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Two New ICC Judges to be Sworn in Tomorrow

On January 20th, 2010, Ms Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi of Argentina and Ms Kuniko Ozaki of Japan will make a solemn undertaking in open court in The Hague to exercise their functions impartially and conscientiously. Later in the day a plenary will be held in which the new judges will be assigned to the judicial divisions.

After the passing of Judge Fumiko Saiga of Japan and the resignation of Mr. Mohamed Shahabuddeen, the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute (ASP) held elections to fill the judicial vacancies during the ASP's eighth session.

The eighth session of the ASP, which met in November of last year, was the first ICC meeting attended by the US since September 2001.  State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh and Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen Rapp led the US delegation.

CLICK HERE to view the live broadcast of the ceremony from the ICC website.  (Video clips of the ceremony will also be available on the ICC website from 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.)

To learn more about the ICC CLICK HERE

The Lubanga Trial Resumes - ICC Prosecution Spurs the Release of Child Soldiers

The Lubanga trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague resumed on January 7th.  Thomas Lubanga is the alleged leader of the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPS) militia which was involved in the Ituri region conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 2002-2003. The ICC investigation into the situation in Ituri has also led to arrest warrants for Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui who are both in ICC custody, and Bosco Ntaganda who remains at large.

Lubanga has pleaded not guilty to the three war crimes charges against him.  The charges include: the enlistment and conscription of children under the age of 15 years and using them to participate actively in hostilities.  Lubanga was the first suspect to be arrested and transferred to the ICC where he currently remains in custody as the trial continues.  The prosecution finished presenting their case on July 14, 2009 after calling 28 witnesses over 74 days of hearings.  The defense will call around 30 witnesses and the proceedings are expected to last several months.

Obama Remarks on Recovery Efforts in Haiti

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that "three million people — about a third of Haiti's population — had been affected" by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on Tuesday. International aid groups have estimated the death toll to be in the tens of thousands.

Medical supplies have been highlighted as particularly crucial in the effort to save lives in a country which was already severely stretched for medical resources before the earthquake.  Tammam Aloudat, an emergencies specialist at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) Societies in Geneva stated that "[m]any other quakes have shown us very clearly that of people who suffer injuries and die as a result, most deaths occur within the first 72 hours."

President Obama remarked this morning on U.S. efforts to provide aid.  He noted the practical challenges that the aid effort faces, such as, communication difficulties and Haiti's damaged main port and roads.  Obama said that rescue and relief workers are currently on the ground and a team worked throughout the night "to identify priority areas for assistance, and shared the results of that review throughout the United States government, and with international partners who are also sending support." He also committed an immediate investment of $100 million to support U.S. relief efforts

Obama stated:  "We will partner with the United Nations and its dedicated personnel and peacekeepers, especially those from Brazil, who are already on the ground due to their outstanding peacekeeping efforts there.  And I want to say that our hearts go out to the United Nations, which has experienced one of the greatest losses in its history.  We have no doubt that we can carry on the work that was done by so many of the U.N. effort that have been lost, and we see that their legacy is Haiti's hope for the future."

Help Us Help in Time in Haiti

Thursday January 14th, 2010 - A message from Executive Vice President, Bob Enholm

Support the UN Central Emergency Response Fund:
Support the People of Haiti

The world is watching anxiously and with a heavy heart as the residents of Haiti struggle to cope in the aftermath of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked the island nation two days ago.  At our thoughts are with the people of Haiti including the citizens of Haiti, the families of Haitians across the world, and UN peacekeepers and other international staff who have suffered tremendous losses on the ground.

The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) is a program of the United Nations that allows for coordinated, immediate and intelligent relief services provided by agencies of the United Nations.  The money given to the CERF, both by countries and individual donors, is available immediately for life-saving activities, and right now the people of Haiti need your support.  Please click here to make a tax-deductible donation to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund to immediately support the United Nation's humanitarian efforts.

When I joined, it was with an unshakable faith in the ability of an empowered, supported United Nations to help create the world in which I want my daughters to grow up.   I have no doubt that is bringing us closer to that goal, as they did by supporting the CERF during the Reform the UN Campaign.  If you believe, as I do, that is a vital force for a more empowered UN please consider joining our movement toward global solutions.

Global Cooperation Needed in International Air Security

It is axiomatic that "global problems require global solutions."  International institutions have been created to resolve a whole range of practical problems, including the issues created by international air travel and, specifically, screening passengers and luggage for explosives. 

In reaction to the attempted detonation of an explosive device on a flight landing in Detroit on Christmas Day, the United States has unilaterally imposed additional screening requirements on certain travelers.  As a short-term emergency measure, there may be some merit in this.  In the heat of the moment, we should not lose sight of the fact that America's ultimate security in screening international passengers rests on international cooperation.

The United States participates in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), an international body that establishes and regularly updates security requirements for international air travel.  To the extent that evaluations now conclude that additional of different screening requirements should be imposed, the U.S. should work within the framework of the ICAO to make these the new standard. 

Reflections on the Copenhagen Climate Summit

This is a guest blog post from member James Nelson.

Modest but meaningful progress was made at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Copenhagen. It was exciting to participate in a small way in one of the most momentous and far-reaching issues of our time. I tried to contribute using my experience in business, civic organizations and horticultural activities.  Most of all I tried to carefully listen learn and discern a response to these challenges.

The conference fell short of its goal of producing a world-wide binding treaty to limit green house gases but it did produce emission pledges by all major developed countries including for the first time the United States and China. Key elements of the Copenhagen Accord include overarching goals, fresh commitments of funding and new incentives to obtain the greatest impact on reducing greenhouse gases. New mechanisms for standard measurement and verification were strongly debated and only loosely agreed among major countries fearful of giving up sovereignty.

The paramount goal is to limit temperature increases of the earth's surface by 2 degrees Celsius. This agreement calls for specific commitments from individual countries.  Furthermore, there must be standard reporting and independent verification of each countries activity.  Funding was a contentious issue. In the end $30 billion was approved for the first 3 years and a goal was established to mobilize $100 billion per year by 2020.

30 years?!? Really?

Looking for an icebreaker at your next holiday dinner party? How about asking guests what the United States has in common with Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Nauru, Palau, and Tonga? It's not weather or cuisine, and it certainly isn't number of Starbucks; it's the fact that none of these countries have ratified the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (also known as CEDAW). CEDAW came into force on December 18, 1979 which is 30 years ago today and then President of the United States Jimmy Carter signed the Convention.

A movement for global solutions

Human Rights.

Even if it is troubling to admit, the idea of human rights is only fairly recent. It is troubling because we see human rights as something basic, something fundamental, something essential to our nature - yet for most of our existence as a species it never existed.

It's troubling to admit, because it might suggest that we're wrong. That human beings are simply not built to treat each other with dignity and respect, and the reason why we've neglected it for so many millennia is because we are simply cruel by nature.

Confronting this problem is hard, but thankfully, one that we don't have to deal with. We simply have to look at the world around us, and we can see the tremendous progress made towards human rights over the last few centuries. We can take relief in the fact that most people today see human rights as a good thing, and that violating human rights is a bad thing. We may be outraged by violations where they occur, we may be frustrated by the lack of progress, but all of us know that the hardest battle of all - the battle for hearts and minds on this issue - has already long been won. We can take comfort in the inevitability of human rights, knowing that it's just a question of better implementation and structures, knowing that we can tap into the public soul to get stronger action on these issues.

This wasn't always the case. These victories were hard won, by people who were told they were wrong at every single step of the way. People who were laughed at and told that slavery reflected the correct and natural order of the universe, or that women would be incapable of voting, or that genocide was an acceptable method of handling indigenous people. Underlying the cynics' beliefs was one central belief - that ultimately, the public was not going to care, and that they were going to be voices speaking into the wind.

Senate recognizes Globalfamily Day

On 19 November, the Senate introduced Senate Resolution 357, encouraging US Citizens to celebrate and take actions in line with Globalfamily Day.

Globalfamily Day, taking place annually on the 1st of January, is a celebration of global citizenship and cooperation to solve global problems.

Before this, Globalfamily Day has twice received the unanimous support of the US Congress (S. Con. Res. 138, S, Res. 582, H. Con. Res. 317), the UN General Assembly (Resolutions 54/29 and 56/2)

Specifically, this Senate request is as follows:

  1. the people of the United States to observe Global Family Day and One Day of Peace and Sharing with appropriate activities stressing the need--
    1. to eradicate violence, hunger, poverty, and suffering; and
    2. to establish greater trust and fellowship among peace-loving countries and families everywhere; and
  2. American businesses, labor organizations, and faith and civic leaders to join in promoting appropriate activities for Americans and in extending appropriate greetings from the families of the United States to families in the rest of the world. echoes the Senate's request, and congratulates Linda Grover on her fantastic work in getting further Senate recognition of Globalfamily Day.