In his anticipated speech at the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is expected to, once more, make a passionate plea for the recognition of Palestine as a full member. Abbas’ ‘landmark speech’ would not be the first time that the President of the Palestinian Authority has lobbied for such a status. In September 2011, the PA’s quest for full recognition was stymied by the Barack Obama Administration, forcing Palestinians to opt for the next best option, a ‘symbolic’ victory at the General Assembly the following year. In November 2012, UNGA Resolution 67/19 granted the State of Palestine a non-member observer status. In some ways, the Resolution proved to be, indeed, symbolic, as it altered nothing on the ground. To the contrary, the Israeli occupation has worsened since then, a convoluted system of apartheid deepened and, in the absence of any political horizon, Israel’s illegal Jewish settlements expanded like never before.
An open letter signed by 700-plus feminist groups and activists sent on Aug. 8 to UN Women, protesting a recently announced partnership between the agency and BlackRock, a United States-based hedge fund, resulted in the cancellation of the arrangement. The letter pointed out that BlackRock personifies “crisis-prone speculation-based capitalism” and that the May 25 joint press releases announcing the partnership by both parties offered no useful or explicit details on what it would accomplish. Such vagueness, the letter writers contended, could give UN Women the appearance of “pinkwashing” BlackRock, since there was no clear benefit for gender equality stated in the partnership goals.
The United States may regard itself as a “leader of the free world,” but an index of development released in July 2022 places the country much farther down the list. In its global rankings, the United Nations Office of Sustainable Development dropped the U.S. to 41st worldwide, down from its previous ranking of 32nd. Under this methodology – an expansive model of 17 categories, or “goals,” many of them focused on the environment and equity – the U.S. ranks between Cuba and Bulgaria. Both are widely regarded as developing countries. The U.S. is also now considered a “flawed democracy,” according to The Economist’s democracy index. As a political historian who studies U.S. institutional development, I recognize these dismal ratings as the inevitable result of two problems.
Several human rights organizations submitted a 31-page complaint to United Nations experts today, alleging that the United States is committing torture and violating the prohibition against racial discrimination by condemning people to death by incarceration through extreme sentences including life and life without possibility of parole (LWOP). The groups, including the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Drop LWOP Coalition and the Abolitionist Law Center, are urging the UN to call for the abolition of all death by incarceration sentences. “Death by incarceration is the devastating consequence of a cruel and racially discriminatory criminal legal system that is designed not to address harm, violence, and its root causes, but to satisfy the political pressure to be tough on crime,” the complaint states.
Claiming that unilateral coercive measures taken by the US and some of its allies against Iran had harmed ordinary Iranians’ rights to employment, health, and food, the UN Special Rapporteur Alena Douhan demanded the withdrawal of all such sanctions immediately and proposed mechanisms to prevent such measures being taken in the future. Douhan’s report on Iran was released on Monday, September 12. Douhan, a professor of international law, told Iranian news website Tehran Times in an interview on Monday that, contrary to claims by countries who pursue such policies, “ordinary people are directly affected by the sanctions.” She also drew attention in the interview to the work the Iranian state was doing for the millions of refugees in the country from Afghanistan and elsewhere.
In a blatant violation of international law and its 1947 hosting agreement, the US government has blocked numerous countries from participating in events at the UN headquarters in New York City. The Biden administration is banning Russian diplomats, while the Trump administration illegally prohibited top officials from Venezuela and Iran. Reuters reported on September 2 that Russia has filed a formal complaint with the United Nations, after the US government has “been constantly refusing to grant entry visas” to Russian diplomats to participate in events at the UN headquarters, Moscow’s ambassador said.
China on Thursday denounced a so-called UN human rights report on China’s Xinjiang region as completely invalid and a political tool serving the US and some Western forces to contain China, and said that it proved the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has descended into the accomplice of the US and some Western forces against developing countries. In response to the so-called “assessment of human rights concerns” in China’s Xinjiang released by the OHCHR on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a press conference on Thursday that the so-called assessment is a patchwork of disinformation and a political tool serving the US and some Western forces to contain China by using the Xinjiang topic.
The fifth round of United Nations talks that began in New York on August 15 and were aimed at securing a UN Ocean Treaty to protect marine life in the international waters of the High Seas has ended in another stalemate, reported The Guardian. The treaty would have established regulations for the protection of biodiversity in two-thirds of the world’s non-territorial waters. “We’re disappointed that governments at the UN did not bring the High Seas Treaty over the finish line this week. However, it has been uplifting to witness the global momentum for ocean action steadily build throughout these negotiations. Communities across the world are asking for decisive ocean action to protect marine life and safeguard the vital role the ocean plays for the climate, global food security and the overall health of our planet.
Sergio de Mellow had spent his UN career in humanitarian efforts, often with the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees and at other times as Special Representative of the UN Secretary General. As an NGO representative to the UN in Geneva and active on human rights issues, I knew him during his short 2002-2003 tenure as High Commissioner for Human Rights. Many of us had high hopes that his dynamism, relative youth (he was 54) and wide experience in conflict resolution efforts would provide new possibilities for human rights efforts. His death along with the death of others who had been Geneva-based was a stark reminder of the risks that exist for all engaged in humanitarian and conflict resolution work.
On Monday, August 8, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held an emergency meeting on the situation in Gaza amid uncertainty around the fate of the truce reached the previous day after three days of Israeli aggression. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland reported during the meeting that in three days, Israel had carried out 147 airstrikes which killed 46 Palestinians, including 16 children, and injured 360 more. In retaliation, Palestinian groups fired over 1,100 rockets, in which a total of 70 Israelis were lightly injured. Wennesland also noted that increased border controls imposed by Israel before the actual bombings started caused a severe fuel shortage in Gaza, leading to power cuts of up to 20 hours a day in the densely populated territory.
The International Decade for People of African Descent (IDPAD) is coming to an end on December 31, 2024; there are 2.5 years left to bring it out of the invisibility in which those who decided to organize it have kept it. This invisibility can be seen by consulting the website of the decade . Each entry occupies barely a page in the 7.5 years of its existence. The way it has been treated is a symptom of a structural racism that refuses to tell its name; for this reason, it has not been able to go beyond the boundaries imposed by the international community, some of whose members have shown real opposition to it, on the pretext that their state is free of racism, even if they concede some racial discrimination, but that is where it ends.
After public outrage over the death of Walker, who was shot 46 times by a group of eight law-enforcement officers, Mayor Daniel Horrigan declared a state of emergency while numerous people have been arrested and charged with serious crimes for merely exercising their democratic rights. Tensions remain extremely high in Akron due to the continuing anger and disgust of the shooting death of Walker. During the July 4 holiday weekend, people poured into the streets prompting police reactions which led to arrests and minor incidents of property destruction. Nonetheless, over the last month there are lingering fears of further social unrest and violence in Akron. A National Night Out event which was scheduled in several districts of the city for August 4 had been cancelled in at least four areas.
In the run-up to August’s United Nation’s 10th Annual Review of the landmark Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a review undertaken every five years, Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s State Department issued a surprising reaffirmation of the U.S. commitment to this treaty and the “ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons.” The NPT, designed to “further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament,” entered into force in 1970 and was extended indefinitely in 1995. It has now been signed by 191 nations, including the U.S. and Russia. If only Blinken’s verbal support for the NPT was U.S. policy, as opposed to wishful thinking or trickery. As treaty signatories and civil society representatives from around the world gather for a month in New York to evaluate the treaty’s implementation, the White House, Congress and military contractors will move ahead on a near $2 trillion nuclear rearmament program euphemistically termed “nuclear modernization.”
On Friday, July 15, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopted the resolution to extend the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) for one year (until July 15, 2023). The vote took place two days after it was postponed by the People’s Republic of China, which wanted additional consultation and significant adjustments to the resolution co-penned by Mexico and the United States. The Black Alliance for Peace welcomed this delay, as well as several of the objections to BINUH’s renewal raised by China and supported by the Russian Federation. In reviewing the terms of BINUH’s renewal, we continue to condemn the UN Mission to Haiti as a foreign occupation and as a violation of the sovereignty of the Haitian people, as we outlined last week in our press release and open letter to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and in our communications to government representatives of China and Russia.
On Wednesday, July 13, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) will vote on an extension of the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Office (BINUH) in Haiti. Since beginning a 2-year term on the UNSC, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) of Mexico has supported U.S.-backed initiatives that would extend BINUH’s occupation of Haiti. Mexico and the United States are “co-penholders” for this process, indicating the leadership role of the Mexican government in bringing forth this year’s UNSC resolution on Haiti. The Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) condemns in the strongest possible terms Mexico spearheading the renewal of the United Nations Integrated Office (BINUH)’s mandate in Haiti. The Haitian people view BINUH’s presence as a foreign occupation that undercuts Haiti’s independence and sovereignty. In solidarity, BAP, along with other civil society organizations, delivered an open letter to President López Obrador deploring Mexico’s role in extending the UN occupation.