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United Nations Week – 7/19/10

July 19, 2010

By John and Douglas Carey, Editors – www.unweek.blogspot.com

Outline for this issue: protection of women; protection of Taliban and Al-Qaida suspects; UN gears up to draft an arms trade treaty.

Protection of women.

On July 2nd the Secretary-General hailed as “truly a wonderful day” the Assembly’s establishment of “UN Women,” “bringing together four parts of the United Nations system dedicated to women’s issues.” Mr. Ban said he would like “to thank the wonderful staff of Division for the Advancement of Women, the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), the Office of the Special Advisor on Gender Issues, and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) for their great efforts on women’s issues, and their work in preparing for the establishment of the new gender entity.” SG/SM/12990-GA/10960-WOM/1805.

“We will work to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible while the staff of the four existing entities continue to perform their usual functions. As you know, the new resolution has established the post of an Under-Secretary-General to head the new entity, and I am working to identify the most suitable candidate. Until the post is filled, I have asked the Deputy Secretary-General, Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro, to guide the transition process.”

Before the Assembly vote, Migiro told the press that eight countries had already recommended candidates to head UN Women, whose creation had taken four years to negotiate and which would carry out both normative and operational activities, unlike UN funds, programs and agencies, which tended to be mostly operational.

Two serious women’s issues that the UN might someday confront are: female genital mutilation (FMG) and clothing covering the face. FMG is a hideous custom in various countries, and the cutting is normally performed by women. Read up on it and see what torment a society can condone out of sheer habit supposedly not compelled by religious beliefs.

The French National Assembly on July 13th approved 335-1 a ban on burqa-style veils. The legislation goes to the Senate in September and, if adopted there, may be held unconstitutional. About 4 million out of France’s 64 million people are believed to be Muslims. Anyone convicted of forcing someone else to wear the garb could get a year in prison and a $39,000 fine.

Spain and Belgium have similar laws in the works.

Protection of Taliban and Al-Qaida suspects.

          The new Ombudsperson of the Security Council’s 1267 Committee, Kimberly Prost, said on July 15th that she would address serious concerns about due process and that her office would have a stand-alone website, a public email address and simple, straightforward submission procedures for petitioners. She said she hopes to meet with petitioners’ representatives, particularly in countries where access was problematic.

          Thomas Mayr-Harting of Austria, Chair of the 1267 Committee, said it is “the mother regime of all sanctions regimes,” in which lack of due process is most criticized in court. He hopes the new office will be effective in strengthening due process and the rule of law.

UN gears up to draft an arms trade treaty.

After years of protracted talks, the United Nations is finally set to begin intergovernmental negotiations on a legally binding treaty to regulate the sale of conventional arms and help keep them from ending up in the wrong hands.

“Questions surrounding the global weapons trade have been a priority since the creation of the League of Nations [and] Member States are now ready to begin the exercise that will set common guidelines for the sale, import and export of conventional arms,” said Roberto García Moritán, Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty.

He said the negotiations on the elements of the long-in-gestation accord, which would govern the sale of fighter planes, unmanned aerial vehicles, missiles, and light weapons, among other arms, was set continue through 23 July, with the proposed treaty finally being adopted by a Conference of States Parties in 2012. 

The arms trade treaty would not contradict the United Nations Charter’s edict (Article 51) on the use or purchase of weapons for national defense, internal security or UN peace operations, he continued. 

As for those who defended the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, he said the purpose of the proposed arms trade treaty was not to disarm anyone, prohibit sales or hinder national decisions on how weapons were handled, but to ensure common international import and export standards.

That’s all for this July 19th issue of United Nations Week: News and Views. We’ll be back with the next issue. Meantime, if you would like to see the YouTube version, just email a request for the URL. And do send along your comments to www.unweek.blogspot.com

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