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UN Week – 8/9/2010

August 15, 2010

by John and Douglas Carey, Editors,

Contents of this issue: Hiroshima 65 years later; business and peace; a continuing horror: female genital mutilation.

Hiroshima 65 years later.

          On Friday, August 6th, Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon spoke at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony. He said that he has “made nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation a top priority for the United Nations – and put forward a five-point plan.

“Our moment has come. Everywhere, we find new friends and allies. We see new leadership from the most powerful nations. We see new engagement in the UN Security Council. We see new energy from civil society. Russia and the United States have a new START treaty. We made important progress at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington last April, which we will build upon in Korea.

“We must keep up the momentum. In September, I will convene a high-level meeting in support of the work of the Conference on Disarmament at the United Nations. We will push for negotiations towards nuclear disarmament. A Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. A Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. Disarmament education in our schools — including translating the testimonies of the survivors in the world’s major languages. We must teach an elemental truth: that status and prestige belong not to those who possess nuclear weapons, but to those who reject them. * * *

“Sixty-five years ago, the fires of hell descended upon this place. Today, one fire burns, here in this Peace Park. That is the Flame of Peace, a flame that will remain lit until nuclear weapons are no more. Together, let us work for that day, in our lifetime, in the lifetimes of the survivors. Together, let us put out the last fire of Hiroshima. Let us replace that flame with the light of hope. Let us realize our dream of a world free of nuclear weapons so that our children and all succeeding generations can live in freedom, security and peace. Thank you. Domo arigato gozaimasu”

Business and peace.

Also on August 6th, Mr. Ban told a group of business leaders in Tokyo that: “Of course, the responsibility for peace lies primarily with Govern-ments.  But, business has a critical role to play. A company’s decisions — on investment and employment, on its relations with communities, on the environment, on security — can create or exacerbate the tensions that fuel conflict, or they can help a country remain at peace.

“The recently released Global Compact guidance on ’Responsible Business in Conflict-Affected and High Risk Areas’ is meant to help bus-iness and all of us negotiate a set of complex issues. * * * Thank you for bringing together Asian business, investors, academia, civil society and Government representatives on such a critical topic.” SG/SM/13047-ECO/183.

A continuing horror: female genital mutilation.

          From time to time, we must face up to the revolting practice of female genital mutilation (FMG). Last November the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) issued a media release which included the following shocking information: “Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is a traditional practice believed to enhance a girl’s beauty, honor, marriageability, social status and chastity. Parents encourage cutting so that the family honor and the girl’s best interest are protected.

          “In the 28 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East where female genital mutilation/cutting is performed, some 130 million girls and women are affected. Prior estimates suggested that 2 million girls undergo the procedure yearly; the new estimate of 3 million does not reflect an increase, but improved data gathering, UNICEF said. * * *

          “In addition to causing severe pain, FGM/C can result in prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility and death. Many girls and women suffer in silence. Because of the private nature of the infliction, it is impossible to estimate the death toll. * * *

          “Laws banning FGM/C exist in a number of countries in Africa and the Middle East, as well as in countries where the issue affects immigrant communities, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and several countries in Western Europe.”

          I have heard it suggested that “female circumcision” is a natural counterpart to male circumcision. The latter has a long history in ancient Israel, the original basis for it, before acquiring religious importance, possibly being to identify friends from foes. What I used to hear as a justification is cleanliness, and indeed today we are told that circumcised men are less likely to pass along HIV/AIDS because the area beneath the foreskin, which is largely removed by the procedure, being warm and moist, can harbor germs in a way that can be avoided by its being open to the air.

          In my view, it is difficult to understand how adults, especially parents, could possibly commit or condone deliberate infliction of enormous suffering on an innocent girl child, normally without anesthetics, held down by her arms and legs as she screams and writhes while the razor blade cuts her most tender and private parts. Do they, like Lady Macbeth, despise “th’ milk of human kindness”? [1]

          That’s all for this August 9th issue of United Nations Week: News and Views. We’ll be back with the next issue. Meantime, do send along your own views on any -UN-related matters, to

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