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'Tornado-like' storm devastates town in South Africa

BBC Africa - Tue, 06/04/2024 - 22:42
A 'tornado-looking' storm has killed at least 10 people after it hit several provinces on Monday.
Categories: Africa

Boy's family seek justice after crash with Ghana actor

BBC Africa - Tue, 06/04/2024 - 18:12
Relatives are mourning a three-year-old who died after a car crash with popular Ghanaian actor Lil Win.
Categories: Africa

Nigeria unions suspend strike after wage offer

BBC Africa - Tue, 06/04/2024 - 17:15
The government agrees to double the minimum wage, but it falls far short of demands by labour unions.
Categories: Africa

Family baffled by US man's link to failed Congolese coup

BBC Africa - Tue, 06/04/2024 - 16:37
Tyler Thompson, 21, is one of three Americans detained in DR Congo last month after the incident.
Categories: Africa

Two jailed in Senegal for criticising PM on gay rights

BBC Africa - Tue, 06/04/2024 - 15:30
The activist and preacher accused Ousmane Sonko of "tolerating homosexuality" during a student forum.
Categories: Africa

Explainer: How India’s Political Parties Neglect Climate Change

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Tue, 06/04/2024 - 12:46

A Kashmiri farmer smokes a traditional hookah on his farmland during a break from paddy cultivation. High temperatures are impacting farms across India. Credit: Umar Manzoor Shah/IPS

By Umar Manzoor Shah
NEW DELHI, Jun 4 2024 (IPS)

As India’s 968.8 million voters were gripped by election fever, the worst-ever heat wave held the country in its clutches. 

The Indian capital, New Delhi, recorded the country’s highest ever temperature of 52.9 degrees Celsius (127.22 °F) on May 28. More than 50 people died within a week due to heat stroke across the country. However, ironically, despite climate change and the havoc it is unleashing upon the country’s inhabitants, there was scant mention of it in the manifestos of the 744 political parties contesting the elections. 

India and the Heat Wave

The year 2022 was called the hottest summer ever. That year, it was so hot in India that it broke the 122-year-old record. But then came 2023, when the summer season was so scorching hot that scientists said it was the hottest summer in the last 2,000 years in the northern hemisphere. But then came the year 2024. From January to June, all months were recorded as the hottest months ever. In the Indian state of Uttarakhand, there were forest fires. In the first week of May, forest fires were seen in states like Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Jharkhand. Heat wave warnings are being issued all over the country, even in places like the southern Indian state of Kerala, where, until recently, heat waves were seldom recorded.

The pervasive heat waves are putting the country’s poor in dire straits. Roadside laborers are dying, and thousands of acres of crops are withering in the heat, affecting millions of people in India’s agriculture sector.

What is a heat wave?

The Indian Meteorological Department will announce a heat wave warning if the temperature on the plains is above 40°C, above 37°C in the coastal areas, and above 30°C in the mountains, or if, for two consecutive days, the temperature is 4.5°C above normal. And if it is 6.4°C above normal for two consecutive days, it is considered a severe heat wave. And if the temperature exceeds 45°C without checking any other conditions, a heat wave is declared.

But, in many cases, the Indian Meteorological Department issues a heat index warning rather than just talking about the temperature. 

What is a heat index? 

Humidity impacts how heat is experienced. So if two places have a temperature of 45°C, but one is more humid, it feels hotter. This is because the moisture in the air means that sweat on the skin doesn’t evaporate as easily. 

In places like the southern Indian city of Chennai, humidity is much higher compared to Delhi. So people feel hotter in Chennai due to the humidity, even when the temperature is lower.  To measure this, there is a heat index that indicates how hot it feels, rather than just measuring temperature. These extreme temperatures are killing people because its difficult to cool their bodies down. 

‘We will all go insane before dying’

According to a report from March 2023, non-communicable diseases were responsible for 1 out of every 4 deaths in India, all because of the heat. In Delhi alone, heat was responsible for 11 percent of deaths.

Prashant Tripathi, known as Acharya Prashant, an Indian philosopher and author, says the situation in India has reached a point where there is a threat of mass insanity looming in the country. Prashant claims that poor people will be the most severely impacted by climate change and that before they pass away, they will go insane, wander around in dry clothes, and attack one another. “This is a very serious matter. You see, when a person is suffering from a high fever, he blabs nonsensical things. The same could be the situation for heat waves. You will see an epidemic of mass insanity happening in the country. We will first go insane and then die—one by one,” he said.

According to him, the political parties have become so consumed with the race to win power that they do not even give a damn about these crucial issues.

Climate change and India’s electoral landscape

While going through the poll manifestos of India’s major political parties, climate change finds the minutest mention. While the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) highlights the importance of fossil fuel reduction for electricity generation, it pledges to work towards achieving net-zero emissions by 2070. The main opposition party, Indian National Congress, claims in its manifesto that it will address the issues of environment and climate change with the seriousness they deserve. The Communist Party of India pledged the promotion of renewable energy, such as solar and wind, if voted to power. Other than this, climate change finds no mention in the massive public rallies that were held across the country during the poll campaign.

Amir Kareem, a research scholar of political science from the University of Kashmir, told IPS that society is so taken up with communal controversies, as issues such as religious diversity and ethnicity are termed in India, that there is little time to look at the real big issue—climate change.

“The Indian political system is still reeling under the crises of providing good roads, free electricity, and jobs. Climate change is not a priority. The main reason is a lack of education and awareness. We are not making our people aware that it is the land, the soil, and the air that are providing us everything. There is crazy stuff of communal hatred, allegations, and counter-allegations, dominating the scene,” Kareem said.

Meanwhile, the million-dollar question remains: Why is the Indian political system playing a proverbial ostrich about the climate change the country is already engulfed in? Only time will tell what price the country will pay for such neglect. As the results pour in, will voters regret not asking heated questions about the climate?

This feature is published with the support of Open Society Foundations.

IPS UN Bureau Report


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As the heat and dust of the India election draw to a close and the country experiences its hottest temperatures ever recorded, this explainer looks at how the phenomenon of climate change hasn’t made a dent in the political agenda.
Categories: Africa

Bringing Drought and Floods, El Niño Hits the Most Fragile in Southern Africa

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Tue, 06/04/2024 - 11:22

In Uvira, eastern Congo, Lake Tanganyika waters have risen so high that the town is flooded. People have been forced to move from their homes, and fields and houses have been destroyed. An estimated 180,000 people have been affected, and over 142,000 people have been displaced. 4,500 homes, 53 schools, and over 124 hectares of farmland were destroyed. Credit: WFP/Benjamin Anguandia

By Paul Virgo
ROME, Jun 4 2024 (IPS)

Kaponde Likando does not know how his family will survive until the next farming season. “We are not going to have anything (to harvest),” said the 60-year-old from Chingobe village in southern Zambia after his maize, sorghum, groundnut and sweet potato crops failed. “This has been the very opposite of what we expected.”

He is among 9.8 million people in Zambia to have been affected by a severe drought linked to the ongoing effects of the El Niño weather phenomenon.

Likando, who is married and has five children, now faces some grim choices.

“Our hope…we expect maybe to sell some of our animals so we can buy maize for food (consumption),” he said.

Across southern Africa, the current El Niño has dealt a devastating blow to some of the world’s hungriest and most fragile communities, where 70% of the population rely on agriculture for their livelihoods

The problem is that once that food runs out, with his livestock gone, there will be nothing standing between his family and starvation.

Likando’s plight is not limited to Zambians.

Across southern Africa, the current El Niño has dealt a devastating blow to some of the world’s hungriest and most fragile communities, where 70% of the population rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.

From Angola to Zimbabwe, it has left normally fertile soils arid, interrupting the production of staples such as maize, and curtailing people’s access to food, as stock dwindle as prices soar.

The three hardest-hit countries – Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi – have declared states of drought disaster. They face widespread crop losses, with between 40% and 80% of their maize harvests decimated.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) says that, across the three countries, nearly five million people need humanitarian assistance.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kato Kasingabalwa is facing the other extreme of El Niño’s impact.

He lost everything, including his maize and rice harvests, in extensive flooding in Uvira, eastern Congo, after torrential rain caused Lake Tanganyika to overflow.

He and his five children have had to move three times to evade the rising water levels and they are living in a makeshift shelter on a vacant piece of land along with many other families whose homes have also been washed away.

Over one million people are estimated to have been impacted by the flooding in DRC, including many who, like Kasingabalwa, have been displaced, while homes, schools, and vast areas of farmland have been destroyed.

“The flooding caught us by surprise,” Kasingabalwa said.

“The water level is so high. We have been forced to move to places we could not have imagined settling in. Right now, the family is seriously struggling. Look at the state of my house there.

“I cannot even start describing the state in which my family members are. Some have wounds caused by water infections. The water is full and keeps coming closer to our settlement.

“It is confusing because in the morning, you wake and see the water level go down, but in the evening, the waves from the lake push the water up again, and we rush to move our belongings. This worries us the most..

“I’m a farmer, and all our harvests and seeds were gone.”

Although this El Niño cycle is coming to an end, the consequences will continue for months to come.

At an Extraordinary Summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on the current crisis in May, leaders said that 61 million people in the region were impacted by El Niño.

They launched an appeal for US$5.5 billion to meet the urgent humanitarian needs and a UN-led event takes place in Pretoria, South Africa, on June 5 to raise funds for the response.

The meeting was convened by UN Assistant Secretary-General Reena Ghelani, the Climate Crisis Coordinator for the El Niño/La Niña Response, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), WFP, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UNHCR Office in Pretoria.

El Niño events, which typically occur every two to seven years, have a major influence on temperature and rainfall in many parts of the world, raising the global average temperature and driving extreme weather events including drought, flooding and storms.

It is a natural phenomenon – a disruption of rainfall patterns caused by the warming of surface waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean – although recent studies suggest that global heating may be leading to stronger El Niño events.

Indeed, the most recent El Niño event is one of the five strongest on record.

“Climate change has affected us,” Likando said. “Seeing this drought, it’s more than in previous years.”

WFP says these climate extremes are a reminder of the urgent need to increase investment in activities that build resilience, especially in Southern Africa, so that communities can be empowered with climate adaptation solutions to mitigate, reduce and absorb the effects of such shocks.

WFP anticipated the effects of the El Niño season as soon as predictions were released in 2023, allowing anticipatory action plans and early warning messages to be prepared.

But the UN agency ability’s to respond to the emergency and avert a hunger catastrophe has been limited after its appeal for funding went unheeded earlier this year.

“El Niño disproportionately affects women and girls,” said Dr Menghestab Haile, WFP Regional Director for Southern Africa.

Haile explained that this is because it is often women who have leave the safety of their homes to go “miles and miles trying to find wood and food,” while girls are the first to leave schools to help their mothers.

“We need irrigation,” added Hailem who has a PhD in Meteorology.

“Water, water, water – if we’d had the resources to expand irrigation, farmers could produce more food.”

Categories: Africa

Femi Kuti and Burna Boy to star at Glastonbury

BBC Africa - Tue, 06/04/2024 - 11:02
The Nigerian musicians are added to the festival line line-up, with just three weeks to go.
Categories: Africa

World Environment Day 2024

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Tue, 06/04/2024 - 09:07

By External Source
Jun 4 2024 (IPS-Partners)

Ecosystems are being threatened all over the world.

From forests to drylands.

From farmlands to lakes.

Drought and desertification are threatening freshwater and soil ecosystems the most.

These are the connective tissues that makes life on Earth possible.

Drylands are areas which face great water scarcity.

They cover 41% of the Earth’s land surface and 78% of the world’s rangelands.

They also generate 44% of global crops – feeding half of the world’s livestock.

They support the lives and livelihoods of more than 2 billion people.

Approximately 1.4 billion livelihoods worldwide are directly reliant on access to fresh water.

Yet, up to 40% of the planet’s land is now degraded, affecting half the world’s population.

Every five seconds, the equivalent of one football pitch of soil is eroded.

Yet, it takes 1,000 years to generate 3 centimeters of topsoil.

The number duration of droughts has increased by 29% since 2000.

By 2050, droughts will affect 75% of the world’s population.

Land restoration is a key pillar of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

It is a rallying call for the protection and revival of ecosystems all around the world.

That’s why World Environment Day 2024 focuses on land restoration, halting desertification and building drought resilience. We cannot turn back time, but we can grow forests, revive water sources, and bring back soils.

We are the generation that can make peace with land.


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Categories: Africa

Saudi Dissident’s Detention in Bulgarian Migrant Center Illegal—Rights Group

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Tue, 06/04/2024 - 08:44

Saudi dissident Abdulrahman Al-Khalidi says he is being kept in appalling conditions as he waits for the Bulgarian courts to confirm his asylum application. Credit: Supplied

By Ed Holt
BRATISLAVA, Jun 4 2024 (IPS)

When Abdulrahman Al-Khalidi fled Turkey for Bulgaria after his fellow Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi was murdered, he thought he was heading for safety and sanctuary in the European Union.

But, he says, he instead would end up facing the exact opposite.

“When I came to Bulgaria, I thought I was going into a European asylum system, but what I signed up to was actually a slavery contract. Where I am now, they can just treat you like animals,” he tells IPS.

Al-Khalidi is speaking from the Busmantsi migrant detention center outside the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, where he has been held since November 2021.

He says that since arriving there, he has been subjected to a “nightmare” of inexplicable detention in appalling conditions and numerous breaches of his rights, including a police beating. He has tried to take his own life and says his mental health has suffered dramatically during his time there.

“I am being treated unfairly and illegally. What is happening to me doesn’t make sense to me or to anyone else. It has been very difficult for me mentally here. Every day I wait for someone to come and tell me I am free to go, but it never happens,” he says.

Al-Khalidi, a political activist and a known dissident, arrived in Bulgaria in October 2021.

A campaigner for human rights and advocate for democratic reforms, along with prominent Saudi figures such as Khashoggi, he left his home country in the wake of mass arrests following the Arab Spring. He sought refuge abroad, first traveling to Egypt, then staying in Qatar and Turkey, where he worked as a journalist writing critical articles about the Saudi regime, before heading to the EU to apply for asylum.

He was detained crossing the border into Bulgaria and claimed asylum. But it was denied by Bulgaria’s Refugee Agency, which decided Saudi authorities had taken steps to democratize society and rejected his claim of asylum on humanitarian grounds.

This was despite Al-Khalidi’s protests, and warnings from human rights groups that he would be in serious danger if he were to be returned to Saudi Arabia.

“If I get sent back to Saudi Arabia, I will 100 percent be killed or will be ‘disappeared’ in prison,” he says.

He launched an appeal against the decision but this was rejected by a lower court. He then took his case to the Supreme Court, which last month (APR) ruled that the State Refugee Agency must reconsider his asylum request. It said the reason given for initially rejecting it—a recommendation from Bulgaria’s National Security Agency that Al-Khalidi posed a security risk to Bulgaria—had not been substantiated.

A decision from the State Refugee Agency on his asylum is expected within months.

Human rights campaigners say they see no reason why it should not be granted.

“I have never come across a case of a refugee that is as clear as that of Abdulrahman’s,” Victor Lilov, member of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, told IPS.

Al-Khalidi himself says that he has lost faith in the asylum process in Bulgaria.

“I don’t trust the authorities anymore,” he says.

His mistrust comes after spending the last two and a half years fighting not just to have his asylum request properly dealt with, but also against what he and rights activists believe is his unfair and, following a recent court ruling, unlawful continued detention at the Busmantsi centre.

Under Bulgarian migration regulations, asylum seekers should only be put in closed centers, such as the Busmantsi facility, as a temporary measure while their identity and the facts around their asylum application are established. They should not be held there solely on the grounds that they have claimed asylum. There is, however, a provision under which a migrant can be held in closed facilities if they are deemed a threat to national security.

Al-Khalidi has been in the Busmantsi centre since just a few weeks after his initial arrest.

He initially lodged a legal complaint over his detention in 2022, but that was rejected by a lower court and he was ordered to remain detained at the centre.

He describes conditions there as appalling, with inadequate medical care, a lack of basic hygiene facilities, insect infestations causing infections and diseases, and that it is run “like a prison” with strict restrictions on movements and freedoms for those housed there.

He also claims that at the end of March, security officers at the facility attacked him after he offered food to others detained at the centre. He was taken to the toilets, where there are no cameras and repeatedly beaten and choked for an hour before being taken back to his room, where he was handcuffed to his bed for another two and a half hours.

He says his ordeal over the last few years has taken a huge mental and physical toll on him, which has only been worsened by what he says have been inexplicable decisions by Bulgarian authorities in his case.

In January of this year, the Supreme Court overturned the 2022 lower court ruling on his continued detention and ordered his immediate release. But it was blocked by the National Security Agency, again on the grounds that he presented a threat to national security.

Al-Khalidi denies posing any threat to national security and says he cannot understand why he remains at the detention centre.

“I don’t know what to do anymore. I can’t see how they can still keep me here,” he says.

Lilov said his continued detention was unlawful.

“The Supreme Court decision of January 18 to release Abdulrahman was immediate and non-appealable. The State Refugee Agency and the National Security Agency have so far refused to implement this decision, making his detention unlawful,” he said.

“This ‘accommodation’ centre for migrants is generally intended for those who have fully exhausted all procedures and have extradition orders and are waiting there for the appropriate transport. Only in exceptional cases does the law allow asylum seekers to be accommodated in closed places until the circumstances requiring their detention are no longer present.

“In the case of Abdulrahman, we have decisions of last resort from the Supreme Court saying that he should be released and that the State Refugee Agency should grant him asylum status. I really don’t understand the reasons behind the Bulgarian authorities’ persistence [to continue to detain him],” added Lilov.

Meanwhile, Al-Khalidi continues to face the threat of deportation to Saudi Arabia, despite the Supreme Court ruling.

On February 5, Al-Khalidi was served with a deportation order by the National Security Agency. He has appealed against this.

In response to questions from rights groups and local media about Al-Khalidi’s situation, the Interior Ministry has confirmed this order should not be enforced until a final ruling on his asylum status is made.

Human rights organisations campaigning for his release say Al-Khalidi’s deportation is likely to be in breach of international refugee conventions and Bulgaria’s international obligations on non-refoulement, given Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and documented treatment of political dissidents.

They say he would be at risk of arrest, torture, and potentially the death penalty for his political views and activism.

“The Saudi regime treats political dissidents in a very harsh way. If he is sent back, Abdulrahman will also face very harsh treatment,” said Lilov. “Bulgaria must give him asylum.”

The Bulgarian Interior Ministry did not respond to requests from IPS for comment.

IPS UN Bureau Report


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Categories: Africa

Unregulated Autonomous Weapons Systems Pose Risk to Africa

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Tue, 06/04/2024 - 08:20

Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio delivers the keynote address at the inaugural African regional conference on Autonomous Weapons Systems.
Ambassador Lansana Gberie of Sierra Leone warns of a new arms race that could divert important resources away from peacebuilding and sustainable development.

By Kingsley Ighobor
GENEVA, Jun 4 2024 (IPS)

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called on countries to conclude by 2026 negotiations on a legally binding instrument to prohibit Autonomous Weapons Systems (AWS).

In response, Sierra Leone in April 2024 hosted a conference of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member states to discuss challenges associated with AWS.

In this interview with Africa Renewal’s Kingsley Ighobor, Sierra Leone’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Dr. Lansana Gberie, the chief organizer of the conference, on behalf of the Government of Sierra Leone, discusses the outcomes and the ramifications of AWS proliferation for Africa.

Here are excerpts:

Dr. Lansana Gberie, Sierra Leone’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva and the chief organizer of the conference on behalf of the Government of Sierra Leone.

Q: What exactly are Autonomous Weapons Systems (AWS), and how are they different from conventional weapons?

Autonomous weapons are new, very potent weapons designed to select, target, and engage without any meaningful human intervention. The difference with conventional weapons is simple: the human factor.

Remember, the two atomic bombs that devastated Japanese cities during WWII were dropped by human beings who carefully selected the targets. They caused enormous carnage, but accountability could be easily assigned for their use.

Autonomous weapons make decisions to kill or destroy targets without a human being participating in the process. Accountability, and therefore reckoning, for such a grave decision becomes difficult.

Q: What are your views regarding the urgency expressed by the UN Secretary-General for international action on AWS?

That is a call that we fully support. As you know, Mr. Guterres made the call in a joint statement with Ms. Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), on October 5, 2023. He referred to lethal AWS as morally repugnant and politically unacceptable, calling for their prohibition under international law.

Q: Why should global attention be directed towards the proliferation of AWS?

There are ethical, legal, and practical reasons why the world must focus on this issue now. Machines and algorithms should not make life and death decisions, and this is what autonomous weapons are designed to do. This is ethically appalling.

There is also a fundamental legal aspect: if machines are to make life and death decisions in warfare, who can be held accountable for potential war crimes, extrajudicial killings, and unlawful use of weaponry?

Autonomous weapons systems present tremendous global security risks: they raise the risk of unintended escalation and flash wars, and they lower the threshold for waging war. They are easy to proliferate and could easily be used as weapons of mass destruction for targeted killings, by both state and non-state actors.

Q: What factors contribute to the rising popularity of AWS as military assets?

They are very convenient. Military powers are often risk-averse—they do not want to take large casualties themselves but would like to inflict them on their enemies. This is what AWS will do for them. They leave the actual target decisions to machines. That, too, is convenient.

Accountability for decisions that they set in place becomes difficult in a legal sense. Human beings must remain accountable for the conduct of wars, including targeting decisions. Autonomous weapons systems increase the risk of civilian casualties on a massive scale.

Q: How does the spread of AWS affect Africa?

We are a vulnerable region. Larger military powers are investing in technologies that reduce human control. These dynamics benefit weapons manufacturers and draw important resources away from peacebuilding and sustainable development. The use of AWS could increase the capacity of highly militarized countries to inflict violence with impunity.

By calling for a new international legally binding agreement on AWS, ECOWAS member states hope to prevent the escalation of military dominance by the most militarized countries.

Q: How might African countries prevent the spread of these weapons?

Following the UN Secretary-General’s call, there is now strong international support from over 115 states for starting negotiations on a treaty. The ECOWAS conference, held in Freetown on 17-18 April 2024 and hosted by President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone, was a response to a UN General Assembly resolution on lethal autonomous weapons systems adopted on December 22, 2023. This resolution supports the Secretary-General’s call.

The communiqué issued at the end of the conference affirmed the region’s collective support for negotiations of a legally binding instrument to prohibit autonomous weapons without meaningful human control.

Q: How do events like the conference in Freetown contribute to the potential for an AWS treaty?

Significantly. the Freetown ECOWAS conference followed other regional conferences around the world focused on raising awareness of the problem and forging a common regional approach in support of a legally binding agreement on AWS. Costa Rica held one, and so did the Philippines. There was one in the Caribbean, held in Trinidad and Tobago.

Remember that not every ECOWAS member state is party to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) or has participated in the global discussions around AWS. The Freetown conference brought these countries into that conversation.

Q: Why is Sierra Leone a leader in the advocacy efforts for a treaty on AWS?

As you know, Sierra Leone is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. We are also a member of the African Union Peace and Security Council.

President Bio said at the opening of the conference in Freetown that Sierra Leone is deeply committed to safeguarding peace and security in our region. We understand the destabilizing effects of military conflicts that can last for generations. We have become a champion on global arms control and disarmament issues.

The President began his career as a military officer and was among the first batch of peacekeepers sent to Liberia amidst that country’s civil war in the early 1990s. He understands that if we ignore the issue of autonomous weapons in our backyard, we do so at our own peril.

Q: What are the main challenges and complexities involved in negotiating a legally binding instrument to regulate AWS, considering the diverse perspectives and interests of different countries?

All international treaties, particularly on arms, tend to be complex; and negotiations leading to them can be prolonged and difficult. We often hear that a treaty would be ineffective if the countries using AWS do not sign up to them. But with international law, accountability can be determined, whether states are parties or not.

That carries an important moral and practical weight. A majority of countries support a treaty on AWS. Let’s not forget that. But there are powerful countries and interests opposed to such negotiations even starting. That should not discourage the majority. We must all strive to avoid an arms race in this respect.

Source: Africa Renewal, United Nations

IPS UN Bureau


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Categories: Africa

The ANC dilemma which will determine South Africa's future

BBC Africa - Tue, 06/04/2024 - 02:28
South Africa's leader will have to rely on the opposition to form a government after electoral losses.
Categories: Africa

Biodiversity Meetings in Nairobi End, All Eyes Are Now on COP16

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Mon, 06/03/2024 - 15:17

A banner demanding an end to harmful subsidies is on display on the last day of the SBI meeting in Nairobi. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
NAIROBI, Jun 3 2024 (IPS)

Regions struggling to revise and update their National Biodiversity Plans aligning them with the Global Biodiversity Framework adopted at COP15, will now be given the technical and scientific support to develop and submit their plans on time.

This was one of the key decisions of the 4th meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI)—the crucial pre-COP meetings of the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (UNCBD)—to review the status and challenges of implementing the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), which started on May 22 and ended in Nairobi late in the evening of May 29, 2024.

More than 1000 participants from 143 countries gathered for the nine-day meeting, which UNCBD referred to as one of the “largest SBI meetings ever,” to discuss a variety of issues pertaining to the timely implementation of the GBF. As the meeting ended, the participants came up with a list of recommendations that will be presented for nations to consider at the next Biodiversity COP (COP16), scheduled to be held in October in Cali, Colombia.

IPS provided coverage of the twin meetings of SBI and the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advisors (SBSTTA), which took place earlier on May 13–18.  In this article, we bring you the key issues that topped the agenda of the SBI and the biggest recommendations that were made.

National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plans

In December 2022, at the COP15, parties agreed to revise and update their national biodiversity plans (NBSAP), aligning the targets with the global biodiversity framework that was adopted at the COP. These updated plans are to be submitted to UNCBD by or before the next COP, scheduled to be held in October.

However, as earlier reported by IPS, despite being just five months away from the next COP, only 11 countries have submitted their NBSAPs, while the majority of the countries have not, citing various reasons, including a lack of capacity and resources.

The top agenda item of the SBI has been reviewing these reasons and recommending steps that can help countries close this gap and complete the task of submitting their plans on time.

David Cooper, acting Executive Director of UN Biodiversity and Chirra Achalendar Reddy, chair of SBI-4, address the press conference. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Capacity Building

After the nine-day discussions, delegates at the SBI decided that it would be necessary to provide all countries with specific technical and scientific support that can help them develop their NBSAPs and submit them on time. To provide this support, SBI decided that a network of technical and scientific support centers would be set up at regional and sub-regional level.

According to Chirra Achalender Reddy, Secretary, National Biodiversity Authority, India, and the chair of the SBI-4 meeting, the recommendation to set up these support centers was one of the key decisions made at the meeting.

“I thank the parties for their commitment to implementation of the Convention, as demonstrated by their engagement during the negotiations this week.  While we have many issues to resolve at COP16, the foundation is laid for our discussions in Cali, Colombia, later this year,” said Reddy.

Elaborating further on the decision, David Cooper, Acting Executive Director of the UNCBD, said that 18 regional organizations have been selected worldwide as the support centers. “They will foster and facilitate technical and scientific cooperation as countries harness science, technology and innovation to help halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.”

Cooper also expressed hope that, in the future, these 18 organizations could create more such support centers, expanding the network from regional and sub-regional to national level.

“These subregional support centers will also promote technology transfer among countries, including through joint research programs and joint technology development ventures, acting as “one-stop service centers” offering wide-ranging resources to help meet Biodiversity Plan targets.  The centers are expected to help expand, scale up, and accelerate efforts such as the existing Bio-Bridge initiative,” Cooper added.

Resource Mobilization

In the Global Biodiversity Framework, the financial ambitions set out include investing USD 200 billion a year from both public and private sources until 2030. In addition, the goal also includes saving another USD 500 billion by ending subsidies that are harmful to biodiversity yet are still practiced by countries. This will bring the total available finance for biodiversity conservation to USD 700 billion per year until 2030, the deadline to achieve all GBF targets.

At the SBI, there was an intense discussion on resource mobilization. Several countries complained that, despite being signatories to the GBF, they had not been able to access any resources meant for biodiversity conservation, especially the Global Biodiversity Framework Fund (GBFF), which was launched last year and is managed by the Global Environment Facility.

Delegates from Syria, who spearheaded this discussion, revealed that their country had not been able to receive any money and suggested that the final document prepared by the CBD Secretariat reflect this. Syria’s voice was amplified by Russia, which said that Syria’s inability to access resources should be interpreted as a denial of resources.

Almost all the governments also discussed their own parameters for national biodiversity finance plans, the role of multilateral development banks, existing UN initiatives, and private finance.

An important discussion that took place was about setting up a new Global Biodiversity Fund, separate from the current Global Biodiversity Framework Fund (GBFF).

Women4Biodiversity, a group of women-led NGOs and gender champions, launched a training module on how to mainstream gender at the Global Biodiversity Framework meeting. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Gender and Indigenous Peoples

One of the most interesting developments that took place on the sidelines of the SBI meeting was the launch of a training module by Women4Biodiversity, a group that advocates for gender mainstreaming across all 23 targets of the GBF and participates in the meetings as an observer.

Titled “Training Module on Advancing Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in the Implementation of the Kunming Montreal-Global Biodiversity Framework,” the document was prepared in collaboration with World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Speaking to the press about the training module, Alejandra Duarte, Policy Associate at Women4Biodiversity, said the main objective of the publication was to serve as a source of information for decision-makers, negotiators, indigenous peoples and local communities, women, youth, civil society, businesses, and the whole of society who are engaged in the planning, monitoring, and implementation of the Biodiversity Plan.

Mrinalini Rai, Director of Women4Biodiversity, also explained that the module was created to be understood by all and customized as per the context, community, or country.

Supporting Rai’s comments, Cristina Eghenter, senior global governance policy expert at WWF, said, “I hope that the module will help understand the gaps and what needs to be done for women to be a part of the Biodiversity Plan.”

Rodah Rotino, an indigenous community leader and President of the Pastoral Communities Empowerment Programme (PACEP), a Kenya-based women-led NGO, highlighted the contribution of indigenous women to biodiversity conservation across the world, including Africa.

“In my community, we have started a seed bank that preserves indigenous tree seeds. We plant indigenous plants that help preserve and conserve the local biodiversity and help community members benefit from their many uses, as they have done for centuries,” Rotino said, citing the example of her own community in West Pokot County, where women have started several initiatives. “We even promote the use of our traditional food systems, including the use of traditional indigenous crops, fruits, and vegetables, and we are seeing that after using these, our people, especially women and children, have many health improvements and quick recovery from some ailments. In short, we are going ahead with using our indigenous knowledge without even waiting for the formal implementation of the GBF.”

What’s Next

In Cali, Colombia, the CBD secretariat will present the decisions of the SBI-4 and the SBSTTA to the nations for their consideration and adoption.

However, just before the COP begins, yet another SBI meeting (SBI-5) will be held in Cali. The sole focus of that meeting will be to review the latest status of the national biodiversity plans and the plans that will be submitted between now and the COP.

“Right now, countries are in various stages of developing their NBSAPs and by October, we expect most of them to complete and make the submissions. The SBI-5 will review the plans and the status then,” Cooper explained.

IPS UN Bureau Report


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Categories: Africa

Commonwealth Secretary-General Calls for Concrete Finance Commitments for Small Island Developing States

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Mon, 06/03/2024 - 08:59

Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Patricia Scotland, says Small Island Developing States need concrete commitments for climate finance. Credit: Alison Kentish/IPS

By Alison Kentish

Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland is calling for concrete commitments to climate finance that will acknowledge the multi-dimensional vulnerability faced by the world’s small island developing states (SIDS).

There are 33 small states in the Commonwealth family, 25 of which are SIDS.

Speaking to IPS news on the sidelines of the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS4) in Antigua and Barbuda, Baroness Scotland said these nations are struggling with the devastating impacts of climate disasters and economic crises.

“This meeting (SIDS4) is pivotal, especially as we approach the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals deadline. The small states have been disproportionately affected year after year. The aspirations and hopes for the small island developing states meeting were exceptionally high,” stated the Secretary-General.

SIDS4 was held from May 27 to 30 and small island developing states leaders used the platform to address their shared challenges and propose joint solutions. The four-day conference, held every decade, featured main and side events by United Nations organizations, the private and public sector, non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, youth leaders, and academia—all working towards a sustainable future for SIDS.

Baroness Scotland says the sense of urgency for action underscores the reality of life on many small island developing states, which are at the forefront of climate disasters and facing unprecedented challenges despite contributing the least to the climate crisis.

“We have witnessed a surge in climate disasters, occurring with alarming frequency. The impact is profound and the need for climate finance is urgent,” she told IPS.

A Confluence of Crises: Climate Change,  COVID-19 and Economic Shocks

The Commonwealth Secretary General says SIDS were already battling with the impacts of climate change when the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated their challenges, dealing devastating blows to their tourism-reliant economies. She says climate change has introduced new diseases, straining health systems and the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia has triggered a global economic crisis, heightening food insecurity.

She says international financial institutions must factor in these realities and recognize the multi-dimensional vulnerabilities faced by SIDS.

“When a hurricane comes and takes everything that you have worked hard for, it does not take the debt with it and dump it in the ocean. It leaves you with more debt at a higher rate.”

“We are not just asking for sympathy or charity. We are asking for concrete actions and commitments to help us adapt to the changing climate and build resilience in the face of disasters.”

SIDS Leaders: An Urgent, Joint Message

The Secretary-General cited the sense of urgency felt and articulated by SIDS leaders such as Prime Ministers Mia Mottley of Barbados and Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda.

“Our leaders are stepping up,” she said. “All of our leaders of the small island developing states are saying, ‘we have to move.”

As the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting approaches, the Secretary-General is hoping to see a continuation of the momentum gained at the SIDS meeting. She stressed the importance of SIDS4 commitments being part of concrete actions at upcoming regional and international meetings, including the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting, the Pacific Islands Forum and the United Nations General Assembly.

The Path Forward

The theme of hope echoed throughout the conference and Baroness Scotland says she too, is hopeful for a resilient future for SIDS, but she says some of that optimism rests on the equitable distribution of climate finance. She says SIDS receive only 1.5% of the UN’s climate funding, despite being disproportionately affected by climate change.

“We are asking for a fair share of the resources that are available to address the climate crisis,” she said. “We are asking for a recognition of our vulnerability and a commitment to help us build a more sustainable future.

There has been a push for specific, actionable plans that can be implemented across various regional meetings and global forums.

The Commonwealth is doing its part. She points to the Climate Finance Access Hub, located in Mauritius, as a source of pride. Through this initiative, member states receive assistance in applying for climate funds, but using data from a number of the world’s leading scientific bodies, including the British Space Agency.  A number of small islands, including Fiji, have benefited from the Hub.

“We managed to get USD 5.7 million for Fiji to create a nature-based seawall,” she said. “And USD 21.8 million for Antigua, Dominica, and Grenada. This is real money, but our countries need to do more to implement the changes.”

At SIDS4 there has been a concerted effort to ensure that while the vulnerabilities of small island developing states are recognized, their strength and resolve are brought to the fore. The conference showcased their struggles, but also their resilience and the fact that with concrete action from the international community, SIDS can have a bright future.

“We are not just talking about the next meeting or the next conference,” Baroness Scotland says. “We are talking about the future of our nations and the future of our people. We are talking about the need for urgent action to address the climate crisis and build a more sustainable world for all.”

IPS UN Bureau Report


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IPS UN Bureau, IPS UN Bureau Report, Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS4), Antigua, Barbuda, Climate Change Justice, Climate Justice

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Categories: Africa

The Dilemma for Small Island Developing States: Recovery or Development?

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Mon, 06/03/2024 - 05:35

A view of Antigua and Barbuda, the host of the fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS4), 27-30 May 2024. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

By Simone Galimberti
KATHMANDU, Nepal, Jun 3 2024 (IPS)

“We are facing unenviable decisions, between the recovery of today or the development of tomorrow”. These were the words of Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa, of Samoa at the opening of the 4th International Conference on Small Islands Developing States (SIDS4).

Few can deny the true of the powerful message of the Samoan Prime Minister who is also the leading the international group representing the small island states, formally the Alliance of Small Island States, AOSIS.

Yet who is listening? The small island states conclave that was hosted by Antigua and Barbuda between the 27 and 30 of May had two central goals.

On the one hand, once again raise awareness on the moral responsibility that the industrialized world, together with the petrostates have towards the most vulnerable, most fragile nations in the world.

On the other hand, the gathering was centered on charting the way forward with a new global plan that would replace the SAMOA Pathway, the blueprint that guided the priorities of these nations in the last decade that was built on the Barbados Plan of Actions, the first ever global plan for small island nations.

The new framework, entitled The Antigua and Barbuda Agenda for Small Island Developing States or ABAS like its predecessors, does not like ambition. It sets key and vital priorities and strategies upon their implementation the real survival of these nation islands will depend on.

It is also predicated on the indispensable and unnegotiable role that rich countries should play to support small island nations while they navigate climate warming.

Unsurprisingly, the problem is that, as always, developed nations struggle to walk the talk while claiming doing their part in supporting the island nations. Perhaps we should not question their good intentions but the problem is that the means put at disposal are not nearly close to what is needed: trillions and trillions in American dollars.

Certainly, the entire world was not focused on St. John’s, the capital of Antigua and Barbuda. No matter the hype that the United Nations tried to give to the event, unfortunately the world was not watching.

No matter the passionate speeches given there, including the pleas by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres “SIDS can make an almighty noise together to deliver meaningful change to benefit the whole of humankind”, Guterres said during his opening address.

He went further. “Small Island Developing States have every right and reason to insist that developed economies fulfil their pledge to double adaptation financing by 2025”.

While there was plenty of heads of governments from within the SIDS and senior officials within the United Nations, the gathering was mostly a no-show for many of the top players.

For example, Ajay Banga, the President of the World Bank was not there. The same could be said of Masatsugu Asakawa, the President of the Asian Development Bank and for Nadia Calviño, the President of the European Investment Bank.

These are the biggest multilateral lenders and it is hard to understand why they did not show solidarity with the most threatened nations in the world. You can now understand why no major funding initiative exclusively focusing on SIDS was launched during the SIDS4.

Yes. both the United States and the EU made some announcements but none was specifically designed for small islands nations. The States announced a scale up of international public finance to over USD 11 billion annually by 2024 while the EU committed to step up its Global Gateway by mobilizing EUR 300 billion in public and private investments by 2027 in sustainable development.

These are important commitments but will they really materialize? Out of them, how much SIDS nations will get? These are genuine questions that are feeding a well justified sense of skepticism for what the so called North is going to do for vulnerable and in danger nations.

In all truth, agencies like the UNDP and UNICEF stepped up their game.

The former announced an array of initiatives, including the Blue and Green Islands Integrated Program (BGI-IP), a $135 million joint initiative with the Global Environment Facility.

The program “emphasizes the crucial role of nature and expand nature-based solutions to combat environmental degradation in three key sectors: urban development, food production, and tourism”.

UNDP also produced an important policy brief, “Breaking through the disaster-response cycle in SIDS: aligning financing to urgent climate action” that offers an analysis of what is needed for the island nations to win over the battle against climate change.

UNICEF instead led the organization of SIDS Global Children and Youth Action Summit held before the official governments led forum. It is a symbolically important manifestation on how young people should be in the driving seat when leaders and global institutions talks about policy formulations that will directly impact the future generations.

Once again, another action plan or as called this time a Commitment to Action, was issued by the youths but we do know that such documents, despite the noble intention and efforts putting in preparing them, do not count.

That’s why we should ask ourselves when young people will be really allowed to take part in the real discussions, when the real decisions are taken. Unfortunately, we are still far from that moment.

The ABAS plan itself contains some interesting proposals but they are mostly technicalities that still need full endorsement of the international community. These include the SIDS Debt Sustainability Support Service and Multidimensional Vulnerability Index (MVI), that are going to be tools tailored made for island nations to be able to have better deals in terms of getting the resources needed not only to cope with their vulnerabilities but also thrive despite of them.

After the closing of the summit, we can say that, despite the rhetoric, SIDS nations are on their own. They should all learn from some of their peers like Vanuatu and Barbados who both have been punching above their weigh with global initiatives to defend their own strategic interests.

The former has been taking the lead with a petition to the International Court of Justice for the so-called Advisory Opinion on the Obligations of States relevant to Climate Action.

The latter instead create a buzz in the international financial systems with Bridgetown Initiative that is supposed to free considerable financial resources for developing nations endangered by the climate crisis.

The new Maldivian President, Mohamed Muizzu, that so far came to be known to the international community for his strong anti-India stance, tried to mobilize the global attention on the St John’s summit with an op-ed essay for The Guardian.

He and the host of the event, Gaston Alfonso Browne, the PM of Antigua and Barbuda, are behind the SIDS Debt Sustainability Support Service and indeed have been relentlessly advocating for the rights of the small island nations.

One of the outcomes, important though hardly a gamechanger, will be the creation of a SIDS Center of Excellence in Antigua and Barbuda that, among other things, will be focused on data.

Interestingly enough on the 21st of May, UNIDO, probably one of the weakest UN entities, announced a similar imitative in partnership with the government of Barbados.

I would call all these initiatives “Add-Ons”, nice but not what is required.

An analysis by UNCTAD brings even more clarity on the daunting needs of SIDS.

While only contributing to 1% of global carbon dioxide emissions, they only had access to $1.5 billion out of $100 billion in climate finance pledged to developing countries in 2019.

Perhaps the most important recent news related to small island nations did not come from the gracious St. John’s but from the opposite side of the Atlantic. In Hamburg, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, delivered an Advisory Opinion on the request submitted to the Tribunal by the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change, a new SIDS led body, itself an interesting developed created just few years ago thanks to the leadership of Tuvalu and Antigua and Barbuda.

The conclusions of this opinion are fundamental because, slowly, step by step, we are building legal cases against green houses big emitters. First the tribunal ruled that “Anthropogenic GHG emissions into the atmosphere constitute pollution of the marine environment”.

Second, it said that “States Parties to the Convention have the specific obligations to take all necessary measures to prevent, reduce and control marine pollution from anthropogenic GHG emissions and to endeavor to harmonize their policies in this connection”.

Though non-binding, these statements will count on day.

The final press release issued by the UN at the closing of the SIDS4 summit, says that “The SIDS4 Conference has set the stage for the Summit of the Future taking place at UN Headquarters in New York from 22 to 23 September 2024”.

Do not count on that and the leaders of the SIDS nations that gathered in Antigua and Barbuda know it.

What perhaps is the most interesting aspects of the SIDS4 Summit might not be found in the official statements, a flurry of already well-known talking points. Rather what could matter the most is what the leaders of these nations have discussed among themselves behind the scene, far from the limelight.

The start reality is that they cannot rely on anyone to convince the world about their case.
That’s why only their determination, acumen and tactics will make a difference and what they know for sure is that they have to keep punching beyond their weight.

Simone Galimberti writes about the SDGs, youth-centered policy-making and a stronger and better United Nations.

IPS UN Bureau


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Categories: Africa

President Biden Needs to Do More than Propose a Ceasefire Plan That Israel Already Rejected a Month Ago

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Sun, 06/02/2024 - 22:10

According to a recent World Bank assessment, 62 percent of all homes and 84 percent of health facilities in Gaza have been destroyed. Credit: Hosny Salah

By Melek Zahine
COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Jun 2 2024 (IPS)

Throughout his long career, but especially these past heart-wrenching eight months, President Biden has consistently placed his ironclad loyalty to Israel over his fidelity and duty to the United States. The consequences this week have been catastrophic for the Palestinian people, made Israelis even less secure, and betrayed American national security and democratic integrity.

The entire Gaza Strip and its 2.3 million civilians, nearly fifty percent of whom are children, are now pushed to their limits, struggling to survive the complex humanitarian crisis literally facing every Palestinian man, woman, and child in the beleaguered enclave. By restricting the flow of food and essential aid through every land crossing, including U.S. humanitarian assistance, while simultaneously bombing civilian areas across the entirety of Gaza, Israel is accelerating levels of famine and displacement (The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification Scale). By doing so, it also violates multiple U.S. and international laws, preventing states from blocking humanitarian aid during times of war. “Israel has effectively created a gulag by sealing all borders and access to the sea, a cruel irony for a nation founded on the memory of Jewish ghettos in Warsaw (Anonymous source).”

Biden’s announcement on Friday that Israel had agreed to a ceasefire is the same plan that Israel said it would support a month ago and then decimated the Jabilia refugee camp and pushed forward with its ground assault on Rafah. Like his response to the I.C.J. ruling for Israel to halt its assault on Rafah earlier this week, President Biden has been utterly silent about Israel’s ongoing humanitarian blockade and military operations throughout the enclave. The only reply so far has been from his National Security Council spokesman, John Kirby. During a White House press briefing on Tuesday, Kirby essentially said, “Any loss of civilian life is heartbreaking…but for the moment, the U.S. won’t be making any changes to its foreign policy or its military aid to Israel. We don’t believe Israel’s actions in Rafah represent a major ground invasion. A major ground operation is thousands of troops maneuvered against targets on the ground.” Yet according to Omar Ashour, a Professor of Security and Military Studies at The Doha Institute of Military Studies, Israel’s “limited military operation” in Rafah is anything but limited, as “six brigades consisting of more than 30,000 ground forces and tanks reached the heart of Rafah on Tuesday” the same day that Kirby made his statement. In the week since Israeli forces entered Rafah, 70 Palestinian civilians have been killed and hundreds injured.

Thankfully, President Biden’s reckless foreign policy doesn’t speak for the entire U.S. government and nation. The millions of Americans bravely challenging his unquestioning diplomatic and military aid to Israel represent a cross-section of American society, including thousands of Jewish Americans as well as numerous Holocaust survivors and their descendants (, More than half of American voters, including a majority of democrats, republicans, and independents, disapprove of Israel’s actions in Gaza, according to a March Gallop Poll, and two-thirds of American voters have called for the United States to support a permanent ceasefire and a de-escalation of the violence in Gaza (Data for Progress, 27.02.2024 Survey).

Not only is President Biden consistently ignoring diverse calls for moral action on Gaza from college students and the general public, but he has foolishly sidelined critical voices from public servants across multiple U.S. government agencies as well as within his own administration. As early as October, Josh Paul, a Director in the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, responsible for U.S. defense diplomacy, security assistance, and arms transfers, was the first to ring alarm bells against “adding fuel to the fire.” Before resigning, Paul implored Biden Administration officials to apply the Leahy Law, a U.S. Foreign Assistance Act that prohibits military assistance to any force in gross violation of human rights. Amidst a mounting civilian death toll and countless war crimes being reported by multiple independent sources, not only was Paul’s warning dismissed, but President Biden doubled down and circumvented U.S. Congressional oversight on two separate occasions to expedite a $250 million sale of highly lethal weapons to Israel. Also in December, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, pressed upon the president to consider that as Israel’s principal arms provider, “the United States is not a bystander in Israel’s war against Hamas” and of the “unacceptably high civilian casualty rates in Gaza” due to Israel’s “very loose rules of engagement” and its “lack of restraint in pursuing Hamas leaders.”

On February 2, more than 800 civil servants signed an open letter calling on the Biden Administration to reconsider its unconditional support for Israel’s war in Gaza, stating that “Israel has shown no boundaries in its military operations and has further risked the lives of the remaining Israeli hostages.” In April, Hala Rharrit, a veteran U.S. Diplomat, and in May, Lily Greenberg Call, a Jewish-American political appointee, stepped down from their positions after months of warning that continued unconditional support for Israel from the White House was exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and failing to serve American foreign policy interests. As I write this opinion piece, two more U.S. Government officials have announced their resignations, bringing the number of U.S. government resignations to nine.

The plight of the Israeli hostages is growing more desperate by the day, and the number of casualties in Gaza has now reached 120,000. While President Biden’s renewed push for a ceasefire is welcome, it doesn’t go far enough. President Biden must personally lead efforts for a truce between Israel and Hamas by showing the United States is serious about peace. He can achieve this by taking three principled, immediate, and actionable steps to mitigate the violence and harm that the United States is contributing to in Gaza. President Biden must personally demand Israel reopen all land crossings, announce an arms embargo until a lasting peace is achieved, and enforce a no-fly zone over Gaza so that the hostages can be released in a calm environment and humanitarian organizations can safely and rapidly scale up desperately needed assistance efforts.

When the moment of reckoning comes, President Biden and his administration won’t be able to claim ignorance. All along these past eight months, Americans from both inside the U.S. government and the general public have spoken with moral clarity, asking President Biden to simply abide by the principles and domestic and international laws for which the United States is already a party.

The author is a Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Response Specialist

IPS UN Bureau


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Categories: Africa

Can South Africa's ANC reinvent itself after dismal election result?

BBC Africa - Sun, 06/02/2024 - 13:13
The ANC has dominated South Africa for the past 30 years but now it has to look to the future.
Categories: Africa

Can South Africa's ANC reinvent itself after dismal election result?

BBC Africa - Sun, 06/02/2024 - 13:13
The ANC has dominated South Africa for the past 30 years but now it has to look to the future.
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The artist 'not surprised' to be a best-seller

BBC Africa - Sun, 06/02/2024 - 01:19
Ivory Coast's Aboudia beat the likes of Damian Hirst to the top spot of a best-sellers list.
Categories: Africa

The artist 'not surprised' to be a best-seller

BBC Africa - Sun, 06/02/2024 - 01:19
Ivory Coast's Aboudia beat the likes of Damian Hirst to the top spot of a best-sellers list.
Categories: Africa


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