World Children’s Day
World Children’s Day is celebrated on 20 November each year — the day that the UN General Assembly in 1959 adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. It is also the date in 1989 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history. Only two countries have failed to become parties — South Sudan and the United States. Canada is also party to the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.
But this year’s marking of World Children’s Day is not a cause for celebration, as a new report from Save the Children, entitled Killed and Maimed: A Generation of Violations Against Children in Conflict, makes devastatingly clear. The head of the Canadian branch, Bill Chambers, writes in a CBC commentary:
Every day for the past 10 years, an average of 25 children have been killed or injured in wars and armed conflicts…
It adds up to more than 90,000 child casualties since 2010.
Chambers notes that these figures were recorded before the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world, making life even more dangerous for children living in conflict zones. He therefore welcomes the decision by Parliament’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs to heed the call of Canadian child rights organizations for a study of COVID-19’s impact on conflict-hit and fragile countries, and Canada’s response to it.
At the same time he draws attention to a recent Oxfam study that showed:
Canada has given just 29 per cent of its so-called “fair share” of contributions to the 2020 humanitarian response plan for Yemen, where conflict has raged for more than five years and the humanitarian crisis is the worst in the world.
G20 arms sales to Saudi Arabia dwarf aid to Yemen
The Oxfam study referenced above contrasts the $17 billion worth of weapons G20 countries sold to Saudi Arabia since it joined the Yemen war in 2015 to one-third that amount given in aid. The report was released as G20 leaders prepare to meet virtually for a summit hosted (controversially) by Saudi Arabia. RI President Peggy Mason comments:
As for Canada, in 2019 our share of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia was $2.9 billion, dwarfing our humanitarian aid to war-torn Yemen of around $26 million dollars.
Global Affairs is in the midst of a civil society consultation on its Feminist Foreign Policy, with a view to issuing a White Paper in early 2021. Yet it will surely be a hollow exercise if our trade in armaments continues to take absolute precedence over our international human rights obligations and professed commitment to building regional and international peace and security.
One piece of good news about Canada’s UN voting on Israel-Palestine
It’s voting time at the UN General Assembly and, amidst a generally bleak picture of Canada’s record on issues relating to Palestinian human rights, one positive vote stands out. Again this year, Canada has voted in support of the right of Palestinians to self-determination. Michael Bueckert, Vice- President of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), comments:
It’s very significant that Canada decided not to backtrack on last year’s vote, but has decided to maintain its support in spite of intense pressure from right-wing groups….
The resolution was overwhelmingly adopted 163–5. See also the statement issued by Independent Jewish Voices welcoming this action by Canada.
Both organizations underscore, however, that Canada continues to be an “outlier” in failing to stand up for international law when it comes to the majority of annual UN resolutions on Palestinian human rights.
To help analyse Canada’s voting record, CJPME recently launched the UN Dashboard, a new resource which allows Canadians to explore how Canada has voted on 16 resolutions about Palestinian human rights from 2000 to 2020.
US doubles down on illegal actions in support of Israel
Even as Canada found the courage to vote in support of the long-standing, internationally recognized Palestinian human right to self-determination, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was busy abetting Israeli violations of the Geneva Conventions applicable to occupying powers by:
- Declaring that products from Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories intended for export to the US could be labelled “Made in Israel”; and
- Pledging to take “immediate steps” to prevent US government support of any organizations engaged in Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activities.
Eric Goldstein, acting Middle East and North Africa director of the US- based Human Rights Watch, responded:
Instead of combating systemic racism and far-right extremism in the United States, the Trump administration is undermining the common fight against the scourge of antisemitism by equating it with peaceful advocacy of boycotts….
Bipartisan US support for Israel belies wide divergence between American and Israeli Jews
Recent Canadian polls have shown not only that a majority of Canadians want Canada to express opposition to Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands, but also that many Jewish Canadians are critical of Israel.
Now a recent American commentary highlights the growing gap between American Jews and Israel in terms of values and identity. See: The global right is a threat to US Jews — but a natural home for Israelis (Yair Wallach, 972mag.com, 16 November 2020):
As a minority, American Jews understand the dangers of authoritarians and nationalists. As a ruling group, Israeli Jews see them as logical allies.
And see also: After Trump, restoring ‘normal’ US policy on Palestine isn’t enough (Omar Baddar, 972mag.com, 13 November 2020):
Biden may be a pro-Israel stalwart, but progressive activists and representatives can push for a foreign policy that respects Palestinian rights.
Whatever happens with respect to American policy towards Israel, we urge the Government of Canada to comply with well-established international law and longstanding Canadian policy in support of fundamental Palestinian human rights.
Follow up on Canadian Military Domestic Disinformation Campaign
Our 13 November blog focused on the welcome cancellation of a plan by the Canadian military to target Canadians for deception operations. We invite interested readers to view a lively further discussion of this topic hosted by Ed Hand of Unpublished Café by clicking here.
Among the speakers is retired navy Captain Dave Scanlon, whose recommendations on the guiding principles for information operations we featured in our blog.
Ed Hand tells us in his opening comments that a poll conducted of Unpublished Café viewers voted overwhelmingly (96%) against the use of propaganda by the Canadian military to influence Canadians.
We are not surprised.
Little time left to avert utter catastrophe in Ethiopia
We cannot end today’s blog without a comment on the unfolding catastrophe in Ethiopia with UN agencies warning that violence in Northern Ethiopia will probably drive 200,000 people into neighbouring Sudan over the coming months.
In a recent commentary, senior staff at the International Crisis Group argue that it is still not too late to stop the Tigray conflict from “unravelling the country” and undermining the stability of the entire Horn of Africa. They end with:
[Prime Minister] Abiy Ahmed is a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Even as Ethiopia’s international partners urge the TPLF and Addis Ababa to give dialogue one more chance, the prime minister should himself reject the notion that he can resolve Ethiopia’s political predicament through force.
For the full commentary, see: Ethiopia: Not too Late to Stop Tigray Conflict from Unravelling Country (Dino Mahtani & William Davison, crisisgroup.org, 10 November 2020).
The Ethiopian Prime Minister would also do well to read Disarming Conflict, by Ernie Regehr, one of Canada’s most respected voices on peace and security. If he does, he will learn that fully 85% of wars are not settled on the battlefield, but through negotiation after “desperately hurting stalemates”.
Heeding this lesson sooner rather than later could save countless lives.
We call on the government of Canada to join with Ethiopia’s neighbours, the African Union, the European Union and the US in convincing both sides to agree an immediate ceasefire as a necessary precondition for further peace talks.
Photo credit: UN