Bringing Quality Education to Syria’s Most Vulnerable, Crisis-Impacted Children – Their Education Cannot Wait

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Education, Education Cannot Wait. Future of Education is here, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Inequity, Middle East & North Africa, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations

Education Cannot Wait. Future of Education is here

Kawthar, 13, takes notes while attending Grade 3 at a UNICEF-supported self-learning centre in Al-Hasakeh, northeast Syria. She says she always wanted to be like other children and grab her bag and go to school like other children. With Education Cannot Wait assisted schooling, this dream has become a reality. Credit: UNICEF/ Syria 2020/ Delil Souleiman

DOMINICA, Oct 21 2021 (IPS) – In war-torn Syria, the support of Education Cannot Wait (ECW) – the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises – is bringing positive, life-changing educational opportunities tailored to children like 11-year-old Ali.


Ali, who lives in Raqqa with his two siblings and parents, has to work to help support his family. He and his brother did not attend school. Ali heard about registration for ECW-supported educational activities near the industrial area in which he works. They are part of courses being offered in three centres in the city – alongside psychosocial support for children who have experienced war for most of their lives.

Ali initially registered his siblings in the ECW-supported programme but held out himself for fear of losing his job. The centre proposed a flexible learning schedule – one that would allow the brothers to work and attend classes. Programme officials had to convince his family and employers at the industrial centre that school is essential for children’s development. Now he is part of a class of 16 children from the area who attend classes from 7:30 am to 10:00 am. After class, they go to work.

Ali’s story is one of the many stories of vulnerable children and adolescents embroiled in Syria’s protracted conflict that ECW’s investments are helping bring back to school in partnership with education partners on the ground. ECW’s multi-year response in Syria was initiated in 2017 through an initial investment which was further expanded into a Multi-Year Resilience Programme which will continue until 2023 with a cumulative budget of US$45 million.

Yasmine Sherif, the Director of Education Cannot Wait, says too many children and adolescents in Syria have only seen the brutal reality of war, forced displacement, and the hardship of living in areas affected by armed conflict in their short lives.  Credit: Education Cannot Wait (ECW)

“Too many children and adolescents in Syria have only seen the brutal reality of war, forced displacement, and the hardship of living in areas affected by armed conflict in their short lives. For them, education is a beacon of hope. It is an opportunity to thrive and become positive changemakers to rebuild their communities and ensure a more peaceful and prosperous future for all,” said Yasmine Sherif, the Director of Education Cannot Wait. “Working together with our partners on the ground, ECW is dedicated to fulfilling the right to a quality education for the most vulnerable girls and boys in Syria.”

Save the Children has key actor status in the education sector in Syria and has been involved since the inception of ECW’s multi-year response, providing sector-specific technical expertise and guiding in the development of a programme framework that is responsive to the extensive education needs of children in Syria,” Sara Dabash, Awards Officer for the ECW programme in Syria, told IPS.

Children and adolescents already suffering from the impacts of a decade-long war are also bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly due to school closures and movement restrictions.

“The disruption of access to quality education for children has dramatically impacted learning and child well-being. In addition, lack of access to safe learning environments and continued isolation exposes children to higher risks of child labour, early marriage, and other negative coping mechanisms. The limited social interactions also compromise access to psychosocial support and other protection services,” Dabash said.

Emad, 9, who lives with a disability, shows his writing to his teacher to check if he is doing right in the class of Arabic subject in the ECW supported temporary learning space in Idleb, northwest Syria. Credit: UNICEF/ Syria 2020

According to Dabash, blended learning options have been introduced, using devices such as mobile phones for remote learning. This option has its downsides as many children have limited to no access to phones or internet connections.

Figures provided by Save the Children put almost 7 million people in need of humanitarian education assistance. Children make up 97 percent of that number. Dabash says, however, that in the “determined locations of implementation within the ECW Programme in northeast Syria, Save the Children, with the support of its partners, has identified around 15,000 children as the most vulnerable and in need of education assistance.”

Since 2017, ECW is also partnering with UNICEF to provide quality education services for the most vulnerable children in the country.

“With funding from ECW, UNICEF provides children across Syria with opportunities to continue their learning through a holistic package of activities tailored to the needs of the children. To support learning, the package of activities generally includes providing learning supplies and psychosocial support through recreational activities. Where classrooms do not exist or continue to be unsafe or overcrowded, we establish new classrooms and rehabilitate existing ones,” Karen Bryner, Education Specialist and ECW Programme Manager in Syria, told IPS.

Bryner says the partnership provides training, teaching supplies and stipend payments to teachers.

The goal is to get as many girls and boys as possible enrolled and attending school regularly. According to UNICEF, ‘children have experienced psychological distress due to violence and instability. Many have missed years of education, with over 2.4 million currently out of school.’

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged that goal with intermittent school closures. However, Bryner says when face-to-face instruction was not an option, the ECW-supported students transitioned to electronic and paper-based distance education.

“Various modalities were used over the last year, including WhatsApp groups by teachers to deliver daily instruction where connectivity allowed; blended learning with face-to-face instruction two days a week and home-based learning (worksheets and assignments) for the other days, conducting lessons in smaller groups closer to children’s homes, and home delivery of biweekly learning packs and retrieval of students’ work by teachers,” she told IPS.

Kawthar, 13, hangs out with her cousin Juhaina outside her house in Ghwairan neighbourhood, Al-Hasakeh. Since 2019, she has benefitted from the self-learning programme, helping her catch up on the education she had missed due to displacement, her disability, and the financial challenges her family had. Credit: UNICEF/ Syria 2020/ Delil Souleiman

The story of 13-year-old Kawthar is a testament to the positive impact of ECW’s support for the most marginalised children Displaced five times and suffering from growth-related issues due to stunting, she could not walk to school, and her family could not afford transportation. Two years ago, Kawthar, originally from Al-Hasakeh City, enrolled in the ECW-supported self-learning programme implemented by UNICEF– a course that gives out-of-school children the tools to catch up to their peers. She also receives transportation to classes.

“I always wanted to be like all other children; to grab my bag and head to school; to read, write and learn,” says Kawthar. “I wish for all children to be able to go to school. And I certainly hope that nobody gets displaced anymore and that we all remain safe.”

According to UNICEF, with ECW funding, since November 2020, the self-learning programme has been able to reach 2,600 out-of-school children in Al-Hasakeh. Despite this progress, challenges remain to fulfil the right to inclusive, quality education for every child in Syria.

UNICEF states that there has been a 20 percent increase in the number of children in need of humanitarian assistance, and agencies will need scaled-up support as they continue to bring hope to Syria’s children.

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Winning the Human Race, Together

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Climate Change, COVID-19, Development & Aid, Education, Education Cannot Wait. Future of Education is here, Environment, Gender, Global, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Migration & Refugees, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

NEW YORK, Oct 14 2021 (IPS) – “Now is the time for a stronger, more networked and inclusive multilateral system anchored in the United Nations,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his latest report “Our Common Agenda.” Indeed, there is a fork in the road: we can either choose to breakdown or to breakthrough.


Yasmine Sherif

Making this moral choice and adopting this legal imperative is more relevant today than ever. The estimated 75 million children and adolescents caught in emergencies and protracted crisis who suffer from disrupted education has now dramatically increased from 75 million to 128 million due to the pandemic. These vulnerable girls and boys are now the ones left furthest behind in some of the world’s toughest contexts, in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa and South America.

The current education financing gap amounts to US$1.48 billion for low- and middle-income countries. A gap that is increasingly widening. In reviving the multilateralism that is so urgently needed, the UN Secretary-General will convene a crucial, timely summit on Transforming Education in 2022.

Despite all that we do, despite all our investments, we cannot win ‘the human race’ unless we invest in our fellow human beings, now. It is the children and young people impacted by armed conflicts, climate-crisis induced disasters, forced displacement and protracted crises who are in a sprint against time, with their lives and futures on the line.

We can no longer let “an entire generation facing irreversible losses be left behind in the ruins of armed conflicts, in protracted refuge, on a planet whose climate-change threatens us all,” as the UN Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of Education Cannot Wait’s High-Level Steering Group, The Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown stated at the launch of Education Cannot Wait’s Annual Results Report: Winning the Human Race, on 5 October 2021.

Education is the foundation, the DNA and the absolute prerequisite for achieving all other Sustainable Human Development Goals and Universal Human Rights. Education means investments in the limitless possibilities of human potential: the workforce, governance, gender-equality, justice, peace and security.

“Access to quality education is key to addressing 21st century challenges, including accelerating the fight to end poverty and climate change,” says The LEGO Foundation’s new CEO, Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, in this month’s ECW Newsletter high-level interview.

The time has come to connect the dots between individual human beings and our collective humanity and life on this planet. We are now investing more and more in Mother Earth through significant climate change financing. We must now also invest in the human beings populating the planet. The correlation between the positive impact of education upon on all aspects of life on the planet is indispensable and inescapable.

    Higher education levels lead to higher concern for the environment, and adaptation to climate change. If education progress is stalled, it could lead to a 20% increase in disaster-related fatalities per decade.
    Education is the one unique investment that can prevent conflict and forced displacement. High levels of secondary school enrollment have been shown to be associated with an increase a country’s level of stability and peace and reduce crime and violence.
    Every additional year of schooling reduces an adolescent boy’s risk of becoming involved in conflict by 20 percent. This effect reflects both education’s economic benefits and its role in social cohesion and national identity.
    Conversely, lack of education often leads to political disempowerment and regression to group allegiances. Across 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, sub-national regions with very low average education had a 50 per cent probability of experiencing the onset of conflict within 21 years, while the corresponding interval for regions with very high average education was 346 years.
    Education is also the most secure means of ending extreme poverty. For nations, each additional year of schooling can add up to 18 per cent to GDP per capita. For individuals, one more year of education brings a 10 per cent increase in personal income. If all children were to learn basic reading skills, the impact would be 171 million fewer people living in extreme poverty. *Footnotes below.

Education Cannot Wait is a multilateral global UN fund. Our Annual Results Report of 2020, Winning the Human Race, launched at the UN in Geneva this month, testifies to what we can achieve when we think and act multilaterally: when we connect the dots, become one, and act for all.

Through multilateralism, we reached more than 29 million crisis-affected girls and boys in 2020 alone through ECW’s COVID-19 emergency response, working with our strategic partners, including host governments, our 21 donors, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNESCO, UNDP, WFP, our civil society partners, such as INEE, Jesuit Refugee Service, AVSI, Save the Children, Plan International, Norwegian Refugee Council, International Rescue Committee and numerous local civil society organizations across 34 countries. Through joint programming, we were also able to jointly deliver quality education to more than 4.6 million children and youth, of whom 51% were girls and adolescent girls, 38% were refugees – all while we increased ECW allocations to children and youth with disabilities.

This is made possible because ODA governments, private sector and philanthropic partners are scaling up their support for the catalytic ECW global fund whereby their investments are part of multilateral efforts that work as closely as possible to those we serve, establishing links conducive to numerous, diverse SDGs and human rights. The full list of our 21 generous donor partners can be found at the end of this Newsletter.

In connection with the UNGA week this year, ECW strategic donors advancing multilateralism, such as Germany, the United States, the European Union/European Commission, France, The LEGO Foundation and Porticus took giant steps and committed $138.1 million to ECW, bringing the total resources mobilized thus far in 2021 alone to $156.1 million and the total since ECW’s inception to $1.85 billion ($827 million mobilized for the Trust Fund; and, over $1 billion worth of programmes aligned with ECW MYRPs, as leveraged by ECW with partners).

Furthermore, the Global Hub for Education in Emergencies celebrated its new collective space under the ECW umbrella in Geneva, thanks to Switzerland which is the second biggest UN capital for humanitarian and development actors after New York City. The Global Hub brings together NGOs, the UN, academia, foundations, and governments to inspire more commitment and resources to quality education for those left furthest behind in emergencies and protracted crisis.

Multilateralism through the United Nations works.

Still, this is just the start of a major global effort to work through the multilateral coordination system to reach those left furthest behind and bring education from the margins to the center. Based on empirical evidence, ECW calls for an additional $1 billion to contribute to an innovative model that has proven to work.

Political leaders, governments, private sector, UN and civil society – all part of ECW’s multilateral UN system – recognize that education is a precondition for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and Universal Human Rights. Together, we think long-term and act now. Together, we connect the dots and see things from afar and within. Together, we work on what the world needs most right now: A Common Agenda to Win the Human Race.

Yasmine Sherif is Director,
Education Cannot Wait
The UN Global Fund for Education in Emergencies and Protracted Crises

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As War Keeps Poisoning Humanity, Organizing Continues to Be the Antidote

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Featured, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Peace, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

United Nations military personnel are the Blue Helmets on the ground. Today, they consist of over 70,000 troops contributed by national armies from across the globe and help keep the peace in military conflicts worldwide. Credit: United Nations

SAN FRANCISCO, USA, Sep 14 2021 (IPS) – Last weekend, U.S. corporate media continued a 20-year repetition compulsion to evade the central role of the USA in causing vast carnage and misery due to the so-called War on Terror. But millions of Americans fervently oppose the military-industrial complex and its extremely immoral nonstop warfare.


CodePink and Massachusetts Peace Action hosted a national webinar to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11 — the day before Sunday’s launch of the Cut the Pentagon campaign — and the resulting video includes more than 20 speakers who directly challenged the lethal orthodoxy of the warfare state. As part of the mix, here’s the gist of what I had to say:

When we hear all the media coverage and retrospectives, we rarely hear — and certainly almost never in the mass media hear — that when people are killed, whether it’s intentional or predictable, those are atrocities that are being financed by U.S. taxpayers.

And so we hear about the evils of Al Qaeda and 9/11, and certainly those were evils, but we’re not hearing about the predictable as well as the intentional deaths: the tens of thousands of civilians killed by U.S. air strikes alone in the last two decades, and the injuries, and the terrorizing of people with drones and other U.S. weapons. We’re hearing very little about that.

Part of the role of activists is to make those realities heard, make them heard loud and clear, as forcefully and as emphatically and as powerfully as possible. Activist roles can sometimes get blurred in terms of becoming conflated with the roles of some of the best members of Congress.

When progressive legislators push for peace and social justice, they deserve our praise and our support. When they succumb to the foreign-policy “Blob” — when they start to be more a representative of the establishment to the movements rather than a representative of the movements to the establishment — we’ve got a problem.

It’s vital for progressive activists to be clear about what our goals are, and to be willing to challenge even our friends on Capitol Hill.

I’ll give you a very recent example. Two leaders of anti-war forces in the House of Representatives, a couple of weeks ago, circulated a “Dear Colleague” message encouraging members of the House to sign a letter urging the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith, to stand firm behind President Biden’s 1.6 percent increase in the Pentagon budget, over the budget that Trump had gotten the year before.

The point of the letter was: Chairman Smith, we want you to defend the Biden budget’s increase of 1.6 percent, against the budget that has just been approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee with a 3.3 percent increase.

That kind of a letter moves the goal posts further and further to the liking of the military-industrial complex, to the liking of war profiteers, to the liking of the warfare state. And so, when people we admire and support, in this case Rep. Mark Pocan and Rep. Barbara Lee, circulate such a Dear Colleague letter, there’s a tendency for organizations to say: “Yeah, we’re going to get behind you,” we will respond affirmatively to the call to urge our members to urge their representatives in Congress to sign this letter.

And what that creates is a jumping-off point that moves the frame of reference farther and farther into the militarism that we’re trying to push back against. For that reason, my colleagues and I at RootsAction decided to decline an invitation to sign in support.

I bring up that episode because it’s indicative of the pathways and the crossroads that we face to create momentum for a stronger and more effective peace and social justice movement. And it’s replicated in many respects.

When we’re told it’s not practical on Capitol Hill to urge a cutoff of military funding and assistance to all countries that violate human rights — and when we’re told that Israel is off the table — it’s not our job to internalize those limits that have been internalized by almost everyone in Congress, except for the Squad and a precious few others.

It’s our job to speak not only truth to power but also about power. And to be clear and candid even when that means challenging some of our usual allies. And to organize.

At RootsAction, we’ve launched a site called Progressive Hub, as an activism tool to combine the need to know with the imperative to act.

It’s not easy, to put it mildly, to go against the powerful flood of megamedia, of big money in politics, of the ways that issues are constantly framed by powerful elites. But in the long run, peace activism is essential for overcoming militarism. And organizing is what makes that possible.

Norman Solomon is the national director of RootsAction.org and the author of many books including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 and 2020 Democratic National Conventions. Solomon is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

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A Milestone Anniversary Reiterates The Culture of Peace is a Movement, not a Revolution

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Opinion

Credit: United Nations

NEW YORK, Sep 13 2021 (IPS) – Today, on 13 September 2021, the UN Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the General Assembly in 1999 will be turning 22.

You would recall that the 20th anniversary of The Culture of Peace of its adoption by the world’s highest multilateral body in 2019 was observed by the United Nations in an appropriate and befitting manner, as called for by the Assembly. It was an occasion for reiteration and recommitment by us all to create the culture of peace in our world, beginning with each one of us.


After the UN Charter, this is the only major document of the UN which focuses on peace in a most comprehensive manner. We need to pay increasingly more attention to this landmark document for its full and effective implementation.

Last week another integrally-connected milestone gathering – the 2021 UN High Level Forum on The Culture of Peace – took place at the UN General Assembly convened by its President of the 75th session.

This day-long event organized on 7 September 2021 attained a special profile and attention as it was the 10th anniversary of the annual UN high level forums which was first initiated in 2012 during the 66th session of the Assembly by its then President, Ambassador Nassir Al-Nasser of Qatar.

His objective was to create a new platform for the culture of peace at the UN to be held on an annual basis for an opportunity to exchange ideas between the Member States and civil society organizations.

I happened to be his senior special advisor involved in conceptualizing and organizing that very first forum on 14 September, the day after the 11th anniversary of The Culture of Peace.

Ambassador Anwarul K Chowdhury

This year’s Forum was held in a hybrid format, both in-person and virtual platforms. With its focus on the theme “The Transformative Role of The Culture of Peace: Promoting Resilience and Inclusion in Post-Covid Recovery”, the Forum provided the opportunity to the participants and all stakeholders to exchange ideas and make suggestions on how to utilize the values of culture of peace in post-Covid recovery efforts, especially to ensure that the recovery, which unfortunately is yet to happen, is durable, resilient and inclusive.

The President of the General Assembly Volkan Bozkir of Turkey, under whose leadership the 2021 Forum took place, earned the grateful tribute of all stakeholders for his guidance, initiative and encouragement in convening and holding this 10th anniversary forum under extremely challenging circumstances very successfully. The Panel Discussion was a fitting conclusion to this remarkable gathering.

As I was preparing for the Panel Discussion, I ran into the historical perspective that this year will reach the quarter century mark of my close association with and advocacy for the culture of peace at the United Nations. In 1997, I took the lead in proposing along with some other Ambassadors in a letter to the newly-elected UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to include a specific, self-standing agenda item of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on The Culture of Peace.

A new agenda item was thus agreed upon after considerable negotiating hurdles and the new item was allocated to the plenary of the General Assembly for discussion on an annual basis. That is the basis for the annual resolutions on The Culture of Peace by the General Assembly from that year.

Under this item, UNGA adopted in 1997 a resolution to declare the year 2000 the “International Year for The Culture of Peace”, and in 1998, a resolution to declare the period from 2001 to 2010 as the “International Decade for The Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World”.

In the year after that the United Nations adopted its Declaration and Programme of Action on The Culture of Peace, a monumental document that transcends boundaries, cultures, societies and nations. It was an honor for me to Chair the nine-month long negotiations that led to the adoption of this historic norm-setting document by consensus.

As I mentioned Secretary-General Kofi Annan earlier, let me quote his thoughts on the culture of peace – I cite this quote often: “Over the years we have come to realize that it is not enough to send peacekeeping forces to separate warring parties. It is not enough to engage in peace-building efforts after societies have been ravaged by conflict. It is not enough to conduct preventive diplomacy. All of this is essential work, but we want enduring results. We need, in short, the culture of peace.”

Absolutely right – we need “enduring results” and for that we need “The Culture of Peace”. The Culture of Peace is not a hollow phrase – or an empty sentiment. It has a transformational opportunity for humanity – it has the energy and enthusiasm of many of us individually and collectively around the world.

These annual forums are very special in their involvement of civil society. These are the only High-Level Forums in the UN which are fully 50-50 gender balanced in their panel compositions. I am proud to say that this was possible as the Global Movement for The Culture of Peace (GMCoP) which is the civil society partner in supporting the Forum has been very diligent in upholding these values.

The concept note of this year’s Forum forcefully reiterated that “…it is an imperative to inculcate the values of The Culture of Peace among nations, societies and communities, with particular attention to the younger generation, through promotion of compassion, tolerance, inclusion, global citizenship and empowerment of all people.”

The theme focusing on the transformative role of the culture of peace in relation to Covid recovery provided a platform to explore and discuss multiple ways and means for empowering all segments of the society, towards a resilient recovery, including by ensuring vaccine equity, asserting universal vaccination as a public good, bridging digital divide, ensuring centrality of women’s equality and empowerment, harnessing the power of youth and highlighting education, health and overall wellbeing of children.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr. AK Abdul Momen in his pre-recorded video presentation at the Forum articulated succinctly that “We must recognize that rebuilding from the COVID pandemic necessitates a renewed commitment and partnership of all stakeholders. Our efforts should be undergirded by the values of “The Culture of Peace’ as instilling these values contribute to building a resilient, inclusive and peaceful society.”

This year’s Forum heard the inspirational keynote speech by Dr. Beatrice Fihn, the Executive Director of 2017 Nobel Peace Prize winning organization ICAN, International Coalition for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, by calling on all that “On this 10th anniversary of the culture of peace, I am urging you all to continue and strengthen your work to promote education, sustainable and economic developments, human rights, gender equality, democratic participation and international peace and security.

She is the sixth Nobel Peace Prize laureate as the keynote speaker at The Culture of Peace Forums, which also make us proud that all of them are distinguished women Nobel Peace laureates. Complimenting Dr. Fihn for her keynote, I underlined that the essence of her keynote message has now become more pertinent in the midst of the ever-increasing militarism and militarization that is destroying both our planet and our people.

Video message by the activist and globally respected Mayor Kazumi Matsui of Hiroshima, the city which along with Nagasaki bear the scars of nuclear destruction and yearn for global peace, highlighted a major engagement of his world-wide peace organization announcing that “On the 7th of July this year, Mayors for Peace, which I preside over, adopted our new Vision, a set of concrete action guidelines, titled: “Vision for Peaceful Transformation to a Sustainable World.”

One of the objectives set forth by the new Vision is to ‘promote a culture of peace’.” Informing that the foundation of this policy change rests in the ability to build a consensus in favor of the abolition of nuclear weapons, he asserted that “To do this, first cultivating a culture of peace-a culture in which the everyday actions of each person are grounded in thinking about peace-is essential.

It is our belief, that this “bottom-up” approach is the most viable approach to peace, and is in line with the values which prompted the efforts of Ambassador Chowdhury and those in attendance.”

The Mayor’s passionate message included in the Peace Declaration, which he delivered in Hiroshima on 6th of August this year, advocated forcefully that “When like-minded people who seek peace unite for the same purpose, we can bring about a significant change in the world.”

Mayor Matsui encouraged the Forum by informing that “Mayors for Peace consists of over 8,000 member cities in 165 countries and regions around the world. With support from member mayors for our aforementioned cause, we will work to promote a culture of peace by expanding our membership and reaching out to a wider public.”

Often, I am asked how I assess the progress made so far since the Assembly adopted the Programme of Action in 1999. At this year’s High-Level Forum, as the Chair-Moderator of its Panel Discussion, I repeated my concern that lamentably, The Culture of Peace has yet to attain its worth and its due recognition at global and national levels as a universal mandate for the humanity to attain sustainable peace in the true sense.

When people wonder what are my plans to advance the concept in the UN system, my response verges on my advocacy message in general. The Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace adopted without any reservation is a landmark document of United Nations.

The Organization should, therefore, own it and internalize its implementation throughout the UN system. There seems to be lethargy in that direction because, I believe, the Secretary-General needs to make the culture of peace a part of his leadership agenda.

We should get that attention and engagement from him. Also, the UN entities, at least most of them, are preoccupied with what is known as “active agenda” which is a kind of daily problem-solving or problem-shelving.

That means no opportunities to focus on longer term, farsighted objective of sustainable peace with a workable tool that UN possess in the culture of peace programme adopted by its own apex body, the General Assembly. It is like a person who needs a car to go to work and has a car… but with a minimal interest in knowing how to drive it.

Many treat peace and culture of peace synonymously. There is a subtle difference between peace as generally understood and the culture of peace. Actually, when we speak of peace we expect others namely politicians, diplomats or other practitioners to take the initiative while when we speak of The Culture of Peace, we know that initial action begins with each one of us.

For more than two decades, my focus has been on advancing The Culture of Peace which aims at making peace and non-violence a part of our own self, our own personality – a part of our existence as a human being.

I believe The Culture of Peace is not a quick-fix. It is a movement, not a revolution!

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury is Founder of The Global Movement of The Culture of Peace (GMCoP); former Under-Secretary-General of the UN and the Chair of the negotiations which resulted in the consensus adoption of the UN Declaration and Programme of Action on The Culture of Peace in 1999. He was the Chair and Moderator of the virtual Panel Discussion at 2021 UN High Level Forum on The Culture of Peace on 7 September 2021.

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Multilateral Peace Operations in 2020: Developments & Trends

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Crime & Justice, Featured, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

The writer is a Researcher with the Peace Operations and Conflict Management Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

Female peacekeepers from South Africa on patrol in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. July 2021. Credit: MONUSCO/Michael Ali

STOCKHOLM / THE HAGUE, Aug 4 2021 (IPS) – The first year of the Covid-19 pandemic saw wide-ranging impacts on multilateral peace operations.

The crisis simultaneously affected all operations, host nations, headquarters and contributing countries. It caused major disruption—from the political-strategic level where mandates are drawn up, down to the operational and tactical levels.


Operations were forced to adapt in order to preserve continuity as far as was possible. While some of the effects of the pandemic are clearly reflected in the data—most notably in mission mortality rates—others are not.

For example, SIPRI data on personnel deployments cannot always capture delays in troop rotations or whether mission personnel were evacuated or working remotely for part of the year.

However, there is some evidence that Covid considerations did affect deployments, as is noted below.

Operations close in Guinea-Bissau and Sudan

There were 62 multilateral peace operations active in 2020, the same number as in 2019. The largest share of these (21) were conducted by the UN. Regional organizations such as the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) and alliances (such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO) together conducted 36 operations. Ad hoc coalitions of states conducted 5 peace operations in 2020.

Two small operations in Guinea-Bissau closed in 2020. One was conducted by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS): the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB), the other by the UN: the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS).

One other operation that closed during the year was the AU–UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), which was launched in 2007. UNAMID had deployed between 20 000 and 25 000 international personnel at its height in 2009–14, and it still deployed around 6500 in 2020.

A small political mission based in Khartoum, the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in the Sudan (UNITAMS), opened on 1 January 2021.

UNAMID’s closure is a landmark in contemporary peacekeeping. It is the fourth major UN peacekeeping operation to close since 2017; the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) both closed in 2017 and the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) in 2018.

Only seven operations comprising more than 5000 international personnel were still active at the start of 2021, and no operation deploying more than 1500 international personnel has been launched since 2014.

Three smaller operations open in CAR and Libya

The three operations that opened in 2020 were also in Africa. Two opened in the Central African Republic (CAR), in the wake of the 2019 Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation.

The AU Military Observers Mission to the CAR (MOUACA) was authorized in July 2020 to help monitor implementation of the agreement.

The EU Advisory Mission in the CAR (EUAM RCA), mandated to support security sector reform, had been established in December 2019 but was not launched until August 2020. Both operations have an authorized strength below 100 international personnel.

The AU Mission in Libya, the third new operation, was established by a decision of the AU Assembly in February 2020 to ‘upgrade’ the AU Liaison Office in Libya ‘to the level of mission’.

The Covid-19 pandemic seems to have complicated the deployment and build-up of these operations. In fact, while EUAM RCA was up and running at the end of 2020, albeit not at full capacity, there is little public information available on the status and activities of MOUACA or the AU Mission in Libya.

The latest edition of SIPRI’s Map of Multilateral Peace Operations shows all operations active as of 1 May 2021—including some that are outside the scope of SIPRI’s definition, such as the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) against Boko Haram, the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (JF-G5S) and the EU Naval Force in the Mediterranean Sea (Operation Irini).

Personnel deployments fall

The number of international personnel deployed in multilateral peace operations globally fell by 7.7 per cent, from 137 781 in 2019 to 127 124 in 2020.

This was the largest year-on-year decrease since the drawdown of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan in 2012–14. Around 87 per cent were military personnel, roughly the same proportion as in 2019.

Almost two-thirds of the deployed personnel in 2020 were serving in UN peace operations (66 per cent on average over the year). Almost three-quarters (74 per cent at the end of the year) were deployed in sub-Saharan Africa (both UN and non-UN operations).

The number of personnel deployed in UN peace operations globally and in multilateral peace operations (UN and non-UN) in sub-Saharan Africa declined for the fifth year in a row.

Both had peaked in 2015–16 following a period of rapid growth driven by the establishment of major operations in CAR and Mali and the expansion of major operations in Somalia and South Sudan.

The number of personnel deployed in UN peace operations fell by 2.4 per cent between 2019 and 2020 (from 88 849 to 86 712), reaching its lowest level since 2007.

Meanwhile, the number of personnel deployed in multilateral peace operations in sub-Saharan Africa decreased by 3.4 per cent (from 97 519 on 31 December 2019 to 94 201 on 31 December 2020), reaching its lowest level since December 2012.

Women continued to be under-represented among multilateral peace operations personnel in 2020, as reported in a SIPRI publication prepared for the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security last year.

Afghanistan: The end of NATO deployments imminent

The development that contributed most to the net reduction of peace operations personnel deployments last year was the agreement reached on 29 February 2020 between the United States Government and the Taliban on the withdrawal of all US forces from Afghanistan within 14 months.

Due to the subsequent drawdown of most US troops, the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission (RSM) shrank from 16 551 to 9592 personnel over the course of 2020.

The RSM was launched on 1 January 2015 and was mandated to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces following the departure of ISAF, which had been active from 2001 to 2014.

The new operation was originally supposed to end on 31 December 2016, but it was not until April 2021 that NATO leaders formally announced their intention to terminate the RSM. The decision came shortly after US President Joe Biden had ordered the withdrawal of the remaining US troops from Afghanistan by 11 September 2021.

As a result of the withdrawal of most US troops from the RSM, the USA started 2020 as the second largest troop contributor to multilateral peace operations (after Ethiopia) and ended the year as the tenth largest.

Fewer blue helmets killed in action, more by illness than in previous years

In 2020, UN peace operations lost 78 uniformed personnel, 13 international civilian personnel and 32 local staff. The fatality rate for uniformed personnel was 0.9 per 1000.

This was noticeably higher than in 2018 and 2019, but around the average for the period 2011–20.

Despite this, the rate of hostile deaths (i.e. deaths caused by malicious acts) among uniformed personnel was at its lowest since 2011, at 0.15 per 1000.

This decline could conceivably be partly an effect of the pandemic, for example because peacekeepers were not able to patrol as much as usual or were otherwise less exposed to the risk of violence due to pandemic-related restrictions.

Meanwhile, the number of deaths due to illness among international and local personnel in UN peace operations in 2020 was almost double that in 2019 (83 compared to 42), with most of these deaths occurring between June and September 2020.

This difference is almost certainly linked in large part to the Covid-19 pandemic and its impacts, which contributed to a record number of deaths across the UN during the year.

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UNFPA Calls for Protection & Justice for Women & Girls in Tigray

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Gender, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

The writer is UNFPA Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.

In retelling their stories, women in Tigray describe their attackers as “armed men”. Credit: UNFPA

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 26 2021 (IPS) – The 2018 Nobel Laureate, Dr. Denis Mukwege, a gynaecologist celebrated for his work with survivors of sexual assault in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Panzi Hospital once said: “Rape is a strategy of war – it is meant to destroy women and communities physically and mentally”.


Sadly, this destruction has become a daily reality for women and girls in the Tigray region in Ethiopia.
In recent weeks, women have come forward with the most devastating stories of sexual violation and physical abuse. Selam, 22, who found shelter in a safe house, is one of the survivors.

She recalls “running from place to place without food or shelter” and “constantly living in fear” after being displaced from her home and repeatedly facing harrowing incidents of sexual violence.

Persistent fighting, forced displacement, and dire living conditions over the past eight months in Tigray and the neighbouring regions of Afar and Amhara in northern Ethiopia, have created one of Africa’s most pressing humanitarian crises.

More than 5.2 million people in Tigray alone require humanitarian assistance; among them are 118,000 pregnant women and 1.3 million women of reproductive age. Amid the crisis, gross violations and abuses against civilians, including sexual violence, continue to be reported.

The health and well-being of women and adolescent girls are further threatened by food insecurity that is expected to worsen. The destruction and looting of health facilities – around a third are partially functioning, and a mere one per cent are offering clinical management of rape services – further complicates the situation amidst the threat of COVID-19.

Julitta Onabanjo

Selam’s experience is just one of the stories captured by health officials and UN agencies, but these testimonies likely represent only a fraction of the real prevalence.
Even under normal circumstances, given the high levels of stigma, among other factors, gender-based violence is largely unreported in Ethiopia. Only 24 per cent of survivors ever seek assistance, according to the 2016 Ethiopia Demographic Health Survey.

Devastating impact

Rape and other forms of sexual abuse have a devastating impact on women’s physical and mental well-being, rights and choices, and affect their ability to care for their children, support their families and contribute to their societies.

A social worker at the UNFPA-supported safe house where Selam now resides described the women as arriving “traumatized and depressed due to prolonged suffering, distress and horrendous violence”.

Even when women have not experienced sexual violence, the fear of rape or insecurity prevents them from accessing food distributing centres, critical health-care services for themselves or their children, and adolescent girls may stay away from school.

In the long-run, hiding from potential attacks contributes to malnutrition, poor health outcomes, and a lack of educational attainment among women and girls.

UN Member States have recognized the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women and girls. The UN Security Council-adopted Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security, calls on all parties in hostilities to take special measures to “protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, in situations of armed conflict”.

The African Union also committed to “Silencing the Guns” by “ending all wars, civil conflicts, gender-based violence, violent conflicts and preventing genocide on the continent by 2020”.

Women’s bodies must not be the object of war or the collateral in conflict. Rather women must be the central subject and partner in peacebuilding.

In retelling their stories, women in Tigray describe their attackers as “armed men”. These serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law must be swiftly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.

Call to end hostilities

We urge the government of Ethiopia and the international community to step up efforts to end hostilities and all forms of violence in the country, including gender-based violence, to ensure the health and safety of women and girls.

As part of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) system-wide scale up for the Tigray region activated in April 2021, UNFPA is expanding and accelerating support in its areas of responsibility — protection, prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence (GBV) and delivering quality sexual and Reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

Safe houses

Women-friendly spaces, safe houses and one-stop centres in the conflict-affected regions have been set up to provide clinical management of rape and psychosocial counselling. These spaces connect women to a wide range of sexual and reproductive health services and legal services.

What transforms a rape victim into a rape survivor is justice. UNFPA is working with partners to ensure effective referral and prosecution systems are available.

We are working with the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth of Ethiopia to enable the capacity-building of armed personnel and the constitution of a Gender-Based Violence Task Force, in collaboration with the Ethiopian Police University and the Federal Police Commission.

UNFPA is also providing medical supplies, helping to restore health system services, and cumulatively, has distributed hundreds of Emergency Reproductive Health kits and thousands of Dignity Kits.

Additionally, to prevent COVID-19 infections among key staff providing SRH and GBV services and information in government and partner-run health facilities and one-stop centres, nearly 11,000 Personal Protective Equipment items have been distributed since November 2020.

Funds needed urgently

Providing adequate levels of these kinds of life-saving services requires urgent funding. We are calling on all that can help, including government and development partners, to assist us in addressing the immediate needs of women and girls and help us avert the medium to long-term repercussions of sexual violence. The immediate funding requirements for the next six months is $15 million.

The women and girls of Tigray have told us their stories, and we continue to hear them out. Our actions to deal with their trauma and rebuild their lives must be our urgent response.

For women to participate equally in society, they need to make decisions about their bodies freely and without fear. Rape and other forms of gender-based violence destroy the ability of women and girls to make choices and fulfil their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Even in times of conflict, we must continue to defend and protect the rights of women and girls and devote the necessary attention and resources to prevent sexual violence and decisively ensure justice.

Source: Africa Renewal, United Nations

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