Thursday, December 18, 2014

UN report accuses Israeli military of negligence in Gaza war

Ed Pilkington in New York and Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem–

Inquiry finds Israel responsible for deaths, injuries and damage to UN buildings

A UN inquiry accused the Israeli military today of “negligence or recklessness” in its conduct of the war in Gaza.

The summary of the UN report, commissioned by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, censured the Israeli government for causing death, injuries and damage to UN property in seven incidents involving action by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF).

It said: “The board concluded that IDF actions involved varying degrees of negligence or recklessness with regard to United Nations premises and to the safety of United Nations staff and other civilians within those premises, with consequent deaths, injuries, and extensive physical damage and loss of property.”

However, in a blow to human rights campaigners, Ban said there would be no further investigation despite the report calling for a full impartial inquiry.

Although the full, 184-page findings of the UN board of inquiry will not be made public, the 27-page summary emphasised that UN premises are inviolable, and that inviolability cannot be set aside by the demands of military expediency.

“UN personnel and all civilians within UN premises, as well as civilians in the immediate vicinity of those premises, are to be protected in accordance with the rules and principles of international humanitarian law,” the summary says.

Among the incidents for which the Israeli government is held responsible are:

• The deaths of three young men killed by a single IDF missile strike at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Asma school in Gaza City on 5 January;

• The firing of heavy IDF mortar rounds into the UNRWA Jabalia school on 6 January, injuring seven people sheltering in the school and killing up to 40 people in the immediate vicinity;

• Aerial bombing of the UNRWA Bureij health centre on the same day causing the death of a patient and serious injuries to two others;

• Artillery firing by the IDF into the UNRWA field office compound in Gaza city on 15 January that in turn caused high explosive shells to explode within the compound causing injuries and considerable damage to the buildings. The summary notes that it disrupted the UN’s humanitarian operations in Gaza;

• Artillery firing by the IDF into the UNRWA Beit Lahia school on 17 January, causing the deaths of two children

• Aerial bombing by the IDF of the Unesco compound on 29 December causing damage to UN buildings and vehicles.

In his accompanying letter to the summary, Ban noted that the Israeli government had significant reservations and objections to the document. He said he was reviewing the inquiry boards recommendations “with a view to determining what courses of action, if any, I should take”.

Those recommendations include demanding from the Israeli government that it retract earlier claims that Palestinians had been firing at the IDF from within UN premises, and that the UN should pursue Israel for reparations and reimbursement for all expenses incurred. Those reparations would cover the death or injury of UN personnel or third parties, and the repair of UN property.

Israel had dismissed the report, given to an Israeli foreign ministry official, as “tendentious” and “patently biased”.

The UN investigation is the first into the war, and looked only at deaths, injuries and damage caused at UN sites in Gaza during the three-week conflict.

The document was compiled by a board of inquiry – a team of four led by Ian Martin, a Briton who is a former head of Amnesty International and a former UN special envoy to East Timor and Nepal.

Israel’s foreign ministry attempted to pre-empt the report today, saying the Israeli military had already investigated its own conduct during the war and “proved beyond doubt” that it did not fire intentionally at UN buildings. It dismissed the UN inquiry.

“The state of Israel rejects the criticism in the committee’s summary report, and determines that in both spirit and language the report is tendentious, patently biased, and ignores the facts presented to the committee,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

It said the inquiry had “preferred the claims of Hamas, a murderous terror organisation, and by doing so has misled the world”.

International human rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have accused Israel’s military and Palestinian militant groups of serious violations of international law and possible war crimes during the conflict.

The UN board of inquiry report has limited scope: it is confined to investigating death or injuries or damage at UN buildings or during UN operations. The UN human rights council is also to dispatch a fact-finding mission to Gaza, but Israel has already suggested it will not co-operate, saying the council is biased.

Source: Guardian UK

Don’t Forget About Foreign Aid

By MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT and COLIN L. POWELL–

President Barack Obama’s inaugural address included a ringing endorsement of U.S. engagement with the developing world: “To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.”

The president reiterated his commitment to making development a pillar of American engagement with the world at the recent G-20 conference in London. There, he joined with other world leaders in pledging support for poor countries as they deal with the effects of the global economic crisis. He also announced plans to work with Congress to double support for agricultural development, a driver of economic growth in many of the world’s poorest countries.

We fully support this steady commitment and generosity, especially during these times of great economic hardship.

Our country’s economic health and security are inextricably linked to the prosperity and security of the rest of the world. The current economic crisis brings with it a strong temptation to turn inward and focus on the pain we are experiencing here at home. But pulling back from global engagement is not an option. Stability and prosperity go hand in hand, and neither is possible in the presence of widespread and extreme poverty.

U.S. efforts to promote development and reduce poverty around the world make up a vital component of what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called the “three Ds” of U.S. foreign policy: development, defense and diplomacy. We have a responsibility to use our foreign aid dollars as effectively as possible, to keep our markets open to the poorest countries, and to integrate trade into our overall economic development strategy.

There is also a critical role for the private sector. Businesses must do what they do best by expanding economic growth and enterprise development around the world. If we are serious about making global development a strategic priority, we must explore new opportunities for businesses and government to leverage each other’s efforts and resources. Only a strategy that combines smart government policies with the engine of business and entrepreneurship will be powerful enough to overcome the enormous challenges we face.

This is the mission of the Initiative for Global Development (IGD) — an organization whose leadership council we co-chair. At the IGD National Summit in Washington, D.C., on May 6, business and government leaders will gather to advance new strategies for reducing global poverty. Participants will focus on ways to promote better public policies, and to integrate the best practices of business and government in order to lift up the lives of the world’s poorest people through economic growth.

The IGD Summit will include some of the brightest business minds from Africa, who know too well the urgent needs of the world’s poorest people and the unique barriers facing African entrepreneurs. These African business leaders will join with U.S. CEOs to advance the shared objective of reducing poverty through enterprise development.

It is clear that the vision outlined in President Obama’s inaugural address will require new thinking. We have to focus our efforts where they can have maximum impact, and draw on the strengths of the public and private sectors alike. Especially now — as the economic crisis threatens to reverse the immense progress we have made against global poverty in the postwar era — we have a shared responsibility to continue this progress or risk the grave threat of backsliding.

The challenges our own economy must overcome are daunting. But if we combine our strengths and talents in a focused effort to reduce the most severe poverty, we can create a brighter future for all of us.

source: THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

What Role for the G-20?

By MIKHAIL GORBACHEV–

The Group of 20 has held two summit meetings, including the recent one in London. It is now an established forum, a recognition, belated in my view, that the world has changed and that the old institutions have not kept pace with rapidly evolving needs.

Better late than never, of course. Yet already there are questions about the substance and functioning of this new body – questions that need to be answered without delay.

The first is whether the decisions adopted in London can resolve the global financial and economic crisis, setting the world economy on track to sustainable growth.

A definitive answer will emerge only with time, but my initial impression is that the London decisions may be a tentative first step. But clearer reference points are needed on structuring the system of global economic governance and on the group’s tasks. Crisis prevention should not be the G-20’s main task. What’s needed is a transition to a new model, integrating social, environmental and economic factors.

The second question concerns the G-20’s place within the system of global institutions. What is this group: a “global politburo,” a “club of the powerful,” a prototype for a world government? How will it interact with the United Nations?

I am convinced that no group of countries, even if they account for 90 percent of the world economy, could supersede or substitute for the United Nations. But clearly, the G-20 could claim collective leadership in world affairs if it acts with due respect for the opinions of non-members. The presence in the G-20 of countries representing different geographic regions, different levels of development and different cultures is a hopeful sign.

And yet this group is an improvised affair, put together under duress in the extreme conditions of an unexpected global upheaval. It does not include certain countries that are influential in regional and sometimes broader terms, like Egypt, Nigeria or Iran. And it has not been clear about its methods.

To avoid mistakes the G-20 must be transparent and work closely with the U.N. At least once a year, its summit meetings should be held at U.N. headquarters. It should submit a report for substantial discussion to the General Assembly.

Last but not least is the question of the scope of its work. Should the G-20 be confined to the global economy, or will it address political problems? The answer is not self-evident.

Those who object to a political role would obviously argue that the world community has entrusted the U.N. Security Council with primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. Therefore, our main concern should be to strengthen that body’s role. It is indeed true that all attempts to ignore or bypass the Security Council, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere, have always ended badly.

It is also true, however, that the Security Council’s main role is to respond promptly to immediate crisis. We know from experience that it is not as well-equipped to address long-term, conceptual issues. Furthermore, the long delay in reforming the Council has left it less representative than the G-20, which is particularly well-suited to consider the global challenges of security, poverty and the environment.

I believe that the G-20 could find a key place in the architecture of world politics. If it helps to reverse the economic crisis, it will earn the credibility to lead.

One of the problems ripe for debate is the militarization of world politics and economics. Militarization deflects resources from the real economy, stimulates conflicts and creates an illusion that military rather than political solutions are viable. By initiating a serious discussion within the G-20, world leaders can build momentum for the work of those U.N. organizations that are responsible for progress in this area – the Security Council and the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

Following the London summit meeting, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain called the gathering a step toward a “new progressive era of international cooperation.” Though there is still a way to go before that becomes a reality, it is the direction in which we must move.

Mikhail Gorbachev was the last leader of the Soviet Union and is president of the International Foundation for Socio-Economic and Political Studies in Moscow.

source: The New York Times