The United Nations Hymn

We thought we’d share this beautiful hymn written and read by W.H. Auden in 1971, with accompanying footage provided, in part, by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). We hope you will find it as moving, as poignant, and as relevant as we did. It was shared with us by Ambassador Mark Hambley:

UN Oral Intervention: Repeal Article 353 of Bahrain’s Penal Code

The following has been submitted in the format of an Oral Statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Right’s Council, and was prepared by Next Century Foundation United Nations Liaison Katya Kox-Kruger:

The Next Century Foundation recognises that the Kingdom of Bahrain has made significant strides in promoting women’s rights. However we ask for the repeal of Article 353 of Bahrain’s penal code. Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights emphasizes the right to life, liberty, and security, including sexual safety. However Article 353 of Bahrain’s penal code allows a perpetrator of sexual assault or rape to escape prosecution if they marry their victim.

Similar laws have been repealed in Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Palestine.

Rape and sexual assault are violent crimes committed against innocent women. The immediate repeal of Article 353 would remove the legal protection from prosecution currently given to perpetrators. 

In 2010, Bahrain developed a commendable program called “Together Against Violence and Addiction” which offers courses on listening to victims. 

The Next Century Foundation calls on Bahrain’s Supreme Council of Women to continue programs educating the public regarding the issues of sexual assault and rape and supporting victims of abuse. This is integral to changing the narrative and the social stigma associated with rape. 

The Supreme Council of Women has submitted suggestions to the government in regard to the repeal of Article 353. Now it is time for the government to respond.

Bahrain’s progress on women’s rights has been substantial, however, Article 353 is not only a gross violation of this progress, but is also a deep source of suffering that should not be allowed to continue. We appeal to the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain to continue their exemplary progress on safeguarding women’s rights by taking urgent action to repeal Article 353.

Iraq’s Democracy: The ‘Upcoming’ 2021 Elections

It is almost a year since mass anti-government protests erupted in Iraq, demanding a dismantling of Iraq’s political system, a system which has been marred by corruption and dogged with instability for years. These protests are ongoing, although demonstrations have lessened since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The protests have resulted in the unfortunate deaths of approximately 700 of the protestors as well as over 20,000 injured, to date.

In November 2019, Iraq’s former Prime Minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, resigned as a result of the ongoing protests. The Next Century Foundation welcomed Iraq’s new Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who came to power in May 2020. On 31st July 2020, Prime Minister al-Kadhimi called for early elections on 6th June 2021, as opposed to the existing due date of May 2022. Al-Kadhimi stated that “everything will be done to protect and ensure the success of these polls” and the United Nations praised the idea of early elections, arguing that they would “promote greater stability and democracy” in Iraq, something that has arguably been in short supply in Iraq’s most recent parliamentary elections.

Early elections were one of the demands called for by Iraq’s protestors, as well as the creation of a government of technocrats. However, the demonstrations were not the only driving force behind al-Kadhimi’s decision to call for early elections. Iraq has been plagued with a dire economic crisis as a result of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic which resulted in international oil prices collapsing. Iraq’s economy draws ninety percent of its budget from oil revenues and the pandemic has increased the fragility of both Iraq’s economy and government. Alongside this, Iraq is facing energy, health and public service crises and the need for a functional and efficient Iraq government is becoming ever more imperative. Indeed, al-Kadhimi is also facing severe opposition from pro-Iran militia groups, such as the Badr Brigade. These groups hold a strong presence on the streets. Over the years, they have entrenched themselves within the state.

The early elections have seemingly garnered support in almost all of the political blocs. Mohammed al-Halbousi, Speaker of Parliament, has even claimed to advocate elections earlier than the June 2021 date, but this is unlikely to happen. The most notable endorsement has come from the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has backed al-Kadhimi’s plans and urged the government to follow through with early elections, stating that the snap elections are “not an end in and of itself, but a means of leading Iraq out of its current conundrum that is caused by political, economic, health, and services shortcomings”. These are the most powerful remarks al-Sistani has made on Iraq’s governance since 2003 and with them, al-Kadhimi has received the backing of the highest religious authority in Iraq. Since al-Sistani’s speech on 13 September 2020, the militia have been silent on the matter. This does not negate al-Kadhimi’s need to control the militia, indeed, it puts further pressure on him to attempt to control these groups.

Despite general support for snap elections, the Electoral Law, Independent High Electoral Commission and Iraqi Federal Supreme Court are themselves a “trilateral threat” to the June 2021 elections.

On 24 December 2019, prior to the announcement of early elections, a new draft electoral law was voted in. This electoral law was passed in response to pressure from the anti-government protests, with Shiite parliamentary blocs adopting the draft to the satisfaction of protestors and to the disquiet of the Kurdish blocs and some Sunni powers. The draft electoral law proposes a shift from proportional representation within governorates (the method that has been in place since 2005) to individual candidacy in smaller electoral constituencies. Votes will be counted electronically. The Kurdish blocs believe this method would deprive them of votes in mixed areas where the Kurds constitute a minority and the Sunni powers have voiced concern about electronic counting and the fear that this could be rigged.

The Office of the Speaker of Parliament has now failed to send this draft electoral law to the President for ratification, which directly contravenes the Constitution which stipulates that after the adoption of legislation, it must be sent to the President immediately for him to either ratify it or return it to Parliament within 15 days. The absence of this action casts doubts on whether the new electoral law will even be in place in time for the early elections, which perpetuates the same lack of true democratic freedom for Iraq’s citizens that dogged the last election. Many of the political blocs now agree that they passed the draft law because of the pressure from protestors.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party appears to be the only political bloc still voicing opposition to the timing of the early elections on the basis that the electoral law is not yet confirmed. They have accused al-Kadhimi of only calling the elections to please the protestors and to gain their support, rather than enacting them as a solution to the real issues facing Iraq. However, if no new electoral law is passed in time for the snap elections, then the 2021 elections will hold no significant weight. 

The Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) presents its own issues. On 15 December 2019, the Law of the IHEC was adopted, which approved the formation of the Board of Commissioners from among a draw of independent judges. However, debates about reform are continuing, and protestors have lobbied for only retired judges to sit on the Commission as opposed to serving judges. This is to ensure that no influence from political parties infiltrates through to the IHEC. The uncertainty surrounding the make-up of the offices of the IHEC hinders preparations for the early elections, casting another shadow on the hope for fair and independent elections in June 2021.

The Next Century Foundation has submitted a written statement to the 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council to urge the elected representatives of the Republic of Iraq to take all necessary action to follow the guidance of the IHEC prior to the upcoming elections, and to cooperate closely with the IHEC on all matters related to the elections. The UN expressed their support for early elections after meeting with the IHEC in early September and has confirmed they will be overseeing the elections in order to ensure the elections are run in a free, transparent and fair way. It remains critical that the composition of the IHEC is confirmed soon.

Early elections would bring some promise and hope for a future Iraq government that is not ridden with political fragmentation, as well as an opportunity for Iraq’s citizens to express their own self-determination and free will through a democratic vote. However, the likelihood of free, equal and fair elections taking place on 6 June 2021 is minimal, largely due to the issues with the electoral law and the IHEC. Over the years, the faith that Iraq’s citizens once had in living in democracy has been eroded, with voter turnout of only 40% in the 2018 elections. The 2021 elections could be Iraq’s final chance to demonstrate its commitment to democracy.

UN Oral Intervention on Somalia: Freedom of Expression and Internally Displaced People

The following has been submitted in the format of an Oral Statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Right’s Council, and was prepared by Next Century Foundation Research Officer Lillian Black:

In the Federal Republic of Somalia there are around 2.6 million internally displaced people due to continued violence, conflict, and drought. They are at far greater risk of facing sexual violence, limited access to food and water, and forced evictions while seeking refuge. It has become increasingly difficult for nongovernmental organizations and UN agencies to access and provide aid to Somalis due to Al-Shabab. Al-Shabab prohibits aid to areas under its control, blockading government-controlled towns from receiving resources. 

The people of Somalia, particularly the growing number of internally displaced people, need areas within Somalia that they can safely access to reliably receive food, water, shelter, medical treatment, and to find refuge from violence.

The Next Century Foundation also feels the protection of freedom of expression is paramount. The Somali government forces have responded to peaceful demonstrations with violence and lethal force. Innocent students, civilians, and children have all been harmed, arbitrarily arrested, or killed in response to demonstrations. Government forces and Al-Shabab continue to threaten, arrest, and kill journalists throughout Somalia. Reporters at private media outlets who have used social media platforms, like Facebook, to criticize various aspects of the government have been arrested and charged with crimes including insulting public officials, disrupting government work, and spreading propaganda. 

Along with protecting these freedoms in Somalia, we must not forget the Republic of Somaliland. The Next Century Foundation feels it is a disgrace that Somaliland is not recognized by nor is a member of the UN. The Somaliland government has even harsher restrictions on media and free expression than Somalia. Reporters and media outlets are consistently arbitrarily arrested, fined, and banned. The UN needs to protect the freedom of expression for citizens of both Somalia and Somaliland.

The Opium Epidemic in Afghanistan

The word ‘Opium’ derives from the Greek ‘opin’ or ‘poppy juice’, signifying the herbaceous plant that gives rise to the drug. Opium is a powerful narcotic that, when processed properly, can breed heroin, morphine and a multitude of other synthetic opioids. Its use stretches back thousands of years. Referred to as the “joy plant” by the Sumerians, opium’s popularity emerged in the Mediterranean, quickly spreading to the Assyrians and Egyptians. It soon began to be traded across the Mediterranean, spreading across Asia with Alexander the Great. As knowledge of the plant grew, so did demand. The Portuguese were known to smoke it. Indians and Persians would eat and drink it for recreational use. Europeans would even attribute magical powers to the plant. During the Holy Inquisition, opium was seen as a product of the East, and thus linked to the Devil. Thanks to the vast and elaborate Silk Road network, the drug managed to find its way to China, where the addictive substance eventually proliferated. Local denizens would inhale the vaporized opium through a long pipe, until they lay sprawled on the floor of the many opium dens that dotted the Empire. “Opium is a poison, undermining our good customs and morality”, wrote the Jiaqing Emperor, recognizing its pernicious effects on Chinese society. Two decades later, the drug proved a catalyst for sparking the devastating Opium Wars between China and Great Britain, the ramifications of which are arguably still felt today.

The world has changed a lot since the 19th century. When anyone speaks of opium, they are less inclined to think of China and more likely to consider another country that has dominated headlines for the past two decades. This country, tucked away in the heart of Asia, is the source of more than 90% of the world’s opium supply. I refer here to none other than Afghanistan. But although the country’s title as the number one global opium producer is new, the drug is one that Afghans have long been familiar with. Production methods relied upon by Afghan opium farmers have seldom changed since antiquity. A labour-intensive process, the farmers begin by scratching the young seed pods of the opium poppy plant by hand. This reveals a milky white fluid, which is carefully dried out into a sticky yellowish residue, later scraped off and dehydrated. The drug is then exported for further refinement.

Afghanistan lies amid the Golden Crescent; a name for one of two principal areas of illicit opium production in the world. Located at the crossroads of Central, South and Western Asia, the area encompasses the nations of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. Historically, the Golden Crescent was subsidiary to the Golden Triangle – a region in Southeast Asia consisting of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar – in terms of opium production. It was only around 1991 that Afghanistan overtook Myanmar as the world’s top opium producer. There are two reasons for this. First, Myanmar had suffered through years of unfavourable growing conditions and faced new government policies that forced the eradication of the plant. Second, during this same period, opium farming proliferated across Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s opium production first gained significant traction in the 1950s in order to provide the drug to neighbouring Iran, who had recently banned its cultivation. This increased in the 1970s as Myanmar and other countries in the Golden Triangle suffered from prolonged droughts, limiting their output of the drug. The Soviet invasion also drove resistance leaders to cultivate the plant in order to fund their operations. More recently, the 2001 U.S. invasion caused opium production in the country to skyrocket. War has a tendency to destabilize local economies, forcing individuals into precarious situations, doing anything they must to survive. The reality is that opium production is a lucrative cash crop and can earn farmers significantly more than other crops (for instance, 17 times more than wheat). Opium is also drought-resistant, easy to move around, and does not spoil. Additionally, for rural Afghans, the only livelihood alternative to poppy cultivation is often joining the Afghan security forces – a far riskier way to make a living. Although it is technically a crime to grow the drug, it provides tens of thousands of farmers with a livelihood. These farmers depend on opium cultivation to feed their families, and planting crops like saffron just don’t elicit enough money. Indeed, opium generates an estimated $600 million for Afghan farmers, and is often claimed to make 30% of the country’s economic output. Even the Taliban, who banned opium growth in 2000 and who vow they will do the same if in power again, also rely heavily on opium revenue.

In recent years, opium production has only continued to rise in Afghanistan thanks to auspicious weather and harvesting conditions, but above all because of the introduction of solar panel technology, which has proved a massive boon to the industry. Early signs of solar panel use were first noted in 2013. Since then, panels have sprouted up all across the country, with installations doubling every year (there are now nearly 67,000 solar panels in the Helmand valley alone). What explains the rapid assimilation of this new technology? For one, solar panels have proved transformative in terms of farm productivity. Traditionally, Afghans have relied on the Karez irrigation method, an ancient system involving tunnels and wells that transfers water over great distances to farmlands. Farmers are also typically forced to buy expensive diesel to power their ground water pumps. These pumps would often break down, resulting in costly repairs. But solar panels changed things. Farmers can now place an electric pump underground and connect it directly to the panels, allowing water to flow easily. The cost of upkeep vanishes.  If a farmer opts for solar panels –requiring an upfront payment of $5000 – they save a great deal of money in the long term. Opium farms can now get up to three harvests per year, and plants can grow in places which were previously thought to be hostile terrain for growth. Indeed, half a million people have migrated to the desert areas of Helmand province in the past five years due to the proliferation of solar panel farms. To truly grasp the enormous impact of the technology on farming, consider that Afghanistan produced 3,700 tonnes of opium in 2012 – right before the introduction of solar panels. Five years later, that number was 9,000 tonnes.

But as opium and heroin production swept across the country, so too did the number of addicts. Indeed, the United Nations reported an estimated 1.9 to 2.4 million Afghans addicted to the drug in 2015, up from 200,000 in 2005. Its ravaging effect on the lives, families and communities of Afghanistan is beyond measure. More recently, women and children have fallen prey to addiction, with nearly 10% of children being active users of the drug in 2015 – likely an underestimation. Drug use also spills into all sectors of society: from government officials, to farmers, to businessmen. The southern region of Helmand and Kandahar provinces are particularly notorious for areas of high drug production, transactions and addiction. 80% of Afghan opium comes from the southern region alone, meaning nearly two-thirds of the global supply.

The U.S. has attempted, in vain, to decrease opium production in the country. After the yearlong ‘Iron Tempest’ campaign to end the Taliban’s lucrative drug trade (which makes up an estimated 65% of their income), the American government suspended their efforts at targeting drug labs and networks in 2018. The U.S. initially began launching targeted airstrikes on opium facilities in 2017, when production had soared in the country. They noted that over 500 drug labs were strewn across the country, pumping massive amounts of money towards the Taliban insurgency. Yet hundreds of airstrikes later, and barely a dent has been made on the opium industry. The U.S. has spent nearly $8.9 billion in counter-narcotic efforts since 2011. The result of America’s investments in smashing the drug enterprise has been abysmal: opium production has reached record highs in recent years, more than double what existed when the U.S. first invaded in 2001.

If aggressive counter-narcotic efforts have failed miserably to thwart the opium epidemic, then what other solutions are on the table? Some have argued that legalizing the drug could perhaps offer a way forward. After all, history teaches us that banning a substance does not make it go away (à la prohibition era America). Sometimes, quite the opposite – black markets and drug cartels multiply. With such lucrative profits to be made, it is understandable why banning a substance can lead to phenomena like the opium gangs of China in the early 20th century or the rise of cocaine kingpins like Pablo Escobar. In Afghanistan, the Taliban function largely like a cartel – siphoning hundreds of millions from the opium economy. On the other hand, when we examine countries like Switzerland that dealt with a heroin epidemic in the 1980s, we bear witness to a government that chose the path of harm reduction. Centers were opened to help addicts and widespread treatment was offered. The epidemic came to a halt.

But we must be cautious in citing this as an example that a nation like Afghanistan can emulate. The legalization and/or decriminalization of drugs has indeed proved fruitful in dealing with the problem across many Western nations. But this method can only blossom when there is a system in place to provide for harm reduction. Nations like Switzerland and Portugal have enough financial resources to provide pharmacies and treatment centers. The same cannot be said for Afghanistan, as the infrastructure is simply absent. Furthermore, putting taxes on the drug to fund government services could work in EU nations that are relatively corruption-free. But seldom can this be applied to the notoriously corrupt government of Afghanistan – which has itself engaged heavily in the opium business for years (President Karzai’s late brother famously being a key figure in the illegal drug trade). Likewise, even if Afghanistan were to legalize the drug, it would still remain illicit across other nations – meaning the Taliban would still reap a significant profit by buying locally and transferring the drug outside its borders. Indeed, demand for the drug stems largely from other countries in the first place and most of the trade revenue flows are outside of Afghanistan’s border. In this sense, the Taliban are not an international heroin cartel, as most heroin shipments are passed on to criminal organizations as soon as they leave Afghanistan. Nations like Pakistan and Turkey have a large reach when it comes to heroin trafficking in particular.

While on the subject of opium demand outside Afghanistan’s borders, it might prove helpful to examine the ruinous effect of the drug on a country that has suffered considerably at its hands – that of neighbouring Iran. Iran was one of the world’s top exporters of opium by the late 19th century – sending the drug as far as China and earning massive revenues from taxation. Naturally, in a country so saturated with opium, addiction grew to be a national problem. By the 1950s, it is said that 1.5 million Iranians were addicted to the drug (out of a population of 20 million!). At this point, the government began to crackdown on its production and use. The livelihood of hundreds of thousands of farmers were destroyed with little to show for it – as addiction rates remained high. It didn’t matter if production slowed in Iran – opium was simply smuggled in from Turkey and Afghanistan. Still today, Iran serves as a crucial transit country – where opium headed to Europe (a continent with an estimated two million heroin addicts) passes through. Because of this, Iran’s borders have become exceptionally dangerous territory. Violence is common between Iranian border guards and Afghan drug runners, with thousands of casualties being recorded over the years on both sides. Iran has seized and destroyed more opium and heroin from drug traffickers than all other countries in the world combined. It has spent countless millions more on monitoring its border with both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Moreover, nearly 80% of executions in Iran are also related to drug trafficking. Many have compared the tragic situation with the Colombian war on drugs – only with Iran lacking the billions of dollars in funds from the U.S. Despite Iran’s efforts, cheap opium still manages to flood the country on a daily basis. The nation continues to struggle with the fact that it has the largest prevalence of opiate consumption as a population globally – with close to 450 metric tonnes being consumed each year.

The opium crisis in Afghanistan cannot be addressed solely as a drug issue. This myopic approach has only led to failure in dealing with the problem. Counter-narcotic policies and legalization cannot be the final answer – instead, the issue must be contextualized in a much broader picture. Opium cannot be contended with meaningfully unless the structures that give rise to the opium epidemic are dealt with. The Afghan government, the police, the farmers, and the Taliban all have something to gain from the industry – and all are involved in a deeply connected process that involves bribery and flouting the rule of law (by some estimates, government officials are involved in at least 70% of opium trafficking). Opium is therefore deeply entrenched in all facets of Afghan society. To deal with the problem would mean untangling the web of corruption and violence, engendered by decades of war and instability. That does not start with the drug itself, but with the entire system. Afghanistan’s opium crisis is a crisis born out of war and despair. To transform the opium epidemic means transforming Afghanistan. It means peace rather than war, freedom instead of poverty. Afghanistan has suffered immensely and shed both blood and tears. But the heart of Asia will keep beating, and in this we cannot lose hope.

UN Oral Intervention: Support Georgian Democracy

The following has been submitted in the format of an Oral Statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Right’s Council, and was prepared by Next Century Foundation Research Officers, Helena Heaton and Ivan Tarkhanov.

Georgia has experienced a democratic backslide in recent years. The Next Century Foundation believes that the blame for this lies partly with the European Union and partly with NATO, both of whom still fail to meaningfully include Georgia, and provide it with clear incentives to democratise. Meanwhile, the Russian Federation continues to control twenty percent of Georgia’s territory, and exercises strong political and economic pressure on the country. Now Georgia is in a crucial phase of transition where its embattled democracy can either be strengthened or rolled back significantly. International observers must not take Georgian democracy for granted.

Following recent protests, a series of talks between the government and the opposition in March 2020 led to new electoral reforms and the promise of a gradual transition to a fully proportional electoral system by 2024.

The Next Century Foundation is pleased to witness a broad acceptance of the reforms in Georgia. Phasing out one-party predominance is an important priority for Georgian democracy. That being said, the playing field is still biased in favor of the incumbent party which has privileged access to media coverage, state resources and a politicized judiciary. A full disassociation between the party and the state’s administration is an essential prerequisite of a truly balanced electoral process. Furthermore, journalists and election monitors must be allowed to operate in Georgia unobstructed.

The Next Century Foundation also believes that a further reason that the European Union and NATO must do more to integrate Georgia is to reduce the risk of hegemonic Russian military adventures in the future. Georgia needs to be able to operate as an independent state. Neither the European Union nor Nato is helping in this regard.

UN Oral Intervention: Remove Sudan from State Sponsors of Terrorism List

The following has been submitted in the format of an Oral Statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Right’s Council, and was prepared by Next Century Foundation UN Liaison Officer, Katya Cox-Kruger.

The Next Century Foundation calls for the removal of the Republic of Sudan from the United States of America’s “State Sponsors of Terrorism” list. A sufficient level of democratization has been reached and now there is an urgent need for Sudan to access humanitarian financial aid. Resolution 2508, declared a consensus view by the UN Security Council that Sudan’s sanctions had served their purpose and Resolution 2429 reminded the world that numbers of those in need of humanitarian assistance in Sudan have increased from 5.5 to 7.1 million.

The new government under Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is committed to seeing a more progressive and humanitarian Sudanese nation, installing a civilian cabinet and holding a democratic election in 2022. Recent progress in human rights includes the outlawing of female genital mutilation, the repeal of apostasy laws, and abolishing flogging. Sudan has also made strides in media freedom, releasing imprisoned journalists and promising an end to censorship.

Sudan has signed an agreement with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to open a main office in Khartoum with field offices in Darfur, Blue Nile, Southern Kordofan, and East Sudan. The Next Century Foundation backs the swift opening of the offices in the hope that they will help to monitor the situation on the ground.

For Sudan to continue making progressive reforms, the economy needs to revive, an action that is only possible through foreign investment and funding. The Next Century Foundation suggests the monitoring of aid through an annual review of Sudan’s progress.

The Next Century Foundation, in supporting Sudan’s removal from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, is concerned with alleviating the suffering of the Sudanese, and facilitating a process by which peace and greater economic stability can be encouraged.

Even the most Basic Rights are denied to Children in war torn Libya

Today’s children in Libya are trapped by the horrors of war which often takes place in civilian neighborhoods, often near schools. The following is written by a young Libyan NCF volunteer:

Children living in Libya have been coming under direct attack, missiles often actually directed toward their homes and schools. Many Libyan families have had to leave their homes as the warring factions use Libya’s cities as battlegrounds, often looting the homes as they go, sometimes completely destroying them. Far too many families are constantly on the move, trying to find a safe, affordable place to live. Sometimes they just end up living with friends or relatives; two or more families sharing the one home.

The nature of modern warfare has changed. There is more fighting in populated areas, leading to more child casualties. Children have been used as human shields. Weapons and guns placed in schools which make them a target for more attacks. Many children have had to leave their schools because they’re no longer safe. Some children have had to work or to beg for money in order to support their families.

Another catastrophe is the recruiting of children to fight, with the false promise of a better future and the temptation of access to money and drugs. As a consequence, they end up either getting killed, maimed, or enduring psychological damage and a whole new generation of murderers and drug abusers are thus created.

Of course, if houses and schools aren’t safe, the streets on the other hand are worse. Lack of security is making the streets a possible place for kidnapping or getting shot by a stray bullet. So in addition to dying in the bombing we’ve lost a lot of children who got shot by a stray bullet from an unknown source. More and more, we feel the effect of losing loved ones in this war. Most of the children in Libya have either lost a family member or have a disabled person in their house as a result of the war.

Transportation of medicines and vaccines to the country, and between the cities isn’t easy, as the airport is one of the places most targeted in the bombing, and also the highways between cities and towns are closed either because of the fighting or the presence of bandits. This situation makes it hard for children to get their vaccinations on time, especially in small towns. Additionally many vaccines end up being ruined by the lack of refrigerated transport on long journeys.

All in all, the problems we have here are homeless children with an ambiguous future and many psychological issues along with drug addiction, criminality, and death. After all that these children have been through, a mentor is what they need not just to fix their mental problems but also to guide them towards a brighter future. However, many families aren’t able to find out whether their children are suffering from mental problems or not, and even if they do, the cost of psychological consultation and mental treatment is quite high.

The ongoing armed conflict also continues to impede the functioning of the judicial system, limiting its ability to process cases of children’s rights violations or to bring those responsible to justice. Perpetrators of serious children’s rights violations and abuses continue to operate without fear of being held to account for their crimes.

Our children came to the world with no intentions, predictions, or expectations. The only thing a child wants is a warm safe home, and that’s something children in Libya don’t have. It is our responsibility to provide it to them, but all they have got is sleeping every night in fear, a fear that they don’t even understand.

UN Oral Intervention: Mineral Trafficking in the D.R. Congo

The following has been submitted in the format of an Oral Statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Right’s Council, and was prepared by Next Century Foundation Research Officer, Umer Ahmed.

The international community must tackle mineral trafficking used in part to finance the purchase of weapons used in conflict by armed militias in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Commendably, the Congo government has, over the last decade, increased the regulation of mines operating in the country. These mines extract tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold, all of which are referred to as “conflict minerals” because of their use to finance armed conflict. These minerals are essential to the manufacture of smartphones and thus are a necessity for technology companies. Correct regulation of the sale of these minerals has great potential to aid the development of the DR Congo state.

The Next Century Foundation welcomes the establishment of a transparency platform by the European Union in 2017 to monitor companies exporting minerals from Congo to the European Union. The efforts of the United Nations Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO), under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1493 and UNSCR 1596, in tackling mineral smuggling are also commendable.

However, a significant number of mines remaining in the hands of armed militias have extracted minerals trafficked across the border into the neighbouring states of the Republic of Uganda, the Republic of Rwanda and the Republic of Burundi. From these states, the minerals are then shipped to the People’s Republic of China, where supply chain checks are weak.

The Next Century Foundation calls on the international community to focus on halting the export of conflict minerals from Congo to neighbouring states and for the developed nations of the world to boycott any minerals extracted from these mines. Furthermore, the Next Century Foundation calls on the international community to boycott cellphones manufactured in China until it addresses the lack of action taken on conflict minerals by its companies.

How to bring peace to Libya

The following has been prepared by Next Century Foundation Research Officers Mais Mayouf and Ivan Tarkhanov for submission by the Next Century Foundation as a statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council:

The Next Century Foundation notes with concern the build-up of forces around the town of Sirte in the State of Libya. The near total violation of the UN arms embargo continues, as does the proliferation of foreign forces on the ground, many of whom are mercenaries.

Increasing levels of foreign involvement in Libya have helped a civil war become a proxy war. As things stand, the blatant breaching of the UN arms embargo sustains the proliferation of weapons in Libya.

The Next Century Foundation notes shortcomings with the way the arms embargo is currently enforced. It is important to emphasise that most weapons do not arrive in Libya by sea but rather by land and air.

Only a swift return to negotiations can avoid a bloodbath around the town of Sirte. The Next Century Foundation calls on both principal parties to halt the military buildup and return to talks. Any comprehensive political arrangement should also be approved by the Council of Representatives seated in Tobruk. It is vital that the unity and sovereignty of Libya remain the ultimate goal of any peace talks.
The need for a national, Libyan owned, political dialogue is paramount.

Peace building initiatives must harness local energy and include civil society actors to ensure a stable and socially grounded framework for a lasting peace. The Next Century Foundation believes that Libyan civil society actors have been grossly underrepresented in previous peace initiatives and in a failed state like Libya they are important.

Stop thinking of the Libyan conflict as a mere domestic issue. The conflict has caused great suffering in Libya but it has also proliferated instability throughout the Sahel and in the Mediterranean as a whole. Further escalation of the Libyan conflict will send ripples far beyond Libya’s borders.

Restoring Dialogue in Nicaragua

The following has been submitted in the format of an Oral Statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Right’s Council, and was prepared by Next Century Foundation Research Officer, Alexander Shah.

Since his electoral victory in 2007, President Ortega of the Republic of Nicaragua has made significant advances in reducing levels of poverty and crime in his country. However, this has been paired with a concerted effort to increase his grip on power. Most concerning is Ortega’s increased level of control over the Supreme Electoral Council, responsible for holding free and fair elections in the country. The move echoes that of the authoritarian Somoza regime that President Ortega originally took down decades ago.

With the 2021 general election looming large in the Republic of Nicaragua, it is crucial that President Daniel Ortega allows the participation of international election monitoring bodies. Transparent elections are the only way to ensure that the protests and violence that have dogged the nation for the past two years are not further exacerbated, and that Nicaragua does not slide into further instability. The government must ensure that the country does not see a repeat of the 2016 elections, which were mired in accusations of fraud and voter intimidation.

The Next Century Foundation urges the government of Nicaragua to resume cooperation with international human rights bodies, and to allow journalists, news outlets and NGOs to navigate freely within the country. We ask the government to also heed the demand of its citizens and reverse its ban on protests and release its political prisoners in order to ease tensions across Nicaragua. Finally, we ask President Ortega to begin to engage in negotiations with the opposition in order to establish guidelines for a free and fair election next year.

UN Oral Intervention: End the Oppression of Ethnic Minorities in Xinjiang

The following has been submitted in the format of an Oral Statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Right’s Council, prepared by a Next Century Foundation Research Officer.

The indoctrination of over a million Uyghur and Kazakh Muslims in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China infringes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Next Century Foundation is dismayed at the lack of support for these fellow Muslims shown by the Arab World.

Recently the State of Palestine’s President Mahmous Abbas stated Palestine, “Would continue to firmly stand with China and resolutely support China’s just position on . . . Xinjiang”. 

The 41st session of the UNHRC witnessed the submission of a letter supporting China’s policy in Xinjiang from the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Republic of Iraq, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the Arab Republic of Egypt, amongst others.

That letter described China’s policy as “a series of counter-terrorism and deradicalization measures in Xinjiang” stating that the “fundamental human rights of people of all ethnic groups there are safeguarded”.

Whilst we recognise China’s desire for a cohesive collective identity, against the backdrop of decades of foreign interference and induced fragmentation during the ‘Century of Humiliation’, the violation of basic Human Rights is inexcusable.

The Next Century Foundation asks for a UN led investigation into international corporate complicity in the employment of these detained ethnic minorities within China. We also ask that China aligns its national labour standards with those held by the International Labour Organisation.

Additionally, it would be helpful if Amazon, an organisation that has featured wrongly or rightly in complicity allegations, were to include the country of origin on the descriptions of goods they market. We call upon the international community to boycott goods produced in China until such time as China’s treatment of its Muslim minorities reaches standards that accord with the United Nations Human Rights Charter.