Evelyn Leopold

Iran punished for its mistreatment of women

The Islamic Republic of Iran was the first UN member ever to be expelled from the prestigious Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), tasked with protecting women’s rights and promoting gender equality.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

In response to Iran’s crackdown on protests, following the death of a young woman in police custody, Tehran’s four-year term on the CSW came to an end on December 14 after the adoption of a resolution introduced by the United States, with 29 members voting in favor of the resolution, eight against, and 16 abstaining.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield called the vote “historic” and told reporters, “I think we sent a strong message to the Iranian government, and we sent a strong message to Iranian women.”

The 45-member commission is nearly as old as the United Nations itself and was formed in 1946. The 54-member UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) that oversees the CSW, and which had previously elected Iran in April 2021 for a four-year term to the CSW beginning March 2022, adopted the resolution to oust it from the commission.

Based on increasing evidence

✎ EditSign gathered in the 1960s that women were disproportionately affected by poverty, the work of the commission centered on the needs of women in community and rural development, agricultural work and family planning, and scientific and technological advances. The commission also encouraged the UN to provide greater technical assistance to ensure further advancement of women, especially in developing countries, according to “A Short History of the Commission on the Status of Women.”

It is unusual to oust any government from a United Nations body. And several states questioned the legality of the move, especially Iran and Russia. But Canada’s Ambassador Bob Rae countered this opposition by saying a vote has to be taken first in order to request an opinion.

Death of Mahsa Amini

The resolution was sparked by Iran’s brutality against protesters who took to the streets in September after the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, arrested by the “morality police” for not wearing a hijab, a head covering. She died in custody. As street protests spread across the country, political stability is being put to a potential test for the politically inexperienced president of Iran, conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi.

At least 488 people have been killed since the demonstrations began, according to a November 29 tweet by the Iran Human Rights (IHR) group, which is monitoring the protests. Another 18,200 people have been detained by authorities, IHR said. Iran recently publicly executed two male protestors.

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield spoke of the young woman, saying: “Mahsa Amini just wanted to finish her studies. She wanted to start a family. … She was just a student. But now she is a martyr… We know she was killed for the crime of being a woman.”

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the protesters have no interest in reforming Iran’s theocracy but, instead, want to do away with it, and the women-focused demonstrations have been attacking the regime’s legitimacy. “Chants of ‘woman, life, freedom’ and calls to end mandatory hijab-wearing challenge the Islamist ideology that Iran’s government is based on. These protests have unusually widespread support, unbound by class, ethnicity, or gender,” stated the article by CFR.

Iran Objects

Iran’s UN ambassador, Amir Saeid Iravani, has, meanwhile, denied all allegations leveled against the country. Castigating the United States, he said that Washington demonstrated hostile policy toward the Iranian people, particularly women, “pursued under the guise of defending human rights.” He questioned the legality of the vote, saying that “terminating an elected member’s participation in a functional commission for any alleged reason” is not supported by the ECOSOC’s rules.

Russia’s deputy ambassador, Gennady Kuzmin, said the purpose of the meeting was to purge the Commission on the Status of Women of a sovereign player, adding that each state has the obligation to maintain public order. But he said the Iranian government should take measures to prevent such tragedies like the death of Mahsa Amini in the future. He also questioned the legality of the vote.

Ambassador Gilad Erdan of Israel, now in a proxy war with Iran, told the ECOSOC delegates that “this resolution must receive the support of all of us and whoever doesn’t support it is complicit in the oppression and murder of women.”

Those not supporting the resolution were Bolivia, China, Kazakhstan, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Russia, and Zimbabwe.

According to Richard Gowan, a UN expert at the International Crisis Group, lots of delegates had second thoughts when reports of the U.S. action became known. “I have heard a lot of diplomats say they think Iran’s actions are vile, but they worry that the U.S. will use these exclusionary tactics more in future. One day it’s Iran, the next day it could be you.”

The text of the resolution voiced concern over Iran “administering policies flagrantly contrary to the human rights of women and girls and to the mandate of the Commission on the Status of Women,” and decided “to remove with immediate effect” Iran from membership in the commission for the remainder of its 2022-2026 term.

Author Bio: Evelyn Leopold is a writing fellow and correspondent for Globetrotter. She is an independent journalist based at the United Nations and the winner of a UN Correspondents Association gold medal for her reporting. She served at Reuters as a manager, editor, and correspondent in New York, Washington, London, Berlin, and Nairobi. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and head of the Dag Hammarskjöld Fund for Journalists.

How the United Nations proved its usefulness in crafting Ukraine grain deal

The United Nations helps design a deal to ship foodstuffs blocked in Ukraine ports.

The United Nations has some bragging rights in Ukraine after months of criticism it could not stop the disastrous war, devising a deal with Turkey, Ukraine and Russia that could deliver much-needed corn, grain and wheat.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

The landmark pact was announced on July 22 after two months of talks brokered by Turkey and the UN and was aimed at freeing up nearly 25 million metric tons of grain meant for the international markets that was trapped inside Ukraine’s blockaded Black Sea ports since February. Meanwhile, a separate agreement eases the shipment of grain and fertilizers from Russia.

Before the war, Ukraine exported more than 45 million metric tons of grain annually to the global market. The war has caused grain prices to rise dramatically.

“Today, there is a beacon on the Black Sea,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres about the signing of the agreement on July 22. “A beacon of hope—a beacon of relief—in a world that needs it more than ever.”

Bombing and Nuclear Leaks

As the war continues, Russia could bomb the Ukrainian Black Sea ports of Odesa (again), Chernomorsk and Yuzhny, and this may result in goods being redirected toward the much slower Danube waterway. And now the world fears a nuclear disaster with the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, having fallen under Russian occupation.

Some 84 Ukrainian ships, many of them carrying grain, were stuck in the Black Sea till June. On August 19, port officials in Istanbul reported grain and foodstuffs exported from the three Ukrainian ports amounted to 656,349 metric tons under the Black Sea Grain Initiative. This figure is half of how much Ukraine was exporting on a daily basis before the start of the war. The operation is, however, dependent on commercial shippers and their insurance companies.

Although UN officials say the venture has lowered the price of foodstuffs worldwide, getting grain or wheat to the neediest countries is now up to the UN World Food Program (WFP). The WFP chartered the Liberia-flagged Brave Commander to carry 23,000 metric tons of wheat to Ethiopia, one of the 43 countries facing acute food insecurity, which is bordering on famine. Other vessels are expected to follow. On August 16, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the United States had contributed $68 million to the operation.

Taking an unprecedented risk, Secretary-General Guterres traveled to Lviv, Ukraine, some 43 miles from the Polish border, on August 18 to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who arranged the meeting. The object of this meeting was to boost grain exports from Ukraine and discuss security around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.

Chief UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric, who was on the trip to Lviv, said Guterres visited the Black Sea port of Odesa to view the resumption of exports under the UN-brokered deal, and he boarded a pilot boat in the Sea of Marmara on August 20 where he examined a ship ready to leave the port. The secretary-general then went to the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul, Turkey, comprising Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN officials, who were overseeing exports of Ukraine grain and fertilizer under the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

Much of the heavy lifting in setting up the agreements was done by Martin Griffiths, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, and Costa Rica’s former Vice President Rebeca Grynspan, now the secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, who negotiated for the export of fertilizers from Russia amid sanctions.

Damage to Nuclear Plant Is ‘Suicide’

Russian troops captured the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine in early March. The Russian and Ukrainian governments have accused each other of shelling the power plant site. With its six reactors and a net output of 5,700 megawatts, it is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.

Guterres, while speaking to reporters during his visit to Lviv, emphasized the need to withdraw Russian military equipment and personnel from the plant and further called for efforts to ensure that the site is not the target of military operations. But Russia has rejected calls to demilitarize the area.

“Any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia is suicide,” Guterres said.

Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has asked to visit the nuclear plant complex, and everyone has agreed for months. But with shelling in the area, his route to the plant is dangerous.

“The IAEA has received information about this serious situation—the latest in a long line of increasingly alarming reports from all sides,” Grossi said. He, however, indicated that he may still be open to visiting the site “within ‘days,’” during an interview with France 24 on August 25.

All this occurred amid a Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) that takes place once every five years. The conference focused on the nine countries with nuclear weapons (the U.S., Russia, the UK, France, China, North Korea, India, Pakistan and Israel)—and the rest of the world.

Argentine diplomat Gustavo Zlauvinen, president of the conference, said the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant could endanger the safety of civilians. The conference drew “lessons learned” on the need for “safety for civilians” from nuclear facilities.

Now What?

The United Nations is a sprawling organization with many agencies and programs, not all under the auspices of the secretary-general. But its 15-member Security Council and 193-seat General Assembly allow those opposed to the war to score positive votes.

“Even in an increasingly divided and competitive strategic environment, the United Nations offers a stage for major powers to vent their grievances—and a channel for them to find a few remaining ways to cooperate,” said Richard Gowan, the UN director at the International Crisis Group, in an article for War on the Rocks.

The debate continues. The war, the slaughterhouse, goes on.

Author Bio: Evelyn Leopold is a writing fellow and correspondent for Globetrotter. She is an independent journalist based at the United Nations and the winner of a UN Correspondents Association gold medal for her reporting. She served at Reuters as a manager, editor and correspondent in New York, Washington, London, Berlin and Nairobi. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and head of the Dag Hammarskjöld Fund for Journalists.

The United States is a global outlier for abortion restrictions

The recent overturning of Roe v. Wade is part of a pattern of American exceptionalism that harms people in both the U.S. and the rest of the world.

We know the United States is an outlier in abortion restrictions, but it is still startling to realize just how much.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

In the last two decades, 50 countries around the world have liberalized abortion laws. Some reform is still restrictive, enabling abortion when there is a threat to the pregnant person’s life or when pregnancy results from rape. But while these changes have resulted in overturning total bans on abortion, the United States is going in the opposite direction.

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 overturned the nearly half-century-old Roe v. Wade case that guaranteed the constitutional right to an abortion. The court enabled the ability of 50 individual U.S. states to ban abortion. Twenty-six states are either certain or considered likely to enact the ban.

Nowhere is the American outlier status more visible than among industrialized nations. In the 27 European Union members, abortion is completely legal in almost every country. One notable exception is Poland, which has a near-total ban.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson “all condemned the Supreme Court’s overruling of… [Roe v. Wade], while New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said the decision was ‘incredibly upsetting,’” the Guardian reported.

At the United Nations…

On June 24, Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said, “The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization delivered today represents a major setback after five decades of protection for sexual and reproductive health and rights in the U.S. through Roe v. Wade.” She added, “It is a huge blow to women’s human rights and gender equality.”

Bachelet also warned that “This decision strips such autonomy from millions of women in the U.S., in particular those with low incomes and those belonging to racial and ethnic minorities, to the detriment of their fundamental rights.”

That same day, Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesperson for UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said, “Sexual and reproductive health and rights are the foundation of a life of choice, empowerment and equality for the world’s women and girls,” adding, “Restricting access to abortion does not prevent people from seeking abortion; it only makes it more deadly.”

Still, the 193 UN member countries are not unanimous on abortion, despite Bachelet’s audacious statement. According to the UN’s most recently gathered report on world population policies (as interpreted in Wikipedia’s article on abortion law), as of 2017, “abortion is allowed in 98 percent of countries in order to save a woman’s life. Other commonly accepted reasons are preserving physical (72 percent) or mental health (69 percent), in cases of rape or incest (61 percent), and in cases of fetal impairment (61 percent). Performing an abortion because of economic or social reasons is accepted in 37 percent of countries. Performing abortion only on the basis of a woman’s request is allowed in 34 percent of countries, including in Canada, most European countries and China.”

Watch the Gag Rule, the Helms Amendment

The “global gag rule prevents foreign nongovernmental organizations [that seek funding from the U.S.] from using their own, non-U.S. funds to provide abortion services, information… or advocacy,” as the Guttmacher Institute, a research group into reproductive health care, explains. The global gag rule policy was first created at the women’s conference in Mexico City in 1984 and has since been the ball in political ping-pong in the U.S., having “been put in place by Republican presidents and rescinded by Democratic ones.” “President Joe Biden has rescinded the global gag rule” that his predecessor Donald Trump had imposed; but “that is only a short-term solution,” says the Guttmacher Institute.

Any future U.S. Congress or president can reimpose the gag rule with a stroke of the pen. Still in existence is the Helms Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act, which has prohibited the U.S. federal government from providing support for abortion services around the world, even in countries where abortion is legal. For example, this inhibits the U.S. Agency for International Development from aiding family planning services.

The answer is new legislation, such as the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights Act, that would end U.S. interference in what organizations do with their own money. It is still on the table in the House and the Senate.

As Human Rights Watch states: “Access to safe and legal abortion is a matter of human rights, and its availability is the best way to protect autonomy and reduce maternal mortality and morbidity.”

Author Bio: Evelyn Leopold is a writing fellow and correspondent for Globetrotter. She is an independent journalist based at the United Nations and the winner of a UN Correspondents Association gold medal for her reporting. She served at Reuters as a manager, editor and correspondent in New York, Washington, London, Berlin and Nairobi. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and head of the Dag Hammarskjöld Fund for Journalists.

Is Netanyahu serious about annexing Jordan Valley?

On July 1, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised he would annex part of the Jordan Valley. He did not, but he may still do so before U.S. elections in November and while President Donald Trump is still in office. It could be his legacy.

Keep reading...Show less

UN chief warns of pending global recession

The United Nations has shut down most of its meetings and all of its conferences, but the world body in New York stays open. There are peacekeeping missions to follow, conflicts around the world and the plight of the millions of refugees from wars that don’t heal.

Keep reading...Show less

How the UN’s Middle East peace plan was trounced by its own members

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has delivered a dramatic condemnation of the U.S.-drafted Middle East peace plan. No country, except Israel, has approved of the proposals at any public forum.

Keep reading...Show less

Trump's dreary UN speech seemed to bore even him

Each year UN delegates at the annual General Assembly high-level session eagerly await what an American president, head of the richest country in the world, has to say at the world’s largest forum of global leaders.

Keep reading...Show less

Serious people planned to fight the climate crisis at the UN — while Trump hung out in the basement

Oceans are rising, glaciers are melting, hurricanes are ruinous and deserts are expanding as climate change wreaks havoc around the world. The United Nations devoted a weekend to climate vacillations that excluded global warming deniers like President Donald Trump.

Keep reading...Show less

Trump's disdain for global institutions has done incalculable damage to humanity

The parade of diplomatic visitors to the United Nations starts in mid-September with the U.S. president in a starring role on the first day of the annual event. Having financially slashed key UN programs, are there any activities left he can damage? Or will his speech focus on “enemies” like Iran?

Keep reading...Show less

Trump has a plan for Middle East peace — what could possibly go wrong?

The Trump administration plans a “workshop” in Bahrain June 25–26 on raising money for investments and other economic benefits for the Palestinians. But the Palestinians are boycotting the event.

Keep reading...Show less

Yemen: Will a deal between combatants stop the misery?

On the verge of famine, the main warriors in Yemen agreed on steps to ameliorate their disastrous war, but few claim that aerial bombings by Saudi Arabia and ground attacks by the rival Houthis will eventually stop the slaughter.

Keep reading...Show less

Trump's Anti-Women Directives Are Even More Extreme Than Reagan's - And the Puritans

Unable (yet) to get a ban on abortions or family planning in the United States, the Trump administration has reached back to 17th-century Puritan culture and banned American aid to any international organization that provides abortions or even just talks about the procedure.

Keep reading...Show less

Does Trump Want to Sabotage the United Nations?

President Donald Trump has frequently scorned the United Nations, leaving his pragmatic UN Ambassador Nikki Haley to smooth over the rough spots as he rejected policies identified with his cerebral predecessor, Barack Obama.

Keep reading...Show less

Nikki Haley Has Built Up a Reputation for Herself at the UN - But Probably Not the One She Wanted

As the world shuddered at the separation of families on the southern U.S. border, Nikki Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, withdrew from the UN Human Rights Council. The timing could not have been worse.

Keep reading...Show less
@2022 - AlterNet Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. - "Poynter" fonts provided by fontsempire.com.