UNYANET x World Press Freedom Day 2015: In memory of those who lost their lives

world_press_freedom_day__pedro_x__molinaFreedom of speech is a fundamental human right – and paramount to any democracy. For centuries people have died for the right to speak their minds. Today, those who enjoy it tend to forget their freedom is by no means self-evident. Why people – despite history – still have to fight for it. Continue reading

When the Most Beautiful Journey Proves Deadly

MDG 5 aims to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters between 1990 and 2015, and to achieve universal access to healthcare

MDG 5 aims to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters between 1990 and 2015, and to achieve universal access to healthcare

Most girls grow up wanting to be mothers, of bearing and nurturing life. But for many millions of women, the process of pregnancy and the postpartum period can turn deadly for both mother and child. According to the WHO, around 800 women die every day due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth.

The major complications that account for almost 75% of all maternal deaths are severe bleeding, infections (usually after childbirth), high blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia), complications from delivery and unsafe abortion. What makes the situation worse is that most of these causes are avoidable or treatable with proper care, education and processes in place. Timely management and treatment can make the difference between life and death.

The main goals of the UN Millennium Development Goal 5–Maternal Health is to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by at least three quarters, and to achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015. According to the UN, maternal health encompasses the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. It includes in its purview elements of family planning, preconception, prenatal and postnatal care.

Where we stand now

In the past 23 years, we have made some progress in providing safer, less lethal conditions and options available to expectant and new mothers. Between 1990 and 2013, the worldwide maternity mortality rate fell almost 45% from 523,000 deaths in 1990 to 289,000 deaths in 2013. This is still far from the UN Millennium Development Goal of a 75% drop, and accelerated interventions are required in order to meet the target by 2015. That translates to a drop to 131,000 deaths by 2015. A Herculean task, certainly, but not impossible. Continue reading

Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women

Source: UN Women

Source: UN Women

Women constitute a central focus in the socio-culture system of every nation. Many world bodies, international, non-government organizations have also established legal, administrative and institutional structure for the effective existence and survival of women and girls.

In 1995, the Beijing platform for action remains a relevant guideline for development programming. It provide for “an agenda for women’s empowerment” signed by all government that is seen as “a necessary and fundamental pre-requisite for equality, development and peace.

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The Law of War

International Committee of the Red Cross LogoInternational humanitarian law (IHL) is a universal code established to protect victims of armed conflicts. At first, the rules were not written, they were a matter of tradition, but over time they were enshrined in international treaties becoming laws of compulsory compliance. Nowadays, the main rules of international humanitarian law are contained in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977.

The laws set out in this treaty encompass two fields. On the one hand they protect people outside of the combat (civilians, the wounded and sick and people who are detained). On the other hand they restrict and forbid the usage of some weapons in warfare. The aim of IHL is to narrow the scope of hostilities without taking into account the moral status of the parties. The article is a complaint against the lack of importance given to these rules and its continuous violations which aren´t condemned.

After the Second World War most countries committed to obey IHL when they signed the Geneva Convention, but if we analyse some of the latest international news we can see that these rules are constantly violated. There is no guarantee that they will be enforced and the consequences of infringing the laws have not yet been resolved. Here are just a few examples of the ceaseless violations of IHL, which have occurred this year and have not yet been punished.

The rules of customary IHL say that victims of armed conflicts must be given medical care and that deliberate attacks against medical facilities, staff or transports are a violation of IHL (rule110). However, it is not difficult to find evidence of violations to this law. Last July, Al-Shifa medical compound and refugee camp in Palestine were struck by a missile and rockets, several civilians were injured and killed, and the hospital came under fire several times.

Without a doubt this a serious violation of IHL as the line had not been drawn between legitimate military objectives, which are the only legal targets to attack, and civilian ones. Another rule (rule 90) says that torture and inhuman treatment is prohibited, but since the breakout of the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, armed groups from both sides have been accused of carrying out tortures, arbitrary detentions and abductions.

Although this issue has been addressed several times in the UN General Assembly, accountability processes have not started up yet. Rule 104 makes reference to the principle of distinction in saying that the religious practices of civilians and people who do not take part in the hostilities must be respected. Every person shall be treated regardless of his or her religion, sex, race, wealth, etc.

Source: http://cacarc.wordpress.com/

Source: http://cacarc.wordpress.com/

 

However, in many parts of the world this law have not been respected. Some countries such as Iraq and Syria are involved in religious and racial conflicts in which human rights principles have been constantly violated. In some regions of Iraq, such as Baghdad, religious centres have been destroyed, and in Syria people are persecuted for their religious beliefs.

After all these examples it is clear that the international community is not taking IHL seriously. On the one hand governments are not making any effort to preserve a certain degree of humanity in times of war, and on the other hand institutions have not yet settled clear accountability measures to punish such violations. Although the main international law-enforcing bodies of the United Nations as well as peacekeeping forces have voiced their concern over IHL violations, there is no evidence that makes us think that international law infractions will cease, as there are no serious accountability measures.

This issue is of extreme importance as it concerns the lives of millions of people who are suffering from hostilities, which have nothing to do with them. It is important to instruct soldiers and spread the principles of IHL in order to provide protection to the victims of armed conflicts and to make sure that the violations are being detected and tried in court. Otherwise, these rules would be worthless and dignity of life wouldn´t be protected.

Sources:

IHL Rules
Syria violations of humanitarian law (video)
• BAYLIS, John; SMITH, Steve, OWENS, Patricia: The Globalization of World Politics: “An Introduction to International Relations”. Editorial Oxford, 2010.
ICRC statement to the United Nations
Inside a Gaza hospital during Israeli ground offensive. BBC News (video)

The Status of Refugees in Kenya

UNHCR E Hockstein Kenya1

Source: UNHCR in Kenya / E. Hockstein

A refugee is defined as a person who has fled his or her own country to seek refuge in another country for the safety of his/her life and limb because of a well-founded fear of persecution. The definition of a refugee also covers those who are compelled to leave their domicile or place of habitual residence because of among other things, ‘events seriously disturbing public order in his or her country of origin’. The main sources of International Law on refugees are the 1951 Refugee Convention, and the OAU Convention of 1969. Kenya acceded to the 1951 Convention but has not ratified it (according to the UNHCR website in 2014). The obligations under these documents include not sending a person back to a country where he or she may be persecuted, and in the case of the OAU convention where his or her life is threatened because of the threats to public order which form the basis for refugee status; not discriminating among groups of refugees; the right of refugees to freedom of movement and to work in the country (though a three year limit on the right to work can be imposed to protect the local labour market); the same right to basic education as a national; the duty of refugees to obey the law in the country where they are received. The OAU Convention adds that members states shall ‘use their best endeavours’ to receive refugees and ensure their settlement. Continue reading