Glimpses of Kofi Annan’s work for the United Nations and African agriculture

August 20, 2018

 

Amongst the tributes to Ghanaian-born Kofi Annan is one from Alec Russell, the comment and analysis editor of the Financial Times

Kofi Annan, UN secretary-general (1997 to 2006), was at the helm of the UN during the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US, and the subsequent invasion of Iraq by a US-led coalition, which came despite his diplomatic efforts to stave off conflict. His opposition to that war led to a rupture with Washington.

Hella Pick in the Guardian adds that though Annan was by nature a conciliator, a “diplomat’s diplomat”, he also had the courage of his convictions and stuck to his guns even when powerful UN members urged retreat.

“A notable example was his intervention in Baghdad in 1998 to defuse a crisis over UN arms inspections in Iraq, where he went ahead with negotiations, against strong pressure from Washington to stay away; and he spoke out against the US invasion of 2003. Similarly, he defied Britain and the US when he negotiated with Libya to end a security council stalemate over the Lockerbie bombing”.

Alec Russell adds that Kofi Annan was criticised by some when, as head of UN peacekeeping operations in 1994, he was accused of ignoring warnings from his own mission about the impending genocide in Rwanda in which up to 1m people were killed in a matter of months.

He was also in charge of the UN during the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal, a humanitarian programme to relieve the impact of sanctions on ordinary Iraqis that ended in widespread abuse and corruption.

In retirement, he served as a UN special envoy for Syria and sought to intervene in Myanmar where the government has been accused of ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims. 

Less well known were his efforts to improve the efficiency of agriculture in Africa

The Kofi Annan Foundation was set up in 2007 to work for a fairer and more peaceful world. One of its projects furthered his dream, which was, Russell added, to transform the lot of Africa’s smallholders so that the world’s poorest continent could feed itself:

“No farmer went unquizzed as we toured smallholdings on the rust-red earth at a blistering pace”.

Seeing agriculture as crucial to lifting tens of millions out of poverty and contributing to wider development goals, he told the FT in 2011. While much of the continent is amazingly fertile, agriculture has long been hobbled by poor infrastructure and transport, meaning that many countries cannot feed their populations, let alone export. The only way Africa could reduce hunger, he concluded, was by increasing food production:

“Africa imports $75bn worth of food each year. For a continent with all the land we have, it’s just intolerable.” Annan urged the US and Europe to remove farm subsidies to help African farmers compete on a level playing field. More detail in a report from a 2017 Malawian newspaper here.

Annan also spearheaded the fight against the HIV/Aids epidemic, which was particularly severe in his own continent and he championed the Millennium Development Goals designed to prod governments into reaching minimum standards of health, education and gender equality.

In 2000, a report from an independent commission chaired by Ingvar Carlsson found the UN culpable of weak management and oversight during his time in charge – a time when it was overstretched due to America’s failure to pay its dues. But as the late John Ferguson said in his highly recommended book, Not Them But Us: In Praise of The United Nations:

ferguson 2 not them but us cover (2)“People tend to talk about the UN as `them’. But the UN is not `them’; it is `us’. The UN has no existence apart from the nations which compose it. The Secretary-General and his staff are there to fulfil the decisions of the nations, no less and no more.

“U Thant, the first Asian to hold that office, wrote in his memoirs: `There is a widespread illusion that the Secretary-General is comparable to the head of a government. He is often criticized for failure to take an action – when over 130 sovereign member states collectively fail to act.

“The plain fact is that the United Nations and the Secretary-General have none of the attributes of sovereignty and no independent power.’ So if you hear anyone saying `The UN has failed,’ say to them, `I’m glad you admit your failure. Now what are you going to do about it?” We are the UN; its failures are our failures and its successes are our successes . . . “

 

 

 

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George Macpherson: “Can Britain convert its ‘fighting force’ into a ‘force for nonlethal defence and law enforcement’?”

July 13, 2018

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An extract from an article by George Macpherson

Our ‘national defence’ forces do a lot of good: let’s keep them.

We are not against men and women in uniform – simply against the violence that is a small part of their existence. There are so many ‘better things to do’ that, in the long term, are less expensive.

  • Our politicians, influenced strongly by arms manufacturers, allow war while, personally, keeping away from any battlefield.
  • Every missile, mine, lethal drone, bullet and bomb exported supports our treasury and pension funds.
  • Our children are brought up to admire military exploits and stories of valour.
  • We celebrate our assassins and condone distant killing by remote control.

Can Britain, also, convert its ‘fighting force’ into a ‘force for nonlethal defence and law enforcement’?

This is a suggestion as to how – by keeping: the command structure; the recruitment; the excellent training in so many artisan and technical skills; the great engineering ingenuity; the communications excellence; the medical expertise; the pomp and pageantry; awards for bravery; the camaraderie and team spirit; the career structure; the overseas bases to meet emergencies; the sporting teams and the rules of conduct.

In my experience, all these existing things are not to be much bettered –I served three years in the RAF in the 1950s. Since then I have worked for other large organisations, but the RAF was outstanding in its procedures, humanity and efficiency.

Let us redefine the role of our military services and leave out weapons of war, mass destruction and combat. Instead, let’s expand into the design and development of nonlethal defence equipment for emergency use against crazed violence, criminal acts and despotic rulers.

Let’s refine prevention nets, vehicle cripplers, darting, Tasers, anaesthetic gases and, of course, digital intelligence to predict future incidents and prevent them.

Let’s redirect our spending towards, for example, disaster relief; housing and services; renewable energy; rapid response to pandemics; the United Nations and international law and order; and environmental conservation.

Read the complete article here: https://thefriend.org/magazine/issue/7600

 

Note that the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) has adopted a non-lethal strategy in along the border with Bangladesh. The force uses arms only for self-defence and fires weapons which are non-lethal.

 

 

 

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IALANA’s work includes developing mechanisms for the peaceful settlement of international disputes

May 3, 2018

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The International Association Of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA) attended the  UN’s second Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (23 April -4 May 2018) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Its presentation on the nuclear arms race may be read here:  https://www.ialana.info/2018/04/nuclear-arms-racing-is-antithetical-to-the-npt/.

The Chair-designate of the first session is Ambassador Adam Bugajski of Poland (right). Read more here.

IALANA is an international association of lawyers and lawyers’ organisations working for the elimination of nuclear arms, the strengthening of international law and the development of effective mechanisms for the peaceful settlement of international disputes.

  • Founded in 1988 in Stockholm IALANA has grown into a fully-fledged international citizens’ organization with consultative status with the United Nations. IALANA has also expanded its scope of action to include:
  • efforts to abolish all types of inhumane weapons and to control the international arms trade,
  • advancing concepts of security based on the application of law and legal mechanisms, development of non-offensive defence and implementation of confidence building measures,
  • encouraging the establishment and use of the International Criminal Court and other legal procedures to address crimes against international humanitarian law.

IALANA has affiliates all over the world including: Costa Rica, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, Switzerland, and the United States of America. Its international offices are in Berlin, Germany (Head Office), Auckland, Aotearoa/New Zealand (Pacific Office) and New York (United Nations Office)

 

 

 

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The journey into world disorder: 14 years later – a downward spiral?

January 23, 2018

Extracts from the introduction*: Martin Bell writes

“This is a time for storm warnings if ever there was one. Some of those storms, of war and terrorism, are already breaking over us. We worry ourselves to bits about little and local issues ­footpaths, flight paths, career paths and the like, as if the conditions of peace and freedom, on which our societies depend for their normal functioning, are natural entitlements, which can safely be taken for granted  . . .

It is when war becomes a local issue that we really will have something to worry about. And it is worth remembering that in the end war always is a local issue, claiming individual lives in specific places. It is the trench or cellar or street or field where its victims, soldiers or civilians, breathe their last. It is the pilot who says, `I didn’t know who was there. I really didn’t care. You fall totally into execute mode and kill the target‘ . . .

“If we don’t blow ourselves into oblivion the quest for regime change, or whatever other military adventures attract our leaders, and if we don’t continue to go to war for its own sake, then future generations will look back on life in the Western democracies at the start of the twenty-first century, at least until 11 September 2001, as a sort of golden age, or fools’ paradise – depending on the strength of the hostile forces ranged against us.

From where I have been and what I have seen, my antennae tell me that the fools’ paradise theory is very much nearer the mark. The Second Gulf War, an exercise of raw power that applied the values of the Wild West to the relations between states, has sharpened the edge of the argument . . .

“We share with creatures who are in every respect less destructive than we are. With a few exceptions, the fiercest predator or venomous reptile kills only one at a time, for food or in self-defence, and is benign in relation to man.

“We kill our own more than any other species on earth, and we do it to the point of genocide. In the ratio of civilian to military casualties, the wars in the collapsed states of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have mocked the Geneva Conventions and victimized the innocent to an unprecedented degree.

“Weapons of mass destruction proliferate – and not only those in the hands of sovereign or rogue states. A passenger jet flown into a skyscraper is as much a weapon of mass destruction as a nuclear warhead. So is a sea mine rolled downhill into a village, or a 500 pound aircraft bomb bolted to a rocket and fired into a crowded city centre, or a mortar bomb aimed at a market place. These are not imagined examples. I have seen their effects at first hand  . . . 

“The Cold War was safer than this . . .

“Our way of life is defended by new and ever more ingenious ways of death. The sole remaining superpower seeks out its enemies and blasts them with the firepower of its missiles, drones, long-range bombers and carrier-based aircraft. By answering terror with counter-terror, it bids for the status of the world’s most hated nation. Too bad about the collateral damage and the needless taking of life. The higher the warplanes fly, the harder it is for their pilots to distinguish between a friend and a foe, an allied and an enemy reconnaissance vehicle (Iraq), a tank and a tractor (Kosovo), a terrorist cell and a wedding party (Afghanistan). The mark of Cain is upon us . . .

Language is another casualty

“When we speak of degrading an enemy’s assets, what we actually mean is killing people – the unarmed and the armed, the innocent and the guilty, blown to bits in the same high-explosive inferno. The same applies to `blue on blue’ or ‘friendly fire’ – the code for attacking our allies. Power and ignorance, like officers and maps, are a dangerous combination . . .

“The United Nations, the last best hope of mankind, is a forlorn cave of winds on New York’s First Avenue – invoked (when it is convenient to do so and bypassed when it isn’t

“The most vital issues of war and peace are resolved in something close to a state of anarchy. The rule of international law is whatever the White House, with an obedient echo from Downing Street, says that it is in the New American Century. ‘If we need to act we will act,’ said President Bush, `and we don’t need the approval of the United Nations to do so’ . . .

The war in Iraq, waged without a specific or sufficient United Nations mandate, was the sort of imperial enterprise that, in the sweep of history, belonged more to the nineteenth than the twenty-­first, century. It was gunboat diplomacy, conducted not with ships’ cannons, but with all the weapons of mass destruction that at the science of the new millennium can procure . . .

Our media, which should be informing us, are instead turning out the light and joining the stampede from reality in the blind and mad pursuit of commercial advantage, of profit without honour.

“The culture of celebrity, like an army of ants, has colonized the news pages both tabloid and broadsheet . . . Television is the god that failed . . . It has not yet become the worst that it can be, but it is working hard on the project and is still on a downward trajectory. Just when you think it has hit the bottom, it finds new depths to plumb.

“The outcome is that it serves us less as a window on the world than as a barrier to it. Its screen is only a screen in the original sense – something that blocks our view of what lies on the other side of it . . . and then, because we find these things strangely unreal (and they have already been censored by the `good taste brigade’ of broadcasting to stop them upsetting us too much), we take refuge in `reality TV’ and the bromides of Big Brother.

“Our reach has exceeded our grasp. Something is seriously out of joint. We are left with no heroes, but only celebrities. We need a survival strategy, but seem to lack enough of what it takes to put one together: understanding, courage, compassion, common sense, connectedness, care for each other, steadiness under fire and memory. 

“What follows is a journey through the new world disorder Better fasten your seat belts. This could be a rough ride.”

 

 

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*THROUGH GATES OF FIRE – A journey into World Disorder, by Martin Bell, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003


”The fruit of war: hate, death, vendetta”

November 7, 2017

 

Reuters reported in April that Pope Francis advocated conflict mediation by a third country like Norway between the United States and North Korea. A third country, Pope Francis said, could “cool a situation” that had become “too hot.”

As armed conflicts rage across the world in numerous countries, and amid rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, a reader sent a link to Pope Francis’ call for an end to “useless massacres” in an emotional anti-war homily at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Italy, where nearly 8,000 World War II soldiers are buried: “Please Lord, stop. No more wars.”

He told several thousand people that he believed the world was heading into what could be its biggest war yet, according to Reuters. Commemorating the young soldiers who died in World War II was of particular significance today, he said, because “the world once more is at war and is preparing to go even more forcefully into war.”

Associated Press reported that before visiting the U.S. military cemetery Francis warned that “humanity risks suicide” with the increased danger of nuclear war between the United States and North Korea.

As part of the Vatican’s efforts to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons, the Vatican will host a two-day conference starting Nov. 10 of several Nobel peace laureates, international ambassadors and representatives from NATO and the United Nations.

Francis will address the conference on its opening day, and speakers will include Masako Wada, a notable disarmament activist who survived the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan. Other speakers include Mohamed El Baradei, the former head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency, and Rose Gottemoeller, an American diplomat and NATO’s deputy secretary-general

The governments of China, Japan, and South Korea have also called for restraint in the midst of Trump’s handling of the crisis with North Korea, urging him to call Kim to the negotiating table.

President Trump has responded to Kim’s recent missile launches and nuclear tests by threatening the isolated country with “fire and fury” and saying he would “totally destroy” North Korea, home to 25 million civilians, if the nuclear activity continued. In light of Trump’s rhetoric, Pope Francis said in his speech, “the world once more is at war and is preparing to go even more forcefully into war.” He added that “humanity must not forget” the suffering of those who have lost loved ones to war. “Humanity has not learned the lesson and seems that it does not want to learn it,” he said.

In the visitors’ book at the cemetery, he wrote, “This is the fruit of war: hate, death, vendetta. Forgive us, Lord.”

 

 

 

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The overriding moral imperative: to avoid war

August 20, 2017

In the Financial Times recently Dr Jenny Clegg wrote: “The overriding moral imperative has to be to avoid war. The preservation of the international multilateral system requires it”.

She added, “Britain is in a position to exercise some influence here . . . At the moment, other world leaders are calling for calm, with German chancellor Angela Merkel saying clearly that she sees no military solution to the conflict, but we hear nothing from UK prime minister Theresa May”.

Dr Clegg points out that Russia and China have called for North Korea to put its nuclear and missile programmes on hold, while the US and South Korea cease their joint military exercises. The aim is to create an atmosphere more conducive to the resumption of the six-party talks, in line once again with the latest UN resolution.

Two days later, on August 17th, Brian Eno, Bruce Kent, Mark Rylance, Emma Dent Coad and Michael Rosen were among the signatories to a letter calling for Theresa May to exert diplomatic pressure on Donald Trump to de-escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Last November, RAF Mildenhall announced that the Royal Air Force took part for the first time in military exercises on the Korean peninsula alongside the US and South Korean military.

Royal Air Force Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, the RAF chief of air staff; Lt. Gen. Won, In-Choul, the South Korean Air Force Operations Command commander; and Lt. Gen Thomas W. Bergeson, 7th Air Force commander, participated in a media event for Invincible Shield at Osan Air Base, South Korea, Nov. 8, 2016

The civilised echo Dr Clegg’s call: “Will Theresa May now take the step to support the “freeze for freeze” by ruling out committing any armed forces, including for joint exercises, in the region?”

Dr Jenny Clegg (Chorlton, Manchester, UK) is a senior lecturer in Asia Pacific Studies at the University of Central Lancashire. She first visited China in the 1970s and has followed developments there closely ever since. Her published work includes ‘China’s Global Strategy: towards a multipolar world’ (Pluto Press, 2009), and ‘Fu Manchu and the ‘Yellow Peril’: the making of a racist myth’ (Trentham Books, 1994). She has produced a number of publications on China’s rural reforms as well as foreign relations.

 

 

 

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Japan’s closely monitored peacekeeping mission in South Sudan

July 28, 2017

The Japanese public supports the country’s ‘peace constitution’ and is keenly aware of any breach of its terms. At present they are scrutinising the role played by the 350-strong contingent of Japan’s Self-Defense Force, which was based in Juba after fighting in the area had halted and a UN peacekeeping force was in place – a precondition for the SDF’s participation. Its mission was to build infrastructure and be responsible for engineering and construction in the capital.

United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) peacekeepers from Japan assemble a drainage pipe at Tomping camp, where some 15,000 people who fled their homes following recent fighting are sheltered by the United Nations in Juba.

Its mission ended at the end of May this year after facing public criticism because the second contingent was allowed to guard UN bases, mount rescue missions and escort U.N. staff and personnel of non-government bodies (NGO). Though this was in line with a security law passed in 2015 that expanded the SDF’s overseas role, critics say it is weakening Japan’s war-renouncing constitution.

Defence Minister Tomomi Inada, who earlier rejected opposition calls to resign because she refused to describe the conflict as “fighting” has been questioned, as part of an ‘internal probe’, about the Ground Self-Defense Force troops’ activity logs.

The logs — which initially were said to have been discarded by the Ground Self-Defense Force but had actually been preserved by them – described tense moments last summer in South Sudan. Fuji News Network reported it has obtained “handwritten notes” of a Feb. 13 meeting, taken by a senior Defense Ministry official, that showed Ms Inada was informed by a senior Ground Staff Office member of the existence of the logs’ digital data. She denied an allegation that she endorsed a decision by the ministry and the Ground Staff Office to keep GSDF’s retention of the logs from the public.

The logs had been kept on the computer of the Self-Defense Forces Joint Staff Office but immediately after the announcement the GSDF erased the data it had in its possession, at the instruction of a top official of the GSDF staff office, according to government sources.

This was controversial information that could have affected a parliamentary debate on whether to give the GSDF members new, and possibly riskier, roles during the U.N. peacekeeping operation, in line with the country’s security legislation that took effect in March last year.

On Friday 28th July Ms Inada resigned.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters at his residence in Tokyo today that Japan would continue providing development aid to South Sudan.

If even 10% of Britain’s population scrutinised the country’s defence operations in this way its foreign policy might take a very different course.

 

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