UNHRC Submission: Remove Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list

The Sudan was first placed on the State Sponsors of Terrorist List in August of 1993 when General Omar al-Bashir became president. The sanctions that accompanied this placement included restrictions on assistance from the United States of America, a ban on defense exports and sales, controls over exports of dual use items, and other miscellaneous international financial restrictions including those on funding from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. These restrictions were implemented with the purpose of limiting funding to terrorist groups present in the Sudan. Nevertheless, the overthrow of President Omar Al-Bashir in April 2019 has brought a sense of international hope for the future of the Sudan. In view of recent developments within the region, the Next Century Foundation’s U.N. Liaison Officer, Katya Cox-Kruger, calls for the urgent removal of Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list in a written submission to the 45th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. 

The United States of America has now decided that it will indeed remove Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. But words are one thing. We still await action. We hope that this may be done by Presidential decree in order that things may proceed swiftly. Katya’s oral intervention to the UN is above.

Read the written intervention in full – The urgent need for the removal of the Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list

UN Oral Intervention: Deforestation in Cambodia

The following has been prepared by Next Century Foundation Research Officer Udit Mahalingam for submission by the Next Century Foundation as a statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council:

The world’s attention needs to be drawn to the issue of deforestation in the Kingdom of Cambodia, and the complicity of timber and agribusiness companies in exploiting indigenous groups. 

Losing a quarter of its tree cover in the past twenty years, rapid deforestation existentially threatens indigenous populations within Cambodia, who now face internal displacement and alleged threats of violence from armed forces.  

All the more alarming is the fact that international stakeholders are profiteering from Cambodian deforestation. 

Despite a national ban on luxury hardwood exports, 500,000 cubic metres of timber is transported annually from Cambodia into the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. 

The second largest timber wood product exporter in Asia, Vietnam earned 10.5 billion U.S dollars from wood and woodwork exports in 2019 alone, its biggest markets being the United States of America, Japan, the People’s Republic of China and the European Union in that order.  

Illegally sourced Cambodian luxury timber, often referred to as rosewood, is being exchanged via legally officiated trade mechanisms. These include the 2001 US-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement, the 2015 Protocol to Amend the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement, and the 2019 EU-Vietnam FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement. 

We urge that Cambodia, in ratifying its proposed Environmental and Natural Resources Code, accommodate indigenous land claims within existing customary tenure rights provisions, thereby reinforcing crucial subnational protections. 

Nevertheless, given this issue’s international scope, we suggest that the United Nations Human Rights Council assemble a fact-finding mission to determine the extent of corruption in Cambodian natural resource management, and the nature of the transcontinental supply chain which imports large volumes of illegally logged Cambodian timber via Vietnam.  

The international community’s gluttony for hardwood timber must not come at the cost of the planet’s deforestation, the exploitation of indigenous communities, and the consequent environmental fallout which injures us all.

UN Oral Intervention: Addressing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam dispute

The following has been prepared by Next Century Foundation Research Officer Udit Mahalingam for submission by the Next Century Foundation as a statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council:

The Next Century Foundation is troubled by the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam dispute between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. A dispute that also impacts both the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan.  

On July 21st 2020, after a season of unusually heavy rain, Ethiopian Premier Abiy Ahmed announced the completion of the Renaissance Dam’s first filling stage.

We are concerned that, in choosing to fill the dam unilaterally, Ethiopia violated the 2015 Agreement on the Declaration of the Principles on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, and the fundamental tripartite “spirit of co-operation” contained within the agreement.  

The Next Century Foundation urges Ethiopia, and indeed all other parties to the Declaration of Principles, to respect their associated legal obligations in the implementation and operation of the Renaissance Dam. 

We are aware that Egypt would like the filling process to be conducted over a twenty-year period – a timeframe at odds with Ethiopia’s proposed seven years. 

The Next Century Foundation instead suggests that filling be conducted over fourteen years – a fair compromise in view of Egypt and Ethiopia’s mutual water-sharing interests.  

Nevertheless, we recognise Ethiopia’s sovereign right to construct the dam, and thereby address its own developmental needs. We note Ethiopia’s exclusion from historic Nile water-sharing treaties, such as the 1929 and 1959 Nile Waters Agreements. 

The Next Century Foundation urges the countries affected by the Renaissance Dam dispute to introduce a comprehensive water-sharing agreement within the Nile Basin. 

We note that Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have failed to ratify the UN Water Convention and fully incorporate its provisions into existing national laws concerning the use of water. The Next Century Foundation thus implores all Nile Basin states to ratify the UN Water Convention, and thereby facilitate progress towards a comprehensive water-sharing agreement. 

The Kashmir Question: India, Pakistan, China?

Since the signing of the Simla Agreement in 1972, the Kashmir conflict has largely been viewed as the kernel in historically fraught Indo-Pak relations – a repository of long-standing ethno-religious divisions, opposing nationalist ideologies, and cross-territorial violence. In the wake of the UNHRC’s landmark 2018 report on the region, it has only recently been recognised that effective reconciliation in Kashmir is wholly dependent upon India and Pakistan taking joint responsibility for the endemic human rights abuses committed on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) i.e. the de facto boundary between India and Pakistan within Kashmir. Nevertheless, in framing the conflict in Kashmir as a wholly bilateral issue, such scrutiny has failed to properly account for China’s emerging role as a hitherto under-discussed third-party in the conflict. In light of China’s previous investments in other conflict zones, and its own history of human rights abuses, The Next Century Foundation’s researcher, Udit Mahalingam, examines how escalating tensions in current Sino-Indo relations can be situated against broader, multilateral disputes occurring at both the LoC and the Line of Actual Control (LAC) i.e. the de facto boundary between India and China within Kashmir. 

The recent June 15th clash between Sino-Indo security forces in the Galwan Valley (along the LAC between Ladakh and Aksai Chin) provides the ideal starting point for this discussion. The most significant escalation in over four decades of relations between India and China, the skirmish is emblematic of savage warfare at its worst, despite the enforcement of a 1996 border agreement, which prevents either side from “open[ing] fire […] within two kilometres of the Line of Actual Control”. At least twenty Indian soldiers, and an unknown number of Chinese security officials died in the conflict, perishing at the hands of “stones, iron rods and bamboo poles wrapped in barbed wire laced with nails”. With both nations accusing the other of territorial infringement and unilateral aggression, the question remains as to when the process of disengagement will resume, especially considering that Sino-Indo tensions were already simmering in the wake of the 2017 Doklam standoff.

Propelled by far right Hindu nationalism on one side and quasi-hegemonic expansionism on the other, the Galwan Valley conflict is the perfect example of how geopolitical gridlock is often maintained at the expense of ordinary lives, on both sides of the divide. As such, the ramifications that this clash has on the adjacent conflict in Kashmir cannot be understated. To begin with, it situates India’s current infrastructural investments on its side of the LAC within its wider unilateral interventions across the LoC, evidenced most prominently in the removal of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in 2019, as well as the subsequent security lockdown and communications blackout enforced within the region. Moreover, given the strategic importance of Ladakh as the point of intersection between the Indo-Pak and Sino-Indo border, the recent skirmish draws further attention to the importance of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (C-PEK) in relation to the conflicts at both the LoC and LAC. 

At first glance, the C-PEK, a flagship for China’s wider Belt and Road Initiative, (BRI), seems to serve as just one of the many signifiers for China and Pakistan’s self-described ‘iron brotherhood’. Nevertheless, given China’s history of engaging in debt-trap diplomacy with other conflict zones in South Asia, it would be unwise to avoid scrutinising the superpower’s strategic investments in transport infrastructure (road-building, rail-line building, etc…) within Pakistan-administered Kashmir. In consolidating its control over the aforementioned region, China has represented itself as a seemingly sympathetic ally to the cause of self-determination amongst the Kashmiri population. Despite China’s well-documented persecution of its own minority Uighur Muslim population, the Galwan Valley conflict has only helped engender such a representation, setting the stage for potential third-party escalations within the region. To quote a recent report from the Observer Research Foundation, “the [Kashmiri] people are seeing China’s aggression as a lesser evil simply because it doesn’t affect their lives and livelihood directly”. Given the intensification of Indo-Pak and Sino-Indo relations, a three-way conflict fought on two fronts would not only shatter the existing bilateral agreement on the Kashmir issue, but would aggravate the humanitarian crisis at both sides of the LoC. The devastation left in the wake of such a conflict will serve as an additional setback to the wider process of reconciliation within the region. 

In view of the tensions between India, Pakistan and China, it is imperative that the international community recognise the multilateral dimensions of the conflict in Kashmir.  Given the rampant spread of ethno-religious nationalism on both sides of the LoC, a two-state solution may be near-impossible to negotiate, let alone implement. Nevertheless, despite the recent internationalisation of the region’s humanitarian crisis, third-party mediation via the United Nations would fail to account for the intensely tribalized nature of the conflict. This would only help stagnate progress towards long-term regional peacebuilding and reconciliation. In the Next Century Foundation’s view, a syncretist approach would be the most effective long-term solution to the conflict. Such an approach could potentially involve bilateral recognition of the LoC and LaC as official borders rather than loose demarcation lines, as well as a multilateral response to the associated humanitarian crisis (via international judicial institutions, such as the International Court of Justice). In light of the current stasis in Indo-Pak and Sino-Indo relations, it remains to be seen as to whether such a solution could ever be implemented.