United Nations

Climate Change and The Fossil Fuel Paradox

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“We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator” ~ Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations

The Secretary-General made the above statement at his opening speech at the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP/27) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which opened on 7 November in Egypt and was attended by 110 heads of State. He went on to say “ It is the defining issue of our age.  It is the central challenge of our century.  It is unacceptable, outrageous, and self-defeating to put it on the back burner.  Indeed, many of today’s conflicts are linked with growing climate chaos”.  

This has all been said before at preceding COPs. Only, the rhetoric was stronger this time, perhaps delivered in the hope that it would shock a  quiescent world out of its slumber of ineptitude and feckless insouciance. The Secretary-General called for “a historic Pact between developed and emerging economies – a Climate Solidarity Pact.  A Pact in which all countries make an extra effort to reduce emissions this decade in line with the 1.5-degree goal.  A Pact in which wealthier countries and International Financial Institutions provide financial and technical assistance to help emerging economies speed their own renewable energy transition.   A Pact to end dependence on fossil fuels and the building of new coal plants – phasing out coal in OECD countries by 2030 and everywhere else by 2040”.

All this is old hat, regurgitated over the years albeit now presented in a new format.  Hundreds of billions of dollars have been promised by the developed countries to the developing countries as assistance to face the impending disaster which is threatening their ecosystems, food supplies and their very existence as nations on this planet. That promise has not yet been delivered, but Ibrahim Pam, Climate Expert and Head of the Green Climate Fund expressed enthusiasm at COP/27  that “ there is heavy support for the creation of the Climate Change Support Fund, especially for developing Countries”.

There is no gainsaying that in this Anthropocene, climate change is the most serious natural disaster we are facing and that, as agreed in the Paris Agreement of 2015, the world has to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.  Furthermore, one has to agree that the scientific community has approached this issue with vigour and dexterity.  However, what strikes one in this confederacy of pomp and circumstance is the diversity of opinion and approach.  China and India – two of the biggest users of coal – have given every indication that they intend to keep using coal, let alone reduce their use. Of the big polluters, only Britain and Australia have presented new climate targets. The United States and China have not submitted anything, while the European Union is working on a redefinition of the National Voluntary Contributions to reflect the additional cuts that will result from plans against the energy crisis and to release Russia’s gas.

There is also a paradox in the call for a Solidarity Pact to “end dependence on fossil fuels and the building of new coal plants – phasing out coal in OECD countries by 2030 and everywhere else by 2040.  This raises questions such as: do the advantages and benefits brought to bear by the use of fossil fuels as sources of energy outweigh the damage caused by fossil fuels? what would a world without fossil fuels look like in terms of overall living standards and sustenance of humankind? Alex Epstein – an energy expert and founder of the Center for Industrial Progress – in his book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, while claiming that the use of fossil fuel would grow in the future and that fossil fuel use would only be of benefit to the flourishing of humanity far outweighing its negative effects, including negative climate impacts, asserts that fossil fuels provide low-cost, reliable energy that would serve a world which would exponentially need more energy progressively, and be of tremendous use to the billions who do not use energy at present.  Furthermore, low-cost fossil fuels would be needed to power machines which are only increasing in output to cope with the growing existential demands of the world population and to combat climate change, more importantly, fossil fuels would play a role in the technology that would be the impetus for human ingenuity to control vacillations of the climate.  These claims are further buttressed by the anticipated results of the arguments pro-fossil fuels – that instead of destroying the world, the use of fossil fuels would make the world a far better place, where billions could be rescued from poverty, giving them a higher quality of life and safety from the hazards wrought by climate change.

In his second book Fossil Future: Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas – Not Less Epstein argues that the rapid elimination of fossil fuel usage, if fully applied would cause “apocalyptic” effects, making people impoverished in a dangerous and miserable world. As food for thought, Epstein goes on to say that, although we should take climate change seriously, the use of fossil fuels per se should not be subject to a moral obligation to eliminate it, saying that historically, there have been instances where the justification by experts of such evils as slavery, racism and eugenics have been since rejected by society as morally reprehensible.   

Whichever way the wind blows at COP/27, one thing is clear: States should put their money where their mouth is and commit, as the Secretary General of the United Nations has said,  to a collaborative solidarity pact towards financing and implementing a global mechanism that would enable the world to reach the target of the Paris Agreement. Whatever pompous, pedantic and pretentious speeches are made, the COP should accept that the system so far has not worked despite pledges, promises and mechanisms. The United Nations Environment Programme Emissions Gap Report 2022 Closing the Window says: “Countries’ new and updated nationally determined contributions (NDCs) submitted since COP 26 reduce projected global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2030 by only 0.5 gigatons of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e), compared with emissions projections based on mitigation pledges at the time of COP 26. Countries are off track to achieve even the globally highly insufficient NDCs”.

The concern of the world is that there will be serious adverse effects on the world if the global temperature goes above 1.5 c of pre-industrial levels during this century.  Scientists have opined that if this target is achieved the climate change problem will at least be alleviated. However, the problem with the climate change solutions offered so far is that, although the aim of the Paris Agreement of 2015 – which was entered into by States under the auspices of the UNFCCC and which entered into force on 4 November 2016, is to achieve not more than  2 c  above pre-industrial levels this century and most desirably bring it down to 1.5 c – nothing much has been done to implement a concrete global plan to achieve this target.  This makes the characteristics of the Agreement – which are that it is universal and legally binding, fair and differentiated, and sustainable and dynamic – open to question.

Why Not Climate Meet in Egypt Discuss Population Control?

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The Glasgow Climate Meet   (COP 26) took place in 2021 with much fanfare with leaders of almost all countries pledging to reduce and eliminate global emissions as early as possible, to prevent global warming and prevent a climate crisis.  The Glasgow Meet ended with high hope that the world climate crisis would be overcome sooner or later and hopefully sooner than later.

Now, Egypt Climate Meet (COP 27) is in progress with the concerns about global climate being not less than what was there at Glasgow Climate Meet.  The ground reality is that practically nothing has been done in a significant way to improve the global climate scenario  in the last year and on the other hand, it has only further deteriorated  due to various man-made reasons and conflicts

The world is already feeling the global climate crisis, as global warming continues to take place with unpredictable climate changes and monsoon conditions. There is huge anxiety in the world today, as no one is able to predict the monsoon conditions and heat levels in the different months with any reasonable level of accuracy. 

 The situation is so desperate now that U N Secretary General at the COP 27 summit in Egypt said that the planet is fast approaching tipping points and the climate crisis is approaching an irreversible level.  He went on to say with a sense of helplessness that the world is facing a stark choice and all countries now have to work together and he 1declared that the world has to choose between   ” survive or perish”  conditions.

So far, globally, the highlight of the discussion on the climate crisis is that the use of fossil fuels like crude oil, and coal should be drastically reduced and completely eliminated in the course of time.  Further, the goal should be to replace fossil fuels like coal, and crude oil for use as energy sources or as feedstock with eco-friendly sources such as renewable energy  ( wind and solar) use of hydrogen and so on.  While scientists are feverishly working to develop eco-friendly technologies to substitute fossil fuels, it appears that the world still has a long way to go.

In such circumstances, the statement of the UAE President that his country will keep producing fossil fuel as long as there is a market for it in the world is very significant. UAE President has been honest enough to confess that he has no plans to reduce the production of fossil fuel and the ball is clearly in the court of consumers of fossil fuel rather than that of the producers. What is particularly curious is that the next year’s edition of the climate summit is scheduled to be hosted by UAE.

Obviously, the demand reduction for fossil fuels is a sure way of reducing the consumption of fossil fuels in the world which will improve the climate conditions. One way of reducing the consumption of fossil fuel is to develop alternative eco-friendly energy sources, on which development work is underway.

However, one should not ignore the fact that the higher demand for fossil fuel and energy sources is happening due to the steady growth in the world population. With more mouths to feed and more people demanding a greater share of the world’s resources, obviously, the demand for fossil fuel as an energy source cannot come down.

It is surprising that in all the climate meetings that have taken place around the world in the past; no one appears to have spoken about reducing population growth, particularly in developing and underdeveloped countries, to solve the climate issue.  While developed countries like the USA, EU, and Japan are keeping the population under check, in countries like India, population growth still remains high with India likely to emerge as the most populated country in the world soon.

While the developed countries have a nearly stable population, the industries and production centres in developed countries which have high technology strength are producing more and more to meet the increasing demand in developing countries, where demand is growing due to population growth and at the same time economic development.

 In several of the climate meet in the past, steps have been taken to provide financial support and incentives to work towards ozone depletion etc. In the same way, perhaps, it would be appropriate to give some incentives to developing and underdeveloped countries to reduce population growth.

It is high time to recognize that countries with high population growth are also significant contributors to the global climate crisis.

Bangladesh: Promoting “culture of peace” through UN peacekeeping

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The establishment and maintenance of stability through cooperation was the key motivation behind the UN’s founding in 1945. The primary objective of the UN is to “maintain international peace and security, and in pursuit of such ends, to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace and to bring about by peaceful means and in compliance with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.” As a part of a global peace movement, the UN Peacekeeping Operations (UNPKO) were established in 1948 to settle international conflicts. The first mission was to send UN Army investigators to the Middle East to observe the agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbors. In recent years, the UN peacekeeping operation has changed to reflect the dynamic nature of international conflicts and the global political landscape. The UN peacekeeping role was specifically extended after the Cold War.

South Asian countries send a sizable contingent of soldiers to peacekeeping operations. Peacekeeping operations are one area of international activity where the region’s united efforts have had a positive effect. Bangladesh has assumed a leadership position in the UN’s peacekeeping mission and is well-versed in the history of such missions. Bangladesh is one of the UN’s most significant and trustworthy partners thanks to its ongoing commitment, adherence to the organization’s regulations, and prompt adaptation measures. It has stayed committed to acting as an accountable UNPKO stakeholder despite the changing nature of the world’s security environment. Instead of concentrating only on peacemaking and peacebuilding, modern peacekeeping aims to ensure social protection in both pre- and post-conflict environments and to seal harmonious connections. After intrastate warfare ended and armed conflict began, peacekeeping now has a variety of responsibilities that go beyond its core duties. One of the main goals of UN peacekeeping missions may be to increase state efficiency and reduce state fragility. As a result, the current batch of troops may significantly affect the UN forces’ ability to operate.

Despite challenging topographical, meteorological, and other unfavorable conditions, Bangladeshi forces are completing the job with the utmost integrity, dedication, and professionalism. Bangladesh has been actively taking part in peacekeeping operations all over the world for the past three decades, and it has been essential to maintaining world peace and stability. In 1988, Bangladesh participated for the first time in both the United Nations Iran-Iraq Military Observer Group (UNIIMOG) in Iraq and the United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) in Namibia. In addition to multiple successful operations in Somalia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bangladeshi troops ensured that rebels in Liberia and the Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) gave up and laid down their arms. The country also closely monitored the elections in Mozambique, the Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Ivory Coast, and other African countries. Since 1988, Bangladesh has sent almost 175,000 soldiers, including more than 1,800 women, on 54 peacekeeping operations to 40 different countries on five continents. Presently, around 7,000 military and police are participating in ten distinct tasks. The majority of Bangladesh’s peacekeepers are stationed in Africa. The nations and names of the missions where Bangladeshi personnel are presently stationed are included in the following table.

When they first joined the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia in 1993, a detachment of 1,002 soldiers was headed by the 3rd East Bengal Regiment, an infantry regiment from the Bangladesh Army. The operation in Cambodia was a huge endeavor for Bangladesh, and the military of that nation contributed a sizable detachment to the peacekeeping effort. The Bangladeshi military participated in DDR efforts in Kosovo, Timor-Leste, Sierra Leone, and Liberia as well as demining operations in South Sudan. They have also helped Juba have access to water, sanitation, basic education, jobs, and other means of livelihood. In response to the growing threat presented by improvised explosive devices, Bangladesh’s Engineer Centre and School of Military Engineering and Ordnance Centre and School has started providing specialized training on counter-IED (IED). All peacekeeping units getting ready for deployment to Mali receive specialized training from these two institutes. Bangladesh was one of the first countries to adopt the 2016-introduced Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System. It has accelerated its deployment by contributing troops to the UN mission in Mali. Bangladesh is dedicated to upholding its reputation in order to bring about world peace. The most casualties occurred during three large ambushes against Bangladeshi contingents in 2017 and 2018. Eight valiant Bangladeshi warriors gave their lives in these three ambushes, inflicting serious injuries on 10 more troops.

A brigade-sized force was able to be sent to Freetown, Sierra Leone as a result of Bangladesh’s prompt provision of more troops in response to the UN’s request and in compliance with the mission’s increased mandate. Bangladeshi soldiers continued to serve in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo by frequently keeping an eye on villages to maintain security. Missions by Bangladeshi contingents in Darfur, Cyprus, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were completed successfully. Former peacekeepers and observers claim that the UN hired the majority of Bangladeshi soldiers for peacekeeping operations worldwide over the previous three decades because of their neutrality, professionalism, and quick responsiveness during the deployment. In addition to their competence, former members of the military forces and the police claimed that Bangladeshi peacekeepers’ high moral standing while serving in UN missions also assisted the country in sending out more troops. In 2011, 2014, 2015, 2021, and 2022, Bangladesh was the country that supplied the most troops.

In November 2019, Bangladesh Police received the Best Police Unit Award for its dedication to UN Peacekeeping missions. The Nyala Super Camp in South Darfur, Sudan, was secured by the Bangladesh Formed Police Unit (FPU) 11, which received praise for its outstanding efforts in boosting the capabilities of the police force. In 2021, some 110 Bangladesh Navy servicemen who took part in the UN mission to uphold stability in Beirut, Lebanon, were awarded the Peacekeeping Medal. Rear Admiral Andreas Mugge, the Maritime Task Force (MTF) Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, presented the medal to the officers and crew of the Bangladesh Navy destroyer “Sangram” in recognition of their contributions to peacekeeping operations. Since the Navy was sent to Lebanon 11 years ago, its personnel have performed their responsibilities with the utmost integrity, commitment, and efficacy. The Navy’s proud participation has strengthened Bangladesh’s status and image overseas. Additionally, Bangladesh was warmly commended this year by the US Embassy in Dhaka for their contributions to UN peacekeeping missions. When Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, the former president of Sierra Leone, paid a visit to Bangladesh in 2003, he expressed his appreciation for Bangladesh’s significant help to Sierra Leone as a result of the performance of the nation’s peacekeepers in Africa. Ivorians frequently called Bangladeshi soldiers “munami,” which is Ivorian for “my friend.” Additionally, the UN awarded medals to about 861 members of the Bangladesh Armed Forces, including 19 women, who were serving with the UN peacekeeping force in South Sudan (UNMISS) in 2020 for their unwavering efforts to ensure the safety of civilians.

The UN peacekeeping deployment is a significant illustration of internationalism and world collaboration. It has been proven to be one of the best strategies for promoting and upholding global peace and stability. The “Blue Helmet” now stands for global cooperation and collective leadership for world peace. Bangladesh eventually joined the “Blue Helmet” family with pride due to its enormous commitment to UN peacekeeping efforts over time. The nation of Bangladesh has reached unprecedented heights as a result of its participation, service, and sacrifice in UN peacekeeping missions for world peace. Bangladesh has been building its reputation in the UN for more than three decades thanks to its diligence and commitment. As a global peacekeeper and advocate, Bangladesh may be regarded as exceptional and exemplary. Bangladeshi peacekeepers have served in Africa’s arid regions and continue to do so. They have made a significant contribution in a variety of fields as security personnel, medical professionals, engineers, trainers, and advisors while dealing with numerous security threats, difficulties, and challenges. Around the world, threats are currently taking on new dimensions, which is likely to jeopardize world peace. Radicalization, environmental concerns, enormous human migration, the growth of right-wing extreme nationalism, catastrophic catastrophes, trade conflicts, etc. are some of the primary security dangers of the new millennium. The UN may react to the fresh challenges and change its emphasis to take into account the developing nature of the dispute and the evolving role of PKO. If Bangladesh is to keep up with the rate of global development and manage difficult disagreements, it may need to make progress.

UN HR Boss writes to Musk on Twitter

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk on Saturday issued an open letter to Elon Musk, Chief Executive Officer at Twitter, urging him to “ensure human rights are central to the management of Twitter” under Musk’s leadership. The letter follows reports of the sacking of Twitter’s entire human rights team and all but two of the ethical AI team – not “an encouraging start,” said Türk.

“Twitter is part of a global revolution that has transformed how we communicate. But I write with concern and apprehension about our digital public square and Twitter’s role in it,” Türk stated in the letter.

“Like all companies, Twitter needs to understand the harms associated with its platform and take steps to address them. Respect for our shared human rights should set the guardrails for the platform’s use and evolution.”

“In short, I urge you to ensure human rights are central to the management of Twitter under your leadership,” the High Commissioner said.

The UN Human Rights Chief set out six fundamental principles from a human rights perspective that need to be front and centre in the management of Twitter:

  1. Protect free speech across the globe: Türk urged Twitter to stand up for the rights to privacy and free expression to the fullest extent possible, under relevant laws, and to transparently report on Government requests that would infringe those rights.
  2. Free speech is not a free pass: Viral spread of harmful disinformation, like that seen during the Covid-19 pandemic in relation to vaccines, results in real world harms. Twitter has a responsibility to avoid amplifying content that results in harm to other people’s rights.
  3. There is no place for hatred that incites discrimination, hostility or violence on Twitter: Spread of hate speech on social media has had horrific consequences for thousands. Twitter’s content moderation policies should continue to bar such hatred on the platform. Every effort needs to be made to remove such content promptly. Human rights law is clear: freedom of expression stops at hatred that incites discrimination, hostility or violence.
  4. Transparency is key: Research is essential to understand better the impact of social media on our societies. Maintain access to Twitter’s data through its open application programming interfaces (APIs).
  5. Protect privacy: Free speech depends on effective protection of privacy. It is vital that Twitter refrain from invasive user tracking and amassing related data and that it resist, to the fullest extent possible under applicable laws, unjustified requests from governments for user data.
  6. Languages and contextual expertise are not optional: Twitter’s responsibilities to maintain a rights-respecting and safe platform apply not just to English-language content, but globally.

UN Women and Japan support Sri Lankan women entrepreneurs

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“My husband’s income has drastically reduced because of the country’s situation. Our entire family now depends on me”, says K. Vanitha, who runs a tailoring business in Ampara, Sri Lanka. As cost of living increases and purchasing power declines rapidly, like Vanitha, many women entrepreneurs are shouldering heavy burdens and struggling with the continuity of their businesses.

UN Women with support from the Government of Japan, provided equipment and productive assets worth LKR 50.4million (approx. USD 140,000) to help women entrepreneurs hit hardest by Sri Lanka’s economic downturn. On 26th October 2022, Ambassador MIZUKOSHI of Japan handed over some of the equipment, such as sewing machines and flour grinding machines to the women entrepreneurs supported at the distribution ceremony held in Colombo. Besides them, 384 women from the Districts of Ampara, Monaragala and Vavuniya received assistance.

The in-kind assistance provided is part of UN Women’s 3-year project on ‘Implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Sri Lanka’ funded by the Government of Japan.

Speaking at the event in Colombo, Hon. Geetha Samanmalee Kumarasinghe, State Minister of Women and Child Affairs said: “This project has also developed the skills of more than 100 officers at the Divisional Secretariat level, who will in turn work to empower and build resilience of other women and ensure gender equality is integrated within Sri Lankan society”. 

Speaking on the need to place women and girls at the centre of relief and recovery efforts, H.E. MIZUKOSHI Hideaki, Ambassador of Japan to Sri Lanka noted that; “It is imperative to involve women and girls who comprise more than half of the country’s population in order to achieve inclusive development. Through our longstanding partnership with UN Women and Sri Lanka, Japan is committed to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment in-line with the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development”.

As part of the project, close to 800 women have received capacity building trainings on business and entrepreneurship conducted by UN Women and Chrysalis.

“Investing in women’s economic empowerment is at the heart of UN Women’s mandate. The entrepreneurs supported through this project are receiving one-to-one business coaching and mentoring from other established enterprises to help implement their business strategies and ensure continuity, growth and diversification of their ventures”, said Esther Hoole, Officer in Charge at UN Women Sri Lanka.

The participants, including Vanitha, that qualified for in-kind assistance, “developed business plans that were reviewed by an independent panel including local government officials, sectoral technical officers and external stakeholders to assess feasibility and awarding of the requested assistance”, said Ashika Gunasena, CEO of Chrysalis. The enterprises range across several sectors including crop cultivation, agri-business, garments, livestock rearing, food manufacturing, spice grinding, small groceries, value addition to coconut and palmyrah value chains amongst others.

Vanitha who received a sewing machine for her tailoring business said; “Since prices of ready-made garments have gone up, more people are beginning to buy fabric for stitching. This will help me expand my business and future investments”.

Esther Hoole, OIC, UN Women Sri Lanka and Ashika Gunasena, CEO, Chrysalis handing over certificates to entrepreneurs receiving in-kind assistance. [ Photo: UN Women]

Women in Sri Lanka call for stronger measures to protect their rights

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Women leaders from four provinces in Sri Lanka have urged local government authorities to strengthen efforts to protect women, who have been affected by the country’s economic, political and COVID-19 crises this year.

From March to September, UN Women hosted a series of Multi-party Dialogues on Women, Peace and Security in nine districts to identify and discuss solutions to challenges faced by women there. Close to 200 people including  women leaders participated in the sessions, representing the North Central, Uva, Western and Sabaragamuwa Provinces.

Participants raised concerns about issues including a shortage of safe houses, lack of awareness about available services and weak referral systems for survivors of violence.

“Over the last few months, complaints on violence against women have drastically increased, and most of the time, these women have no place to go,” said one dialogue participant, a women’s development officer from the Ministry of Women and Child Development and Social Empowerment.

Another participant, a district coordinator from Gampaha District in Western province, said: “Because of the economic crisis, many garment factories are closing. Some women have worked in these factories for 20-plus years. On top of that, they are burdened with taking care of their families. As a result, they are unable to find new jobs.”

Ramaaya Salgado, Country Focal Point of UN Women Sri Lanka, said the multi-party dialogues aimed to gather a variety of stakeholders including women leaders, public sector officials, civil society organizations, youth leaders and the media “to collectively promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, and to ensure that there is no rollback of gains made over the years”.

In each of the dialogues, participants developed district-level “workplans” in which they recommended that the local authorities:

  • Strengthen coordination between front-line government officials and civil society organizations to implement initiatives, on women, peace and security
  • Allocate budgets and other provisions to establish safe houses for women in each district
  • Carry out campaigns to educate rural women about public services such as legal aid and counseling for survivors of violence
  • Provide gender-sensitivity trainings for police and other law enforcement officers

During the dialogue sessions, the participants also received training on the principles of women, peace and security, which calls for increased participation of women at all levels of decision-making and for ensuring that women and girls are not left behind in relief and recovery efforts.

UN Women organized the first phase of the multi-party dialogues between 2018 and 2022 in 16 districts across five provinces in the country which focused on strengthening women’s leadership and decision-making role within the peace and security landscape. The current phase of dialogues covered the country’s remaining four provinces and took place in the districts of Anuradhapura, Badulla, Colombo, Gampaha, Kalutara, Kegalle, Monaragala, Polonnaruwa and Ratnapura.

The dialogues are part of UN Women’s three-year programme on supporting the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Sri Lanka which is funded by the Government of Japan.

GTF welcomes the passing of Resolution on Sri Lanka

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The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) welcomes the passing of Resolution 51/L1/Rev1 with minimal opposition among the member countries of the UNHRC on 6 October 2022. It is particularly pleasing that several countries who would have traditionally voted against such a resolution recognised the criticality of the Sri Lankan situation and decided to abstain. For the thousands of victims of serious human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, who have been denied justice for more than a decade, UNHRC continues to offer hope, even if the process of seeking justice is painstakingly slow and arduous.

The process towards this important outcome commenced with the comprehensive report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which was highly critical of Sri Lanka’s failure to address wartime accountability; entrenched impunity for human rights violations; economic crimes; endemic corruption; and the application of draconian security laws to crackdown peaceful protests. The High Commissioner’s recommendations were ably converted into Resolution 51/L1/Rev1 by the core group of countries – in effect, a balancing act of highly concerning developments in Sri Lanka and challenging geopolitical reality.

GTF would like to express its gratitude to all progressive forces that made this outcome possible – the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the core group of countries led by the UK, countries that voted for or co-sponsored the resolution, the human rights organisations who championed the cause, and more importantly, the victims of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka who despite the long time elapsed and the risks involved, continue to provide inspiration by bravely fighting for accountability.

Resolution 51/L1/Rev1 recognises Sri Lanka’s total failure in addressing wartime accountability. It has extended and reinforced the capacity of the OHCHR to collect, consolidate, analyse and preserve information and evidence, and develop strategies for future accountability processes. Such options could include extraterritorial and universal jurisdiction as well as targeted sanctions against those credibly implicated in serious human rights abuses.

The resolution acknowledges the lack of freedoms and marginalisation endured by the Tamil and Muslim communities and calls for the government to fulfil its commitment to the devolution of political authority, specifically to ensure that all provincial councils, including the northern and eastern provincial councils, are able to operate effectively in accordance with the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

The resolution also underscores how unaccountable governance, deepening militarisation and impunity for human rights violations eventually led to the unprecedented economic crisis in Sri Lanka and calls on the government to address the crisis, including by investigating and prosecuting corruption committed by present and former public officials, and offers assistance with the investigation into economic crimes.

Furthermore, Resolution 51/L1/Rev1 notes the heavy handed approach adopted by the government against protesters calling for change, such as declaring multiple state of emergencies and continuing with detentions under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. It calls on the government to protect civil society actors and human rights defenders while emphasizing the positive contribution peaceful protests can make towards the effectiveness of democratic processes.

Notwithstanding India’s abstention, we are pleased with its strong statement in support of the Tamil people for equality, justice, dignity and peace. India noted inadequate progress in implementing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and called for meaningful devolution and early elections for the Provincial Councils. GTF hopes India’s actions of goodwill – both the unprecedented assistance during the economic crisis and abstention at UNHRC – could be leveraged to protect and promote the legitimate political and economic aspirations of Tamils.

Resolution 51/L1/Rev1 which aims to address many legacies and emerging human rights and economic issues is timely. Its success depends entirely on the insistence and persistence of the international community in ensuring its full implementation. In this context, it is important to highlight the sense of frustration engulfing many victims and their families with no sense of accountability and justice even after 8 UNHRC resolutions and, 13 years of waiting.

Sri Lanka’s response to the resolution presented by Foreign Minister Ali Sabry – who insisted on exclusive domestic mechanism to address wartime atrocities despite the country’s inability to take a single meaningful initiative for 13 years – is thoroughly disappointing. Rejecting any external involvement in investigating the economic crimes – despite overwhelming evidence that such crimes partly contributed to the economic crisis, he trivialised the efforts put in by many countries for Resolution 51/L1/Rev1, alleging it caters for their domestic politics and regional differences only.

For Minister Ali Sabry, there was no sense of irony when invoking an outdated concept of sovereignty as an all-encompassing protective shield while the country is totally dependent on international assistance to overcome its deep economic crisis. Perhaps therein lies a pathway to make a meaningful transformation in Sri Lanka. Knowing Sri Lanka’s track record with past UNHRC resolutions, it makes complete sense to link the progress on implementing the key aspects of Resolution 51/L1/Rev1 to the financial packages provided by the international community.

Unlike previous years when the outcome at the UNHRC was eagerly sought mainly by the Tamil community, the interests and expectations this year were much more widespread. The ruthless treatment meted out to those protested against the government, and the authoritarian and militarised trajectory the country is increasingly adopting, has brought a new awareness about human rights and their universality among all citizens of the country.

GTF believes this convergence of concerns, fears and apprehensions offer hope for all the people of Sri Lanka to come together as equal citizens and communities. Such progress is possible only when all communities stop living a lie based on denial and come to terms with the truth based on evidence. The UNHRC resolution just passed provides a useful framework to work towards such an outcome in unity.

China Defuses Western-led Xinjiang Hysertia at UN

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For some time now, the US and some other Western countries have been misinforming the public about Xinjiang and seeking political manipulation in the name of human rights simply to smear China’s image and contain China’s development, responding to the 51st session of the Human Rights Council that voted down a US-led draft decision on Xinjiang, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson told the media.

“Despite facts and truths, these countries propagated falsehoods on Xinjiang at the Human Rights Council and put together a draft decision on that erroneous basis in an attempt to use UN human rights bodies as a tool to interfere in China’s internal affairs and to serve the agenda of using Xinjiang to contain China. The international community would not be easily misled. Despite pressure from the US and some other Western countries on the member states, the draft decision ended up unsupported by the majority of the Human Rights Council membership, especially many members of the developing world. The agenda pushed by the US and some other Western forces have again failed to gain international support,” the spokesperson added.

“The issues related to Xinjiang are not about human rights. They are about countering violent terrorism, radicalization and separatism. Thanks to strenuous efforts, there has been no violent terrorist incident in Xinjiang for over five consecutive years. The human rights of people of all ethnic backgrounds in Xinjiang are protected like never before. The international community is clearly aware that the ultimate motive of the US and some other Western countries behind their Xinjiang narrative is to contain China and does not like this pattern of using human rights as a pretext to meddle in other countries’ internal affairs. In recent years, nearly 100 countries, including many Islamic countries, have spoken out at the Human Rights Council, the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly and elsewhere openly to support China’s just position on issues related to Xinjiang and oppose using these issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs. The facts have proven time and again that politicizing human rights and practicing double standards is deeply unpopular and attempts to use Xinjiang-related issues to keep China down or contain it will get nowhere.”

“The issues that the Human Rights Council truly needs to focus on are the serious human rights violations concerning the US, the UK and some Western forces, including systemic racism and racial discrimination, the rights of refugees and migrants, rampant gun violence, unilateral coercive measures, and massive killings of innocent civilians in overseas military operations. The victims are still waiting for justice to be done and the international community demands accountability. We urge the US and some other Western forces to abandon political manipulation, disinformation and suppression, return to the track of dialogue and cooperation, and make real contributions to the global advancement of human rights.”

Sri Lanka Rejects West-led Resolution

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4 mins read

Sri Lanka categorically rejected resolution A/HRC/51/L.1 (Rev.1) titled “Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka” tabled by the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Malawi, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and the United States, which was adopted by a vote at the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, today (06 October 2022), a media statement issued by Minister of Foreign Affairs in Colombo has noted.

The statement reads further as follows;

Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Sabry delivered the statement on behalf of Sri Lanka as the country concerned and called on the Members of the Council to reject the resolution by voting against it.

In support of Sri Lanka’s position opposing the resolution, the delegation of Pakistan called for a vote. Over half of the members of the Council did not support the resolution with 07 countries (Bolivia, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Venezuela) voting against the resolution and 20 countries abstaining on the vote. 20 countries voted in favour of the resolution.

Representatives of Pakistan, Brazil, China, Venezuela, Japan and Republic of Korea made statements in support of Sri Lanka prior to the vote. Pakistan said that they share the concerns of Sri Lanka and other Member States that the resolution is intrusive and this level of scrutiny would not be even acceptable to any sovereign state including the Core Group. They further observed that the resolution fails to recognize the horrendous acts of terrorism committed by the LTTE and its sponsors, lacks balance, proportionality and consistency.

At a critical time when the people of Sri Lanka expect demonstrations of global solidarity and support to face its economic challenges which are not entirely of Sri Lanka’s own making, the Core Group chose a path that has the potential to exacerbate the problem instead of improving the situation. Brazil noted the need to avoid politicization of the work of the Council and reiterated their position that cooperation of the country concerned is key to the success of this Council’s initiatives. Brazil highlighted the responsibility of the international community to support the country in its recovery including through international cooperation and assistance.

China appreciated the Government of Sri Lanka’s commitment to promoting and protecting human rights, advancing sustainable socio-economic development, improving living standards, protecting the rights of the vulnerable groups, facilitating national reconciliation and combatting terrorism. China regretted that the resolution is tabled without the consent of country concerned, is a product of politicization, and will by no means play any positive role in the promotion of human rights in Sri Lanka.

China highlighted that the work of Council should be guided by its founding principles and that all parties should promote genuine dialogue and cooperation and refrain from adopting double standards. China rejected the practice of using human rights as a pretext to interfere in the internal affairs and undermine the sovereignty of other countries to the detriment of international cooperation. Venezuela expressed their deep concern at initiatives that do not have the support of the country concerned and that the Core Group is insisting on imposing hostile initiative, monitoring and oversight mechanism without the consent of Sri Lanka, ignoring the progress made by the Government.

Venezuela highlighted that the mechanism financially bleed out over 6 million dollars that could have been better used to support the least developed countries and further that the practice of wasting money seems all too common in the Council. Japan recognized the progress made by Sri Lanka and said that the Government’s own initiatives, efforts and commitments are indispensable to achieving real change on the ground. Republic of Korea noted with appreciation the efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka to promote national reconciliation, reconstruction and prosperity.

Sri Lanka is grateful to the countries which withstood pressure by the sponsors and demonstrated their support to Sri Lanka by voting against or abstaining on the vote as well as by speaking in support of Sri Lanka. While delivering the Sri Lanka statement as the country concerned, the Foreign Minister regretted that a draft resolution on Sri Lanka is tabled once again despite the progress made domestically on reconciliation and human rights and Sri Lanka’s continued constructive engagement with the Council. He outlined Sri Lanka’s intention to move forward domestically with replacing the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) with a comprehensive national security legislation, and the introduction of Constitutional amendments and a legal framework to strengthen democratic governance, participation and the rule of law as well as independent institutional oversight.

On reconciliation and human rights, Sri Lanka is awaiting the final report of the Presidential Commission and the establishment of a domestic truth-seeking mechanism is under advanced discussion. He also referred to Sri Lanka’s upcoming engagement with the UPR process. Minister Sabry highlighted that while the resolution may meet the objective of advancing the political considerations of the sponsors, it is manifestly unhelpful to Sri Lanka. The Minister strongly opposed the resolution, particularly the proposal in Operative Paragraph (OP) 8 that seeks to ‘extend and reinforce’ the so-called “external evidence gathering mechanism” created by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The mechanism is outside the mandate envisaged for the Council. No sovereign state can accept the superimposition of an external mechanism that runs contrary to its Constitution and which pre-judges the commitment of its domestic legal processes.

The Minister also noted that many countries have already raised serious concerns on the budgetary implications of this resolution given its ever-expanding mandate. He further noted that this is an unhelpful and misdirected drain on the resources of all Member States, including the donors in the midst of ongoing global crises. In sharp contrast, he said that we are faced with the dire financial needs of developing countries to prevent hunger and child malnutrition.

Foreign Minister Sabry objected to the references in the resolution to matters which are outside the framework of the Council such as domestic economic and financial policy. He further observed 3 that solutions to economic and financial crises faced today by many countries will not be found in the mandate, the instruments or the expertise of the Council. The result of the vote demonstrates that the resolution is another example of the North-South polarization and politicization of the Council, contrary to its founding principles.

This vote also demonstrated solidarity among the countries of the South which continued to support the basic founding principles of the Human Rights Council of universality, impartiality, objectivity and nonselectivity leading to constructive international dialogue and cooperation. The Human Rights Council is comprised of 47 Members, including 13 African states, 13 AsiaPacific states, 8 Latin American & Caribbean States, 7 Western Europe and Other States, and 6 Eastern European States.

Sri Lanka: Resolution Passes; So What?

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3 mins read

Editorial

The swank wedgy in Geneva on Sri Lanka is over for the time being. More to come. As many as 829 million people worldwide go to bed hungry each night while a bunch of groups titled themselves “human rights defenders” are lavishly enjoying time in the most expensive city in the world at public expense. Let’s go and see the bottom of this decaying flutter.

Not long ago, the dignity and reputation of the UN Human Rights Council evaporated. The global recognition it had gradually eroded over the years. The result was that it became an objectification institution to satisfy the malodorous desires of various regimes, regrettably. Countries that preach to the world about human rights forcibly abducted innocent people after naming them as prime suspects of terrorism, tortured and destroyed their lives in hideous torture chambers in places such as Guantanamo Bay and other classified black sites. They are still teaching us human rights. The torturers who urinate on the Holy Quran and force Muslims to eat pork are trying to teach the world about religious freedom.

The countries which spread their hegemony throughout the Middle East and destroy those countries in order to exploit their resources, pass resolutions against poor countries like Sri Lanka while talking about protecting human rights. Can anyone with a conscience agree to this dishonourable behaviour? Don’t you smell the stench in their words? Do you not see the blood of innocent people in their footsteps? Did you not see how they systematically destroyed many countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, etc.? Don’t you hear the voices of the Palestinians who breathe only at the thought of death, deprived of all basic rights? According to their track records, do you think that all this is done because of their overwhelming love for poor countries like Sri Lanka? In fact, such resolutions should be initiated by them – on them – for them as they have no moral right to speak about human rights in other countries. If you remember the series of human carnage they intentionally committed throughout history from Chile and Argentina to Cambodia and Vietnam, you cannot support them with a single word. They systematically destroyed Asia, Latin America, and Africa and did not hesitate to physically if not politically kill all the leaders who emerged from the voice of the voiceless and the power of the powerless. So tell us, against whom should such resolutions be passed?

It is said that this time they have included in their so-called resolution about the economic crimes that allegedly happened in Sri Lanka. Laughably, some self-proclaimed civil society activists have bragged about it in various ways. From the beginning, who gives visas to criminals and gives them sanctuary in their countries without forensic analysis of their wealth? Who gives permission to white-collar economic killers to maintain bank accounts in foreign currencies of their countries? Who gives shelter to crooks living in certain countries by denying visas to innocent people who have earned wages in a transparent and accountable manner? So, shouldn’t global organizations that tell fairy tales about equality, such as the United Nations, change? Isn’t it sad that such noble global forums are becoming a Hydepark-like place where any ugliness can be dramatized, falling prey to those who pursue their narrow political ambitions?

We see all the incidents related to this so-called resolution as a farce by a group of scoundrels who are abusing the highest virtues of human civilization by doing any abominable act for the sake of their supremacy. There is also a group of people standing around their peripheries, dancing to their tunes and licking some of the muskets they throw. They introduce themselves as “civil society activists”. But none of these activities will help the poor people living on the land.

Our respect goes to the real nations that have a backbone against the so-called resolution that was allegedly passed against Sri Lanka and to the nations that refused to go against their conscience and abstained from voting. Only these countries can carry out positivity for human civilization. These countries including Sri Lanka must break this multi-faceted dictatorial unipolar hegemony in order to build a real world where basic rights are respected equally. Although it is a very serious and complicated mission, it should be done immediately. Similarly, the power of true weapons of mass destruction such as the US dollar, which is being used as a quiet blade for genocide, must be neutralized. Then you will find the beauty of true humanity and harmony. Until then, it is inevitable that not only Sri Lanka but many small countries will become victims of these monopolistic hypocrites. Exploiting the prevailing excruciated economic crisis, these manipulators shall kill Sri Lanka softly. Consequently, the ordinary citizens struggling for daily wages will suffer at the end of this great game. When ordinary folks suffered more, they called it “justice”.