Month: June 2016

Ensuring That No One Is Left Behind: A View on an Inclusive World in 2030

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Thoughts by Dr. Ion Jinga, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations – New York, posted in Nine o’Clock on 27 June 2016

*Motto: “We can redream this world and make the dream come real. Human beings are gods hidden from themselves”.Ben Okri, The Famished Road (winning novel of The Man Booker Prize in 1991)

Between 11 and 20 July 2016, the UN Headquarters in New York hosted the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). HLPF is the most inclusive and participatory forum at the United Nations, bringing all UN States Members and of specialized agencies together.

Its theme was generous and challenging: “Ensuring that no one is left behind”. Being the first HLPF meeting after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, the expectations for political guidance were high and generated vivid discussions among Member States – a proof that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are taken very seriously. The Forum included voluntary reviews of 22 countries, 20 sessions, several general debates and thematic reviews of progress on the SDGs, cross-cutting issues and reviews by the ECOSOC functional commissions and other inter-governmental bodies, as well as a Ministerial Declaration.

The concept of inclusion is at the core of the 2030 Agenda. Inclusive societies are those that do not discriminate irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, and economic or other status. Several SDGs are directly related to “inclusiveness”: Goal 4 (quality education), Goal 8 (sustainable economic growth), Goal 9 (sustainable industrialization), Goal 11 (sustainable cities and human settlements), and Goal 16 (peaceful and inclusive societies). I would add to this list Goal 10 (reduce inequalities within and among countries), because inclusion cannot be defined outside of the national social context, and social inequality cannot be separated from economic inequality.

Having the privilege to be a panelist in the session devoted to envisioning an inclusive world in 2030, and to present Romania’s priority actions in the HLPF ministerial segment, I had a first-hand confirmation of the complexity and interdependency of this topic. Progress has been made in the last decades in eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, but this has been accompanied by widening inequalities within and among countries, undermining the principle of ensuring that no one is left behind. To correct this, effective policies should ensure that growth is inclusive, sustained and equitable, and that the economies are at the service of all people, and not focused exclusively on promoting economic growth.

 

Time and time again, we have heard that the 2030 Agenda can realize the principle of leaving no one behind. Yet, its implementation depends heavily on ensuring that inclusive institutions exist at the local, national, regional and global levels. A strong national ownership and leadership of the 2030 Agenda is of a critical importance.

In Romania, this is conducted on five key priority actions: First, a mapping exercise of existing national policy frameworks is undergoing, in order to identify gaps and challenges towards localizing the SDGs at national level. Second, as sustainable development requires a government and cross-sectoral approach, an inter-ministerial committee responsible with the SDGs implementation was created.

Third, the Government commitment is vital but insufficient on its own, and therefore we need broad coalitions and partnerships around the SDGs. Civil society, business community, academia and media have to be convinced to join their efforts in raising awareness, planning, implementing and monitoring progress. National parliaments can also be powerful agents of change, bringing the SDGs to the attention of the public – the Romanian Parliament adopted in April a comprehensive declaration on the SDGs, the first of its kind, and co-hosted, together with International Parliamentary Union, a regional seminar on the 2030 Agenda.

Fourth, promoting peaceful and democratic societies based on the rule of law and respect of human rights is an essential pillar of the new development agenda. And fifth, the access to financial resources. Money exists, we only have to reorient our economies towards sustainable development and to recalibrate the interaction between the social pillar with the economic and environmental dimensions.

The Ministerial Declaration adopted by the HLPF begins with: “We, the Ministers and high representatives, having met at United Nations Headquarters in New York, pledge that no one will be left behind in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.

In the fight against poverty and for achieving prosperity for all there may be alternative ways forward – some already tested, some to be discovered. As the Nigerian writer Ben Okri wrote in his poem A New Dream for Politics: “There’s always a new way, a better way that’s not been tried before.”

Solutions may be alternative, but their outcome must be unique: achieving sustainable development and inclusive societies for all by 2030. This outcome lies now in our hands.

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Protection of Civilians in Conflict: A Test for the International Community

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Thoughts by Dr. Ion Jinga, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations – New York, published in Nine o’Clock on 17 June 2016

On 10 June 2016, the French Presidency of the Security Council organized a high level open debate on “Protection of Civilians in the Context of Peacekeeping Operations”. It followed to other recent open debates in the Security Council on related matters: the protection of civilians in armed conflicts in January, the peacebuilding architecture in February, countering terrorism in April, and the cooperation between the UN and the African Union on peace and security in May, thus confirming the acute actuality of the topic. Civilians remain the target of unacceptable violence in situations of armed conflicts, with statistics showing that they represent 93% of victims. It is a figure deeply disturbing, placing the protection of civilian population at the core of the international efforts for peace and security, and as a moral responsibility for the UN.

The Report of the UN Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, published in June 2015, revealed that prevailing disrespect for the international humanitarian law by some States and non-State actors, and the impunity of perpetrators, became a critical challenge for the international community. Deliberate targeting of civilians, of schools and hospitals are on the rise in many armed conflicts, bringing the number of refugees and internally displaced persons to alarming levels.

The primary responsibility to protect the civilian population during wars and conflicts belongs to States, but when national authorities are unable or unwilling to fulfill their responsibility, then the international community must intervene. In cases where atrocity crimes are committed, accountability is crucial. This is why Romania endorsed the French-Mexican initiative that permanent members of the UN Security Council should voluntarily agree to refrain from using their veto in situations involving mass atrocities crimes, and we joined the Code of Conduct proposed by Liechtenstein on the Security Council action against genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.

Protection of civilians is also a task for peacekeeping operations. It is even decisive for the success and legitimacy of the UN presence in the field. In many cases in the recent past, peacekeepers did not use force to protect population coming under attack, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians. Therefore, UN missions need to be equipped with appropriate tools in order to address both the causes of crises and their consequences, including the protection of civilians, with a special attention to women, children and vulnerable persons.

Quite often, the complex reality on the ground makes difficult for peacekeepers to fully understand the action they have to perform for protecting the civilian population. In this respect, pre-deployment training is essential, as well as a zero tolerance policy to any kind of abuse. Training must be anchored in the respect for human rights and in the standards of integrity required by the United Nations. It has to include how to interact with local people and civil society organizations, especially those focused on the protection of women’s and children’s rights, because nothing is more damaging to the reputation and credibility of peacekeeping missions, and to the efforts to regain the trust of local populations, than Blue Helmets abusing those they have mandate to protect. Here, it is the Security Council’s responsibility to ensure that the protection mandate is clearly defined, achievable and backed with adequate resources. Out of the 16 UN peacekeeping operations in place today, ten have a mandate for protection of civilians. Romania is present in six of them.

Romanian experience proves the benefits of mixed teams, where female members of peacekeeping operations interact with women and vulnerable individuals from local communities. Complementary between training courses provided both at national and international level, in a way that they can offer to peacekeepers the skills to identify early warning indicators of potential risk for atrocity crimes, is also important.

For instance, prior to their deployment in peacekeeping operations, Romanian troops attend a three months period of strict training which includes protection of civilians and respect for human rights. As a result, in 25 years of continuous presence in UN peacekeeping missions and with a total of more than ten thousands Blue Helmets all over the world, Romanians have never been involved in incidents of disrespect of the civilian population. Currently, we are present with military, police and close protection officers in ten peacekeeping operations and in two special political missions.

At the same time, we must not neglect the serious danger peacekeepers continue to face to fulfill their mandates in some of the most dangerous parts of the world. They risk so much to advance peace in profoundly hostile environments, and we pay tribute to the men and women who so admirably dedicate their lives to protect the lives of others. Unknown by the public opinion, criticized sometimes for not doing more, many of them made their ultimate sacrifice. In 2015 only, 129 Blue Helmets died in mission and, unfortunately, others followed this year.

To limit the number of victims both among civilians and peacekeepers, a renewed focus has to be on conflict prevention and mediation. From this perspective, negotiated political solutions, early warning mechanisms to anticipate risks of atrocities, accepting the norms of Responsibility to Protect, and respect of the Kigali Principles on the protection of civilians in conflicts, are part of the solution. At present, 29 countries, including Romania, have endorsed the Kigali Principles, accounting for more than 40,000 troops serving under the UN flag.

Last but not the least, effective protection of civilians in armed conflicts needs an enhanced cooperation with regional and sub-regional organizations, because of their knowledge of the cultural, social and historical regional realities. The African Union and the European Union are two good examples, both organizations being strategic partners of the UN in the peacekeeping efforts.

Finally, proper implementation of the Agenda 2030 will further contribute to tackling the root causes of conflicts, because many conflicts and crises they generate have roots in poverty, in the lack of basic resources such as water and food, denied access to education, inequality, migration due to climate change, and the absence of any hope for a better future. Therefore, the Agenda 2030 marks a paradigm shift in approaching emerging challenges and requires us to commit to eradicating extreme poverty, fighting inequality, empowering women and girls, protecting the vulnerable ones, improving governance, encouraging sustainable and inclusive economic growth, and leaving no one behind.