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Europe

By Basit Mahmood

LONDON - Neo-Nazis are telling their followers to deliberately infect Muslims and Jews with COVID-19, as extremists look to exploit the pandemic, according to a government agency tasked with combatting extremism.

The Commission for Countering Extremism says that extremists are using the pandemic to advance dangerous conspiracy theories, to cause division and breed hate.

The report, "COVID-19: How Hateful Extremists are Exploiting the Pandemic", states: "We have heard reports of British Far Right activists and Neo-Nazi groups promoting anti-minority narratives by encouraging users to deliberately infect groups, including Jewish communities and of Islamists propagating anti-democratic and anti-Western narratives, claiming that COVID-19 is divine punishment from Allah on the West for their alleged 'degeneracy'.

"Islamists have also claimed that COVID-19 is punishment on China for their treatment of Uighur Muslims. Other conspiracy theories suggest the virus is part of a Jewish plot or that 5G is to blame."

The report stated that there had also been a rise in anti-vaccine and 5G conspiracy theories during the pandemic.

Sara Khan, the lead commissioner at the Commission for Countering Extremism said: "The impact of extremist propaganda and disinformation to our democracy cannot be overstated.

"These conspiracy theories are harmful, dangerous and are used by extremists to cause division and breed hate.

"We need to be on the front foot to counter the activity of hateful extremists who seek to divide and undermine everything our country stands for; and we must begin work on it now."

It is unclear if any of this advice has been acted on in real life yet.

Florence Keen, a research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, said that the weaponization of the pandemic to target minority groups wasn't unexpected.

She said: "It's not a surprise, I guess the difference is to what extent we've actually seen it happen in practice, so I think there the rhetoric I've observed falls into two categories.

"On the one hand, you have real regurgitation of racist tropes and conspiracy theories that target certain groups, so initially we had the anti-Chinese narrative, because the virus came from there, but very quickly you were seeing the anti-Semitism which applies in the U.K. and U.S. and then anti-Muslim narratives as well.

"Those certainly don't surprise me, I think in a time of great uncertainty conspiracy theories really flourish, so that kind of racist and conspiracy theory side, overlap with each other."

Keen said that it's not clear if all these conspiracy theories are being spread by the same groups.

She said: "It's hard to pin down if this is being advanced by certain groups, a lot of it is anonymous actors and it's hard to say who they belong to."

Keen also said that she believed historical anti-Semitic and Islamophobic tropes were resurfacing and that technology had helped accelerate their spread.

She said: "Old anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, racist tropes that just resurface for a new reason and technology accelerates that. People with access to the internet and YouTube and other alternative platforms will undoubtedly be exposed to things in a way that they weren't.

"But I don't know if the content itself is necessarily different, it might just be that the way it's spread and I think that means we see a more internationalized nature, just like with good movements like Black Lives Matter, technology internationalizes those

"That's what's quite concerning here, it's not just a domestic grievance of disliking a certain ethnic group, it's becoming more globalized."

Counter-terrorism police say they are adapting their methods to keep people safe from the changing nature of terror threats.

A spokesman for Counter Terrorism Policing said: "Terrorists and radicalizers will always look for opportunities to exploit in support of their ideology, and COVID-19 is no exception.

"We know they are adapting their narratives and methods, using the fear created by the pandemic to spread propaganda, misinformation and other content designed to create discord and distrust within communities across the UK.

"But just as terrorists have attempted to adapt to exploit the current situation, counter-terrorism policing has adapted at pace so we can continue to keep people safe from the terrorist threat. We are embracing new ways of working, new technology and maintaining essential services to ensure that we are evolving to meet this change in risk and threat head-on."

 

Science, technology and innovation: How co-ordination at home can help the global fight against COVID-19

PARIS, 3 July - Science, technology and innovation: How co-ordination at home can help the global fight against COVID-19,


Key Messages


- The urgency of tackling COVID-19 has led governments in many countries to launch a number of short-notice and fast-tracked initiatives (e.g. calls for research proposals). Without proper co-ordination amongst ministries and agencies, they run the risk of duplicating efforts or missing opportunities, resulting in slower progress and economic inefficiencies.

- In the government-wide crisis response infrastructure to the pandemic, countries have different modes and levels of engagement amongst research and innovation policy makers. Beyond the provision of scientific advice, ensuring the buy-in and mobilisation of the STI community is key.

- Governments can learn from each other to improve the strategic co-ordination of different policy bodies related to COVID-19 research and innovation. For example, several have already joined up activities across STI policy silos, ranging from whole-of-government plans, to joint calls for research and innovation proposals, to integrated programmes, to joint online portals.

- Collective solutions that provide a ‘one-stop shop’ for the centralisation of information on funding opportunities can help ensure that appropriate conditions for collaborative research and sharing of preliminary research findings and data are in place to reap their full benefits.

- Beyond short-term policy responses to COVID-19, several ongoing mission-oriented research and innovation policies could help tackle future pandemics on a national or international scale.

- Joining forces and sharing information at the national level also eases and supports international co-operation initiatives. National co-ordination of STI policy responses can also benefit from joining forces with international research co-operation platforms and initiatives, such as those supported by the Global Research Council and the European Commission.


National STI policy co-ordination is critical, more so during a global pandemic, OECD


Governments around the world are searching for fast and effective policy responses to the COVID-19 crisis, and for effective ways to co-ordinate the flurry of research and innovation initiatives emerging from various policy areas. In the face of a public health emergency, countries have justifiably prioritised policy support to research and innovation diagnostics, treatments, vaccines and effect mitigation (including social and economic effects). Greater policy co-ordination can make these initiatives more effective.

The virtues of policy co-ordination are well known and widely accepted. Whole-of-government co-ordination mechanisms – within and across levels of government – are essential to resolving discrepancies between sectoral priorities and policies, and promote coherent and mutually supporting actions across sectors and institutions by concentrating resources towards common objectives. Yet policy co-ordination and coherence remains one of the oldest and most prevalent challenges for governments, and it has become even more difficult in the face of multi-dimensional systemic problems such as climate change, aging societies, or indeed a pandemic.


Two factors make policy co-ordination especially challenging during the COVID-19 crisis:


- Uncertainty: Despite a wealth of information and scientific advice, there is still no consensus on how the virus spreads and how it may be treated, and even less is known about potential vaccines. Policy makers must therefore take decisions amid changing – and at times conflicting – evidence.

- Urgency: When faced with an urgent need to act, as is the situation with COVID-19, decision makers across all sectors tend to take actions without sufficient consultation or exchange of information. Many research and innovation actors have reoriented some of their previously funded activities towards COVID-19, but often with little guidance from policy makers.

Yet, greater policy co-ordination within governments can enhance responses to COVID-19 by limiting the duplication of efforts, ensuring a sufficient scale of efforts, enabling a wider and more sustainable exploration of potential solutions, and by providing greater visibility to initiatives that offer funding for COVID-19. Indeed, governments could expect the following benefits from more proactive and intentional


STI policy co-ordination in the context of the current crisis:


- Reduced duplication of effort among COVID-19 initiatives. The urgency of tackling COVID-19 has led governments in many countries to launch a number of short-notice and fast-tracked initiatives (e.g. calls for research proposals). Without proper co-ordination amongst ministries and agencies, they run the risk of duplicating efforts or missing opportunities, resulting in slower progress and economic inefficiencies.

- Wider and more sustainable exploration of potential solutions to COVID-19. In a context of high uncertainty regarding the potential effects of a large number of pathogens and candidate therapeutics, vaccines and diagnostics, scientific and technological efforts can converge too rapidly towards a small set of solutions that demonstrate early encouraging results, to the detriment of alternative options with possible greater potential impact (situation of premature ‘dominant design’).

- Greater clarity and visibility of potential funding opportunities for initiatives addressing COVID-19. The flurry of initiatives launched by different institutions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic hinders the legibility of the funding landscape for research and innovation performing actors. Co-ordination to centralise the information on funding opportunities allows a more efficient allocation of resources among projects, research teams and funders.

- Consistent support across all components of the STI system. The STI system is not only a source of potential solutions to the COVID-19 crisis, it is also deeply impacted by economic disruptions brought on by the virus. Holistic co-ordination allows a more comprehensive understanding of the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis on all the components of STI systems and, therefore, more effective and relevant policy responses.

- Enhanced opportunities for co-operation and exploitation of results. Many of the funded research and innovation initiatives launched rapidly after the outbreak of the pandemic under streamlined procedures will produce results in the next two to six months. A lack of co-ordination at the national and international level on numerous initiatives launched by different institutions to combat COVID-19 could result in notably reduced co-operation and exchanges of data and results between funded projects, limited interoperability, as well as lower data quality and interpretation.

- More efficient allocation of budgetary resources between STI priorities. There is currently a great deal of political and societal pressure to make every effort to combat the virus, which could risk excessive, “top-down” concentration of STI budgets on COVID-19 to the detriment of planned investments in other areas (including other diseases).

As has been shown by numerous OECD Innovation Policy Reviews, there are several ways to achieve co-ordination of STI policies, from the most top-down strategic co-ordination led by a Cabinet office (as is the case in Japan, for example) to co-ordination at the agency level (as in Norway). There is no single best approach to these governance structures, and co-ordinating STI activities to tackle COVID-19 must be adapted to each country’s specific institutional setting. This brief highlights select national efforts that countries have undertaken to better co-ordinate STI policy responses to COVID-19; it does not endeavour to address international efforts.


What countries are doing to co-ordinate STI policy responses to COVID-19


Co-ordinating STI policy with other policy fields


While many countries have rightly allowed health authorities to lead the initial response to COVID-19, various cross-sectoral mechanisms have been established to co-ordinate actions with other ministries. These bodies have different activity portfolios aimed at containing, delaying, and mitigating the virus, depending on the country’s strategy and its current public health situation. Research and innovation communities support the decision-making process in these policy frameworks by providing essential scientific advice.

Following previous pandemics, the World Health Organization requires member states to have a governance structure and plan for addressing pandemics; European Union members are under a similar obligation. A whole-of-government approach, involving multi-sector and multi-partner co-ordination mechanisms, is a key pillar of the guidelines and resources developed to help countries build their national “preparedness and response” plans.

Many countries have also established specific governance structures and initiatives to co-ordinate activities within the STI system itself, particularly to reduce silos between authorities overseeing research, innovation and heath policies. These efforts vary in scope and focus, from collaborative networks and working groups, to joint calls for research or innovation proposals and integrated programmes.


Some initiatives include:

- Ireland’s National Action Plan is taking a cross-government approach to tackling COVID-19 by creating an action framework with a dedicated cross-cutting area on the capacity of the research community to support immediate decision making. Efforts include a dedicated research programme with experienced evidence synthesis centres, support for Irish researchers funded by the European Commission, and a call for funding agencies to collaborate on a rapid-response research call.

- In South Africa, an inter-ministerial research sub-committee has been created under the National Command Council to co-ordinate a national framework for research on COVID-19. It is tasked with mobilising funding across agencies, reprioritising research strategies and creating an enabling ethical and regulatory framework to facilitate research on the COVID-19 virus.

- Brazil created the MCTIC Virus Network that includes representatives of several ministries and funding agencies. It aims to help ministries integrate research and innovation efforts related to COVID-19, define relevant research priorities, and develop technologies to assist Brazil in facing emerging viruses.

- In Canada’s Quebec province, the Fonds de Recherche du Québec (FRQ), the Ministry of Economy and Innovation, and the Ministry of Health and Healthcare formed a working group to co-ordinate their responses to COVID-19. In addition, the FRQ created the Québec COVID Network to bring together institutions engaged in COVID-19 research to prioritise actions and accelerate discoveries, notably through the promotion of interdisciplinary collaborations.


Co-ordinating COVID-19 research initiatives


Joint calls for proposals are commonly used when two or more research agencies or councils pool resources to solicit and select proposals. In many cases the partners use simplified and accelerated procedures. These joint initiatives typically cover shorter research horizons, with results expected in 3 to 12 months, and are used to support later stages of the innovation process – for example, developing and rapidly manufacturing new technologies and services for detection and treatment. Such collaboration allows for a more consistent approach to funding and allocation, avoiding duplication and potential gaps, and allowing for greater scale and scope.

Some examples of countries co-ordinating policy implementation in the COVID-19 crisis include:


- In Austria, the Ministry of Digitalisation and Economy and the Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Mobility, Innovation and Technology jointly launched a call for COVID-19 to support applied research on tests, vaccines and medication against COVID-19.

- In Ireland, the Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, and IDA Ireland have collectively launched the COVID-19 Rapid Response Research and Innovation Funding Programme to support the development of innovative solutions that can have rapid demonstrable impact on the current COVID-19 crisis in the country. This integrated call is open to all public or private organisations, irrespective of their disciplines and type of project. Further to a common selection process, the funders jointly decide what institution would finance which project. Moreover, this call is co-ordinated with another joint calls by the Health Research Board and the Irish Research Council.

- The Israel Innovation Authority, the Ministry of Health and the Headquarters of the Digital Israel Initiative at the Ministry of Social Equality issued joint calls for proposals from Israeli technology companies on developing, testing and implementing systems, products or technological solutions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

- In Italy, the Government launched an Innovation for Italy programme managed by three ministries and the national development agency. Using a common platform to collect “calls to action”, the programme invites companies, universities, and research institutions to contribute to the development and production of devices for the prevention, diagnosis and monitoring of COVID-19. Under this initiative, the government brings together their competencies and procurement power to select and acquire relevant innovative equipment, technologies and tools.

- In the United States, the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) public-private partnership aims to develop a co-ordinated research strategy to prioritise and speed development of the most promising treatments and vaccines. This initiative is led by the National Institutes of Health, together with other relevant US agencies, the European Medicines Agency, philanthropic organisations, and biopharmaceutical companies. Dedicated governance bodies (executive committee, working groups on specific co-ordination issues) co-ordinate the work of the initiative.

In the longer run, more comprehensive approaches will be needed to successfully tackle COVID-19 and prevent future pandemics. Countries have increasingly experimented with so-called “mission-oriented innovation policies” (MOIPs), including in the health area. This policy approach involves implementing a co-ordinated package of research and innovation policy and regulatory measures tailored to address specific objectives in a defined timeframe.

These measures span different stages of the innovation cycle, mix supply-push and demand-pull instruments, and cut across various policy fields.1 This is the case in Japan for instance, where a newly established Moonshot R&D Program aims to solve six “Moonshot goals”, including one dedicated to the development of ultra-early disease prediction and intervention by 2050.

In Australia, the Genomics Health Future’s Mission (GHFM) aims to save or transform the lives of more than 200 000 Australians by 2030 through genomic-based testing, diagnosis and treatment. Endowed with AUD 500 million over ten years, the GHFM co-ordinates the activities of different sectoral, federal and territorial public authorities, as well as other public and private entities in healthcare. Research studies on pathogen genomics have been funded in the past, and more recently on COVID-19.

While most MOIPs are strictly national, they would be most effective on an international scale within the context of COVID-19.


Co-ordinating efforts to communicate about funding opportunities


To complement these initiatives, governments have invested in improving the visibility of different funding opportunities. These initiatives include inventories and maps of relevant STI projects, as well as various online platforms and portals that list all relevant information on COVID-related STI activities. Better collection and dissemination of such information facilitates formal and informal co-ordination, thereby avoiding duplication, while also fostering potential co-operation between researchers.

Some examples of these types of initiatives include:


- The European Commission has launched the European Research Area (ERA) corona platform, a one-stop shop for information on coronavirus research and innovation funding (calls, funded projects, etc.). The platform also includes a dedicated area for national activities.

- In France, the REACTing consortium is a multi-disciplinary collaborative network of French research institutions with the dual mission to increase research preparedness for future epidemics and co-ordinate research during epidemics. It notably monitors and encourages data sharing, promotes good practices and standardisation of data collection, and co-ordinates and brings together the French research actors on COVID-19.

- In Italy, The Ministry of University and Research has launched a mapping activity to collect information about all ongoing COVID-19 research projects in universities and public research institutions in order to reduce fragmentation and prevent unnecessary duplication.

- In Luxemburg, the Fonds national de la recherche (FNR) has partnered with leading research institutions to launch a national COVID-19 platform. The platform allows researchers to submit new project ideas, browse and discuss ongoing projects and proposals, and review the latest COVID-19 literature.

- In Portugal, the Foundation for Science and Technology and the Agency for Clinical Research and Biomedical Innovation partnered with public and private health authorities and scientific research institutions to develop the “Science 4 Covid-19” portal. The portal brings together ideas, publications, funding opportunities and other ongoing actions, as well as information on relevant research capacity.


To download the PDF version, visit: https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/view/?ref=135_135121-f0i79eag9c&title=Science-technology-and-innovation-how-co-ordination-at-home-can-help-the-global-fight-against-COVID-19

 

Germany Should Not be an Honest Broker with the EU’s Autocrats


By Daniel Hegedüs, Central European Fellow and Garvan Walshe, The German Marshall Fund, July 1, 2020

 

Chancellor Angela Merkel has put the rule-of-law question at the center of her plans for Germany’s presidency of the Council of the EU that will last for the second half of this year. As a key engine of European integration, but also bearing responsibility for allowing the situation in the EU reach this stage over several years, it must not shirk its duty to address this challenge vigorously. Germany has an ideal opportunity to tip the balance in the EU away from autocratizing member states—but only if it does not try to be an honest broker between defenders and opponents of democracy and the rule of law.

It has been a decade since Victor Orbán took power in Hungary, and nine years since he overhauled the country’s constitution and attacked its democratic institutions. As a result, Freedom House has downgraded Hungary from a democracy to a “hybrid regime,” the first time this has happened to an EU member state. Poland has suffered even more aggressive attacks on rule of law since 2015 under the de facto rule of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the chairman of the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party.

EU member states, joined in the Council of the European Union, have stood by while Orbán and Kaczynski have stripped Hungarians’ and Poles’ fundamental rights of meaning. Each time a new attack on democratic pluralism was carried out—from turning state television into Soviet-style propaganda mouthpieces to capturing constitutional courts, allowing far-right nationalist mobs to vandalize a Jewish community center or intimidate gay rights activists, and exploiting Europe’s oldest hatred by presenting a Jewish financier as an enemy of the Hungarian and Polish nations—member states found an excuse not to act. Not even credible evidence of theft of millions of euros of European taxpayers’ money has been sufficient to move them.

The argument, heard most strongly from the council, has always been that “now is not the time.” First the financial crisis justified inaction, then the refugee crisis. Coddling Europe’s autocrats has been the mainstream strategy to preserve EU’s unity. Now the coronavirus pandemic is being pressed into service as the latest reason not to act. Instead of addressing autocratization and the embezzlement of EU funds in Hungary and Poland, the EU plans to transfer even more of taxpayers’ money to the two member states subject to Article 7 procedures.

Orbán and Kaczynski have, however, taken the current crisis as a chance to strike. Kaczynski has attempted to keep his ally Andrzej Duda in the presidency during the ongoing election by any means necessary. Orbán used the pandemic as an opportunity to defund opposition parties and municipalities, as well as to make secret for the next ten years the cost of a major Chinese-funded railway project, which his friend, the businessman Lőrinc Mészváros, has won a lucrative contract for.

This abuse and corruption have two major effects. First, it fuels anti-Europeanism in Northern and Western member states. Their citizens quite reasonably ask why they are sending money to a government like Poland’s that refuses to publish the rulings of the country’s own Constitutional Court, or like Hungary’s that expels a world-famous university. Second and more importantly, it puts the integrity of the EU legal order into question.

While part of the informal “friends of rule of law” group of member states, Germany has made little headway against the increasingly authoritarian governments in Budapest and Warsaw. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is among the last protectors of Orbán’s Fidesz party in the European People’s Party (EPP). However, there has been some positive movement. The chancellor’s proposal to make rule of law central to Germany’s presidency has been supported by the Foreign Office, headed the Social Democrat Heiko Maas, which has reintroduced rule-of-law conditionality into the Multiannual Financial Framework Negotiations (MFF).

For years, Orbán and Kaczynski have acted with impunity by taking advantage of the EU’s and Germany’s desire to calm, rather than escalate, conflict. They stake out extreme positions and threaten vetoes to force a “compromise” that gives them most of what they really want. To challenge their strategy, German diplomacy has to leave its comfort zone and not shy away from conflict. It has to learn from the strategy employed by such authoritarian governments if it is to thwart them. Germany needs to stake out ambitious and radical proposals to create the space for a compromise that works in favor of the rule of law, not against it.

There are three concrete steps Germany should take to do this.


Make Next Generation EU funds conditional on restoring the rule of law


Germany’s presidency of the Council of the EU should propose the extension of the MFF’s rule-of-law conditionality to the Next Generation EU funds, which are heavily tilted toward Hungary and Poland despite these countries’ mild coronavirus exposure, and further make the funds conditional on joining the European Public Prosecutors’ Office.

To avoid Warsaw and Budapest acting as spoilers, Berlin should make contingency plans to overcome obstructionism by recasting the Next Generation EU funds as an enhanced cooperation initiative—that is, an exclusive cooperation format—that is limited to fully democratic members.

Even if Germany cannot succeed with these proposals, stepping back from some of them may help to forge ambitious and favorable compromises, and to ensure the preservation of a strong rule-of-law conditionality in the MFF. The conditionality should be built on the reverse qualified majority decision-making scheme originally proposed by the European Commission. In this scheme, a qualified majority of member states would be required for a rejection rather than a confirmation of the commission’s rule-of-law sanction. This would make it much harder to build blocking coalitions among the member states against the commission’s actions.


Tip the scale within the EPP


The CDU must summon the courage to support the fully democratic members of the EPP and its president, Donald Tusk, in expelling Fidesz. Germany should also encourage EPP-affiliated European Commissioners and especially President Ursula von der Leyen to play hardball not only with Poland, but with Hungary as well. Otherwise, the credibility of German efforts to safeguard the rule of law will suffer heavily during its presidency.


Call the Eurosceptic bluff


PiS and Fidesz have played with the idea of Poland and Hungary leaving the EU rather than accept its democratic principles, but these countries are not the United Kingdom, and these two parties are not steeped in the anti-European ideology of the British Conservative Party. In fact, the threat of Huxit and Polexit is empty because it would undermine the economic basis of the Hungarian and Polish economies, and large majorities of Hungarians and Poles want to stay in the EU.

Given that their economies are the most heavily dependent on EU funds, Hungary and Poland need a reasonable MFF agreement probably more than any other member state. If they meet a stubborn, unchallengeable commitment by other member states—led by Germany in its presidency of the Council of the EU—to introduce hard rule-of-law conditionality to the MFF, they would not have any other option but to accept that eventually.

Orbán and Kaczynski only have a few options at the European level if they meet strong resistance. If they bring their conflict with the EU to the breaking point, they will have to back down or risk losing power and subsequently being subjected to wide-ranging investigations for corruption.

German diplomacy has to call the bluff of the Polish and Hungarian governments over the rule of law. It will soon turn out that Europe’s autocrats have the most to lose in such a confrontation.


Garvan Walshe is the executive director of TRD Policy


The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.

To download the PDF version, visit: https://www.gmfus.org/sites/default/files/Germany%20Should%20Not%20be%20an%20Honest%20Broker%20with%20the%20EU’s%20Autocrats.pdf

 

By Thomas Wright, Brookings, July 2020

 

Executive summary


Over the past few years, the European Union and a handful of other European countries have reluctantly moved away from a China policy organized around economic engagement toward a policy of limiting China’s influence in Europe for strategic and security reasons. This is a distinctly and uniquely European style of balancing, which involves marshaling Europe’s internal power and working to build unity across member states. It has almost nothing to do with kinetic military power and is instead focused on technology, diplomacy, economics, and politics.

The driving force behind this shift is China’s behavior — its refusal to end practices of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, its failure to enhance market openness for European companies, its use of coercive economic tools and political influence in Europe, and its illiberalism on the world stage. In some ways, the European shift is occurring despite American pressure, not because of it. If China were a responsible stakeholder, U.S. pressure would very likely lead to Europe hedging against the Trump administration and increasing engagement with Beijing. After all, most Europeans are profoundly worried by President Donald Trump, and China seemed well poised to take advantage of this with adroit diplomacy to weaken the trans-Atlantic bond. That it utterly failed to do so shows how badly Beijing has bungled its Europe policy.

With all of that said, Europe is far from united behind this strategic shift. There are Europe-wide divisions, differences between countries, and within them. German Chancellor Angela Merkel remains the most important figure on the pro-engagement side. But unless China’s behavior becomes more benign, Europe’s evolution toward balancing looks set to continue.

To download the full report, visit: https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/FP_20200708_china_europe_wright_v2.pdf

 

Mediterranean

By HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal, Global Strategy Forum Advisory Board member, who served as Crown Prince of Jordan from 1965-1999 alongside his brother, the late King Hussein of Jordan, No 18, June 2020


This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. No. 18 - JUNE 2020We Arabs Ask No Favours In these difficult times for the Palestinian people and for justice, the Government of Israel is proposing to add further to the turmoil by unilaterally absorbing large swathes of the Palestinian West Bank of the Jordan River. It might therefore be fitting to remind the world of the chronology of the events leading up to the creation of the State of Israel in May 1948.

In 1947, the UN had passed Resolution 181, which clearly divided Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Israeli. Sadly, Israel - almost immediately after coming into being - adopted a policy of intimidation aimed at the civilian population of those areas allocated to Palestine, resulting in the Nakba, the catastrophe which led to the fleeing of the inhabitants of those areas to safe haven in neighbouring countries, and adding further to Palestinian diaspora.

As a consequence of the Israeli aggression, the Palestinian people asked Jordan to intervene to protect and ensure their territory. The Arab Legion, largely commanded by British officers, secured East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Israeli occupation. This led to the Rhodes General Armistice of April 1949. Subsequently, at the Jericho meeting in 1950, Palestinian notables requested the “Constitutional Union” of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the West Bank and the Old City of Jerusalem.

The agreement was that this should prevail until such time as a Palestinian state could come to fruition, without prejudice to the inherent Palestinian right to Self-Determination.

It would be useful to recall that The Partition Plan Resolution of the General Assembly of 1947, upon which Israel relied for its declaration of statehood on the 14th of May 1948, was meaningless unless Israel accepted the UN Charter under which the territory and people of Palestine were already subject to the legal imprint of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, the Mandate for Palestine 1922, and the UN Charter of 1945. The Charter expressly included “the principle of self-determination of peoples”.

Israel’s attitude to the UN Charter is consistently selective, invoking what assists its case, and ignoring what destroys it. In November 1947, my grandfather King Abdullah I wrote in an article in the American Magazine: “We Arabs ask no favours. We ask only that you know the full truth, not half of it. We ask only that when you judge the Palestine question, you put yourself in our place.”

The full article can be found on my late brother King Hussein’s website:http://www.kinghussein.gov.jo/kabd_eng.html.These words were written on the eve of the 53rd anniversary of the 1967 war.

 

GENEVA - Hospitals, schools and homes have all been targeted during Syria’s brutal and long-running conflict, said UN-appointed investigators, who on Tuesday condemned likely fresh war crimes committed by all parties.

In its latest report, the Commission of Inquiry on Syria highlighted the military campaign launched late last year in Idlib Governorate by pro-Government forces, to retake the last remaining areas under armed groups’ control.


‘Spreading terror’


The Commissioners also maintained that UN-designated terrorist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) indiscriminately shelled densely populated civilian areas, “spreading terror” in Government-held areas.

“It is completely abhorrent that, after more than nine years, civilians continue to be indiscriminately attacked, or even targeted, while going about their daily lives”, said Commission Chair Paulo Pinheiro.


Bombarded while fleeing


“Children were shelled at school, parents were shelled at the market, patients were shelled at the hospital…entire families were bombarded even while fleeing”, he continued. “What is clear from the military campaign is that pro-government forces and UN-designated terrorists flagrantly violated the laws of war and the rights of Syrian civilians.”

Alongside the Russian air force, Syrian Government troops “carried out air and ground attacks which decimated civilian infrastructure, depopulated towns and villages”, killing hundreds of women, men and children, said the commissioners, who report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.


International law flouted


Numerous locations protected by international law in the country’s northwest were destroyed in aerial and ground attacks, some involving cluster munitions, according to their report.

It details how from November 2019 to June this year, 52 attacks by all parties included 17 on hospitals and medical facilities; 14 on schools, 12 on homes and nine on markets.

If proven in court, such acts would amount to the war crimes of launching indiscriminate attacks, and deliberate attacks on protected objects, the investigators maintained.


Mass displacement


Beginning in the second half of December and mid-February, “widespread and indiscriminate” bombardment carried out by pro-government forces on Ma’arrat al-Nu’man and Ariha in Idlib governorate, as well as Atarib and Darat Azza in western Aleppo, led to mass displacement, according to the report.

Civilians had no choice but to flee, the Commissioners said, adding that this may amount to the crimes against humanity of forcible transfer, murder and other inhumane acts.


Detained, tortured, executed


When people fled, HTS terrorists pillaged their homes, the investigators continued, and “as battles waged, they detained, tortured, and executed civilians expressing dissenting opinions, including journalists”.

Female media workers were doubly victimized, as the terrorist group continued to discriminate against women and girls, including by denying their freedom of movement.

“Women, men and children that we interviewed faced the ghastly choice of being bombarded or fleeing deeper into HTS-controlled areas where there are rampant abuses of human rights and extremely limited humanitarian assistance”, said Commissioner Karen Koning AbuZayd. “The acts by HTS members amount to war crimes.”

In an appeal for the nearly one million highly vulnerable civilians displaced by the conflict in Idlib governorate who now face added threat of COVID-19, Commissioner Hanny Megally urged all parties to the conflict to cease attacks on civilians and civilian objects.

“Now more than ever, civilians need sustained and unfettered access to humanitarian assistance which must neither be politicised by Member States nor instrumentalised by parties to the conflict. Pandemics know no borders, neither should life-saving aid,” Mr. Megally said, while also urging Member States to pursue accountability for crimes outlined in the report.

The Commission’s report is scheduled to be presented on 14 July to the Human Rights Council during its current 44th session.

 

With Israel’s annexation plans looming, an hour of decision for Jordan’s Hashemites

By Bruce Riedel, Brookings, June 1, 2020

Jordan’s King Abdullah is facing what may well prove to be the most consequential decision of his 22 years on the throne: how to respond to an Israeli annexation of the occupied Jordan Valley. He will face enormous pressure from the Jordanian public to firmly oppose Israeli action, but he has to contend with the Trump administration’s enthusiasm for annexation and its tepid support for him.

Jordanians and Palestinians believe annexation will shut the door permanently on a viable future Palestinian state, effectively the end of the dream of a two-state solution to close decades of conflict. Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” has been firmly rejected by King Abdullah and his nation. The king was largely ignored in its formulation — unfortunately, an all-too-familiar norm for Americans developing peace plans for the conflict.

There is no consensus in the Jordanian establishment about how to respond to annexation. One school advocates abrogating the 1994 peace treaty with Israel completely. One supporter of the idea, a former Royal Jordanian Air Force general, argues that “Jordan has no option except to abrogate the peace treaty (which) will mean the cancellation of security, military and economic agreements as well.”

Some are especially eager to dump a $10 billion natural gas deal with Israel, which has never been popular. If annexation goes forward, there will be a clamoring to abrogate the gas deal. The parliament has already voted to annul the deal; the courts have ruled that it lacks the legal authority to do so. But Jordan benefits from the gas deal more than Israel, which the king knows well. Ditching the gas deal would hurt Jordan and be difficult to replace.

Others support a more symbolic step, like withdrawing the Jordanian ambassador from Tel Aviv or taking other steps to downgrade diplomatic relations, but not cut them completely. This has been done before in other crisis in the relationship, and would be seen as more of the same.

Still another line of thinking has supported a strenuous diplomatic response intended to rally opposition to annexation across the Islamic world, Europe, and elsewhere. In the U.S., Jordan would seek congressional opposition to annexation on both sides of the aisle. Of course, the Trump administration will veto any serious condemnation of annexation in Congress or in the United Nations Security Council. Diplomacy is time-consuming and lacks a dramatic riposte to annexation.

The COVID-19 pandemic complicates Amman’s options. The king took swift action to lock down the country and close its borders. But tourism has dried up, costing the weak economy dearly. Remittances from Jordanian workers in the Gulf states are down too. Jordan cannot risk jeopardizing foreign aid in the midst of the pandemic and the associated economic crisis. Amman received $1.3 billion in aid from the U.S. in 2019.

The king has been clear in public. He told the German publication Der Spiegel last month that “if Israel really annexes the West Bank in July, it would lead to a massive conflict with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.” He pointedly did not say that abrogation of the peace treaty was off the table as an option. Rather, he said that he was studying “all options.”

The king has refused to take phone calls from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or meet with him in recent years. He rebuffed a meeting request last August. Like his father Hussein, Abdullah believes that Bibi is untrustworthy.

One way for Jordan to signal that Israel should not annex the valley would be in security cooperation. For decades, the two countries’ intelligence agencies have been close partners in counterterrorism. This connection has generally been immune to political issues, even surviving the botched assassination attempt Netanyahu ordered in downtown Amman in 1997 of a Hamas leader. Drastically cutting down on the covert connection will have impact. But of course by definition, cutting the clandestine relationship is not public, which leaves Abdullah still in need of a dramatic response.

If the Palestinians carry through on their warning that they will cut security ties with Israel if annexation proceeds, that will place more pressure on Jordan to do the same. The Jordanians do not want to be perceived as collaborators in the occupation of Palestinians.

The peace treaty never really recovered from the assassination attempt in 1997. It turned cold as a result of Bibi’s recklessness. Last year, Jordan did nothing to celebrate the 25th anniversary. It is universally unpopular with Jordanians, as polls have shown for years. Its termination would be hailed in the street.

I have known King Abdullah since 1995, when he was the commander of Jordan’s elite Special Forces and never anticipated becoming king one day. In his 22 years at the helm, he has steered Jordan very carefully. He thought George W. Bush’s Iraq war was a terrible mistake, but he was discreet about his criticisms. He did not let his doubts about the war poison his relationship with Washington like his father’s did in 1990 over the Kuwaiti crisis. He has been astonished by President Trump’s reckless behavior toward the Palestinians, but again he is cautious in his remarks.

He has also learned that resolute action will be rewarded. The king has fought against al-Qaida and ISIS with skill and intelligence. He will act in July, regarding the annexation issue, if pushed into a corner. It will be a tragedy if annexation undoes one of only two peace treaties between Israel and its neighbors. That will indeed be a deal for the century — a remarkably bad one.

 

 

Stop Calling Israel a Jewish Democracy


By Shibley Telhami, Foreign Policy, June 8, 2020


The looming annexation of the West Bank will create a one-state reality, forcing American elites to choose between a commitment to the country’s Jewishness and democratic values.


As Israel contemplates annexing large parts of the West Bank, in harmony with U.S. President Donald Trump’s so-called peace plan, some troubling interpretations of Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, and its relationship to democracy, have come to the fore. These views of Israel’s Jewish identity do not only concern Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, but also the approximately 20 percent of Israeli citizens who identify as Arab or Palestinian. Now there is a U.S. plan proposing not only annexing occupied territories, but also carving out towns in Israel to hand over to the Palestinian Authority, just because their Israeli inhabitants aren’t Jewish.

One of the architects of Trump’s plan, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, has frequently invoked biblical narratives to support claims of Israeli sovereignty over occupied Palestinian lands—essentially allowing an interpretation of Jewish scripture to supersede international law and fundamental Palestinian rights. Even the New York Times has hosted contributors such as Daniel Pipes proclaiming Israeli Arab citizens are the “ultimate enemy of Israel’s status as a Jewish state.”

The brand of Jewishness on display here is not the one that most Americans mean when they say they support Israel as a Jewish state—and not one they would embrace, polls show. These developments are deeply troubling but not altogether disconnected; they have been partly enabled by the discourse about Israel’s Jewishness and democracy among U.S. political elites that unwittingly posits non-Jewish Israelis as a demographic problem.

Long before Trump became president, many U.S. liberals and conservatives alike have taken for granted that Israel is a Jewish state whose Jewishness must be protected. For most, the definition is qualified by insisting on Israel being both Jewish and democratic—something that the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel asserts.

This notion of a Jewish democracy has served to comfort liberal advocates of a Jewish state, who are not normally inclined to champion states defined by ethnic or religious nationalism; the word democracy makes it all seem fine.

To be sure—Palestinians under occupation aside—Israeli citizens who identify as Arab or Palestinian have come a long way since the first 18 years of Israel’s existence, when they were under military administration; they now have rights as citizens under the law, vote and get elected, and have been more integrated into parts of the Israeli economy. But their status has lagged far behind Jewish Israelis.

Beyond structural inequality and discriminatory treatment by successive governments, the issue at the core is one of their perceived illegitimacy, echoed by statements by the prime minister presenting them as a threat, and by the fact that, even when Arab parties seem eager to join government, the Jewish mainstream finds it hard to accept them.

If being both Jewish and democratic were possible at all, Israel could presumably be defined as a national home “of the Jewish people and of all its citizens” equally. But the fact is there has always, since 1948, been a concession to Jewishness over democracy—by allowing Jews around the world to become Israeli citizens while denying others the same right, including Palestinians whose families left or were expelled from what is now Israel before it became an independent state. Beyond this, Israel could presumably still be blind to religion and ethnicity.

But Israel has never been blind to the religion or ethnicity of its citizens—and since the passage of the 2018 “nation-state” law, it has even more boldly emphasized its Jewishness and downgraded everyone who’s not Jewish. 

This law defines Israel as “the nation state of the Jewish People” and holds that “the exercise of the right to national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish People”; it makes no mention of democracy or equality for others.

The law is anchored in pervasive Israeli Jewish public attitudes in favor of Jewishness over democracy. A major 2014-2015 Pew study of 5,601 Israelis showed that 79 percent of Jewish Israelis say Jews deserve preferential treatment in Israel.

By contrast, polling suggest that Americans strongly choose democracy over Jewishness in Israel. For years, polls have shown that, in the absence of a two-state solution, about two-thirds of Americans, and more than three-quarters of Democrats, would choose a democratic Israel with full equality for its citizens—even if it means Israel may no longer be a Jewish-majority state—over a Jewish state without full equality for all its citizens.

In a way, this American ethos sums up the dilemma for political elites: They have made an axiomatic commitment to Israel’s Jewishness that few are prepared to challenge, while at the same time they believe themselves to be democracy advocates.

 

 

 

North Africa

Libya’s proxy sponsors face a dilemma

By Ranj Alaaldin and Emadeddin Badi, Brookings, June 15, 2020


Events in Libya have taken a remarkable turn after the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, the Government of National Accord (GNA), took back full control of the capital last Monday. The move forced Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA) to abandon their year-long attempt to take the city and withdraw their forces from other towns and cities in the west of the country. Haftar’s own political survival has also come into serious doubt; there is increased discontent (including defections) within his fractious camp in the south and east, where Haftar’s forces still control swathes of territory.

Haftar’s military failures have disappointed his external backers: the United Arab Emirates, France, Russia, and Egypt. They enabled his military campaign to take control of Tripoli, providing him with significant military and political support, with the acquiescence of the United States. Half a year into the offensive, Russia intervened to help a struggling Haftar, sending in several hundreds of Wagner mercenaries to reinforce his push into Tripoli and increasing its military footprint in Libya. Yet, the conspicuous withdrawal of Russian mercenaries (including Wagner and Syrian, pro-Assad regime militias) from western Libya, which occurred after an alleged backdoor deal between Moscow and Ankara, has led to a route of Haftar’s forces from western Libya entirely.

Haftar’s backers are now re-assessing their position. This provides a timely opportunity for the U.S., which has so far been a bystander to the conflict, to deter Turkey and Russia from openly flouting the U.N. arms embargo on Libya and prevent Russia from moving closer toward establishing a permanent footprint in the east, Haftar’s stronghold. Washington can also ensure that Turkey’s military gains are leveraged to push through a viable and sustainable resolution to the conflict that does not result in continued strife.


The role of external actors


External actors are key to the Libyan conflict. The GNA’s victory in Tripoli has been undergirded by the support of Turkish air defense systems, fleets of drones, and mercenaries that Turkey withdrew from the Syria conflict. Turkey has provided military support since December 2019, when the GNA — the U.N.-recognized government in Tripoli — signed a controversial maritime agreement with Ankara. The latter saw in the GNA’s vulnerability a prime opportunity to advance its eastern Mediterranean interests. Although Haftar’s backers have called for a ceasefire, Turkey sees little reason to heed the calls. Haftar faces an increase in defections and diminished trust in his capabilities, and he may not politically survive the fallout from his military setbacks.

Ankara can potentially decisively shape the contours of the next phase of the conflict. Turkey and the GNA could continue their offensive, even intensify it further to capitalize on recent momentum. This would encourage further defections in Haftar’s camp, resulting in a potential implosion within his coalition. It would also ensure that, once a ceasefire does eventually materialize, the landscape will not have shifted in any fundamental political or military sense in favor of Haftar and his backers. For the GNA, the terms of a ceasefire would need to ensure that Haftar’s control of the east is not consolidated, forcing him to fade into irrelevance.

 

Egypt and Libya’s tumultuous relationship since 1969: friends and foes for life

By Mourad Kamel, The Africa Report, 1 July 2020

Egypt presented a new peace initiative for Libya in June in support of Marshall Khalifa Haftar. Cairo has been taking a more influential role in the conflict between the internationally recognised government, the GNA, and Haftar’s LNA. But why is Egypt further involving itself in the affairs of Libya? The answer comes from the historical relationship between these two neighbours.

After his attempted coup d’état in Tripoli in February 2014, Khalifa Haftar – a former protégé of the American CIA who fell into disgrace – earned the contempt of many Libyans. In Egypt, on the other hand, the leaders immediately took him seriously and even respected the commander who promised to attack “terrorist” groups.

At the time, Cairo considered – and still does – that eastern Libya, which stretches from Sirte to the Egyptian border, had become a dangerous hideout for Islamist militias. Haftar – the Eradicator – had to be given the green light.

But this perceived security threat is not enough to explain Egypt’s growing role in the Libyan civil war since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

To really understand what’s involved behind it, one needs to study the composition of the Egyptian-Libyan relationship: admiration, disappointment, then anger and reconciliation.


Admiration: Gamal Abdel Nasser, the fallen idol


Gaddafi was just a student in the Fezzan region of southwest Libya when his hero Gamal Abdel Nasser, then president of the Arab Republic of Egypt, emerged victorious in the battle of the Suez Canal against Israel, France and the United Kingdom in 1956. “He came from a modest family, but he listened to Nasser’s speeches on pan-Arabism and nationalism with great admiration. He was a great admirer of the Egyptian head of state,” says Jalel Harchaoui, a political scientist and researcher at the Clingendael Institute in The Hague.

At the same time, US President Eisenhower’s plan to forge friendships with Arab nationalists in the post-colonial era failed. “Even though he was helped by the United States, Nasser decided to side with the USSR,” says Harchaoui. Thousands of Soviet soldiers settled in Egypt. But the defeat to Israel in 1967 changed everything for the Egyptian leader. “His ideology died in that lost battle, and Egypt lost the Sinai and had to withdraw from Yemen,” he adds.

Nasser was already weakened when, in 1969, Muammar Gaddafi and Abdel Fattah Younes overthrew Idris I, then king of Libya. At their side was a young officer from Ajdabiya, in the east of the country: Khalifa Haftar.

Just after the revolution of 1 September 1969, three days later, Gaddafi went to Cairo with the hopes to meet his teacher,” says Harchaoui. But Nasser was already politically dead, and had not been aware of a potential revolution in Libya.

At the age of 27, Gaddafi then proclaimed himself as leader of Libya. “Nasser was horrified. He was afraid because what he saw was a crazy figure. Certainly charismatic, but moody,” says the political scientist. The Egyptian president was not very supportive of the new Libyan leader. “He [Nasser] helped the Algerians in the 1950s when he was at the peak of his career, but by 1969 he was weak and his ideology was dead,” he explains.

 

Disappointment: Anwar Sadat, from peace to rupture

 

After Nasser’s death in September 1970, his vice-president Anwar Sadat took power. While Egypt officially had no ties with Israel, Sadat sent secret messages to the Hebrew state in February 1971. He asked them to return Sinai to Egypt, and in return would sign a non-aggression pact,” explains Harchaoui. Sadat wanted to show that he was different from Nasser, and that Israel needed this pact because Egypt was the largest, most populous and most influential Arab country. Israel never responded.

The following year, the new president expelled nearly 20,000 Soviets from Egypt, in what was a nod to Washington. “It was a bit like the song ‘Will you sleep with me?’” laughs Harchaoui laughs.

According to the New York Times, it was “the most severe diplomatic setback the Soviet Union had suffered since it began buying friends and influencing non-communist developing nations. Egypt received no response from the United States either on the recovery of Sinai or on the proposed non-aggression pact with Israel.

On 6 October 1973, the battle of Yom Kippur also known as the October war, broke out. “October 1973 was a gradual rise in power orchestrated by Sadat, who asked other Arab countries – Algeria, Syria and Libya – to help him. Which ones accepted? “Gaddafi liked to hear Sadat talk about going to war against Israel. He saw in him a Nasser 2.0, which was naive,” adds Harchaoui.

In reality, Sadat was trying to distinguish himself from his predecessor at all costs. Nasser was close to the USSR? So Sadat expelled the Soviets and tries to get closer to Washington. Nasser lost in 1967? Sadat tries to appear victorious from the October war. Nasser imprisoned the Muslim Brotherhood? Sadat grants them freedom, seeing “Nasserism” as his real opponent.

“When Gaddafi sends an expedition to help Egypt, he quickly notices that Cairo is not really trying to win the war, and that Sadat was using this military spectacle to relaunch his discussions with Israel”, says Harchaoui. Green with rage, the Guide called his troops home in January 1973. When Sadat strikes the Israelis by surprise on October 6, 1973, in the middle of Ramadan, “Gaddafi panics. A second expedition is sent to the front. Khalifa Haftar is part of it.”

However, Gaddafi’s first assessment of Sadat is correct: the primary objective of the Egyptian president was to frighten Israel to better negotiate the peace treaty he had in mind. Both Libya and Algeria felt betrayed. That bitter taste remains in their mouths to this day.

The relationship between the Guide and Sadat is clearly deteriorating. The latter, in an interview with the Associated Press, accuses Gaddafi of wanting to isolate Egypt from the Arab world, and speaks of a “great conspiracy” of which Gaddafi is said to be “the agent”.

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A four-day war breaks out between the two neighbours in 1977. Thanks to the diplomatic efforts of Algerian President Houari Boumédiène and the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, a ceasefire is declared.

Sadat eventually makes peace with Israel, but pays a high price for it with his life. On 6 October 1981 he was assassinated by the most radical cells of the Muslim Brotherhood. “You can’t be friends with Jamiat al-Ikhwan on the one hand and work with Israel on the other,” concludes Harchaoui.

The torch is passed on to then Vice-President, Hosni Mubarak.


Anger and reconciliation: Hosni Mubarak, the course is set for peace


Mubarak came to power with the halo of his military glory: he was commander of the armed forces during the 1973 victory over Israel. At first, the man is not a big fan of the Libyan Guide. He makes international headlines after tricking Gaddafi to admit in taking part in an assassination attempt on the former Prime Minister of Libya, Hamid el-Baccouche who was exiled in Egypt. Mubarak also accused Gaddafi of “financing international terrorism.”

In May 1984, a serious incident took place in Tripoli. The National Front for the Salvation of Libya, a political opposition group to the regime, attacked the Bab al-Azizia complex, the private residence of Muammar Gaddafi. The event shook him given he was forced to realise that he could attacked by force in his home,” says Harchaoui. So Gaddafi decides to take a step towards Mubarak and to cultivate friendship with his neighbour.

It takes time to get closer. It wasn’t until the end of th 1980s that the efforts bore fruit. The Guide helped Egypt to rejoin the Arab League following its exclusion in 1979 after its peace deal with Israel. Gaddafi then continues to grease the wheels through bribing everyone seen as official, including the mukhabarat (secret service).

Gaddafi also announces the construction of a pipeline from Tobruk to Egypt – a project that never materialized. Finaly in October 1989, Gaddafi makes his first visit to Egypt in 16 years.

At the same time, Mubarak had succeeded in re-establishing relations with Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Palestine. In 1990, the Foreign Ministers of the Arab League agreed to return the headquarters of the institution to Cairo. “Mubarak greatly appreciated coming back to the Arab League, it gave him the opportunity to work again to build an Arab world. It is thanks to Gaddafi that this was possible,” says Harchaoui.

But Mubarak remains grateful when his Libyan neighbour finds himself in trouble through low oil prices, the effect of US sanctions, the war in Chad and growing internal resistance. Gaddafi was already facing several challenges when, in 1990, Khalifa Haftar and some of his 700 men were kidnapped after disastrous losses in the south. The Guide disavows his commander of the expeditionary force.

Haftar defected when he promised Chadian President Hissane Habré that he was now a determined opponent of Muammar Gaddafi. Supported by the US, he sets up a task force at the Libyan border. The overthrow of Habré by Idriss Déby Itno in 1990 thwarted his plans.

Gaddafi demanded that the soldier be handed over to him. “The CIA ex-filtrates Haftar in the State of Virginia, and he is made an American citizen just like 300 other men of the Libyan national army,” adds Harchaoui.

A year later, in 1992, Mubarak offers to mediate. He sends an Egyptian delegation to Washington with a message of reconciliation for Haftar. The meeting took place under American supervision. “The role of Mubarak’s Egypt was therefore very important in rehabilitating Muammar Gaddafi on the international scene.”

Starting in the 1990s, reconciliation between the two neighbours was sealed. A common destiny was forged even as both underwent seismic changes through the fall of Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

 

 

 

Is Cairo Going to War?

BY YEZID SAYIGH, Carnegie Middle East Center, 22 June 2020


The Egyptian military may intervene in neighboring Libya, but it likely wants to avoid a major confrontation.


Carnegie senior fellow Yezid Sayigh has written extensively on the Egyptian military, particularly in the context of the Program on Civil-Military Relations in Arab States, which he leads. In a recent Carnegie report, he provided a detailed anatomy of Egypt’s military economy. In light of this, Sayigh was asked by a journalist to comment on the warning by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on June 20 that Egyptian forces would intervene in Libya if Turkish-backed forces of the Government of National Accord crossed the Sirte-Jufra frontline. His answers are reproduced below.

Question: How likely is Egypt to intervene militarily in Libya or enter into direct confrontation with Turkish forces there?

Yezid Sayigh: The possibility that Egypt will intervene directly is increasing, although I think the Sisi administration strongly prefers not to, and will only do so as a last resort. If it does intervene, this does not have to be a full intervention in order to be effective in dissuading forces loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord and its Turkish backers from advancing to or past the Sirte-Jufra line. Nor does the Egyptian military need to advance to that line itself or confront Turkish-backed forces directly.

I expect that Egypt’s first step would be to cross the border in force, in other words through a sizeable deployment, and then pause. In that way it would signal its seriousness and persuade the other side to stop its advance. But if worse comes to worst, Egypt has the ability to move a significant number of forces into Libya since it is right next door to the country. In this regard, its capacities are greater than Turkey’s. But even then Egyptian forces are likely to remain in the eastern border region of Libya.

Question: Do you think Egypt might seek goals in Libya that go beyond concerns about security on their shared border?

YS: No. Egypt’s primary interest in Libya is to protect its own security on that border. It distrusts the Government of National Accord and sees Turkey’s involvement as a serious threat. However, its support for the Libyan National Army led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar only really derives from the hope that he can deliver a secure and stable common border. Egypt has economic interests in Libya, which provides a market for Egyptian labor and contractors. However, these are not major and Cairo would not risk a potentially costly military deployment over them.

Question: Would Egypt come out as a political winner or loser from an intervention?

YS: The state would probably gain domestically, since it controls public media and can manipulate how its actions and their outcomes are seen. Moreover, Egyptians have a heightened threat perception of Libya and would view the government’s behavior as legitimate. There will probably also be a certain amount of international sympathy and even open support for Egypt from Russia and some European countries. The United States and main European countries would probably express their understanding for such a move, but not voice unconditional support. That is because they will worry about the potential for further military escalation in Libya, conflict in the Mediterranean, and enhanced Russian influence. So we are likely to see diplomatic efforts to make sure that the Egyptian intervention is defensive, limited, and gradual.

Question: Could Egyptian military intervention tip the scales back in favor of Haftar’s forces after their major recent setbacks?

YS: Egypt already supports Haftar’s forces. Direct intervention would help them considerably by securing their rear, freeing up troops to redeploy to central Libya, and strengthening morale. It would also dampen rising discontent with Haftar in the east as well as within the Libyan National Army, unless the Egyptians also decide to nurture a successor to him. In all cases it is very likely that Egypt will seek to rein Haftar in and prevent him from making a second attempt to seize western Libya and Tripoli, a move it opposed last year. I believe that Egypt will make it clear to Haftar that any future support, including intervention, is aimed at preventing his collapse but no more, and that he must accept a new political process to resolve the conflict. Egyptian intervention will not represent a blank check for Haftar.

Question: Could declared United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabian backing for an Egyptian military intervention help win the war against Turkish-backed forces in Libya?

YS: There will not be a total war involving Egyptian forces in Libya. The UAE could resume and expand both arms supplies and the combat role of their air force in support of the Libyan National Army, in coordination with the Egyptian military. But I don’t expect the UAE to tip the balance any more than they already have in the past. I suspect that Saudi support will mostly be declaratory.

Most important, however, is that Egypt will not engage in a major war in Libya just to fulfill the strategic agenda of the UAE or Saudi Arabia. We saw that with the Sisi administration’s refusal to join the joint Emirati-Saudi war effort in Yemen, despite the strength of their political relationship and the massive financial and economic investment the two Gulf monarchies had made in Egypt. The outcome of Egyptian intervention will be strategic stalemate, which hopefully could lead to a more serious diplomatic effort by the international community to produce a lasting political settlement of the Libyan conflict.

 

 

Wagner Group in Libya: Weapon of War or Geopolitical Tool?

By Sergey Sukhankin, Terrorism Monitor Volume: 11 Issue: 13, JamesTown Foundation, June 26, 2020


Introduction

 

On June 9, Russian Special Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and Africa Mikhail Bogdanov dismissed the presence of Russian mercenaries in Libya and their military support of the Libyan National Army (LNA). The diplomat stated that, “Information spread by some foreign sources, including the U.S. State Department, that the Wagner Group’s members are present in Libya and participate in combat actions on the side of the Libyan National Army of Khalifa Haftar, largely relies on fabricated data and is aimed at discrediting Russia’s policy on Libya” (Tass, June 9).

This statement sharply contrasts with a myriad of reputable sources, including, among others, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), which claimed that no less than 2,000 Russian mercenaries are fighting on the side of the LNA (Libyan Express, June 16). While the presence of the Wagner Group in Libya is undeniable, one important transformation has to be noted. Between 2018-2020, the group`s mission seems to have shifted from a “weapon of war” to a “tool of geopolitics”.

 

Wagner on the Retreat

 

Supported by Turkey, the counter-offensive launched by the Government of the National Accord (GNA) resulted in a series of military defeats for the LNA forces, causing the Wagner Group to retreat from the frontline eastward (Middle East Eye, June 6). However, this retreat had started much earlier and by no means is a signal of Russia’s ultimate withdrawal from Libya. On January 12, the Commander of the Special Military Operations Room, Support Force – Tripoli (SFT), Nasser Ammar, claimed that Russian mercenaries started to withdraw toward al-Jufra airbase.

At the time, he noted, more than 500 Russian mercenaries (and over 1,000 Janjaweed militants) were located in/near the Salah Al-Deen, Yarmouk, Khallatat, and Abu Salim frontlines (Libya Observer, January 12). By the end of May, the exodus of Wagner fighters was obvious with reportedly, “1,500 to 1,600 mercenaries” fleeing from the front lines to Bani Walid and further eastward (Al Jazeera, May 25; Daily Sabah, May 27).

The roots of this withdrawal stem from three issues. First, Wagner and the LNA are militarily inferior due to the emergence of Turkish advanced weaponry—primarily unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) (T-intell.com, May 22). Second, Russians face rising issues with Haftar, who has reportedly accused Russians of sending, “not so experienced [fighters] from Syria, Belarus and Serbia” and failing to fulfill his contractual obligations of paying approximately $150 million to the Wagner Group (Libya Observer, May 14). Third, Russia is using mercenary forces as leverage to make Haftar—who has unnerved Moscow on several occasions—more docile (YouTube, June 16).


The New Face of the Wagner Group?


Despite the retreat from the frontline, no information on the Wagner Group pulling out of the country, or wider Russian withdrawal, has emerged. On the contrary, Russia has increased its involvement in Libya in two primary ways.

First, Russia has increased its recruitment mechanisms with Russian non-state actors—including representatives of Wagner—becoming closely involved in recruiting Syrian fighters that are transported to Libya to fight on the side of the LNA (Libya Observer, January 6).

According to Turkish sources, Russia has been involved in recruiting militants from Quneitra governorate, Syria. One such group accounts for 300-400 fighters who were reportedly brought to Libya between April and early May (Inosmi.ru, April 15). Other sources suggest that the “trilateral cooperation” (Russia-Syria-LNA) on recruiting and transporting mercenaries to Libya is accomplished via the Eastern Libyan Embassy in Damascus that re-opened in March 2020 (Sana.sy, March 3). Syrian sources have argued that the main “recruiting centers” are operating in Homs, Damascus, Khama, Daraa, and As-Suwayda. In total, no less than 1,500 militants have been recruited through these centers with the help of the Wagner Group and its representatives. Many of them are “Well trained servicemen and professionals from special forces”—although this information is questioned by other sources (Inosmi.ru, April 28).

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that “More than 900 Syrians were recruited by Russia to fight in Libya in May [alone], with fighters being trained in Homs before going to Libya” (Al Araby, June 7). Interestingly, some sources have gone even further, arguing that the recruitment process in Syria is headed not merely by non-state actors, but Russian officials. Specifically mentioned is Colonel Alexander “the Godfather” Zorin, who in 2016 served as the Russian defense ministry’s envoy to the Geneva-based task force on cessation of hostilities in Syria.

Zorin acquired fame in Syria by taking part in some “peace-building” missions in Ghouta, Daraa, and Quneitra (Ria.ru, June 14, 2017). An unnamed Russian source has claimed that Zorin arrived in southern Syria in April on a recruiting mission, where he held talks with a number of militant factions, some of whom declared a willingness to fight in Libya (Foreign Policy, May 5).

Second, Russia is expanding its covert military-technical cooperation with the LNA by sending (via Syria) at least 14 MiG-29s and several Su-24s, whose images were captured by USAFRICOM (Africom.mil, June 18). This transfer has been challenged by Russian sources that dispute the number of fighter jets in May (Nvo.ng.ru, June 5). For now, however, there is no record proving these fighter jets have performed any military missions.


Conclusion


By expanding its control to the realm of recruitment and intensifying military-technical cooperation, Russia has profoundly increased its role in the LNA`s combat capability. This, along with manipulations by Wagner mercenaries (arguably, the most capable part of the LNA forces), allows Moscow to exert pressure on the LNA leadership by becoming the de facto power behind the LNA forces. As argued by Kirill Semenov, “[I]n case of necessity, military contractors will likely be ordered to withdraw from the front to make him [Haftar] more cooperative” (Al-Monitor, May13). Indeed, it is legitimate to say that the Wagner Group has become a tool, allowing “Moscow to have a say in the Libyan conflict” (Libya Observer, January 6).

 

 

 

Research Papers & Reports

What Role for the Multinational Joint Task Force in Fighting Boko Haram?

Crisis Group, Report No 291/Africa, 7 July 2020

 

With the Multinational Joint Task Force, the Lake Chad basin states are combining efforts to defeat jihadist elements that endanger them all. It has won some victories but militants have recovered. To keep progressing, and secure more funds, the four armies should deepen their cooperation.

 

What’s new? Lake Chad basin countries – Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria – have made welcome efforts to coordinate against Boko Haram militants through a Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF). But their inconsistent commitment to the force, funding problems and disjointed planning have hindered its effectiveness. Jihadists often regroup when troops withdraw.

Why does it matter? A good strategy for tackling the various Boko Haram factions around Lake Chad depends not only on military operations but also on the four countries’ ability to improve conditions for and gain trust among local populations. That said, a more effective joint force can contribute to such an approach.

What should be done? Lake Chad states resist fully integrating their forces into the MNJTF, but they can still boost its capacity by better sharing plans and intelligence, committing troops for longer operations and improving troops’ human rights compliance. They should work with the African Union and European Union to resolve funding issues.


Executive Summary


The Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) is an effort by the Lake Chad basin states – Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria – to pool resources against jihadists that threaten all four countries. The joint force has carried out periodic operations, often involving troops from one country fighting in the country next door. Offensives have won victories and helped instil an esprit de corps among participating troops.

But nimble militant factions have regrouped fast, and the MNJTF’s effectiveness has suffered from confusion over priorities, the four states’ reluctance to cede command to the force itself, and funding and procurement delays. A successful response to militancy in Lake Chad will depend not only on the joint force but also on whether states can improve conditions for and inspire more trust among residents of affected areas. But an improved MNJTF could help such a strategy. Lake Chad states should boost its planning and communications capacity, intelligence sharing, human rights compliance and civil-military coordination. They should then reach consensus with donors on financing.

The Lake Chad countries, plus Benin, created the MNJTF in its current form in late 2014 and early 2015. Together they committed just over 8,000 troops to the joint force. The African Union authorised the force on 3 March 2015 and envisaged that a sub-regional body, the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), would assume civilian oversight. The MNJTF established a critically important multilateral framework to combat Boko Haram insurgents, more and more of whom were launching attacks across borders.

The joint force has brought some dividends. Working together has enabled forces from different countries to learn from each other, promoted the idea of cross-border cooperation and improved tactical coordination. Joint operations, mainly involving Chadian troops deploying into the other countries, helped stem Boko Haram’s spread in 2015 and 2016 and squeezed the group, resulting in its split into at least three factions. Short MNJTF offensives in 2017 and 2018, along with a more sustained operation in 2019, also reversed militant gains, freed civilians captured by them or trapped in areas Boko Haram controlled and facilitated the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Yet advances against Boko Haram and its offshoots have mostly been short-lived. Jihadist factions have consistently weathered offensives. Their resilience owes partly to their ability to escape to other areas and partly to the inability of the states themselves, particularly Nigeria, to follow military operations with efforts to rebuild and improve conditions for residents of recaptured areas. That earlier operations were not sustained likely did not help, though jihadists have bounced back from even the longer campaign in 2019 – a March 2020 militant assault on a base on Lake Chad was one of the conflict’s bloodiest yet, killing some 90 Chadian troops. A subsequent Chadian operation to secure the lake was conducted mainly outside the MNJTF’s auspices and militants appear likely to regroup again.

The MNJTF also suffers structural limitations. Its chain of command is weak, even by the standards of multilateral forces, because it comprises units of national forces fighting mainly in their own countries. Many MNJTF troops rotate in and out of the force as national commanders see fit. The under-resourced civilian oversight body, the LCBC, has struggled to exert authority over the force or curb abuses by soldiers who remain accountable to national hierarchies. The AU authorises the force but also has little oversight over it, though the body has tried to forge common practice on treatment of captured militants and their associates. Funding and procurement delays – the EU funds the force through the AU, but European money was long held up in Addis Ababa – have delayed critical gear and fed recrimination among the actors involved. True, the MNJTF’s shortfalls only partly explain why militancy persists around Lake Chad. Efforts against jihadists depend mostly on policies of the states themselves, of which joint operations are only one component. Still, the force’s flaws limit its effectiveness.

Some shortcomings reflect national sensitivities. Abuja tends to see the MNJTF as a face-saving way to portray operations by other countries’ forces, mainly Chad, on Nigerian soil as international cooperation. But it still aims to preserve primacy in counter-insurgency efforts and regards fuller integration among the forces warily. Cameroon, Chad and Niger see the MNJTF as light-touch coordination for their offensives, and some of their officials also oppose deeper integration.

Indeed, national military hierarchies’ resistance to greater cooperation is a reality that any efforts to reform the force will have to factor in. Chad’s December 2019 withdrawal of over 1,000 troops fighting with the MNJTF in Nigeria, without fully informing other capitals, dealt the force a further blow. President Idriss Déby voices increasing frustration that Chadian troops do the bulk of the fighting with what he portrays as scant support from neighbours. All four countries’ forces are stretched thin, dealing with multiple security challenges in addition to militancy around Lake Chad.

To make the joint force a more effective part of efforts to tackle the region’s jihadist insurgencies, Lake Chad countries should:

Build up its planning, coordination and intelligence sharing. Governments and military leaders should lean toward sharing more information with the joint force and give senior officials greater leeway to determine what can be shared and what should be withheld for security reasons. They should commit troops for more sustained periods and clarify when national forces are acting under MNJTF command.

In conjunction with the AU, step up human rights training and monitoring of abuses in order to improve MNJTF units’ compliance with international humanitarian law and emerging AU standards on conduct and discipline. The MNJTF should pay particular attention to the treatment of captured or surrendered Boko Haram fighters, ensuring that units hand them over rapidly to civilian authorities. Doing so will help Lake Chad states improve ties with locals who may otherwise see troops mistreating their youth.

Enable the MNJTF to better support the AU’s 2018 Regional Stabilisation Strategy, which aims to improve services and create new livelihoods in conflict-affected areas. This would entail boosting the joint force’s and the LCBC’s capacity to cooperate with civilian actors responsible for the strategy. To ensure improved oversight, especially on human rights, Lake Chad states should gradually shift the force’s AU-funded civilian components, which now report to the military commander, into the LCBC.
The AU and donors, principally the EU, should support the above steps. They should push for making such improvements without creating a weighty bureaucracy. Also urgent is that donors, the AU and Lake Chad states reach a lasting consensus over financial support.

The regional jihadist threat shows no sign of abating and the situation in Nigeria’s north east is, if anything, deteriorating. An effective response will entail not only military action, but also civilian efforts to deliver public services, improve conditions for residents in hard-hit areas, regain – or simply establish for the first time – popular trust in public authority, offer militants paths to demobilise safely and even potentially engage some in talks. Yet military operations are critical to creating space for all these activities and a reinforced MNJTF, standing as a symbol of regional cooperation, can support such an approach.

Nairobi/Brussels, 7 July 2020

For the full report, visit: https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/west-africa/291-what-role-multinational-joint-task-force-fighting-boko-haram

 

Climate change, disease and the legitimacy of armed non-state actors

STOCKHOLM INTERNATIONAL PEACE RESEARCH INSTITUTE (SIPRI) 1 July 2020

STOCKHOLM - To many, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic came as a surprise. It has placed enormous strain on governments to contain the spread of the disease and address the fallout from the measures that have been implemented. In some cases, governments have chosen to overlook the seriousness of events and, in others, the state has simply been unable to cope with the consequences. As a result, armed non-state actors have stepped in to the fill the void, providing people with the goods and services they need to survive. Such actions could potentially increase the legitimacy of those armed groups, while undermining the legitimacy of the state.

As climate change will alter how societies and governments interact with nature, the frequency of severe global health events may increase. The question that arises against this backdrop is whether the added strain on states to tackle public health and the risks to human security will create an opportunity for armed non-state actors to gain additional legitimacy.


Legitimacy and the role of non-state actors in service provision


One of the central roles of government is to provide public and social services for its citizens, such as healthcare, education and drinking water. But in contexts where state presence is weak or absent, non-state actors, such as non-governmental, faith-based and community-based organizations, have stepped in to deliver those services.
The provision of public services by non-state groups is not a new phenomenon.

It is and has been prominent in countries of the Global South—increasing since the 1980s—where governments face challenges in delivering public services. Such service provision approaches also extend to armed actors who, provided that they have the resources, also step in to fill the void. Examples range from the Taliban in Afghanistan, to the Mafia in Italy, to drug cartels in Latin America.

The benefits that armed groups reap from providing services are numerous, including winning people’s loyalty and extracting resources from the served population, such as recruits, funds and supplies. Importantly, the services that armed non-state groups deliver also allow them to build and generate legitimacy for themselves, and undermine the legitimacy of the state.

COVID-19 has crippled many economies, both formal and informal, and has left people struggling in its wake. It has most directly shattered economic, health and food security, as no one is safe from infection, and the drastic response required to contain the rate of spread so that health systems can cope has disrupted individuals’ income sources.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, for example, reported that 95 per cent of respondents in a small survey in Nigeria indicated that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their livelihoods, salaries or revenue. In Iraq and Libya, the reported percentages were 83 per cent and 52 per cent, respectively. Not only has income decreased, but individuals also indicate that they do not have savings to help them weather the storm.

States’ actions to contain the spread of the virus, and to manage the fallout of those measures, have also varied. As a result, a wide range of non-state actors have stepped in to provide assistance.

The mayor of Palermo, Italy, noted the connection between the effects of a deteriorating economy and the role of non-state actors filling the gap, saying—around the time that the Italian Government allocated €400 million for food vouchers—that the Mafia could capitalize on current circumstances. Italy’s minister of interior, Luciana Lamorgese, made a similar point, saying ‘the Mafia could take advantage of the rising poverty, swooping in to recruit people to its organization’. And this is precisely what happened. The Guardian reported that the Mafia has been providing free food to residents who have been struggling due to income loss in cities like Naples and Palermo, where a significant number of people are engaged in the informal economy.
Mexico has also experienced a similar phenomenon, with drug cartels distributing aid packages to those in need.

In Brazil, where the state has not adequately responded to COVID-19 amid President Jair Bolsonaro’s failures and plummeting approval ratings, Rio de Janeiro’s gangs have taken it on themselves to organize a response. They have, for example, implemented a curfew in the favela of Cidade de Deus, with reports that the gangs have been using megaphones to spread the following message: ‘We are imposing a curfew because nobody is taking [coronavirus] seriously. It’s best to stay home and chill. The message has been given.’ In addition to curfews, gangs in other favelas in Rio de Janeiro have been distributing soap and encouraging handwashing.

The Taliban in Afghanistan has, among other measures, been distributing soap within the territory it controls.

Such actions and measures come at a price for beneficiaries, though, like voting for a Mafia candidate in an election. Nonetheless, they lend legitimacy to these armed non-state groups because they stepped up and stepped in when the state either could not or would not.


The effect of climate change on the legitimacy of non-state actors


Climate change is projected to have an effect on the distribution of disease, as it will create environments that are more hospitable to disease carriers.

Not only are changing temperature and precipitation patterns expected to affect the distribution of disease carriers, but the way in which people interact with nature as a result of climate change is also expected to affect disease spread through, for example, land use change. To illustrate, in order to cope with the expected decrease in agricultural output due to the effects of climate change, governments may expand arable land through deforestation to offset the projected decrease in productivity.

This will increase the interaction between humans and wildlife throughout the deforestation process, which increases the probability of disease transmission from wildlife to humans. In settings where population density is high, the risk and rate of disease transmission between humans increases. This, coupled with behavioural patterns like international travel, increases the risk of pandemic spread.

As climate change modifies how humans interact with nature, with the potential to increase the risk of disease transmission and disease epidemics, the strain on the state to cope and address issues of human security increases. When such events increase people’s vulnerability, they are likely to accept assistance from armed non-state actors when the state’s response is absent or inadequate.

The role of armed non-state groups could therefore increase in importance. Such actors will take advantage of the vacuum in the provision of state assistance and will themselves deliver support that will contribute to individuals’ human security. In the event that these groups do a better job of responding to hardship than the state, their legitimacy could potentially increase. This presents further problems for the state, as it undermines its legitimacy and makes it harder for the state to win citizens’ trust and support.

About the author

Dr Farah Hegazi (Egypt/United States) is a Researcher in SIPRI’s Climate Change and Risk Programme.

 

 

By Isobel Cockerell

WASHINGTON - Dozens of Chinese TikTok videos show Uyghurs being transported to work in involuntary labor schemes during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Videos showing hundreds of Uyghur people being transported to forced labor schemes have shed new light on China’s continuing oppression of the Muslim ethnic group.

In the early months of the coronavirus outbreak, the government locked down more than 50 million people in Hubei province and imposed strict stay-at-home measures in cities across the country. However, footage shared on social media suggests that, at the same time, a state-mandated mass migration of Uyghurs was taking place in the northwestern province of Xinjiang.

In January, dozens of videos began to surface on Douyin — a version of TikTok, made by the same company, only available to Chinese users — showing crowds of people being packed onto trains, buses and airplanes.

The footage shows Uyghurs being transported as part of what Beijing refers to as a “poverty alleviation” initiative. Sent far from home, they are put to work in tightly surveilled factory labor programs and often housed in dedicated labor compounds.

In February, more videos were posted by a local media center in the Xinjiang city of Hotan. In one, a crowd of people stand in formation, dressed in matching red anoraks, their faces obscured by surgical masks. Each also wears a blue lanyard and has a suitcase beside them. A caption explained that the men and women are migrant workers, ready to board a plane to the heavily industrialized coastal provinces of Fujian and Guangxi.

Chinese national state media also covered the transportation, which took place in late February – just as China’s coronavirus numbers had reached a peak.

One report stated that the workers were being sent “on a free charter flight.” Another featured images of men and women about to fly to Hunan province, where they were to work on the production line at a technology company. “Although the mask covered most of her face, she could still feel her excitement,” it said of one Uyghur woman. The article then quoted her as saying, “As long as your hands and feet are quick, the more you do, the more you earn.”

Chinese authorities maintained they were helping pull Uyghur people out of deprivation. “We will do our utmost to help laborers who are willing to go out to work as soon as possible, to ensure that the prevention and control of the epidemic and the struggle against poverty are both addressed,” a spokesperson for Hotan’s Human Resources and Social Security Bureau told state-run Xinhua News Agency.

Another video posted on Douyin in March shows, according to the caption, a group of 850 people being moved to Korla, Xinjiang’s second-largest city, to work in the textile industry. Masked Uyghurs are seen walking in single file and lining up to have their temperature checked, before boarding buses and trains.

The government-run relocation of Uyghurs has been described by experts and human rights groups as an extension of China’s mass surveillance and indoctrination system. Since 2016, as many as a one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been held in concentration camps, referred to by the Chinese Communist Party as “vocational training centers” or “re-education” facilities.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

Darren Byler is an anthropologist at the University of Colorado, who specializes in Uyghur studies. Referring to the labor program, he said, “There’s very likely a re-education aspect to it or some really tight form of control in the factory environment.”

While information from Xinjiang has been scarce during the pandemic, reports have emerged that in some areas placed under lockdown, Uyghurs were not allowed to leave their homes and were dependent on state deliveries of essential supplies. The Washington D.C.-based Uyghur Human Rights Project has drawn attention to footage circulated on Chinese social media, in which people say that their households were starving.

Xinjiang has reported just 76 coronavirus cases and six deaths since January. Uyghurs living abroad consider these figures to be suspiciously low, given the province’s population of almost 22 million people.

While Beijing maintains that “most people” have been released from government camps and “returned to society,” many observers believe that they have been shuttled into labor programs or other forms of detention.

The Chinese government seeks to portray the forced labor program as a benevolent initiative, providing economic opportunities to the people of a historically deprived region. In recent months, state media in Xinjiang has reported that these work placements will “emancipate the mind and eliminate old habits.”

Zumret Dawut, 38, spent two months in a detention camp in Xinjiang’s capital city of Urumqi. While there, she underwent hours of indoctrination, during which she was beaten and made to recite Chinese Communist Party propaganda. A report by the Associated Press in June revealed that China has been forcing birth control and sterilization on Uyghur women. In the course of her confinement, Dawut was given regular injections and pills that tranquilized her and stopped her periods.

After her release in June 2018, Dawut left Xinjiang. The following year, she flew to the U.S., where she now lives. Using a cellphone that she brought with her from China, she is still able to access Douyin, which is usually firewalled outside of the country.

“I first started seeing videos of Uyghurs being transferred back in January,” she said.

Dawut engaged with the content via likes and comments, so the app’s algorithm showed her more. Though some of the footage sent her way originated from state media agencies, dozens of videos were posted by Uyghurs themselves. She noticed that clips in the latter category all featured the same haunting, Chinese-language rendition of the Italian protest song “Bella Ciao.”

“I have to be very quick to download these videos,” she said, explaining that the app usually swiftly deletes them.

Asked whether Douyin censors Uyghur-related content, a spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the company “treats all users on our platform the same, regardless of ethnicity or religious affiliation.”

One video found by Dawut, posted to Douyin by a Xinjiang news outlet in March, shows a group of more than 500 Uyghurs arriving for a work placement in Korla. The footage includes their new accommodation: austere rooms fitted with bunk beds, shared kitchenettes and a common living area.

Such dormitories are often part of larger compounds, complete with watchtowers and onsite indoctrination centers. These facilities feature prominently in Uyghurs for Sale, a report published in March by Australia’s Strategic Policy Institute.

Its authors state that the forced labor program amounts to “re-education 2.0,” in which Uyghurs undergo mandatory indoctrination after working long hours in factory jobs, and fear detention if they attempt to quit.

The report also details Uyghur workers being offered to factories in “batches” of 100, via online forums, then sent to work in supply chains linked to international companies, including Apple, Nike and Gap. It also explains that Uyghur labor is a lucrative industry: companies that hire Uyghurs on a long-term basis receive payments of up to $720 per person from the Xinjiang government.

A series of advertisements on Baidu — China’s answer to Google — suggest that this incentivized market for cheap Uyghur labor has thrived throughout the pandemic. One advert, from April, offered “Xinjiang Uyghur workers, all female, 18-35 years old, proficient in Chinese, obey arrangements.” Another, from late March, stated that “the government assures security,” an apparent reference to the widespread perception of Uyghurs as dangerous extremists. The posts said workers could be paid as little as 13 yuan ($1.86) per hour.

Baidu did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

Forced labor also forms part of Xinjiang’s prison system. Nursimangul Abdurashid, 32, left the province in 2013. She now lives with her husband and six-year-old daughter in Turkey, where she works as a marketing executive. In the years since she left the city of Kashgar, her parents and two brothers have been detained, and the family home now stands empty.

In 2017, Abdurashid learned that her older brother had been put to work in an electronics factory, while being held in a detention camp in the city of Artux for the alleged non-payment of a debt. The same year, her younger brother was arrested and charged with “preparing to commit terrorist activities,” after applying for a passport to study in Turkey.

Abdurashid recalled how he had been desperate to go to university. “He wanted to be a teacher. He gave up his dream,” she said.

Abdurashid now fears that both of her brothers – aged 30 and 34 – have been pushed deeper into Xinjiang’s forced labor system. Now, she scours the faces of Uyghur workers in Douyin videos, trying to find out what has happened to them.

“I want to see them alive, at least,” she said. “Seeing so many young boys and girls heading into the unknown makes me so sad.”

China experts believe that detentions and forced labor are part of a deliberate strategy to destroy Uyghur life in Xinjiang. While language, architecture, religion and culture have all been attacked and suppressed during the government crackdown, the forced migration of thousands of Uyghurs can be viewed as an attempt to tear apart a whole community.

“The main goal is to move people away from their hometowns, to isolate them from their family, from their roots, and to make it harder for them to escape or move around,” said Vicky Xiuzhong Xu, the Australian report’s lead author, during a Zoom call. “They become more dependent on these work arrangements that are assigned to them. This is part of the efforts of the re-education campaign.”

In mid-June, President Donald Trump signed into law a bill to sanction China for its treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. The new legislation was introduced shortly after leaked extracts from a new book by former National Security Adviser John Bolton alleged that Trump told President Xi that he should “go ahead” with the construction of prison camps in the province.

Meanwhile, Zumret Dawut continues to monitor Douyin, searching for more evidence of China’s oppression of her people. She thinks a lot about the Chinese version of “Bella Ciao” heard in so many of the videos. Once an anthem for agricultural workers protesting against harsh conditions in the rice fields of 19th-century Italy, the song’s lyrics include a line that translates as, “The day will come when we will all work in freedom.”

“This is a message to our people,” said Dawut. “Don’t forget about us.”

 

Rachel Sherman and Joseph Gordon have contributed to the research.

 

 

LONDON - Disruption to food production and supplies due to COVID-19 could cause more deaths from starvation than the disease itself, according to an Oxfam report

The report found that 121 million more people could be “pushed to the brink of starvation this year” as a result of disruption to food production and supplies, diminishing aid as well as mass unemployment. The report estimates that COVID-19 related hunger could cause 12,000 deaths per day: the peak global mortality rate for COVID-19 in April was 10,000 deaths per day.

“COVID-19 is the last straw for millions of people already struggling with the impacts of conflict, climate change, inequality and a broken food system that has impoverished millions of food producers and workers,” said Oxfam’s Interim Executive Director Chema Vera in a press release.

Oxfam says Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Afghanistan, Venezuela, the West African Sahel, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Haiti are “extreme hunger hotspots” that are likely to be severely affected by the pandemic.

Already, many people are facing starvation as a result of lockdown measures. Yemen, for instance, which relies heavily on food imports, has seen a spike in food prices as a result of supply route and border closures. In India, travel restrictions inhibited migrant labours from working on farms, leaving many crops to rot.

Around the world, however, women and women-headed households are more likely to suffer from COVID-19 linked hunger because of women’s lower economic status as well as the systemic discrimination they face. Women, who also make up a significant portion of informal workers, are more likely to have been severely affected by lockdown measures.

Although the COVID-19 related causes of starvation—such as lockdown measures and travel restrictions—are necessary to prevent the spread of the virus, the report notes that there are enough funds globally to address starvation. Eight out of ten of the biggest food and drink companies paid more than $18 billion to shareholders since the beginning of this year, an amount that is “ten times more than the UN says is needed to stop people going hungry,” according to the report.

Africa

WASHINGTON - After many months spent “warning” governments about the dangers of Beijing’s “non-transparent” development financing, the Trump administration launched the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) in January 2020.

This institution consolidates the work previously carried out by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), with a more than doubled investment cap of $60 billion.

The new institution is geared towards the private sector, and well aware of the imperative that its transactions reflect positively on the United States, DFC is headed by Adam S. Boehler, an expert in healthcare investment.

Since he took office, the US agency has injected $25 million into a fund managed by SPE Capital, a private equity firm with offices in Tunis and Casablanca, and $30 million into AfricInvest’s new pan-African fund.

DFC granted a $100m loan to the US-based Global Access Fund to finance water and sanitation projects in 10 countries in the south, in addition to Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda. Since February, Boehler has also been serving as executive chairman of Prosper Africa, an initiative launched in 2018 to enhance “opportunities to do business in Africa – benefiting companies, investors, and workers both in Africa and the United States”.

Ahead of peace talks, a who’s who of Cameroon’s separatist movements

By R. Maxwell Bone, The New Humanitarian, 8 July 2020

‘Our commitment to end the war and bloodshed is evident, but we hope Cameroon shares that vision.’


Explore the past, present, and future of emergency aid in our Rethinking Humanitarianism series


WASHINGTON D.C. - After three years of conflict, tentative ceasefire talks are underway between the Cameroon government and secessionist fighters demanding independence for the country’s two anglophone regions.

Cameroon is a majority French-speaking country, and its Northwest and Southwest regions complain that they have been deliberately marginalised by the government in Yaounde. What began as a protest movement in 2016 calling for federalism, degenerated into fighting and a demand for full independence after the government clamped down on protest leaders.

The conflict has since killed more than 3,000 people, forced over 900,000 people from their homes, and kept around 800,000 children out of school. In the violence, the security forces have been accused of widespread human right abuses – as have, to a lesser extent, the separatist forces fighting for an independent “Ambazonia”.

Talks have now begun between the government and a key separatist faction headed by imprisoned leader, Sisiku Julius AyukTabe. But those ceasefire discussions have been condemned by other separatists in Cameroon and abroad, who argue that Sisiku does not have a mandate to negotiate.

Some secessionists argue that the dialogue is another example of Cameroon “picking and choosing” who gets to speak for “Ambazonians.”

Meanwhile the government, sensitive to any public notion of deal-making, has denied talks are underway – although affirmed this week it was ready to seek "peaceful solutions".

This briefing provides a who’s who of a deeply divided independence movement as pressure mounts on all sides to end the war.


Who are the secessionist groups?


The secessionist forces number anywhere between 2,000 and 4,000 armed fighters. They can be divided into two rival so-called Ambazonia interim governments (referred to as “IGs”).

One is led by Sisiku, a former university administrator and engineer, who is currently facing a life sentence on terrorism and secession charges. The second is headed by Samuel Ikome Sako, a US-based former pastor. “IG Sisiku” is seen locally as the stronger of the two wings.

The split in the movement followed the arrest of Sisiku in Nigeria, along with nine other senior officials – the so-called “Nera 10” (named after the hotel in which they were staying) – and their extradition to Cameroon in January 2018.

The friction between the two camps largely plays out in the diaspora – where nearly all the secessionist leaders are based – but has increasingly led to clashes among their men in Cameroon.

Each IG is an umbrella group for a range of other factions. As Cameroon's war continues, a key question is how much control the diaspora-based leadership has over individual commanders and fighters on the ground.

The division has complicated humanitarian efforts, with aid workers not knowing which group they must seek permission from to access communities in need.

On Monday, international NGOs released a joint statement reiterating that they provided aid to “all civilian populations affected by the ongoing crisis based on need and without discrimination”.

Adding to the confusion are the militias not affiliated to either camp, as well as the so-called “Fake Amba” – local vigilantes accused of being in the pay of the government.


Why the splits?


Following Sisiku’s arrest, Sako was selected as acting interim president of the original IG in a move condemned by some for a lack of transparency. Tensions between the two men reached boiling point in early 2019 when Sisiku announced he was “dissolving” his organisation.

Sako hit back and said Sisiku had been impeached – creating the two separate groups, known as “IG Sisiku” and “IG Sako.”

While divisions within the separatist movement have existed since the 1980s, this rupture has proven far more significant than others. Cash is a factor, with control over money raised from donations abroad – including the so-called “War Draft” – and kidnappings and extortion in Cameroon proving a lucrative revenue stream.

In 2019, groups aligned with IG Sako coalesced under a new umbrella, the Ambazonia Coalition Team (ACT). Its main military asset is Lekeaka Oliver, popularly known as the “field marshal of Lebialem”, who has proved an able commander. It also includes the Southern Cameroons Defense Forces (SOCADEF), an armed group led by Ebenezer Akwanga.

ACT’s civilian activists are mostly US-based. They include Boh Herbert, who heads the Movement for the Restoration of the Independence of Southern Cameroons, and Kometa Elvis of the Southern Cameroons National Council, among others.

IG Sisiku, on the other hand, is aligned with the Ambazonia Governing Council (AGovC) – one of the largest opposition groups – led by Norway-based Cho Lucas Ayaba. It has an armed wing, the Ambazonia Defence Forces (ADF), which is active across both anglophone regions.

Political activist Mark Bareta, currently in Belgium, told The New Humanitarian that the alliance between IG Sisiku and AGovC, formalised in August 2019, “solidifies President Sisiku as the face of the revolution [and shows he has] one of the strong men of the revolution, Cho Lucas Ayaba, with him.”


Who wants dialogue?


Calls for a ceasefire and an end to the war have been longstanding. An early step towards dialogue was dubbed the “Swiss process” – an attempt to unify the secessionists as a precursor to talks with Yaounde.

The negotiations were facilitated by the Geneva-based Center for Humanitarian Dialogue – a conflict mediation NGO. While the groups in ACT are committed to the process, the IG Sisiku alliance refused to participate, questioning the integrity of the negotiations and the Cameroon government's commitment to peace. No meetings have taken place since late 2019.

Sisiku, from his prison in Yaounde, strongly opposed the “Swiss process” and jokingly referred to it as the “Swiss chocolate talks.” Ayaba of the AGovC described the dialogue as a “Trojan horse” aimed at handing victory to the government.

So, the involvement of Sisiku and a handful of his men now in direct talks with the Cameroon authorities is all the more surprising. The step is seen as the result of both the resilience of the Ambazonia movement and the impact of sustained international pressure on the Cameroonian government.

The two rounds of “pre-talks” – the last reportedly on 2 July – have been held outside the Kondengui Central Prison where Sisiku is being held and are seen as “confidence-building” steps.

“We have given Cameroon a list of action items, and the ball is now in their court,” said IG Sisiku vice president Dabney Yerima, speaking to TNH from The Netherlands.

The demands include demilitarisation of the anglophone regions, the release of prisoners, and an amnesty to enable leaders in the diaspora to return home. Ayaba, the head of AGovC, has indicated he will abide by a ceasefire if the government agrees to one.

“Our commitment to end the war and bloodshed is evident, but we hope Cameroon shares that vision,” said Yerima.


What’s happening on the ground?


ACT remains united on their preference for the “Swiss process” – and their opposition to Sisiku’s initiative. But divisions do regularly emerge within the coalition, usually between those seen as relatively new to the struggle and the veteran secessionists.

With leaders based abroad, who do not coordinate particularly well, conflicting policy positions are a perennial problem – which has a direct impact on daily life in the English-speaking regions.

The separatists have maintained a long-running school boycott, arguing that the education system is biased against anglophone students. They have also repeatedly instituted so-called lockdowns – demanding a halt to all business activity.

Last year, Chris Anu, the Texas-based communications secretary of IG Sako – who fronts a Facebook news broadcast – warned that an indefinite lockdown would be implemented unless all political leaders are released.

Boh Herbert, the ACT activist, tweeted that the threat was “unacceptable” and “such lockdowns that are now commonplace in the #AnglophoneCrisis hold civilians hostage and cause grave suffering.”

Anu this month also ordered a halt to a reconstruction initiative by the UN Development Programme aimed at repairing homes, typically destroyed by the security forces. He argued that the money was being “stolen” by the government.

Differences have also emerged within AGovC and IG Sisiku. Tapang Ivo Tanku, spokesperson of the AGovC’s armed wing, the ADF, said last year that anybody not paying a so-called “liberation war tax” would be kidnapped and held for ransom.

AGovC’s political wing and IG Sisiku distanced themselves from that statement, which some described as basic extortion.

 

 

Egypt: Sisi’s power reinforced after passing of new law

By Honoré Banda, The Africa Report, 8 July 2020


Having controlled civil opposition, the Sisi regime now wants to ensure that there will be no political competition emerging on the armed side. This new legislation limits the possibility of a candidate from the military running against President Sisi, who himself, was a former marshall elected in 2014 and re-elected in 2018.

Until Monday, members of the army were allowed to pursue a political career, on the sole condition that they gave up their profession or had already retired. Serving members of the armed forces were officially obliged to perform reserve duty and were prohibited from engaging in any political activity.

Following the new law, candidates can run for election but must first obtain “the approval of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF),” wrote the National Media Commission, an official institution, on its website.


SCAF and the military


The SCAF, a powerful entity at the top of the army, has been headed by Sisi since 2014.

Since its independence from the British in 1952, Egypt has effectively been under military rule, apart from a brief hiccup in time when Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, a candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood and the only civilian Egyptian head of state, was democratically elected before being deposed in a coup led by Sisi.

The army, portrayed as the protector of the people, is omnipresent in society and its role in the Egyptian economy has risen in recent years.

In April 2019, a constitutional amendment allowing Sisi to run for a third term and strengthening his powers was approved by a referendum.

In the 2018 presidential election, Sisi’s most serious opponents were either arrested or discouraged from running. In particular, the former Chief of Staff Sami Anan was arrested after announcing his candidacy. He was released in late 2019 after more than a year and a half in detention.


State of emergency since 1981


Emergency legislation significantly expands police powers of arrest, surveillance and travel and curtails constitutional rights such as freedom of expression. The law was implemented in 1981, after the assassination of former President Anwar Sadat.

Following the 2011 revolution, the state of emergency ended in 2012.

But since April 2017, the country has been under a renewed state of emergency following an attack claimed by a jihadist group affiliated to the Islamic state (IS).

And as recently as 2 July, amendments to the state of emergency were announced. Published on the official gazette, it allows the president to order the closure of schools, suspend public services, ban public and private gatherings and quarantine travellers entering the country.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) denounced in a statement the amendments, approved by Parliament at the end of April, calling them a “cover-up” for the establishment of “new repressive powers.”

“President al-Sisi’s government is using the pretext of the pandemic to extend the already abused emergency law instead of reforming it,” says Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. “The Egyptian authorities should address the real public health problems without putting in place new tools of repression.”

The amendments also allow the president to restrict trade in certain goods, requisition private medical centres and convert schools, educational centres and other public facilities into field hospitals.

The military prosecutor will also be authorised to assist the public prosecutor’s office in investigating crimes reported by the armed forces. The military is responsible for law enforcement during the state of emergency.

Stork stresses that although some of these measures are necessary during times of health crises, “they must not lead to abuse…using national security and public order as a justification reflects the security mentality that governs Sisi’s Egypt,” he added.


Arrests of frontline workers


At least ten doctors and six journalists have been arrested since the virus hit Egypt in February, says rights groups. Other health workers say they have been warned by administrators to keep quiet or face sanctions.

Indeed, health workers have sounded the alarm on social media. Doctors are being forced to buy their own protective equipment despite very precarious salaries. Pharmacists and dentists are mobilised to help, but with very little support from the government.

Added to that, several doctors and nurses have reportedly died after contracting the virus.

As of 8 July, Egypt has officially registered 77,297 infections, including 3,489 deaths and 21,718 recoveries, and the numbers continue to rise.


‘Family values’ enforced


As efforts to tighten Egyptian society continue, the government is also cracking down on what it deems as actions that incite debauchery or violate family values.

A young girl, 17 year-old Mena Abdel Aziz , made a video with her face covered telling her followers that she was raped. Such a public admission brought about her arrest for “promoting debauchery”. It was only after an intervention by the NGO EIPR (Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights), that Aziz was transferred to a centre for female victims of violence.

Other women, on popular social media platforms with over a million followers have also been arrested or reported for ‘violating family principles and values in Egyptian society’ and using these applications to commit “those crimes”.

 

DAKAR - Intercommunal violence and persistent attacks by extremists, continue to undermine peace and security across West Africa, the UN’s top official in the region warned the Security Council on Thursday, calling for sustained engagement with all partners to urgently advance a holistic approach to peace.

Mohammed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), said that despite “intense and sustained” efforts by concerned countries, violent extremists continue to attack security forces and civilians alike, with children recruited into fighting in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria.

Presenting his latest report, the UNOWAS chief described security conditions as “extremely volatile”. In Burkina Faso alone, as of June, 921,000 people have been forced to flee, representing a 92 per cent rise over 2019 figures.

In Mali, nearly 240,000 people are internally displaced, 54 per cent them women, while in Niger, 489,000 people were forced to flee. This includes internally displaced persons, Nigerian and Malian refugees. In Nigeria, 7.7 million people will need emergency assistance in 2020.


Interlinked challenges


As national and multinational forces intensify counter-terrorism operations, some communities have organized volunteer groups and self-defence militias for protection. Human rights groups have raised concerns over alleged abuses by these militias, as well as by security and defence forces.

“The growing linkages between terrorism, organized crime and intercommunal violence cannot be overemphasized”, he said. “Terrorists continue to exploit latent ethnic animosities and the absence of the State in peripheral areas to advance their agenda.”

He urged the United Nations to remain committed to working with all partners, building national and institutional capacity, improving community resilience, and advocating for good governance, political inclusion, respect for human rights and adherence to the rule of law.


COVID-19 and climate change


Mr. Chambas said COVID-19 is only amplifying these conflict drivers, with grave implications for peace and security. Its disproportionate effect on women and girls has placed them at increased risk of femicide and sexual violence.

Speaking to those vulnerabilities, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Coordinator of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad, said COVID-19 is exacerbating the impact of climate change. People in her nomadic community depend on the environment to survive.

They used to follow the rainfall in the Central African Republic (CAR), but due to lockdowns brought on by the pandemic, they remain in their area – and cattle are dying. “When there is drought for cattle, there is food insecurity for the people,” she said.

Climate change in the Sahel has become “a nightmare” for millions. “Whether we have a lot of rain that floods crops, or drought, which shrinks resources, it ends in conflict among communities fighting for access to land or water,” she told the Council.

Lake Chad has shrunk by 90 per cent since 1960. Today, 40 million people now depend on these resources. “Let me tell you today: climate change is the reality of our community.” Across the region, people used to live in harmony. Today, they are killing each other. “Not for power – just for the water”.

The role of rain is to feed people, she explained. Without it, families must find other solutions. The crisis is forcing men from her community to seek jobs in big towns. “They are not going there to be rich,” she said. “They are going there for their dignity.” The women left behind, who raise their children alone, are at risk of being enslaved by Boko Haram. “We do not have a supermarket where we can go buy food,” she insisted. There is only what nature provides from the rainfall.


‘This is not the future we want for people’


Climate change is a major security issue in the Sahel. “A military gang cannot feed an empty stomach and a humanitarian response cannot build a sustainable future for a community,” she said. While it is important to have the military and the humanitarian response – the only tools currently available – they are not enough.

She urged the Council to envision the region 10 years down the road if its young people – 55 per cent of the population – have only bleak opportunities. “This is not the future we want for people.”

Rather, she called for a “green new deal” for the Sahel, which would promote its ecology and its nature-based solutions. People need direct access to finance and adaptation projects, she said, describing a “3D” mapping exercise she led which involved farmers, pastoralists, fishermen and intergenerational leaders who shared their expertise on stemming the effects of climate change.

“We have the solutions,” she said. “But they will not work if there is no support from you – and if climate change is not considered a major driver of conflict.”