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Hong Kongers Celebrate Mother’s Day With Van Gogh

Limited-edition bouquets are inspired by Van Gogh’s Almond Blossom and The Harvest; two works that continue to hang in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

    HONG KONG, April 28, 2021 /24-7PressRelease/

• Celebrations continue to be difficult to hold under 4th wave of cases
• Retailers are finding new ways to support communities and help families celebrate Mother’s Day
• One florist, Give Gift Boutique, has partnered with the Van Gogh Museum to provide themed bouquets and gifts

Everyone has a mother, and Mother’s Day gives families a chance to praise and show appreciation for their mums. Like last year, Hong Kong families are scrambling to find safe ways to celebrate. COVID-19 and variants have continued to restrict access to entertainment and dining venues. These rules are slightly relaxed for those already vaccinated but are changing on a regular basis and infractions bring high fines. Husbands and children are coming up with more creative, non-traditional ways of celebrating.

Earlier in April, a case of the N501Y mutant coronavirus strain was confirmed on the island. Currently, Hong Kong is enduring the 4th wave of the pandemic and has seen extensive restrictions that affect every sector. The situation leads many to be concerned that that the originally promised lift of restrictions will be further delayed. The government had promised an easing of the rules for vaccinated residents within “vaccine bubbles” that may yet be out of reach if a new strain starts to spread.

Heavily affected by COVID restriction are the island’s florist and gift shops as weddings, parties, and celebrations all continue to be celebrated in a muted fashion. This has led some boutiques to find novel and creative ways to support their communities. Give Gift Boutique, for example, is continuing the Van Gogh Senses Series of floral arrangements. These bouquets are inspired by Van Gogh’s Almond Blossom and The Harvest; two works that continue to hang in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Give Gift Boutique is a leading Hong Kong flower delivery service and florist and gift shop serving corporate clients and individuals. Relying on the expertise of ex-pat florists from the Netherlands and Toronto, Give Gift delivers top-quality gifts, hampers, and bouquets keeping up with the latest European and Japanese designs.

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Celebrity Jewelry Designer, Ashley Gold, Sparkles and Shines on Good Morning America’s 40 Boxes

It is time to celebrate our mothers, grandmothers, and friends this Mother’s Day with some love and sparkle. All on 40boxes.com.”

    BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MI, April 27, 2021 /24-7PressRelease/ — When you hear Deals & Steals you know right away it is going to be great products for amazing pricing, because Tory Johnson scouts the country for “Good Morning America” viewers to find the best businesses for exclusive savings on great lifestyle products.

One month ago, she launched her new endeavor 40Boxes.com born out of the pandemic and helping give voice to businesses across the country. Celebrity Jewelry Designer Ashley Gold of AshleyGold.com has been a lucky pick by Tory Johnson. Ashley Gold designs launch Monday, April 26th, just in time to purchase wonderful gifts for Mother’s Day. Follow Ashley Gold on 40boxes.com for the next two weeks while supplies last. “I am so excited to share special pieces for Mother’s Day with the 40boxes audience,” says Gold. “My mom is such a beautiful inspiration of love and style to me. It is time to celebrate our mothers, grandmothers, and friends this Mother’s Day with some love and sparkle. All on 40boxes.com.”

Ashley Gold is an American reality star, producer, and a businesswoman. She is most famed for her appearance on True TV’s reality show “Hardcore Pawn.” Hardcore Pawn, an American reality TV series that followed the daily activities of a jewelry shop and loan pawn shop broker, owned by her brother, Seth, and father Les Gold.

After 170 episodes were aired, this was a big hit. Now it is watched and loved by many across the globe. Ashley later left the show citing that it was taking up too much of her life, limiting her time with her family. Not one to sit still, as Ashley had begun working as a little girl with her family, she created her new brand of a jewelry designer from home in 2015 as pawnchickshopping.com.

Ashley’s background as a jewelry buyer in the pawn business gave her a real eye for choosing stylish pieces at amazing value, and she prides herself on rapidly changing her jewelry lines for the seasons. With all of that in mind she knew she needed a brand change and became Ashleygold.com.

Ashley studied at Gemological Institute where she graduated with a degree in Diamonds. She has been a leader in the world of the most on trend and stylish jewelry, the winner of Detroit Garment Group’s Verge Pitch competition and an entrepreneur who loves accessorizing celebrities. Did you catch the sparkle recently on the sidelines of Tracy Wolfson of CBS Sports during the Super Bowl? Wolfson loves to pair her clothing with Gold’s jewelry.

AshleyGold.com is the place where women can find the latest jewelry and accessory trends by Ashley and frequent video messages on the latest trends and best ways to wear the jewelry with the season clothing trends. A frequent source for comment, Ashley Gold has been featured on CNN, Fox News, HLN, Fox Business Network, Good Morning America, The Today Show and in Variety, People Magazine, and USA Today.

For more information, visit AshleyGold.com and for special Mother’s Day gifts be sure to follow Ashley Gold on 40boxes.com.

Ashley Gold is a leader in the world of online fashionable jewelry, designing high-quality and affordable trendy jewelry for every age. She is the go to source for jewelry advice and the latest in jewelry trends.

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Q&A: Drawing Attention to the Crisis in the DRC’s Education Sector

Africa, Armed Conflicts, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Education, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Poverty & SDGs, Regional Categories, TerraViva United Nations

Education Cannot Wait. Future of Education is here

Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, visited a refugee site in the village of Modale, located 30 kms from Yakoma, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Courtesy: Education Cannot Wait

GOMA, DR Congo, Apr 27 2021 (IPS) – Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait (ECW), has sounded the alarm on the need for Central African Republic refugee children and youth to access quality education during her visit to a refugee site in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) from Apr. 20-23.

During her field mission in the DRC, Sherif announced an ECW emergency education grant of $2 million which will allow access to quality education to CAR refugee and DRC host community children and youth along the border region of the DRC and CAR.

Sherif, accompanied by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, visited a refugee site in the DRC village of Modale, located 30 kms from Yakoma, DRC, near the border of CAR. According to local authority estimates, more than 90,000 people have fled from CAR into DRC since December, when the presidential election in CAR sparked new violence. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has already registered 51,890 refugees to date.

In December, ECW announced a $22.2 million catalytic grant to provide education to over 220,000 children in the DRC. “In the coming two to three years, we need more funding of $60 million to 70 million and are urgently appealing to donors for an additional $45.3 in funding,” Sherif told IPS in a telephone interview from the DRC capital, Kinshasa.

DRC is one of more than 30 countries where ECW supports projects dedicated to education in emergencies and protracted crises. ECW is the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, and was established during the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016.

CAR, the northern neighbour of the DRC, has never fully returned to peace since 2013, when the Seleka rebel group overthrew then-president François Bozizé. Many of the refugees who fled CAR through forests into the DRC are living along riverbanks in hard-to-reach border areas and among host communities with extremely limited resources.

Both the DRC and the CAR are among the least-developed countries in the world, according to the UN Development Programme’s rankings. CAR finds itself on the second-to-last position at 188, DRC is ranked at 175.

Excerpts of the interview follow. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Children playing in a camp for displaced people in Bunia, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) Ituri province. The DRC is grappling with issues of insecurity and internally displaced people (IDPs) in some parts of the country while refugees escaping violence in the Central African Republic have fled to the country. Credit: Passy Mubalama/IPS

Inter Press Service (IPS): What is your mission in the DRC about?

Yasmine Sherif (YS): I want to draw international attention to several forgotten crisis in the DRC. We have a crisis in the education sector. There is a lot of insecurity and internally displaced people in some parts of the country, like in the North Kivu province. And we have, in the north, the refugees coming in from the Central African Republic. Despite this, there has to be a working education system across this vast country.

IPS: You were just coming back from a visit in a camp close to the border of CAR where the UNHCR relocates refugees who are living in remote areas. Now ECW launched a grant of $2 million for education. What exactly is the money spent on?

YS: The $2 million is initial seed funding, a kick-start only. We call on other donors to join to reach $7 million. Sixty percent of the CAR refugees are school children. Seventy percent of them didn’t attend school in CAR because of the crises there. With our partners on the ground, UNHCR, the government of the DRC and local organisations, we build schools and infrastructure, train teachers, offer mental and psychological help and a safe environment for refugee children and those in local communities. Yesterday, I spoke to children of refugees and communities who attend school together. They are all eager to learn. They have dreams and want to become policemen, doctors and lawyers in the future. Especially the refugee children show so much empathy for others – they want to help because they themselves saw horrible things. Some children are traumatised, but are still very resilient if we give them the tools like quality education.

IPS: How did local people welcome you? In some parts of DRC like North Kivu, people are frustrated with the UN and humanitarian organisations because they don’t see their living conditions any better although the humanitarians are there for more than 20 years. Two weeks ago there were even violent demonstrations against the UN peacekeeping mission “Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en République démocratique du Congo” (Monusco), which people want to leave.

YS: People in the border region to CAR gave us a very warm welcome. If some Congolese are frustrated, it’s because they don’t get aren’t receiving the services delivered which they direly need. And this is because Monusco, the humanitarians and especially the educational sector, simply don’t have enough budget to do so. The DRC is a big country with a huge population. Logistics, traveling and the ability to have an impact demands a lot of money. Instead of increasing funds, some donors have cut them because they struggle at home with the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. But, especially in a crisis, we can must show humanity while helping those people who have so much less. The more we give, the more will come back. Education is crucial. With inclusive quality education, you will also have gender equality, access to justice and less poverty. And how would one want to stop address climate change without education?

IPS: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

YS: Absolutely. I call an appeal urgently appeal towards to strategic public donors, as well as the private sector, companies and foundations: Help those people who lost everything and have suffered for decades. Even if there is the amidst a worldwide pandemic, it is in giving that we are human.

A child with a water canister strapped to his back lives in a camp for displaced people in Bunia, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) Ituri province. Many of those who live here have fled from atrocities committed by armed groups against civilians. Credit: Passy Mubalama/IPS

 

 

Addressing the Impact of COVID-19 on Infants and Young Children

Aid, Asia-Pacific, Education, Headlines, Health, Humanitarian Emergencies, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

The author is the Executive Director of the BRAC Institute of Educational Development, BRAC University in Bangladesh.

Children display dexterity during a free play session prior to the pandemic. Credit: BRAC

DHAKA, Bangladesh, Apr 26 2021 (IPS) – Conventional wisdom is that the health of young children is not at great risk from COVID-19, but, in the Global South, the space constraints imposed on young children by the pandemic pose a significant risk to the stimulation on which brain development thrives. Early childhood development is further jeopardized by the pandemic’s impact on caregivers.

A new early childhood development infrastructure has been built in Bangladesh by BRAC, the largest international development organization in the world, providing weekly one-on-one phone calls by trained specialists to the caregivers of 40,000 infants and children under the age of six. It offers educational and psychosocial support – and a model that can benefit children worldwide.

A child’s early years are crucial to brain development, and stimulation is especially important. With schools closed in Bangladesh beginning in March 2020 – and play groups thereby halted and young children largely at home – the challenge was to ensure stimulation within home environments.

The program that emerged combines playful learning for children and psychosocial support for caregivers through mobile phone communications and a multi-layered architecture of specialized training and outreach. While enhancing needed stimulation among children, this replicable program also engages and supports family members in children’s learning and raises the prospect of continuing that engagement after the pandemic.

The program is part of a much wider drive for play-based learning by BRAC. A multi-year partnership between BRAC, the LEGO Foundation, and Porticus supports an extensive play-based learning initiative. Through this initiative, BRAC has created 110 community-based Play Labs in Bangladesh, Uganda, and Tanzania. Another 400 Play Labs have also been created within government primary schools in Bangladesh (with 300 of them supported by Porticus and 100 by the LEGO Foundation). BRAC has further trained 315 adolescent girls and young women to act as facilitators or Play Leaders in the community-based Play Labs. The Play Labs are safe spaces where children can engage in play, supported by a play-based curriculum that is culturally sensitive and designed to suit the local contexts, while also promoting children’s cognitive, language, physical, and social-emotional development.

Children engaged in a storytelling session with the Play Leader prior to the pandemic. Credit: BRAC

Both the play spaces and curriculum are designed by BRAC Institute of Educational Development, BRAC University (BRAC IED). Within a few months of the Rohingya influx in 2017, BRAC IED as part of BRAC started developing and implementing the Humanitarian Play Lab model within Child Friendly Spaces. The Humanitarian Play Lab is an adaptation of BRAC IED’s award-winning Play Lab model, adapted to the humanitarian context of the Rohingya camps, where play is used as a tool for healing from trauma as well as for learning. Since December 2018, the model has continued to run for Rohingya infants and children under the age of six as part of the Play to Learn project, in partnership with Sesame Workshop, International Rescue Committee, and New York University, with funding from the LEGO Foundation.

For children in displaced communities, the COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis on top of a crisis. It is vital to provide these children – and their caregivers – with improved access to learning, psychosocial support, safe spaces, and playful early learning and stimulation opportunities to help address trauma, support healthy development, and provide a sense of routine and normalcy. Play helps children better manage trauma, especially when they have experienced crisis, violence, and poverty.

When schools closed due to the pandemic, children no longer had access to the safe spaces provided by the Play Labs and Humanitarian Play Labs. BRAC felt the need to stay connected to children and their families, so Play Leaders and other frontline staff started using mobile phones to maintain regular contact with program participants. That initial instinct led to the creation of the telecommunication model called Pashe Achhi (English translation: Beside You), a remote learning mechanism that not only provides learning opportunities for children and psychosocial support for caregivers but also serves as a new emergency infrastructure for early childhood development.

Experts at BRAC IED brought together psychologists and play-based curriculum developers to develop 20-minute tele-conversational scripts, with a component for psychosocial support and another component on play-based learning. BRAC trained 1,300 Play Leaders on the effective delivery of scripts. The Play Leaders now facilitate weekly 20-minute one-on-one calls with caregivers and children from both Play Lab and Humanitarian Play Lab families. An initial pilot of a five-to-seven-minute conversation proved to be inadequate, and the 20-minute design now in use allows for meaningful engagement with both caregiver and child. The call scripts emphasize active listening as well as practicing empathy to ensure that callers can listen and address parents’ feelings and suggest play-based stimulation strategies to engage with the children within the home environment.

In calling the caregivers of infants and children under the age of two in the Rohingya camps, Play Leaders provide basic psychosocial support plus tips on how to take care of infants and stay safe from COVID-19. For children ages two to six in the Rohingya camps, Play Leaders speak with the children and mothers or caregivers. For children ages four to five across Bangladesh, Play Leaders engage remotely with children through activities such as reciting Bangla rhymes, while giving the adults basic psychosocial support, tips on engaging with the children, and health and hygiene messages.

BRAC has begun to expand the Pashe Achhi project to target infants and children under the age of five and their families from vulnerable backgrounds across Bangladesh. These families often lack access to basic early childhood development services, and BRAC sees great potential in Pashe Achhi to promote optimal children’s development and help break the cycle of poverty.

In total, outreach to caregivers of 40,000 children now takes place weekly, providing support for both the children and the adults. The fact that such scale was reached within weeks underscores the need and the replicability. Data has been collected throughout, and research is underway to assess the impact quantitatively and qualitatively, but anecdotal evidence makes clear the extraordinary value of this intervention. Its impact includes enhancing children’s stimulation in every household; addressing the well-being of children and adults; engaging children and their families in early childhood education; increasing educators’ connections with the children’s households; and addressing pedagogical and social-emotional needs, while also providing capacity building for front-liners and addressing their well-being.

Some of the lessons that implementation has already revealed are especially illuminating: First, play is key. It provides a profound educational vehicle and an easy way to engage households in ways that can potentially continue throughout a child’s education. Second, engagement can enhance both learning and psychosocial support. A child’s learning is greatly affected by the relationship with caregivers, hence Pashe Achhi places great emphasis on developing the caregiver-child bond. Third, the content must be kept simple to enable scaling.

The model depends on empathetic and educational conversations, the impact of which must be maximized to reach enough people. Fourth, the pervasiveness of technology is far more important than whether it is state-of-the-art. In this case, a cutting-edge initiative was developed with basic mobile phones.

The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated innovation in the education of young children. Extending that innovation could benefit children broadly long after the pandemic has subsided.

 

 

United States Welcomes “MADE IN PORTUGAL naturally”

“The United States is one of Portugal’s main clients, valuing such attributes as sustainability, innovation, quality, and authenticity.”
Luís Castro Henriques
AICEP chairman

    NEW YORK, NY, April 23, 2021 /24-7PressRelease/ — The United States is one of the six key target markets for the new international advertising campaign “MADE IN PORTUGAL naturally.” This campaign, directed to all American companies, is an initiative by AICEP – Portuguese Trade & Investment Agency. It will showcase the best of Portugal’s sustainable and innovative products from several industries: fashion to home furnishings, building materials to technology, or even food & beverage to the molds industry.

The campaign will launch simultaneously in the United States, Spain, France, United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada. It will run throughout 2021, showcasing products and services from selected clusters that embody the campaign’s core values.

“The United States is one of Portugal’s main clients, valuing such attributes as sustainability, innovation, quality, and authenticity. Values that differentiate and promote the confidence of this market in Portuguese products, which are, naturally, ‘premium’, customized and designed to satisfy demanding customers,” said AICEP chairman Luís Castro Henriques.

The Home cluster incorporates the furniture, lighting, home textiles, houseware, decorative ceramics, cutlery, glass, and crystal sectors. The sector’s ability to innovate, create trends, and confidence is based on its heritage of craftsmanship and international experience.

The Construction Materials cluster is committed to innovation and technology, following new trends, and providing a high-performing, sophisticated and well-designed range. This sector includes ornamental stones, ceramics, wood, cork, metals, cement, plaster, concrete and related works, plastics, paints and varnishes, and glass.

The Fashion cluster includes apparel and footwear design & production. The Portuguese fashion industry exports to more than 200 markets worldwide. In apparel & clothing, Portugal is the 10th largest European exporter, and it is among the top 25 exporters globally, with the United States as one of the top main markets. In footwear, Portugal is the 11th largest exporter in the world. Burberry, Kenzo, Dior, and other global brands rely on the Portuguese industry’s quality, innovation, and design for their product development.

The Food & Beverage cluster combines the best of the Mediterranean tradition with an Atlantic twist. Portuguese food products are surprising the world with new flavors and experiences while embodying each of the markets’ cultures with customized products and solutions. This is a result of secular experience and know-how, already available in more than 180 markets worldwide, in which the United States is one of the main clients. It is impossible to be indifferent to the world of Portuguese Wine. Portugal is the 9th world exporter, with unique wines that combine ancient vineyards with innovation and sustainability, constantly recognized by the most significant world awards, year after year.

The IT cluster is a crucial player in the global digital transformation and offers the best in the industry, with know-how, experience, and expertise recognized by key brands such as Microsoft, INTEL, NASA, or ESA. With state-of-the-art infrastructures and high talented population, Portugal is already experiencing the new 5G era and is the top partner in the sector for nearshore services strategies.

The Molds cluster is the 3rd producer of plastic injection molds in Europe and the 8th producer of plastic injection molds worldwide. In a moment when plastic injection molding and 3D printing will increase for the medical devices industry, consider the track record and quality of the Portuguese Mold industry. With a strong specialization, the automotive industry is currently the primary customer of domestic mold production, including high-quality and consistent injection parts from a broad range of polymers.

Portugal is the country where culture and tradition coexist with design, technology, and R&D. High-quality standards, authenticity, and exclusivity characterize the production of Portuguese goods, which are the choice of leading international clients and brands. With almost nine centuries of history, Portugal is a stable, innovative, sophisticated, and forward-looking country in which sustainability is a priority.

The digital campaign “MADE IN PORTUGAL naturally” will be available on all social media platforms – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, LinkedIn – and on the official website of AICEP USA, at https://portugalglobal-northamerica.com. Now is the time to discover why you should choose Portugal as your strategic partner.

ABOUT PORTUGAL

Located in southwestern Europe, Portugal is a welcoming and multicultural country with an open economy, where culture and tradition coexist with design, innovation, technology, and R&D.

At the crossroads between the European, African and American continents, its strategic location and status as a European Union and Eurozone member state make Portugal the ideal partner for your business.

Top international rankings* consider Portugal to be the third safest country globally and the seventh most politically and socially stable. It is also one of the countries that invest the most in renewable energy sources and policies to combat climate change.

Portugal’s excellent infrastructures, telecommunications, talent, and overall quality of life attract visitors and companies from all over the world.

Distinguished by their quality, authenticity, and exclusivity, Portuguese goods are highly sought after by well-renowned international customers. Portugal is an innovative, sophisticated, and forward-looking country with almost nine centuries of history where sustainability is a priority and an industry strategic goal.

*Sources: Global Peace Index 2020 (Institute for Economics & Peace | 163 countries); The World Bank (Worldwide Governance Indicators | 214 countries); Climate Change Performing Index 2021 (CCPI 2021 | 61 countries); Connect4Climate (World Bank Group).

ABOUT AICEP

Portuguese Trade & Investment Agency is a government entity focused on attracting productive investment, increasing exports, and internationalizing Portuguese businesses to boost its economy. AICEP is a “one-stop-shop” agency and the ideal partner for those looking to invest in Portugal or establish new strategic partnerships to expand their business.

With offices in Portugal and abroad, AICEP supports international companies investing in Portugal through project analysis, site selection, and human resources support.

With a global network present in over 50 markets, AICEP oversees Portuguese companies’ internationalization and exports, supporting them throughout these processes by connecting companies with critical stakeholders and providing valuable information.

Learn more at https://portugalglobal-northamerica.com

ABOUT THE MADE IN PORTUGAL naturally CAMPAIGN

This campaign is an initiative by AICEP – Portuguese Trade & Investment Agency directed to the American market. It will showcase the best of Portugal’s sustainable and innovative products from several industries: fashion to home furnishings, building materials to technology, or even food & beverage to the molds industry.

This statement seeks to focus, professionalize, and aggregate Portuguese products and services, allowing them instant recognition for their potential and effort, supported by acknowledging Portugal’s reputation as a modern, innovating, and trend-setting country.

The MADE IN PORTUGAL naturally campaign targets the United States of America, Germany, Canada, Spain, France, and the United Kingdom and will take place throughout 2021.

The narrative of the digital campaign follows consumer and communication trends. It focuses on the values that differentiate and promote the Portuguese offer’s recognition in the international market: Sustainability, Know-how, Tradition, Authenticity, Quality, Design, Innovation, and Customization.

Learn more at https://portugalglobal-northamerica.com

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Disability in Goma. The Power of Staying Together Against Covid-19, War, and Stigma

Africa, Aid, Armed Conflicts, Crime & Justice, Economy & Trade, Featured, Food & Agriculture, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Multimedia, TerraViva United Nations, Video

ROME, Apr 22 2021 (IPS) – Sylvain Kakule Kadjibwami lost the use of his legs during one of those ambushes that bloodlessly bleed North Kivu. “When I was shot, I thought it was the end of my life, but when I shared it with other disabled people, I discovered that life is still possible,” he said. Now it is Covid-19 that risks destroying the dreams of Sylvain, a small trader from Goma, a city whose roads are volcanic rock-ridden screes where pick-ups trudge. Those who walk face the risk of falling at every step. However, for those who cannot, the same roads can become traps where it is not only war that kills but also a stigma fostering misery and disease.

Confined to their homes by poverty, even before the pandemic, people living with disability in the capital of North Kivu, in the East of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, must overcome obstacles higher than those erected by the lava of the Nyiragongo. They are obstacles made even more challenging by the coronavirus containment measures that are severely affecting the fragile local economy, made up of informal activities and community solidarity.

“Since the outbreak of Covid, here, in North Kivu, more than a dozen disabled people have died not because they had Covid: They have died of hunger because they had nothing to eat,” Herman Cirimwami, coordinator of the Paph, a Congolese organization that assists and protects people with disabilities, including promoting their rights and social inclusion, told Degrees of Latitude.

They die because they survive thanks solely to the solidarity of their communities, friends, and families. However, confinement has reduced everyone’s incomes along with the economic capacity of those who took care of people unable to provide for themselves. The disabled live off charity because employment has always been almost inaccessible to them.

“Most of them also beg in the street, because they can’t access employment or get a good job,” said Therese Mabulay, athlete, president of the North Kivu Paralympic Committee, and founder of Asam – Stand up disabled, a small vocational training center for women and young people with disabilities. The reason lies in a rooted prejudice. The disabled are perceived as “useless” or even seen as the “devil,” as Cirimwami said still occurs to those suffering from albinism.

Between Goma and Rwanda, the crisis of small traders

A man who trades food in Goma. Credit: Elena L. Pasquini

The few people disabled who have managed to build a business are struggling to not slip into complete destitution, as is happening to the small traders who transport agricultural products across the border with Rwanda: flourishing commerce in the restless heart of the African Great Lakes region, which, for decades, has been tax-free for people with disabilities.

Corn, flour, bananas, plantains, cabbage, potatoes, beans: They use tricycles or rickshaws adapted for those who cannot walk. Propelled by the strength of arms or by men paid to push, they defy rough terrain, loaded almost to instability. These are small ventures that play a key role in the food market of North Kivu’s capital, providing goods at competitive prices compared to those who use trucks. They are exhausted by the eight-month closure of the border during last year’s lockdown, as well as by the costs of Covid tests and passes introduced after the pandemic began.

Jacques Bisimwa Mitima is president of the Association of People with Physical Disability Tuungane, which means “let’s unite” in Kiswahili. It is composed of two hundred and ten members who trade food across the “petite barrière” between the twin cities of Goma, in the DRC, and Gisenyi, in Rwanda. When we met him, he was coordinating a meeting that was a forest of hand-bikes, raised arms, and determination. Members—who tax themselves to help those in need pay for medical expenses or for funerals for those who cannot afford them—were electing new leadership and discussing financial solutions to the crisis. Their life has been harder after the Covid-19 outbreak.

“We have many difficulties. Some of our members have been evicted because they did not have the money to pay the rent. We spent the little money we had during the period of the border closure,” Mitima said. On his tricycle, the painted word “President” and the flag of the DRC are the graphic representations of the charisma of this man who started to trade almost twenty years ago. He has five children and other young members of the family to feed: thirteen people who live on his income. Before Covid, he told us, you could earn as much as fifteen dollars a day. Today, that amount is perhaps fifty cents: “We are looking for some money just to eat and we eat with difficulty,” he added.

Jacques Bisimwa Mitima, president of TUUNGANE. Credit: Elena L. Pasquini

To cross the border, traders need the CEPGL, an administrative document from the Great Lakes Community that must be renewed every two weeks, as well as a Covid test, to be repeated every two or three weeks as well. Maman Soki, a mother of five, is also in the business: “We pay five dollars for the test and thirteen for the CEPGL … and the rickshaw must have the same documents too. So, you have to invest thirty-six dollars every two weeks. The small gain we might get is spent on customs,” she explained. “We live a really difficult life, but at least they have reopened the border.”

It can happen, however, that the documents necessary to travel must be renewed even before goods are sold. This pushes traders into the grip of debt, as Sylvain Kakule Kadjibwami told us. He was a driver before being wounded. “On April 28, 2009, our vehicle was attacked on our way back from Bunia. Armed bandits shot the car I was driving on the Kiwanja road in Rutshuru territory. Two people died in the cabin and I was injured. Behind us, there were nine other injured but I only know of one person who survived and who is now disabled like me. The bullets hit my legs and I still have metal in [my bones]. These fragments should have been removed for a long time, but I cannot afford to pay for a new operation.”

North Kivu’s war has made Goma a city where disability is a frequent condition. Grief inflicted by a war that has not ceased for decades can be read in the amputated limbs and tortured bodies of its population. “Since 2008, people have started fleeing to the city and have settled in refugee camps. It was difficult then to return to the villages and they remained [here] … I don’t have the exact figures, but I can estimate that fifteen percent of the population of Goma has a disability,” Cirimwami said. Not only is war a cause of injuries and physical and mental traumas but it also makes disabled people more vulnerable. According to Cirimwami, many are left alone when conflicts break out. They manage to escape only with difficulty and when they reach safer places, they often do not have the means to survive.

Kadjibwami thanks God. He is alive. He has a tricycle that can cost almost $400—the investment of a lifetime. If one of those expensive vehicles were to break, for many it would mean no longer being able to work because there is no money for repairs. Now the challenge for Kadjibwami is to imagine the future despite the pandemic. Business was good before the outbreak; he could send his children to school, feed them, and save for future projects. Now, there’s only uncertainty. “I can only dream according to my income and with this one, I cannot plan anything.”

The talent of fighting against prejudice

People with disability at the “petite barrière” want to return to living off their work. They do not ask the government for help, but wish to reduce the costs that weigh too much on their fragile income. “We don’t want to beg for our dignity,” Mitima said. It is a dignity that Congolese society still struggles to recognize at all, beyond the fragility of bodies and mind.

“Towards people with problems of mobility, or people with visual impairments, there is a stigmatization … the social environment thinks those people are useless,” Mabulay explained.

Getting married is still hard for women with disabilities, and they can easily be abandoned by their husbands if they give birth to disabled children. Thus, children are not always accepted at schools and even education is not a guarantee of landing a good job. Isolation is greater for those suffering from deafness or blindness: Without knowledge of sign language or Braille, information technologies remain inaccessible.

Credit: Elena L. Pasquini

“When we try to practice sport, when we get them involved in sports, it is to show the community that people with disability have many talents, that they are persons like them, that they can do more if the society gives them a space which can allow them to be useful. For those who have [psychological] problems because they are neglected, our activity in sport is to show that they can have self-esteem, they can do more in society, they can’t be hidden in the houses but they have to show what they can do, their talents,” she added. “Our athletes feel integrated because they accept their disability, they can travel. The community is astonished when they play—wheelchair basketball, sitting volley—or when they sing. Some are singers too. They are proud.”

Making sport an integration tool, however, is a challenge that can be even harder than those faced by the athletes who brought the colors of the DRC to the Olympics in London and Rio, such as Rosette Luyina Kiese, who competes in shotput. Her right leg was amputated after she stepped on a landmine in the territory of Rushuru. In Goma, there is only an equipped space, built by the International Committee of the Red Cross, and athletes often have no money to buy equipment, or even wheelchairs to leave their houses and reach the Paralympic area. It is more difficult to reach the villages in rural North Kivu, where about one hundred and fifty armed groups are fighting. Yet the members of the Paralympic Committee continue to go to Sake, Rutshuru, Masisi, Lubero, and Beni and Butembo to advocate for practicing sport. “The greatest risk of working in conflict areas is the accessibility, kidnapping, and logistical resources to respond to the people in need,” said Mabulay, whose organization also implements vocation training.

Denied rights and Covid-19 prevention

Credit: Elena L. Pasquini

There are about two hundred and fifty athletes from the Paralympic Committee; about fifty are victims of war, but each awareness campaign reaches at least one thousand disabled people. This is a huge number for a single organization, but perhaps still small for a city that is estimated to have close to one million inhabitants and where the lives of most people with disabilities are consumed by poverty, between walls made of wooden boards and lava, in houses facing roads without asphalt and without light, where the water does not reach the kitchens but digs craters that only a 4 by 4 can wade through. The poor population struggles to eat and take care of themselves, vulnerable to disease and, today, more exposed than others to the risk of contracting Covid-19.

Despite the work of organizations such as those of Mabulay and Cirimwami, which provide sanitation and prevention, the situation is very serious: “In the families of these people there are no handwashers, there are no disinfectants … and thus, they are exposed to contamination from Covid. Similarly, people who go to Rwanda, pushed by others on the tricycle, cannot respect the distances of one meter; equally, the blinds, ”Cirimwami explained.

However, the health risks faced by people with disabilities are the result of longstanding limited access to basic social services and of an expensive health care system with few specialized facilities which leaves families with no other options than to “abandon the disabled at home,” Cirimwami said.

“Covid-19 came with more difficulties. Even to get information about Covid is not easy. [They] didn’t reach all kinds of disabled. People who can’t hear, who can’t move from their home, they have more difficulty being updated on the situation of Covid,” Mabualy explained. “Most of them can’t afford the kits, the safety kits to wash hands, to protect themselves.”

No access to health, education, employment, sport: That’s a question of denied rights.

Although the DRC has ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the instrument has been neither properly implemented by the institutions nor disseminated to the population. “People do not know the rights of the disabled and so the marginalization continues both in the community and at the political and administrative level,” he explained. But people with disability want to have a voice in that decision-making process where “there is no one to take the disabled out of marginalization,” he added.

Mitima said it clearly when we met him in Goma: “The life of a disabled person is very difficult … We have no help from the government, sometimes we receive a few small sums from people of goodwill … But if we have to say that there is a person or institution that supports us, no, there isn’t. We can only count on ourselves.”

Mama Soki. Credit: Elena L. Pasquini

Elena Pasquini is an Italian journalist who visited DRC recently. She is founder and editor in chief of Degrees of Latitude

 

 

Korean Pastor Sentenced to Probation After Leaking Personal Information of Thousands of Shincheonji Church Members

    GWACHEON, KOREA, April 19, 2021 /24-7PressRelease/ — A Protestant pastor in Korea has been charged with violation of the Personal Information Protection Act and sentenced to two years of probation and 360 hours of community service.

The Daejeon church pastor posted a list of names and personal information of over 4,500 members of a different church in Daejeon, Korea called Shincheonji Church of Jesus.

The list was allegedly from 2007, but according to Shincheonji Church the list had been shared from the Daejeon church pastor to other pastors in Korea as well. This list included names and also resident registration numbers (much like social security) of the members.

The leak of Shincheonji members’ information came after an investigation by Korean officials on a localized COVID-19 outbreak in a Daegu Shincheonji church location in February of 2020.

The outbreak occurred when an unknowing and asymptomatic COVID-19-positive Shincheonji member (“Patient 31”) attended a worship service with other church members. At the time, the Korean President had deemed worship services safe to attend without restriction and no regulation had been put in place on mask-wearing. As soon as “Patient 31” was found to be positive, Shincheonji moved all their services and meetings online to avoid more virus spread. Within the coming weeks, it was found that about 5,000 members of the Daegu church had tested positive for COVID-19.

Korean officials launched an investigation onto the church’s response to the outbreak. In order to conduct contact tracing, the government requested lists of all members’ personal information, including unrelated church locations and overseas missions. The officials deemed the lists incomplete or falsified, but it was later found after court trials that church leaders were innocent of violating laws or the Infectious Disease Prevention Act.

However, some of the lists with personal information were leaked (including from the Daejeon church pastor) and had widespread effects. Because many Korean media outlets label Shincheonji as a cult, a sect or otherwise secretive organization, many Korean citizens already have a negative view of the church. The leak of this personal information caused many Shincheonji members to be “outed” to their families or co-workers without their consent. After this leak, over 5,500 reports were made of human rights violations on Shincheonji people, including dismissal from jobs, physical attacks and ostracization from family members.

South Korea boasts some of the strictest Personal Information protection laws of democratic countries. The Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) enforced by South Korea states that use of personal data without obtaining consent is only permitted if used “within a scope that is reasonably related to the original purpose of collection” and “after considering whether the data subject’s rights would be infringed upon and/or measures to secure the integrity of the personal information have been properly taken.” Shincheonji argues that obtaining personal information from unrelated members or members overseas is not “reasonably related to the original purpose of collection”. They also mention that investigators did not consider the human rights implications of the data collection.

Other democratic countries also have strict penalties associated with releasing private information, including the United States. According to the NY Social Security Number Protection Law enacted in 2008, first-time violators could get up to a $100,000 fine for releasing multiple social security numbers at one time. Federal social security laws in the United States enforce a penalty of at least $1,000 for small-scale Social Security number leaks and up to 1 year in federal prison.

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World Moving Towards a “Devastating Marriage” of Artificial Intelligence & Weapons of War

Armed Conflicts, Featured, Global, Global Geopolitics, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Peace, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

The writer is Founder of the Faces of Democracy initiative & Faces of Peace initiative.

Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams won the prize for her work to eradicate landmines in 1997. She is pictured here speaking at a youth protest at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates held in Merida, Mexico. Courtesy: Albany J Alvarez/ Nobel Women’s Initiative

STOCKHOLM, Apr 16 2021 (IPS) – Landmines are among the most insidious and cruel weapons of all, because they do not distinguish between armed soldiers, civilians or even children.

According to the Landmine Monitor 2020, explosive devices hidden in the ground killed or injured at least 5,554 people worldwide last year alone — that’s an average of 15 deaths and serious injuries per day.

With her International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), Professor Jody Williams (70) has been advocating a ban on landmines for almost 30 years, and she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her commitment.

Excerpts from the interview:

Professor Williams, thank you for taking the time for this interview with the Faces of Peace initiative. To begin, we would first of all like to ask you: What does “peace” mean for you personally?

WILLIAMS: Peace is not simply the absence of armed conflict. That is the baseline on which sustainable peace can be built. For me, sustainable peace is peace built on human security, not national security. We do not need more, “modernized” nuclear weapons.

We do not need fully autonomous weapons that on their own can target and kill human beings. We need to use our resources so that the needs of people are met, not the needs of arms producers.

People should be able to live dignified lives, with equal access to education, health care, housing, etc. We need to focus on human security for sustainable peace, not national security to protect the infrastructure of the state. Peace and security should be people centered!

On 3 December 1997, 122 states signed the treaty for the banning of landmines. You and your campaign received the Nobel Peace Prize for this. How did you, as an American, come on the topic of landmines?

WILLIAMS: Actually, I was asked by two organizations – the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation and a German humanitarian relief organization, “Medico International” – if I thought I could create an international coalition of nongovernmental organizations to pressure governments to ban antipersonnel landmines.

It was an amazing challenge that totally sparked my interest so I accepted that challenge and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines was born. Today, some 164 nations are part of the Mine Ban Treaty.

Speaking of the Landmine Monitor 2020: With 5,554 dead, the global death toll remains high 23 years after the ban on landmines. Is this a sobering figure? What else can the international community do?

WILLIAMS: It is a very sobering question and demonstrates how long it takes to clean up the mess as chaos caused by war and violence. The international community must maintain its focus on supporting countries still plagued with landmines and that are working on mine-clearance.

The danger of landmines – especially improvised explosive devices – still exists. And the world has not become more peaceful anyway. What are the biggest threats to peace in 2021?

WILLIAMS: To my mind, the global obsession with weapons and violence while at the same time painting people who believe that peace is possible as intellectual “light weights” who don’t understand the harsh reality of the world are the two sides of the double-edged sword that keeps the world believing that only more weapons will keep us safe.

The biggest threats are the “modernization” of nuclear weapons and the new “revolution” of weapons – killer robots. The weapons are fully autonomous and can target and kill human beings on their own. A devastating “marriage” of artificial intelligence and weapons of war!

Bombs do not kill ideology: Just in office, U.S. President Joe Biden ordered an airstrike in Syria – and another was called off at the last minute. What are your thoughts about that?

WILLIAMS: As you point out, bombs cannot kill ideology. In fact, bombing and other acts of violence can strengthen ideological conviction and make recruiting new people easier. I did not support Obama’s extensive use of drone warfare either.

And speaking of Joe Biden: The US has so far not signed the Ottawa Convention. What do you think the chances are of this happening during Joe Biden’s presidency? Does the world need US leadership?

WILLIAMS: I cannot predict what Biden will do regarding the Mine Ban Treaty. But it is very likely he will roll back Trump’s policy and align his administration’s policy with that of the Obama administration, which brought the US very close to compliance with the treaty even if it was not signed.

Professor Williams, you are also chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. What exactly does this initiative do and how can one support your important work?

WILLIAMS: The Nobel Women’s Initiative was launched in 2006. It brings together five women recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, who use our influence and access to shine a spotlight on grassroots women’s organizations in conflict areas around the world working for sustainable peace with justice and equality.

*About the Faces of Democracy and Faces of Peace initiatives:

With almost 100 prominent figures from politics, business, the media and society – including the former President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Norway Erna Solberg, the President of the Republic of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid, the German Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas and OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger – the Faces of Democracy initiative is now in its fifth year of existence.

The first “faces” of the 2019 founded Faces of Peace initiative are SIPRI Director Dan Smith, the Chairman of the Atlantic Brücke e.V. Sigmar Gabriel, the OSCE CiO 2019 and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic Miroslav Lajčák and the Chief of Staff of the 69th Submarine Brigade of the Northern Fleet Vasili A. Arkhipov.

 

 

Travel Nurse Meisha Amia Announces Launch of New Vegan Leather Bag, titled The CEO Tote

I always wanted to give my community a luxury tote bag experience for style and success!

    HYATTSVILLE, MD, April 15, 2021 /24-7PressRelease/ — The Chicks With Cheques (CWC) brand continues to rapidly expand as they launch their new luxury item, The CEO Tote bag, giving entrepreneurs a fashionable item to feel confident and luxurious. After several months of drafting, designing, and stitching, The CEO Tote bag and over 800 pounds of tote bags and luxury brand boxes were imported into the U.S. and have reached the CWC headquarters in Cambridge, MD.

The CEO Tote bag is made from vegan leather and comes in a pink metallic finish. This durable luxury bag has one outside pocket and includes a matching wristlet wallet on the inside. The CEO Tote bag ships in a luxury keepsake box with gold foil details and satin lining. In addition, The CEO Tote bag can be bundled to include the Too Many Tabs Open journal, Message Like Meisha eBook, and two business eCourses brought to you by Chicks With Cheques.

Meisha Amia created Chicks With Cheques after attending a conference for nurses, where she discovered that the nurses lacked self-awareness and identity outside of their nursing profession. These women had so many dreams and goals to better themselves but got lost in the service of nursing over the years and just simply forgot about themselves. Now serving over thirty-thousand women, Chicks With Cheques has created a community of like-minded individuals who are chasing their dreams.

“I’m so excited that it’s finally happened. I always wanted to give my community a luxury tote bag experience for style and success! It’s more important that you show up ready to do the work and with The CEO Tote bag, our Chicks can do just that. It’s a busy lifestyle being an entrepreneur; full of meetings, airport runs, and vacations. We needed a bag different from a purse but yet cute enough to carry as one.” says Meisha Amia, CEO of Chicks With Cheques.

The CEO Tote bag can be purchased online at www.theceotote.com. For more information about The CEO Tote bag or Chicks With Cheques, visit https://www.chickswithcheques.net and on social media @TheCeoTote and @ChicksWithCheques. For media inquiries, please email Aryel Nicole at [email protected].

About Meisha Amia
Meisha Amia is an expert for travel nurses and online entrepreneurs. She provides education, strategies, and resources to Registered Nurses who want to negotiate top-tier travel contracts and build a sustainable online business. Meisha Amia’s role as a travel nurse, crisis nurse, and disaster nurse for over 30 healthcare facilities in 8 years has equipped her to guide and advise nurses in the startup process and long-term management of this career pivot. In her book, The Bedside Boss: From Scrubs to Six Figures she has been able to help thousands of nurses build self-awareness/ purpose, understand contracts and negotiations, deal with compliance issues and organization, create a financial management plan for travel nursing, prepare and manage crisis situations that commonly occur, and build an online business and passive income. The strategies in this book have been vital to the growth of the travel nurses impacted by Meisha Amia.

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UN’s Most Powerful Political Body Remains Paralyzed Battling a New Cold War

Featured, Global, Global Geopolitics, Global Governance, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, TerraViva United Nations

The UN Security Council is now the battleground for a new Cold War between the US and China. Credit: United Nations

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 14 2021 (IPS) – A new Cold War – this time, between the US and China —is threatening to paralyze the UN’s most powerful body, even as military conflicts and civil wars are sweeping across the world, mostly in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

The growing criticism against the Security Council is directed largely at its collective failures to resolve ongoing conflicts and political crises in several hot spots, including Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Ukraine and Libya — and its longstanding failure over Palestine.

The sharp divisions between China and Russia, on one side, and the Western powers on the other, are expected to continue, triggering the question: Has the Security Council outlived its usefulness or has it lost its political credibility?

The five big powers are increasingly throwing their protective arms around their allies, despite growing charges of war crimes, genocide and human rights violations against these countries.

Last week, Yasmine Ahmed, UK Director at Human Rights Watch, called on Britain “to step up as penholder on Myanmar and start negotiating a Security Council draft resolution on an arms embargo and targeted sanctions against the military”.
https://www.ipsnews.net/2021/02/china-russia-throw-protective-arms-around-myanmar/

Over 580 people, including children, have been killed since the February 1 coup: “it is time for the Security Council to do more than issue statements and begin working towards substantive action,“ she warned.

But in most of these conflicts, including Myanmar, arms embargoes are very unlikely because the major arms suppliers to the warring parties are the five permanent members of the Security Council, namely the US, UK, France, Russia and China.
https://www.ipsnews.net/2021/03/worlds-worst-humanitarian-disaster-triggered-deadly-weapons-us-uk/

US President Joe Biden has described the growing new confrontation as a battle between democracies and autocracies.

In a recent analytical piece, the New York Times said China’s most striking alignment is with Russia, with both countries drawing closer after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. The two countries have also announced they will jointly build a research station on the moon, setting the stage to compete with US space programmes.

“The threat of a US-led coalition challenging China’s authoritarian policies has only bolstered Beijing’s ambition to be a global leader of nations that oppose Washington and its allies,” the Times said.

Ian Williams, President of the New York-based Foreign Press Association and author of ‘UNtold: The Real Story of the United Nations in Peace and War’, told IPS that in the early years, with a secure majority in the General Assembly (GA), the US could pretend virtue and eschew using the veto. The embattled Soviets resorted it over and over.

“But as with so much UN and international law, the Israeli exception had the US making up for lost time. Now the Russians have been catching up with vetoes for Serbia and Syria”.

China, he pointed out, avoided using the veto unless Taiwan or Tibet was mentioned. In the old days there was a hint of an ideological element — Third World and Socialism versus Imperialism.

“But now it is entirely transactional, veto holders looking after their clients and allies, so no one should entertain illusions about China and Russia acting in a progressive and constructive way. But the US is no position to point fingers about Syria while it protects Saudi Arabia and Israel”.

“We can hope that the majority of members will grow indignant enough to try to effect indignation. But sadly, historical experience suggests many governments have almost unlimited tolerance for mass murder in far-away countries of which they know little,” he noted, including Darfur, the Balkans, Rwanda and now Myanmar.

The breakthrough would be the US saying, end the Occupation and then inviting others to join in a reaffirmation of the Charter.

“But since I don’t really believe in the tooth fairy, I would have to settle for a coalition of the conscious-stricken in the GA united for peace – and international law and order”, said Williams, a senior analyst who has written for newspapers and magazines around the world, including the Australian, The Independent, New York Observer, The Financial Times and The Guardian.

Asked about the killings in Myanmar, and the lack of action in the UNSC, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters on March 29: “We need more unity in international community. We need more commitment in the international community to put pressure in order to make sure that the situation is reversed. I’m very worried. I see, with a lot of concern, the fact that, apparently, many of these trends look irreversible, but hope is the last thing we can give up on.”

Vijay Prashad, Executive Director, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, who has written extensively on international politics, told IPS the United Nations is an essential institution, a process, in many ways, rather than a fully-finished institution.

The agencies of the UN – including WHO, UNICEF, UNHCR, he said, provide vital service to the world’s peoples; “and we need to make these institutions more robust, and we need to ensure that they drive a public agenda that advances the UN Charter’s main goals (namely to maintain peace, to end hunger and illiteracy, to provide the basis for a rich life, in sum).”

The Security Council is a victim of the political battles in the world, he argued.

“There is no way to build a better framework to handle the major power differentials”., said Prashad, author of 30 books, including most recently ‘Washington Bullets’ (LeftWord, Monthly Review),

“It would be far better to empower the UN General Assembly, which is more democratic, but since the 1970s we have seen how the US – in particular – undermined the UNGA to take decision making almost exclusively to the UNSC”.

Ever since the fall of the USSR, he said, the UN Secretary-General has become subservient to the US government (“we saw this shockingly with the treatment of former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali”).

The new ‘Group of Friends to Defend the UN Charter’, which includes China and Russia, is a positive development, said Prashad.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told reporters on March 31: “And then in terms of working with my counterparts in the Security Council, I know that there are areas – and this is a discussion that I’ve had – with both my Russian and Chinese colleagues – we know that there are red lines”.

“There are areas where we have serious concerns, and we’ve been open and we’ve been frank about those concerns. In China, what is happening with the Uyghurs, for example. With Russia, in Syria, and there are many others. We know what the red lines are”, she added.

“We tried to bridge those gaps, but we also try to find those areas where we have common ground. We’ve been able to find common ground on Burma (Myanmar). With the Chinese, we’re working on climate change in, I think, a very positive way. We’re not in the exact same place, but it’s an area where we can have conversations with each other.”

“So as the top U.S. diplomat in New York, it is my responsibility to find common ground so that we can achieve common goals, but not to give either country a pass when they are breaking human rights values or pushing in directions that we find unacceptable,” she declared.

Meanwhile, harking back to a bygone era, during the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s, the United Nations was the ideological battle ground where the Americans and the Soviets pummeled each other– either on the floor of the General Assembly hall or at the horse-shoe table of the UN Security Council.

Perhaps one of the most memorable war of words took place in October 1962 when the politically-feisty US Ambassador Adlai Stevenson (1961-65), a two-time Democratic US presidential candidate, challenged Soviet envoy Valerian Zorin over allegations that the USSR, perhaps under cover of darkness, had moved nuclear missiles into Cuba—and within annihilating distance of the United States.

Speaking at a tense Security Council meeting, Stevenson admonished Zorin: “I remind you that you didn’t deny the existence of these weapons. Instead, we heard that they had suddenly become defensive weapons. But today — again, if I heard you correctly — you now say they don’t exist, or that we haven’t proved they exist, with another fine flood of rhetorical scorn.”

“All right sir”, said Stevenson, “let me ask you one simple question. Do you, Ambassador Zorin, deny that the USSR has placed and is placing medium and intermediate range missiles and sites in Cuba?” “Yes or No? Don’t wait for the translation: Yes or No?”, Stevenson insisted with a tone of implied arrogance.

Speaking in Russian through a UN translator (who faithfully translated the US envoy’s sentiments into English), Zorin shot back: “I am not in an American courtroom, sir, and therefore I do not wish to answer a question that is put to me in the fashion in which a prosecutor does. In due course, sir, you will have your reply. Do not worry.”

Not to be outwitted, Stevenson howled back: “You are in the court of world opinion right now, and you can answer yes or no. You have denied that they exist. I want to know if …I’ve understood you correctly.”

When Zorin said he will provide the answer in “due course”, Stevenson famously declared: “I am prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over.”

*Thalif Deen is the author of a newly-released book on the United Nations titled “No Comment – and Don’t Quote Me on That.” The 220-page book is filled with scores of anecdotes– from the serious to the hilarious– and is available on Amazon worldwide and at the Vijitha Yapa bookshop in Sri Lanka. The links follow:
https://www.rodericgrigson.com/no-comment-by-thalif-deen/
https://www.vijithayapa.com/