How Nigeria’s Police used Telecom Surveillance to Lure & Arrest Journalists

Africa, Civil Society, Democracy, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, Press Freedom, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Jonathan Rozen* is Senior Africa Researcher at Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

NEW YORK, Feb 19 2020 (IPS) – As reporters for Nigeria’s Premium Times newspaper, Samuel Ogundipe and Azeezat Adedigba told CPJ they spoke often over the phone. They had no idea that their regular conversations about work and their personal lives were creating a record of their friendship.


On August 9, 2018, Ogundipe published an article about a communication between Nigeria’s police chief and vice president. Days later, police investigating his source issued a written summons, CPJ reported at the time.

It was not addressed to Ogundipe and made no mention of his article or the charges he would later face of theft and possession of police documents. Instead, as Ogundipe recounted, police called Adedigba for questioning in connection with a slew of serious crimes, allegations that evaporated after police used her phone to summon her friend to the station.

Ogundipe’s experience is one of at least three cases since 2017 where police from across Nigeria used phone records to lure and then arrest journalists currently facing criminal charges for their work.

In each case, police used the records to identify people with a relationship to a targeted journalist, detained those people, and then forced them to facilitate the arrest.

The police methods reinforce the value of internet-based, encrypted communications at a time when authorities have also targeted journalists’ phones and computers to reveal their sources. Those prosecuted in all three cases are free on bail.

Nigerian journalist Samuel Ogundipe (Photo: Samuel Ogundipe)

“If the police called me and said we have something to ask you, I would go there…this is just their tactics,” Ogundipe said.

Ogundipe and Adedigba told CPJ that police made no secret of the way they had established their relationship, showing them each call records they claimed to have obtained from the pair’s cellphone network providers—Nigeria-based 9mobile, a subsidiary of the UAE-based Etisalat telecom company, and South Africa-based MTN, respectively.

“[Police have] been checking who I’ve been talking to…[in order to] see who was close enough to me to be used as bait,” Ogundipe added.

CPJ’s repeated calls in late 2019 and early 2020 to Nigerian police spokesperson Frank Mba rang unanswered.

The 2003 Nigerian Communications Act mandates that network service providers assist authorities in preventing crime and protecting national security. Regulations for enforcing it grant senior police officials the power to authorize requests to obtain “call data” from telecom companies without a judicial warrant, according to CPJ’s review.

That data includes where and when regular phone calls and SMS messages took place and between which numbers, according to documents reviewed by CPJ and interviews with three individuals with knowledge of police requests for call data in Nigeria. All three requested not to be named for fear of reprisal.

Nigeria has over 184 million active mobile phone lines, with roughly two million lines added every month to service its estimated 190 million people, according to 2019 data released by the national telecom regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). SIM card ownership for these lines is tracked under a 2011 regulation, which CPJ reviewed, mandating the collection of personal information, including fingerprints and photos, that police can access without a warrant as long as a senior-ranking officer gives written approval.

Other NCC regulations, released in October 2019 and reviewed by CPJ, detail police permissions to intercept communications under certain circumstances.

At the time of publishing, Ogundipe told CPJ his next court date had yet to be scheduled, but two journalists who were taken into custody at the end of 2019–Gidado Yushau and Alfred Olufemi–were preparing for their fifth hearing scheduled in Kwara State for March 4.

Similar to Ogundipe and Adedigba, police used call records to identify individuals that could be used to lead them to their targets, those affected told CPJ.

Nigerian journalist Gidado Yushau (Photo: Gidado Yushau)

Yushau, publisher of The News Digest website, and Olufemi, a freelance reporter, were charged in November 2019 with criminal conspiracy and criminal defamation in connection with a complaint over a May 2018 News Digest report Olufemi wrote about a factory owned by Sarah Alade, now special adviser to Nigeria’s president. Alade and other representatives of the factory did not answer calls or declined comment when CPJ reported on the case.

The first journalist police used to track down Yushau and Olufemi worked in another city for an unrelated news outlet. Wunmi Ashafa, a Lagos-based journalist with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), told CPJ that police tricked her into meeting, then made her summon her colleague, Yusuf Yunus, who in turn was used to facilitate the arrest of the Digest’s web developer, Adebowale Adekoya. The officers claimed to know they were connected from their call records.

Police were “tracking all the people that are calling me, that I’m talking to,” Yunus told CPJ in an interview. “The network provider has said that this line and this line have spoken at this particular hour,” he said police told him. Ashafa and Yunus said they were released after police detained Adekoya.

“I don’t know why they decided to do that,” Ashafa told CPJ, adding that she missed a meeting at her daughter’s school because police involved her. “They apologized to us, to myself and Yunus, that that was the only way they could get [Adekoya].”

Mistaken for the Digest’s publisher, Adekoya described being held for five nights, driven over 1,200 kilometers—including to Abuja and Kwara State—and threatened with detention if he did not lead the officers to Yushau and promise to help bring Olufemi into custody, before his release.

Nigerian journalist Alfred Olufemi. (Photo: Alfred Olufemi)

CPJ reached Peter Okasanmi, a spokesperson with the Kwara State police, by phone in January. He declined to comment on Yushau and Olufemi’s case because the trial was ongoing, but described how police regularly used telecommunications information to make arrests.

“We are able to track the culprits by use of technology through the SIM [cards] that were registered,” Okasanmi said. “Suspects, they are usually like kidnappers…we use all of those gadgets to track their locations and get them arrested…we have our own equipment we are using,” he added, without elaborating.

On November 4, CPJ contacted NCC spokesperson Henry Nkemadu by phone and upon his request sent questions regarding security agencies’ access to communications data, but received no response. Subsequent calls to Nkemadu and other NCC officials went unanswered.

Police used a similar tactic in 2017 to arrest Tega Oghenedoro, the Uyo city-based publisher of the Secret Reporters news website who writes under the pseudonym Fejiro Oliver, CPJ reported this month.

He faces cybercrime charges related to reports alleging corruption in a Lagos-based Nigerian bank and is due in court on May 28, CPJ reported.

Isaac Omomedia, an aide to the governor of Delta State, told CPJ in October 2019 that he did not know Oliver, but that they had a mutual acquaintance, Prince Kpokpogri, the publisher of Integrity Watchdog magazine.

In March 2017, Omomedia arrived at a hotel in Asaba, the Delta State capital where he lives, after receiving a call to collect a parcel from the DHL delivery company, he told CPJ.

Instead, he was met by six police officers who questioned him about Kpokpogri, someone they claimed to know he was in touch with by reviewing his call records. On their instructions, Omomedia said he invited Kpokpogri to a meeting.

Kpokpogri told CPJ that police arrested him upon arrival, drove him over 200 kilometers to Uyo, and told him, in turn, to summon Oliver. The officers had identified him because they had “bugged” both his and Oliver’s phone lines, he remembered them saying. Kpokpogri said police arrested Oliver when he arrived and drove them both over 350 kilometers to Benin City; Oliver was then flown to Lagos and Kpokpogri was released without charge.

Kenneth Ogbeifun, the Lagos-based investigating officer in Oliver’s case, requested emailed questions when contacted for comment by CPJ in January 2020. Follow-up emails and messages went unanswered.

CPJ also reached an officer who confirmed his name as Moses and that he was part of the team that arrested Oliver on behalf of Lagos police, but when asked about how Omomedia and Kpokpogri were used in the arrest, the line disconnected.

Those involved in Oliver’s arrest, and the chain leading to Yushau and Olufemi, told CPJ they relied on the Nigeria-based Globacom, also known as Glo, India-based Airtel, or MTN for their cell phone service.

“I will give you the number used to commit the crime and you have only 60 minutes to produce the details,” the Premium Times quoted Isa Pantami, Nigeria’s minister of communications and digital economy, as saying in late 2019. Operators that failed to produce data would be sanctioned, according to that report.

CPJ called the ministry of communications and digital economy in mid-January. Philomena Oshodin, a deputy director, said that she was not the relevant person to comment before the line went silent; follow up messages went unanswered.

Between November 2019 and January 2020, CPJ reached out to public relations departments at MTN, 9mobile, Airtel, and Glo, and emailed questions to representatives for each about security agencies’ access to telecom user data in Nigeria. None replied with answers by date of publication.

“You’re reporting as a journalist, which is not a crime…[but] you feel you’re being punished,” Ogundipe told CPJ, reflecting on his arrest and prosecution. “It’s very scary…it’s difficult to predict how far these guys will go.”

For information on digital safety, consult CPJ’s Digital Safety Kit.

*Jonathan Rozen is CPJ’s senior Africa researcher. Previously, he worked in South Africa, Mozambique, and Canada with the Institute for Security Studies, assessing Mozambican peace-building processes. Rozen was a U.N. correspondent for IPS News and has written for Al-Jazeera English and the International Peace Institute. He speaks English and French.

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Coming Down the Davos Mountain with a Gender Lens

Conferences, Education, Featured, Gender, Global, Headlines, Labour, TerraViva United Nations

NEW YORK, Feb 15 2020 (IPS) – In a recent report by World Economic Forum (WEF) shows women suffer a “triple whammy” in the workplace. Without drastic action, gender parity will take more than a lifetime to achieve. This is the challenge that Katja Iversen, President and CEO of Women Deliver is staring down.


“We know that achieving gender equality is not a women’s issue. It is a societal issue. To be successful … boys and men must be involved at all levels and all ages,” said Iversen.

Iversen’s involvement WEF 2020 annual meeting in Davos increased the spotlight on gender equality. She was involved in a myriad of discussions, conversations, panel debates, midnight huddles and a social media drive. As the woman who heads leading global advocate for gender equality, health and rights of girls and women her role at the annual forum was clear cut.

“We provoked discussions using our ‘gender lens’ – a small magnifying glass. We gave this to leaders and influencers to bring down the mountain and apply to their businesses, governments, and lives,” Iversen said in an exclusive interview with IPS.

“Along with our partners, Promundo and Unilever/Dove Men+Care, we released a series of recommendations on male engagement in gender equality, condensed in a catchy infographic.”

Iversen went on to emphasise how “everybody – including the men and women in Davos – must apply a gender lens to every aspect of life, from leadership, to health systems, to schools, the workplace, and at home. That is an important step to change systems, to change harmful norms, and drive progress.”

This may seem a momentous task. The WEF report, released in December 2019, highlighted the factors that fuel the economic gender gap. This included a noticeably low level of women in leadership positions, wage stagnation, labour force participation and income.

The report highlights what it terms a ‘Triple Whammy’ for women in the workplace. Women, the report said, are highly represented in many of the roles that have been hit hardest by automation.

Moreover, not enough women are entering technology-driven professions where wage growth is more profound. This puts women into the middle to low wage categories that have been stagnant since the financial crisis in 2009.

Thirdly, a lack of access to capital prevents them from pursuing entrepreneurial activities, another key driver for income.

WEF aims to close the gender gap by setting up coalitions between relevant ministries and the largest employers to increase female labour force participation, increase women in leadership positions, close wage gaps and prepare women for jobs of the future. Additionally, the global business commitment on Hardwiring Gender Parity in the Future of Work mobilises businesses to commit to hiring 50% women for their five highest growth roles between now and 2022.

Iversen said women must be involved in the development and growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and ubiquitous digital technology for them to benefit.

“We know that innovation and technology hold a lot of power and can be used for good – but only if it works for girls and women and identifies the bias that holds them back,” she said.

While there was potential for digital technologies, like AI, to unlock better health access and information, new employment and leadership opportunities, and greater economic security for women – it could “just as likely leave big parts of the population behind and exacerbate existing inequalities”.

This was why the gender lens in the development and implementation of AI and other tech solutions is so critical, said Iversen. Having women involved in the growth of digital technology “can ensure technology is more representative and can eliminate unconscious bias in hiring, promotion, and recruitment”.

It is critical that women’s education, especially in the field of technology, is enhanced, enabling them to participate in future workforce equally.

“We also need to make sure we are investing in women’s lifelong education and training, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and math. It is key to their professional and financial security in the workforce of tomorrow.”

Investment in women and their participation in the economy has a ripple effect.

“Evidence and common sense confirm that when leadership and the workforce represent the population and include women, it leads to better economic, social, and political cohesion and puts us on a better, more sustainable path.”

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, noted in his speech at WEF 2020 that while problems were global, the responses were fragmented.

“If I had to select one sentence to describe the state of the world, I would say we are in a world in which global challenges are more and more integrated, and the responses are more and more fragmented, and if this is not reversed, it’s a recipe for disaster,” he warned.

Iversen explains that by putting the gender lens at the centre of the solutions, it would enhance society’s ability to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals. It would also mitigate the ‘fragmented responses’ to global challenges.

“Gender is cross-cutting, it is essential to progress and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Conservation of our planet; eradicating poverty and ensuring health; education; peace, and prosperity for all need to be integrated. This requires putting a gender lens to the entire development agenda,” Iversen said.

“One of the reasons the world is facing so many challenges right now, including trade wars, conflict, climate change, and growing inequality, is that girls, women, and marginalised groups are prevented from accessing power, both political and financial. Big egos, narrow interests, and profit over people and planet have been, mistakenly, prioritised, and we are paying the price for that.”

Women Deliver’s President was emphatic that “development actors from across the spectrum must abandon siloed approaches. It was essential to work together to drive progress for the people and planet, including girls and women, both through financial investment and multi-sector partnerships.”

Iversen is confident. WEF was “good start to the Decade of Action for the Global Goals and the 2020 Generation Equality push, demanding women’s equal participation in political life and decision-making in all areas of life.”

Involving the younger generation was also paramount to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

“What was also clear coming down the Davos mountain is that any efforts to push the development agenda over the finish line will fail if they don’t involve young people. Because youth not only have a stake in reaching our ambitious development goals by 2030, they are also well-suited to identify solutions right now.”

To address and improve gender equality, Iversen emphasised that it required a global effort. The private sector has a vested interest and a significant role to play in advancing gender equality. “We want governments and business leaders to use the gender lens in all they do. They should complete a concrete analysis of what progress they have made and what gender gaps remain,” Iversen said.

Both should ask themselves: What policies and procedures are inhibiting or promoting progress? What gender norms are prevalent and need to be addressed? What investments in gender equality could be made?

“And once that analysis is complete – get to work!”

Women Deliver has been relentless in that message and in bringing the evidence to bear with great partners. “And in recent years we have seen that the world – including at WEF – has started to catch on. Our challenge now is to move from talking to mobilising dedicated action.”

Women Deliver continues to be serious advocates, speaking up for girls and women in every setting.

“We’ll continue to advise committees for big corporations and international agencies. We’ll continue to elevate the voices of young advocates and local organisations around the world. We will continue to push back on the pushback to protect our gains and drive further progress,” Iversen said.

“We will continue to communicate from podiums, in boardrooms and hallways of major summits, on the pages of major newspapers, on (television) screens and social media – with the clear message: In a gender-equal world, everybody wins.”

IPS asked about the trend of women participating as policy-makers at WEF. Just how prominent is women’s role? Iversen replied that “24% of the 2,700 formal WEF participants were women. While that is an improvement from previous years, it’s still way too small. WEF has pledged to double female participation by 2030, and we are ready to help to speed it up.”

“We have a long way to go, but I saw progress at WEF,” said Iversen, adding, “More and new world leaders – in business and government – are picking up the gender lens. There is still so much to be done, and progress is slow for an impatient optimist like myself. But I came down the Davos mountain more hopeful than I went up, and more ready than ever to power progress for girls, women and gender equality in the Super Year ahead.”

Iversen remains optimistic. “Ultimately, we want to work ourselves out of a job. Then sit back and see a world where gender inequality is a thing of the past, where it is something people make fun of like the ‘old days’. Where people say, ‘I can’t believe we didn’t do this sooner’.”

 

World’s Young Activists at War: First, Occupy Wall Street, Next Un-Occupy Palestine

Active Citizens, Climate Change, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Global, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Peace, Regional Categories, TerraViva United Nations

Credit: Amnesty International

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 6 2020 (IPS) – The world’s young activists, numbering over 3.8 billion, are on the war path.

The rising new socialist movements—which originated with “Black Lives Matter” and “Occupy Wall Street” (one protester’s slogan read: “Un-Occupy Palestine”) — were aimed at battling racism, political repression and institutionalized inequalities in capitalist societies.


In its recent cover story, Time magazine dubbed it “Youthquake” – a new phenomenon shaking up the old order, as young activists lead the fight against right-wing authoritarianism, government corruption and rising new hazards of climate change.

Joanne Mariner, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International (AI), told IPS “it is stunning to see how aggressive government efforts to quash protests, including by killing protesters, have not even succeeded in stopping them in the short run”.

In the long run, far too much is at stake, she said, where the coming years are likely to see more protests rather than fewer.

And it is more so in Asia, says AI, in a recently-released report which reviews human rights in 25 Asian and Pacific states and territories during 2019.

“2019 was a year of repression in Asia, but also of resistance”.

“As governments across the continent attempt to uproot fundamental freedoms, people are fighting back – and young people are at the forefront of the struggle,” says Nicholas Bequelin, AI’s Regional Director for East and South-East Asia and the Pacific.

“From students in Hong Kong leading a mass movement against growing Chinese encroachment, to students in India protesting against anti-Muslim policies; from Thailand’s young voters flocking to a new opposition party to Taiwan’s pro LGBTI-equality demonstrators. Online and offline, youth-led popular protests are challenging the established order,” he added.

Also, the rise of a new generation determined to lead the fight against climate emergency has led to a major youth movement worldwide, resulting in protest marches, with thousands of young people demonstrating in the streets of New York and in several world capitals.

According to Time magazine, the world’s under-30 population has been rising since 2012, and today accounts for more than half of the world’s 7.5 billion people.

Credit: Amnesty International

Asked for the primary reasons for this surge in young activism, Mariner said this new era of youth activism reflects young people’s understanding that it’s their future at stake.

“If they don’t demand more from governments, including a voice in the decisions that affect their lives, their future is uncertain. It is the young who will inherit this fast-warming planet, and they see all too clearly the consequences of their elders’ inaction and irresponsibility,” she argued.

Meanwhile, the Youth Assembly, described as one of the longest-running and largest global youth summits, is scheduled to take place in New York city February 14-16.

The theme of next week’s 25th session will be: “It’s Time: Youth for Global Impact” aimed at underlining the importance of engaging young people, “especially at a time when the youth are influencing and leading movements that can change the world.”

Meanwhile, the Amnesty International report says China and India, Asia’s two largest powers, set the tone for repression across the region with their overt rejection of human rights.

Beijing’s backing of an Extradition Bill for Hong Kong, giving the local government the power to extradite suspects to the mainland, ignited mass protests in the territory on an unprecedented scale.

Since June, Hong Kongers have regularly taken to the streets to demand accountability in the face of abusive policing tactics that have included the wanton use of tear gas, arbitrary arrests, physical assaults and abuses in detention. This struggle against the established order has been repeated all over the continent, said AI.

In India, the AI report noted, millions decried a new law that discriminates against Muslims in a swell of peaceful demonstrations. In Indonesia, people rallied against parliament’s enactment of several laws that threatened public freedoms.

In Afghanistan, marchers risked their safety to demand an end to the country’s long-running conflict. In Pakistan, the non-violent Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement defied state repression to mobilize against enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions.

Divya Srinivasan, Equality Now’s South Asia Consultant, told IPS young people across Asia have shown incredible resilience and bravery in their continuing battle against government repression in 2019.

One remarkable feature of these protests is that in many instances, they have been led by women and girls, including those from minority communities, she added.

In India, one of the epicentres of protests against the new anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which discriminates against Muslims, has been the neighbourhood of Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi.

Srinivasan said women and children have braved the winter chill and gathered in huge numbers to continuously occupy a highway around the clock in a peaceful protest that has already lasted over a month.

“The voices of these women, particularly Muslim women, have been bravely opposing the Government’s discriminatory laws, and voicing concerns about the oppression of minorities and police brutality.”

“The Shaheen Bagh protest began on December 14th with around a dozen local women and their children and numbers soon swelled into the hundreds”, she said.

And the site has become a creative space for many children and young people, with singing, storytelling, poetry, and talks happening daily, and drawings, graffiti, posters, photographs, and art installations decorating the roadside where people are camping”

In early 2019, Srinivasan said, India saw another historic protest in the form of the Dignity March, which was a 10,000-kilometre long march through 24 states that brought together thousands of survivors of sexual violence, including many young women and girls, who were raising their voices to call for justice, dignity, and an end to victim-blaming and stigma.”

“Young women across Asia are making their voices heard. We cannot ignore them any longer,” declared Srinivasan, a licensed attorney in India with a background in women’s rights, including work on sexual harassment in the workplace and sexual violence against women.

Asked whether there is a role for the United Nations to either support or give its blessings to these youth activists, AI’s Mariner said: “The UN, including at the highest levels, can and should speak out to demand that governments respect the right of peaceful protest”

She pointed out it was heartening to hear UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemn the killings of protesters in Iraq, “although he has been far less vocal regarding repression elsewhere”.

Also encouraging, from the perspective of UN action, are the numerous UN special rapporteurs who have called on the authorities in Hong Kong, India, and Indonesia, among others, to protect the rights of those who participate in protests, she declared.

The AI repot said people speaking out against these atrocities were routinely punished, but their standing up made a difference. There were many examples where efforts to achieve human rights progress in Asia paid off.

In Taiwan, same-sex marriage became legal following tireless campaigning by activists. In Sri Lanka, lawyers and activists successfully campaigned against the resumption of executions.

Brunei was forced to backtrack on enforcing laws to make adultery and sex between men punishable by stoning, while former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak took the stand on corruption charges for the first time.

The Pakistani government pledged to tackle climate change and air pollution, and two women were appointed as judges on the Maldivian Supreme Court for the first time.

And in Hong Kong, the power of protest forced the government to withdraw the Extradition Bill. Yet, with no accountability for months of abuses against demonstrators, the fight goes on.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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International Summit on Balanced and Inclusive Education in Djibouti concludes with establishment of new Organisation of Educational Cooperation

Civil Society, Education

Djibouti City, Feb 3 2020 – At the Closing Ceremony of the III ForumBIE 2030, 38 governments, civil society organisations and academic entities became the first to sign the Universal Declaration of Balanced and Inclusive Education (UDBIE). Furthermore, with the objective of achieving the aspirations and commitments contained within the UDBIE, 30 signatories, including governments and civil society organisations, agreed to establish the Organisation of Educational Cooperation (OEC), a new international organisation from the Global South creating platforms and mechanisms of solidarity-based technical and financial cooperation and support for educational reforms.


The OEC, whose General Assembly will function on the democratic basis of one country, one vote, ensuring accountability to its Member States which will benefit from its support, will also count civil society and academic organisations as Associate Members with limited rights.

The OEC will be established with a wholly-owned financial subsidiary, accountable to the General Assembly, capable of generating funds ethically and sustainably in support of educational reforms. This subsidiary, structurally directed towards investments in socially and ecologically responsible projects in its member states, will eventually fully finance the organisation’s operations and provide funds for the OEC to support Member States’ education systems with solidarity-based financing.

The OEC is designed with a rational, streamlined structure, follows a strategy of efficient systematic intervention, and puts education at the service of communities, of society and of national development as required by the commitments made in the UDBIE.

Sheikh Manssour Bin Mussallam, President, The Education Relief Foundation

The OEC’s first Secretary General has been elected with the task of setting up and presiding a Preparatory Committee, which will lay the groundwork for the OEC until the Constitutive Charter of the Organisation enters into force, upon its ratification by a minimum of 10 of the founding State signatories. The Constitutive Charter’s entry into force will trigger the convening of the first General Assembly.

All signatories to the UDBIE embrace the four key pillars of balanced and inclusive education: Intraculturalism, Transdisciplinarity, Dialecticism and Contextuality. They commit to applying these principles within their education systems, with the cross-sectoral support of the OEC, based on the contextualised needs of their populations, their national priorities, and the global imperative of sustainable development.

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US Mideast Peace Plan: from a Paper Pharaoh & a Fake Moses

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Featured, Global Geopolitics, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Middle East & North Africa, Peace, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

A boy in the Bedouin refugee community of Um al Khayr in the South Hebron Hills where large scale home demolitions by Israeli authorities took place. Credit: UNRWA

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Feb 3 2020 (IPS) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu was slapped corruption charges last week while he was hobnobbing with US President Donald Trump in Washington. Bibi has, apparently, done his homework in psychology. He knew the quickest way to get around Trump was to flatter him.


Addicted to praise, Trump is incapable of understanding that there is a great deal of deception if someone praises him too much. In a June 16, 2017 article, USA Today opinion columnist Windsor Mann wrote, “Flattery is Trump’s cocaine — he’s addicted to it — and, like cocaine, it’s not always genuine.”

Rarely does he get sincere praises from honest people. So, Trump often self-praises himself.

On Tuesday, when Trump announced his Middle East peace plan, Bibi was superlative in his praises. As the drama unfolded in a White House room full of sycophants ready with applauses to ego massage praise-addict Trump and insincere Netanyahu, it became obvious that the peace plan was not worth the paper it was written on.

It also became clear that Trump did not have a thorough knowledge of the Middle East, for he failed to identify a typo in the text on the teleprompter. He read al-Aqsa as al-Aqua.

Many believe that the timing of the announcement was aimed at bolstering the political base of both Trump and Netanyahu – Trump embroiled in an impeachment battle was trying to appease pro-Israeli evangelical Christian voters, a key component of his support base, while Netanyahu used the occasion to go one-up over his political rival Benny Gantz in Israel’s election battle of the right-wings.

When Trump, impeached by the House of Representatives, and Netanyahu, an indicted suspect in a corruption case — a paper pharaoh and fake Moses – make a plan, it will be far from being value-based.

No wonder, the peace plan they unveiled promotes anything but peace and is an agenda to legalise Israel’s illegal land grab on the West Bank. No wonder peace analysts are unanimous in condemning the Trump plan as ‘dead on arrival’. (DOA)

It is one-sided and a travesty of justice in breach of the hallowed legal principle Audi alteram partem —which requires that the other side also be listened to. There was no Palestinian side in this ex-parte ruling that Trump’s pro-Israeli son-in-law Jared Kushner was instrumental in drafting.

If there is one US president who cares no two hoots about the Palestinians, it is Trump. He stopped aid to Palestine and his country’s annual US$ 360 million contribution to the United Nations Relief Work Agency which cares for more than five million Palestinian refugees.

Trump, Kushner and Netanyahu could not find a single Palestinian to endorse the plan made by Zionists for Zionists to continue their crimes in Palestine. Pro-American Arab states, however, have welcomed the peace effort but avoided extending support for the content of the plan.

Key regional powers Turkey and Iran, meanwhile, have given an outright thumbs-down to Trump’s plan, which declares Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, thus ignoring the Palestinians’ aspiration of making East Jerusalem their future capital. The Palestinians are condescendingly told they can have their capital anywhere east of Jerusalem.

Rejecting the Trump plan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Jerusalem and “all our rights are not for sale and are not for bargain.”

The Palestinians have dismissed the plan as Balfour 2.0, whereby one country (the United States) is trying to hand over chunks of another’s country (Palestine) to a third country (Israel) just as Britain in 1917, through an atrocious colonial act of injustice, allowed the Zionist movement to set up a homeland in Palestine.

In 1947, the United Nations adopted a partition plan that unfairly divided historic Palestine, giving the Jews who were a little more than 30 percent of Palestine’s population, 55 percent of the land. Most of them were European migrants who came to Palestine following the 1917 Balfour declaration. The indigenous Palestinians who were about 67 percent of the population were given 45 percent of the land.

The Trump plan will leave the Palestinians with a mere 15 percent of historic Palestine. In other words, 85 percent of Palestine will come under Israel’s sovereignty while the balance to be declared as the State of Palestine will be bits and pieces of territory – or Bantustans connected by tunnels and roads guarded by the Israeli military.

Trump’s plan was unofficially conveyed to Arab leaders more than two years ago. This came after the Trump administration on December 6, 2017 recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.

At the US-sponsored Middle East economic conference in Bahrain in June last year, the plan was partially unveiled by Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East envoy Kushner. The Palestinians boycotted the event where they were promised billions in development aid if they accepted the plan.

To promote the plan, Kushner partnered Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. On December 3, 2017, a New York Times report said the Saudis had summoned Palestinian President Abbas to force him to accept Trump’s plan, where, instead of Jerusalem, the neighbouring town of Abu Dis that overlooks the Dome of the Rock mosque, was offered as the Palestinian capital.

When news leaked out that the Saudis were backing Trump’s plan and had no qualms over al-Aqsa– Islam’s third holiest site –being placed under Israeli sovereignty, the Saudi royals became jittery, fearful of the reaction on the Arab streets.

King Salman invited Abbas to Saudi Arabia again and assured his support for the Palestinians’ stand. Abbas’ Saudi visits indicated that the Saudi establishment is divided over the Palestinian issue. Once the old king becomes history, the kingdom is likely to endorse Trump’s plan.

In December 2017, after Trump misused the US veto to quash yet another United Nations mechanism to bring peace to Palestine, the world community overwhelmingly passed a UN General Assembly resolution asking nations not to establish diplomatic missions in the historic city of Jerusalem.

They did so, defying Trump’s threat to developing nations that they would face an aid cut if they voted for the Jerusalem resolution. Just as the then US president George W. Bush’s 2003 Middle East peace roadmap, Trump’s plan, touted as the deal of the century, is bound to collapse, because it is not founded on justice. It is the fraud of the century.

It ignores international law, numerous UN resolutions, principles of justice, and norms of decency. Sri Lanka, as a true friend of Palestine, should not endorse Trump’s plan which promotes chaos and conflict instead of peace.

*Ameen Izzadeen is Editor International and Deputy Editor, Sri Lanka Sunday Times

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Our Message at Davos: Water & Sanitation Are a Critical Line of Defence Against Climate Change

Civil Society, Climate Change, Development & Aid, Environment, Featured, Global, Headlines, Health, Population, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations, Water & Sanitation

Opinion

Tim Wainwright is Chief Executive of WaterAid UK.

Credit: WaterAid/ DRIK/ Habibul Haque

LONDON, Jan 31 2020 (IPS) – There was only one topic on everyone’s lips at Davos this year – climate change. The headlines focused on the cold war between Greta Thunberg and Donald Trump, but there was much greater consensus among those gathered for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF).


The Forum itself updated its manifesto for responsible business – with climate right at its core.

Among those calling for urgent action was WaterAid’s own president, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. It’s more than 30 years since he last attended Davos and, as he reminded the audience, 50 years since he made his first speech on the environment.

His message was stark, and his call to action challenging: the climate emergency requires nothing less than an overhaul of the current economy, with a new deal for people and planet.

The mood is slowly shifting towards the scale of action needed, given that climate change will affect every part of the economy. This cannot be truer than for water – the WEF has ranked water crises in its top five global risks in terms of likelihood or impact every year since 2012.

Infographic showing the top 10 risks over the next 10 years, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 report. Credit: World Economic Forum

The climate crisis is a water crisis, and a threat multiplier

Throughout the forum I had one consistent message: for the world’s poorest, the climate crisis is a water crisis. Yes, it has long-term implications for your businesses and economies. But, first and foremost, it is a question of survival, dignity and justice, with climate change already having devastating impacts on the lives of the people who did least to cause it.

Flooding, storms and droughts, which all impact on how and if people can get clean water, are becoming more frequent and extreme, and these trends are predicted to rise as the climate continues to change. This will undermine the already precarious access to water for billions around the world.

Climate change acts as a huge threat multiplier, worsening existing barriers to these services and rolling back progress already made.

As people living in climate-vulnerable areas experience changing weather patterns, less predictable rainfall, salt water intrusion and increased exposure to disease, water and sanitation become a critical line of defence.

If your water supply comes from a shallow aquifer that fills with sea water, then you can no longer drink it. But if the person designing your water supply has thought of this threat and factored it in, perhaps by drawing on deeper aquifers, then you can carry on living in your neighbourhood.

If your toilets and sanitation systems are constructed to withstand flooding, then your community does not suffer the same level of contamination after flooding as if human waste had been spread by the high waters.

The water and sanitation sector could become a leader in climate adaptation

But we currently lack the level of public and private sector investment and innovation required to deliver the sustainable water services that would benefit poverty reduction, industry and economic development.

This is a huge blind spot for business leaders and politicians, and a missed opportunity for creating a more sustainable future.

Rather than lagging behind, the water and sanitation sector could become a leader in delivering the kind of green infrastructure, services and jobs urgently required to enable adaptation to the worst impacts of climate change.

Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive of WaterAid UK, speaking with Hassan Nasir Jamy, Secretary Ministry of Climate Change, at Pakistan’s Ministry of Climate Change in Islamabad, Pakistan. Credit: WaterAid/ Sibtain Haider

Water, sanitation and hygiene are core to a sustainable future

Leaving Davos last year, I was frustrated. I felt that too few understood or discussed the impact climate change would have on the already grave state of the world’s water and sanitation, and the devastating consequences for education, health, productivity and development.

This year, I sensed a greater understanding of the interlinked challenges we face, and with that an air of urgency and proactivity. Businesses are looking for solutions – not just raising concerns.

That is why WaterAid will be one of the organisations working closely with HRH the Prince of Wales as part of his 2020 year of action.

In March, in London, we will bring together the public, private and philanthropic sectors for a high-level summit that will position water, sanitation and hygiene at the forefront of the fight against climate, and work on the solutions that will ensure a sustainable future for all.

And we will continue that work across the WaterAid federation throughout the year, including at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali in June, and at the UN Climate Change Conference, COP 26, in Glasgow in November, to help build momentum for decisive action.

In this way we hope WaterAid can play its part in shifting the global trajectory in the coming decade, resulting in a fairer world for the poorest and most marginalised people.

Read our guide Water and resilient business: the critical role of water, sanitation and hygiene in a changing climate to learn more about how businesses can take action.

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