He also served as US representative to the NATO-Warsaw Pact force reduction negotiations in Vienna during much of the 1970s.

His was a special contribution to maintaining and expanding US leadership within multi-lateral frameworks to promote arms control and disarmament.

For a full obituary for Ambassador Dean, click here.

Narrowing the Gap Separating Catastrophe and Response - 3rd Annual HOPEFOR Conference

November 25, 2013| Punta Cana, Dominican Republic


Punta Cana hosted the 3rd Annual Conference ( on the ‘HOPEFOR’ initiative from 18th-20th November 2013. The HOPEFOR concept came about in 2010 as a Qatar-led initiative to improve the use of military resources and civil defense assets in natural disaster response. Later in the year, the governments of Turkey and the Dominican Republic joined this movement. Together, the three countries took the lead in exploring ways to improve systems of civil-military coordination to support the humanitarian emergency response system of the UN for large-scale natural disasters. This led to General Assembly Resolution 65/307 welcoming the HOPEFOR initiative. HOPEFOR, it should be noted, is designed to support existing UN processes, and not be in competition.

What brought HOPEFOR to the attention of the GAPW was its potential to contribute to existing debates on Rapid Reaction and rapid deployment of military and civilian personnel into states beset by mass violence. The world of peacekeeping, peacebuilding, and prevention of mass atrocity crime has obvious differences with the world of natural disaster response. The obvious difference is that in one case the collapse of infrastructure is largely a result of an act of nature; whereas in the other, it is largely due to acts of overt violence. However there are clear similarities. HOPEFOR looks to create processes that better coordinate civilian and military actors to deploy into third countries at a time when host-country structures are fragileor non-existent. There are similarities here with regards to the deployment of peacekeepers into post-conflict environments, when there is an influx of humanitarian agencies, military, and security personnel into areas which may otherwise be bereft of formal security structures.

From GAPW’s vantage point, and given the current tragedy still unfolding in the Philippines, the Conference was particularly timely. Sessions looked to ways of expanding UN member state involvement in HOPEFOR, as well as going into further depth with regards to sharing of best practices and outlining challenges of civil-military coordination in disaster response. Interestingly (and drawing further parallels between natural disaster prevention and conflict prevention), important developments were outlined in preventative frameworks to assist rapid reaction, but also to mitigate the effects of natural disasters on the wider population. This has political implications - the presentation by OCHA noted that the growing gap between rich and poor may also signify a growing gap between those who survive natural disasters, and those who do not.

An over-riding question for those interested in rapid reaction from the peacekeeping/peacebuilding perspective is the question of state acceptance of such forces. Little mention was made of the concept of state sovereignty at the HOPEFOR Conference. However debates on rapidly deployable military and civilian assets in conflict response are often beset by claims of sovereignty, state responsibility, etc. There are a number of possible answers to this challenge. This conference provided us the chance to look deeper at how insights from HOPEFOR might inform other UN and regional response frameworks.

GAPW will stay as engaged as possible with the HOPEFOR initiative. It demonstrates solidarity from a number of like-minded member states who are on the front lines of the adverse effects of climate change, or which are situated in areas of seismic activity or adverse weather patterns. But HOPEFOR looks to offer something on top of the solidarity which is often expressed at the time of natural disasters. By approaching the question of ‘how’ such solidarity can be transformed into coherent disaster response, HOPEFOR demonstrates a forward thinking approach to saving lives and rebuilding societies that can have positive ramifications for atrocity crimes and other situations in which the UN is expected to respond quickly and effectively.

Highlighting Human Rights Challenges in the Visegrád countries and Neighboring Balkans

November 12, 2013| Budapest, Hungary

Thbudapestcentre2rough the good graces of the Hungarian Foreign Ministry and the Budapest Centre for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities, our office was one of the beneficiaries of some insightful presentations, excellent networking opportunities and generous hospitality. In addition to a number of diplomats representing regional governments in Geneva, New York and in national capitals, the UN itself was ably represented by, among others, Dr. Jennifer Welsh, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect, and Ibrahim Salama, Director of the Human Rights Treaty Branch for OHCHR.  Having UN officials of this caliber in attendance reinforces the notion that the international community is attentive to and supportive of national efforts to build robust and effective human rights mechanisms.

As was noted often during Third Committee deliberations at the UN earlier in the month, all states have human rights deficiencies.  None has achieved perfect compliance with existing frameworks and obligations.  For Hungary, other Visegrád states and their Balkans neighbors, there are a number of issues that will require state vigilance in the years to come – homelessness, domestic violence, discrimination against migrants, hate speech and a revival of Anti-Semitism, among others.

Some of these issues were raised either during the Forum itself or the preceding workshop organized by the Budapest Centre.    The Forum specifically took up themes of sustainable development, freedom of religion, the role of media and treatment of vulnerable groups.   GAPW’s Lia Petridis Maiello presented a paper on the role of European media in addressing the rising tide of discrimination on the continent.   We welcomed the ‘cross over’ nature of the concerns addressed, especially with regard to the human rights dimensions of post-2015 development goals, goals which we believe will only be enhanced through careful and robust adoption of a human rights lens.

We understand that raising issues and addressing them can be quite distinct processes.  For all of us, it is easier to talk through challenges than to walk a determined path of resolution.   We hope very much to stay connected to both the Forum and the Budapest Centre, and we will do what we can to help ensure that Hungary and its neighbors are equipped to make their maximum contribution to the elimination of barriers that impede the full enjoyment of rights by their citizens.

As we look ahead, we see competing trends.   On the one hand, there has been a concerted effort to strengthen the work of the human rights treaty bodies and expand special procedures to cover an even wider range of potential abuses.   At the same time diplomats and advocates are exploring ways that the Responsibility to Protect norm can overcome its structural limitations and make a lasting contribution to the development of effective atrocity crime prevention measures.

But there is also a fog that seemed at one point to be dissipating but now is resurgent.   Domestic violence in the home.  Discrimination against migrants, Jews and others.  Media professionals facing danger while their editors make discriminatory judgments regarding whom to hire and what human rights-related stories are ‘newsworthy.’  Unequal access to services or to the places where policy decisions are made.   Vulnerable people left to cope with their own vulnerabilities.   These trends make citizens and rights advocates uneasy.  Hopefully, governments will also recognize the costs and dangers of not dealing forthrightly with these and other, related problems.   This is not a matter of politics.  It could, however, be a matter of national and regional survival.

We wish to express our thanks again to the Hungarian government and to Gyorgy Tatar and the Budapest Centre.   We in New York need to hear more often from this part of the world.   We hope that when the 7th Forum convenes in Budapest next year that the panelists are able to reflect a good and hopeful blend of problems highlighted and progress made.

Please, find Lia Petridis Maiello’s paper here.

To learn more about the Budapest Centre for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities, please follow this link.

Peacekeeping and Rapid Reaction: Towards the Establishment of Cosmopolitan Capacities for Rapid Deployment

October 7, 2013| Bradford, UK

The Division of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford - October 2013


By David Curran, Melina Lito, Jonathan Gilmore and Catherine Jones

The Division of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford hosted a workshop on 8th July 2013 supported by Global Action to Prevent War and Armed Conflict (GAPW), and the World Federalist Movement Canada, titled “Peacekeeping and Rapid Reaction: Towards the establishment of cosmopolitan capacities for rapid deployment.” The workshop had two main goals. Firstly to chart the theoretical and practical development of peacekeeping operations, incorporating cosmopolitan approaches to international conflict resolution; secondly, to analyse the role of standing, rapid reaction peacekeeping capacities (at national and international levels) as suitable tools for governments, regional organisations and the United Nations.

This report outlines policy considerations which were evident during the discussions. A key theme emergent in the workshop was the requirement for dialogue over a number of areas - such dialogue would focus not just on where current capacities are short, but would also interrogate a range of possible ‘answers’ to capacity challenges. Please click the above image to download the full report.

Responses forthcoming.

The publication is available here.

Assessing UN Media Relations

September 18, 2013| New York, NY


For the past two years GAPW has been developing and establishing the UN-focused media initiative, matching:points. In the shorter term, the initiative is designed to examine the state of UN media coverage and promote more effective cooperation between UN journalists, UN Secretariat departments and UN missions. The longer-term goal is the elevation of the United Nations’ profile based on more intensive media coverage of a wider range of UN stakeholders and policy challenges, mostly communicated via social media and other web-based resources.

matching:points consists of three elements, the first being the production of a brief with recommendations for the UN media community based on a series of interviews with UN correspondents, UN staff, and diplomats from various missions. The brief is supposed to serve as a reminder to the adherence of relatively well known, common and global media standards, rather then the reinvention of an entire, already existing system.

The second component refers to organizing stakeholder meetings based on the recommendations made in the brief.

To date, we have organized events on Obstacles UN-based journalists Encounter during Their Daily Reporting, and How to Cover Disarmament Issues More Effectively. A forthcoming event will focus on The Image of the UN in Central/South American States. Finally the initiative attempts to provide coverage of a wide range of important UN policy discussions that might otherwise remain underreported.

The initiative is directed by Lia Petridis Maiello a European journalist who writes on different UN matters for diplomats and for various international media outlets. She can be reached at

For GAPW’s brief on UN media relations, please click here.

For more information about the project, please click here.

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