UN Chief Warns World ‘Way Off Track’ on Tackling Climate Crisis as New Report Underscores Need for Bold Global Action

“Let us have no illusions: the climate crisis is already causing calamity and more is to come,” said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. “This is a battle we can—and must—win.”

by: Jessica Corbett,

A fire rages in Bobin, Australia on Nov. 9, 2019, as firefighters try to contain dozens of out-of-control blazes across the state of New South Wales.

A fire rages in Bobin, Australia on Nov. 9, 2019, as firefighters try to contain dozens of out-of-control blazes across the state of New South Wales. (Photo: Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images)

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres issued a stark warning about the necessity of ambitious global climate action Tuesday with the release of an annual report detailing the latest science on rising greenhouse gas emissions that drive up air and ocean temperatures, leading to devastating sea level rise and more severe extreme weather.

“Time is fast running out for us to avert the worst impacts of climate disruption and protect our societies from the inevitable impacts to come,” Guterres wrote in a statement included in the new World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report, which concluded that 2019 was 1.1°C warmer than the pre-industrial era and concluded the hottest decade on record.

“We are currently way off track to meeting either the 1.5°C or 2°C targets that the Paris Agreement calls for. We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050,” Guterres continued in the WMO report. “And for that, we need political will and urgent action to set a different path.”

António Guterres@antonioguterres

Let us have no illusions: the climate crisis is already causing calamity & more is to come.

I call on all countries to show more #ClimateAction ambition – and on individuals to hold your governments to account.

This is a battle we can – and must – win. pic.twitter.com/zYtRPyZnbC

Guterres reiterated his warnings and demands for bold action during a Tuesday event to unveil the WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019 (pdf) at U.N. headquarters in New York City.

“The indications are crystal clear. Global heating is accelerating,” Guterres said. “We count the cost in human lives and livelihoods as droughts, wildfires, floods, and extreme storms take their deadly toll. We have no time to lose if we are to avert climate catastrophe. This is a pivotal year for how we address the climate emergency. We have to aim high at the next climate conference in Glasgow in November.”

Although experts worry that the COP26 summit could be derailed by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Guterres’ outlined his main focuses for the upcoming meeting:

  1. “National climate plans—the Nationally Determined Contributions, as they are called—must show more ambition.”
  2. “All nations need to adopt strategies to reach net zero emissions by 2050.”
  3. “A robust package of program, projects, and initiatives that will help communities and nations adapt to climate disruption and build resilience.”
  4. “Developed countries must deliver on their commitment to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020.”

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, who joined Guterres at the unveiling event, told U.N. News in an interview that there is increasing public awareness—from young people to the financial sector—of the unparalleled threat posed by the climate crisis, “so there are plenty of good signs that we have started moving in the right direction.”

“Last year emissions dropped in developed countries, despite the growing economy, so we have been [able] to show that you can detach economic growth from emission growth,” Taalas said. “The bad news is that, in the rest of the world, emissions grew last year. So, if we want to solve this problem we have to have all the countries on board.”

The WMO leader highlighted that countries are still failing to meet their commitments under the Paris climate accord, which puts the world on track to endure a global temperature rise of up to five degrees by 2100, so “there’s clearly a need for higher ambition levels if we’re serious about climate mitigation.”

The key takeaways from the WMO’s new #StateofClimate report are:

  • The global mean temperature for 2019 was 1.1±0.1°C above pre-industrial levels.
  • Global atmospheric mole fractions of greenhouse gases reached record levels in 2018.
  • The year 2019 saw low sea-ice extent in both the Arctic and the Antarctic.
  • The ocean absorbs around 90% of the heat that is trapped in the Earth system by rising concentrations of greenhouse gases.
  • Over the decade 2009–2018, the ocean absorbed around 23% of the annual CO2 emissions, lessening the increase in atmospheric concentrations.
  • As the ocean warms it expands and sea levels rise.

“This annual litany of climate change impacts and inadequate global responses makes for a gut-wrenching read,” Dave Reay, a professor at the University of Edinburgh, told the Guardian Tuesday.

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Imperial College London professor Brian Hoskins emphasized to the Guardian the importance of the international community continuing to address the climate crisis.

“The report is a catalogue of weather in 2019 made more extreme by climate change, and the human misery that went with it,” he said. “It points to a threat that is greater to our species than any known virus—we must not be diverted from the urgency of tackling it by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions to zero as soon as possible.”

Hoskins’ comments come as experts express concerns that although the coronavirus outbreak will likely reduce planet-heating emissions from China and other countries with high infection rates, the ongoing pandemic “could complicate the challenges of climate change—which presents serious, if longer-term, threats of its own—at a point when it was crucial to make rapid strides,” as MIT Technology Review reported Tuesday.

“Emissions in China are down because the economy has stopped and people are dying, and because poor people are not able to get medicine and food,” Gernot Wagner, a clinical associate professor at New York University’s Department of Environmental Studies, told MIT Technology Review. “This is not an analogy for how we want to decrease emissions from climate change.”

Posted in Environment, UN0 Comments

I was meant to talk about Palestinian kids at the UN. ‘Israel’ forced me out

Belgium caved into Israeli pressure to disinvite me from the Security Council. In doing so, they helped undermine human rights work for Palestinian children.

By Brad Parker 

Fadi Ibrahim Abu Khusa (4) holds the photo of his two killed siblings, Shahed (9) and Mohammed (2), in their home in Zawaida village, central Gaza Strip, February 24, 2015.  The two children were killed with their parents, Ibrahim and Sabreen, and 4 other members of their family by an Israeli attack on their home which occured on July, 30, 2014. Ibrahim and Sabreen went to the home of Sabreen's father one week before the attack thinking they would be safer. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Fadi Ibrahim Abu Khusa (4) holds the photo of his two killed siblings, Shahed (9) and Mohammed (2), in their home in Zawaida village, central Gaza Strip, February 24, 2015. The two children were killed with their parents, Ibrahim and Sabreen, and 4 other members of their family by an Israeli attack on their home which occured on July, 30, 2014. Ibrahim and Sabreen went to the home of Sabreen’s father one week before the attack thinking they would be safer. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Last week, the government of Belgium caved in to intense Israeli government pressure and effectively disinvited me from briefing the UN Security Council in New York today.

Ironically, the decision to exclude my voice as a representative of Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP), a Palestinian human rights organization, exemplifies and reinforces the message I had prepared to deliver before the Council.

I was invited by Belgium’s Permanent Mission to the UN in late January to brief members of the Security Council on violations of children’s rights in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.Get Our Weekly NewsletterSign up

Belgium, which holds the rotating Security Council presidency for this month, is a leader of the UN’s global agenda on children and armed conflict, and as such wanted to highlight these specific themes during the Council’s monthly meeting on the Middle East and Palestine Question. The Belgians wrote in their invitation that this focused discussion would help “to enrich the debate” on the Palestinian issue.

I gladly accepted. The fact that Belgium was willing to invite a local Palestinian human rights organization like DCIP to brief the Council was commendable, as civil society space at the UN has been shrinking for years. While they urged me to be “balanced” in my statement (which I had shared with them for feedback), they understood that Palestinian children overwhelmingly and disproportionately bear the brunt of the kinds of violations they sought to highlight.

Then the troubles began.

The UN Security Council, December 18, 2015 (United Nations Photo)

The UN Security Council, December 18, 2015 (United Nations Photo)

As soon as Israeli diplomats were informed of my attendance, Emmanuel Nahshon, the Israeli Ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg, reportedly asked the Belgian government in early February to cancel the invitation. The Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry summoned Belgium’s Deputy Ambassador to Israel, Pascal Buffin, on two separate occasions to formally object to the invitation. These requests were initially rejected.

Israeli officials and right-wing organizations, like NGO Monitor, and their affiliates subsequently mounted a well-orchestrated political and media disinformation campaign to press the Belgians to capitulate.

Then, four days ago, I received an early morning phone call informing me that Brussels had decided to change the Security Council event from an open meeting to a closed meeting — meaning that I was no longer a participant.

Targeted defamation campaigns

Belgium’s acquiescence to Israel’s demands is a frustrating and devastating blow. Not only is it a shameful act of censorship, but it also boosts longstanding efforts to delegitimize human rights work and basic tenets of international law when it comes to Palestinians.

Over the past two weeks, I have falsely been called everything from an “extreme anti-Israel activist” and “minor American propogandist,” to a “terror supporter” and “diplomatic terrorist.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, even wrote a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres calling DCIP “an arm of the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) in order to enact diplomatic terror against Israel,” adding, “A place that promotes peace and security in the world has no room for people like Parker.”

Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon seen during a meeting of U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and President Reuven Rivlin at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, June 7, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon seen during a meeting of U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, June 7, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

DCIP and other civil society organizations in Palestine and Israel have been increasingly targeted and attacked by Israeli officials, government ministries, and a rising network of right-wing and nationalist social forces in Israel, the U.S., the U.K., and across Europe. A key strategy of these forces is to launch targeted and organized defamation campaigns, based on a range of allegations that try to link us to national counter-terrorism legislation in order to undercut our work.

For DCIP specifically, officials like Ambassador Danny Danon, the Israeli Strategic Affairs Ministry, NGO Monitor, and UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) are alleging that we support and further terrorist acts. They amorphously claim that DCIP board and staff members are “affiliated,” “linked,” or have “alleged ties” to the PFLP.

Yet, no evidence is presented on how DCIP’s work — our field research, documentation, legal services, and advocacy — is in any way involved in supporting terrorist acts. Moreover, no trials or indictments have been initiated by Israeli authorities against DCIP board or staff members on such accusations during their time with the organization.

Rather than demand Israeli authorities stop unlawfully killing Palestinian child protesters in Gaza with live ammunition, or end ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian child detainees, or hold perpetrators accountable, these actors are disseminating misinformation aimed at silencing, defunding, and eliminating legitimate human rights work and criticism of illegal Israeli policies toward Palestinians. And unfortunately — wittingly or unwittingly — governments like Belgium are helping them.

Exempted from UN blacklist

So, if Belgium had not crumbled to the pressure, what did the Israeli government not want me to tell the UN Security Council today?

Four-year-old Palestinian girl Shayma Al-Masri, who was wounded in an Israeli air strike that killed her mother and two of her siblings, lies next to her doll as she receives hospital treatment in Gaza City, July 14, 2014. (Emad Nassar/Flash90)

Four-year-old Palestinian girl Shayma Al-Masri, who was wounded in an Israeli air strike that killed her mother and two of her siblings, lies next to her doll as she receives hospital treatment in Gaza City, July 14, 2014. (Emad Nassar/Flash90)

First, using largely UN-verified information, I would have explained how Palestinian children are disproportionately affected by armed conflict at the hands of Israeli forces. Second, I would have highlighted how the persistent failure of the UN Secretary-General to hold Israel accountable has fostered impunity for such grave violations against children.

My planned statement offered a solution. Each year the UN Secretary-General submits a report to the Security Council detailing the situation of children’s rights in specific situations of armed conflict, including Israel and the State of Palestine.

Security Council Resolution 1612, adopted in 2005, formally established a UN-led, evidence-based monitoring and reporting mechanism on grave violations against children during armed conflict. The six violations include killing and maiming; child recruitment; sexual violence; attacks on schools or hospitals; denial of humanitarian access for children; and abduction.

Where armed forces or groups are found to commit such violations against children, the Secretary-General is obligated to list them in the annex of his annual report. This list has become known as the UN’s child rights “blacklist” or “list of shame.”

The mechanism has proven to be a strong tool to bolster protections for children during armed conflict over the past decade. But despite persistent reports by UN agencies like UNICEF and local groups like DCIP, both Guterres and his predecessor Ban Ki-moon refused to include Israeli armed forces on the blacklist.

Secretary-General António Guterres during press conference on the theme on violence against women in conflict. 25 February 2019. (UN Photo/Jean Marc Ferré)

Secretary-General António Guterres during press conference on the theme on violence against women in conflict. 25 February 2019. (UN Photo/Jean Marc Ferré)

This was despite the fact that Ban Ki-moon, for example, noted in his 2014 report that there had been a “dramatic increase in the number of children killed and injured, especially in Gaza,” with at least 557 Palestinian children and four Israeli children killed, and 4,249 Palestinian children and 22 Israeli children wounded.

While he expressed alarm at the “unprecedented and unacceptable scale” of destruction and harm caused by Israel’s military operation that year, he still omitted Israel’s forces from the annex. Reportedly, he caved in to significant pressure from the U.S. and Israel.

Defending international law

Ban Ki-moon’s decision, and Guterres’ continuation of that decision, has effectively transformed a strong accountability mechanism into a politicized process where powerful governments can exempt themselves from scrutiny and the rules of international law.

As I wrote in my planned statement to the Security Council, Israel’s absence from the blacklist essentially gives it “tacit approval to continue committing grave breaches of international law with impunity. We are still, today, dealing with the impact of this decision.”

Mourners carry the body of 13-year-old Palestinian boy Ahmed Sharaka, who was killed by Israeli troops after being hit in the head by a plastic-coated metal bullet, in Jalazoun refugee camp near Ramallah, October 12, 2015. (Flash90)

Mourners carry the body of 13-year-old Palestinian boy Ahmed Sharaka, who was killed by Israeli troops after being hit in the head by a plastic-coated metal bullet, in Jalazoun refugee camp near Ramallah, October 12, 2015. (Flash90)

Today, I had hoped to reaffirm a message that Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director of the human rights organization B’Tselem, had brought to the Council in 2018: a rules-based international order will not defend itself.

If the UN’s children and armed conflict agenda is to remain relevant and credible, it is imperative that the listing process does not give an exception to Israel for its grave violations. Year after year, Palestinian children must deal with the compounded failures of these policymakers, and without accountability, these violations will continue bleeding from one year to the next.

Given the attacks and campaigns against Palestinian human rights defenders and civil society, Belgium’s actions are entirely irresponsible. When a supposed champion of these values lifts you up, knowing full well that it may place a target on you, it is disheartening to seem them give in to such pressure. This lack of political will all but ensures systemic impunity will remain the norm for Palestinian children.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human Rights, UN0 Comments

U.N: Says committed to pre-1967 borders, stresses settlements illegal

Responding to Trump proposal, secretary general says peace attainable based on UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements

By TOI

The Times of Israel live blogged the official announcement of the US administration’s Mideast peace proposal and other news Tuesday as it unfolded.

Russian FM urges coordination on Mideast peace plan

Russia’s foreign minister is calling for multilateral efforts in helping negotiate peace in the Middle East.

The Trump administration is set to announce its long-awaited peace plan on Tuesday. The plan is expected to strongly favor Israel and to pave the way for it to annex large parts of the West Bank.

Asked about the US plan, Sergey Lavrov says the so-called quartet of Middle East peacemakers — America, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations — should analyze the proposal.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks to the media during a press conference in Moscow, Russia, June 24, 2019. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

Lavrov also emphasizes that it’s essential to listen to the Palestinians’ position. He says it’s also important for the Arab League to weigh in. The league has already put forth its own peace initiative.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, Middle East, USA, ZIO-NAZI, UNComments Off on U.N: Says committed to pre-1967 borders, stresses settlements illegal

UN Rejects Trump’s “Deal of the Century”?

By Middle East Monitor

Global Research,

United Nations has rejected US President Donald Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ and reiterated that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be solved based on UN resolutions and international law.

In a statement, a copy of which sent to MEMOStephane Dujarric, a spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, said:

“The position of the United Nations on the two-State solution has been defined, throughout the years, by relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions by which the Secretariat is bound.”

He added:

“The United Nations remains committed to supporting Palestinians and Israelis in resolving the conflict on the basis of United Nations resolutions, international law, and bilateral agreements and realizing the vision of two States – Israel and Palestine – living side by side in peace and security within recognized borders, on the basis of the pre-1967 lines.”

It is worth noting that Trump has ignored the two-state solution adopted by the UN and the international community and proposed his own view of the two-state solution, which ignores the 1967 borders and has all of Jerusalem under full Israeli sovereignty.

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Featured image: Trump and Netanyahu’s love affair around Jerusalem and Palestine’s fate – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]Netanyahu Response to Trump’s Advocacy of Two-State Solution: “Palestinians Will Never Have a State”The original source of this article is Middle East MonitorCopyright © Middle East MonitorMiddle East Monitor, 2020

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Buried in Trump-Netanyahu Deal Is Effort to ‘Torpedo’ ICC War Crimes Probe

The plan announced Tuesday by the White House demands Palestinians “dismiss all pending actions” before the International Criminal Court.

by: Andrea Germanos,

A fireball exploding in Gaza City during Israeli bombardment on July 20, 2018.

A fireball exploding in Gaza City during Israeli bombardment on July 20, 2018. (Photo: Bashar Taleb/AFP via Getty Images)

As the International Criminal Court moved forward this week with its investigation into alleged war crimes committed against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, the White House’s new so-called “peace” plan includes a largely unreported provision that would end such efforts to hold the Israeli government to account.

The document, released Tuesday, was widely criticized as a “screw the Palestinians over harder non-peace plan” that lets Israel continue its illegal occupation and a “ludicrous” proposal that offers no path towards Palestinian statehood.

The plan’s architect, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and White House advisor Jared Kushner, suggested Palestinians “take a cold shower” and accept it lest they “screw up,” he said, like with “every other opportunity that they’ve ever had in their existence.”

A portion of the document states that “the parties should conduct themselves in a manner that comports with this vision, and in a way that prepares their respective peoples for peace.” For the Palestinians, that means victims of war crimes should keep quiet.

The plan states, in part, that Palestinians must take “no action, and shall dismiss all pending actions, against the State of Israel, the United States, and any of their citizens before the International Criminal Court” and other tribunals.

A portion of the White House's "Peace to Prosperity" plan released Jan. 28, 2020.

The provision drew criticism from Amnesty International.

“A just and sustainable peace requires a plan that prioritizes the human rights of Palestinians and Israelis, and must include justice and reparation for victims of war crimes and other grave violations. This plan not only fails this fundamental test; it seeks to torpedo efforts towards justice for both Palestinians and Israelis that are currently under way,” said Philip Luther, the organization’s Middle East and North Africa research and advocacy director.

Netanyahu, who was indicted Tuesday on corruption charges and stood alongside Trump as he released the plan, reiterated his condemnation of the ICC this week.

In an interview set to air Thursday with Christian network TBN, he called on global powers to sanction the court over the probe.

“The U.S. government, under President Trump, has spoken forcefully against the ICC for this travesty, and I urge all your viewers to do the same. To ask for concrete actions, sanction against the international court, its officials, prosecutors, everyone,” he said, according to an excerpt of the interview released by the Israeli government.

The internation court, he continued, is “basically in a full-frontal attack on the democracies, both on the democracies’ right to defend themselves, and on Israel’s right, the Jewish people’s right, to live in their ancestral homeland, the Land of Israel.”

Michael Lynk, the U.N. special rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, has a different perspective. In December, Lynk praised the possibility of justice the investigation could bring. 

“Over the years, the international community has adopted hundreds of resolutions through the United Nations condemning various features of Israel’s entrenched occupation of the Palestinian territory. Yet rarely has it ever combined criticism with consequences for Israel,” he said. “Now, the possibility of accountability is finally on the horizon.”

Trump has bristled at the possibility of the probe into alleged Israeli wrongdoing as well.

In a statement last April celebrating his administration’s successful intimidation campaign to stop an ICC investigation into alleged war crimes the U.S. committed in Afghanistan, Trump said, “Any attempt to target American, Israeli, or allied personnel for prosecution will be met with a swift and vigorous response.”

Despite U.S. and Israeli objections to the ICC probe into war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza, the effort—at least at this point—continues to advance.

The ICC announced Tuesday that it set a March 16 deadline for Israel, Palestine, and alleged victims to submit documents to the court.

ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in December that “there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine” as she was “satisfied that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip,” and “there are no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice.”

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UN Concerned over British Government’s Failure to Investigate Whether Assange Has Been Subjected to Psychological Torture

By Ceren Sagir

Global Research,

United Nations special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer has written to governments to press them to investigate properly evidence that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been subjected to psychological torture.

On December 31 Mr Melzer shared on Twitter a letter that he had sent to the British government shaming its failure to address concerns that Mr Assange had been tortured.

Nils Melzer@NilsMelzer

(1/6) Just out: My letter to the #UK Govt of 29 Oct 2019, detailing serious due process violations, expressing alarm at #Assange’s detention conditions & health, reiterating my queries & calling for his prompt release. Direct link: http://bit.ly/2ZCygWA  (60 days & no response)

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77012:54 AM – Dec 31, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy755 people are talking about this

The letter, dated October 29, did not receive a response. He has also written to the United States, Swedish and Ecuadorian governments.

The US is seeking Mr Assange’s extradition to face spying charges. The whistleblower has been detained since his arrest in April at the Ecuadorean embassy in London. He had been confined there since 2012 after being granted asylum by the South American country.Julian Assange’s Life May be at Risk. UN Expert on Torture Sounds Alarm

At the time Mr Assange was a wanted man in Sweden, having failed to respond to demands for him to return there to face questioning over sexual assault charges. He claimed that Sweden would simply ship him out to a vengeful US, angered by his whistleblowing activities. The assault charges were eventually dropped.

In his tweet Mr Melzer accused the British government of “seriously undermining the credibility of the UK’s commitment to the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment, as well as to the rule of law more generally.”

He said that “recurring and serious” due-process violations in Britain have rendered Mr Assange’s case “inherently arbitrary, to the point of making any legal remedies a pointless formality devoid of prospect.”

Mr Melzer called on the government to retract its extradition authorisation and release him from prison “without further delay.”

Anti-war campaigner John Rees told the Star yesterday:

“Obviously it is a very important intervention from a very high-authority source, but it is not news to anyone who has visited Assange in Belmarsh high-security prison, as I have.

“The conditions he is being kept in are unacceptable and there is absolutely no doubt that the prison regime is directly causing deterioration of his health.”

Mr Rees said it was Home Secretary Priti Patel’s responsibility to intervene.

“The judge has already expressed concern that [Mr Assange’s] legal team are not getting access to their client,” he said. “Both these things are of the most serious nature, it jeopardises any fair hearings coming up in February.”

Former Derby North MP Chris Williamson tweeted:

“The UK government’s treatment of Julian Assange continues to shame Britain.”

Mr Melzer’s call comes as journalist Vaughan Smith told RT that an “obviously sedated” Mr Assange said he was “slowly dying here” during a Christmas Eve phone call between the two friends.

Mr Smith said Mr Assange sounded like a shell of the man he once.

“His speech was slurred. He was speaking slowly,” Mr Smith said. “Now, Julian is highly articulate, a very clear person when he speaks. And he sounded awful. It was very upsetting to hear him.”

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Chemical Weapons Watchdog Is Just an American Lap Dog

By Scott Ritter

A spate of leaks from within the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the international inspectorate created for the purpose of implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention, has raised serious questions about the institution’s integrity, objectivity and credibility. The leaks address issues pertaining to the OPCW investigation into allegations that the Syrian government used chemical weapons to attack civilians in the Damascus suburb of Douma on April 7, 2018. These allegations, which originated from such anti-Assad organizations as the Syrian Civil Defense (the so-called White Helmets) and the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), were immediately embraced as credible by the OPCW, and were used by the United States, France and the United Kingdom to justify punitive military strikes against facilities inside Syria assessed by these nations as having been involved in chemical weapons-related activities before the OPCW initiated any on-site investigation.

The Douma incident was initially described by the White Helmets, SAMS and the U.S., U.K. and French governments as involving both sarin nerve agent and chlorine gas. However, this narrative was altered when OPCW inspectors released, on July 6, 2018, interim findings of their investigation that found no evidence of the use of sarin. The focus of the investigation quickly shifted to a pair of chlorine cylinders claimed by the White Helmets to have been dropped onto apartment buildings in Douma by the Syrian Air Force, resulting in the release of a cloud of chlorine gas that killed dozens of Syrian civilians. In March, the OPCW released its final report on the Douma incident, noting that it had “reasonable grounds” to believe “that the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon has taken place on 7 April 2018,” that “this toxic chemical contained reactive chlorine” and that “the toxic chemical was likely molecular chlorine.”

Much has been written about the OPCW inspection process in Syria, and particularly the methodology used by the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM), an inspection body created by the OPCW in 2014 “to establish facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals, reportedly chlorine, for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic.” The FFM was created under the direction of Ahmet Üzümcü, a career Turkish diplomat with extensive experience in multinational organizations, including service as Turkey’s ambassador to NATO. Üzümcü was the OPCW’s third director general, having been selected from a field of seven candidates by its executive council to replace Argentine diplomat Rogelio Pfirter. Pfirter had held the position since being nominated to replace the OPCW’s first director general, José Maurício Bustani. Bustani’s tenure was marred by controversy that saw the OPCW transition away from its intended role as an independent implementor of the Chemical Weapons Convention to that of a tool of unilateral U.S. policy, a role that continues to mar the OPCW’s work in Syria today, especially when it comes to its investigation of the alleged use by the Syrian government of chemical weapons against civilians in Douma in April 2018.

Bustani was removed from his position in 2002, following an unprecedented campaign led by John Bolton, who at the time was serving as the undersecretary of state for Arms Control and International Security Affairs in the U.S. State Department. What was Bustani’s crime? In 2001, he had dared to enter negotiations with the government of Iraq to secure that nation’s entry into the OPCW, thereby setting the stage for OPCW inspectors to visit Iraq and bring its chemical weapons capability under OPCW control. As director general, there was nothing untoward about Bustani’s action. But Iraq circa 2001 was not a typical recruitment target. In the aftermath of the Gulf War in 1991, the U.N. Security Council had passed a resolution under Chapter VII requiring Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD), including its chemical weapons capability, to be “removed, destroyed or rendered harmless” under the supervision of inspectors working on behalf of the United Nations Special Commission, or UNSCOM.

The pursuit of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction led to a series of confrontations with Iraq that culminated in inspectors being ordered out of the country by the U.S. in 1998, prior to a 72-hour aerial attack—Operation Desert Fox. Iraq refused to allow UNSCOM inspectors to return, rightfully claiming that the U.S. had infiltrated the ranks of the inspectors and was using the inspection process to spy on Iraqi leadership for the purposes of facilitating regime change. The lack of inspectors in Iraq allowed the U.S. and others to engage in wild speculation regarding Iraqi rearmament activities, including in the field of chemical weapons. This speculation was used to fuel a call for military action against Iraq, citing the threat of a reconstituted WMD capability as the justification. Bustani sought to defuse this situation by bringing Iraq into the OPCW, an act that, if completed, would have derailed the U.S. case for military intervention in Iraq. Bolton’s intervention included threats to Bustani and his family, as well as threats to withhold U.S. dues to the OPCW accounting for some 22% of that organization’s budget; had the latter threat been implemented, it would have resulted in OPCW’s disbandment.

Bustani’s departure marked the end of the OPCW as an independent organization. Pfirter, Bolton’s hand-picked replacement, vowed to keep the OPCW out of Iraq. In an interview with U.S. media shortly after his appointment, Pfirter noted that while all nations should be encouraged to join the OPCW, “We should be very aware that there are United Nations resolutions in effect” that precluded Iraqi membership “at the expense” of its obligations to the Security Council. Under the threat of military action, Iraq allowed UNMOVIC inspectors to return in 2002; by February 2003, no WMD had been found, a result that did not meet with U.S. satisfaction. In March 2003, UNMOVIC inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq under orders of the U.S., paving the way for the subsequent invasion and occupation of that nation that same month (the CIA later concluded that Iraq had been disarmed of its weapons of mass destruction by the summer of 1991).U.S. Again Cries ‘Chemical Warfare’ in Syria

Under Pfirter’s leadership, the OPCW became a compliant tool of U.S. foreign policy objectives. By completely subordinating OPCW operations through the constant threat of fiscal ruin, the U.S. engaged in a continuous quid pro quo arrangement, trading the financial solvency of an ostensible multilateral organization for complicity in operating as a de facto extension of American unilateral policy. Bolton’s actions in 2002 put the OPCW and its employees on notice: Cross the U.S., and you will pay a terminal price.

When Üzümcü took over the OPCW’s reins in 2010, the organization was very much the model of multinational consensus, which, in the case of any multilateral organization in which the U.S. plays a critical role, meant that nothing transpired without the express approval of the U.S. and its European NATO allies, in particular the United Kingdom and France. Shortly after he took office, Üzümcü was joined by Robert Fairweather, a career British diplomat who served as Üzümcü’s chief of Cabinet. (While Üzümcü was the ostensible head of the OPCW, the daily task of managing the functioning of the OPCW was that of the chief of Cabinet. In short, nothing transpired within the OPCW without Fairweather’s knowledge and concurrence.)

Üzümcü and Fairweather’s tenure at the OPCW was dominated by Syria, where, since 2011, the government of President Bashar Assad had been engaged in a full-scale conflict with a foreign-funded and -equipped insurgency whose purpose was regime change. By 2013, allegations emerged from both the Syrian government and rebel forces concerning the use of chemical weapons by the other side. In August 2013, the OPCW dispatched an inspection team into Syria as part of a U.N.-led effort, which included specialists from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.N. itself, to investigate allegations that sarin had been used in attack on civilians in the town of Ghouta. While the mission found conclusive evidence that sarin nerve agent had been used, it did not assign blame for the attack.

Despite the lack of causality, the U.S. and its NATO allies quickly assigned blame for the sarin attacks on the Syrian government. To forestall U.S. military action against Syria, the Russian government helped broker a dealwhereby the U.S. agreed to refrain from undertaking military action if the Syrian government joined the OPCW and subjected the totality of its chemical weapons stockpile to elimination. In October 2013, the OPCW-U.N. Joint Mission, created under the authority of U.N. Security Council resolution 2118 (2103), began the process of identifying, cataloging, removing and destroying Syria’s chemical weapons. This process was completed in September 2014 (in December 2013, the OPCW was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its disarmament work in Syria).

If the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons was an example of the OPCW at its best, what followed was a case study of just the opposite. In May 2014, the OPCW created the Fact-Finding Mission, or FFM, charged with establishing “facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals, reportedly chlorine, for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic.” The FFM was headed by Malik Ellahi, who served as head of the OPCW’s government relations and political affairs branch. The appointment of someone lacking both technical and operational experience suggests that Ellahi’s primary role was political. Under his leadership, the FFM established a close working relationship with the anti-Assad Syrian opposition, including the White Helmets and SAMS.

In 2015, responsibility for coordinating the work of the FFM with the anti-Assad opposition was transferred to a British inspector named Len Phillips (another element of the FFM, led by a different inspector, was responsible for coordinating with the Syrian government). Phillips developed a close working relationship with the White Helmets and SAMS and played a key role in OPCW’s investigation of the April 2017 chemical incident in Khan Shaykhun. By April 2018, the FFM had undergone a leadership transition, with Phillips replaced by a Tunisian inspector named Sami Barrek. It was Barrek who led the FFM into Syria in April 2018 to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use at Douma. Like Phillips, Barrek maintained a close working relationship with the White Helmets and SAMS.

Once the FFM wrapped up its investigation in Douma, however, it became apparent to Fairweather that it had a problem. There were serious questions about whether chlorine had, in fact, been used as a weapon. The solution, brokered by Fairweather, was to release an interim report that ruled out sarin altogether, but left the door open regarding chlorine. This report was released on July 6, 2018. Later that month, both Üzümcü and Fairweather were gone, replaced by a Spaniard named Fernando Arias and a French diplomat named Sébastien Braha. It would be up to them to clean up the Douma situation.

The situation Braha inherited from Fairweather was unenviable. According to an unnamed OPCW official who spoke with the media after the fact, two days prior to the publication of the interim report, on July 4, 2018, Fairweather had been paid a visit by a trio of U.S. officials, who indicated to Fairweather and the members of the FFM responsible for writing the report that it was the U.S. position that the chlorine cannisters in question had been used to dispense chlorine gas at Douma, an assertion that could not be backed up by the evidence. Despite this, the message that Fairweather left with the OPCW personnel was that there had to be a “smoking gun.” It was now Braha’s job to manufacture one.

Braha did this by dispatching OPCW inspectors to Turkey in September 2018 to interview new witnesses identified by the White Helmets, and by commissioning new engineering studies that better explained the presence of the two chlorine cannisters found in Douma. By March, Braha had assembled enough information to enable the technical directorate to issue its final report. Almost immediately, dissent appeared in the ranks of the OPCW. An engineering report that contradicted the findings published by Braha was leaked, setting off a firestorm of controversy derived from its conclusion that the chlorine cannisters found in Douma had most likely been staged by the White Helmets.

The OPCW, while eventually acknowledging that the leaked report was genuine, explained its exclusion from the final report on the grounds that it attributed blame, something the FFM was not mandated to do. According to the OPCW, the engineering report in question had been submitted to the investigation and identification team, a newly created body within the OPCW mandated to make such determinations. Moreover, Director General Arias stood by the report’s conclusion that it had “reasonable grounds” to believe “that the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon has taken place on 7 April 2018.”

Arias’ explanation came under attack in November, when WikiLeaks published an email sent by a member of the FFM team that had participated in the Douma investigation. In this email, which was sent on June 22, 2018, and addressed to Robert Fairweather, the author noted that, when it came to the Douma incident, “[p]urposely singling out chlorine gas as one of the possibilities is disingenuous.” The author of the email, who had participated in drafting the original interim report, noted that the original text had emphasized that there was insufficient evidence to support this conclusion, and that the new text represented “a major deviation from the original report.” Moreover, the author took umbrage at the new report’s conclusions, which claimed to be “based on the high levels of various chlorinated organic derivatives detected in environmental samples.” According to email’s author “They were, in most cases, present only in parts per billion range, as low as 1-2 ppb, which is essentially trace quantities.” In short, the OPCW had cooked the books, manufacturing evidence from thin air that it then used to draw conclusions that sustained the U.S. position that chlorine gas had been used by the Syrian government at Douma.

Arias, while not addressing the specifics of the allegations set forth in the leaked email, recently declared that it is “the nature of any thorough inquiry for individuals in a team to express subjective views,” noting that “I stand by the independent, professional conclusion” presented by the OPCW about the Douma incident. This explanation, however, does not fly in the face of the evidence. The OPCW’s credibility as an investigative body has been brought into question through these leaks, as has its independent character. If an organization like the OPCW can be used at will by the U.S., the United Kingdom and France to trigger military attacks intended to support regime-change activities in member states, then it no longer serves a useful purpose to the international community it ostensibly serves. To survive as a credible entity, the OPCW must open itself to a full-scale audit of its activities in Syria by an independent authority with inspector general-like investigatory powers. Anything short of this leaves the OPCW, an organization that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its contributions to world peace, permanently stained by the reality that it is little more than a lap dog of the United States, used to promote the very conflicts it was designed to prevent.

Related Articles:

Video: Douma ‘Chemical Attack’ Narrative Collapses, Russia Trains New Militia in Hasakah

New WikiLeaks Bombshell: 20 Inspectors Dissent from Syria Chemical Attack Narrative. Leaked Documents and Emails of OPCW

US/NATO Staged “False Flag”: More Evidence of OPCW Doctored Douma Chemical Weapons Attack, Syria Documents

Syria Will Not Cooperate with the OPCW New Investigation Team

WikiLeaks Exposes Doctored OPCW Report on Alleged CW Attack in Syria

Syria: OPCW Whistleblowers Confirm What We Already Knew. The OPCW has Deliberately Suppressed Evidence

Posted in USA, Politics, UNComments Off on Chemical Weapons Watchdog Is Just an American Lap Dog

Trump’s Child Separation Policy “Absolutely” Violated International Law Says UN Expert

The way the Trump administration was “separating infants from their families only in order to deter irregular migration from Central America to the United States of America, for me, constitutes inhuman and degrading treatment.”

by: Andrea Germanos,

A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas.

A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. The asylum seekers had rafted across the Rio Grande from Mexico and were detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents before being sent to a processing center for possible separation. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

The Trump administration violated international law when it separated migrant children from their families, a United Nations expert said Monday.

That’s not all, said Manfred Nowak, the independent expert leading a global study on children deprived of liberty. With over 100,000 children still in migration-related detention, the United States leads the world with the highest number of children in migration-related custody in the world.

Nowak made the remarks to press at the formal launch of the report, the U.N. Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, he said has the power to effect positive change.

Referencing the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Nowak said that “the detention of children shall only be a measure of last resort and only if absolutely necessary for the shortest appropriate period of time. That means, in principle, children should not be deprived of liberty.”

“Alternatives to detention are usually available,” said Nowak, “it’s simply a question of politics.”

A lack of political will to make that policy change was clear, Nowak suggested, when the Trump administration instituted its so-called zero tolerance policy in which officials separated children from their parents at Southern border.

“There’s a lot of evidence…that migration-related detention for children can never be considered as a measure of last resort and in the best interest of the child,” he said. “There are always alternatives available, and there a quite a number of states that have decided already that they will not put children any longer in migration-related detention.”

“Of course, separating children—as was done by the Trump administration—from their parents, even small children, at the Mexican-U.S. border is absolutely prohibited by the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” Nowak continued. “I would call it inhuman treatment for both the parents and the children. And there are still quite a number of children that are separated from their parents—and neither the children know where their parents are and the parents [don’t] know where the children are—so that is definitely something that definitely should not happen again.”

“We still have more than 100,000 children in migration-related detention” in the U.S., Nowak said, “so that’s far more than all the other countries where we have reliable figures.” Nowak added that the U.S. “did not respond to our questionnaire” requesting data for the report.

Nowak added the U.S. is detaining high numbers of children in the criminal justice sector as well.

“In general the incarceration rate in the United States is very high,” said Nowak.

The United States detains on average about 60 out of 100,000 children—a figure Nowak said was “the highest we could find followed by others like Bolivia or Botswana or Sri Lanka.”

Looking at figures by region, North America has the highest rate of incarceration of children, which includes Canada’s detention of roughly 14 to 15 out of 100,000 children. In Western Europe, by comparison, the average is just about 5 out of 100,000 children in custody.

“In general we could say that the American hemisphere has the highest rate of children deprived of liberty in the administration of justice,” the U.N. expert said. The lowest rate was found in sub-Saharan Africa.

Asked whether the United States—the only U.N. member state not to have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child—would face direct consequences of the rights violations, Nowak said direct action from the United Nations was unlikely because the United States is a permanent member of the Security Council 

“That’s one of the weaknesses of the United Nations,” said Nowak.

The United States is party to the Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on Torture, Nowak noted, and said that the way the Trump administration was “separating infants from their families only in order to deter irregular migration from Central America to the United States of America, for me, constitutes inhuman and degrading treatment. And that is absolutely prohibited by the two treaties.”

“I’m deeply convinced that these are violations of international law,” Nowak adding, same that the same could be said of the high number of children incarcerated through the U.S. criminal justice system.

Despite likely inaction by the U.N. to make the U.S. face consequences, Nowak said it doesn’t mean the continued deprivation of children’s liberty would continue unabated. 

Nowak expressed hope his new study, like the 1996 report on child soldiers, would have an impact “not because of sanctions but because of its power of facts.”

Posted in USA, Human Rights, UNComments Off on Trump’s Child Separation Policy “Absolutely” Violated International Law Says UN Expert

UN Finds the Nazi regime Intentionally Shot Children, Journalists and Disabled People

UN Finds Israel Intentionally Shot Children, Journalists and Disabled People

BYAmy Goodman

Democracy Now!

AUnited Nations inquiry has found Israeli forces may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity by targeting unarmed children, journalists and the disabled in Gaza. The report, released by the U.N. Human Rights Council on Thursday, looked at Israel’s bloody response to weekly Great March of Return demonstrations, launched by Palestinians in Gaza nearly a year ago, targeting Israel’s heavily militarized separation barrier. The report found Israeli forces have killed 183 Palestinians — almost all of them with live ammunition. The dead included 35 children. Twenty-three thousand people were injured, including over 6,000 shot by live ammunition. We speak with Sara Hossain, a member of the U.N. independent commission that led the Gaza investigation.

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TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: A United Nations inquiry has found Israeli forces may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity by targeting unarmed children, journalists and the disabled in Gaza. The report, released by the U.N. Human Rights Council Thursday, looked at Israel’s bloody response to weekly Great March of Return demonstrations, launched by Palestinians in Gaza nearly a year ago, targeting Israel’s heavily militarized separation barrier. The report found Israeli forces have killed 183 Palestinians, almost all of them with live ammunition. The dead included 35 children. Twenty-three thousand people were injured, including over 6,000 shot by live ammunition. Santiago Canton chaired the U.N. commission.

SANTIAGO CANTON: The commission has found reasonable grounds to believe that the Israeli security forces committed serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. These violations clearly warrant criminal investigation and prosecution, and we call on Israel to conduct meaningful investigations into these serious violations and to provide timely justice and reparations for those killed and injured.

AMY GOODMAN: Another member of the U.N. independent commission, Sara Hossain, described how Israeli forces targeted civilians and journalists in Gaza.

SARA HOSSAIN: We are saying that they have intentionally shot children, they have intentionally shot people with disabilities, they have intentionally shot journalists, knowing them to be children, people with disabilities and journalists. And some of the children — not all of the children are visibly children perhaps, but many of them are. As Commissioner Murungi just said, the journalists were all marked with press vests, that we investigated. And the people with disabilities, as I said, a double amputee in a wheelchair, a person using crutches, they were visibly that. And they’ve been shot at by snipers, who also have spotters available with them, who have very high-level technology available to see who is out there in the field.

AMY GOODMAN: The U.N. report called on nations to arrest, quote, “persons alleged to have committed, or ordered to have committed, the international crimes,” unquote, or to seek their extradition. The U.N. also demanded Israel immediately lift the blockade on Gaza. Israel’s acting foreign minister dismissed the report as “theater of the absurd.” However, grieving Palestinians welcomed the report, including Raeda Ayoub, whose teenage son Mohammad was killed during the Gaza protests.

RAEDA AYOUB: [translated] We are happy that someone is supporting Gaza’s children, and we are happy that they are supporting us to defend Gaza’s children and youth in Gaza against the crimes committed by the occupation.

AMY GOODMAN: The U.N. report was issued Thursday, the same day Israel’s attorney general announced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing an indictment on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

For more, we’re joined by two guests. Sara Hossain is a member of the U.N. independent commission that led the Gaza investigation. She’s also a barrister practicing in the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. She joins us from Dhaka, Bangladesh. And here in New York, scholar Norman Finkelstein, author of many books, including Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Sara Hossain, let’s begin with you. Tell us about the most significant findings of your report and how this report came into being.

SARA HOSSAIN: I’m sorry. I couldn’t hear that.

AMY GOODMAN: Please explain the findings of the report.

SARA HOSSAIN: Sure. I mean, this report was commissioned as basis of a resolution by the Human Rights Council. And accordingly, we’ve conducted investigations for about six months now with trained investigators and a team of experts. I should mention, we haven’t been given access to Gaza or to Israel, which obviously has hampered us quite considerably. But nevertheless, we have been able to interview witnesses, and we have been able to interview many victims, as well, some in person and some remotely. We’ve also been able to gather an extraordinary amount of documentary material, including video and drone footage, social media content, as well as all of the affidavits and other testimonies. So, based on that, we’ve come to our assessment.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about the most significant findings.

SARA HOSSAIN: The most significant, I think, is just the number of killings and the numbers of injuries. There are 183 Palestinians who have been killed in the course of the period that we have investigated, which is from the 30th of March to the 31st of December. As you know, the demonstrations are continuing, and killings and injuries have continued to be reported, but we’ve just covered this particular period. We also found, as you said, over 6,000 injuries to Palestinians caused by live fire. We found that four Israeli soldiers had been injured during this time, and two Israeli soldiers had also been killed, but both of those were outside the particular parameters of the investigation. They weren’t in the context of — they weren’t at the protest sites, although one of them was within the protest times. And I think, amongst the numbers of killings, what we also found, which was of great concern, was the fact that protected — groups who are protected categories in international law, protected persons, such as children, people with disabilities, and also health workers and journalists, were amongst those who were both killed and injured in large numbers.

AMY GOODMAN: The U.N. report calls on states to arrest “persons alleged to have committed, or ordered to have committed, the international crimes.” What exactly does that mean?

SARA HOSSAIN: Well, our investigation is done according to the standard of reasonable grounds to believe. It’s not a criminal investigation. We have made some preliminary findings based on the facts as we found them, and applying international human rights law and international humanitarian law where that was relevant, given that we’re speaking about the context of an occupation and the context — in certain contexts, the conduct of hostilities. So we’ve made these findings, but we believe that these need to be taken further. We’ve called on Israel itself to conduct investigations, and we understand that Israel has opened at least five investigations into the incidents that we’ve found. But we are not clear why it has not opened a larger number of investigations. We think that’s the first thing that should happen. We’ve also asked for the international community to look into this. We are going to present our findings, hand them over to the high commissioner for human rights of the United Nations. And I think then it’s for other bodies to take this further. As —

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to acting Israeli foreign minister —

SARA HOSSAIN: — you know, there’s a process at the International Criminal Court.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, UNComments Off on UN Finds the Nazi regime Intentionally Shot Children, Journalists and Disabled People

Unified Action to Fight Deforestation

The Amazon is burning and global deforestation accelerating – we need unified international action.

By Nicole Polsterer

Global Research,

Jair Bolsonaro defied his critics at the UN General Assembly in New York this month – as expected – denouncing those maintaining that his policies have fanned the flames of the Amazon fires.

Brazil’s President declared:

“We all know that all countries have problems. The sensationalist attacks we have suffered due to fire outbreaks have aroused our patriotic sentiment.”

This echoed his repeated claim that the fires in the world’s largest tropical rainforest were being used as an “excuse” to attack his government by countries who want to “control” the Amazon and get their hands on its riches, and that the G7 nation’s offer of $20 million to help tackle the fires was colonialism by another name.

Brazilian vanguard

The idea that outsiders are using the fires to undermine Brazil’s sovereignty resonates with Bolsonaro’s core constituency. But it ignores key facts.

First, it is Brazilians – among them, the one million Indigenous Peoples who call the Amazon home – who are suffering from the fires’ impact, and it is Brazilians who are in the vanguard of fighting them.

Second, while clear policy choices by the Bolsonaro government have increased the deforestation which has driven the fires, the European leaders criticising him are also complicit, as their countries are often importing the products that are grown on recently deforested land.

At the end of August, Fern and 25 other NGOs highlighted this in an open letter to the President-elect of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and other EU leaders.

The letter pointed out that European consumption is intimately linked to the current disaster in the Amazon – as well as the global increase in deforestation.

This is because of EU producers’ voracious appetite for agricultural products, including from Brazil. The fires in the Amazon were started by landholders wanting to improve grass cover in cattle pastures, or to burn felled trees in preparation for crops. Much of what they produce is for export.

New chapter

This week in New York, world leaders have the chance to write a new chapter in alleviating the crisis that is affecting the world’s forests – which, after all, has global consequences.

It’s a path that does not impinge on other countries’ sovereignty: international regulatory action.

After all, voluntary commitments by companies, however well-meaning, do not work in isolation. This was the conclusion of those Member States and companies who signed the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF), which saw dozens of countries and more than 50 of the world’s biggest companies committing to end deforestation by 2020, a deadline which they admit they will fail to meet. National and international laws will be needed, as all the evidence shows.

The need for EU governments to take collective action was made by Frans Timmermans, First Vice President of the European Commission, on Sunday in New York at an event to mark the fifth anniversary of the NYDF.

“When it comes to deforestation, no one gets to say that this is not our business too. Forests are a global public good. When healthy we all benefit, when burning we all suffer,” he said.

The EU is considering developing legislation to rid its supply chains of deforestation and human rights abuses, and others should follow suit: on 23 July it released a communication committing itself to measures to “increase supply chain transparency and minimise the risk of deforestation and forest degradation associated with commodity imports in the EU.”

But it qualified how it wanted to do this, emphasising it wanted to engage in a ‘partnership approach’.

Partnership approach

The communication states that within bilateral dialogues with major consumer and producer countries it would:

Share experience and information on the respective policy and legal frameworks; and identify joint activities to inform policy developments based on an advanced understanding of the impacts of deforestation and forest degradation”.

While these sound vague, the EU has in the past shown itself to be capable of turning a partnership approach into reality  – principally through its flagship measures to address illegal logging, where they chose to hardwire partnership into the core of their approach by negotiating Voluntary Partnership Agreements with timber-producing countries.

The strength of these agreements is that they aren’t imposed from outside, but evolve within the countries themselves through wide consultation with a variety of parties, including civil society and forest communities.

Such an approach should be the template for the EU’s approach to ending the deforestation and human rights abuses in its agricultural supply chains. It could also set an example for the rest of the world.

As the 2020 commitments approach fast, now is the time for unified, ambitious – and constructive – international action to combat deforestation. And Regulation must be at their core.

Posted in Brazil, UNComments Off on Unified Action to Fight Deforestation

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