UN Institute for Disarmament Research: Space Security Workshop

This meeting was brought about to discuss the current updates on the future of space, with a specific focus on the safety, security, and commercial actors in space. The speakers shared their insight on the socio-economic impact of space on the future, with the discussion eventually shifting towards the importance of international policy regarding space.

It was emphasized that international rules require a consensus among space-faring nations, that are both applicable to public and private entities, specifically mindful of new start-ups. Preventing weaponization and the arms race, and mitigating risks from other human activities is deemed as essential in any international discussion.

Moreover, regarding any current and future actions in space, everyone should be considered a stakeholder. Both Low Earth and Geosynchronous (370 km and 36,000 km above the earth, respectively) orbiting satellites play a vital role in our world. They are responsible for communications, data collection, as well as weather, climate, and environmental sensors. Today, nearly 40% of the SDG targets (65 out of 169) are directly supported by space activity. 

Moving forward, space-actors must also consider the mass accumulation of space debris.

While it requires more energy and money to bring down a satellite, the space environment is already at that critical point where the Low Earth Orbit will be inaccessible to satellites in its orbit within the next 100 years. Ultimately, there needs to be an increase in international dialogue among government and private bodies in order to ensure the security and safety of space, with a focus on demilitarization and non-polluting activity.

Meeting​: UNIDIR Space Security Workshop: A Primer for Delegations

Date/Location​: Wednesday, January 30th, 2019; 10:00 to 12:00; Conference Room 11, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY

Speakers​:

  • Mr. Kazuto Suzuki, Professor of Public Policy at Hokkaido University
  • Ms. Laura Grego, Senior Scientist for the Global Security Program

Written By: WIT Representative Michael Murphy

 

Addressing ISIS’ threat to international peace and security

Security Council

United Nations Security Council

The 7962nd Security Council meeting was held to discuss the threat that ISIS (Da’esh) poses to international peace and security, and to report the efforts that the United Nations has made to support Member States against this threat.

Reports made by various members of the Security Council all confirmed that ISIL is indeed succumbing to military pressures across Iraq and Syria. However, in spite of this pressure, all members of the Security Council acknowledge the need for persistent vigilance, as ISIL is constantly evolving its tactics to gain both funds and supporters.

Japan, in particular, raised concerns over ISIL’s increasing interest in South East Asia. As such, Japan has urged other Member States to join in with funding South East Asian countries’ implementation of resolutions that will buttress them against the threat of ISIL. Thus far, Japan has provided 30 million USD to countries in South East Asia to facilitate the development of resources including advanced passenger information and counter-propaganda plans.

In his closing remarks, the representative from Egypt called for a reconsideration of anti-terrorism vocabulary, in particular the phrase “Islamic extremism”. He asserts that Islam is a religion that does not know extremism; rather, individuals use Islam as a pretext to create violence.

MEETING: Security Council 7962nd Meeting
DATE/LOCATION: Thursday, 8th June, 2017; 10:00 – 12:00; Security Council Chamber, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY
SPEAKERS: Members of Security Council
WRITTEN BY: WIT Representative Sophie Pu

Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights

 

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Session 5 of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate on “Preventing the Exploitation of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) for Terrorist purposes, while Respecting Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” addressed civil society’s role in using ICTs for counter-terrorism messaging purposes. Ms. Humera Khan, moderator for the technical meeting and Executive Director of Muflehun, introduced four panelists whose organizations actively take part in global counterterrorist messaging. A member of Al-Azhar Observer, . Mahmoud Nagah Ahmed Farag Khalaf, remarked, “The internet and social media are arenas for terrorist organizations.” As the use of social media increases, the goal of terrorist organizations has transitioned from gaining attention to gaining members. They promote extremist ideologies on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by manipulating social, political, and religious views in their favor. Online advertisements have become extremely desirable for terrorist organizations, allowing them to easily recruit vulnerable people.

While terrorist organizations using the Internet for manipulation is a threat, there are benefits to their online activity. Mr. Ross Fernett, co-founder of Moonshot CVE, highlighted that the Internet has allowed people to track these organizations, obtain more information about them, and prevent some large scale potential disasters. This form of violence prevention was nearly impossible a generation ago. NGOs, such as The Foundation for the Study of Democracies, collect information like logos and specific language frequently used in terrorist media and spread them to the general public to counter-message their ideologies. Other NGOs create peer to peer relationships in which trained individuals correspond with those who show interest in terrorist organizations. However, this tactic becomes a legal issue for other nations, as interest is legally seen as either a free expression of thought, or as a serious threat to society.

Meeting: Technical Meeting of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate on “Preventing the Exploitation of Information and Communications Technologies for Terrorist Purposes, while Respecting Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms”

Date/Time/Location: Thursday, 1 December 2016; 10:00 to 12:00; United Nations Headquarters, Conference Room 4

Speakers: Ms. Humera Khan, Executive Director of Muflehun; Mr. Nash Borges, Chief Technology Officer of U.S. Global Engagement Center; Dr. Mahmoud Nagah Ahmed Farag Khalaf, member of Al-Azhar Observer; Mr. Maxim Grigoryev, Director of The Foundation for the Study of Democracies; Mr. Ross Fernett, Co-founder of Moonshot CVE

Written By: Leticia Murillo, WIT Representative

 

The Disconnect Between Religion and Extremism

This meeting was held to discuss the issues surrounding extremism, particularly religious extremism.

Dr. Hamad started by noting political and economic improvements relate to the establishment of peace and increasing how long peace lasts.

Dr. Tangara mentioned how the enemy, in this case ISIS, is more sophisticated than many acknowledge. ISIS has taken to attacking societies by attacking their culture. Additionally, he stated that it is important to replace the ancient education that tends to have xenophobic ideals.

Mrs. Lodico commented on the importance of separation of state from religion, and of religion from state. She noted how the world lacks enlightenment, contributing to the number of jihadists. Finally, she discussed how social media has played a proliferating part in the spread of ISIS Propaganda. She said that they began with a single propaganda video, and since then their social media presence has only decreased. Additionally, she pointed out how Nazis never celebrated the genocides that they perpetrated, and yet ISIS has streamed their atrocities thanks to their access to social media. Finally, she stated that fights against ISIL needed to be holistic.

Dr. Durbak noted that Dr. Al-Suwaidi’s book exposed the exploitation of Islam by ISIS. She stated how individuals fell into ISIS as a result of issues in their environments, and pointed out how the uneven distribution of resources can lead to exploitation, powerlessness, and distress.

Reverend Dr. Thomas noted the similarities between some concept of mirages and the story of Jesus in the bible. He pointed out that in extremism, there is a disconnect between religion and reality, and noted that extremism is not confined to any particular region.

Meeting: Forum on “Extremism-A threat and a challenge that needs to be addressed”

Date/Location: Thursday, April 7, 2016; 10:00-12:00, Conference Room 8

Speakers: Dr. Tageldin Hamad, Secretary General, World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations; H.E. Dr. Mamadou Tangara, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of The Gambia to the UN; Mrs. Yvonne Lodico, Founder Grace Initiative, Former Director, UN Institute for Training and Research, NY; Dr. Christine Durbak, Chair and CEO World Information Transfer; Rev. Dr. Douglas Thomas, Adjunct Professor of Religion at Lincoln University, Oxford, Pennsylvania; H.E. Dr. Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi, Director General of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR)

Written By: WIT Representative Olivia Gong

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Preventing Escalation in Burundi

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    Mr. Feltman opened the meeting noting serious implications for stability and ethnic harm in Burundi and perhaps regionally. This is based on the number of reported politically motivated killings and attacks increasing daily. There are nightly exchanges of gunshots and explosions and frequently discovered mutilated bodies. Two UN staff members have been killed in the last three weeks. The police have the right to use “all available means” to find illegally possessed arms. The president’s ultimatum has caused 280,000 displaced refugees across the Great Lakes region. To resolve this situation, Burundi needs to address the political deadlock. The Secretary-General will announce a special advisor who will focus on preventing Burundian violence. He calls on Burundian leaders to cease violence, hate-speech, and separating the East African community.

    Mr. al Hussein spoke next about the potential for serious regional repercussions. 240 people have been killed since protests began in April. The current crisis has already undone much of Burundi’s economic, political and social progress.

   Mr. Dieng pointed out that the language being used by the ruling party is similar to the Rwandan government’s prior to the notorious genocide. He requested a peacekeeping mission to protect civilians. “We will not be able to claim, if a full scale conflict erupts, that we didn’t know.”

   The Burundian Minister disputed these claims, saying that his country is calm besides certain spots within the capital. In two months, their commitment is to bring peace to the country and they have succeeded in 91% of the country. Burundi wishes to continue the “good neighborliness” between them and neighboring countries during this “time of turbulence”. The concerns about Burundi are founded and justified, but all must do their utmost to ensure the lasting peace in the area.

Meeting: Security Council, 7552nd Meeting

Time/Location: 15:00-16:30, Security Council Chamber

Speakers: Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman; Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, High Commissioner for Human Rights; Jürg Lauber, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations; H.E. Ambassador Tete Antonio, African Union Permanent Representative to the United Nations; Mr. Adama Dieng, Special Advisor to UN on Genocide; Minister of External and Internal Relations of Burundi; Representative from Uganda

Written by: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy

GSHRD_Logo_Trans_2Spot_Black_ProcessCyan_WhiteBackedThe 7th annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy was held this past Tuesday at the UN Headquarters in Geneva. Sponsored by 20 human rights NGOs, the Geneva Summit brings together various human rights leaders, activists, and dissidents from around the world who speak out on behalf of human rights, justice, and democracy. This year’s summit focused mainly on the themes of confronting authoritarianism, fighting oppression and defending human rights, communist regime reforms, and the future of liberal democracy.

This year’s panel discussion also highlighted two countries with very poor human rights’ records–Nigeria and Pakistan. Saa, a Nigerian schoolgirl who escaped from Boko Haram, spoke about her personal experience when she was kidnapped by the terrorist group. Following this, Ashiq Masih, who is on death row in Pakistan for blasphemy, spoke about her personal experience and violation of her right to freedom of speech. Throughout the summit, various other human rights activists from countries such as Russia, Venezuela, Syria, North Korea, and China gave their personal stories of human rights violations, giving this year’s conference an added personal dimension.

Furthermore, during the conference, two prestigious awards were given out. The Women’s Rights Award was given to Masih Alinejad for the creation of a Facebook page inviting women in Iran to post pictures of themselves without a headscarf. This Facebook page became incredibly popular and represented the larger political message of protesting the requirement for women to wear a hijab. Ms. Alinejad, an Iranian journalist, said she is not strictly opposed to the hijab, but believes women should be given a choice about wearing one. The next award, the Courage Award, was given to Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam on his blog.

Finally, the summit concluded with a discussion on the future of liberal democracy, with statements from the director of UN Watch and other human rights NGOs on the importance of promoting human rights and democracy, particularly in countries with poor human rights track records.

Meeting: Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy
Date & Location: Tuesday, 24 February 2015; UN Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland
Speakers: Markus Loening, Chair of Human Rights Committee of Liberal International; Jakub Klepal, Executive Director, Forum 2000; Yavuz Baydar, Turkish journalist; Maria Baronova, Russian human rights activist; Tamara Suju, Venezuelan human rights lawyer; Yeon-Mi Park, 21-year-old North Korean defector; Tom Gross, journalist; Saa, Nigerian schoolgirl who escaped from Boko Haram; Emmanuel Ogebe, International Human rights lawyer; Pierre Torres, French Journalist held hostage by ISIS for 10 months; Philippe Robinet, CEO Editions Kero; Ashiq Masih, Husband of Asia Bibi, on death row in Pakistan for blasphemy; Ladan Boroumand, Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy in Iran; Dicki Chhoyang, Central Tibetan Administration; Ibrahem Al-Idelbi, Syrian journalist and activist; Il Lim, North Korean defector and former slave laborer; Maria Corina Machado, Venezuelan opposition leader; Yang Jianli, Chinese dissident, president of Initiatives for China; Alex Chow, Secretary General of Hong Kong Federation of Students; Lester Shum, Deputy Secretary General of Hong Kong Federation of Students; Amanda Alvarez, People in Need, Czech Republic; Juan Francisco Sigler Amaya, Cuban human rights activist; Manuel Cuesta Morua, Cuban dissident leader; Hillel Neuer, Executive Director, UN Watch; Fouzia Elbayed, MP, Morocco, Member of Human Rights Committee of Liberal International; Javier El-Hage, General Counsel, Human Rights Foundation; Subhas Gujadhur, Director, Universal Rights Group; Ladan Boroumand, Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy in Iran; Yang Jianli, Chinese dissident, president of Initiatives for China
Written By WIT Representative: Marli Kasdan

New ways to provide food assistance

ImageTo encourage innovative means to provide food assistance to regions in need of humanitarian aid, Ambassador Patriota convened a panel discussion on this matter. In doing so, the Ambassador highlighted the Brazilian application of cash transfer to implement the “Bolsa Familia” safety-net programme as a way to motivate families to send children to school and to clinic check-ups.

In the context of short-term action, Mr. Mogwanja highlighted the difference between direct provision of food aid and cash-transfer style food assistance, the latter being preferable as it is a more economically sustainable tool. Mr. Janz stated that cash-transfer is a viable form of food assistance, as it pinpoints to the problem of lack of purchasing power of disaster victims without having crippled the local agricultural market by flooding the market with relief food. Mr. Janz elaborated on the benefit of cash-transfer food assistance, stating that it gives disaster victims dignity by giving them choices in food and enhances efficiency of aid by reducing the logistical cost of transporting food aid. Ms. Souza stated how the World Food Programme implemented the cash-transfer in conjunction with local purchase of relief material to further enhance food assistance’s positive impact to the local economy, a point which Ambassador Boureima echoed when detailing the “Nigerien feeds Nigerien” initiative in his country.

Speaking on behalf of the donors, Ms. Fink-Hooijer stated that the donor community in general support the cash-transfer initiative, but adopts a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to the effectiveness of large-scale implementation in disaster relief. Ambassador Shearman echoed this point, and added that he hopes future cash-transfer can be implemented in form of cash handout instead of voucher to further reduce its distortion of the local market.

Meeting Title: Cash Transfers, Local Purchases and Social Safety-Nets: Bridging the Divide between Assistance and Development
Speakers: Martin Mogwanja, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF; H.E. Ambassador Boubacar Boureima, Permanent Representative of Niger to the United Nations; Darana Souza, Programme Coordinator for World Food Programme; Udo K. Janz, Director of UNHCR Office in New York; Israel Klug, Project Coordinator of PAA Africa Programme; Minister Counsellor Nuria Mohammed, Permanent Mission of Ethiopia to the United Nations, H.E. Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations; Florika Fink-Hooijer, Policy Director of ECHO; Martin Shearman, Ambassador for Development and Human Rights, UK Department for International Development; H.E. Ambassador Michael Grant, Deputy Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations; Jordan Ryan, Assistant Administrator of UNDP; Scott Paul, Humanitarian Policy Advisor of OXFAM; Hansjoerg Strohmeyer, Chief of Policy Development and Studies Branch of UN OCHA
Location: Conference Room 5, United Nations HQ, New York
Date: 24 June 2014
Written By WIT representative: Harrison Chung
Edited by WIT representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark 

 

Countering Violent Extremism in West Africa and the Sahel

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Violent extremism is fueled by factors including transnational drug trade, arms trade and human trafficking. H.E. Dr. Jerome Bougouma insisted that communities and civil society as a whole are indispensable to preventative measures against violent extremism. H.E. Dr. Bougouma recommended societies engage with religious leaders and traditional chiefs, who have local influence, to reach larger groups of people with messages of resilience and human rights. Rather than reacting to violent extremism the international community must approach terrorism with preventative initiatives to ensure the safety and security of every citizen. H.E. Ambassador Peterson agreed that the struggle against terrorism cannot be met simply through military means; it also requires understanding and dialogue between peoples, state actors and stakeholders.

Mr. Khan encouraged a focus on those socially and politically excluded within a community, particularly the youth, as inclusive governance transforms societies and unites them. Reaching out to the marginalized promotes dialogue amongst differing cultures and this communication eliminates the fog of hate and misunderstanding that leads to violence. Mr. Bombande expressed the dire need to close the generational gap surrounding misconceptions of extremist ideology amongst the youth. Mr. Bombande discussed the European role as aid providers to engage the attention of the youth in West Africa and the Sahel through activities such as the sports and arts. Mr. Millar criticized the international community for waiting as situations completely deteriorate before intervention and action; evidenced through the terrorist abduction of hundreds of girls in Nigeria. The lack of effective response demonstrated in Nigeria makes the region vulnerable to emerging criminal groups who have witnessed this weak governance in West Africa. Dr. Loada suggested that divisions amongst societies are due to powerful leaders surpassing their constitutional term limits. Leaders were encouraged to resist the power temptation for constitutional term amendments, which create volatile political disputes and divides citizens.

Meeting Title: Countering violent extremism and promoting community engagement in West Africa and the Sahel: Strengthening multilateral engagement
Speakers: H.E. Dr. Jerome Bougouma, H.E. Ambassador of Denmark Ib Petersen, Mr. Jehangir Khan, Mr. Alistair Millar, Mr. Emmanuel Bombande, Dr. Augustin Loada, Mr. Jesper Steen Pedersen
Location: United Nations HQ, Conference Room 5 NLB, New York
Date: 12 June 2014
Written by WIT representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark

Forum on Youth 2014

In accordance with UN General Assembly resolution 68/1, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) should further promote the integration of youth into its deliberations, building on the past positive experiences of informal youth forums.

From the 2-3, June 2014 the United Nations was home to youth delegates, representatives from the Children and Youth Major Groups, youth representatives from Member States, including those from National Youth Councils, representatives of regional youth organisations as well as youth-led and youth focused organisations and networks, including those in consultative status with ECOSOC.

The aim of the Youth Forum was to bring the voice of young people into discussion on addressing the challenges for meeting the Millennium Development Goals and shaping the post-2015 development agenda. During the opening ceremony, Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon remarked, “There is a world of need out there, but also a world of opportunity. So I urge you to keep doing your part. Keep showing your leadership as global citizens” while urging attendees to “keep making a difference”. The Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi spotlighted five thematic areas; education, employment and entrepreneurship, health, peace and security, and governance  as the greatest concern that threaten youth development in nation states. These areas were condensed after engaging more than 1.2 million young people through the My World 2015 survey and a crowdsourcing platform convened by UN agencies and partners. World Information Transfer’s DPI Representative, Apurv Gupta, was ranked 5 in the overall community, sharing recommendations on all thematic issues.

It was observed at the forums conclusion that employment was the key area young people wanted world leaders to focus on during the construction of the post-2015 development agenda. Currently, 75 million youth are unemployed, and more than 600 million jobs need to be generated globally in the life span of the new development agenda to absorb current unemployment levels and provide jobs to new labour market entrants.

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Meeting Title: ECOSOC Youth Forum 2014
Speakers: H.E. Ban Ki Moon, Secretary-General, United Nations, H.E. Martin Sajdik (Austria), President of the Economic and Social Council, H.E. Csaba Kőrösi, Permanent Representative of Hungary to the United Nations and Co-Chair, Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goal, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy for Youth, Mr. Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Youth Representatives.
Location: United Nations HQ, Conference Room 1 (CB)
Date: 3 June 2014
Written by WIT representatives:  Apurv Gupta and Aslesha Dhillon

Orientating the Post-2015 Agenda

The second day of the Forum on Youth focused on young people’s input into the post-2015 development agenda. Image

Mr. Russell-Moyle opened the proceeding by reaffirming that it is the tradition for young people to be agents of change. He urged young people to adopt various roles and strategies to make their voices count, whether it be respectfully communicating their wishes or passionately protesting against the darker shades of society. He encouraged advocates not too lose sight of the long-term goal of making young people the center of decision-making, for their work may “not reach our skyscraper of ambition, but will build our foundation of success”.

Mr. Awasthi briefed the conference on the consultation of young people on the post-2015 agenda. He believed that the crowdsourcing exercise of the Global Partnership on Youth on the post-2015 agenda provides a good reference point on which member states can refer to when consulting youth domestically. Mr. Awasthi pointed out several differences between the ideas raised by the General Assembly’s Open Working Group on Sustainable Development and that in the crowdsourcing process, and said that such differences illustrate the need to consult young people on issues of their concern. For instance, young people spoke out strongly in demanding the SDGs to enshrine provision for education in ICT, reproductive health and human rights, which is overlooked by member states in the Open Working Group.

The Forum continued with breakout sessions on the five thematic priorities identified in the crowdsourcing process, namely education, employment and entrepreneurship, health, peace and personal security and governance and participation. Meetings discussed the youth collaborative document proposing goals and crucial targets for the youth population: ‘The Global Youth Call: Prioritizing Youth in the Post-2015 Development Agenda’. 

 

Meeting Title: Post-2015 working sessions (“#Youth2015: Realizing the future they want”)
Speakers: Mr. Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Vice-President, European Youth Forum (Keynote Speaker); Mr. Prateek Awasthi, Technical Analyst, Adolescents and Youth, United Nations Population Fund (Moderator of Interactive Dialogue); Various Youth Delegates.
Location: United Nations Headquarters, Conference Room 1
Date: 3 June 2014
Written by WIT representative: Harrison Chung
Edited by WIT representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark