The Continuing US Strategy for Regime Change in Venezuela: A Tragedy is Unfolding

By Haider A. Khan
DENVER, May 22 2019 (IPS-Partners)

The Venezuelan crisis is festering. For the moment the elected President Maduro has hung onto power against the machinations of Bolton and his crew. However the pressure from the imperialists continues with the propaganda machines of the “liberal” North in full operation.The situation for the Venezuelan people is bleak but a right wing coup will not settle this problem.

Haider A. Khan

We may recall that as of 24 January,2019 President Trump ordered the US diplomats in Venezuela to stay put against the January 23 orders of the Venezuelan president for the same diplomats to leave within 72 hours. Thus the stage was set for a confrontation and the outcome became far from certain. Some in the US diplomatic community feared a Benghazi-like development.

According to the Guardian at that time:

The head of Venezuela’s armed forces has thrown his weight behind the embattled president, warning that the country could be thrust into a devastating civil war by what he called a US-backed “criminal plan” to unseat Nicolás Maduro.

The most recent crisis was precipitated when on Wednesday, January 23, President Trump announced that the United States will recognize the Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido who had just declared himself as the legitimate president of Venezuela unconstitutionally. President Maduro was quick to respond. He announced immediately that Venezuela was cutting off diplomatic ties with the US. Venezuela gave the embassy’s diplomatic staff 72 hours to leave the country.

Juan Guaido claims that Nicolas Maduro, the current president of Venezuela, is illegitimate.According to him since the president and the vice president both are illegitimate, he is the next in line for the presidency. His unprecedented declaration based on his own claims were set in motion in no small measure, one suspects, by the US Vice President Mike Pence’s announcement directed at Venezuelans, urging them to rise up against President Maduro.

The quick recognition of what appears to be a calculated move to up the ante and the orders for the US diplomats to stay put seemed consistent with a US plan for regime change. However, that did not succeed and diplomats eventually left. Nest, the US asked Venezuelan diplomats to leave so that Guido’s diplomats could occupy the Venezuelan embassy in Washington DC. However, the local US anti-imperialist activists occupied the embassy against US opposition. Indeed this part has turned out to be a tragi-comic farce.

Domestically, Venezuelans are divided. Clearly the government has mismanaged the economy, creating hyperinflation. Furrthermore, it did not take firm timely countervailing steps to circumvent the sanctions. But it still has support among 30 percent at least of the poor and working people. While Maduro’s rating has dived to 20 percent, the Bolivarian revolution of Chavez and the Chavezistas are supported by a significant segment who have seen a rapid improvement of their position in the past. Also, for the first time, they have been part of the political process.

The opposition is not united behind the oligarchy and big business which the US wants to see in power. The National Assembly which has just one house—a reform carried out by the Chaezistas— is not controlled by them although their agents are in key positions.

As a result fewer than 30 percent of the masses support the assembly. Thus Juan Guaido’s claim that he represents the will of the people is less than impressive and lacks credibility.

What about the international situation?

Although Canada and Colombia quickly echoed the US position, by now Russia, Cuba, China, India many others have either declared themselves for the status quo or are noncommittal. Thus short of US military intervention, the external support for Juan Guaido’s claims at present seems tenuous. Short of US military intervention, or a domestic coup, there will either be a negotiated solution or civil war.

Most analysts with expertise on Venezuelan politics tell us that Maduro’s survival depends on the backing of the military. In the past Maduro has rewarded the top brass with senior positions in government and the state oil company PDVSA. Some of these appointments are also part of the mismanagement problem. For the moment though, the top echelon in the army seems to be with Maduro. As Padrino declared:

“We are here to avoid, at all costs … a conflict between Venezuelans. It is not civil war, a war between brothers that will solve the problems of Venezuela. It is dialogue….We members of the armed forces know well the consequences [of war], just from looking at the history of humanity, of the last century, when millions and millions of human beings lost their lives….I have to alert the people of Venezuela to the severe danger that this represents to our integrity and our national sovereignty.”

The so-called special envoy, Eliott Abrams so far has not delivered a Nicaraguan style counterforce to revolution. It is certainly not for lack of trying or generous expenditure of US resources. A combination of a lack of grassroots support in the region, internal strength of Venezuelan revolution and the weakness of Guido’s illegitimate coup all combine to produce the current frustrations for Abrams. However, he is hoping to foster a counterrevolution nevertheless.

The role of corporate media is all too clear and pro-imperialist.”It’s obvious that the corporate media has been following U.S. policy,” says Venezuelan sociologist Edgardo Lander. “It happened during the Iraq War. It’s happened in Libya. It’s happened in all over the place.” Without exonerating the incompetence of Maduro, analysts like Lander point to other factors from sanctions to fostering counterrevolution. Deepening the crisis hoping for a regime change to US liking is not the solution that the Venezuelans and the world need.

One thing is clear. Venezuela is dangerously close to a civil war with the real possibility of direct US intervention upping the ante. The US policy has already worsened the situation. Apart from a Benghazi-like tragedy for the US, the greater tragedy for Venezuela and the region looms large. We can only hope that the domestic forces in Venezuela will find a just solution to this crisis through peaceful negotiations.

The writer is a Professor of Economics, University of Denver. Josef Korbel School of International Studies and former Senior Economic Adviser to UNCTAD. He could be reached by email hkhan@du.edu

Poverty, policy and economic ruin? The true folly of neoliberalism

By Eresh Omar Jamal
May 22 2019 (IPS-Partners)

No matter which approach is used, every method of measurement shows inequality has risen in Bangladesh (at least) over the last 10 years. If we take the latest Household Income and Expenditure Survey of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, we see that the country’s Gini coefficient—a measure of inequality—went up (indicating disparity has grown) from 0.458 in 2010 to 0.482 in 2016. From a different angle, a report released by Oxfam towards the close of last year ranked Bangladesh 148th in the world—out of 157 countries—for reducing inequality.

Around the same time, reports were coming out that the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank were forecasting Bangladesh’s economy to grow by 7.5 percent in the current fiscal year—illustrating a somewhat confusing contradiction of inequality rising significantly at the same time as GDP.

While some have since then dismissed this as inevitable, in reality that is far from the truth.

“The economic growth in recent years has been far from inclusive,” according to Selim Raihan, executive director of the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling. And is the result of failed economic policies—time-tested to have proven disastrous.

According to a 2018 Transparency International Bangladesh study, over 63 percent households seek healthcare from the private sector, which shows either a lack of availability of public healthcare facilities, or that they are abysmal—forcing people to seek treatment elsewhere.

And, according to a 2015 study by the health ministry, out-of-pocket (OOP) healthcare expenditure in Bangladesh was 67 percent—the highest in South and Southeast Asia—whereas the global average was 32 percent. Which shows the lack of government control over healthcare costs because the private sector has no meaningful competition from the public sector.

The combination of these two has been devastating. A study by the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, found that four to five million people were being pushed into poverty by OOP healthcare expenditures every year. Yet, the government has shown minimal interest in increasing its involvement in providing better healthcare service, even though healthcare is a quasi-public good in the sense that it benefits everyone in the community—and thus where government support should be focused on.

Public expenditure on education and health, which were already low, has declined in recent years. And “such low expenditure does not help…reduce poverty and inequality,” according to Raihan, whose view has been echoed by Zahid Hussein, lead economist of the World Bank’s Dhaka office who added that the poor are not “in a position to access privileges that the government gives to particular businesses and interest groups” such as “bailouts”, which have vacuumed away Tk 10,272 crore of government funds as of September last year, that could have gone into providing improved healthcare—not only to offset the aforementioned problems, but because that generally benefits less wealthy sections of society.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg.

In his book And Forgive Them Their Debts, professor of economics and economic history, Dr Michael Hudson, mentions how one of the first things the Babylonians, who first invented the concept of the Jubilee Year (derived from debt jubilee), realised was that “finance was not a part of the economy, but grew by its own mathematical laws.” Their scribes noted how while compound interest grew “at the equivalent of 20 percent a year, doubling in five years and quadrupling in 10,” their herd population and agriculture grew (GDP of ancient times) as an “S-Curve and tapered off”.

So, every ruler, going thousands of years back into history, knew that debts tended to grow faster than the economy’s ability to pay. Giving rise to the idea of debt jubilee—but with one catch: it was personal debts that were forgiven, not business debts or debts of the criminally rich who made their fortunes by borrowing from the public exchequer with the intention of never paying back.

During the last century (era of neoliberalism), everything somehow got reversed. And debt was turned from being “a balance sheet item to a growth item,” according to financial expert Max Keiser—popularising the perception that “the faster companies could incur debt”, the faster it could be “securitised” to “other banks to create this daisy-chain”, not only making debt “okay” but the “basis of the economy”.

This brought about a historic change because “never in history did people think that the way to get rich was to go into debt,” says Dr Hudson. And yet this was being done by countries “on a national level” to commit “economic suicide”.

What neoliberals failed to see was that money, despite being needed to buy a car or education, was not a factor of production. And that banks, in the process of giving people access to credit—which is an unproductive activity in itself as it produces nothing extra but simply allows someone to acquire what has already been produced—were simply extracting wealth out of the economy for themselves, and not even reinvesting it back into the economy.

Basically, finance became the tool for the ultra-rich to gain their “unearned” share from the “productive” activities of others. And instead of providing tangible services that balance the scale such as healthcare, the service that the government has been providing is the facilitation of this wealth extraction—which, to some extent, is the service of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” essentially.

Similar to every other country suffering from the curse of neoliberalism, parallel to the hollowing out of banks and government-backed extortion of the public exchequer, Bangladesh too saw huge amounts of money fleeing the country during this period.

In late January, the Global Financial Integrity released a report ranking Bangladesh second in South Asia for illicit money outflows. And said that some USD 5.9 billion was siphoned out of Bangladesh in 2015 through trade misinvoicing, after a report released in 2017 estimated that Bangladesh lost between USD 6-9 billion to illicit outflows in 2014. What has been the government’s (policy or any other) response? To do nothing—except siphon off more and more taxpayers’ funds and ship them into dying banks that seem to be taking the economy with them, to the grave.

In the process of extracting wealth from the real wealth producers, what these “real dependent” classes are doing is killing the Golden Goose that they rely on, which is why we see such capital outflows as the corrupt set aside their retirement funds before escaping to other countries.

But, have these people looked around properly? Nearly the entire world (especially developed countries) is under the thumb of neoliberalism. And so, those who believe they can profit by leeching off the productive powers of others in this country because of their “position” can only be the feed of others doing the same elsewhere.

Because neoliberalism is the economic and financial ideology that is most akin to that of today’s radicalism, which makes the role of its agents equivalent to that of suicide bombers—whose ultimate destination too is one of complete economic and financial ruin.

Eresh Omar Jamal is a member of the editorial team at The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

Sol-Gel Technologies Reports First Quarter 2019 Financial Results and Corporate Update

Top–line results from Phase III Epsolay and TWIN trials remain on track; mid–2019 and 4Q19, respectfully

Reports top–line generic product revenues of $6.3 million

NESS ZIONA, Israel, May 22, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Sol–Gel Technologies, Ltd. (NASDAQ: SLGL) ("Sol–Gel" or the "Company"), a clinical–stage dermatology company focused on identifying, developing and commercializing branded and generic topical drug products for the treatment of skin diseases, today announced financial results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2019 and provided an update on its clinical development programs.

"This year is an exciting year for Sol–Gel as we reach two critical inflection points with the pivotal Phase III read–outs of our proprietary branded product candidates, Epsolay and TWIN," commented Dr. Alon Seri–Levy, Chief Executive Officer of Sol–Gel. "We believe our expertise in formulation chemistry will yield supporting data for much–needed effective and differentiated products for both rosacea and acne. Additionally, we are delighted to report revenues from the sales of acyclovir cream, 5% and we congratulate Perrigo for their success on the launch of this complex product. We look forward to continued collaborations in our generics pipeline."

Corporate Highlights and Recent Developments

  • In the first quarter, Sol–Gel realized first–time revenues of $6.3 million from the sale of a first generic version of Zovirax (acyclovir) cream, 5% with partner Perrigo.
  • On April 15, 2019, Sol–Gel announced that it had completed 50% patient enrollment in both pivotal Phase III clinical trials of TWIN for the treatment of acne vulgaris. TWIN is a once daily topical cream containing a fixed–dose combination of encapsulated benzoyl peroxide and encapsulated tretinoin using Sol–Gel's proprietary microencapsulation platform.

Clinical Program Update

  • Top–line results from the pivotal Phase III Epsolay trials in papulopustular rosacea continue to be expected in mid–2019.
  • Top–line results from the two pivotal Phase III TWIN trials in acne vulgaris continue to be expected in the fourth quarter of 2019.
  • Results from a bioequivalence study for generic 5–fluorouracil cream, 5%, indicated for actinic keratosis, continue to be expected in 2019 with a planned abbreviated new drug application (ANDA) during 2019. This study is part of a generics collaboration with partner Douglas Pharmaceuticals.

Financial Results for the Three Months Ended March 31, 2019

Sol–Gel reported revenue of $6.4 million for the first quarter of 2019 compared to $0.0 million for the same period of 2018. Of this amount, $6.3 million is attributed to sales of our partnered generic product, acyclovir cream, 5%.

Research and development expenses were $10.8 million in the first quarter of 2019 compared to $4.6 million during the same period in 2018. The increase was primarily due to an increase of $5.7 million related to clinical trial expenses and an increase of $0.6 million in manufacturing expenses.

General and administrative expenses were $1.7 million in the first quarter 2019 compared to $1.1 million during the same period in 2018. The increase is mainly due to an increase of $0.3 million in share–based compensation expense resulting from a fair value adjustment accounted for in the first quarter of 2018 and an increase of $0.1 million in insurance expenses. Sol–Gel reported a loss of $5.7 million for the first quarter of 2019 compared to loss of $5.7 million for the same period in 2018.

As of March 31, 2019, Sol–Gel had $9.2 million in cash, cash equivalents and deposits and $45.2 million in marketable securities for a total balance of $54.4 million. Based on current assumptions, Sol–Gel expects its existing cash resources will enable funding of operational and capital expenditure requirements through mid–2020.

About Sol–Gel Technologies

Sol–Gel is a clinical–stage dermatology company focused on identifying, developing and commercializing branded and generic topical drug products for the treatment of skin diseases. Sol–Gel's current product candidate pipeline consists of late–stage branded product candidates that leverage our proprietary, silica–based microencapsulation technology platform, and several generic product candidates across multiple indications. For additional information, please visit www.sol–gel.com.

Forward–Looking Statements

This press release contains "forward–looking statements" within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. All statements contained in this press release that do not relate to matters of historical fact should be considered forward–looking statements, including, but not limited to, the clinical progress of our product candidates, plans and timing for the release of clinical data, our expectations surrounding the progress of our generic product pipeline, and the sufficiency of our cash resources to meet our operational and capital expenditure requirements. These forward–looking statements include information about possible or assumed future results of our business, financial condition, results of operations, liquidity, plans and objectives. In some cases, you can identify forward–looking statements by terminology such as "believe," "may," "estimate," "continue," "anticipate," "intend," "should," "plan," "expect," "predict," "potential," or the negative of these terms or other similar expressions. Forward–looking statements are based on information we have when those statements are made or our management's current expectation, and are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual performance or results to differ materially from those expressed in or suggested by the forward–looking statements. Important factors that could cause such differences include, but are not limited to: (i) the adequacy of our financial and other resources, particularly in light of our history of recurring losses and the uncertainty regarding the adequacy of our liquidity to pursue our complete business objectives; (ii) our ability to complete the development of our product candidates; (iii) our ability to find suitable co–development partners; (iv) our ability to obtain and maintain regulatory approvals for our product candidates in our target markets and the possibility of adverse regulatory or legal actions relating to our product candidates even if regulatory approval is obtained; (v) our ability to commercialize our pharmaceutical product candidates; (vi) our ability to obtain and maintain adequate protection of our intellectual property; (vii) our ability to manufacture our product candidates in commercial quantities, at an adequate quality or at an acceptable cost; (viii) our ability to establish adequate sales, marketing and distribution channels; (ix) acceptance of our product candidates by healthcare professionals and patients; (x) the possibility that we may face third–party claims of intellectual property infringement; (xi) the timing and results of clinical trials that we may conduct or that our competitors and others may conduct relating to our or their products; (xii) intense competition in our industry, with competitors having substantially greater financial, technological, research and development, regulatory and clinical, manufacturing, marketing and sales, distribution and personnel resources than we do; (xiii) potential product liability claims; (xiv) potential adverse federal, state and local government regulation in the United States, Europe or Israel; and (xv) loss or retirement of key executives and research scientists. These and other important factors discussed in the Company's Annual Report on Form 20–F filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") on March 21, 2019 and our other reports filed with the SEC could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by the forward–looking statements made in this press release. Any such forward–looking statements represent management's estimates as of the date of this press release. Except as required by law, we undertake no obligation to update publicly any forward–looking statements after the date of this press release to conform these statements to changes in our expectations.

SOL–GEL TECHNOLOGIES LTD.
CONDENSED CONSOLIDATED BALANCE SHEETS
(U.S. dollars in thousands, except share and per share data)
(Unaudited)

December 31,
2018

March 31,
2019
A s s e t s
CURRENT ASSETS:
Cash and cash equivalents $ 5,325 $ 8,175
Bank deposit 1,000 1,000
Marketable securities 56,662 45,253
Accounts receivable 6,354
Prepaid expenses and other current assets 2,987 2,518
TOTAL CURRENT ASSETS 65,974 63,300
NON–CURRENT ASSETS:
Restricted long–term deposits 462 466
Property and equipment, net 2,604 2,507
Operating lease right–of–use assets 1,058
Funds in respect of employee rights upon retirement 642 662
TOTAL NON–CURRENT ASSETS 3,708 4,693
TOTAL ASSETS $ 69,682 $ 67,993
Liabilities and shareholders' equity
CURRENT LIABILITIES:
Accounts payable $ 2,924 $ 4,093
Other account payable 1,971 2,898
Current maturities of operating leases 647
TOTAL CURRENT LIABILITIES 4,895 7,638
LONG–TERM LIABILITIES
Operating leases liabilities 445
Liability for employee rights upon retirement 878 940
TOTAL LONG–TERM LIABILITIES 878 1,385
COMMITMENTS
TOTAL LIABILITIES 5,773 9,023
SHAREHOLDERS' EQUITY:
Ordinary Shares, NIS 0.1 par value "" authorized: 50,000,000 as of December
31, 2018 and March 31, 2019; issued and outstanding: 18,949,968 as of
December 31, 2018 and March 31, 2019
520 520
Additional paid–in capital 190,853 191,642
Accumulated deficit (127,464) (133,192)
TOTAL SHAREHOLDERS' EQUITY 63,909 58,970
TOTAL LIABILITIES AND SHAREHOLDERS' EQUITY $ 69,682 $ 67,993

SOL–GEL TECHNOLOGIES LTD.
CONDENSED CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF OPERATIONS
(U.S. dollars in thousands, except share and per share data)
(Unaudited)

Three months ended
March 31,

2018 2019
REVENUES $ 44 $ 6,358
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT EXPENSES 4,645 10,793
GENERAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES 1,142 1,694
TOTAL OPERATING LOSS $ 5,743 $ 6,129
FINANCIAL INCOME, NET (30 ) (401 )
LOSS FOR THE PERIOD $ 5,713 $ 5,728
BASIC AND DILUTED LOSS PER ORDINARY SHARE $ 0.39 0.30
WEIGHTED AVERAGE NUMBER OF SHARES
OUTSTANDING USED IN COMPUTATION OF BASIC
AND DILUTED LOSS PER SHARE
14,523,161 18,949,968


For further information, please contact:

Sol–Gel Contact:
Gilad Mamlok
Chief Financial Officer
+972–8–9313433

Investor Contact:
Chiara Russo
Solebury Trout
+1–617–221–9197
crusso@soleburytrout.com

Source: Sol–Gel Technologies Ltd.

The Contribution of Humanitarian Action to Peace

By Peter Maurer
STOCKHOLM, May 22 2019 – The connection of humanitarian action to broader objectives like peace, development and human rights is understandably complex, but it is also an area in which some fresh thinking is important.

The dilemma we are facing today is how to expand and uphold neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian action while designing and understanding such action as a bridge to broader and more ambitious transformative agendas.

No matter how we characterise this dilemma, above all we must anchor our discussions in the realities of people living under the shadow of conflict, insecurity and fragility. This is particularly important given that more than 80% of people displaced by violence and conflict today originate from fewer than 20 particularly vulnerable contexts, most of them privileged areas of humanitarian action – and that those contexts endanger achievement of the SDGs.

Working on the frontlines, the ICRC bears witness to suffering in conflicts around the world; and we also observe how the new dynamics of violence are taking a heavy toll on the lives of every day men, women and children.

In recent years we have seen how the gap is widening between the scale of humanitarian needs and the available humanitarian response. Despite all the efforts to grow the humanitarian sector and to respond through emergency operations to such contexts, we also recognize that gaps do not and will not be closed by traditional humanitarian action.

The dominant features of fragility that we see today include:

    • • High levels of violence, whether though military or counter terrorism operations, intercommunity violence or criminality;

 

    • • Under development, and a lack of reliable essential services;

 

    • • Failures of governance and endemic corruption;

 

    • • The impacts of climate change, exacerbating existing pressures and embedding new fragilities; and

 

    • Enormous humanitarian needs, whether through displacement, pandemics, or the loss of education or livelihoods.

These factors are exacerbated by protracted, urbanized conflicts, which not only kill and maim, but destroy systems, infrastructure and economies and thus compel humanitarian actors to take a fresh look at what people need in such environments.

ICRC in Syria

I am reminded of the shells of destroyed cities we’ve seen in recent years – Mosul, Aleppo, Taiz and many more. The deep structural degradation of infrastructure and social systems in cities will be incredibly difficult to repair and will require high levels of investment over the long term.

But it is exactly in these places where we see a patent absence of development actors – because of security risks or political blockages to envisage broader development engagement.

In protracted, decade-old conflicts, people’s needs go beyond emergency assistance. Even though battles are being fought, chronic diseases still need to be treated, children still need education, adults still need jobs.

People’s needs are many-sided: they are short, medium and long term. They are individual and community oriented. They are material, but also psychosocial and psychological.

The realities on the ground are moving further away by the day from the classical bureaucracies, structures, processes and policy categories which the international community has created to deal with such issues of concern: human rights, peace-building, development, humanitarian action. Realities don’t fit the boxes.

At the same time, with these deep needs, it is clear that no actor working alone will be able to meet the demands. Today’s needs landscape has long surpassed any individual approach.

And there are no blanket solutions: instead, we must the adapt to the particular needs of communities, to their skills and resilience capacities. Approaches will differ enormously, for example in low or middle-income countries.

Approaches must be strongly localized as well as supported by neutral international actors. Complementarity of efforts centered on creating maximum impact for people will therefore be essential.

Humanitarian actors are not peace builders: neutral, impartial, independent humanitarian action is distinct from political agendas and it must remain so.

Yet, I would argue that while others make peace, humanitarian action helps to make peace possible.

International humanitarian law has positive and multiplying impacts when it is respected. For example, when the principles of proportionality and distinction are applied, lives are saved, hospitals and schools remain open, markets can function and reconciliation after the conflict becomes easier.

Frontline humanitarian action too is a vital stabilizing factor in fragmented environments and a building block towards greater stabilisation. Principled humanitarian action serves to protect against development reversals caused by the effects of war and division in societies.

For example, in recent years in Syria, as the war has shifted into new phases, ICRC has adopted a two-track approach – providing emergency food, shelter to displaced populations; but also working in areas with greater stability to repair water, sanitation and electricity infrastructure.

We have also shifted to replace in-kind by cash assistance and thus prepare the ground for a return of regular economic life or to support market creations and income generating activities.

And it is not only in Syria, but in many contexts millions of people survive and can go back to previously stable lives because of sustained humanitarian upkeep of infrastructure, health systems or investments in community-building and livelihood support.

Also, today the ICRC is fulfilling varying requests to act as a neutral intermediary in conflict. Each and every month, when my colleagues brief me on the engagement, we entertain to establish links between belligerents, I wonder whether out of isolated humanitarian activities, we are able to build a more sustained engagement pointing beyond humanitarian action.

We are called on to prevent relations from deteriorating or to find mutual trust-building measures that would help increase stability.

Here in Stockholm, the Yemeni parties agreed to make detention exchanges an important next step in peace negotiations and it is ICRC’s humanitarian experience, which has supported the negotiation of a draft agreement, which hopefully one day will also lead to something broader than a humanitarian result.

Our mode of working is distinct, drawing on our humanitarian experience and relying on the principles of neutrality, independence and impartiality but the effect of our action hopefully allows for more.

Through humanitarian disarmament initiatives, we are engaging bilaterally, mini-laterally and multilaterally to build consensus to limit the use of indiscriminate, harmful weapons.

Over the years, we have seen strong support from the international community on weapons treaties, including to ban chemical and biological weapons and landmines.

Now with conventional arms reaching record levels, we are also urging States of influence to lead by example and ensure no weapon is supplied where there is a clear risk it would be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law.

We are also working with others to create greater impact. New financing models, such as the Humanitarian Impact Bond, the Famine Action Mechanism with the World Bank and the United Nations, are testing grounds to align complementary experience, data and finance and to bring States, the private sector and humanitarian actors together in finding new and more meaningful tools to address some of the big disruptions of our times.

With humanitarian demands vast and complex, we must find a basis on which to work differently. It will take all of us – working together and through our distinct roles – to prevent and alleviate suffering, to build stability, and take the first steps on long path back to peace and development.

I am aware that some are afraid that principled humanitarianism risks losing its soul by trying to build pathways to peace and development. But may I remind them what the founding fathers of the ICRC in their foundational assembly of 1863 agreed: that humanitarian action could only escape the danger of prolonging war, if it were shaped in a way that it would contribute to the creation of peace in the long run.

As a four-time recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the ICRC hopes Norway and Sweden may have a clearer understanding than anybody else about the intrinsic link of principled humanitarianism with broader societal aspirations.

*In an address to the Stockholm Forum on Peace & Development.

UN: Catastrophic failure as civilians ravaged by war violations 70 years after Geneva Conventions

– PRESS RELEASE —

By Amnesty International
May 22 2019 (IPS-Partners)

The UN Security Council must mark the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions this year by ending its catastrophic failure to protect millions of civilians around the world whose lives and livelihoods are routinely ravaged by violations of the laws of war, Amnesty International said today.

Tomorrow (23 May), the Security Council will hold an open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict – 20 years after this goal was first added to its agenda.

“Twenty years after the UN Security Council pledged to do its utmost to protect civilians in armed conflict, and 70 years since the Geneva Conventions sought to shield civilians and others from the types of atrocities committed during the Second World War, the picture is incredibly grim,” said Tirana Hassan, Crisis Response Director at Amnesty International.

“The great military powers cynically boast about ‘precision’ warfare and ‘surgical’ strikes that distinguish between fighters and civilians. But the reality on the ground is that civilians are routinely targeted where they live, work, study, worship and seek medical care. Parties to armed conflict unlawfully kill, maim and forcibly displace millions of civilians while world leaders shirk their responsibility and turn their backs on war crimes and immense suffering.

“Russia, China and the United States continue to abuse their veto power by blocking draft resolutions that aim to prevent or stop atrocities from taking place. Every time this happens, they are putting innocent people living in these danger zones at grave risk.”

In recent years alone, Amnesty International has documented a blatant disregard for civilian protection and international humanitarian law in armed conflicts where four of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council are parties – Russia, the USA, the UK and France. The fifth, China, has actively shielded neighbouring Myanmar as it carried out war crimes, crimes against humanity and possibly genocide.

The disastrous failure to protect civilians has been evident in the US-led Coalition’s blitzing of Raqqa, Syria, that left more than 1,600 civilians dead; in Russian and Syrian forces’ wanton destruction of civilian infrastructure and lives in Aleppo, Idlib and elsewhere – forcing mass displacement of millions and amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity; and in the war in Yemen where the Saudi Arabia/UAE-led coalition, backed by Western arms, has killed and injured thousands of civilians in unlawful attacks and fuelled one of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Somalia remains another of the world’s worst human rights and humanitarian crises. All parties to the conflict, including the USA, have violated both international human rights and humanitarian law. Despite ramping up air strikes in its secretive war in Somalia over the past two years, the USA failed to admit a single civilian casualty until an Amnesty International investigation prompted it to.

Israel has repeatedly targeted civilians and civilian objects during military operations in Gaza since 2008, causing great destruction and loss of human life. Between March 2018 and March 2019, Israel used lethal force against Palestinian protesters, killing at least 195 people, including medics, journalists, and children. Palestinian armed groups have fired indiscriminate rockets into civilian neighbourhoods in Israel, causing several fatalities.

In South Sudan and elsewhere, conflict-related sexual violence and gender-based violence are occurring at shocking levels. Witnesses and victims of a brutal government-led offensive in April-July 2018 in the north of the country described how civilians, including women, children, older persons and persons with disabilities were deliberately killed by gunfire, burnt alive in their homes, hung from trees and rafters and run over with armoured vehicles. Civilians were hunted down while fleeing into nearby wetlands, or rivers, as soldiers shot indiscriminately into areas where people were hiding and carried out attacks on islands where they had sought refuge.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported a record high number of civilian casualties in 2018, with 10,993 people killed or injured

Just last week, in Libya, Amnesty International documented how a fresh offensive on Tripoli has been marked by indiscriminate attacks and assaults putting the lives of civilians, including vulnerable detained refugees and migrants, at risk.

Nor is the record of the United Nations itself unblemished. In South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and elsewhere, UN peacekeepers have failed, on multiple occasions, to protect civilians facing deadly violence. A particularly reprehensible problem is that of sexual exploitation and abuse, with civilian women and girls being raped and assaulted by the very peacekeepers who are supposed to protect them.

Especially vulnerable people like children, older persons and persons with disabilities have also been targeted in particular ways in conflict – such as militaries and armed groups recruiting child soldiers or brutally assaulting those less able to flee during attacks on civilian populations.

Despite international treaties prohibiting their use, some states and armed groups continue to use inherently indiscriminate weapons like cluster munitions and landmines, which have been banned under international law for their impact on civilians. Others, such as Syria and Sudan have also used chemical weapons, which have no place in warfare.

Last year, the UN Refugee Agency decried the record-breaking figure of 68.5 million people displaced worldwide by armed conflict and other forms of violence.

“Seventy years on from the Geneva Conventions, to have almost 70 million human beings displaced by wars and other violence reflects the catastrophic failure of world leaders to protect them,” said Tirana Hassan.

“World leaders have all but abandoned civilians to the ravages of war. This week’s open debate in the Security Council must yield more than just posturing and empty promises. Concrete action is needed to reverse course, effectively protect civilians, stop war crimes and end impunity.”

To read a joint statement by 22 NGOS, including Amnesty International, calling for action to strengthen the protection of civilians in armed conflict, please see:
https://reliefweb.int/report/world/joint-statement-22-ngos-call-action-strengthen-protection-civilians-armed-conflict