Press

Turbulent Waters in the UNSC: Draft Resolutions Met With Harsh Criticisms

Aisha Saleem, Al Jazeera English Reporter

As the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) moves into its final stages of discussions, two draft resolutions have been introduced by the delegates of Tunisia and Germany respectively.

Unfortunately, the draft resolution sponsored by Tunisia, Estonia and Russia has come under particular fire due to its following two propositions: one, to negotiate a new Minsk Agreement; and two, its lack of mention of the OSCE’s special monitoring system which had dominated discussions the day prior.

Speaking on the viability of negotiating a new Minsk Agreement, Belgium emerged as a harsh critic. Belgium questioned the efficacy of the new Agreement even in the event that it is successfully negotiated given its previous failure: “Why should we continue to ask Russia to abide by such ineffective resolutions?”

The Minsk Agreement was signed by representatives of Ukraine, the Russian Federation, the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on 5 September 2014 to halt the war in the Donbass region of Ukraine. The agreement followed multiple previous attempts to stop the fighting in the Donbass but it too failed to stop fighting in Donbass. It was thus followed with a new package of measures, called Minsk II in 2015 but this failed to stop the fighting as well.

Nonetheless, it was agreed upon during numerous occasions of Normandy Format talks that the Minsk Agreements remain the basis for any future resolution to the conflict.

Criticisms were also directed at the draft resolution’s failure to account for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) which were hotly debated in council sessions yesterday. The SMM is an unarmed, civilian mission, present on the ground 24/7 in all regions of Ukraine. Its main tasks are to observe and report in an impartial and objective way on the situation in Ukraine; and to facilitate dialogue among all parties to the crisis.

Emerging again as a harsh critic, Belgium noted that the resolution’s “zero mention” of the OSCE SMM is a “major logical loophole”. Vietnam affirmed its position as a role as a facilitator in this discussion, but noted that the lack of specification on the OESC SMM was a “dismissal of arguments from yesterday’s debates”.

With regard to the criticisms above, the delegate of Estonia emphasised that the collaboration between itself and Russia in the resolution is worthy of celebration in itself, given that Russian involvement is “crucial to any viable way ahead.” The delegate of Estonia calls upon all delegates to “come together and work towards peace” for the serious humanitarian crisis in the Donbass region.

Op-Ed: Jumping the Shark at the United Nations

By Randall Redman, Washington Post international correspondent

“Why would you suggest something that has a 99% chance of failing?” was a choice quote to end all choice quotes amongst the smörgåsbord of inscrutable ramblings that so magically characterized the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women this sunny morning, as it convened once again from all over the world to bash out another plan to fix once and for all the problem of workplace gender discrimination.

See, the problem with being a part of the United Nations is that you feel the need to set everything right, all around the world, as if you’re Superman jumping at lightspeed from nation to nation. 

It’s as if, having purveyed the overwhelming array of problems at hand, they’ve threw up their hands and gone “we’ll just make something that fits everything close enough”. Obviously, this isn’t possible – you need studies in detail on each country to help understand the unique cultural circumstances which drive its gender inequality, and to develop unique solutions that best address the specific manifestations of workplace inequality seen.

Trying to fit over 200 pegs of varying sizes into a single square hole is counterproductive, since it’s just gonna produce yet another plan that people will call “out-of-touch” and weary parliaments will continue to blindside.

Action in any country that manages to make a difference there is better than action for everyone that solves nobody’s problem – perhaps it’s best not to try and make eve

Is it not good enough simply to admit that you can’t fix everything at this juncture? Must the UNCSW humour the idea that gender equality is just a step away, instead of settling in for the long game like it should? This plan, and the plan after it, won’t fix the problems it aims to address, at least not nearly as completely as all delegates at hand seem to think it needs to.

No, what you really need is to take things one step at a time, to realise that solving inequality is an accumulation of measures that will span decades, and to admit that sometimes, it’s better to understand the problem than to break ahead and say “Kamala suggested it, so it’s gotta be the way forward for all countries.”

Fully Automatic High-Capacity Assault Diplomacy

By Bob Parkinson, New York Times columnist

Sort of like an AR-15’s direct-impingement system, UN councils largely operate on blowing hot air directly back into the action group, in order to churn out a steady stream of intermediate-power resolutions.

Also sort of like an AR-15, the Disarmament and International Security Committee (DISEC) is best used in single shots, instead of as a relentless spray of diplomacy at 600 rounds a minute, where the recoil force is so great that it goes everywhere without actually hitting any targets.

Most prominently, just like an AR-15, the DISEC is easy to dress up in a whole retinue of fancy gear to make it look cool and cutting-edge when it’s really the same old thing since the middle of last century, back when Marines were banging it out in Khe Sanh with the VC.

You ever hear of those Zimbabwean hunters who made firearms out of mining carts? Crazy, but I’ve shot one of those and I still have all 10 fingers. Did you know they ground down matches to make gunpowder? It was really sick, almost as much as those Beretta corporate videos where they show this big white machine milling their rifle bolts.

Back when I was covering the Libyan Revolution, I got a ride in an ancient BMP with a bunch of literal bells and whistles mounted on its engine block, so I can tell you first-hand that the sort of arms we’re most worried about tend to have been passed around like the neighbourhood bicycle so much that you almost forget they come from up in the old Soviet bloc.

Notice the crack and pop of DShKs and KPVs over in Eastern Europe all the way from Abkhazia to the musty Donbass? It’s funny: you can’t create peace until the firearms are removed, but you can’t remove the firearms from the people until you can convince them that peace exists.

Austria’s new AUG model has some really cool features, but the best one is how so much is made of plastic that it weighs barely six pounds. You know, they used to say you could sneak a Glock through customs because it had so little metal, and even though that’s fake, you can see the metaphor to be had here.

Maybe, this time, DISEC will have so many noncommittal and vague clauses that they’ll be able to sneak a resolution through even if the whole thing hasn’t a lick of action in it.

Jesus forgive me, I am a scavenger

By Tan Ah Kao, Ricemedia special correspondent

Testing…testing…is this thing on?

Apolgy for bad english

Where wer u wen singapor die

I was at house resell facemask wen phone ring

“Singapor is kil”

“No”

If you find this, wow, Ricemedia has much funkier servers than I thought.

I was gonna do that World War Z thing where I did the narrative of how easily an improvised spear will pop through an infected sod’s left eyesocket, but honestly hashtag relatable doesn’t work out as well when you’re stuck in Yishun rather than the far Canadian north.

Maybe ‘Zombie’ is an offensive term, because it implies that they’re brainless automatons, when in fact they’re just intelligent enough to be demonstrably stupid. That’s probably just semantics, though.

In a fit of shattered lucidity, I discovered that pan-fried Cordyceps and human brains actually pairs pretty well with the lentils you tend to see in veggie patches around here. I felt terrible for days afterwards, but I haven’t caught myself going “huuuuurrrrrrrrr” yet so it probably worked out for the best.

Did you know that the Israelis developed this crazy drone thing that lets you employ high-explosive fragmentation micromissiles on the undead and unsuspecting? It’s super cool, and now that the Leopard 2s have officially run out of fuel it seems a healthy alternative to just running them over.

I hear there’s a cure out there, probably sitting comfortably in a water cooler next to Heng Swee Kiat’s almost entirely mummified corpse in Parliament, but walking’s been so tough on my candy-coloured Uggs, and the CBDs are so much harder to traverse than the boondocks, what with all the smartly dressed shambling corpses.

It’s almost surprising how quickly people forget how to survive. Back when I’d bike to Jurong to trade salted duckmeat with the savages there, I’d see the strange scav bands over there. Did you know one of those clown retinues now worships a statue of Farquar some misguided talent carved out of pigbones and gravel? It actually didn’t look that bad, except they’d not quite scoured the meat clean.

Did you know that frenching someone is enough to mix saliva and infect them? I’m sure at least a couple of those annoying PDA couples found out, god lay them to rest. I once found two half-rabid hunters going right at it, but I’m not usually a voyeur, so I broke their heads in with a brick and wiped the viscera off their scoped Winchesters.

How’d this turn into a poor man’s PUBG game? Ok, though it’s now in the 2030s I think, so maybe this unsubtle pop culture reference just isn’t relevant anymore. The roving bands of idiots who chanced upon arms depots are fun enough to watch from a distance,

Our plan for the East Coast fell apart pretty quickly once the entire shelf just fell into the sea. I have no clue how they pulled that off, but apparently they got it from the Pakistanis, who got it from NATO or something. You could pick out the bodies for days, but I

Today, I performed unspeakable things for a craftswoman in exchange for her cockles, then when she went to pull up her overalls I got her in the jugular with that old Pilot pen I keep for weird days like these.

God help us, death is real and its name is Vivian Balakrishnan, or maybe it was some other dude whose (slightly hoarse) voice rang out across the wasted streets like a fat old ether. “We do not wish to hurt you”, as if we all didn’t hear the distant pop-pop-don’t-stop of reservists who forgot how to turn off full auto on their SARs. 

Where were you when the Bionix rolled in with black-clad boys? (See, it just doesn’t have the same ring to it as, like, a Bradley or something.) Look beneath the balaclava and you’ll see a scared kid fresh out of JC, and you just can’t bring yourself to beat them to death with a drainpipe when they give you the puppy eyes. 

Did you know .300 Win Mag AP will go straight through those lads’ chest plates? Not gonna lie, it felt cool watching the old sergeant literally blow up.

At least bum-whacking scavs and taking their backpacks doesn’t get old, especially when their much more competent friends go looking for you but aren’t aware just how deep the sewers in these parts go. 

Today I scouted out this cool base where I saw a group of people huddled together around this big dumpster fire like a pack of hobos! How civilization turns and burns, how humanity is no more than a shivering pack of monkeys. I even stole a bagful of radishes from their patchy old farm when they weren’t looking. Turns out their literal garbage corrugated wall isn’t that hard to take down.

Tomorrow night, I’ll either go in and cut out their craftsmens’ hamstrings or maybe I’ll take a dump in their water supply. To the latter, I found a dead hog near the source, so maybe they’ll notice it when the maggots show up with mysterious brown stains.

Anyways, it’s been fun. Gotta go now, maybe next time when I learn how to transmit photos I’ll give you a tour of my crib.

Dispatch from the UN: A Slow Day for Women’s Rights

By Karen Chater, special correspondent for the New Yorker

Sitting through the council session watching delegates exercise strategic unmuting makes it disappointingly apparent that just about nothing is going to happen unless the conversation hastens its pace and we see more substantive steps forward.

The jousting lane this time is workplace gender inequality at the United Nations Commision on the Status of Women (UNCSW). Unfortunately, it seems our beloved CSW certainly won’t change anybody’s minds about the old stereotype of UN councils lazily dragging their feet. 

Workplace inequality is tough to tackle because of how difficult it is to measure – you can count rows and rows of statistics about the pay gap, or check how many mothers fail to get maternity leave, but that doesn’t quite capture the full picture of what women face, does it? 

Certainly, skipping past a good few hours of impassioned debate (well, as impassioned as you get over video calls), it’s clear that the basic principles everyone’s fighting for are the same – we should help each other promote gender equality, equal pay, fight misogynistic attitudes, the whole bunch of it. But it was strikingly clear that the less convenient conversation — how exactly countries should get down and dirty to promote these ideals — was not being held. 

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the world isn’t ready for the hard conversations that’ll need to be had before we can fix gender inequality. However, it would really help to have global powers who have a clue on what they’re doing. 

“Ulterior Motives Present”: KMT on CPC’s Objections to Reducing Army Size

Isaac Douglas, New York Times Reporter

WASHINGTON, 29th August, 1945 — The Nationalist government (KMT) and Communist Party of China (CPC) commenced negotiations today in Chongqing, China. Heated debates have already been sparked on issues of governance and military affairs. 

The KMT has proposed in its memorandum for the CPC to reduce the size of its army from the current 40 divisions to 20 divisions or less. This is in order to “safeguard national security”. The KMT has further proposed a system of shared authority to be established over military forces acquired by the CPC. 

The CPC has called these moves an attempt by the KMT to “dilute CPC influence in the national army” and “seize power” in the country. Wang Bingnan, diplomat and foreign affairs official of the CPC calls the reduction of 40 divisions to 20 “too much”, and that “a strong, robust army is important for the CPC to serve as a reliable check on the KMT rule”.

With regards to the above criticisms, Soong Mei-ling suggested that ”ulterior motives” are afoot – “What is the necessity of so many military divisions under CPC control?” Soong further argued that the system of shared authority is not an erosion of power on either side, but an “amalgamation of resources”, which would speed up the recovery of the nation in coming decades. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek added that the KMT would be amenable to adjusting the limit to 30 divisions instead of 20, if the CPC truly found the conditions too limiting. 

Nonetheless, Patrick J. Hurley, US envoy to China applauded the commendable commitment of both parties on working towards an amenable compromise. Regarding the proposal to share authorities, Hurley affirmed that “cooperation is crucial” on this delicate issue, and stated that the establishment of a joint high command over the military following an integration process is indeed ideal.

OPINION: Crackdown on Private Entities Important, But Government Contribution to Illicit Trade Equally Crucial

Aliya Lee, Straits Times columnist

Heated discussions have erupted in the Disarmament and International Security Committee  (DISEC) on the importance of suppressing trafficking through state control, and government commitment to heavy crackdowns on illicit small arms trade in countries. 

Yet the implication of stronger government regulation as the be-all solution is that private actors comprise the bulk of illicit small arms trafficking. That is not necessarily the case. Governments need to be held to account as much as private actors within their borders. 

While most arms trafficking appears to be conducted by private entities, certain governments also contribute to the illicit trade by deliberately arming proxy groups involved in insurgencies against rival governments, terrorists with similar ideological agendas, or other non-state armed groups. These types of transfers are prevalent in Africa and other regions where armed conflict is common. In Somalia, tens of thousands of small arms and light weapons have been delivered to armed groups in the country’s ongoing civil conflict. Tracing investigations presented in the Small Arms Survey 2014 have also found that Sudan government stockpiles are the primary source of weapons for non-state armed groups of all allegiances in Sudan and South Sudan—both through deliberate arming and battlefield capture. 

The Committee spoke extensively about the proliferation of small arms trafficking in contravention of UN arms embargoes, and the destabilising effects of such activities on neighbouring countries. Yet one must not forget that country governments themselves are major perpetrators as well.

The United Nations Security Council is Decadent and Depraved

Richard Balls, New Yorker Special Correspondent

Hearing the word “protracted” enough times in one council session makes you almost wonder why that cheap plastic half-disc they made you pack in grammar school was called a “protractor”, anyway.

Status quo ante bellum’s far away as Kamchatka, and we’re not gonna see a nice end to the war where both sides’ generals stand and hand out medals to each other. So, the gang’s gotten back together to bang out another chummy resolution wherein we’re gonna ignore the spilled Ukrainian blood and airdrop a few crates of freeze-dried rations.

Still, frozen peas and rice is better than steppe grass, and maybe having a couple peacekeeper BMPs on the horizon will keep a few troops from being quite as rash. I’m all for anything, but forgive my skepticism. Maybe bashing something out like in the Congo is better than having Rwanda II, ‘cause ceasefires don’t enforce themselves.

“Nothing has been agreed upon”, you hear over and over again, and from the brackish waters of the Black Sea last December I could well tell you how people there maybe just have learnt to live with the desperate, chilling uncertainty; goes well with the icy wind.

Euromaidan’s been a real bummer, huh? Zelensky’s a right old chap, he is, but standing up to Putin’s like swinging your fists at the old canteen regent when you’re fresh in the school. Russia’s little green men, all shopped up in Ratnik camo, have accumulated plenty of experience mopping up journos like me over there, so I’m over here in dress shirt and pajama shorts watching a bunch of faces on screens vaguely say “ceasefire” in repeated tones.

Blank velcro patches where their insignia should be is a surefire way to know you’re gonna get shot at or take an AK butt to the face, but I digress. 

Given how Kiev’s citizens think Donetsk is a Soviet cesspool, backward and thuggish (their words, not mine), and considering the long and coloured history of Donetsk miner strikes, one wonders how much this is simply a conflict of peoples, a cultural conflict less overtly imperialist than the annexation of Crimea and more…messy.

The sanctions are pretty nice as a way to whack Russia in the shins, but both small babushka shops and Gazprom would be much happier once it ended, and the stubborn ol’ Kremlin just flatly refuses to give up the ghost. Just don’t mention the ceasefire violations or trucks of ball ammunition you see from time to time.

Sitting here, one highlight was “This delegate would like to discuss the discussion”, or so it goes. Indeed, the discussion itself is suspect to the cardboard sign’s oft-encountered partner, “why don’t you just do something already!” Then again, I suppose realpolitik starts from the meeting rooms and delicately worded noncommittal resolutions of the world.

The fat old Donbass with its aged DShKs and BTRs chugging along with full loads of insurgents is a good afternoon tour, if NIJ-IV bulletproof plate carriers don’t weigh on you too much. Maybe, you think standing on the quiet sea of grass, things can be better. The world will make a change.

Still, the Minsk agreements are a fun little ditty, though it’s interesting to note that not one of its clauses have been fully implemented. Ever seen those LiveLeak clips of female snipers with massive 14.5mm rifles that weigh almost as much as them potshotting at trench lines? You ain’t getting the guns out, not while the memory of BM-21s like hail still bites deep in the hearts of civilian militias. Wonder where they got those anti-aircraft missiles from? They’re not giving them back.

Blue helmets, blue helmets. Did you know that the poor African and South Asian boys and girls who gotta stand out there returning fire on marsh foxholes don’t even get medical insurance? I doubt the refugees are getting much, either, since bankers generally don’t like plunking down offices in active war zones.

Recompense? Russia’s battered enough as is from account-skimming defense ministers and new Sukhois, so the money’s not coming from there. But it’s gotta come from somewhere, and asking it of Zelensky’s Ukraine is too close to shooting the dog.

I remember the Vietnamese delegation talked of the difficulty of enforcing a ceasefire. Maybe you should pop over to the West with the People’s Army and drag out your full warehouses of Type 56s like you did with Cambodia, as long as that much larger People’s Republic keeps its old watchful eye shut. No, seriously, it’s worth a shot, though I suspect great misfortune will come your way for the effort.

Hear that? Russia’s got its cool new 3K series hypersonic cruise missiles and plenty of Borei-class subs, and from the banks of the Azov Sea all the way to the old Tatar settlements turned opposing trench lines here in the DPR, I can’t see that us suits will make much difference.

But we have to have a voice, for the world of international relations runs on poorly-greased gears turned in the words of head-scratching delegates. For all one might see the Security Council as a worn, fattened relic of an old world order, for all that the decadence of it all makes you want to take an AK and handle the job yourself, someone’s gotta make the rules.

I just hope they do actually make something of it, a narrow hope buffered on all sides by five oft-recoursed-to vetoes.

Arms Embargo Affirmed, But Major Issues of Transparency and Enforcement Remain

Charles Rivera, Al Jazeera English Reporter

Discussions have commenced in the Disarmament and International Security Committee  (DISEC) on the proliferation and management of illicit small arms trafficking in conflict regions. Multiple countries including France, Canada, and South Africa have come forward to affirm the importance of an arms embargo in successfully suppressing illicit arms trafficking worldwide. 

However, pertinent concerns have been raised about the efficacy of an arms embargo, in light of limited success of previous similar attempts arising from issues of transparency and enforcement. The delegate of Egypt notes that embargoes have historically been “ill enforced”. South Sudan further affirms the importance of strict enforcement and transparency as the precursor to any successful arms embargo effort. South Africa suggests stricter crackdowns on violations to facilitate the “smooth implementation and follow-up of the embargo”. 

The difficulty of enforcement lies also in the geographical conditions of many countries. The delegate of Ethiopia brought up its disadvantageous landlocked position which makes the regulation of smuggling activities across borders even more difficult. The delegate of Saudi Arabia also brought the issue of porous borders to the council’s particular attention. 

Though illicit trade in small arms and light weapons occurs in all parts of the globe, it is concentrated in areas torn by armed conflict, violence, and organized crime, where the demand for illicit weapons is often highest. Its consequences are severe: arms trafficking fuels civil wars and regional conflicts; stocks the arsenals of terrorists; and contributes to general social instability of a country. 

Almost all country delegates affirmed in their opening speeches that the resolution of illicit small arms is of foremost importance. Regardless of how the difficulties in enforcement and transparency are eventually ironed out in further debates, in the words of the delegate of Canada, “multilateralism and cooperation” will indeed lie at the heart of resolving the issue. 

Op-Ed: To Pierce the Glass Ceiling, Start from the Classroom

By Avery Jameson, columnist for the New York Times

The workspace, in many ways, is the public arena of most relevance to everyday working people, and thus it is vital that gender inequality in this key space not be overlooked. Yet in focusing on this problem as the most visible manifestation of gender inequality in most modern societies, one must not miss the forest for the tree.

One has to understand the virtue of intersectionality as it applies to addressing the problems present in any particular field. Sexual harassment in the workplace doesn’t start or end in the workplace, and you cannot combat symptoms without digging at the root cause.

This highlights a key troubling issue – how do you address workplace sexual harassment as a singular problem, when societies as a whole influence professional attitudes? Women do not start to believe they are less capable than men just because they acquire these beliefs in the workplace.

So, now what? Of course, the first step is the toughest to make, and one wonders whether you begin in the courts, in codifying our commitment to equality, or in the classrooms, shaping and reinforcing the foundations of equality in the ideals of youths.

Indeed, one can observe the failure of workplace laws in places such as the United States to achieve the full extent of their goals, while also realising that they nonetheless have made a difference, and that such action is important but by itself insufficient.

It is easy enough to make rules and regulations, yet strikingly impossible to actually enforce them when dealing with a society fundamentally opposed to their basic principles. You can outlaw unequal pay, but companies will then try to skirt around these. Even when caught, often the pressure of dealing with unsympathetic relatives and coworkers and a legal system reluctant to take such cases forces affected women to simply give up rather than fight for their rightful pay.

You need champions. People, whether justified or not, look up to individuals who have fought for and won that to which they are entitled, and the UN can by championing such heroes create figures around which to rally. Think of every young female athlete who saw in Serena Williams or Simone Biles a role model, a dream to chase, and you’ll understand the power of heroes.

You need a culture ready to have the conversations which need to be had. Too often, the status quo violently protects itself, and the urgency to make change must be instilled in them in order to force such issues forward. Look to Greta Thunberg for a potent example of how only by forcing people’s hand will you get things done.

Gender equality, therefore, can only be established in the workplace when the surrounding culture is conducive to it. Action starts from everywhere.

At the same time, however, you need both top-down and bottom-up action. The buds of change are found not just in the key figures which drive it, but in every individual who represents its success. Every woman who, against the odds, makes it in a STEM field, every female CEO and board member, will be one more step on the arduous journey toward true equality.

Organizations such as the UN have the greatest imperative to make a difference in places where. Many women cannot afford or access professional degrees, and many others have to deal with workplaces that remain informally or even explicitly gender-segregated. In those regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, action is most sorely needed.

Yet, one must note that action in any field toward combating gender inequality will make a difference in every field. Equal education opportunities help make the entry into workplaces so much easier, and vice versa. Gender inequality is a problem that permeates every space of society equally, and 

This reciprocal relationship is key, and gender inequality is a problem that we solve by equidistant steps in every field, moving forward societies toward equality being a process that must be approached from every angle.