position:secretary general

  • Israel sets up secret firm with top ex-generals, envoys for online ’mass awareness’ campaign ’to fight delegitimization’

    Among the shareholders are former UN ambassador Dore Gold and ex-generals Amos Yadlin and Yaakov Amidror. The new initiative will not be subject to the Freedom of Information Law

    Noa Landau Jan 09, 2018 3:26 PM
    read more: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.833817

    The Strategic Affairs Ministry has set up a public-benefit corporation to engage in what it calls “mass awareness activities” as part of “the struggle against the delegitimization campaign” against Israel internationally.
    Haaretz has obtained a list of the shareholders and directors of the company, Kella Shlomo, who include former Israeli ambassadors to the United Nations.
    The government recently allocated 128 million shekels ($37 million) to the initiative, in addition to the 128 million shekels it will raise from private donors around the world.
    The new initiative will not be subject to the Freedom of Information Law, in accordance with the secrecy policy of the ministry, which refuses to release detailed information about its activities.
    The shareholders and directors include former ministry director general Yossi Kuperwasser; former UN ambassador Dore Gold, who is also a former adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; and former UN ambassador Ron Prosor.

    Reuven Rivlin with Amos Yadlin. Mark Neiman

    FILE PHOTO: Protestors march behind a banner of the BDS organization in Marseille, southern France, on June 13, 2015George Robert / AP
    They also include businessman Micah Avni, whose father, Richard Lakin, was killed in a 2015 terror attack in Jerusalem; Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, who heads the Institute for National Security Studies; and Col. (res.) Miri Eisin, who served as the prime minister’s adviser on the foreign press during the Second Lebanon War.
    skip - Israel Publishes BDS Blacklist

    Also on the list are a former National Security Council chief, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, and Sagi Balasha, a former CEO of the Israeli-American Council, which has casino magnate Sheldon Adelson as a major supporter.

    Most refused to discuss the initiative and referred questions to the office of Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan.
    The most recent data from the Companies Authority shows that the last report the company submitted to the authority came this past October. On December 28, the cabinet approved an allocation of 128 million shekels to the company over three years. The decision to provide the funding was made by the special procedure under which a government resolution is distributed to the ministers and goes into effect automatically if no one objects or demands a discussion.
    According to the government resolution, the funding was granted “to implement part of the ministry’s activities related to the struggle against the phenomena of delegitimization and boycotts against the State of Israel.” It says the agency will work to raise its portion of the financing for the initiative (around half) from “philanthropic sources” or “pro-Israel organizations.” A steering committee will be appointed for the initiative to comprise government representatives and representatives of the other funding partners.

    Ron Prosor at the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon oath ceremony forr his appointment as the Secretary-General of the United Nations for second termShachar Ezran
    Itamar Baz of the media watchdog website The Seventh Eye has been covering the Strategic Affairs Ministry, most of whose activities are concealed from the public. He reported Monday that while ministry officials have for months been advancing legislation that would exclude the company from being subject to the Freedom of Information Law, the law in any case does not apply to this new agency so its activities will be easy to hide.
    He also revealed that Liat Glazer, the ministry’s legal adviser, wrote in a legal opinion that the activities conducted through the company would be “those that require ‘non-governmental’ discussions with various target audiences.”
    According to a ministry document, Kella Shlomo people would work via social networks because “the enemy directs most of its awareness and motivating efforts to this area.” Similarly, the document, published by The Seventh Eye, says the organization was expected to carry out “mass awareness activities” and work to “exploit the wisdom of crowds,” an activity defined as “making new ideas accessible to decision-makers and donors in the Jewish world, and developing new tools to combat the delegitimization of Israel.”
    A report in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth the day after the cabinet approved the funding described the initiative positively, saying it would “raise the level of efforts in the struggle against BDS” — the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Yedioth said the new company would “provide a speedy and coordinated response to efforts to stain Israel’s image around the world,” for example, in the event of a military operation, terror attacks or UN votes against government policies.
    This would be done by launching online campaigns, lobbying, engaging organizations abroad and bringing delegations to Israel.
    The Strategic Affairs Ministry declined to clarify whether the company would act in accordance with the principles of the Freedom of Information Law.
    “This is a joint initiative that meets all the requirements of the law for this type of engagement and is similar to other government initiatives like Taglit [Birthright] and Masa,” the ministry said.
    “In the agreement with [the company] there are distinct control procedures, as defined by the Finance Ministry and the Justice Ministry during the joint work with them on setting up the project. It will be subject to auditing by the state comptroller,” it added.
    “In addition, as the ministry leading the initiative, one that attributes great importance to it as part of the campaign against the delegitimization of Israel, the ministry has allocated additional control tools and functions to what is required. Both the ministry’s legal adviser and its controller will sit on the steering committee managing the project.”
    skip - WTF is BDS?

  • After PLO halts ties with US, Arab League steps in to salvage peace process
    Nov. 20, 2017 10:29 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 20, 2017 10:30 A.M.)

    BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Arab League has reportedly approached the United States government regarding its recent decision to punitively shut down the office of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Washington D.C, over the Palestinian leadership’s efforts to bring Israel before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

    Official Palestinian Authority (PA)-owned Wafa news agency reported on Sunday, shortly after the US State Department announced its decision, that the Arab League — a regional organization of 22 Arab countries — announced that its Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit approached the US President Donald Trump’s administration over the closure.

    The league is reportedly attempting to do damage control and resume US-led peace negotiations following the PLO’s reaction to the closure, in which the group’s secretary general, Saeb Erekat, threatened to “put on hold all our communications with this American administration" if the US did in fact close the PLO Washington office.

    According to Wafa, Aboul Gheit met with the league’s foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, where the two discussed the the official position of the PLO and the PA, “saying it will harm the peace process and the role of the US as peace broker.”

    The PLO announced in September its decision to submit a request to the ICC to investigate illegal Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

    Separately, four Palestinian human rights organizations submitted a 700-page communication to the ICC alleging that Israeli officials have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

    International media reported that the PLO’s plans would breach conditions previously imposed by US Congress on the PLO, preventing it from taking any cases to the ICC.

    The PLO office could allegedly be reopened 90 days after closure if Trump believes the PLO has entered into “direct, meaningful negotiations with Israel.”

    The events came amid weeks of speculation in Israeli and Palestinian media over the Trump administrations “ultimate peace plan” for the region, which is set to be presented soon.

  • Alibaba’s AI Fashion Consultant Helps It Set a New Singles’ Day Record - MIT Technology Review

    If the technology becomes more widely used—currently Alibaba has installed this system free-of-charge at 13 stores across China—it could transform commerce by giving consumers an incentive to visit brick-and-mortar stores at a time when offline retail in both China and the U.S. are in decline.

    Alibaba is going all in to “digitize the offline retail world,” according to the company’s CEO, Daniel Zhang. During the shopping festival, people who visited a select group of restaurants and stores in China were able to play an AR game akin to Pokémon Go using Alibaba’s apps to earn promotion coupons.

    “In the age of mobile Internet, the merging of online and offline [retail] is a trend,” says Jianzhen Peng, secretary general of the China Chain Store and Franchise Association, explaining why e-commerce platforms like Alibaba would want to branch out into offline retail. “Consumers don’t distinguish between online and offline as long as it fulfills their needs.”

    Another Chinese e-commerce giant, JD.com, plans to launch a brick-and-mortar grocery store called 7Fresh that offers online-style speedy delivery.

    #Commerce_electronique #Fashion

  • Endocrine Disruptors | Corporate Europe Observatory

    The TTIP negotiations have been a major source of pressure against the EU taking action on endocrine disruptors. For instance, in March 2013, the US and EU pesticide lobby groups Croplife America and ECPA paid a joint visit to the Commission’s Secretary General to talk about the way the EU would deal with endocrine disruptors and how that seemed contrary to the goals of TTIP. Croplife America’s position was that the US should take action at the WTO “if the EU pursues its proposed new regulatory regime for endocrine disruptors without an approach based on risk assessment”. (Toxic Affair p.14).

    Three years later, mid-June 2016, the Commission had finally presented a proposal for criteria to identify endocrine disruptors. It was strongly criticised, among others by the Endocrine Society: the Commission criteria require “a level of certainty that are nearly unachievable scientifically”.
    One month later on 13 July 2016 Health Commissioner Andriukaitis received a visit from the ambassadors of the United States, Canada, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, specifically to address the issue of EU regulation of endocrine disruptors and the impacts on international trade... The minutes of this meeting, obtained by Oneworld.nl, show how the US ambassador opened the meeting by “expressing concern of countries on proposals submitted by COM [the Commission, red] on criteria for ED [endocrine disruptors, red], in particular their impact on import tolerances”.

    The Commission then responded: “COM proposal foresees possibility to establish MRLs [maximum residue levels, red], which should be accepted as an ambitious proposal to address the concerns expressed by the Ambassadors”.

    #ue #perturbateurs_endocriniens #commerce #santé

  • Twisted Metal, Broken Bodies


    On 23 April 2017, an armored vehicle of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (OSCE SMM) set off an explosion, likely a mine, killing one monitor and injuring two others.
    Circumstances suggest that the explosive device was an anti-vehicle mine (AVM)...
    23 April 2017 OSCE Press Conference, Headquarters of the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (OSCE SMM)
    This incident was just one reminder of the daily risks posed by AVMs. Nevertheless, they are often a neglected issue, even as they cause casualties indiscriminately and hamper socio-economic development in many parts of the world. Identifying this as a critical issue, in 2012, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urged states

    #armement #mines #avm

  • #Philippine palm oil plan ‘equals corruption and land-grabbing,’ critics say : Conservation news

    If the street Pedro Arnado was looking down was on the Philippine government’s roadmap for future palm oil development, critics say it would be one highly dangerous to navigate, lined with the hazards of unfair labor practices, land poverty, militarization and environmental degradation.

    Arnado is the Secretary General of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines) in Southern Mindanao, or KMP, and a spokesperson for the Farmer’s Association in Davao City. On January 26, 2017, he stood on the edge of a crowded rally of peasants, trade union members and indigenous people at Rizal Park in Davao City, Mindanao, describing how the palm oil industry has affected the farmers and communities in other provinces of Mindanao where plantations have already been operating. He says that the business-oriented development of palm oil “equals corruption and land-grabbing.”

    #industrie_palmiste #terres #peuples_autochtones #militarisation #évictions_forcées va falloir que je m’attèle à ce gros !

  • Confidential U.N. Report Accuses Saudi Coalition of Killing Hundreds of Yemeni Kids | Foreign Policy

    Top U.N. advisor to recommend coalition should be put on the black list of countries that kill and maim children in war.

    A Saudi-led military coalition conducting airstrikes in Yemen and ethnic Houthi insurgents committed “grave violations” of human rights against children last year, killing 502, injuring 838, according to a draft report by the U.N. Secretary General António Guterres.

    #Arabie_saoudite #Yémen #crimes_de_guerre #Nations_unies

  • How the Trump Administration Broke the State Department | Foreign Policy

    The office furniture started appearing weeks ago.

    Employees at the State Department couldn’t help but notice the stacks of cubicles lined up in the corridor of the seventh floor.

    For diplomats at the department, it was the latest sign of the “empire” being built by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s top aides. The cubicles are needed to accommodate dozens of outsiders being hired to work in a dramatically expanded front office that is supposed to advise Tillerson on policy.

    Foreign service officers see this expansion as a “parallel department” that could effectively shut off the secretary and his advisors from the career employees in the rest of the building. The new hires, several State officials told Foreign Policy, will be working for the policy planning staff, a small office set up in 1947 to provide strategic advice to the secretary that typically has about 20-25 people on its payroll. One senior State Department official and one recently retired diplomat told FP that Tillerson has plans to double or perhaps triple its size, even as he proposes a sweeping reorganization and drastic cuts to the State Department workforce.

    Veterans of the U.S. diplomatic corps say the expanding front office is part of an unprecedented assault on the State Department: A hostile White House is slashing its budget, the rank and file are cut off from a detached leader, and morale has plunged to historic lows. They say President Donald Trump and his administration dismiss, undermine, or don’t bother to understand the work they perform and that the legacy of decades of American diplomacy is at risk.

    • Tillerson Wants Fewer U.S. Diplomats, Fewer Meetings at U.N. Summit | Foreign Policy

      The State Department plans to scale back its diplomatic presence at this year’s annual U.N. gathering of world leaders in September, a cost-saving initiative that delivers another powerful signal that America is deepening its retreat from international diplomacy, according to four well-placed diplomatic sources.

      For more than seven decades, American presidents from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama have attended the fall U.N. General Assembly general debate in New York to project their vision of American foreign policy to the world. They have been accompanied by a growing entourage of American diplomats, lawyers and technical experts who negotiate a wide range of issues, from nuclear arms treaties to climate change pacts and conflicts.

      President Donald Trump does plan to address other world leaders at the U.N, General Assembly, and he will be accompanied by other top advisors, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his daughter Ivanka Trump, who stopped by U.N. headquarters Friday for a private lunch with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

      But the ranks of professional diplomats, aides and officials that attend the event to promote American policy priorities on a range of issues will be thinned out. For now, it remains unclear precisely how large of a cut in U.S. staff is envisioned, but two officials said that the State Department is seeking to keep a ceiling down to about 300 people, including everyone from the President to support staff that schedule meetings and copy speeches back at the hotel.

      Last year, 347 U.S. officials were counted by the U.N. in the official American delegation, which included then President Obama and his top diplomat, John Kerry. But the full delegation, including support staff and security, was far larger, according to former U.S. officials.

      En même temps, passer de 347 à moins de 300 ne parait pas si drastique que ça…

  • UN sees spike in meetings between Israeli army, Syrian rebels, warns of escalation -

    Israel says the meetings are held for humanitarian purposes, but the UN warns they could trigger clashes between rebels and the Syrian army

    Barak Ravid Jun 19, 2017
    read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.796536

    During the last seven months, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force has noted a significant escalation in contact and interactions between Israeli armed forces and rebel organizations along Israel’s border with Syria, chiefly in the area of Mt. Hermon, says a report released in recent days by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the members of the UN Security Council.
    The report expressed Guterres’ concern, for the first time, that the interactions between the Israelis and the rebel organizations could lead to escalation, causing harm to UN observers.
    Published on June 8, the United Nations report describes the activity of the UN observers from March 2 to May 16. Every few days during that time, they observed meetings and contacts between the Israel Defense Forces and the rebels in the area of the border, including by the Hermon. Altogether they listed at least 16 such meetings in that time.
    The meetings took place in proximity to UN outposts in the Mt. Hermon area, in the area of Quneitra and in the central Golan Heights, near moshav Yonatan.
    “Relative to the previous reporting period, there has been a significant increase in interaction between Israel Defense Forces soldiers and individuals from the Bravo side, occurring on four occasions in February, three in March, eight in April and on one occasion in May,” the report stated, referring to the Syrian side of the border.

    Members of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) ride armored personnel carriers (APCs) in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights before crossing into Syria, August 31, 2014.Reuters
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    That increase in the number of interactions between Israeli soldiers and representatives of the rebels continues a trend evident in the previous report, which had been published on March 17. That report covered the period between November 18, 2016, and March 1, 2017, and listed at least 17 interactions along the Golan border, including in the vicinity of the Hermon.

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    According to both reports, UN observers saw 33 interactions between Israeli and rebel representatives over the last seven months.
    In comparison, only two such meetings took place from August 30 to November 16 of last year according to UN reports, and they were only by the border, not by the Hermon.
    One topic addressed in the latest report was meetings that took place in the area of the Hermon in the last three months. It stated that all such meetings happened in the vicinity of one of the IDF outposts there and all followed the same pattern: Unidentified people apparently affiliated with the rebel organizations, some of them armed, arrived at the IDF outpost accompanied by mules, and were greeted by the soldiers.
    “In some instances, personnel and supplies were observed to have been transferred in both directions. On all occasions, the unknown individuals and mules returned to the Bravo side,” the report stated.
    The UN secretary general clarified in the report that the nature of the interactions could not be observed.
    “The Israel Defense Forces have stated that the interactions were of a humanitarian and medical nature,” the report said.
    Israel contends that all the interactions with rebel representatives on the Syrian side were for humanitarian reasons, but in recent months the UN has started to view these interactions askance and began to warn they could lead to escalation. The report especially noted concern about the meetings around the Hermon, which the UN secretary-general defined as an area of strategic importance.
    “Interaction between the Israel Defense Forces and unidentified individuals from the Bravo side, including in the area of Mount Hermon, has the potential to lead to clashes between armed elements and the Syrian Arab Armed Forces. I reiterate my call to both parties to the Disengagement of Forces Agreement regarding the requirement to maintain stability in the area. All military activities in the area of separation conducted by any actor pose a risk to the ceasefire and to the local civilian population, in addition to the United Nations personnel on the ground,” the secretary-general wrote in the report.
    The UN secretary-general’s latest report on the activities of the UN observers on the Golan Heights, as well as the three preceding reports, criticized the Syrian army for bringing heavy weapons to the area of the border, violating the disengagement agreement. The UN also criticized Israel for the same thing.
    According to the last four reports, in the last year the IDF has kept one or two batteries of the Iron Dome system in the Golan, and also holds heavy 155mm cannons and rocket launchers in the area, in violation of the disengagement agreement with Syria. UNDOF has protested the violations to both sides.
    On Sunday, The Wall Street Journal reported Israel has been secretly providing aid to Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights for years, with the goal of maintaining a buffer zone of friendly forces to keep ISIS and forces aligned with Iran at bay.

  • Africa’s North Korea: Reporting From Eritrea, the Land of No Journalists

    But Fathi Osman, an ex-Eritrean diplomat who fled the country and now works for Paris-based #Radio_Erena, an Eritrean media outlet in exile, says that comparison doesn’t do the situation in his home country justice. The Eritrean capital Asmara, he says, is a less open place than Pyongyang.

    #journalisme #presse #médias #Erythrée #répression #dictature

    • Eritrea’s Silent Totalitarianism

      Eritrea emerged as a sovereign state in 1991, following 30 years of armed battle for independence with its neighbour Ethiopia. The nationalist movement of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (FPLE) was a Maoist guerilla party that led Eritrea to independence in 1993 under secretary general Isaias Afwerki. The movement’s leader then became the first Eritrean President and reshaped the movement into a single party called the Popular Front for Democracy and Justice (FPDJ).

      There is no denying that the length and the severity of the war that led to Eritrea`s accession to independence have forged a real esprit de corps among its leaders. But while that spirit may be useful in times of war, it can have devastating effects on the civil society in times of peace. Since its inception, arbitrary detentions and cases of torture, rape, and extrajudicial killings have marred the regime – as was reported by a special UN commission in June 2016. According to the report, more than 400,000 Eritreans have been enslaved in the national conscription program, where they are forced to work in the army or the bureaucracy. In addition, there are no independent newspapers left and state-run media outlets are the sole providers of news.

      Yet twenty-five years into his party`s rule, Isaias Afwerki is still the president of Eritrea. Elections were scheduled for 2001, but have yet to take place. It is no wonder that Eritrea is often nicknamed the “North Korea of Africa.”

      Censorship and Repression

      According to Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom report of 2017, Eritrea is ranked 179th out of 180 countries; only North Korea ranks lower. To keep its grip on power, the repressive regime of Isaias Afwerki has used imprisonment and torture of opponents, harsh crackdowns on independent journalists, and arbitrary arrests, ultimately creating “a media climate so oppressive that even reporters for state-run news outlets live in constant fear of arrest.” In 2015, Eritrea had the third highest number of imprisoned journalists after China and Iran, all of whom have been given no trial and no criminal charges.

      But repression has not always characterized Eritrea’s attitude towards journalism. In 1996, the number of independent newspapers boomed, many of which were founded by graduates of the University of Asamara and presented pluralistic views. However, the political climate changed. Following a border conflict with Ethiopia (1998-2000), President Isawa Afewerki’s practices abruptly turned totalitarian. Using new measures to perpetuate his power, Afewerki established his position toward his opponents in the beginning of the 2000s by eliminating independent media outlets and cracking down on all dissent. Fifteen members of the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice wrote a public letter denouncing Afwerki’s “illegal and unconstitutional” actions, and were immediately jailed. Eleven of them are still incarcerated without trial, and have become known as the G-15. On the same day, 18 September 2001, Afwerki banned private newspapers and jailed eleven journalists, who remain in undisclosed locations. In addition, religious freedom in Eritrea is also curtailed, with the government allowing the practice of only four religions: the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea, the Roman Catholic Church and Islam.

      To be sure, satellite dishes offering BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera can be accessed throughout the country, and Internet, although very slow, appears to be unfiltered. Even so, however, according to U.N. International Telecommunication Union figures, internet service is available only when channeled through slow dial-up connections and fewer than 1.2% of the population is using the internet in 2017, the lowest number on the list of 148 countries. Similarly, only 5.6% of Eritrea’s population owns a cell phone, again the lowest figure in the world. Inside Eritrea, all mobile communications are channeled through Eritrea’s sole state-run telecommunication company, EriTel. That the regulation of mobile communications is a tool to further project Isaias’ government authority on its population is evidenced by Eritrea’s decision to cancel plans to provide mobile Internet for its citizens by fear of the spread of the Arab Spring protests. Further isolationist policies include the restrictions placed on foreign correspondents. Indeed, the last remaining accredited international reporter was expelled in 2007, and ‘‘the few outside reporters invited in occasionally to interview the president are closely monitored.”

      Today, thousands of dissident and political prisoners, from former politicians and journalists to practitioners of illegal religions, continue to be detained with no planned trial in sight. Often, they are held in underground jails in remote areas where prisoners are placed in metal containers and suffer from intolerable heat. In some cases, information regarding the state of the prisoners’ health is not disclosed to the public nor their family.

      The report from the UN commission of inquiry on human rights in Eritrea claims that state spying and surveillance leads to the constant fear of arbitrary arrest, torture, disappearance or death. Ultimately, this culture of fear has created a climate of self-censorship and mistrust that affects communities and families. Denouncement of deserters can be rewarded with benefits from local administrators, and families of the deserter legally have to pay amends (50 000 nakfas for each deserter – or 2500 euros). This structure creates incentives to denounce members of your own family or your neighbours, further consolidating the role of an authoritarian state whose actions and agents are constantly expanding and interfering in the everyday life of its citizens.

      Forced Military Service

      In 1994, a national system of military mobilization for young Eritreans legally imposed 6 months of military training and one year of service. National service was perceived as a duty for the citizens which had not participated in the war of independence. Thus, tens of thousands of men and women from 18 and 40 years of old are recruited each year.

      However, since the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea that began in 1998, the period of service has been indefinitely extended. Eritreans over 18 years old are now conscripted into 18 months of military service, followed by an indefinite period of civil service that often lasts more than a decade. Since 2002, this expansion of the conscription period has become the central pillar of the national development campaign known as WofriWarsay Ykä?Lo, which aims to rebuild the country devastated by war, and to cope with the economic consequences of the decrease in trade relations with Ethiopia. The government also justifies national conscription by arguing that there is an ongoing highly militarized border dispute with its neighbor, Ethiopia.

      There seems to be little doubt, however, that this mobilization of almost all the available labor force in the country aims to set up a planned economy and to extend the reach of authoritarian control into social activities. Often referred to as forced labour, the national service is rooted in three-decade struggle for independence that gave rise to an obsession over security, evidenced by party and government policies and the consequent process of militarization of society. Anyone who defies this national program is subject to cruel torture.

      Completion of national service is a condition for full citizenship for young adults, which grants Eritreans who are required to serve indefinitely only limited rights in the choice of their studies and their professional activity, as well as restricts their freedom of movement within national borders. Freedom of enterprise and land ownership are also not allowed for conscripts, and their low wages and arbitrary leave allowances often disturb family life. But that is not all. Conditions in military training camps are dire, and conscripts must tolerate the inadequacy of food, water, hygiene facilities, accommodation and medical facilities. These camps are also sites of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls, the purpose of which is to extract confessions, punish, and intimidate. To escape conscription, many avoid public places and hide. Today, 10 000 ‘deserters’ are imprisoned, often in metallic containers in remote cities.

      In light of the aforementioned constraints on freedom of expression and movement imposed on Eritreans, understanding why many decide to flee the country becomes less challenging. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported 474, 296 Eritreans globally registered as refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2015, which represents around 12 percent of Eritrea’s estimated population of 3.6 million.

      Constrained Liberties in the Midst of Extreme Poverty

      However, the report of the U.N commission does not escape criticism. Journalist Bronwyn Bruton argues that since the U.N commissioners were denied entry into Eritrea, they relied almost exclusively on the testimonies of about 800 Eritrean refugees that had decided to leave Eritrea and failed to interview diplomats who had recently traveled to the country: ‘‘The commissioners didn’t interview Western diplomats or U.N. staff based in Eritrea. (…) They discarded tens of thousands of testimonials from Eritreans defending the Isaias regime, claiming these were irrelevant or inauthentic.”

      While acknowledging the human rights abuses taking place in Eritrea, Bruton argues that the report does not reflect the reality on the ground. Although the report claims that Eritreans who leave the country and eventually return face arbitrary imprisonment and torture, Bruton sheds light on the reports from some Horn of Africa reporters, including Mary Harper from BBC, about the thousands of Eritreans who have returned to celebrate independence: “They have spoken freely, and on camera, with dozens of Eritreans about the political situation in the country, despite the COIE’s assertion that Eritreans exist in a climate of fear without the ability to speak their minds.”

      Further, scholars have questioned the potential causal link between socioeconomic development and democracy. Some scholars worry that, should democracy occur before a country achieves a considerable level of socioeconomic development, governments would not be capable of accommodating all the new political and economic demands. Many have continuously justified authoritarian rule as a necessary ‘stopgap’ to jump-start economic growth. In their view, authoritarian regimes can limit workers’ wages and control labor unrest to increase profit and attract external and domestic private-sector investment. [1] To diversify its economy and to convert conscript jobs to formal civil-service or private-sector positions, some have argued that the Eritrean government has no other choice but to develop its economy: ‘‘It will simply be impossible to reform Eritrea’s controversial National Service Program (…) without improving the economy. Simply releasing those people to joblessness would cause insecurity, and of course the country would completely cease functioning….’’.

      In short, Eritrea is facing the problem of development in a situation of extreme poverty.

      To lift itself out of mass poverty, it needs a quantum leap in the accumulation of capital that is required to build infrastructure and educate the population. The Eritrean regime has evidenced their aspirations to develop through their achievements in sectors like education and healthcare which are strategic to the functioning of the state. According to the Eritrea Health MDGs Report of 2014, Eritrea is one of the only countries likely to fulfill the Millenium Development Goals in health. The achievements include the reduction of infant and child mortality rates and the increase of immunisation coverage. Considering that Eritrea ranks among the poorest countries in the world, such “Concerted government programmatic and resource investment in the health sector” should be acknowledged as a successful achievement.

      In this context, conscript work is a concerted effort to impoverish the individual for the benefit of the collective. The legitimacy of the move hinges on the ability of the government to build a viable consensus on its goals without excessive coercion. If the effort is squandered in useless projects or diverted through corrupt channels, the regime will devolve into the worst type of despotism. The restrictions on human liberties implemented by Isaias’ government are excessive and not necessary to secure the capital needed for Eritrea’s development. Should, however, the regime succeed in accumulating growth for its population while renouncing its draconian measures against dissent, it could pave the way toward a sustainable development for generations of Eritreans.



  • Egypt’s health sector in the shadow of devaluation: All roads lead to ruin | MadaMasr

    “After the Egyptian pound was floated, we had to make a choice: either increase the price of medicine or no longer provide it. We always face terrible choices,” says Mona Mina, the secretary general of the Doctors Syndicate.

    Sitting in her office at the Doctors Syndicate’s headquarters next to a desk scattered with documents that trace her many commitments and the scope of the syndicate’s work, Mina reflects on the government’s decision to raise the price of 2,010 pharmaceutical products after the November decision to liberalize the foreign exchange rate. Of the drugs included in the adjustment, 619 are used to treat chronic diseases. Parliamentary sources indicated at the beginning of March that the government’s legislation to introduce universal healthcare will not be referred to the House of Representatives before June.

    #Egypte #santé #austérité

  • Rouhani to Sunnis: Iran not seeking ’Shiite crescent’

    Mentioning the Islamic State and the massacres the group has committed, the Iranian president stated, “We are proud of the holy war [jihad], which is in accordance with the Quran, and we don’t recognize any holy war except [that which is] resisting oppression and defending the honor of Islam and Muslims. Since when has holy war become equivalent to murder and Muslim confrontation with [other] Muslims by the order of the major powers?”

    Indirectly referring to some regional states, Rouhani said, “Is there any catastrophe bigger than that some Muslims are holding a grudge against each other instead of the colonizers, looters of Islamic countries’ resources and also the [Israeli] regime, which is the biggest danger of the region and has made Muslims engage in dispute, war, conflict and aggression [with each other] for 70 years?”

    Rouhani then pointed the finger at “some Western powers who taught the terrorists the way of terror” and “bought their smuggled oil,” further charging that “some Islamic countries” have given “money and weapons to the terrorist groups.”

    In response to a question about the invitation of some groups, such as the Taliban, to the 30th International Islamic Unity Conference, Secretary General of the World Forum for Proximity of the Islamic Schools of Thought Ayatollah Mohsen Araki said in a press conference Dec. 13, “The Taliban itself has various currents [within it] that we can have contact with, and this year some of them will take part in the conference. We are attempting to have contact with anyone with whom dialogue is possible.”

    Of note, Iranian Ambassador to Afghanistan Mohammad Reza Bahrami said as recently as Dec. 10, “We have contacts with the Taliban, but we don’t have a relationship. Our contact is aimed at controlling [them] and having intelligence domination.” He added, “We are interested in and are trying to provide the grounds for holding negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.”

    Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/12/iran-islamic-unity-conference-rouhani-shiite-crescent.html#ixzz4T1Us29rN

  • UN report urges end to inhuman detention of migrants in Libya

    The breakdown in the Libyan justice system has led to a state of impunity in which migrants are subjected to serious human rights violations and abuses, according to a joint UN human rights report published today.
    “People smuggled or trafficked into Libya face torture, forced labour and sexual exploitation along the route, and many also while held in arbitrary detention,” said Martin Kobler, the Secretary General’s Special Representative for Libya and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

    “The list of violations and abuses faced by migrants in Libya is as long as it is horrific. This is, quite simply, a human rights crisis affecting tens of thousands of people,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said.

    The report, published jointly by UNSMIL and the UN Human Rights Office, is based on information gathered in Libya and from interviews with migrants who had arrived in Italy from Libya, among other sources*.

    Migrants are held in detention centres mostly run by the Department for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM), where there is “no formal registration, no legal process, and no access to lawyers or judicial authorities,” the report states.
    Places of detention are severely overcrowded, with insufficient food and clean water. With no access to toilets, detainees are often forced to defecate and urinate in their cells. Malnutrition, acute diarrhoea, respiratory problems and infectious diseases, including scabies and chickenpox, are common.

    Smugglers and traffickers also hold migrants in “connection houses”, on farms and in warehouses and apartments, where they are forced to work to earn money for their onward transport.

    “We are called animals and are treated as animals,” a 16-year-old boy from Eritrea told UNSMIL. “They beat us with what falls into their hands…it can be a rock, a stick, a brick,” a child migrant interviewed in Italy said.
    The report also notes that DCIM and the Libyan Coast Guard** are subject to pressure from the armed groups that have proliferated since 2011. UNSMIL has received reports that some State employees and local officials have participated in the smuggling and trafficking process.

    The report also details accounts of armed men, allegedly from the Libyan Coast Guard, intercepting migrant boats and abusing migrants. Migrants brought back to shore describe being beaten, robbed and taken to detention centres.
    “Libya must acknowledge that migrants are being abused,” said Mr. Kobler. “But addressing migration is not only Libya’s responsibility. Countries of origin and destination beyond Libya also need to play their part.” He added: “I welcome the life-saving efforts currently being made by many in the Mediterranean.”

    Among the report’s recommendations to Libya are: immediately release the most vulnerable migrants, with a view to urgently ending all arbitrary detentions; reduce the number of detention centres; ensure women are held separately from men; improve conditions of detention and protect detainees from torture and all other forms of abuse; and, in the medium-term, decriminalize irregular migration and adopt an asylum law.

    The report also recommends that countries of destination beyond Libya continue search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean. Training and support for Libyan institutions that engage with migrants, including the Libyan Coast Guard, should be accompanied by comprehensive efforts to stop arbitrary detention of migrants and improve their treatment in detention.

    “These are people who, for a range of reasons, feel compelled to leave their own countries and embark on these desperate and precarious journeys. The report lays bare the suffering endured by these migrants who have experienced unimaginable abuse and, in some cases, fallen victim to the despicable trade in human lives,” said High Commissioner Zeid. “The report serves to deepen our compassion and strengthen our resolve that the rights of migrants should be fully protected and respected, whatever their status.”

    #détention_administrative #rétention #droits_humains #rapport #Libye #torture

    Le #rapport:

  • Energy–water–food nexus a top uncertainty issue, says new report - The Source

    A new report released by the World Energy Council, The Road to Resilience: Financing Resilient Energy Infrastructure, has highlighted how the interdependencies, and sometimes competing demands, between water usage and the production of energy and food, triggers economic and social challenges for numerous stakeholders.

    “If nothing is done, there is a risk of facing extremely difficult situations, and sometimes even dangerous ones,” Didier Sire, Senior Advisor to the Secretary General and Head of Sectoral Programmes, World Energy Council, told The Source. “The regions that will experience the fastest growth of their water needs, in particular due to an increase in population and economic growth, are often already affected by water stress.”

    #eau #énergie #sdg #mdg

  • African immigrants and #race in America

    Perhaps the most famous example of “African passing” is the infamous anecdote of former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. A student in 1960s U.S., Annan had traveled to the Jim Crow South. He needed a haircut, but was told by a racist white barber: “I do not cut nigger hair.” Annan, who is Ghanaian, responded: […]

    #ESSAYS #Black_Lives_Matter #immigration #Police_Violence #United_States

  • Mantashe and militant student protesters agree on university shutdowns, but this is the last thing Africa needs | Opinion | M&G

    via Achile Mbembe


    I just listened to Gwede Mantashe, the secretary general of the ANC. He was asked about his views on the ongoing strife in our universities and the efforts led by militant students to shut them down.

    Gwede Mantashe has a way of speaking which I have always found pretty peculiar: a mixture of common sense, hyper-realism, bombastic hubris and coarse humour typical of a hardened street fighter.

    “I am not the minister of education,” he said.

    “Because if I was, my first reaction would be to close them [universities]. For 16 months. And open them after six months, and close the residences for six months. After a year, people will know higher education will be important for their future.”


  • Oil and shipping markets on edge after South China Sea ruling | Reuters

    Deux points de vue sur la liberté de navigation en #Mer_de_Chine_méridionale, l’un « politique », l’autre (un assureur) « pragmatique »…

    The ruling will be seen as a victory by other regional claimants such the Philippines and Vietnam, but with China rejecting the ruling and saying its military would defend its sovereign rights, nerves were on edge.

    Although shippers and oil traders said they did not expect an immediate impact on shipping as a result of the ruling, oil prices jumped following the findings. Brent crude futures were up over $1, or more than 2 percent, to $47.60 per barrel at 1110 GMT.

    It is vital that merchant ships are allowed to go about their lawful business on the world’s oceans without diversion or delay. We will of course be monitoring for any interference in the coming weeks,” said Peter Hinchliffe, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping in London.
    Neil Roberts, manager of marine underwriting at the Lloyd’s Market Association, said the South China Sea is not listed by the LMA’s joint war committee which highlights insurance hotspots.

    Unless it is there would be no prospect of premiums rising,” Roberts told Reuters. “The shallow waters and numerous reefs in the Spratly island region means that commercial shipping is unlikely to be sailing within the territorial waters of any of the islands.

  • [#MSF] Aid Group Stops Seeking EU Funds Over Turkey Migrant Deal - The New York Times

    [Médecins Sans Frontières] the Nobel prize-winning medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders announced Friday that it will no longer seek European Union funding, in protest at the EU’s much-maligned migrant deal with Turkey.

    The EU deal is the latest in a long line of policies that go against the values and the principles that enable assistance to be provided,” Secretary General Jerome Oberreit told reporters in Brussels.

    Doctors Without Borders, he said, “will no longer request funds from the EU and its member states.

    EU money totaled around 46 million euros ($52 million) in 2015, about 8 percent of the organization’s total budget.

  • Breaking : Bahrain Regime Issues 9 Year Sentence against Sheikh Ali Salman - Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society

    Breaking: Bahrain Regime Issues 9 Year Sentence against Sheikh Ali Salman
    in English Section, Slides en May 30, 2016

    The First High Criminal Appeals Court in Bahrain has issued a 9 year sentence against the opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman, also Secretary General of Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, today.
    Al Wefaq said the sentence against Sheikh Ali Salman is unacceptable and provocative. Furthermore, it said the sentence indicates the regime’s insistence to ignore the calls for a solution to the crisis and entrenches the exacerbating political crisis in Bahrain.

  • U.S. launches long-awaited missile defense shield - CNNPolitics.com

    The U.S. launched a new ground-based missile defense system in Romania Thursday, sparking fresh tensions with Russia, which quickly blasted the system as a threat to its security.

    The system, to be operated by NATO, is getting up and running nearly a decade after the U.S. first announced plans to do so, only to encounter pushback from Russia. The U.S. has long insisted that the shield is directed against rogue states like Iran and not intended to target Moscow’s missiles, but Russian officials have slammed the move as an “attempt to destroy the strategic balance” in Europe.
    The United States’ Aegis ashore system is declared certified for operations,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday at the ceremony launching the system.

    Missile defense is for defense,” he added. “It does not undermine or weaken Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent.
    Russia has described the U.S. anti-missile shield in Europe as a “threat” and says it is taking “protective measures” to guard against it, the country’s state news agency TASS reported.
    President Barack Obama scrapped the George W. Bush administration’s planned bilateral deployment of a different system to Poland and the Czech Republic and has instead pursued a NATO-centric approach using alternate technology.

    The system is to be turned over to NATO command and will be housed at a U.S. naval support facility in Deveselu, Romania, the site of a Romanian military base. Construction will begin on an additional anti-missile platform in Poland on Friday.

    The Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System unveiled Thursday is capable of firing SM-3 defensive missiles that can “defeat incoming short and medium range enemy missiles,” according to Lt. Shawn Eklund, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy.

    Eklund told CNN that the facility will be manned by approximately 130 U.S. sailors. The inaugural ceremony for the new system will be attended by top U.S. and NATO military officials.
    The Romania installation is the first land-based defensive missile launcher in Europe and will join other elements of the NATO defensive shield, including a command-and-control center at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, a radar installation in Turkey and four ships capable of identifying enemy missiles and firing their own SM-3s based in Rota, Spain.

    The U.S. and NATO have continually stressed that the system is intended to defend Europe from Iran and its expanding arsenal. Tehran has continued to test-fire ballistic missiles following the internationally negotiated deal to limit its nuclear program.
    But Russia has dismissed the justification.

    From the very outset we kept saying that in the opinion of our experts the deployment of an anti-missile defense poses a threat to Russia,” Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to the Tass News Agency. “The question is not whether measures will be taken or not; measures are being taken to maintain Russia’s security at the necessary level.

    Russia believes the missile defense system breaches a 1987 agreement it signed with the U.S.

    In October, at a meeting of the meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Russia, Russian President Vladimir accused the U.S. of “lying” about a “hypothetical Iranian threat, which never existed” and called the system “an attempt to destroy the strategic balance.

    At a Wednesday press conference in Romania, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Frank Rose pushed back on Putin’s perspective.
    Russia has repeatedly raised concerns that U.S. and NATO missile defenses are directed against Russia and represent a threat to its strategic nuclear deterrent,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.

    He added that the “U.S. and NATO missile defense systems are directed against ballistic missile threats outside the Euro-Atlantic area. NATO and the United States have explained this to Russia many times over the years.

    Heather Conley, the director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told CNN that Russia has previously suggested that it could retaliate for the missile defense system by stationing S-300 surface-to-air missile systems in Crimea and Kaliningrad, its European enclave located between Poland and Lithuania.
    But she added, “Despite an incredible amount of consultations with Russia, the Russians never bought the argument that the system was not directed at them.”

  • Muqtada al-Sadr’s Changing Role in an Unchanging Iraq

    Just prior to sending his followers into the Green Zone, Sadr reportedly traveled to Beirut to consult with Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s Secretary General—who is respected by Iraqi Shia leaders. Sadr has not been shy in expressing his admiration of Nasrallah, describing himself once as “the striking hand of Hezbollah in Iraq.” Sadr’s recent speech was also replete with Qur’anic references, likely thrown in to reflect his improved religious scholarship gained from recent studies in Iran, and a Nasrallah-style delivery, down to hand gestures and an emphasis on the interests of those he represents rather than on any personal ambition of his own.

    Nasrallah’s influence could be positive or negative, depending on how Sadr chooses to use it. The former’s pragmatism could induce the latter to be satisfied exercising influence from behind the scenes without seeking to assume power directly. He has said in his recent speech, as well as on previous occasions, that he seeks only to influence government rather than replace it. While all signs thus far indicate a commitment to a nonviolent movement, it remains to be seen whether the relatively young and passionate Muqtada al-Sadr has accumulated enough political wisdom in recent years to exert his influence on Baghdad’s power elite peacefully or, if in a rush to cash in on his popularity, he might precipitate a violent confrontation in an already tense and complex Iraqi environment.

  • ‘Israel wouldn’t dare to repeat attacks on Gaza if it was prosecuted for war crimes,’ insists Barghouti – Middle East Monitor - May 7, 2016

    The secretary general of the Palestinian Initiative said on Friday that Israel would never dare to repeat its attacks on the Gaza Strip if it was prosecuted for the savage war crimes it committed during its offensive in summer 2014, QudsNet has reported.

    “The latest Israeli artillery shelling and air strikes targeted civilians,” said Mustafa Al-Barghouti in a press statement. “They were intended to escalate the situation in order to find justifications for carrying out new war crimes against the residents of the Gaza Strip.” He reminded the media that the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are already under an aggressive siege and deprived of the basic necessities of life.

    “The International Criminal Court continues its procrastination regarding the initial checking of war crimes carried out in Gaza,” added Barghouti, “as well as the settlers’ crimes, despite the existence of proof.”

    The secular Palestinian leader, who maintains good relations with Western officials, described this procrastination as “encouragement” for Israel to carry out “more savage war crimes.”

    In order to defend Gaza, he called for increasing international solidarity and support for the Palestinians, stressing that this would protect them from “new Israeli crimes.”

  • #Kenya to close refugee camps, displacing more than 600,000

    Kenya will close all refugee camps, a move that would displace more than 600,000 people living there, the government announced Friday.
    The decision includes #Dadaab, the largest such camp in the world. It’s home to more than 300,000 people on the Kenya-Somalia border.

    #réfugiés #asile #migrations #réfugiés #fermeture #camps_de_réfugiés

  • Israeli Ex-minister Proposes Walling 200,000 Arabs Out of Jerusalem

    ’This is not a ‘separation’ plan, it’s an annexation plan. It would effectively separate people from their families, property, hospitals, schools, jobs and holy places,’ says PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat.

    #annexion #séparation #murs #barrières_frontalières #Israël #Palestine

    cc @reka @clemencel
    via @ElisabethVallet

  • UN’s own experts chastise Ban Ki-moon over handling of Haiti cholera outbreak | The Guardian

    The secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, has been chastised by five of the UN’s own human rights experts who accuse him of undermining the world body’s credibility and reputation by denying responsibility for the devastating outbreak of cholera in Haiti.

    In a withering letter to the UN chief, the five special rapporteurs say that his refusal to allow cholera victims any effective remedy for their suffering has stripped thousands of Haitians of their fundamental right to justice. The letter is believed to be the first time that the UN’s guardians of human rights have turned their spotlight onto the UN hierarchy itself, as opposed to individual nation states that are the usual target of their criticism.

    (...) Latest figures suggest that some 9,202 people have died from the disease, with a further 769,080 treated in hospital since the outbreak began.

    #Haïti #choléra #nations_unies