UN troops failed to protect civilians in South Sudan

Last Tuesday a report was issued into the performance of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, where in July government soldiers went on a killing, raping and looting in the capital, Juba. UN troops failed to respond to the attacks in the Terrain Hotel, which included sexual violence by armed South Sudanese soldiers against civilians. Five United Nations staff members and more than a dozen other humanitarian workers were killed.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed a group of independent investigators so as to give light to UN troops’ intervention in the country. The report concluded that there has been “a lack of leadership on the part of key senior Mission personnel” which definitely culminated “in a chaotic and ineffective response to the violence.”

The investigation has found that the peacekeeping force, formed by troops from China, Ethiopia, Nepal and India, did not operate under a unified command. In fact, it received opposing orders, and the Chinese military abandoned its posts at least two times. Moreover, it has been discovered that rescuers never appeared even though several calls were done to the mission’s headquarters. Consequently, most of the victims were rescued by a private security company the following day.

A month after the attacks in Juba and as a consequence of the ineffective intervention of UN soldiers, the UN Security Council commanded thousands of additional troops in order to reinforce the South Sudan peacekeeping missions.

UNESCO ratifies new contentious resolution on Jerusalem

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s World Heritage Committee has approved a resolution on the status of conservation of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls. The international body agreed to maintain the place on the list of endangered world heritage and criticized Israel for its continuous rejection to let the UNESCO’s experts enter Jerusalem’s holy sites to verify their conservation condition.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list is known for its work in emphasizing sites of historic and cultural importance and endangered global heritage. The Old City of Jerusalem have been on UNESCO’s endangered list since 1982.

This resolution is the latest of diverse measures taken over decades and Israelis see it as another significant proof of inherent anti-Israel tendency within the United Nations. It was passed by the Committee’s 21 member countries from which ten voted for, two against, eight abstained and one was absent. Neither Israel, the U.S. nor Palestine is on the World Heritage Committee.

Israel suspended ties with UNESCO earlier this month over a similar resolution.

Burundi aims to exit the International Criminal Court

Burundi’s lower house of parliament has voted in support of a withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC), after the court’s chief prosecutor had announced last April a preliminary investigation of the ongoing situation in Burundi, where hundreds of people have died in violent street protests and political killings.

This has been the first step towards a full investigation in which the government has been blamed for murder, torture, rape and forced disappearances. In August, Burundi also rejected the proposed deployment of more than 200 United Nations police officers to monitor the country’s social instability.

Burundi has been plagued by violence since April 2015, when the current president Pierre Nkurunziza tried a third term despite massive protests by citizens who defined the move as unconstitutional. Hundreds have been killed in the uprisings.

Many African leaders see the court as a European postcolonial tool to beat up on Africa and have repeatedly threatened withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the ICC. Nevertheless, no country has ever withdrawn from the ICC.

Under the Rome Statute, a country that seeks to exit its jurisdiction must formally write to the United Nations secretary general stating its intention. The formal process that comes after could go on as long as a year.

The end of the 52-year guerrilla war in Colombia

After four years of tough negotiations in Havana, today the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, and the Marxist rebel leader Timochenko are signing a peace deal which will put an end to a half-century war that has killed a quarter of a million people, blocked the economic system and made Colombia a highly unstable country.

More than 2,500 foreign and local dignitaries are attending the ceremony in Cartagena, where these two leaders will shake hands for the first time in Colombia. The UN chief, Ban Ki-moon, the Cuban president, Raúl Castro, or the US secretary of state, John Kerry are some of the personalities who will be present at the historical peace treaty which will turn the FARC (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrilla group into a legal political party.

The agreement must be ratified by a plebiscite on 2nd October, but polls indicate that it will pass easily since there is widespread relief in Colombian society at an end to the kidnappings and hostilities of the last decades. Moreover, the revolutionary group will hand over weapons to the United Nations within 180 days.

Colombians and the rest of Latin American countries are optimistic, as peace will bring more positive results than problems. They hope to reduce security costs and open new areas for mining and oil companies, in order to restore social and political stability in the country.

Global education in the spotlight

United Nations education envoy Gordon Brown affirmed on Friday before launching a plan for the largest educational expansion in history that education is definitely the “civil rights struggle of our generation”.

Brown leads currently the international commission on financing global education opportunity according to which, under the new global development goals agreed last year, all children should be receiving primary and secondary education by the year 2030. Nevertheless, presenting the commission’s findings at the UN in New York, he admitted that $30 bn in additional funding was needed in order to achieve the goal of ensuring a full primary and secondary education for every child in the world.

Unless there is a major sudden transformation in education funding, almost half of the world’s children will face the probability of growing up without decent schooling. Gordon Brown affirms that states need to increase their investments in education as well as that it is essential to promote a significant reform of international institutions so as to deliver effective funds into schooling.

Finally, he also remarked the need of an emergency injection of $400m for the 30 million refugee children around the world who are in need of urgent and proper education.