Friday, August 1, 2014

Inefficiency of International Mechanisms

For those of us who believe in the equal creation of all humans, for all those who believe in justice for all, for all those who believe in multilateralism, the current situation in many areas of the world is intolerable and unjustifiable. A serious mismanagement of world affairs by major powers who wield the financial, military and media strongholds has been underway now for several decades. The UN system is weak and incompetent in face of those forces, it has not been able to establish peace among nations or peace with the world's precious ecosystems,both existential threats to life on earth. 
Dr. Mosaffa has done an excellent article on the role of multilateral mechanisms in dealing with crises such as that in the Middle East today. I would like to share her academic view points here. Hope you enjoy.



Iran Review.Org

Gaza Crisis Mirrors Inefficiency of International Law
Sunday, July 27, 2014

http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Gaza-Crisis-Mirrors-Inefficiency-of-International-Law.htm

Nasrin Mosaffa
Professor of Tehran University & UN Expert

International human rights movement came into being with the formulation
of the Charter of the United Nations and through frequent references to
the horrendous nature of crimes committed against ordinary people during
the World War II. By and by, this movement made efforts to bolster its
legitimacy by issuing statements and approving binding documents in order
to formulate norms, pass regulations, and establish new organs and
institutions both inside and outside the United Nations. However, in
addition to concerns and questions that have consistently existed about
political, social, cultural and economic capabilities of this huge body of
laws, whose activities are aimed at protecting human beings, it is
currently facing major challenges for the realization of its goals,
especially under emergency circumstances and conditions of hostile
conflicts.

Despite all efforts that have been made so far, global mechanisms have not
been actually able to deal effectively with blatant cases in which human
rights and humanitarian law, which are totally intermingled in view of the
realities of the contemporary world, have been violated. Apart from all
clear cases that have taken place during the past decades, a striking
instance of the violation of human rights is the current situation and
acute conditions of people in the Gaza Strip, which are, of course, not
limited to the ongoing crisis. Recent remarks by Navi Pillay, the United
Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, addressed to a Special Session
of the UN Human Rights Council on July 23, 2014, was good evidence to
inability of international mechanisms in dealing with such crises. Pillay
clearly noted that she and her predecessors only relied on facts, laws,
and common sense judgments, adding that they had done this so far and will
continue to do the same in the future, though they have frequently come
under fire for such efforts. The High Commissioner also noted that Gazan
children and women accounted for the main part of the Israeli attack’s
victims, adding that “All the dead and maimed civilians should weigh
heavily on all consciences, as all efforts to protect them had been abject
failures.” She also urged “more powerful entities, such as the Security
Council, and individual States with serious leverage over the parties to
this dreadful and interminable conflict,” to “do far more than they had
done so far to bring the conflict to an end once and for all.”

The remarks by Navi Pillay, as the highest ranking US human rights
official, in addition to what UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian
Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said in the same
meeting when explaining the human catastrophe and the rising civilian
casualties in the ongoing Gaza crisis, will be hard to tolerate for any
conscientious person. Over 1000 Palestinians, including more than 200
children and many women have been so far killed in Gaza and the death toll
keeps rising with every hour passing.

Hundreds of Palestinians homes have been destroyed by the invading Israeli
military and more than 140,000 Palestinians have been seeking refuge in
other places. Schools, hospitals, and various installations, including
facilities and buildings run by the United Nations have been razed to the
ground. On average, one Palestinian child loses his/her life every hour.
Disabled women are torn to pieces on their wheelchairs. Killer Israeli
drones continue to bomb various parts of the General Assembly. All these
catastrophic events are taking place on top of a crippling siege on the
coastal enclave, which has already blocked Gaza people’s access to such
essential and primary needs as potable water, foodstuff, fuel, electricity
and first aid. As admitted by Pillay, Israel has even ignored and violated
international obligations and responsibilities of an occupying force. Long
occupation of Palestinian lands, which has brought them nothing but
insecurity, and ignoring the right of the Palestinian people to survive
and determine their own destiny, among other rights, are major breaches of
international obligations by Israel.

Such remarks by international authorities all attest to blatant violations
of human rights and the norms of international humanitarian law,
especially with regard to such principles as proportion between a threat
and the response given to it, the need to differentiate between the
military and civilian population, and the need to exercise cautious in
case of any military undertaking. In fact, the ongoing crisis in Gaza is a
clear manifestation of the inefficiency of international law, especially
international humanitarian law. Of course, this may be a very pessimistic
conclusion. A large part of the pressure that has been currently put on
Israel is a result of the crimes perpetrated by the Tel Aviv regime and
blatant violation of customary rules of international law. This is why
even the staunchest supporters of Israel have been forced to avoid
defending Israel’s onslaught on the Gaza Strip and highlight Tel Aviv’s
violations of primary principles of international law and human rights.

After the establishment of Israel and political crises that followed it,
the UN has frequently repeated the measures that it usually takes in such
cases: holding international conferences and meetings, dispatching
peacekeeping forces, establishing UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine
Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), sending special envoys, organizing
fact-finding groups, choosing special rapporteurs, adopting resolutions
and so forth. However, all these measures lack the necessary political
will and guarantees that are embedded in the Security Council’s decisions
and this is why Pillay has urged the member states of the Security Council
to “do far more than they had done so far to bring the conflict to an end
once and for all.”

Perhaps, she thinks that the unprecedented candor in her latest remarks,
now that her tenure is coming to an end, may reduce the heavy burden that
weighs on her conscience and of which she has talked at the end of her
speech. The former UN human rights commissioner, Mary Robinson, lost her
second term in office after she prepared a report on Israel’s crimes at
Jenin refugee camp, which evoked harsh opposition of the United States.
Unlike her, Mrs. Pillay has plucked up her courage in the later months of
her second term, which is her last term in office, and has now decided to
deal with the situation in Palestine on the basis of her professional
requirements in accordance with Paragraph (a), Article 2 of the UN General
Assembly Resolution 141 (adopted on December 20, 1993). According to that
article, “…the High Commissioner for Human Rights shall be a person of
high moral standing and personal integrity and shall possess expertise,
including in the field of human rights, and the general knowledge and
understanding of diverse cultures necessary for impartial, objective,
non-selective and effective performance of the duties of the High
Commissioner.”

Now, we must wait and see how her Jordanian successor, who should be
practically familiar with the problems and suffering of Palestinians,
would remain committed to the aforesaid professional requirements and
human obligations. The consequence of the UN decision to establish Israel
is war crimes that have been committed frequently by this regime. Although
it is the bodies of Palestinian people that are washed in their blood,
those crimes have also greatly weighed down on the conscience and human
spirit of the world and have dealt drastic blows to international human
rights movement, which had promised to protect human dignity of all
people.

Perhaps, UN officials believe that expression of sympathy and mere
condemnation will make up for the aforesaid blows to human rights
movement. However, the undeniable reality of the modern world beyond all
expressions of sympathy is that the UN has failed in making sure about
fulfilling what has been said in the Preamble to the Charter of the United
Nations about the world body’s obligation “to save succeeding generations
from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold
sorrow to mankind.” If a six-year Gazan child has not already died of
hunger, or if they have not already experienced injury and disability, and
have not faced dire problems with regard to essential needs of their life,
they have, at least, seen three bouts of war and bloodshed in the besieged
territory and have spent all their life under siege. In the meantime, the
entire world has been, of course, expressing its sympathy with them!!!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Gaza and the Conscience of Humanity

ChrisGunness UNOCHA says at least 168 Palestinians killed in Gaza in last week, 80% (133 people) are civilians of whom 21% (36) are children.
The assault continues after six days ,while the tragic scenes displayed in independent media and social networks has horrified many onlookers.
According to reports comming from different locations hundreds of cities have witnessed massive demonstrations against the slaughter in Gaza. Israel is confident that it enjoys the backing of major Western States for its incursion so the public opinion is not relevant for them. Their strategy is to kill the resistance and resilience of the Palestinian nation.
The question that remains for many of us who believe in multilateralism is that what is the relevancy of the UN when it does not make any serious effort to prevent bloodshed and war against defenseless civilians who have suffered for decades snow at the hands of the occupiers and aggressors?
 If the current peacemaking mechanisms remain inefficient , irresponsive, and biased in their performance then many societies would resort to taking their affairs in their own hands and this message would fuel more violence and extremism in today's world.The solidarity of many governments with the people of Gaza is also a hopeful sign , the Chilean Senate took a moment of silence for them.
The question each human being needs to ask is where do I stand on this matter of conscience and humanity today? Gaza will stand as a gauge to expose the true identity of us all.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The First UN Environment Assembly

The first UNEA flew last week in Nairobi. During the early years of the millenium a major issue which was debated in international fora related to the environment concerned the need for a strong,over arching and inclusive body which would include all members of the international community.After years of negotiations and debates the UN Environment Assembly was finally launched. This body if democratically managed, could serve as a model of multilateralism in today's world. 
The first Assembly was an opportunity to debate important challenges such as air quality, illegal trade in wildlife and timber, the new sustainable development goals, sustainable production and consumption and chemicals.The event was of such importance that the President of Kenya attended both the opening and the closing along with Ban Ki Moon the UNSG. More than 160 countries attended mostly at the ministerial level. http://www.unep.org/unea/en/
The event also provides an important opportunity for exchange of views and dialogue at the bilateral level. On the sidelines of this Assembly Last week I met with Achim Steiner , UNEP executive director and gave him our national team's jersey with the Persian Cheetah design.
I also met with the President of Kenya and spoke of the importance of improving bilateral relations. The environment Ministers of Kenya, Norway, India, Italy, were among those I met and discussed grounds for bilateral collaboration.
A final outcome report was to be adopted at the closing session, but due to the deletion of a phrase reiterating one of the fundamental principles of international law:"common but differentiated responsibilities" consensus was not achieved. This insistence by one certain western state resulted in discord among member states specifically developing countries. This is an indication of the existing rifts between the north and south. 
The global environment is seriously endangered and requires a strong and unified approach among nations to confront current threats and change unsustainable trends. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Persian Cheetahs in the World Cup

After Sepp Blatter visited Iran last year, I proposed that  the  Iranian team use the design of our Persian Cheetah on their jerseys . Blatter brought the idea up in the FIFA council and  the Iranian national team beame the first allowed to use a symbol of biodiversity on its shirt. The Persian Cheetah was designed by an NGO and nature loving artists in Tehran.
In addition, a ball was painted with the design of 31 other countries' endangerd species , named the Bio Ball.
I formally delivered the ball to the Captain last week , before  their departure to Sao Paulo, Brazil. Our team was named "Persian Cheetah" after these events and the issue recieved much publicity. 
Iran is taking part in the World Cup with a message of Peace and Protection of our global environment. We hope that all teams will join us in this campaign and spread the message.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Revisiting the Legacy of Imam Khomeini


I twitted on my Twitter this morning:Imam Khomeini's efforts to establish new model of governance/religious democracy were countered by reactionaries who see no role for people. This phrase marks the major challenges we face today in following the legacy of the Founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran. From the very early days of the national awakening and uprising against the tyranny of the Shah, Imam Khomeini was approached by radical elemants to take up arms and to invite the people to engage in armed struggle against the monarchial  regime. Imam refrained and emphasized instead on the cultural nature of the revolution and invited people to resist through peaceful protests and strikes. This non violent approach was they key to the massive nationwide support for Imam. 

As opposed to a monarchial dictatorship based on subservience to the west , Imam called for a democratic state based on religious values. Reactionary elements pressed for an Islamic State, while Imam called for national consultations and for an Islamic Republic. These elements went so far as to ask Imam to establish the new state based on demonstrations staged for the Revolution, while Imam stressed on a nationwide referendum which was held in 1979.
In every stage reactionary elemants moved to weaken the democratic pillars of the Revolution , while Imam stood firmly to enact elections and bring people to the polls .He was determined to educate a nation deeply harmed by decades of tyranny and imperialist dominance. If it were not for the fierce and violent attacks of monarchists and radicals and if it were not for the continued active opposition of the west against the Revolution , and fear of  a repetition of history(the Coup of 1953), many observers believe Imam would have taken a less forceful stance against his opponents. Yet what happened later in many parts of the world, and during the Arabian spring or awakening, in countries like Egypt, proved that Imam's vigilance for those early years of the revolution was justified.
Even during the difficult years of war imposed by Saddam Hussein against Iran, Imam never allowed any cancellation of elections or polls .
Along side this democratic approach, Imam also strongly advocated transparency, accountability and an ethical demeanour for Muslim politicians and those wielding power. "The egoistic and selfish drives are the greater enemy" his stressed in most addresses that he made.  The paradigm that Imam envisaged a bold role for women in social and political affairs. Women were never considered as second hand citizens by Imam, but a new pardigm for  women's advancement was enacted in Iran. 
During the 3.5 decades that have elapsed Iran has faced many challenges both external and internal, the Islamic Republic has met expectations in some areas and at some times, at others however there are still  serious issues which need to be addressed. We need to reassess and revisit our actions to ensure that we are still on the right path.
Today an active reactionary campaign is underway to distort and smear the thoughts and ideas of Imam, they are those who have followed their personal or party  agenda these years and have no regard for God or for the nation.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Biodiversity Day

International Biodiversity Day was commemorated yesterday at the DOE Convention Center, in Tehran.We had invited major film producers and artists to appreciate their efforts to enhance public awareness on environmental 
 I spoke about the intrinsic value of the biological diversity that the earth harbors and how this diversity is diminishing. I also noted how important the services this diversity provides and as an example I mentioned the role of bees in pollination of over 60% of our agricultural products. Bee population and species worldwide have been seriously endangered by pesticides use and their products contaminated by toxic chemicals.
We need to educate people on the importance of the protection of our biodiversity for the well being of our people.We our proud that many celebrities have joined us in this campaign to save our natural flora and fauna.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Twelfth Congress of immunology



The Iranian Association for Immunology and Allergy is one of the many scientific associations active in Iran. They had elected me last year as the President of their twelfth Congress.The Congress was held last week at the Milad tower in Tehran. In addition to over 1800 articles submitted to the Congress,
we had over 2000 participants, 40 workshop sessions, dozens of panels and an exhibition for  knowledge based corporations in this field.We also had over 30 international guests, all distinguished Professors of Immunology, including Rolf Zinkernagel, the Medicine Nobel prize laureate of 1996. 
I spoke at the opening ceremony stressing upon the fact that we believe that knowledge has no  boundaries and that it belongs to all humanity, then we should all strive to remove barriers and restrictions set for certain nations. Also, I noted that this great Congress shows how Iranian scientists contribute to this global wealth.This congress is being held when Tehran is experiencing better air quality due to in part, improvement in the quality of petroleum  I said and proposed that an interdisciplinary field of environmental immunology be followed more seriously. I was also honored to invite our Nobel laureate guest to the podium for his speech. Zinkernagel who had discovered the mechanism by which T cells confront viral infections, was now questioning some of the basic dogmas of immunlogy including memory.
The Congress convened all its sessions with high attendence and during the closing ceremony the head of the International Union of Immunological Associations Seppo Morino, noted in his speech that he had attended many Congresses but that he believed this was one of the best in terms of organization, scientific content and attendance.  Our Iranian colleagues had done a great job!