sábado, 6 de agosto de 2016

UNHCR steps up shelter programme in eastern Ukraine

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 5 August 2016, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Luhansk resident Petro (left) talks to a UNHCR staff member during a mission to the region in eastern Ukraine.  © UNHCR/Daria Volkova
For the first time in five months, UNHCR convoys have reached conflict-affected populations in the non-government controlled area of Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine, delivering vitally needed construction materials for thousands of people who had their homes damaged or destroyed during the conflict.
Two separate convoys of 25 trucks each travelled with support from the World Food Programme (WFP) and local partners to deliver supplies that will enable UNHCR to expand its shelter programme in the region. The first 25 trucks arrived on Thursday and delivered 23,000 roofing sheets to the UNHCR warehouse in Luhansk.
Another 25 trucks arrived today (Friday) with cement, bricks, roofing material, tarpaulins and nails as well as kitchen sets, jerry cans and shoe dryers for use in winter.
Despite the ceasefire agreed in 2015, the security situation in eastern Ukraine remains tense and volatile. Flare-ups of hostilities continue to lead to daily casualties among civilians and the destruction of homes. UNHCR estimates that some 10,000 houses in non-government controlled areas of Luhansk have been damaged as a result of the conflict.
Since the onset of the conflict in 2014, more than 2 million people have been forced to flee their homes to seek sanctuary elsewhere in the country or abroad. Nearly 800,000, including the elderly and others in the most vulnerable categories, remain in need of assistance in or close to the conflict zone.
Many homes damaged by shell and mortar fire had their windows and roofs blown off. During an assessment mission to Luhansk in May, UNHCR officials met 77-year-old former construction worker Petro and his wife. They had lived in a tiny basement room – the only part of their shelled home that protected them from snow, rain and wind – for more than two years.
UNHCR remains extremely concerned about restrictions on freedom of movement that have aggravated hardships for people like Petro, who must also struggle to have access to benefits and entitlements – including pensions – on the government-controlled side.
A major problem is the limited number of checkpoints to cross the front line. In the Luhansk region, only one pedestrian checkpoint in Stanitsa Luhanskaya remains open, with people queuing up to eight hours to cross. Long lines of 200-400 cars were observed this week at checkpoints in the Donetsk region.
The payment of social benefits and pensions to Internally Displaced Persons has been suspended until their residential addresses have been verified. This is a major challenge, especially for the elderly, people with disabilities and other individuals with specific needs who face insecurity while waiting for long hours at check points without shelter or adequate sanitation. UNHCR renews its call to all actors to guarantee unrestricted access to benefits and rights to all displaced persons, regardless of registration status or current place of residence.
The delivery of humanitarian assistance has decreased to non-government controlled areas in the Luhansk region, as many UN agencies have not been able to operate there since February 2015.
This year the UNHCR team in Luhansk, working with a local construction company and volunteers, and in coordination with local village administrators, plans to complete the rehabilitation of 1,500 damaged houses by October 2016, in addition to 1,500 households repaired in 2015. About 1,100 families in 15 villages located close to the dividing line have already received construction materials, but 40 per cent of the targeted population will not be able to complete shelter works without UNHCR’s support.
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Last Call to Cash In on a Vicious Civil War


Two-and-a-half years into South Sudan’s fighting, the U.N. might finally make it illegal to sell tanks and attack helicopters to the combatants.
Last Call to Cash In on a Vicious Civil War
Uganda, especially, has become a key supplier of weapons to South Sudan, purchasing weapons on behalf of its government from , among other countries. The South Sudanese government has also to buy four additional attack helicopters worth $35.7 million from a Kampala-based company called Bosasy Logistics. (It’s unclear whether that sale was ever completed.)
JUBA, South Sudan — Latjor Thiyang was sitting on his bed in a displacement camp protected by U.N. peacekeepers here in the South Sudanese capital of Juba last month when a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) crashed into his makeshift home and knocked him unconscious. Moments later, he came to with a river of blood flowing from his head, legs, and one of his arms.
“A rocket has pieces,” Thiyang later explained, producing what remained of the RPG’s shell. “Once it falls or it explodes, there are many pieces, which cause cuts and bleeding.”
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Roughly the length of an American football, though slightly slimmer, the shell probably came from a Type 69 RPG intended to destroy tanks, according to a weapons expert who reviewed photographs of the exploded rocket for Foreign Policy. It was most likely manufactured by Norinco, the Chinese state-owned arms dealer, and supplied to the South Sudanese government as part of a 2014 deal with the company worth $38 million for 40,000 such weapons, as well as 2 million rounds of ammunition and 2,394 grenade launchers, the expert said.
Since civil war broke out here in December 2013, the South Sudanese government has purchased hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of weapons and military hardware on the international market, including attack helicopters, armored personnel vehicles, and heat-guided missiles, that have been used to kill an unknown number of civilians — estimates for the total death toll over the last two-and-a-half years range from 50,000 to 300,000 — and to carry out what the United Nations has said may be war crimes. All of these weapons have been acquired legally, since the U.N. Security Council has declined to put in place an arms embargo despite repeated calls by European countries to do so. (Rebel forces also acquired weapons during the course of the war, but in smaller quantities and mainly from Sudan.)
One of the biggest impediments to an arms embargo was the United States, which helped negotiate South Sudan’s independence from Sudan in 2011 and remains an important backer of the young country. Since the beginning of the current civil war — which was supposed to have ended almost a year ago after President Salva Kiir signed a power-sharing agreement with rebel leader and former Vice President Riek Machar in August 2015 — the United States has used its position on the U.N. Security Council to shield the South Sudanese government from an arms embargo. U.S. officials offered various justifications for this position, including that a weapons ban would incentivize the government to escalate the war and that it wouldn’t work unless South Sudan’s neighbors agreed to enforce it. U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, whose involvement with South Sudan policy dates back to former President Bill Clinton’s administration, was reportedly one of the staunchest opponents of the proposed embargo.
But after fierce fighting erupted once again last month in Juba, leaving hundreds of people dead and casting doubt on the viability of the August 2015 peace agreement, U.S. officials are finally working behind the scenes to put an embargo in place. Last week, U.S. officials met with their Russian and Chinese counterparts at the U.N. to discuss a draft resolution containing an embargo, as well as a mandate for a new regional peacekeeping force, that could be brought to the full Security Council as early as Aug. 12.
The negotiations come at a perilous moment for South Sudan, with rebels threatening to march on the capital if a regional intervention force is not sent in to secure Juba and enforce a faltering peace agreement. The government, meanwhile, has said it won’t accept a regional force, and a military spokesman has threatened to fight foreign troops that enter the country without permission. More bloodshed could soon be on the horizon, and if the past is any guide, new weapons purchases will surely follow.
Experts say an arms embargo is unlikely to fully halt the flow of small arms or ammunition into South Sudan. Bullets are easily hidden and difficult to trace, making it simple for suppliers to skirt the ban. Likewise, light weapons like AK-type rifles are already common in even the most remote of villages. But where the ban would make a difference, experts say, is in prohibiting purchases of the kind of heavy military equipment — including vehicles and aircraft — that has been used with devastating effect against soldiers and civilians alike over the past two-and-a-half years.
Attack helicopters acquired in 2014 and 2015 gave the government a key military advantage, enabling it to roll back many of the rebels’ gains in the northern part of the country. The government purchased four Mi-24 helicopters during this period, at least three of them from a Ukrainian company as part of a $42.8 million deal. But rebel soldiers were not the only ones targeted. In July 2015, government Mi-24 helicopters fired rockets in what the U.N. called an “attack” on a Red Cross hospital in the town of Kodok, in Upper Nile state, killing two people and injuring 11. Attack helicopters were reportedly used again last month to bomb Machar’s compound in Juba during a week of fighting that left at least 500 people dead, including dozens of civilians.
Other heavy weapons purchased by the government during the war include Cougar- and Typhoon-type armored personnel carriers, supplied by a Canadian company, and what experts believe to be 10 Russian-made amphibious tanks whose seller remains a mystery. All of these vehicles appear to have been used to target civilians. During a scorched-earth offensive in Unity state last summer, for example, the government used amphibious tanks purchased in 2014 to chase “fighters and civilians into the swamps of the Sudd,” a U.N. report reads. Likewise, a 2015 Human Rights Watch report recounted scores of instances where government tanks were used to crush civilians during the same offensive.
An arms embargo would not only prevent the government from purchasing additional attack aircraft, tanks, and amphibious vehicles. It would mean that foreign personnel, like Ukrainian nationals who service the government’s Mi-24 helicopters, would have to leave the country, according to Lucas van de Vondervoort, a former member of the U.N. panel of experts for South Sudan. As a result, some equipment might eventually become inoperable.
An arms embargo would also provide a symbolic deterrent to countries funneling weapons to the warring parties. China pledged to suspend weapons transfers to the government after its Norinco shipment became public in 2014, prompting an outcry from rights groups, but other countries have stepped in to fill the void.
Uganda, especially, has become a key supplier of weapons to South Sudan, reportedly purchasing weapons on behalf of its government from Israel, among other countries.
On the rebels’ side, Sudan has been the major supplier of arms, at times airdropping weapons and ammunition deep into South Sudanese territory. In 2014, the weapons research organization Conflict Armament Research analyzed hundreds of small and heavy ammunition rounds that had been airdropped to rebels but later captured by the government. It found that a large portion of the ammunition was manufactured in Sudan after the civil war began — meaning that it would have been illegal to transfer had an arms embargo been in place.
The success of the proposed arms embargo will likely turn on the support of other African countries. Russia and China, which have vetoed similar measures in the past, are not expected to block the weapons ban if African countries present a unified front in favor of the embargo at the U.N. Security Council. Egypt could end up being the key vote, as Senegal and Angola — the two other African countries on the Security Council — are in favor of the proposal, according to foreign diplomats who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
South Sudan’s minister of information, Michael Makuei Lueth, opposed the idea of an embargo, saying it threatens the country’s sovereignty and would weaken the government more than the rebels.
“This is an elected government being equated with rebels,” Lueth told FP. “We are a sovereign state.… Why should others talk about an arms embargo simply because we are fighting rebels?”
Thiyang and other civilians in South Sudan are likely to suffer the most from renewed conflict. At the U.N. camp in Juba, a bullet was found behind one of the medical clinics that was hit during the recent round of fighting. It was manufactured in Sudan in 2014, according to the weapons expert who examined it for FP.
If an arms embargo is put in place, bullets like these will probably continue to fly. But larger weapons like the RPG that hit Thiyang’s house could become less common as both sides deplete their stocks. For a country perched on the brink of yet another civil war, that could be a step in the right direction.
Photo credit: CHARLES LOMODONG/AFP/Getty Images

domingo, 8 de maio de 2016

More than 50 mass graves found in former Isis territories in Iraq as evidence of genocide mounts

A UN envoy said government forces were uncovering evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity
Lizzie Dearden @lizziedearden 
para o The Independent, link original (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/more-than-50-mass-graves-found-in-former-isis-territories-in-iraq-as-evidence-of-genocide-mounts-a7018131.html)


 
An Iraqi security forces forensic team works at at the site of a mass grave, one of two discovered containing the bodies of dozens of men, women and children killed by Isis militants in Ramadi

More than 50 mass graves containing the bodies of men, women and children murdered by Isis have been uncovered in Iraq.

Government forces have been uncovering the sites one by one as they sweep territory formerly held by the so-called Islamic State, revealing further evidence of war crimes and possible genocide, a United Nations envoy said.

Jan Kubis, the Special Representative for Iraq, said the most recent grave was discovered at a football ground in Ramadi on 19 April, containing 40 bodies.

“As territory is retaken from the criminal and terrorist gangs of Daesh (Isis), evidence of the heinous crimes they have committed continues to be uncovered,” he told the UN Security Council on Friday. “More than 50 mass graves have been discovered so far in several areas of Iraq.”

Iraq exhumed 470 bodies from Tikrit mass graves (2015)

Mr Kubis warned that Isis continues atrocities against women and children in the country, including forcibly recruiting Yazidi boys as child soldiers, while the fate of thousands of women and girls from the religious minority remains unknown.

Although efforts by the Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional governments have led to some being released, he said “much more needs to be done”.

American defence officials have recently hailed the re-capture of up to 40 per cent of territory overrun by Isis in Iraq, with Barack Obama claiming the group’s fighters realised their “cause is lost” amid continuing air strikes and military operations.

But Mr Kubis said that civil unrest and a political deadlock in Baghdad, which saw hundreds of protesters storm parliament in a protest last month, was serving the interests of Isis and other militant groups.

“Despite the notable and consistent progress on the ground against Isil (Isis), it remains a formidable and determined enemy that constantly adjusts its tactics and attack patterns,” he added.

“Isil cannot be defeated by military means alone. Without addressing the root causes of violent extremism and the underlying ideology, efforts will not be sustainable and lasting.”

The envoy said that military victories must be accompanied by rehabilitation efforts, the rule of law and unified government to fight the ideology of Isis, which originally started as a band of jihadist militants in Iraq.


Read more
How close is Isis to losing the war?

Supporters of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have been holding demonstrations and sit-ins for months to demand an overhaul of the political system put in place by the US following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, culminating in the storming of parliament on 30 April.

Iraq's ambassador to the UN, Mohamed Alhakim, said the country's leaders and elected political blocs are working to implement the prime minister's reform programme.

In a speech to the Security Council, he said: “The year 2016 is a crucial year for Iraq, it is crucial for combatting terrorism and recovering all the territory taken over by the (Isis) terrorist gangs,” he said.

He urged the US-led international coalition to target Mosul, the country's second-largest city and Isis’ de-facto capital in Iraq.

An Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighter fires at Islamic-State (IS) militant positions, from his position on the top of Mount Zardak (Getty)

Government control is gradually expanding in Anbar province, with the re-capture of Hit last month hoped to pave the way for further gains in Salah al-Din, Kirkuk and Nineveh provinces.

Britain and other nations in the US-led coalition are conducting air strikes in support of Iraqi forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga, as well as targeting senior Isis officials and positions.

But there have been set-backs, including the death of a US Navy Seal in battles against Isis north of Mosul.

The Pentagon originally said Charles Keating died while “advising” Kurdish troops miles behind the frontlines, but footage obtained after his death showed fierce battles after their vehicles were attacked outside the town of Tel Osqof, which was later secured.

Additional reporting by AP

segunda-feira, 18 de abril de 2016

Burundi election: President Pierre Nkurunziza's victory has reignited fears of genocide like that endured by Rwanda | Africa | News | The Independent

Jessica Hatcher talks to opponents in the capital Bujumbura, desperate for UN intervention after the brutal deaths of hundreds
Jessica Hatcher Bujumbura 
Friday 13 November 2015

The violence in Burundi has continued to escalate since May’s presidential election, during which police officers fired at and beat anti-government protesters in the capital EPA


Many of the dead never make it to the morgue. Bodies are found bloated in drainage canals and rivers, or bloodied on the streets. The “before” and “after” photographs – a graduation picture and a mutilated corpse – are common. 

Janvier, a 22-year-old who refuses to give his surname, wants to go to university. For now, amid fears of another genocide in Burundi, he just hopes to stay alive. “If three or four hundred have been killed in six months, what will happen in five years?” he asks.

Official estimates put the number of dead in the East African country at 240; anecdotally, the estimates are far higher. The crisis began in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza declared that he would seek a third term in office – and escalated when he won a contested vote in July. 

This week, as Mr Nkurunziza’s deadline for protesters to hand in their arms passed and amid rhetoric closely associated with the Rwandan genocide, calls were made for UN peacekeepers to enter Burundi. “Nkurunziza has a strategy of eliminating all his opponents one by one,” said Janvier, who claims to have been beaten by police. 
Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza

Burundi has suffered two ethnic slaughters in the past 50 years. The country’s 12-year civil war, which pitted rebels of the Hutu majority against the Tutsi-led army, claimed 300,000 lives a decade ago. The same ethnic divide fuelled the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda, in which 800,000 mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. 

In Kamenge, a district of the capital Bujumbura, the body of a young man has lain in the four-berth cooler fridge at the Roi Khaled hospital morgue for four weeks now. Police delivered his bullet-ridden corpse to morgue officials on 18 October. If no one arrives to identify and bury him, it will be another job for the local council. 

One 54-year-old man, Eloi Ndimira, was reportedly found beaten, stabbed and shot, his heart removed from his chest, after he intervened when police were beating someone on the street. In Mutakura, to the north of the capital, residents unearthed a decaying, unknown man from beneath a maize crop. 

Janvier’s theory – “one by one” – is a sentiment shared by many Burundians who oppose Mr Nkurunziza. “The government, they organised to kill everybody who is against this government, one by one,” said Pierre Bigirindavyi.
A protester sets up a barricade during a protest against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza

Mr Bigirindavyi says his older brother, Zacharia, was forced to lie on his front before being shot in the back of his head by men in police uniform last Saturday. He was one of 10 men killed that night, seven of them in a small, neighbourhood bar. Families of victims have received anonymous threats, warning them not to talk or they will be next. 

The government accuses the opposition of the murders to garner international sympathy. “The opposition has been killing innocent people and throwing corpses in the street,” said Willy Nyamitwe, a spokesperson for Mr Nkurunziza, “to attract attention from the international community, who say the government is killing its people.” 

“There will be killing, but there will not be what we call genocide,” says a senior Burundian political analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity, who believes the government is responsible for a majority of the attacks. 

“The President has no chance – he knows human rights groups are recording all the extrajudicial killings, assassinations, torture. He knows he’ll be arrested in the end by an international tribunal so he wants to achieve as much as he can.”

A UN Security Council resolution on Thursday called for urgent talks and for the groundwork to be laid for peacekeepers to pull the country back from the brink of “possible genocide”. On Friday, Belgium advised its citizens to leave Burundi due to the potential for violence, while the European Union said it was evacuating families and non-essential staff.
Police point a rifle at protesters who erected a barricade in protest against Pierre Nkurunziza

Burundi’s government did not specifically respond to the Security Council’s call to look at boosting the UN presence. Instead, it said the resolution was “generally speaking” in line with its view and its desire for dialogue. Charles Nditije, the head of the opposition Uprona group, told Reuters: “We deplore, however, that they [the UN] didn’t decide to deploy peace enforcement forces in the near future.”

A former Belgian Foreign Minister, Louis Michel, warned on Wednesday that the hate speech being used by senior politicians in Burundi is reminiscent of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. 

“Today, the police shoot in the legs... but when the day comes that we tell them to go to ‘work’, do not come crying to us,” the President of the Burundian senate said last week. The “work” is a euphemism used in Rwanda to describe the mass killings of 1994. 

One man was found beaten, stabbed and shot – with his heart removed from his chest

In late October, police opened fire on mourners travelling back from a funeral, killing at least one person and injuring a dozen more. The government said the police were fired on first. Since the incident, many in the capital are too afraid to attend the burials of their dead.

It was fun at the start of the unrest, says Janvier, recalling the protest movement that sprang up at the end of April and snowballed into an attempt to dislodge President Nkurunziza, led by dissident factions within the military. 

Every morning, Janvier would wake at 7am, hurry to meet the hundreds of other young men and women from his home in the district of Musaga who were protesting, and march under the hot sun all day, singing the national anthem, marching, laughing, and taunting police who prevented them from reaching the city centre. 

After the attempted coup in May, when Mr Nkurunziza was briefly forced out of power by General Godefroid Niyombare, everything changed. The government accused the protesters of being terrorists, and instructed police to use all force necessary to put down any protests. 

In September, Janvier claims he spent a week in prison being systematically beaten, interrogated by the dreaded “Documentation”, or secret service, which human rights groups say has carried out some of these extrajudicial killings. 

“We’re going to kill you,” Janvier said policemen told him, as he lay quivering on the floor of the prison. Since then, like many young men in Musaga, he sleeps in a different house every night in order to avoid being caught.

domingo, 17 de abril de 2016

Cientistas descobrem outro oceano debaixo da terra na cidade de Juína MT

Pesquisadores descobriram um pequeno diamante que aponta para a existência de um grande depósito de água sob o manto da Terra. Seu volume poderia preencher três vezes os oceanos que conhecemos.

REPRODUÇÃO

O principal autor do estudo, Graham Pearson, membro da Universidade de Alberta, no Canadá, disse que “Uma das razões da Terra ser um planeta dinâmico é a presença de água em seu interior. As mudanças da água dependem da forma como o mundo funciona”.

Depois de discutir a teoria há décadas, os cientistas relatam que finalmente encontraram um grande oceano no manto da Terra, três vezes maior do que os oceanos que conhecemos.

Esta descoberta surpreendente sugere que a água da superfície vem do interior do planeta como parte de um ciclo integrado da água, desbancando a teoria dominante de que a água foi trazida para a Terra por cometas gelados que passaram por aqui há milhões anos.

Cada vez mais os cientistas estão aprendendo sobre a composição de nosso planeta, compreendendo os acontecimentos relacionados às mudanças climáticas. O clima e o mar estão intimamente relacionados com a atividade tectônica que tem estado continuamente vibrando sob nossos pés.

Assim, os pesquisadores acreditam que a água na superfície da Terra poderia ter vindo do interior do planeta, tendo sido “impulsionada” para a superfície por meio da atividade geológica.

Depois de inúmeros estudos e cálculos complexos para testar suas teorias, os pesquisadores acreditam ter encontrado um reservatório gigante de água numa zona de transição entre as camadas superior e inferior do manto, uma região que se encontra em algum lugar entre 400 e 660 km abaixo da superfície da terra.

Como sabemos, a água ocupa a maior parte da área de superfície do nosso planeta, que é paradoxalmente chamado de Terra. Embora seja verdade que, em comparação com o diâmetro terrestre a profundidade dos oceanos represente apenas uma fina camada semelhante à casca de uma cebola, descobrimos agora que a presença deste precioso líquido não está limitada à superfície visível.

Na realidade, a cerca de centenas de quilômetros de profundidade no subsolo há também enormes volumes de água, com uma importância fundamental para a compreensão da dinâmica geológica do planeta. Quase um oceano no centro da Terra.

A descoberta do oceano subterrâneo

A importante descoberta foi realizada por pesquisadores canadenses, que se basearam em um diamante encontrado numa rocha, em 2008, em uma área conhecida como Juína, no estado do Mato Grosso, Brasil.

A descoberta ocorreu por acidente, pois a equipe que estava, na realidade, à procura de outro mineral, ter comprado o diamante de alguns garimpeiros que o tinham encontrado através de uma coleta de cascalho realizada em um rio raso. Ao analisar a pedra detalhadamente um estudante descobriu, um ano depois, que o diamante, de apenas três milímetros de diâmetro e de pouco valor comercial, continha em sua composição um mineral chamado ringwoodite, que até agora só tinha sido encontrado em rochas de meteoritos e que contém significativa quantidade de água. No entanto, a confirmação final da presença deste mineral levou muitos anos, pois foi necessária a realização de vários testes e análises científicas.

De onde vem este mineral?

A análise detalhada da amostra encontrada revelou que, neste caso, o mineral não provinha de meteoritos, mas do manto da Terra, a uma profundidade de cerca de 410 e 660 km, em uma área que é conhecida como “zona de transição”.

Anteriormente, discutia-se muito sobre a possibilidade da existência de grandes quantidades de água muitos quilômetros abaixo do subsolo, mas nunca tinha sido antes demonstrada nenhuma prova real de tal teoria, que tem implicações muito importantes para a forma como entendemos os fenômenos geológicos planetários, pois acredita-se que este é o mineral mais abundante na zona do manto. Desta forma, como a amostra encontrada possui até 1,5 por cento de seu peso em água, pode-se afirmar que existem volumes de água realmente extraordinários, como um grande oceano.

Esta descoberta é, sem dúvida, uma das mais importantes realizadas no campo da geologia nos últimos anos, e forçará os peritos a modificarem, até certo ponto, a abordagem que se tem utilizado até agora para analisar fenômenos como vulcanismo, placas tectônicas e muitos outros processos de importância na compreensão da dinâmica da Terra – cujo nome, depois dessa descoberta, se tornou ainda mais paradoxal.

A peculiaridade desta descoberta é que esta água não existe em qualquer um dos três estados que conhecemos: líquido, sólido ou gasoso. A água foi encontrada em estruturas moleculares de formações rochosas no interior da Terra.

Uma concentração tão importante de água trás uma mudança significativa nas teorias relacionadas com a origem da água na superfície da Terra.

Esta descoberta é a prova de que nas partes mais profundas do nosso planeta, a água pode ser armazenada. Fato este que poderá colocar fim em uma polêmica de 25 anos, sobre se o centro da terra é seco ou úmido em algumas áreas.

A capacidade de armazenar água em seu interior não é exclusiva da Terra. Outros planetas, como Marte, podem conter grandes quantidades de água, algo que nos faz pensar se o planeta vermelho poderia abrigar vida.

Por Ecoportal.net em Ciência e Tecnologia – Descobertas

quinta-feira, 14 de abril de 2016

Israel’s ‘weapon exports to Rwanda during genocide’ to stay secret, following Supreme Court ruling

Between 800,000 and 1 million people were killed over the course of 100 days in Rwanda in 1994 
20 hours ago

Metal racks hold the bones of thousands of Rwandan Genocide victims inside one of the crypts at the Nyamata Catholic Church Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Documents detailing Israel’s alleged defence exports to Rwanda during the country’s civil war and genocide in the 1990s are to remain sealed, the country’s Supreme Court has ruled.

Two years ago Professor Yair Auron and attorney Eitay Mack submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Israel’s defence ministry to discover the nature of any arms exports made to Rwanda between 1990 and 1995, the Times of Israel reports.

Between 800,000 and 1 million people were killed over the course of 100 days in Rwanda in 1994 during the civil war, kick started by the death of the Hutu President Juvenal Habyrimana whose plane was shot down over Kigali airport.

Weapons used in the genocide allegedly included Israeli-made 5.56mm bullets, rifles and grenades, the newspaper reports, but information apparently detailing this is sealed in the contested documentation.

Mr Auron and Mr Mack’s request reportedly stated: “According to various reports in Israel and abroad, the defence exports to Rwanda ostensibly violated international law, at least during the period of the weapons embargo imposed by the UN Security Council.”

The request was denied by the Ministry of Defence and later by the Tel Aviv District Court, upholding the argument that the release of information would undermine state security and international relations.

The Supreme Court has also rejected the appeal for the documents to be released, stating: “We found that under the circumstances the disclosure of the information sought does not advance the public interest claimed by the appellants to the extent that it takes preference and precedence over the claims of harm to state security and international relations,” Haaretz reports.

Mr Mack responded to the decision by calling it “mistaken and immoral,” but said that “at no point during the proceedings was there a denial that there were defence exports during the genocide,” and vowed to “continue to fight to expose the truth”.

terça-feira, 12 de abril de 2016

Boko Haram: soaring numbers of children used in suicide attacks, says Unicef | Global development | The Guardian

Boko Haram: soaring numbers of children used in suicide attacks, says Unicef

Across north-east Nigeria and neighbouring countries, 44 children were used in suicide attacks in 2015, three-quarters of them girls
 omen and girls freed from Boko Haram in 2015, in the Sambisa Forest, Borno state, Nigeria. Photograph: Nigerian Army/EPA

Tuesday 12 April 2016 10.55 BSTLast modified on Tuesday 12 April 201611.43 BST

The number of children used in suicide attacks by Boko Haram has soared 11-fold over the past year, with more than three-quarters of bombings now carried out by girls, according to a Unicef report, Beyond Chibok (pdf).

Data from the UN children’s agency shows that 44 children were used in suicide attacks in north-east Nigeria and neighbouring countries in 2015, compared with four the previous year.

Between January 2014 and February 2016, there were 40 suicide attacks involving one child or more: 21 in Cameroon; 17 in Nigeria, and two in Chad.


The figures, released to mark the second anniversary of the abduction of more than 200 girls from the Nigerian town of Chibok, show that children now account for nearly a fifth of all suicide bombers in Cameroon, Nigeria and Chad.

Last year, children were used in half the attacks in Cameroon, one in eight in Chad, and one in seven in Nigeria. Girls accounted for three-quarters of child suicide bombers in 2015.

“Over the past year, the estimated number of bomb attacks in north-east Nigeria and neighbouring countries has increased sharply,” says the report, Beyond Chibok.

“The proportion of attacks involving boys and girls is also on the rise, with children as young as eight. The use of children, especially girls, as suicide bombers has become one of the defining and alarming features of the conflict.”

Unicef said 2015 had seen not only an increase in the overall number of suicide bombings but also the spread of the tactic beyond Nigeria’s borders for the first time.

Between the end of 2014 and the end of last year, the number of such attacks rose from 32 to 151. In 2015, 89 of these attacks were carried out in Nigeria, 39 in Cameroon, 16 in Chad and seven in Niger.

Manuel Fontaine, Unicef regional director for west and central Africa, said children used in suicide bombings should not be seen as willing combatants.

“Let us be clear: these children are victims, not perpetrators,” he said.

“Deceiving children and forcing them to carry out deadly acts has been one of the most horrific aspects of the violence in Nigeria and neighbouring countries.”

Fontaine said Boko Haram’s use of children was having a corrosive social effect as communities began to view them as threats, or shun those who have been abused.

Research from Unicef and International Alert suggests that women and girls who have been subjected to sexual violence by the group face discrimination and rejection by their families and communities when they return home.

“This suspicion towards children can have destructive consequences,” said Fontaine. “How can a community rebuild itself when it is casting out its own sisters, daughters and mothers?”

Boko Haram’s militant Islamic insurgency has forced more than 2.3 million people to flee their homes since May 2013 (pdf).

Across the four countries mentioned in the report, almost 1.3 million children have been displaced, about 1,800 schools are closed because they have been damaged, looted, burned down or are being used as shelters by displaced people, and more than 5,000 children are unaccompanied or have been separated from their parents.

Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, has claimed that the military has forced Boko Haram out of all towns and is isolating the group. But the violence that has plagued the country in recent years continues unabated. Last month, at least 24 people were killed in an attack on a mosque in the northern town of Maiduguri, the location of the government’s command centre for its campaign.

Despite the scale of the resultant humanitarian emergency, which Unicef describes as “one of the fastest growing displacement crises in Africa”, the international response has been sluggish. This year, the agency has only 11% of the $97m (£68m) it needs to fund its humanitarian response in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

What sort of justice do survivors of sexual war crimes want? | Erica Hall | Global development | The Guardian

Convicting perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict is a milestone but we also need to enable survivors to build their future
 
A South Sudanese survivor of sexual violence points out where she used to live in Unity state. Photograph: Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images


Erica Hall

The author is senior child rights policy adviser for World Vision

Tuesday 12 April 2016 12.23 BST

The House of Lords select committee on sexual violence in conflict released its report, Sexual Violence in Conflict: A War Crime, on Tuesday. It’s an assessment of the UK government’s work to stop people being raped during wars and of how best to support survivors. The inquiry touches on the accountability of perpetrators and justice for victims.

Surely, at the heart of this debate lies the bigger question of what is the purpose of a criminal justice system? Is it about bringing offenders to trial, increasing public safety, or providing support to victims? Or all three?

I have asked many survivors of sexual violence, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Rwanda, what justice means to them. Some say it means seeing their abuser in prison; others say not being blamed for what happened to them; some request cash for business start-ups to be financially independent. Still others want “justice” for their children born as a result of rape – to see them treated fairly by teachers and the wider community.

Equally, views on justice for crimes committed during an armed conflict vary widely – with debates around the value of national truth and reconciliation processes, and the ability of local courts to mete out impartial justice. There’s also the consideration of the role of courts such as the international criminal court(ICC) in ending war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

I believe that there is particular value in building legal precedent in international courts around war crimes, particularly gender-based crimes.

Last month, the judgment in the case of Jean-Pierre Bemba was a milestone – it was the first time the ICC found an individual guilty of sexual violence. The court also recognised sexual crimes against men as rape and not simply torture, as they had previously been classified. It also recognised the responsibility of commanders to prevent their troops from committing these crimes.

Bemba, a Congolese rebel leader and later vice-president of DRC, knew his troops were raping civilians in Central African Republic and did nothing to stop it or to punish the perpetrators. He was not directly involved in the crimes, but he is still guilty of rape as a war crime and a crime against humanity.

While Bemba’s lawyers are likely to appeal against the verdict, for now his conviction makes him accountable and offers some form of justice to the thousands of people whose lives were devastated by his need to control. Many see Bemba’s conviction as a victory in the battle to end impunity. But for survivors, other forms of justice are equally important.

Reparations are significant, both as a practical means of supporting survivors and as a symbolic gesture confirming that they are blameless.

The pending ICC case against Dominic Ongwen presents other legal dilemmas. Ongwen has been charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role as a commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). He has pleaded not guilty.

Ongwen was himself a victim of a war crime – he was abducted by the LRA when he was a child. And yet he has allegedly committed terrible crimes, including sexual crimes and recruiting children as soldiers. What is significant in this case are the charges of gender-based crimes – bringing to the forefront the LRA policy of forcing women and girls to be “wives” and bear children for the cause.

There are serious questions of how the indoctrination of Ongwen from a young age should factor into his defence.

I have met hundreds of people who were victims of the LRA and seen the physical, psychological and social impacts of their experiences. They have told me what they suffered and, for those who were abducted, what they were forced to do. And on occasion they speak of commanders like Ongwen. They are conflicted – they want justice for what has happened to them but they disagree on how to achieve it. It’s telling that when asked about their hopes for the future, most adults speak about hopes for their children – they have already given up on a future for themselves.

However we define justice or the purpose of the justice system, we need to enable survivors to build a future for themselves and their children. The House of Lords report and the work of the prime minister’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Lady Joyce Anelay, is much needed. My hope is that both will ensure the voices of survivors and children born of rape are central to the debate.

Erica Hall is a lawyer and senior child rights policy adviser for World Vision

The world looks away as blood flows in Burundi | Global development | The Guardian

More than a quarter of a million people have fled in terror as opposition militias plot their return. Without international assistance a humanitarian disaster looms
 
A child-friendly space in the Nyarugusu refugee camp in Tanzania. Photograph: Griff Tapper/IRC



Sunday 10 April 2016 07.05 BSTLast modified on Monday 11 April 201611.51 BST

Thierry wants to talk, but chokes on memories of blows and stabs punctuated by the sound of his father pleading for his life before masked men hacked him to death. He shrinks into himself, cold and small on a damp wooden bench just inside Tanzania. Hell is just a couple of kilometres and a river crossing away, in the country he called home until two hours ago.

“Blood flows everywhere in Burundi, that’s how things are,” said the young farmer, rolling up his trouser legs and a shirt sleeve to show cuts and bruises almost as raw as his anguish. He asked that his name be changed to protect family still inside Burundi. A refugee at 27, he is just one victim of a crisis that has pushed more than a quarter of a million people into exile, and now threatens the tenuous stability of a region with a grim history of genocide. Torture, assault, abduction and murder fill the stories of those who have fled.

“I want to forget everything about Burundi, even our names,” said another young man, who has collapsed at a refugee registration post after carrying his 16-year-old sister, pregnant after rape, across a river to safety. They left behind the grave of another sister, killed last year by a government bullet.

Survivors warn that, as the violence spirals and rumours grow of opposition militias training in neighbouring countries, a government fearful of losing its grip has resorted to the poisonous ethnic propaganda that fuelled the country’s past wars and the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda.

Yet the world doesn’t seem to have noticed. There is little sense of international urgency about halting Burundi’s disintegration, and aid groups say there is even less interest in funding food and shelter for victims.

“Our country is on the brink of war, and we feel forgotten,” said Genevieve Kanyange, a senior defector from the ruling party who spent weeks in hiding before fleeing into exile. “If we don’t get help soon, it may be too late.”

Violence first flared last year when the flamboyant president, Pierre Nkurunziza, a former PE teacher, militia commander and devout born-again Christian, announced that he was casting aside the constitution to run for a third term.

That triggered a failed coup attempt, mass protests and a crackdown that has become a permanent state of violence. On average, more than a hundred people a day have staggered across the Tanzanian border in 2016, figures from aid agencies working in the region show.

They join the 250,000 or so who were already spread across Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the end of last year, in camps that are desperately overcrowded and short of food. An appeal for funds has raised only £1 in every £10 needed, a United Nations spokesman said.
Men carry away a dead body in the Nyakabiga neighbourhood of Bujumbura, Burundi in December. Photograph: STR/AP

Most refugees have travelled at night, through scrub and forest, to avoid militias hunting down would-be defectors, who they brand traitors. Some of the people they intercept are sent back with a warning, but many are assaulted and murdered.

“They took our money, beat us and asked, ‘Don’t you support the president?” said Kigeme Kabibi, a 30-year-old mother of five who first tried to escape after her husband was shot and, like almost all ordinary Burundian refugees, asked to be known by a pseudonym for fear of reprisal attacks for talking to foreign media. On a second attempt she stayed away from roads and made it over to Tanzania.

The government apparently hopes that, if it can stem the refugee crisis, an already distracted international community will find it easier to ignore problems within Burundi’s tight borders. The controls are so tight that tens of thousands of vulnerable people have gone into hiding inside the country, sheltering in forests or the homes of friends, rather than risk a crossing.

For those who do make it across, Tanzania offers only the most basic protection. The shortage of funds and flood of new arrivals mean that refugee camps are packed, that food rations rarely stretch to more than one meal a day, and that women and children report high levels of sexual assault.

Fabian Simbila is a health worker who met Thierry and his family at a tiny border outpost for registration. He can call in help for medical emergencies and offers blankets to ward off the chill, but has no food for families who have walked, sometimes for days, on empty stomachs. “They arrive during the evening and have nothing to eat until they get taken to the official refugee camps the next day. It’s difficult, you feel sorry for them. But what can I do?” he said. With dozens of people arriving each day, his own modest salary would not stretch to rations for them all.
Women at the IRC women’s centre at Nyarugusu. Photograph: Griff Tapper/IRC

Hunger in Tanzania is still a welcome change from meals eaten in terror at home for some. “Tonight maybe I can even sleep again,” said Jacques, a 21-year-old farmer who fled with his parents from a village in the border province of Ruyigi. He had not eaten for more than 24 hours, but said the family did not mind.

“I didn’t want to live through the things I saw as a child again,” he said, referring to a long-running civil war that ended in 2005. “They are catching young men and stab and beat them, and rape women. We are sick of people dying like goats. Also my father is old and begged us to leave now, because he would not be able to run if a crisis came fast.”

The testimony of rural refugees like Jacques is important because Burundi’s rural areas are so poor and badly connected that activists often have only a flimsy grasp on the violence playing out there. In the capital, Bujumbura, and other major towns, a network of sympathisers use smartphones to smuggle out information about killings and disappearances at great risk to themselves, said lawyer and activist Lambert Nigarura.

There are few phones, internet links or connections to activist networks in the villages of one of the poorest countries in the world, meaning those who want to publicise violence have to rely on more old-fashioned and riskier methods. “Up country it’s much harder to get things out; they are happening away from the camera,” said Nigarura, recalling one series of abuses flagged up by letter. “We have observers only in some areas, so when something happens where they are, we know. If it’s somewhere else, we don’t.”

Rural residents are also cut off from news about the scale of the national crisis. Televisions are increasingly rare outside towns and the government shut down all the country’s independent radio stations last May. The most popular station, Radio Publique Africaine, was even hit by a rocket to underline the message. The state stations that survive pump out propaganda rather than information.

“In the village, people were killed, but you didn’t hear anything about it on the radio,” said Fabrice, a 54-year-old who decided to leave with his wife and 12 children after his brother-in-law was abducted in the night. They do not expect to see him again, after they called the local jail and officials said he wasn’t there.

The family had delayed leaving even as villages slowly emptied, because – like most people in the camps – they feel it is a one-way journey. “As soon as they know we are here, they will have automatically taken our land,” adds Fabrice. “We can never go back.”

His fears are echoed by aid agencies that say they expect to be supporting Burundian refugees for many years to come, even if the violence is halted within months. “I found no prospect or desire to return to Burundi. This is a serious and likely long-term displacement,” said International Rescue Committee head David Miliband. “I think we have got to prepare for the worst, which is a multi-year crisis, with people still coming.”

He was speaking after a visit to Nyarugusu camp, now the third-biggest refugee centre in the world, a sprawling shanty town of the dispossessed and home to more than 150,000 people.
Burundian refugees listen to Tanzanian PM Kassim Majaliwa speak at Nduta camp in Kigoma, Tanzania. Photograph: STR/AP

The luckier exiles, with money or relatives to take them in, have mostly ended up in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, where journalists, activists and politicians gather information smuggled out of Burundi and argue about how to raise the profile of the crisis and end the violence.

Most are wary of a military escalation and say that foreign peacekeepers are the country’s best hope of avoiding war. But among the camps of refugees and scattered exiles are a growing number of angry, grieving survivors who want to return with a gun in their hands. “I wish I could go back and fight, but I don’t know where to sign up,” says one exile scarred from torture in a government prison, who asked to be known as Billy Ndiyo to protect relatives left behind when he fled Burundi.

Ndiyo had been a driver until the crisis. The economic turmoil it precipitated left him unemployed. He was rounded up by militiamen in the street when he went out to buy bread last summer. He had not been involved in politics, and thinks he was seized simply because he was a young man in an area known as an opposition stronghold.

Driven to a villa at the back of a military compound that activists say they know has been used as a prison, Ndiyo was handcuffed, beaten and stabbed in the face with a bayonet. “He picked it up and stabbed me just above the eye, shouting, ‘Don’t you dare look at me’. I put up my hand to try and stop the bleeding, and he jabbed at it, then attacked my head and other hand with the knife. There was blood everywhere and the last injury made me pass out.”

He came to in a tiny cell where eight other weary prisoners, some acquaintances from his neighbourhood, told him he was unlikely to leave alive. He soon saw why. “They came in the night for two of the prisoners. They told them, ‘Come, we have found a suitable place for you’ and no one has seen them since. When they came to take another the next night, he was crying and tried to resist, so they started stabbing him in front of our eyes.”

Fortunately for Ndiyo, a rich and well-connected relative managed to buy his freedom and send him straight to a nearby border. His cellmates are almost certainly all dead, he thinks.

It is difficult to verify the stories of many refugees, because of the unrest inside Burundi and a clampdown on visas. But the stories told by people from different parts of the country feature common patterns of violence, torture techniques and perpetrators.
Burundian refugees return from an hours-long trip outside the Nyarugusu refugee camp to collect firewood. Photograph: Griff Tapper

Many of those held or killed in government prison say they were grabbed off the streets by security forces and militia claiming to be hunting for rebels. These raids became so common that in some areas young men would stay inside their homes for weeks at a time.

The other common form of public violence has played out in raids on homes, usually on the pretence of looking for illegal weapons. “They just come into your house thinking you are in a different political party and say they are searching for guns. Even if they don’t find any, they take people away and no one knows where they go,” said Fabrice.

Those who killed Thierry’s father accused him of belonging to a rebel group, even though the old man had lived through years of violence without taking up arms. “My father was begging them, ‘I don’t have a gun. Even if you gave me yours, I wouldn’t know how to use it’.”

Other forms of torture range from the security forces’ use of bayonets to slash and stab to the gruesomely obscure. Several recounted militias tying tubs of water to men’s penises with a short string and forcing them to stand up and down, their genitals strained by the weight.
A member of Burundi’s military on patrol as police seek weapons in Bujumbura. Photograph: Griff Tapper/IRC

The perpetrators of many atrocities are masked, anonymous men. But a group repeatedly named in stories of detention and harassment is the feared youth wing of the ruling party, the Imbonerakure. Their name means “those who see far” in the local Kirundi language, and they grew out of the same disbanded militia as the ruling party. Critics say they have never fully shaken off the mentality of war, although the government insists they are just a political group.

They also appear to be involved in reported efforts to turn the conflict into an ethnic one. Burundi neighbours Rwanda and has a similar ethnic make-up to the country whose genocide in 1994 still casts long shadows of shame and fear. Like Rwanda, Burundi has also seen bitter, genocidal wars between Hutu and Tutsi.

A carefully structured peace deal that ended the most recent war in 2005 had defused many of those tensions, creating an ethnic balance across the military, government and even state-owned firms. Groups such as the Imbonerakure are outside those formal power structures and undermine them.

The army is already divided. Last month a senior army officer seen as close to Nkurunziza was shot dead while reading a noticeboard inside military headquarters.

“Dissident and loyalist members of the army are killing each other. What can that point to but a very high risk?” said Richard Moncrieff, Central Africa analyst at the International Crisis group. “If we have a look at Burundi’s history, we can see there is a very serious risk of mass atrocity violence.”

With the government preaching hatred, there is a risk that Burundi could fracture further along ethnic lines, and an army at war with itself could drag the country back into full-blown civil war.

“We think the regime is trying to turn this into an ethnic dispute. Our term is ‘ethnicisation from above’,” said Moncrieff. “This is a government using propaganda towards its population, and its difficult to see it leading anywhere good.”
A troubled history

A Burundian kingdom emerged as early as the 1500s. It was later colonised by Germany and then Belgium.

1960s Burundi declares independence, under King Mwanbutsa IV. When Hutus win a majority in parliamentary elections three years later, he refuses to appoint a Hutu prime minister. In 1966 army chief Michel Micombero seizes power.

1970s Government troops massacre more than 100,000 people in the south after a Hutu-led uprising in 1972. Micombero is ousted in a military coup.

1980s Another military coup brings Pierre Buyoya to power in 1987. A year later thousands of Hutus are massacred by Tutsis. Many more flee to Rwanda.

1993 A pro-Hutu government is installed in June after multi-party polls. In October, Tutsi soldiers assassinate the president, sparking revenge killings of Tutsis and then army reprisals. It is the start of an ethnic conflict that will claim more than 300,000 lives.

1994 A Hutu president, Cyprien Ntaryamira, is appointed in February but dies two months later when the plane carrying him and his Rwandan counterpart, Juvénal Habyarimana, is shot down, setting off Rwanda’s genocide.

2000 Arusha peace deal is agreed, which lays the basis for a power-sharing rule in Burundi, though the war rages on for several years.

2005 Pierre Nkurunziza is elected president. He wins a nationwide poll in 2010 after opposition parties boycott it, and in 2015 argues that his unusual route to office allows him to defy the constitution and stand for one more term.

2015 After a failed coup attempt, Nkurunziza wins a third term with 70% of the vote. A campaign of violence, murder and intimidation sparks a regional refugee crisis, destroys the economy and isolates Burundi.

2016 International efforts to halt the crisis are stepped up, but to little effect. UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon visits Burundi, the EU halts aid payments, and UK, European and US governments impose sanctions on several senior figures. The African Union considers sending in peacekeeping troops.

Will the next UN secretary general be a woman? | Global Development Professionals Network | The Guardian

Mary Robinson, Nicholas Kristof and other global experts share their thoughts on the potential repercussions of a female UN secretary general
 
The head of Unesco, Irina Bokova from Bulgaria, is a favourite to become the UN’s new secretary general in 2017. Photograph: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images


Salima Yacoubi Soussane in New York

Thursday 9 July 2015 10.09 BSTLast modified on Thursday 9 July 201515.50 BST

The next secretary general of the United Nations will inherit the “most impossible job in the world”. He or she must reinvigorate the 70-year-old institution envisioned by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The stakes are high: by 2050, 3 billion more people will inhabit the planet, threatening the resource balance and creating more tension and violence worldwide. A supranational institution promoting cooperation and peace, and bridging both geographic and gender divides, will be increasingly needed.

“Because the secretary general is speaking in the interest of 7 billion people, he or she needs to be able to mobilise the world’s public opinion behind the institution,” explains Edward Mortimer, former director of communications for Kofi Annan, who was secretary general from 1997 to 2006. For this purpose, the UN leader needs to possess a strong independent personality with solid values, ethics and determination. He or she has to be a “bully pulpit”, keep bringing issues to the security council, and embody what the UN stands for: peace, security, human rights and development.


In April 2015, Equality Now initiated a campaign to promote gender equality in the selection process. After 20,000 letters were sent to key decision makers, the General Assembly drafted a resolution highlighting gender equality, and the final resolution will be published in September. 


Currently, the security council carries out the selection process behind closed doors before presenting its candidate to the general assembly. The selection process is opaque, non-democratic and politicised, which reduces the chances of achieving gender equality.

Beginning in the 1990s, the UN’s tacit principle of regional rotation encourages fair representation among the different regions of the world. Previous UN leaders were chosen in this spirit. Fairness and diversity should now be openly extended to gender. “If we had to eliminate half of the world’s population, we would considerably reduce our chances of finding the best secretary general,” says British ambassador Matthew Rycroft. And there is no shortage of female candidates.

“We can’t use the excuse that there aren’t enough qualified women to choose from,” argues Jean Krasno, a Yale professor and UN expert. The Woman Secretary General campaign she chairs produced a list of outstanding women from all regions, including the next potential region – Eastern Europe – with Irina Bokova, the head of Unesco, and Kristalina Ivanova Georgieva, economist and EU commissioner at the top of the list. Also on the list are Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, Michelle Bachelet, the president of Chile and former head of UN Women, and Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand and head of UNDP.

A recent Guardian poll found that 96% of respondents believe it’s time to have a female secretary general. And there are more women in power than ever before: the once indefensible connection between masculinity and leadership is breaking.

In 1960, Sri Lanka had the first woman prime minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, and in Argentina in 1974 Isabel Perón became the first female president. In the last decade, however, unprecedented growth in the number of women in positions of high power has occurred and is spreading around the globe. As of January 2015, 10 women are currently heads of state and 14 are heads of government, including Angela Merkel, the fourth most powerful leader in the world.

Led by Ban Ki-moon, the UN already has engaged in a large campaign around gender equality. The next UN leader should reflect these policies. A woman fulfilling this role would function as a role model for the world. Recent statisticsindicate that as of January 2015, only 22% of all national parliamentarians were female, a slow increase from 11.3% in 1995.

“It matters for women empowerment globally,” says Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, former high commissioner for human rights, and a member of the Elders, an independent group of global leaders. “Women very often have a different way of leading, which could reinvigorate the United Nations as a whole, because there is more listening, being inclusive and working in practical ways to resolve problems. These are the kind of attributes that can very much help strengthen the role of secretary-general.”

Krasno agrees that women offer a different perspective. “What women bring to the table is the knowledge of women. And that makes a difference in policymaking,” she says. This sentiment is confirmed by Dina Kawar, Jordanian ambassador and president of the security council. “I certainly think of women differently than my male colleagues. When it comes to women refugees for example, I have a more intimate understanding of their challenges.” And in positions of leadership, women are pragmatic, she adds. “When they reach the top, women see it as a beginning and not an end.”

But for some, women leaders do not always accomplish much for gender equality. Margaret Thatcher is often used to illustrate this point.

“While a woman secretary general would be a symbolic achievement, I’m not sure how much it would matter at the grassroots level around the world,” says Nicholas Kristof, New York Times columnist and women’s empowerment advocate who co-authored the book Half the Sky. “One thing we’ve seen is that women leaders aren’t always great for ordinary women,” he adds. “In the Philippines, for example, women presidents have resisted family-planning access for women, while male presidents have pushed those rights. And in Bangladesh, you have a female prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, who has been trying to undermine Grameen Bank, a huge force for women.”


However, women in power are influential role models. Even those who do not implement a strong feminine agenda still advance the cause for women. While it has been 20 years since Thatcher left office in the United Kingdom, all those whogrew up with her as a leader can now envision a female prime minister.

By giving themselves permission to lead, they pave the way for gender equality in politics and reduce the gender gap in political ambition. “A woman as secretary general would send a strong signal of progress,” says Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, head of UN Women. “It would be a further step towards achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment.”

“Negotiation, collaboration, and deliberation, are all typically considered morefeminine qualities,” says political scientist Farida Jalazai. With her colleague Mona Lena Krook, they noted the validity of the role model effect. In fact, 15 countries have now had more than one female leader. Trends like these are helping to weaken the male stranglehold on leadership.

“We want the best candidate. But I like the fact that after eight men, there is a leaning towards a woman,” says Robinson. “In women’s and girls’ eyes, the symbolic empowerment of a woman top official, with responsibilities in peace, stability, and development, is fundamental. It has a great psychological impact.”

Follow Salima Yacoubi Soussane at @salimay.