Peacekeeping is far less costly than war—the 2012-13 United Nations peacekeeping budget was less than half of one percent of the world military expenditure in 2010. Already with 15 peace operations around the world, UN peacekeeping continues to be in high demand. Yet, as economies struggle to fully recover from the global financial crisis, countries that pay more of the peacekeeping budget have let the UN Secretariat know that it will have to “do more with less,” meaning the number of missions and tasks for peacekeepers will increase, but without a commensurate increase in resources.
Comparatively little research has been done on key questions of peacekeeping finances, such as, how is peacekeeping funded? Which countries foot the bill, and how does that affect peacekeeping policy? And importantly, in a time of great demand for UN peacekeeping, are the peacekeepers currently being forced to “do more with less?”
How is peacekeeping funded, and how does that affect peacekeeping policy?
The UN peacekeeping budget is estimated at $7.3 billion for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which is less than half of one percent of world military expenditure in 2010. As of June 30, 2012, the most expensive missions as a percentage of the total UN peacekeeping budget are UNAMID (22.9%), MONUSCO (20.1%), MINUSTAH (10.8%) and UNMISS (9.2%).
While troop contributions to UN peacekeeping missions are purely voluntary, all member states must pay assessed contributions. UN peacekeeping is financed by a scale of assessments reviewed every three years. The peacekeeping scale of assessments is based on a complicated formula that takes into account the relative economic wealth of member states and roles in the UN Security Council, among other things. Discounts are provided to developing states, the costs of which are then absorbed by a surcharge on the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (P5). The P5 are required to pay this premium because of their “special responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.” The Security Council’s P5 are all among the top ten financial contributors.
States such as the US, Japan, and the UK are traditionally classified as “financial contributors” as they provide higher assessed contributions to the total UN peacekeeping budget (and not necessarily many troops). The assessment level for the United States, at 28.3626% in 2014, around US$2.1 billion, is the highest. States such as Nigeria, India, and Pakistan are often classified as “troop contributors,” providing larger troop and police contributions to UN peacekeeping missions, are assessed at a lower assessment rate (some major troop contributors are assessed the minimum rate of 0.0001%).
UN negotiations on peacekeeping increasingly divide along “troop contributor” and “financial contributor” lines, and the two groups have very little overlap – in 2013, not one top 15 financial contributor is also a top 15 troop-and-police contributor. This particular dynamic is said to have had a polarizing effect on peacekeeping policy negotiations, as these two groups may have different interests. China (19th largest troop-contributor country) and Brazil (20th) may be the member states with some claim to both categories, as they also pay the 6th and 26th highest assessment rates, respectively.
When women peacebuilders working in local communities wanted to bring in men to participate in gender-sensitive conflict resolution, no one listened at first, said Isabelle Geuskens, Executive Director of the Women Peacemakers Program. "We were not really listening, because we felt women's empowerment is about women!" But, she said, the women were concerned that "the men are dismissing [UN resolution] 1325 and gender as a women's issue."
"And men are still not understanding the gendered nature of violence and armed conflict," she said. "So, we started thinking about how can we get more men engaged. We started looking more deeply at the gendered nature of violence, and how masculinity plays a role in this. So, it’s really through the call from women that we started designing what could 'engaging men' mean. But also, what does a gender perspective on war and peace from a masculinities perspective look like?"
Ms. Geuskens said women peacebuilders are often able to avoid thinking in terms of win-or-lose. "They will go more easily into win-win," she said. "[They] don't see compromising as a failure," though she added that not all women bring in a new perspective.
But those who do, she said, "will not separate [peacebuilding] from everyday life issues. So, they will look at the economic factors. They will look at the political factors, of course. But also, do they have access to healthcare?"
However, Ms. Geuskens said good peacebuilding can cut across gender. "I have to say, people come with their hearts, their minds, their skills. They come with commitment. There are difficult conversations, but usually people are quite constructive, and I've seen empowerment happen on both sides... I think human beings tend to be quite alike, if we give them the chance to be."
About UN resolution 1325, which requires parties in a conflict to respect women's rights and to support their participation in peace negotiations and in post-conflict reconstruction, she said, "Implementation is very difficult, because I think we tend to look at change in a very instrumental way. We tend to want to make boxes that we can tick to add more women. But changing the cultures—I'm not just talking cultures in countries of conflict, but actually the cultures all over the world and in institutions that make decisions about war and peace. They haven't fundamentally changed."
"In the end, 1325 I feel is about more than adding women. It’s about the practice and working towards ending wars. And that is about asking critical questions about patriarchy and the way we are dealing with violent conflict."
The interview was conducted by Andrea Ó Súilleabháin, Visiting Fellow at the International Peace Institute.
Andrea Ó Súilleabháin: I'm here today with Isabelle Geuskens, Executive Director of the Women Peacemakers Program in The Hague. Since 2002, the Women Peacemakers Program has provided non-violence training to 1300 people in over 24 countries, from Afghanistan to Cambodia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, with a focus on including women and men in their work toward gender-sensitive peacebuilding.
In addition to this work with peacebuilders around the world, Isabelle is involved in monitoring developments around the Security Council's women, peace and security resolutions and their global implementation.
Isabelle, you’ve said that women are among the first to cross the lines between divided communities. From your extensive work with women peacemakers, what do women add to peace processes in communities and on the national level?
Isabelle Geuskens: First of all, women bring a different perspective. Not always, because women can be patriarchal as well, but many women peace activists don't think necessarily in "win or lose." They will go more easily into win-win. [They] don't see compromising as a failure. I'm not saying here, now, that women are natural peacemakers, born like that, but I think there is something in women's socialization process that has contributed to these capacities in women. I think that could also be something for men, because it's obviously related to socialization.
What we've seen in our programs is that women have a much broader concept of what peace and security is. They will not separate it from everyday life issues. So, they will look at the economic factors, they will look at the political factors, of course. But also, do they have access to healthcare? They might even not distinguish so much between what's happening in a so-called peaceful country... they make the link between what happens to them in a peaceful country and conflict countries— so-called [peaceful], because women do experience domestic violence in peaceful countries. Women are afraid to walk the streets at night. So, I think women bring a whole different definition of what peace and security is.
“There's no one single model of democracy, but we can all agree on the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said Alfred de Zayas, the United Nations independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, adding that the modalities of applying the universal declaration "can be country to country adjusted according to the cultural diversity, the traditions of those countries.”
According to Mr. de Zayas, it’s not the label of democracy that is important. “What is crucial is this correlation between the will of the people, the needs of the people, and the governmental policies that affect them.”
He said he has a particular interest in the Switzerland model of direct democracy, “But since democracy is a concept that is new and in certain countries there's no tradition of democracy, you cannot impose it top down…you have to be patient; you cannot force it.”
“I think that all the African countries are making considerable progress toward democracy. It should not come from the West. I really object to the arrogance of some who think that we can export democracy. It must be homegrown so that you own it, so that you feel ‘this is us.’”
Mr. de Zayas believes democracy can help people hold governments accountable for how their national resources are spent. "One of the problems in many countries, unfortunately, is that national resources are being squandered, are being wasted in the military. Most African countries really do not need a large military. They certainly do not need state-of-the-art planes or state-of-the-art tanks and more weapons. It is really a crime to spend tax money instead of putting it into education, putting it into healthcare, to put this money into weapons. That fuels not only wars—that's evident—but it also fuels corruption...When government squanders money, and it does not use it for what the people want and what the people need, then these authorities should be made to account, and there should be no impunity."
Mr. de Zayas believes that the direct democracy model could be applied at a global level. “I believe that a world parliamentary assembly, or if you want, a United Nations parliamentary assembly could be established,” which he said could be linked to the UN charter as a consultative party.
He questioned whether the General Assembly is able to speak for the people. “The General Assembly is made up of a 193 states' members and observer members,” he said. “But who sits in the assembly? It’s governments. It's ambassadors. And to what extent do these 193 ambassadors really represent their constituencies?”
“You know and I know that there is a huge disconnect between power and the people,” he said. He pointed out that many countries are democracies in name but are essentially lobby democracies, “and they cater to special interests, cater to corporations, cater to the oil industry, etc, and they don't really cater to citizen A or citizen B."
"You have the opportunity once every two years or every four years to put a little cross on the ballot box, but democracy is not just the ballot box,” he said.
The interview was conducted by Priscilla Nzabanita, research assistant in the Africa program at the International Peace Institute.
Priscilla Nzabanita: Today on the Global Observatory we are pleased to welcome Mr. Alfred de Zayas, who is independent expert for the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order. Thank you, Mr. de Zayas for agreeing to have this interview with us.
So, my first question for you is that your mandate calls for a broad analysis of obstacles to a democratic and equitable international order. Can you describe what this mandate specifically entails?
Alfred de Zayas: As you know, it's a new mandate. It was created last year, 2012. I am the first mandate holder, so I'm giving it shape. It is a convergence of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. Imagine promoting an international order that is more democratic and more equitable that entails everything. It is the most universal mandate that has ever been created. And I'm supposed to identify obstacles. I have done so in my first two reports to the Human Rights Council, and my separate, different two reports to the General Assembly.
Obstacles, of course, are multiple, and [at] the core of democracy. As I said in the discussion today, there's no one single model of democracy, but we can all agree on the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And the modalities of applying the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be country to country adjusted according to the cultural diversity, the traditions of those countries.
As far as advancing with democratic order domestically, whether it be in Asia or in Latin America or in Africa, it's not the label that is important. What is crucial is this correlation between the will of the people, the needs of the people, and the governmental policies that affect them. That's why I have particular interest in the model of direct democracy, which is the kind of government in Switzerland, for instance, where the population has the right of initiative. With a certain number of signatures, you can initiate legislation. Or you can test legislation that is, or rather a bill, that is before Parliament or even a piece of legislation has been adopted, you can have a referendum to abrogate it. You also have recall and impeachment. These are guarantees that the people are sovereign.
The UN Security Council marked its annual open debate on women, peace and security this month by unanimously adopting a resolution on women’s agency and leadership in conflict prevention and resolution.
Resolution 2122 is the Council’s sixth women, peace and security resolution in six years, yet it is the first since the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000) to substantively address women’s participation in peacemaking. (The previous five centered on the protection aspects of 1325, focusing on sexual violence in conflict.)
While this represents continued progress at UN headquarters across the women, peace and security agenda, the real test will be implementation, and whether the roadmap set by resolution 2122 is followed—particularly between now and the 2015 high-level review of progress on resolution 1325 worldwide.
The UN Security Council recognized the importance of increasing women’s participation in resolving conflict and building peace in its landmark resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, passed in October 2000. The Council urged the secretary-general to appoint more women to senior UN peace-related positions and called on all actors to involve women in decisions when it comes to making peace.
Thirteen years later, in his statement to the Security Council on October 18, 2013, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that he has sought to lead by example in appointing more women to senior positions throughout the UN. Indeed, “for the first time in history, five UN peacekeeping operations are led by women–in South Sudan, Liberia, Cyprus, Haiti, and Côte d’Ivoire.”
But women’s appointments as peace negotiators and conflict mediators have progressed at a slower pace. A study by UN Women of thirty-one major peace processes between 1992 and 2011 found that just 2.4 percent of chief mediators were women. Only slightly more women participated in peace processes as signatories (4 percent) or as part of negotiating delegations (9 percent).
Opinions differ on the pivotal role of sanctions in opening the door to constructive engagement with Iran. Some, like Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his recent speech to the United Nations General Assembly, believe Iran was able “to advance its nuclear weapons program behind a smoke screen of diplomatic engagement and very soothing rhetoric.” Other perhaps more clear-eyed observers interpret Iran’s opening gambit at the Geneva negotiations—a proposal to scale back its existing uranium-enrichment program and allow increased international monitoring—as strong evidence of the coercive—and containing—power of UN targeted sanctions, which have been in place since 2006.
Setting aside decades-long bilateral tensions that bred deep resentments, radicalism, and successive layers of US sanctions, the twin interventions of UN-sanctions and P5+1 diplomacy may serve as a model for future non-military responses to complex geopolitical predicaments. This potential success is now evident in the counterweights that have been put on Geneva’s bargaining table: against the reduction, if not elimination of sanctions, the lead-negotiator for the P5+1, Lady Catherine Ashton, demands the reduction, if not elimination, of Iran’s nuclear program.
Whether the scales will tip towards peace and stability or not will depend on how skillful incremental sanctions relief is bargained against nuclear disarmament. President Hassan Rouhani’s government must be motivated with palatable sanctions relief. At first glance, the menu of “doable” concessions is richer than anticipated. At the top of the list are any targets of UN financial sanctions that could become subject to evidentiary or procedural challenges in the EU High Court. On September 6, 2013, the court announced its decision to annul EU-sanctions against seven companies and an individual because of evidentiary and procedural concerns. The UN should take advantage of an easy opportunity to review and delist cases that might be successfully challenged in EU jurisdictions. Another area of potential sanctions relief could be the splitting off of targeted financial sanctions from the list of individuals under the UN travel ban. Allowing travel while maintaining financial restrictions carries symbolic, personal, and humanitarian benefits. More substantial relief could be granted eventually with the easing of current interpretations of financial and economic restrictions that include targeting exporters of Iranian oil.
Whichever sanctions drawdown options are implemented, the surviving sanctions must remain credible. Monitoring of compliance and the pursuit of potential violators requires equal if not more determination than has been the case so far. Maintaining a robust sanctions regime for as long as possible is important because judging from previous attempts in negotiated settlements, securing Iran’s commitment to reductions of its uranium enrichment, and number of centrifuges under international oversight is the political linchpin.
The August 21 chemical attack in Syria has put the UN Security Council back into the spotlight on this issue, after being virtually paralyzed for more than two years due to the use of the veto by Russia and China. While today’s agreement between the five veto-holding permanent members (P5) to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons gives fresh hopes for a renewed role of the Security Council, the reasons for disagreements remain numerous.
What is, and has been, at the core of the Security Council’s “embarrassing paralysis”—in the words of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon—is the possibility to impose coercive measures on the Syrian government, including the use of force, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Made wary partially by the precedent of resolution 1973 on Libya, which opened the door to military intervention and, eventually, regime change, Russia and China have consistently rejected any resolution referring to Chapter VII. The latest bid to agree on a resolution giving a framework to the US-Russia agreement is no different since, in Western views at least, its viability rests on the credibility of coercive measures including, but not limited to, the use of force—a requirement French President François Hollande reiterated this week.
While the Security Council has been paralyzed for months over Syria, there has been only limited public discourse thus far on the viability of the 1950 “Uniting for Peace” resolution of the UN General Assembly. This resolution, which granted the Assembly a subsidiary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security in case of failure to do so by the Security Council, provides an interesting framework to overcome the paralysis of the United Nations in the Syrian crisis.
The “Uniting for Peace” resolution fell into oblivion for decades partly because it gave too much power to the General Assembly. It entitled this organ to decide by itself when the Security Council had failed its primary responsibility to maintain international peace and security, in contradiction with the UN Charter.
To be constitutionally valid, the procedure envisaged by the “Uniting for Peace” resolution must be triggered by the Security Council, who can refer a matter to the Assembly by a procedural vote requiring 9 out of 15 positive votes without possibility of veto.
A revised “Uniting for Peace” procedure provides a way out of the Security Council’s deadlock in exceptional circumstances—when there is an illegitimate use of the veto right—while preserving the necessary checks and balances against possible abuses, by requiring a qualified majority in both the Security Council and the General Assembly.
The deadlock at the Security Council results in the broader failure of the United Nations to meet its responsibility to maintain international peace and security and address the rapidly evolving crisis in Syria. It is precisely what the “Uniting for Peace” resolution—also known as the Dean Acheson resolution—meant to overcome. It was passed by the General Assembly in 1950 to circumvent the blockage of the Security Council in the conflict in Korea, owing to an obstructionist policy by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) that systematically used its veto. However, this resolution—which resulted in the General Assembly authorizing and legitimizing the use of force in Korea through a nonbinding recommendation—has largely fallen into oblivion since then.
In a recently published legal article in the Journal of Conflict and Security Law, Andrew Carswell makes a strong argument for reviving the “Uniting for Peace” resolution as a means to overcome the Security Council’s deadlock by giving the legality and international legitimacy necessary to potential coercive measures. According to Carswell, “the short life of the resolution…can be attributed to the fact that it went too far when it purported to bestow upon the Assembly a role that usurped the primacy of the Security Council.” In other words, the legality of this resolution was in question not because it granted the Assembly a subsidiary role for the maintenance of international peace and security when the Council had failed to exercise its primary responsibility in that respect, a possibility implicitly envisaged in the UN Charter. Rather, its legality was doubtful because the Assembly arrogated to itself the power to decide whether the Security Council had failed to fulfill its responsibility. This potential for undermining the veto power of the P5 is what explains that it eventually fell out of favor.
When the current Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was the United Nations ambassador, he “never suffered fools,” said Edie Lederer, the Associated Press chief correspondent at the United Nations. Ms. Lederer said, “you could often find him standing at the bar chatting on his cellphone and talking to people, ordinary people. But when it came to business, Sergei Lavrov was all business.”
In this interview with the Global Observatory, Ms. Lederer recalled stories of diplomats who have come through the UN and insights about the institution formed over her 15 years (and counting) on the job.
Ms. Lederer remembered France’s Jean-David Levitte as “a masterful diplomat” when France took on the fight against the United States and its allies during the run-up to the Iraq war; and Danilo Turk, who was the first ambassador to the United Nations from Slovenia after it broke away from former Yugoslavia.
Of John Bolton, the controversial US ambassador who served for 16 months in 2005-6, she said, “He was a fierce conservative, very outspoken, and, while I would say that many of his fellow diplomats were not big fans, the media loved him because he loved to talk to us and he always made news.”
Ms. Lederer has seen many changes in the UN over the years, including the growing economic power of countries such as China, and their corresponding rise in political influence. “When I first arrived, the Chinese ambassadors would almost never talk to journalists,” she said. “Now they do, and we get invited to many events they have. In this new century, they have also become much more outspoken diplomatically, and certainly behind the scenes, they have been key players in areas where they have major interests or investments, including North Korea and many parts of Africa, like Sudan.”
Of Ban Ki-moon, she said, “I think, especially since his re-election to a second five-year term, the secretary-general has been more outspoken, especially on Syria and human rights issues, and less concerned about the views of the five permanent Security Council members—the US, Russia, China, Britain and France—who could have blocked a second term.”
Ms. Lederer also discussed Security Council reform, which everyone wants but has seen little progress, and the challenges facing the UN today. “In my lifetime, the world has become increasingly globalized and interconnected, not just by communications and transport, but culturally, and in so many other ways. And the United Nations remains the only global institution that can deal with an incredibly wide range of issues, from refugees and food shortages to human rights and war and peace, though, I must say, it doesn't always succeed.
The interview was conducted by Warren Hoge, Senior Adviser for External Relations at the International Peace Institute and former United Nations correspondent for The New York Times.
Warren Hoge: I'm here in the Global Observatory with an old friend and a legend in the field of journalism, where I spent four decades. She is Edie Lederer, the longtime chief correspondent of the Associated Press at the United Nations.
Legend did I say? Edie joined the AP in 1966. She was the first woman assigned full-time to the AP staff reporting the Vietnam War, and she went on to cover wars in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Somalia, and the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda.
From her base in London, she also tracked the larger matters of the downfall of communism and the end of the Cold War, and international security issues ranging from population growth to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Since 1998, she has been based at the UN, and I can testify personally to the depth of her knowledge of global diplomacy and the skill and authority of her reporting, because from 2004 to 2008, I was the United Nations correspondent of The New York Times, and saw her in action close up.
Edie, it gives me enormous pleasure to have you here, and I want to chat with you about the United Nations, that iconic building just out the window, just across the street from where we are sitting. First of all, what would you say are the major changes in the UN and in the UN's place in the world since you arrived here to cover it full time 15 years ago?
Edie Lederer: Warren, first I want to say thank you for that lovely introduction. I'm going to go back a little further. During the Cold War, the UN couldn't do much because of the polarization between the former Soviet Union and the United States, the two global superpowers. After the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, suddenly the United Nations became a place where East and West business could come together, and sometimes they did. This has led, for instance, to a dramatic increase in UN peacekeeping operations, where today, over one hundred thousand UN peacekeepers are deployed in sixteen missions across the globe from Haiti to Congo to the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1973 Mideast war. So, since I arrived in 1998, the action at the UN has been a lot busier.
WH: A couple of weeks ago, everyone was saying the UN was excluded, and therefore irrelevant, in the biggest current international crisis. I'm speaking, of course, of Syria. And now, just weeks later, Syria is the central concern of the Security Council, and all eyes are once again on the UN. Is that a pattern you've seen over the years, the UN being counted out, sidelined, and then suddenly coming back to remind people of the importance of its role?
EL: When I arrived at the UN, it was the middle of the crisis over UN weapons inspections in Iraq. And I was also here on 9/11 when, I must say, I recognized the minute the second plane hit the World Trade Center that it was a terrorist attack, and I started calling terrorism experts for comment.
But the biggest and most intense story during my time at the UN was the run-up to the Iraq war, when the British were seeking a UN Security Council resolution to authorize military action, and the French and Russians and many others on the Council were opposed. The British were forced to withdraw their resolution because there was so much opposition.
The US, backed by Britain and a few other countries, then attacked Iraq, claiming justification in previous Council resolutions. But this actually was an example of the United Nations really being totally sidelined. In the case of Syria, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been very outspoken in calling for an end to the fighting from the very beginning and demanding Security Council action. But the UN has been totally sidelined for the two and half years of the conflict because of deep divisions between Russia, which supports Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime and the United States and its western and Muslim allies who support the opposition.
Now, however, suddenly, following the allegations of chemical weapons use in the August 21 attack which killed hundreds of civilians, the UN investigation team and the United Nations are back in the spotlight, and Ban Ki-moon has again been demanding Security Council action—which actually may happen in the coming days. It is not authorizing any kind of military action because the Russians are vehemently opposed, but it will make the US-Russian agreement to put serious chemical weapons stockpile under international control for eventual destruction legally binding, and it will, almost certainly say something about consequences if the Syrians don't comply.
There is a sense of déjà vu on First Avenue in front of the UN Headquarters today. The road blocks, security checks, media vans, motorcades, and overcrowded streets remind us that time of the year has come: the annual opening session of the UN General Assembly. For the occasion, the 68th one in history, the UN secretary-general expects 131 presidents, prime ministers, and rulers to attend—one of the highest numbers in many years. It seems the UN has not fallen into irrelevance after all, and is still a central forum for global dialogue and decision making. Once again, reality has proven wrong all the Cassandras who periodically dismiss the actions of the world body.
Those who criticize this annual gathering as a “circus,” and suggest nothing will be lost if the meeting is skipped altogether, simply miss the point, for two main reasons. Without denying the emptiness of many rambling speeches and unfortunate displays of nonsensical rhetoric by certain heads of state, the General Assembly is a remarkable opportunity to take the pulse of global affairs. The speeches reflect the current mood and tone in international relations.
Second, all the fuss is not really about the fifteen-minute (or longer) speeches that each country’s representative has on the stage of the General Assembly. It is about the opportunity for bilateral meetings. In fact, the dignitaries’ agendas are filled with important one-on-one meetings, which represent the very spine of every country’s foreign affairs. Some foreign ministers claim that this week in New York saves them a month of travel to capitals around the world (and the taxpayers’ money to go with it). Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted last year, “If you sit in the Vienna Cafe in the UN North Lawn building for an hour or two, you meet most of the FMs that count in the world today.”
So, what is new this year? Beside the fact that the opening session will be held in a temporary facility, to the disappointments of many leaders who were counting on a souvenir photo on the famous marble stage of the world assembly, no over-the-top rhetoric will be in display. As the noisiest leaders are either out of power or deceased, and now that President Bashir’s visit seems to be uncertain, the opening session is going to be less flamboyant. For once, conciliatory tones and soft-spoken leaders will make the news. There will be far less walk-outs than seen in the past (US and other Western delegation used to exit the Assembly during the most provocative speeches).
All eyes, in fact, will be on the new Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani, who already announced he will use his visit “to present the true face of Iran and to pursue talks and cooperation with the West to end Iran's nuclear dispute.” His new foreign minister, Javad Zarif, a former Iranian ambassador to the UN, has already been working the UN diplomatic body during the past week. In a lunch he hosted last Wednesday for over 100 diplomats, he reaffirmed his credo in multilateralism and Iran’s wiliness to engage with the world.
United States officials have confirmed that the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, submitted a visa request to attend the United Nations General Assembly this week. In 2009 and 2010, the International Criminal Court issued warrants for his arrest, charging him with genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Since 2009, Bashir has openly flouted these warrants, traveling to countries that will have him.
Under the UN-US Headquarters Agreement, the US must grant him a visa to attend the 68th General Assembly. Last week, the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC invited the US to arrest him if he enters its territory, although the US is a non-party. Bashir is presumptively immune as a Representative to the UN, but the ICC statute waives head of state immunity under Article 27, and this would likely apply to a Security Council referral as well. However, it is very unlikely the United States would arrest Bashir on US soil. If he did attempt to come, it is more likely he would be arrested en route, or possibly after he lands but before he goes through US immigration.
Yet, a mechanism that could be quickly employed to prevent Bashir’s attempts to circumvent the ICC is a travel ban under the ongoing sanctions regime against the Sudan. Resolution 1591 (2005) imposed economic sanctions on Sudan, and established a travel ban and asset freeze that requires all states to prevent entry into or transit through their territories of listed individuals. At present, there are four individuals on the list, chosen for their direct responsibility for violations of international humanitarian, human rights law, and other atrocities. Committee rules permit additions to the list.
The Panel of Experts of the Sudan sanctions committee has recommended that Bashir be added to the travel ban list several times. It is clear that the reason he has not been added is political. The Council referred the situation in Sudan to the ICC by Resolution 1593 (2005), nonetheless, some members of the same Council are blocking Bashir’s addition to the travel ban list.
“While there has been quite a lot of progress in women, peace and security resolutions, I think there’s still a long way to go in terms of actual implementation on the ground,” said Gaynel Curry, the Gender and Women’s Rights Advisor for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
"I think the Security Council, in a series of resolutions, brought to light that sexual violence in conflict is indeed a threat to peace and security, and it’s something we need to be focusing a little bit more attention on–particularly in regards to response and services and support to victims, and also accountability for perpetrators," she said.
Ms. Curry led the set-up of the women’s protection advisors (WPAs) in the UN Mission in South Sudan, part of the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1888. When asked in this interview about the challenges facing WPAs, she said that, as with any new mechanism, “there are going to be challenges,” including what she experienced in South Sudan, which was “a lack of understanding of the issue, in terms of the government’s understanding of it, and what we mean by conflict-related sexual violence, and how we ought to be responding."
But problems with understanding the issue can transcend governments. "I think the challenge in terms of understanding the issue has also been within the UN itself. Not that there’s a total lack of understanding, but there’s not always consistency in our understanding."
Ms. Curry said that one of the biggest challenges in implementing the WPAs has been getting all the key partners on board. "It may sound really small, but quite frankly it’s difficult to do this work unless you have your key partners on board, because it’s not entirely human rights, as I mentioned; it’s not entirely gender [rights]."
Ms. Curry said still more steps are needed to address the concerns of women. "For example, at the DDR [disarmament, demobilization and reintegration] .... to what extent are they [women] around the table negotiating, to what extent are their concerns raised when we’re talking about peace negotiations, or peacebuilding? To what extent are we addressing their concerns in terms of reintegration? That’s really challenging when you think of reintegrating a woman or young girl that may have been abducted and placed into forced slavery, sexual slavery by militants. How do you actually reintegrate these women? There’s more work to be done in that area in terms of consistently addressing these issues."
And these questions become broader when considering that grave issues face all women in conflict, “even those women that have not been necessarily abducted or engaged per se in the conflict," she said.
"To what extent do we support them in terms of their loss: loss of partners, loss of funds, loss of breadwinners… They’re still vulnerable, they’re still at a risk of losing their land, because maybe they lost the men in their lives, and traditional communities may not necessarily respect that, respect them or give them equal power around the table in terms of being able to negotiate on these issues or even to maintain their properties.”
Ms. Curry said it’s not enough to just have women at the negotiating table, but their issues need to be on the table as well, because the two are not necessarily the same. “We’ve made some efforts, but we need to see more women consistently leading on these issues,” she said.
The interview was conducted by Mary Anne Feeney, Director of Events at the International Peace Institute.
Mary Anne Feeney: I’m here today with Gaynel Curry, the Gender and Women’s Rights Advisor for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in New York. Ms. Curry recently led the set-up of the women protection advisors in the UN Mission in South Sudan, as well as the rollout of the monitoring, analysis, and reporting arrangements (MARA) in response to conflict-related sexual violence. Gaynel, thank you again for being here today.
Gaynel, you were involved in setting up the first women protection advisors in the UN Mission in South Sudan. Can you tell us the reasoning behind having women protection advisors in a mission, and what is the added value that they bring to the mission’s work?
The International Peace Institute is an independent, international not-for-profit think tank dedicated to promoting the prevention and settlement of conflicts between and within states by strengthening international peace and security institutions. To achieve its purpose, IPI employs a mix of policy research, convening, publishing and outreach.