Scrutinizing the Security Council’s Thematic Obligations


GAPW has long understood the need to engage a full range of diplomatic and civil society initiatives to increase the accountability and effectiveness of the UN Security Council.  From working methods and the use of the veto to the makeup of permanent and non-permanent membership, we have attempted to stay in creative relationship to a number of reform initiatives, especially the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) group chaired by Switzerland.

As fires rage worldwide, and as more threats to peace and security are identified by the Council (the latest of which are ISIS and the Ebola epidemic), the need to link Council activities, especially in the thematic areas, to a wider range of capacities and preventive initiatives of states, civil society and UN secretariat offices is paramount.  Especially this past summer, the Council has too often seems overwhelmed with crises while sidelining many potential collaborators and neglecting core aspects of the UN’s preventive architecture.

With leadership from Dr. Vesselin Popovski and Dr. Trudy Fraser (our Peace and Security Fellow), GAPW was honored to contribute to “The Security Council as Global Legislator,” published by Routledge.   Melina Lito and Robert Zuber contributed an essay entitled “The Security Council as legislator and norm builder: Impacts on efforts to promote the Women, Peace and Security agenda.” This essay examines themes that have guided our own gender-related activities.

As noted by Routledge, this volume seeks to reframe discussions of whether the Security Council – in the current composition and working methods – is representative, capable or productive. Rather it assesses whether legislative activity by the Security Council can be beneficial to international peace and security. The authors examine and critique the capacities of the Security Council to address thematic international threats - such as terrorism, weapons proliferations, targeting of civilians, recruitment of child soldiers, piracy – as an alternative to the traditional model of addressing country-specific situations on a case-by-case basis. Ultimately, the book seeks to assess the efficacy of the Security Council as global legislator in terms of complementing the Security Council’s mandate for the maintenance of international peace and security with a preventative and norm-setting capacity.

For access to the Popovski/Fraser volume, please click here.

For more on the Security Council discussion on the Ebola crisis, please click here.

Prioritizing Reparations

sexual-violence1On Friday morning, the UN organized an extraordinary event focused on The “Guidance Note” of the Secretary-General on Reparations for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence.

The event brought together ambassadors from diplomatic missions and officials from the highest levels of the Secretariat, including Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson, Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo, ASG for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović and Special Representative to the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura.

This is not the first discussion at the UN focused on reparations, but in some ways it was the most satisfying. An earlier iteration of the UN’s growing concern for reparations was organized in part by GAPW’s Melina Lito.

Conference room 6 was packed on the first day of August, and few if any were sorry they made the trip.  The insights were numerous and, in many instances, practical, supporting the Guidance Note’s examination of a range of measures promoted by the UN and implemented by member states to promote access to many forms of reparations, including  ‘restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction,’ and perhaps most importantly ‘guarantees of non-repetition.’

Also of note was SRSG Bangura’s explicit and welcome linkage between sexual violence, stigma and limited economic options for victims.   In far too many instances, she noted, life is better for perpetrators than for their victims. ASG Šimonović highlighted both the forensics challenges in investigating sexual abuse and the still-relevant limitations of state support for victim compensation.  It is, he noted, “never too late” for justice.  DSG Eliasson reinforced the urgent need to address reparations with “passion and compassion.”

Perhaps the most salient point of the day was uttered by Ambassador Lucas of Luxembourg who quoted a woman she met in Guinea to the effect that “before turning the page, we have to read the page.”  It was the consensus of the group that reparations for victims of conflict-related sexual violence, not only cash but health care and employment opportunities, must be on any page that women victimized during conflict will want to read.

For the Guidance Note of the Secretary-General, click here.

Mapping Green Spaces Around UN Headquarters

green-map-workshopOn International Justice Day, and as United Nations diplomats work out a final set of sustainable development goals for a new generation, a group of young people from Green Map System and Global Action began the process of creating a ‘Green Map’ of the area surrounding United Nations Headquarters. The young people were joined by a representative of Community Board 6 in Manhattan.

Green Map projects have already been launched in over 700 cities worldwide.   One of those projects, in Geneva, mapped the area around the UN compound there.   The New York UN-area project, while somewhat less ambitious, sends a clear message that environmental awareness and citizen engagement are fundamental to the maintenance of stable, just, peaceful societies.

After a brief introduction by Wendy Brawer of Green Map and Benji Shulman of GAPW, participants headed out to explore the greater UN neighbourhood, looking for off-the-grid environmental resources,  neglected green space, organic food options and much more.    Photos and descriptions of local resources and challenges will be uploaded on the Open Green Map platform and the resulting UN district Green map will be able to be ‘refreshed’ by these participants or others, eventually providing a comprehensive and compelling portrait of a broader UN community not normally noted for its healthful green spaces. The map will be important as potential environmental cataloguing tool as the city begins an expected re-zoning process in the area.

GAPW supports the community engaged mapmaking and user-friendly technology that Green Map System has brought to over 60 countries worldwide.   Moreover, while we are grateful for the Farmers Market in Hammarskjöld Park and other local assets, we are mindful of the scarcity of well-maintained environmental assets in a neighbourhood that helps set global policy on climate change and other key sustainability-related issues.greeen-map-gapw3

If you would like to suggest a site for the UN District Green Map please click here or use the Green Map mobile site

Justice Matters — July 17, 2014

img_6991-24July 17 is the designated Day of International Criminal Justice. It marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute (July 17, 1998), which is the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Through its investigations and prosecutions, the ICC seeks to protect people from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.

July 17 unites all those who wish to support justice, promote victims’ rights, and help prevent crimes that threaten the peace, security and well-being of the world.

As many readers know, the ICC is under enormous pressure at present.   Conflicts characterized by gross disregard for human rights are taking place from Syria and Gaza to Central African Republic and Mali.   ICC prosecutors and investigators must respond to Security Council referrals with inadequate budgets and, in cases such as Libya, while working in environments almost completely lacking in security.

Obstacles to the successful work of the Court also come in the form of untimely indictments as well as a growing unwillingness of some states to honor obligations to arrest indicted leaders and turn them over to justice. Indeed, some of these same states are now claiming immunity from lawsuits and potential prosecutions for their Heads of State during their terms.

We can all acknowledge that there is still a long road to walk before the international community can claim that impunity for mass violence has ended.  In the interim, we must together do all that we can to ensure that the ICC and other mechanisms of international justice are as fair, transparent, properly financed and adequately protected as humanly possible.   Justice does, indeed, matter, but as the ICC itself recognizes, it will take more than the actions of one Court to end impunity for the worst of crimes. 10492516_310331262459029_5212975575162716686_n3

For more information and photos related to “Justice Matters,” click here.

International Day in Support of Victims of Torture: The UN Convention against Torture Celebrates 30 Years


As noted by our program partner, Paris-based FIACAT, 2014 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment adopted by the United Nations on 10 December 1984.

Since its entry into force on 26 June 1987, 155 States have ratified or acceded to this Convention. Unfortunately, far too many States have still not acceded to this text, and many States Parties still practice torture and mistreatment.

Along with FIACAT and the worldwide movement of ACATs, GAPW urges all States to:

  • Prevent torture by ensuring respect for all human rights, by training government agents, by cooperating with international and regional institutions and by making their populations aware of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment or treatment;
  • Condemn any act of torture by criminalising it in their legislation, by systematically prosecuting those responsible for acts of torture and by fighting against impunity;
  • Support victims of torture and ill-treatment by offering them protection and by putting into place mechanisms for reparation and compensation.

On this day, we also wish to highlight the excellent work of UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, specifically his “Anti-Torture Initiative” at the Washington College of Law at American University.

For more information on FIACAT, click here.

For more information on the Anti-Torture Initiative, click here.

An Outcome Towards Progress on Small Arms

bms-5As many of the readers of this site already know, the toll of death and destruction from small arms — both legal and illegal — has long reached unacceptable levels.

Recently at UN Headquarters, diplomats worldwide gathered to assess the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Lights Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA).  This Fifth Biennial Meeting of States (BMS) was chaired by Amb. Tanin of Afghanistan with support from a competent Bureau as well as from Anthony Simpson (New Zealand) who capably led discussions on the International Tracing Instrument, a major BMS focus.

For one week, diplomats and civil society wrestled with how best to address the dangers of small arms proliferation within a mandate focused on creation of  a consensus outcome document.   The document eventually agreed to on June 20 was by most accounts a compromise that, at its best, reaffirmed broad state support for PoA implementation in all its aspects — international capacity assistance, stockpile management, marking and tracing of weapons, ending diversion of the arms trade, weapons destruction and more.   Nevertheless, some delegations (and GAPW) hoped for more on border control, security sector reform, and reference to development and other core UN functions and agencies.  We also joined with many states hoping for the inclusion of ammunition among the core arms-related concerns.

As much as we were grateful for the outcome document and the consensus it represents, we had also hoped for the sharing of more stories of successful initiatives under the PoA framework.  We have had occasion to know many of these stories, some first hand, and believe that specific examples of successful initiatives can motivate future progress towards eliminating the scourge of small arms in ways that documents simply cannot.

For more information on BMS 5, click here.

For access to all issues of the 2014 Small Arms Monitor, click here.

The UN Greets the World Cup

The UN community is generally abuzz as World Cup 2014 opens on Thursday in Brazil.  Diplomats, UN officials and civil society representatives are now anxiously awaiting the placement of televisions in the North Lawn Building and other settings, allowing the community to get their fill of ‘football’ while simultaneously attempting to solve the security, development and human rights problems of our time.

There have been several ‘football’-related events held at the UN recently co-sponsored by a number of agencies and missions, including UNICEF, Brazil, UNDP, the Netherlands and other members of the Group of Friends of Sport for Development and Peace.  One such event on June 10 focused specifically on “Soccer and Sports for Peace and Development.

ban-and-footballHowever, the highlight event was held in the Hammarskjöld Library on June 9 featuring the Secretary-General, Ambassadors from the 32 countries participating in the World Cup, and local school children.  The SG and Ambassadors were dressed in ‘football’ garb and helped the children make joyful noises in what was a very crowded room.

GAPW supports the sports-peace linkage, though we have also attended enough raucous hockey games and seen enough violent soccer matches on television to realize that the connection is a bit more tenuous than some would imply.   Indeed, we wish that the proposed activities led less to an objective as intangible as ‘peace’ and more to its constitutive parts — reconciliation, self-esteem for youth, conflict resolution for communities and other core objectives.

In a celebrity-driven age, including sports celebrities, sport is just one of the cultural domains that we need to employ thoughtfully and judiciously in the promotion of ’stable and peaceful societies.’  However, at least some of this promotion will likely need to wait until a new football champion is crowned.   Let the games begin.

For information about UNDP’s “Match Against Poverty” initiative, click here.

For more information on the “Soccer and Sports” event, click here.

Honoring Fallen Peacekeepers

A beautiful, somber event took place early on May 29 honoring peacekeepers who have lost their lives while serving under the UN flag.  fallen-peacekeepers-ceremony1

The event took place at outside the North Lawn Building at UN Headquarters.

In addition to mourning losses, the ceremony reinforced the 2014 theme of this international day:

UN Peacekeeping:  A Force for Peace.  A Force for Change.  A Force for the Future.

As noted  by the UN Secretary General, some 3200 peacekeepers have been killed in the line of duty, over 60 so far this year.   The SG highlighted the many places worldwide where peacekeepers take on challenging and risky duty, but especially noted the recent efforts of UNMISS to provide protection to threatened civilians in South Sudan.

This was not the place to debate peacekeeping policy, though it should be noted that peacekeeping casualties are likely to be impacted (negatively and positively) by several factors, including increasingly complex and coercive mandates rendered by the UN Security Council as well increasingly high levels of training and logistical support offered by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

For all the ways in which peacekeepers are imperiled and their operations are strained, it is hard to imagine what the world would look like without their service.  We owe them much.

More information on the International Day can be found here.

Seeking Solutions for an Impending Climate Crisis

Global Action has long acknowledged the important linkages between the health of our climate and our ability to prevent and manage conflict.   The effects of climate changedscn23202-300x300 include rising temperatures, sea level rise, torrential rains, drought, and extreme weather conditions of all kinds.  Such conditions have exacerbated food insecurity and competition for scarce resources, and have also created new incentives for migration that place pressure on recipient states and lead to compromised human rights performance and other tensions.

Media Global and UNEarth recently organized a panel discussion at the UN Correspondents Association office on the phenomenon the UN Secretary-General has designated the defining issue of our time: climate change.”  Along with Media Global International Bureau Chief, Nosh Nalavala, speakers on the panel included Ambassador Caleb Otto of Palau, UN Under-Secretary General Gyan Chandra Acharya, New York Times science columnist Claudia Dreifus, Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School Diretor Michael Gerrard, and Ambassador Aliioaiga Feturi Elisaia of Samoa.

One highlight from the event was Amb. Otto’s assertion that there is currently too much emphasis on “the politics of the powerful and the glamour of the rich.”   Along with other speakers, he called for more compassion for those most directly impacted by climate change, but also joined Amb. Elisaia of Samoa in recognizing the need for small island states to do more themselves to correct climate imbalances at the same time that they demand more action from the larger, more polluting states.

All speakers agreed that there is a larger role that media can and must play in addressing climate change with urgency, fairness and compassion.   As a board member of Media Global and UNEarth, we applaud these efforts and hope to develop additional opportunities for media engagement on climate issues and impacts.

For more information on the event, click here.

Promoting More Stable and Peaceful Communities

foto6On April 25, Global Action joined with other civil society organizations (the World Federation of UN Associations, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) in launching an initiative to support the work of the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly in promoting the cross-cutting theme, “Ensuring Stable and Peaceful Societies.”  These organizations affirm the important value of this theme as the UN seeks adoption of a new (and hopefully expanded) set of sustainable development goals.

Our event immediately followed a day and a half long Thematic Debate in the General Assembly on ‘Ensuring Stable and Peaceful Societies’ that sought to field comment outlining both state aspirations and responsibilities within this dynamic normative framework. For a brief summary of state interventions, see (

The event was moderated by Kathryn Tobin and featured interventions by several key voices in development and peacemaking: Rosa Emilia Salamanca of  Corporación de Investigación y Acción Social e Económica (CIASE) in Colombia; Laura Spano of the World Federation of UN Associations; Richard Smith of the ACTION Support Center in South Africa; and Laura Ribeiro with the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict. Richard and Rosa also participated directly in the GA Thematic Debate.


Our event affirmed that,  from the NGO side, we need to do more to support states and UN secretariat officials in keeping linkages relevant to the promotion of ‘stable and peaceful societies’ fresh among diverse stakeholders.  This involves a deeper level of partnership commitment, more than simply telling diplomats what’s missing and what ‘they’ need to do about it.    Through a variety of related initiatives, we seek to take more responsibility for goal setting and implementation, to do more to redress imbalances and end violence than merely pointing out the limitations of others.

We hope that this will be just the beginning of a long and fruitful engagement with the Office of the President of the General Assembly on “Promoting Stable and Peaceful Societies.”  We welcome the involvement of diverse civil society on issues ranging from poverty reduction to the elimination of capital punishment.   These and many more commitments are germane to our work in this area and need to find expression in our planning and implementation.

For the draft Program of the GA Thematic Debate, click here.

For the agenda of the NGO event, click here.

For the Background Note for the Thematic Debate, click here.

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