R2P: From Promise to Practice

Alex J. Bellamy & Edward C. Luck

Following more than a decade of decline, the incidence of atrocity crimes is again rising. The tide of forcibly displaced populations is at the highest level since the end of the Second World War.  We need to do far better at preventing such horrific crimes and at protecting vulnerable populations.  That is the purpose of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), a set of rules and principles that has advanced far more rapidly in debating halls than in national and international policies and actions. This book is about how to turn the promise of R2P into practice.

As scholars and practitioners, however, we felt that something was missing, that the literature has been incomplete. While the scholarly and analytical work on R2P as a normative innovation and political enterprise has been truly impressive, there has been far less attention to what R2P looks like in practice. Following a decade of normative development and maturation, R2P principles have now been tested in practice for a decade as well.  The principles have reached a settled state, but their practice is still far down the learning curve. We believe, nevertheless, that there is now enough of a track record to begin to offer some rough assessments of what is or is not working. Here are some of our key points.

One. The development of R2P needs to be understood in its historical context.  In these trying times, all human rights and human protection norms are under siege from a volatile mix of cultural and geopolitical forces.  This is a compelling reason to dig deeper and do better, not to retreat into despair or defeatism in the face of adversity.

Two.  As norms are challenged and the ranks of the vulnerable grow, there is a renewed urgency to make R2P principles a living reality.

Three.  This transition to implementation demands a broader understanding of the core concept of responsibility, so that it encompasses individual and group responsibility as well as institutional, national, and international responsibility.  None of the latter will assume their responsibilities unless individuals—inside and outside—make them.

Four.  A decade of applying R2P to crisis situations has underscored that the key to curbing atrocities is making it a policy priority.  When it comes to atrocity prevention and response, trying to make a difference usually does make a difference.

Five.  Practice has also made it abundantly clear that R2P is not—and should not be—the only priority.  It must find its place at the table and in the mix of other legitimate concerns of public policy.

Six.  Though the toughest normative battles have been fought and won, R2P’s development as an international standard has not reached a fully mature stage.  Its acceptance could be both broader and deeper.

Seven.  The strategic and doctrinal development of R2P has been asymmetrical, with conceptual advances made within the United Nations unevenly reflected in national capitals and regional and sub-regional organizations.

Eight.  Experience has demonstrated that the most persistent obstacle to R2P implementation has come from concerns about decision-making sovereignty, not territorial sovereignty. Future debates should be more concerned with competing conceptions of national interest and international responsibilities both within countries under stress and within other countries with the capacity to do more to make a difference when it comes to prevention and protection.

History tells us that the journey from principle to practice is never quick or sure.  It demands persistence as much as intellect, learning from mistakes as well as from successes, and never forgetting where we are going or why we undertook the journey in the first place.   Stepping aside, giving up, looking for easier paths is not an option.  Curbing atrocities is as difficult as it is compelling.  But experience also shows that it can be done.  Those are the core lessons from R2P’s early years.  They offer the promise of stronger institutions, deeper commitments, and better policy in the years ahead.  R2P is just getting started.

For full book details please see here.

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RtoP Weekly: 15 – 19 October 2018

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This week in focus: Fostering inclusion to build resilient societies: How women peacebuilders prevent conflicts and atrocities on the ground 

On 25 October 2018, the UN Security Council (UNSC) will mark the 18th anniversary of UNSC Resolution 1325 on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda. UNSCR 1325 and subsequent resolutions and reviews have taken note that violent conflict and atrocities not only disproportionately affect women and girls, but that women also play a vital role in the implementation and advancement of sustainable peace processes and the strengthening of societal resilience. Despite such significance, more work remains to be done in order to fully realise and effectively make use of the diverse ways in which women’s important contributions can be leveraged at all levels, as women are uniquely positioned to identify otherwise overlooked conflict drivers. Additionally, their inclusion leads to the formulation of more effective prevention mechanisms and their meaningful participation in peace processes has been proven to increase the likelihood of establishing sustainable peace and building more resilient societies.

In this vein, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung New York, the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), working in partnership within the Prevention Up Front (PuF) Alliance, will host a side event to this year’s UNSC open debate on WPS entitled, “Fostering inclusion to build resilient societies: How women peacebuilders prevent conflicts and atrocities on the ground”on 24 October. The event will feature a panel of gender experts working in the fields of conflict and atrocity prevention from around the globe. We look forward to an exciting discussion aimed at addressing the gaps in existing policies and implementation of these agendas, as well as actionable recommendations for ensuring such policies translate into meaningful participation of women in conflict and atrocity prevention.

For more information, please see the event concept note here.

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What to Watch:

Cameroon: Election Body Reviewing Petitions to Cancel Presidential Poll (Voice of America)
Cameroon’s Constitutional Council received 25 petitions calling for the Presidential Election results to be annulled. Opposition candidates, their parties, as well as voters alleged fraud and voter suppression. Conducting their review on 17 October, the Constitutional Council ruled and rejected 16 petitions to void the outcome of the election, stating a failure on behalf of the applicants to lodge their complaints within the 72-hour time frame.

Gaza/Israel: ICC issues harsh warning to Israel of possible war crimes in Gaza (The Jerusalem Post; The Times of Israel)
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a severe warning to Israel over a possible investigation of alleged war crimes in Gaza by Israel and Hamas. Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has released a statement which expressing concern over the continuation of violence, perpetrated by both sides, stressing that if necessary she will take appropriate action within her mandate under the Rome Statute. Bensouda also commented on the planned eviction of the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank, noting that considerable destruction of property without military necessity constitutes a war crime. In response, Israel criticized and raised doubt over the Prosecutor’s impartiality, after she failed to acknowledge a rocket from Gaza that critically damaged a house and nearly killed civilians in Beersheba. In response, Israeli officials instructed the army to intensify its response to violence from Gaza.

Philippines: Philippines Wins New Term on UN Rights Council, Drawing Outrage (The New York Times)
Last Friday, the Philippines was elected for another three year term in the UN Human Rights Council. The outcome was strongly condemned by civil society groups given the human rights violations in the country, calling this move is “unconscionable.” Human Rights Watch said “the Philippines has be undergoing a human rights crisis that could amount to crimes against humanity,” and re-electing the country to the Council undermines  “the body’s credibility and effectiveness.” The Philippines was not the only controversial country elected to the Council: Bahrain, Eritrea, and Somalia were also voted in as members of the council, sparking outrage in the international community.

UN Human Rights Council: 2019-2021 UN Human Rights Council Elections and the Responsibility to Protect (Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect)
After last Friday’s election, 20 out of the 47 Human Rights Council members are also part of the Group of Friends of RtoP. This creates an opportunity for the norm to be further enhanced and upheld by the body over the course of the next two years. ICRtoP Coalition member, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P), created profiles of the newly elected countries to the Council in order to determine their level of commitment to RtoP. 

Yemen: Imminent famine in Yemen (Norwegian Refugee Council; The Guardian)
The Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland, called for a solution to the conflict in Yemen, noting civilians are suffering from the actions of warring parties including alleged state orchestrated starvation due to the restriction of aid access during the country’s famine. Furthermore, sources state that the intensity of the famine is higher than initially estimated, with up to 14 million civilians estimated to be at risk. The UN is calling the situation the most lethal famine in 100 years.


But Also Don’t Miss:

CAR: Central African Republic: Rebels Executing Civilians
Rebels continue to execute civilians with impunity, constituting war crimes. UN Peacekeeping forces have been urged to protect and prevent attacks against civilians.

Gambia: “Dark Days” Over: Gambia Launches Truth, Reconciliation Body
Gambia created a Truth, Reconciliation and Repatriations Commission to investigate the crimes committed by Yahya Jammeh and facilitates a potential prosecution. The ICC welcomed this decision saying it will help move the country forward.

Liberia: Government Hints At Eluding TRC Recommendations – An Attempt To Thwart War Crimes Court?
Local and international groups continue to call for the creation of a war crimes court, but Liberia’s Foreign Minister, Gbehzohngar Findley, said that the decision should be held to referendum, sparking doubt on whether the government will implement the United Nations TRC recommendations by 2020.

Nigeria: Boko Haram Killing of Aid Worker Hauwa Liman is a War Crime
Boko Haram’s murder of aid worker Hauwa Liman constitutes a war crime under international law, according to Amnesty International. The group urged all perpetrators of these and other crimes in the country to be brought to justice.

Syria: Deadline passes for Syria’s Idlib buffer without fighters leaving
Militants failed to meet deadline and withdraw from the buffer zone as agreed between Russia and Turkey, increasing the risk for continued violence and further civilian casualties.

Syria: Syria: Residents Blocked From Returning
Human Rights Watch found that the Syrian government is demolishing homes, preventing displaced persons from returning, possibly amounting to forced displacement and war crimes.


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RtoP Weekly: 8 – 12 October 2018

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This week in focus: the RtoP and Indigenous Peoples

Each year, on or around 12 October, many countries around the world mark the day in which Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas. Spain celebrates the Día de la Hispanidad or Hispanic Day; many Latin American countries celebrate El Día de la Raza or the Day of Race; and the United States celebrates Columbus Day. In recent years, there has been a movement gaining traction in many countries to instead change the name of this day in order to honor the indigenous populations of the Americas, including their cultures, peoples, and histories in light of the grim fate many of the populations faced under centuries of colonial and non-indigenous rule. For example, in Costa Rica, 12 October now marks El Encuentro de Culturas, or the Encounter of Cultures, while some US states now mark Indigenous Peoples Day.

For centuries, many indigenous groups in these areas suffered from what some have argued could be considered ethnic cleansing and/or other atrocities. In this vein, the intersection of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) norm and the role of the international community in protecting populations, including indigenous peoples today, is an interesting topic. This week, as many people around the world mark this day, under any name, we present one author’s view for your consideration.

Please note: The views and opinions expressed reflect those of the author, and not the ICRtoP, nor its members.

In Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Unreported Struggles: Conflict and Peace (2017), Shayna Halliwell examines the RtoP norm in the protection of indigenous peoples, in particular those living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh. Within the text, she outlines the ongoing struggles of indigenous groups in CHT, taking note of both the historical context and the current global political situation. She asserts that despite violent actions alleged against the Bangladeshi military, which violate the government-supported 1991 CHT Peace Accord, a lack of political will and the portrayal of resistance efforts as rebellion has prevented timely and decisive action from being taken by Bangladesh or the international community in order to protect these populations from atrocities.

Halliwell goes on to argue that a paradigm shift in the understanding and recognition of indigenous rights would require the international community to acknowledge and better protect these populations. Part of this, she claims, is appropriately ascribing and recognizing the agency and right to self-determination of indigenous peoples and groups more widely among the international community. This paradigm shift is “an alternative understanding,” Halliwell argues, and “has the opportunity to take hold while the [RtoP] principle is still young” and rooted in the will of victims and civil society to resist persecution and atrocity crimes. The author sees the RtoP principle as being young, malleable, and with a transformation, a viable tool towards addressing human rights, humanitarian, and security situations within the UN’s atrocity prevention approach.

To read Shayna Halliwell’s full chapter, entitled, “The Responsibility to Protect Indigenous Peoples? An Analysis of R2P’s Potential Application in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh,” please click here.


What to Watch:

Cameroon: Cameroon polls close, vote counting begins in key election (The Washington Post)
Cameroonians went to the polls on Sunday, 7 October to cast their ballots for what many anticipate will be another re-election of Paul Biya. Although official election results cannot not be released until a constitutionally mandated two week period has passed, opposition candidate Maurice Kamto claimed an early victory. Violence and instability in the Anglophone regions caused concern prior to the election, and the outcome will inevitably impact the country’s peace and security as well, as evidenced by the demonstrations by young Cameroonians already occurring.

Syria: Syria buffer zone free of heavy arms as militants  face deadline (Arab News)
The deal reached last month between Turkey and Russia to create a demilitarized zone in Idlib, Syria is now cleared of heavy arms, ahead of deadline. However, even though the National Liberation Front (NLF) successfully removed all heavy weapons as agreed, the next step, withdrawing of all militants from the area, will present a more difficult task, according to observers. The agreement states all militants must be removed from the area by next week, including the region’s leading force, Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), many of whom are determined to continue exerting influence in the war.

Yemen: Calls for accountability as Yemen suffers genocide by starvation (Business Day)
Famine in armed conflict has the potential to be prosecuted as a war crime, or a crime against humanity, if it is state orchestrated and used as a weapon of war. The famine in Yemen is referred to as “genocide by starvation,” one of the reasons being Saudi Arabia’s block of the Port of Hodeidah that intentionally disrupted humanitarian aid being delivered to millions of Yemenis. Despite the ongoing conflict, calls are being made for accountability under international humanitarian law.


But Also Don’t Miss:

Burma: Myanmar “Unwilling” to Probe Rohingya Abuse, UN Must Act: Rights Envoy
UN Special Rapporteur to Myanmar stated that the government “is unable to discharge its obligation to conduct credible, thorough, and independent investigations and prosecutions,” urging the UN to refer the situation to the ICC.

China: China legalizes Xinjiang internment camps
China legalized its “re-education camps” for Uighur Muslims after it long denied their existence. Concerns over the alleged human rights violations against the group and calls for the government to halt its campaign continue to intensify.

DRC: In DR Congo, UN Security Council says December polls are ‘historic opportunity’ for country
The UN Security Council’s mission to the DRC focused electoral transparency, but failed to address the issue of creating space for civil society and freedom of political expression prior to December’s elections.

Mali: “Real Climate of Fear and Insecurity in Country’s North And Centre,” Says Expert
The UN Independent Expert on Human Rights in Mali says, “Mali has not fulfilled its sovereign role in protecting property and people and bringing perpetrators of criminal acts to justice,” urging the international community to support Mali to “fulfill its obligation to the protection of people.”

Nigeria: Probe of Rights Abuses in Nigeria Ends Soon, Says ICC
ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, announced that the Court’s preliminary investigation in Nigeria over alleged grave human rights violations is progressing and the investigative team will hopefully come to a determination soon.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Hope in Guinea, Disappointment in Togo, Impunity in Burundi
RtoP in parts of Africa is seemingly stalled with Guinean 2009 massacre victims dissatisfied with the lack of accountability in the country, Togolese disappointed with the failure of transitional justice mechanisms, and Burundians seeing impunity for rights violations.

Sudan: Sudan Call launch campaign against Al Bashir re-election
Opposition parties and armed movements launched “The Sudan Call,” a political campaign with the goal “to topple the regime [of Al-Bashir] and not to arrange any kind of soft landing.”


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RtoP Weekly: 1 – 5 October 2018

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This week in focus: ACT Code of Conduct

The prevention of atrocity crimes is at the core of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP). Although States hold the primary responsibility to protect populations, the international community also has a responsibility to take timely and decisive action, including through the various preventive tools available in order to assist or protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing (“atrocity crimes”). Sadly, due in part to gridlock in the UN Security Council, the international community has failed to uphold its RtoP obligations in many conflicts throughout the world, including most recently in Syria and Myanmar.

In response, the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) Group of UN Member States created an initiative in 2015, a Code of Conduct (CoC), to encourage members and potential members of the UN Security Council to refrain from the use of the veto or voting against resolutions in situations in which atrocities may occur or are ongoing. To date, 117 UN Member States and Permanent Observers have signed on in support of the CoC, including nine Member States currently serving on the Security Council. However, despite this high number of supporters, UNSC inaction remains an obstacle for the international community to fulfill its RtoP.

In this vein, the ICRtoP has released a new backgrounder on the CoC. Please view it here.

To view additional information on the ACT CoC and other veto restraint initiatives, please click here and here.


What to Watch:

Artificial Intelligence, Social Media, and the RtoP: Mapping the Artificial Intelligence, Networked Hate, and Human Rights Landscape (Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies)
ICRtoP Member MIGS has published a report on the use of artificial intelligence in social media regulation, focusing on the role these. As more states look towards imposing regulations on social media companies and platforms, the debate over content removal straddles that of using it to prevent hate speech, but also as a tool for documenting evidence and justice in cases of rights abuses. The report calls on the tech industry and policy makers to narrow the gap between policy, research, and using artificial intelligence as a tool for the protection and promotion of human rights and social good.

Côte d’Ivoire: ICC Prosecutors Urge Judges to Continue Ivory Coast Trial (International Criminal Court)
Former Côte d’Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo requested that the International Criminal Court (ICC) “acquit him of crimes against humanity and to release him after seven years in prison.” His lawyers argued that prosecutors have not been able to prove any of the four charges of crimes against humanity and urged for his immediate release. However, despite his efforts, ICC prosecutors say that “there is evidence upon which any trial chamber acting reasonably could find the accused guilty of the charges” and is strong enough to continue.

Philippines: At least three more communications vs. Duterte filed at ICC – CHR (CNN)
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte admitted that he authorized extrajudicial killings during his administration’s war on drugs, something he had long denied. As a result, many organizations, including ICRtoP Coalition Member Human Rights Watch, claim “should encourage the ICC to review the complaints against the President,” in addition to receiving three new complaints on Duterte’s war on drugs this week. Even though the President withdrew the country from the ICC last March, its withdrawal will not be effective until March 2019, allowing the Court jurisdiction.

Syria: Continued updates on human rights violations in Syria (September) (Syrian Network for Human Rights)
ICRtoP member SNHR has released a report finding that 41 individuals died in September after being tortured by Syrian regime forces. The report notes that the regime is practicing torture systematically, “to extremely brutal degrees.” The Chairman of the SNHR calls for the implementation of the RtoP, as the government continues to fail in protecting its population. In addition to these findings, a second September report found that 687 arbitrary arrests occurred in September, with the Syrian accountable for 87% of them. The report urges the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council to implement its resolutions on enforced disappearances and monitor arbitrary arrests, respectively.


But Also Don’t Miss:

Burma: Myanmar’s Neighbors Urge Accountability For Rohingya Violence
ASEAN foreign ministers called on Burma “to give full mandate to an independent commission of inquiry” for investigating and holding all responsible for the atrocities against the Rohingya accountable.

Burundi: Aid Groups Denounce Burundi’s 3-Month Ban on NGOs
Burundi suspended the work of NGOs for 90 days, imposing new regulations that many call potentially politically and ethnically motivated, but also preventing humanitarian aid deliverance.

DRC: OpEd: UN Security Council visit to DRC opportunity to open up the civic space ahead of December polls
Ahead of the UN Security Council’s visit to the DRC, Amnesty International called on the Council to urge Congolese officials to allow political expression ahead of December’s elections.

DRC: Upsurge in Killings in ‘Ebola Zone’ International Criminal Court Should Investigate Beni Massacres
Human Rights Watch urges the ICC to include the massacres and attacks by armed groups in Beni territory in its investigation, as well as calling on MONUSCO, the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the DRC, to increase its protection of civilians.

Libya:  Libya is a war zone. Why is the EU still sending refugees back there?
The EU continues to send refugees to centers in Tripoli, Libya, despite it being a war zone. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is unable to provide services having no access to its centers.

Mali: More Than 20 Tuaregs Killed In Mali: sources
Armed groups allegedly killed more than 20 Tuareg civilians in Mali as violence continues in the country, in what officials say was a targeted and “well-planned attack.”

Venezuela: Landmark UN Rights Council Resolution
The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on Venezuela, expressing “deep concern about human rights violations” and called for the government to open up to humanitarian assistance.

Venezuela: Statement of the Prosecutor of the ICC, Mrs. Fatou Bensouda, on the referral by a group of six States Parties regarding the situation in Venezuela
ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement on the referral of the situation in Venezuela by Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay, and Peru, saying the Court will continue its preliminary examination to determine if there are grounds for a formal investigation.


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RtoP Weekly: 24 – 28 September 2018

untitledGoing in Depth On: RtoP included once again on the UN General Assembly Agenda

24633289-ecc0-499f-855b-05238fbaff59.pngOn Friday, 21 September 2018, UN Member States voted to adopt the agenda for 73rd session of the UN General Assembly. This included a supplementary item entitled “the responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” with a vote of 93 States in favor, 16 against, and 17 abstentions.

With this move forward, the UN General Assembly will once again hold a formal debate on the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP), ensuring States have the opportunity to further consider the norm and the work of the UN Special Advisers on Genocide Prevention and RtoP, as compared to the informal, interactive dialogue format of previous years. As the 2018 formal debate on RtoP on 25 June and 2 July clearly showed, formal debates allow more time for interventions, increasing the opportunities for increased discussion and a more involved dialogue on the topic, and also provide an opportunity for formal, on-the-record statements and an exchange of ideas and knowledge on preventing atrocities.

The ICRtoP and the Global Centre on the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P) have worked in close coordination in the last weeks to advocate for the inclusion of RtoP on the formal agenda of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly. We welcome this great step forward in the continuation of discussion on RtoP at the United Nations.


What We’ve Been Watching:

Asia Pacific: Youth Summit on Atrocity Prevention (Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect)

ICRtoP Steering Group and Coalition member, the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (APR2P) recently held a conference to train the next generation of leaders in atrocity prevention and RtoP principles. As a result participants “committed to establishing a ‘regional network of youth leaders for atrocity prevention,’ and called for the appointment of a youth focal point in each country within the region to advocate for atrocity prevention and R2P at the local level.” The Youth Summit combines two top priorities of UNSG Guterres: conflict and atrocity prevention and youth involvement.

Gender and Crimes Against Humanity: Will the new crimes against humanity treaty protect women and LGBTI persons? (Open Democracy)

An Op-Ed from Open Democracy argues that the use of an outdated definition of “gender” may not protect all individuals in the new UN draft treaty on Crimes Against Humanity. The treaty language currently matches that in the Rome Statute, which refers to gender in a binary aspect, that individuals are either “male or female.” While scholars, lawyers, and human rights officials at the UN and ICC prosecutors office understand “gender” to be inclusive, there are concerns that some may take advantage of the outdated language, creating a gap in the protection of sexual and gender identity minorities.

Yemen: Human Rights Council Should Stand Firm on Yemen (Human Rights Watch)

Coalition member, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urges the UN Human Rights Council to renew the Group of Experts’ mandate to investigate war crimes in the country. HRW documented numerous abuses committed by Houthi rebel forces including arbitrary detention, taking hostages, enforced disappearances, and torture. HRW also found evidence of detainees being refused medical service. The findings, severity, and extent of the crimes no doubt inform the organization’s platform in continuing to advocate for accountability of all parties in Yemen.


But Also Don’t Miss:

Burma: UK and France Host High-Level Event on the Rohingya Crisis
On Monday, the UK and France conducted a meeting on the Rohingya crisis in Burma, calling for urgent action of the international community, access of the UNDP and the UNHCR in the most severely affected regions, and the implementation of the Rakhine Advisory Commission recommendations.

Burma: UN Human Rights Council Backs Atrocity Victims
The UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution for the creation of a mechanism to prepare cases for prosecution in Burma.

Cameroon: Can Elections Be Held in the Restive Anglophone Regions?
Thousands continue to flee their homes in the Anglophone regions causing concern over the legitimacy of the upcoming Presidential election, with Presidential Candidate Joshua Osih acknowledging, “the problem is the marginalization and injustices thatlead to that secession. The secession will not necessarily solve that problem.”

DRC: Human rights situation and the activities of the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The UN Human Rights Council was briefed on the situation in the DRC, with the importance of OHCHR and MONUSCO working together on early warning and early response with UN Peacekeeping.

The Gambia: A Conversation on Truth and Reconciliation in The Gambia
Decades after atrocity crimes were committed, seeking accountability is still important to Gambians looking to build an inclusive and resilient society.

Libya: Libya ceasefire halts month-long battle in Tripoli
The government announced another ceasefire agreement with armed groups, halting the latest bout of violence that displaced an estimated 25,000 from their homes over the past month.

South Sudan: A new report estimates that more than 380,000 people have died in South Sudan’s civil war
A US Department of State and US Institute for Peace jointly-commissioned study estimates the death toll in South Sudan’s conflict to be upwards of 382,000, placing the scale of the conflict on par with that of Syria.

Venezuela: An Alternative for Venezuela: the International Criminal Court
Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Paraguay, and Canada have asked the ICC to open an investigation into Crimes Against Humanity in Venezuela. This is the first time that States are collectively referring a situation in another country for an ICC investigation.

Yemen: Civilian deaths in Yemen up by 164% as United States recertifies support for the war
The International Rescue Committee reported that civilians continue to suffer in the Yemeni conflict, with death rates increasing 164% over the summer months.


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RtoP Weekly: 17 – 21 September 2018

untitledGoing in Depth On: Burma

The UN Fact-Finding Mission on Burma released its full report this week, in which it detailed the human rights violations, including atrocity crimes, that took place over the course of the past several years. The report, which was presented to the UN Human Rights Council on 18 September, focused mainly on the abuses against the Rohingya population, but also detailed and examined the United Nations’ own response to the human rights situation. Grave breaches of international human rights, including crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide, were detailed, and the Mission concluded that there was evidence enough for the UN Security Council (UNSC) to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In response to the Mission’s presentation, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet asked for the establishment of an independent and impartial international mechanism to prepare criminal proceedings over the violations against the Rohingya, and for the Human Rights Council (HRC) to make a resolution to bring the issue before the General Assembly to “expedite fair and independent trials in national and international courts.” NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, welcomed her announcement and urged the HRC to establish this accountability mechanism and prepare cases for prosecution.

Investigators also critiqued the organization’s own failure to protect the Rohingya. The report noted the failure of UN agencies and actors in implanting its Human Rights Up-Front Approach, finding that personnel trying to take action for implementing a human rights agenda in the country were silenced or criticized for trying to do so. Some UN bodies and staff showed no willingness to cooperate and work together to address the human rights challenges in Burma, which might have prevented the mass atrocity situation faced by the Rohingya. As such, the report asks for a “comprehensive, independent inquiry into the United Nations’ involvement.”

Other international bodies have taken steps to address the atrocity crimes in Burma. With the ICC ruling it has jurisdiction over the alleged forced deportation of Rohingya into Bangladesh, Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor for the ICC, issued a statement announcing the Court would begin a preliminary examination on the matter. This preliminary examination will assess the evidence and information in order to determine whether or not a formal investigation can be opened. As Burma is not a signatory of the Rome Statute, the Court only has jurisdiction over crimes that occurred in Bangladesh.

With the Burmese government and UN agencies beginning to implement their MOU for the repatriation of Rohingya, further attention is also being paid to the current state of affairs in the Rakhine. Returnees allegedly face  harassment if caught by the Border Guard Force. Refugees attempting to visit their homes reported torture and being forced to lie to the press that they were well-treated. Human Rights Watch and the Arakan Project interviewed several men who reported beatings, burning, electric shocks, and cutting, as well as being held in detention in deplorable conditions.

Amidst all the developments and news out of Burma the past few weeks, the discussions and debates over human rights, preventing atrocity crimes, and how to address them are likely to solicit a fair amount of attention at UNGA and side events over the course of the next few weeks.


What We’ve Been Watching:

RtoP and UNGA73:

On 17 August a cross-regional group of nine member states (Afghanistan, Denmark, Guatemala, Japan, Netherlands, Romania, Rwanda, Ukraine and Uruguay) submitted a request for the inclusion of a supplementary item entitled “the responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” (A/73/192) on the UNGA Agenda for the 73rd session. On Wednesday, 19 September, the UN General Committee adopted this suggestion by a vote of 17 to 4, with 5 abstentions. As of the time of writing, no member states called for a vote on the issue. The General Assembly with adopt its new session agenda on 21 September.

Protection of Civilians and International Law: Grey Zones: Is International Law Fit for Purpose to Protect Civilians? (Justice in Conflict)

Mark Lattimer, the Executive Director of the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights, recently published The Grey Zone: Civilian Protection Between Human Rights and the Laws of War examined the question of if international law was adequate in protecting civilians as armed conflicts continue to arise across the globe. As conflicts continue to include non-state actors, “international armed groups,” and often involve civilians, situations arise that international law, such as the Geneva Convention, its Protocols, and human rights treaties “couldn’t have envisioned.” Owing to this grey area, the book argues that we must reframe the question, “rather than identifying gaps in the law, the challenge is to determine which set of laws or legal regimes apply.”

Liberia: At UN, President Should Back Justice (Human Rights Watch)

80 NGOs, including ICRtoP coalition members World Federalist Movement – Institute for Global Policy and Human Rights Watch, released a letter calling on Liberian President George Weah to support justice for mass atrocity crimes committed during the country’s civil war, which ended in 2003. Despite the conflict ending 15 years ago, Liberia has yet to take steps to initiate the prosecution for the widespread crimes against civilians. The timing of this letter is also apt, as a Liberian District Representative and Presidential Candidate, Jeremiah K. Koung, rejected a report calling for the creation of a War and Economic Crimes Court earlier in the week.


But Also Don’t Miss:

Burundi: Burundi threatens to quit UN Human Rights Council, sue critics
After facing growing criticism in the Human Rights Council over its cooperation with the OHCHR Commission of Inquiry, including by High Commissioner Bachelet, the country says it reserves its right to withdraw from the Council.

Cameroon: Violence Continues to Disrupt Life in Many Parts of Cameroon
Clashes between separatists and military forces in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon continue to threaten civilians, causing many to flee their homes.

China: China holds one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps 
The UN reported that in China, one million Uighur Muslims have been displaced to concentration-like camps “for indoctrination”, exposing the risk of a potential ethnic cleansing in the country.

Iraq: Turkey/Iraq: Strikes May Break Laws of War
Turkish military operations against the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) in Iraq should be investigated,  according to Human Rights Watch, as their research found that four operations killed at least seven civilians.

Nicaragua: The ongoing political crisis in Nicaragua is putting populations at risk of potential crimes against humanity (Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect)
The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect warns that the crisis in Nicaragua could result in crimes against humanity, and urges the OAS, the UN, and the national government to work together to ensure accountability.

Nigeria: Flawed Trials of Boko Haram Suspects (Human Rights Watch)
Human Rights Watch said that the process of prosecuting Boko Haram members in Nigeria is showing many “legal shortcomings,” and that authorities are failing to prioritize those who have committed atrocities.

South Sudan: South Sudanese government must bring soldiers under control, urges UN mission chief, as peacekeeper is shot and injured
Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), David Shearer, spoke critically of the South Sudanese government and military officials after the fatal shooting of a UN Peacekeeper, and blamed a lack of command and control following the peace deal.

South Sudan: South Sudan war crimes: UN calling for forming hybrid court
The UN Human Rights Council called on the government of South Sudan to establish a hybrid-tribunal to try for crimes of ethnic cleansing, sexual violence, and use of child soldiers.

Syria: Agreement over buffer zone to spare civilians in Syria’s Idlib welcomed by top UN officials
Turkey and Russia agreed to establish a demilitarized zone in Idlib, Syria, in order to protect civilians in the area. UNSG Guterres commended the agreement and urged warring parties to allow for safe humanitarian access throughout the country.

Venezuela: Joint statement by UNHCR and IOM on the appointment of Mr. Eduardo Stein, as a Joint Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants in the region
UNHCR and IOM announced the appointment of Mr. Stein, as a Joint Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, who will promote coordination among all stakeholders and a regional approach to the migration crisis among governments.

Yemen: Saudi-led coalition cuts off crucial supply route in blow to Houthi rebels
Following the resumption of airstrikes, the Saudi-led coalition cut access along the main road between the port of Hodeidah and the capital Sanaa, threatening the delivery of humanitarian aid throughout the country.


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Tag or mention us! Use #ICRtoP or @ICRtoP to share your RtoP news and updates, or for a chance to be featured by ICRtoP.

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RtoP Weekly: 10 – 14 September 2018

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This week in focus: The RtoP Weekly Reboot

Over the past few weeks, the ICRtoP team has been working hard to develop a new approach to the RtoP Weekly. We want the Weekly to be useful and informative to you, as readers, on RtoP-related news around the world, but also to be a tool for engagement, both intellectually and with other actors in the field. We will continue to feature important updates, but hope to present a wider variety of content as well, featuring members of the Coalition, work they are doing, but also grow and deepen how we understand and engage with the RtoP doctrine.

We’re excited about the changes, and look forward to refining them over the coming weeks. In this vein, we are also asking for your help through submitting your feedback on these updates in a two-minute survey by clicking here.


What to Watch:

Burma: Q&A: Justice for International Crimes in Myanmar (Human Rights Watch)

In August 2018, the United Nations (UN) Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar published a 20-page report denouncing grave breaches of international law in the country, including alleged crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes against Rohingya. In addition, the report also put forward a series of suggestions to bring perpetrators to justice, such as a referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or the establishment of ad hoc tribunals. Burmese authorities have denied mission’s findings, which will be presented along with the full report to the UN Human Rights Council on 18 September.

Burma: New UN rights chief wants criminal charges in Myanmar’s Rohingya genocide (AFP)

In her first discourse as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet has called for the establishment of an independent international mechanism to prepare criminal proceedings for human rights violations perpetrated against the Rohingya population in Burma similar to the one created for Syria. She requested the UN Human Rights Council to consider a resolution and bring the issue to the UN General Assembly in order to successfully create this mechanism, which will, “expedite fair and independent trials in national and international courts” and improve accountability.

United Kingdom: A comprehensive atrocity prevention strategy more vital than ever, say MPs(Global Britain)

On 10 September 2018, Britain’s House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee issued a report on the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) and humanitarian intervention. In the document, the Committee analyzes the potential dire consequences of inaction in Syria and the ways in which the UK could improve its role regarding the prevention of mass atrocities. The report requests that the government develop a plan to prevent mass atrocity crimes by next April; reduce the use of veto in situations of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes; update its protection strategies in contexts of armed conflict; and clarify the circumstances in which a humanitarian intervention can be conducted so that such campaigns are well founded. Finally, the report also calls on the government to abide by the 2013 French proposal of limiting the exercise of the UK’s use of the veto in the UN Security Council in situations at risk or involving ongoing atrocity crimes.

UNSC and RtoP: The UN Security Council’s Implementation of the Responsibility to Protect: A Review of Past Interventions and Recommendations for Improvement (Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect)

ICRtoP Member, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P) published a policy brief this week by Jared Genser, Managing Director of Perseus Strategies. The brief explores factors that impact successful UN Security Council responses to an atrocity situation and found that freedom from government obstruction, regional cooperation, and rapid response capacities are vital for successful RtoP implementation by the Council.

UNHRC and 70th Anniversary of Genocide Convention: Human Rights Council holds high-level panel on the seventieth anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (OHCHR)

On 13 September, a High Level Panel Discussion was convened at the UN Human Rights Council to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. During the event, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, made a statement noting that genocide is still “a threat and a reality” and emphasizing the need for States to concentrate their efforts on the “warning signs” for the sake of prevention. Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, added that,  throughout history, “Genocide was not an accident, nor was it inevitable. It was the inaction of the international community in addressing the warning signs that allowed it to become a reality.” Moreover, High Commissioner Bachelet and other panelists highlighted the importance of accountability and transitional justice in order to end impunity and prevent recurrence. pointing to the International Criminal Court as an important body and pillar for ending impunity and contributing to prevention efforts.


But Also Don’t Miss:

Burma: Statement by Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, on the decision of the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber on the jurisdiction over the crime of deportation of the Rohingya population from Myanmar (United Nations)
UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng issued a statement welcoming the ICC’s decision that it does indeed have jurisdiction over the alleged forced deportation of Rohingya from Burma.

Burma: UN granted access to Myanmar villages to investigate Rohingya abuses (CNN)
The Burmese government has granted four UN agencies access to the Rakhine State, as outlined in the the Memorandum of Understanding for the repatriation of Rohingya from Bangladesh.

Burundi: Burundi under fire at the UN for expelling UN human rights team (Reuters)
Burundi continues to face criticism at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva for the government’s failure to cooperate with Council-mandated investigative teams intended to collect information on alleged human rights violations in the country.

Cameroon: Cameroon Women Rally to Demand End to Violence (Voice of America)
Women marched this week to demand an end to the violence and atrocities that have been affecting their communities, calling on the government and armed groups to engage in peaceful dialogues.

Nigeria: Nigeria: Release presidential panel report to ensure transparency and accountability (Amnesty International)
Amnesty International has called on the Nigerian government to release the findings of the presidential panel investigation into alleged human rights violations committed by national forces.

South Sudan: ICRC: Cease-fire in South Sudan Appears to be Holding (Voice of America)
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has reported that there has been a decrease in violence in South Sudan since warring parties signed a peace agreement earlier this month.

Yemen: Fighting resumes in Yemen’s Hodeidah as peace talks stall (Reuters)
Airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition on Hodeidah have resumed to regain control of the city, as the Houthi delegation failed to appear at the UN peace talks in Geneva.


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Engage with the ICRtoP!
Tag or mention us! Use #ICRtoP or @ICRtoP to share your RtoP news and updates, or for a chance to be featured by ICRtoP.

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#RtoP Weekly: 5 – 10 August 2018

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Impunity for Rights Violators in Cote d’Ivoire

Côte d’Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara granted amnesty to over 800 people implicated in serious human rights violations in the 2010-2011 post-election crisis, a decision many feel denied justice to victims and their families. President Ouattara excluded members of the military and armed groups that committed “blood crimes” from amnesty, around 60 people, in spite of Ivorian judges indicting far more than that over the past seven years of proceedings. This has left many confused and concerned about who will indeed face justice for the crimes committed.

After the 2010-2011 post-election crises, Côte d’Ivoire took steps to rebuild and reconcile its fractured country, establishing a National Commission of Inquiry and prosecuting actors on both sides of the conflict. As it is party to multiple international and regional treaties, including the Geneva Conventions and Rome Statute, Côte d’Ivoire has a legally binding obligation to investigate and prosecute the atrocity crimes, but the amnesty measures granted by President Ouattara directly contradict the spirit of truth, justice, and reparations that the treaties represent.

Many major international human rights and humanitarian organizations have denounced the decision, with 11 organizations releasing a joint statement saying, “there should be no amnesty for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations committed in Côte d’Ivoire’s 2010-11 post-election crisis.” The statement also noted that Côte d’Ivoire’s own history shows that impunity for atrocity crimes can enable further violations and test the resilience of already-fragile states of stability.

*** Please note that there will be no RtoPWeekly this month, but we will resume publication with an update on these events and crisis situations around the world in September. 

 


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi 
CAR
DRC

Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya 

Nigeria
South Sudan

Syria
Venezuela
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The United Kingdom assumed the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council on 1 August and established the Rohingya refugee crisis as a priority for the Council this month. The UK Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Karen Pierce, also mentioned the importance of following up on the events occurring in Burma and continuing to make progress on the implementation of the MoU, allowing UN agencies to start talks with the Burmese and Bangladeshi governments to “make a credible plan to bring refugees back home in security, dignity, and safety.”

Japanese and Burmese representatives held a meeting on 6 August to discuss possible solutions for the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis. The Japanese Foreign Minister suggested establishing a new commission to conduct a free and transparent examination into the alleged human rights abuses in Rakhine State.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) High Commissioner, Filippo Grandi, asked governments from the Asia-Pacific region to show solidarity regarding the Rohingya and offer more support and protection “until solutions are found for refugees.” He also of the importance of working towards a comprehensive solution in order to allow people from the Rakhine State to stay in Burma and not be forced to leave their homes to begin with.


Burundi:

Prior to the 39th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), civil society organizations (CSOs) released a letter on 8 August, calling on the body to return the Commission of Inquiry for Burundi. The letter, which Coalition member Human Rights Watch released, outlines the ongoing necessity of the Council’s work to monitor, document, and report on the human rights situation ahead of the 2020 elections and encourage the government’s cooperation and adherence to relevant UN special mechanisms, treaties, and presence in the country.


Central African Republic:

Three UN Peacekeepers from the Republic of Congo were found guilty of the murder of 11 civilians while they were on mission in the Central African Republic. In spite of the gravity of their crimes, the perpetrators only received three-year sentences, leaving human rights organizations dismayed at the lost opportunity to promote justice, accountability, and end impunity for atrocity crimes. Human Rights Watch called it a “slap on the wrist,” and noted that the case not only sets a dangerous precedent for how these cases are handled, but also that the many of the family and community members felt justice was not served.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Moise Katumbi, former Governor of Katanga and one of President Kabila’s biggest opponents, announced his intention to return to the DRC on 3 August, despite the likelihood of his arrest. Katumbi, who went into self-imposed exile in 2016, planned on submitting his presidential candidacy. The discrepancy in treatment between Jean-Pierre Bemba and Katumbi’s returns by President Kabila continues to raise suspicion about the credibility of the elections, as Katumbi was ultimately refused entry into the DRC on 7 August and unable to submit his candidacy.

President Joseph Kabila did not file for an unconstitutional and term-defying re-election. Registration closed on 8 August ending years of speculation about the strength of its democracy. The ruling coalition instead nominated former Minister of the Interior Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. Ramazani, a close ally of Kabila, was sanctioned by the EU in 2017 for alleged human rights violations. Other candidates officially include Jean-Pierre Bemba, Felix Tshisekedi, and Vital Kamerhe.


Gaza / West Bank:

Gaza peace talks continue to progress between Israel and Hamas. The potential deal would allow Palestinians more access to goods, airports, and crossings in exchange for Hamas ceasing to use incendiary kites. Airstrikes launched by Israel on 9 August “struck dozens of targets” in the Gaza strip, killing at least three Palestinians, risking derailment of the ongoing peace negotiations.

The Jerusalem Post reported on 5 August that “three people were wounded when the Israeli Defence Forces opened fire at Palestinians” protesting at the border with Israel on Sunday.

Israeli cabinet member, Zeev Elkin, stated on 6 August that “Egypt is no less responsible” for the dire humanitarian and economic situation in Gaza. As UN mediation over Gaza continues, some Egyptian officials have stated that they “would resist any attempt” by Israel to push the responsibility for the situation on to Cairo.


Iraq:

On 3 August, The Guardian reported on the “collective trauma, grief, and loss” plaguing the children of Mosul due to living through constant war throughout their childhoods. Save the children affirms the need for psycho-social assessments and support for all children impacted.

According to an Al Jazeera report produced on 8 August, many wives of ISIL fighters in Iraq whose husbands have been killed or imprisoned now fear attacks if they return  to Mosul. One commented that “if you’ve been branded as an ISIL family, it’s too dangerous to return.”


Libya:

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)  estimates that over “100 bodies of Europe-bound migrants” escaping violence in Libya have been found by Libya’s coast guard since the beginning of 2018, with around 12,600 “intercepted or rescued” within that same time frame, according to a report released on 6 August.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) launchedtheir “reconciliation is good” media campaign on 6 August to raise citizen awareness about peaceful conflict resolution and the importance of rejecting violence in Libya. The initiative seeks to educate civilians about the need for “a culture of tolerance, respect for human rights, cultural diversity, solidarity and the rejection of violence.”


Nigeria:

On 2 August, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) denounced the forced returns of Nigerian asylum seekers and refugees from Cameroon. Over 800 Nigerian refugees and asylum seekers have suffered from forced returns from Cameroon since the beginning of 2018. UNHCR asked the Cameroonian government to stop forced returns and respect its obligations under international law.


South Sudan:

On Friday, 3 August, President Salva Kiir announced his intention to sign the latest peace agreement, which features a power sharing deal reinstating Dr. Riek Machar as First Vice President. He added that he willingly made compromises in order to ensure all parties involved would respect the agreement, and is optimistic about its implementation since it was negotiated without pressure from the international community. Opposition forces in South Sudan also voiced their intentions to continue debates over the future of South Sudan, saying they were not keen on signing the peace agreement, but did so with the assurance that future debate and negotiations for power-sharing and political reform. Parties signed the peace deal on Sunday, 5 August.

South Sudan expert, Douglas Johnson, has commented on the likelihood of the agreement’s implementation and success, providing an analysis of the agreement’s contents. The UN Mission in South Sudan’s (UNMISS) Chief, David Shearer, also commended the deal, and urged all sides to continue negotiations for integrating and developing comprehensive security plans to ensure its success.


Syria:

Since 2011, the Syrian government has reportedly conducted attacks on over 450 hospitals, which would be a severe breach of international law. Emergency medicine has been “driven underground,” to the point that “cave hospitals” are being built to avoid air strikes destroying crucial infrastructure.

The US-led coalition in Eastern Syria is preparing training and security projects in efforts to initiate a “stabilization” process in the area. This includes training locals to look for improvised explosive devices and training police to deal with prisons for “former ISIS members” is being instituted.

A map produced by Al Jazeera on 7 August provides a useful demonstration as to which parties control the various territories in Syria after the most recent government offensive in the South-Western region.


Venezuela:

On 1 August, Peru’s Foreign Minister acknowledged the possibility of asking the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for a preliminary investigation into Venezuela regarding reported human rights violations.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) announced on 7 August that approximately 117,000 Venezuelans have claimed asylum in 2018, surpassing the total number of Venezuelan asylum seekers last year. The Agency also welcomed Brazil’s decision to reopen its borders to arrivals.

Ecuador declared a humanitarian state of emergency on 8 August as new arrivals from Venezuela have climbed to 4,200 a day. The measure aims to expedite medical, social, and immigration assistance to new arrivals.


Yemen:

On 5 August, ongoing fighting between pro-government and rebel forces in Hodeidah resulted in over 80 deaths and 100 injuries. Parties hope the city’s port will not close, cutting off aid supplies to Yemen.

On 9 August a Saudi-led airstrike hit a school bus in the Saada province, killing 43 people and injuring 77. The Red Cross (ICRC) noted that most victims were “under the age of 10.” The bus was travelling through a market at the time it was hit.


Other:

Women offer and occupy a unique role in peacekeeping, and their meaningful participation has been proven as beneficial to the process, yet their deployment numbers in UN Peacekeeping missions remain low. PassBlue released a status update and insight into the situation, analyzing recruitment methods, and barriers to entry including gender-bias in the countries from which they come.

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#RtoP Weekly: 30 July – 3 August 2018

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 Coalition Member Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) Releases Report on Attacks in Southern Syria 

ICRtoP member, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), has published a report documenting the attacks occurring in southern Syria allegedly carried out by the Russian-Syrian alliance, as well as Islamic State (ISIL) forces from mid-June to 30 July 2018. The SNHR gathered and compiled photos and videos from internet sources as well as information directly from local activists in order to analyze the extent and gravity of the attacks. The report asserts that the US’ failure to intervene is an abandonment of its bilateral ceasefire agreement with Russia to maintain stability in the region.

The report calls on the international community to act on its Responsibility to Protect as long as the UN Security Council remains divided and unable to act in a timely and appropriate manner. In addition to applying pressure on the UNSC, the SNHR hopes that justice and accountability remain at the forefront of the Syrian response, by holding the Syrian government responsible for its actions, urging for the referral of the Syrian Civil War to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and for UN agencies to continue documenting human rights violations, crimes against humanity, and open commissions of inquiry and investigations.


Catch up on developments in…
Burma/Myanmar
CAR 
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya 
Mali

Nigeria
Philippines
South Sudan
Syria
Venezuela
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The IOM, 19,000 refugees, and local workers built 1,150 shelters for Rohingya people, as part of a quick response plan to improve the living conditions of the Rohingya refugees living at risk in Bangladesh during monsoon season.

On 25 July, the Indian Government commissioned a project to compile a list of biometric data of Rohingya refugees who fled to India from Burma to deport them “if necessary.” Rajnath Singh, Minister of the Interior, stated that the report will be given to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so deportation negotiations with Bangladesh and Burma can begin if necessary. India sees many of the Rohingya as immigrating illegally, but the possibility of forced return to unsafe conditions is of concern under the RtoP norm and refugee law.

The Burmese Government announced on 30 July it would establish a four-person commission to investigate human rights abuses committed against the Rohingya community in the Rakhine State as a reaction to the growing international calls for accountability over accusations of ethnic cleansing. The Independent Commission is formed by two local and two international members and it is considered part of Burma’s national roadmap to “address reconciliation, peace, stability and development in Rakhine”


Central African Republic:

The UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), announced 118 incidents against humanitarian workers in CAR in the second quarter of 2018, a sharp increase from the first quarter of this year. Aid organizations are being forced to reduce service delivery for already vulnerable people, and the instability continues to place CAR at the top of the list for most dangerous countries for humanitarians.

The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) condemned the attacks occurring against civilians and peacekeepers in Pombolo, southeastern CAR, during the month of July. These human rights violations were largely committed by members of the armed group Unité pour la Paix en Centrafrique (UPC) or local anti-Balaka forces. MINUSCA identified over 250 perpetrators to date, and pledges to continue working to restore security in the area.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

In a UNSC Briefing on 26 July, MONUSCO Head, Leila Zerrougui, told members that the right conditions for a free and fair Presidential election in the DRC did not yet exist. Human rights violations against protesters, opposition, and media continue to curb freedom of speech and assembly rights, in addition to arbitrary detention. In provincial elections, women only comprise 12% of candidates, and the electoral commission has yet to respond to MONUSCO’s offer to provide logistical support for the election.

Jean Pierre Bemba arrived back in the DRC for the first time in 11 years on 1 August in order to submit his candidacy for the December Presidential elections. His candidacy continues to raise questions regarding the security and credibility of the elections.


Gaza / West Bank:

Al Jazeera reported on 29 July that job cuts in the Gaza Strip office of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), partly attributed to US aid cuts to Palestinians, is a “massacre for employees.” 113 employees lost their jobs this week, and reports say that 1,000 contracts will not be renewed from December. Protests against the cuts are ongoing, with staff members noting that there is little sense in letting go of the crucial workers helping “tens of thousands of refugees in the Gaza strip.” Fears over the reduction in aid workers persist; unemployment in the Gaza strip is already at 44%.

The Daily Star reported on 30 July that a Norwegian-affiliated activist boat which attempted to breach the 11-year-long blockade on Gaza but was intercepted by the Israeli navy. The ship carried personnel and medical supplies, like many other activist groups attempts to breach the blockade with humanitarian relief for Palestinians.

Only three days after Tareq Baconi of the European Council on Foreign Relations released an op-ed in the Washington Post stating that the only way to prevent the currently looming war in Gaza is for Israel to “loosen the chokehold” on the Gaza strip and prioritize “core political drivers,” Israel has blocked entry of fuel supplies into Gaza. The move is in retaliation for the continuing use of incendiary kites by Hamas causing at least 19 fires on Wednesday, Israel reported. The Gaza Strip’s two million residents will continue to suffer from a lack of power and essential services.


Iraq:

In further post-election political fall-out, authorities charged five more election officials with corruption on 28 July, Reuters reported. Officials running election offices in both Jordan and Turkey were also fired. The May election result is not yet confirmed as ballot recounts are still underway, and  protests calling for improved government services and access to electricity, water, and jobs continue across the country.

The UN Refugee agency released new figures showing that since 2014 around 2.14 million Iraqis have been displaced in attempts to flee ISIS-related violence. Many homes have been destroyed and internally displaced persons have nowhere to return to from the camps they currently live in, Al Jazeera reported on 29 July.

On 31 July coalition member, Human Rights Watch, expressed its concern that torture allegations made against security forces in Iraq are not adequately investigated. Concern is mounting as numerous alleged ISIS members are detained and tortured into giving confessions because authorities want to “achieve convictions” to reaffirm the strong message of the group’s defeat in the country. While there is the legal infrastructure within the justice system to investigate such claims, judges and lawyers interviewed by HRW noted that it is scarcely used.


Libya:

Spanish charity ProActiva Open Arms claims that an Italian towboat rescued and returned over 108 migrants back to Libya on Monday, 30 July. If confirmed by the UN, such a return would be a violation of international law.

The UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) recorded that 1,504 people have died in attempts to cross the Mediterranean Sea and reach Europe 2018 to date. This marks the fifth consecutive year where over 1,500 people have died attempting the crossing.


Mali:

NGO Acción contra el Hambre reported on 26 July a new outbreak of violence amongst the Tuareg community in northern Mali. These clashes threaten to exacerbate the food crisis already present in the country and to increase the number of displaced people.

Over 300 people have been killed so far this year in the Mopti region as a result of the increase in ethnic violence. As a result, many members of the Fulani community have been forced to move to Bamako’s outskirts. Jihadists groups are using the conflict and ethnic tensions to recruit members for their cause.

In a telephone interview on 27 July, the head of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the Sahel region told said that direct humanitarian assistance provided by international forces makes it riskier for aid organizations to carry out their work, as it makes it more difficult to distinguish armed forces from humanitarians. She also explained how Doctors Without Borders is negotiating with international actors to convince them to contribute to the construction of infrastructures or provide assistance in areas where their NGO does not work instead of implementing direct humanitarian assistance activities.

Several violent incidents occurred during Malian elections, despite President Keita deploying 30,000 security personnel throughout the country. Violence disrupted and even halted voting in some villages, with 105 polling stations closed because of security concerns. Approximately 4,000 others were affected in some way by violence. Results are still unknown, but voter turnout is expected to be low.

On 31 July, the French Ministry of Defense reaffirmed the success of its stabilizing operation “Barkhane,” which neutralized over 230 suspected jihadist terrorists in the Sahel last year.


Nigeria:

Eight people were killed and seven injured on 23 July in a suicide attack on a mosque in the Borno region, historically known as the birthplace of the extremist group Boko Haram. However, no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. This incident is the last of a series of attacks to mosques that have been occurring in recent months.

The International Crisis Group reported on 26 July that the conflict between farmers and herders in Nigeria is more lethal than Boko Haram in 2018 thus far. The pastoral conflict has become Nigeria’s severest security challenge with 1,300 deaths, and displaced hundreds of thousands of Nigerians, strengthening ethnic, regional, and religious polarization.

On 29 July, the President Buhari ordered the deployment of aircraft and 1,000 troops to combat banditry in Zamfara State, which has resulted in the killing and kidnapping of hundreds in the region.


Philippines:

On 27 July, UNSG Guterres welcomed Duterte’s new legislation which grants more autonomy to Muslim communities in the Southern Philippines. SG Guterres congratulated negotiators, the Government of the Philippines, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for their work, and describes the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) as a “landmark achievement on the road to lasting peace”. The legislation institutionalized terms of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro, which the the government and MILF signed in 2014.

11 people died on 31 July when a car bomb exploded in the city of Lamitan. The Philippine government condemned the terrorist attack, calling it a “war crime.” The Islamic State group has claimed credit for the attack.


South Sudan:

On 2 September, members of Nepal’s peacekeeping operations in South Sudan were accused of allegedly raping two teenage girls. UNSG Guterres’ office responded, announcing they would send in investigators as the SG has pledged to take a harder line in responding to misconduct among UN forces against members of the populations they are supposed to be protecting.


Syria:

A Kurdish-Arab alliance supported by the US is willing to negotiate with Assad’s government in the hope of working towards a “democratic, decentralized Syria.” Faced with a choice between further fighting or negotiations over the fate of the northeastern region of Syria in which they function, the alliance hopes to build a “decentralized” state working “alongside the Syrian government,” Al Jazeera reported on 28 July.

Arab News reported on 30 July that recent attacks on the Sweida province by Daesh fighters left over 200 dead and 36 women and children kidnapped since last Wednesday. At least two of those kidnapped have since died. Syrian military planes conducted airstrikes on Monday in the Sweida area against the group. Daesh holds small areas of territory in the Syrian desert in both Sweida and Daraa.

According to the Guardian, Syrian government forces took control of Daraa province, previously under ISIS control, on 31 July. Members of the White Helmets that were not evacuated last week are still appealing to be rescued, fearing the progressing government military.


Venezuela:

On 31 July, Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, tweeted: “The crimes against humanity committed by the dictatorship in Venezuela will not go unpunished”. Also, he reminded the international community of its commitment to enforce freedom and justice in the country.


Yemen:

On 2 August CNN released rare drone footage taken from the capital city, Sanaa, which exhibits the destruction caused by years of siege and airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition. Human Rights Watch alleges that the coalition has conducted 85 illegal airstrikes in the area.

Save the Children estimates that over 6,000 residents of the port city, Hodeidah, flee “every single day” and are in “extreme danger.” Half of those fleeing are children, with their escape involving encountering “minefields, airstrikes and being forced to cross areas of active fighting.” The UN continues to hold talks between the warring parties – the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition – over the fate of the city, but Save the Children representatives describe the city as a “ghost town” with extensive destruction already clear to see. 22.2 million out of the country’s total 27.4 million (80%) of civilians require humanitarian assistance, representing a 15% increase on last year’s figures.


Other:

In an initiative lead by Rwanda, the US, and the Netherlands, 32 countries urged UNSG Antonio Guterres to take administrative actions when UN Peacekeepers violate the Kigali Principles of civilian protection. The signing states also pledged to ensure that the troops they provide peacekeeping missions take more proactive measures in mitigating potential threats to civilian safety.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Al-Hussein, announced that the OHCHR would investigate the reports of human rights violations and escalating violence against the Anglophone community in Cameroon. Although violence has occurred on both sides, the Anglophone community alleges economic and political discrimination in government policies and tens of thousands have fled to neighboring countries.

Following the 30 July elections, violence once again fell upon Zimbabwe, in what many hoped to be a peaceful event. The government deployed forces against unarmed and peaceful protesters in its capital, Harare, which turned violent. Prior to the official Presidential Election results, ZANU-PF, the party of former President Robert Mugabe and his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa, had secured the necessary two-thirds vote to amend the country’s constitution in the parliamentary election. Following the instability and violence, Amnesty International called for an investigation into the army’s role and conduct against protesters.

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#RtoP Weekly: 22 – 27 July 2018

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 ICRtoP and partners release new report from CSW side event on inclusion of rural women and girls 

In March 2018, over 200 representatives of civil society, the UN, and Member States met during the 62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) to attend a side event co-convened by UN Women and several CSOs, including the ICRtoP, entitled “Leaving No One Behind for Planet 50-50 by 2030: Every rural woman and girl everywhere.” The event included a dialogue among activists from rural areas, including indigenous women, refugees, and members of the LGBTI community, demanding gender equality, and to discuss how to ensure no woman or girl is left behind in the accomplishment of the Sustainable Development Goals. The session included a call for greater representation, visibility, and participation of women in government, and universal application of policies enshrining the rights of women and girls.

“The fact that this Commission (CSW) is shining a light on the condition of women and girls in rural areas is very fitting, because they face some of the most daunting challenges of our time,” stated Lopa Banerjee, Director of UN Women’s Civil Society Division at the opening of the event.

Empowering women and girls in the peace and security and development processes is critical in conflict prevention and building resilient societies. The ICRtoP was excited to have the opportunity to support and give voice to the activists, policy-makers, and participants of the event at the CSW62, whose report is now available.

To read the full report, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
CAR 
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya 

Mali
South Sudan
Sudan
Syria
Yemen
Venezuela
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) published its report update on the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis Response for the 13-19 July 2018 period. The report specifies the current situation and the actions carried out by the organization to improve the Rohingya refugees’ conditions in the areas of health, shelter & non-food items, needs & population monitoring, site management & development, protection, resilience & disaster risk reduction, accountability to affected population, and water, sanitation and hygiene.

On 19 July, the Southeast Asian human rights group Fortify Rights released a new report entitled, “Myanmar: International Accountability Needed for Military-Planned Genocide Against Rohingya.” The report highlights “reasonable grounds” that the crimes committed against the Rohingya population amount to genocide and crimes against humanity, and that Burmese authorities conducted extensive and systematic preparations for attacks against this minority. This paper also calls on the UNSC to immediately refer the Burmese situation to the ICC, as it identifies that 22 Burma Army and Police officials should be investigated and brought to justice for the roles they played in committing atrocity crimes.

The International Security Consulting Group (ISCG) released a situation report on the Rohingya refugee crisis on 19 July. The report outlines many improvements such as: (i) Continuous effort on improving the shelters in the refugee camps (90% of the target shelters were upgraded), (ii) Good work of the Health Sector which has provided a total of 2,480,273 outpatient consultations, (iii) 36,037 refugees were moved to newly developed sites, and (iv) Finally all individuals older than 12 have received an ID card and all households have been provided a family certificate.

The UN Human Rights Council reported on 19 July that the flow of Rohingya refugees still moving to Bangladesh shows that human rights violations in Burma persist. Muslim Rohingya refugees reaching Bangladesh report that Burma is still unsafe, as violence and torture persevere.

Experts at Save the Children evaluated research carried out by UN bodies finding that the Burmese Government violated at least seven key articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The report addresses “indiscriminate and extrajudicial killing of Rohingya children, and the torture, ill-treatment, and gender-based violence” committed against them.

On 23 July, UNSC held a meeting regarding the situation in Burma in order to discuss a number of issues about the Rohingya refugee crisis. Both the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Myanmar and the High Commissioner for Refugees exposed their briefings about their travels there during the month of June.


Central African Republic:

The Institute for Security Studies, Africa (ISS) released a report on 23 July revealing the widespread sexual violence occurring against men and boys in CAR. The report notes that currently CAR has no judicial precedent for SV against males, and urges the special prosecutor of the new Special Criminal Court to take steps to ensure perpetrators do not act with impunity. The report notes that cultural stigmas, humanitarian workers being under-trained in recognizing male victims of SV, and a need for comprehensive rehabilitation strategies are needed not only to prevent further sexual violence but to curtail widespread human rights abuses and potential atrocity crimes.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Following Former DRC Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba’s announcement to run in the 2018 Presidential election, concerns about the election among opposition leaders and the international community has grown. Bemba scheduled a return to the DRC 1 August, on a passport issued by President Kabila. Possible collusion between Bemba and Kabila or a plan by Kabila to force a 3-way opposition split are among the theories spread. President Kabila’s running status is uncertain, causing increased political tension in the country.


Gaza / West Bank:

On 21 July the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, urged Hamas to end the “launching of rockets and incendiary kites.” He also appealed to the Israeli military to “avoid further inflaming the situation” in the hope that the parties will “step back from the brink” of another violent conflict.

Al Jazeera noted the “uneasy calm” over the Gaza area on 21 July as a ceasefire between Hamas and Israeli forces, which was put in place at midnight on 20 July, appeared to be holding up. However, comments from Phillis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies shared her skepticism over the deal leading to total peace in the region.

On 23 July the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, reminded all fighting parties in the Gaza strip that “any disproportionate or indiscriminate use of weapons” injuring or killing civilians is prohibited by international law, as many protesters have been targeted in recent months. He noted that parties must focus on addressing the “root causes” of demonstrations and inadequate living conditions for Palestinians living in Gaza. He also expressed concern over the Palestinian children who are detained in Israel without charge, an additional breach of international law.

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, praised diplomatic efforts lead by Egypt and the UN for calming tensions between Israel and Hamas, on 24 July. He noted that further conflict would further impact the lives of civilians in the region who are already suffering from an 11-year trade blockade by Israel and Egypt and infrastructure as a result of the violence.

On 25 July Israel allowed a partial reopening of a vital commercial crossing allowing goods such as fuel, food and medicine to enter the region. Concerns this week reached a high point when fuel shortages threatened the closure of many hospitals in the area which could have resulted in death for those on life-support machines and lack of ability to perform operations, as well as the inability to provide basic services.


Iraq:

UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Marta Ruedas, stated that as of 24 July, nearly 870,000 people have returned to Mosul following the liberation of numerous villages in the region from Islamic State militants roughly a year ago, following work by the UN Mine Action Service. Nearly 43,700 explosive hazards from “roads, bridges, schools, universities, hospitals, clinics, water treatment plants and municipal buildings” have been cleared, but two million still remain internally displaced.

Coalition member, Human Rights Watch, condemns the “excessive use of lethal forces” used against protesters in Basra between 8 and 17 July, which killed at least three and wounded over 40 people, including children.

Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, has promised to penalize government officials who have been reluctant to carry out their jobs, providing crucial services and responding to requests to the people of Iraq, in response to the protests.


Libya:

The NGO Proactiva Open Arms expresses its disappointment over the Libyan Coastguard’s “lack of assistance in international waters” when it slashed an inflatable vessel migrants were using, before abandoning the migrants and boat last week. The NGO found the wreckage of the boat with the bodies of a woman and child who were already dead, and only one survivor. The NGO wishes to file a manslaughter charge against the Libyan coastguard due to the deaths being “no accident.”


Mali:

On 17 July, the OHCHR confirmed 289 civilian deaths in 2018 to date as a result of inter-community violence, particularly in the Mopti region. These numbers show the deterioration of the situation and increased civilian displacements.

In an OCHA report released on 22 July stated Mali is in its most critical humanitarian situation since the conflict began in 2012 as a result of the rise in insecurity and the lack of assistance. 4.3 million Malian people are in need of humanitarian assistance, and “if the necessary assistance is not offered immediately, the situation could continue to deteriorate and would require more resources than now to be addressed.”


South Sudan:

In the latest efforts to establish a peace deal for South Sudan, the government and Machar’s SPLM-IO have reached an agreement. The deal establishes a power-sharing deal with President Kiir remaining in his position, and restoring Dr. Machar to the First Vice Presidency, in addition to four other VPs, one of whom will be a woman. There are provisions for a transitional legislature as well. A coalition of other rebel groups are rejecting the decision, however, saying their concerns were not taken into account.


Sudan:

On 24 July, UN Under Secretary General for Field Support, Atul Khare, visited the Darfur region of Sudan. Talks focused on UNAMID withdrawal, the continuance of development programs, and arms collection to continue improving peace and security.


Syria:

Despite the successful evacuation of 422 White Helmets members and their families in southwest Syria over the weekend of the 21 and 22 July, the BBC is concerned over the remaining 378 facing the advancing government forces. The Syrian regime views White Helmets as supporting “terrorists” and their safety cannot be guaranteed if the government regains control over the rebel-held regions where they are currently based.

The Syrian government condemns the evacuation called for by the US, UK, and other European countries being conducted by the Israeli Defence Forces, claiming it to be a “criminal operation” and a “despicable act” because the group allegedly supports terrorist organizations.


Venezuela:

On 17 July, the Venezuelan Parliament proclaimed that it will create a commission to study children abandoned by their parents who have had to let them in the country alone in order to emigrate. There is no official count of abandoned children in Venezuela but, according to the NGO Fundana, there has been a 30 percent increase in the number of babies who are handed over to the association, many come in critical feeding situations.

The Government of Venezuela announced on 18 July that it had opened 3,000 food houses to assist the victims of the “economic war” allegedly influenced by the opposition and foreign governments by offering them free food. These food houses have already helped 626,328 people, including vulnerable groups such as children and elderly people.


Yemen:

On 23 July, Reuters reported around 8.4 million people in Yemen are on the verge of starvation. There has been a 25% increase in the level of “severe hunger” for Yemenis. UN agencies have reported famine-like conditions already existing in certain areas of the country, but “not all the criteria” has been met yet. Fears over continuing violence between Houthis and Saudi-led forces still threatens the closure of the Hodeidah port and the entrance of crucial food supplies and humanitarian goods. 


Other:

UNSG Antonio Guterres and Chairperson for the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki, signed a Framework Agreement between the UN and AU, respectively, in order to address peace and security issues on the African continent. Senior UN spokesperson, Sahle-Work Zewde, underscored the need for conflict prevention and resolution efforts saying, “[the organizations] also need to recognize the critical role of sub-regional organizations, which are often the first to detect early warning signs of impending conflict, and are important partners in promoting dialogue and reconciliation.”

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