Somalia on the Path to Recovery, but Real Challenges Remain

Africa, Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Featured, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, Regional Categories, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On Nuclear Weapons, Actions Belie Reassuring Words

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Featured, Global, Global Geopolitics, Global Governance, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Nuclear Energy – Nuclear Weapons, Peace, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Credit: Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament/Henry Kenyon

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Arms Control Today

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

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Ecuador and the Pandora Papers: Death Threats and Impunity

Civil Society, Crime & Justice, Economy & Trade, Headlines, Latin America & the Caribbean, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

MEXICO CITY, Dec 20 2021 (IPS) – In a ceremony in early October, the president of Ecuador and my opponent in the presidential elections, Guillermo Lasso, issued a warning to those “daring who seek to scrutinize” his assets. He was referring to the Pandora Papers published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which revealed how dozens of world leaders – including Lasso – hid billions of dollars to avoid paying taxes.


His threatening words were directed primarily at me, because of my knowledge of the offshore underworld and my determination to investigate him despite receiving death threats.

In 2017, Ecuador approved an anti-corruption law prohibiting public servants from holding assets in tax havens, directly or indirectly. This term was there to avoid the use of opaque and complex financial structures like trusts, foundations or partnerships. Last year I formally challenged Lasso’s candidacy for that reason, but he then signed an affidavit in which he claimed not to have properties in tax havens and the electoral commission agreed with him.

That led me to drop this issue and when I lost the election in February, I even gave a concession speech and spoke by phone to congratulate him. He offered me to put an end to the political persecution against progressives that former president Lenín Moreno had started.

However, the Pandora Papers revealed that Lasso had in fact transferred shares in limited liability companies representing 130 Florida properties from Panama to two trusts in the state of South Dakota. Lasso also recognised the existence of 14 entities that had been hidden from the Ecuadorian tax authorities.

Lasso denied having ties to these entities before assuming the presidency, including Banco Banisi in Panama. However, an investigation by the Latindadd organisation revealed that Lasso, a day before signing the affidavit, transferred his shares from Banco Banisi to the Banisi International Foundation, a new private interest foundation where his children are nominal beneficiaries but without any decision-making powers.

After the Pandora Papers were released, a large majority in parliament ordered an investigation. Official institutions cooperated little or nothing, claiming that it is confidential information while Lasso refused to attend the hearings. When the parliamentary commission approved the report linking Lasso to tax havens, his government immediately attacked the commission, and the Prosecutor’s Office launched a criminal investigation against the parliamentarians.

Soon afterwards, I started receiving threats and intimidation, not for having been a presidential candidate, but for insisting in investigating Lasso and speaking in the media about this case as an economic expert in offshore banking. Government supporters then launched coordinated troll attacks on social media, spreading false news about me, death threats, and insults.

A member of parliament linked to Lasso accused me of money laundering based on a false meme widely disseminated on social media. And criminal investigations were launched against me based on false news, also involving my retired parents and all former progressive candidates. Dozens of national and international civil society organisations, including the Financial Transparency Coalition, published a statement of support which I deeply appreciate.

But unfortunately, nothing has changed.

On December 8, the Comptroller General concluded that Lasso had no offshore interests since it did not consider South Dakota a tax haven, despite being widely recognised for this. But the blockade of the investigation against Lasso did not end there. That same day, a majority of the National Assembly of Ecuador decided not to impeach the president, referring their investigation to other state institutions, but asked him to go to parliament and give an explanation, which he refused to do.

Ironically, Lasso – along with the presidents of other countries such as Kenya and Chile, whose leaders were also revealed in the Pandora Papers to have hidden assets in tax havens – was invited to the recent ‘Summit for Democracy’ organised by the United States. During the summit the creation of a beneficial ownership registry was announced, including for South Dakota trusts, as well as anti-fraud measures on real estate which could impact Lasso, but it’s still uncertain whether these commitments by the US and other countries will become reality.

In total, $7 trillion is hidden in secret jurisdictions and tax havens, equivalent to 10% of global revenues, according to the UN High-Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity. Meantime especially developing countries are fighting the resurgent Covid-19 pandemic and its economic impacts, struggling to provide basic social protection to its citizens and purchase vaccines.

So clearly the problem of tax evasion and financial opacity, and money being funneled by powerful individuals to tax havens, is an issue that not only affects my country, but affects everyone. Fighting for financial transparency is a fight for truth and social justice that we cannot afford to give up.

Andrés Arauz is an Ecuadorian economist and candidate for President in the 2021 elections, currently based in Mexico City where he is a Doctoral Fellow at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, UNAM.

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Extremists Harm Image of Islam and Pakistan

Civil Society, Featured, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Inequity, Religion, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Family members of Priyantha Kumara, who died in the Sialkot mob attack, taking part in religious rites at his funeral.

COLOMBO, Si Lanka, Dec 13 2021 (IPS) – Every time, breaking news of a barbaric crime or terror act is reported from anywhere in the world, peace-loving Muslims the world over feel dejected and wish it had not been another tragedy that will make others glower at them with suspicion as though they too are complicit in the crime.


But often, what they dread is the case, for more than 90 percent of such inhumane and barbaric acts – like the Sialkot slaying of a Sri Lankan factory manager and the Easter Sunday massacres — are associated with Islamic extremism.

Last Friday’s lynching of factory Manager Priyantha Kumara Diyawadanage in Pakistan by an extremist mob will not be the last of such acts.

No amount of ‘We Are Sorry Sri Lanka’ placards, flowers and candles at makeshift memorials and political statements denouncing the crime can bring back his life that was cruelly brought to an end as a burnt offering on the altar of bigotry in an expression of savagery that has no place in civilized society.

However much Pakistanis who are humiliated by extremism dissociate themselves from the horrible act, however profound their apology is, however remorseful Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who decried the incident as Pakistan’s day of shame, is, the country will continue to be plagued by violent extremism unless and until extremism is rooted out by radical social reforms in line with the peaceful message of Islam.

The Priyantha Kumara lynching by a mob linked to an extremist outfit called Tehereek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, for tearing off a political poster that allegedly had some religious verses in Urdu warrants the immediate revocation of Pakistan’s blasphemy law or its amendment in keeping with the Islamic virtue of tolerance and magnanimity.

Research shows a higher prevalence of extremism in countries that have blasphemy laws than in countries that do not have such laws. Blasphemy laws are often misused to persecute the minorities or treat them as second-class citizens. Such laws are incompatible with the Islamic teaching which calls for protection of the minorities and non-interference in their worship.

If the Pakistan Government fails to make use of this heartrending incident as an opportunity to bring about radical reforms, it itself will be committing an act of blasphemy because its inaction allows the badly constructed law to distort and disgrace Islam.

Pakistan was carved out of the British Raj for the Muslims of the subcontinent. Its founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah promoted a theory of two nation two state, saying that the Muslims and Hindus were two different nations and belonged to two different civilizations and therefore needed to live in separate states.

The world’s first nation-state to be formed on the basis of religion, Pakistan, however, has never been a theocracy.

In a 2017 BBC interview, historian Ayesha Jalal pointed out that Jinnah envisaged Pakistan as a “homeland for India’s Muslims”, as opposed to an Islamic state. But she said that his theory had been used by Islamists “as an ideological device” to justify claims for Pakistan to be a theocratic state.

This is Pakistan’s existential crisis. While the extremists fight for the setting up of a theocracy, secular politicians skillfully make use of Islam and side with Islamists to swell their vote banks or to whip up nationalistic emotions against archrival India.

Perhaps, this was why Pakistan’s Defence Minister Pervez Khattak was seen belittling the gruesome murder of Priyantha Kumara, by calling it “youthful exuberance of Muslim youngsters” and “happens all the time”.

He reportedly added, “When the youth feel Islam has been attacked, they react to defend it.” This was while Premier Khan vowed to bring the murderous mob to justice and Pakistan police arrested more than 130 people.

If we play with fire, we get burnt. Pakistan has been burnt enough, yet it appears to have not learnt enough. Seven years ago this month, extremists carried out a gruesome school massacre in Peshawar. In this terror attack some 134 schoolchildren, aged between 8 and 18, and 16 staff members were brutally gunned down by the Pakistan Taliban. So why pamper the extremists?

In 2011, Pakistan’s Punjab Province Governor Salman Taseer was shot dead by a police guard over his opposition to the country’s blasphemy law that calls for death sentence to those who insult Islam or its holy personalities.

Taseer was also calling for the release of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was falsely accused by her neighbours of insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Taseer’s assassin was hailed as a hero by a large number of extremists who took to the street to celebrate the murder.

As a result of violent extremism, many non-Muslims find it difficult to accept the Muslims’ assertion that Islam is a religion of peace. What many do not understand is that there is little Islam in today’s world, although about 2 billion Muslims constitute one fourth of the world’s 8 billion population.

In Islam, jihad or holy war is not the norm, but a last resort exception to defend the oppressed. Vigilante justice has no place in Islam. The accused should be heard, Islam commands.

To whatever religion they belong, the problem with extremists is their ignorance of the teachings of the religion they are supposed to follow. As historian and comparative religions expert Karen Armstrong would say, “Terrorism has nothing to do with Muhammad, any more than the Crusades had anything to do with Jesus.”

Certainly, violence is not the answer to blasphemy. According to the Quran, the Prophet Muhammad was heaped the worst form of scorn. He was called a liar, a magician, a madman, and possessed. Garbage was thrown over his head and stone-throwing street urchins were set upon him.

Yet as commanded by God, he exercised beautiful patience — Sabran Jameelan — and when his companions sought permission to retaliate, he would teach them the virtues of patience and remind them that he was sent as a mercy to the whole world. He befriended his persecutors by practising the Quranic injunction which exhorts the Muslims to “repel that which is evil with that which is good (and virtuous)”.

Unfortunately, the verses on defensive wars the Prophet and the early Muslims were forced to fight were misinterpreted by latter day Muslim rulers and terrorists for political purposes. Glorification of violence in the name of Islam became the norm. Islam’s peaceful message was forgotten.

Also overlooked is the Quranic message against violence as explained in the story of angels who expressed their deep concern over bloodshed and mischief on earth when God wanted to create man. (Quran 2: 30.)

It appears that instead of Islam, some Muslims are following a violent creed and calling it Islam. The fake Islam is largely practised while the real Islam remains buried. The task before the Muslims is to search for the buried Islam, resurrect it and live it.

Ameen Izzadeen is the deputy editor of the Sunday Times, Sri Lanka. He also writes a weekly column for the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka, on international politics and good governance issues; and is a visiting lecturer in journalism and international politics.

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