Daily Archives: February 15, 2013

NO to violence against women

1139441099-2Around 15 to 76 percent of women around the world experience physical or sexual violence from men in their lifetime. This staggering statistic has called the attention of people, organizations, and governments around the world to take action and put an end to such vehement behavior.

UN Women has been taking serious measures to stop such violence. It created the COMMIT campaign to which 18 countries have pledged to “take initiatives to stop gender-based violence.”

In 2008, Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, launched UNiTE to End Violence against Women, a campaign that aims to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls around the world.  Some of the aims of this campaign include: “adopt and enforce national laws to address and punish all forms of violence against women and girls, increase public awareness and social mobilization, address sexual violence in conflict,” to name a few.

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On February 14, 2013, UN officials met to take a stance against such violence. In his message calling everyone to unite to end violence against women and girls, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged everyone to speak out. “The global pandemic of violence against women and girls thrives in a culture of discrimination and impunity.”

Other efforts include those of the One Billion Rising campaign which invites “ONE BILLION women to walk out, dance, rise up, and demand an end to this violence.” These events take place all over every February 14.

Want to help put an end to violence against women? Then ask Congress to pass the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) by following this link:http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=6oJCLQPAJiJUG&b=6645049&aid=519249&msource=W1302EAWMN2

Is human trafficking and violence a ‘hot button’ topic for you? Then you should join Women’s Forum @ UNA-GB for International Women’s Day on Monday, March 4. We will be screening “Not My Life” and have a great panel discussion following the film. For more information, check out the registration page.

UN Funding Debate in Congress

This past Wednesday, February 9th, U.S. House Republicans lost a floor vote over a plan to demand repayments from the United Nations.

The bill, entitled United Nations Tax Equalization Refund Act of 2011, was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and introduced to secure the return to the United States the $179 million overpaid into the United Nations Tax Equalization Fund as of December 31, 2009. The measure is the latest effort by the GOP to demonstrate just how serious they are about cutting back U.S. funding for the United Nations.

The bill failed in the House of Representatives by a margin of 26 votes, falling well short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass the measure. 236 Republicans and 23 Democrats voted in favor of the bill (259 total yes votes), and 167 Democrats and 2 Republicans voted against it (169 total no votes). 6 members abstained from voting.

According to the bill, approximately $180 million in U.S. taxpayer funds overpaid to the United Nations remain in the hands of the United Nations because the U.S. has not requested the return of those funds. The funds were paid into the United Nations Tax Equalization Fund (TEF), which is used to reimburse United Nations staff members subject to U.S. income taxes for the cost of those taxes. The bill sought the return of these U.S. over-payments into the UN Tax Equalization Fund.

House Republicans believe that allowing the United Nations to regularly overcharge the U.S. and to retain those over-payments is a disservice to American taxpayers and a subversion of the Congressional budget process. However, according to the opposition, the bill would have prevented vital and much needed security upgrades around the United Nations building in New York. When asked about the money being spent on security upgrades at the United Nations, the UN Spokesperson for the Secretary General, Martin Nesirky, reiterated that the money in the Tax Equalization Fund is U.S. money, and the U.S. Government decides where it goes, in consultation with the United Nations.

In addition to being indispensable to the U.S.’s security, the United Nations also offers U.S. taxpayers beneficial economic and financial values. United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice made the case for this by mentioning that out of every tax dollar an American pays, 34 cents goes to Social Security and Medicare, 22 cents to national security and the U.S. military, and a nickel to paying interest on the national debt.  Just one-tenth of a single penny goes to pay United Nations dues. “Main Street America needs the United Nations, and so do you and I, especially in these tough economic times,” Rice said. “America can’t police every conflict, end every crisis, and shelter every refugee.” Therefore, sustained U.S. support for the United Nations is absolutely necessary.

Watch the video of Peter Yeo’s (Better World Campaign Executive Director) testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and learn how a strong U.S.-UN relationship supports American interests.

What do you think about the work of the UN and the US’s support?  Where are we hitting the mark and where can we strengthen our work?  The UN is most effective when we all participate in the dialogue and action, so we look forward to hearing your thoughts!

-Hanna

Malden District Model UN Simulation Success!!

“Do you know what it’s like to be dying of thirst?”

This was the opening line of the seventh grade delegates representing Turkey at the Malden District Middle School Model UN Simulation held last Monday December 13, 2010.

After preparing for ten class periods and participating in in-school simulations in four Malden middle schools, the star negotiators, public-speakers, and future leaders were chosen to represent their school at a district wide simulation. Students from Ferryway, Salemwood, Linden, and Beebe Middle Schools in Malden descended on the Malden senior center to debate, negotiate, and propose solutions to the global issue of water scarcity.

During the debate, the delegates brought to the floor many issues connected to water scarcity, including health concerns, gender inequality, and international debt forgiveness. The delegate from Egypt suggested that the developed world forgive 1.5% of the global debt owed to them by the developing world so those funds could go to water projects, such as building wells and irrigation systems. The delegate from France offered to share engineers and technology to the developing world to help build national water infrastructure. And many delegates were appalled that women and children were missing out on an education because they had to walk several miles every morning just to fill one jerry can with water.

After having only ten class periods and one simulation to prepare, these Malden Middle School Students were proposing solutions that would provide foreign aid, send technology experts, and bring medical supplies to the developing world, who suffers the most from water scarcity. The Malden Middle School students did an outstanding job of working to fix a major global issue, water scarcity, in just two and a half hours.

Global Response to a Global Problem

Climate change is a problem that affects all countries- rich and poor.  The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) held its 16th annual Conference of the Parties (COP16) in Cancún, Mexico from November 29 – December 10, 2010.  The ultimate goal of the Conference is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.  The Conference has nearly-universal membership with 20,000 delegates, NGO’s (green groups), business and media in attendance from 194 countries.

One of the goals of the Conference was to make a realistic step in taking action on climate change and build upon the Copenhagan Accord by taking steps to better implement it.  The Cancún Agreements made four major steps in achieving that objective:

1. Mitigation targets & actions: The Agreements provide emission mitigation targets and actions for approximately eighty countries (which importantly include all of the major economies) to reduce their emissions by 2020.

2. Green Climate Fund: A fund was proposed last year to help developing countries deal with implementing green policies to prevent climate change, and has a target of $100 billion annually by 2020.  The World Bank is the interim trustee of the Fund, and its oversight board consists of  representatives of the donor nations.

3. Tropical forest protection: One of the challenges facing the developing world is industrializing under environmental restrictions that developed nations did not.  Through the tropical forest protection program, wealthier countries help prevent deforestation in poorer countries by working through market mechanisms.

4. Clean Development Mechanism (CDM): The CDM stimulates sustainable development while also reducing emissions in developing countries.  It also provides industrialized countries flexibility in how they meet their reduction targets.  The CDM allows emission-reduction projects in developing countries to earn emission reduction credits, which can be traded, sold, and used by industrialized countries to meet part of their reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

The Conference made an extensive effort to reduce the carbon footprint of the event by doing everything from using renewable resources to planting over 10,000 trees and bushes in Cancún.  Although there is always more that needs to be done to address climate change, the Conference was a successful in creating new initiatives.

As 2011 approaches, we encourage you to think about your carbon footprint and what you can do to make a difference!

-Alex.

ICC Charges Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir with Genocide

Hi everyone!

My name is Patrick and I am a Programs and Membership intern this summer at the UNA-GB. A Boston native, I am currently an undergraduate studying History and International Relations at Tufts University.

On Monday, July 12, the International Criminal Court made international and judicial history when it officially charged current Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir with three counts of genocide.

 

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is the first head of state charged with genocide by the ICC.

Based in the Dutch city of the Hague, the ICC had previously issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir on five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes in May 2009, but the announcement of yesterday’s arrest warrant is the first to specifically reference “genocide” and is a dramatic change from the Court’s assertion of just over a year ago that there was no sufficient evidence to support such a charge. He is the first sitting head of state to ever have been indicted by the ICC and the first charged with genocide.

The conflict in Darfur, controversially and contentiously categorized as state-sponsored genocide, has been raging since February 2003 and continues despite a peace treaty signed in February earlier this year. Ethnic conflict between the North’s Afro-Arabs and the South’s black Africans, who have claimed to be systematically oppressed by the Sudanese government, has led to a UN-estimate of over 300,000 deaths and close to 3 million displaced in the western-most region of Darfur. As the violence has increased and the number of refugees has grown, neighboring countries such as Chad and Eritrea become implicated as well, allegedly throwing their support behind the many black African factions. Reports of murder and rape coming out of the region have been widespread over the past half-decade, despite the involvement of the African Union, the United Nations, and numerous international human rights groups.

UNAMID aid arrives on the ground in Darfur

President al-Bashir is accused of fostering traditional North-South ethnic tensions to enable his Arab-led government to successfully carry out genocide against Sudan’s black community under the veil of domestic strife and civil war. The new ICC warrant claims, “There are reasonable grounds to believe that (Omar al-Bashir) acted with specific intent to destroy in part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups” in Darfur, which includes “genocide by killing, genocide by causing serious bodily or mental harm and genocide by deliberately inflicting on each target group conditions of life calculated to bring about the group’s physical destruction.”

Whereas the International Court of Justice, the principal judiciary arm of the United Nations, handles cases involving states and national governments, the ICC, legally independent but financially and politically affiliated with the UN, claims individuals jurisdiction over individuals. A comparison of the two organizations can be found here.

The ICC came to fruition with the ratification of the Rome Treaty in 2002 (which the United States both voted against and has since stated it does not intend on becoming a member – see our affiliate USA for the International Criminal Court). While the ICC includes all of Europe and most of Latin American and Africa as its members, it does not have the support of most of the Middle East, nor four of the world’s largest and most influential states – India, China, Russia, and the United States. As Sudan having never ratified the Rome Treaty, Al-Bashir does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC and refuses to stand trial.

The International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands

A lecture on war crimes and international justice sponsored by the UNA-GB is being planned for the late fall, and we are extremely interesting in engaging with the international community and the people of Boston on the issue.

Be sure to stay informed and check back soon for more information.

-Patrick