India urged to lead global push for clean energy, climate action
NEW DELHI, Aug 28: India has a crucial role to play in promoting clean energy and climate action as the world looks to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Friday.
Delivering the 19th Darbari Seth Memorial Lecture, the UN chief called on India to take the lead in transforming global economic, energy and health systems to save lives, create inclusive economies and avert the threat of climate change.
“India can become a true global superpower in the fight against climate change, if it speeds up its shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy,” he stated.
With the pandemic putting sustainable development at risk, exposing vulnerabilities that will worsen with climate change, the Secretary-General outlined how switching to clean energy could benefit millions worldwide.
“Investments in renewable energy, clean transport and energy efficiency during the recovery from the pandemic could extend electricity access to 270 million people worldwide – fully a third of the people that currently lack it,” he said.
Furthermore, “these same investments could help create nine million jobs annually over the next three years”, he added.
Guterres highlighted India’s progress in the renewable energy sector.
The number of workers has risen five-fold since 2015, while last year, spending on solar energy eclipsed coal-fired power generation for the first time.
Despite significant challenges, the South Asian giant has embraced the technology that will power a sustainable future, and is a pioneer in areas such as clean cooking.
However, the UN chief noted that subsidies for fossil fuels, such as coal, are still roughly seven times higher than subsidies for clean energy. The situation is the same in many other parts of the world, something he found “deeply troubling”.
“I have asked all G20 countries, including India, to invest in a clean, green transition as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “This means ending fossil fuel subsidies, placing a price on carbon pollution and committing to no new coal power plants after 2020.”
Fossil fuels, including coal emissions, create pollution that has severely damaged human health.
Guterres said eliminating them would result in a rise in life expectancy by 20 months, and prevent some 5.5 million deaths annually worldwide.
Unlike renewable energy, investing in fossil fuels is “bad economics”, he continued, which explains why the world’s largest investors are abandoning coal.
“They see the writing on the wall,” he said. “The coal business is going up in smoke.”
The UN chief said he was inspired to learn about a “promising trend” in India.
During the pandemic, the proportion of renewable energy rose from 17 per cent to 24 per cent, while coal-fired power declined from 76 per cent to 66 per cent.
Guterres underlined that renewable energy must continue to grow, and coal use progressively phased out.
“Today is the time for bold leadership on clean energy and climate action. I call on India to be at the helm of the ambitious leadership we need,” he said.
The Darbari Seth Memorial Lecture has been delivered annually since 2002, in honour of the late Indian industrialist and founder of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), a think tank in New Delhi.
The Secretary-General described Seth as “a climate action pioneer” who stressed that his country must end its reliance on fossil fuels and instead invest in solar power.
“India has all the ingredients for exerting the leadership at home and abroad envisioned by Darbari Seth,” he said.
UN council rejects US demand to ‘snap back’ Iran sanctions
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 25: The president of the UN Security Council on Tuesday rejected the Trump administration’s demand to restore all UN sanctions on Iran, a move that drew an angry rebuke from the US ambassador who accused opponents of supporting “terrorists.”
Indonesia’s ambassador to the UN, Dian Triansyah Djani, whose country currently holds the rotating council presidency, made the announcement in response to requests from Russia and China to disclose the results of his polling of the views of all countries on the 15-member council.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted last Thursday that the United States has the legal right to “snap back” UN sanctions, even though President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers that was endorsed by the UN Security Council.
Terror victims' voices must never be forgotten: UN Chief Guterres
By Deepak Arora
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 21: The impact of terrorism on victims can “last a lifetime and reverberate across generations”, the UN chief said on Friday during a virtual commemoration for International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism.
In remembering and honouring all victims of terrorism, Secretary-General António Guterres said the UN stands by those who grieve and those who “continue to endure the physical and psychological wounds of terrorist atrocities”.
“Traumatic memories cannot be erased, but we can help victims and survivors by seeking truth, justice and reparation, amplifying their voices and upholding their human rights”, he stressed.
This year’s commemoration takes place against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, when vital services for victims, such as criminal justice processes and psychosocial support, have been interrupted, delayed or ended as Governments focus attention and resources on fighting the pandemic.
Moreover, many memorials and commemorations have been cancelled or moved online, hampering the ability of victims to find solace and comfort together.
And the current restrictions have also forced the first-ever UN Global Congress of Victims of Terrorism has to be postponed until next year.
“But it is important that we keep a spotlight on this important issue,” stressed the UN chief.
“Remembering the victims of terrorism and doing more to support them is essential to help them rebuild their lives and heal”, said Guterres, including work with parliamentarians and governments to draft and adopt legislation and national strategies to help victims.
The Secretary-General vowed that “the UN stands in solidarity with all victims of terrorism – today and every day” and underscored the need to “ensure that those who have suffered are always heard and never forgotten”.
General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande saluted the resilience of terrorist survivors and called the day “an opportunity to honour the memories of the innocent civilians who have lost their lives as a result of terrorist acts around the world”.
“Terrorism, in all forms and manifestations, can never be justified”, he stated. “Acts of terrorism everywhere must be strongly condemned”.
The UN commits to combating terrorism and the Assembly has adopted resolutions to curb the scourge while working to establish and maintain peace and security globally.
Mechanisms for survivors must be strengthened to safeguard a “full recovery, rehabilitation and re-integration into society through long-term multi-dimensional support”, stated the UN official.
“Together we can ensure that you live a full life defined by dignity and freedom. You are not alone in this journey. You are not forgotten”, concluded the Assembly president.
Closing the event, Vladimir Voronkov, chief of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, maintained that victims represent “the very human dimension of terrorism”.
While terrorists try to depersonalize victims by reducing them to mere numbers or statistics, Voronkov maintained that “we have a responsibility to do the exact opposite”.
“We must see victims’ hopes, dreams and daily lives that have been shattered by terrorist violence – a shattering that carries on long after the attack is over”, he stated. “We must ensure their human rights are upheld and their needs are met”.
While acknowledging the “terrible reality of terrorism”, Mr. Voronkov flagged that the survivors shine as “examples of resilience, and beacons of hope, courage and solidarity in the face of adversity”.
In reaffirming “our common humanity”, he urged everyone to raise awareness of victims needs and rights.
“Let us commit to showing them that they are not alone and will never be forgotten”, concluded the Counter-Terrorism chief.
At the virtual event, survivors shared their stories while under lockdown, agreeing that the long-term impacts of surviving any kind of an attack is that the traumatic experience never really goes away.
Tahir from Pakistan lost his wife in attack against the UN World Food Programme (WFP) office in Islamabad.
“If you have an accident, you know how to cope with it. Terminal illness, you know how to cope with it. But there is no coping mechanism for a person who dies in an act of terror”, he said.
Meanwhile Nigeel’s father perished in the 1998 US Embassy attack in Kenya, when he was just few months old.
The 22 year-old shared: “When you are growing, it really doesn’t have a heavy impact on you, but as life starts to unfold, mostly I’ll find myself asking if I do this and my dad was around, would he be proud of me?”
And Julie, from Australia, lost her 21-year-old daughter in the 2017 London Bridge attack.
“The Australian police came to our house and said ‘we have a body, still not confirmed’, so they recommended that we fly to London”, she recalled. “I can’t describe how devastating as a parent to lose a child in these circumstances is for the rest of your life”.
Defeat COVID-19 and put an end to hate and discrimination: UN chief
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 22: In a message published on the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Violence Based on Religious Belief, which falls on 22 August, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned of a rise in racism since the spread of COVID-19 across the world.
Guterres noted that the pandemic has been accompanied by “a surge in stigma and racist discourse vilifying communities, spreading vile stereotypes and assigning blame.”
The UN Chief listed some of the disturbing examples of discrimination against religious minorities, such as attacks on people and religious sites, and hate crimes and atrocity crimes targeting populations because of their religion or belief.
In order to counter this discrimination, Guterres called for more action to address the root causes of intolerance and discrimination by promoting inclusion and respect for diversity, as well as for the perpetrators of crimes of this nature to be held accountable.
“The right to freedom of religion or belief is firmly entrenched in international human rights law”, said the Secretary-General, “and is a cornerstone for inclusive, prosperous and peaceful societies.”
States, he added, have the primary responsibility to protect the right to freedom of religion and belief. Initiatives set up by Guterres to support them include his Call to Action for Human Rights, a Strategy on Hate Speech and a Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites.
The International Day was created by a UN Resolution adopted in May 2019, in response to a rise of intolerance and violence based on religion or belief against individuals, which are often of a criminal nature.
Launching his Strategy on Hate Speech in June 2019, Guterres said that “a groundswell of xenophobia, racism and intolerance, violent misogyny, anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred” are being seen around the world, and noted that, in some places, Christian communities were also being systematically attacked.
The Strategy aims to enable the UN to respond to “the impact of hate speech on societies”, Guterres explained, by bringing individuals and groups together who have opposing views; working with traditional and social media platforms; and developing communications guidance.
United Nations rejects Iran arms embargo extension
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 14: The United Nations Security Council overwhelmingly rejected a US resolution to extend an Iranian arms embargo on Friday, in a move with huge repercussions for the Iran nuclear deal.
Only two of the Council’s 15 members voted in favour, highlighting the division between Washington and its European allies since President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear accord in May 2018.
Tehran mocked the Trump administration for its failure to win more than just a single vote of support, from the Dominican Republic.
Washington’s European allies all abstained.
“In the 75 years of United Nations history, America has never been so isolated,” foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi tweeted.
“Despite all the trips, pressure and the hawking, the United States could only mobilize a small country (to vote) with them.”
The result increases the likelihood that the US will try to unilaterally force a return of UN sanctions, which experts say threatens to plunge the Council into one of its worst-ever diplomatic crises.
“The Security Council’s failure to act decisively in defense of international peace and security is inexcusable,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
The embargo on conventional arms is due to expire on October 18 under the terms of a resolution that blessed the Iran nuclear deal, signed in July 2015 and officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Under the deal, negotiated by then US president Barack Obama, Iran committed to curtailing its nuclear activities for sanctions relief and other benefits.
Since Trump pulled out and slapped unilateral sanctions on Iran under a campaign of “maximum pressure,” Tehran has since taken small but escalating steps away from compliance with the nuclear accord as it presses for sanctions relief.
European allies of the United States -- who, along with Russia and China, signed the deal with Iran -- have voiced support for extending the 13-year-long conventional arms embargo, saying an expiry threatens stability in the Middle East.
However, their priority is to preserve the JCPOA.
The US text effectively called for an indefinite extension of the embargo on Iran, which diplomats said would threaten the nuclear agreement.
Iran says it has the right to self-defense and that a continuation of the ban would mean an end to the nuclear deal.
Pompeo announced that members had failed to back the proposal around 30 minutes before Indonesia, the current president of the Security Council, announced that the official results included two votes against and 11 abstentions.
Russia and China opposed the resolution.
“The result shows again that unilateralism enjoys no support, and bullying will fail,” China’s UN mission tweeted.
Ambassador Gunter Sautter of Germany, which abstained, said “more consultations are needed” to find a solution that is acceptable to all council members.
During a call between Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron, the leaders “discussed the urgent need for UN action to extend the arms embargo on Iran”.
Earlier Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on China, France, Russia, Britain, the United States, Germany and Iran to convene an emergency video summit to avoid an escalation of tensions in the Gulf.
The United States has threatened to try to force a return of UN sanctions if it is not extended by using a controversial technique called “snapback.”
Pompeo has offered the contested argument that the United States remains a “participant” in the nuclear accord as it was listed in the 2015 resolution -- and therefore can force a return to sanctions if it sees Iran as being in violation of its terms.
European allies have been skeptical on whether Washington can force sanctions and warn that the attempt may delegitimize the Security Council.
Nevertheless, the US is expected to deliver the snapback letter next week, it is understood.
Analysts suspect that Washington purposefully put forward a hardline draft that it knew Council members would not be able to accept.
“The fact is that everybody at the UN believes this (resolution) is just a prelude to a US effort to trigger snapback and sink the Iranian nuclear deal,” Richard Gowan, a UN expert at the International Crisis Group, said.
UNSC rebuffs China-Pak plan to raise Kashmir
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 6: India on Thursday lashed out at China after its failed attempt to raise Kashmir at the United Nations Security Council on behalf of Pakistan, rejecting the attempted by Beijing to interfere in India’s internal affairs.
China had backed Pakistan’s request to the UNSC to discuss Kashmir on Wednesday to coincide with the first anniversary of the revocation of the special status extended to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. But four of the five permanent members — the US, UK, France and Russia — sided with India.
In a statement, the external affairs ministry underlined that this wasn’t a first for China.
“This was not the first time that China has sought to raise a subject that is solely an internal matter of India. We firmly reject China’s interference in our internal affairs and urge it to draw proper conclusions from such infructuous attempts,” the ministry statement said.
TS Tirumurti, India’s permanent representative to the UN, said “almost all countries at the UNSC underlined that J&K was a bilateral issue and did not deserve time and attention of Council”.
“Another attempt by Pakistan fails!” he tweeted after a high-profile joint effort by Pakistan and China - their third over the last one year - to discuss the Kashmir issue at UNSC was blocked.
At the UNSC meeting, China and Pakistan did initially appear to have the support of Indonesia, which holds UNSC’s rotational chair for August. In the end, however, Indonesia came through for India and agreed with others that the dispute needed to resolved bilaterally between India and Pakistan, people familiar with the development said.
This was an informal consultation that was held behind closed doors and no records were kept of who said what, which would have happened in a formal and open meeting. Pakistan has sought open and formal meetings of the council to grandstand its Kashmir case, but has had to settle for these closed-door versions.
Bold steps needed address education distruption during Covid-19: UN chief
By Deepak Arora
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 4: The COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption to education in history and prolonged school closures could further entrench inequalities in access to learning, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Tuesday, underlining the need for “bold steps” to address the crisis.
Describing education as “the key to personal development and the future of societies”, António Guterres issued recommendations to get children back in the classroom in a policy brief launched alongside a new global campaign called Save our Future.
“As the world faces unsustainable levels of inequality, we need education – the great equalizer – more than ever,” he said in a video message.
“We must take bold steps now, to create inclusive, resilient, quality education systems fit for the future.”
The UN estimates that the pandemic has affected more than one billion students worldwide.
Despite efforts to continue learning during the crisis, including through delivering lessons by radio, television and online, many are still not being reached.
The UN chief said learners with disabilities, members of minority or disadvantaged communities, as well as refugees and displaced persons, are among those at highest risk of being left behind.
Even those students who can access distance learning face challenges, as success depends on their living conditions, and other factors such as fair distribution of domestic duties.
A learning crisis existed even before the pandemic, the Secretary-General said, as more than 250 million children were out of school.
Furthermore, only a quarter of secondary school children in developing countries were leaving school with basic skills.
“Now we face a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities,” said Guterres. “The knock-on effects on child nutrition, child marriage and gender equality, among others, are deeply concerning.”
The policy brief calls for action in four key areas, starting with the re-opening of schools once local transmission of COVID-19 is under control.
The UN chief also called for greater investment in education, as low- and middle-income countries had already faced an annual funding gap of $1.5 trillion prior to the pandemic.
“Education budgets need to be protected and increased,” he said.
“And it is critical that education is at the heart of international solidarity efforts, from debt management and stimulus packages to global humanitarian appeals and official development assistance.”
Education initiatives must also seek to reach those at greatest risk of being left behind, he continued. They also should be sensitive to the specific challenges faced by girls and boys, and women and men, while also addressing the digital divide.
For his final recommendation, the UN chief highlighted what he sees as the “generational opportunity” to deliver quality education for all children, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The 17 goals, which world leaders adopted five years ago, provide a pathway to a more sustainable future that benefits both people and the planet.
“To achieve this, we need investment in digital literacy and infrastructure, an evolution towards learning how to learn, a rejuvenation of life-long learning and strengthened links between formal and non-formal education,” said Guterres.
“And we need to draw on flexible delivery methods, digital technologies and modernized curricula while ensuring sustained support for teachers and communities.”
UN experts call for urgent action to remedy “alarming” human rights situation in J&K
By Deepak Arora
GENEVA, Aug 4: A year after India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, UN human rights experts on Tuesday called on India and the international community to take urgent action to address the alarming human rights situation in the territory.
“Urgent action is needed,” the experts said. “If India will not take any genuine and immediate steps to resolve the situation, meet their obligations to investigate historic and recent cases of human rights violations and prevent future violations, then the international community should step up.”
Since the Indian Parliament revoked the constitutionally mandated status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir on 5 August 2019, “the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir has been in free fall,” the experts said.
“We are particularly concerned that during the COVID-19 pandemic, many protestors are still in detention and Internet restrictions remain in place.”
It has been almost a year since several UN experts wrote to the Government and publicly called on India to end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests which followed the August 5, 2019 announcement.
The experts have also raised concerns with the Indian government about alleged arbitrary detention and torture and ill-treatment to which the Government recently replied, as well as the criminalization of journalists covering the situation and the detention and deteriorating health of a high profile human rights lawyer.
“We have yet to receive any reply to three of the four letters,” the experts said.
The October 2019 closure of the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission, which had been one of the few ways victims of human rights violations could seek remedy, is particularly concerning. Furthermore, no information was provided to the public about what would happen to the ongoing cases the body had been investigating, including hundreds of suspected enforced disappearances dating from as far back as 1989. Allegations regarding thousands of unmarked and some mass graves sites have also not yet been properly investigated.
“Decades on, families are still waiting in anguish and now there is a stream of new alleged rights violations,” the experts said. “With no State Human Rights Commission and internet restrictions, the avenues for reporting are further reduced.”
In 2011, India extended an open invitation to Special Rapporteurs to visit, but has several requests pending. “We call on India to schedule pending visits as a matter of urgency, particularly of the experts dealing with torture and disappearances,” they said.
The experts include Agnès Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association;Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression;Fabian Salvioli, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence; Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Leigh Toomey (Chair-Rapporteur), Elina Steinerte (Vice-Chair), José Guevara Bermúdez, Seong-Phil Hong, Sètondji Adjovi, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Luciano Hazan (Chair), Tae-Ung Baik (Vice Chair), Bernard Duhaime, Houria Es-Slami, and Henrikas Mickevičius, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.