Reflections on UN CSW 61: An Evening with WIIS-NY

c9tgryyuqaewmgwAs many followers of Global Action know, we have been honored to cultivate a long and productive relationship with Women in International Security (WIIS), and especially its New York and West Coast (US) Chapters.

On April 11, we joined with WIIS-NY for an event to assess the impact of the recently concluded 61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) devoted to Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work.

The speakers for our assessment included Yoshita Singh, Shazia Rafi, Ourania Yancopoulos and Ivy Gabbert, all well-known around the UN system.   The session was ably moderated by WIIS-NY’s Christina Madden.

The discussion veered between issues of women’s leadership at the UN and more general, employment-related discrimination faced by women in a variety of security-related, professional contexts.   In addition, attention was focused on the needs and aspirations of younger women representing part of the largest generation of young people ever to grace our planet.  Two of the young adults who had participated in this CSW joined the group and shared their own commitments to gender equality within and far beyond the UN system.

There were several “take away” insights for Global Action as well:

  • The important focus on rural women whose options and contexts for “empowerment” are often very different from women in urban, educated and even “elite” environments.  We must remain sensitive to context and avoid “one size fits all” discourse.
  • The importance of ensuring that the most qualified women candidates are able and willing to become candidates for institutional leadership, including and especially leadership at the UN.  States simply must take a larger role in nominating qualified women.
  • The importance of improving synergies between “political” events like the CSW and the binding treaty obligations embodied in the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
  • The importance of making space for young voices and energies, including our own willingness to identify and mentor youth as they find their own voices and embark on their own paths of leadership and service.

In all security-related fields, there is still much work to be done to ensure fair and equal access to employment opportunities, political participation and institutional leadership for women, ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities and more.   The proverbial “faces in front of the camera” have changed significantly in recent years, but there is still a hill to climb.  We must climb it without delay.

For more information on WIIS-NY, click here.

For more information on CSW61, click here.

Connecting UN Issues and Thought Leaders Through Global Connections Television

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Global Action has been pleased to be interviwed by Global Connections Television’s host Bill Miller on more than one occasion.  While our conversations have largely focused on security and disarmament concerns — as our organizational name would suggest — Bill has encouraged us to weigh in on related issues such as gender-based violence and the protection of civilians by UN peacekeeping forces.

Bill’s audience, now numbering in the millions, is attracted by the range of progressive issues which he investigates and promotes, but even more by the quality and prominence of his guests. A review of the GCTV website reveals an extraordinary array of senior UN officials, heads of member state governments, NGO leaders, business executives, and community leaders — all of whom help to make the UN what it is and also help it to become what it is yet not.

We are honored to be able to make our own contribution to GCTV and its splendid roster of diplomats and issue experts making a difference in the world, and more specifically making a difference through the United Nations. We hope to do more with Bill and his network in the coming years.

For access to Dr. Zuber’s November interview with Bill Miller, click here.


Spotlight on Sustainable Development

agenda-2030_engl_titel_smallAs many of our friends and affiliates know, Global Action’s lens on peace and security has broadened over the years, moving beyond weapons to what many diplomats at the UN refer to as the “root causes” of conflict — from persistent poverty and habitat loss to climate impacts and discrimination based on ethnicity, gender and religion.   Security question permeate (or should) much of what the UN does, including the provision of humanitarian assistance, the health of our oceans, the political enfranchisement of youth and the protection of children in conflict zones.

Together with NGO partners organized by Global Policy Forum, we contributed our lens to a recently-released volume, “Spotlight on Sustainable Development,” which looks at all the Sustainable Development Goals, their means of implementation (including funding) and obstacles to their full and equitable achievement.  As described by the “Spotlight” editors:

Independent monitoring and review of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its structural obstacles and challenges are key factors for the success of the SDGs. It is for this reason that the Reflection Group on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development together with other civil society organizations and networks has produced the first annual Spotlight Report assessing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the structural obstacles in its realization. The report puts a spotlight on the fulfillment of the 17 goals, with a particular focus on inequalities, responsibility of the rich and powerful, means of implementation and systemic issues.

Global Action was responsible for commentary on Goal 16, “Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies.”  While this goal and its targets are anything but weapons-obsessed, there is recognition that the volume of weapons in circulation, licit and illicit, poses a grave challenge to sustainable development priorities.  Moreover, Goal 16 targets devoted to ensuring respect for the rule of law, ending government corruption and promoting full public participation and access are all in keeping with our security objectives.

This is not our first project seeking to link peace and security concerns to the many other aspects and activities now on the UN agenda.  It will not be the last.  “Connecting dots” remains an important component of our mission here in New York and with diverse global partners, and that mission is only likely to grow in importance.

For more information on Sustainable Development Goal 16 and its targets, click here.

For access to the full Spotlight report as well as individual chapters, click here.

Refugee Integration for Sustainable Peace

cadets1As many readers of this space are aware, Global Action has long taken an interest in mentoring women (and men) interested in careers in international security.

That interest has resulted in some satisfying partnerships, including with the New York and West Coast (US) Chapters of Women and International Security.   In addition, we have been privileged to welcome cadets from West Point as interns and in conjunction with graduation projects that help them extend their military training to some of the more difficult challenges we face as a society.

Earlier this spring, Cadets Binkowski, Murphy (not pictured) and Sampson came to our office to talk about the problem of integrating refugees into US communities. What are the common pitfalls?  Where are the successful integration models?   What can the military do (if anything) to help ease transitions, reassure the wary and prepare communities to receive their newest members?

All three cadets, under the guidance of Colonel Diane Ryan, have had extensive training in psychology and social relations.   Their display (pictured above) offered several important recommendations for how to integrate newcomers who have faced violence and other challenges in a way that promotes, rather than undermines, stable and peaceful communities.   Perhaps their best recommendation was the simplest — ensure adequate time for dialogue to enhance preparation and “ownership” by host communities.   The better prepared communities are to receive refugees, the smoother the transition is likely to be.

Exploring New Trends in Peacekeeping and Atrocity Prevention with BGIA

bgia-atrocity-preventionAs part of our ongoing collaboration with the Bard Globalization and International Affairs Program, GAPW recently organized a discussion forum for BGIA students and alumni. The event focused on issues raised in our new publication from Springer, “Perspectives on Peacekeeping and Atrocity Prevention: Expanding Stakeholders and Regional Arrangements,” featuring an introduction by UN Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng.

The BGIA discussion was highlighted by presentations from Dr. Trudy Fraser and Melina Lito, Esq., both of whom contributed fine articles to the Springer collection.   Dr. Fraser, who also served as principle editor, gave an overview of recent controversial shifts in coercive mandates for UN peacekeepers, while Ms. Lito focused on the critically significant matter of increasing accountability for abuses committed by peacekeepers and other UN personnel.

We have other launch plans for this book in 2016, including in Brazil and the UK, but we were especially pleased to hold this initial discussion at BGIA.  Under the direction of James Ketterer and Rachel Meyer, BGIA has created an innovative learning experience that is attracting attention worldwide.   Internships are an integral part of the BGIA experience and we have been fortunate to have had three BGIA interns over the past year.   Our expectation is that we will be able to welcome many more.

For more information on the BGIA program, click here.

For access to the Springer collection, click here.

Swords into Ploughshares: The Peace Angel Project

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December 2015

One of our very favorite art concepts is Lin Evola’s Peace Angel Project.   Lin and her work are long known to Global Action. In fact, her art adorns some issues of the Arms Trade Treaty Monitor that we produced in 2012 and 2013 in association with Reaching Critical Will.

Among its many extraordinary features is the premise of the art and its chosen materials:  The project serves as a reminder of the worldwide epidemic of violence and our responsibility to create a better world by using the melted down stainless core of decommissioned missiles and other weapons to create powerful images of peace and unity.

Lin’s work is now being featured in a show entitled “World on Fire” at Studio Vendome in New York City where we were honored to be present for her opening. “As our world continues to be faced with horrific acts against humanity, the Peace Angel Project mission has never been more important,” said Evola. “As we move into the holiday season, it is my hope that this artwork will serve as an inspiration to tap into the best of the human condition, by rising above violence and standing for peace.”

We know that Lin will have many more opporunities to share her stunning art and, surely as important, the deep messages of peace that her works embody. We hope to be with her every step of the way.

For more about Lin’s Studio Vendome exhibit, click here.

Ensuring Appropriate Security in the Forthcoming Global Development Agenda

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GAPW was pleased to collaborate with Instituto Mora in Mexico City and a number of regional and international experts to produce a volume that seeks to examine and assess how security arrangements at national and international levels impact prospects for sustainable development.

This volume offers a variety of perspectives and regional analyses on the many links ­between security and development, with texts by UN policy professionals, academics, and implementation specialists who have contributed ideas on how to create more peaceful, inclusive societies in support of the robust, post-2015 sustainable development framework soon to be adopted at the United Nations.

Around the world, ­illicit and trafficked weapons are jeopardizing community and national development, and perhaps nowhere more so than in Mexico and Central America. Despite improvements in government transparency and respect for human rights, new regional security and judicial arrangements, and hightened attention to security issues at the UN at a time when post-2015 goals are ­soon to be adopted, weapons and related security challenges — including trafficking in narcotics and the persistence of “femicide” — continue to undermine hope for development in the Central American region.

Sustainable Development Goals Post-2015: Ensuring a Security Development Linkage in the Forthcoming Global Agenda, addresses a number of fundamental questions: How should security be pursued in the post-2015 ­agenda? To what extent do UN member states understand their responsibilities with respect to Goal 16, the so-called “peace goal?”  What is missing from current discussions regarding what we see as an essential security -development nexus?

We are currently working on book launch events for fall 2015 in New York and Mexico City.  We also plan to take the book and its analyses to El Salvador which is enduring a particularly painful period of gang and street-level violence that threatens to completely undermine development progress and prospects in that country.

For more information about the book, please click here.

For more information on Instituto Mora, click here.

For a list of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Targets to be adopted by global leaders in September, click here.

UNITAR Workshop on the Protection of Civilians: Challenges in Meeting a Core UN Expectation

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Global Action was honored recently to join a diverse group of UN stakeholders in a UNITAR-sponsored training for diplomats on the Protection of Civilians.

Global Action has long taken note of the many changes in policies governing UN peacekeeping operations.  Along with our Fellows and affiliates, we have offered caution regarding the trend towards more robust, coercive peacekeeping mandates – most containing the worthy objective of Protecting Civilians — that are insufficiently clear in their objectives, overload peacekeepers with responsibilities ranging from protecting UN country teams to rebuilding national judiciaries, and increasingly distort the last vestiges of peacekeeper neutrality.  As GAPW Fellow David Curran has noted often, peacekeepers face increasing dangers amidst complex deployments where there is simply “no peace to keep.”

There are other dangers to peacekeeping credibility, including the over-reliance on peacekeeping operations as a substitute for robust, preventive, diplomatic and development engagements. The UN’s annual ceremony in May honoring fallen peacekeepers is a particularly moving affair. However, the growing number of casualties cited underscores growing threats to peacekeepers placed in highly volatile contexts and asked to work wonders to protect both civilians and UN operations through an increasingly complex mix of coercive and non-coercive measures.

And then there is the growing concern that some of those entrusted with the task of protecting civilians from abuse are themselves guilty of abuse. We simply and completely must uphold the values we seek to protect. Most UN peacekeepers understand that abuse by some jeopardizes all members of UN country teams, puts all of UN operations at risk. The scandals emanating now from Central African Republic and the unresolved abuses in Darfur stain a larger area than that occupied by the perpetrators. If we fail to meet the POC expectations that we have ourselves established, people will needlessly suffer.  The reputation of the UN will needlessly suffer as well.

For a complete overview of the UNITAR workshop click here.

For a summary of Dr. Zuber’s remarks, click here.

Fresh Perspectives on Peacekeeping and Atrocity Prevention

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Global Action has long taken note of the many changes affecting current policies governing UN peacekeeping operations.  Along with many of our Fellows and affiliates, we have often cautioned about more robust, coercive peacekeeping mandates that are insufficiently clear in their objectives, overload peacekeepers with responsibilities ranging from protecting UN country teams to rebuilding national judiciaries, and  increasingly distort the last vestiges of peacekeeper neutrality.  As co-editor David Curran notes in his own chapter, peacekeepers face increasing dangers amidst complex deployments where there is simply “no peace to keep.”

This volume, which includes an introduction by UN Undersecretary-General Adama Dieng, explores aspects of this new peacekeeping terrain, identifying both new stakeholders and emerging dangers.   One such danger is related to the over-reliance of peacekeeping operations as a substitute for robust, preventive, diplomatic and development capacities. The UN’s annual ceremony last month honoring fallen peacekeepers was a moving affair, but the growing number of casualties cited underscored growing threats to peacekeepers placed in highly volatile contexts and asked to work wonders through a complex mix of coercive and non-coercive measures.

While four editors are listed on the cover, completion of this book would not have been possible without our Peace and Security Fellow, Dr. Trudy Fraser.   Trudy, now a new mother, is also a skilled writer, analyst and editor.   More than anyone, Trudy shaped this text and helped us overcome editorial and logistical difficulties that almost always shadow projects of this sort.   The result is a volume that poses provocative questions, suggests new tools and stakeholders, and reminds policymakers that our primary task is to prevent violence rather than finding new and clever ways to respond to violence once it is already raging.

We believe that this volume (and its many recommendations to scholars and policymakers) will make a significant contribution to our understanding of new trends in peacekeeping operations and atrocity crime prevention, all while enhancing our prevention and protection responsibilities.

For more information on this volume, click here.

For more on the work of USG Dieng’s office, click here.

A Compelling Voice for the Prevention of Genocide Has Gone Silent

sheriMany of us in the Global Action family were deeply saddened by the loss on Friday, May 22 of Professor Sheri Rosenberg.  Sheri taught for many years at the Cardozo School of Law and was a mainstay in efforts around the United Nations to address threats of mass atrocities. She was also much revered by students in her Human Rights and Genocide Law Clinic, some of whom were fortunate to accompany her on trips to Rwanda and other areas impacted by mass violence.

Like many in our line of work, Sheri shared her gifts with others beyond the public glare.   Among those gifts were financial contributions she made to our office allowing us to bring interns and fellows to New York to participate in genocide prevention (and related) discussions and activities.

She was also a devoted mother to her children and worried often about how her evolving sickness would impact them.

Sheri opened the resources and facilities of Cardozo to scholars and practitioners alike. She had many collaborators, including GAPW, having allowed us to cooperate with her in publishing “Healing the Wounds: Speech, Identity and Reconciliation in Rwanda and Beyond.”

Sheri deeply wished to cultivate a strong and identifiable voice to influence the structures and norms needed to effectively prevent genocide and other mass atrocities — to make a better world for her own children and, indeed, for children everywhere.

Mission accomplished, dear Sheri.

For more on her life’s work, click here.

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