Why Protection & Participation of Children Must be Elevated at the UN Summit of the Future

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KATHMANDU / NAIROBI, May 31 2024 (IPS) – The United Nations will hold the Summit of the Future on September 22—23 this year, during its annual General Assembly. Heads of state and government and their representatives will gather at the UN headquarters in New York, to discuss, agree on, and endorse a multilateral, action-oriented “Pact for the Future” intended to “protect and enshrine the rights of future generations”.

With the draft document of the pact already detailing fifty-two sets of actions around sustainability, peace and security, science and technology, youth, and governance, the Summit is being called a “once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

Indeed, with post-pandemic political, economic, security, and social dynamics (and realignments) redefining world order, torpedoing trust in multilateral organizations and exposing the limits of international law, urgent action is needed to put humanity on a path to justice and equity.

The world is at a tipping point and multilateralism — the very vehicle of the Pact for the Future — is at risk of being ditched for expediency.

As advocates for a better world for children, including through interfaith collaboration, we applaud the worthy intentions behind both the Summit and the pact. However, the current draft of the pact leaves much to be desired. Children — the very essence of the future — are acknowledged only tangentially or conflated with young people, youth, and future generations.

The pact focuses squarely on adults, youth and young people. The protection and wellbeing of the most vulnerable infants and young children who are unable to articulate their unique needs and rights are not prioritized explicitly.

The fact that children make up a third of the world’s population and that 4.2 billion children are expected to be born over the next 30 years, ought to make it self-evident that protecting their rights and promoting their wellbeing must be at the very heart of any pact aimed at ensuring a better future humanity.

No future without children

We live in a world of incredible scientific breakthroughs, tremendous economic prosperity, and greater gender equality than ever before. Yet the number of children globally who are hungry, displaced and in desperate need of protection, has never been higher.

According to UNICEF, nearly one billion children live in multidimensional poverty with another 333 million children living in extreme poverty. These shocking, historically unprecedented figures are being exacerbated by growing inequality, the COVID-19 pandemic, devastating food and energy crises, a climate emergency, and new and protracted conflicts.

In the last year alone, more than 10.5 million children were forced to flee their homes mainly due to conflict and violence. The number of displaced children around the world is now estimated to be over 50 million, while the number of those living in conflict zones exceeds 460 million.

Even in supposedly “normal,” stable, and peaceful settings, children are routinely exposed to the dangers of a rapidly expanding digital environment, discrimination, inequality, abuse, and exploitation, some of it in the name of religion.

Without explicit mention of children in the Pact for the Future, their specific rights and unique perspectives risk being forgotten. As the former Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child emphasized in February, “If the UN is truly committed to becoming a more inclusive multilateral platform for partnership and solidarity having people at center (…) – children cannot be excluded from the process for the Summit of the Future (…). Children should be both subjects of the Summit and the resulting Pact for the Future, and active participants before, during and after the Summit.”

The child is calling

Shortly after the UN Summit for the Future, leaders from major world faiths and spiritual traditions and representatives of governments and international organizations will convene in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, from 19 to 21 November for the Sixth Forum of the Global Network of Religions for Children.

Hosted by the Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities, the forum will amplify the voices and rights of children — the architects of the future — as it tackles the issues of building a safe, secure, and sustainable world for children from an interfaith perspective.

With the greatest tragedy in recent memory involving children unfolding in Gaza, there could not be a more fitting theme or a more appropriate place for the world’s religious and secular leaders to congregate, offer prayers and catalyze action to “never again” allow the senseless killing and maiming of children we are witnessing today.

The forum’s ‘building a safe world’ theme will cover the dignity of the child in the digital world; role of families and collaborative communities; building resilience; and strengthening mental health in the face of global shocks, emerging crises, and pandemics.

Under ‘building a secure world’, the forum will address the root causes of conflicts, wars, xenophobia, hate crimes, and extremism; building resilience to conflict; the impact of conflict and war on children; and building a peaceful and inclusive world for children. The last theme – ‘building a sustainable world’ – will tackle responsible lifestyles; hunger, child poverty, and inequality; ethical values and education; and climate-conscious stewardship.

The forum is expected to foster intergenerational dialogue, mutual understanding, collaboration, and adaptive capacity to advocate for and with children for a future where children can grow and thrive without fear or limitation, regardless of their faith, cultural, racial, economic, or social backgrounds.

If we fail to put the rights and voices of children at the heart of the Pact for the Future, we will be failing one-third of the world’s population today and billions of children who are born in the future. The child is calling! We must unite our efforts, intensify our actions, and put the child’s voice at the center as we all come together to build a safe, secure, sustainable, and hopeful world for all.

Kul Gautam is a former Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, the Chair of the Arigatou International Advisory Group, and the Chair of the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC) Sixth Forum International Organizing Committee.

Dr. Mustafa Y. Ali is the Secretary General of the GNRC and Executive Director of Arigatou International – Nairobi.

IPS UN Bureau


Uniting for Climate Action: UN, World Bank and UNDRR Leaders Push for Climate Finance, Justice and Nature-Based Solutions for SIDS

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Climate Change Finance

Panelists at SDG Media Zone at SIDS4, Antigua and Barbuda. Credit: Alison Kentish/IPS

Panelists at SDG Media Zone at SIDS4, Antigua and Barbuda. Credit: Alison Kentish/IPS

ANTIGUA & BARBUDA, May 29 2024 (IPS) – As leaders of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) meet for the 4th International Conference on SIDS in Antigua this week, top United Nations and World Bank officials are calling for urgent action to help SIDS tackle their unique challenges and plan for the next decade.

Selwin Hart, UN Special Adviser to the Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General of the Climate Action Team, had a frank assessment for a United Nations SDG Media Zone event on the sidelines of the conference, known as SIDS4

“The international community has failed to deliver on its commitments to these small nations, but it’s not too late to make amends,” he said.

Hart says the world has the ‘tools, solutions, technologies, and finance’ to support SIDS, but change lies in the political will of  the countries with the greatest responsibility and capacity, particularly G20 nations, which account for almost 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“A mere USD 3 billion of the USD 100 billion goal has been mobilized annually for the small island developing state and you compare that to the USD 36 billion in profit that Exxon Mobil made last year. It represents a tenth of the climate finance that SIDS are attracting and mobilizing. We need to correct these injustices and that has to be at the root of the global response to the demands and needs of  small island developing states.”

Nature-Based Solutions for Nations on the Frontlines of Climate Change
“Both natural and man-made disasters hit SIDS first,” the World Bank’s Global Director of Environment, Natural Resources, and Blue Economy, Valerie Hickey, told the Media Zone. She said that for this reason, the international lending body describes SIDS as “where tomorrow happens today,” a nod to small islands’ role as ‘innovation incubators,’ who must adapt to climate change through the creative and sustainable use of natural capital, biodiversity, and nature-based solutions.

She says nature capital also shifts the narrative, focusing less on the vulnerabilities of SIDS and more on their ingenuity.

“We don’t talk enough about the fact that small islands are where natural capital is the engine of jobs and GDP,” she said. “It is fisheries. It is nature-based tourism. These are critically important for most of the small islands and ultimately deliver not just jobs and GDP but are going to be the only technology for adaptation that is available and affordable, and affordability matters for small islands.”

For small island states seeking to adapt to a changing climate, nature-based solutions and ecosystem based adaptation are essential, but it is also necessary to tackle perennial problems that hinder growth and access to finance. That includes a dearth of current, relevant data.

“The data is too fragmented. It’s sitting on people’s laptops. It’s sitting on people’s shelves. Nobody knows what’s out there and that’s true for the private sector and the public sector,” she said.

“In the Caribbean, where there is excess capital sitting in retail banks, USD 50 billion of that can be used to invest in nature-based solutions judiciously, to work on the kind of longer-term infrastructure that would be fit for purpose both for disaster recovery and long-term growth—it’s not happening for lack of data.”

As part of SIDS4, the world’s small island developing states appear to be tackling this decades-long data problem head-on. At the event’s opening session, Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne said a much-promoted Centre of Excellence will be established at this conference and that this Global Data Hub for Innovative Technologies and Investment for SIDS will use data for decision-making, ensuring that SIDS’ ten-year Antigua and Barbuda Agenda (ABAS) is led by ‘accuracy and timeliness.’

Reducing Disaster Risk and Early Warning Systems for All

A discussion on SIDS is not complete without acknowledging the disproportionate impact of disasters on the island nations. Assistant Secretary-General and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Kamal Kishore, says mortality rates and economic losses from disasters are significantly higher in SIDS than the global average.

“If you look at mortality from disasters, the number of deaths normalized by the population of the countries, the mortality rate in SIDS is twice that of the rest of the world. If you look at economic losses as a proportion of GDP, globally it is under one percent; in SIDS, in a single event, countries have lost 30 percent of their GDP. SIDS have lost up to two-thirds of their GDP in a single event.”

Kishore says the ambition to reduce disaster losses must match the scale of the problem. He says early warning systems are a must and have to be seen by all not as generosity but responsibility.

“It is not acceptable that anybody on planet Earth should not have access to advanced cyclone or hurricane warnings. We have the technical wherewithal to generate forecasts and warnings. We have technologies to disseminate it. We know what communities need to do and what local governments need to do in order to respond to those warnings. Why is it not happening?”

The Early Warning for All initiative was launched by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in 2022. Kishore says 30 countries have been identified in the initial stage and a third of those countries are SIDS. Gap analyses have already been conducted and a road map has been prepared for strengthening early warning systems. The organization needs money to make it happen.

“The world needs to show some generosity and pick up the bill. It’s not in billions. It’s in millions and it will pay for itself in a single event. You invest in early warning in a country and one major event happens in the next five years, you’ve recovered your investment. The evidence is there that it makes financial sense, but we need to mobilize resources to close that gap.”

The Road Ahead

Thirty years since the first International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the three leaders agree that there is hope, but that hope is hinged on action—an approach to development in SIDS that involves financial investment, comprehensive data collection and management and nature-based adaptation measures.

“It’s not too late,” says Selwin Hart. “What we need now is the political will to make things right for small island developing states.”

IPS UN Bureau Report


Tales of tenacity: Inspiring biographies for kids”

Read these books
May 28, 2024 03:44 pm

What’s the story

Biographies are windows into the lives of those who’ve significantly impacted our world, teaching lessons of courage, perseverance, and innovation. For children, these stories are especially inspiring, showing that determination and hard work can make the impossible possible. This article features biographies that are both informative and engaging for young readers, showcasing individuals from various fields who exemplify tenacity.

‘The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind’

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind tells of William Kamkwamba from Malawi, who built a windmill from scraps amid poverty and drought. His determination and passion for learning led to a solution that saved his village from famine. This story highlights how innovation can emerge from the most challenging circumstances, changing lives and showcasing that anyone can make a significant impact.

‘I Am Malala’

I Am Malala recounts Malala Yousafzai‘s courageous stand for girls’ education in Pakistan, defying the Taliban. At fifteen, she survived their assassination attempt, symbolizing peaceful protest worldwide and earning the Nobel Peace Prize. Her story motivates children to fearlessly stand up for their beliefs, demonstrating that age does not limit one’s ability to effect change and inspire globally.

‘Who was Steve Jobs?’

Who Was Steve Jobs? explores the life of Apple Inc.’s co-founder, Steve Jobs. It covers his journey from an adopted child to a leading creative entrepreneur. The book details his early electronics interest, partnership with Steve Wozniak, and how his vision for Apple transformed industries. It encourages kids to follow their passions and embrace innovative thinking.

‘The Story of Ruby Bridges’

The Story of Ruby Bridges tells of six-year-old Ruby, an icon of the Civil Rights Movement. Chosen as one of the first African American students to integrate into white schools in New Orleans in 1960, she faced daily hostility just for seeking an education. Her story teaches children that bravery knows no age, inspiring courage and determination.


‘There can be No Special Status for Public Officials’

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In an interview with Herta Däubler-Gmelin who served as Federal Minister of Justice from 1998 to 2002, and as a Member of the German Bundestag from 1972 to 2009.

BERLIN, Germany, May 28 2024 (IPS) – The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, last week requested arrest warrants for three Hamas leaders as well as for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Defence Minister Yoav Galant. They are accused of various war crimes and crimes against humanity. But what does this mean and where do things go from here?

This is a very significant first step towards being able to bring political and military leaders to court for the most serious crimes against humanity. For some time now, the office of the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has also been conducting investigations in Israel and Gaza with the support of highly qualified external experts in international law.

Brenda J. Hollis, an exceptional US lawyer with extensive military experience, is leading the investigations at the chief prosecutor’s office. And, also in this case, she is just as qualified as in the investigation against Vladimir Putin, which led to an arrest warrant from the court.

The chief prosecutor has forwarded the results of his investigation to the competent judicial preliminary chamber of the International Criminal Court. This is staffed by judges who carefully examine all the evidence submitted and then assess it in full independence and in accordance with the applicable criminal law before deciding whether to issue an arrest warrant.

The procedure is therefore the same as the one used for the arrest warrant against the Russian president. But why is the International Criminal Court needed? Isn’t the Israeli judiciary responsible for a possible trial?

Of course, the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court must be clarified. In this case, this includes whether – if the terrible allegations of crime are confirmed – the Israeli prime minister and his defence minister would also be charged before Israeli courts and convicted by them. This is not entirely out of the question, despite Netanyahu’s attempts to strengthen his political power by weakening the judiciary.

We all remember the huge demonstrations by courageous Israeli citizens against these plans. To this day, the ‘battle for the rule of law and the separation of powers’ in Israel is not yet over. All of this will have to be recognised and evaluated by the judges of the competent preliminary chamber.

The chief prosecutor’s request concerns the leadership of Hamas as well as the leadership of Israel. Does this not lead to an inappropriate equation between those who are members of an EU terror-listed organisation and elected representatives of a democratic government?

The claim of equivalence is an inaccurate, political accusation — and the International Criminal Court is not concerned with politics. It is verifiably about international law. Everyone – including government statements – should take this into account, unless they want to weaken the International Criminal Court.

The chief prosecutor has, of course, submitted different applications with various justifications relating to different facts and allegations of crimes. In these, there is no recognisable legal equivalence between the leaders of Hamas, in other words a highly organised non-state terrorist group, and the elected officials of Israel.

Some commentators evidently take the view that only terrorists can commit the most serious crimes against humanity, but not democratically elected officials. Unfortunately, numerous examples from the recent past show that this is not the case.

As Germany recognises the International Criminal Court, Netanyahu and Galant would theoretically have to be arrested upon entering the country if they were charged. How realistic do you think this is?

Anyone wanted by the International Criminal Court on the basis of an arrest warrant must be arrested if they enter a member state, because the Rome Statute clearly stipulates that arrest warrants must be executed by the member states. Of course, not every government that is pursuing its own political agenda likes this.

As we all know, the Chinese government’s criticism of the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant against Putin and its demand for his immunity on the grounds that he is a public official were met with astonishment. However, there can be no special status for public officials.

The Rome Statute rules this out and we in Germany – as well as around two thirds of UN member states – should recognise and support the independent International Criminal Court with good reason.

As a constitutional democracy, we should also be wary of double standards. On the contrary, we should help to dispel the suspicions fuelled by political interests about the qualifications, integrity and independence of the International Criminal Court, the chief prosecutor and the judges.

The International Criminal Court has frequently demonstrated its high level of qualification and its necessity. It is infuriating that the US, Russia, but also China and India, among others, acknowledge the Court as a ‘court for others, but not for themselves’.

This weakens international law, on which we Germans particularly rely. As is well known, the International Criminal Court has already recognised its jurisdiction to prosecute crimes against humanity in Palestine and Gaza in 2021 following multiple resolutions and recommendations by the UN General Assembly.

The International Criminal Court is based on the Rome Statute of 1998, which was adopted during your time as minister of justice and against immense pressure from the US. What impact would a disregard of the proceedings by Germany and other signatory states have on the international legal system?

It is indeed a great disappointment, even a nuisance, that states such as the US are evading membership and downright fighting the International Criminal Court. Especially as very good US lawyers work in the office of the chief prosecutor.

I would like to repeat: strengthening international law and supporting the International Criminal Court go hand in hand. In Germany, we have not only ratified the Rome Statute, but have also created the German International Criminal Code, which today, in accordance with the Rome Statute, relieves the International Criminal Court in appropriate proceedings. We rely on international law and should continue to do so. And this support has to prove itself time and again.

The fight against the most serious crimes against humanity is more important today than ever before. It is also high time to assign the prohibition of aggressive war to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in its entirety, even if ‘only’ the invaded state, but not the aggressor itself, is a member state of the International Criminal Court.

Source: International Politics and Society (IPS)-Journal published by the International Political Analysis Unit of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Hiroshimastrasse 28, D-10785 Berlin

IPS UN Bureau


Small Island Nations Demand Urgent Global Action at SIDS4 Conference

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The once-in-a-decade SIDS Conference opened in Antigua and Barbuda today, with a clear message: the world already knows the challenges that SIDS face—now it’s time for action.

King Charles III of Britain addresses the opening ceremony of the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States, May 27, 2024. Credit: Alison Kentish/IPS

King Charles III of Britain addresses the opening ceremony of the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States, May 27, 2024. Credit: Alison Kentish/IPS

ANTIGUA, May 27 2024 (IPS) – “This year has been the hottest in history in practically every corner of the globe, foretelling severe impacts on our ecosystems and starkly underscoring the urgency of our predicament. We are gathered here not merely to reiterate our challenges, but to demand and enact solutions,” declared Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Brown at the opening of the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States on May 27.

The world’s 39 small island developing states are meeting on the Caribbean island this week. It is a pivotal, once-a-decade meeting for small states that contribute little to global warming, but are disproportionately impacted by climate change. The Caribbean leader reminded the world that SIDS are being forced to survive crises that they did not create.

“The scales of equity and justice are unevenly balanced against us. The large-scale polluters whose CO2 emissions have fuelled these catastrophic climate changes bear a responsibility—an obligation of compensation to aid in our quest to build resilience,” he said.

“The Global North must honor its commitments, including the pivotal pledge of one hundred billion dollars in climate financing to assist with adaptation and mitigation as well as the effective capitalization and operationalization of the loss and damage fund. These are imperative investments in humanity, in justice, and in the equitable future of humanity.”

Urgent Support Needed from the International Community

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the gathering that the previous ten years have presented significant challenges to SIDS and hindered development. These include extreme weather events and the COVID-19 pandemic. He says SIDS, islands that are “exceptionally beautiful, exceptionally resilient, but exceptionally vulnerable,” need urgent support from the international community, led by the nations that are both responsible for the challenges they face and have the capacity to deal with them.

“The idea that an entire island state could become collateral damage for profiteering by the fossil fuel industry, or competition between major economies, is simply obscene,” the Secretary General said, adding, “Small Island Developing States have every right and reason to insist that developed economies fulfill their pledge to double adaptation financing by 2025. And we must hold them to this commitment as a bare minimum. Many SIDS desperately need adaptation measures to protect agriculture, fisheries, water resources and infrastructure from extreme climate impacts you did virtually nothing to create.”

Antigua and Barbuda Agenda for SIDS (ABAS)

The theme for SIDS4 is Charting the Course Toward Resilient Prosperity and the small islands have been praised for collective action in the face of crippling crises. Their voices were crucial to the establishment of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement.

Out of this conference will come the Antigua and Barbuda Agenda for SIDS (ABAS). President of the UN General Assembly, Dennis Francis, says that programme of action will guide SIDS on a path to resilience and prosperity for the next decade.

“ The next ten years will be critical in making sustained concrete progress on the SIDS agenda – and we must make full use of this opportunity to supercharge our efforts around sustainability,” he said.

The SIDS4 conference grounds in Antigua and Barbuda will be a flurry of activity over the next four days. Apart from plenaries, there are over 170 side events hosted by youth, civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, and universities, covering a range of issues from renewable energy to climate financing.

They have been reminded by Prime Minister Gaston Browne that this is a crucial juncture in the history of small island developing states, where “actions, or failure to act, will dictate the fate of SIDS and the legacy left for future generations.”

IPS UN Bureau Report


Chakwera hails African Methodist Episcopal Church for social and economic contribution made to Malawi

Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera has commended African Methodist Episcopal Church for being among the crucial part of the struggle which Malawians are enjoying today.

Chakwera said this at a centenary celebration ceremony which took place at Hannock Msokera Primary School Ground in Kasungu.

Speaking during the function Chakwera congratulated the African Methodist Episcopal Church for clocking 100 Years of existence.

Chakwera also commended Founder of this church Hannock Msokera for bringing the church to Malawi.

Chakwera during the centenary celebrations urged Malawians to honour these people who fought hard for Malawi to reach where we are.

The president hailed the church for the role the church played during the Tropical Cyclone Freddy whereby the church built 21 houses.

Bishop Richard Allen founded the church in 1816Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States of America, and was brought into the country by Reverend Hannock Msokera in 1924.

Allen formed the church by gathering together five African American congregations of the previously established Methodist Episcopal Church with the hope of escaping the discrimination that was commonplace in society, including churches.

The church is already operating 26 primary schools and two secondary schools in Malawi which is a significant contribution to Malawi.

It is also believed that African Methodist Episcopal Church through Reverend Msokera also contributed to the education of Malawi’s first President Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda.

Historically , the African Methodist Episcopal Church, usually called the AME Church or AME, is a Methodist Black church.

AME has persistently advocated for the civil and human rights of African Americans through social improvement, religious autonomy, and political engagement while always being open to people of all racial backgrounds.

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