Tag Archives: OPT

Sustainable but inconvenient – Two more folkways slide closer to the edge

by Rhodri C. Williams

Two feature stories in BBC World help to remind us how we are our own worst enemies. In two very different parts of the world, as we all go about our daily business of accumulating exotic and unsustainable consumer goods and producing carbon and toxic garbage, two traditional, sustainable and harmonious ways of life are quietly being snuffed out by the forces of globalization and politics.

First, BBC reports on the fate of the nomadic reindeer herders of the Yamal peninsula in Siberia. Sound like the kind of implausible lifestyle that sensible people would have thrown over long ago for office jobs? Turns out they have been more stubborn than you might think: Continue reading

The week in links – week 41/2010

This week’s food for thought:

– Continuing the nervous drumbeat on the upcoming Southern Sudan referendum, here is Open Democracy on the apparent new delay to the Abyei referendum, and a good news-then-bad news analysis by Phillipe De Pontet at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

– The International Law Observer notes that the Human Right to Water and Sanitation is now official – a recent decision by the Human Rights Council brings the number of states that have gone on the record to 178.

– Meanwhile, the FAO Right to Food people are about to release a guideline on responsible land tenure management and the right to food (it is available now in Spanish).

– Lyric Thompson reports in Open Democracy on the whiff of UN politics behind the anticlimactic tenth birthday party in the UN Security Council for Resolution 1325.

– In case anyone forgot the link between land and identity, here is a comment in the Jerusalem Post on what the construction ban and its absence is seen to signify by some in the Middle East. In the meantime, the NYT reports on the resumption of construction plans in East Jerusalem, and Open Democracy has news of a possible response, with the Arab League apparently considering whether to “appeal directly to the UN to recognise the state of Palestine.”

– From the US, Paul Krugman reports on the ongoing fallout of the mortgage crisis and the fact that it now appears that the USA, one of the world’s great proponents of rule of law and the sanctity of property, is witnessing foreclosures by banks that are unable to actually document the mortgage agreements they are enforcing.

– And in the unremarked on but terrifying land violence category, IRIN reports on inter-clan skirmishes over land in northeastern Kenya that displaced 600 families.

– Finally, the ECFR has issued a new short comment and report on the ‘spectre of a multipolar Europe with a fairly provocative set of findings:

  • The post-Cold War order is unravelling. Rather than uniting under a single system, Europe’s big powers are moving apart. Tensions between them have made security systems dysfunctional: they failed to prevent war in Kosovo and Georgia, instability in Kyrgyzstan, disruption to Europe’s gas supplies, and solve frozen conflicts.
  • The EU has spent much of the last decade defending a European order that no longer functions. Russia and Turkey may complain more, but the EU has the most to lose from the current peaceful disorder.
  • A frustrated Turkey still wants to join the EU, but it is increasingly pursuing an independent foreign policy and looking for a larger role as a regional power. In the words of foreign minister Davutoglu, Turkey is now an ‘actor not an issue’. Its accession negotiations to the EU should be speeded up, and it must also be engaged as an important regional power.
  • Russia never accepted the post-Cold War order. Moscow is now strong enough to openly challenge it, but its Westpolitik strategy also means that it is open to engagement – that is why Dmitri Medvedev suggested a new European security treaty a couple of years ago.
  • Obama’s non-appearance at the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was the latest sign that the US is no longer focused on Europe’s internal security. Washington has its hands full dealing with Afghanistan, Iran and China and is no longer a European power.

Good fences make good neighbors?

by Rhodri C. Williams

A few reminders of how so many of the more festering conflicts we see today can be reduced (perhaps somewhat simplistically) to real estate disputes.

First, and most monotonously familiar, we have the protracted negotiations to end the Middle East conflict. The latest wrinkle, reported in the New York Times, involves an alleged US threat to state the obvious if Israel refuses to extend the OPT settlement construction ban and allow negotiations to continue:

…if Mr. Netanyahu turns down the United States, officials said, Mr. Obama could provide the Palestinians with their own assurance: his formal endorsement of a plan under which Israel’s pre-1967 borders, with land swaps, would form the baseline for negotiations over territory.

Second, in India, the NY Times reports on a case of micro-partition, with a court decision dividing a religious site contested between Hindus and Muslims between them, with the proportions allocated apparently significantly correlated to the statistical likelihood that a deity was born on exactly that spot:

…each of the three judges issued a separate opinion, diverging in interpretation of certain facts, including over whether Ram was born precisely on the contested site. Yet the court did hand a significant victory to Hindus, who had argued that Ram was born beneath the central dome of the destroyed structure. That portion of the contested property was granted to Hindus as part of their two-thirds share, presumably to erect a new temple to Ram.

Meanwhile, in the run up to the South Sudan independence referendum, commentators in the Boston Globe remind us that the fate of the peace process now hangs on similar line drawing exercises in three patches of turf most of us have never heard of – and hopefully never will:

… efforts [to prepare for the referendum] should not come at the expense of progress in the three transitional areas established by the agreement. The people of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile were promised a democratic process of popular consultations, while residents of Abyei were given the right to decide, through a separate referendum, whether to stay in the north or join the south. Regrettably, preparations for the Abyei referendum remain deadlocked and the popular consultations have been postponed. These three areas have received much less attention than the southern referendum, but they are a weather vane of the north-south relationship and have the potential to derail the entire peace deal.

Land is unique, indispensable and inherently limited in supply, which is why it is the source of so many disputes even in relatively peaceful parts of the world. Add a shake of spiritual identity and a dash of conflict and you have a problem that can fester for decades.

Drawing a line usually involves an allocation of unfairness rather than an achievement of justice. It is, as the Times pointed out in the India case, Solomonic. But if everyone can ultimately live with the line, then they can stop dying for the land.

Note on the UN Register of Damage for the Occupied Palestinian Territory

by Rhodri C. Williams

I recently wrote an introductory note for publication in International Legal Materials related to a set of rules of procedure adopted last year by the UN Register of Damage (UNRoD). The Register was set up in order to develop a record of all damages resulting from the construction of Israel’s “security fence”, referred to by the UN General Assembly as the “Wall”, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. As such, it represents an interesting development both in the attempt to resolve the Middle East conflict and in the evolution of institutional responses to mass claims for reparations.

The proper name of the final version of this article is “Introductory Note to the United Nations Register of Damage (UNRoD) Rules and Regulations Governing the Registration of Claims” and it was published in its final version in the Volume 49 No. 2 issue of International Legal Materials. The version reproduced below is an edited draft.

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Introduction

On June 16, 2009, the Board of the United Nations Register of Damage (UNRoD) issued a set of “Rules and Regulations Governing the Registration of Claims” (Rules). The Office of the UNRoD is a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly operating under the administrative authority of the Secretary General, with a mandate to develop “a record, in documentary form, of the damage caused to all natural and legal persons concerned as a result of the construction of the wall by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem.”[i]

The issuance of the Rules comes over two years after the January 2007 establishment of the Office of the UNRoD by UN General Assembly Resolution ES-10/17[ii] and the subsequent May 2007 appointment by the Secretary General of the Office’s Board.[iii] The length of time it has taken to issue the Rules, combined with the fact that they do not fully resolve a number of open questions surrounding the scope and nature of the registration process, is likely to fuel concerns about the effectiveness of the Office. On the other hand, the fact that the Rules have been issued at all confirms that the UNRoD is evolving from a recommendation into a real institution. This development will inevitably influence not only the ongoing efforts to resolve the conflict in the Middle East, but also broader debates related to the role of reparations for individual victims of international law violations in the context of protracted peace negotiations.

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