Category Archives: U.N

Plastic: The Largest Predator in Our Oceans

Environment
Plastics are increasingly polluting the seas and oceans and threatening marine ecosystems. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

LONDON, (IPS) – Plastic pollution is currently the largest global threat to marine life. Each year, 10-20 million tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans, killing approximately 100,000 marine mammals and over a million seabirds.

Whilst the media has certainly helped raise awareness and inspire a change of attitude towards plastics, the amount of plastic in our oceans is still rising. As a result, vast numbers of sea species are now critically endangered, and the need for urgent action has never been stronger.

Marine Debris

So, where does all this plastic come from? Well, around 80% of all marine debris, derives from from land-based sources. This includes littering, illegal waste dumping, and the improper disposal of products such as wet wipes, sanitary products and cotton buds.

And although more parts of the world are now turning their attention towards the issue, the amount of rubbish entering the ocean is rising, with one truckload of plastic entering the ocean every single minute.

The remaining 20% of marine debris is the result of ocean based activity. This is mainly from the fishing industry, but also caused by boats that collect trash and dump it out at sea.

Dwindling Populations

Currently, there are more than 5 trillion plastic particles floating around the world’s oceans and this number is continuing to rise fast. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the World Economic Forum, there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 if we don’t act now.

But what exactly would this mean for marine life?

The WWF states as many as 700 marine species are currently threatened by plastics. But whilst large numbers die from choking on shards of plastic, the chemicals in plastic such as petroleum and bisphenol, are proving just as deadly.

Recent studies have revealed that 50% of the world’s coral reefs have already been destroyed, and another 40% could be lost over the next 30 years.

When plastic is ingested, these toxic chemicals are released and absorbed into the body tissue. Overtime, this can impact fertility and weaken the immune system. As a result, those feeding on plastic are breeding less and becoming increasingly vulnerable to diseases and infections, resulting in population decline.

This is particularly concerning for top marine predators such as dolphins, polar bears and whales, with studies revealing higher contamination levels among predators at the top of the food chain. Yet this isn’t caused by ingesting plastic directly.

Instead, pollutants are accumulating in their bodies through a process called trophic transfer. This is where toxins consumed by smaller creatures such as plankton and krill are stored into their body tissue. Over time, these toxins are passed up through the food chain. In most cases, these toxins come from microplastics.

The Rise of Microplastics

Microplastic are small plastic particles (less than 5mm) and it’s estimated there are between 15-51 trillion of these individual individual plastic pieces floating in our oceans.

In a recent UK study, scientists examined 50 stranded sea creatures including porpoises, dolphins, grey seals and a pygmy sperm whale, and microplastics were found in the gut of every single animal.

And it’s not just ocean creatures that are at risk. Microplastics have also been discovered in seafood, with research suggesting that each seafood consumer in Europe ingests an average of 11,000 plastic particles each year.

How Can We Beat It?

Plastic pollution is a man-made disaster, and it won’t go away by itself. To end plastic pollution, we must start by reducing our plastic consumption, particularly single-use plastics.

Much of the power lies with the large corporations and manufacturers, and they desperately need to realise their responsibility, and find other alternatives to plastic.

But you can still make an impact on a smaller scale, by reducing your own plastic consumption and encouraging others around you.

It won’t be easy, since almost everything we buy is packaged in plastic. In fact, UK supermarkets alone produce 800,000 tonnes of plastic every year. But start by making small changes wherever possible.

Look for zero waste products like shampoo bars and deoderant sticks, or products made from plastic alternatives such as bamboo toothbrushes and glass milk bottles. Participate in a beach clean every time you visit a body of water.

There are also plenty of great charities working to help combat plastic pollution. Plastic Oceans, Project Aware and Changing Tides Foundation are just a few examples but there are many more out there to choose from!

*SLO active are an exciting new social enterprise dedicated to cleaning up and protecting our ocean. They are cause-led, focusing on oceanwear and activism. For every piece bought, SLO active will donate to one of their ocean charity partners of your choice. They call it ‘Earth to Ocean’. Learn more at https://sloactive.com/

 

 

 

 

http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/12/plastic-largest-predator-oceans/

Dozens dead as migrant boat sinks off Mauritania coast: UN

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West Africa is struggling to generate enough jobs for its mushrooming young population, forcing many to take the perilous journey to Europe [File: Arturo Rodriguez/AP]

At least 58 people, including women and children, were killed after a boat carrying dozens of migrants capsized in the Atlantic Ocean off the West African nation of Mauritania, the UN’s migration agency said.

The perilous sea passage from West Africa to Europe was once a major route for migrants seeking jobs and prosperity.

The sinking is one of the deadliest incidents since the mid-2000s when Spain stepped up patrols and fewer boats attempted the journey.

The boat carrying at least 150 people was low on fuel while approaching Mauritania before it capsised, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

It said 83 people swam to shore. The survivors were being helped by Mauritanian authorities in the northern city of Nouadhibou, IOM said.

Survivors said the boat left The Gambia on November 27.

IOM’s Leonard Doyle said the vessel was unseaworthy and overcrowded when it overturned.

“It speaks really to the callousness of the smugglers who of course have made their money and disappeared into the wilderness. That’s the problem here, people are being exploited, people are looking for a better life,” Doyle told Al Jazeera.

An unknown number of injured were taken to hospital in Nouadhibou.

There was no immediate statement from authorities in The Gambia, a small West African nation from which many migrants set off in hopes of reaching Europe.

‘Horrible story’

Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall, reporting from Mauritania’s capital Nouakchott, said the military police discovered the survivors – most of whom came from The Gambia – and that is when the extent of the tragedy became clear.

“It’s a very horrible story and one of the deadliest incidents in regard to migrants trying to cross the Atlantic Ocean or the Mediterranean Sea towards Europe this year,” said Vall. “It’s been confirmed that women and children were on that boat and some of them lost their lives.”

Although home to some of the continent’s fastest-growing economies, West Africa is struggling to generate enough jobs for its growing population of young people.

Doyle said the survivors would likely be returned to their home countries.

“We can imagine that they’re deeply traumatised. People will need some medical care and our staff will need to establish their origin and try to help them return in the most dignified way as possible. The tragedy in all this is there is no happy solution for people who take these routes,” he said.

Despite the Gambia’s small size, more than 35,000 Gambian migrants arrived in Europe between 2014 and 2018, according to the IOM.

Economic hardship

The 22-year long oppressive rule by then-president Yahya Jammeh severely affected the country’s economy, especially for The Gambia’s young people, prompting some to look to migrating.

Since Jammeh was voted out of office in 2016 and fled into exile in January 2017, European countries have been pushing to return asylum seekers, but the country’s economy has still to recover.

The coastal nation, a popular tourist destination, was shaken earlier this year by the collapse of British travel company Thomas Cook.

At the time, The Gambia’s tourism minister said the government convened an emergency meeting on the collapse, while some Gambians said the shutdown could have a devastating impact on tourism, which contributes more than 30 percent of the country’s GDP.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/12/dozens-dead-migrant-boat-sinks-mauritania-coast-191205011010131.html

Loss and damage from climate change: How much should rich countries pay?

“The wealthy countries must begin providing public climate finance at the scale necessary to support not only adaptation but loss and damage as well, and they must do so in accordance with their responsibility and capacity to act.” This is the main message of a technical report titled Can Climate Change-Fuelled Loss and Damage Ever Be Fair?, launched on the eve of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) to be held in Madrid from 2 to 13 December.

The US and the EU owe more than half the cost of repairing future damage says the report, authored by Civil Society Review, an independent group that produces figures on what a “fair share” among countries of the global effort to tackle climate change should look like.

“The poorer countries are bearing the overwhelming majority of the human and social costs of climate change. Consider only one tragic incident – the Cyclones Idai and Kenneth – which caused more than $3 billion in economic damages in Mozambique alone, roughly 20 % of its GDP, with lasting implications, nadvot to mention the loss of lives and livelihoods” argues the report. “Given ongoing and deepening climate impacts, to ensure justice and fairness, COP25 must as an urgent matter operationalise loss and damage financing via a facility designed to receive and disburse resources at scale to developing countries.”

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has defined loss and damage to include harms resulting from sudden-onset events (climate disasters, such as cyclones) as well as slow-onset processes (such as sea level rise). Loss and damage can occur in human systems (such as livelihoods) as well as natural systems (such as biodiversity).

Eight weeks after Hurricane Dorian – the most intense tropical cyclone to ever strike the Bahamas – Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley, spoke at the United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit. She said: “For us, our best practice traditionally was to share the risk before disaster strikes, and just over a decade ago we established the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility. But, the devastation of Hurricane Dorian marks a new chapter for us. Because, as the international community will find out, the CCRIF will not meet the needs of climate refugees or, indeed, will it be sufficient to meet the needs of rebuilding. No longer can we, therefore, consider this as an appropriate mechanism…There will be a growing crisis of affordability of insurance.”

An April 2019 report from ActionAid revealed the insurance and other market based mechanisms fail to meet human rights criteria for responding to loss and damage associated with climate change. The impact of extreme natural disasters is equivalent to an annual global USD$520 billion loss, and forces approximately 26 million people into poverty each year.

Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, recently warned that the climate crisis is the greatest ever threat to human rights. It threatens the rights to life, health, housing and a clean and safe environment. The UN Human Rights Council has recognised that climate change “poses an immediate and far reaching threat to people and communities around the world and has implications for the full enjoyment of human rights.” In the Paris Agreement, parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) acknowledged that they should – when taking action to address climate change – respect, promote and consider their
respective obligations with regard to human rights. This includes the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, the empowerment of women and intergenerational equity. Tackling loss and damage will require a human-rights centred approach that promotes justice and equity.

Across and within countries, the highest per capita carbon emissions are attributable to the wealthiest people, this because individual emissions generally parallel disparities of income and wealth. While the world’s richest 10 % cause 50 % of emissions, they also claim 52 % of the world’s wealth. The world’s poorest 50 % contribute approximately 10 % of global emissions and receive about 8 % of global income. Wealth increases adaptive capacity. All this means that those most responsible for climate change are relatively insulated from its impacts.

Between 1850 and 2002, countries in the Global North emitted three times as many
greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as did the countries in the Global South, where approximately 85 % of the global population resides. The average CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita) of citizens in countries most vulnerable to climate change impacts, for example, Mozambique (0.3), Malawi, (0.1), and Zimbabwe (0.9), pale in comparison to the average emissions of a person in the U.S. (15.5), Canada (15.3), Australia (15.8), or UK (6).

In the 1980s, oil companies like Exxon and Shell carried out internal assessments of the carbon dioxide released by fossil fuels, and forecast the planetary consequences of these emissions, including the inundation of entire low-lying countries, the disappearance of specific ecosystems or habitat destruction, destructive floods, the inundation of low-lying farmland, and widespread water stress.

Nevertheless, the same companies and countries have pursued high reliance on GHG emissions, often at the expense of communities where fossil fuels are found (where oil spills, pollution, land grabs, and displacement is widespread) and certainly at the expense of public understanding, even as climate change harms and risks increased. Chevron, Exxon, BP and Shell together are behind more than 10 % of the world’s carbon emissions since 1966. They originated in the Global North and its governments continue to provide them with financial subsidies and tax breaks.

Responsibility for, and capacity to act on, mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage varies tremendously across nations and among classes. It must also be recognised that the Nationally Determined Contributions (climate action plans or NDCs) that have thus far been proposed by the world’s nations are not even close to being sufficient, putting us on track for approximately 4 °C of warming. They are also altogether out of proportion to national capacity and responsibility, with the developing countries generally proposing to do their fair shares, and developed countries proposed far too little.

Unfortunately, as Kevin Anderson (Professor of Energy and Climate Change at the University of Manchester and a former Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research) has said: “a 4°C future is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems, and has a high probability of not being stable.”

Equity analysis

The report assess countries’ NDCs against the demands of a 1.5 °C pathway using two ‘fair share’ benchmarks, as in the previous reports of the Civil Society Equity Review coalition. These ‘fair share’ benchmarks are grounded in the principle-based claims that countries should act in accordance with their responsibility for causing the climate problem and their capacity to help solve it. These principles are both well-established within the climate negotiations and built into both the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement.

To be consistent with the UNFCCC’s equity principles – the wealthier countries must urgently and dramatically deepen their own emissions reduction efforts, contribute to mitigation, adaptation and addressing loss and damage initiatives in developing countries; and support additional sustainable actions outside their own borders that enable climate-compatible sustainable development in developing countries.

For example, consider the European Union, whose fair share of the global emission reduction effort in 2030 is roughly about 22 % of the global total, or about 8 Gigatons of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2eq). Since its total emissions are less than 5 GtCO2eq, the EU would have to reduce its emissions by approximately 160 % per cent below 1990 levels by 2030 if it were to meet its fair share entirely through domestic reductions. It is not physically possible to reduce emissions by more than 100 % domestically. So, the only way in which the EU can meet its fair share is by funding mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage efforts in developing countries.

Today’s mitigation commitments are insufficient to prevent unmanageable climate change, and – coming on top of historic emissions – they are setting in motion devastating changes to our climate and natural environment. These impacts are already prevalent, even with our current global average surface temperature rise of about 1°C. Impacts include droughts, firestorms, shifting seasons, sea-level rise, salt-water intrusion, glacial retreat, the spread of vector borne diseases, and devastation from cyclones and other extreme weather events. Some of these impacts can be minimised through adaptation measures designed to increase resilience to inevitable impacts.

These measures include, for example, renewing mangroves to prevent erosion and reduce flooding caused by storms, regulating new construction so that buildings can withstand tomorrow’s severe weather, using scarce water resources efficiently, building flood defences, and setting aside land corridors to help species migrate. It is also crucial with such solutions that forest dwelling and indigenous peoples be given enforceable land rights, for not only are such rights matters of basic justice, they are also pragmatic recognitions of the fact that indigenous peoples have successfully protected key ecosystems.

Tackling underlying social injustices and inequalities – including through technological and financial transfers, as well as though capacity building – would also contribute to increasing resilience. Other climate impacts, however, are unavoidable, unmanageable or unpredictable, leading to a huge degree of loss and damage. Experts estimate the financial damage also will reach at least USD$300-700 billion by 2030, but the loss of locally sustained livelihoods, relationships and connections to ancestral lands are incalculable.

Failure to reduce GHG emissions now – through energy efficiency, waste reduction, renewable energy generation, reduced consumption, sustainable agriculture and transport – will only deepen impacts in the future. Avoidable impacts require urgent adaptation measures. At the same time, unavoidable and unmanageable change impacts – such as loss of homes, livelihoods, crops, heat and water stress, displacement, and infrastructure damage – need adequate responses through well-resourced disaster response plans and social protection policies.

For loss and damage financing, developed countries have a considerable responsibility and capacity to pay for harms that are already occurring. Of course, many harms will be irreparable in financial terms. However, where monetary contributions can help restore the livelihoods or homes of individuals exposed to climate change impacts, they must be paid. Just as the EU’s fair share of the global mitigation effort is approximately 22 % in 2030, it could be held accountable for that same share of the financial support for such incidents of loss and damage in that year.

The table below provides an illustrative quantification of this simple application of fair shares to loss and damage estimates, and how they change if we compute the contribution to global climate change from the start of the industrial revolution in 1850 or from 1950.

Table 1: Countries’ Share of Global Responsibility and Capacity in 2019, the time of Cyclones
Idai and Kenneth, as illustrative application of a fair share approach to Loss and Damage
funding requirements.

Country/                            Fair share (%) 1950                          Fair share (%) 1850
Group of countries         Medium benchmark                       High benchmark
USA                                           30.4 %                                                         40.7 %
European Union                    23.9 %                                                         23.2 %
Japan                                       6.8 %                                                            7.8 %
Rest of OECD                          7.4 %                                                            8.8 %
China                                       10.4 %                                                         7.2 %
India                                        0.5 %                                                           0.04 %
Rest of the World                  20.6 %                                                         12.3 %
Total                                        100 %                                                          100 %

The advantage of setting out responsibility and capacity to act in such numerical terms is to drive equitable and robust action today. Responsible and capable countries must – of course – ensure that those most able to pay towards loss and damage repairs are called upon to do so through domestic legislation that ensures correlated progressive responsibility. However, it should also motivate mitigation action to ensure that harms are not deepened in the future.

In the Equity analysis used here, capacity – a nation’s financial ability to contribute to solving the climate problem – can be captured by a quantitative benchmark defined in a more or less progressive way, making the definition of national capacity dependent on national income distribution. This means a country’s capacity is calculated in a manner that can explicitly account for the income of the wealthy more strongly than that of the poor, and can exclude the incomes of the poorest altogether. Similarly, responsibility – a nation’s contribution to the planetary GHG burden – can be based on cumulative GHG emissions since a range of historical start years, and can consider the emissions arising from luxury consumption more strongly than
emissions from the fulfilment of basic needs, and can altogether exclude the survival emissions of the poorest. Of course, the ‘right’ level of progressivity, like the ‘right’ start year, are matters for deliberation and debate.

The report acknowledges “the difficulties in estimating financial loss and damage and the limited data we currently have”, but it recommends nevertheless “a minimal goal of providing at least USD$300 billion per year by 2030 of financing for loss and damage through the UNFCCC’s Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM)”. Given that this corresponds to a conservative estimate of damage costs, the report further recommends “the formalization of a global obligation to revise this figure upward as observed and forecast damages increase”.

The new finance facility should provide “public climate financing and new and innovative sources of financing, in addition to budget contributions from rich countries, that can truly generate additional resources (such as air and maritime levies, Climate Damages Tax on oil, gas and coal extraction, a Financial Transaction Tax) at a progressive scale to reach at least USD$300 billion by 2030”. This means aiming for at least USD$150 billion by 2025 and ratcheting up commitments on an annual basis. Ambition targets should be revised based on the level of quantified and quantifiable harms experienced.

Further, developing countries who face climate emergencies should benefit from immediate debt relief – in the form of an interest-free moratorium on debt payments. This would open up resources currently earmarked for debt repayments to immediate emergency relief and reconstruction.

Finally, a financial architecture needs to be set up that ensures funding reaches the
marginalised communities in developing countries, and that such communities have decision making say over reconstruction plans. Funds should reach communities in an efficient and effective manner, taking into account existing institutions as appropriate.

Currently, the Paris Rulebook allows countries to count non-grant instruments as climate finance, including commercial loans, equity, guarantees and insurance. Under these rules, the United States could give a USD$50 million commercial loan to Malawi for a climate mitigation project. This loan would have to be repaid at market interest rates – a net profit for the US – so its grant-equivalence is $0. But under the Paris Rulebook, the US could report the loan’s face value ($50 million) as climate finance. This is not acceptable. COP25 must ensure that the WIM has robust outcomes and sufficient authority to deliver a fair and ambitious outcome for the
poorest and most vulnerable in relation to loss & damage.

 

 

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Climate-heating greenhouse gases hit new high, UN reports

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The greenhouse nitrous oxide is caused by forest fires and heavy fertilizer use. Photograph: Sam Mooy/Getty 

The concentration of climate-heating greenhouse gases has hit a record high, according to a report from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization.

The jumps in the key gases measured in 2018 were all above the average for the last decade, showing action on the climate emergency to date is having no effect in the atmosphere. The WMO said the gap between targets and reality were both “glaring and growing”.

The rise in concentration of greenhouses gases follows inevitably from the continued surge in global emissions, which was described as “brutal news” for 2018. The world’s scientists calculate that emissions must fall by half by 2030 to give a good chance of limiting global heating to 1.5C, beyond which hundreds of millions of people will suffer more heatwaves, droughts, floods

But Petteri Taalas, the WMO secretary-general, said: “There is no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline, despite all the commitments under the Paris agreement on climate change. We need to increase the level of ambition for the sake of the future welfare of mankind.

“It is worth recalling that the last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of carbon dioxide was 3-5m years ago. Back then, the temperature was 2-3C warmer and sea level was 10-20 metres higher than now.”

Three-quarters of the emissions cuts pledged by countries under the Paris agreement of 2015 are “totally inadequate”, according to a comprehensive expert analysis published earlier in November, putting the world on a path to climate disaster. Another report has found that nations are on track to produce more than double the fossil fuels in 2030 than could be burnedwhile keeping heating under 1.5C.

“The [CO2 concentration] number is the closest thing to a real-world Doomsday Clock, and it’s pushing us ever closer to midnight,” said John Sauven, head of Greenpeace UK. “Our ability to preserve civilisation as we know it, avert the mass extinction of species, and leave a healthy planet to our children depend on us urgently stopping the clock.”

The WMO report, published on Monday, found the global average concentration of CO2 reached 407.8 parts per million in 2018, up from 405.5ppm in 2017. It is now 50% higher than in 1750, before the industrial revolution sparked the widespread burning of coal, oil and gas.

Since 1990, the increase in greenhouse gas levels has made the heating effect of the atmosphere 43% stronger. Most of that – four-fifths – is caused by CO2. But the concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide, the two other key greenhouse gases, also surged in 2018 by a higher amount than the annual average over the past decade.

Methane, which is produced by cattle, rice paddies and fossil fuel exploitation, is responsible for 17% of the heating effect. Its concentration is now more than double pre-industrial levels.

Nitrous oxide, which comes from heavy fertiliser use and forest burning, is now 23% higher than in 1750. The observations are made by the Global Atmosphere Watch network, which includes stations in the Arctic, high mountains and tropical islands.

“The record rise in greenhouse gas concentrations is a cruel reminder that for all the real progress in clean technology, we have yet to even stop global emissions increases,” said Nick Mabey, chief executive of think tank E3G. “The climate system cannot be negotiated with. Until we stop new investment in fossil fuels and massively scale up green power the risks from catastrophic climate change will continue to rise.”

When the world’s nations agreed the Paris deal in 2015, they pledged to ramp up their promised emissions cuts by the annual UN climate summit in 2020, which will be hosted by the UK in Glasgow. This year’s summit needs to do vital preparatory work and begins on 2 December in Madrid, Spain. Chile had been due to host but cancelled because of civil unrest.

Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit in the UK, said: “This record level of greenhouse gases should act as a sobering reminder to governments that so far they are collectively reneging on the pledge they made at the Paris summit, of attempting to keep global warming to 1.5C. That window is closing, and Chile, Italy and the UK [must] use all the diplomatic tools they have to put emissions on a trajectory closer to what science recommends and the public want.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/25/climate-heating-greenhouse-gases-hit-new-high-un-reports

 

Migrant death toll in Mediterranean tops 1,000 for 6th year

Screenshot_2019-10-01 Migrant death toll in Mediterranean tops 1,000 for 6th year
ARCHIVE PHOTO: Syrian and Afghan refugees fall into the sea after their dinghy deflated some 100m away before reaching the Greek island of Lesbos, September 13, 2015. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

GENEVA, (Reuters) – More than 1,000 migrants and refugees have died in the Mediterranean Sea this year, the sixth year in a row that this “bleak milestone” has been reached, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR called for European Union (EU) member states to reactivate search and rescue operations and acknowledge the crucial role of aid groups’ vessels in saving lives at sea.

“The tragedy of the Mediterranean cannot be allowed to continue,” Charlie Yaxley, spokesman of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in a statement.

The bodies of five migrants were found on Morocco’s Atlantic coast near Casablanca on Monday, bringing to 12 the number killed when their boat capsized on Saturday, the state news agency reported.

The EU struck a deal with Ankara in 2016 to cut off refugee and migrant flows to Greece from Turkey. Departures, now also diverted largely via Libya and other parts of North Africa, have fallen sharply from a peak of more than 1 million in 2015 to some 78,000 so far this year, UNHCR figures show.

“Of course the number of people attempting to cross the Mediterranean are much lower. So, that points to the fact that the journeys themselves are much more dangerous,” UNHCR spokeswoman Liz Throssell told Reuters Television.

“It is also worth highlighting that 70 percent of the deaths actually occur on the central Mediterranean, namely people attempting to get from Libya across to Italy or Malta.”

More than 18,000 people have lost their lives in Mediterranean crossings since 2014, according to figures from both the UNHCR and the website of the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration (IOM).

 

 

 

 

http://news.trust.org/item/20191001084633-w941m/

US, France, Britain may be complicit in Yemen war crimes: UN

UN YemenInvestigators have found potential crimes on the side of the Houthis and Saudi-led coalition, while also highlighting the role Western countries play as key backers of the Arab states [File: Hani Mohammed/AP]

The United States, United Kingdom and France may be complicit in war crimes in Yemen by arming and providing intelligence and logistics support to a Saudi-led coalition that starves civilians as a war tactic, the United Nations has said.

A UN panel announced on Tuesday that investigators compiled a secret list of possible international war crimes suspects, drawn from their latest report into violations during the four-year conflict between a coalition of Arab states and the Houthi movement that controls Yemen’s capital.

Investigators found potential crimes on both sides, while also highlighting the role Western countries have played as key backers of the Arab states and Iran has played in support of the Houthis.

The report accused the anti-Houthi coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of killing civilians in air raids and deliberately denying them food in a country facing famine. The Houthis for their part have shelled cities, deployed child soldiers and used “siege-like warfare”, it said.

The Houthis drove Yemen’s internationally-recognised government out of the capital Sanaa in 2014. The Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Muslim states intervened the following year to restore the ousted government in a conflict that has since killed tens of thousands of people.

The prospect of famine has created what the UN describes as the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis.

Secret list of suspected perpetrators

The UN report said its independent panel had sent a secret list to UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, identifying “individuals who may be responsible for international crimes”.

Its appendix lists the names of more than 160 “main actors” among Saudi, Emirati and Yemeni top brass as well as the Houthi movement, although it did not specify whether any of these names also figured in its list of potential suspects.

“Individuals in the Government of Yemen and the coalition, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, may have conducted air strikes in violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution, and may have used starvation as a method of warfare, acts that may amount to war crimes,” it said.

“The legality of arms transfers by France, the United Kingdom, the United States and other states remains questionable, and is the subject of various domestic court proceedings,” it added.

Commenting on the report, Noha Aboueldahab, a fellow at the foreign policy programme at the Brookings Institution told Al Jazeera that developing a list of perpetrators was within the UN’s mandate.

“It is part of the UN’s mandate to try to identify violations and humanitarian law crimes and, where possible, to identify those responsible for those violations. In terms of developing this list of potential perpetrators is within the UN’s mandate.

“Although it is difficult to say who is on the list, it would be interesting to see if there are any individuals on this list from the US, France and UK,” she added.

Failed accountability

The report also said that it found that a Joint Incidents Assessment Team set up by Saudi Arabia to review alleged coalition violations had failed to hold anyone accountable for any strike killing civilians, raising “concerns as to the impartiality of its investigations”.

The UN panel said it had received allegations that Emirati and affiliated forces had tortured, raped and killed suspected political opponents detained in secret facilities, while Houthi forces had planted land mines.

Air strikes by the Saudi-led military coalition in southwest Yemen hit a prison complex, killing scores of people, the Houthi movement and a Red Cross official said on Sunday.

Aboueldahab said that while justice could take time, the UN report was essential for building a case against suspected perpetrators.

“The statements coming out of the UN and multiple reports calling for accountability will probably not led to immediate prosecution, the information in these reports is absolutely crucial to build cases in the future.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/09/france-britain-complicit-yemen-war-crimes-190903103122355.html

The world over, people in crisis suffer sexual violence – this scourge must end

Refugee campA woman in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh, covers her face with a headscarf. Many female Rohingya refugees say they were raped by Myanmar’s security forces. Photograph: Wong Maye-E/AP

Nomtaz Begum had lived all her life in Myanmar. Two years ago, men in uniform came to her village. They killed the men there, including her husband and three small children, boys aged two, five and 11.

She was raped by six of the soldiers, one after the other. They left after setting her house on fire. Badly burned, Begum and her daughter hid in the forest for four days before they were able to flee, making their way to a refugee camp.

This was one of scores of heart-wrenching accounts of sexual assault, fear and remarkable inner strength we have heard, from Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh to Yemen and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Now it is time to end this scourge. The UN, governments, the International Committee of the Red Cross and civil society organisations are coming together in Norway this week for a first-of-its-kind conference on ending sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian crises.

The aim is to strengthen collective responsibility, promote best practices and increase funding and political commitment to prevention and effective response.

The money we raise in Oslo – for civil society, including women’s organisations working tirelessly to support survivors, as well as UN-coordinated response plans, appeals by the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, and other mechanisms – will specifically address sexual and gender-based violence.

One in three women experience physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime, and this form of violence is greatly exacerbated during humanitarian crises caused by conflict or natural disasters. Boys and men are affected too.

When law and order collapse and food, water, shelter, education, and healthcare are scarce, millions of women and girls become more vulnerable, often resorting to negative ways of coping such as child marriage and survival sex.

In 2019, roughly 140 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, of whom 35 million are women and girlsof reproductive age. They require lifesaving health services, psychosocial and livelihood support, legal aid and justice, but also interventions to prevent sexual and gender-based violence in the first place.

For survivors and their communities, the devastating consequences of sexual and gender-based violence include injuries, unwanted pregnancies, fistulae, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, trauma and death. Survivors often face social rejection and exclusion that increase their vulnerability to further abuse and exploitation. Many therefore never report the violence.

Yet our interventions during humanitarian crises remain chronically underfunded, accounting for well under 1% of the record $15bn(£12bn) provided by donors to assist people through UN-coordinated humanitarian response plans last year.

Our strategy to address these shortcomings requires three steps.

First, we must put survivors like Begum at the centre of our crisis response. Rape, sexual slavery, trafficking, forced or early marriage and intimate partner violence are just some of the abuses women and girls face. We must do more to engage, listen to and support those who experience sexual and gender-based violence.

Second, we need to focus on prevention and address gender inequality, the root cause of gender-based violence, which is magnified during humanitarian crises. This requires sustained efforts by communities and grassroots organisations as well as increased attention from governments and the international community.

Third, more needs to be done to hold perpetrators to account. Humanitarian organisations and others need to work with governments on policies and laws to prevent violence and enforce protection. More training is needed for military personnel, public officials, law enforcement agents and armed groups on domestic and international humanitarian law, and how to address sexual violence. Laws must be respected and enforced.

Civil society groups, NGOs and survivors are key in guiding effective prevention and response. The call we reiterate in Oslo to end sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian crises is a tribute to the courage of survivors, and to women like Nomtaz Begum. We must live up to their strength and commitment.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/may/23/the-world-over-people-in-crisis-suffer-sexual-violence-this-scourge-must-end