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UN defeats Russia resolution promoting women at peace tables

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 31: The U.N. Security Council defeated a Russian resolution Friday to commemorate the 20th anniversary of a U.N. measure demanding equal participation for women in activities promoting global peace, with opponents objecting to its failure to adequately address human rights and the key role of civil society in pushing for gender equality.

The email vote on the resolution was 5-0, with 10 countries abstaining, far less than the minimum nine “yes” votes required for adoption.

The Russian draft was supported by Russia, China, Vietnam, Indonesia and South Africa. The countries that abstained were the United States, United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Germany, Estonia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tunisia.

Opponents said the Russian draft weakened the initial U.N. resolution adopted in 2000 and nine follow-up resolutions -- which Russia strongly denied.

Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Christoph Heusgen said his calls for strong language on the human rights foundation of all the resolutions, and for “the adequate reflection of the critical role of civil society, women peacebuilders and human rights defenders” in implementing the measures were not reflected in the Russian draft.

What is needed is “action and implementation,” he said, “not more words.”

U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft said the Trump administration and the other countries that abstained were protecting the women, peace and security agenda from an attack by Russia and China, which contributed to the draft resolution.

She said the draft resolution “was designed to undermine and reverse the progress of the past 20 years,” and “it is evident that our Russian and Chinese colleagues ... do not believe women should be fully empowered to prevent conflict, or sit at the table to pursue peace and reconciliation.”

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, the current Security Council president, told a news conference after announcing the vote that the defeated draft did reaffirm and urge implementation of all 10 previous resolutions — and he dismissed claims that it was a step back or watered down as “not true.”

“Civil society, human rights were all there,” he said. “We are for the civil society and human rights. To accuse us that we are trying to strike out the references to this is at best unworthy.”

Civil society and human rights are mentioned in the defeated resolution’s introductory paragraphs -- but not in its binding operative paragraphs. They were in the operative paragraphs in earlier drafts, but diplomats said the were dropped at China’s insistence.

The Russian resolution would have commemorated the 20th anniversary of the initial women, peace and security resolution and noted “with deep concern persistent barriers” to its implementation.

At a council meeting Thursday commemorating the anniversary, the head of the U.N. agency promoting gender equality said the resolution’s demand for equal participation for women in peace negotiations has failed.

Women still remain “systematically excluded” from talks to end conflicts where men make decisions affecting their lives, UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said.

Despite some good initiatives, she said that in peace negotiations from 1992 to 2019 only 13 percent of negotiators, 6 percent of mediators, and 6 percent of signatories to peace agreements were women.

Mlambo-Ngcuka said negotiations elevated and empowered “the actors that have fueled the violence,” instead of empowering women and others who are peace-builders — and women were either confined to “informal processes or relegated to the role of spectators.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated to the council that “gender equality is first and foremost a question of power, and wherever we look, power structures are dominated by men,” starting at the top where women lead only 7 percent of countries.

Britain’s acting U.N. ambassador Jonathan Allen said after the vote that the UK held the widely shared view that the Russian draft lacked “sufficient language on implementation” and on women’s human rights and the protection of civil society.

“The adoption of this text would have undermined the significant achievements made on this critical agenda and the enduring efforts of so many women’s rights activists,” Allen said.

UNAOC chief condemns decapitation of French school teacher

By Deepak Arora

NEW YORK, Oct 17: High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) Miguel Ángel Moratinos has condemned in the strongest terms the decapitation of a French school teacher on Friday in the town of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine in the north-western suburbs of Paris, France. The High-Representative stresses that such heinous crime is unjustifiable whenever, wherever and by whomsoever committed.

The High-Representative stresses that togetherness, peace and tolerance are rooted in religions across the faith spectrum. He re-iterates that respect of the other regardless of their culture, religion, belief or race is crucial to living together in just, peaceful, and inclusive societies.

The High-Representative emphasizes that freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression are anchored in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He also stresses that hate speech and stigma sow division and fragments societies.

He re-iterated that this horrific crime should not deter our commitment and will to stand against divisive policies and extremist ideologies in all its manifestations.

He expresses his heartfelt condolences to the victims’ family and the Government and people of France.

China and Russia win seats on U.N. rights council, Saudis lose

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 14: China, Russia and Cuba won seats on the U.N.’s premiere human rights body on October 13 despite opposition from activist groups over their abysmal human rights records, but another target, Saudi Arabia, lost.

Russia and Cuba were running unopposed, but China and Saudi Arabia were in a five-way race in the only contested race for seats on the Human Rights Council.

In secret-ballot voting in the 193-member U.N. General Assembly on that race, Pakistan received 169 votes, Uzbekistan 164, Nepal 150, China 139 and Saudi Arabia just 90 votes.

Despite announced reform plans by Saudi Arabia, Human Rights Watch and others strongly opposed its candidacy saying the Middle East nation continues to target human rights defenders, dissidents and women’s rights activists and has demonstrated little accountability for past abuses, including the killing of Washington Post columnist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two years ago.

Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, the organisation founded by Khashoggi, said despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin on public relations to cover his grotesque abuses, the international community just isn’t buying it.

Unless Saudi Arabia undertakes dramatic reforms to release political prisoners, end its disastrous war in Yemen and allow its citizens meaningful political participation, it will remain a global pariah, Whitson said.

Under the Human Rights Council’s rules, seats are allocated to regions to ensure geographical representation.

Except for the Asia-Pacific contest, the election of 15 members to the 47-member Human Rights Council was all but decided in advance because all the other regional groups had uncontested slates.

Four countries won four Africa seats: Ivory Coast, Malawi, Gabon and Senegal. Russia and Ukraine won the two East European seats. In the Latin American and Caribbean group, Mexico, Cuba and Bolivia won the three open seats. And Britain and France won the two seats for the Western European and others group.

 

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