Updated: Let us all recall the UN’s enduring values on 24 October – UN Day

24 October is UN Day

Just prior to UN Day on 24 October UN Secretary-General António Guterres released a video recalling the enduring values of the United Nations Charter.   Among his statements therein:

  • Our founding mission is more critical than ever. To promote human dignity. Protect human rights. Respect international law. And save humanity from war.
  • In our world today, we have one common enemy: COVID-19. Now is the time for a stepped-up push for peace to achieve a global ceasefire.
  • We face colossal challenges. With global solidarity and cooperation, we can overcome them.
  • Together let us uphold the enduring values of the United Nations Charter. Let us realize our shared vision of a better world for all.

For the full video, click below:

UN announces “permanent ceasefire” for Libya

A ray of hope has appeared for beleaguered Libyans, on the eve of UN Day, with the announcement from Geneva of a UN-brokered “permanent ceasefire in all areas of Libya”.  UN Special Envoy for Libya Stephanie Williams added:

I hope that this agreement will contribute to ending the suffering of the Libyan people and enabling the displaced, both outside and inside the country, to return to their homes and live in peace and security.

The accord, concluded in Geneva after talks between military representatives of the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) and Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), requires all “mercenaries and foreign fighters” to leave Libya within three months.

According to news reports, this round will be followed by political discussions in Tunisia next month.

Analysts caution that past deals have been violated by both sides, and the big issue of oil revenue sharing still remains to be addressed. Kristoff Potgieter, an analyst at NKC African Economics in South Africa, states:

We expect the cease-fire to keep holding, which means the resumption of normal activities at the remaining ports and storage facilities is only a matter of time…. We are less optimistic about the prospect of a more comprehensive and lasting deal.

Read more at: What’s Next for Libya’s Oil Surge as War Rivals Talk Peace, (Salma E Wardany, bloombergquint.com, 21 October 2020).

Amidst new USA threats Nuclear Ban Treaty achieves sufficient ratifications for Entry into Force

As the historic, Nobel-prize-engendering treaty to ban nuclear weapons (TPNW) reached the 50 ratifications needed to enter into legal force, the Trump administration ratchets up the pressure on signatories to move in the other direction and withdraw from the treaty. (Note this blog was originally published on 23 October and the 50th ratification was achieved one day later, 24 October – UN Day). Entry into force will automatically take place in 90 days.

PBS News Hour reports that a US letter to TPNW signatories says the five original nuclear powers — the US, Russia, China, Britain and France — and America’s NATO allies “stand unified in our opposition to the potential repercussions” of a treaty they describe as “dangerous” and “a strategic error”.

Former Canadian Disarmament Ambassador and RI President Peggy Mason comments:

It is particularly galling that the USA is leading this spurious effort to denigrate the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons while at the same time exponentially increasing nuclear risks with its reckless steps to lower the threshold for nuclear weapons use.

Read more at: U.S. urges countries to withdraw from U.N. treaty that would ban nuclear weapons. (pbs.org/newshour, 21 October 2020).

Clearly the last minute American threats were to no avail. For some reactions to this momentous event see: Treaty banning nuclear weapons to enter into force (Aljazeera.com), and see the Statement by ICRC President Peter Maurer on the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). See also: Statement of Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy.

For the official UN Response click here.

Joe Biden signals new US nuke approach

While the Trump administration doubles down on nuclear weapons, Joe Biden has signalled a welcome new approach. According to PBS:

Biden embraces the notion that nuclear weapons should play a smaller role in defense strategy and that the ultimate goal should be a nuclear-free world.

To that end Biden has:

  • opposed the Trump decision to deploy missiles armed with so-called “low-yield” nuclear warheads;
  • championed a “no first use” policy of nuclear weapons; and
  • pledged to spend far less on nuclear weapons modernization.

Given the political and institutional weight of the vast American nuclear weapons infrastructure, no one should doubt the difficulty that a President Biden would have in implementing any of these changes, but his proposals are nonetheless extraordinarily important and welcome.

The Canadian connection

The US letter attacking the ban treaty purports to represent the views of the other declared nuclear weapons states and “America’s NATO allies”, including Canada.

In contrast to past full-throated defences of nuclear deterrence, we do, however, perhaps detect a slight softening of tone in Canada’s recent statement to the United Nations First Committee, which reads in part:

Canada supports and understands the need for nuclear deterrence, but this does not stop us from advocating tirelessly for policies and practices to eliminate nuclear weapons.

To date that “tireless advocacy” has stopped well short of tangible action on the unanimous parliamentary committee call for Canada to work with NATO to end its reliance on nuclear weapons.

Whither Canada?

We call on Global Affairs Canada to initiate serious planning for the launch of a NATO dialogue on reducing its reliance on nuclear weapons as an essential step toward their ultimate elimination.

GAC official stonewalls Foreign Affairs committee on Turkey arms exports

Stephen Chase of the Globe and Mail reported Thursday on the appearance of a senior Canadian bureaucrat before the Foreign Affairs Committee allegedly to explain why Ottawa granted approval in May to allow the export of “high-tech airstrike-targeting gear” to Turkey despite its own year-old embargo on military exports to that country. Chase writes:

Citing the need to protect the “commercial confidentiality” of companies obtaining export permits, [Acting Director-General] Ms. Anand did not answer.

Here is the OECD definition of commercial confidentiality:

Commercial confidentiality refers to safeguarding the privacy of sensitive information of individual firms (such as market position, financial health, or whether the firm is receiving financial support).

In short, it has nothing whatever to do with the Government of Canada’s policy reasons for granting or refusing arms export permits in accordance with Canadian and international law.  

This bureaucratic stonewalling follows on the heels of a statement by Foreign Minister Champagne describing the deadly imaging and targeting equipment in question as “a few cameras”.

Whither Canada?

 We reiterate our earlier call for Canada to move from laggard to leader in the establishment of an independent Arms Export Control Agency.

Photo credit: Wikimedia (UN HQ in Geneva)

Tags: Canadian Arms Export Control Agency, commercial confidentiality, Joe Biden and no first use of nuclear weapons, Libya permanent ceasefire, NATO nuclear policy, NATO Strategic Concept, Nuclear Ban Treaty, October 24 UN Day, OECD, Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), UN First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, UN Special Envoy for Libya