We don’t hear much talk on whether there are any possibility left for a peaceful settlement of the Syria crisis in the United Stats these days. There were some street demonstrations against the U.S going to war with Syria, but their voices had been drawn out by the sound of drumbeat for a surgical strike and the “macho” talk of shooting missile into Syria to punish the Syrian leader who was accused of using chemical weapons against its people on August 21. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon seemed to be the lone voice that ask the Obama Government to give peace a chance and to wait for the result of the UN investigation team. Today, I am happy to hear another voice for peace from Former U.S.President Jimmy Carter who called for ending of hostilities. The Carter Foundation made a proposal to hold a Peace Conference and to work with the United Nations in finding a political solution to the crisis in Syria. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan gave a press interview today saying that there is no military solution to the crisis in Syria . He spoke on behalf of the “Group of Elders” formed in 2007 by the former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela. Members of the group includes former President of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari, former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Brazilian President Henrique Cardoso, former Irish President Mary Robinson, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and former President Jimmy Carter. They condemned the use of chemical weapon against the people in Syria as inhumane and criminal act. They said that those responsible must be held accountable both individually and collectively. As a road to peace, they also proposed holding a Peace Conference called Geneva II as one non-violent possibility available to help in resolving the conflict which should include women in the process. Another action proposed by the Nobel laureates Jody Williams (U.S.), Shirin Ebadi (Iran), Tawakkol Karman (Yemen), Mairead Maguire (Ireland), Leymah Gbowee (Liberia) and Rigoberta Menchu Tum (Guatemala) is to ask the U.N. Security Council to refer the case of the chemical weapons attack of civilian population to the ICC. These venues to a peaceful way for conflict resolution should at least be tried out before consideration of taking any military action that will end up killing and harming more people. It surely will expand the dimension of the war but I don’t think will end a regional conflict of this kind.
It is difficult for me to see real peace in Thailand even when leaders of the two political factions agreed to meet and talk. Members of Parliament are still in fierce fights on constitution change this week. The political divide in Thailand is too deep among the population at large and not on two or three individuals.It is far beyond the recent public demonstration of smiles and handshakes by heads of the Government and the Privy Council. Politicians talk “reconciliation” while at the same time provoke hatred among Redshirts and those who oppose them with song and speech through social media network and mass media. Most people are concerned with daily living struggling to cope with the rising price of oil, gas. electricity, and food. They do not want to see more street demonstrations and violent fights. There is no way out of this problem in the near future, except when the leaders of all sides can come up with a compromise on how to make changes in the Constitution that all Thai citizens can live with and agree on common strategy to drive the country forward economically.
Two thousand and eleven was the year full of conflicts caused mainly by intolerance of cultural, political and religious differences. The diversity of cultures and forms of expressions are seen by many as a basis for hatred rather than a cause for celebration. I was shocked when hearing the news that almost a hundred youngsters at summer camp in Norway lost their lives, killed by one mad man, a Christian fundamentalist who saw multiculturalism as a threat to the supremacy of the white race. Muslim fundamentalists were active in killing Christians in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and also killed Christians in Northern Nigeria and in Indonesia. Israeli Jews and their Zionist supporters also killed Palestinians in Gaza, the West bank and Jerusalem, no matter whether they were Muslims or Christians. In Thailand, politicians mobilized people into red and yellow shirts to show difference in political loyalty and encouraged them to fight one another causing many lost of lives. Over thirty years of my international work, I belief in tolerance as the virtue that makes peace possible in the our world. From the beginning of its creation in 1945, the United Nations Organization promotes multiculturalism as something good for the world. Tolerance of differences in race, sex, religion and culture is written in the UN Charter. I was happy that in 1995, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) initiated the United Nations International Day of Tolerance to be annually observed on November 16. According to the UN, tolerance means respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our cultures. It is harmony in difference based on human rights and fundamental freedoms of other human beings. The practice of tolerance does not mean tolerance of social injustice or abandonment of weakening of one’s conviction.This New Year, I think we should look again at the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance and use its text to create new communication and education programs, computer games for teachers to be used in schools and the mass and social media to remind people and their friends around the world of the danger of intolerance. We cannot prevent the outburst of violence that happened last year, but we can do something about it this year by encouraging individuals, groups, and States to become more tolerance, recognizing the rights and beliefs of others including the respect of human rights laws.
I cannot let this year ends without commendation of the relentless efforts of the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) to lobby for women’s right ever since 1995. They are determined to see that Afghan women (half of the population) are included in all national and international peace negotiations. They are making sure that organizers of the International Conference on Afghanistan which was held in Bonn last September include a significant number of women in leadership position, their achievements and their struggles for equal rights and freedom in the building of a better future for Afghanistan. The Network mobilizes for support under the slogan “You can’t build peace by leaving out half of the population”. Their main target is to have 30% inclusion of women within the leadership and management of the High Peace Council. They have noted with dissatisfaction the low number of women who participate in leadership position (about 13% on the High Peace Council and 10-15% on the Provincial Peace Council). They urge that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) to get a stronger mandate to improve women’s participation in crafting the future of Afghanistan. Defending women’s right in Afghanistan is not an easy task. Often, it is out right dangerous undertaking. The presence of men with guns in many transitional provinces has created fear among the populations, especially the parents who have pulled out their sons and daughters from schools and other public social services. Girl’s schools have been reported to receive threatening letters. In Afghanistan, defenders of women’s right, the parents and local teachers need security protection which the local Afghan government cannot fully provide. Worst, the communities do not trust the integrity of national security force. They are afraid that when the Coalition Force withdraw from Afghanistan, women and girls will be targeted for attack by the Taliban and/or subject to rape and abuse at the hands of the national security forces. It is my hope that in 2012, the Afghan Government and their international supporters will have the capacity to provide adequate security to Afghan women and girls including their protectors from harms by the Taliban and other conservative forces in Afghan society. I want to celebrate the bravery and determination of the Afghan Women’s Network for the success of their activities in 2012.
Ian McEwan, an English author, contributes to peace in the Middle East when he accepted the 2011 Jerusalem Prize for Literature. Writers can be powerful agents of change. They can use their influence to put “mirror” in front of the people who committed crime against humanity to see the impact of their ugly behavior on other human beings. McEwan’s brave action can bring attitudinal and behavioral change among people involved in the Arab-Israel conflict. Through his writings, he has given a voice to individual Palestinian who is victim of human rights violation.
Despite protest and criticism from other British Writers in support of Palestine for his acceptance of the prize, McEwan went ahead to Jerusalem to accept the prize from Nir Barkat, Mayor of Jerusalem. He spoke at the opening ceremony of international book fair about the injustice done to the Palestinians by Israel’s policy and aggression. He spoke in front of Israeli leaders in the audience about the violation of human rights by the continuation of evictions of Palestinians from their own land. He pointed out to the audiences that the behavior of both sides in the Arab-Israel conflict is nihilism. He urged Israel to end settlements of Jewish people on land belonging to the Palestinians. It is important that the Israelis hear what other people in the world think of them. I congratulate the Mayor of Jerusalem for his open-mindedness in welcoming McEwan to his city. I don’t think what he did was propaganda. Although some people accused him of that. It is good that he had planted the seeds of “tolerance” among his people. We should not doubt his sincerity. Tolerance of differences of opinion is a “foundation stone” for future peace negotiations. In the world today, we need an opened-minded leader like him to bring about a dialogue from all sides. McEwan could have boycotted the occasion. But he did not. I am glad that he used the occasion to emphasize the importance of freedom of the individuals and the dignity of all human beings, even in conflict situations.
On January 25th, the United Nations General Assembly (GA) adopted Resolution 65/17 following the UN Secretary-General’s 2010 Report on the Middle East Situation. This indicated that the Assembly and the international community want Israel to stop its illegal action of imposing its laws, jurisdiction and administration on Jerusalem. Thirty years ago, the Assembly determined that all legislative and administrative measures and activities taken by Israel, as the occupying power, had altered the character and status of Jerusalem. The Assembly considered the “basic law” on Jerusalem and the proclamation of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as null and void and must be rescinded. As far as I know, Israel has not taken any positive action to implement any of the General Assembly resolutions on Jerusalem. Not long there after, the UN Security Council decided not to recognize the so called “basic law” on Jerusalem. Instead of listening to the opinions of the World body and international community, Israel went ahead in the construction of the wall in and around East Jerusalem and ignored the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the construction of a wall in the occupied Palestinian Territory. Israel has continued on with the destruction of Palestinian homes, evicting as many Palestinian families as possible from East Jerusalem, replacing them with Jewish settlers.This delinquent behavior of one member state of the United Nations should not be allowed to go on and on, years after years, with impunity.This year’s General Assembly resolution on Jerusalem stresses the importance of taking into consideration the concerns of both the legitimate Palestinian and the Israeli sides in negotiation for a just and lasting peace. Jerusalem is a holy city of the three major religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The Assembly wants to see that permanent, free and unhindered access to the holy places by the people of all religions and nationalities be assured by the international community. As far as I am concerned, Jerusalem must be put under International Authority as envisaged by the General Assembly Resolution 194. I agree with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon when he said that Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israeli and Palestinian if peace is to be achieved. He has my support in leading the United Nations’ efforts to make sure that we see progress on this issue because it is an important first step towards peace in the Middle East.
Sexual violence cannot be tolerated, whether in peace time or in war time. It is a worldwide problem that shattered lives of countless numbers of women, young girls and boys. In war time, when the rules of law often break down, partners in arm conflict often use sexual violence as weapons to intimidate vulnerable civilian populations. For years the UN Security Council has been concerned that only limited numbers of perpetrators of sexual violence have been brought to justice. Most of them were allowed to get away with impunity. The recent rape of hundreds of women by the soldiers of the Democratic Republic of the Congo arm force is the case in point. Only one Lieutenant-Colonel who allegedly responsible for commanding the rape was arrested. Many other perpetrators are still left at large. Last week on 16 December, The UN Security Council adopted a far-reaching Resolution aimed to stop sexual violence in arm conflict situation. From now on, States will have to comply with their obligations under international law that prohibit all forms of sexual violence. While civilians and military leaders must have a political will to prevent such violence from happening. Those responsible for the crime must be prosecuted. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that this Resolution 1960/2010 “gives us a sharper teeth in the fight against sexual violence”. It is important to underscore that the victims need our help, which quite often they don’t get for they have been forced to keep their mouth shut by their family members and public officials. Young men and boys who are victims of sexual attack suffer isolation and discrimination by the community. We can help them by not being silence on sexual violence. Most of all, we must see to it that all governments take their responsibilities to end impunity and to prosecute those who commit this horrible crime against humanity. Thanks to the Security Council resolution we now have a useful tool to fight sexual violence in conflict situation.
The recent provocations in the Korean Peninsular are done by the two sides of this long-standing conflict. The artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island by North Korea, and last week military exercise by the South Korea and the United States with the deployment of the super carrier USS George Washington in the area had created tension that put innocent people’s lives at risk of an open-warfare with nuclear arsenals in the Asia continent. Not just the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, China and Russia have all for so long been active parties in this conflict since the end of World War II in 1945 and the Korean War in 1953. This time, China tries to be positive in finding a way to end the exchange of fire by proposing to resume a meeting of representatives of the six-nation ( North Korea, South Korea, United States, China and Russia) talks. But South Korea disagreed because it does not want to negotiate with North Korea at this time. The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, being from South Korea, should find out why, and try his best to bring the South Korean government to the negotiating table as China suggested. China can do a lot to bring peace to the Peninsula. China has a common border with North Korea, therefore having a tremendous influence to mediate between the two Koreas to stop aggression that could turn into nuclear war.The United States military exercise with Japan this coming week in the area will continue to provoke North Korea to continue with its’ military aggression. I do not believe that China is happy with this Japan/US/South Korea military exercises because it opposes any party to take military action in its economic zone stretching out to 200 nautical miles from its coast. If China put this matter on agenda for discussion in the Security Council, the United States will be put in an awkward position in the internal community because the United States is Chairman of the Security Council for December. It is expected that a Chairman should be neutral – not taking sides in the conflict. Ever since the Korean Peninsula was divided along the demilitarized zone, the United States and South Korea signed the ROK/US Mutual Security Agreement committed to defend each other in conflicts.
One of the most successful work in mainstreaming gender into peace and security of the United Nations is the Police Division’s peacekeeping operations. The UN has set target for increase the number of female police officers of 20 per cent by 2014. Ann Marie Orler, the UN Police Division Chief, has made good progress to recruit more women for rapid deployment capacity to fulfill peacekeeping missions in conflict areas around the world. She has also called on Member States to increase their national effort to deploy more female police officers to work for the United Nations. Noteworthy recent successes of her effort can be seen in that Bangladesh and India sending all female Formed Police Unit to Haiti. Earlier on, India had also sent an all female Formed Unit to peacekeeping work in Liberia. Namibia and Tanzania sent dozen of female police officers to peacekeeping operation in Sudan. One hundred and thirty-six female police officer have joined the UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur. These female police officers working with the UN team come from Bangladesh, Gambia, Ghana, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. An addition 19 female police officers will be sent to Darfur from Pakistan later this year. In total, there are 86 countries that contributed officers to UN Police. Nigeria, Bangladesh, India, Ghana, South Africa, Zambia, Nepal, Namibia, Philippines, Uganda are among the top ten contributors of the 1,218 female UN Police officers this year. The UN Police Division develops action plans and guidelines for UN peacekeeping work in full cooperation with Interpol, European Union, African Union and other interested member states. The presence of female police officers provides the people with trust and confidence in the police, especially when dealing with sexual and gender-based violence. I am encouraged to see that the United Nations is moving forward in the right direction to meet the goal of gender equality in peace and security. I highly recommend to those who are interested, the reading of the excellent UN Police Magazine which I find to be most useful in catching up with news about this important UN police work to promote the rule of law, human rights. It also helps to create a condition for long-term peace building. The Fifth edition of the magazine has just been published, giving updated information on the global effort to recruit female police officers and statistics on men and women who work effectively in peacekeeping operations in trouble spots around the world.
There are not many countries that have a woman as a foreign minister. United States is an exception in having consecutively three very competent female foreign ministers (Secretaries of States): Madelene Albright, Condolessa Rice, and Hillary Clinton. It is encouraging to read in the August 22 Washington Post an article by Mary Beth Sheridan – in nuclear negotiations more women are at the table for the United States. She conveyed good news that women now hold many key senior positions at the Pentagon and the White House. And that they occupied between 21 and 29 percent of the senior positions at the State Department and other national security and foreign policy agencies. Does it make a difference to content when women negotiate national and international security and peace issues? Some people thought it does not, for the reason that whether the negotiators are male or female, government officials have to follow instruction in speakig on behalf of the government. They said that gender was not an issue there. But I disagree with them. Public perception of women with political power does make a difference to the goal of gender equality and democracy. In todays world, educated women are as concern about issues of national and international security as the men. And they know that they can make a difference to the foreign policy content and cooperation. It is not that I beleive in the myth that women are more peace-loving than men. In all my years of working internationally, I have come across an equal proportion of aggressive behavior of men and women. And history has also shown that women and men have an equal share in creating conflic within their community and in the outside world. I think that both sexes have to be equally responsible to end conflict by engaging in negotiation for a peaceful outcome.Ten years ago, the United Nations Security Council passed a landmark Resolution1325 on Women, Peace and Security. It is a roadmap to promote women’s full engagement in peace and security negotiations. But up to now only 20 countries have adopted the Plan of Action on its implementation. The male government leaders have not shown interested to work with women on security matter. For example, in nuclear negotiation between United States and Russia, in surprise, a Russian general asked the American team led by a woman, “How come you‘ve got so many women?”. Most countries find it hard to appoint qualified women to work at senior level in foreign affairs, national defense, Intelligence, law enforcement and international relations, the fields that few women choose to study and to make their career in a male-dominated working environment with long hours of work and travel. Only a few women without family responsibility can endure such hardship, thrive in it, and advance to the top senior level.