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UNITED NATIONS WEEK – 5/31

May 31, 2010
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Edited by John and Douglas Carey

In this issue: UN peacekeepers recognized; Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty review;assisted suicide, Swiss experience.

The eighth annual International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers was observed on May 28 at Headquarters and many other UN offices around the world. The International Day was established by the General Assembly in 2002 to pay tribute to all men and women serving in UN peace-keeping operations for their high level of professionalism, dedication and courage, and to honor the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace.

One hundred twenty-one peacekeepers who lost their lives while serving with the United Nations in 2009 received posthumously the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal. In addition, this year the United Nations also honored those who died in January and February 2010. Of the 101 fatalities suffered by the UN as a result of the 12 January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, 96 were from the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the biggest single loss of life in the history of United Nations peacekeeping.

Among other tragedies that befell peacekeepers in 2009 were a fatal airplane crash in Haiti and an assault on United Nations staff at a guest house in Kabul. Attacks continued in 2009 and 2010 against peacekeepers in Darfur.

“This year’s commemoration is a sombre one. The past 14 months have been especially deadly for United Nations peacekeeping,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message marking the Day.

“The recent tragedy in Haiti highlights the sacrifice and dedication of UN peacekeepers who deploy around the world — despite the dangers and risks they face — with the common goal of providing a better future for the people in the countries in which they serve,” said Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.

This year’s commemorative ceremonies come at a time when the services of United Nations peacekeepers are in greater demand than ever. There are more than 124,000 peacekeepers, including 100,000 military and police personnel from 115 countries, serving in 16 operations on four continents. This broad-based participation not only bolsters the strength of United Nations operations, but it is also a clear demonstration of widespread respect for, dependence on and confidence in United Nations peacekeeping.

As peacekeeping has grown in size, it has also grown in scope.  Peacekeeping’s traditional role of monitoring ceasefire agreements and borders between sovereign States has evolved to carrying out large-scale multidimensional peacekeeping operations, addressing intra-State conflicts. Many newer missions are mandated to facilitate political processes through the promotion of national dialogue and reconciliation; protect civilians; assist in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants; support the organization of elections; protect and promote human rights; promote reform of the domestic security sector; and assist in restoring the rule of law. OBV/882-PKO/243

Here is a May 8th UN photo of showing officers with the African Union-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) carrying the coffin of a fallen Egyptian colleague in Nyala, Sudan, after he and his convoy were ambushed on May 7th in South Darfur.

This next UN photo, also taken on May 8th, shows a wounded Egyptian UNAMID peacekeeper, also ambushed on May 7th in South Darfur. Two UN personnel were killed and two wounded.

And this photo from April 26th depicts a happier event, the release of two UNAMID peacekeepers, here shown on either side of UNAMID head Ibrahim Gambari. Behind them are (left to right) Michael Fryer, UNAMID Police Commissioner, and Mohammed Yonis, UNAMID Deputy for Operations and Management.

Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty review.

After intense negotiations and, at times, heated controversy, States parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) on May 28th concluded the 2010 Conference to review and advance the 1968 accord with the unanimous adoption of an outcome document that contained steps to speed progress on nuclear disarmament, advance non-proliferation and work towards a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.

In its “conclusions and recommendations for follow-on actions”, the comprehensive text contains a 22-point Action Plan on Nuclear Disarma-ment, outlining concrete steps in the areas of:  principles and objectives; disarmament of nuclear weapons; security assurances; nuclear testing; fissile materials; and other measures in support of nuclear disarmament.

Among other actions, the Conference resolved that the nuclear-weap-on States commit to further efforts to reduce and ultimately eliminate all types of deployed and non-deployed nuclear weapons, including through unilateral, bilateral, regional and multilateral measures. Specifically, the Russian Federation and the US were urged to commit to seeking the early entry into force and full implementation of the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START).

The Conference noted the Secretary-General’s five-point proposal for nuclear-disarmament, including consideration of negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention, and it recognized the legitimate interests of non-nu-clear-weapon States in constraining nuclear-weapon States’ development and qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons and ending the develop-ment of advanced new types of those weapons.

Further, all States agreed that the Conference on Disarmament should immediately establish a subsidiary body to deal with nuclear disarmament within the context of an agreed, comprehensive and balanced program of work. Reaffirming the legitimate interest of non-nuclear-weapon States in receiving unequivocal and legally binding security assurances, the Confer-ence also resolved that the Conference on Disarmament should immediately begin discussing effective international arrangements for such guarantees.

In the area of nuclear testing, the Conference resolved that all nuclear-weapon States undertake to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and recalled the special responsibility of those States to encourage Annex 2 countries — particularly those not party to the Treaty that continue to operate unsafeguarded nuclear facilities — to ratify and sign it. Pending the CTBT’s entry into force, all States would commit to refrain from nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions.

The conclusions also outlined actions to be taken in the areas of nu-clear non-proliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, which, to-gether with nuclear disarmament, constitute the three main pillars on which the Treaty is implicitly balanced.

The Conference encouraged all States parties to conclude and bring into force additional protocols of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as soon as possible and to implement them provisionally pending their entry into force. The Conference underscored the importance of resolv-ing all cases of non-compliance with safeguards obligations in full conform-ity with the Agency’s statute and Member States’ respective legal oblige-tions.

A separate section focused on the Middle East, specifically on implementation of the 1995 resolution on the Middle East, which concerns the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in that region and represents the basis on which the Treaty had been indefinitely extended, without a vote, in 1995. Reaffirming the importance of that resolution, the Conference stressed that it remained valid until its goals and objectives were achieved.

It also recalled the reaffirmation, by the 2000 Review Conference, of the importance of Israel’s accession to the Treaty and placement of all its nu-clear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards. It urged all States in that region to take relevant steps and confidence-building measures to real-ize the objectives of the 1995 resolution.

Towards that goal, it endorsed the convening of a conference in 2012, attended by all Middle Eastern States, on the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction, on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at by States in the region. That conference would take as its terms of reference the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East.     In a section entitled “other regional issues”, the Conference strongly urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to fulfill commitments under the six-party talks, including the complete and verifiable abandonment of all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in accordance with the September 2005 Joint Statement. The country is also urged to return, at an early date, to the Treaty and to its adherence with IAEA safeguards.

Commenting after adoption, many delegates hailed the Conference as a success, given the complexity of the issues and sometimes wide divisions among delegations. They pointed to a more favorable atmosphere for nuclear disarmament amid recent developments between the United States and the Russian Federation, with Brazil’s delegate calling the high-level gathering a “decisive test” to confirm that new trend.

Egypt’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement States parties to the Treaty, said his delegation decided to “take advantage of the emerging goodwill” and considered the document to be a basis for “a deal” in the coming years.

Though imperfect, it could “move us forward on all fronts”, he said.  Progress had been made in adopting an action plan to push towards imple-mentation of the 1995 resolution to establish a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the region.  That would not have been pos-sible without the committed engagement of all States parties and their dedi-cation to pursuing that goal.

Hinting at the sharp debate surrounding the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, the United States representative, while lauding the decision to hold a regional conference in 2012 on issues relevant to that end, also recognized that essential precursors must be in place for its achievement. The United States’ ability to create conditions for success, she said, had been seriously jeopardized with the document’s naming of Israel, which her Government “deeply regretted”.

Assisted suicide, Swiss experience.

According to the summary record of the 13 October 2009 meeting of the Human Rights Committee, CCPR/C/SR.2658, Sir Nigel Rodley, UK member, “said that keeping alive someone whose life was unbearable was an affront to human dignity. However, at the same time, the State had a positive obligation to protect life. According to the albeit scant information available, there was no means of verifying whether suicide candidates had given their consent and, even more importantly, whether they had expressed their wish to die. It was particularly important in the case of persons who were vulnerable and easily influenced, such as minors, but also for the elderly. Often, unfortunately, they had the impression that they were a burden and their family reinforced that idea. It was therefore important to make sure that the decision had been taken freely and that it was really what they wanted. A support mechanism could also be established to encourage the persons concerned to reconsider their decision and to help find other solutions. It must be remembered that people who sought assisted suicide were unable to take their own life; it was therefore likely that they suffered because of that, as well as from being unable to bear living. * * *

“Mr. Leupold (Switzerland) said that the matter of assisted suicide was currently under consideration by the Government. For the time being, it was therefore difficult to take a clear stance on the matter.

“Mr. Schmocker (Switzerland) said that with suicide it was the person concerned who would take the lethal substance whereas, with euthanasia, a third party caused death, and it was therefore no longer a question of assisted suicide. If persons who allowed themselves to die were not capable of discernment and had not given their informed consent and in so doing became instruments, it was tantamount to homicide. There were two aspects of assisted suicide; the health aspect and the criminal one. On the one hand, doctors who prescribed the lethal substance must comply with ethical standards, particularly the guidelines of the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences concerning informed consent. Any violations were punished by the cantonal health authorities. On the other hand, as suicide was a violent form of death, a criminal investigation was systematically opened to verify that conditions relating to informed consent had been complied with.”

That’s all for this May 31st issue of United Nations Week: News and Views. We’ll be back with the next issue. Meantime, do send along your own views on these or other UN issues to www.unweek.blogspot.com

Good-bye for now, and thanks for watching.

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