Glancing Back at 2013

Glancing-Back-at-2013

This year was rife with important milestones, achievements and events related to the human rights movement. We’ve compiled the milestones that most resonated with us. Let us know what resonates with you in the comments section below. 1) Defeated Militia: Colonel Sultani Makenga, Commander of the M23 rebel group in the eastern DRC, surrendered in Uganda along with 1,700 of his rebel fighters this past November. The M23 were ambushed by the Congolese army (also backed by 3,000 UN fighters) and were forced to either be captured or flee. It was under these pressures that they declared a ceasefire, ending a very bloody 20-month uprising.

2) In RemembranceNelson Mandela, former South African President and beloved anti-apartheid leader, died on December 5th 2013. Widely called “Madiba,” Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years for his political activities during apartheid in South Africa.  Despite his imprisonment he preached the importance of reconciliation and represented survival in the struggle for human dignity. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and leaves behind a legacy of equality, justice and freedom.

Seamus Heaney, an Irish poet and playwright who won the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature in 1995, died on August 30th, 2013. One of his most famous poems spoke of suffering and conflict in Northern Ireland. Below is an excerpt; for the full poem click here.

History says, Don't hope On this side of the grave, But then, once in a lifetime The longed-for tidal wave Of justice can rise up And hope and history rhyme.

3) AppointmentsSamantha Power’s appointment as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations began on August 5th, 2013. Power is widely considered one of the most important thought leaders and is most known for her strong human rights background and specifically for her extensive genocide research. She wrote “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” a study on the response of U.S. foreign policy in regards to various cases of genocide. She also authored “Chasing the Flame: One Man's Fight to Save the World,” a book about the heroic life of Sergio Vieira de Mello.

4) Symbol of Defiance: Surviving a gunshot wound to the head for defending her right to an education, Malala Yousafzai continues to promote girls education and serves as an inspirational role model for millions of girls around the world. Malala publically debuted with a moving speech to the UN to mark her 16th birthday.  Malala tells her story of being shot by the Taliban in Pakistan in newly published book, “I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban.”

5) Most Perplexing Conflict: Syria’s civil war continues to escalate in intensity, complexity and scope. For more than two years, violent conflict has ravaged this country and has maimed or taken the lives of thousands of innocent civilians and produced an epic refugee crisis with estimates of 6.5 million people now forcibly displaced with little access to aid or security. Widely considered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises partly due to the internal chemical weapons attacks that have killed more than 10,000 Syrians, international observers remain baffled as to a viable political (non-military) solution that would result in meaningful peace and lasting stability.

6) More than Meets the Eye: When Edward Snowden, former CIA worker, leaked classified details of the NSA surveillance program, he initiated a controversial, if not historic, debate on privacy vs. security in a post 9/11, digital world, questioning how far the government should go to protect the American public. At the core of this debate is whether the metadata surveillance collected in the name of national security is pursued at the expense of civil liberties, such as privacy rights and freedom of expression. Human rights defenders say current surveillance policies must be reformed to respect privacy and maintain freedom of speech. This is a debate worth following as the implications are serious and far-reaching. For more information click here.

7) Notable Movies: 12 Years a Slave, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Anita and Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry.

8) Favorite Reads: The Lemon Tree, The Glass Palace, Long Walk to Freedom, The Kitchen House, Strength in What Remains.

9) Favorite Tweets

@CivCenter: When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” -Kenyan proverb

@AmbassadorPower: Violence against women isn’t cultural, it’s criminal. Equality can't come eventually; we must fight for it now.

10) Stunning Statistic: The NSA tracks 5 billion cell phone records daily!

In Honor of Human Rights Day: The Honorable Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe Reflects on U.S. Leadership Towards Human Rights

Written by Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, Former US Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council, for the A3A blog in honor of International Human Rights Day. In the lead up to International Human Rights Day, I had the opportunity this past week to participate in the annual Human Rights First summit in Washington, D.C. Human Rights First CEO Elisa Massimino asked me to share my reflections on my tenure as the first US Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.  Our conversation was framed around the question of US leadership on human rights and what difference full and wholehearted US engagement can make in multilateral organizations like the UN Human Rights Council.  The simple but clear answer from my experience is that principled, pragmatic US engagement can make a huge difference.

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Press conference with cross-regional co-sponsors of the Syria resolution, including Turkey, Jordan, UK, France, Qatar, Italy, Saudi Arabia, US. Photo by U.S. Mission Geneva / Eric Bridiers

When the US arrived as a new member four years ago, the Council was perceived both domestically and globally as the poster child for UN bureaucratic dysfunction.  Most egregious crisis and chronic human rights situations were ignored, and core civil and political rights so essential to human rights advocacy were de-emphasized.  Obstructionist regional group dynamics - - through which members of groups prevented criticism of each other so that they in turn would be protected from future criticism - - was the modus operandi of most voting members.  The views of human rights defenders, civil society actors and victims were not incorporated into the work of member states, and their voices were sometimes squelched in the chamber where member states worked.  In effect, this all meant that most meaningful action on human rights was blocked.

With a full and realistic understanding of these weaknesses, we set out three core priorities:

1.   To make a difference on the ground and in the halls of the UN for human rights defenders and victims;

2.  To enhance the efficacy of the Council in addressing crisis and chronic human rights situations;

3.  To find new avenues to work cooperatively with other nations cross-regionally toward effective human rights protection and promotion.

These priorities became touchstones for US engagement at the Council.  In the past 4 years, we made significant progress in all three areas.  The Council agenda now includes most of the world’s worst human rights crisis situations and chronic human rights settings, including Iran, Syria, Sudan, Sri Lanka, DPRK and many others.  Freedom of expression and Freedom of association and assembly have regained a place of importance as foundational elements for the work of human rights defenders around the globe.  The voices of victims and civil society actors are protected in the Council chamber and human rights advocates and defenders play a significant role in influencing the Council’s agenda.  And very importantly, most initiatives are co-sponsored by creative cross-regional coalitions, rather than by parochially oriented groups of countries from the same region.

 Reception in honor of Somalian Prime Minister, with members of civil society including Juile DeRivero, Geneva Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch. Photo by U.S. Mission Geneva.

At the Human Rights First summit, Elissa asked how such a dramatic turn around could have happened in such a short period of time, and what tactics the US employed to help in this reform process.  There are several answers.  First off, passion, clarity of purpose and basic skills of human interaction go a long way in diplomatic settings.  Delegations are made up of people, who often are impacted as much by how a message is delivered, as by the substance of the message itself.  We found that early outreach to small delegations from all regions of the world was a great way to show respect and find new allies.  Listening well, making the effort to understand the views of others, and finding ways to incorporate their concerns into our initiatives went a long way in building trust and new partnerships.

Second, it was very important to seize opportunities when they presented themselves.  The Arab spring brought a wave of popular demands and protests across an entire swath of the Middle East and North Africa region.  Those human rights developments presented Council members with a whole new set of country situations to consider and challenged members to consider their responsibilities in a new light.  While Libya, as a sitting member of the Council would have never made it to the agenda in the past, the spirit of the Arab awakening shook up the dynamics and caused many counties in the region to consider anew whether they really wanted to back a dictator like Qaddafi while he declared to the world that he would “hunt down the opposition like rats.”  Similarly, in case of Syria, the emotional impact of a news report about a funeral for peaceful protestors at which family members were gunned down by Assad forces, made it possible to convince voting members to hold an urgent session and get Syria onto the Council agenda. The human rights and humanitarian crisis in Syria has dominated the agenda at the Council ever since that first urgent session in April 2011. While Council members have not been able to find a way to end the bloodshed, the Council did establish a Commission of Inquiry that has been methodically investigating and documenting evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity so that those responsible will be held accountable.  Before the Arab spring, this would have been inconceivable at the Human Rights Council.  In effect, the Arab awakening brought an awakening to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, and we seized the opportunity.

  Syria Commission of Inquiry presenting their findings in the Human Rights Council chamber. Photo by U.S. Mission Geneva / Eric Bridiers

Syria Commission of Inquiry presenting their findings in the Human Rights Council chamber. Photo by U.S. Mission Geneva / Eric Bridiers

None of the significant changes in the working dynamics at the Human Rights Council would have been possible but for an entire group of gifted diplomats from around the world, open to new ways of working together and willing to trust and partner with the United States.  But the decision made by President Obama early in his first term along with Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice, to distinctly shift the US policy stance toward the Human Rights Council from one of principled resistance to one of principled but pragmatic engagement, has meant that the full effect of US leadership could be made manifest.

If there is one overriding basis for knowing that US leadership at the Council has made a difference, it is that human rights defenders turn to the US delegation on a daily basis to ask for support in championing their causes and to help ensure that their voices are heard.  The people who risk their lives on the front lines of the struggle for human rights believe that the United States presence at the Council has real and positive impact.  Their message has been received and the US will not disregard their call or turn back.

________

Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe served as United States Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, the lead UN body responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights.

Appointed by President Obama as the first U.S. representative to the Council, Ambassador Donahoe served during a period marked by transformative change, as people around the world have given ever-greater voice to their desire to forge their own destinies and live with liberty, dignity, justice, and opportunity.

Before undertaking her role as Ambassador, Ms. Chamberlain Donahoe was an Affiliate Scholar at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University. Her Ph.D. dissertation, entitled:  “Humanitarian Military Intervention: The Moral Imperative Versus the Rule of Law,” addressed conflicting legal and ethical justifications for humanitarian military intervention.

New United Nations Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect

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WelshThe Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect welcomes the recent appointment of Dr. Jennifer M. Welsh to the position of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect.

Dr. Welsh’s appointment sends a clear signal from the UN  Secretary General of the need to strengthen the UN’s role in preventing mass atrocities. Dr. Welsh is currently a Professor in International Relations at the University of Oxford and co-Director of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict where she is leading a research project exploring preventive tools available to the international community.

Dr. Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, welcomed the appointment: “The Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect plays a critical role in developing the conceptual, political and institutional aspects of the Responsibility to Protect. Dr. Welsh has been appointed Special Adviser at a time when populations in Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere face the daily threat of mass atrocities. Dr. Welsh’s academic experience and personal resolve will help galvanize collective action in the pursuit of our shared objective of ending mass atrocity crimes once and for all.”

Photo by Michael Petrou

Kofi Annan Quits as UN-Arab League Envoy in Syria

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The entirety of this article, including the title, is original content from the BBC

The UN-Arab League joint special envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan has announced he is leaving his post.In a news conference, he said the Syrian people "desperately need action" but criticized the UN Security Council for "finger-pointing and name-calling". Mr Annan authored a six-point peace plan for Syria which was intended to bring an end to the fighting. But the plan was never fully adhered to by either side and the violence has continued to escalate.

Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, was appointed Thursday as the UN envoy to Syria.
Kofi Annan Photo by Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press
 

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said it was "with deep regret" that he announced Mr Annan would not renew his mandate when it expires at the end of August. The Syrian foreign ministry also expressed regret at the announcement, state TV reported.

Speaking in Geneva, Mr Annan said the increasing militarisation of the Syrian conflict and the "clear lack of unity" in the Security Council had "fundamentally changed the circumstances for the effective exercise of my role".

He said the problems were "compounded by the disunity of the international community".

Russia and China have vetoed resolutions on the crisis three times, citing opposition to any action which might be seen as regime change imposed from outside.

"When the Syrian people desperately need action, there continues to be finger-pointing and name-calling in the Security Council," he said.

"It is impossible for me or anyone to compel the Syrian government, and also the opposition, to take the steps to bring about the political process.

"Syria can still be saved from the worst calamity - if the international community can show the courage and leadership necessary to compromise on their partial interests for the sake of the Syrian people - for the men, women and children who have already suffered far too much."

Mohammed Khalaf in Aleppo
Photo by Darren Conway

Mr Annan said he did not rule out someone taking over the mediator's role from him, but said a successor might choose another path.

He said the focus remained on political transition, as President Bashar al-Assad "will have to leave sooner or later". In his statement, Mr Ban said he was in discussion with the Arab League to find a successor to "carry on this crucial peacemaking effort".

He said Mr Annan deserved "profound admiration" for the way he had tackled "this most difficult and potentially thankless of assignments" and that he remained convinced bloodshed would only bring "deeper suffering to the country and greater peril to the region".

Mr Ban said the Annan plan remained the "best hope for the people of Syria" but that the "persistent divisions" in the UN Security Council "have themselves become an obstacle to diplomacy, making the work of any mediator vastly more difficult".

Russia said it regretted that Mr Annan had chosen to stand down. Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said Moscow had always supported Mr Annan's work and that it hoped Mr Annan's final month in the role "is going to be used as effectively as possible under these very difficult circumstances".

Writing on Twitter, the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, thanked Mr Annan for his "dedication, service and determined efforts", but said those who had blocked UN resolutions had "made his mission impossible".

White House spokesman Jay Carney blamed Russia and China for the resignation, saying it highlighted their failure at the UN to "support meaningful resolutions against Assad that would have held Assad accountable".

The BBC's Jim Muir, who is monitoring events in Syria from neighboring Lebanon, said Mr Annan's decision to step down is clear recognition that the political process has failed, and that Syria's fate will be decided by events on the ground.

It is hard to imagine a figure with anything approaching the stature and profile of Mr Annan taking over the task, when the prospects for success are currently negligible, our correspondent adds.

Mr Annan took up his post in February. His internationally backed peace plan called for an end to the use of heavy weaponry, the free passage of aid, freedom of media and demonstration and for a Syrian-led political process to address the aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people.

It was supposed to come into effect in mid-April, but government forces continued to shell opposition strongholds and the opposition forces never fully committed to it.

Activists estimate some 20,000 people have died since anti-government protests erupted against President Assad in March last year. Tens of thousands of people have also fled the country.

On Thursday, rebel fighters in Syria's second city, Aleppo, attacked an army base using a tank they had seized from the military.

In the capital, Damascus, government forces launched two operations to root out rebel activists on Wednesday, killing at least 70, the opposition said.

Cover photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Re-elected: International and Donor Communities Breathe A Sigh of Relief

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EllenJohnsonSirlea_2020543cLast week, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was reelected to serve a second term as President of Liberia. Between the general and run-off elections, President Sirleaf did not win with an overwhelming majority. Yet, the fact that she won another term is definitely a positive outcome for a fragile country still recovering from decades of violent conflict. Even more significant was that democracy worked: a free and fair election was held, sanctioned by most international observers. Given the high stakes of peace teetering on the edge of instability and the significant post-war investments made by donors to help rebuild Liberia, a sigh of relief can be heard by the international as well as philanthropic communities.

When President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was first elected in 2005, bilateral donors, foundations and individual philanthropists rallied behind President Sirleaf with tremendous confidence in her ability to reconstruct a war torn country and help Liberians heal from years of brutal civil warfare. As an experienced economist and the first ever female head of state in the history of the continent, President Sirleaf quickly became a darling of both donors and the international community, with good reason. In the face of daunting challenges of a gutted infrastructure, dismal economy, depleted capacity and resources and a traumatized society, she accomplished a lot with very little. In this context, there was tremendous vested interest to see her win reelection. The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize just days before Monrovia took to the polls was certainly no accident and was well deserved.

Why so much hope and confidence in Sirleaf’s ability to steer Liberia forward? Besides being an incredible role model for young girls throughout Liberia, and bringing an impressive Harvard education and World Bank training to a country with a ravaged infrastructure, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf placed Liberia on a bold, dual development track by prioritizing both economic development and human rights. Because of her demonstrated commitment to good governance in the early days of her first term, the philanthropic community took notice (in addition to traditional bilateral donors) and either shifted or focused significant philanthropic support to help Liberia rebuild and move closer to sustainable peace. If peace is ultimately measured by a country's ability to hold free and peaceful elections, e.g.: political freedom to form opposition parties; to create and run independent media; to assemble and exercise political self-determination, then I believe President Sirleaf completed her first key deliverable: Democracy.

As a footnote, it must be recognized that President Sirleaf has been rightly criticized because of accusations of her early support of Charles Taylor; the insidious corruption that plagues Liberia to this day; the dangerously high rate of youth unemployment; the lack of implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission findings; and the lack of progress on other important social issues such as police reform and access to justice. Yet, democracy and nation-building does not mature overnight and even against this backdrop, the future remains hopeful for Liberians because of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's savvy economic "know how,” commitment to reconciliation and to human rights principles. She deserves the time to finish the job she started.

So, at the end of the day, it makes sense that President Sirleaf was favored by both citizens and onlookers to remain at the helm for another term. Though potentially reelected without a strong mandate due to low voter turnout, her reelection will sow confidence and unlock significant and much needed funding by donors and social investors, who until now, have been sitting on the sidelines out of fear of the unknown - the uncertainty a new regime would bring at a critical juncture of post war reconstruction. Liberia still needs tremendous support to achieve sustainable peace. Relieved by the status quo, Liberia can expect to see more support by donors as a result.

Photo by Getty Images.

Welcome to the A3A Blog

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After some intense brainstorming and creativity sessions we are proud to reveal the new Article 3 Advisor blog! Here you will find posts regarding the human rights + philanthropy fields as well as recent in-country travel experiences. This blog is meant to raise awareness and spark dialogue about timely human rights issues and innovative philanthropy.

In addition to creating a new blog, we have also created a new, informative website for our human rights consulting practice. Take a look by clicking here. As always thoughts and comments are welcome. We look forward to hearing from you!