At least 21,347 people have been killed in conflict, including more than 5,800 civilian adults and children who were directly targeted[i], despite the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution calling for a global cessation of hostilities some 90 days ago. Instead of a ceasefire, allowing countries and humanitarian organisations to focus on battling the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing violence is pushing millions to the brink of conflict-induced famine and hindering the battle against the outbreak.
Leading aid organisations urge Heads of State meeting today in the Security Council in New York to urgently renew their call for a global ceasefire, and to accelerate COVID-19 response capacity and access in areas affected by conflict and humanitarian crisis.
The UN Secretary-General issued his first call for a global ceasefire in March, yet early signs of progress have since stalled, as armed groups have continued or even increased fighting. This is contributing to a devastating increase in food insecurity and the likelihood of famine caused by conflict. The UN issued a warning only last week on the risk of conflict-induced famine in South Sudan, Yemen, DRC and northeast Nigeria. The economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have only worsened food insecurity, with an estimated additional 110 million children going hungry globally as a result of the pandemic.
In South Sudan, increased inter-communal violence has contributed to nearly 6.5m people, or over half of the countrys population, facing dire levels of food insecurity. In Yemen, where humanitarian organisations face extremely challenging barriers to access to those most in need, civilians continue to fall victim to airstrikes and high levels of acute food insecurity. In DRC, aid workers have come under attack recently, and hunger levels are spiking in the Ituri district as a consequence of ongoing conflict.
The lack of progress towards peace is leaving millions of people suffering from the impacts of war and the global COVID-19 pandemic, the aid organisations warn, whilst limiting humanitarian access to extremely vulnerable communities. As the virus continues to compound suffering and drive the threat of famine across different conflict zones, it is vital political leaders put their weight behind the call for a humanitarian pause to fighting, facilitate safe and sustained access for aid workers, and accelerate COVID-19 response in conflict and humanitarian crisis affected countries.
Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children said:
“The truth is we are dangerously running out of time. Already warnings are ringing out of the potential for widespread famines in at least four countries as result of the coronavirus pandemic. It is no coincidence that many of the countries now most at risk of hunger are also the ones mired in conflict – and it is children who too often pay the deadly price. Children need more safety and more protection, but fighting has continued or in some cases gotten worse.
“COVID-19 has already had a devastating impact on childrens lives, limiting their access to healthcare, food, education and protection. A 90-day pause in fighting that is actually implemented on the ground could be the lifeline that helps to prevent mass starvation and to protect a generation of children.”
David Miliband, CEO of the International Rescue Committee said:
“Serious diplomatic muscle must be put behind a global ceasefire. No effort to beat Covid-19 can be successful while fighting continues to threaten civilians and hospitals. More, not less, of the global cooperation the UN represents is needed to fight this virus.”
Radhya Al-Mutawakel, Chairperson of Mwatana Organisation for Human Rights said: “After more than 6 years of fighting, Yemenis are desperate for a circuit-breaker so they can avoid the looming man-made famine that will surely cost more lives than the bombs and shells. They need peace, justice and accountability and they need the Security Council and all governments with access to the warring parties to use their powers of persuasion to bring sustainable peace immediately.”
Abby Maxman, President and CEO ofOxfam America said:
“To end conflicts now, we urgently need sustainable ceasefires. And for that to happen, leaders must listen to those directly impacted by the conflict, especially diverse womens groups. Women are well-practiced in successfully negotiating temporary ceasefires for aid to pass and to evacuate civilians, and their meaningful engagement increases the chances of addressing the root causes of conflict and builds buy-in for agreement.
“As we fight the COVID-19 pandemic together, Member States must also ensure women and young people are included in the response at all decision-making levels. Now more than ever, we need diverse perspectives, talents, and reach to defeat this collective foe.”
Andrew Morley, President and CEO of World Vision International said:
“The fallout from COVID-19 will wreck the futures of an entire generation of children – unless we act now. As ever, it is the most vulnerable girls and boys, whose lives were already afflicted by conflict, who are most at risk. For those facing such unbearable strain, a call to peace is the only way forward. All parties to conflict must pause and respect the lives of humanitarian and health workers. The international community must also urgently step up to resource an accelerated COVID-19 response in these fragile contexts. This is a global pandemic – and nothing but a united, global effort will suffice.”
Angelina Nyajima Jial, Executive Director of Hope Restoration South Sudan said:
“In South Sudan, we desperately need all fighting to stop because many of the communities caught up in the violence are now facing famine. Without peace, more women and children are being forced to flee for their lives, even as much of the country is inundated with flood waters. We need the international community to stand united with us to insist on a humanitarian ceasefire and help South Sudan massively scale up humanitarian assistance to prevent further loss of life.”
Aid organizations are calling on Security Council members and the wider international community to:
- Take urgent action to realize a global cessation of hostilities and durable humanitarian pause by renewing their call for a cessation of hostilities for a further 90 days at minimum.
- Engage all parties to armed conflicts, providing political support to the UN Secretary-General and his Special Envoys and other mediation actors in progressing negotiation efforts;
- Accelerate international response to COVID-19 in situations of armed conflict or affected by humanitarian crisis, ensuring the Global Humanitarian Response Plan and country-specific humanitarian appeals are fully funded;
- Ensure scale up of engagement at country-level to better facilitate access to the most vulnerable, upholding the safety of humanitarian and health workers, humanitarian principles, and recognition of the disproportionate negative impact of the pandemic on women, girls and boys, older persons and persons with disabilities, refugees and internally displaced people.
Signed by: Save the Children, International Rescue Committee, World Vision International, Oxfam America, CARE International, Action Against Hunger, Humanity and Inclusion (Handicap International), Hope Restoration South Sudan, Mwatana Organisation for Human Rights, Progressive Voice
[i] The UN resolution was adopted on July 1st 2020. According to most recent data of the Armed Conflict Location & Event Database (ACLED), 21,347 people died in conflict related violence between July 1st and September 12th. According to ACLED, this number includes some 5,800 civilians who were directly targeted. The real number of civilian casualties is likely to be higher, as the number of 5,800 excludes civilian fatalities from ‘collateral damage’ or civilians killed in the crossfire of a battle; these fatalities are included in the larger total of 21,347.
As this is a joint statement, pitching to media is divided between several organisations.
Save the Children: to the European market, including Reuters London and AFP
Oxfam: NY based outlets, sub Sahara Africa
IRC: US outlets (incl AP)
WVI: Middle East and LAC
For more infiormation:
Andrea Sweeney (NY), [email protected]
Rik Goverde, [email protected]
Out-of-hours: [email protected] / +44 7831 650 409
The post Over 21,000 People Killed since UN Global Ceasefire-Resolution first appeared on NewswireNow – A Press Release Publishing Service.
Australia election: Why is Australia’s parliament so white?
With this year’s election, political parties did have a window to slightly improve this. But they chose not to in most cases, critics say.
Tu Le grew up the child of Vietnamese refugees in Fowler, a south-west Sydney electorate far from the city’s beaches, and one of the poorest urban areas in the country.
The 30-year-old works as a community lawyer for refugees and migrants newly arrived to the area.
Last year, she was pre-selected by the Labor Party to run in the nation’s most multicultural seat. But then party bosses side-lined her for a white woman.
It would take Kristina Kenneally four hours on public transport – ferry, train, bus, and another bus – to get to Fowler from her home in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, where she lived on an island.
Furious locals questioned what ties she had to the area, but as one of Labor’s most prominent politicians, she was granted the traditionally Labor-voting seat.
Ms Le only learned she’d been replaced on the night newspapers went to print with the story.
“I was conveniently left off the invitation to the party meeting the next day,” she told the BBC.
Despite backlash – including a Facebook group where locals campaigned to stop Ms Kenneally’s appointment – Labor pushed through the deal.
“If this scenario had played out in Britain or the United States, it would not be acceptable,” says Dr Tim Soutphomassane, director of the Sydney Policy Lab and Australia’s former Race Discrimination Commissioner.
“But in Australia, there is a sense that you can still maintain the status quo with very limited social and political consequences.”
An insiders’ game
At least one in five Australians have a non-European background and speak a language at home other than English, according to the last census in 2016.
Some 49% of the population was born or has a parent who was born overseas. In the past 20 years, migrants from Australia’s Asian neighbours have eclipsed those from the UK.
But the parliament looks almost as white as it did in the days of the “White Australia” policy – when from 1901 to the 1970s, the nation banned non-white immigrants.
“We simply do not see our multicultural character represented in anything remotely close to proportionate form in our political institutions,” says Dr Soutphomassane.
Compared to other Western multicultural democracies, Australia also lags far behind.
The numbers below include Indigenous Australians, who did not gain suffrage until the 1960s, and only saw their first lower house MP elected in 2010. Non-white candidates often acknowledge that any progress was first made by Aboriginal Australians.
Two decades ago, Australia and the UK had comparably low representation. But UK political parties – responding to campaigns from diverse members – pledged to act on the problem.
“The British Conservative Party is currently light years ahead of either of the major Australian political parties when it comes to race and representation,” says Dr Soutphomassane.
So why hasn’t Australia changed?
Observers say Australia’s political system is more closed-door than other democracies. Nearly all candidates chosen by the major parties tend to be members who’ve risen through the ranks. Often they’ve worked as staffers to existing MPs.
Ms Le said she’d have no way into the political class if she hadn’t been sponsored by Fowler’s retiring MP – a white, older male.
Labor has taken small structural steps recently – passing commitments in a state caucus last year, and selecting two Chinese-Australian candidates for winnable seats in Sydney.
But it was “one step forward and two steps back”, says party member and activist Osmond Chiu, when just weeks after the backlash to Ms Le’s case, Labor “parachuted in” another white candidate to a multicultural heartland.
Andrew Charlton, a former adviser to ex-PM Kevin Rudd, lived in a harbour mansion in Sydney’s east where he ran a consultancy.
His selection scuppered the anticipated races of at least three diverse candidates from the area which has large Indian and Chinese diasporas.
Party seniors argued that Ms Kenneally and Mr Charlton – as popular and respected party figures – would be able to promote their electorates’ concerns better than newcomers.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese also hailed Ms Kenneally as a “great Australian success story” as a migrant from the US herself.
But Mr Chiu says: “A lot of the frustration that people expressed wasn’t about these specific individuals.
“It was about the fact that these were two of the most multicultural seats in Australia and these opportunities – which come by so rarely – to select culturally diverse candidates were squandered.”
He adds this has long-term effects because the average MP stays in office for about 10 years.
The frustration on this issue has centred on Labor – because the centre-left party calls itself the “party of multiculturalism”.
But the Liberal-National government doesn’t even have diversity as a platform issue.
One of its MPs up for re-election recently appeared to confuse her Labor rival for Tu Le, sparking accusations that she’d mixed up the two Asian-Australian women – something she later denied. But as one opponent said: “How is this still happening in 2022?”
Some experts like Dr Soutphommasane have concluded that Australia’s complacency on areas like representation stems from how the nation embraced multiculturalism as official policy after its White Australia days.
The government of the 1970s, somewhat embarrassed by the past policy, passed racial discrimination laws and “a seat at the table” was granted to migrants and Indigenous Australians.
But critics say this has led to an Australia where multiculturalism is celebrated but racial inequality is not interrogated.
“Multiculturalism is almost apolitical in how it’s viewed in Australia,” Dr Soutphommasane says, in contrast to the “fight” for rights that other Western countries have seen from minority groups.
What is the impact?
A lack of representation in parliament can also lead to failures in policy.
During Sydney’s Covid outbreak in August 2021, Fowler and Parramatta electorates – where most of the city’s multicultural communities reside – were subject to harsher lockdowns as a result of a higher number of cases.
How will things change?
Liberal MP Dave Sharma, the only lawmaker of Indian heritage, has said all parties – including his own – should better recruit people with different backgrounds. He called it a “pretty laissez-faire attitude” currently.
Mr Albanese has urged Ms Le to “hang in there”, insisting she has a future.
But more people like Ms Le are choosing to speak out.
“I think I surprised a lot of people by not staying quiet,” she told the BBC.
“People acted like it was the end of my political career that I didn’t toe the party line. But… none of that means anything to me if it means I’m sacrificing my own values.”
She and other second-generation Australians – raised in a country which prides itself on “a fair go” – are agitating for the rights and access their migrant parents may not have felt entitled to.
“Many of those from diverse backgrounds were saying they felt like they didn’t have a voice – and that my case was a clear demonstration of their suppression, and their wider participation in our political system.”
She and others have noted the “growing distrust” in the major parties. Polls are predicting record voter support for independent candidates.
“This issue…. matters for everyone in Australian society that cares about democracy,” says Mr Soutphommasane.
“If democratic institutions are not representative, their legitimacy will suffer.
US military leader warns Chinese security deal with Solomon Islands sounds ‘too good to be true’
A senior US military general has warned during a visit to Australia that China’s offer to deepen security ties with Solomon Islands will come with strings attached, suggesting the Pacific island country may come to regret the planned deal.
“My parents told me if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” the commandant of the United States Marine Corps, general David Berger, said on Wednesday.
Berger was cautious when asked about longstanding US concerns relating to a Chinese company’s lease over the port of Darwin, stressing it was a sovereign decision for Australia as part of its yet-to-be-completed national security review.
Ahead of a trip to Darwin, the site of increasing rotations of US Marines, Berger said: “If it’s not of concern to Australia, then it’s not of concern to me.”
Berger’s visit comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity by the US and Australia attempting to head off a proposed security agreement between China and Solomon Islands, which could allow regular visits by the People’s Liberation Army Navy.
A leaked draft from last month raised the possibility China could “make ship visits to, carry out logistical replenishment in, and have stopover and transition in Solomon Islands”, while Chinese forces could also be used “to protect the safety of Chinese personnel and major projects in Solomon Islands”.
The prime minister of Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, has sought to allay concerns, saying his country has no intention of allowing a Chinese naval base. But Sogavare has also said it is “very insulting to be branded as unfit to manage our sovereign affairs”.
Speaking in Canberra on Wednesday, Berger said the US needed to show humility in its outreach to Pacific nations, but also needed to be open about the potential long-term consequences.
Berger reflected on the fight for control of Guadalcanal in Solomon Islands during the second world war, when the US and allies sought to prevent Japanese forces from gaining a foothold in the strategically important location.
“A lot of things change in warfare. Not geography. Where … Solomon Islands are matters. It did then and it does now,” Berger said at the Australian Strategic Policy
He said the proposed agreement was “just another example” of China seeking to broaden and expand its influence. He raised concerns about “the way that [it] happens and the consequences for the nations” involved.
Sogavare has argued Solomon Islands pursues a “friends to all and enemies to none” foreign policy, but Berger implied countries making agreements with Beijing might regret it down the track.
“We should illuminate, we should draw out into the open what this means long term,” Berger said.
“This is, in other words, an extension of ‘hey we’re here with a cheque, we’re here with money, we’d like to improve your port or your airfield or your bus station’. And that just sounds so great, until a year later or six months later.”
The US plans to reopen its embassy in Solomon Islands, a move the nominee for US ambassador to Australia, Caroline Kennedy, has said “can’t come soon enough”.
Berger acknowledged there were limits to US insights in Pacific island countries, so the US needed to rely on allies such as Australia.
“We’re not going to have always the best view, the clearest picture,” he said.
“We have to understand the neighbourhood and we’re never going to understand it as well as Australia.”
Earlier, the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, denied that the US had conveyed any concerns that Australia had dropped the ball in the region.
Morrison said the Australian government was continuing to raise concerns with Solomon Islands without acting in a “heavy-handed” way.
Australia’s minister for the Pacific, Zed Seselja, met with Sogavare in Honiara on Wednesday and “asked Solomon Islands respectfully to consider not signing the agreement” with China.
Seselja suggested Solomon Islands “consult the Pacific family in the spirit of regional openness and transparency”. Australia would work with Solomon Islands “swiftly, transparently and with full respect for its sovereignty”.
“We welcome recent statements from prime minister Sogavare that Australia remains Solomon Islands’ security partner of choice, and his commitment that Solomon Islands will never be used for military bases or other military institutions of foreign powers,” Seselja said.
Sogavare has previously said Solomon Islands welcomed “any country that is willing to support us in our security space”.
But Matthew Wale, the leader of the opposition, has argued the deal “would make the Solomons a geopolitical playing field” and “further threaten the nation’s fragile unity”.
House votes to hold Trump duo Navarro and Scavino in contempt of Congress
The House voted on Wednesday to hold two of Donald Trump’s top advisers – Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino – in criminal contempt of Congress for their months-long refusal to comply with subpoenas issued by the House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack.
The approval of the contempt resolution, by a vote of 220 to 203, sets the two Trump aides on the path toward criminal prosecution by the justice department as the panel escalates its inquiry into whether Trump oversaw a criminal conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election.
Congressman Jamie Raskin, a member of the select committee who introduced the contempt resolution to the House floor, said the select committee needed the House to advance the measure in order to reaffirm the consequences for defying the January 6 investigation.
Citing a ruling by a federal judge last week that Trump “likely” committed felonies to return himself to the Oval Office for a second term, Raskin said on the House floor that the panel wanted Navarro and Scavino’s cooperation because they engaged in trying to overthrow an election.
But having refused to comply with their subpoenas in any form, Raskin said that “these two witnesses have acted in contempt of Congress and the American people; we must hold them in contempt of Congress and the American people”.
The contempt citations approved by the House now head to the justice department and the US attorney for the District of Columbia, Matthew Graves, who is required by law to weigh a prosecution and present the matter before a federal grand jury.
Should the justice department secure a conviction against the Trump aides, the consequences could mean up to a year in federal prison, $100,000 in fines, or both – though it would not force their compliance, and pursuing the misdemeanor charge could take months.
The subpoena defiance by Navarro and Scavino meant the select committee was ultimately unable to extract information directly from them about Trump’s unlawful scheme to have then-vice president Mike Pence stop Joe Biden’s election win certification on 6 January.
But the panel has quietly amassed deep knowledge about their roles in the effort to return Trump to office in recent weeks, and senior staff decided that they could move ahead in the inquiry without hearing from the two aides, say sources close to the inquiry.
The determination by the select committee that Navarro and Scavino’s cooperation was no longer essential came when it found it could fill in the gaps from others, the sources said, and led to the decision to break off negotiations for their cooperation.
The final decision to withdraw from talks reflected the panel’s belief that it was not worth the time – the probe is on a time crunch to complete its work before the November midterms – to pursue their testimony for potentially only marginal gain, the sources said.
House investigators had sought cooperation from Navarro, a former Trump senior advisor for trade policy who became enmeshed in the effort to reverse Trump’s election defeat, for around a month until it became apparent they were making no headway.
The select committee issued a subpoena to Navarro since he helped devise – by his own admission on MSNBC and elsewhere – the scheme to have Pence stop Biden’s certification from taking place as part of one Trump “war room” based at the Willard hotel in Washington.
Navarro also worked with the Trump campaign’s legal team to pressure legislators in battleground states win by Biden to decertify the results and instead send Trump slates of electors for certification by Congress at the joint session in January 6.
But when that plan started to go awry, Navarro encouraged then-Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to call political operative Roger Stone to discuss January 6, the panel said in its contempt of Congress report published last week.
The former Trump aide, however, told the select committee – without providing any evidence – that the former president had asserted executive privilege over the contents of his subpoena and would therefore not provide documents or testimony.
With Scavino, the select committee first issued Trump’s former deputy White House chief of staff for communications in September last year, since he had attended several meetings with Trump where election fraud matters were discussed, the panel said.
But after the panel granted to Scavino six extensions that pushed his subpoena deadlines from October 2021 to February 2022, the former Trump aide also told House investigators that he too would not comply with the order because Trump invoked executive privilege.
The select committee rejected those arguments of executive privilege, saying neither Navarro nor Scavino had grounds for entirely defying the subpoenas because either Trump did not formally invoke the protections, or because Biden ultimately waived them.
At the business meeting last week where the select committee voted unanimously to recommend that the full House find Navarro and Scavino in contempt of Congress, Raskin delivered an emotional rebuke of the supposed executive privilege arguments.
“This is America, and there’s no executive privilege here for presidents, much less trained advisors, to plan coups and organize insurrections against the people’s government in the people’s constitution and then to cover up the evidence of their crimes.
“These two men,” Raskin said of Navarro and Scavino, “are in contempt of Congress and we must say, both for their brazen disregard for their duties and for our laws and our institutions.”
Attending an event featuring Trump at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday night, Navarro made a point of appearing aloof to his impending referral to the justice department. “Oh that vote,” Navarro said dismissively, the Washington Post reported.
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