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UN considering Indian demands in peace keeping operations

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United Nations, Jan 1: UN Security Council called for regular and more expansive consultations after admitting to its flawed consultation process with countries contributing troops to peacekeeping operations. This demand consistently pushed by India throughout last year and finally coming into implementation cap the tenure of Asoke Kumar Mukerji, who is retiring as India’s Permanent Representative. He had waged a constant battle to get the Council to properly consult with troop-contributing countries as it issues and monitors peacekeeping mandates.

The Council recognized that the consultation process involving it, the troop contributors and the UN Secretariat “do not meet their expectations and have yet to reach their full potential,” US Permanent Representative Samantha Power, the Council President for December, said in a statement released Thursday.

“The Security Council stresses the importance of substantive, representative and meaningful exchanges and underscores the importance of full participation by the three stakeholders so that meetings are useful and productive,” Power said.

In June in one of several speeches at UN debates, on peacekeeping, Mukerji had criticized the Council saying it was “enforcing the will of a small privileged minority within the Council to look at peacekeepers as instruments to wage war.” He cited its disregard of the UN Charter requirement for nations contributing troops “to participate in the decisions” of the Council on their deployment.

“India, for example, has not been so consulted,” he said. “This despite the fact that India is the single largest contributor of troops to UN peacekeeping operations, having contributed more than 170,000 troops in 43 of the 69 peacekeeping operations mandated so far by the Council.” India currently has 7,798 personnel serving the peacekeeping operations.

In her statement released Thursday, Power called for extending the scope of the interactions between the Council, the Secretariat and the troop-contributors. “These consultations must extend beyond the issue of mandates of operations, and to areas such as safety and security of peacekeepers, strategic force generation, gender, conduct and discipline, including allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, implementation of protection of civilian mandates, capability, performance, equipment and national caveat,” she said.

The US role in shepherding the commitment through the Council in the waning days of 2015 during Power’s presidency adds to its weight. President Barack Obama’s international summit on the subject in September further showed interest in rejuvenating UN peacekeeping operations.

The Council also recognized the troop-contributing countries’ on-the-ground expertise. Power said, “The experience and expertise of troop- and police-contributing countries in theatres of operation can greatly assist the planning of operations.”

India has stressed the importance of continuing consultations to make use of the reservoir of experiences peacekeepers have. During a recent interview with IANS, Mukerji gave an example of the situation in South Sudan where Indian peacekeepers are deployed. Rights to graze cattle sparked conflicts between groups and these escalated, he said. While the Indian troops on the ground, who had been trained professionally to observe the conflict environment, were aware of it, the information had no avenue to reach the Council or the higher UN echelons, thus missing an opportunity to prevent the situation from escalating, he added.

Power said the Council also asked the Secretariat to consult with troop-and police-contributing countries when planning any change in military tasks, mission-specific rules of engagement, concept of operations or command and control structure or early peace building that would impact personnel, equipment, training and logistics.

This meets another of the peacekeeping issue that India has raised about the Council changing mandates midway through a mission or introducing new elements that could affect the security of peacekeepers. The Council added a so-called intervention brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo where Indian peacekeepers are deployed. India fears that its troops could become vulnerable to attacks stemming from the aggressive tactics mandated for the intervention brigades.

(IANS)

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U.N. Agencies Running Out of Money for Essential Relief Activities, Yemen’s Children Continue To Suffer

Meanwhile, U.N. humanitarian operations in Yemen are at risk of running out of money in the coming weeks.

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A nurse looks as he weighs a malnourished girl at a malnutrition treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen, Oct. 7, 2018. VOA

The United Nations said Monday that the five-year-old conflict in Yemen has taken a “devastating toll” on the country’s children, with thousands killed, maimed and recruited to fight since the war began.

“The impact of this conflict on children is horrific,” Virginia Gamba, U.N. special representative for children and armed conflict, told a meeting of the Security Council. “All parties to the conflict have acted and reacted militarily to events resulting in the use and abuse of children in multiple ways.”

Since monitoring began in Yemen in April 2013 (before the conflict fully erupted) until the end of the 2018, Gamba said more than 7,500 children have been killed or maimed and more than 3,000 have been verified as recruited or used, and there have been more than 800 documented cases of denial of humanitarian access to children.

Gamba said children reportedly have been forcibly recruited from schools, orphanages and communities to fight on the front lines, man checkpoints, deliver supplies or gather intelligence.

FILE - A 17-year-old boy holds his weapon in High dam in Marib, Yemen, July 30, 2018.
A 17-year-old boy holds his weapon in High dam in Marib, Yemen, July 30, 2018. VOA

Last year, over half of the children recruited were under the age of 15. During that period, the U.N. says more than 200 were killed or maimed while being used by the warring parties.

Gamba called out the Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels for recruiting the majority of the children, followed by the Popular Resistance, Yemen Armed Forces and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

“The numbers I present to you today represent a mere fraction of violations committed against children in Yemen,” she told council members.

In addition to harm to child soldiers, Gamba said of the more than 7,500 children killed or maimed between 2013 and 2018, nearly half of the casualties were caused by Saudi-coalition airstrikes.

Another 40 percent of such casualties came in ground fighting, including shelling and mortars. Gamba said Houthi rebels were largely to blame, followed by Yemeni government forces, among others.

It is not the first time the U.N. has called out the Saudi-led coalition or the Houthis for harming Yemeni children. But while both sides say they avoid harming civilians, the toll continues to rise.

Redeployment of forces

The U.N. has been working to end the conflict. On Monday, special envoy Martin Griffiths offered a glimmer of hope that the parties might be ready to take a first step away from the battlefield.

He told council members that both the Saudi coalition-backed Yemeni government and the Houthis have accepted a detailed redeployment plan to begin moving their fighters away from the crucial Red Sea port city of Hodeida.

FILE - Houthi militants patrol a street where pro-Houthi protesters demonstrated against the Saudi-led coalition in Hodeida, Yemen.
Houthi militants patrol a street where pro-Houthi protesters demonstrated against the Saudi-led coalition in Hodeida, Yemen. VOA

“We will now move with all speed toward resolving the final outstanding issues related to the operational plans for phase two, redeployments and also the issue of the status of local security forces,” Griffiths told the council in a video briefing from Amman, Jordan.

The parties committed to the plan at talks in Stockholm in December, but efforts to implement the agreement have failed. Griffiths expressed some confidence that they would go forward now.

“When — and I hope it is when and not if — these redeploys happen, they will be the first ones in this long conflict,” he said.

Griffiths acknowledged that the “the war in Yemen … shows no sign of abating,” and said there needs to be real progress on the military redeployments before the focus can shift back to the political track.

U.S. Acting U.N. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen welcomed Houthi acceptance to phase one of the withdrawal plan and said Washington would be “watching closely to see if they make good on that agreement.”

Funds urgently needed

Meanwhile, U.N. humanitarian operations in Yemen are at risk of running out of money in the coming weeks.

In February, international donors pledged $2.6 billion for Yemen relief operations. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — who are prosecuting the war against the Houthis — pledged an additional $1 billion.

FILE - A girl sleeps on a bed at a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen, Aug. 4, 2018.
A girl sleeps on a bed at a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen, Aug. 4, 2018. VOA

But U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock said that nearly four months into 2019, the response plan has received only $267 million in actual funding.

“U.N. agencies are rapidly running out of money for essential relief activities,” he warned.

The country, which is facing a cholera epidemic, could see 60% of its diarrhea treatment centers close in the coming weeks if money is not received. U.N. food programs, which provide emergency food assistance to more than 9 million people every month, would also be impacted.

“Closing or scaling back such programs — at a time when we are struggling to prevent widespread famine and roll back cholera and other killer diseases — would be catastrophic,” Lowcock said.

He also warned that a potential environmental disaster is brewing off of Yemen’s Red Sea coast.

Lowcock said that an oil tanker used as a floating storage and offloading facility, and which is 8 kilometers off the coast at the Ras Isa terminal, is old and has not received any maintenance since 2015. It has about 1.1 million barrels of oil on board.

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“Without maintenance, we fear that it will rupture or even explode, unleashing an environmental disaster in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes,” Lowcock said.

A Saudi Arabian-led coalition began bombing Houthi rebels in support of Yemen’s government in March 2015. Since then, the U.N. estimates more than 10,000 people have been killed, mostly due to coalition airstrike. (VOA)