Hezbollah Forces Collapse of Lebanese Government

Joseph Eid/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Supporters of Lebanese Shiite Amal movement, allied with Hezbollah, sat next to their flag and poster of their leader, the parliament speaker Nabih Berri, in Beirut on Wednesday.

Published: January 12, 2011

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Hezbollah and its allies forced the collapse of the government here on Wednesday, deepening a crisis over a United Nations-backed tribunal investigating the assassination of a former prime minister.

Eleven of the cabinet’s 30 ministers announced their resignations, a move that dissolves the government. They said they were prompted to act by the cabinet’s refusal to convene an emergency session to oppose the tribunal, which is expected to indict members of Hezbollah.

Ten of the ministers announced their resignations just as Prime Minister Saad Hariri was meeting with President Obama in Washington. The opposition had hoped that all 11 ministers would resign together, to bring down the government at that time and expose Mr. Hariri to the maximum embarrassment.

But the 11th minister, Adnan Sayed Hussein, announced his resignation in a statement later in the evening, the National News Agency reported, after the meeting in Washington was over.

The collapse of the fragile government is the worst crisis in Lebanon since 2008, when an agreement reached in Qatar achieved a truce to end sectarian clashes that killed 81 people and brought Lebanon to the brink of a renewal of its 15-year civil war, which ended in 1990.

“We were committed but they were not,” said Ammar Houri, a lawmaker with Mr. Hariri’s bloc. He added that Mr. Hariri’s allies were meeting to decide the next step.

Hezbollah and its foes have wrestled over the direction of the small Mediterranean country since the former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, was killed in a bombing along Beirut’s seafront in 2005. Twenty-two other people died in the attack. Since then, the tribunal has investigated his death and is now widely expected to indict members of Hezbollah, the country’s powerful Shiite Muslim movement.

Hezbollah has denied involvement and denounced the tribunal as an “Israeli project.” It has urged Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the slain man’s son, to reject its findings. Mr. Hariri, who has so far resisted the pressure, cut short his visit to the United States in order to return early to Lebanon and deal with the widening political crisis.

There has been a sense of inevitability to the resignation by cabinet ministers allied with Hezbollah. For months, Hezbollah has warned that it would not stand by as its members were accused of involvement in the assassination of Mr. Hariri’s father. Though it is technically part of the opposition, Hezbollah joined a unity government formed after elections in June 2009. It has emerged as the single most powerful force in the country, aided by its alliance with a powerful Christian general and the fracturing of its foes.

In contrast to 2005, Hezbollah’s adversaries — gathered around Mr. Hariri — have fewer options and less support than they once did, emblematic of the vast changes in Lebanon’s political landscape the past few years. While the Bush administration wholeheartedly backed Mr. Hariri and his allies then, President Obama has not pledged the same kind of support. Syria, whose influence was waning in 2005, has re-emerged in Lebanon, and even its detractors here have sought some kind of relationship with it. Most Lebanese also vividly recall the speed at which Hezbollah and its allies vanquished their foes in just a few days of street fighting in Beirut in May 2008.

“Who are your allies these days?” Sateh Noureddine, a columnist with As-Safir newspaper, asked of Mr. Hariri’s camp. “You are going to get beaten on the streets and you will not be able to respond.”

The decision to resign came after the collapse of talks between Saudi Arabia and Syria aimed at easing the political tension. The two countries have backed rival camps in Lebanon since 2005 and their initiative was seen across the political spectrum as the best chance to end the stalemate. But Tuesday night, Michel Aoun, a former general and Hezbollah’s Christian ally, announced the two sides were unable to reach an agreement.

“The initiative has ended with no result,” he said.

The prospect of the government’s collapse sent a wave of anxiety through Lebanon, which has seen only brief periods of calm since Rafik Hariri’s killing and has often found itself perched between the competing agendas of Hezbollah allies — Iran and Syria — and Mr. Hariri’s supporters, in particular the United States and Saudi Arabia.

“The Saudi-Syrian initiative was an attempt to prevent strife in the country,” said Walid Sukkariyeh, a lawmaker allied with Hezbollah’s bloc in Parliament.

A leading opposition newspaper, Al Akhbar, underlined the sense of unease with an editorial headlined, “The beginning of the unknown.”

Many here fear that “unknown” could turn bloody with street clashes in which Hezbollah is likely to prevail. An outbreak of violence might enable it to effectively seize control of the government and force a new reality on the streets of Beirut, at least until a new agreement can be reached under the auspices of foreign powers, who have long played an outsized role in the country’s domestic affairs.

Other analysts dismiss the prospect of violence, given Hezbollah’s strength. A more likely scenario, they say, is months of political stalemate, not unlike Lebanon witnessed between 2006 and 2008, before another deal is reached.

Hwaida Saad contributed reporting.

Fuente: New York Times


General Assembly President stresses role of parliaments in eradicating poverty

Joseph Deiss, President of 65th session of the General Assembly


3 December 2010 – Parliaments have a crucial role to play in helping States achieve the global poverty reduction goals that the world has set out to attain in the next five years, the President of the General Assembly, Joseph Deiss, said today, urging national assemblies to ensure governments stay focused on their commitments.

“If we want to achieve the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals] by 2015, national parliaments will have to take international development goals into account and into their daily work,” Mr. Deiss told reporters in New York on the sidelines of two-day joint parliamentary hearings organized by the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

The MDGs include halving the number of people living in extreme poverty across the world, as well as slashing hunger, maternal and infant mortality, and lack of access to health care and education, all by the target date of 2015.

Parliaments have to ensure that national MDG programmes are allocated the resources required to implement them, Mr. Deiss said. He also stressed the role of parliaments in providing support for the work of the UN, adding that they are essential in ensuring transparency and accountability in decision making.

“The IPU plays an essential role as an interface between the work of the different United Nations bodies and national parliaments,” Mr. Deiss said. “The parliamentary hearings that have been held here since yesterday is, therefore, an important opportunity for bringing the two institutions even closer,” he added.

Theo-Ben Gurirab, the President of the IPU, said the hearings, whose theme was – “Towards economic recovery: Rethinking development, retooling global governance” – had looked into various issues, including reform of the international financial system and topics on the UN agenda.

Fuente: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=36957&Cr=parliament&Cr1=

60th Anniversary: UNHCR marks landmark with appeal for renewed commitment to helping the world’s forcibly displaced

News Stories, 14 December 2010

© UNHCR/K.Gaugler
Helping Vietnamese refugees was one of the major challenges for UNHCR during its first 60 years. This boat was photographed just off the Malaysian coast in December 1978.

GENEVA, December 14 (UNHCR) – The head of the UN refugee agency, António Guterres, marked the 60th anniversary Tuesday of the organization he heads by appealing for strengthened global impetus in tackling the world’s new and fast-evolving displacement and statelessness problems. UNHCR staff members in the organization’s Geneva headquarters and offices around the world are holding special birthday parties to mark the milestone.

Speaking at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva, Guterres warned of multiple new factors that are causing displacement. He said many of these did not exist at the time of UNHCR’s founding or when the major international refugee and statelessness conventions were created.

“UNHCR traditionally was supporting refugees, people that would cross a border because of a conflict or persecution,” he said. “But now we see that more and more people are crossing borders because of extreme poverty, because of the impact of climate change, [and] because of their interrelation with conflict. So there are new patterns of forced displacement and the international community needs to be able to tackle those challenges.”

UNHCR was created on December 14, 1950 by the UN General Assembly. Its original purpose was to address the post-World War II refugee situation in Europe, but its work quickly expanded. By 1956 it was facing its first major international emergency with the outpouring of refugees when Soviet forces crushed the Hungarian Revolution.

In the 1960s, the decolonization of Africa produced the first of that continent’s numerous refugee crises needing UNHCR intervention. Over the following two decades, UNHCR had to help with displacement crises in Asia and Latin America. Today it deals with major displacement situations around the world. The global population of refugees, internally displaced people and asylum-seekers stands at 43 million people – most of them under UNHCR’s duty of care.

Guterres pointed to major displacement from Somalia and Afghanistan as examples of 21st Century refugee problems that extend across multiple borders and require new and globalized approaches to finding solutions. He also highlighted the phenomenon of statelessness as requiring particular attention.

But on UNHCR’s anniversary and its achievements over 60 years – which include twice being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize – Guterres said the focus should be on coming challenges which would equal anything the agency has faced in its past.

“I think it is very important to recognize that the action of UNHCR has represented, for many people, life instead of death, home instead of total deprivation, health instead of a disease that can even represent the risk to die, protection against the most dramatic violations of human rights,” he said. “We have many reasons to be proud, but we also have much more reason to be concerned with the challenges we face at the present moment, and recognizing that unfortunately the root causes of conflict and displacement are not being eliminated and the next few years will be as challenging as the past.”

UNHCR’s 60th anniversary year, which begins this week, coincides with several related anniversaries, including the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (July 28, 2011), the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (August 30, 2011), and the 150th anniversary of the birth of Fridtjof Nansen, the first League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (October 10, 2011).

Over the coming months UNHCR will be using these occasions to push for strengthening of the international legal framework for dealing with the world’s statelessness and displaced, including through increased state accessions to the key refugee and statelessness conventions.

Fuente: http://www.unhcr.org/4d063d736.html

UN News: Climate change financing ‘challenging but feasible’ – Ban’s advisory group

Secretary-General Meets Co-Chair of Climate Change Financing Advisory Group

5 November 2010 – A high-level advisory group convened by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on mobilizing financing to help developing nations deal with climate change said today that, while challenging, the goal of providing $100 billion annually in support by 2020 is feasible.

Today’s report by the High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing (AGF) said the money must come from a wide range of sources – public and private, bilateral and multilateral. It said grants and highly concessional loans were essential for adapting to climate change in the world’s most vulnerable countries, including small island developing States.

“It will need sustained political will, appropriate public policy signals for the markets, and financial ingenuity,” Mr. Ban told reporters today at a press conference in New York.

“There is no silver bullet – no ‘one size fits all’ solution for raising these funds.”

Mr. Ban noted that the report comes three weeks before the opening of the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancún, Mexico.

“This report can help governments in their discussions on climate finance, which is one of the most difficult areas in the negotiations,” the Secretary-General said today. “I hope it will help them move forward.”

At the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, last December, developed nations pledged $30 billion of fast-track funding for developing countries through 2012 and committed to jointly raise $100 billion annually by 2020.

Co-chaired by Prime Ministers Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia and Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, the 21-member Advisory Group was set up by the Secretary-General in February.

“Without an agreement on finance we won’t reach an agreement on climate,” Mr. Stoltenberg told today’s press conference.

Mr. Meles said further progress would depend on the political will of leaders everywhere, but particularly in developed countries. “[The report] can be used to create an ambitious deal or a weak and miserly deal, or it can be left to languish in the desks of government bureaucrats,” he said.

The report stressed the importance of rapid and decisive actions. “Now is the time to take decisions,” it said, adding that mobilizing financing will require strong commitments to the goals set by nations to mitigate climate change and the introduction of new public instruments on carbon financing.

The careful and wise use of public funds, combined with private funds, can generate “truly transformational investments,” the Advisory Group found.

It also underscored that the prudent and results-based use of funds would greatly enhance the credibility of both developed and developing nations in raising and using resources.

Fuente: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=36674&Cr=Climate+change&Cr1=

Secretary General’s Message for UN Day 2010

Fuente: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HvrrmVvcPeU


On United Nations Day, I express my great appreciation to the millions of people throughout the world who believe deeply in our work for peace, development and human rights… and who uphold our ideals and help us achieve our goals.  To all of you… friends and fellow citizens of the world… I say: thank you.

Sixty-five years ago on this date, the founding Charter of the United Nations entered into force.  Every year on UN Day, we reaffirm our global mission.  We reassert the universal values of tolerance, mutual respect and human dignity.  And we recognize the progress we have made together: gains in literacy and life expectancy… the spread of knowledge and technology… advances in democracy and the rule of law.

But above all, UN Day is a day on which we resolve to do more.  More to protect those caught up in armed conflict, to fight climate change and avert nuclear catastrophe; more to expand opportunities for women and girls, and to combat injustice and impunity; more to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

Last month’s MDG Summit at the United Nations generated political momentum… as well as financial commitments that are especially significant in these difficult economic times.  I am determined to press ahead as the 2015 deadline approaches.

Despite our problems, despite polarization and distrust, our interconnected world has opened up vast new possibilities for common progress.  Let us commit to do even more to realize the great vision set out in the UN Charter.

Ban Ki-moon

Fuente: http://www.un.org/en/events/unday/2010/sgmessage.shtml

UN Day 2010!

On 65th anniversary, UN resolves ‘to do more’ for peace, development

22 October 2010 – Marking its 65th anniversary, the United Nations has reaffirmed its commitment to promote peace, development and human rights, pledging enhanced action to achieve its global mission.

UN Day is commemorated every year on 24 October, the day in 1945 when the UN Charter entered into force.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the Day is an occasion to reassert the “universal values of tolerance, mutual respect and human dignity,” as well as progress made jointly in the areas of literacy, life expectancy, the spread of technology and advances in democracy and the rule of law.

Let us commit to do even more to realize the great vision set out in the UN Charter.

“But above all, UN Day is a day on which we resolve to do more, more to protect those caught up in armed conflict, to fight climate change and avert nuclear catastrophe; more to expand opportunities for women and girls, and to combat injustice and impunity.”

Mr. Ban also calls for sustained efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the set of poverty reduction and social development targets with a 2015 deadline.

Last month’s MDG summit bringing together scores of world leaders in New York generated political momentum and fresh financial commitments for global anti-poverty efforts, despite the hard economic times the world is going through, he says.

“I am determined to press ahead as the 2015 deadline approaches,” Mr. Ban declares. “Despite our problems, despite polarization and distrust, our interconnected world has opened up vast new possibilities for common progress. Let us commit to do even more to realize the great vision set out in the UN Charter.”

In his message, General Assembly President Joseph Deiss recalls the adoption of the MDGs in 2000, when the world came together to express solidarity with the most vulnerable members of the global community.

“We demonstrated that all the peoples of the United Nations form a single community and that no one has the right to remain indifferent to abject poverty and the suffering of others,” he says.

“We gave great hope to millions of men and women. We now have to unite our efforts to meet these expectations and to keep our promise. This is our moral duty. In so doing, we will make a significant contribution to global peace, security and prosperity, the primary mission of the United Nations,” Mr. Deiss says in his message, which he will deliver this evening at a UN Day concert in the General Assembly Hall featuring the Korean Broadcast System Symphony Orchestra, the Westminster Symphonic Choir and violinist Sarah Chang.

He also stresses that international solidarity, like musicians performing in an orchestra, remains the element that will continue to spur the movement towards achieving the MDGs.

“Music brings us together across cultures and borders to promote peace and harmony. The one who sings does not argue, the one who plays an instrument does not carry a weapon,” the President says.

“To use Plato’s words, we should now let music give soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

Fuente: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=36538&Cr=mdg&Cr1=

Women integral for peace, Ban stresses

21 October 2010 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today reiterated his pledge to empower women, underlining the crucial role they play in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding.

“Whether we are discussing sustainable development, public health or peace, women are at the core,” he told participants at the Global Open Day on Women and Peace and Security held at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

That event showcased recommendations that emerged from dozens of so-called Open Days held in countries in the midst of conflict or emerging from violence, seeking to enable direct dialogue among women’s peacebuilding groups, women community leaders and senior UN leadership in these nations.

Advancing the cause of women, peace and security must be integral to our peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts, not an afterthought,

Mr. Ban noted today that these meetings shed light on women’s perspectives and helped to pinpoint areas of common concern and divergence, thanking all of the women who took part in the Open Days for their candour.

The recommendations, he said, show that “we have a long way to go.”

The Secretary-General pointed to two “landmark” steps in promoting women’s rights. Firstly, the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, he said, recognized that women’s full participation is crucial to preventing and resolving conflict, as well as maintaining peace.

Then, in 2000, the Security Council passed resolution 1325, which linked women, peace and security, and also set up a framework to guide the UN’s actions and policies.

“But today we must admit that we have failed to build sufficiently on these conceptual foundations,” Mr. Ban said.

“Women still face obstacles to engagement at all stages of the peace process. Sexual violence remains an all-too-common tactic of war and often continues well after the guns fall silent.”

His Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, is endeavouring to raise awareness and spur action on the issue.

“But, on this tenth anniversary of 1325, even as we acknowledge where we are falling short, let us also recognize where we have moved forward,” the Secretary-General said.

“Advancing the cause of women, peace and security must be integral to our peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts, not an afterthought,” he emphasized.

Mr. Ban expressed hope that the newly-created UN Women will help the world body implement resolution 1325 through better coordination and enhanced activities in the field.

UN Women merges four UN entities: the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW).

Established in July by a unanimous vote of the General Assembly, the first UN super-agency on female empowerment will oversee all of the world body’s programmes aimed at promoting women’s rights and their full participation in global affairs.

Addressing reporters at a press conference on the 10th anniversary of the historic resolution, Anne Marie Goetz of UNIFEM today pointed out that three goals were consistently expressed during the 27 Open Days held around the world.

First, she said, women said they need to participate in making decisions on their future, be it at peace talks, elections or donor conferences, while secondly, they urged justice and security sector reform, stressing, “we need to be safe.” Lastly, women underscored the need to improve their situation regarding employment, land rights and economic security.

Ms. Goetz also pointed to the “gigantic problem” of resources, with UNIFEM research finding that less than 6 per cent of post-conflict spending addresses women’s needs.

Speaking at the same briefing, Said Djinnit, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative and head of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), told reporters that all of the region’s countries will have a national plan of action on resolution 1325 by the end of this year.

Yesterday, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) launched a new report that found that discrimination against women not only exposes them to the worst effects of disaster and war, including rape, but also deprives their countries of a prime engine for recovery.

The State of World Population 2010 “is about the three Rs: resilience, renewal and redefining roles between boys and girls and men and women,” Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said at the official launch in London of the report, which uses stories of individuals affected by conflict or catastrophe in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Liberia, the occupied Palestinian territory, Timor-Leste and Uganda to bring home its message.

It shows how communities and civil society are healing old wounds and moving forward, while stressing how much more still needs to be done to ensure that women have access to services and have a voice in peace deals or reconstruction plans.

Fuente: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=36526&Cr=women&Cr1=