The nations decided at the end of a two-day meeting with a UN working group in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to propose regulations at the September meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, participants said.
“Clearly a consensus has emerged, a willingness of the participating states to regulate more the activities of the PMSCs (private military and security companies),” one delegate told AFP.
Jose Luis Gomez del Prado, from the UN committee on mercenaries, told the meeting the largely U.S.- and British-based industry, worth many billions of dollars a year, had boomed in African and across the world.
“With the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we have seen this embryonic industry explode. There is a new dimension with the piracy in Somalia,” he said.
Private security “multinationals”, 70-80 per cent of which were based in the United States or Britain, were recruiting around the world, he said, adding there was an “osmosis” between these groups and typical mercenaries.
“This market represents between 20 and 100 billion dollars a year,” Del Prado said, adding that these guns for hire posed a “great danger” to fragile governments.
In Africa there was “resentment towards private armies mainly because of the involvement of mercenaries in regime change in a number of African countries,” said African Union security expert Norman Lambo.
In one example, British-led mercenaries led a foiled coup in 2004 against the government of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.
“It is unfortunate that of late some groups have decided to move their mercenary activities to hide them under private security activities,” he told the meeting.
Nine African states are among 32 countries that have ratified a 1989 UN Convention against the recruitment, use, financing and training of mercenaries.
The Organization of African Unity, predecessor of the African Union, adopted in 1977 a convention on the elimination of mercenaries which was in turn adopted by 30 African countries.
However there were a number of loopholes in the document and it needed to be strengthened, del Prado said.
The head of the UN group, Shaista Shameem, said the current regulations were “largely inadequate”.
“Africa is also becoming an important market for the security industry as well as a supplier of personnel for the industry.”
“This new phenomenon is largely unregulated and has led to a situation which has impacted negatively on human rights,” she said, adding that these groups were “rarely held accountable” of they committed abuses.
UN human rights chief deplores killing of some 60 migrants by Egyptian forces in Sinai since mid 2007
Report by Tom Knudson http://bit.ly/cm99vi
The shrinking ice cap atop Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s most famous glacier. But the continent harbors other pockets of ice, most notably in the Rwenzori Mountains of western Uganda. And as temperatures rise, the Rwenzori’s tropical glaciers — located as high as 16,500 feet — are fast disappearing.
I am hiking through a moss-draped forest more than 10,000 feet above sea level in the Rwenzori Mountains in western Uganda, not far from the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The trail ahead is steep as a ladder and slippery with mud, and every few minutes my guide and I stop to rest.
Most people who come to this part of Africa do so for its wildlife, especially the endangered mountain gorilla. I have made the journey for another reason. I am looking for a glacier.
In the popular imagination, glaciers and Africa intersect at one location: Mt. Kilimanjaro, the iconic dormant volcano that rises from the grasslands of Tanzania and whose shrinking snowcap has become a symbol of climate change.
But there are glaciers in steamy Uganda, too, hidden in the eaves of jagged 16,000-foot peaks that are lost in the clouds most of the year. And these
glaciers have a climate change story to tell, too — one that scientific research suggests better reflects the impact of global warming than the fading snows of Kilimanjaro.
But their story is also nearing its close. In just two decades, scientists expect the Rwenzori glaciers — as well as Africa’s few other remaining ice fields — to be gone. Kilimanjaro has already lost 84 percent of its ice since 1912, and what’s left is not expected to last more than a couple of decades. The Lewis glacier on Mount Kenya is also expected to wink out soon.
That prognosis comes as no surprise to my guide, a local Bakonjo tribesman named Baluku Josephat, who has guided climbers through the Rwenzori range since 1982 and has seen the consequences of global warming firsthand.
“If you go to Mount Baker,” he says, referring to a massive, ship-like peak in the center of the range where glaciers have already melted, “you can now go without crampons. It was not that way in the past. Now people just walk over rocks.”
And not all of the impacts are playing out in the snow zone. Two years ago, Josephat spotted something in a brushy thicket at 10,900 feet that startled him — an upwardly mobile chameleon.
“Chameleons are supposed to be at lower elevations. Now they are moving up and up,” he said, echoing an observation scientists have made about animals and plants in other mountain ranges worldwide. “When I found that chameleon, I was puzzled. I thought, ‘My God, what is happening?’”
With its snow-capped peaks looming over the tropics, the Rwenzori are a geographical marvel that has haunted the Western imagination for centuries. As early as 500 B.C. the Greek dramatist Aeschylus wrote about
The most astonishing sight of all is the snow hovering above the tropical landscape.
“Egypt nurtured by the snows.” In 150 A.D., Claudius Ptolemy, the most distinguished geographer of his time, produced a celebrated early map of Africa that fanned speculation about a snowy source of the Nile. Without ever setting foot in Africa, he sketched an icy range rising from the heart of the continent that he called Lunae Montes — the Mountains of the Moon — a name widely used for the Rwenzori today.
But it wasn’t until 1888 that the American explorer Henry Stanley proved Ptolemy correct. Looking up from a camp in the Congo, he spotted what he first thought was a silver cloud in the shape of a mountain.
“Following its form downward, I became struck with the deep blue-black color of its base,” Stanley wrote. “Then I became for the first time conscious that what I gazed upon was not the semblance of a vast mountain, but the solid substance of a real one with its summit covered with snow.”
Even today, hiking into the Rwenzori range is like stepping into a lost world. Fewer than 2,000 people a year visit the place. For long stretches, you see no one. And there are surprises by the hour, from worms as long as your walking stick, to iridescent greenish-purple sunbirds and the elusive, brilliant-blue Rwenzori turaco.
Also astonishing is the kaleidoscope of chlorophyll, the staircase of forest zones that clings to the range from the foothills at 5,400 feet to the treeline around 13,500 feet. On our second day, we entered a forest of giant heather so ensnarled in moss it was hard to see the sky. “No forest can be grimmer and stranger than this,” wrote Filippo de Filippi in his epic account of the first expedition to thoroughly explore the range and climb its major peaks, led by the Italian mountaineer and adventurer, Prince Luigi Amedeo of Savoy, Duke of the Abruzzi, in 1906.
As we climbed higher, the heather disappeared, replaced at 11,200 feet with something stranger: two species that looked like cactus, but weren’t — the torch-like giant lobelia and the giant groundsel, which reaches upward with woody branches topped by enormous cabbage-like leaves.
But the most astonishing sight of all is the snow you begin to glimpse hovering above the tropical landscape. When Abruzzi tramped through the range a century ago, ridges and mountains were shellacked with snow and glaciers. He discovered glaciers on six peaks and estimated their total size at 2.5 square miles.
“Members were full of excitement and satisfaction,” wrote de Filippi, describing the expedition’s initial ascent into the alpine zone. “The place was rough and wild. A cold and biting wind blew off the glacier and suggested surroundings very different from those usually associated with Equatorial Africa.”
Today, less than half a square mile remains. On three peaks, glaciers have disappeared altogether.
In the Andes and Himalaya, the melting of high-altitude glaciers is expected to trigger water shortages downstream in coming decades. But Uganda’s ice is much too small to have such an impact. Nonetheless,
Ice is disappearing so swiftly that much critical scientific information may already have been lost.
Josephat and his fellow tribe members are worried. For them, melting glaciers are an economic threat.
“The snow and ice you are seeing are a tourist attraction,” said our cook, Donald Philly, over dinner one evening. “Clients come to see the snow and we get employment opportunities.” And when the snow is gone, he added, jobs will vanish. Standing nearby, Josephat said the Bakonjo would simply have to adapt — like the chameleons. “We are going to train our guides on rock climbing,” he said.
Precipitation patterns are also changing.
“Years ago, it would rain cats and dogs, from morning to evening, for seven days straight,” Josephat said. “Rivers were flooded. There would be a lot of fog, even down to the lower elevations. These days, that is not happening.”
Such changes, he believes, are contributing to a rise in mortality he has observed among the iconic giant lobelia. “The trees are withering at a rapid speed,” Josephat said. And as they die, he said, other plant and moss species are likely to suffer, too.
Ultimately, Josephat said, he fears climate change may set off a domino effect of forest decline that could one day diminish the range’s ability to soak up and store water, putting downstream villages at risk. The Bakonjo guides take the threat so seriously they have recently formed an organization to plant more trees around the base of the range, both to battle deforestation and increase carbon sequestration.
The changes here also pose a challenge to climate scientists. Inside the Rwenzori’s receding glaciers are specks of pollen and dust that could unlock secrets about past climatic upheavals. But there’s a problem: no one has managed to access to the glaciers amid the daunting terrain. Seven years ago, Lonnie Thompson — the well-known U.S. scientist who has sampled high-altitude tropical glaciers worldwide and uncovered evidence of dramatic pre-Incan climate swings from ice core samples high in the Andes — was scheduled to work in the Rwenzori. But he had to cancel his trip because of security concerns in East Africa at the start of the Iraq war.
Time is running short.
“The whole atmosphere is warming in the tropics,” Thompson told Science News. “But the greatest risk is taking place at the highest elevations — on the order of 0.3 C (0.5 F) per decade.”
Ice in the Rwenzori is disappearing so swiftly that much critical information may have already been lost. “There is a lot of concern about whether there is even a viable [ice] core,” said Richard Taylor, a hydrologist at University College in London. Without such solid evidence, he added, scientists can’t even determine the age of the range’s glacial cover.
Taylor is the lead author of a 2006 study in Geophysical Research Letters that links the melting glaciers in the Rwenzori more directly to rising temperatures than the shrinking snowcap on 19,340-foot Mount Kilimanjaro.
“The ice fields on Kilimanjaro are substantially higher” than the Rwenzori and therefore less prone to melting, Taylor told me by phone from London. “The glaciers that still exist in the Rwenzori reside somewhere between 4,800 meters and 5,050 meters” — 15,750 to 16,570 feet — making them “more vulnerable to fluctuations in temperature.”
By contrast, the shrinking snowcap on Kilimanjaro is likely due to decreasing humidity, not rising temperatures, he said, adding, “The Rwenzori mountains are the icon of global warming — not Kilimanjaro.”
But as I climb higher into the Rwenzori, it’s clear that getting close to even one African glacier is going to be more of an ordeal than I expected. And it’s not just the steep trails and thin air that conspire to halt my progress. It’s the mud. Never have I seen mud in such quantity or variety. Sludge-like in places, syrupy in others, it filled two enormous high-altitude bogs. In spots, a boardwalk helped. But where it ended, chest waders would have come in handy, too.
Finally, after scrambling up a nearly vertical wall of rock and moss, I stepped onto a ledge at 14,400 feet, where a century ago Abruzzi encountered a nine-story-high wall of ice known as the Speke glacier, named for the British explorer — John Hanning Speke — who discovered the source of the Nile at Lake Victoria.
In Abruzzi’s day, the glacier snaked down the side of 16,080-foot Mount Speke for 1,600 feet before ending abruptly near the rocky cliff face where he — and now I — stood. A century ago, the glacier covered about 540 acres, and de Filippi recounts listening to the roar of gigantic columns of ice crashing into the valley below.
In the thickening mist, I searched for ice but saw none. Instead, I looked out on the ghost of a glacier, a rubble of smooth slate-gray stone sloping up from a small green lake, formed by glacial melt. Here and there, giant groundsels were starting to grow between rocks that not long ago were entombed in ice.
Then the sky opened up to reveal a narrow band of silver and white more than 1,000 feet up the mountain — the last receding remnant of the Speke glacier, which has now shrunk to just a few dozen acres.
A few seconds later, the clouds zippered back up and it was gone.
POSTED ON 04 Feb 2010 IN
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tom Knudson writes about natural resources and the environment for the Sacramento Bee. Over the years, his reporting has been singled out for numerous journalistic honors, including two Pulitzer Prizes and a Reuters-I.U.C.N. Global Environmental Media Award.
Please see the weblink for Yale Environment 360 http://bit.ly/cm99vi
where you will find more from Tom Knudson and much more on the state of the environment as a result of warming.
14 January 2010 Security Council SC/9844 Press Release
Somalia is a “Global Crisis” that can no longer be ignored, reports Secretarty-Generals’ Special Representative, in a briefing to Security Council.
Representatives of African Union, Arab League Urge
No-fly Zone, Anti-piracy Actions; Stress Importance of Djibouti Process
The crisis in Somalia was no longer local or even regional, but a global one that could no longer be ignored, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the Secretary-General’s top representative in that country, said today in a briefing to the Security Council.
Mr. Ould-Abdallah, Special Representative of the of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), said the county’s Transitional Federal Government had made significant progress, despite repeated armed assaults by externally funded extremists attempting to overthrow it.
Citing the Government’s accomplishments, he said they included establishing its authority in Mogadishu, the capital; drawing up a budget; recruiting and training security forces; and keeping its political legitimacy over violent and extremist groups. The Government had remained open to all Somalis who were ready for dialogue and reconciliation, he said, adding that Somalia was moving from failed State to fragile State.
The international community should overcome two main challenges, he said, describing the first as the absence of concrete commitment and determined international policy. Continued hesitation and lack of effective action had weakened the Government and encouraged the extremists, who included many foreigners whose ultimate objective was to maintain a permanent state of anarchy or to establish a militant State. Their ambitions went well beyond Mogadishu and Somalia, and posed a real threat to neighbouring countries, the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) region and even distant lands.
He said the second challenge was the delay in translating international support into the necessary material assistance. Over the last 10 to 15 years, the international community had spent more than $8 billion in various forms of assistance, dealing primarily with the symptoms of the crisis, while the Government lacked the resources to fund even the most basic requirements, such as paying salaries. By contrast, its opponents and allied extremists received unlimited and unchecked financial support.
“Therefore, we cannot afford to keep managing the status quo while waiting for the perfect conditions,” he emphasized, proposing that the international community depart from the past practice of applying uncoordinated efforts and individual diplomatic initiatives in favour of supporting a common policy objective in the context of the Djibouti Peace Agreement. The Council should send a strong and clear signal to the extremists by strengthening the Government in a practical manner, he said, calling on the international community to provide more vigorous moral, diplomatic and financial assistance. “Assistance delayed is assistance denied.”
It had become imperative to work more closely with IGAD, the African Union, the League of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, he continued. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) deserved, as an emergency matter, support through troop allowances increased to the international level, the timely disbursement of those allowances, and payment for lethal equipment.
The Council should also vigorously address the role of the spoilers, he said. A clear and effective message, backed by concrete action, would demonstrate that those who funded the extremists -– “creating misery for innocent civilians, violating international law, including through recruitment of child soldiers and threatening peace and stability of the region” -– would no longer enjoy impunity. “The protection of civilians is an obligation long ignored in Somalia,” he noted.
He said those recommendations would be implemented more effectively once the United Nations family working on Somalia operated in an integrated and harmonized manner. There was a need to accelerate the move by the Organization and the international community to Mogadishu. “To help the Somalis, especially the victims, we have to be with them,” he stressed. Failure to intervene actively to restore stability was already threatening the effectiveness of the international community, in addition to costing vast amounts of resources. Failure to act decisively could only lead to a dramatic increase in that cost.
Ramtane Lamamra, Commissioner for Peace and Security of the Africa Union Commission, also briefed the Council on behalf of the regional body, noting that 2009 had been a particularly difficult year for Somalia. It had also been a different one in the sense that many of the country’s complex problems were now being addressed. The enemies of peace and reconciliation had stepped up their actions in their determination to undo the results of the Djibouti process and to make Somalia a regional trouble spot and support point for piracy and terrorism.
The links between Somalia’s Al-Shabaab movement and international jihadism had been confirmed, as had its relations with Al-Qaida and the influx of foreign fighters into the country, he said. That had led to a surge in terrorist acts. One of the effects was a perception that the situation in Somalia was structurally precarious, but the past year had seen genuine momentum in terms of the rebirth of the State and the expansion of the Government.
He went on to note that while AMISOM had lost twice as many people in 2009 as it had over the total previous period of its existence, it had been reinforced in numbers, capacity and experience. On 8 January, the African Union Peace and Security Council had extended the Mission’s mandate for 12 months, and it was to be hoped that the United Nations Security Council would follow suit.
The Council should also impose a no-fly zone as well as control of Somalia’s seaports to deny insurgents the use of its air and maritime space. The African Union Peace and Security Council had expressed its concern about the piracy and kidnapping-for-ransom which fuelled extremism and had reiterated its request that its United Nations counterpart take the necessary measures to integrate AMISOM into a peacekeeping operation of the world body.
He said Somalia and the international community had now made sufficient gains upon which to base a daring strategic vision of Somalia as being no longer a threat to its own people, the region and the world by the end of the transitional period in October 2011. Humanitarian assistance, quick-impact projects and development activities that would create jobs should contribute to those efforts.
Yahya Mahmassani, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, described the situation in Somalia as the main challenge to peace and security in the Horn of Africa, emphasizing that the country’s security and humanitarian crisis had worsened to become one of the worst ever known to the continent. Inaction by the international community had contributed to a further worsening.
A political solution must be based on national consensus achieved through the Djibouti process, he said. AMISOM sought to preserve that framework and, as such, required full support. All political parties must be included in the dialogue. The Arab League called on States and regional groups to take part in the Mission and to help complete its deployment, including through the provision of financial and logistical support. The renewal of its mandate by the Council was absolutely necessary to protect Somalia’s legitimate institutions.
He urged the international community to meet the challenge of humanitarian assistance immediately through closer cooperation among humanitarian agencies. The deteriorating security situation contributed to the “security disorder” along the coastline, as demonstrated by rising piracy. While the international community should be mindful of the need to end piracy, the situation also called for the Council to “take necessary measures” to tackle its root causes, including the absence of strong State institutions.
Elmi Ahmed Duale ( Somalia) stressed the importance of security, without which meaningful progress in economic development, employment, peace and stability would be difficult to achieve. It was to be hoped that UNPOS could be established within, rather than outside, the country. Security could be attained by rebuilding sufficiently the Somali national security forces, including the army, police and coast guard, in addition to justice and correction units. At the same time, there was a need to strengthen all aspects of AMISOM and to make it part of a larger United Nations effort. The Mission should be made an integral part of a peacekeeping force whose deployment should happen sooner rather than later.
Attributing Somalia’s inadequate progress in improving security to a lack of resources, he pointed out that the Government had received only a small portion of confirmed pledges made in Brussels last April. As such, he appealed urgently to States to release their pledged contributions. An improved security situation was also the way to improve the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
On piracy, he said it was merely “a symptom of the security situation”. Similarly, the key to improving the human rights situation lay in improving security; wherever there was conflict in the world, violations of human rights were bound to be found. The Transitional Federal Government was committed to the observance of human rights, and the Cabinet had endorsed the Convention of the Rights of the Child, with ratification to follow soon.
The Government was also committed to reconciliation, an area in which more needed to be done despite some progress, he said. The Government would continue to reach out to all elements, but would uphold its obligation to repel and resist armed violence. Its strategy for 2010 would focus on reconciliation and outreach, security, the international conference on recovery and reconstruction, and effective cooperation with neighbouring States.
He said the Transitional Federal Government considered that the Secretary-General’s three-phase incremental approach might prove inadequate, given the dire humanitarian situation. It might have been useful had it been implemented earlier. What was needed was not a light United Nations footprint but a heavy one, he stressed. The Transitional Federal Government supported the Secretary-General’s request that the Council renew the UNPOS mandate for 2010-2011, and that it renew AMISOM’s mandate for a further 12 months.
The meeting began at 3:06 p.m. and ended at 3:56 p.m.
Council members had before them this afternoon the Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Somalia (document S/2009/684), which provides an update of major developments in the country since 2 October. It also assesses the political, human rights and humanitarian situation, as well as progress in implementing the three-phased incremental approach to obtaining increased United Nations assistance, as set out in the Secretary-General’s April 2009 report. It also covers the operational activities of the United Nations and the international community’s counter-piracy efforts.
In the report, the Secretary-General says that despite the challenging environment and “incessant attacks”, Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government is making progress in critical areas and implementation of the Djibouti Peace Agreement generally remains on track. Because of the precariousness of the situation, including violent attempts to overthrow the Government, a targeted and coordinated effort between the Government and the international community is required in 2010. He encourages the Government to maintain its commitment to reconciliation and calls upon all armed Somali groups outside the peace process to renounce violence and join in reconciliation efforts.
Urging national and international support for the peace process, the Secretary-General says the Government must acquire further capacity and demonstrate greater commitment to consolidating its authority, building up security institutions, restoring the economy and delivering basic services. While it had adopted a budget and improved measures for enhancing domestic revenues, it remained largely dependent on external assistance. For that reason, he appeals to the donor community to release their pledged contributions, only a miniscule percentage of which has been received to date.
He also expresses deep concern about a significant decline in humanitarian funding, noting that the consolidated appeals process seeks $700 million for humanitarian needs in 2010, a 17 per cent drop from 2009, to meet the urgent needs of 3.6 million people. With civilians bearing the brunt of the conflict, he reminds all combatants to respect humanitarian and human rights law, and advocates assistance to help Somalia end impunity and establish institutions for promoting and protecting human rights.
Turning to implementation of the three-phase approach to boosting the United Nations presence, the Secretary-General says planning for a “light footprint” continues although it is subject to delays due to insecurity in Mogadishu, the capital. The logistical support package for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has prioritized enhanced security measures following the suicide attack on the Mission’s headquarters in September 2009.
The report notes that, as of November, critical humanitarian and other United Nations programmes continued in most parts of Somalia, with 775 national and 57 international staff deployed in-country, including those in the Puntland and Somaliland regions. During the reporting period, senior staff from the United Nations Political Office in Somalia (UNPOS), the UN Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA), the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), the Department of Safety and Security (DSS) as well as funds, agencies and programmes of the Organization made 17 visits in the interest of policymaking and planning for support to both AMISOM and the Transitional Federal Government.
According to the report, the Secretary-General recommends a continuation of the current strategy to protect Government and AMISOM troops, as well as civilians, from explosive remnants of war and other such munitions. He also invites the Council to renew for another two years the authorization of UNPOS as well as that of AMISOM, which ends in January 2010, subject to the decision of the African Union Peace and Security Council. He pays tribute to the Mission and calls for greater international support for it.