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

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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 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.


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

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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.


South-South & Triangular Cooperation to Help Achieve UN’s Development Goals

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Students of the Lira Integrated Fish Farm in Uganda, a South-South Cooperation Facility for Agriculture and Food Security, eat their lunch. Credit: FAO/Isaac Kasamani

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 10 2021 (IPS) – The 2021 high-level commemoration of the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation, organized ahead of the opening of the seventy-sixth session of the United Nations General Assembly, provided an opportunity to discuss Southern solidarity in support of a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable future while effectively responding to the global COVID-19 crisis across the global South.

The 2021 United Nations Day for South-South cooperation presented the opportunity for stakeholders to highlight concrete follow-up to the twentieth session of the High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation (HLC), which took place from 1 to 4 June 2021 in New York.

“South-South and triangular cooperation must have a central place in our preparations for a strong recovery”, says Secretary-General António Guterres, reminding us that “we will need the full contributions and cooperation of the global South to build more resilient economies and societies and implement the Sustainable Development Goals”.

The General Assembly High-level Committee (HLC) on South-South Cooperation met in June to review progress made in implementing the Buenos Aires Action Plan (BAPA+40) and other other key decisions on South-South cooperation.

This HLC session considered follow-up actions arising from previous sessions and hosted a thematic discussion on “Accelerating the achievement of the SDGs through effective implementation of the BAPA+40 outcome document while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and similar global crises”.

The HLC hosted 75 member states – including a Head of State and Ministers from around the world – as well as 23 intergovernmental organizations, 25 UN entities, civil society and the private sector. More than 400 people participated during side events which HLC Bureau Members took the lead in organizing on issues of importance to the South.

Deliberations focused on actions arising from the Report of the Secretary-General to the nineteenth session, which proposed concrete ways to enhance the role and impact of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, as well as the key measures taken to improve the coordination and coherence of UN support to South-South cooperation.

In terms of important messages and statements, Member States highlighted that COVID-19 has taught the world that South-South development cooperation is critical to an effective response to emergencies.

South-South cooperation was strongly reaffirmed as the means to support countries’ national development priorities, alignment with the SDGs, and the acceleration of achievement toward the 2030 Agenda.

South-South cooperation was also recognized as an effective approach to accelerate and deepen the efforts to build back better, healthier, safer, more resilient and sustainable.

It was emphasized that over the past decade, the world has witnessed the increase in the scale, scope, and diversity of approaches of South-South and triangular cooperation.

Countries of the Global South have strengthened institutional capacities for cooperation by formulating and implementing national development policies, strategies, and agencies, and by developing information and performance management systems for data gathering, expertise and technology mapping, and impact assessment.

With the strengthening of national capacities on South-South and triangular cooperation there is opportunity to collect and exchange evidence of how much South-South and triangular cooperation is being done, how it benefits people, and how to create institutional mechanisms to help countries align South-South collaboration with their national and regional agendas.

As the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic and strives to build back better, international development organizations must offer innovative, timely responses to remain relevant. This includes new forms of coordination based on more “coherent” and “integrated support” capable of unleashing change on the ground.

Traditionally, South-South and triangular cooperation has taken place among governments on bilateral terms. As development becomes more dynamic in nature and unprecedented in scale, South-South and triangular cooperation is now used to source innovation from wherever it is.

Also highlighted was that South-South and triangular cooperation is increasingly recognized as an important complement to North-South cooperation in financing for sustainable development.

UNOSSC will continue to promote, coordinate and support South-South and triangular cooperation globally and within the UN system. It will also continue to support governments and the UN system to analyse and articulate evolving and emerging trends, dynamics and opportunities in South-South cooperation.

Adel Abdellatif. Credit: FAO/Isaac Kasamani

In response to Member States requests, UNOSSC consistently demonstrates strong convening power across the UN system and serves as secretariat of UN Conferences including BAPA+40. UNOSSC has developed research networks at the global level, compiling evidence of good practices in South-South cooperation toward achievement of the SDGs, and created a global network of think tanks on South-South and triangular cooperation. UNOSSC also offers the South-South Galaxy platform for sharing knowledge and brokering partnership. The Office also manages a number of South-South cooperation trust funds and programmes.

Given UNOSSC’s mandate to support South-South and triangular cooperation globally and within the UN system, the Secretary-General requested UNOSSC to coordinate the preparation and launch of the UN System-wide Strategy on South-South and Triangulation Cooperation for Sustainable Development with the engagement of the UN Inter-Agency Mechanism for South-South and Triangular Cooperation, and other stakeholders.

The Strategy’s objective is to provide a system-wide policy orientation to UN entities in order to galvanize a coordinated and coherent approach to policy, programmatic and partnership support on South-South and triangular cooperation and increase impact across UN activities at all levels: national, regional and global. Implementation is governed by each entity individually, based on its own mandate and programme of work.

UNOSSC is also currently developing its 2022-2025 Strategic Framework. It is an opportunity for the Office to catalyze the use of South-South and triangular cooperation to accelerate the speed and scale of action towards achieving the SDGs.

For example, the Office aims to offer a platform whereby: (i) countries of the Global South can exchange knowledge, develop capacities, and transfer technologies to address their own development priorities as well as coordinate and co-design solutions to shared development challenges; (ii) UN agencies, programs, and funds can strengthen their support to SSTC at the global, regional and country levels.

No country is too poor to contribute to South-South cooperation for development, and no country is too rich to lean from the South. All partners have important elements to contribute. So, it follows that triangular cooperation is an important element of our work.

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare severe and systemic inequalities.

The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of the digital revolution. Building institutional capacity in sub-Saharan Africa and LDCs through South-South and triangular cooperation is essential for countries to fully harness digital transformation and recovery.

Triangular cooperation is a flexible platform where partners can mobilize different funding capacities in support of developing countries’ priorities.

Triangular cooperation demands horizontality and shared governance approved by all parties. It is based on a clear respect for national sovereignty and the seeking of mutual benefit in equal partnerships.

Recovery from pandemic requires additional support, innovative development solutions and arrangements between public and private sectors. We must facilitate opportunities to expand development cooperation and its processes and to improve the effectiveness of multilateral cooperation. Fostering multi-dimensionality and multi-stakeholders approaches is the way forward to enhance development impact.

During the June HLC Member States highlighted that in the COVID and post-COVID era, the below priority areas for triangular cooperation could be considered: 1) health, 2) data infrastructure, 3) manufacturing capacity and supply chain for relevant medical material and equipment, as well as treatment; 4) solar energy and reducing carbon footprint; 5) a coalition for disaster resilient initiatives; and 6) currency swap arrangements from international financial institutions.

Adel Abdellatif is the Director, a.i., of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation. Before joining UNOSSC, he served as Deputy Director, a.i., and Senior Strategic Adviser in the Regional Bureau for Arab States of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). He came to UNDP following a two-decade career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Egypt.


Multilateral Peace Operations in 2020: Developments & Trends

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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.


After Vilifying the UN, US Returns to the World Body

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Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 2 2021 (IPS) – Ed Koch, a sharp-tongued Mayor of New York city (1978-89), once stopped short of using a four-letter word to denounce the United Nations.

Instead, he opted for a five-letter word dismissing the UN as a “sewer” relegating it to the lower depths of degradation.

In a bygone era, some of the most vociferous rightwing, conservative US politicians never ceased to denounce the world body primarily because of a rash of UN resolutions condemning Israel for human rights violations in the occupied territories or for resolutions mis-perceived as anti-American.

The late Senator Jesse Helms, a Republican chairman of the powerful US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, once said “providing funds to the UN was like pouring money into a rat hole.”

“I disagree with the premises upon which the United Nations is built and with the illusion that it propagates,” Senator Helms, said in a letter to the World Federalist Association. “It would be one thing if the United Nations were just an international side show, but it plays a greater role. It is a vast engine for the promotion of socialism, and to promote this purpose the U.S. provides a quarter of its budget,” he said.

Helms, said he has long called for “our country’s departure from this Organization, and vice versa.”

Charles Lichtenstein, a former U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the U.N. Mission, once said he would urge members of the United Nations to move out of New York if they did not like the treatment they were receiving in the United States.

Helms — with tongue firmly entrenched in cheek — said he would join Lichtenstein in waving goodbye to U.N. member- states “as they sail away into the sunset.”

When the 193-member UN General Assembly elected some of the so-called “repressive regimes” as members of the Human Rights Commission (later the Human Rights Council), Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (Republican of California) hollered: “The inmates have taken over the asylum. And I don’t plan to give the lunatics any more American tax dollars to play with.”

And more recently, former President Donald Trump not only decried multilateralism and challenged the effectiveness of the world body but also dismissed it as “a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.”

Trump pulled out of two historic international agreements: the Paris climate change agreement and the nuclear deal with Iran.

But things have dramatically changed since he was ousted from the White House— and the US is gradually returning to the UN, whose primary home is New York, even though most of its agencies are based outside the US, including in Geneva, Rome, Vienna, Paris, Bonn and Nairobi.

The administration of President Joe Biden, which took over from the Trump administration about six months ago, has not only returned to multilateralism but has also pledged to re-engage both with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris.

Additionally, the US has agreed to restore funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), both of which suffered funding cuts under Trump.

Last April, the Biden’s administration said it plans to provide $235 million to Palestinians, restoring part of the assistance cut by Trump. Two-thirds will go to UNRWA, which has suffered a financial crisis since it lost $360 million of US funding in 2018.

In 2016, UNFPA received $69 million in funding from the U.S. And in July 2019, UNFPA expressed concerns over US withholding funds for the third consecutive year The Biden administration is expected to restore US funding.

Former US Secretary of State John Kerry, accompanied by his grand-daughter, signs the Paris Agreement at UN headquarters in April 2016. Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

Penny Abeywardena, Commissioner for International Affairs at the Office of the New York city Mayor Bill de Blasio, welcomed the move by the United Nations to gradually return to near-normal after a 16-month pandemic lock down.

She said “the UN General Assembly has for decades been a staple of Fall in New York and as Host City to the UN, we have always been proud to welcome the international community who gather here”.

Kul Gautam, a former UN assistant secretary-general, told IPS the whole world, including the United Nations, breathed a sigh of relief at the advent of the Joe Biden administration in the US, following four years of the erratic and unpredictable Donald Trump presidency.

Mirroring Trump’s “America First” bravado, his senior diplomatic team, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ambassador Niki Haley showed little regard or diplomatic finesse in dealing with the complex issues high on the UN’s agenda, he pointed out.

Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton had so little respect for the UN that as the US Ambassador to the UN, he had once proclaimed that if the UN Secretariat building in New York “lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference,” said Gautam, a former deputy executive director of the UN children’s agency UNICEF.

Similarly, his Trump-era successor Niki Haley told a Republican National Convention that the “UN was a place where dictators, murderers and thieves denounce America, and demand that we pay their bills.”

Gautam said in contrast to the Trump-era narrative of the UN being a largely bureaucratic and profligate anti-American organization, dominated by China and Third World countries, the Biden administration quickly proclaimed that “America was back” at the UN and would provide constructive leadership and support a multilateral approach to solving the world’s most pressing issues from COVID-19 to climate change.

Not only is Joe Biden himself a seasoned statesman in international affairs, said Gautam, but his senior aides, including Secretary of State Tony Blinken, UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Special Envoy John Kerry are all consummate diplomats who believe in multilateralism.

Mandeep S. Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organizations (CSOs) , told IPS the United States played a key role in establishing the UN Charter who’s opening words, ‘We the Peoples’, mirror the opening words of the US Constitution. Eleanor Roosevelt stewarded the drafting of what is arguably the UN’s finest achievement – adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“The Trump administration’s disdain for the UN devalued these historical achievements. Traditionally, the United States has been a supporter of rights and democratic values at the UN as core pillars of its foreign policy,” he said.

The Biden administration’s commitment to re-engage at the UN is being welcomed by many in civil society working to challenge discrimination and oppression, he said, pointing out, that it’s a step in the right direction for people-centered multilateralism which lies at the core of the UN’s founding.

Tiwana also said the Biden administration has an opportunity not just to repair the damage of the Trump years but to demonstrate commitment to laying the ground work for the ambitious advancement of justice, equality and sustainability for future generations.

Gautam said while Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was severely constrained from taking some bold initiatives during his first term due to fear of the veto-wielding and chest-thumping Trump administration’s non-cooperation, he should, in his second term, feel more empowered to act more decisively to push for the kind of bold vision he outlined in July 2020 in his Nelson Mandela Lecture: “Tackling the Inequality Pandemic: A New Social Contract for a New Era”.

The early and quick gestures of the Biden administration rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, the World Health Organization, the UN Human Rights Council, funding for UNFPA and COVAX and paying outstanding US arrears to the UN peace-keeping budget are all encouraging signs, he noted.

“The ball is now in Guterres’ —and his senior management team’s– court to harness the potential of the Biden administration’s goodwill to assert UN’s proactive role to help tackle the most pressing global challenges of our times”, said Gautam, author of “Global Citizen from Gulmi: My Journey from the Hills of Nepal to the Halls of the United Nations” (Nepalaya Publications 2018)

Thalif Deen, Senior Editor and Director at the UN Bureau of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency, is the author of a newly-released book on the United Nations titled “No Comment -– and Don’t Quote Me on That.” Peppered with scores of anecdotes-– from the serious to the hilarious-– the book is available on Amazon worldwide. The link to Amazon via the author’s website follows:


Latin America Sets an Example in Welcoming Displaced Venezuelans

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Latin America & the Caribbean, Migration & Refugees, Population, Regional Categories, TerraViva United Nations

Migration & Refugees

A Venezuelan family carrying a few belongings crosses the Simon Bolivar Bridge at the border into Colombia. Over the years, the migration flow has grown due to increasing numbers of people with unsatisfied basic needs. CREDIT: Siegfried Modola/UNHCR

A Venezuelan family carrying a few belongings crosses the Simon Bolivar Bridge at the border into Colombia. Over the years, the migration flow has grown due to increasing numbers of people with unsatisfied basic needs. CREDIT: Siegfried Modola/UNHCR

CARACAS, Jul 26 2021 (IPS) – The exodus of more than five million Venezuelans in the last six years has led countries in the developing South, Venezuela’s neighbours, to set an example with respect to welcoming and integrating displaced populations, with shared benefits for the new arrivals and the nations that receive them.

In this region “there is a living laboratory, where insertion and absorption efforts are working. The new arrivals are turning what was seen as a burden into a contribution to the host communities and nations,” Eduardo Stein, head of the largest assistance programme for displaced Venezuelans, told IPS.

According to figures from the United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), 5,650,000 people have left Venezuela, mainly crossing into neighbouring countries, as migrants, displaced persons or refugees, as of July 2021.

“This is the largest migration crisis in the history of Latin America,” Stein said by phone from his Guatemala City office in the Interagency Coordination Platform for Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants (R4V), created by the UNHCR and IOM in partnership with 159 other diverse entities working throughout the region.

“This region is a living laboratory, where insertion and absorption efforts are working. The new arrivals are turning what was seen as a burden into a contribution to the host communities and nations.” — Eduardo Stein

Colombia, the neighbour with the most intense historical relationship, stands out for receiving daily flows of hundreds and even thousands of Venezuelans, who already number almost 1.8 million in the country, and for providing them with Temporary Protection Status that grants them documentation and access to jobs, services and other rights.

Colombia’s Fundación Renacer, which has assisted thousands of child and adolescent survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and other types of sexual and gender-based violence, is a model for how to welcome and help displaced persons.

Renacer, staffed by activists such as Mayerlin Vergara, 2020 winner of the UNHCR’s annual Nansen Refugee Award for outstanding aid workers who help refugees, displaced and stateless people, rescues girls and young women from places like brothels and bars where they are forced into sexual or labour exploitation, often by trafficking networks that capture the most vulnerable migrants.

“In Colombian society as a whole there has been a process of understanding, after the phenomenon was the other way around for several decades in the 20th century, of people displaced by the violence and crisis in Colombia being welcomed in Venezuela,” Camilo González, president of the Colombian Institute for Development and Peace Studies, told IPS.

When the great migratory wave began in 2014-2015, “many Venezuelans were taken on as half-price cheap labour by businesses, such as coffee harvesters and others in the big cities, but that situation has improved, even despite the slowdown of the pandemic,” said González.

Stein mentioned the positive example set by Colombia’s flower exporters, which employed many Venezuelan women in cutting and packaging, a task that did not require extensive training.

The head of the R4V, who was vice-president of Guatemala between 2004 and 2008 and has held various international positions, noted that in the first phase, the receiving countries appreciated the arrival of “highly prepared Venezuelans, very well trained professionals.”

Yukpa Indians from Venezuela register upon arrival at a border post in Colombia. The legalisation and documentation of migrants arranged by the Colombian government allows migrants to access services and exercise rights in the neighbouring country. CREDIT: Johanna Reina/UNHCR

Yukpa Indians from Venezuela register upon arrival at a border post in Colombia. The legalisation and documentation of migrants arranged by the Colombian government allows migrants to access services and exercise rights in the neighbouring country. CREDIT: Johanna Reina/UNHCR

“One example would be the thousands of Venezuelan engineers who arrived in Argentina and were integrated into productive activities in a matter of weeks,” he said.

But, Stein pointed out, “the following wave of Venezuelans leaving their country was not made up of professionals; the profile changed to people with huge unsatisfied basic needs, without a great deal of training but with basic skills, and nevertheless the borders remained open, and they received very generous responses.”

But, he acknowledged, in some cases “the arrival of this irregular, undocumented migration was linked to acts of violence and violations of the law, which created internal tension.”

Iván Briscoe, regional head of the Brussels-based conflict observatory International Crisis Group, told IPS that in the case of Colombia, “it has been impressive to receive almost two million Venezuelans, in a country of 50 million inhabitants, 40 percent of whom live in poverty.”

Colombia continues to be plagued by social problems, as shown by the street protests raging since April, “and therefore the temporary protection status, a generous measure by President Iván Duque’s government, does not guarantee that Venezuelan migrants will have access to the social services they may demand,” Briscoe said.

The large number of Venezuelans “means an additional cost of 100 million dollars per year for the health services alone,” said González, who spoke to IPS by telephone from the Colombian capital.

Against this backdrop, there have been expressions of xenophobia, as various media outlets interpreted statements by Bogotá Mayor Claudia López, who after a crime committed by a Venezuelan, suggested the deportation of “undesirable” nationals from that country.

There were also demonstrations against the influx of Venezuelans in Ecuador and Panama, as well as Peru, where the policy of President-elect Pedro Castillo towards the one million Venezuelan immigrants is still unclear, as well as deportations from Chile and Trinidad and Tobago, and new obstacles to their arrival in the neighbouring Dutch islands.

“Not everything has been rosy,” Stein admitted, “as there are still very complex problems, such as the risks that, between expressions of xenophobia and the danger of trafficking, the most vulnerable migrant girls and young women face.”

However, the head of the R4V considered that “we have entered a new phase, beyond the immediate assistance that can and should be provided to those who have just arrived, and that is the insertion and productive or educational integration in the communities.”

Migrants who have benefited from Operation Welcome in Brazil, where there are more than 260,000 Venezuelans, shop at a market in the largest city in the country, São Paulo. CREDIT: Mauro Vieira/MDS-UNHCR

Migrants who have benefited from Operation Welcome in Brazil, where there are more than 260,000 Venezuelans, shop at a market in the largest city in the country, São Paulo. CREDIT: Mauro Vieira/MDS-UNHCR

Throughout the region “there are places that have seen that immigrants represent an attraction for investment and labour and productive opportunities for the host communities themselves.”

Another example is provided by Brazil, with its Operação Acolhida (Operation Welcome), which includes a programme to disperse throughout its vast territory Venezuelans who came in through the northern border and first settled, precariously, in cities in the state of Amazonas.

More than 260,000 Venezuelans have arrived in Brazil – among them some 5,000 indigenous Waraos, from the Orinoco delta, and a similar number of Pemon Indians, close to the border – and some 50,000 have been recognised as refugees by the Brazilian government.

Brazil has the seventh largest Venezuelan community, after Colombia, Peru, the United States, Chile, Ecuador and Spain. It is followed by Argentina, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

Throughout the region, organisations have mushroomed, not only to provide relief but also to actively seek the insertion of Venezuelans, in some cases headed by Venezuelans themselves, as in the case of the Fundacolven foundation in Bogota.

“We are active on two fronts, because first we motivate companies to take on workers who, as immigrants, are willing to go the ‘extra mile’,” said Venezuelan Mario Camejo, one of the directors of Fundacolven.

As for the immigrants, “we help them prepare and polish their skills so that they can successfully search for and find stable employment, if they have already ‘burned their bridges’ and do not plan to return,” he added.

On this point, Stein commented that the growing insertion of Venezuelans “shows how this crisis can evolve without implying an internal solution in Venezuela,” a country whose projected population according to the census of 10 years ago should have been 32.9 million and is instead around 28 million.

Based on surveys carried out in several countries, the head of R4V indicated that “the majority of Venezuelans who have migrated and settled in these host countries are not interested in going back in the short term.”

Julio Meléndez is a young Venezuelan who has found employment in food distribution at a hospital in Cali, in western Colombia. Labour insertion is key for the integration of migrants in host communities. CREDIT: Laura Cruz Cañón/UNHCR

Julio Meléndez is a young Venezuelan who has found employment in food distribution at a hospital in Cali, in western Colombia. Labour insertion is key for the integration of migrants in host communities. CREDIT: Laura Cruz Cañón/UNHCR

According to Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, they have benefited from the fact that the countries of the region “are an example, and the rest of the world can learn a lot about the inclusion and integration of refugees in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

In the north of the region, Mexico is dealing with a migration phenomenon on four fronts. On one hand, 12 million Mexicans live in the United States. And on the other, every year hundreds of thousands of migrants make their way through the country, mainly Central Americans and in recent years also people from the Caribbean, Venezuelans and Africans.

In addition, the United States sends back to Mexico hundreds of thousands of people who cross its southern border without the required documents. And in fourth place, the least well-known aspect: Mexico is home to more than one million migrants and refugees who have chosen to make their home in that country.

Major recipients of refugees and asylum seekers in other regions are Turkey, in the eastern Mediterranean, hosting 3.7 million (92 percent Syrians), and, with 1.4 million displaced persons each, Pakistan (which has received a massive influx of people from Afghanistan) and Uganda (refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo and other neighbouring countries).

In Sudan there are one million refugees, Bangladesh, Iran and Lebanon host 900,000 each, while in the industrialised North the cases of Germany, which received 1.2 million refugees from the Middle East, and the United States, which has 300,000 refugees and one million asylum seekers in its territory, stand out.