China’s Entry into the Muslim World

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Opinion

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Apr 7 2022 (IPS) – The retrenchment of American power in the Middle East and the larger Muslim world, coupled with the war in Ukraine, has provided a geopolitical breather for China. Beijing is effectively deploying this to make strategic inroads into the region, given this vacuum and focus on Europe.


The recent invitation to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to address the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conference in Islamabad is a ‘historic first,’ and a significant breakthrough for Chinese diplomacy. For the first time, the foreign minister of the Peoples Republic of China was invited to address the most representative platform of the 57-member body representing the 1.5 billion Muslims.

During his speech at the OIC conference in Islamabad on the 22nd March 2022, Foreign Minister Wang Yi talked about the “long standing relationship between China and the Muslim world” and reaffirmed that China would continue supporting Muslim countries in their quest for political independence and economic development.

Historically, China has always been etched in the Muslim consciousness as a country with a great civilisation based on knowledge, learning and development. For example, there is a famous saying of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him), 1,400 years ago, which urged Muslims to “seek knowledge, even if you have to go to China,” implying that although China was physically far away from Arabia, it was a land of learning.

Soon after the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, a professor of the prestigious American university Harvard, Prof. Samuel Huntington, talked of a ‘clash of civilisations’ in which he implied that Western civilization would be at odds with both the Islamic and the Confucian civilisations. Interestingly, he also talked of a united front of the Islamic and Confucian civilisations.

During his speech at the conference on Dialogue among Civilisations, held in Beijing in May 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping mentioned the contribution of the Islamic civilisation to “enrich the Chinese civilisation” and also referred to the Holy Mosque in Makkah (Mecca) as well as the travels to China of the Muslim explorer, Ibn Batuta, who wrote favourably on China and the Chinese people.

China has a longstanding relationship with the Muslim world. After the Chinese revolution in 1949, Pakistan was the first country in the Muslim world to recognise the People’s Republic of China in May 1950. The first institutional interaction between China and the Muslim countries took place at the 1955 Afro-Asian Summit in Bandung, Indonesia.

It was hosted by the world’s largest Muslim country, Indonesia and Pakistan and China were among the countries attending this historic summit. China shares a border with 14 countries, five of which are members of the OIC and none of these have border disputes with China.

In January 1965, when the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), was formed, China was among the first countries who recognised it. And in the 1960s and early 70s, China also provided material support and aid to various Muslim countries that were facing economic and political pressures, including Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, South Yemen and Egypt.

As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China also has been in the forefront of countries that have a proactive approach to the Muslim world. China, for example, presented a Middle East peace plan and it was unveiled during visits to China in May 2013 by the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mehmood Abbas, and the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.

During his meeting with the two leaders, President Xi Jinping presented the 4-point peace plan that called for an independent Palestine State alongside Israel, based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. While recognising Israel’s right to exist in security, the Chinese peace plan also called for an end to building Jewish settlements in the occupied territories of Palestine, cessation of violence against civilians and termination of the Israel blockade of Gaza.

The peace plan also called for resolving the issue of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and sought more humanitarian assistance for the Palestinians, while underlining that these are “necessary for the resumption of peace talks between Israel and Palestinian Authority.”

China also has been principled on the issue of Syria urging an end to both interference in Syrian affairs and an end to the Syrian civil war. In January 2022, China invited Syria to be part of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI).

China today is the largest importer of crude oil in the world and almost 50% of that oil comes from the Muslim countries of the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia, Iran and the UAE. Saudi Arabia has also invited President Xi Jinping to visit the Kingdom and there have been media reports that China and Saudi Arabia are engaged in discussions to have their oil trade done partially in Yuan or the RMB, the Chinese currency.

Defence cooperation between China and the Muslim world is also expanding and the Chinese advanced jetfighter J10C is now in use in countries like Pakistan and the UAE. In January 2022, China and Iran signed a comprehensive Strategic Accord which will run for 25 years, worth well over $400 billion dollars.

The centre piece of China’s relationship with the Muslim world today is the BRI. Interestingly, the BRI was launched in two phases by President Xi Jinping, with two important speeches in two different Muslim countries. In September 2013, during the speech in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, President Xi Jinping announced the launch of the Silk Road Economic Belt.

During another speech in Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, in November 2013, President Xi Jinping announced the launch of the Maritime Silk Road, both pillars of the BRI. And during his speech at the OIC conference on the 22nd March, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that “China is investing over 400 billion dollars in nearly 600 projects across the Muslim world under the BRI.”

He underlined that “China is ready to work with Islamic countries to promote a multi-polar world, democracy in international relations and diversity of human civilisation, and make unremitting efforts to build a community with a shared future for mankind”. On the issue of Palestine and Kashmir, Wang Yi said that “China shares the same aspirations as the OIC, seeking a comprehensive and just settlement of these disputes.”

Another example of close ties between China and the Muslim world was the February 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, where a majority of Muslim countries like Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar had a high level of representation, despite the boycott called by certain Western countries. Also, only last week, on the 30th March, China hosted an important conference, the Meeting of Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan’s Neighboring Countries, which was well attended.

China has also received support from Muslim countries on the issue of Xinjiang at the UN Human Rights Council. In fact, in July 2019, when a group of 22 nations led by the West sent a letter to the UN Human Rights Council criticising China on Xinjiang, not a single Muslim country was a signatory of that letter, while another group of 37 countries submitted a letter on the same issue defending Chinese policies.

These countries included all the six Gulf countries plus Pakistan, Algeria, Syria, Egypt, Eritrea, Nigeria, Somalia, and Sudan — all Muslim countries.

Given the changing geopolitical scenario, where there is a shift in the global balance of economic and political power, away from West and toward the East, followed by calls for a New Cold War, China’s thrust for cooperation and connectivity, given the common threat of the Coronavirus pandemic and the need for connectivity through BRI, has a broad resonance in the Muslim world.

The Muslim countries see their relations with China as a strategic bond to promote stability, security and economic development in the Muslim world and the BRI has become the principal vehicle in the promotion of such an approach.

In the coming years, China’s partnership with the Muslim world is likely to be strengthened, given the mutuality of interests and the convergence of worldviews in upholding a world order based on International Law, the UN Charter and the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.

Ironically, thirty years after enunciating the Huntington thesis on the ‘clash of civilisations,’ which talked of the Islamic and Confucian Civilisations co-existence with each other but possible confrontation with Western Civilisation, recent developments may be pointers to a self-fulfilling prophecy!

Source: Wall Street International MagazineTop of Form/OTHER NEWS
https://wsimag.com/economy-and-politics/69117-chinas-entry-into-the-muslim-world

Chairman of the Senate Defence Committee Pakistani, Senator Mushahid Hussain was Bureau Chief in Islamabad of Inter Press Service (IPS) during 1987-1997 & later in 2014. He launched the first Public Hearings on Environment & Climate Change in the Pakistan Parliament. As Senator, he chairs the Senate Sub Committee on ‘Green and Clean Islamabad’ which has launched a campaign to ban plastic use in the Pakistani capital.

IPS UN Bureau

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Do we Really Need a World Ranking to Measure Happiness?

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Opinion

Credit: UN Women

KATHMANDU, Nepal, Mar 29 2022 (IPS) – The 10th edition of the World Happiness Report was recently published and once again the findings raised an array of mixed emotions with many questioning the real foundations underpinning the most discussed aspect of the Report, the World Happiness Ranking,


For example, according to the ranking, Nepal appears to be the happiest place in the South Asia but is it really the case? Many experts from the country doubt about it as it was reported by The Kathmandu Post on the 22nd of March.

In the article, Dambar Chemjong, head of the Central Department of Anthropology at Tribhuvan University simply asks “What actually constitutes happiness?”

This is a complex question to answer but certainly it is fair to wonder how come each time this report gets published, it is inevitable that the richest nations, especially the Nordic ones come up on the top while the poorest and more fragile ones instead are hopelessly at the bottom.

There is no doubt that material prosperity determines a person’s quality of life and the World Happiness Report looks at GDP and life expectancy. In addition, the report also explores other factors like generosity, social support, freedom, and corruption.

These six variables, put together, are central to depict what the report calls “life evaluations” that “provide the most informative measure for international comparisons because they capture quality of life in a more complete and stable way than emotional reports based on daily experiences”.

The ranking is based on the Gallup World Poll, that asks “respondents to evaluate their current life as a whole using the mental image of a ladder, with the best possible life for them as a 10 and worst possible as a 0”.

One of the key findings is that social connections in dire times, especially if we think about what the entire world had to endure following the pandemic, do make the difference.

“Now, at a time of pandemic and war, we need such an effort more than ever. And the lesson of the World Happiness Report over the years is that social support, generosity to one another, and honesty in government are crucial for well-being” says Jeffrey Sachs, one of the major “architects” behind the entire concept of measuring happiness worldwide.

This statement further validates the need to further think more broadly about the importance these social relationships and social bonds have in developing nations.

That’s why analyzing happiness across nations should be considered as a working progress and the goal should be to better picture the complex situations on the ground in many parts of the developing world.

These are all nations that have been experiencing hardships consistently, even before the Covid pandemic outbreak and, therefore, they should be acknowledged for having developed unique forms of social bonds and solidarity.

Instead, these social factors, these connectors and the levels of reliance stemming from them in these “unhappy” nations”, are overshadowed by some of the variables determining the life evaluations.

People in developing nations have less access to public services and they are more exposed to corruption and bad governance. Lack of health infrastructures or unequal job market do have a strong incidence in determining a person’s human development and quality of life.

Yet does the fact that their lives are tougher automatically means people are there are unhappy?

Moreover, should not we consider the stress and mental health often affecting the “prosperous” lives of the citizens living in the north of the world?

Probably the problem is the idea of having a ranking itself. Though desirable and useful, measuring real happiness is a daunting and complex job.

Trust, benevolence, real generosity (not just the extrapolated, like in the report, based on donations during the last month) are all key determinants of happiness.

Yet these same factors have always been strong in developing societies where people rely on mutuality and self-help rather than depending on governments unable to fulfill their duties.

As it is now, the World Happiness Ranking risks to become just a “plus” version of the Human Development Index.

There is still a long way to better decipher and understand the meaning of happiness in the so called South of the World.

There is also a great need for the authors to better explain in simpler terms their methodology of calculating the ranking especially the relationships between the six key variables analyzed and positive and negative emotions that are also taken into consideration.

The fact that the ranking and the science behind the report is still a working process, it is recognized in the report itself.

An option would be to re-consider the variables of “life evaluations” that, by default, underscore the concept of wellbeing from a western perspective.

On the positive side, it is encouraging to see how the report includes also a part on “cross-Cultural Perspectives on Balance/Harmony”, central if we want to have a less westernized approach to happiness.

The 2022 edition of the Report devotes also considerable space to the biological basis of happiness, the relationships between genes and environment, what the report calls “Gene-Environment Interplay”.

Such nexus, affecting a person’s feelings and emotions and all the intricacies coming from these interactions, should make us reflect if it is really worthy to continue pursuing the goal of having an annual global ranking on happiness.

The idea of a ranking on happiness risks defeating the purpose of the gigantic and noble effort of better understanding how we can be happier and how public policies can have a role or not in these unfolding dynamics.

Simone Galimberti is Co-Founder of ENGAGE, an NGO partnering with youths living with disabilities. Opinions expressed are personal.

IPS UN Bureau

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Changing a System that Exploits Nature and Women, for a Sustainable Future

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Women & Climate Change

Peruvian farmer Hilda Roca, 37, stands in her agro-ecological garden in Cusipata, a town located at more than 3,300 meters above sea level in the highlands of Cuzco, where she grows vegetables for her family and sells the surplus with the support of her adolescent daughter and son. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Peruvian farmer Hilda Roca, 37, stands in her agro-ecological garden in Cusipata, a town located at more than 3,300 meters above sea level in the highlands of Cuzco, where she grows vegetables for her family and sells the surplus with the support of her adolescent daughter and son. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

LIMA, Mar 7 2022 (IPS) – “Pachamama (Mother Earth) is upset with all the damage we are doing to her,” says Hilda Roca, an indigenous Peruvian farmer from Cusipata, in the Andes highlands of the department of Cuzco, referring to climate change and the havoc it is wreaking on her life and her environment.


From her town, more than 3,300 meters above sea level, she told IPS that if women were in power equally with men, measures in favor of nature that would alleviate the climate chaos would have been approved long ago. “But we need to fight sexism so that we are not discriminated against and so our rights are respected,” said the Quechua-speaking farmer.

The link between climate change and gender is the focus of the United Nations’ celebration of this year’s International Women’s Day, Mar. 8, under the theme “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”.

The aim is to “make visible how the climate crisis is a problem that is closely related to inequality, and in particular to gender inequality, which is expressed in an unequal distribution of power, resources, wealth, work and time between women and men,” Ana Güezmes, director of the Gender Affairs Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), told IPS.

Latin America is highly vulnerable to the climate crisis despite the fact that it emits less than 10 percent of the greenhouse gases that are warming the planet.

In addition, climate injustice has a female face in the region: lower-income population groups, where the proportion of women is higher, are more exposed to climate effects due to their limited access to opportunities, despite the fact that they are less responsible for emissions.

The extreme poverty rate in the region increased from 13.1 percent to 13.8 percent of the population – from 81 to 86 million people – between 2020 and 2021, according to data released by ECLAC in January. Women between 25 and 59 years of age are the most affected compared to their male counterparts. This situation is worse among indigenous and rural populations, who depend on nature for their livelihoods.

These aspects were highlighted at ECLAC’s 62nd Meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Women, held Jan. 26-27, whose declaration warns that women and girls affected by the adverse impacts of climate change and disasters face specific barriers to access to water and sanitation, health and education services, and food security.

And it is women who are mainly responsible for feeding their families, fetching water and firewood, and taking care of the vegetable garden and animals.

“That is why we maintain that the post-pandemic recovery must be transformative in terms of sustainability and equality,” Güezmes emphasized from ECLAC headquarters in Santiago, Chile.

To this end, she said, this recovery “must untie the four structural knots of gender inequality that affect the region so much: socioeconomic inequality and poverty; the sexual division of labor and the unjust organization of caregiving; the concentration of power and patriarchal, discriminatory and violent cultural patterns; and the predominance of the culture of privilege.”

Luz Mery Panche, an indigenous leader of the Nasa people of Colombia. : Courtesy of Luz Mery Panche

Luz Mery Panche, an indigenous leader of the Nasa people of Colombia. : Courtesy of Luz Mery Panche

Reconciling with Mother Earth

Luz Mery Panche, an indigenous leader of the Nasa people, discussed the need to incorporate a gender perspective into the climate crisis. She talked to IPS from San Vicente del Caguán, in the department of Caquetá, in the Amazon region of Colombia, a country facing violent attacks on defenders of land and the environment.

For her, more than sustainable, “it is about moving towards a sustainable future.”

“We need to change the conditions that have generated war and chaos in the country, which is due to the hijacking of political and economic power by an elite that has been in the decision-making spaces since the country emerged 200 years ago,” she said.

Panche is a member of the National Ethnic Peace Coordination committee (Cenpaz) and in that capacity is part of the special high-level body with ethnic peoples for the implementation of the peace agreement in her country. She is a human rights activist and a defender of the Amazon rainforest.

She argued that to achieve a sustainable future “we must reconcile with Mother Earth and move towards the happy, joyful way of life that we deserve as human beings.”

This, she said, starts by changing the economic model violently imposed on many areas without taking into account the use of the soil, its capacities and benefits; by changing concepts of economy and the educational model; and by organizing local economies and focusing on a future of respect, solidarity and fraternity.

Panche said that in order to move towards this model, women “must have informed participation regarding the effects of climate change.

“Although we prefer to call Mother Earth’s fever ‘global warming’. And it is up to us to remember to make decisions that put us back on the ancestral path of harmony and balance, what we call returning to the origin, to the womb, to improve coexistence and the sense of humanity,” she said.

Uruguayan ecofeminist Lilian Celiberti carries a banner reading "Our body, our territory" in the streets of Tarapoto, a city in the central Peruvian jungle, during an edition of the Pan-Amazon Social Forum. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Uruguayan ecofeminist Lilian Celiberti carries a banner reading “Our body, our territory” in the streets of Tarapoto, a city in the central Peruvian jungle, during an edition of the Pan-Amazon Social Forum. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Changing times: another kind of coexistence with nature and equality

Lilian Celiberti, Uruguayan ecofeminist and founder of the non-governmental Cotidiano Mujer and Colectivo Dafnias, told IPS from Montevideo that governments have the tools to work on gender equality today in order to have a sustainable future tomorrow, as this year’s Mar. 8 slogan states.

But against this, she said, there are economic interests at play that maintain a development proposal based on growth and extreme exploitation of nature.

She called for boosting local economies and agroecology among other community alternatives in the Latin American region that run counter to the dominant government approach.

“But I believe that we are at a very complex crossroads and that only social participation will be able to find paths of multiple, diverse participation and collective sustainability that incorporate care policies and awareness of the eco-dependence of human society,” she said.

Celiberti said “we are on a planet of finite resources and we have to generate a new relationship with nature, but I see that governments are far from this kind of thinking.”

ECLAC’s Güezmes emphasized that social movements, especially those led by young indigenous and non-indigenous women in the region, have exposed the multiple asymmetries and inequalities that exist.

Ana Güezmes is director of the Gender Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. CREDIT: ECLAC

Ana Güezmes is director of the Gender Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. CREDIT: ECLAC

“We have an intergenerational debt, where young women have put at the center of the debate the unsustainability of the current development style that has direct impacts on our future at a global level and direct impacts on their livelihoods, territories and communities,” said Güezmes, who is from Spain and has worked for years within the United Nations in several Latin American countries.

She recognized the contribution of feminist movements that focus on a redistribution of power, resources and time to move towards an egalitarian model that includes the reduction of violence.

And she warned that from a climate perspective, the window of opportunity for action is closing, so we must act quickly, creating synergies between gender equality and climate change responses.

Güezmes said that “we are looking at a change of era” with global challenges that require a profound transformation that recognizes how the economy, society and the environment are interrelated. “To leave no one behind and no woman out, we must advance synergistically among these three dimensions of development: economic, social and environmental,” she remarked.

The expert cited gender equality as a central element of sustainable development because women need to be at the center of the responses. To this end, ECLAC plans to promote affirmative actions that bolster comprehensive care systems, decent work and the full and effective participation of women in strategic sectors of the economy.

She also raised the need to build “a renewed global pact” to strengthen multilateralism and achieve greater solidarity with middle-income countries on issues central to inclusive growth, sustainable development and gender equality.

“We have reiterated the urgent need to advance new political, social and fiscal pacts focused on structural change for equality,” Güezmes stressed.

She stated that in this perspective, the participation of women in all their diversity in decision-making processes is very important, particularly with regard to climate change.

To this end, she remarked, it is necessary to monitor their degree of intervention at the local, national and international levels – where asymmetry persists – and to provide women’s organizations, especially grassroots ones, with the necessary resources to become involved in such spaces.

“It involves strengthening financial flows so that they reach women who are at the forefront of responses to climate change and who are familiar with the situation in their communities, and boosting their capacities so that women from indigenous, native and Afro-descendant peoples participate in decision-making spaces related to the environment to promote the exchange of their ancestral knowledge on adaptation and mitigation measures,” she said.

Güezmes highlighted the contribution of women environmental activists and defenders to democracy, peace and sustainable development. It is necessary to “recognize their contribution to the protection of biodiversity and to development, despite doing so in conditions of fragility and exploitation and having less access to land, productive resources and their control,” she said.

For her part, Roca, who like other local women in the Peruvian Andes highlands practices agroecology to adapt to climate change and reconcile with Pachamama, calls for their voices to be heard.

“We have ideas and proposals and they need to be taken into account to improve the climate and our lives,” the indigenous farmer said.

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Somalia on the Path to Recovery, but Real Challenges Remain

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Opinion

A Somali woman goat-seller in Hargeisa livestock market. Photo: Credit: UNDP / Said Fadhaye

MOGADISHU, Somalia, Jan 18 2022 (IPS) – I arrived in Somalia in September 2019, two decades after having worked here previously. I knew that I was taking up a challenging assignment, but I was also looking forward to seeing Somalia’s progress.


Afflicted by decades of conflict, recurrent climatic shocks, disease outbreaks and poverty, Somalia was often called a ‘failed state.’ The narrative is now changing, and although fragile, Somalia is on a path to stability and the resilience of the Somali people is second to none.

That said, we are not under any illusion: significant challenges remain, and we must work even harder to preserve the gains made to date.

Somalia’s upward trajectory is evident in the construction boom, as one analyst noted — the sound of the hammer is replacing the sound of gunfire in Somalia’s capital.

The UN has been closely supporting the Somali people since the birth of the Republic in 1960. Currently, the UN’s various mandates are implemented through 26  Agencies, Funds and Programmes (both resident and non-resident), one political mission (UNSOM) and one logistical support mission (UNSOS). 

The UN’s commitment towards the Somali cause is articulated in detail in the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF 2021-2025), mirroring the priorities of Somalia’s Ninth National Development Plan (NDP-9).

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN marshalled support to help the Somali government respond to the virus outbreak. We continue to support the Somali authorities in seeking to defeat this pandemic and encouraging people to get vaccinated.

Elections are also on-going in Somalia. The UN is supporting the process to ensure that elections are held in a peaceful and transparent manner, while at the same time advocating for 30 per cent women’s quota in the Somali legislature.

While these are encouraging signs of progress, we must not forget Somalia’s long-standing challenges. According to UN’s projections for next year, an estimated 7.7 million Somalis (nearly half of the country’s population) will require humanitarian assistance and protection.

Women and children continue to bear the brunt of Somalia’s complex humanitarian crises, especially among the internally displaced communities. In light of the current serious droughts, the Somali government declared a humanitarian state of emergency on 23 November.

Yet, neither the government nor the humanitarian community has adequate resources to respond. With a few days remaining in the year, the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan which seeks US$1.09 billion remains only 70 per cent funded. Additional resources are urgently needed to prevent the dire humanitarian situation from becoming a catastrophe, so we continue to engage partners on this subject.

In this regard, I undertook missions to Europe in October and to the Gulf in September. Throughout my interactions with partners, I stressed the need for additional funding to address Somalia’s escalating humanitarian crisis and elaborated on how inaction not only risks a reversal of the gains but puts the lives of millions of Somalis in jeopardy.

Through my field visits in Somalia, I have also seen first-hand the grim realities of adverse climate conditions. Somalia is no doubt on the frontline of climate change. The recurrent droughts and floods are driving widespread displacement, rapid urbanization, hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

Climate change is also increasingly seen as the driver of conflict and a threat to the country’s security as the struggle over meagre resources deepens divisions. In addition, the loss of traditional livelihoods makes people vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups such as Al-Shabaab.

Somalia is currently experiencing a third consecutive season of below-average rainfall, with nearly 80 per cent of the country experiencing drought conditions, water shortages and livestock deaths. One in five Somalis does not have enough water to cover his/her basic needs.

On a positive note, as part of the efforts to mitigate the climate emergency, the government, with the support of the United Nations, has recently adopted an ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution to achieve global climate targets, in which Somalia committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.

Somalia’s crises are multifaceted, and they require comprehensive solutions from all stakeholders. It is our collective responsibility to support the efforts of the Somali people to cope with these crises and find lasting solutions that build resilience against future shocks. We must not fail the people we pledged to serve.

Adam Abdelmoula is Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia. He told a press conference in December that the UN and its partners have launched a nearly $1.5 billion Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP). Roughly 7.7 million people in the country will need assistance and protection in 2022, a 30 per cent rise in just one year.

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On Nuclear Weapons, Actions Belie Reassuring Words

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Opinion

Credit: Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament/Henry Kenyon

WASHINGTON DC, Jan 13 2022 (IPS) – On Jan. 3, the leaders of the five nuclear-armed members of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) issued a rare joint statement on preventing nuclear war in which they affirmed, for the first time, the 1985 Reagan-Gorbachev maxim that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”


The U.S., Chinese, French, Russian, and UK effort was designed in part to create a positive atmosphere for the 10th NPT review conference, which has been delayed again by the pandemic. It also clearly aims to address global concerns about the rising danger of nuclear conflict among states and signals a potential for further cooperation to address this existential threat.

The question now is, do they have the will and the skill to translate their laudable intentions into action before it is too late?

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price hailed the statement as “extraordinary.” A more sober reading shows that it falls woefully short of committing the five to the policies and actions necessary to prevent nuclear war.

In fact, the statement illustrates how their blind faith in deterrence theories, which hinge on a credible threat of using nuclear weapons, perpetuates conditions that could lead to nuclear catastrophe.

The statement asserts that “nuclear weapons—for as long as they continue to exist—should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war.” Yet, such broad language suggests they might use nuclear weapons to “defend” themselves against a wide range of threats, including non-nuclear threats.

Given the indiscriminate and horrific effects of nuclear weapons use, such policies are dangerous, immoral, and legally unjustifiable.

At the very least, if the leaders of these states are serious about averting nuclear war, they should formally adopt no-first-use policies or, as U.S. President Joe Biden promised in 2020, declare that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter or possibly respond to a nuclear attack.

Even this approach perpetuates circumstances that could lead to nuclear war by accident or miscalculation. The only way to ensure nuclear weapons are never used is “to do away with them entirely,” as President Ronald Reagan argued in 1984, and sooner rather than later.

But on disarmament, the statement only expressed a “desire to work with all states to create a security environment more conducive to progress on disarmament with the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons with undiminished security for all.” This vague, caveated promise rings hollow after years of stalled disarmament progress and an accelerating global nuclear arms race.

A year ago, Russia and the United States extended the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, but they have not begun negotiations on a follow-on agreement. Meanwhile, both spend billions of dollars annually to maintain and upgrade their nuclear forces, which far exceed any rational concept of what it takes to deter a nuclear attack.

China is on pace to double or triple the size of its land-based strategic missile force in the coming years. Worse still, despite past promises “to engage in the process leading to the total elimination of nuclear weapons,” Chinese leaders are rebuffing calls to engage in arms control talks with the United States and others. The United Kingdom, meanwhile, announced last year it would increase its deployed strategic warhead ceiling.

Fresh statements by the five NPT nuclear-armed states reaffirming their “intention” to fulfill their NPT disarmament obligations are hardly credible in the absence of time-bound commitments to specific disarmament actions.

At the same time, the five, led by France, have criticized the good faith efforts by the majority of NPT non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to advance the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Contrary to claims by the nuclear-armed states, the TPNW reinforces the NPT and the norm against possessing, testing, and using nuclear weapons.

Rather than engage TPNW leaders on their substantive concerns, U.S. officials are pressuring influential states, including Sweden, Germany, and Japan, not to attend the first meeting of TPNW states-parties as observers. Such bullying will only reinforce enthusiasm for the TPNW and undermine U.S. credibility on nuclear matters.

The leaders of the nuclear five, especially Biden, can and must do better. Before the NPT review conference later this year, Russia and the United States should commit to conclude by 2025 negotiations on further verifiable cuts in strategic and nonstrategic nuclear forces and on constraints on long-range missile defenses.

China, France, and the UK should agree to join nuclear arms control talks no later than 2025 and to freeze their stockpiles as Washington and Moscow negotiate deeper cuts in theirs.

Instead of belittling the TPNW, the five states need to get their own houses in order. Concrete action on disarmament is overdue. It will help create a more stable and peaceful international security environment and facilitate the transformative move from unsustainable and dangerous deterrence doctrines toward a world free of the fear of nuclear Armageddon.

Source: Arms Control Today

Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director of the Arms Control Association, Washington DC.

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Mother of Summits: Sweet and Sour Diplomacy, but Nothing Cooked!

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SINGAPORE, Nov 22 2021 (IPS) – It has been said that when Greek meets Greek, then comes the tug of war. The summit of the leaders of world’s two strongest powers, the United States and China, came face to face at long last. Albeit virtually. Still, this was undoubtedly the “mother of summits” this year. There were two telephone conversations earlier, but according to US officials this nearly four hours of summitry was far more “candid intense, and deeper interaction”. If there was one single take-away from this meeting, it was the establishment beyond all reasonable doubt of the incontrovertible fact that the US and China were indeed the two most influential global state actors. The decisions between the two, represented by their leaders, would profoundly impact the rest of humanity far into the future.


Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury

Given that in terms of deliverables, the consensus among all analysts was that nothing significant was expected, the event was important in that it put to rest the bickering between the subordinates that was pushing the world towards a precipice. It was about time the supreme political masters, Joe Biden of the US and Xi Jinping assumed the reins of control of the most important relationship of our times. Both sides were intellectually convinced that the stiffest possible competition between the two was on the cards. The challenge was to manage this in a way to prevent a conflict that would be catastrophic. This was one point on which, luckily, there was understanding on both sides.

There was not much on anything else. Prior to the meeting that Biden was focussed on writing the rules of the engagement of China “in a way that is favourable to our interests and our values and those of our allies and partners”. Unsurprisingly, Xi and the Chinese did not play ball. Both sides basically emphatically stated their positions on issues and showed nary an inclination to concede an inch to the other. In the end, as was expected, there were no breakthroughs. The irreconcilable positions remained in- tact, with a vague call by both sides for more cooperation.

A virtual meeting is bereft of the positive influences of informal chats, banquets, and the opportunity of developing personal camaraderie. Still, both leaders exuded friendly demeanours, and Xi called Biden “an old friend”. On Taiwan, the dialogue was tough. Xi reminded Biden of the US position on the Peoples ‘Republic being the sole legitimate government of China , reinforced by here communiques issued in 1972, 1979 and 1982. Following the talks the White House clarified that the “One China’ was also guided by the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances committing the US to opposing” unilateral efforts to change the status quo”. Xi made it clear that Taiwan for China was a “core issue”; it was a province of China, and any support to its independence was akin to playing with fire. “Whoever plays with fire will get hurt” was a message he strongly underscored.

There seemed a glimmer of hope on one front, though. In the past China has refused to be drawn into any nuclear arms control agreements given that its arsenal was far smaller than those of the US and Russia. But recent significant qualitative improvements of its capabilities have been worrying the US. At the meeting China showed willingness to talk on the subject. However, there is no possibility of agreements beyond the rim of the saucer because the Chinese will naturally demand steep cuts in US numbers which will be unacceptable to Washington. However, there could be forward movement through diplomatic engagements on matters such as Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), will the positivity that would entail.

There is a fundamental difference in the approach of China and the US to negotiations. The US believes in a kind of “a la carte” method of choosing areas where it believes there is scope for collaboration while competition, and even confrontation, continues others. The Chinese on the other hand reject this as “cherry picking” and see the agenda as a comprehensive package. What is the use of understanding on one subject, while differences on another cam lead to war? Unless this basic divergence is resolved, negotiations are unlikely to be able to yield any worthwhile results. Discussions will continue to be both sweet and sour, as the summit deliberations were, but nothing seriously palatable will get cooked!

Xi has in the meanwhile has consolidated his own power in China to a point that he may be set obtain a third term of office. More importantly, he is viewed as the navigator in the journey towards national rejuvenation leading to China becoming a modern fully developed nation by 2049 which will bring him yet closer to the status of the Great helmsman, Chairman Mao Zedong, himself. All these were the outcome of the Sixth plenum of the Chinese Communist Party which met last week and adopted a “historical resolution” that buttressed Xi’s power and position.

Incidentally, in the history of the party this was the third historical resolution. The first was adopted in 1945 under Mao four years prior to the revolutionary victory, and the second by the ‘reformist” Deng Xiaoping. While Mao was the one who restored a sense of pride among the Chinese people enabling them “to stand up” and Deng made them rich through his reforms, Xi, by the dint of this “thought” (which supersedes “theory” in Chinese political lexicon) gave them strength and shared prosperity. In an abstruse political milieu where the count of numbers means a great deal, a Xinhua communique on the meeting mentioned Xi’s name at least fourteen times, compared to seven of Mao and Five of Deng. That tells a lot.

Consequently, it is now all but certain that Xi will be elected to an unprecedented third term in office as party General Secretary at the 20th Party Congress next year. There is also some talk that he may assume the title of “Chairman” as well which will bring him at par with Mao. The plenum also elevated Xi Jinping Thought to 21st Century Marxism, completing the process of “Sinicization” of Marxist philosophy. Xi has been pragmatic in welding the conservatism of Mao, but shunning his repressive methods, with the reforms of Deng, correcting the “capitalist excesses”, and bringing China on a socialist path that would lead to a “modern society” with “shared prosperity “. Small wonder that many Chinese observers are beginning to see him as a “Philosopher King” in the mould of Plato in the West and Confucius in the East, a perfect mix for the cauldron of power and authority. An interesting footnote is that the Chinese Communist Party formally announced its third “historical resolution”, cementing Xi’s powers hours after the Summit, though it was leaked earlier, which pointed to a thought-through calibrated set of actions.

Nowhere the same degree, Joe Biden also seems to have achieved a modicum of success of his own despite powerful head winds. He has managed to create a sense of cohesion among America’s allies, though his path has had numerous pitfalls and bumps. Importantly he has managed to secure the passage into law of the massive legislation in terms of the US $1.2 trillion bill on a revamp of infrastructures, to “build back better”, a campaign pledge. This for him is no mean achievement, proving that persistence pays. But for him and his Democratic Party the future is not as rosy as that what appears to be for his Chinese counterpart. A Republican win in the Presidential race is a distinct possibility. That could lead to turmoil and backlash in US domestic politics, requiring the identification of a common foe to rally the nation. China is the obvious candidate. If, consequently, the “ultimate red line” for China, such as on the issue of Taiwan is crossed, a catastrophe could follow.

Surely the Chinese have made those calculations. From now to then, China and Xi will, while seeking to avoid an immediate conflict, be preparing to, in the words of the Global Times seen as a State media outlet, “to deal with the biggest storms in the world, the most powerful and comprehensive siege from the US and its allies”. Halfway down this decade it will be high- risk for one to wager too much in favour of peace!

Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury is the Honorary Fellow at the Institute of South Asia Studies, NUS. He is a former Foreign Advisor (Foreign Minister) of Bangladesh and President & Distinguished Fellow of Cosmos Foundation. The views addressed in the article are his own. He can be reached at: isasiac @nus.edu.sg

This story was originally published by Dhaka Courier.