Time for action at UN and global level

By Amir Lakha*

UN Charter designed 70 years ago is clearly out of date; we need innovative system for global crises.

We are in the midst of one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our lifetime.

From 2008 to 2014, 111 countries out of a total of 207 (54 percent of the world) had deteriorated in levels of peace and more nations are drifting away from stability.

According to UN data, disasters affect more than 200 million people each year. A total of 574 disasters were reported in 2015 alone, 20 percent of which occurred in Africa, affecting 31 million.

Sixty-five million people are either displaced or have become refugees — the highest figure ever recorded since World War II.

Two hundred and fifty million children are trapped in conflicts worldwide.

World leaders and institutions have not been able to prevent or stop these conflicts. It is not easy for leaders and institutions to handle crisis after crisis without the support and co-operation of global citizens, civil society and the private sector.

We are experiencing more frequent and intensive disasters. No one individual or nation can solve these challenges alone. The responsibility is collective. And so must be our actions.

Support and co-operation from the public will only come if world leaders and institutions uphold the sanctity of human rights, justice, welfare and security.

We all need to work for greater respect for international humanitarian law and human rights.

At the moment, these laws are being ignored completely and shamelessly in general and in Syria in particular.

There is a moral duty to hold back those individuals, organizations or nations doing wrong and a moral duty to assist those individuals, organizations or nations to whom wrong is done.

 Refugees in need

The current trend of spending billions of dollars and human resources in addressing humanitarian crises but ignoring the issue of conflicts, is similar to treating the symptoms of a disease but not treating the cause.

Why spend billions on humanitarian relief when we can actually stop that expense by preventing the conflicts which create thousands of refugees?

On average a refugee remains a refugee for 17 years and some have been refugees for over 50 years. So with conflicts and our complacency we are promoting a sentence of 17 years’ suffering on innocent people.

Some of the refugees may be economic migrants in search of better prospects but the vast majority are helpless individuals in need of understanding by the world leaders and the global population.

With the crisis in Syria, about 11 million people (half the population) have been displaced, having lost their homes, and 4.8 million people have fled as refugees, mainly to Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq and some even to Europe.

Turkey is hosting three million refugees and half the population of Lebanon are now refugees.

Turkey spends $10 billion per year on refugees and the international community contributes only $455 million. Lebanon’s economy has been adversely affected. Europe has difficulty appeasing their citizens about the need to support refugees.

With the exception of some, most European nations are unable to accept the refugees. The humiliation and suffering faced by refugees is shocking and unimaginable for human beings in a civilized society in the 21st century.

There are currently over 65 million refugees and displaced persons. These are innocent people who, through no fault of their own, have had to flee places that they loved and that they knew.

Most of them were well-respected in society, well off and would much rather be in their own homes in their own nations and get on with life as normal without being a burden on anyone or any nation.

They had to flee to other areas and nations with no possessions, purely and simply for their safety and that of their families. We have to see through their eyes and minds and open our hearts and help them to go back to their own homes with the provision of security, safety and incentives.

Young generation paying the heaviest price

In Syria, over 200,000 people have died and hundreds of thousands have sustained injuries. Thousands of children have become orphans and thousands more have lost loved ones.

At least 1 in 5 displaced women and girls are the victims of sexual violence. The victims say – “We need a decent life and dignity”. Girls say “We just want to be able to go to school and live in peace without having guns pointed at us. That is all we want”.

The young generation is paying a heavy price for all conflicts. There are presently over 3,000,000 children who are unable to receive education of any kind. Take the example of Syria. Six million children in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance of which two million are in hard-to-reach areas and 500,000 are living under siege. Some have been living under siege for two years.

Children go to school if their parents allow them to, because they are not sure if their children will come back alive in the afternoon.

At school, children cannot concentrate because of cold, hunger, nightmares and a lack of sleep. Children suffer psychological and physical disorders as well as physical and sexual harassment.

The world will pay a huge penalty for all that is happening globally to children currently. These children, after some years, will become a huge liability to all and will not allow ordinary citizens to live in peace. The victims of yesterday have become the terrorists of today and the victims of today will become the terrorists of tomorrow.

The Syrian problems have been going on for the last six years. It reflects badly on those who have the power to change the course of the Syrian crisis and who are either remaining silent or obstructing a peaceful settlement in Syria.

There are so many “players” involved in the crisis in Syria, each with their own agenda and vested interests — individuals, organizations and nations — that the world is taking a defeatist attitude by stating that Syria is a very “complicated” situation. It actually isn’t.

Peace in Syria is possible and, that too, will take place within the next three months. There are reasons for that optimism. The year 2017 is going to usher in a new era and new management with an innovative approach to the Syrian crisis.

UN role

The Vienna peace talks for Syria (14 Nov. 2015) known as the talks of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), were negotiations of foreign powers that began in Vienna, Austria at the level of foreign ministers, to resolve the conflict in Syria, after unsuccessful previous Syrian peace initiatives.

The ISSG were 20 powers and international organizations, co-chaired by Russia and the U.S.

In December 2015, exactly a year ago, the UN Security Council had unanimously agreed a resolution endorsing an international roadmap for a peace process in Syria.

On 1 Feb. this year a formal start of the mediated Geneva Syria peace talks was announced by the United Nations. It is so sad that peace in Syria has not materialized to date despite good and honorable intentions by many.

Outgoing Secretary-General of UN, Ban Ki-Moon, at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Istanbul on in May 2016 stated that the level of suffering worldwide was at an unprecedented level.

He went on to state that not only is it important to keep people alive but to enable them to live in dignity. The efforts of UN have been undermined and frustrated purely and simply because of the existing obsolete tools to address the current global problems.

Signed on June 26, 1945, the UN Charter prescribed certain provisions in the areas of security, justice, welfare and human rights — with UN member nations undertaking “to settle disputes peacefully; refrain from treating or using force, not to assist an aggressor, and to assist in carrying out the Charter’s provisions”.

The systems, however, to address the current problems were designed 70 years ago and are now outdated.

We need to design innovative systems and handle the problems as a joint partnership effort, without duplication, with sincerity and goodwill towards all.

Humanitarian relief efforts need to go hand-in-hand with developmental efforts under the supervision of an effective global policeman.

A few parties, in combination, may achieve some success in the short term to achieve peace but difficulties will arise in the long term.

We need to now plan a long-term solution for all the numerous current global problems. It is, therefore, now imperative to engage political leaders, powerful interests, hostile parties and ordinary people in negotiating change.

Remember, ordinary people have power too. The process of reconciliation will help to transform relationships destroyed by years of violent conflict.

After all, whose “peace” is it? Change requires the use of soft power and the possible threat of hard power.

First and foremost, although it is a shared responsibility for helping humanity in crisis, the responsibility for the citizens of a nation rests with the respective nation.

Therefore, the real responsibility for refugees rests with the nations from where they originated. The support and co-operation of those nations has to be mobilized as each nation, indeed, carries the responsibility for its own citizens.

Those nations unwilling to honor this responsibility need to be made aware of the resultant unpleasant penalties, consequences and repercussions.

All individuals are to be encouraged to internalize the principle of “live and let live” and “do unto others as you would like done to you and your dear ones”.

The salvation for humanity lies in promoting love for each other and not hatred. Love, moral and cultural values will help to bring about global peace. It is about time to implement strategies to address the obstacles to global peace. The time for mere discussion has gone and it is, now, time for action both at the UN and global level.


Amir Lakha*  is the founder of and chairman at the Humanitarian and Charitable ONE Trust (HACOT), a U.K. registered charity. The article was written for the Anadolu News Agency on Monday, Dec. 26, 2016.