Refugees as Global Actors

 

Image: UNHCR

Image: UNHCR

Some days ago I came across this beautiful petition (thanks Twitter!), which resonates with my assumption that individuals should have a say about issues and policies which impact on their life, even when they are managed at global level.

I copy/paste it here for you to read and possibly sign:

Internally displaced persons, refugees and people living in exile unite!

Europe is presently facing its biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. Millions of people are being displaced in Syria and Iraq, as well as in other parts of the world, and many are trying to reach Europe, not only because they hope to be safe there, but also because of the political rights Europeans enjoy and take for granted: the right to free expression, the right to vote and so forth.

Yet, those few who do make it to Europe find themselves excluded from public life, without political rights and without a voice. To challenge that, we, people displaced by force, together with some NGOs and other stakeholders, are starting to organise ourselves with a view to creating new democratic structures both locally and internationally, so that in future internally displaced persons, refugees and people living in exile can offer themselves as dialogue partners to local councils, national parliaments, the European Parliament and the UN.

If you would like to support this initiative, please sign this petition now. We look forward to hearing from you.

If you agree, you can sign it here.

After a Skype conversation with Nico Andreas Heller, promoter of the initiative and founding director of the Democracy School, I found out that this petition is the tip of the iceberg of a wider process, aimed at creating an International Committee of Refugees (ICR), a directly elected, democratically accountable, representative body for internally displaced persons, refugees and people living in exile.

The challenge is tremendous: refugee camps host people from different cultures, religions, life experiences and many of them could have no experience of democracy at all (or don’t buy my or your idea of democracy).

They escape from different realities and for different reasons. They are over 65 millions nowadays and this number could increase over time as it is very possible to imagine climate refugees in the next future, fleeing from extreme climate events.

How the population of a camp could be represented? How the camp could have some kind of self-government to manage its specific needs and solve its internal problems? How the global population of refugees could dialogue with states and international fora – the UN in the first place – about their future?

From a strictly legal point of view, we need to consider that individuals are not unanimously considered subjects of international law, they cannot create an international organization, but just a non-governmental organization (NGO). They cannot dialogue on equal footing with states and international organizations but just enjoy – here and there – a limited observer status.

Nonetheless, an International Committee of Refugees would give them the rights to be aknowledged and to be heard. Which seems to me the minimum threshold for global civic rights. The mobilisation to explore innovative solution is on its way, and we are all invited, you can join it here.

I want to mention another beautiful project, the Project Love  – promoted by the architect and life coach Gregorio Avanzini -intended to create a holistic and scalable solution for refugee camps which includes everything from meeting basic human needs ( nutritious food; clean water; shelter; health care; education; emotional support). This too is an open initiative and everybody could offer his/her own expertise to make a difference.

We cannot ignore that we are facing  “the worst refugee and humanitarian crisis since World War II”( quoting UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon) and one of the biggest issues in the XXI Century. Denial will just make it bigger.

It’s time to consider people not just as part of the problem, but as part of the solution.

One Humanity: Shared Responsibility

The Istanbul Summit is approaching, the first of its kind: a world humanitarian summit.

When the UN Secretary General called it in 2012, he could not imagine, that in May 2016 it would have been the no.1 issue on the agenda, because of all sort of humanitarian crises.

Every day, more funding and more organization is needed to save life and to offer first aid, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance exploded in the last 12 months. Frustration is growing on both sides: the one of those who need help and that of those who do not know how to help.

Released a few days ago, the Report of the Secretary-General for the World Humanitarian Summit is a first provisional answer, aiming at paving the road. It offers a vision, inclusive and universal.

Here is the annex Agenda, summarizing the core proposals and the envisaged actions and tools.

Among others, a clear effort is needed to enhance law and governance tools, as pointed out in the Core Responsibility II. Uphold the norms that safeguard humanity, where we find under letter D:

Reinforce our global justice system

Adopt national legislation encompassing the full range of international crimes and universal jurisdiction over them, and strengthen and invest politically in national law enforcement and invest financially in strong and impartial judicial systems.
Carry out systematically effective investigations into and prosecutions for allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.
Provide adequate political, technical and financial cooperation and support to the International Criminal Court and for the systematic investigation and prosecution of international crimes”
and under letter E:
“Uphold the rules: a global campaign to affirm the norms that safeguard humanity
Launch a global campaign
Launch a global effort to mobilize States Parties, civil society, and other global leaders to prevent the erosion of international humanitarian and human rights law, demand greater compliance with them, and ardently pursue the protection of civilians.
Adhere to core instruments
Urge all states to accede to core international instruments aimed at protecting civilians and their rights and implement them.
Promote compliance by engaging in dialogue on the law
Hold regular meetings of States Parties and experts on implementation of international humanitarian and human rights law and new challenges to reinforce its relevance, identify areas requiring clarification, and offer opportunities for legal assistance to ultimately compel compliance.
Use high-level United Nations Member States forums, such as the General Assembly, Security Council or the Human Rights Council for dialogue on compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law.”
But what we find really innovative and important is the last para. in Core Responsibility IV. Change people’s lives – From delivering aid to ending need

 “C. Deliver collective outcomes: transcend humanitarian-development divides

Commit to the following eight elements in order to move beyond traditional silos, work across mandates, sectors and institutional boundaries and with a greater diversity of partners toward ending need and reducing risk and vulnerability in support of national and local capacities and the achievement of the 2030 Agenda
Create a joint problem statement driven by data and analysis
Collect, analyse, aggregate and share reliable and sex –and -age disaggregated data with adequate security and privacy protection as a collective obligation to inform priorities.
Make data and analysis the basis and driver for determining a common understanding of context, needs and capacities between national and local authorities, humanitarian, development, human rights, peace and security sectors.
Develop a joint problem statement to identify priorities, the capacities of all available actors to address priorities, and where international actors can support or complement existing capacities.
Identify and implement collective outcomes
Formulate collective outcomes that are strategic, clear, quantifiable and measurable, and prioritized on the areas of greatest risk and vulnerability of people identified in the joint problem statement.
Aim for collective outcomes to have a positive impact on overall national indicators of advancement toward the 2030 Agenda and for multi-year plans to be installments toward achieving national development strategies in line with the 2030 Agenda.
Develop multi-year plans in three to five year duration that set out roles for various actors, adopt targets and drive resource mobilization to achieve collective outcomes.
Draw on comparative advantage
Deliver agreed outcomes based on complementarity and identified comparative advantage among actors, whether local, national or international, public or private.
Promote a strong focus on innovation, specialization and consolidation in the humanitarian sector.
Coordinate collective outcomes
Coordinate around each collective outcome with the diverse range of actors responsible to achieve it.
Empower leadership for collective outcomes
Empower national and international leadership to coordinate and consolidate stakeholders toward achieving the collective outcomes
Empower the Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator to ensure coherent, collective and predictable programme delivery of the United Nations and its partners toward the full programme cycle of the multi-year plan and the achievement of collective outcomes.
Empower the Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator to request and consolidate data and analysis to develop the common problem statement; moderate and conclude the setting of collective out comes; ensure implementation and monitoring of progress; and to steer adequate resources to ward the agreed multi-year plan.
Adapt structures, processes and financial systems at headquarters of agencies and donors as appropriate to reinforce this approach towards collective outcomes.
Monitor progress
Ensure clear performance benchmarks and arrangements are in place to monitor and measure progress toward achieving collective outcomes, to ensure timely adjustments, and the right re sources and political support are in place.
Retain emergency capacity
Enable and facilitate emergency response and people’s access to life-saving assistance and protection in contexts where meeting longer-term collective outcomes will be difficult to achieve.
Recognize the provision of emergency response as a short-term exception and all efforts should be made to reduce need, risk and vulnerability from the outset.”

Infact, one of the (many) problems to overcome is the fragmentation of each emergency response among an impressive number of actors, acting at different level and often without a shared vision. Not only state actors and international actors may address different priorities or have in mind different goals, but also at the same state level (even  at the same international level) different actors could contradict each other, not to speak of the not always clear sharing of competences among international institutional actors (as the UN and the many specialized agencies).

What the Agenda do not get to say is that we need a control room, possibly in the UN, and we need an holistic approach to include development policy, equality, humanitarian emergencies and peace-keeping.
Of course, these are different problems that need tailored responses and dedicated specialists, but we could not deny that they impact each other significantly. A common vision on preventing conflicts would avoid displacements – having an impact on development, equality, health emergencies. Working on development and equality, on the other hand, reduces the risk of conflicts, and so on….
My best wishes to the World Humanitarian Summit, my hope is that  – approaching the date – it becomes even more ambitious and far-reaching (as it just happened in Paris).

The Global Goals and All the Ways to Communicate Them

Sustainable development goals are ambitious. They are milestones intended to change the world in the next 15 years.

As you can read, the 5 Ps in the preamble reveal a broaden view…

The Goals and targets will stimulate action over the next fifteen years in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet:

People

We are determined to end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions, and to ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment.

Planet

We are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainableconsumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgentaction on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and futuregenerations.

Prosperity

We are determined to ensure that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfillinglives and that economic, social and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature.

Peace

We are determined to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fearand violence. There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.

Partnership

We are determined to mobilize the means required to implement this Agenda through arevitalised Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity, focussed in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable and with the participation of all countries, all stakeholders and all people.

Many will notice that this list is much longer than the previous one, the list of Millennium development goals, written fifteen years ago. The focus is not just on the people, but on the planet too and on all the living creatures on it. As somebody said, “What does not benefit the hive, is no benefit to the bee.”

Are they achievable? Yes, they are. But if we look at the previous 15 years we can tell than setting a direction doesn’t guarantee that we are going to reach the target. Nonetheless, it is far better than not setting it at all. If we fall short, we’ll be somewhere on the way. Somewhere closer.

Of course, the goals and their formulations are the results of negotiations and compromises – not necessarily the best possible – and the follow-up won’t be easy (you can read something more here)

Nonetheless, this new 15-years-race has been better prepared than the previous one.

First of all, the SDGs are the final results of many different levels of contribution, which have involved an impressive number of people. Even if the diplomatic and political level played the decisive role, it has been preceded by on-line polls (involving more than 8 million people), thematic and national consultations, large debates, meetings with civil society.

The idea is that creating a sense of ownership – through a bottom-up dialogue, inclusive planning structures such as the World We Want Platform  and multi-stakeholder partnerships – will benefit its delivery.

Another powerful idea is that communications is in itself a key to making the targets attainable.

If a majority of people around the world will believe in the goals they will become achievable. Not only because private action will join the efforts of government and international organizations, but also because – on a deeper level – a sort of global awareness will make them appear realistic so that many small actions will add up to the big ones.

The effort to communicate the new goals appears, in this early stage, already impressive.

For instance, for the number of testimonials…

…or for the different targets, including children

…and for the spontaneous involvement of private companies.

Virgin, for instance, has created an app in support of the global goals, wich could transform all of us in superheroes to join ‘the global goals alliance’.

I’ve chosen for myself the superpower “partnership for the goals” ( no.17)

Embarrassing, isn’t it?

But what I think is really great, it’s the idea that we can contribute in many different ways and so several different platforms are just being created to offer us occasions to engage, such as the PEOPLE + PLANET PROJECT or the Global Citizen Community.

Quite interesting as a start, isn’t it?

Four Ideas for a Better UN. A Proposal from the Elders

Chaired by Kofi Annan, The Elders is an independent group of global leaders who work together for peace and human rights. They were brought together in 2007 by Nelson Mandela.

The proposal was originally posted here

The United Nations now:

The dynamics of the United Nations

The Proposal: A UN fit for purpose

I. A new category of members

In principle, the existing permanent members claim to be ready to welcome new members. But their sincerity has not been tested, because the rest of the membership cannot agree on essential points: which countries, and how many, should be new permanent members, and should they, like the existing ones, be given a veto over the Council’s substantive divisions? In the view of many, the use or abuse of the veto is responsible for some of the Council’s most conspicuous failures, when it does not intervene in time, or with sufficient force, to protect the victims of genocide and other comparable crimes. Those states are understandably reluctant to give yet more powers the right of veto.

We therefore propose a compromise. Let the states which aspire to permanent membership accept instead, at least for the time being, election to a new category of membership, which would give them a much longer term than the two years served by the non-permanent members, and to which they could be immediately re-elected when that term expires. This would enable them to become de facto permanent members, but in a more democratic way, since it would depend on them continuing to enjoy the confidence of other member states. By making the Council more democratic, this change would increase its legitimacy in the eyes of the world, thereby enhancing its authority and so also making it more effective.

II. A pledge from permanent members

As already noted, on too many issues the Security Council is deadlocked by the failure of its permanent members to agree on a course of action, with the result that millions of people are left to suffer while great powers score debating points off each other. As the UN’s founders understood, without the united support of the permanent members, both material and moral, the Council cannot act.

None of us has forgotten the Holocaust, Rwanda, Srebrenica, Saddam Hussein’s campaign against Iraq’s Kurds, or the killing fields of Cambodia. No part of the world has been spared these horrors. So the political will must be summoned to prevent, or at least limit, their repetition.

We therefore call on the five existing permanent members to pledge themselves to greater and more persistent efforts to find common ground, especially in crises where populations are being subjected to, or threatened with, genocide or other atrocity crimes.

States making this pledge will undertake not to use, or threaten to use, their veto in such crises without explaining, clearly and in public, what alternative course of action they propose, as a credible and efficient way to protect the populations in question. This explanation must refer to international peace and security, and not to the national interest of the state casting the veto, since any state casting a veto simply to protect its national interests is abusing the privilege of permanent membership.

And when one or more permanent members do feel obliged to cast a veto, and do provide such an explanation, the others must undertake not to abandon the search for common ground but to make even greater efforts to agree on an effective course of action.

III. A voice for civil society

When they can agree, the permanent members too often deliberate behind closed doors, without listening to the voices of those most directly affected by their decisions, and present their elected colleagues with ready-made resolutions leaving little room for debate. To remedy this, we call on all members of the Security Council to make more regular and systematic use of the “Arria formula” (under which, in the last two decades, Security Council members have had meetings with a wide variety of civil society organisations), to give groups representing people in zones of conflict the greatest possible opportunity to inform and influence Council decisions.

At present, meetings under the Arria formula are too often attended only by junior officials, whose reports can easily be ignored. In future, we call on the heads of the delegations of all countries serving on the Security Council, including the permanent members, to attend all meetings held under this formula in person. Members of the Council must use such meetings to ensure that their decisions are informed by full and clear knowledge of the conditions in the country or region concerned, and of the views of those most directly affected.

IV. A more independent Secretary-General

At the United Nations, it is the Secretary-General who has to uphold the interests and aspirations of all the world’s peoples. This role requires leadership of the highest calibre. Yet for 70 years the holder of this post has effectively been chosen by the five permanent members of the Security Council, who negotiate among themselves in almost total secrecy. The rest of the world is told little about the process by which candidates are identified, let alone the criteria by which they are judged. This barely follows the letter, and certainly not the spirit, of the UN Charter, which says the Secretary-General should be appointed by the General Assembly, and only on the recommendation of the Security Council.

To remedy this, we call on the General Assembly to insist that the Security Council recommend more than one candidate for appointment as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, after a timely, equitable and transparent search for the best qualified candidates, irrespective of gender or regional origin.

We suggest that the next Secretary-General be appointed for a single, non-renewable term of seven years, in order to strengthen his or her independence and avoid the perception that he or she is guided by electoral concerns. She or he must not be under pressure, either before or after being appointed, to give posts in the Secretariat to people of any particular nationality in return for political support, since this is clearly contrary to the spirit of the Charter. This new process should be adopted without delay, so that the United Nations can make full use of it to choose the best person to assume the post in January 2017.

Financing for Development, Why it is so Relevant

On July 13-16, leaders from around the world gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the Third Conference on “Financing for Development.”

It is the first of a series of crucial meetings which will take place this year:

In September, world leaders will gather in New York to adopt a new set of global goals for sustainable development.

In December, leaders will converge in Paris for a new climate deal.

The Addis conference is a first big test for global cooperation, it will also lays the foundations (hopefully) for the success of the following events. In fact, vast financial resources and investments are needed to achieve the new sustainable development goals by 2030: to end extreme poverty, tackle climate change, and reduce inequalities.

Why does the conversation on financing for development matter?

Since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals 15 years ago, the world is quite changed: poverty, inequality, unemployment, or exclusion are issues on the agenda of all states, not only of  developing countries. New players emerged: the role of the BRICS on the global financing scene became more relevant; non-state actors increased their role as well: private foundations, advocacy NGOs and global campaigners.  There is, finally, a universal agenda.

Addis Abeba will test the political will to make this agenda advance. Success will require joint efforts by States, International Organizations, private investors and civil society.

It is just the beginning of a long season of negotiations.

To learn more about the  conference, visit the UN’s Financing for Development website , and join the conversation online using the hashtags #FFD3 and #action2015.

DECLARATION FROM THE ADDIS ABABA CIVIL SOCIETY FORUM ON FINANCING FOR DEVELOPMENT

“We, members of more than 600 civil society organizations and networks from around the world that have been engaged in the process leading up to and including the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (Addis Ababa, July 13-16 2015), convened a CSO Forum in advance of the conference. We have the following reflections and recommendations to convey to the Member States of the United Nations and the international community. We want to express appreciation for the participation and access civil society was accorded in the preparatory process so far.

As the first in three important UN Summits on sustainable development this year, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (“Addis Agenda”) has the opportunity to set the tone for an ambitious and transformative agenda that will tackle the structural injustices in the current global economic system, as well as ensuring that all development finance is people-centred and protects the environment.The world faces challenges in the form of historic levels of inequality within and among countries, the confluence of financial, food and environmental crises, the underprovision of essential services and pronounced employment deficits. However, the draft outcome document does not yet rise to the challenges that the world currently faces, nor does it contain the leadership, ambition and practical actions that are necessary.

In what follows, we highlight our overarching concerns about the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (“Addis Agenda”), followed by our reflections and suggestions on its different aspects.

The Addis Agenda as it stands undermines agreements in the Monterrey Consensus of 2002 and the Doha Declaration of 2008. It is also hardly suited to function as the operational Means of Implementation (MoI) for the, post-2015 development agenda, which is one of the goals of this conference, and to inspire the hope of reaching a successful agreement towards COP 21 in Paris.

The Third Financing for Development (FFD) conference must unequivocally assert that development processes should be led by countries under the ultimate responsibility of the States through participatory processes to include all right-holders. The principles of democratic ownership and leadership have been affirmed in many global forums since Monterrey and it is now time to place it at the heart of the whole financing framework as a fundamental qualification of countries’ policy space, which the draft Addis Agenda itself recalls. An enabling environment for civil society agency is essential.”

The 1 FOR SEVEN BILLION CAMPAIGN: UN LEADERSHIP MATTERS

Today, I host an important call. You can find it here

“The UN Secretary-General plays a crucial role in tackling global challenges and improving the lives of seven billion people. It is vital that the best person is chosen for the job. But the selection process is secretive and outdated. Just five countries hold sway over a decision that affects us all. The next Secretary-General will be appointed in 2016.

Individuals from across the world as well as organisations including Amnesty International, Avaaz, Forum Asia and more than 100 others are already on board. Eminent personalities like Kofi Annan and increasing numbers of governments support our aims. Candidates are putting themselves forward. Horse-trading is already underway. We need to act now.”

“Monday’s UN General Assembly debate saw a near universal demand for transforming the way in which the UN appoints its next Secretary-General.

32 member states and the EU spoke at the debate, voicing broad support for many of the concrete proposals made by the 1 for 7 Billion campaign.

Speaking at a press briefing, Natalie Samarasinghe, one of the United Nations Association – UK (UNA-UK); one of over 150 NGOs worldwide that belong to the 1 for 7 Billion movement, said:

“Not only did an unprecedented number of states speak, but their statements were stronger and – crucially – more detailed, setting out concrete, practical proposals to make the process more transparent and inclusive. We believe this spells the end of the outdated and opaque process that hasn’t been updated since 1946”.

The impact of the campaign was visible during the debate, with Liechtenstein, Mexico and Brazil making specific reference to it.

Nearly all states backed the need for a clear timeline and open exchanges with candidates. The majority (21 in total) called for female candidates to be seriously considered this time. No woman has ever held the UN’s top job.

Significantly, 10 states, including Brazil and Malaysia, called for an end to the “rubberstamping” function of the General Assembly, urging the Security Council to give the UN’s wider membership a real choice by putting forward more than one candidate.

Eight states, including Algeria, on behalf of the 120 member states of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) supported consideration of a single, non-renewable term for the next SG.

The Council’s “backroom deals” with candidates also came under fire, with Algeria, on behalf of the NAM, India, Nicaragua, Brazil and Indonesia, calling for a merit-based appointment without pressure on candidates to make promises on other senior appointments.

Highlights of the debate included particularly strong statements made by the NAM, Costa Rica and India on the need for the Security Council to present more than one candidate. The Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) group, representing 27 states, laid down a practical guide for action, proposing a joint letter by the Presidents of the General Assembly and the Security Council to open the selection process with a call for nominations and an end date.

In another welcome development, Canada reintroduced its important ‘non-paper’ on the selection of the Secretary-General, calling for substantive reform in the UN’s 70th anniversary year.

Vague statements made by the EU and Germany were particularly disappointing.
Predictably, only China, Russia, and the United States, three of the five Security Council members with the power to veto candidates, made statements in favor of the status quo. France remained vague. The UK displayed some leadership, proposing a clear ‘structure’ in the recruitment process, including a deadline for candidate declarations and a timetable for appointment. Matthew Rycroft, the UK’s new Permanent Representative to the UN, said:

“Yesterday’s debate is an excellent basis for negotiating a strong resolution, cementing an open and inclusive appointment process. The job of the SG is one of the most challenging and influential in the world, affecting the lives of seven billion people. We must now push hard to translate words into action in the tough negotiations that lie ahead.”

Ten reforms

A comprehensive reform of the selection process for future UN Secretaries-General should include all of the following:

  1. The position and qualifications should be advertised in all countries, with a call for nominations by Member States, parliaments and civil society organisations, and include a closing date for nominations.
  2. A formal list of selection criteria should be published by the UN; these criteria should stress that the best person should be chosen irrespective of his or her country of origin.
  3. A clear timetable for the selection process should be made public by the President of the General Assembly and President of the Security Council, no later than the start of the GA’s 70th session.
  4. A list of all the official candidates and their CVs should be published by the President of the GA at the end of the nomination phase and by the Security Council President when considering its list of preferred candidates.
  5. The President of the General Assembly and the President of the Security Council will be jointly responsible for regularly updating the UN membership and general public on the selection process once the full list of candidates has been announced.
  6. Each candidate should release a manifesto, which should include their policy priorities and a commitment to selecting senior UN officials on the basis of merit, irrespective of their country of origin.
  7. Once the names of all candidates have been announced, the General Assembly should organise a series of open sessions that will enable member states as well as the public and media to scrutinise candidates and their manifestos.
  8. The GA should insist that candidates do not make promises to individual countries on senior appointments, and member states should undertake not to seek such promises.
  9. The Security Council should be encouraged to present two or more candidates for the General Assembly to appoint as Secretary-General.
  10. The term of the Secretary-General should be limited to a single, non-renewable period of seven years.

Be a global citizen, join the campaign, select one of the proposed candidates or suggest your own, spread the word.