JULY 08, 2012
A Question of Genethics
Syria Should the international community step in to prevent further atrocity? @AMUNC2012
Cover image: A Portuguese peacekeeper, October 2011. Photo: United Nations Multimedia Designers: Gary Dickson Editors: Gary Dickson & Emily Hesline Expert on everything: Kim McCosker The Working Paper (TWP) is a thrice-yearly magazine published at the BrizMUN, AMUNC and SydMUN conferences. It was first started at BrizMUN 2008. The articles are written by delegates of the International Press Gallery and seek to engage with the committee topics, presenting the unique point of view of their agencies.
The Working Paper
Number 11 | Winter 2012 Briefing Director’s Desk 03 Y’all ready for this?
04 Climate change: does ideology prevail evidence? 05 GM food: a second green revolution? 07 ASEAN & the future of South East Asia 08 Lifting the veil on forced marriage
Feature Syria 11 Freedom fighters & factions 12 Who should determine Syria’s future? 13 Whose land is it anyway? 15 Breaking the banks 18 Drop in ODA reinforces forty years of betrayal 19 A memory eternal: amid fig trees & pines 21 The human genome: a question of genethics 22 Making speech free in our digital world 24 Strange bedfellows? Bosnia & Herzegovina & Europe Regular From Pyongyang with Love 27 Rights of the weak & lonely 28 Conscription: necessary in times of relative peace? 29 The reformation: UN looks at Security Council expansion
Briefing Director’s Desk
Y’all Ready for This?
Gary Dickson & Emily Hesline
Jessica Farchione, Entertainment Tonight
he Working Paper may one day find itself as the only independent news source left in the country. News of Fairfax massively downsizing, shutting the doors on numerous printing & distribution centres and simultaneously being held to ransom by one particular shareholder seeking to gain board representation holds the nation’s attention. The already deplorable media climate seems to have (somehow) slipped even further into the gutter. The Model UN community’s flagship publication has not been immune from speculation. Beginning at last year’s conference in Canberra, every few months we have seen a fresh round of rumours regarding TWP’s journalistic and editorial positions and a possible outsourcing overseas, with New Zealand most often cited as the beneficiary of this alleged scheme. Readers rest assured that for as long as Emily & I sit as the editors of this magazine its home will remain in Melbourne. 2012’s first issue saw an expose of the future of drone warfare, euthanasia rights and KONY2012. In this, our second issue of the year, we’re looking at the banking sector, human genome and GM food. A number of contributors from the last edition make their return, including Xinhua-to-KCNA turncoat Emma Vlatko and former TWP editor Kim McCosker in her new role as a foreign correspondent at Al Jazeera. Journalists of the International Press Gallery have spent the months leading up to the conference researching, probing, interviewing and asking the hard questions. Delegates should be wary of who is in earshot when they’re making those under the table guarantees, as our diligent team will be looking for the kernel of truth in amongst all the diplomacy. If you get a request for comment or an interview, it’s in your best interests to be obliging! Don’t forget you can write a press release for our journalists to use - you never know what will become the next big story. We hope that the articles printed here will ready you for the week ahead and spark passionate debate about the globally important issues, both during the conference and in your future roles as world leaders. ■ 03
elcome, welcome to what is sure to be the greatest, most spectacular week in your young international relations-obsessed lives!
AMUNC2012, hosted by the incomparable La Trobe University, has more in store for delegates this year than any other university dared have in store before. Every other MUN will dim in your memory, every other MUN will blush with embarrassment, every other MUN will be forgotten once Melbourne gets through with you. Personally, I’d be a little concerned were I on the Secretariat in Auckland, having to follow this event next year. Start planning Kiwis. The La Trobe Secretariat has quite simply put more thought into these five days than [insert joke about the US economic policy]. July 08 to July 13 will see your wildest dreams realised, your fantasises actualised, and every ounce of fun squeezed out of AMUNC2012… And who will be there capturing all the action as it happens? Entertainment Tonight of course. My first tip for all my avid readers out there; be prepared for the best socials AMUNC has ever seen. No matter how many years you have been frequenting these cheeky conferences, no matter if this is your first AMUNC – bring a back-up pair of socks for they are sure to be knocked off! From the location of your committee dinners, to the extravagance of the Tuesday night ball, to the finale dinner and ceremony, let us show you how we do it in Melbourne. For all your gossip, scandal, star sightings and entertainment coverage – you know who to run to. PS: Got a tip? Text me – 0422 144 584 ■
Climate Change: Does ideology prevail evidence? Erin Price, Fox News
he threat of global climate change has prompted us to redesign many of our technologies to be more energyefficient. From lightweight hybrid cars to long-lasting LEDs, engineers have made well-known products smaller and less wasteful. But tinkering with our tools will only get us so far, because however smart our technologies become, the challenges to policy makers raised by climate change are wide-ranging and the threats posed to society are substantial.
Other regions were also affected: by heat wave and drought in the Russian Federation, by mudslides in China and severe droughts in sub-Saharan Africa. The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) stated that while a longer time range is required to establish whether an individual event is attributable to climate change, the sequence of current events could foresee frequent and more intense extreme weather events due to global warming.
It is now widely recognised that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is of great urgency and there is, at last, a clear mandate for effective political, technological and financial action on a global scale, although the process for achieving this remains frustratingly elusive.
So it would seem from these events, the need for urgent political action to manage this existential threat to our global civilisation could not be clearer.
Dating back to 1988 at the World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere in Toronto, politicians and scientists concluded that “humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war,” and recommended reducing greenhouse gas emissions 20 per cent by 2005. Since then, Governments have debated on fresh water resources and their management, ecosystems, food, fibre and forest products, coastal areas and health, industry, settlement and society to understand why the globe is getting warmer. But have societies ideologies prevailed over evidence? In environmental terms climate changes’ storyline has been difficult to follow. Even the experts have been left struggling to anticipate or explain the course of events. Why? Because they, like the rest of us, have been seduced by simplistic models of complex systems that range from social policy to market economics to the ever important environment.
And according to the WMO the build-up of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere has and always will be the greatest climate change urgency. Previously, Governments have negotiated the Kyoto Protocol, the Bali Action Plan, Copenhagen Accord and the Cancun Agreements, but are greenhouse gas emissions diminishing? It is generally agreed that one of the most useful tools in inducing action on mitigating emissions is the pricing of greenhouse gas emissions. While by itself pricing will not be sufficient to tackle climate change, it is nonetheless a key part of climate policy. Will an idea such as a global carbon trading system be enough to transform commercial and social behaviours? Will it provide a measure of evidence? Stay tuned. ■
Among some factions, blind ideas have triumphed over reason. During 2010, several regions of the world experienced what the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) terms ‘severe weather related events’. These included flash floods and widespread flooding in large parts of Asia and parts of Central Europe.
GM Food: A second green revolution? Kevin Ponniah, Times of India
enetically modified (GM) food is likely to be the divisive policy issue of our time. Divisive because its effects stretch far beyond the chambers of government and industry - globalisation, environmental problems, farmer sovereignty, health risks, intellectual property rights and economic benefits are just some of the contentious issues at hand. But divisive also because GM foods will ultimately wind up on the dinner tables of families and communities, that intimate and sacred space that has been protected for millennia. The GM debate has never been more pertinent or globally relevant than it is now. With the UN projecting that the world population will rise to 10.1 billion by 2100, the most pressing global problem this century is likely to be food security – and its solution could be GM crops. We have seen famine in Ethiopia, the Horn of Africa, Bangladesh, Niger, Malawi, North Korea, Bangladesh, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan in the last decade. We are now looking at another famine in the Sahel. In the face of an impending global food crisis, two opposing schools have emerged – the GM lobby, largely comprised of multinational firms and scientists who contend that GM is the answer, and the grassroots organic and seed empowerment movement, opposed to GM crops and made up of farmers, NGOs and concerned citizens. Wedged between these opponents are governments, left to make difficult decisions in the face of two powerful and polarised lobbies. Bt Cotton was the first GM crop introduced into India in 1996. Widely heralded as an agricultural success, it is credited as having turned India from a net cotton importer to a net exporter, raised historically low Indian cotton yields to the international average, reduced the need for pesticides and increased wages and labour participation, particularly for women. The high-yield transgenic cotton, which is resistant to pests such as bollworm, is now the dominant cotton crop in India, especially in the central states. However, it has also been claimed to have brought debt, despair and ultimately suicide to many farmers who took out large loans to buy the seed and for whom the crop did not provide the promised higher yields. Nonetheless in 2009 the Indian Genetic Engeering Approval Authority approved Bt Brinjal (aubergine) as safe for human consumption and sale in India. Bt Brinjal was partly developed 05
by multinational agricultural powerhouse and leading GM seed producer, Monsanto. This was the first time a GM food crop had been approved for human consumption in India and the result was widespread public outcry. This led the then Environment Minister to hold a series of public consultations across the country and eventually place a moratorium on the release of the crop to the national market until the concerns of the public were sufficiently addressed. The role of grassroots NGOs and community groups such as Navdanya in this process cannot be overstated. The moratorium is still in place. India is the world’s second largest producer of aubergines and thus the ruling is a significant one. If the moratorium is lifted it could pave the way for other GM crops such as drought and salt tolerant rice – projected to provide an economic benefit of USD$3 billion – to be released into the Indian market. The lion’s share of population growth this century will come from the developing world and in particular, India. With already more than 1 billion mouths to feed, India is ranked 98th out of 118 countries in the world hunger index, 214 million people go hungry and the country has the highest rate of child malnutrition in the world. Despite the recently introduced National Food Security Bill – that will provide subsidised rice, wheat and coarse grains to 75 per cent of the rural and 50 per cent of the urban population – GM crop production could help to solve India’s food security problem in the future. According to the World Food Program, drought is the single most common cause of food shortage and improved agricultural output offers
Fields of Cotton: Yields in India have increased significantly since the introduction of genetically modified crop in 1996 Photo: Carol von Canon
Another international issue is the role of intellectual property. GM seed producers such as Monsanto patent their seeds and have been known to pursue litigation against farmers who “knowingly” use their patented seeds. Each seed is a binding contract. This practice means that farmers who buy GM seeds cannot re-collect and plant their seeds for the next season’s harvest – which is traditional practice. They are instead reliant on seed companies for continuous and often expensive supplies. New York Times journalist Verlyn Klinkenborg calls this “the final transfer of the collective farming wisdom of the human race into corporate hands.”
the quickest route out of food insecurity. GM crops can provide alternatives to tackle these problems. However, many activists believe that food supply is not the problem and instead point to agricultural distribution, governance and international trade systems as the real culprits in the international food crisis. In terms of regulating GM foods on an international level, the concerns of citizens are not the only barriers to be overcome. There is also a great disparity between national and regional policies, with some countries, such as the United States, taking a liberal attitude to the sale of these goods, and others, such as the European Union, remaining wary of the risks that these foods may pose. The United States and others have even gone as far as complaining to the WTO that the EU’s regulation of GM foods violates free trade agreements. Additionally the accepted notion that developing countries will welcome GM foods in times of food insecurity was challenged in 2002 when Zambia cut off the flow of genetically modified food aid from the UN World Food Program. Venezuela has also banned GM crops and seeds, while Ecuador has gone as far as enshrining food sovereignty in the constitution. Labelling systems are also different between states. The US and Canada do not require the labelling of foods that contain genetically modified products. On the other hand, the EU, Australia and many other countries enforce this practice. India is implementing a labelling system this month although in a largely informal food market, the benefit of this is debated.
In a few weeks the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation will meet in Melbourne to discuss the question of an international framework for the regulation of GM foods. An international framework could help to regulate relationships between farmers and seed companies in addition to providing legal frameworks for trade disputes, intellectual property rights, seed sovereignty and fair trade practices. An international body would also be able to set global standards and guidelines for the production and consumption of GM crops, as well as publishing impartial research developments for the global public. However with the fortunes of powerful companies like Monsanto at stake, the differing positions of the Western powers, and the likelihood that the impact of regulation would largely fall on the developing world, the prospects for international cooperation on GM foods seems unlikely. The green revolution in the 1960s and 70s is widely credited with having fed billions of people and avoided famine by introducing sophisticated agricultural technology such as pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers, and new breeds of high-yield crops. India saw its wheat production rise from 10 million tones in 1963 to 73 million in 2006. Yet in that time we still saw widespread famine, poverty and malnutrition in the developing world. As international food demand continues to grow, many agronomists see the need for a ”second green revolution”. Whether this second revolution will find a solution to the food crisis through genetically modified crops is up for debate. What is clear is that the international community will have to work together to achieve any workable solution. ■ 06
ASEAN & the future of South East Asia Anisa Ismail, The Jakarta Post
t the heart of Jakarta sits the statue of Hansel and Gretel, encircled by rows of vehicles cramped in the endless traffic of the city centre. The statue was once a welcoming gesture and a display of pride to international guests during the Asian Games in 1962. Held just 14 years after the independence of Indonesia, it would be the greatest turning point in the country’s short history and would see the rise of a new nation in the shadow of its Dutch colonial past. Every so often the traffic comes to a complete standstill, and through the maze of motorbikes and taxis, the statue looks down at the appearance of a collection of tiny figures, hands outstretched from one car window to another, before they scurry back to the concealed black spots of the city slums as the traffic resumes its slow crawl. The struggle for economic strength for the development of a nation is a shared sentiment in the contemporary history of the region. In a 20-year period from the end of World War II until 1965, states in South East Asia have attained greater sovereignty and steered themselves on a rocky path towards peace and prosperity. Many of them have emerged as what has been popularly coined as the ‘Asian tigers’, with booming middle class populations and greater leverage in a globalised economy, but often not without the volatility and instability that comes with building a nation. Thailand, for instance, has averaged economic growth of 9% each year, but has been polarized politically by the competing promises of rural reform and economic development. The countries of this region have grappled with the balance of national stability that goes hand in hand with the health of the economy. These two crucial and intertwined elements that will determine the future of South East Asian states have been articulated and advanced through the parallel growth of ASEAN, a multilateral organisation created by a handful of nations in the region in 1967. Its founding fathers saw a solution in harmonising each of these growing but unsteady economies, all within the assurance of a political-cum-security framework. Together, the expanded group’s ten member countries have cultivated a free trade area with the removal of tariffs, resulting in nominal gross domestic product of over US$1.1 trillion. Despite the almost unprecedented gains for each of the mem07
ber economies due to the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997-98 caused great devastation, and served as a stark indicator of the intricate web of interdependencies between the states of South East Asia and the regions over-reliance of foreign assistance. Instigated in Thailand, the country quickly plunged into bankruptcy due to its accumulation of foreign debt even before the collapse of the value of its baht. Its neighbours would soon be weakened as well; with most countries in South East Asia being crippled with the effects of a devaluation of currency and exports, the retreat of foreign direct investment and the wholesale breakdown of markets and industries. Millions of people in the region had suddenly found themselves below the poverty line, and the depth and impact of the crisis precipitated the resignation of Joseph Estrada in the Philippines, as well as the fall of the 30-year strong New Order regime in Indonesia. For better or worse, these significant political upheavals had brought plenty of uncertainty. The shaky ground that these states stood on had only enforced the need for such an entity as ASEAN to become a medium in which the governments of South East Asia could pursue the mutual needs and benefits of economic independence as a region over reliance on external authorities, and favour co-operation against the alternatives of rivalry and competition. This crucial event had shown that the existence of a free trade region would not be enough to ensure the prosperity of the region, and in 2003 the bold step was taken to form the ASEAN Economic Community, with members agreeing to integrate the economies of the region by 2015. The creation of a regional economic zone has seen an immense economic recovery for the respective country’s economies and ASEAN’s exports had regained its strength following the financial crisis, reaching its peak in 2000 when total exports were valued at US$408 billion. Momentous in what this could mean for the future economic success of South East Asia, the creation of what is essentially a unified economic zone would ultimately transform ASEAN into a region with free movement of goods, services, investment and skilled labour. Together, the Economic Community offers a US$330 billion market of 560 million people, rich natural resources, and an export industry concentrated in highgrowth sectors. The picture that emerges is that of a region that is increasingly well delineated in terms of its internal cohesiveness, as the economic development of the countries and inhabitants of South East Asia will be played out as part of a greater regional scheme. These countries are still in the process of repairing the cracks and fostering the growth of their economies, but with greater interdependency and co-operation, ASEAN will increasingly be at the forefront of the shape and character of South East Asia, the degree to which will be mapped out at the upcoming ASEAN meetings in 2012. ■
Lifting the veil on forced marriage Sarah Fitt, The Age
as young as 16, are being comodified and used by their families and having their right to choose removed. While this may not always be the motivating factor in marrying off a daughter, the removal of the right to choose who you are married to has implications in other family realms, particularly sexual relations and pregnancy and is not appropriate no matter what the reason. The consequences of denouncing or rejecting the marriage can range from the threat of exclusion right through to violence against the woman from her own family or her partner-to-be. Lack of education in the rights of women as well as prevailing social stigmas surrounding abuse and violence mean that these cases often go unreported, making it unclear just how common such practices are.
hile for many of us marriage is a joyous life event, entered into in equality with our chosen partner, the reality for many women in the world today couldn’t be more different.There are a wide range of factors relating to marriage that impinge on the human rights of women and children, from the initial consent right through to the ability to divorce or separate. These issues do not only exist in developing countries. Throughout the world, many varied laws exist to govern marriage which are enforced to varying degrees.
In May just this year, the Australian government created new legislation to make forced marriage a criminal act, in a similar vein to human trafficking and slavery-like practices. The act of coercing someone to marry another has been worked into the legal definition of slavery and the laws will cover marriages that occur within Australia (think mail-order bride type scenarios) and marriages that involve Australian citizens that occur overseas.
The issue of arranged marriage is highly debated. A cultural tradition in many parts of the world, from the Middle East through to South East Asia, in the modern world it most often takes the form of the introduction of a son or daughter to a prospective spouse chosen by their family or superior in the community. From here, there are a few different paths that it can take. For more liberal families, the ‘couple’ have the choice to pursue the relationship following their introduction, relatively free from interference. But in the most extreme cases, there is no choice involved at all.
While this is of course a step in the right direction at home, the wider issue of improving the status of women globally needs to be considered and is heavily implicated in the issue of forced marriage. Girls who are married at a young age often prematurely discontinue their education, itself a denial of a basic human right, leaving them at a further disadvantage and diminishing their independence all the more. With the addition of potential force and coercion into the equation the mental and spiritual well-being is also at risk, while the prospect of pregnancy has the potential to do serious damage to physical health.
Forced marriages can take a number of different forms. For example, the ‘shotgun’ wedding is a marriage based on the societal expectations of a pair who have conceived a child to go on to live in matrimony. While the degree of force is highly dependent on the individual situation, any marriage entered into under duress or coercion can be considered a forced marriage.
Denying the right to choose a life partner in the name of cultural tradition is an outdated practice that threatens the rights of both genders, but effects women more commonly. Through the illegalisation globally of forced marriages and recognising the woman’s right to choose, coupled with increased education surrounding these rights, the international community can further empower women to stand up for themselves in the face of violence and social stratification and head towards true equality for the women of the world today.
In more extreme circumstances, forced marriage can be the direct effect of an arranged marriage. Add in the historical probability of the woman being under 18 and we are looking at an issue that has very deep and far reaching ramifications. In many communities in India and Pakistan, the tradition of arranged marriage continues to be strong. It is not uncommon that the couple could be first cousins, or have never met. In some cases, both are true. In the case of Australia, it is not completely uncommon for young women to be forced into marriage with a relative or partner whom they have never met in order to circumvent immigration law. Travelling overseas to their family’s country of origin and coming home married, these women and girls, often
Representatives from a variety of backgrounds will seek common ground on this complex cultural issue in coming weeks in the UN Womens council, a newly formed arm of the UN to reinvigorate the campaign for gender equality across the globe. Created in 2010, UN Women brings together four previously separate entities for the empowerment of women, streamlining the campaign for equality for women and girls across the world and in the face of the law. Focussing particularly on the issues of rights in marriage and equality in law, the UN Women discussions will be hoping to achieve the creation of laws surrounding the legal age for marriage and other issues. ■ 08
Syria: The country burns as the international community says one thing and arms another, which begs the question: who is responsible for preventing another massacre?
Under siege: An unexploded shell lies discarded in the street of Homs. Photo: United Nations Multimedia 09
Freedom fighters & factions Kim McCosker, Al Jazeera
yria has become a place where hopes for a better Middle East and a long past of minority oppression have collided – and collided violently. Battle lines are now being drawn not between a tyrannic regime and an angry population, as characterised by the Arab Spring, but around ethnic and religious groups. Advocates for the muscular use of US power are calling on international intervention, but it is unlikely to solve a conflict so deeply rooted in cultural conflict and oppression. The civil war in Syria is, at the moment, characterised by a discord between Alawite and Sunni Muslims. The Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam to which Assad belongs, still clings to power in the country. The Alawites are one of the smallest groups in Syria, yet they dominate the police, military and government – a hat-tip to their colonial days, where France pushed for ethnic minorities to hold public service positions. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Syrian National Council (SNC) are responsible for most of the military force against the government. They are perceived largely as an uprising of the Sunni population, however in reality they are a hodgepodge coalition of at least twenty different groups, mostly Sunnis but reportedly also Druze, Bedouins and a smattering of Kurds, as well as militant factions, al-Qaeda and political parties like the Muslim Brotherhood. They all share a deep hatred of Assad, and a long history of oppression by his regime - but that’s where their unity stops, and their troubles begin. The FSA and SNC are too busy fighting amongst themselves to connect on the ground, particularly in the south - Daraa and Suweida may soon see clashes between the Druze and Bedouin minorities, which could spell the end of a viable military alliance below Damascus. The infighting between cultural groups, combined with the lack of leadership and coordination between the rebels make it near impossible for the international community to know who to support inside Syria.
Ethnic minorities that sit outside the Alawite-Sunni divide are also wavering in their support because of long-standing ethnic grudges. Many Kurds are wary of the FSA and SNC because key summits have taken place in Turkey, a country inherently distrusted by Kurdish populations. Senior Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leaders have said that if Turkey were to intervene in Syria, the PKK would fight with Assad. However, in June the 11
SNC announced an ethnic Kurd as their new leader, and it is still unknown where Kurdish support will fall. Christians and other minority groups are becoming increasingly apprehensive of the FSA, fearing a government they create will not be culturally inclusive. An international intervention aimed at resolving the conflict in Syria will be based on the premise that Western multiculturalism works. To an extent, it does in the Western world, where governments and populations alike cede power and privilege to minority groups, and place faith in laws that ensure equal rights for all. However, it is inconceivable in countries where the only form of protection for minority groups is to seize power, or form a coalition with the ruling party. Acting as if this can be rectified with a few lessons on democracy is absurd. As the world watches the country pay the blood price for their spring, it is becoming apparent the international community needs to understand the long-standing cultural divisions between ethnic and religious groups in Syria need to be addressed before a lasting peace can be achieved. A resolution should not be based on the triumph of one side over another. ■
Syrian Civil War The numbers: Between 14,100 and 17,099 killed since the uprising first began last March, with more than a quarter owing to the ongoing siege of the opposition headquarters, the city of Homs. UNICEF claims 500 children are among that number, and that another 400 have been arrested and tortured, a claim disputed by Damascus. 119 foreigners have also lost their lives in the conflict, 89 of whom were Palestinians. A further 240,000 displaced people in a region that already struggles to handle some of the highest refugee numbers in the world. More than half of those affected have fled across the border into Jordan, but significant populations can be found in Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. One Turkish F4 Phantom fighter plane shot down by Syrian forces last month in a move that prompted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to promise his country would “support the Syrian people in every way until they get rid of the bloody dictator and his gang.” The Security Council meets in Melbourne this week to discuss further a plan for ending ongoing hostilities.
Who should determine Syria’s future? Aaron Ung, Russia Today
ollowing over a year of struggle between the Syrian government and anti-government rebels, the world’s powers have agreed to a non-binding transitional roadmap aimed at empowering Syrians to determine their own future without foreign interference. Despite this step forward, there are many stakeholders known to be involved in the Syrian uprising.
The UN-Arab League peace envoy for Syria plan, also known as The Kofi Annan Peace Plan for Syria, was announced by its namesake, the appointed mediator of the crisis, at a meeting in Geneva on June 30, 2012. The proposal was a groundbreaking step forward and the first real movement in the pursuit of stability and a diplomatic resolution of the Syrian uprising. The plan drew the support of Russia, China and the West- often seen as staunch rivals in the Security Council. This comes four months after a Security Council condemnation of the troubled state that also suggested UN action was vetoed, the Russian delegation raising legitimate concerns that any intervention would be a gross violation of Syria’s sovereignty, and that any attempt at regime change would only cause to escalate violence. The Kofi Annan Peace Plan, a non-binding agreement, was adopted by the Security Council in April, following months of diplomatic deadlock. It calls for both parties to agree to a ceasefire and support humanitarian services to civilians. Originally the plan proposed for the removal of the rightful Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but the glorious representative of the Russian Federation condemned any such suggestion, insisting instead for the autonomy of the brokering processes. Alongside were most supportive of the plan due to its support of a Syrian-led self-transition roadmap through dialogue and diplomacy between all major players and stakeholders, thus ensuring autonomy and the respect of state sovereignty in all decision-making processes. Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, pointed out that it met our demands to limit foreign intervention and to promote Syrian dialogue and compromises. “We consider it of the utmost importance that this document does not seek to dictate to the Syrian sides how the transition process should happen politi-
cally. How exactly this process will take place is up to the Syrian people. This document is very precise on that,” he said. Despite the agreement limiting foreign interference, there are some who believe that foreigners have more sway on Syria’s political problems than Syrians themselves. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem asserts that “armed terrorist groups” are responsible for the massacring of civilians and are being financed and armed from abroad. Muallem has laid blame on Islamist groups such as al-Qaeda, whose leader, Ayman alZawahri, proclaimed his solidarity with the protesters seeking to overthrow Assad without the support of Arab and Western forces. Muallem says that the foreign financing and arming of terrorist groups are hindering political reform processes and all attempts at engagement with the population, a concern often raised in Moscow and Beijing. Saudi Arabia, a long-time ally of the West, has also been under scrutiny and has been subjected to accusations that it is arming and financing rebel forces in Syria. A high-level and unnamed, Arab diplomat, speaking to Agence France-Presse, asserted that the Kingdom has sent both military equipment and financial aid to the main Syrian opposition, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), smuggled via Jordan. Both parties have denied these claims. In March, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Saud al-Faisal, said the kingdom welcomed international efforts to broker a ceasefire in Syria but that so far, such attempts have been futile. “Is there something greater than the right to defend oneself and to defend human rights?” he asked. “The regime is insisting on imposing itself by force on the Syrian people” he says, betraying his preference for ongoing support of the opposition groups. He later proclaimed that “the arming of the opposition is a duty, I think, because it cannot defend itself except with weapons.” But while the House of Saud and Qatar have been discussing military aid to the Syrian opposition, the West has not advocated arming the rebels, fearing it will worsen the conflict. The United States has expressed deep concerns that weapons have fallen into the hands of jihadist groups with very strong antiWestern motives. Turkey has also been accused having a direct involvement in arming the FSA. “The Turkish government helped us to be armed,” said one opposition fighter living near the northern border. Predictably, his assertions were denied by authorities, but having mobilised its NATO allies to discuss the situation, the Ankara has shown its eagerness for a change of guard on its southern flank. The only certainty is that while external interests dominate peace plans, no accord will be reached. Intervention will only cause more violence - the international community must use diplomatic means to resolve this crisis. ■ 12
Whose land is it anyway? Indigenous land rights and the mining boom
Dam you all: Indigenous leaders say their way of life is threatened by exploitative mining and damming practices. Photo: Friends of the Earth International
Rebecca Dakin, The Guardian
he issue of indigenous land rights is nothing new. For decades, indigenous people across the globe have fought for the rights to the land they’ve always called home, with both successes and failures along the way. Recent events have now brought this divisive issue back under the global political spotlight. Issues surrounding the threat of mining, especially on indigenous land, and the impact it is having on the world’s environment have been of major concern to indigenous peoples across the globe. Last week, Brazil held the Rio+20 Conference – the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. World leaders, along with thousands of people from governments, the private sector, NGO’s and other groups all gathered to discuss the issues of poverty, social equality and environmental protection in our increasingly crowded world. The conference saw the joining of indigenous people, mainly from across South America, who wished to share their solutions to the world’s climate issues with their simple philosophy of buen vivir - living well in harmony with nature. For most indigenous peoples, respecting and sustaining the environment is vital to their culture and way of life. For many, Rio+20 was a chance for them to speak out about their environmental concerns. Moi Enomenga, a Waorani leader from eastern Ecuador, told the media that they were attending the conference to represent indigenous people from not only South America but all over the world and bringing their voice to Rio. “I am very worried about the situation of indigenous peoples globally. It’s the same story everywhere; indigenous people’s rights are not respected by governments. And everywhere, India, Africa, South America, there is the hunt for oil and other resources,” said Enomenga. Indeed, across the world, indigenous peoples are facing the increasingly difficult task of preserving their land from the booming mining and resources industries. 13
The worldwide mining boom has been of great benefit to sustaining the world’s financial markets. Countries such as China, India and Australia are all reaping the benefits from mining, with billions of dollars of profit been made from this vast and ever growing industry. However, in some countries, both governments and mining companies are neglecting the land rights, and in some cases, the human rights, of many indigenous peoples in order to increase their mining ventures and profits. Countries such as India and Brazil have both come under the spotlight recently in regards to their governments’ disastrous approach to mining of indigenous lands. At Rio+20, indigenous leaders made a point to voice their concerns and delivered a newly minuted Declaration of Kari-Oca II to the UN Director of Sustainable Development and the Chief Minister to the Presidency of Brazil. The Declaration, agreed to by over 500 indigenous peoples from many nations, delivers a strong message, one that summarises the plight of the indigenous people not only in South America, but across the globe. “Our inherent rights to lands, territories and resources,” the Declaration states, “are increasingly and alarmingly under attack by the collaboration of governments and transnational corporations. Indigenous activists and leaders defending their territories continue to suffer repression, militarization, including assassination, imprisonment, harassment and vilification as ‘terrorists.’ The violation of our collective rights faces the same impunity. Forced relocation or assimilation assault our future generations, cultures, languages, spiritual ways and relationship to the earth, economically and politically.” Alberto Saldamando, the legal counsel for the International Indian Treaty Council and a member of the Indigenous Environmental Network, noted at the conference that this Declaration was signed by a collection of people who are desperate to hold on to their land, their culture and their respect. “The fact is the only resources that remain on this planet are on indigenous peoples’ lands. This Declaration is not a matter
of words; it’s a matter of survival. What you see before you is a gathering of people who are under attack,” said Saldamando. And under attack they are.
The report has condemned the nation’s government and mining sector for ignoring the rights of the indigenous peoples and farmers where mines are developed, often illegally.
Just days after the world leaders signed off on new commitments at Rio+20, Brazilian politicians debated a bill that would open up the nation’s vast indigenous lands to mining. Although mining of indigenous lands in illegal under the constitution, the bill would seek to regularise this by recommending that two to three pe of the gross revenues of any mine be given to the local indigenous communities.
The report shows that governments leaves companies to produce the so called independent environmental impact assessments (EIA) that are used to measure a proposed mining projects environmental, social and human rights impact. The report details that the assessments almost always ignore the human rights aspect and focus more heavily on environmental issues. Even more concerning is the fact that there is considerable evidence that the EIA’s are often inaccurate or deliberately falsified.
Local media reports that many indigenous villages had not even been contacted prior to the debate despite the anger the proposal has caused to many native peoples. A similar situation is occurring in India at the moment. Just days ago, Human Rights Watch issued a report titled “Out of Control: Mining, Regulatory Failure and Human Rights in India”. The report exposed the Indian governments poor regulation of the mining sector threatens to severely harm many mining-affected communities. As the third largest producer of coal and the fourth largest of iron ore, mining is a vital part of India’s growing economy. However, the HRW report shows that the mining companies have been left to regulate themselves and allowed to run free at the expense of many of the Indian people.
It seems that nation states are in the middle of a crisis. On the one hand they want to be respectful to the indigenous peoples and their land and hope to create a sustainable environment for the future. On the other hand, however, they want and need to export their precious resources in order to stay afloat in the fragile global economy. Will our fragile global economy mean the sacrifice of our planet for profit? Will the indigenous people be forced to give up their land and their culture for the sake of the global market? Land and mining rights of the indigenous people has been an issue for decades and it seems that it will continue to be an issue for decades more. ■ 14
Breaking the Banks Both the IMF and Second Committee of the General Assembly will recommend regulatory frameworks for banking institutions next week. But is the blame being misplaced?
Regulation: Different sides of the same coin Patrick Desmond, The Economist
ince the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008, no other industry has been under as much scrutiny as the banking sector. It is argued that along with the loss of trillions of dollars, dreams were wiped out and livelihoods unrecoverable. In response to this, politicians have brought out their whipping stick attempting to bring the banks back in line, which begs the question, can they be? Perhaps it is just the company that this author chooses to keep, however it seems that today everybody is a ‘social activist’ of some form. This is a noble pursuit, and a popular one at that, with the romance and accessibility of trends like the Occupy movement sweeping youth into action the world over. “We are the 99%” they exclaimed, hoping to bring change to the misactions perpetrated by the greedy one percent. Getting caught up in movements like Occupy is easy but what of the morals behind it? Seemingly, banking regulation is a
good thing. Logic states that it was the banks over-stretching their limits that first got us into trouble, thus the necessary corollary is that ensuring banks act in line in the future will solve these problems. But this is where the issues begin. The financial industry is a public resource. Our society is built on what banks offer; loans for development, credit for personal consumption, merchant services for commerce, mortgages to allow people to own a home. It is easy to take these things for granted, but they are an integral part of the world we live in. Many of the regulations people wish to impose on banks are ones which will hinder their growth. In the US, a former chairman of the federal reserve, Paul Volker, has driven a push to split the retail and investment operations of any bank that received a government bailout or guarantee. In former treasury secretary Nicholas Brady’s words “If you are a commercial bank…and you wish the government to guarantee your deposits and bail out if necessary, then you can’t be involved in speculative activity.” To be sure, this sort of legislation may limit a lot of the risky trading that lost banks money during the GFC, however the crisis itself began with traditional lending products, specifically mortgages. While the process of securitization, and the financial innovation of products such as Collateralized Debt Obligations blurs the line between retail and investment banking, regulation such as this isn’t necessarily going to promote stable growth for the future. Now we touch on perhaps the key argument behind this article, is it really a good thing to hinder the banks like this? The Occupy movement would see the banks earning next to no profit, and instead distributing its gains directly back to customers. But already, banks in America are only achieving eight
percent return on equity in 2012, less than their cost of capital. And the picture is worse in Europe, where the average return on equity is only four to five percent. Given the risk of banks, American and European investors would have been better off investing in cash. Having banks on their knees, and keeping them there is bad for everyone. If banks can’t attract private investors, then the supply of capital is cut off and they suffer a slow decline where costs outweigh returns. This chokes off all the credit to households and companies, and without credit the economy as a whole suffers. While I paint a grim picture of what banking regulation has to offer, I would like to point out that this is not the end of the story. Indeed, every banker will tell you that the problem with the industry is that there is ‘too much’ regulation, however any reasonable person can see that it was an unbridled financial industry is what got us into this mess in the first place. That is not to say that banking innovation and growth is a bad thing, but rather it simply means that we have to be smart about the way we approach banks and the regulations we impose. A good example to build on is the recent ‘Basel III’ accords, which dictate the new standard of banking regulations globally. One of the key features was the inclusion of increased capital standards, which require larger capital buffers to absorb any losses. This is a step in the right direction, however it does leave banks and regulators with an awkward balancing act. Many banks in Europe and America do need to increase their capital buffers, however increases to required capital stands to dilute an already meagre return on equity. These banks will have trouble attracting investors, and will also find it hard to generate capital from their profits, meaning they are more likely to limit the low yield consumer loan books which you, me, and every consumer relies upon. In such a scenario, there is no need to squeeze the banks too hard, but this does not mean that there is no fat to cut. There are two good reasons why banks could benefit from the right regulation. Firstly, the 20 to 25 percent returns on equity that banks were earning pre-GFC were abnormally high. We are starting to align ROE figures with historical averages, and this means that there is a lower chance of any more banks going under. Secondly, banks could do a lot more to become a more sustainable industry. Much like the old airlines reacting to low-budget carriers, banks say there is nothing they can do. However banks are still overcrowding equity markets and pouring money into overly-ambitious investment banking projects with no likely pay off. Another big item is the issue of executive pay, which has become a hot topic in Wall Street and Martin Place alike. Ultimately, banking regulation can be ugly, and entirely counter-productive in the societal aims they are trying to achieve. We should be looking at a way to support the financial industry in such a way so as to protect the public while also bolstering the vital resources it provides. We aren’t looking for no regulation, just smart regulation, especially in an industry with a lot of room to grow. ■
EU Tightens Bank Rules Sophia van Gent, Die Zeit
anks in the European states must now be prepared to meet tightened and tough new rules, all in hopes of preparing themselves against any future bank crises from January 2013. The European Finance Ministers met earlier this year and agreed to the tightening of rules, especially those concerning core capital and equity, in the Basel-III-Accord. The accord was created from the lessons learnt in the financial crises that have occurred around the world, and are still continuing. It adds changes to the previous Basel Accords, focusing on improving the differences in the quality, level and availability of the capital base, liquidity management and the effectiveness of their internal and corporate governance found between banks that could absorb market shocks and those who couldn’t. The Commissioner for the Internal Market in the EU, Michel Barnier stressed about the importance of the accord. “We cannot allow another one of these crises from ever occurring again and placing our prosperity through risking some of our few financial market operators.” The ministers agreed to more and better capital, a more balanced liquidity, a leverage backstop, capital requirements for derivatives, a conservation buffer as well as a counter-cyclical buffer. Central to the reforms are equity, through the core capital. At the moment the core capital needed stands at two per cent, but by 2019, equity needs to be increased to a maximum of seven per cent. This increase ensures that their own funds can be effectively used in times of stress, while a balanced liquidity ensures that there are sufficient cash flow in the short term and in the long term. But are these standards necessary? Federal Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble thinks so. “It is also extremely important to draw the lessons from the Financial and the Banking crises. We have a crisis in confidence in the financial markets, which affects some countries in the Eurozone,” he went on to explain in an interview with the Stern. Deutsche Bank and the Commerzbank are concerned that the Basel-III-Accord will have negative effects on the financing of 16
Eurotroubles: The EU is attempting to be better prepared for further bank crises. Photo: Images of Money on flickr.
municipalities and small and medium-sized businesses. Large municipalities are expecting rising costs and the availability of loans to decrease. “Municipalities will not be able to finance themselves solely on bank loans and are therefore advised to expand their financing basis. They are also advised to further develop their financing away from bank loans,” explained Jens Michael Otte, the Head of the Public Sectors and Institutions Germany at the Deutsche Bank. Of the 60 municipalities asked, only 18 percent have planned to do so, with only a further 18% who have actually done so. In a survey conducted by the Commerzbank, it found that the small to medium-sized businesses see the banks to be more stable than it was during the financial crisis of 2008/2009. The survey also found that there is less concern about the increase of financing costs, the access to loans becoming more difficult, and the consequences of the introduction of Basel-III or even instabilities compared to concerns about the development in the markets or in politics. Markus Beumer, a member of the management board and is responsible for the small to medium-sized business sector of the Commerzbank, attributes the differentiated views of the companies as an indication of the national opinion that the high levels of national debt in Europe to be the cause of the current crisis. 17
Basel III has also made its effects known in the developing world, with a decrease in the drop in trade finance. With banks holding its funds in reserves, their ability, and also willingness to lend to more riskier markets in the developing world decreases and as such, many have reduced in lending in the developing world to focus on their home markets. If the banks want to achieve the Basel-III-Standard, they still have a long road to follow. Since May last year, the nine biggest banks’ equity is missing the last 50 billion Euros needed to reach the standard set by the Accord. They predict that they will only reach a quarter of what is required by the end of June this year. By 2015, banks are required to have at least 84 billion Euros in equity; by 2019 the number increases to 460 billion Euros. Even the adjustments to Basel-III took months, with Britain pushing for more flexibility in the amount of capital required. The unifying agreement only came when Britain gave up, after first making sure that the national supervisor authorities were allowed to have a higher capital buffer than allowed in the Basel-III-rules. Back home, Bankenverband der Öffentlichen Banken (VÖB) are calling for a delay in the implementation of Basel-III in case the legislation cannot be passed in the German government by the summer break. ■
Drop in ODA reinforces forty years of betrayal Deanna Yourell, La Repubblica
id you know the end of extreme poverty is in sight?Actually, it has been in sight for the past forty years thanks to Resolution 2626, passed in the United Nation’s (UN) General Assembly in 1970. We have had the knowledge and the tools at our disposal to make the biggest global change in history for a while now. Through a promised donation of 0.7 per cent of gross national income (GNI) from industrialised countries, targets as bold as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) can be achieved. However, for over forty years rich nations have continually betrayed developing countries, as less than half the amount of aid promised has been delivered. What now seems to be adding to this concern is the recent fall in official development assistance (ODA) worldwide. These figures dropped by nearly 3 percent to US$133.5 billion in 2011 – the first decrease in 15 years. There have been fluctuations throughout the world, however a few countries, like Italy, still delivered an increase - in the Italian case, a record jump of nearly 30 percent. This is a good look for Italy after 56 per cent of foreign ministry aid was cut in 2008 by the former Berlusconi government. ODA figures should be close to US$195 billion if all donor countries follow through with their promises. Only five countries on the development assistance committee (DAC) have exceeded the target so far. Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Norway have seen figures of up to one percent in recent years. Sadly, Italy’s stingy aid policy remains intact with our government donating less than 0.2 per cent GNI in 2011. Economist and Director of the UN Millennium Project, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, says that even with an increase to just 0.54 per cent by 2015, the MDGs will be within legitimate reach. And with close to US$1.6 trillion spent on military needs worldwide every year, this collective sum really isn’t beyond the economic capabilities of the richest nations. Resolution 2626 declares: “each economically advanced country will progressively increase its official development assistance to the developing countries and will exert its best efforts to reach a minimum net amount of 0.7 per cent of its gross national product at market prices by the middle of the Decade .” Indeed, this goal was set to be achieved almost forty years ago, when it would have taken more than 1 per cent GNI
from each donor country to achieve the MDGs. In 2005, then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan even laid out a timetable to encourage nations to reach their target. “Developed countries that have not already done so should establish timetables to achieve the 0.7 per cent target of gross national income for official development assistance by no later than 2015, starting with significant increases no later than 2006 and reaching 0.5 per cent by 2009,” said Mr Annan. Unfortunately, there are still countries yet to meet that mark with only three years to go. Follow through has traditionally been the weak link in global politics and it seems that this issue is no exception. Even though the target has been reaffirmed at many separate occasions since its inception, it still seems to elude many of the wealthiest of nations. After all, ODA levels reached their peak in 2010, after more than a decade of steady growth, but are still showing a shortfall of US$4.37 trillion in received aid over four decades. On the contrary, there have been some opinions that aid is not helping the development of low income countries (LICs) at all. Foreign funds are not reaching those who need it most. Economics Professor William Easterly recently noted the hypocrisy of the situation. “It is heart-breaking that global society has evolved a highly efficient way to get entertainment to rich adults and children, while it can’t get twelve-cent medicine to dying poor children,” he said. This sentiment has also been echoed by the Former Under-Secretary-General for the United Nations Economic and Social Affairs, Jose Antonio Ocampo, who says commodities, debt, ODA and a risk of conflict is obstructing development in many of these LICs. A new angle to delivering aid must be sought if DAC members continue to fall short of their 0.7 per cent targets. At present the answer could be in the form of the Robin Hood tax. A small amount of 0.05 per cent would be taken from banks and other financial institutions around the developed world. Half this amount would be used to help poor countries tackle climate change and reach the MDGs. The remaining 50 per cent of the tax would go towards domestic health and educational services of the tax-levying country. The idea has been discussed at the G20 summit in Mexico, in June 2012, and has the backing of organisations like Oxfam and leading Economists such as Prof Sachs, Joseph Stiglitz, Warren Buffett and George Soros. Commitment to ending extreme poverty in developing countries is no small task, however, with the 0.7 per cent target, it is achievable. All it means for us is that the government donates €0.70 from every €100 of Italy’s gross national income to the least developed nations. As the majority of donor countries have not yet met this target, only around US$3.19 trillion (€2.57 trillion) has been passed on – less than half the total promised. This only leaves you to wonder; where might the world be if that aid had been delivered? ■ 18
A Memory Eternal: Amid fig trees and pines Kim McCosker, Al Jazeera
efore I tell you my story, you must understand our culture. And our culture begins with coffee.”
Rashid takes my hand and leads me to the kitchen. He shows me how to carefully measure the grounds of Arabic coffee beans and add them to a small pot of water boiling gently on a rusty stovetop. He delicately sprinkles spices into the pot, and stirs the mixture until it froths and thickens. “Arabic coffee is a symbol of my world,” he explains as he pushes a tiny glass of the thick, syrupy drink into my hands. “It’s strong, like my people, and thick like the bonds between our families. Blood is thicker than coffee where I am from.” It’s hard to know exactly where Rashid comes from. His ancestry is rooted in a small town in the hills to the east of Jerusalem, though he has never been there himself. The town is part of one of the most contested terrains on earth, witnessing more than six decades of tension and conflict. His grandparents were forced to leave during nakba, the ‘catastrophe’ of 1948. Over 700,000 people fled or were removed from their homes after the creation of Israel, and a further 300,000 during the Six-Day War in 1967. Including their descendants, there is now estimated to be over 5 million Palestinian refugees scattered around the world. The UNHCR describes their plight as the longest and largest of all refugee problems in the world today. The key to Rashid’s grandfather’s farm. “This is all my family has from before al nakba,” Rashid says, pulling an old iron key out of his pocket. “It is for the gate to my grandfather’s farm. He had fields of figs going right up over the hills.” He glances at a sprawling painting of a fig grove that hangs crookedly on the wall. “There’s nothing quite like Palestinian figs.” Rashid was born in 1982 in Shatila refugee camp in the slums of southwest Beirut. For twenty years his family moved between refugee camps in Lebanon, trying to build themselves a home - but despite being born there, Rashid was never allowed to become a citizen of Lebanon, and his parents were only ever seen as refugees. They were never permitted to own property, required permits to leave the refugee camps and had to seek government permission to work. The family lived in fear of violence, either from military clashes between Israel and Lebanon or from armed Palestinian militant groups growing in the camps. Both the Lebanese and Israeli governments refused their only request: that their right to return to the hills of Jerusalem be recognised. The right of return has become as symbolic of the Palestinian struggle as the key sitting on Rashid’s table. It has been recognised by the international community many times over, including in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Conventions and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. In the case of Palestine, it has been reaffirmed by the General Assembly of the United Nations in Resolution 194, which states in Article 11 “refugees wishing to return
Left: The key to Rashid’s grandfather’s farm. Photo: Kim McCosker Above: Shatila refugee camp, Beirut. Photo: michael_swan on flickr
to their homes … should be permitted to do so”. However, as a General Assembly resolution, the statement is in no way legally binding. Rashid has no knowledge of international laws. He doesn’t know of the Geneva Conventions, and has lost faith in the UN after witnessing their inaction in his region. “But it doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter,” he says. “Inshallah, by the will of Allah, I will set foot on my grandfather’s land one day. I want to die in Palestine. Israel cannot deny me my rights much longer.”
The government of Israel has long called for the refugees to be assimilated into their Arab host nations. However, these nations refuse to absorb the refugees. In Syria they are refused citizenship and subject to political control; Jordan grants them the status of ‘temporary resident’ but refuses access to basic social services; and in Lebanon they are denied the right to education and health services. Arab nations, aside from not having the capacity to absorb hundreds of thousands of people, simply don’t want to bend to Israel’s demands – and refugees living in squalor in urban camps serve as a very useful propaganda tool against a perceived illegitimate government.
However Israel doesn’t show any signs of changing its policies on the return of Palestinian refugees. Granting Palestinians the right of return would equal the surrender of the country’s national identity, and the premise on which it was created. They do not believe the right of return to be a human right at all, and steadfastly cling to the notion that General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, and they are therefore well within their legal right to refuse the return of Palestinian refugees. They argue it’s not supported by international precedent, and refuse to acknowledge any rights of descendants of those originally displaced.
In 1999, Rashid’s parents settled into a camp in the north of Lebanon, where they still live today, but Rashid avoids questions on his whereabouts from then until he came to Australia in 2010. He ignores questions about his involvement in the Al-Aqsa Intifada, but smiles knowingly when I ask if he was in Jerusalem for Ariel Sharon’s fateful visit to the Temple Mount. “Let’s just say, I know how tear gas burns,” he says.
The great irony of the situation is that under Israeli law any Jew anywhere in the world, even if they have no ancestral or historical links to the land, has the right to ‘return’ to Israel.
But he winks, and looks wistfully at the fig tree on the wall. “Inshallah.” ■
I ask Rashid if he would be willing to fight another Intifada if it meant he could live on his grandfather’s land. He laughs, and says, “Our coffee is far too nice to be spoiled by talk of war.”
The Human Genome: A Question of Genethics Henry Belot, The New York Times
cience is too important to become just another weapon in the arsenal of ideological contestation.
Wielded by politicians and questioned by skeptics, it is as if the merit of science is increasingly subject to its expediency. Think climate change. The science is clear. A consensus has been reached. Yet the machinations politics, self-interest and division adopt science as a justification rather than a guiding principle. The disparities of global health today are too alarming and urgent for science and medical advancements to be stunted by regulation, self-interest, or contestation. Latest reports from the World Health Organisation find that 7.6 million children under the age of five died are dying each year. Infectious and preventable diseases cause 58% of these deaths. Similarly 7.6 million people across the world die from cancer each year. Up to 70% of these deaths occur in low and middle-income families. Only 30% of these deaths could have been prevented at present. The question of bioethics and the human genome is a divisive but essential debate. It is one that must be had by the international community, as an expression of common humanity. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation has already framed this discussion in the 1997 Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights. This leadership should be commended. Its impact however, falls as always on the actions of the international community. There is also no more appropriate place for this discussion than this committee. This debate strikes the heart of what it is to be human. It challenges our understandings; it questions our construct. It focuses not upon what divides us, but instead on our common humanity. These are shared discussions and the question of who owns scientific discoveries, or whether one can ever own such discoveries, must be debated with rigour and urgency by all.
The completion of the Human Genome Project (HGP) in 2003 and the identification of 23,000 gene structures is arguably the most important biological development since the discovery of DNA. It presents a tremendous opportunity for advancements in global health. Research on the human genome enables the scientific community to understand the biological basis for 21
common diseases, from diabetes and autoimmune diseases to cancer. The mysteries of how the human body grows and functions are now being unraveled, and so too the origins of perplexing diseases. Yet the very legacy of the Human Genome Project is at risk. Financial interests, competition, and the stifling regulations of patent law are holding advancements in global health hostage. Research on the human genome is incredibly complex and challenging. It is also very expensive. A personal genome can now be obtained for a few thousand dollars in just a couple of days, a figure dwarfed by the $US3.2 billion invested into the HGP. Yet the translation of data in medical breakthroughs is considerably more expensive, and corporations are moving to fortify their investments through law. The regulations of patent law that stymie collaborative research on the human genome must be abolished. It is abhorrent that pharmaceutical and research corporations restrict scientific research on the basis of profit maximisation. Indeed it is a violation of human rights. At present 4,000 genes, or roughly 20% of the human genome, have been patented by organisations that wish to profit through exclusive research on a gene. If an organization monopolizes a gene, it prevents scientists across the globe from collaborating and sharing research. This runs contrary to the successes of the HGP, where international collaboration led to the completion of the project two years before its deadline. In effect, the potential for scientists to develop vaccines, cures, and treatments is now being delayed in the face of urgent need. The international community must ensure a free flow of data and information within the scientific community to enable faster and more accurate research into urgent health problems. This Committee is not the only one moving to codify a free flow of information as a human right, especially when it has bearing on prosperity and health of humanity. Our world is underpinned by scientific endeavours, from the discovery of DNA to penicillin or even the heights of space travel. We celebrate advancements in global health for the healing and equality they provide. Yet scientific discovery is often challenging, controversial, and uncomfortable. Science challenges existent understandings of our world and humanity, along with the institutions that regulate life itself. This is by no means a new phenomenon. It exists to varying degrees from Galileo to the persecution of climate scientists today. We must guard research on the human genome from authorities who wish to regulate its focus, or from corporations who wish to restrict research for financial interests. We simply do not know what we may uncover in the scientific process. Scientific research cannot, and must not be subject to the stifling regulations of patent law or financial competition, which only serve to play monopoly with our common humanity. â–
Making speech free in our digital world Rebecca Adams, The Australian
here is no doubt that the ‘digital age’, which for so long seemed merely a vision of the distant future, has finally arrived, and that it is having an even greater global impact than was predicted - especially in regards to freedom of speech.As access to and the importance of the internet increases worldwide, questions of the inherent rights of people online are now pervasive in both democratic and non-democratic countries. Already several states, including Estonia, France, Finland, Greece and Spain, have codified internet access as a national human right. The UN Special Rapporteur’s recommendations to the Human Rights Council in 2011 supported this move, calling upon states to make internet access for citizens more widely available, and to refrain from blocking, filtering or cutting off this access. The removal of internet access was in fact considered a disproportionate punishment regardless of the justification for using it, and was deemed a violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In many states the internet and technological advancement is now actively celebrated as an avenue for free speech. ‘Internet Day’, commencing annually on 17th May in most of the Spanish-speaking world, aims to show how new technologies can improve the standard of living. It has a focus on encouraging and facilitating access to information for unconnected and disabled people. Similarly, the EU in 2004 established the ‘Safer Internet Day’ with the objective to spread the safest and most reliable internet. Yet still, for many states the interconnectedness of people on the web can be seen to provide a direct threat to the ruling
regime. One only has to look back to the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings, in particular Egypt, where the government stifled internet access in an attempt to inhibit the protesters ability to organise online. Social media sites fought back - Twitter partnered with Google to develop a voice mail service for Egyptians to leave messages that would be converted into tweets. That these corporations had the power to undermine the Egyptian government reinforces the theory of a public opinion power shift away from the state and towards the anarchic digital realm. Internet censorship has occurred in similar instances in both China and Iran. These countries have extensive firewall systems able to block from the internet any information which may be offensive or threatening to the governments regime. Penalties for online dissenters in these states can be severe, including the removal of civil liberties. Not only these countries but many others have been increasing levels of censorship, especially regarding bloggers - so far this year, Reporters Without Borders have cited 123 incidents of imprisoned ‘netizens’ in 12 different states. So how can this invaluable resource be protected, respected and universally acknowledged as a right when free speech in itself is still not globally recognized? This week the Third General Committee of the United Nations General Assembly will be meeting to discuss these issues, and to determine an answer to the question of free speech in our digitised world. The debate over this contentious issue promises to be intense and divisive. The Australian will provide updates throughout the week. ■
Express yourself: Tweet @amunc2012 all the conference’s gaffes & gossip, or text them to our roving reporter for Entertainment Tonight Jess Farchione: 0422 144 584
Progress: Officials say Bosnia & Herzegovina has come a long way since independence. Photo: Michel Gully on flickr 23
Strange Bedfellows? Bosnia & Herzegovina & Europe Emmie Dowling, France 24
ince forming a government at the end of last year, Bosnia and Herzegovina has seemingly jumped a number of hurdles between it and EU membership, including a census.
These are big achievements to achieve in a short time, but it has been an easy path for the Balkan state. The centralized government was formed in unstable political circumstances as a political impasse between rival ethnic leaders stalled reforms. The stalement dragged out negotiations by 11 months as tensions grew between the country’s two semi-autonomous entities, the Muslim-Croat federation and Republika Srpska. The EU will consider the cultural and social complexities of Bosnia and Herzegovina when discussing their potential for membership to the supranational body. Of concern for Sarajevo is the 2009 European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling that found ethnic minorities were being discriminated against in political elections, which violated human rights. The state is yet to address this issue, but says that it is just a matter of time. Karina Lee, the representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that human rights standards could be reached through changing attitudes. “[It] will take as long as it takes… No one can ever predict these things,” she said. France gives its confidence in Bosnia and Herzegovina to overcome this hurdle. The European Commission (EC) delegate from France, Rachel Hao, said: “France acknowledges the momentum and commitment by the new Bosnian and Herzegovinian government to make the necessary reforms to align to European human rights standards.”
Lee argued Bosnia and Herzegovina’s case, stating that it is not necessary “to have tested a government structure to make for a successful integration” into the EU. As a potential candidate state, Bosnia and Herzegovina already benefits from the EU through their European Partnership. One way the agreement endorses integration into the supranational is by allowing the state to benefit from strategies like the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) to finance projects, and the Interim Agreement on Trade and Trade-related issues. This assistance has been given to help the potential candidate meet the economic, social and political priorities that all members must comply with. By gaining membership and full integration to the union, Bosnia and Herzegovina would further advance their stagnant economy and divisive nationalist politics. But their membership has to also be of interest to existing European members. The EU has suffered from unstable economies within its constitution, the most significant being the Greek debt crisis. Although the Bosnia and Herzegovina government has passed necessary legislation for them to apply for membership, their accession will be heavily debated upon and dependent on whether their presence will compromise the stability of existing member states. Bosnia and Herzegovina is convinced that their integration will benefit both their state and the supranational. “The support that we receive from the EU in monetary terms, as well as skills, expertise and advice, means that our close working relationship can only strengthen both Bosnia and Herzegovina and the EU,” Lee insisted. is convinced that the financial sector of Bosnia and Herzegovina remains sound and well capitalized and its liquidity position was not seriously undermined. “France reaffirms its support for the continual growth and reform, and believes its economic progress will not hinder the EU,” Hao stated. Europe’s attention has been drawn to the improvements of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and discussion over their eligibility for membership could result in further assistance to maintain progress. Regardless, while representatives seem optimistic about the country’s improvements, nobody expects change to happen overnight.
The ability of the incoming administration to achieve real reform is also in question, as the new government has not had enough time to be properly tested.
“The bid for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s accession to the EU is a near decade-long road, “ Hao acknowledged.
Vjekoslav Bevanda, a Bosnian Croat economist who chairs the central cabinet known as the Council of Ministers, in an interview said: “Passing the laws on the census and state aid was a great achievement, but we now have to implement them.”
A delegate from Bosnia and Herzegovina will visit the European Commission in its winter home in Melbourne this July to assess recent progress and develop a clear pathway for their eventual accession to the EU. ■ 24
R2R: Responsibility to Respect
he DPRK today celebrated the 62nd International Children’s Day and proved to the world, once again, that the happiest children on Earth are in Korea. But whilst our nurseries, kindergartens, parks and recreation grounds were filled with happy smiling children, something sinister was happening abroad. Hilary Clinton, the United States Secretary of State, recklessly advised our nation to cease all military activities and technological advances. This advice is careless and provocative. Clinton has crossed the line and by doing so has maliciously encroached on our nation’s sovereign independence. Thankfully, the dearly respected Kim Jong Un used his impressive military experience to see through Clinton’s remarks. Indeed, her comments are nothing but a shameful attempt to cover up the real U.S. agenda. By ceasing all our military progress, we would be weakening ourselves against the inevitable western invasion. Violent conquests and gory occupations have long been in the history of western culture, with every interference tainted with blood. Mrs. Clinton’s ignorant words, whilst damaging are but the tip of the iceberg. Today, led by the United States, these corrupt and treacherous “democracies” encourage the fear that an “intervention” incites. This is nothing but the purest of evils. In 2005, the puppet organization for the United States, the UN, sought to justify their past massacres by introducing “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P). They claim this ‘R2P’ is to ensure the protection of other nations. What the R2P actually does is allow national sovereignty to be overthrown for the whims of tyrannical leaders. It is a policy controlled purely by political motives, and allows for the invasions of countries that do not blindly follow the will of U.S. President Barack Obama. The policy came under scrutiny in 2011, with the international “humanitarian intervention” against the legitimate ruler of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi. This attack should bring shame to the leaders who sanctioned it. It suited these corrupt western “governments” to have the Gaddafi threat wiped out, and to install a weak, controllable rebel regime as the new leaders. And what were the grounds for this invasion? According to western sources, Gaddafi had lost control of his people, allowing his citizens to be exploited and live in poverty. Most of all, the United Nations claimed that his government was violating many fundamental human rights. Does the west have no shame? Do you see how quickly they resort to lies, how low they will stoop to seize control of resource rich countries? These wild claims against Gaddafi were made by his enemies, they are false and do not warrant the undermining of his gov25
Radio Free Pyongyang: Our North Korean office translates the best from the regime mouthpiece.
ernment or the taking of his life. Indeed, what right does the United States have to judge any country? 99 percent of their citizens are currently being exploited to supply the top one percent with excessive wealth. The livelihood and vital rights of the American people are being taken away as the unemployment numbers go up. There is no excuse that any country can make to justify this behavior. No country has the right to undermine another’s national sovereignty. It is a right that all should respect. But after all this discussion, in the end, it is the happiness of children that is Kim Jong Un’s greatest concern. Our nation’s military strength is the only thing that has prevented a western invasion. The technologies provided to our military were gifts from the Eternal President, Kim Il-Sung and his son and grandson. These three leaders have ensured the peace and safety of our children and families for decades and will not be defeated by ignorant Westerners. R2P threatens the peace and quiet of our prospering nation. With this abominable policy, the United Nations has threatened the very fabric of independence that our leaders have worked tirelessly to obtain. If it were up the West, there would be no 63rd International Children’s Day. And the future of our nation is paramount to ensuring the happiness of our children, something we will fight to protect with an iron resolve. ■
This issue: Tensions with R2P & ROK.
our Dear Respected Kim Jong Un. The South has done absolutely nothing to promote peace between our two countries. Instead he has controlled international forums to turn ignorant countries against us. It is the Western world, led by dictator Barack Obama, that is driving the wedge between our to nations. South Korea merely lacks the self-respect as a nation to resist the urge to grovel and simper at the heels of the Western dogs. Thankfully, the truth is starting to emerge. Earlier this year, a high-ranking South Korean army recruit spoke out against these treacherous actions. Mr. Lee stated, “Korean separation is not of North Korean but American fault.”
Emma Vlatko Korean Central News Agency
South Korea: A Decade to Perfect the Art of Lying
wo chances. That is what our brave, generous leader Kim Jong Il gave the Southern dogs. But whilst his kind heart allowed for this generosity, it was his keen attentive mind that saw it would be two too many. The reunification of North and South Korea has long been sought by the DPRK. Our Eternal President Kim Il-Sung bravely envisioned the reunion as early as 1980. His work was passed down to his Son and Grandson. Unfortunately, it seems that the South does not share this passion. In 2007, during the second summit, the trusting nature of the DPRK was thrown back in our faces. It was the second summit that the war mongering Lee Myung Bak and his puppet government chose to show their true colours, cowardice, deceit and pure evil. On October 1 2007, two days before the summit, an act of treason was brought to light. Top-secret military files were discovered showing over 160 cases of aerial espionage committed by America, Japan and their puppet regime in Seoul. How can trust ever be established when all the South does is lie, cheat and swindle? They have shown a complete lack of honour, and proven that the Western virus has infected their shores.
For this truth, he was sentenced to two years in prison. Are these the actions of a “democracy”? The tight control that the United States has over the entire world is something to be feared, and is something that the DPRK must be on high alert against. Just this month our gifted Leader, Kim Jong Un single handedly discovered Western plans of a pre-emptive strike against us. However, America and South Korea advertised the strike as a joint naval drill. How many times will Dear Respected Kim Jong Un have to outsmart them before they give up? This aside, the people of DPRK need to be ready. Western forces, with the aid of Bak’s puppet regime, are continually attempting to invade our lands. By luring us into more reunification talks, they are attempting to catch us with our guard down. They attempted to do this in 2007 and they will attempt to do it again. Reunification cannot occur until the South drops the ‘peace façade’ and the Bak “government” is gone. Trust will never be established as long as the American grip on South Korea loosens and true freedom is given back to its people. When that day does come, and it will, our people will rejoice. Peace and mutual prosperity are things that our leaders still strive for. It is our firm belief that the North and South belong together, as one. However this should not include lapping milk from a saucer on the command of American dogs. This is why we will continue to stand up to the tyrannies of an evil government, and urge for respect and reason in an already messy effort towards reunification. We, the DPRK, led by the dear respected Kim Jong Un, will continue to be the voice of truth, justice and equality for all people! ■
But we will not let it spread here! Bak has tricked the world into believing that his “government” is honourable. He has the Western world wrapped around his little finger, and uses his influence to tarnish the reputation of 26
Rights of the Weak and Lonely Fiona Love, BBC World News
tudies consistently show that in most protracted refugee crises, over half of those displaced are children and they are unquestionably the most vulnerable people. Children are still developing and dependent on those around them to mould them to be successful adults. According to UNICEF, refugee children face far greater dangers to their safety and well-being than the average child. This stems from sudden and violent onset of emergencies, the disruption of families and community structures as well as the acute shortage of resources with which most refugees are confronted. The Need for Change UNICEF is looking at not only how the rights of the child or the rights of refugee children, but those children who have become refugees or asylum seekers on their own. The children who enter states on their own lack the support and caring given by parents and guardians. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children sees five major reasons for the creation of separated or solo child refugees and asylum seekers: fear of persecution, lack of protection from human rights violations, armed conflict in their own country, trafficking (for sexual, labour or other exploitation), and escaping deprivation and poverty. Teenagers turn into adults Teenagers are particularly affected by being solo refugees in developed states. They are forced to be adults as they are unlikely to be adopted and are better at escaping authority. It is typically boys between the ages of 13 and 17 that are found to be in this situation, having to create a life as adults getting jobs and supporting themselves. The integration of these children into their new homes is harder than being integrated as a child despite the measures set up for immigrants in many developed states. The report on ‘Separated Children in the UK’ has encouraged authorities to treat teenagers as children first and refugees second. It encourages them to apply first the Rights of the Child, rather than the Rights of Refugees in order to protect their basic needs.
In care: UNICEF and the World Food Program Korean orphans. This is the reality for many chil of the regime or simply unable to feed them. Photo: United Nations Multimedia
Priority Assessment Expert from the Refugee Council, Margaret Lally, told the BBC: “Separated refugee children are not getting the same level of care as any other child would receive under UK childcare legislation. We have a duty to these children under domestic and international law and they must be protected.” Despite the shared belief that there needs to be a priority for unaccompanied or solo child refugees officials still find it hard to prioritise the different cases. Asylum seeking children are usually given the first priority but those that know and do apply for asylum are often over the age of 15 and the younger children are put down the priority list. The amount of support that separated or solo child refugees in the United Kingdom varies depending on the level of support given by local authorities. This lottery happens in many states around the world which develops the concern of child safety when seeking asylum or becoming a refugee. This week UNICEF officials will be meeting in Melbourne to discuss issues on the rights of solo child refugees and asylum seekers to begin to deal with an issue becoming ever more prominent in developed society. ■
While the circumstances, entitlements and time period are very different between the countries that retain a requirement of military service, many have similar policy towards those who would invoke conscientious objection, or to put it another way, their right to refuse armed service. Almost universally, there is no policy to facilitate this. The question of the right to refuse armed service will be discussed by the delegates of 33 countries in the upcoming committee sessions of the Human Rights Council. The issue is likely to stir a heated debate as closely allied nations question each other’s military practices. The UNHRC was established in 2006 on the back of the oft criticised Commission on Human Rights. It outlines a threefold list of objectives; to promote and protect human rights around the world; address human rights violations; and to recommend actions to the United Nations General Assembly; with member states granted the opportunity to express their opinions on specific human rights abuses through non-binding resolutions.
gramme (WFP) operate many shelters for North children, whose parents may have been victims .
Conscription: Necessary in times of relative peace? Angus Lonergan, Huffington Post
he United States has one of the largest military forces in the world, all members of which have been sourced voluntarily. But this is not the case for many countries across the globe. Imagine being faced with choosing between frontline military service or fleeing from your home. Now imagine you just finished high school. This situation is occurring in a number in many countries, some of which you may not expect. Each year thousands of people are forcibly enlisted into military service in almost 50 countries, many of which are in Africa and Asia. It would be wrong to assume that only developing nations participate in this antiquated practice, as a number of developed nations, including the Republic of Korea and Israel, also enforce conscription.
In 1995 the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report stating that people should not be restricted from having conscientious objections to compulsory military service. This statement was furthered when in 1998, the Commission released a recommendation recognising that “persons [already] performing military service may develop conscientious objections.” Represented nations include both those that have conscription and those that do not, with staunch supporters of the practice among the 33. As such, disagreements are expected, with countries to watch including: Israel, a nation that places its military at the height of national importance with mandatory military service for men and women for three and two years respectably but also has some exemption laws; Germany, which recently suspended its conscription laws; and Afghanistan, as the Taliban having a known history of forcibly recruiting locals, including children. Conscription is one facet of military related action that the United States has a positive global position. But it would be optimistic to think this would be reflected by the delegate’s action during the committee sitting. Strong military partners The Republic of Korea and Israel both have conscription and the US is unlikely to pressure the countries to question their policies. The benefits have often been outlined by people who have gone through it themselves as they opine about the heightened sense of comradery and life preparation. One such person is the Australian economist Jeremy Cooper who directly linked Israel’s success to its conscription laws. “The answer is compulsory service for everybody over 18 … it makes a big difference,” he was quoted as saying in an Australian newspaper recently. Perhaps Mr Cooper’s rose tinted glasses have not allowed him to see conscription laws being used to destroy the lives of young people such was methodology of recent International Criminal Court convictee, Thomas Lubanga. ■ 28
The Reformation: UN looks at Security Council expansion Gorast Adzievski, Reuters
f there is an international institution that most appears in need of a reimagining for the twenty-first century, it is the United Nations Security Council.
This week the United Nations’ top bureaucrats will attempt to do just that, as the Senior Management Group meets to discuss proposals to alter one of the international political system’s most powerful organs. The early post-Cold War period saw a glimmer of hope that the Security Council, consistently paralysed by over four decades of geopolitical rivalry between its permanent members, might have begun to live up to the proactive role envisioned for it in 1945, acting to resolve formerly divisive conflicts, such as those in Cambodia and Nicaragua, followed by the authorisation of the use of force in Iraq in 1991. But the renewed spirit of cooperation among the Permanent Five was not as well received by the temporary members of the Council, who found themselves locked out of the decision making process, and lead to increasing calls for reform to improve representation, particularly from less developed countries, and limit or reduce the power of its permanent members. But reforming the United Nations (That is, amending its Charter) is a notoriously difficult endeavour, with only three amendments being made since the Charter came into force. The last major reform to the Council was in 1965, when Resolution 1990 increased the number of temporary seats from six to ten in response to the rapid increase in UN membership from newly decolonised nations. The reform that appears most likely to receive traction is to the composition of the Council. There is little opposition from the Permanent Five to the concept of expanding the amount of permanent seats on the council, which hasn’t changed since the writing of the UN Charter, and reflects the economic and military balance of power in 1945. But while most United Nations members have stated their support for the idea of reforming the Council, including increases to both the permanent and rotating membership, and reform of the veto, divisions are rife when it comes to the details of such changes. The question of increasing the number of permanent (ie. vetowielding) members is fraught with difficulty, despite the list of states that are considered candidates for such seats. Japan and Germany have both argued that their contributions to funding 29
United Nations operations (The second and third largest in 2011, respectively) are the most frequently mentioned candidates for permanent seats, but critics argue advanced industrialised economies are already overrepresented amongst the council’s permanent members. Meanwhile India and Brazil justify their aspirations on their rapid economic growth and growing regional and global influence. Proposals for new permanent members have consistently had the ability to flare up regional rivalries. In addition to the latter states, Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt have, over the past twenty years, also put their hands up for new permanent seats, with their smaller or less powerful neighbours favouring the addition of more non-permanent seats. One of the greatest hindrances to enlargement of the Security Council, particularly to proposals to increase the number of permanent seats, is the possibility that the increased numbers, and larger amount of vetoes, would damage the Council’s ability to conduct serious negotiations, in addition to increasing the chances of recreating the permanent indecisiveness of the League of Nations Assembly, in which every country possessed a veto. The 2005 World Summit placed current political divisions on Security Council reform in sharp relief, with the G4 nations (Japan, Germany, India and Brazil) putting forward a draft resolution calling for the addition of four non-permanent, and six permanent seats – four for the G4, and two reserved for African states. To placate the current permanent members’ expected hesitance to such large changes, the new permanent seats would have forgone the veto for at least fifteen years. Opposing the addition of any permanent members is the Uniting for Consensus group, lead and founded by Italy, Pakistan, Mexico Egypt, which put forward a draft resolution suggesting a twenty-five member council, adding ten rotating seats. The African Union, having adopted a united position on the issue, proposed two permanent African seats, but rejected the G4’s compromise on the veto. In the end, the reform proposals came to naught, firstly due to the unwillingness of the African Union to compromise its position on the veto, along with opposition from existing permanent members. The United States campaigned particularly against a place for Germany on the Council, while China opposed Japan’s bid for a seat. The World Summit, billed as a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity for Security Council reform, produced only brief, non-committal statements. Pakistan’s UN Ambassador at the time, when asked about the campaign for Security Council reform, answered, “It’s on life support.” This is not to say discussion about reform is a dead end. Joseph Deiss, President of the General Assembly stated in May 2011 that without Security Council reform, the United Nations would lose its credibility and risks being marginalised on important issues in favour of organisations deemed more efficient and representative. ■
Room in the back: Some argue that there arenâ€™t enough people currently in the Security Council Photo: United Nations Multimedia
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