A Shock for the Ages

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The news from Nepal this weekend could hardly be more dire.   As aftershocks continue to buffer the regions around Katmandu, the remaining fine lines separating survival and death disappear for many.

For Global Action, there are many reasons to pause and mourn, including friends working in Nepal’s disarmament, development, health and religious sectors.   We have experienced large earthquakes elsewhere.   There is simply no way to prepare for devastation that seemingly comes out of nowhere and undermines what little remains of our confidence in a predictable world.

But even more, one of our board members and most trusted advisors, Christina Madden just returned from an extended visit to Nepal. Christina, who serves as Executive Director of Himalayan Health Care, had just concluded a long trek with medical personnel and others committed to the health and economic well-being of Nepal’s many underserved rural communities.   Her tales of hope from those places were compelling and inspiring.

Even before the full benefit of her experiences had sunk in, this shock for the ages.

Global Action will do what we can to support Himalayan Health Care in its efforts to leverage medical care and economic opportunity.  The needs now are on a scale that could never have been imagined just a few short days ago.

For more information on Himalayan Health Care, click here.

Respecting Indigenous Youth and Elders

tayub4The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues returned to the United Nations this week.   Under the leadership of Megan Davis of Australia (Chair) the Forumunpfii_logo examined its own working methods, issued calls for more state attention to the promotion of indigenous rights, urged creation of indicators to more effectively measure social and economic progress of indigenous peoples, and discussed strategies to address disturbing statistics regarding self-harm and suicide by indigenous youth.

In addition to the extraordinary sounds and color of offered by indigenous representatives, DSG Eliasson struck a high note,  highlighting the urgent need to promote “peace with nature” in line with indigenous teaching.  There were also calls from Guatemala and other states for more education and mental health resources for indigenous youth as well as efforts to address the discrimination, poverty and environmental degradation that contribute to increases in youth suicide.

As our own small contribution to this important process, we were honored to have in our office Tayub Uddin, a Rohingya human rights activist and Vice President of the Democracy and Human Rights Party in Myanmar.  While in New York, Tayub connected with government and civil society representatives regarding recent political and human rights developments in Myanmar ahead of next November’s general elections.  He was interviewed at length in our office by documentary filmmaker Krista Hund.

For the opening remarks by the Deputy Secretary General, HE Jan Eliasson, click here.
For the concept note on Youth, Self-Harm and Suicide, click here.
For more on Rohingya rights, click here.
For an analysis of important issues affecting Indigenous Peoples by the UN Secretariat, click here.

Linking Security and Development in the Post-2015 Agenda

webinar-600 On March 12, 2015 GAPW was joined by Ms. Maritza Chan of the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the United Nations and students and faculty of Instituto Mora in Mexico,DF for a webinar that explored the ways in which insecurity from illicit weapons, narcotics trafficking and an under-developed security sector threatens the full implementation of development priorities.

The webinar was the first in a series of events to promote “Linking Security and Development in the post-2015 Agenda,” soon to be released by Instituto Mora.  The book owes its existence to the steady guidance provided by Mora’s Dr. Lucatello Simone. With its blending of Latin American and outside authors, the book attempts to link policy communities committed to peacemaking on the one hand and those who will lead the implementation of post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on the other.

Among the book’s recommendations is the call for more policy attention on the preventive dimensions of the SDGs, including the prevention of pandemics such as Ebola, the restriction of flows on illicit weapons before they find their way into the hands of non-state actors or rogue elements, and preserving inclusive access to precious national resources before such resources become a pretext for violence. In these and other instances, more prevention and less reaction from policymakers to the many problems that inhibit development objectives would, the authors believe, be time well spent.

For more information on the webinar, including access to GAPW posts on current security and development issues, click here.

For more information on Instituto Mora, click here.

Examining the Diverse Roles of Media in Violent Conflict: INFOCORE

infocoreGlobal Action was pleased to join the dissemination team for a European Union funded project to examine “the different media roles in the cycle of conflict and peace building.”

While our own role in “Informing Conflict Prevention, Response and Resolution” ( INFOCORE) is modest, the project will provide important insights on how media outlets can exacerbate inclinations to violent conflict as well as assist in conflict prevention or in the reconciliation of former combatants and communities once conflict has ceased.  Given our broad access to UN agencies and diplomatic missions working on a wide range of conflict-related issues, as well as our own media-related efforts at UN headquarters, we believe that we are in a particularly good position to ensure that INFOCORE media-related recommendations will find their way into policy discussions addressing many forms of violence from local discrimination against migrants to the most horrific mass atrocities committed against entire populations.

In one form or other, media outlets cover these and many more instances of violence and abuse, sometimes in constructive ways, other times not.   Sorting out the norms and protocols for a more constructive role for media in violence prevention and reconciliation through comparative research and analysis is the welcome and highly-relevant objective of INFOCORE.

For more information on INFOCORE, please click here.

For access to GAPW’s report on the status of UN media, please click here.

Disarmament Roads More Heavily Traveled

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January 2015| Santiago, Chile

As readers of this space over the years are well aware, GAPW has a longstanding commitment to eliminating nuclear weapons, thus ending the stranglehold of such weapons on the security policies of possessor states.

Our work in this area has been mostly inspired by the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy (LCNP), though we have contributed to discussions on nuclear weapons modernization with Reaching Critical Will, on weapons of mass destruction-free zones with the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL), and on several inter-related security matters. We have also followed with interest recent discussions on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons as well as on an LCNP-supported suit filed with the International Court of Justice by the Marshall Islands whose residents suffered greatly from extensive above-ground nuclear testing in their region during and after WW II.

As we approach another installment of the UN Disarmament Commission in April and a review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty process in May, several states are organizing strategy sessions to look at possible outcomes and obstacles.   One such session occurred recently in Santiago in the country (Chile) currently serving as Security Council president.  The event, “Roads to Nuclear Disarmament:  A Case of Convergence in Diversity,” brought together Chilean diplomats, UN disarmament officials and key policymakers.  LCNP’s John Burroughs was asked to make a presentation at the panel focused on “Humanitarian Approaches to Nuclear Weapons” in which he raises the bar on ‘good faith’ nuclear negotiations.

With guidance from LCNP and other partners, GAPW will continue to weigh in where we can, as states deliberate and negotiate – mostly fitfully – towards a world without nuclear weapons.

For more information on the Chile event, click here.

For access to the paper by LCNP’s John Burroughs, click here.

Registering the Need for Food Security

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December 2014| Limbe, Cameroon

Food security is a large and growing global problem affecting many millions of people, including refugees as well as citizens in states that use food as a weapon to punish dissent.  Recent briefing in the UN Security Council on Syria and the DPRK provided sober, painful reminders of the brutality that accompanies state policies to restrict food access for political, cultural or religious objectives.

Recently in Cameroon, GAPW worked with LUKMEF and other partners to explore options for women farmers who have largely been denied access to personal security and markets for their produce that can increase prosperity for their families and communities.  Open and transparent ‘cooperative registration’ is widely believed to hold the key to greater empowerment for women farmers throughout the region.

LUKMEF’s efforts notwithstanding, challenges in securing ‘cooperative registration’ have been considerable. Government ‘cooperation’ with registation has been elusive at best.  The struggle for local food security through collective bargaining, purchasing, etc.,will remain a priority for some time to come.

Despite frustrations with registration, we personally witnessed some extraordinary efforts to improve food security and nutrition in local communities, including fish farming and women-led farms committed to both training the next generation of farmers and growing a wider range of vegetables to improve local nutrition, boost incomes and increase food security.

One such place was the Young Farmers Training Center in the town of Muyuka where we were treated to a tour of land that is among many farms carefully being transitioned from export crops such as palm and banana to crops such as okra, tomato and sweet squash more suitable for healthy, local consumption.

At the end of our tour of the Training Center, the women broke into a thankful chant to honor the ‘wonder of vegetables.’  In this season of abundance for so many in the west, we surely have chants of our own that we would do well to utter.

For more information on ‘cooperative registration’ for agricultural workers in Cameroon, click here.

A Fresh Voice on UNEPS and RtoP

November 2014| Sydney, Australia

Global Action is pleased to endorse the latest analysis by Dr. Annie Herro of prospects for a UN Emergency Peace Service (UNEPS), a standing, gender and service integrated, rapid-response capacity that can help the international community respond early and effectively to outbreaks of mass atrocity violence.

Regional ‘rapid response’ capacities are in various stages of development through the African Union and with the European Union’s “Battlegroups.”   These and other iterations are prompted by the view, more and more widespread, that our responses to threats of violence against civilians come too late to either mediate disputes or to address violent outbreaks in their earliest stages.

Dr. Herro has a long relationship with GAPW and has authored other works on UNEPS with Kavitha Suthanthiraraj, formerly International Coordinator of GAPW. Their work looks beyond the technical details of a UNEPS to discuss how important norms — in this case the necessity of early and timely response — is affected by a number of factors including the political savvy and trustworthiness of the norms’ caretakers.  The book concludes that because the UNEPS proposal is intricately linked to the UN, trust in the world organisation and its leadership is also an essential ingredient in generating support for the idea. Herro urges us to ensure that the values and priorities of a wide range of stakeholders are represented while undertaking any potentially controversial proposal such as UNEPS is alleged to be by some UN member states.

GAPW, under the leadership of Dr. Trudy Fraser and Dr. David Curran, has also prepared a series of essays on rapid reaction peacekeeping that will soon be released by the German publisher Springer.  Dr. Herro also contributed to this volume.

It should be noted that GAPW’s work on UNEPS was supported for many years by The Simons Foundation in Canada, for which we remain grateful.

For access to a longer description of the Herro book, click here.

For more information on The Simons Foundation, click here.

Linking Community and Policy in Cameroon

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October 2014| New York, NY

For the past several years, GAPW and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation (LUKMEF) in Limbe, Cameroon have undertaken joint programming on a variety of issues germane to the prevention of armed violence and mass atrocities in Central Africa. Currently we continue to create consultations linking offices in New York and Limbe/Douala while branching out to new civil society constituencies, including women farmers, whose empowerment and skills development can help eliminate prospects for mass atrocity violence in a region that faces a myriad of security challenges. To this effect, LUKMEF and GAPW with $10,000 in financial support from The NEXUS FUND are focusing on three key project areas for collaboration in 2014:

- A project to Prevent gender-based violence in rural communities of Central Africa areas by eliminating the economic vulnerability of women agricultural workers and by increasing their access to markets and other resources
- A project to help ensure equal access to justice for women and cultural minorities in Cameroon making good use of the administrative justice system to fight corruption and administrative bottlenecks that too often impede justice and fuel violence
- A project to facilitate more regular, security-focused discussion between military officials and culturally diverse civil society leaders.

An underlying goal in all these activities is the promotion of more community participation in policy and governance issues that can magnify diverse, local voices and  eliminate impunity for the illegal actions of state officials.

As the security situation continues to pose significant challenges in Cameroon and several of its neighbours - specifically Nigeria and Central African Republic - it is critically important for programs based in this region to foster more government-civil society dialogue, more access to justice, more government -sponsored protective measures in rural areas, and more attentiveness to the policy integration of skills and voices from communities across the region. All of these activities make contributions to societies better able to resist any potential descent into mass violence. This NEXUS exchange builds upon and deepens prior work linking our two offices and helps us establish a more robust and permanent relationship.

For more information on LUKMEF, click here.

For more information on NEXUS Fund, click here.

Scrutinizing the Security Council’s Thematic Obligations

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September 2014| New York, NY

GAPW has long understood the need to engage a full range of diplomatic and civil society initiatives to increase the accountability and effectiveness of the UN Security Council.  From working methods and the use of the veto to the makeup of permanent and non-permanent membership, we have attempted to stay in creative relationship to a number of reform initiatives, especially the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) group chaired by Switzerland.

As fires rage worldwide, and as more threats to peace and security are identified by the Council (the latest of which are ISIS and the Ebola epidemic), the need to link Council activities, especially in the thematic areas, to a wider range of capacities and preventive initiatives of states, civil society and UN secretariat offices is paramount.  Especially this past summer, the Council has too often seems overwhelmed with crises while sidelining many potential collaborators and neglecting core aspects of the UN’s preventive architecture.

With leadership from Dr. Vesselin Popovski and Dr. Trudy Fraser (our Peace and Security Fellow), GAPW was honored to contribute to “The Security Council as Global Legislator,” published by Routledge.   Melina Lito and Robert Zuber contributed an essay entitled “The Security Council as legislator and norm builder: Impacts on efforts to promote the Women, Peace and Security agenda.” This essay examines themes that have guided our own gender-focused activities.

As noted by Routledge, this volume seeks to reframe discussions of whether the Security Council – in the current composition and working methods – is representative, capable or productive. Rather it assesses whether legislative activity by the Security Council can be beneficial to international peace and security. The authors examine and critique the capacities of the Security Council to address thematic international threats - such as terrorism, weapons proliferations, targeting of civilians, recruitment of child soldiers, piracy – as an alternative to the traditional model of addressing country-specific situations on a case-by-case basis. Ultimately, the book seeks to assess the efficacy of the Security Council as global legislator in terms of complementing the Security Council’s mandate for the primary maintenance of international peace and security with other preventative and norm-setting capacities.

For access to the Popovski/Fraser volume, please click here.

For more on the Security Council discussion on the Ebola crisis, please click here.

Prioritizing Reparations

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August 2014| New York, NY

On a Friday summer morning, the UN organized an extraordinary event focused on The “Guidance Note” of the Secretary-General on Reparations for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence.

The event brought together ambassadors from diplomatic missions and officials from the highest levels of the Secretariat, including Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson, Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo, ASG for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović and Special Representative to the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura.

This is not the first discussion at the UN focused on reparations, but in some ways it was the most satisfying. An earlier iteration of the UN’s growing concern for reparations was organized in part by GAPW’s Melina Lito.

Conference room 6 was packed on the first day of August, and few if any were sorry they made the trip.  The insights were numerous and, in many instances, practical, supporting the Guidance Note’s examination of a range of measures promoted by the UN and implemented by member states to promote access to many forms of reparations, including  ‘restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction,’ and perhaps most importantly ‘guarantees of non-repetition.’

Also of note was SRSG Bangura’s explicit and welcome linkage between sexual violence, stigma and limited economic options for victims.   In far too many instances, she noted, life is significantly better for perpetrators than for their victims. ASG Šimonović highlighted both the forensics challenges in investigating sexual abuse and the still-relevant limitations of state support for victim compensation.  It is, he noted, “never too late” for justice.  DSG Eliasson reinforced the urgent need to address reparations with “passion and compassion.”

Perhaps the most salient point of the day was uttered by Ambassador Lucas of Luxembourg who quoted a woman she met in Guinea to the effect that “before turning the page, we have to read the page.”  It was the consensus of the group that reparations for victims of conflict-related sexual violence, not only cash but health care and employment opportunities, must be on any page that women victimized during conflict will want to read.

For the Guidance Note of the Secretary-General, click here.

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