Today marks UN International Peace Day

Today marks UN International Peace Day

To coincide with this and the UN General Assembly meeting September 14-27, Tipping Point North South’s Transform Defence project publishes its updated briefing:

‘Reset for the 21st century’: The Global Military and the United Nations

We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction yet the foreign and defence policies of nations around the world – especially the top 20 nations which allocate large sums to defence spending – are preoccupied with a plethora of adversarial and conventional threats on land, air, sea and space as well as with nuclear weapons, cyber weaponry and AI.

Meantime, climate change and pandemic are laying bare the magnitude and depth of the desperate state we are in. The post-pandemic global economy, coming not so long after the 2008 crash, will further compound this with ever greater poverty and inequality.

Alongside all past and present wars and conflicts, it seems we have also collectively declared war on ourselves and our planet. But no F-35 will stop New York City, Alexandria, Shanghai, Amsterdam, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, Venice, Bangkok, Mumbai and London going under water; no nuclear warhead will solve India and Pakistan’s disappearing water-table; no anti-terror AI will stop West Africa’s growing desertification.

The briefing pulls together the various ways in which the global military as whole- primarily the top 20 spenders and arms sellers- impact on the SDGs; on climate change itself;  and the intersection of both.

It explores:

  • Why the impact of the global military on climate change demands much more attention and scrutiny at UN level
  • Why we need to divert runaway military spending to make up the SDGs funding shortfall
  • How a wider debate on definitions of ‘security’ and ‘defence’ is of benefit to the UN and citizens of the world
  • Why a Security Council high level open debate is needed to bring all these inter-related issues together in order to frame an urgent new 21st century paradigm for security – that of ‘sustainable human safety’.

In light of the UN Secretary General’s call to ‘launch a reset for the 21st century,’ five recommendations are offered up as a way to explore a reset in relation to this much overlooked issue and in turn raise ever greater awareness, debate and action:

  • Apply rigorous evidence-based value-for-money approaches to military spending
  • Part-fund the $2-4 trillion SDGs 2021-2030 funding gap from escalating military budgets 2023-30 and beyond
  • Create a new UNFCCC TOPIC ‘Carbon Neutral Peace and Defence’ and fill the ‘Knowledge Gap’ across UN and national processes on the global military’s greatly under-estimated carbon bootprint
  • Make SDG 16 ‘Peaceful Societies’ much more challenging in its remit in relation to the global military and spending
  • Hold a Security Council high-level open debate on the impact of the global military on climate change and under-development and the concept of ‘Carbon Neutral Peace and Defence

In 2020, the UN issued a report on the occasion of the UN’s 75th anniversary, in September 2020. In the Declaration (A/RES/75/1), Member States recognize that while there have been many achievements in the past 75 years, the world envisaged by the UN’s founders 75 years ago has not yet been realized: it is plagued by growing inequality, poverty, hunger, armed conflicts, terrorism, insecurity, climate change, and pandemics; people are forced to make dangerous journeys in search of refuge and safety; the LDCs are falling behind; and complete decolonization has not been achieved.

In 2021, the UN has mapped out how to take this forward with key proposals across the 12 commitments.

Recommendations from ‘Reset for the 21st century’: The Global Military and the United Nations connect with a number of items within the 12 proposals including:

  1. PROTECT OUR PLANET
    • Commit to the 1.5-degree Celsius goal and net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner
    • Package of support to developing countries
  1. PROMOTE PEACE AND PREVENT CONFLICTS
    • New agenda for peace
      • Invest in prevention and peacebuilding, including Peacebuilding Fund and Peacebuilding Commission
  1. ENSURE SUSTAINABLE FINANCING
    • Support a Sustainable Development Goal investment boost, including through a last-mile alliance to reach those furthest behind
  1. LISTEN TO AND WORK WITH YOUTH
    • Future generations
      • Summit of the Future in 2023
      • Ensure long-term thinking, including through a United Nations Futures Lab
  1. BE PREPARED
    • On global public health
      • Empowered WHO
      • Stronger global health security and preparedness

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Climate change is increasingly a part of UN Security Council debates and publications and while it may not be accepted by all nations, the time is already upon us to up-end our 19th and 20th century models of security thinking.

We have to acknowledge climate change, global health, inequality/poverty reduction and conflict prevention as top priority, inter-related hard defence issues. We must call time on the ‘Cinderella’ status of these extreme threats to our collective human safety.

The IPCC’s ‘Code Red for Humanity’ speaks to this. The time has come to transform defence for sustainable human safety in the 21st century. The UN, in all its diversity, through all its departments, is at the heart of this much needed transformation

UN: 3C of warming under current global climate pledges

The United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) said that pledges put forward to cut emissions would see temperatures rise by 3C above pre-industrial levels, far above the the 2C of the Paris climate agreement, which comes into force on Friday.

At least a quarter must be cut from emissions by the end of the next decade, compared with current trends, the UN said.
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Big increases in small arms trade

But from 2012 to 2013, the global small arms trade jumped to a total of USD 6 billion worth of small arms, an increase of 17 per cent/ $1 billion in only one year, according to the report titled “Trade Update 2016: Transfers and Transparency”

The United States was, by far, both the largest exporter and importer. It exported $1.1 billion, while only two other countries – Italy and Germany – surpassed the $500 million mark in exports.

Transfers of small arms to the U.S. accounted for 42 per cent of all imports.

Sixteen exporters surpassed $100 million in 2013, the largest number since the survey began in 2001.

And although this is the most comprehensive data set on small arms transfers, these numbers are most likely much higher, since 40% of information on imports and exports were concealed by states, said Senior Researcher for the Small Arms Survey, Nicolas Florquin. Continue reading

The UN is not paying its peacekeepers

The United Nations owes countries that send troops to serve under its baby-blue banner a huge debt — a literal one.

As of March 31, 2016, the world body owed troop-contributing countries a total of $827 million in back-compensation, Under-Secretary-General for Management Yukio Takasu told Indian reporters on May 4.

The way the U.N. peacekeeping systems works is this — member states donate funds to the United Nations and the world body then passes a portion of that money onward to countries that offer up their troops to peace missions.

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United Nations

This from Anthony Banbury, former United Nations assistant secretary general for field support:

The heads of billion-dollar peace operations, with enormous responsibilities for ending wars, are not able to hire their immediate staff, or to reassign non-performers away from critical roles. It is a sign of how perversely twisted the bureaucracy is that personnel decisions are considered more dangerous than the responsibility to lead a mission on which the fate of a country depends.

One result of this dysfunction is minimal accountability. There is today a chief of staff in a large peacekeeping mission who is manifestly incompetent. Many have tried to get rid of him, but short of a serious crime, it is virtually impossible to fire someone in the United Nations. In the past six years, I am not aware of a single international field staff member’s being fired, or even sanctioned, for poor performance.

The second serious problem is that too many decisions are driven by political expediency instead of by the values of the United Nations or the facts on the ground.

Peacekeeping forces often lumber along for years without clear goals or exit plans, crowding out governments, diverting attention from deeper socioeconomic problems and costing billions of dollars. My first peacekeeping mission was in Cambodia in 1992. We left after less than two years. Now it’s a rare exception when a mission lasts fewer than 10.

I Love the U.N., but It Is Failing
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/20/opinion/sunday/i-love-the-un-but-it-is-failing.html

5% Digest (Week 23/03/15)

Gregory D. Johnsen wrote a detailed account of the rise of Huthis in Yemen. Adam Baron argued that the power struggle is primarily local and foreign intervention will be a very bad idea.

But what is abundantly clear at the moment is that this remains, by and large, an internal Yemeni political conflict—one that, despite frequent sectarian mischaracterizations and potential regional implications, remains deeply rooted in local Yemeni issues.

And if history is a guide, foreign intervention will only stand to exacerbate the situation. Ironically, talk now centers on a potential Saudi Arabian and Egyptian military intervention in Yemen, a scenario that immediately brought to mind the memory of North Yemen’s 1960s Civil War which saw both sides intervene—albeit on different sides—in a matter which only appeared to draw the conflict out further. This is not to say that there isn’t a place for foreign powers to aid Yemeni factions in negotiating some new political settlement. But any nation that aims to make Yemen’s fight their own is more than likely to come out on the losing side.

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UN human rights expert calls for a moratorium on lethal autonomous robots

UN Human Rights Expert Calls for a Moratorium on Lethal Autonomous Robots,” United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, May 30, 2013.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, today called for a global pause in the development and deployment of lethal autonomous robots (LARs), to allow “serious and meaningful international engagement on this issue before we proceed to a world where machines are given the power to kill humans.”
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