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Posts Tagged ‘United Nations’

U.N. flies food into famine-hit Somali capital

Posted by Admin on July 28, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/u-n-flies-food-famine-hit-somali-capital-175012420.html

By Abdi Sheikh | Reuters – 29 mins ago

MOGADISHU (Reuters) – The United Nations airlifted emergency food for starving children into the Somali capital Mogadishu on Wednesday as aid groups warned of a growing influx of hungry families from the famine-hit south of the country.

Some 3.7 million Somalis — almost half of the population — are going hungry with drought hitting some 11.6 million people across what local media have dubbed a “triangle of death” straddling Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.

Though the U.N. food agency had already distributed food in the capital, this is its first airlift of food into Somalia since the food crisis began.

“We need to scale up our programs, and especially the nutrition programs, in order to avoid children falling into severe malnutrition,” Stephanie Savariaud, a U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) spokeswoman, told Reuters.

“Then they need to get hospitalized and it’s much more difficult to save them.”

The U.N. plane carried 10 tonnes of so-called therapeutic food — the type used to feed malnourished children under five. The shipment will feed 3,500 children for a month, WFP said.

The agency said it has an additional 70 tonnes ready in Kenya, which it will fly to Somalia over the coming days.

Aid agencies say they cannot reach more than two million Somalis facing starvation in the parts of the country where Islamist militants control much of the worst-hit areas.

WFP officials have said they will try to deliver food to the areas controlled by the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab rebels over the next week and that they will consider food drops from aircrafts as a last resort.

There are about 400,000 displaced people in the capital Mogadishu, with about 1,000 new arrivals each day, the U.N.’s refugee agency (UNHCR) said in a statement on Tuesday. It estimated that 100,000 internally displaced people have arrived in the city over the last two months.

People in makeshift settlements are fighting over food being distributed by local charities, with the weaker ones unable to push through the crowds to get it, UNHCR said.

“Even if people are able to obtain the food and water being distributed, they often lack even the most basic containers to carry it. Often, they must haul food and water in plastic bags,” UNHCR said.

The WFP has set up 16 feeding centers across the capital, providing hot meals to new arrivals using supplies delivered by sea from Kenya and Tanzania.

Boats are continuing to shift food in but they can take months to arrive. They are escorted by the European Naval Force to Somalia to deter pirate attacks.

(Additional reporting and writing by Katy Migiro in Nairobi; Editing by Barry Malone and Elizabeth Fullerton)

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World Population to Hit Seven Billion by October

Posted by Admin on July 10, 2011

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=25562

Global Research, July 8, 2011
IPS
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 7, 2011 (IPS) – The United Nations commemorates World Population Day next week against the backdrop of an upcoming landmark event: global population hitting the seven billion mark by late October this year.According to current projections, and with some of the world’s poorest nations doubling their populations in the next decade, the second milestone will be in 2025: an eight billion population over the next 14 years. Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), told IPS seven billion represents a challenge, an opportunity and a call to action. 

On 

World Population Day Jul. 11, he will be launching a campaign called “7 Billion Actions”. “It will engage people on what it means to live in a world with seven billion people and encourage action on issues that affect all of us,” he added. 

Together, he said, “we can forge the future with young people, advance rights for girls and women, and safeguard the natural resources on which we all depend.” 

The rise in population is expected to have a devastating impact on some 215 million women who want – but do not have – access to quality reproductive health and family planning services. 

Tamara Kreinin, executive director of 

Women and Population at the U.N. Foundation, told IPS, “With the world’s population poised to cross the seven billion mark in October 2011 and continue to grow over several more decades, this unmet need is only likely to increase.” She said the quality and availability of family planning services is instrumental in interrupting the inter-generational cycle of poverty and creating stronger, more stable families and communities. 

Investing in voluntary family planning programmes gives women the tools to make critical decisions about the size of their families and spacing of their pregnancies, she noted. 

Kreinin said meeting the need for family planning would result in a 32-percent decrease in maternal deaths, and reduce infant mortality by 10 percent. 

Dr. Osotimehin told IPS protecting reproductive health and rights “is fundamental to our collective future and sustainable development”. 

“Together, we can meet the needs of some 215 million women in developing countries who want to plan and space their births but do not have access to modern contraception,” he said. “Together, we can prevent the deaths of 1,000 women every day from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.” 

He said there is also an opportunity and responsibility to invest in the world’s 1.8 billion adolescents and youth aged 10 to 24. 

They constitute more than a quarter of the world’s population and almost 90 percent live in developing countries. 

“Every young person deserves education, including sexuality education, and access to comprehensive health services,” he noted. 

With the right policies, investments and social support, young people can enjoy healthier lives free of poverty and enhance prospects for peace and stability, he added. 

“As the most interconnected population, young people are already transforming society, politics and culture. By more actively engaging women and young people, we can build a better future for all generations,” Dr. Osotimehin declared. 

The world’s five most populous countries are China (1.3 billion), India (1.2 billion), the United States (310.2 million), Indonesia (242.9 million) and Brazil (201.1 million). 

A 

new study titled “Africa’s Demographic Multiplication”, released last month and commissioned by the Washington-based Globalist Research Center, points out that Africa’s population has more than tripled during the second half of the 20th century, growing from 230 million to 811 million. As a result, Africa has become more populous than Europe. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country at 158 million, is expected to grow to 730 million by century’s end, making it larger than Europe’s projected population of 675 million. 

Nigeria is currently the only African country with a population exceeding 100 million. 

But 10 other countries in the African continent are expected to join that club before the close of the century: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Niger, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. 

Jose Miguel Guzman, chief of the UNFPA’s Population and Development Branch, told IPS that globally, the population growth rate is not as high as it has been in the past. 

Fertility decline in most countries of the world has contributed to a decline in population growth rates. 

“But if we take into consideration least developed countries (LDCs) or most of the sub-Saharan countries, the situation is quite different,” Guzman said. 

In most of these countries, he said, fertility is still high, and the rate of growth is also high. 

In some cases, it is as high as three percent, which implies that the population in these areas will double in about 20 to 25 years. 

The date for the eight billion population milestone is projected now to be 2025, he predicted. 

Kreinin told IPS that in many countries, every dollar spent on voluntary family planning saves at least four dollars that would otherwise be spent treating complications arising from unplanned pregnancies. 

Despite the low cost and many benefits of voluntary family planning, world leaders have not placed a priority on its funding. 

Emerging countries are spending about half of what they pledged at the historic 1994 International Conference on Population Development (ICPD) for reproductive health spending, while developed countries, including the U.S., have provided less than a quarter of the promised spending, she added. 

She said U.S. investment in international family planning has traditionally been strong, but support peaked in 1995 and has declined significantly since. 

Although in nominal terms funding has recovered in recent years, Kreinin said, it still remains 40 percent below peak funding levels when adjusted for inflation, even as the unmet need continues to grow. (END)

 

Global Research Articles by Thalif Deen

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Greece stops Gaza-bound boat, immobilizes flotilla

Posted by Admin on July 8, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/greece-stops-gaza-bound-boat-immobilizes-flotilla-112948472.html

By Renee Maltezou | Reuters – Thu, Jul 7, 2011

ATHENS (Reuters) – The Greek coastguard intercepted a small French boat with Pro-Palestinian activists aboard on Thursday, the third flotilla ship to be prevented from sailing to Gaza to challenge an Israeli blockade.

Greece, just over a year after nine people were killed when Israeli marines stormed a pro-Palestinian flotilla, imposed a ban on all Gaza-bound ships saying it feared for the safety of the activists who are now trying to find a way to set sail.

The boat with about 10 activists aboard, including French politicians, an MEP and a journalist, sailed from Corsica. Activists had said it was in international waters waiting to join the rest of the flotilla, now confined in Greek ports.

The “Dignity” was detected in the early morning near the southern Greek island of Crete as it was refueling at sea and was towed to the port of Sitia for checks, the coastguard said.

“We are still checking their papers. We haven’t spotted any problem so far. They have not disclosed their destination, maybe because they have not decided yet,” said a coastguard official in Crete, on condition of anonymity.

There were no arrests, activists and the coastguard said.

The 10-ship flotilla, with about 350 passengers, was supposed to take drugs, food and building materials to Gaza by the end of June, but a priority was to challenge the blockade.

But the chances that they will reach their destination has faded due to the vigilance of the Greek coastguard which has intercepted three of their ships so far and is closely watching the other seven, moored in ports across Greece.

“WE CAN’T MOVE”

“We are still waiting. We know that the days are going by but we are waiting to see what will happen. So far, we can’t move,” said Dimitris Plionis, one of the activists.

On Friday, the Greek coastguard intercepted the U.S. ship “Audacity of Hope” just a short while after it set sail from Piraeus port, and arrested its captain. Three days later, armed coastguards boarded the Canadian ship “Tahrir” which set sail from Crete and escorted it back. Three people were detained.

Although all four detainees were freed, they face charges for defying the Greek ban, which can only be lifted if the Greek Citizen Protection Ministry issues a new order. Nine ships are being confined in Greek ports and all 10 are accounted for.

Israel says its blockade of Gaza is aimed at stopping weapons from reaching the enclave’s rulers, Hamas — an Islamist group that is branded a terrorist group by some Western nations.

In an effort to calm the activists, Greece offered to ferry the aid to Gaza in cooperation with the United Nations. The activists turned the offer down saying this was “insufficient” as their mission was also about the rights of the Palestinian people and not just about aid.

“It is an offer that is always on the table and is still on the table,” said Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinides on Thursday in Vienna.

(Additional reporting by Angeliki Koutantou in Athens and Michael Shields in Vienna, editing by Peter Millership)

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Ivory Coast rebels ‘kill hundreds’

Posted by Admin on April 10, 2011

Map of the communes of Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

Ivory Coast

http://www.headlinenewsbureau.com/siterun_data/news/world/doc291ace7a012889cb7d9555e7e0a20197.html

Reports of mass murders and rapes in villages. Pro-government forces also accused of atrocities

Mass killings have been carried out by both sides of the conflict in Ivory Coast, according to the campaign group Human Rights Watch.

Their report documents a trail of death and destruction carried out by rebel forces who have swept through the country and are now fighting on the streets of Abidjan to secure the presidency for Alassane Ouattara.

As Ouattara, backed by the UN and the international community, edges closer to victory, the Guardian has uncovered evidence of atrocities committed by the forces acting in his name. Refugees who scrambled through the rainforest to safety in neighbouring Liberia have described children being burned alive during rebel attacks and bodies littering the streets.

HRW is calling for an investigation into massacres carried out by both the rebels and those loyal to the defiant president, Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to give up power after losing the presidential election in November.

Hundreds have been killed by forces loyal to Ouattara, according to HRW’s report. It found that summary executions of perceived Gbagbo supporters had taken place, and reported accounts of mass rape. Matt Wells, HRW’s Ivory Coast researcher, said: “In village after village, Ouattara’s forces terrorised civilians perceived as supporting Gbagbo, killing hundreds and raping dozens more. In committing to move Ivory Coast out of its longstanding crisis, Ouattara must ensure that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes are brought to justice.”

Pro-Gbagbo forces are also accused of having carried out atrocities, killing more than 100 presumed Ouattara supporters as rebels advanced.

The Guardian spent a week travelling in the border region between Ivory Coast and Liberia, hearing tales of savage attacks on civilians. It also encountered what is emerging as a recurrent aspect of the violence in Ivory Coast: the use of mercenaries from Liberia, believed to have been recruited by both sides in the conflict.

Crouching in the bushes along the banks of the river that separates Liberia from Ivory Coast, two young Liberian men in filthy clothes and flip-flops agreed to a recorded interview after a small payment was made. They described how they had just returned home from a nine-day operation with pro-Ouattara rebels, where they said they were told to kill “anyone and everyone”.

They described barbaric scenes in which they surrounded villages in the west of Ivory Coast and, armed with machetes, killed everyone they saw. “The town we entered first, most of the people were on the road. We killed them, just cutting them with our machetes,” they said.

One of the towns they claim to have attacked was Blolequin. UN investigators said yesterday they had found more than 100 bodies in Blolequin and surrounding towns. Some appeared to have been burned alive and others had been thrown into a well. The UN believes Liberian mercenaries may have been responsible.

Toul�pleu is another town the two mercenaries say they attacked, and where HRW has uncovered evidence of mass killings. One mercenary said: “There are so many bodies in Toul�pleu. A digger came from Danane to bury the bodies. There was no way for cars to go over there because of the bodies on the ground. It stank.”

Now in the safety of a transit camp in Liberia, refugees fleeing from Toul�pleu spoke of the horrors they witnessed there. They described how they grabbed family members and escaped from their homes in a hail of bullets. Whoever and whatever were left behind were burned.

Cradling his five children in the red dust outside the UNHCR tent that is now all he has, Kuide Pehe Ferdinand described the chaos when the attack began. “I had too many children to save when the rebels hit. We tried to pick them all up, but one of my baby girls is disabled and we had to leave her. When I went back, they had burned the house with my baby inside.”

The Audgines were also grieving for a loved one killed after the rebels set fire to their home. “I can’t even eat, I feel such sadness now,” said Rosaline, mother of nine, whose elderly father was burned alive. She said she could do nothing to help him, as he shouted to them from within the flames. She and her children are a few of the many people in the camp who have shaved their heads in a traditional gesture of mourning.

The International Red Cross recently reached Toul�pleu, and said it found a town almost completely razed to the ground.

HRW has documented the executions of elderly people who were unable to escape rebel attacks. It says they were held captive in their villages by the pro-Ouattara rebels, and has evidence that more than 30 were executed. One 67-year-old woman from the village of Dok� told HRW that pro-Ouattara fighters had taken several captives out each day – often men and women between 60 and 80 years old – and executed them at point-blank range.

The pro-Ouattara forces have denied killing civilians in their advance upon Abidjan, blaming any deaths on Gbagbo’s soldiers. Those standing guard at the border crossing with Ivory Coast near Toe Town, eastern Liberia, were in victorious mood when interviewed by the Guardian. In their smart camouflage gear and with AK47s slung around their necks, they swaggered up to the barrier across the bridge between the two countries.

“I pray for democracy in Ivory Coast and that the will of the people will be respected,” said “Angelou”, their commander, gripping his gun. As he talked, the sound of gunfire cracked from the forest behind him and his troops. “We don’t have problem with civilians. If you see someone’s died, it’s because he’s taken up a gun. If he’s taken up arms, he is not a civilian, he is my enemy.”

The conflict threatens to cause a wider humanitarian crisis in the region. More than a million people have been internally displaced within Ivory Coast, while more than 125,000 have crossed the border into Liberia, a country that itself has been devastated by 14 years of civil war. Many Liberian communities are sheltering refugees, but barely have enough food for themselves, and there are fears the crisis will destabilise Liberia’s fragile peace.

Ivory Coast Alassane Ouattara Laurent Gbagbo Rachel Stevenson Guardian News & Media Limited 2011

 

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110401/wl_nm/us_ivorycoast

Posted by Admin on April 1, 2011

Laurent Gbagbo, Président de la République (Cô...

Laurent Gbagbo President of Ivory Coast

Fierce fighting spreads in Ivory Coast showdown

By Loucoumane Coulibaly and Ange Aboa – 1 hr 36 mins ago

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Fierce fighting spread across Abidjan on Friday as forces loyal to Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo fended off attacks by those seeking to install rival presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara.

The heaviest clashes centered around the state television station, which went off air after pro-Ouattara forces seized it overnight. Gbagbo’s camp said it had retaken it in the morning.

Booms of heavy weapons fire also rang out from near Gbagbo’s residence and office, both of which have come under attack, as well as two major military bases.

Gbagbo has been hit by a number of high-level defections in the military and the African Union called on him to step down immediately. But loyalists have fought back and a Paris-based Gbagbo adviser said his surrender was “out of the question.”

The main city in the world’s top cocoa grower has turned into a war-zone since forces loyal to the internationally recognized president, Ouattara, marched in on Thursday after a swift push south aimed at ousting Gbagbo.

Gbagbo has refused to quit since a November 28 election that U.N.-certified results said he lost.

Hundreds of foreigners were taken to a French military camp after they were threatened by looters.

The United Nations also called on Ouattara to rein in his forces, citing what it said were unconfirmed reports they had abducted and mistreated civilians.

“We can hear shooting and see soldiers moving but there are also armed civilians running in the streets,” said Camara Arnold, a resident in Cocody, the leafy neighborhood that is home to the state television building and Gbagbo’s residence.

One resident said overnight fighting was so heavy it shook the earth.

The power struggle had pushed cocoa prices higher, but they have tumbled since Ouattara’s push on expectations that exports will be freed up. Ivory Coast’s $2.3 billion 2032 bond, on which it defaulted in January, extended gains on Friday, rising almost 1.5 points on hopes of an end to the conflict.

Pro-Ouattara forces faced little resistance as they advanced south this week but Patrick Achi, a spokesman for his government, said Gbagbo’s forces were still fighting at the state television building.

It was not clear where Gbagbo was and his camp in Abidjan was not available for comment. Alain Toussaint, a Paris-based adviser of Gbagbo’s, said he would not give up.

“He will not surrender. It is out of the question.”

Ouattara’s fighters attacked Gbagbo’s residence overnight and heavy weapons fire erupted on Friday near the presidential palace in the center of town in what a military source said was an attack by pro-Ouattara forces.

Reuters witnesses said clashes were also heard coming from Treichville, a neighborhood where the Republican Guard has a base that is used to protect the city’s main bridges. Residents also reported heavy fighting at the Agban gendarmerie base.

Charity workers said it had become impossible for people in Abidjan to obtain medical care in the current conditions and UK-based Amnesty International said the city was “on the brink of … total chaos.”

STANDOFF KILLED HUNDREDS

Gbagbo has been in power since 2000. His mandate ran out in 2005 but the presidential election was delayed until 2010 because of instability in the country.

A Sorbonne-educated history professor who prides himself on being in touch with ordinary Ivorians, he rose to prominence as firebrand lecturer who challenged the autocratic rule of Ivory Coast’s first post-independence president.

The four month standoff since the election has killed hundreds and rekindled the country’s 2002-3 civil war. About 1 million have fled Abidjan alone and 122,000 more have crossed into Liberia, according to the United Nations.

Earlier this week, Ouattara’s forces advanced from several directions, taking the capital Yamoussoukro and the cocoa port of San Pedro with little resistance.

Some of Gbagbo’s top officers, including the head of his armed forces and gendarmerie, have abandoned him but an unknown number appear to be putting up stiff resistance and Ouattara’s forces could get sucked into bloody urban warfare with his hard-core supporters, some of whom are recently armed civilians.

The capture of San Pedro, which ships half of the country’s production, could kick-start the flow of beans that dried up in January due to sanctions, but an EU diplomat said sanctions will not be lifted until Gbagbo steps down.

An internal U.N. report, seen by Reuters, said pro-Gbagbo forces had ceded control of the airport to the world body but, elsewhere in the city, peacekeepers had exchanged fire with Gbagbo loyalists on Thursday.

At least 494 people have been confirmed killed since the standoff began, according to the United Nations, but, given the scale of fighting, the real figure is likely to be much higher.

(Additional reporting by Tim Cocks in Abidjan; Additional reporting and writing by David Lewis; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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Earth could be ‘unrecognizable’ by 2050, experts say

Posted by Admin on February 22, 2011

World population curve. A log scale is used fo...

World Population Growth Curve

http://in.news.yahoo.com/earth-could-be–unrecognizable–by-2050.html

Yahoo! India News – Tue, Feb 22, 2011 4:15 PM IST

The earth could become “unrecognizable” by 2050, if a growing affluent global population keeps consuming more resources, researchers warned at a major US science conference.

“By 2050 we will not have a planet left that is recognizable” if the global population continues to increase, said Jason Clay of the World Wildlife Fund Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The United Nations has predicted the global population will reach seven billion this year, and climb to nine billion by 2050, “with almost all of the growth occurring in poor countries, particularly Africa and South Asia,” said John Bongaarts of the non-profit Population Council.

Meanwhile, as income is expected to rise over the next 40 years — tripling globally and quintupling in developing nations, people tend to consume more meat, eggs or dairy products, which would cost more grains to produce, adding more strain to global food supplies.

“We want to minimize population growth, and the only viable way to do that is through more effective family planning,” said John Casterline, director of the Initiative in Population Research at Ohio State University.

It takes around seven pounds (3.4 kilograms) of grain to produce a pound of meat, and around three to four pounds of grain to produce a pound of cheese or eggs, AFP reported.

“More people, more money, more consumption, but the same planet,” Jason Clay told AFP, urging scientists and governments to start making changes now to how food is produced.

Population experts called for more funding for family planning programs to help control the growth in the number of humans, especially in developing nations.

[Agencies]

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China’s wheat crop at risk, world wary

Posted by Admin on February 14, 2011

Wheat Field [E-X-P-L-O-R-E-D]

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/china/Chinas-wheat-crop-at-risk-world-wary/articleshow/7490455.cms

Subodh Varma, TNN, Feb 14, 2011, 12.34am IST

NEW DELHI: There is bad news on the global food front. In an alert issued this week, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned that more than two-thirds of China‘s gigantic wheat crop may be under risk “because of substantially below-normal rainfall” this winter.

The affected areas in the northern plains of China produced over 75 million tonne of China’s total production of 112 million tonne of wheat last year. Any shortfall in Chinese production would have serial effects on availability and prices of wheat around the world.

Global food prices have been silently climbing upward through the past six months and with production and consumption very finely balanced, any disruption in production may wreak havoc with prices. Already, food prices are touching the record levels set in 2008 although prices of rice—the world’s largest staple food— are still below those levels.

High food prices have been feeding growing restlessness and anger in a swathe of countries including West Asia. Egypt had experienced an 18.5% rate of inflation driving up prices of all food commodities except bread which is subsidized by the government to the tune of $1.5 billion annually. This was a major contributory factor to the 18-day uprising that dislodged the three-decade-long dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. Protests against high food prices have taken place in Oman, Israel and Jordan and have contributed to political unrest in Yemen, Tunisia and Algeria.

Wheat flour prices were 16% higher than a year ago in China driven by fears of drought. The Chinese government has announced a $1.96-billion package to fight drought, including attempts to create artificial rain by cloud seeding.

Apart from staples, sugar prices are running at 30-year highs. Weather-related disruption in Australia, Brazil and China has caused international refined sugar prices to reach 35.6 cents per pound. The average price for sugar in 2010 was 27.78 cents per pound. The last time sugar prices reached these sky-high levels was in 1980.

Meanwhile, the World Sugar Committee, representing leading traders, wrote to the ICE futures commodity exchange blaming parasitic speculators for the high prices of sugar.

Nervous governments across the world are trying to stem the tide in different ways. Several countries in West Asia are stocking up on foodgrain. Iraq, where agricultural production has declined considerably, has placed orders for 300,000 tonne of wheat from the US, with options for another 100,000 tonne. Jordan and Lebanon submitted tenders for 100,000 tonne and 22,500 tonne respectively. Algeria, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia too placed large orders recently. Others, like Russia, have banned exports. Vietnam has devalued its currency, the dong, by 9% to curb inflation.

All these point to an impending crisis in food availability and prices that could lead to further turmoil globally.

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World food prices seen at record high in January

Posted by Admin on February 4, 2011

http://in.finance.yahoo.com/news/World-food-prices-seen-record-reuters-194064327.html

A vendor sorts tomatoes at a wholesale vegetable and fruit market in Chandigarh January 29, 2011. REUTERS/Ajay Verma
On Thursday 3 February 2011, 6:12 AM

 

By Svetlana Kovalyova

MILAN (Reuters) – Surging food prices are on Thursday expected to push the United Nations ‘ food price index to a record high in January for a second straight month, further above the levels which prompted food riots in 2007/2008.

The Food Price Index of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which measures monthly price changes for a food basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, hit a record in December, above a previous high set in June 2008 during the food crisis.

A mix of high oil and fuel prices, growing use of biofuels, bad weather and soaring futures markets pushed up prices of food in 2007/08, sparking violent protests in countries including Egypt , Cameroon and Haiti.

The Rome-based agency has warned food prices could climb even higher, expressing concern about global weather patterns.

Severe drought in the Black Sea last year, heavy rains in Australia and dry weather in Argentina and anticipation of a spike in demand after unrest in north Africa and the Middle East has helped power grain prices to multi-year highs.

The worst winter storm for decades in the U.S. grain belt kept up pressure on wheat futures on Wednesday.

Surging food prices have come back into the spotlight after they helped fuelled protests that toppled Tunisia’s president in January and have spilled over to Egypt and Jordan, raising speculation other countries in the region would secure grain stocks to reassure their populations.

Algeria on Jan.26 confirmed it had bought almost a million tonnes of wheat, bringing its bread wheat purchases to at least 1.75 million since the start of January, and ordered an urgent speeding up of grain imports, a move aimed at building stocks.

World leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week warned rising food prices could stoke more unrest and even war. French President Nicolas Sarkozy reiterated calls for regulation to rein in speculation and volatility.

Multi-year highs for grain and sugar futures in January helped push higher spot and physical prices which the FAO uses to calculate the index.

(Reporting by Svetlana Kovalyova; editing by Keiron Henderson)

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Ivory Coast on the ‘brink of genocide’

Posted by Admin on December 31, 2010

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, 2007

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo

http://www.headlinenewsbureau.com/siterun_data/news/world/doc57e3a35c5aebc34917033c0384ae6cf0.html

Ivory Coast on the \'brink of genocide\'

Ivory Coast on the ‘brink of genocide’

UN ambassador says houses are marked by tribal allegiance and calls for international intervention

Ivory Coast is on the “brink of genocide” and the world must take urgent action, the country’s new ambassador to the UN has warned.

Youssoufou Bamba expressed alarm that houses in certain areas were being marked according to the tribe of the person who lives there.

World leaders have stepped up pressure on President Laurent Gbagbo to quit in favour of Alassane Ouattara, who is widely recognised as having won last month’s elections.

Speaking in New York, Bamba, appointed as ambassador to the UN by Ouattara, described him as the rightful ruler of Ivory Coast. “He has been elected in a free, fair, transparent, democratic election,” he said. “The result has been proclaimed by the independent electoral commission, certified by the UN. To me the debate is over, now you are talking about how and when Mr Gbagbo will leave office.”

Bamba alleged there had been a “massive violation of human rights”, with more than 170 people killed during street demonstrations in Ivory Coast. “Thus, one of the messages I try to get across during the conversations I have conducted so far, is to tell we are on the brink of genocide. Something should be done.”

He implied that Ouattara supporters, whose strongholds are largely in the north, could be targeted by Gbagbo backers, saying: “If houses are being marked according to your tribe, what is going to be next?”

Bamba said he planned to meet every member of the UN security council. “I intend to meet all the 15 members to explain to them the gravity of the situation … We expect the United Nations to be credible and the United Nations to prevent violation and to prevent the election to be stolen from the people.”

The 28 November election was meant to reunite Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, after a 2002-03 civil war. But a dispute over the results has provoked lethal street clashes and threatens to restart open conflict.

The UN general assembly last week recognised Ouattara as Ivory Coast’s legitimate president by unanimously deciding that the list of diplomats he submitted be recognised as the sole official representatives of Ivory Coast at the UN.

The UN’s peacekeeping chief, Alain Le Roy, said his troops had become a target of violence in Ivory Coast after a campaign of “disturbing lies” on state television suggested the UN was arming and transporting anti-Gbagbo rebels.

The US state department spokesman, Mark Toner, said America was planning for the possible evacuation of its embassy in Ivory Coast amid concerns of a full-blown conflict.

Ouattara and his prime minister, Guillaume Soro, remain holed up in a hotel in the commercial capital, Abidjan, protected by UN forces. Supporters of Gbagbo, the Young Patriots, have threatened to storm the hotel.

The group’s leader, Charles Bl� Goud�, who is also Gbagbo’s youth minister, warned the west African regional bloc, Ecowas, not to send troops. “They should prepare themselves very well because we are thinking about totally liberating our country, and soon I will launch the final assault,” he said.

West African leaders have backed off their threat of military action for now. On Tuesday the presidents of Sierra Leone, Benin and Cape Verde delivered an ultimatum on behalf of Ecowas, hoping to escort Gbagbo into exile. He refused to budge.

An Ouattara adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Gbagbo demanded a vote recount during the negotiations with the visiting delegation and wants amnesty if he leaves office.

The Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, said the leaders would return to Ivory Coast on Monday. “Whenever there is a dispute, whenever there is disagreement, it is dialogue that will solve issues,” Jonathan said in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, where Ecowas is based. “The dialogue is on. They are encouraging us to go back.”

Ivory Coast United Nations Human rights David Smith

 

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Beyond WikiLeaks: The Privatization of War

Posted by Admin on December 26, 2010

Sunday 26 December 2010

by: Jose L. Gomez del Prado, UN Working Group on Mercenaries, t r u t h o u t | Report

Beyond WikiLeaks: The Privatization of War


(Photo: FRVMED)

The United Nation Human Rights Council, under the Universal Periodic Review, started in Geneva on November 5, 2010 to review the human rights record of the United States. The following is an edited version of the presentation given by Jose L. Gomez del Prado in Geneva on November 3, 2010 at a parallel meeting at the UN Palais des Nations on that occasion.

Private military and security companies (PMSC) are the modern reincarnation of a long lineage of private providers of physical force: corsairs, privateers and mercenaries. Mercenaries, which had practically disappeared during the 19th and 20th centuries, reappeared in the 1960s during the decolonization period, operating mainly in Africa and Asia. Under the United Nations, a convention was adopted which outlaws and criminalizes their activities. Additionally, Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions also contains a definition of mercenary.

These non-state entities of the 21st century operate in extremely blurred situations, where the frontiers are difficult to separate. The new security industry of private companies moves large quantities of weapons and military equipment. It provides services for military operations, recruiting former military as civilians to carry out passive or defensive security.

However, these individuals cannot be considered civilians, given that they often carry and use weapons, interrogate prisoners, load bombs, drive military trucks and fulfill other essential military functions. Those who are armed can easily switch from a passive-defensive to an active-offensive role and can commit human rights violations and even destabilize governments. They cannot be considered soldiers or supporting militias under international humanitarian law, either, since they are not part of the army or in the armed forces chain of command, and often belong to a large number of different nationalities.

PMSC personnel cannot usually be considered to be mercenaries, for the definition of mercenaries as stipulated in the international conventions dealing with this issue does not generally apply to the personnel of PMSCs, which are legally operating in foreign countries under contracts of legally registered companies.

Private military and security companies operate in a legal vacuum: they pose a threat to civilians and to international human rights law. The UN Human Rights Council has entrusted the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries, principally via the following mandate:

To monitor and study the effects of the activities of private companies offering military assistance, consultancy and security services on the international market on the enjoyment of human Rights … and to prepare draft international basic principles that encourage respect for human rights on the part of those companies in their activities.

During the past five years, the Working Group has been studying emerging issues, manifestations and trends regarding private military and security companies. In our reports, we have informed the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly about these issues. Of particular importance are the reports of the Working Group to the last session of the Human Rights Council, held in September 2010, on the Mission to the United States of America, on the Mission to Afghanistan and the general report of the Working Group containing the draft of a possible Convention on Private Military and Security Companies for consideration and action by the Human Rights Council.

In the course of our research, since 2006, we have collected ample information which indicates the negative impact of the activities of “private contractors,” “private soldiers” or “guns for hire,” whatever denomination we may choose to name the individuals who are employed by private military and security companies as civilians but are also generally heavily armed. In the cluster of human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by employees of the companies the Working Group has examined, one can find: summary executions, acts of torture, cases of arbitrary detention, trafficking of persons and serious health damages caused by PMSC employee activities, as well as attempts against the right of self-determination. It also appears that PMSCs, in their search for profit, neglect security and do not provide their employees with their own basic rights and often put their staff in situations of danger and vulnerability.

Summary executions

On September 16, 2007 in Baghdad, employees of the US-based firm Blackwater [1] were involved in a shooting incident in Nisoor Square in which 17 civilians were killed and more than 20 other persons were wounded, including women and children. Local eyewitness accounts substantiate that the attack included the use of firearms from vehicles and rocket fire from a helicopter belonging to Blackwater.

There are also concerns about the activities and approach of PMSC personnel, their convoys of armored vehicles and their conduct in traffic – in particular, their use of lethal force. The Nisoor Square incident was neither the first of its kind, nor the first involving Blackwater.

According to a Congressional report on the behavior of Xe/Blackwater in Iraq, Xe/Blackwater guards were found to have been involved in nearly 200 escalation-of-force incidents that involved the firing of shots since 2005. Despite the terms of the contracts, which provided that the company could engage in defensive use of force only, the company reported that in over 80 percent of the shooting incidents, its forces fired the first shots.

In Najaf in April 2004 and on several other occasions, employees of this company took part in direct hostilities. In May 2007, another incident reportedly occurred in which guards belonging to the company and forces belonging to the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior allegedly exchanged gunfire in a sector of Baghdad.

On October 9, 2007 in central Baghdad, the shooting of employees of the PMSC Unity Resources Group (URG)[2] , who were protecting a convoy, killed two Armenian women, Genevia Antranick and Mary Awanis, when their car came too close to a protected convoy. Antranick’s family was offered no compensation and has begun court proceedings against URG in the United States.

URG was also involved in the shooting of 72-year-old Australian Kays Juma. Professor Juma was shot in March 2006 as he approached an intersection that was being blockaded for a convoy URG was protecting. Juma, a 25-year resident of Baghdad who drove through the city every day, allegedly sped up his vehicle as he approached the guards and did not heed warnings to stop, including hand signals, flares, warning shots into the body of his car and floodlights. The incident occurred at 10 AM.[3]

Torture

Two US-based corporations, CACI and L-3 Services (formerly Titan Corporation), were involved in the torture of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib. CACI and L-3 Services were contracted by the US government and were responsible for interrogation and translation services, respectively, at Abu Ghraib prison and other facilities in Iraq.

Seventy-two Iraqi citizens who were formerly detained at military prisons in Iraq have sued L-3 and Adel Nakhla, a former L-3 employee who served as one of its translators there under the Alien Tort Statute. The plaintiffs allege having been tortured and physically and mentally abused during their detention and maintain that the defendants should be held liable in damages for their actions. They assert 20 causes of action, including: torture; cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; assault and battery; and intentional infliction of emotional distress.[4]

Arbitrary detention

A number of reports indicate that private security guards have played central roles in some of the most sensitive activities of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), such as the arbitrary detention of and clandestine raids against alleged insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan [5] , CIA rendition flights [6] , and joint covert operations.[7] Employees of PMSCs would have been involved in transporting detainees in rendition flights from “pick-up points” (such as Tuzla, Islamabad or Skopje) to drop-off points (such as Cairo, Rabat, Bucharest, Amman or Guantanamo) as well as in the construction, equipping and staffing of CIA “black sites.”

Within this context, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit in May 2007 against Jeppesen DataPlan Inc., a subsidiary company of Boeing, on behalf of five persons who were kidnapped by the CIA and disappeared into US secret services prisons overseas. Jeppesen would have participated in the rendition by providing flight planning and logistical support. The five persons were tortured during their arbitrary detention.[8]

Health

DynCorp International’s 2009 annual report refers to four lawsuits on behalf of three Ecuadorian provinces and 3,266 plaintiffs concerning the spraying of narcotic plant crops along the Colombian border adjacent to Ecuador.[9]

From 1991, the US Department of State contracted DynCorp to supply services for this air-spraying program against narcotics in the Andean region. In accordance with the subscribed contract of January 30, 1998, DynCorp provides the essential logistics to the anti-drug Office of Activities of Colombia in conformity with three main objectives: eradication of cultivations of illicit drugs, training of the army and of personnel of the country and dismantling of illicit drug laboratories and illicit drug-trafficking networks.

A nongovernmental organization (NGO) report documented the consequences the spraying, which was carried out within the Plan Colombia framework, had on persons living in the frontier region.[10] One-third of the 47 women in the study exposed to the spraying showed cells with some genetic damage. The study established the relationship between Plan Colombia air fumigations and damage to genetic material. The study demonstrates that when the population is subjected to fumigations, “the risk of cellular damage can increase and that, once permanent, the cases of cancerous mutations and important embryonic alterations are increased, that prompt among other possibilities the rise in abortions in the area.”

This example is particularly important given that Plan Colombia has served as the model for the arrangements that the US would apply later to Iraq and Afghanistan. Plan Colombia provides immunity to the employees of the contracted PMSC (DynCorp), just as Order 14 of the Coalition Provisional Authority did in Iraq.

Self-determination

The 2004 attempted coup d’etat perpetrated in Equatorial Guinea is a clear example of the link between the phenomenon of mercenaries and PMSCs as a means of violating the sovereignty of states. In this case, the mercenaries involved were mostly former directors and personnel of Executive Outcomes, a PMSC that became famous for its operations in Angola and Sierra Leone. The team of mercenaries also included security guards who were still employed by PMSCs, as was the case with two employees of the company Meteoric Tactical Systems – which provided security to diplomats of western embassies in Baghdad, including the ambassador of Switzerland – and a security guard who had previously worked for the PMSC Steele Foundation and had given protection to Haiti’s President Aristide and escorted him to the plane that took him to exile.[11]

Trafficking in persons

In 2005, 105 Chileans were providing or undergoing military training in the former army base of Lepaterique in Honduras, where they were instructed in anti-guerrilla tactics, such as anticipating possible ambushes and deactivation and avoidance of explosives and mortars. The Chileans had entered Honduras as tourists and their presence in the country was illegal. They used high-caliber weapons, such as M-16 rifles and light machine guns. They had been contracted by a subsidiary of a company called Triple Canopy.

The Chileans were part of a group that also included 189 Hondurans recruited and trained in Honduras. Triple Canopy had been awarded a contract by the US Department of State. The contingent left the country by air from San Pedro Sula, Honduras in several groups, stopping over in Iceland and, upon reaching the Middle East, were smuggled into Iraq.[12]

The majority of the Chileans and Hondurans were engaged as security guards at fixed facilities in Iraq. They had been contracted by Your Solutions Honduras SRL, a local agent of Your Solutions Incorporated, registered in the US state of Illinois. Your Solutions had in turn been subcontracted by the Chicago-based Triple Canopy. Some of the Chileans are presently working in Baghdad, providing security to the Embassy of Australia under a contract with Unity Resources Group (URG).

Human rights violations committed by PMSCs against their employees

PMSCs often put their contracted private guards in vulnerable and dangerous situations, such as the one faced by the Blackwater “private contractors” killed in Fallujah in 2004. Their fate was allegedly due to the lack of the necessary safety means – which Blackwater was supposed to provide – in order to carry out their mission.

It should not be forgotten that this incident dramatically changed the course of the war and of the United States’ occupation in Iraq. In fact, it may be considered the turning point in the occupation of Iraq. The incident led to an abortive US operation to recapture control of the city and the successful November 2004 recapture operation, known as Operation Phantom Fury, which resulted in the deaths of over 1,350 insurgent fighters. Approximately 95 American troops were killed and another 560 were wounded.

The US military first denied that it had used white phosphorus as an anti-personnel weapon in Fallujah, but later retracted that denial and admitted to using the incendiary in the city as an offensive weapon. Reports following the events of November 2004 have alleged war crimes and a massacre by US personnel, including indiscriminate violence against civilians and children. This point of view is presented in the 2005 documentary film, “Fallujah, the Hidden Massacre.” In 2010, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, a leading medical journal, published a study that shows that the rates of cancer, infant mortality and leukemia in Fallujah exceed those reported in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.[13]

The over 300,000 classified military documents made public by Wikileak’s show that the “Use of Contractors Added to War’s Chaos in Iraq,” as has been widely reported by the international media recently.

The United States continues to rely heavily on private military and security contractors in conducting its military operations. The US used private security contractors to conduct narcotics intervention operations in Colombia in the 1990s and recently signed a supplemental agreement that authorizes it to deploy troops and contractors in seven Colombian military bases. During the conflict in the Balkans, the US used a private security contractor to train Croat troops to conduct operations against Serbian troops. Currently, most of the US’s massive contracting of security functions to private firms takes place in the context of its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2009, the Department of Defense employed 218,000 private contractor personnel, while there were 195,000 uniformed personnel. According to the figures, about 8 percent of these contractors are armed security contractors, or about 20,000 armed guards. If one includes other theatres of operations, the figure rises to 242,657, a figure comprised of 54,387 United States citizens, 94,260 third-country nationals and 94,010 host-country nationals.

The State Department relies on about 2,000 private security contractors to provide US personnel and facilities with personal protection and guard services in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and Pakistan, and to provide aviation services in Iraq. The contracts for protective services were awarded in 2005 to three PMSCs: Triple Canopy, DynCorp International and the US Training Center, part of the Xe (then-Blackwater) group of companies. These three companies still hold the State Department protective services contracts today.

Lack of transparency

The information accessible to the public on the scope and type of US-PMSC contracts is scarce and opaque. The lack of transparency is particularly significant when contracting companies subcontract to others. Often, despite the US’s extensive freedom of information rules, the contracts with PMSCs are not disclosed to the public, either because they contain confidential commercial information or based on the argument that non-disclosure is in the interest of national defense or foreign policy. The situation is particularly opaque when United States intelligence agencies contract PMSCs.

Lack of accountability

Despite their involvement in grave human rights violations, not a single PMSC or PMSC employee has been sanctioned.

In the course of litigation, several recurring legal arguments have been used in the defense of PMSCs and their personnel, including the government contractor defense, the political question doctrine and derivative immunity arguments. PMSCs are using the government contractor defense to argue that they were operating under the exclusive control of the government of the United States when the alleged acts were committed and therefore cannot be held liable for their actions.

It looks as though when acts questionable under international law are committed by agents of the government, they are considered human rights violations, but when these same acts are perpetrated by PMSCs, it is “business as usual.”

Human rights violations perpetrated by private military and security companies are indications of the threat posed to the foundations of democracy when inherently public functions – such as the monopoly on the legitimate use of force – become privatized. In this connection, I cannot help but to refer to the final speech of former US president Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In 1961, Eisenhower warned the American public against the growing danger of a military-industrial complex:

[W]e must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Fifty years later on September 8, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld, in his speech to the Department of Defense, warned the Pentagon military against:

an adversary that poses a threat, a serious threat, to the security of the United States of America. … Let’s make no mistake: The modernization of the Department of Defense is … a matter of life and death, ultimately, every American’s. … The adversary [is] the Pentagon bureaucracy. … That’s why we’re here today challenging us all to wage an all-out campaign to shift the Pentagon’s resources from bureaucracy to the battlefield, from tail to the tooth. We know the adversary. We know the threat. And with the same firmness of purpose that any effort against a determined adversary demands, we must get at it and stay at it. Some might ask, how in the world could the Secretary of Defense attack the Pentagon in front of its people? To them I reply, I have no desire to attack the Pentagon; I want to liberate it. We need to save it from itself.

Rumsfeld should have been more specific and cited the shift of the Pentagon’s resources from bureaucracy to the private sector. Indeed, that shift had been accelerated by the Bush administration: the number of persons employed by contracts that the Pentagon had outsourced was already four times more than at the Department of Defense.

It is not a military-industrial complex anymore, but, as Noam Chomsky has said, “just the industrial system operating under one or another pretext.” Dana Priest and William M. Arkin’s July 2010 article in the Washington Post, “Top Secret America: A hidden world, growing beyond control,” shows the extent that “the top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive, that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.”

The investigation’s findings include that some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States, and that an estimated 854,000 people – nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C. – hold top-secret security clearances. A number of private military and security companies are among the security and intelligence agencies mentioned in the Post’s report.

The Working Group received information from several sources that up to 70 percent of the US intelligence budget is spent on contractors. These contracts are classified, and very little information is available to the public on the nature of the activities contractors carry out.

The privatization of war has created a structural dynamic that responds to the commercial logic of the industry.

A short look at the careers of the current managers of BAE Systems, as well as at their address books, confirms that we are no longer dealing with a normal corporation, but with a cartel that unites high-tech weaponry (BAE Systems, United Defense Industries, Lockheed Martin), speculative financiers (Lazard Freres, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank) and raw material cartels (British Petroleum, Shell Oil) with on-the-ground, private military and security companies.[14]

The majority of private military and security companies have been created, or are managed by, former military members or ex-police-officers, for whom PMSCs are big business. Just to give an example, Military Professional Resources Incorporation (MPRI) was created by four former United States Army generals when they were due for retirement.[15] The same is true for Blackwater and its affiliate companies or subsidiaries, which employ former directors of the CIA.[16] Social scientists refer to this phenomenon as the revolving door syndrome.

The use of security contractors is expected to grow as American forces shrink. A July report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, a panel established by Congress, estimated that the State Department alone would need more than double the number of contractors it had protecting the American Embassy and consulates in Iraq.

Without contractors: (1) the military engagement would have had to be smaller – a strategically problematic alternative; (2) the United States would have had to deploy its finite number of active personnel for even longer tours of duty – a politically dicey and short-sighted option; (3) the United States would have had to consider a civilian draft or boost retention and recruitment by raising military pay significantly – two politically untenable options; or (4) the need for greater commitments from other nations would have arisen and with it, the United States would have had to make more concessions to build and sustain a truly multinational effort. Thus, the tangible differences in the type of war waged, the effect on military personnel, and the need for coalition partners are greatly magnified when the government has the option to supplement its troops with contractors.[17]

The military cannot do without them. There are more contractors overall than actual members of the military serving in the worsening war in Afghanistan.

Conclusions of the Senate Armed Services Committee concerning the impact of private security contracting on US goals in Afghanistan[18]

Conclusion 1: The proliferation of private security personnel in Afghanistan is inconsistent with the counterinsurgency strategy. In May 2010, the U.S. Central Command’s Armed Contractor Oversight Directorate reported that there were more than 26,000 private security contractor personnel operating in Afghanistan. Many of those private security personnel are associated with armed groups that operate outside government control.

Conclusion 2: Afghan warlords and strongmen operating as force providers to private security contractors have acted against U.S. and Afghan government interests. Warlords and strongmen associated with U.S.-funded security contractors have been linked to anti-Coalition activities, murder, bribery, and kidnapping. The Committee’s examination of the U.S.-funded security contract with ArmorGroup at Shindand Airbase in Afghanistan revealed that ArmorGroup relied on a series of warlords to provide armed men to act as security guards at the Airbase.

Open-ended intergovernmental working group established by the HR Council

Because of their impact in the enjoyment of human rights, the Working Group on Mercenaries, in its 2010 reports to the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly, has recommended a legally binding instrument to regulate and monitor PMSC’s activities at the national and international level.

The motion to create an open-ended intergovernmental working group has been the object of lengthy negotiations in the Human Rights Council, led by South Africa, in order to accommodate the concerns of the Western Group, but primarily those of the United States and the United Kingdom; considerable pressure was also exerted in the capitals of African countries supporting the draft resolution. The text of the resolution was weakened in order to pass it by consensus, but, even so, the position of the Western States has been a “fin de non recevoir” – a complete demurral.

The resolution was adopted by a majority of 32 in favor, 12 against and 3 abstentions. Among the supporters of this initiative are four out of the five members of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa) in addition to the African Group, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab Group.

The adoption of this resolution opens an interesting process in the UN Human Rights Council in which civil society can participate in the elaboration of an international framework on the regulation, monitoring and oversight of the activities of private military and security companies. The new open-ended intergovernmental working group will be the forum for all stakeholders to receive inputs – not only the draft text of a possible convention and the elements elaborated by the UN Working Group on mercenaries, but also other initiatives, such as the proposal submitted to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Montreux Document and the international code of conduct being elaborated under the Swiss Initiative.

However, the negative vote of the delegations of the Western Group indicates that the interests of the new staggering security industry – its annual market revenue is estimated to be over USD one hundred billion – have been quite well-defended, as was the case on a number of other occasions. It also shows that Western governments will be absent from the start in a full, in-depth discussion of the issues raised by the activities of PMSCs.

We urge all states to support the process initiated by the Council by designating their representatives to the new open-ended intergovernmental working group, which will hold its first session in 2011, and to continue a process of discussions regarding a legally binding instrument.

The participation of the UK and the US, the main exporters of these activities (it is estimated that these two countries’ firms control 70 percent of the security industry), as well as other Western countries where the new industry is expanding is of particular importance.

The Working Group also urges the United States Government to implement the recommendations we made, in particular, to:

· Support the US Congress’s Stop Outsourcing Security (SOS) Act, which clearly defines the functions that are inherently governmental and that cannot be outsourced to the private sector.

· Rescind immunity to contractors carrying out activities in other countries under bilateral agreements.

· Carry out prompt and effective investigations of human rights violations committed by PMSCs and prosecute alleged perpetrators.

· Ensure that the oversight of private military and security contractors is not outsourced to PMSCs.

· Establish a specific system of federal licensing of PMSCs for their activities abroad.

· Set up a vetting procedure for awarding contracts to PMSCs.

· Ensure that United States criminal jurisdiction applies to private military and security companies contracted by the government to carry out activities abroad.

· Respond to pending communications from the Working Group.

1. Blackwater Worldwide abandoned its tarnished brand name in order to shake its reputation, which was battered by its criticized work in Iraq. Blackwater renamed its family of two-dozen businesses under the name “Xe.” See Mike Baker, “Blackwater dumps tarnished brand name,” AP News Break, February 13, 2009.

2. URG, an Australian private military and security company, uses a number of ex-military Chileans to provide security to the Australian Embassy in Baghdad. Recently, one of those “private guards” shot himself. ABC News, reported by La Tercera, Chile, September 16, 2010.

3. J. Mendes and S. Mitchell, “Who is Unity Resources Group?” ABC News Australia, September 16, 2010.

4. Case 8:08-cv-01696-PJM, Document 103, filed July 29, 2010. Defendants have filed motions to dismiss on a number of grounds. They argue that the suit must be dismissed in its entirety because they are immune under the laws of war, because the suit raises non-justiciable political questions and because they possess derivative sovereign immunity. They seek dismissal of the state law claims on the basis of government contractor immunity, premised on the notion that plaintiffs cannot proceed on state law claims, which arise out of combatant activities of the military. The United States District Court for the district of Maryland Greenbelt Division has decided to proceed with the case against L-3 Services, Inc. It has not accepted the motions to dismiss, allowing the case to go forward.

5. Mission to the United States of America, Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, United Nations document, A/HRC/15/25/Add.3, paragraph 22.

6. James Risen and Mark Mazzetti, “Blackwater guards tied to secret C.I.A. raids”, New York Times, December 10, 2009.

7. Adam Ciralsky, “Tycoon, contractor, soldier, spy”, Vanity Fair, January 2010. See also Claim No. HQ08X02800 in the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Binyam Mohamed v. Jeppesen UK Ltd, report of James Gavin Simpson, May 26, 2009.

8. ACLU Press Release: “UN Report Underscores Lack of Accountability and Oversight for Military and Security Contractors”, New York, September 14, 2010.

9. The report also indicates that the DynCorp revenues were 1,966,993 USD in 2006 and 3,101,093 USD in 2009.

10 Mission to Ecuador, Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, United Nations document, A/HRC/4/42/Add.2

11. A number of the persons involved in the attempted coup were arrested in Zimbabwe, others in Equatorial Guinea itself, where the coup was intended to overthrow the government and put another in its place in order to gain access to rich resources in oil. In 2004 and 2008, the trials of those arrested in connection with the coup attempt took place in Equatorial Guinea; defendants included British citizen Simon Mann and the South African Nick du Toit. The president of Equatorial Guinea pardoned all foreigners linked to the coup attempt in November 2009. A number of reports indicated that trials failed to comply with international human rights standards and that some of the accused had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment. The government of Equatorial Guinea has three ongoing trials in the United Kingdom, Spain and Lebanon against the persons who were behind the attempted coup.

12 Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, Mission to Honduras, United Nations document A/HRC/4/42/Add.1.

13. Wikipedia

14. Mercenaries without borders by Karel Vereycken, September 21, 2007.

15. Including General Carl E. Vuono, Chief of the Army during the Gulf War and the invasion of Panama, General Crosbie E. Saint, former Commander in Chief of the US Army in Europe, and General Ron Griffith. The president of MPRI is General Bantant J. Craddock.

16. Such as Cofer Black, former chief of the Counter Terrorism Center; Enrique Prado, former chief of operations, and Rof Richter, second in command of the Clandestine Services of the company.

17. “Privatization’s Pretensions”, University of Chicago Law Review, Jon D. Michaels.

18. Inquiry into the role and oversight of private security contractors in Afghanistan, report together with additional views of the Committee on
Armed Services, United States Senate, September 28, 2010.

All republished content that appears on Truthout has been obtained by permission or license.

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A Second Bill of Rights?

Posted by Admin on October 27, 2010

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=16518

Franklin

Franklin D. Roosevelt

4 – State of the Union Message to Congress
January 11, 1944

To the Congress:

This Nation in the past two years has become an active partner in the world’s greatest war against human slavery.

We have joined with like-minded people in order to defend ourselves in a world that has been gravely threatened with gangster rule.

But I do not think that any of us Americans can be content with mere survival. Sacrifices that we and our allies are making impose upon us all a sacred obligation to see to it that out of this war we and our children will gain something better than mere survival.

We are united in determination that this war shall not be followed by another interim which leads to new disaster- that we shall not repeat the tragic errors of ostrich isolationism—that we shall not repeat the excesses of the wild twenties when this Nation went for a joy ride on a roller coaster which ended in a tragic crash.

When Mr. Hull went to Moscow in October, and when I went to Cairo and Teheran in November, we knew that we were in agreement with our allies in our common determination to fight and win this war. But there were many vital questions concerning the future peace, and they were discussed in an atmosphere of complete candor and harmony.

In the last war such discussions, such meetings, did not even begin until the shooting had stopped and the delegates began to assemble at the peace table. There had been no previous opportunities for man-to-man discussions which lead to meetings of minds. The result was a peace which was not a peace.
That was a mistake which we are not repeating in this war.

And right here I want to address a word or two to some suspicious souls who are fearful that Mr. Hull or I have made “commitments” for the future which might pledge this Nation to secret treaties, or to enacting the role of Santa Claus.

To such suspicious souls—using a polite terminology—I wish to say that Mr. Churchill, and Marshal Stalin, and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek are all thoroughly conversant with the provisions of our Constitution. And so is Mr. Hull. And so am I.

Of course we made some commitments. We most certainly committed ourselves to very large and very specific military plans which require the use of all Allied forces to bring about the defeat of our enemies at the earliest possible time.

But there were no secret treaties or political or financial commitments.

The one supreme objective for the future, which we discussed for each Nation individually, and for all the United Nations, can be summed up in one word: Security.

And that means not only physical security which provides safety from attacks by aggressors. It means also economic security, social security, moral security—in a family of Nations.

In the plain down-to-earth talks that I had with the Generalissimo and Marshal Stalin and Prime Minister Churchill, it was abundantly clear that they are all most deeply interested in the resumption of peaceful progress by their own peoples—progress toward a better life. All our allies want freedom to develop their lands and resources, to build up industry, to increase education and individual opportunity, and to raise standards of living.

All our allies have learned by bitter experience that real development will not be possible if they are to be diverted from their purpose by repeated wars—or even threats of war.

China and Russia are truly united with Britain and America in recognition of this essential fact:

The best interests of each Nation, large and small, demand that all freedom-loving Nations shall join together in a just and durable system of peace. In the present world situation, evidenced by the actions of Germany, Italy, and Japan, unquestioned military control over disturbers of the peace is as necessary among Nations as it is among citizens in a community. And an equally basic essential to peace is a decent standard of living for all individual men and women and children in all Nations. Freedom from fear is eternally linked with freedom from want.

There are people who burrow through our Nation like unseeing moles, and attempt to spread the suspicion that if other Nations are encouraged to raise their standards of living, our own American standard of living must of necessity be depressed.

The fact is the very contrary. It has been shown time and again that if the standard of living of any country goes up, so does its purchasing power- and that such a rise encourages a better standard of living in neighboring countries with whom it trades. That is just plain common sense—and it is the kind of plain common sense that provided the basis for our discussions at Moscow, Cairo, and Teheran.

Returning from my journeyings, I must confess to a sense of “let-down” when I found many evidences of faulty perspective here in Washington. The faulty perspective consists in overemphasizing lesser problems and thereby underemphasizing the first and greatest problem.

The overwhelming majority of our people have met the demands of this war with magnificent courage and understanding. They have accepted inconveniences; they have accepted hardships; they have accepted tragic sacrifices. And they are ready and eager to make whatever further contributions are needed to win the war as quickly as possible- if only they are given the chance to know what is required of them.

However, while the majority goes on about its great work without complaint, a noisy minority maintains an uproar of demands for special favors for special groups. There are pests who swarm through the lobbies of the Congress and the cocktail bars of Washington, representing these special groups as opposed to the basic interests of the Nation as a whole. They have come to look upon the war primarily as a chance to make profits for themselves at the expense of their neighbors- profits in money or in terms of political or social preferment.

Such selfish agitation can be highly dangerous in wartime. It creates confusion. It damages morale. It hampers our national effort. It muddies the waters and therefore prolongs the war.

If we analyze American history impartially, we cannot escape the fact that in our past we have not always forgotten individual and selfish and partisan interests in time of war—we have not always been united in purpose and direction. We cannot overlook the serious dissensions and the lack of unity in our war of the Revolution, in our War of 1812, or in our War Between the States, when the survival of the Union itself was at stake.

In the first World War we came closer to national unity than in any previous war. But that war lasted only a year and a half, and increasing signs of disunity began to appear during the final months of the conflict.

In this war, we have been compelled to learn how interdependent upon each other are all groups and sections of the population of America.

Increased food costs, for example, will bring new demands for wage increases from all war workers, which will in turn raise all prices of all things including those things which the farmers themselves have to buy. Increased wages or prices will each in turn produce the same results. They all have a particularly disastrous result on all fixed income groups.

And I hope you will remember that all of us in this Government represent the fixed income group just as much as we represent business owners, workers, and farmers. This group of fixed income people includes: teachers, clergy, policemen, firemen, widows and minors on fixed incomes, wives and dependents of our soldiers and sailors, and old-age pensioners. They and their families add up to one-quarter of our one hundred and thirty million people. They have few or no high pressure representatives at the Capitol. In a period of gross inflation they would be the worst sufferers.

If ever there was a time to subordinate individual or group selfishness to the national good, that time is now. Disunity at home—bickerings, self-seeking partisanship, stoppages of work, inflation, business as usual, politics as usual, luxury as usual these are the influences which can undermine the morale of the brave men ready to die at the front for us here.

Those who are doing most of the complaining are not deliberately striving to sabotage the national war effort. They are laboring under the delusion that the time is past when we must make prodigious sacrifices- that the war is already won and we can begin to slacken off. But the dangerous folly of that point of view can be measured by the distance that separates our troops from their ultimate objectives in Berlin and Tokyo—and by the sum of all the perils that lie along the way.

Overconfidence and complacency are among our deadliest enemies. Last spring—after notable victories at Stalingrad and in Tunisia and against the U-boats on the high seas—overconfidence became so pronounced that war production fell off. In two months, June and July, 1943, more than a thousand airplanes that could have been made and should have been made were not made. Those who failed to make them were not on strike. They were merely saying, “The war’s in the bag- so let’s relax.”

That attitude on the part of anyone—Government or management or labor—can lengthen this war. It can kill American boys.

Let us remember the lessons of 1918. In the summer of that year the tide turned in favor of the allies. But this Government did not relax. In fact, our national effort was stepped up. In August, 1918, the draft age limits were broadened from 21-31 to 18-45. The President called for “force to the utmost,” and his call was heeded. And in November, only three months later, Germany surrendered.

That is the way to fight and win a war—all out—and not with half-an-eye on the battlefronts abroad and the other eye-and-a-half on personal, selfish, or political interests here at home.

Therefore, in order to concentrate all our energies and resources on winning the war, and to maintain a fair and stable economy at home, I recommend that the Congress adopt:

(1) A realistic tax law—which will tax all unreasonable profits, both individual and corporate, and reduce the ultimate cost of the war to our sons and daughters. The tax bill now under consideration by the Congress does not begin to meet this test.

(2) A continuation of the law for the renegotiation of war contracts—which will prevent exorbitant profits and assure fair prices to the Government. For two long years I have pleaded with the Congress to take undue profits out of war.

(3) A cost of food law—which will enable the Government (a) to place a reasonable floor under the prices the farmer may expect for his production; and (b) to place a ceiling on the prices a consumer will have to pay for the food he buys. This should apply to necessities only; and will require public funds to carry out. It will cost in appropriations about one percent of the present annual cost of the war.

(4) Early reenactment of. the stabilization statute of October, 1942. This expires June 30, 1944, and if it is not extended well in advance, the country might just as well expect price chaos by summer.

We cannot have stabilization by wishful thinking. We must take positive action to maintain the integrity of the American dollar.

(5) A national service law- which, for the duration of the war, will prevent strikes, and, with certain appropriate exceptions, will make available for war production or for any other essential services every able-bodied adult in this Nation.

These five measures together form a just and equitable whole. I would not recommend a national service law unless the other laws were passed to keep down the cost of living, to share equitably the burdens of taxation, to hold the stabilization line, and to prevent undue profits.

The Federal Government already has the basic power to draft capital and property of all kinds for war purposes on a basis of just compensation.

As you know, I have for three years hesitated to recommend a national service act. Today, however, I am convinced of its necessity. Although I believe that we and our allies can win the war without such a measure, I am certain that nothing less than total mobilization of all our resources of manpower and capital will guarantee an earlier victory, and reduce the toll of suffering and sorrow and blood.

I have received a joint recommendation for this law from the heads of the War Department, the Navy Department, and the Maritime Commission. These are the men who bear responsibility for the procurement of the necessary arms and equipment, and for the successful prosecution of the war in the field. They say:

“When the very life of the Nation is in peril the responsibility for service is common to all men and women. In such a time there can be no discrimination between the men and women who are assigned by the Government to its defense at the battlefront and the men and women assigned to producing the vital materials essential to successful military operations. A prompt enactment of a National Service Law would be merely an expression of the universality of this responsibility.”

I believe the country will agree that those statements are the solemn truth.

National service is the most democratic way to wage a war. Like selective service for the armed forces, it rests on the obligation of each citizen to serve his Nation to his utmost where he is best qualified.

It does not mean reduction in wages. It does not mean loss of retirement and seniority rights and benefits. It does not mean that any substantial numbers of war workers will be disturbed in their present jobs. Let these facts be wholly clear.

Experience in other democratic Nations at war—Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand- has shown that the very existence of national service makes unnecessary the widespread use of compulsory power. National service has proven to be a unifying moral force based on an equal and comprehensive legal obligation of all people in a Nation at war.

There are millions of American men and women who are not in this war at all. It is not because they do not want to be in it. But they want to know where they can best do their share. National service provides that direction. It will be a means by which every man and woman can find that inner satisfaction which comes from making the fullest possible contribution to victory.

I know that all civilian war workers will be glad to be able to say many years hence to their grandchildren: “Yes, I, too, was in service in the great war. I was on duty in an airplane factory, and I helped make hundreds of fighting planes. The Government told me that in doing that I was performing my most useful work in the service of my country.”

It is argued that we have passed the stage in the war where national service is necessary. But our soldiers and sailors know that this is not true. We are going forward on a long, rough road- and, in all journeys, the last miles are the hardest. And it is for that final effort—for the total defeat of our enemies-that we must mobilize our total resources. The national war program calls for the employment of more people in 1944 than in 1943.

It is my conviction that the American people will welcome this win-the-war measure which is based on the eternally just principle of “fair for one, fair for all.”

It will give our people at home the assurance that they are standing four-square behind our soldiers and sailors. And it will give our enemies demoralizing assurance that we mean business -that we, 130,000,000 Americans, are on the march to Rome, Berlin, and Tokyo.

I hope that the Congress will recognize that, although this is a political year, national service is an issue which transcends politics. Great power must be used for great purposes.

As to the machinery for this measure, the Congress itself should determine its nature—but it should be wholly nonpartisan in its make-up.

Our armed forces are valiantly fulfilling their responsibilities to our country and our people. Now the Congress faces the responsibility for taking those measures which are essential to national security in this the most decisive phase of the Nation’s greatest war.

Several alleged reasons have prevented the enactment of legislation which would preserve for our soldiers and sailors and marines the fundamental prerogative of citizenship—the right to vote. No amount of legalistic argument can becloud this issue in the eyes of these ten million American citizens. Surely the signers of the Constitution did not intend a document which, even in wartime, would be construed to take away the franchise of any of those who are fighting to preserve the Constitution itself.

Our soldiers and sailors and marines know that the overwhelming majority of them will be deprived of the opportunity to vote, if the voting machinery is left exclusively to the States under existing State laws—and that there is no likelihood of these laws being changed in time to enable them to vote at the next election. The Army and Navy have reported that it will be impossible effectively to administer forty-eight different soldier voting laws. It is the duty of the Congress to remove this unjustifiable discrimination against the men and women in our armed forces- and to do it as quickly as possible.

It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth- is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our Nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.

One of the great American industrialists of our day—a man who has rendered yeoman service to his country in this crisis-recently emphasized the grave dangers of “rightist reaction” in this Nation. All clear-thinking businessmen share his concern. Indeed, if such reaction should develop—if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called “normalcy” of the 1920’s—then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.

I ask the Congress to explore the means for implementing this economic bill of rights- for it is definitely the responsibility of the Congress so to do. Many of these problems are already before committees of the Congress in the form of proposed legislation. I shall from time to time communicate with the Congress with respect to these and further proposals. In the event that no adequate program of progress is evolved, I am certain that the Nation will be conscious of the fact.

Our fighting men abroad- and their families at home- expect such a program and have the right to insist upon it. It is to their demands that this Government should pay heed rather than to the whining demands of selfish pressure groups who seek to feather their nests while young Americans are dying.

The foreign policy that we have been following—the policy that guided us at Moscow, Cairo, and Teheran—is based on the common sense principle which was best expressed by Benjamin Franklin on July 4, 1776: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

I have often said that there are no two fronts for America in this war. There is only one front. There is one line of unity which extends from the hearts of the people at home to the men of our attacking forces in our farthest outposts. When we speak of our total effort, we speak of the factory and the field, and the mine as well as of the battleground — we speak of the soldier and the civilian, the citizen and his Government.

Each and every one of us has a solemn obligation under God to serve this Nation in its most critical hour—to keep this Nation great — to make this Nation greater in a better world.



Citation: John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters, The American Presidency Project [online]. Santa Barbara, CA. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=16518.

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