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Posts tagged ‘United Nations’

UN rights envoy comes to Turkey to study Khashoggi killing

January 28, 2019

ISTANBUL (AP) — A U.N. human rights expert has arrived in Turkey for a weeklong visit over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard and her team of experts on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara on Monday.

Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency said they are also expected to meet Turkey’s justice minister and the Istanbul prosecutor heading the investigation. Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who wrote critically about the Saudi crown prince, was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. His remains have still not been found.

Turkish officials have called for an international investigation and complained of a lack of cooperation by Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has indicted 11 people in the killing and is seeking the death penalty against five of them.

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UN envoy: No prospect Rohingya refugees can go home soon

January 26, 2019

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A U.N. human rights envoy said that hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees won’t be able to return to Myanmar soon because of threats to their safety in the Buddhist-majority nation.

Myanmar has been criticized by global rights groups and many nations for state-sponsored violence against ethnic minorities. Yanghee Lee, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, on Friday also criticized India and Saudi Arabia for mistreatment of the Rohingya in those countries.

Lee spent 10 days in Thailand and Bangladesh, speaking to refugees living in Bangladesh, authorities, U.N. agencies and international experts. More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees have fled into Bangladesh since late August 2017.

“It is clear that Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh cannot return to Myanmar in the near future,” she said. She said violence against the Rohingya by the Myanmar army in Rakhine state that prompted them to flee to neighboring Bangladesh “bear the hallmarks of genocide.” Myanmar has repeatedly turned down her request for allowing her to visit the country.

Myanmar has rejected all the allegations that any crimes against humanity and genocide took place. Global rights groups have called the country’s top military officials to be tried for their alleged roles in the killing and rapes of Rohingya.

Lee said the violence against other minority groups must also end in Myanmar. “Its campaign of violence against ethnic minorities, including the Rohingya, the Kayin, the Kachin and the Shan, must end,” she said.

She added: “There must be accountability for the campaign of ethnic cleansing and possible genocide against the Rohingya, as well as the war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated against ethnic minorities around the country.”

Lee told journalists she was disturbed by reports of new violence in Rakhine state and she accused Myanmar of failing to create a peaceful environment so the refugees could return from Bangladesh. “The campaign of violence against the Rohingya continues, with the security forces slowly bleeding the remaining Rohingya population and continuing to force them to flee to Bangladesh,” she said.

Lee said she was dismayed by Saudi Arabia’s recent deportation of 13 Rohingya to Bangladesh, where they have been arrested and charged with forging the passports that they used to travel to Saudi Arabia.

About 1,300 Rohingya have recently arrived in Bangladesh from India, Bangladesh officials said earlier this week. Another 61 Rohingya, including many children, were arrested earlier this week by India in its northeastern states of Assam and Tripura. India rejected repeated U.N. calls against a decision by India to send at least 40,000 Rohingya back to Myanmar.

Bangladesh attempted to start repatriation in November last year under a deal with Myanmar despite reservations by the U.N. and other global human rights groups that conditions were not safe for Rohingya in Myanmar, which said it was ready to receive them. Bangladesh subsequently postponed the process.

The exodus of Rohingya began after Myanmar security forces launched a brutal crackdown following attacks by an insurgent group on guard posts in late August in 2017. The scale, organization and ferocity of the crackdown led the U.N. and several governments to accuse Myanmar of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had ordered border guards to open the border allowing them to get in.

Most people in Myanmar do not accept that the Rohingya Muslims are a native ethnic group, calling them as “Bengalis” who entered from Bangladesh centuries ago. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, as well as access to education and hospitals.

Court orders Guatemala to let UN investigator enter

January 07, 2019

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — A member of a U.N.-sponsored anti-corruption commission has been allowed into Guatemala by a court order after he was held for almost a day at the capital’s airport. Guatemala’s Constitutional Court ordered the government to admit Colombian Yilen Osorio, who was detained by immigration officials upon arrival at the airport Saturday.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales has sought to end the commission known as CICIG, which has investigated Morales’ son and his brother. They deny accusations of corruption. Osorio heads an investigation of alleged bribery implicating the vice president of Congress and others. He also participated in a campaign finance investigation into the dealings of Morales’ political party.

Morales refused to renew CICIG’s mandate last year, and barred its chief from returning to Guatemala from a trip to the United States.

UN General Assembly endorses global migration accord

December 20, 2018

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly endorsed a sweeping accord to ensure safe and orderly migration Wednesday over opposition from five countries, including the United States and Hungary. The Global Compact for Migration, the first international document dealing with the issue, is not legally binding. But the escalating debate over people leaving their home countries for new ones has sparked increasing opposition and reservations among the U.N.’s 193 member states.

The General Assembly resolution endorsing the compact was approved by a vote of 152-5, with Israel, the Czech Republic and Poland also voting “no” and 12 countries abstaining. The vote in favor of the resolution was lower than the 164 countries that approved the agreement by acclamation at a conference in Marrakech, Morocco, earlier this month.

The compact represents a U.N.-led effort to give migrants seeking economic opportunity a chance to find it and to have authorities crack down on the often dangerous and illegal movements of people across borders that have turned human smuggling into a worldwide industry.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the resolution’s adoption, saying the compact provides a platform for international cooperation that points the way “toward humane and sensible action to benefit countries of origin, transit and destination as well as migrants themselves.”

“It calls for greater solidarity with migrants in situations of appalling vulnerability and abuse,” the U.N. chief said. “And it highlights the imperative of devising more legal pathways for migration, which would also help to crack down on trafficking and exploitation.”

According to a U.N. estimate, there are 250 million migrants around the world, or 3.4 percent of the global population. A McKinsey study cited earlier this year by Guterres said they “contribute 10 percent of global gross domestic product.”

The compact says that “the majority of migrants around the world today travel, live and work in a safe, orderly and regular manner.” But Guterres told the Marrakech conference that “more than 60,000 migrants have died on the move since the year 2000” and called the loss of lives “a source of collective shame.”

The secretary-general and other supporters of the compact contend that migrants contribute to the world economy, including by providing needed workers in aging rich countries and returning cash to poorer home countries through remittances.

The United States and other opponents argue that the compact is attempting to “globalize” how migration is carried out at the expense of the sovereignty of individual countries, and is trying to make new international law. Supporters counter that the compact is non-binding and every country remains sovereign and in charge of its borders and migration policy.

The 34-page compact addresses all aspects of migration — why people leave their home countries, how to protect them, integrate them and cooperate in returning them home safely. Its principles include recognizing the sovereignty of nations and reaffirming that migrants have the same human rights as all other people that “must be respected, protected and fulfilled at all times.”

The compact has 23 objectives “for safe, orderly and regular migration” that seek to boost cooperation in managing legal migration and discourage illegal border crossings. These range from technical issues like collecting data, ensuring migrants have proof of their legal identity, and promoting faster and safer transfer home of earnings by migrant workers, to such matters as preventing and eradicating trafficking, providing access to basic services for migrants, and using migration detention “only as a measure of last resort.”

Before the vote, General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa called the compact “a historic opportunity to cooperate, exchange good practices and learn from each other so that migration, a phenomenon that has marked the history of humanity, benefits all of us.”

“Who can be against guidelines that strengthen the fight against migrant trafficking and human trafficking?,” she asked, stressing that “no state, as powerful as it may be, is able to resolve alone the challenges of international migration.”

By contrast, Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, whose country’s right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban is vehemently opposed to migration, warned the assembly that approving the “unbalanced, biased and extremely pro-migration” compact would be “a serious mistake.”

“This document describes migration as if it would be the best thing what (cq) has ever happened to humanity,” he said. “But this is not true. Migration is a dangerous phenomenon” that has destabilized countries of origin and transit and “put enormous security risk on countries of destination.”

Szijjarto said Hungary is also concerned “that this document will contribute to launch new massive migratory flows all around the world, which will put enormous risk around the globe.” The assembly chamber remained silent after Szijjarto’s speech but after Philippines Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. spoke out in strong support of the compact, diplomats burst into loud applause.

Locsin stressed that “the compact does not derogate one iota from sovereignty, but it reveals sovereignty’s fundamentally moral nature.” “A key aspect of sovereignty is the care states must take of people inside them, even if they are on the move from countries of origin through countries of transit to where they finally end up to be welcomed or booted out,” he said.

Locsin said the compact “merely speaks truth to sovereign power and reminds it of its moral aspect.” And it mildly suggests “what might be done out of decency about the problems encountered by migrants. It does not tell states what to do,” he said.

Locsin said that “Western countries would be cesspools without migrants.” “Migrants are not slaves in transport, but free human beings on the move, with more courage to improve their condition aboard, than … to persist in the wretched places they must flee or perish,” Locsin said. “Sometimes the needs of state and migrants overlap, sometimes not.”

The drafting process for the global compact was launched after all 193 U.N. member states, including the United States under President Barack Obama, adopted a declaration in 2016 saying no country can manage international migration on its own and agreed to work on a pact.

But the United States under President Donald Trump pulled out a year ago, claiming that numerous provisions in the compact were “inconsistent with U.S. immigration and refugee policies.” After lengthy negotiations on the often contentious migration issue, 192 countries unanimously agreed on the 34-page compact in July — every member of the U.N. General Assembly except the United States, which boycotted the meeting.

But in recent months, opposition to the compact has grown, reflected in the lower number of countries approving the compact in Marrakech and voting “yes” on Wednesday. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Veprek reiterated U.S. opposition, telling the assembly Wednesday that the United States honors the contributions of immigrants who helped build the country, but “we cannot support a compact or process that imposes, or has the potential to impose, international guidelines, standards, expectations or commitments” that might constrain government decisions, especially on security of borders and who to admit.

Talks adopt ‘rulebook’ to put Paris climate deal into action

December 17, 2018

KATOWICE, Poland (AP) — Almost 200 nations, including the world’s top greenhouse gas producers, China and the United States, have adopted a set of rules meant to breathe life into the 2015 Paris climate accord by setting out how countries should report their emissions and efforts to reduce them.

But negotiators delayed other key decisions until next year — a move that frustrated environmentalists and countries that wanted more ambitious goals in light of scientists’ warnings that the world must shift sharply away from fossil fuels in the coming decade.

“The majority of the rulebook for the Paris agreement has been created, which is something to be thankful for,” said Mohamed Adow, a climate policy expert at Christian Aid. “But the fact countries had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the finish line shows that some nations have not woken up” to the dire consequences of global warming as outlined in a report by the U.N Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC.

Officials at the talks, which ended late Saturday in the Polish city of Katowice, agreed upon universal rules on how nations can cut emissions. Poor countries secured assurances on financial support to help them reduce emissions, adapt to changes such as rising sea levels and pay for damage that has already happened.

“Through this package, you have made a thousand little steps forward together,” said Michal Kurtyka, a senior Polish official who led the talks. While each country would likely find some parts of the agreement it did not like, he said, efforts were made to balance the interests of all parties.

“We will all have to give in order to gain,” he said. “We will all have to be courageous to look into the future and make yet another step for the sake of humanity.” The talks took place against a backdrop of growing concern among scientists that global warming is proceeding faster than governments are responding to it. Last month, a study found that global warming will worsen disasters such as the deadly California wildfires and the powerful hurricanes that have hit the United States this year.

The recent report by the IPCC concluded that while it’s possible to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial times, doing so would require a dramatic overhaul of the global economy, including a shift away from fossil fuels.

Alarmed by efforts to include that idea in the final text of the meeting, the oil-exporting nations of the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait blocked an endorsement of the IPCC report midway through this month’s talks. That prompted uproar from vulnerable countries like small island nations and environmental groups.

The final text omitted a previous reference to specific reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and merely welcomed the “timely completion” of the IPCC report, not its conclusions. Johan Rockstrom, a scientist who helps to lead the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, called the agreement “a relief.” The Paris deal, he said, “is alive and kicking, despite a rise in populism and nationalism.”

His biggest concern, he said, is that the summit “failed to align ambitions with science, in particular missing the necessity of making clear that global emissions from fossil fuels must be cut by half by 2030” to stay in line with the IPCC report.

Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the talks created “a solid foundation for implementation and strengthening” of the Paris agreement and could help bring the U.S. back into the deal by a future presidential administration.

One major sticking point was how to create a functioning market in carbon credits. Economists believe that an international trading system could be an effective way to drive down greenhouse gas emissions and raise large amounts of money for measures to curb global warming.

But Brazil wanted to keep the piles of carbon credits it had amassed under an old system that developed countries say wasn’t credible or transparent. Among those that pushed back hardest was the United States, despite President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord and his promotion of coal as a source of energy.

“Overall, the U.S. role here has been somewhat schizophrenic — pushing coal and dissing science on the one hand, but also working hard in the room for strong transparency rules,” said Elliot Diringer of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a Washington think tank.

The U.S. is still technically in the Paris agreement until 2020, which is why American officials participated in the Katowice talks. When it came to closing potential loopholes that could allow countries to dodge their commitments to cut emissions, “the U.S. pushed harder than nearly anyone else for transparency rules that put all countries under the same system, and it’s largely succeeded,” Diringer said.

In the end, a decision on the mechanics of an emissions-trading system was postponed to next year’s meeting. Countries also agreed to consider the issue of raising ambitions at a U.N. summit in New York next September.

Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna suggested there was no alternative to such meetings if countries want to tackle global problems, especially as multilateral diplomacy is under pressure from nationalism.

“The world has changed. The political landscape has changed,” she told The Associated Press. “Still you’re seeing here that we’re able to make progress. We’re able to discuss the issues. We’re able to come to solutions.”

Nations at climate talks back universal emissions rules

December 16, 2018

KATOWICE, Poland (AP) — Nearly 200 countries at the U.N. climate talks have agreed upon universal, transparent rules on how nations can cut greenhouse gas emissions and curb global warming, putting the principles of the 2015 Paris climate accord into action.

But to the frustration of environmentalists and a group of countries who were urging more ambitious climate goals, negotiators on Saturday delayed decisions on two other climate issues until next year in an effort to get a deal on them.

“Through this package, you have made a thousand little steps forward together,” said Michal Kurtyka, a senior Polish official chairing the talks. He said while each individual country would likely find some parts of the agreement it didn’t like, efforts had been made to balance the interests of all parties.

“We will all have to give in order to gain,” he said. “We will all have to be courageous to look into the future and make yet another step for the sake of humanity.” The talks in Poland took place against a backdrop of growing concern among scientists that global warming on Earth is proceeding faster than governments are responding to it. Last month, a study found that global warming will worsen disasters such as the deadly California wildfires and the powerful hurricanes that have hit the United States this year.

And a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, concluded that while it’s possible to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial times, this would require a dramatic overhaul of the global economy, including a shift away from fossil fuels.

Alarmed by efforts to include this in the final text of the meeting, the oil-exporting nations of the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait blocked an endorsement of the IPCC report mid-way through this month’s talks in the Polish city of Katowice. That prompted uproar from vulnerable countries like small island nations and environmental groups.

The final text at the U.N. talks omits a previous reference to specific reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and merely welcomes the “timely completion” of the IPCC report, not its conclusions.

Last-minute snags forced negotiators in Katowice to go into extra time, after Friday’s scheduled end of the conference had passed without a deal. One major sticking point was how to create a functioning market in carbon credits. Economists believe that an international trading system could be an effective way to drive down greenhouse gas emissions and raise large amounts of money for measures to curb global warming.

But Brazil wanted to keep the piles of carbon credits it had amassed under an old system that developed countries say wasn’t credible or transparent. Among those that pushed back hardest was the United States, despite President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord and his promotion of coal as a source of energy.

“Overall, the U.S. role here has been somewhat schizophrenic — pushing coal and dissing science on the one hand, but also working hard in the room for strong transparency rules,” said Elliot Diringer of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a Washington think tank.

When it came to closing potential loopholes that could allow countries to dodge their commitments to cut emissions, “the U.S. pushed harder than nearly anyone else for transparency rules that put all countries under the same system, and it’s largely succeeded.”

“Transparency is vital to U.S. interests,” added Nathaniel Keohane, a climate policy expert at the Environmental Defense Fund. He noted that breakthrough in the 2015 Paris talks happened only after the U.S. and China agreed on a common framework for transparency.

“In Katowice, the U.S. negotiators have played a central role in the talks, helping to broker an outcome that is true to the Paris vision of a common transparency framework for all countries that also provides flexibility for those that need it,” said Keohane, calling the agreement “a vital step forward in realizing the promise of the Paris accord.”

Among the key achievements in Katowice was an agreement on how countries should report their greenhouses gas emissions and the efforts they’re taking to reduce them. Poor countries also secured assurances on getting greater predictability about financial support to help them cut emissions, adapt to inevitable changes such as sea level rises and pay for damages that have already happened.

“The majority of the rulebook for the Paris Agreement has been created, which is something to be thankful for,” said Mohamed Adow, a climate policy expert at Christian Aid. “But the fact countries had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the finish line shows that some nations have not woken up to the urgent call of the IPCC report” on the dire consequences of global warming.

In the end, a decision on the mechanics of an emissions trading system was postponed to next year’s meeting. Countries also agreed to consider the issue of raising ambitions at a U.N. summit in New York next September.

Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna suggested there was no alternative to such meetings if countries want to tackle global problems, especially as multilateral diplomacy is under pressure from nationalism.

“The world has changed, the political landscape has changed,” she told The Associated Press. “Still you’re seeing here that we’re able to make progress. We’re able to discuss the issues. We’re able to come to solutions.”

Nations at UN climate talks back universal emissions rules

December 16, 2018

KATOWICE, Poland (AP) — After two weeks of bruising negotiations, officials from almost 200 countries agreed Saturday on universal, transparent rules that will govern efforts to cut emissions and curb global warming.

The deal agreed upon at U.N. climate talks in Poland enables countries to put into action the principles in the 2015 Paris climate accord. But to the frustration of environmental activists and some countries who were urging more ambitious climate goals, negotiators delayed decisions on two key issues until next year in an effort to get a deal on them.

“Through this package, you have made a thousand little steps forward together,” said Michal Kurtyka, a senior Polish official chairing the talks. He said while each individual country would likely find some parts of the agreement it didn’t like, efforts had been made to balance the interests of all parties.

“We will all have to give in order to gain,” he said. “We will all have to be courageous to look into the future and make yet another step for the sake of humanity.” The talks in Poland took place against a backdrop of growing concern among scientists that global warming on Earth is proceeding faster than governments are responding to it. Last month, a study found that global warming will worsen disasters such as the deadly California wildfires and the powerful hurricanes that have hit the United States this year.

And a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, concluded that while it’s possible to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial times, this would require a dramatic overhaul of the global economy, including a shift away from fossil fuels.

Alarmed by efforts to include this in the final text of the meeting, the oil-exporting nations of the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait blocked an endorsement of the IPCC report mid-way through this month’s talks in the Polish city of Katowice. That prompted uproar from vulnerable countries like small island nations and environmental groups.

The final text at the U.N. talks omits a previous reference to specific reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and merely welcomes the “timely completion” of the IPCC report, not its conclusions.

Last-minute snags forced negotiators in Katowice to go into extra time, after Friday’s scheduled end of the conference had passed without a deal. One major sticking point was how to create a functioning market in carbon credits. Economists believe that an international trading system could be an effective way to drive down greenhouse gas emissions and raise large amounts of money for measures to curb global warming.

But Brazil wanted to keep the piles of carbon credits it had amassed under an old system that developed countries say wasn’t credible or transparent. Among those that pushed back hardest was the United States, despite President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord and his promotion of coal as a source of energy.

“Overall, the U.S. role here has been somewhat schizophrenic — pushing coal and dissing science on the one hand, but also working hard in the room for strong transparency rules,” said Elliot Diringer of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a Washington think tank.

When it came to closing potential loopholes that could allow countries to dodge their commitments to cut emissions, “the U.S. pushed harder than nearly anyone else for transparency rules that put all countries under the same system, and it’s largely succeeded.”

“Transparency is vital to U.S. interests,” added Nathaniel Keohane, a climate policy expert at the Environmental Defense Fund. He noted that breakthrough in the 2015 Paris talks happened only after the U.S. and China agreed on a common framework for transparency.

“In Katowice, the U.S. negotiators have played a central role in the talks, helping to broker an outcome that is true to the Paris vision of a common transparency framework for all countries that also provides flexibility for those that need it,” said Keohane, calling the agreement “a vital step forward in realizing the promise of the Paris accord.”

Among the key achievements in Katowice was an agreement on how countries should report their greenhouses gas emissions and the efforts they’re taking to reduce them. Poor countries also secured assurances on getting greater predictability about financial support to help them cut emissions, adapt to inevitable changes such as sea level rises and pay for damages that have already happened.

“The majority of the rulebook for the Paris Agreement has been created, which is something to be thankful for,” said Mohamed Adow, a climate policy expert at Christian Aid. “But the fact countries had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the finish line shows that some nations have not woken up to the urgent call of the IPCC report” on the dire consequences of global warming.

A central feature of the Paris Agreement — the idea that countries will ratchet up their efforts to fight global warming over time — still needs to be proved effective, he said. “To bend the emissions curve, we now need all countries to deliver these revised plans at the special U.N. Secretary General summit in 2019. It’s vital that they do so,” Adow said.

In the end, a decision on the mechanics of an emissions trading system was postponed to next year’s meeting. Countries also agreed to consider the issue of raising ambitions at a U.N. summit in New York next September.

Speaking hours before the final gavel, Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna suggested there was no alternative to such meetings if countries want to tackle global problems, especially at a time when multilateral diplomacy is under pressure from nationalism.

“The world has changed, the political landscape has changed,” she told The Associated Press. “Still you’re seeing here that we’re able to make progress, we’re able to discuss the issues, we’re able to come to solutions.”

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