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UN Week – 12/27/10

January 14, 2011

by John and Douglas Carey, editors, www.unweek.blogspot.com 

Contents of this issue: voices of a new generation; murder of homosexuals; fairness of Security Council procedures.

Voices of a new generation.

          On December 21st, US Ambassador Susan Rice presided at what she called a “unique event,” an informal Security Counsel meeting with children. She told the young people present and watching around the world that,

“At the beginning of the month, when the United States began our Presidency of the Security Council, we invited anyone, age 13 to 21, from any part of the world, to tell us what they thought was ‘the most vital challenge to peace and security facing your generation.’
          “From December 2 to 14, we received almost 1,000 submissions from young people in more than 90 countries and on every continent. They came in dozens of languages, including all six official languages of the Security Council: English and Chinese, French and Arabic, Russian and Spanish.

They poured in by e-mail, on YouTube, and through Facebook. And some were even written by hand.
          “The responses, as I said, came from every point of the globe, but we heard a striking number of common themes. And I want to just share with you briefly a short sample.

Hani Daou, a 16-year-old from Beirut, Lebanon, wrote: ‘I’ve always asked myself, how does a war last so long? If a dispute was to originate in one generation between two nations, how is it that the same dispute ignites a war nearly 50 years after?’         

“He went on to say, ‘The most vital challenge to international peace and security facing my generation is the inheritance of a hateful outlook toward another culture or population from our previous generation.’         

“Nineteen-year-old Check Wallah wrote from Cameroon, ‘the main goal of every government is to maintain a calm and serene atmosphere both within its borders and beyond. However, a close examination of the issues reveals that the most vital challenge to international peace and security in today’s societies lies in ineffective governance.’         

“Abhishek Anirudhan, who is 15, emailed us from India: “As modern terrorism is continually changing, and is in the hunt for innovative methods of carrying out attacks, propaganda campaigns and the Cyber World is without doubt a new combat zone—and one that terror organizations are striving to take advantage of.”         

“And finally, I’ll just read another one from Janet Bering, a 19-year-old from Houston, Texas, who asked Security Council members this: ‘In the year 2050, how old will you all be?… In the year 2050, I will be 59, and witnessing the most pronounced effects of global warming. Decreasing water availability, desertification of previously arable land, increasingly severe flooding and storms, extinction of potentially economically viable species: all of these are effects of climate change that will directly threaten international peace and security.”

          “The majority of ideas we received came via e-mail, but we also received lots of videos posted on Facebook and YouTube. We’ve compiled a montage that we will play at the end of this session to let you hear some of those voices. I really wish that we had time to discuss all of them. But in the interests of time and focus, we’ve selected just three submissions to play in their entirety. And they’ll serve as the basis for our discussion today.”

Murder of homosexuals.

Also on December 21st, Ambassador Rice stated the following after adoption by the General Assembly of a US-led amendment to a resolution on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions: “Today, the United Nations General Assembly has sent a clear and resounding message that justice and human rights apply to all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation.

          “Several weeks ago, on November 16, the General Assembly’s Third Committee voted by a narrow margin to eliminate any mention of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals from a resolution condemning extrajudicial killing of vulnerable people around the world. The United States fought hard for that reference when it came to a Committee vote, and we lost. As I have said before, I was incensed by that vote.

          “In the weeks following that setback, the United States was proud to introduce an amendment to restore this critical language to the biennial resolution on Extrajudicial, Summary, and Arbitrary Execution before it came for a final vote of the full UN General Assembly. On December 10, at an event marking Human Rights Day, I announced our effort and said, ‘We’re going to stand firm on this basic principle, and we intend to win.’

          “The U.S built a broad coalition of partners and together we galvanized member states to support this effort – and to win. Today, the General Assembly voted by a significant margin, 93 to 55, to approve the U.S.-led amendment and condemn the extrajudicial killing of people around the world due to their sexual orientation.

          “The voices of civil society and human rights defenders around the world have been heard today, and for that my delegation is especially proud. Less than two weeks after we celebrated the 62nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, today’s vote ensures that the principles enshrined in that Declaration are put into practice – and indeed live on – in the 21st Century.”

Fairness of Security Council procedures.

          As Austria prepared to vacate on December 31st its two-year seat on the Security Council, its Permanent Representative, Thomas Mayr-Harting,said that his country’s commitment to the rule of law was shown by its chairmanship of the Council’s “1267 Committee” on persons and entities associated with Al-Qaida and the Taliban.

During Austria’s tenure nearly 500 names had been examined and some 45 people de-listed. There remained 489 list entries, 352 associated with Al-Qaida and 137 with the Taliban. With the establishment of the Office of Ombudsperson for the 1267 Committee, for the first time those wishing to be de-listed received access to an independent institution that would present their cases to the Security Council.

Mayr-Harting questioned the use of listings without time limits, preferring that there be “sunset clauses.” He said that the whole system was under challenge by various courts, especially in the European Union. The whole thing brings to mind the “Attorney General’s List” in the dark days of 1950s America.

That’s all for this December 27th issue of United Nations Week: News and Views. We’ll be back with the next issue. Meantime, do send your own views on these or other UN-related issues to www.unweek.blogspot.com

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