Author Archives: John Boonstra
From UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres:
Throughout his life, Senator Kennedy was a tireless advocate for refugees – among the most vulnerable people in the world.
For nearly five decades in the United States Senate, Senator Kennedy fought for legislation improving the treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers and reducing the discrimination to which they could be subject. His efforts have benefitted millions of individuals from all over the world forced to seek shelter and protection outside their homelands.
Senator Kennedy’s life is a testimony to the difference a single policy-maker can make. As an advocate for the persecuted and displaced, Senator Kennedy could expect no reward for his efforts. He did what he did from the conviction that it was the right thing to do – and wholly in line with the great American tradition of providing help and hope to those who have suffered from injustice and war.
Year after year, conflict after conflict, Senator Kennedy kept the plight of refugees on the international and national agenda, promoting policies and laws that saved and shaped countless lives. The world is diminished by his passing. But we will always have his example to inspire us.
For what it’s worth, way to go, Liberia:
The total number of countries that have ratified the United Nations-backed Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) has inched closer to 150 after Liberia ratified the agreement this week.
Liberia’s ratification on Monday brings the total number of countries having ratified the CTBT to 149, according to the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).
Of course, the real problem to implementing the CTBT is that nine of the 44 so-called “Annex 2″ states — those that had nuclear weapons technology in 1996, when the treaty was written — still haven’t ratified. Only when they do (ahem, United States!) will the treaty go into effect.
The one in Israel, that is.
The United Nations on Wednesday premiered a film narrated by former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters on the plight of Palestinians living in the shadow of Israel’s controversial separation barrier.
The 15-minute film entitled “Walled Horizons” was made in honour of the fifth anniversary of the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) opinion that the barrier’s meandering route through the occupied West Bank is illegal.
It might seem obvious that this is not a “United Nations film,” but this fact evidently bears repeating, since that is what the JTA news agency mistakenly calls it. The UN frequently screens films, and this does not indicate ideological leanings in any one way or the other.
For reference, here’s the original Wall.
And the early word is that they have gone off without serious violence. UN Envoy Kai Eide is optimistic:
During the visit, Mr Eide said: “I am pleased to see that so far the elections have been going quite well. I see it and hear it from the across the country that there is a good turnout.”
The UN’s Special Representative for Afghanistan added: “This democracy has to grow up from inside. That’s why I think these elections are very important that these elections are organized by the Afghans. And we in the international community have been completely impartial with regard to who we would like to win these elections. It is so important to demonstrate that, if not, we will not have Afghan institutions that can stand up on their own feet. That is a long way to go.”
Of course this makes sense, but it’s also worth remembering how hard it actually is to know how much or how little violence is occurring. Afghan officials don’t want to publish or publicize incidents of Taliban violence, and international observers don’t want to get so close to the process that they are seen as interfering. For now, scanning Twitter (#Afghanelections and #Afghan09) might give one a sense of what’s going on on the ground, but I can’t help but be skeptical of the incomplete picture this gives; how many Afghans are Twitterers anyway?
At any rate, conducting these elections is an impressive step. There are sure to be improprieties, and, unfortunately, insurgent attacks, but millions of Afghans are voting, and the world is paying attention.
(image from UNAMA)
Opinio Juris’ Duncan Hollis has the goods on the payouts from the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission (set up to arbitrate damage claims from the 1998-2000 conflict between the two countries) — another topic sure to be of passionate interest to a certain subset of Dispatch readers.
You can access the damages decisions for Eritrea here, and those for Ethiopia here. According to the AP, both sides will accept the awards, but neither is apparently thrilled with the final results. Ethiopia ends up with more money; its final award totals $174,036,520, while Eritrea receives $161,455,000 plus an additional $2,065,865 for individual Eritrean claimants. Ethiopia apparently feels though that the delta between the two awards was insufficient given earlier rulings had found Eritrea violated the jus ad bellum in originally resorting to force in 1998. For its part, Eritrea remains miffed that Ethiopia has resisted the Commission’s drawing of boundary lines between the two states (e.g. giving Badme to Eritrea), a point reiterated (subtly) in its acceptance of yesterday’s award.
I’m sure that Hollis is right on both of these counts: both sides think they are in the right, but the fact of the matter is that both are responsible for not implementing parts of the peace agreement, and for forcing the premature departure of a UN peacekeeping force last year.
Middle East: During the last 48 hours of the continued ceasefire, humanitarian workers have delivered food to hundreds of thousands of people, repaired water and sanitation infrastructure, re-stocked medical supplies, and some of the 520,000 displaced Palestinians have returned to their homes. However, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator remarked the scale of needs remains “unprecedented in the Gaza Strip.”
Middle East: At today’s informal session of the General Assembly on Gaza the SG remarked that the most recent ceasefire has held since yesterday at 8 a.m. local time. He noted that a durable ceasefire is necessary and UN shelters must continue to remain safe zones. The SG thanked UN staff in Gaza and will fly the UN flag at half-mast tomorrow in memory of those who died in the conflict.
Middle East: The SG commended Israeli and Palestinian parties for committing to a 72-hour ceasefire that took place at 8 a.m. local time today. He urges all parties to abide by the ceasefire and commence peace talks in Cairo to address underlying issues and agree on a durable ceasefire to sustainably stop the violence. The UN lends its full support toward these efforts.
Middle East: The SG condemned yesterday’s shelling outside of an UNRWA school in Rafah that killed at least 10 Palestinian civilians. The SG stated that the attack violated international humanitarian law and UN shelters must continue to be safe zones and not combat zones.
SG: Last night the SG spoke at a joint press conference with the Foreign Minister of Costa Rica where he repeated his call for an unconditional and extendable humanitarian ceasefire. Speaking about yesterday’s shelling of a UN shelter he said: “Nothing – nothing – justifies such horror” and demanded “that all parties immediately respect UN premises”.
SG: The SG met with President Ortega yesterday in Nicaragua where he visited a wind farm and praised the country’s commitment to renewable energy. The SG arrived in Costa Rica today where he is expected to lecture about “Costa Rica and the United Nations: Challenges and Opportunities in the 21st Century”.