Reasonable Left, Irresponsible Right: & the Future of Social Democracy

Civil Society, Democracy, Featured, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Credit: Pexels via

VIENNA, Sep 28 2022 (IPS) – With no shortage of catastrophes in the past 15 years worldwide — the democratic left is stepping up to provide stability amid the storm.

Throughout the history of mankind, there have been catastrophes. In modern times, there have also been media representations of catastrophe, including worked-up or even imagined catastrophes.


More than 60 years ago, the German author Friedrich Sieburg wrote about the ‘lust for doom’, which, strangely enough, has a tremendous appeal especially in eras perceived as stable: ‘The everyday life of democracy with its dreary problems is boring, but the impending catastrophes are highly interesting.’

Now that we have had no shortage of real catastrophes in the past 15 years, we no longer have to conjure them up. First came the global financial crisis, which threatened to topple banks and other financial institutions — even states — as if houses of cards.

Later the pandemic arrived and then the military invasion of the second largest country in Europe by the largest. Its shockwaves are devastating half the world, with energy crisis, broken supply chains, price explosion, food shortages, impoverishment and destitution.

Robert Misik

And all the time comes the onrushing climate catastrophe, whose consequences are already apparent and which intersects with the current geopolitical crisis. The global electricity markets are going crazy because there is a lack of gas from Russia, but also because the rivers are drying up, the hydroelectric power plants are empty and nuclear power plants have to be shut down because the cooling water in the rivers is becoming too scarce — even the coal-fired plants are having problems where coal can no longer be shipped.

In any case, disaster is not now something we frivolously imagine because we are bored. It is there — very real for many and at least felt by most. Not only does it colour political debates but an atmosphere of pessimism, insecurity and fear has settled over most societies.

This is so even, perhaps especially, in the affluent societies of the west, which had become accustomed to stability and relative prosperity. A sentiment is spreading: the whole machinery no longer works, it is broken — and the political elites have no plan.

The left choosing stability

Against this backdrop, while the left is trying to develop programmes and instruments to master the crises, to stem the decline in prosperity and the social costs for ordinary people, those on the hard right are betting on things getting even worse, playing up catastrophe.

They hope this will benefit them, that they can thereby achieve electoral success — as with the right-wing radicals in Sweden recently or the right-wing bloc in Italy over the weekend.

It’s no surprise, then, that the far-right contenders paint the ‘elite’ and its networks in dark colours. They rummage through supposedly suppressed news and hidden secrets. They identify, to their satisfaction, how the powerful secure their dominance and say all this is connected. They imagine themselves as if detectives smugly putting pieces of the political puzzle together, in the manner of a latter-day Hercule Poirot.

It is not a completely new phenomenon to offer such a fundamental critique of ‘the system’. What is astonishing is that the far right has hijacked what used to be a prerogative of Marxist intellectuals — and of those activists who imagined a terminal catastrophe would some day issue in a socialist millennium.

Right-wing propaganda has appropriated elements of left-wing critical thinking — the questioning of the conventional and familiar, of the all-too-obvious, and the healthy suspicion of power. Amazingly, the motifs of the enlightenment have been subverted to serve conspiracy theories and fanaticism, in the cause of authoritarianism and nationalism.

The democratic left, in sharp contrast, sees its task today, grosso modo, as providing stability amid the storm. Of course, this is true where it is in government. But it in most cases it also has this reflex of responsibility where it is in opposition.

This has consequences. The left sometimes finds itself defending the status quo, against its deterioration. It knows it cannot score points with simple answers but has to work out complex plans whose realisation is tough.

This liberal left has always stood for freedom, democracy, the rule of law — for social equality and against hierarchy and fascist temptations. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has however drawn his country back into despotism in recent decades, aligned with an ideology of expansionism.

While the radical right (and some pro-Russian hard leftists) propose to kneel to Putin, the democratic left supports Ukraine’s right to self-defence and an independent path.

Russia’s imperialism has been met with sanctions from liberal Europe and north America, rebutted in turn in an economic quasi-war with the help of the ‘weapon’ of gas and oil. Yet in a multipolar and chaotic world where not all are on their side, progressives find themselves having to balance decisiveness and prudence.

Now their own economies must be stabilised and protected, and their societies, because the supply of energy and the functioning of the critical infrastructure has a much broader social centrality. This includes changes in the design of energy markets, which simply no longer function when panic on the markets leads to price explosions of 600 or even 1,000 per cent.

The colonisation of lifeworlds by market ideology has however meant that even the essential goods of everyday infrastructure have been left to the mercy of the markets. Energy suppliers which get into trouble have thus to be bailed out by governments.

The dangers of ‘politics without a project’

The effects of inflation are also different from what we know from economics textbooks. Classic inflation occurs when there is a boom, an economy reaches the limits of its capacity and there is more or less full employment. Then asset owners lose, while borrowers gain. But above all, workers and employees do not really lose out: prices rise but so do wages.

Classical inflation is characterised by a wage-price spiral in which real wages rise along with them. Historically, wage earners lost out primarily because of anti-inflationary policies, not because of inflation.

Today, however, inflation is not the result of a boom but an economic shock: it is imported, primarily due to higher energy prices and supply problems. Many companies too are groaning under their energy overheads, as they cannot fully pass on the cost increase to consumers. This in turn will mean workers will not be able to make up fully for price increases through wage rises.

The unions will fight but it will be very difficult to avoid real wage losses. Low wage increases lead to impoverishment and a decline in aggregate demand but high wage increases would lead to more bankruptcies and thus more unemployment.

The most likely result will be a combination of misfortune — a marked recession plus high inflation. Government will have to intervene with price controls, by dramatically accelerating the shift to renewable energy, by providing payments to the most vulnerable segments of the population, by accepting further budget deficits.

None of these solutions will be perfect. We must be careful not to enter a new era of depoliticised pragmatism — a ‘politics without a project’, to borrow an old formulation from a famous German book edited by the legendary Suhrkamp publisher Siegfried Unseld 30 years ago. But there will tend to be no grand design to policy, just muddling through.

Public debates will be characterised by a certain confusion, as we are already observing. On the one hand, most citizens want clear and focused plans, but at the same time they know that there are no easy, simplistic answers.

A pandering left-wing populism is therefore not an attractive alternative. It is not only a too-narrow preaching to the converted but also there is a broad swath of potential support among liberal and left citizens for a politics of reason and responsibility.

In times of such uncertainty, we do not need trumpeters and bullshiters. We need people who can be trusted to do the best they can to sort things out.

Robert Misik is a writer and essayist. He publishes in many German-language newspapers and magazines, including Die Zeit and Die Tageszeitung.

Source: International Politics and Society is published by the Global and European Policy Unit of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Hiroshimastrasse 28, D-10785 Berlin.

IPS UN Bureau

  Source

From Indonesia to India: Is There Hope for Anti-Corruption Efforts Within the G20?

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, G20, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Many of the global crises we face are caused or exacerbated by corruption. Credit: Ashwath Hedge/Wikimedia Commons

Many of the global crises we face are caused or exacerbated by corruption. Credit: Ashwath Hedge/Wikimedia Commons

WASHINGTON DC, Sep 27 2022 (IPS) – As global crises mount, the G20 is proving unable to find solutions. Political disagreements within the bloc- including most prominently with Russia over the ongoing war in Ukraine- have hamstrung collective efforts.


Economic challenges have inevitably led to a focus on domestic priorities. And significant political changes in key G20 countries over the past few months- such as the UK and Italy- have further undermined joint decision-making.

Equally, on corruption issues, the G20 has a long way go, although the body continues to reiterate its commitment fighting graft and leading by example on core issues such as the role of audit institutions, anti-corruption education, money laundering and graft in the renewable energy sector.

The G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group (ACWG) meets for the final time under the Indonesian Presidency this week- and while there remains plenty to do, there are also glimmers of hope for the future, as India takes on leadership of the G20 for 2023.

It is easy to get disheartened about the continued ubiquity of corruption- but beyond the headlines and if we pay attention to the small print, there is some important progress being made

To better understand the progress made, Accountability Lab, as one of the international Co-Chairs of the C20 Anti-Corruption Working Group (ACWG), has partnered with the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) to distill complex and scattered information on anti-corruption within G20 countries (often buried in lengthy reports, as we’ve highlighted previously) into a set of easy-to-understand one-pagers. Each of these (see Australia here or South Africa here for example) outlines for each of the member countries the progress made against key priorities, with the goal of encouraging sharing of ideas and learning within the G20.

Here is what we found:

Enhancing the role of audit in tackling corruption

The G20 ACWG recognizes the important role of audit in preventing corruption in both the public and private sectors, and member countries have institutions and systems in place to deter corruption.

For instance, 17 out of the 19 G20 member countries (the 20th is the EU) score over a global average of 63 on the International Budget Partnership’s metric for oversight by supreme audit institutions. Brazil has received a great deal of scrutiny in recent years because of corruption, but Brazil’s Tribunal de Contas da Uniao (TCU) is cited as an example for its innovative use of data analytics and artificial intelligence including identifying indicators of corruption.

Member countries are also improving existing laws, with Japan proposing to reform its audit law to provide more enforcement power to the Japanese Institute of Certified Public Accountants and improve oversight of listed companies.

Promoting public participation and anti-corruption education

Most G20 member countries have policies guaranteeing the right to participation through specific laws such as the right to information, public information disclosure or public procurement, to name a few.

In India, the Pre-legislative Consultation Policy was passed recently to ensure public participation in policy-making processes, and government as well as civil society platforms are available to promote public education, including on corruption issues.

Similarly, South Korea’s Public-Private Consultative Council for Transparent Society under the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission provides a platform to inform and disseminate anti-corruption messages. South Korea also aims to strengthen civic space and public participation including through a national Participatory Budgeting Citizens’ Committee.

In Australia a public-private partnership (Bribery Prevention Network) launched in October 2020 bringing together the private sector, civil society, government and academia to provide free resources to help corporates implement anti-bribery programmes, and was runner up in the Anti Corruption Collective Action Awards 2022.

Professional enablers of money laundering

The G20 acknowledges gaps in member countries’ anti-money laundering efforts, particularly related to preventive measures targeting professional enablers, including accountants, lawyers, or real estate agents- and is aiming to pull together guidance on these issues through a Compendium for Professional Enablers of Money Laundering.

While most countries do not have a comprehensive definition of Designated Non-Financial Business Professionals (DNFBPs), Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia comply with the 2012 Financial Action Task Force (FATF) standards on the definition. The 2021 follow-up review from FATF noted that the revisions to China’s anti-money laundering law will include general provisions and supervision of DNFPBs.

In the US, if the ENABLERS Act– which was approved by the House of Representatives in July 2022– is passed by the Senate, it could regulate professional enablers; and in the UK, lack of supervision of enablers is being acknowledged by the government as it looks at different models to strengthen the supervision of accountants and lawyers.

Promoting corruption in the renewable energy sector

The G20 is working on a background note on Promoting Anti-Corruption in Renewable Energy in order to raise awareness and increase collaboration to prevent corruption in the energy sector. In 2022, Argentina launched an open information system (SIACAM) which provides public access to data on mining activities in the country, including their environmental and socio-economic impacts.

The Resource Governance Index notes that Argentina is one of only 7 countries that has made this type of data available. Similarly in Mexico, progress has been made with the publication of all oil procurement contracts on the state-owned website oil company, Pemex.

Japan’s cooperation agreement with India and the European Union to share experiences and best practices on liquid natural gas is cited as an example to follow by the International Energy Agency.

It is easy to get disheartened about the continued ubiquity of corruption- but beyond the headlines and if we pay attention to the small print, there is some important progress being made.

With the G20, the key now- as India assumes leadership of group- is for member countries to double down on their commitments and follow-through on implementation of reforms. Many of the global crises we face are caused or exacerbated by corruption- now is the time for our leaders to get this right.

Blair Glencorse is Executive Director of Accountability Lab; Sanjeeta Pant is of Accountability Lab. This piece draws on research carried out with RUSI. Follow the Lab on Twitter @accountlab

  Source

We Need Urgent Commitment, Resources & Action to Tackle Hunger Crisis

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Food and Agriculture, Global, Headlines, Population, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Conversation at the UN General Assembly Side Event on Responding to the Urgent Humanitarian Needs in the Horn of Africa. Credit: Karelia Pallan/Oxfam

NEW YORK, Sep 27 2022 (IPS) – Last week, as world leaders gathered in New York for the 77th United Nations General Assembly, one topic came up more than most: looming famine. That’s because despite a global commitment to make famine a relic of the past, it is once again knocking at our door.


In Somaliland two weeks ago, I witnessed communities past their breaking points. Grandparents there told me they could not recall a drought like this in their lifetimes.

At UNGA, I was honored to take part in many discussions on this and other topics – in particular a panel about the urgent humanitarian needs in the Horn of Africa. The region is facing several interlinked issues, including hunger, conflict, climate, and COVID-19. As we discuss – and more importantly, respond to – the crisis, we should keep in mind three themes: the urgency of the moment, the need for more access and more funding, and the implementation of a systemic solution.

The humanitarian crisis in the Horn needs to be at the top of the international agenda, and we need commitment, resources and action urgently. We have seen the warning signs that famine is coming for quite some time – and now we have been warned that it could be declared in Somalia as soon as next month.

Often, the international community is reactionary to crises, but this time we must also be anticipatory in assessing and responding to the needs of the region. In my trip to Somaliland, I spoke to farmers, pastoralists, and visited communities impacted by conflict, climate, and COVID-19. It was my first visit back to Somaliland in more than 20 years, which offered an interesting perspective of the arc of change.

Abby Maxman speaks with Safia, a woman forced to leave her home in Somaliland amid the drought and growing hunger. Credit: Chris Hufstader/Oxfam

Their shared experience is clear: their livelihoods and way of life – and that of their ancestors – are in danger and the need for action now is more urgent than ever. It is dispiriting that these preventable tragedies continue to repeat when the world has the resources and know-how to prevent them.

I spoke with Safia, a 38-year-old divorced mother of eight children, who lost 90% of her livestock. She stayed as long as she could in her community until she felt unsafe as the weak and dead livestock attracted hyenas at night, compelling her to make the five-day journey to reach the Dur-Dur IDP (Internally Displaced Person) camp near Burao.

At Dur Dur they were welcomed with clean water, some food, and materials to build a shelter. She and her children have been there for about three months. They are struggling to get enough food and might eat one meal a day, if they can. Oxfam and others are there offering support, but it’s not nearly enough to meet their basic needs.

Safia’s experience was just one of countless more of those who are bearing the brunt of the dual global hunger and climate crises that has been brought on by distant forces who are prioritizing profits over people and planet.

Earlier this year, Oxfam’s research estimated that one person is dying from acute hunger in the region every 48 seconds. Since then, the situation has only gotten worse. We have a narrow window of opportunity to stave off hunger in the horn. It is not too late to avert disaster, but more needs to be done immediately.

We know that anticipatory action saves lives, livelihoods, and scarce aid money, and across Oxfam and with our partners we have been sounding the alarm of this slow, onset emergency at local, national, and global levels for the past two years. Yet we are witnessing a system that is failing the people who are least responsible for this crisis.

We need more access and a lot more funding that supports frontline organizations and leaders. During the panel, it was encouraging to hear Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Second Martin Griffiths put such emphasis on funding local organizations and leaders who have the knowledge, access, and courage to make real impact.

Local organizations know where the most vulnerable people are located, they can reach disaster zones quickly, and they understand the languages, cultures, geography, and political realities of the affected communities far better than outsiders.

These local leaders should be given the resources and space to make decisions to have the most effective response that will save lives now and in the long run. This may mean that international donors and organizations need to be more flexible in how they coordinate, fund, and implement a humanitarian response. The old way may not be the most effective – in fact we know it is not – especially where there are access challenges.

Finally, we must take a systemic approach in tackling these issues. We know that hunger, climate, and conflict do not happen in silos – they are inextricably linked. We must make sure we are fighting these interlinked crises, especially hunger and climate, together.

Climate change is causing more extreme weather events like droughts, floods, and heatwaves, which devastate crops and displace vulnerable communities. In fact, hunger has more than doubled in 10 of the worst climate hotspots in recent years.

Countries that have contributed the least to emissions are bearing the worst impacts of the climate crisis, while fossil fuel companies see record-breaking profits. Less than 18 days of profits from fossil fuel companies could cover the whole UN humanitarian appeal of $48.82 billion for 2022.

These conversations and convenings are important, but we must do more than raise the alarm – we must see action to follow them up. I hope that leaders recommit the political will to fulfill their moral obligation to meet this crisis in the Horn head on.

Safia is doing all she can to ensure her family’s survival – we must see leaders do all in their power, right now, to make sure she and millions more get the urgent aid they need now to survive, and see their right to a safe, healthy future recognized and realized in years to come.

Abby Maxman is President and CEO Oxfam America.

IPS UN Bureau

  Source

Multi-Faith Team Urges Repeal of Blasphemy Laws– in the Name of Religious Freedom

Civil Society, Crime & Justice, Featured, Global, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Independent UN human rights experts condemned the death sentence of a university lecturer charged with blasphemy in Pakistan, calling the ruling “a travesty of justice”. December 2019. Credit: UNICEF/Josh Estey

NEW YORK, Sep 12 2022 (IPS) – In nations lacking certain religious freedoms, the bold multi-faith membership of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable’s Campaign to Eliminate Apostasy and Blasphemy Laws, would be forbidden.


This archaic, and at times, violent fact is driving a biblical justice authority, an international activist and a team of culturally and religiously diverse advocates to raise their voices with member states, just before world leaders arrive for the high-level segment of the 77th UN General Assembly session which commences in New York City September 20.

The trip will highlight the twelve nations currently imposing the death penalty for apostasy and blasphemy charges, calling for its immediate repeal.

Freedom of religion or belief is universally regarded as fundamental human right and is protected by international covenants and national constitutions alike.

However, courts continue to mete out unjustifiably long prison sentences and even death sentences to individuals for non-violent, victimless conduct such as committing blasphemy or apostasy.

Recently, Nigerian humanist Mubarak Bala was sentenced to an unimaginable 24 years’ imprisonment for an allegedly blasphemous Facebook post he made expressing his disbelief in an afterlife.

Though the death penalty is not actually imposed upon a convicted individual in a vast majority of cases, the sentence itself relegates convicts to years and decades of prolonged imprisonment on death row, denial of medical care while in prison, withholding of legal counsel, and endless interrogation.

Pakistanis rally in support of Mumtaz Qadri who was convicted and executed for a blasphemy-motivated killing of a former governor, in Lahore, Pakistan, Feb. 2016. Credit: Voice of America

Previously, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani woman, languished on death row for eight years on charges of blasphemy simply for drinking water from a canteen while picking berries with a group of Muslim women.

After her release and acquittal in 2019, Asia was forced to flee her home country in fear of reprisal attacks by radical Islamists.

In 2014, a pregnant Sudanese woman Mariam Ibrahim – who was imprisoned on apostasy charges for her marriage to a Christian man, and as a woman born to a Muslim father – was forced to give birth to her second child while her legs remained shackled to the cell floor.

As a Christ follower, I am reminded of times when God revealed his heart for justice through stories like that of Esther, whom was strengthened to boldly intercede for an oppressed group of religious minorities.

The time is now for United Nations Member States to do the same, through their set own of convictions, in an effort to create communities of human flourishing and safety for those who are persecuted for freedom of religion or belief.

Speaking on Islam’s position on blasphemy, there is much evidence that Prophet Muhammad pardoned his worst critics. Blasphemy laws and inhumane punishments for blasphemy have no legitimacy in the Quran.

The Quran does not command Muslims to kill blasphemers.
Surah (verse) 4:140 of the Quran states – “If you hear people denying and ridiculing God’s revelation, do not sit with them unless they start to talk of other things…”

There is no reference to killing and or issuing fatwas.

Even where moratoriums on the death penalty exist, faith minorities and individuals who express views and perspectives deviating from those prescribed by the majority religion can be in tremendous danger.

Mauritania, which has upheld a moratorium on the death sentence since 1987, convicted blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir of apostasy and sentenced him to death as recently as 2014 for an article he wrote criticizing the use of Islam to justify the caste system in his country. Fortunately, Mkhaitir was released from prison in 2019.

In Pakistan, where the death sentence is often issued to perceived blasphemers – most often Christian and Ahmadi Muslim minorities – but not carried out– laws criminalizing apostasy and blasphemy embolden state and non-state actors alike to commit acts of violence against innocent civilians.

In July 2021, a police constable slashed and killed a man named Muhammad Waqas who had been previously acquitted of blasphemy charges; the perpetrator explicitly stated perceived blasphemy as the crimes’ impetus.

A few months later, in December 2021, a Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara was lynched by a mob and had his body burned by an angry mob in the Pakistani city of Sialkot.

Kumara was a garment factory manager who had been accused of committing blasphemy after removing an Islamic poster from the factory’s walls to prepare for a renovation project.

These non-state actors, fortified by lackluster laws, pose a serious obstacle to human rights, free speech and dignity, creating a system where sometimes even state supported religious leaders call for the death penalty and other inhumane punishments.

A more recent and equally horrific incident occurred in Sokoto Nigeria, when young Christian college student Deborah Samuel Yakubu was stoned to death and set on fire by her very own Muslim classmates.

Days prior, Yakubu had angered the perpetrators by questioning why her school course’s WhatsApp chat was being used to discuss contentious religious affairs rather than focusing on academic issues.

Currently, twelve nations that maintain the death penalty for apostasy, blasphemy, or both; these include Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. * [New Penal Code implemented in 2022 in UAE removes hudud punishments – including apostasy from the penal code]

Additionally, approximately 40% of UN Member States – some of them holding seats in the Human Rights Council – criminalize apostasy and blasphemy, despite their lack of the death sentence for such ‘crimes’.

However, it is not without criticism and attention by human rights and religious freedom activists and even representatives of the United Nations who have emphasized the inhumanity of apostasy and blasphemy laws and called for their repeal.

This includes the UN General Assembly, the UN Secretary-General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Human Rights Council, and the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of religion or belief, and on extrajudicial killings, respectively.

Now, civil society is taking matters into its own hands.

Efforts to work toward the abolition of the death penalty for apostasy and blasphemy have been a bottom-up grassroots approach. Next week, a delegation of human rights and religious freedom advocates will travel to the United Nations to meet with representatives from the missions of numerous UN Member States, including Luxembourg, Canada, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Niger, and Australia.

Their goal is to increase support among UN Member States for the insertion of language in the UNGA Resolution on Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions stating that “the death penalty should never be imposed as a sanction for apostasy, blasphemy, or other perceived religious offense.

As a capstone to the multifaith, multicultural and multidisciplinary United Nations advocacy fly-in, the group will host an issue briefing pointing to the critical proposed resolution language, calling for the immediate repeal of the death penalty for apostasy and blasphemy charges.

The briefing, which is open to the press, will spotlight survivors in their own voice. The development of pluralistic resilient communities which uphold basic human rights and allow for human flourishing amongst inevitable interdependent globalized societies depend on the undaunted actions those in power.

We call upon all Member States to join us in this fight toward international religious freedom by supporting the IRF Campaign’s resolution language today.” More info here.

Dr. Christine M. Sequenzia, MDiv. is Co-Chair, International Religious Freedom Roundtable Campaign to Eliminate Blasphemy and Apostasy Laws

Soraya Marikar Deen, is a Lawyer, Community Organizer, International Activist; HumanRights & Gender Equity Advocate. She is also Co-chair Women’s Working Group @ Int. Religious Freedom Roundtable and Founder MuslimWomenSpeakers

IPS UN Bureau

  Source

‘Aid Organizations Must Include the Youth Voice’ August 12, 2022—International Youth Day

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Education, Education Cannot Wait. Future of Education is here, Global, Headlines, Health, Humanitarian Emergencies, TerraViva United Nations, Youth Thought Leaders

Opinion

NEW YORK, Aug 12 2022 (IPS) – Today marks International Youth Day, a global celebration of the transformative power of young people. Introduced by the United Nations General Assembly in 1999, the event was inaugurated not only to observe the power of the youth voice, but to serve as a promise from those in power to activate the power of youth across the development sector.


Yasmine Sherif

Since then, the United Nations appointed a Youth Envoy, dedicated to the diffusion of the day’s promise, and many aid organizations have followed suit by including the voices of young people in social media campaigns, high-level events, and stakeholder forums.

In 2021, Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, took a further, concrete step to democratically include youth in its governance structure and decision-making processes. Scores of youth-led NGOs applied to join a newly created youth constituency, and after only a few weeks, the sub-group had become one of the largest, most active, and most diverse constituencies within the fund.

On the Executive Committee and High-Level Steering Group of ECW, young people were represented for the first time alongside government ministers, heads of UN agencies and civil society organizations, and private sector leaders — a refreshing example of intergenerational collaboration at the highest levels of humanitarian aid.

Another significant step in the race for youth inclusion occurred when ECW partnered with Plan International to support a group of youth activists through the ‘Youth for Education in Emergencies Project,’ a campaign by youth panelists aiming to demonstrate the value of youth participation.

As ECW builds momentum towards its High-Level Financing Conference in February 2023 with the #222MillionDreams Campaign, we call on strategic partners to include the youth voice as we come together to mobilize funding resources for the 222 Million crisis-impacted children and adolescents worldwide that require urgent educational support.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of exceptional young people ready to lead the charge. The Global Student Forum, for example, has brought together more than one hundred national student unions, composed of millions of youth activists, and successfully lobbied governments around the world with its democratic force.

H.D. Wright

The success of Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s 100 Million Campaign, a global, youth-led effort to end child exploitation, further illustrates the immense value of grassroots organizing. And at a local level, youth-led NGOs have brought change to their communities in ways equally substantial.

Aid organizations and professionals have changed the lives of countless young people around the world. By including them, aid organizations can tap into their extraordinary resilience and strength, and actually learn from them. Using their reach on social media, young people excel at spreading awareness and engagement around the world. Just as unknown singers become famous because of the young people who promote them, previously unknown issues have reached national prominence overnight and created substantive change.

With regard to fundraising, each young person is surrounded by a community, offering a network ready to lend a hand. In terms of policy, young people affected by crises can identify their needs with an ease unmatched by any humanitarian policy professional, for they are experts in their own lives, challenges and opportunities. Young people are intelligent and capable of shaping their own futures. They have an idealism and a courage that the world so desperately needs today. Their unflinching optimism, powerful energy, and uncompromising commitment to change will ensure that those futures are not only safe, but better than the present they inherited.

ECW can attest to the enlightening and inspiring vitality of young people. Since its creation, the youth constituency has worked energetically on behalf of this breakthrough global fund, providing valuable input and guidance on multi-year programs and first emergency responses in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Haiti, Iraq and Mali. When schools shut down due to the pandemic, the youth constituency persisted, working together to inform aid programmes dispersed across crisis-affected countries.

The youth constituency even responded in real time to developing crises, including the earthquake in Haiti, the deteriorating crisis in Afghanistan, and most recently, the war in Ukraine. Their contributions played a role in meaningful projects: since its inception in 2016, ECW’s programs have reached over 5 million children and adolescents, providing them with quality support, including educational materials, school meals, mental health programs, and other basic necessities.

On this day, it is important to observe the power of young people, and the impactful work that aid organizations have conducted across the sector. Yet celebration and transformation must go hand in hand, ensuring that next year, when International Youth Day returns, we are one step closer to fulfilling its original promise to unleash the power of the youth.

Yasmine Sherif is the Director of Education Cannot Wait. H.D. Wright is Youth Representative at Education Cannot Wait

IPS UN Bureau

  Source

The Politics of the Hangman’s Noose: Judge, Jury & Executioner

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

Young people take part in a pro-democracy demonstration in Myanmar. Credit: Unsplash/Pyae Sone Htun

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 3 2022 (IPS) – A spike in state-sanctioned executions worldwide – including in Iran, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and more recently Myanmar – has triggered strong condemnations from the United Nations and several civil rights and human rights organizations.


As Covid-19 restrictions that had previously delayed judicial processes were steadily lifted in many parts of the world, says Amnesty International (AI), judges last year handed down at least 2,052 death sentences in 56 countries—a close to 40% increase over 2020—with big spikes seen in several countries including Bangladesh (at least 181, from at least 113), India (144, from 77) and Pakistan (at least 129, from at least 49).

Other countries enforcing the death penalty, according to AI, include Egypt, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Belarus, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), China, North Korea, Viet Nam and Yemen.

In military regimes, such as Myanmar, the armed forces play a triple role: judge, jury and hangman.

Dr Simon Adams, President of the Center for Victims of Torture, the world’s biggest organization that works with torture survivors and advocates for an end to torture worldwide, told IPS the recent execution of four pro-democracy activists by Myanmar’s military junta represents a sickening return to the “politics of the hangman’s noose”.

Arbitrary detention and torture have also been committed on an industrial scale, he said.

The military regime has detained over 14,000 people and sentenced more than 100 to death since the (February 2021) coup. While many governments around the world have condemned the recent hangings, it is going to take more than words to end atrocities in Myanmar, he pointed out.

“People are crying out for targeted sanctions on the Generals, for an arms embargo, and for Myanmar’s torturers and executioners to be held accountable under international law”, said Dr Adams, who also helped initiate the case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, where The Gambia is trying to hold Myanmar accountable for the genocide against the Rohingya.

The London-based Amnesty International (AI) said last May that 2021 “saw a worrying rise in executions and death sentences as some of the world’s most prolific executioners returned to business as usual and courts were unshackled from Covid-19 restrictions.”

Iran accounted for the biggest portion of this rise, executing at least 314 people (up from at least 246 in 2020), its highest execution total since 2017.

This was due in part to a marked increase in drug-related executions—a flagrant violation of international law which prohibits use of the death penalty for crimes other than those involving intentional killing, said AI.

Antony J. Blinken, US Secretary of State, said last week the United States condemns in the strongest terms the Burma military regime’s executions of pro-democracy activists and elected leaders Ko Jimmy, Phyo Zeya Thaw, Hla Myo Aung, and Aung Thura Zaw for the exercise of their fundamental freedoms.

“These reprehensible acts of violence further exemplify the regime’s complete disregard for human rights and the rule of law.’

Since the February 2021 coup, he pointed out, the regime has perpetuated violence against its own people, killing more than 2,100, displacing more than 700,000, and detaining thousands of innocent people, including members of civil society and journalists.

The regime’s sham trials and these executions are blatant attempts to extinguish democracy; these actions will never suppress the spirit of the brave people of Burma, (Myanmar), he added.

“The United States joins the people of Burma in their pursuit of freedom and democracy and calls on the regime to respect the democratic aspirations of the people who have shown they do not want to live one more day under the tyranny of military rule,” Blinken declared.

Condemning the execution of the four democracy activists by the military regime in Myanmar, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said last week: “I am dismayed that despite appeals from across the world, the military conducted these executions with no regard for human rights. This cruel and regressive step is an extension of the military’s ongoing repressive campaign against its own people.”

“These executions – the first in Myanmar in decades – are cruel violations of the rights to life, liberty and security of a person, and fair trial guarantees. For the military to widen its killing will only deepen its entanglement in the crisis it has itself created,” she warned.

The High Commissioner also called for the immediate release of all political prisoners and others arbitrarily detained, and urged the country to reinstate its de-facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty, as a step towards eventual abolition.

Meanwhile, in a statement released August 2, Liz Throssell, a Spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva said : “We deplore the hanging today of two men in Singapore and are deeply troubled by the planned execution of two others on 5 August.

The two, a Malaysian and a Singaporean, were hanged at Changi Prison this morning after they were convicted in May 2015 of drug trafficking and their appeals subsequently rejected.

Two other men, Abdul Rahim bin Shapiee and his co-accused Ong Seow Ping, are currently expected to be executed on Friday after Bin Shapiee’s family was notified of his fate on 29 July.

They were both convicted in 2018 of possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking and their sentences upheld on appeal. In the past, co-accused persons have almost always been executed on the same day.

“We urge the Singapore authorities to halt all scheduled executions, including those of Abdul Rahim bin Shapiee and Ong Seow Ping. We also call on the Government of Singapore to end the use of mandatory death sentences for drug offences, commute all death sentences to a sentence of imprisonment and immediately put in place a moratorium on all executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty”, the statement said.

“The death penalty is inconsistent with the right to life and the right to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and there is growing consensus for its universal abolition. More than 170 States have so far abolished or introduced a moratorium on the death penalty either in law or in practice,” she noted.

Agnes Callamard, AI Secretary-General, said that “China, North Korea and Viet Nam continued to shroud their use of the death penalty behind layers of secrecy, but, as ever, the little we saw is cause for great alarm.”

The known number of women executed also rose from nine to 14, while the Iranian authorities continued their abhorrent assault on children’s rights by executing three people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime, contrary to their obligations under international law.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia more than doubled its number of executions, a grim trend that continued in 2022 with the execution of 81 people in a single day in March, according to AI

As well as the rise in executions seen in Saudi Arabia (65, from 27 in 2020), significant increases on 2020 were seen in Somalia (at least 21, from at least 11) South Sudan (at least 9, from at least 2) and Yemen (at least 14, from at least 5). Belarus (at least 1), Japan (3) and UAE (at least 1) also carried out executions, having not done so in 2020.

Significant increases in death sentences compared to 2020 were recorded in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (at least 81, from at least 20), Egypt (at least 356, from at least 264), Iraq (at least 91, from at least 27), Myanmar (at least 86, from at least 1), Viet Nam (at least 119 from at least 54), and Yemen (at least 298, from at least 269), AI said.

In several countries in 2021, AI said, the death penalty was deployed as an instrument of state repression against minorities and protestors, with governments showing an utter disregard for safeguards and restrictions on the death penalty established under international human rights law and standards.

IPS UN Bureau Report

  Source