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Yemen Negotiations Move Ahead Slowly – Postwar Planning Needed

In Being a World Citizen, Children's Rights, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Development, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, Women's Rights, World Law on July 19, 2016 at 4:50 PM

YEMEN NEGOTIATIONS MOVE AHEAD SLOWLY – POSTWAR PLANNING NEEDED

As a result of Saudi bombing raids, Yemen’s underdeveloped socio-economic infrastructure has been largely destroyed. Post-war planning will need to be followed by international aid for development, with post-war socio-economic construction developed on a basic needs approach.

By René Wadlow

Guard sits on the rubble of the house of Brigadier Fouad al-Emad, an army commander loyal to the Houthis, after air strikes destroyed it in Sanaa, Yemen

A guard sits on the rubble of the house of Brigadier Fouad al-Emad, an army commander loyal to the Houthis, after air strikes destroyed it in Sanaa, Yemen June 15, 2015. Warplanes from a Saudi-led coalition bombarded Yemen’s Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa overnight as the country’s warring factions prepared for talks expected to start in Geneva on Monday. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

The United Nations (UN)-mediated peace negotiations for Yemen led by Ismail Ould Cheikh in Kuwait move ahead slowly. The 13-month war was at first between Houthis tribal forces loyal to former President Ali Abdallah Saleh and those supporting the current president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who had been Saleh’s vice-president for many years. The war is a struggle for power but is not an ideological-religious-tribal conflict.

Into this conflict has come a Saudi Arabian-led military coalition using bombs and sophisticated weapons. As a result, some 2.5 million people have been displaced within the country. Yemen was already a poor country which needed to import much of its agricultural and food supplies. As a result of the Saudi bombing raids, the underdeveloped socio-economic infrastructure has been largely destroyed.

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A shopping center destroyed by an airstrike in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, on April 20, 2015. (C) Ibrahem Qasim

Thus, there is a serious need first for postwar planning to be followed by international aid for development. “Reconstruction” would be the wrong term since there was little that had been “constructed”. Rather, we need to look to a postwar socio-economic construction developed on a basic needs approach.

The Basic Needs Approach to Development with its emphasis on people as central to the development process is embodied in the June 1976 World Employment Conference Declaration of Principles and Program of Action.[i] The Declaration underlines the importance of the individual and the central role of the family and household as the basic unit around which to work for development.

Although the Basic Needs Approach builds on the development thinking of the UN and national governments of the 1950s and 1960s such as rural development, urban poverty alleviation, employment creation through small-scale industries, the Declaration of Principles is a major shift in development strategies with its focus on the family with the objective of providing the opportunities for the full physical, mental, and social development of the human personality. The Program of Action defines a two-part approach: “First, Basic Needs includes certain minimum requirements of a family for private consumption: adequate food, shelter and clothing, as well as certain household equipment and furniture. Second, Basic Needs includes essential services provided by and for the community at large, such as safe drinking water, sanitation, public transport, health, education and cultural facilities.”

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Widespread destruction in a residential neighborhood near Mount Attan after an airstrike carried out by the Saudi Arabian-led “coalition” in Yemen. (C) Ibrahem Qasim

The Program added a basic element to the actions: “A Basic Needs-oriented policy implies the participation of the people in making the decisions which affect them through organizations of their own choice.”

The Basic Needs Approach concentrates on the nature of what is provided rather than on income − income having often been used as the criteria for drawing a ‘poverty line’. The Basic Needs Approach is concerned not only with the underemployed but also with the unemployable: the aged, the sick, the disabled, orphaned children and others. Such groups have often been neglected by the incomes and productivity approach to poverty alleviation and employment creation.

For Yemen which is largely structured on the basis of clan – extended family institutions, the Basic Needs Approach is most appropriate. In practice, there are few institutions or associations beyond the clan level, although tribal and religious identities are often mentioned. Tribes and religious identity are “shorthand” terms as it is impossible to mention the multitude of clans. However, a family welfare – meeting basic needs is the most appropriate strategy on which to base postwar planning. Although the fighting continues sporadically and agreement on a possible “unity government” seems far away, Basic Needs Planning must start now.

Prof. René Wadlow is President and a Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

[i] See the Director General’s Report and the Declaration in the International Labor Office. Employment, Growth and Basic Needs: A One World Problem (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1977, 224 pp.)

Turkey, the Death Penalty, and Human Dignity

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, United Nations, World Law on July 19, 2016 at 4:07 PM

TURKEY, THE DEATH PENALTY, AND HUMAN DIGNITY

By René Wadlow

In the aftermath of the failed military coup of July 15-16, 2016 in Turkey, there have been calls at the highest levels of political authority to restore the death penalty.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) has a consistent policy of opposition to the death penalty, in statements to the United Nations (UN) human rights bodies as well as in direct appeals to governments.

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Since the end of World War II, there has been a gradual abolition of the death penalty due to the rather obvious recognition that putting a person to death is not justice. Moreover, on practical grounds, the death penalty has little impact on the rate of crime in a country. A number of States have a death penalty for those involved in the drug trade. To the extent that the drug trade can be estimated statistically, the death penalty has no measurable impact on the trade − a trade usually linked to economic or geopolitical factors.

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The AWC is opposed to all organized killings by State agents. In addition to State-sponsored official executions, usually carried out publicly or at least with official observers, a good number of countries have State-sponsored “death squads” − persons affiliated to the police or to intelligence agencies who kill “in the dark of the night” − unofficially. These deaths avoid a trial which might attract attention or even a “not guilty” decision. A shot in the back of the head is faster. The number of “targeted killings” has grown. In many cases, the bodies of those killed are destroyed and so death is supposed but not proved, as has been the case of students protesting in Mexico. USA assassinations with drones has also been highlighted both in the UN human rights bodies and domestically. However, the drone “strikes” continue, and there is very little legislative opposition.

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A good deal of recent concern had been expressed on the death sentence in Saudi Arabia pronounced against Ali al−Nimr found guilty “of going out to a number of marches, demonstrations, and gatherings against the state and repeating some chants against the state” when he was 15 years old. He was to die by crucifixion. There is perhaps some chance of a change of penalty due to more historically-minded Saudis. The most widely known person crucified is Jesus. As the Roman count records have been lost, we have only the account written by his friends who stressed that he was innocent of the crimes for which he was condemned. His crucifixion has taken on cosmic dimensions. “Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?” The Saudis try to avoid some of the Jesus parallel by beheading the person before putting the rest of the body on the cross, but the image of the crucified as innocent is wide spread.

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Thus, the AWC stresses the importance of human dignity. Our efforts against executions need to be addressed both to governments and to those state-like non-governmental armed groups such as ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The abolition of executions and the corresponding valuation of human life are necessary steps in developing a just world society.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

June 26: International Day Against Torture

In Uncategorized on June 26, 2016 at 10:01 AM

JUNE 26: INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAINST TORTURE

By René Wadlow

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Torture has a bad name among the police and security agencies of most countries. Thus torture is usually called by other names. Even violent husbands do not admit to torturing their wives. Thus, when representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) started to raise the issue of torture in the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in the early 1980s, the government representatives replied that it was a very rare practice, limited to a small number of countries and sometimes a “rogue” policeman or prison guard. However, NGO representatives insisted that, in fact, it was widely used by a large number of countries including those that had democratic forms of government.

Getting torture to be recognized as a real problem and then having the Commission on Human Rights create the post of Special Rapporteur on Torture owes much to the persistent efforts of Sean MacBride (1904-1988), at the time the former chairman of the Amnesty International Executive Committee (1961-1974) and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate (1974). MacBride had been the Foreign Minister of Ireland (1948-1951) and knew how governments work. He had earlier been a longtime leader of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), being the son of John MacBride, an executed leader of the 1916 Easter Rising – an attack on the Dublin Post Office. With his death John MacBride became an Irish hero of resistance. Later Sean had spent time in prison accused of murder. He told me that he had never killed anyone but as the IRA Director of Intelligence he was held responsible for the murders carried out by men under his command. Later, he also worked against the death penalty.

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As examples of the current use of torture kept being presented by NGO representatives and as some victims of torture came to Geneva to testify, the Commission on Human Rights named a Special Rapporteur and also started to work on what became the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Treaty came into effect on June 26, 1987 and in 1997 the UN General Assembly designated June 26 as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Human Rights treaties negotiated within the UN create what are known as “Treaty Bodies” – a group of persons who are considered to be “independent experts”. As the saying around Geneva goes, “some are more ‘expert’ than others, and some are more ‘independent’ than others. Countries which have ratified a human rights convention should make a report every four or five years to the specific Treaty Body. For the Torture Treaty, it is every four years to the 10-person expert group. Many States are late, some very late, in meeting this obligation. There are 158 States which have ratified the Torture Convention but some 28 States have never bothered to file a report. States which have not ratified the treaty do not make reports.

NGO representatives provide the experts with information in advance and suggest questions that could usefully be asked. The State usually sends representatives to Geneva for the Treaty Body discussions as the permanent Ambassador is rarely able to answer specific questions on police and prison conditions. At the end of the discussion between the representative of a State and the experts, the experts write “concluding observations” and make recommendations.

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Unfortunately, the Convention is binding only on States. However, increasingly nongovernmental armed militias such as ISIS in Syria and Iraq carry out torture in a systematic way. The militia’s actions can be mentioned but not examined by the Treaty Body.

While there is no sure approach to limiting the use of torture, much depends on the observations and actions of non-governmental organizations. We need to increase our efforts, to strengthen the values which prohibit torture, and watch closely how persons are treated by the police, prison guards and armed militias.

Prof. René Wadlow is President and a Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

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