Monday, September 19, 2016

Day 1 at the United Nations in Geneva

This is the beginning to what I hope will be a daily entry on what I learn from the UN.  The UN, as many of you are aware, often is all talk and little action, well here's my little bit of action to help build some awareness on issues the world faces on a daily basis. 

Well I finally made it.  Stood in a long line to get my pass, and went straight to the general assembly where the Human Rights Conference, which goes til the first of October was already well underway.

I was only able to attend two meetings today.  The first was the large forum of the general assembly and the second was a side forum on Indigenous people's rights from indigenous groups in Asia.

There were a three main themes from the general session today.

1. Many countries lamented the human rights violations in many of the usual countries you hear about in the North Korea which was cited for many violations of sovereignty from starvation in its territories as well as its many human rights violations in denying freedom.  South Sudan, Yemen, Ukraine, Russian, and Syria, were all also topics of discussion.  Although there were a few prominent deviations from the general topics of discussion from western countries.  First of all, the US brought up a great many topics in 2 minutes time, but the most interesting of which (at least to me) was talk about encouraging free and fair elections in Uzbekistan.  Other deviations were the Czech Republic was the only western nation to bring up Russia's violations of the freedom of religion with its latest set of anti-terrorism laws.  Besides that it wasn't the most ballsy day for the permanent missions to the UN.

2. The second set of countries were mainly the set of countries you don't get to hear much of their side from in the media.  For example, Cuba and Venezuela both gave rather passionate speeches about the lies of the west and their treatment of their populace as well as on the west's refusal to accept their right to self determination.  Of course both countries were also called out by the west as to having restricted freedom of speech by taking political prisoners, and called for the release of them.  But they also called out the west for its inability to solve the refugee crisis, which when the number of refugees currently is around 21 million with 65 million migrants, they do have a big point there.  Cuba's statement was quite biting.  [Here were are being lectured on human rights by the] "so-called paragons of the north," where thousands of migrants are dying, wars and interventions are taking place, and xenophobia and racism are growing.  Bolivia also called out the US for the Syrian strikes saying it showed the US's "lack of respect and commitment."

Other interesting comments came from Saudi Arabia, which after being called out for numerous human rights violations called out not just the Houthis in Yemen, but the Iranians for giving them weapons.  Oh did I mention the Iranians were the subject of multiple attacks, one of which came from the Women's Human Rights International Association about how the 1988 mass executions (50,000 people), which they compared to the genocide in Srebnica(just 8,000) have never been formally prosecuted, and indeed one of the planners of the massacre is still in power in Iran.

Egypt attacked the UK for violation of the rights of children and of refugees, still scratching my head about why the UK alone was the subject of that accusation.

3. The third issue that was very interesting dealt with the recent terrorist attack in India.  The Pakistanis called out the Indians for suppressing free speech and attacking Muslims, the Indians called out the Pakistanis for not being able to control terrorist forces within their provinces.  Then Muslim NGO's documented some of what the Indians had done to provoke the latest attack.  From 90 killings in 74 days and shooting a Muslim boy, to restricting appearance at his funeral, to deliberately trying to shoot Muslims in the eyes to blind them, and "detaining" a Muslim leader that was coming to the UN to speak out against the Indian military in the region of Jammu and Kashmir.

4. The final subject was just wildcard NGO's.  The first was an NGO of Jurists bringing up the subject of Turkey dismissing and suspending over 3,300 judges and lawyers since the coup attempt, and marking the right to a free trial was quickly disappearing.(Remember Turkey is a NATO country, and in order to become a NATO country, you're supposed to have a good human rights record).

The Franciscans' NGO brought up the last interesting subject on the war on drugs in the Philippines, where the government has shot to kill over 3,000 people caught with possession of drugs in an attempt to eliminate drugs.  The Franciscans called this ineffective and a drastic violation of human rights.

Finally the side forum was very interesting as it highlighted some subjects I had not even heard about.  The first was in Western Papua, which is part of Indonesia there has been a quiet genocide of around 500,000 people killed since the Indonesian government took control in 1969.  Now for many of you this may not seem like a genocide, but these are very small populations we are talking about.  Timor Leste is another example that was part of Indonesia before it gained its independence, and journalists were not allowed on the island, and 500,000 people were killed from the Indonesian occupation to the time of independence.  What makes it remarkable, however, is that the entire population at the time of occupation was just under one million, and less than 600,000 came out of the occupation, whereas population estimates estimate that it should have been nearer to 3 million after the 20+ year span of occupation.  Basically, 2 million people just vanished.  There is also ample evidence that western leaders knew what was going on, but the British were making a killing off selling weaponry to the Indonesians, and so was the US, so very little was done.  This seemed to be a similar situation in Papua as the sponsoring permanent mission was the Solomon Islands, and the moderator even went so far as to ask the question as to why the Solomon Islands waited so long to bring the atrocities in Western Papua to the UN's attention.  The question was sidestepped until the native Papuan said that part of the reason was that Indonesia had used the matter of sovereignty to block other countries, but now with the advent of social media it is too difficult to hide the atrocities.

The final interesting subject on the panel was on the Vadda people from Sri Lanka.  This is an indigenous population that Sri Lanka does not even accept as a different ethnicity.  The population has fared similarly to the natives in the US.  Land was slowly taken away, as the land disappeared, they could not continue their customs and they were moved and resettled into smaller chunks of land, and over time these chunks from dwindled from originally what was 52,000 hectares to now just under 1,000 for this small minority.  The reason it is just now being brought up of course deals with the Sri Lankan civil war, which went on for 30 years.

Til tomorrow...

No comments:

Post a Comment