Registering the Need for Food Security


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


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


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


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.

Mapping Green Spaces Around UN Headquarters


July 2014| New York, NY

On International Justice Day, and as United Nations diplomats work out a final set of sustainable development goals for a new generation, a group of young people from Green Map System and Global Action began the process of creating a ‘Green Map’ of the area surrounding United Nations Headquarters. The young people were joined by a representative of Community Board 6 in Manhattan.

Green Map projects have already been launched in over 700 cities worldwide.   One of those projects, in Geneva, mapped the area around the UN compound there.   The New York UN-area project, while somewhat less ambitious, sends a clear message that environmental awareness and citizen engagement are fundamental to the maintenance of stable, just, peaceful societies in all global regions.

After a brief introduction by Wendy Brawer of Green Map and Benji Shulman of GAPW, participants headed out to explore the greater UN neighbourhood, looking for off-the-grid environmental resources,  neglected green space, organic food options and much more.    Photos and descriptions of local resources and challenges will be uploaded on the Open Green Map platform and the resulting UN district Green map will be able to be ‘refreshed’ by these participants or others, eventually providing a comprehensive and compelling portrait of a broader UN community not normally noted for its healthful green spaces. The map will be important as potential environmental cataloguing tool as the city begins an expected re-zoning process in the area.

GAPW supports the community engaged mapmaking and user-friendly technology that Green Map System has brought to over 60 countries worldwide.   Moreover, while we are grateful for the Farmers Market in Hammarskjöld Park and other local assets, we are mindful of the scarcity of well-maintained environmental assets in a neighbourhood that helps set global policy on climate change and other key sustainability-related issues.greeen-map-gapw3

If you would like to suggest a site for the UN District Green Map please click here or use the Green Map mobile site

Justice Matters


July 2014| New York, NY

July 17 is the designated Day of International Criminal Justice. It marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute (July 17, 1998), which is the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Through its investigations and prosecutions, the ICC seeks to protect people from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.

July 17 unites all those who wish to support justice, promote victims’ rights, and help prevent crimes that threaten the peace, security and well-being of the world.

As many readers know, the ICC is under enormous pressure at present.   Conflicts characterized by gross disregard for human rights are taking place from Syria and Gaza to Central African Republic and Mali.   ICC prosecutors and investigators must respond to Security Council referrals with inadequate budgets and, in cases such as Libya, while working in environments almost completely lacking in security.

Obstacles to the successful work of the Court also come in the form of untimely indictments as well as a growing unwillingness of some states to honor obligations to arrest indicted leaders and turn them over for justice. Indeed, some of these same states are now claiming immunity from lawsuits and potential prosecutions for their Heads of State during their terms.

We can all acknowledge that there is still a long road to walk before the international community can claim that impunity for mass violence has ended.  In the interim, we must together do all that we can to ensure that the ICC and other mechanisms of international justice are as fair, transparent, properly financed and adequately protected as humanly possible.   Justice does, indeed, matter, but as the ICC itself recognizes, it will take more than the actions of one Court to end impunity for the worst of crimes. 10492516_310331262459029_5212975575162716686_n3

For more information and photos related to “Justice Matters,” click here.

International Day in Support of Victims of Torture: The UN Convention against Torture Celebrates 30 Years


June 2014| Paris, France

As noted by our program partner, Paris-based FIACAT, 2014 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment adopted by the United Nations on 10 December 1984.

Since its entry into force on 26 June 1987, 155 States have ratified or acceded to this Convention. Unfortunately, far too many States have still not acceded to this text, and many States Parties still practice torture and mistreatment.

Along with FIACAT and the worldwide movement of ACATs, GAPW urges all States to:

  • Prevent torture by ensuring respect for all human rights, by training government agents, by cooperating with international and regional institutions and by making their populations aware of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment or treatment;
  • Condemn any act of torture by criminalising it in their legislation, by systematically prosecuting those responsible for acts of torture and by fighting against impunity;
  • Support victims of torture and ill-treatment by offering them protection and by putting into place mechanisms for reparation and compensation.

On this day, we also wish to highlight the excellent work of UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, specifically his “Anti-Torture Initiative” at the Washington College of Law at American University.

For more information on FIACAT, click here.

For more information on the Anti-Torture Initiative, click here.

An Outcome Towards Progress on Small Arms

bms-5As many of the readers of this site already know, the toll of death and destruction from small arms — both legal and illegal — has long reached unacceptable levels.

Recently at UN Headquarters, diplomats worldwide gathered to assess the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Lights Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA).  This Fifth Biennial Meeting of States (BMS) was chaired by Amb. Tanin of Afghanistan with support from a competent Bureau as well as from Anthony Simpson (New Zealand) who capably led discussions on the International Tracing Instrument, a major BMS focus.

For one week, diplomats and civil society wrestled with how best to address the dangers of small arms proliferation within a mandate focused on creation of  a consensus outcome document.   The document eventually agreed to on June 20 was by most accounts a compromise that, at its best, reaffirmed broad state support for PoA implementation in all its aspects — international capacity assistance, stockpile management, marking and tracing of weapons, ending diversion of the arms trade, weapons destruction and more.   Nevertheless, some delegations (and GAPW) hoped for more on border control, security sector reform, and reference to development and other core UN functions and agencies.  We also joined with many states hoping for the inclusion of ammunition among the core arms-related concerns.

As much as we were grateful for the outcome document and the consensus it represents, we had also hoped for the sharing of more stories of successful initiatives under the PoA framework.  We have had occasion to know many of these stories, some first hand, and believe that specific examples of successful initiatives can motivate future progress towards eliminating the scourge of small arms in ways that documents simply cannot.

For more information on BMS 5, click here.

For access to all issues of the 2014 Small Arms Monitor, click here.

The UN Greets the World Cup

The UN community is generally abuzz as World Cup 2014 opens on Thursday in Brazil.  Diplomats, UN officials and civil society representatives are now anxiously awaiting the placement of televisions in the North Lawn Building and other settings, allowing the community to get their fill of ‘football’ while simultaneously attempting to solve the security, development and human rights problems of our time.

There have been several ‘football’-related events held at the UN recently co-sponsored by a number of agencies and missions, including UNICEF, Brazil, UNDP, the Netherlands and other members of the Group of Friends of Sport for Development and Peace.  One such event on June 10 focused specifically on “Soccer and Sports for Peace and Development.

ban-and-footballHowever, the highlight event was held in the Hammarskjöld Library on June 9 featuring the Secretary-General, Ambassadors from the 32 countries participating in the World Cup, and local school children.  The SG and Ambassadors were dressed in ‘football’ garb and helped the children make joyful noises in what was a very crowded room.

GAPW supports the sports-peace linkage, though we have also attended enough raucous hockey games and seen enough violent soccer matches on television to realize that the connection is a bit more tenuous than some would imply.   Indeed, we wish that the proposed activities led less to an objective as intangible as ‘peace’ and more to its constitutive parts — reconciliation, self-esteem for youth, conflict resolution for communities and other core objectives.

In a celebrity-driven age, including sports celebrities, sport is just one of the cultural domains that we need to employ thoughtfully and judiciously in the promotion of ’stable and peaceful societies.’  However, at least some of this promotion will likely need to wait until a new football champion is crowned.   Let the games begin.

For information about UNDP’s “Match Against Poverty” initiative, click here.

For more information on the “Soccer and Sports” event, click here.

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