United Nations

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How AIPAC Is Leading Efforts to Dismantle the UN Inquiry on Palestine

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/07/2022 - 1:24am in

This month, the United Nations’ Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel found that the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine is the root cause of the decades-long conflict in the region. But as the probe gets underway, the Israel lobby’s flagship organization, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), is actively attempting to extinguish it.

In response to the inquiry led by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), members of Congress have initiated legislation to abolish the investigation in both the House and the Senate. On June 14, Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Nevada Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen introduced the COI Elimination Act S.4389. The bill is similar but not identical to H.R.7223, also called the COI Elimination Act, introduced by Representatives Gregory Steube, Vincente Gonzalez, and Joe Wilson in March.

Both bills seek to abolish the UN inquiry as well as other UN groups in order “to combat systemic anti-Israel bias at the United Nations Human Rights Council and other international fora.” The legislation also calls for restricting U.S. funding to the UNHRC by 25 percent of the amount budgeted. While the Senate bill only has three co-sponsors currently, the House version has nearly 70 signatories made up of mostly Republican representatives.

The UN inquiry came as a result of the Israeli attacks on Gaza and occupied East Jerusalem in May 2021, with the purpose of investigating human rights abuses that occurred during that period. The U.S., Israel, and 19 other countries have sharply condemned the inquiry following the release of its first report.

“We believe the nature of the COI established last May is further demonstration of long-standing, disproportionate attention given to Israel in the Council and must stop,” U.S. Ambassador to the UNHRC Michèle Taylor said during the 50th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, as the UN inquiry’s first report was being debated.

The State Department has also rebuked the UN inquiry, its spokesperson Ned Price remarking,

…[W]e firmly oppose the open-ended and vaguely defined nature of the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on the situation in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, which represents a one-sided, biased approach that does nothing to advance the prospects for peace.”

The UNHCR did not respond to press queries on the congressional bills, instead reiterating the COI’s goals and that all member states must abide by its actions. However, a UNHCR spokesperson did tell MintPress News that,

The mandate of the Commission of Inquiry was supported by a majority of member states of the Council and the allocation of a budget was then approved by the General Assembly. All members of the Human Rights Council are expected to fully cooperate with its decisions, as reaffirmed in General Assembly resolution 50/251 of 2005.”

 

‘AIPAC-driven’

According to Jewish Insider, AIPAC has spent this month lobbying on Capitol Hill for more members of Congress to support the COI Elimination Act as part of its first in-person National Council meeting in Washington, D.C., since the start of the pandemic.

Their efforts appear to have succeeded as nearly 40 House Representatives signed onto the bill over the last two weeks.

“It’s simply another AIPAC-driven effort to demonize the UN in order to obfuscate the cruel and inhumane realities on the ground in Israel-Palestine and to deny the apartheid nature of the state,” historian Walter L. Hixson told MintPress News.

The author of “Israel’s Armor: The Israel Lobby and the First Generation of the Palestine Conflict”, Hixon explained that AIPAC activists don’t have a secret lobbying tactic but rather pressure members of Congress through their financial clout.

“It’s what they always do,” he said. “They let them know that people who support them can get support from AIPAC and people who oppose them can expect their next campaign opponents to be funded by AIPAC.”

“It’s pretty ruthless lobbying that exerts its influence, and unfortunately there are a lot of members of Congress who are very easily swayed, unprincipled, fearful and tow the AIPAC line,” Hixson added.

In addition to lobbying members of Congress directly, AIPAC is also encouraging Americans to urge their representatives to support the legislation.

Yet they are not the only Israel lobby organization tackling the COI. Richard Goldberg, senior advisor at the Israel lobby group Foundation for Defense of Democracies published an op-ed in the New York Post railing against the COI. Pro-Israel groups B’nai B’rith International, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and the National Jewish Advocacy Center have also come out against the COI.

AIPAC has also pressured Congress on other issues during their recent Capitol Hill tour, such as continuing military aid to Israel, supporting the Stop Iranian Drones Act, and rejecting a Senate letter urging the U.S. government to investigate the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Sent last week, a letter signed by nearly half of the Democrats serving in the Senate calls on President Joe Biden to directly involve the U.S. in probing Akleh’s killing.

AIPAC talking points sent to lawmakers ahead of the letter’s publication and seen by Israeli newspaper Haaretz said “the circumstances surrounding the death of Ms. Abu Akleh remain unclear despite the hasty conclusions of various media outlets,” whereas the letter “implies both Israeli culpability and inability to conduct an objective, thorough investigation of the incident.”

 

AIPAC still king

While the COI Elimination Act has received significant backing, the bill’s stated purpose is far-fetched. The U.S. cannot — with a stroke of a pen — unilaterally eradicate a world agency investigation.

However, according to Hixson, the country does have considerable control over the UN and by withholding a quarter of funding (as promised within the bill) can prove detrimental to the UN’s efforts.

“The UN has always been — from its inception in 1945 — heavily influenced by the United States,” Hixson said, noting how its headquarters are in New York and the U.S. has been a longtime funder of the entity. “They can’t dictate to the UN to change a policy, but they can certainly hurt it financially and influence decision-making,” he added.

Whether the bill comes to fruition remains to be seen. But Hixson believes it has a chance, especially given that Democrats are signing onto it as well. Currently, nine Democrats have sponsored the House version and Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal has signed on to the Senate act.

Israel lobby experts have suggested that AIPAC’s influence on Capitol Hill is waning as more Democratic politicians and American Jews become increasingly critical of the Israeli government’s actions. For example, experts have speculated that AIPAC establishing political action committees last year is just a desperate attempt to cement its authority over Washington politics.

While Hixson agrees, he also asserts that AIPAC still remains quite influential. And with in-person lobbying again a feature of AIPAC’s work as pandemic restrictions dissipate, the organization may continue to see its influence balloon.

“AIPAC is very determined. They’ve increased their funding. They’ve increased their office space. They’ve increased their number of personnel,” he said. “It remains a very powerful lobby, not just for a foreign policy for a foreign country, but period. It’s as powerful as any lobby really in Washington, and probably more powerful than the gun lobby.”

Nevertheless, public support for Israel has waned substantially in the last decade, mirrored by an increasing sympathy for the Palestinian cause, especially among Democrats. According to a February Gallup poll, sympathy for Israelis has declined from 64% to 55% from 2013 to 2022 and climbed from 12% to 26% for Palestinians.

While Israel might be losing the battle for public opinion, in the realm of political influence in Washington, it is still winning the war.

Feature photo | Palestinians burn tires during a protest outside the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza City, on April 25, 2022. Majdi Fathi | NurPhoto via AP

Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist for MintPress News covering Palestine, Israel, and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab and Gulf News.

The post How AIPAC Is Leading Efforts to Dismantle the UN Inquiry on Palestine appeared first on MintPress News.

Killings in Somalia: War Crimes, Deception, and Impunity

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/06/2022 - 9:08pm in

Mohamed Gabobe explores several reports of extrajudicial killings by Western-backed forces in Somalia

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After taking a motorbike ride from Mogadishu’s bustling Taleh junction to a dirt road on the outskirts of the Somali capital, where I trekked past a row of shanty homes, I caught my first glimpse of the elderly woman I was scheduled to meet. Standing before me with the warmest of smiles, she gestured towards her home, inviting me to enter.

She didn’t know much about me, only that I was eager to hear her story. She tells me her name is Sadiya, and that her family hails from the village of Buurane in the Middle Shabelle province, a region synonymous with militancy and where the rules of engagement are often non-existent.

When I offer a smile in the direction of three young children sitting on an old rug. she says, “These are my son’s children. They were left with me after he was murdered.”

Sadiya tells me how her 18-year-old son Sharmarke and his friends were cutting onions on the porch of her home, the day they were approached by coalition troops from Burundi serving under the UN-backed African Union Mission in Somalia, commonly referred to as AMISOM. The troops ordered the young men to go inside for reasons Sadiya doesn’t know.

AMISON soldiers routinely patrol the village of Buurane and its surrounding areas – often implementing curfews and detaining civilians under the mere pretext of suspicion. Many are often held under arbitrary detention for weeks – sometimes even longer.  

On this occasion, however, the AMISOM troops departed without incident. Sadiya’s son and his friends went back to their chores, before starting a card game.

Moments later, a massive blast punctured the air, and a cloud of thick black smoke billowed into the night sky. A roadside bomb had struck a nearby AMISOM convoy. 

Not long after that, AMISOM troops returned to her home. She remembers spotting one peering through the window seconds before they opened fire. Screams and falling glass engulfed the tiny home. Her son was cut down by a hail of bullets, piercing his heart and spine, and striking his friend sitting directly behind him.  

The friend died instantly, but her son clung to life, screaming for his mother to stop the bleeding while mouthing the words to the Shahada (the Islamic declaration of faith).

The AMISOM troops barged into the home and pointed their weapons at Sadiya and her dying son, she says. Sadiya pleaded with the soldiers to allow her to tend to her son’s wounds, but to no avail. Her son bled to death in front of her eyes.

As Sadiya tells me this, she slumps to her knees, and sobs uncontrollably. 

“It’s one thing to watch your child be shot in front of you. It’s another to watch them bleed out while begging for your help,” she says.

Sadiya’s account is consistent with testimonies of other eyewitnesses to mass killings carried out by AMISOM troops. A scathing report by Human Rights Watch revealed how AMISOM troops targeted wedding-goers near the Somali port town of Merka in 2015, killing six men, and denying medical care to the lone survivor, who later died of his wounds.

Sadiya said the soldiers remained in her home for two hours after her son bled out, leaving only when Somali Government troops arrived to retrieve the lifeless bodies of her son and his friend. Murdered at 18 years-of-age, Sharmarke would never get to see the arrival of his third child.

Moreover, in the weeks and months that followed, Sadiya endured relentless threats and intimidation from AMISOM troops, who would repeatedly show up at her home and order her to leave, she claims, often threatening to burn down her home if she continued to refuse their demands.  

Sadiya says the AMISOM troops told her that they were carrying out military operations in the area and she needed to vacate the home, but this was an order given only to her, and nobody else in the village. The same troops that brutally murdered her son were now forcefully displacing her from the only home she’s ever known.  

Many of her neighbours advised Sadiya to heed the warnings and not risk losing the three young grandchildren, but she refused to leave and instead pleaded her case to local authorities located several kilometres away in the district of Mahaadey. 

But she was turned away.

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Rampant Impunity

Coincidentally, the district of Mahaadey is home to a large-scale African Union military base that hosts foreign troops from Burundi. Sadiya believes her cries for help fell on deaf ears because coalition forces in Somalia wield immense influence over the local authorities, which explains why Somali officials often turn a blind eye to atrocities carried out by coalition forces from the African Union. 

Deployed to Somalia in 2007 under the auspice of the United Nations Security Council, the AMISOM consists of thousands of foreign troops from nearly a dozen states in Africa, fighting under the rubric of the global ‘war on terror’, but without meaningful oversight or transparency.

Sadiya then made her way to the city of Jowhar, the provincial capital of the Middle Shabelle province and seat of power for Somalia’s semi-autonomous Hirshabelle state, turning up at the headquarters of the-then regional vice president, Ali Gudlaawe.

Again, she was turned away by Somali troops.

When the threats became too much to bear, Sadiya made the decision to flee Buurane. During the night, her brother-in law put Sadiya and her three grandchildren in a vehicle and sent them to the capital Mogadishu, where they remain to this day.  

Two years have passed since the brutal murder of her son Sharmarke and his friend Abukar, but Sadiya is yet to receive any answers, let alone accountability from the UN-backed African Union Mission in Somalia.  

After meeting Sadiya, I made my way to the notorious Suuqa-Hoolaha neighborhood in the Huriwa district of Mogadishu, which is a known to be an al-Shabaab stronghold. This isn’t an area that journalists often venture to.

There, I met Ibrahim, the father of Abukar, who was shot and killed in Sadiya’s home. Ibrahim fled the village of Buurane with his two remaining daughters immediately after his son’s murder. The trek to Mogadishu on foot took him and his children seven days. He’s never returned home since. Ibrahim wants justice for his family but knows that the prospects for accountability are slim.

Prosecuting African Union soldiers for atrocities in Somalia is nearly impossible, as the Somali Government has no jurisdiction over the multi-national coalition troops on their soil, which are funded by the European Union and supervised by the US and UK.  

They are rarely, if ever, held accountable for the rampant war crimes and human rights abuses they are alleged to have committed.

The Case of Mohamed Hassan

During my investigation into war crimes by AMISOM troops in Somalia, the most perplexing case was the murder of Mohamed Hassan, a local university student from Mogadishu. He offers a typical example of how broken promises, deception and impunity make the death of a loved one at the hands of coalition forces even much more unbearable. 

I arrived at the Tarabunka junction in Mogadishu, and stood in front of a mechanic shop, waiting for the go-ahead. A young woman dressed in all black wearing a Niqab (face veil) approached and told me to follow her.  

I eventually found myself at the home of a prominent tribal chief – an older gentleman with a bright orange beard dyed in traditional colouring. I sat down at the table. What followed was the traditional Somali custom of drinking tea and getting acquainted with one another.  

As we spoke, the tribal chief was eager to tell me about the ordeal of his family members who had been killed by AMISOM forces. When I began the interview, I couldn’t help but notice the armed gunmen in military attire standing a few meters away. The tribal chief told me not to worry; they were his people (clansmen).  

He told me how his nephew, Mohamed Hassan, who he had raised from birth, was murdered by AMISOM forces in Mogadishu. “Mohamed was walking down a road in the Hodan district of Mogadishu, when he was struck by an AMISOM convoy, driving at full speed on 3 July 2014,” he said.

Mohamed died instantly from his wounds, as the AMISON convoy sped off. Ibrahim shows me a photo of his deceased nephew.

A baby in a person's arms</p>
<p>Description automatically generated with medium confidenceA photo of Mohamed Hassan following his death

AMISOM military convoys in Somalia, particularly in the capital Mogadishu, routinely strike civilians while patrolling the city. Countless civilians have either been killed or wounded over the years, as has been widely reported in the Somali media.  

The tribal chief said that he had reached out to his fellow clansmen, who held senior ranks in the Somali Armed Forces, to track down the AMISOM convoy responsible for his nephew’s death. It had made its way to Spartiva, they said, a football arena turned military base that housed foreign troops from the AMISOM coalition, but primarily from Uganda.  

It was revealed that a Ugandan soldier by the name of Lance Corporal Tumusiime Robert was behind the wheel of the AMISOM truck that killed Mohamed Hassan. The soldier was detained and transferred to the fortified Halane compound (Somalia’s Green Zone) in Mogadishu, which houses numerous Western embassies, the United Nations headquarters, and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).  

But justice and accountability would not be forthcoming. “It was like running in circles,” the tribal chief told me.

They took up their case with the African Union, which responded by appointing a board of inquiry to investigate the murder, concluding that the family should be compensated, but the reparations never came.

“We were misled and deceived,” says the tribal chief.

The family were only ever given excuses. At times, the African Union would claim it was waiting on further confirmation from its headquarters in Addis Ababa. Other times it wouldn’t give an explanation, despite AMISOM’s own board of inquiry having agreed to compensate the family for Mohamed’s death.  

“All we got at the end were documents from a Djiboutian official at AMISOM,” said the tribal chief, which he then shared with me.  

The documents show a probe conducted by a six-member board from the African Union investigating the death of 20-year-old Mohamed Hassan at the hands of coalition troops.  

The findings, as detailed in the documents, concluded that the AMISOM convoy was at fault in the death of Mohamed and therefore the family should be duly compensated.  

The document shows the names of the military officials appointed to the board, as shown here:

A piece of paper with writing on it</p>
<p>Description automatically generated with medium confidence Text, letter</p>
<p>Description automatically generated

Another document identifies the driver of the military convoy that killed Mohamed Hassan. The vehicle number is also stated on the document:

Text, letter</p>
<p>Description automatically generated

However, the tribal chief told me that they’ve almost given up hope on receiving any form of justice.

My the tribal chief’s revelations didn’t end there.

Pulling his seat closer, he told me that a relative named Omar Dhoore was extrajudicially murdered by AMISOM troops in volatile Lower Shabelle province on 1 September 2017, when Omar was tending to his crops in the farming village of Golweyn.

The tribal chief said that Omar was abducted by foreign troops from Uganda serving under the AMISOM coalition. He was taken to the town of Buula-Mareer, which hosts a large-scale Ugandan military base.  

The tribal chief claims that he led a group of local elders there, pleading for the release of Omar, only to have their request rebuffed. 

Days later, however, locals discovered Omar lifeless on the side of a dirt road that connects the town of Buula-Mareer to the village of Golweyn – bullet holes riddling his body.

Both of Omar’s hands and eyes were tied shut. The brunt of the bullet holes was across his face and head. The tribal chief showed me a photo of Omar’s body, claiming it demonstrates evidence of extrajudicial murder.

A picture containing text, person, indoor</p>
<p>Description automatically generatedA photo of Omar Dhoore following the discovery of his body International Culpability

Over the years, AMISOM troops have been implicated in numerous extrajudicial killings and wanton massacres of civilians. The abduction and brutal execution-style murder of Omar Dhoore has eerie similarities with other cases of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Most notably, the 2021 Golweyn Massacre, which saw seven civilians abducted and murdered.

When the tribal chief and local elders went to the AMISOM base in Golweyn, demanding to know how someone in their custody could be later found dead on a dirt road, the Ugandan military commanders openly acknowledged that Omar was killed in “retaliation” for a recent attack carried out by the terror group al-Shabaab in the area, causing the deaths of several Ugandan soldiers. 

In disbelief, the tribal chief led his fellow elders to the fortified Halane compound (Somalia’s Green Zone) in Mogadishu, where they held a closed-door meeting with Ugandan military officials. 

During the encounter, the Ugandan officers from AMISOM admitted wrongdoing and stated that they would compensate the victim’s family to the tune of $3,000 – but that soon turned out to be another false promise.

“They’ll make you promises for accountability and compensation, then have you keep going back and forth, running until you get tired and just simply stop coming back,” the tribal chief said.

To this day, they’ve heard nothing further about the compensation. Five years have now passed since Omar was murdered.

“He had no affiliation with the insurgents. He didn’t deserve to die,” the tribal chief said.

AMISOM has a mandate to fight the armed group al-Shabaab and prop up Somalia’s fragile government. but as of 31 March of this year, the UN Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopted resolution 2628, which states that AMISOM will transition into the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) and will oversee the withdrawal of multi-national coalition forces from Somalia by December 2024.  

While this move is welcomed by the people of Somalia, it offers little comfort to the families whose lives have been wrecked by these forces.   

Prominent international human rights organisations have directly implicated AMISOM troops in the deliberate targeting of civilians by indiscriminately shelling densely populated urban areas under the pretext of fighting militants, particularly during the siege of Mogadishu, which spanned from January 2009 to August 2011.  

Similar reports released by human rights bodies have accused AMISOM forces of using rape as a weapon of war against both women and young children. 

To that end, Western governments that continue to finance, supervise and provide cover for AMISOM bear part of the responsibility. Indeed, the continued presence of foreign troops in Somalia is a direct result of decisions made in Washington, Brussels and London.

If calls for accountability continue to be brushed aside by the so-called ‘international community’, then Somalia will be remembered as another terrible example of how Western-sponsored foreign military interventions, often under the guise of counter-terrorism and peacekeeping, cause more harm than good.

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UN Warns of ‘Total Societal Collapse’ Due to Breaching of Planetary Boundaries

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/05/2022 - 1:58am in

A landmark report by the United Nations concludes that ‘global collapse’ is becoming more likely. But was it watered-down before being published?

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When the United Nations published its 2022 'Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction' (GAR2022) in May, the world’s attention was on its grim verdict that the world was experiencing an accelerating trend of natural disasters and economic crises. But not a single media outlet picked up the biggest issue: the increasing probability of civilisational collapse.

Buried in the report, which was endorsed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, is the finding that escalating synergies between disasters, economic vulnerabilities and ecosystem failures are escalating the risk of a "global collapse" scenario.

This stark conclusion appears to be the first time that the UN has issued a flagship global report finding that existing global policies are accelerating toward the collapse of human civilisation. Yet somehow this urgent warning has remained unreported until now.

The report does not suggest that this outcome is inevitable or specify how close to this possibility we are. But it does confirm that, without radical change, that’s where the world is heading.

Planetary Boundaries

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Sendai Framework are a set of social, economic, legal, political and institutional measures to reduce “disaster risk and losses” – both involve targets to 2030 which the world is in danger of failing to meet.

That failure, however, is directly linked to the rate at which human activities are interfering with natural systems, in particular, ‘planetary boundaries’.

The planetary boundaries framework was developed by the Stockholm Resilience Centre in 2009 to provide what it calls a “science-based analysis of the risk that human perturbations will destabilise the Earth system at the planetary scale”. This framework identifies a range of nine key ecosystems which, if pushed passed a certain threshold, will dramatically reduce the “safe operating space” for human habitation.

The report notes that at least four of the nine planetary boundaries now seem to be operating outside the safe operating space.

While land system change and climate change are in a zone of “uncertainty with increasing risk” of overstepping the safe operating space, the report says, biochemical flows and ‘novel entities’ (“new engineered chemicals, materials or organisms and natural elements mobilised by human activity such as heavy metals”) have “far exceeded" that space.

However, the situation is likely to be worse than acknowledged in the UN's report.

Byline Times revealed last summer that, according to Professor Will Steffen of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, two more planetary boundaries – ocean acidification and freshwater use – would probably by then also be “transgressed”, meaning that we are breaching six out of nine planetary boundaries. If we continue to cross boundaries at this rate, it is possible that we cross almost all of them before 2030.

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Don’t Look Up

According to the UN 's report, “the human material and ecological footprint is accelerating the rate of change. A potential impact when systemic risks become cascading disasters is that systems are at risk of collapse”.

Yet, although the risk of systemic collapse is discussed at different points in the report, the “global collapse” scenario did not receive extensive elaboration. Instead, the report makes reference to a separate ‘contributing paper’ published by the UN’s Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

That paper, 'Pandemics, Climate Extremes, Tipping Points and the Global Catastrophic Risk – How these Impact Global Targets', offers an in-depth scenario analysis of global collapse risks based on how human activities are transgressing planetary boundaries.

The paper is authored by Thomas Cernev, a researcher at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. It finds that the continuation of 'business as usual' and a failure to invoke drastic policy changes means that human civilisation is moving inexorably toward collapse.

“From the scenario analysis... it is evident that in the absence of ambitious policy and near global adoption and successful implementation, the world continually tends towards the global collapse scenario,” it says.

Four Pathways – Three Lead to Collapse

Thomas Cernev’s paper identifies four potential pathways ahead. Yet only one of them, "stable Earth", involves the achievement of global targets under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and Sendai Framework. All the others are heading toward collapse.

“In all of these scenarios except for 'stable earth', the achievement of global targets and accompanying frameworks is negatively impacted," the report states. "Furthermore, in the absence of change, scenarios 'Earth under uncertainty' and 'Earth under threat' tend towards that of 'global collapse'.”

The paper explains that, by adopting a systems analysis, it is possible to see how “the crossing of one planetary boundary systematically results in the crossing of others”. They are crucial to providing a ‘safe operating space’ for human societies to develop within a stable earth system, “with the passing of these boundaries subsequently, and most likely resulting in societal destabilisation and potential GCR events”.

Global Catastrophic Risk (GCR) events are defined as those leading to more than 10 million fatalities or greater than $10 trillion in damages.

The paper’s worst-case global collapse scenario is described as the result of multiple planetary boundaries being breached, increasing the likelihood of GCR events that set in motion a sequence of economic and political breakdowns, which further drive ecological collapse processes.

In this scenario, “total societal collapse is a possibility”, the paper warns.

“This scenario presents a world where planetary boundaries have been extensively crossed, and if GCR events have not already occurred or are in the process of occurring, then their likelihood of doing so in the future is extreme," the paper says. "In this scenario, global targets have most likely not been achieved, and the resulting collapse of society in this scenario means that the future achievement of any global targets is unlikely, and total societal collapse is a possibility. Disaster risk reduction has not been successful and disasters are common, with disaster events as well as GCR events such as pandemics increasing.”

It goes on to suggest that, in such a scenario, without policy changes designed to mitigate risks and make the global system more resilient and adaptable, "the crossing of planetary boundaries is likely to exacerbate GCR risk, with large and complex environmental feedback loops leading to further environmental and social collapse" and that "depending on the extent of the crossing of the planetary boundaries and the severity of any GCR events that may have occurred, policy interventions that are not drastic are unlikely to improve society and a reactive policy approach will need to be taken".

That scenario leads to extremely limited international cooperation, in turn creating a higher risk of global or environmental conflict as the environment degrades, “with potential forced migrations of people from uninhabitable areas that in turn has the potential to heighten GCR by making events such as a pandemic or nuclear war more likely”.

While the global collapse scenario represents the worst-case, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that we can see signs of it emerging today. Of greater concern is that the two other scenarios explored by the paper still tend toward this worst-case scenario.

In the earth under threat scenario, “planetary boundaries have been crossed past a safe limit, or there is a large degree of uncertainty as to humanity’s position relative to the boundaries with strong suspicion and evidence of some if not all having been crossed”. We appear to be either very close to reaching this point, or have already reached it.

The UN paper adds: “Whilst GCR is low and GCR events are unlikely to occur, the complex feedback loops that operate between the planetary boundaries are likely to increase the likelihood of GCR events occurring in the near future.”

The paper argues that political and global instability will be exacerbated by “a quickly degrading environment” which could further “drive conflict and hinder future progress towards achieving global targets. In this scenario, the world is on a path towards a global collapse scenario, where GCR events are occurring unless considerable preventive and reactive policy interventions that are ambitious are globally adopted and successfully undertaken”.

Even in the Earth under uncertainty scenario, where “planetary boundaries have not been extensively crossed, or there is a high level of uncertainty as to humanity’s position relative to the boundary”, we would still be in a position where “GCR risk is high, with the likelihood of a GCR event being extreme or a GCR event having already occurred or in the process of occurring”.

Avoiding Collapse

Despite the potential to achieve some global targets and international cooperation, the paper concludes that only further ambitious policy changes can “ensure that development targets are achieved and the world is not pushed towards a Global Collapse scenario”.

The paper states: “The scenario analysis undertaken illustrates a dangerous tendency for the world to tend towards the Global Collapse scenario,”

Although “reactive” policies are necessary to mitigate existing risks, the paper calls for a focus on “preventive” policies to build greater system resilience and to avoid further crossing planetary boundaries.

In particular, it calls for “the creation of a planetary boundaries goal” in the next version of the SDGs adopted after 2030, along with “the incorporation of GCR into the targets”.

A Diluted Narrative?

As I had found in 2017 as a researcher at Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute, the process of global societal collapse is likely to accelerate as a self-reinforcing feedback loop between human system destabilisation (HSD) and earth system disruption (ESD).

In this feedback loop, earth system disruptions – in this case, triggered by breaching of planetary boundaries – destabilise social, political and economic institutions. This, in turn, inhibits successful policy responses to ESD, leaving the planet vulnerable to further ESD outbreaks.

The result is a feedback effect in which HSD and ESD occur in an amplifying cycle with the potential to culminate in a dramatic loss of complexity in the human system – what might be defined as a collapse.

The UN Global Assessment Report, and its contributing paper by Thomas Cernev, offer scenarios that are consistent with this process – but it is not clear whether any of these scenarios have actually begun, only that currently the world is tending dangerously toward them.

No precise timescales are identified in the documents and neither the UN nor Cernev have responded to requests for comment from Byline Times.

But there are reasons to suspect that a collapse process has already started, even if it is still possible to rein in.

A senior advisor to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and contributor to the Global Assessment Report who spoke to Byline Times on condition of anonymity, claims that the GAR2022 was watered-down before public release.

The source said that the world had “passed a point of no return" and "I don’t feel that this is being properly represented in UN or media as of now”.

“The GAR2022 is an eviscerated skeleton of what was included in earlier drafts,” they claimed.

The UN GAR2022 is a landmark document. It is the first time that the United Nations has clearly underscored the impending risk of “total societal collapse” if the human system continues to cross the planetary boundaries critical to maintaining a safe operating space for the earth system.

Yet, despite this urgent warning, not only has it fallen on deaf ears, the UN itself appears to have diluted its own findings. Like the fictional film Don't Look Up, we are more concerned with celebrity gossip and political scandals, seemingly unable – or unwilling – to confront the most important challenge that now faces us as a species.

Either way, these UN documents show that recognising the risk of collapse is not about doom-mongering, but about understanding risks so we can make better choices and avoid worst-case outcomes. As the report acknowledges, there is still much that can be done. But the time for action is not after 2030. It’s now.

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Doubts Cast Over Home Secretary’s Claim that EU has Resettled Refugees in Rwanda

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 23/05/2022 - 6:45pm in

The Home Office's evidence for the claim pointed to the UNHCR's Emergency Transit Mechanism – but this scheme differs from the UK's plans to resettle people who arrive in the UK 'illegally' to Rwanda

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Questions have been raised about the Home Secretary assertion to MPs that the European Union has resettled individuals in Rwanda. 

Speaking at a House of Commons debate on 19 April about the controversial plan to send people who enter the UK via irregular routes to Rwanda, Priti Patel defended the policy to the Scottish National Party’s Joanna Cherry who had raised concerns about Rwanda’s human rights record.

“Over 130,000 refugees have been resettled in Rwanda and, it is not just a safe country, but one where both the [United Nations refugee agency] UNHCR and the EU have resettled individuals,” Patel said. 

But there are questions around her claims.

A Freedom of Information request submitted to the Home Office asked for clarification on what the UK Government knows about the EU resettling migrant people to Rwanda.

In response, the Home Office said: “It is correct to say that UNHCR and the EU have worked together to resettle refugees to Rwanda, in particular through the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM)”.

To support this assertion, the Home Office shared an article from the UNHCR website titled 'ETM Rwanda: EU Support Helps UNHCR to Bring Fresh Hope to a Young Refugee'. However, the article shows profound differences between the support the EU provides the UNHCR with the ETM; and the proposal to resettle people who arrive in the UK via irregular routes to Rwanda where they can claim asylum and who will not be able to return to the UK once their asylum claim has been processed.

One is a scheme partly-funded by the EU that evacuates African refugees to a transit facility in Rwanda, where they can make decisions about their future and be resettled elsewhere. The other is a policy that sends migrant people from a place of safety in the UK to a country where they are unlikely to have any ties. 

There is no evidence cited by either the Home Office or the article it shared that the EU itself has resettled individuals in Rwanda.

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A Home Office press officer insisted to Byline Times that the EU “has a scheme” (providing funding to the ETM) to resettle refugees to Rwanda, from where they are free to move to a new home.

They also said the Migration and Economic Development Partnership resettles people who “enter the UK illegally” to Rwanda where they are not detained and where they can receive support, claim asylum or – as per the ETM – move elsewhere. The press officer pointed to a fact sheet on the partnership. 

The fact sheet explains that "people will have all their needs looked after while their asylum claims are being considered in Rwanda. This includes safe and clean accommodation, food, healthcare and amenities. They will have full access to translators and will be able to access legal support in order to appeal decisions in Rwanda’s courts".

People who are "relocated" to the country "will be given a generous support package, including up to five years of training, accommodation and healthcare". They are "free to leave" if they wish.

Sile Reynolds, head of asylum advocacy at Freedom from Torture, told Byline Times: "The Emergency Transit Mechanism is an urgent humanitarian evacuation programme, designed to move vulnerable and traumatised refugees from a situation of immediate danger, to a temporary transit location in Rwanda before they are ultimately resettled in Europe or North America.

"It could not be more different to the UK’s Rwanda scheme which moves refugees from a place of safety to one of danger and insecurity. This is nothing more than a cynical and cack-handed attempt to distract critics from the brutality and unfairness of the Rwanda scheme.”

The UNHCR has strongly criticised the agreement between the UK and Rwanda, saying that it "threatens the international refugee protection regime". Following a meeting with Priti Patel and Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta in Geneva on 19 May, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi reiterated these concerns.

The Difference Between the ETM and UK's Rwanda Scheme

The Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) is a humanitarian solution introduced by the UNHCR to address the torture and exploitation of asylum seekers and refugees in Libya. It helps evacuate people held in detention in Libya to a safe country such as Rwanda or Niger.

The article shared in the FOI response by the Home Office provides a case study of 18-year-old Beza Yimesgen, who was smuggled to Libya and endured human trafficking, rape and torture before being held in detention. Under the ETM, Beza was evacuated to Rwanda transit facility in Gashora. She is now set to be resettled by the UNHCR to Canada. 

The Eu was one of the first bodies to fund the ETM when it was proposed, donating €12.5 million from the EU Trust Fund for Africa. The money helped the UNHCR to evacuate people such as Beza.

“The European Union and its member states are among the largest partners of UNHCR globally, but also to the Rwanda Operation,” said Ahmed Baba Fall, UNHCR Representative in Rwanda, quoted in the article. 

“Their remarkable contributions to the ETM programme in Rwanda, as well as the generous resettlement pledges clearly demonstrate a genuine humanitarian commitment to the refugee cause. I would like to commend the EU for helping us make a new start, new hopes for these vulnerable refugees.”

The ETM evacuates people to a transit facility, like the one in Gashora, where the UNHCR can determine their refugee status and support them to either be resettled in a third country, return to their country of origin, or resettle in Rwanda. Of the 824 who have been received into the system, just over half have been resettled overseas and none have opted to remain in Rwanda.

The clue, however, appears to be in the name: transit facility. This is not a permanent home, but a place where people can start to determine their futures after abuse and violence while receiving medical and psychosocial support. 

Just over 50% of people evacuated to Gashora have moved on to Sweden; while 26.9% have gone to Canada. 17.7% were resettled in Norway; 3.8% in France; and 0.8% in Belgium. All the people evacuated to Gashora were from other African countries.

This seems very different from the EU resettling people seeking asylum in Rwanda, which would involve sending people who are from, or who have arrived into, an EU country to Rwanda permanently – rather than supporting evacuation efforts from Libya to a transit facility. 

It is also profoundly different to the policy agreed by the British and Rwandan Governments. 

The Memorandum of Understanding agreed by Britain and Rwanda allows the Home Office to transport people who arrive in the UK via irregular routes – such as small boats across the Channel – to Rwanda. Once they arrive in the central African nation, they are expected to apply for asylum in Rwanda or leave to go elsewhere. If their asylum claim is successful, they can remain in Rwanda – if not, they will be deported to their country of origin or apply for another form of leave to remain. 

The two policies are not the same – raising questions as to why the Home Office is using a different model as evidence to support the Home Secretary's claims that the EU has resettled refugees in Rwanda. 

The evidence provided by the Home Office does not suggest that the evacuations carried out under the ETM are anything like the resettlement policy introduced by the UK Government – or that the EU has itself resettled refugees to Africa.

“The Government is well aware that anyone transferred to Rwanda under the scheme will not receive anything like the healthcare, accommodation, trauma rehabilitation or durable solution offered through the ETM,” Sile Reynolds added.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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Sanctioned Russian Firms Allowed to Flaunt Human Rights, Anti-Corruption Credentials by UN

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 30/03/2022 - 10:09pm in

Have Kremlin-backed companies used the international peace system to launder their reputations? Dimitris Dimitriadis explores

Sanctioned Russian companies are still being listed as participants of a United Nations initiative with an emphasis on human rights and anti-corruption, the Byline Intelligence Team can reveal. 

The United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), which describes itself as the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, recently launched a guide to mobilise businesses to “urgently respond to Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis”. The Compact’s CEO has also echoed the remarks of the Secretary General deploring “in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine”. 

But the UNGC still lists 85 companies from the Russian Federation as participants. Among them are several businesses that are controlled by the Kremlin and are currently under Western sanctions. Those include banks, Sovcombank, Alfa Bank and Sberbank, as well as Russian Railways and the world’s largest diamond producer, Alrosa – all of which have been recently targeted by UK sanctions against the “vital industries fuelling Putin’s war machine”. 

Another participant, which claims to have committed to promoting human rights as part of the Compact’s ‘10 Principles’, is Gazprom. The energy giant’s CEO, Igor Sechin, has been described as “Putin’s right hand man” by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, and is sanctioned by the UK, the US and the EU.

Even as Russian troops were amassing on the Ukrainian border in early February, Rosneft – another oil and gas behemoth backed by the Kremlin – was celebrating its status as a lead participant of the Compact, a special category reserved for companies “identified annually for their high levels of engagement”. 

In an announcement in September 2021, Sanda Ojiambo, CEO of the Compact, said: “More than ever, the world needs different companies that, like the lead members announced today, are continually working to improve sustainability outcomes and are committed to making the world a better place.”

Even though Rosneft has been suspended from trading its global depository receipts on the London Stock Exchange, while the head and one of its subsidiaries has been subject to UK sanctions, the energy giant still lists itself as a Global Compact lead.

The same applies to PhosAgro, a major fertiliser producer whose CEO was recently targeted by EU sanctions, which claims to be a lead participant on its profile. 

Web archives from March 2021 indicate that Sakhalin Energy Investment Company, a consortium of oil and gas producers including Gazprom, was also a lead participant – though that has now been removed from its profile.

Another Russian oil major still listed as a UNGC participant is Lukoil, which is also under US sanctions. Also listed are EN+ and Rusal, some of whose shareholders have been hit with Western sanctions. 

The Compact says on its website that participation in the initiative does not equate to an endorsement of a company’s credentials. It is down to individual companies to self-report and track their progress against the UNGC’s principles, which include a commitment to human rights, anti-corruption and the environment. 

Where annual revenues exceed $50 million, companies are also required to make a financial contribution which, depending on their status – participant or signatory – ranges from $2,500 to USD $20,000 per year. 

In exchange, they gain a range of benefits including “unprecedented networking access”, “tools, resources and training” and “the moral authority, knowledge and experience of the United Nations”.

Of the Russian companies listed on the Compact’s website, those that have been hit by Western sanctions – or have seen key shareholders affected – they would normally pay the UNGC some $455,000 a year. This does not include any additional voluntary contributions.

With the UK Government facing continuing scrutiny over its normalisation of commercial and political relationships with Russian interests over recent years, it’s also worth considering how the same is true for international organisations.

Indeed, Parliament’s 2020 Intelligence and Security Committee report into Russian interference explains how Russian oligarchs have used the city of London to launder their reputations. The above evidence suggests that the same may be true for otherwise well-meaning corporate ethics initiatives.

The UNGC did not respond to Byline Times’ request for comment.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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‘Pink-Eyed Terminators’: Successive Conservative Governments Have Ignored Official Warnings About the Growing Threat of Nuclear War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 18/03/2022 - 12:20am in

‘Pink-Eyed Terminators’Successive Conservative Governments have IgnoredOfficial Warnings about the Growing Threat of Nuclear War

TJ Coles reviews the ways in which Russian nuclear escalation has been mapped by experts

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Every few years, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) updates its Strategic Trends Programme: a publication of the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC). Since at least 2007, when the documents became publicly available and continuing through several Conservative and Conservative-led governments, the DCDC has warned of the growing threat of nuclear war and/or accident.

Far from de-escalating, these Conservative governments have either not acted, or have behaved in ways that have increased the risk.

One such MoD document, Future Operating Environment, published during the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition years, predicted trends out to 2035. It made the hair-raising prediction that, “limited tactical nuclear exchanges… cannot be ruled out”.

Smaller, more targeted nukes (so-called “tactical” weapons) could be used by “non-Western states… as a way of limiting or de-escalating conflict”. But it concludes that escalation could easily occur: “any land-based nuclear response could be seen as an unjustified escalation, in light of the nature of the weapon, civilian casualties and its impact on the environment”.

This is relevant to the present crisis because Russia ensures operational freedom in Ukraine by threatening to use nuclear weapons if the West directly intervenes. If Russia uses a “tactical” nuclear weapon it would be a warning to the West not to interfere. However, as other MoD documents explain, such complicated environments greatly increase the risk of retaliation and accidental escalation.

Sky News recently asked Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove whether Russian President Vladimir Putin could use nuclear weapons. “Yes”, Gove responded, “I think he’s operating according to a set of criteria totally detached from those which you or I would consider to be reasonable or rational”.


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Shortly after Gove made his remarks, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Russian attacks could soon reach NATO member states.

Founded in 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists consists of nuclear weapons and other military experts, whose infamous Doomsday Clock approaches or retreats from midnight depending on the global situation. In 2020, the Bulletin dispensed with minutes and moved to seconds. The clock hands are currently 100 seconds from Doomsday.

On 27 February, Putin raised his nuclear ‘deterrent’ level to “a special regime of combat duty”. Bulletin contributor, Daryl G. Kimball, comments: “Nuclear threat rhetoric and orders to raise the operational readiness of Russian or US nuclear forces could be also misinterpreted in ways that lead [the] other side to make nuclear countermoves that lead to a dangerous escalation of tensions and fears of attack.”

Indeed, there is a long history of near-nuclear weapon launches due to escalation, miscommunication, and computer error.

But the MoD has been warning about this for years.

‘Limbless Chickens’

The first publicly-available DCDC document, published during the outgoing Tony Blair administration, predicted trends out to the year 2036. “Accelerating nuclear proliferation will create a more complex and dangerous strategic environment, with the likely clustering of nuclear-armed states in regions that have significant potential for instability or have fears about foreign intervention”, it reads [emphases in original text].

It also says that, “operations that threaten the personal or regime security of autocratic leaderships in nuclear-armed states will entail particular risk”.

Less specific, the now-archived Future Character of Conflict was published in the year that David Cameron became Prime Minister. “The risk of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) use will endure; indeed increase, over the long term,” it reads.

Similarly, the fourth edition of the Strategic Trends Programme says: “The likelihood of nuclear weapons usage will increase”.

Keeping in mind that the whole, professed purpose of possessing nukes is so that they never have to be used, the document adds, chillingly: “Some states may view tactical nuclear devices as weapons rather than deterrents”.

Likewise, a November 2015 DCDC report concerning the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) says: “Although there are currently no obvious sub-national groups within Russia, it is a powerful, nuclear armed state. If such an event were to occur” – the rise of rebel breakaway groups – “it would likely be catastrophic to peace and stability, not only in the BSR but in much of the wider world”.

The DCDC’s, The Future Starts Today, was published in 2018 – when Theresa May was Prime Minister. It predicted trends out to 2050.

“The number of nuclear-armed states could rise and increasing investment in tactical nuclear weapons and electromagnetic pulse weapons [EMPs] will increase the risk that nuclear weapons are used,” it says.

EMPs are often triggered when high-altitude nuclear weapons are detonated. They destroy electrical systems and can wreak havoc on civilian and military operations – attempting to disarm your opponents.

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The report goes on to note that “nuclear-armed states are in the process of modernising their arsenals” and that “the destructive power of each nuclear warhead has increased significantly since the first atomic weapons were used in World War Two”.

So-called strategic nukes are the powerful, Hiroshima-type weapons, designed for “mutual assured destruction”. But “tactical” weapons are designed to be used in so-called “limited” strikes.

“Russia’s growing emphasis on tactical nuclear weapons could heighten the likelihood that they will be used, perhaps to compensate for gaps in conventional capability,” the reports says, presciently.

It concludes that: “Future weapons could be deployed much more rapidly, reducing the amount of time available to determine if an attack is underway and what the appropriate response should be”.

It cautions that such a scenario “could heighten the risk of miscalculation, such as retaliation in response to a false alert. Since it may be harder in future to distinguish between a conventional or nuclear attack, the risk of nuclear response is also likely to increase.”


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Theresa May’s 2016 comments, that she would not hesitate to murder 100,000 civilians in a nuclear strike, were unsettling enough. But putting the launch codes into the hands of her successor Boris Johnson was another order of magnitude, especially as a new frontier – space – had become a domain of warfare.

A recent DCDC-RAND Corporation projection warns about the “threats of permanent or temporary degradation or denial of satellite capabilities [through]… exo-atmospheric nuclear attacks”.

In other words: a nuclear power could detonate a weapon in high orbit in order to frazzle the electronics in satellites and other orbital systems.

An Anglo-German collaboration further sketches the future of human-machine augmentation. The best that Prime Minister Johnson could do was to joke at the United Nations about living in a future of “pink-eyed terminators and limbless chickens”.

Published in May 2021, the report says: “there are many instances throughout history where people, not machines, have proven to be decisive”.

The implication is that one day, perhaps an informed human will not be present to de-escalate a conflict.

“Stanislav Petrov’s actions in 1983… averted a nuclear war by overriding a Soviet automated early warning system that had incorrectly identified a United States missile attack”, it notes.

The document concludes: “Today, the risk of over-relying on technology has perhaps never been greater.”

In December 2016, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to begin negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. 113 nations voted in favour; 35 opposed and 13 abstained. Britain joined Russia, as well as others (including the US and France), in rejecting the treaty.

Last year, under Johnson, the treaty came into force. The UN Association-UK (UNA-UK) explains that, in 2010, Britain agreed to the Non-Proliferation Treaty Conference outcome document, which requires signatories to “consider the legitimate interest of non-nuclear-weapon states”. The UNA-UK comments that: “The UK’s lack of engagement towards initiatives led by these states has … been surprising and concerning”.

While the media rightly focus on and criticises Putin’s illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine, we should remember that successive Conservative governments have been wilfully ignorant to our new nuclear realities – risking the fatal, global escalation of violence.

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