TIME Palestine

Palestinians Set Deadline for Israeli Occupation

Switzerland Palestinians Geneva Convention
Swiss Ambassador and chairman Paul Fivat speaks to the media during a press conference following the Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, in Geneva, Switzerland, Dec. 17, 2014. Salvatore Di Nolfi—‚AP

The resolution also welcomes the idea of holding an international conference to launch negotiations on reaching a peace agreement

(UNITED NATIONS) — Israel suffered back-to-back diplomatic setbacks in Europe on Wednesday, while the Palestinians at the United Nations set a deadline for an Israeli withdrawal from lands captured nearly 50 years ago by the end of 2017.

In Geneva, the international community delivered a stinging rebuke to Israel’s settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, saying the practice violates Israel’s responsibilities as an occupying power.

The declaration adopted by the conference of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs the rules of war and military occupation, emphasized a prohibition on colonizing occupied land and insisted that international humanitarian law be obeyed in areas affected by the conflict between Israel and Palestinians. It called for “all serious violations” to be investigated and those responsible for breaches to be brought to justice.

“This is a signal and we can hope that words count,” said Swiss ambassador Paul Fivat, who chaired the one-day meeting. The U.S. and Israel did not take part.

Israel’s U.N. Mission blasted the gathering, saying: “It confers legitimacy on terrorist organizations and dictatorial regimes wherever they are, while condemning a democratic country fighting terrorism in accordance with international law.”

In Luxembourg, meanwhile, a European Union court ordered the Palestinian group Hamas removed from the EU terrorist list for procedural reasons but said the 28-nation bloc can maintain asset freezes against Hamas members for now.

The Islamic militant group, which calls for the destruction of Israel, hailed the decision, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed outrage.

“It seems that too many in Europe, on whose soil 6 million Jews were slaughtered, have learned nothing,” Netanyahu said, adding that Israel would continue to defend itself “against the forces of terror and tyranny and hypocrisy.”

The EU court ruled that the terrorist listing of Hamas was based on press and Internet reports and not on “acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities.”

The EU, which has two months to appeal, was considering its next step.

In New York, an Arab-backed draft resolution on ending Israel’s occupation of lands captured in 1967 was submitted Wednesday evening to the U.N. Security Council for a possible vote, Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said.

However, Mansour said the Arab-backed resolution does not close the door on further negotiations on the issue, including with the United States, “if they are ready and willing.” The U.S., as a permanent council member, often has vetoed measures targeting Israel in the past.

And Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki earlier said the actual vote might be put off, suggesting a compromise is in the works to avoid a clash in the council.

The draft, sponsored by Jordan on behalf of the Palestinians, sets the end of 2017 as a deadline for an Israeli withdrawal from war-won lands the Palestinians are seeking for a state. The deadline has been pushed back from that of November 2016 in the earlier draft.

Israel fiercely opposes any suggestions that the Security Council can set a framework for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which broke down again in the spring after the two sides couldn’t agree on the ground rules.

The resolution also welcomes the idea of holding an international conference to launch negotiations on reaching a peace agreement.

The United States was scrambling Wednesday to avert a showdown at the Security Council. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was talking to European and Arab foreign ministers about a potential meeting this weekend in the Mideast, possibly with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Obama administration is studying the EU’s court decision but the U.S. continues to consider Hamas as a terrorist organization.

The U.S. hasn’t said how it would respond to the Jordanian resolution, but Kerry took a hard line in meetings this week in Europe against any effort that could interfere with Israel’s elections in mid-March.

“We want to find the most constructive way of doing something that therefore will not have unintended consequences, but also can stem the violence,” Kerry told reporters in London on Tuesday. He said the situation marks “a particularly sensitive moment” given rising tensions between Israel and Palestinians.

Israel did one win diplomatic engagement in Europe on Wednesday, this one at the European Parliament. The lawmakers meeting in Strasbourg, France, stopped short of pushing for an outright recognition of a Palestinian state, urging renewed peace talks instead.

Legislators voted 498-88 in favor of a compromise resolution supporting “in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood” — but as part of a two-state solution with Israel. The resolution supports two states on the basis of 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both.

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Dahlburg reported from Brussels. Associated Press writers John Heilprin reported from Geneva, Mohammed Daraghmen in Ramallah, West Bank; Peter Enav in Jerusalem; Fares Akram in Gaza City, Gaza Strip; Angela Charlton in Paris; Cara Anna at the United Nations and Lara Jakes in Washington contributed to this report.

TIME North Korea

North Korea Calls for U.N. Probe of CIA ‘Torture Crimes’

NKOREA-POLITICS-MILITARY
This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 12, 2014 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un inspecting the command of Korean People's Army Unit 534. KNS—AFP/Getty Images

North Korea's UN representative decried CIA interrogations as "the gravest human rights violations in the world."

North Korea’s U.N. Ambassador has called on the world body to investigate the CIA for subjecting captured al-Qaeda operatives to “brutal, medieval” forms of torture.

The statement comes as the U.N. Security Council prepares to debate North Korea’s human rights violations on December 22 and 23, the Associated Press reports.

“The so-called ‘human rights issue’ in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is politically fabricated and, therefore, it is not at all relevant to the regional or international peace and security,” wrote North Korea’s Ja Song-nam in a letter to the current council president.

Ja then pivoted to the U.S. Senate’s report on interrogation techniques against detainees. “The recently revealed CIA torture crimes committed by the United States, which have been conducted worldwide in the most brutal medieval forms, are the gravest human rights violations in the world.”

A United Nations commission documented wide-ranging human rights violations in North Korean prison camps. The 400-page report, based on prisoner testimonials, detailed acts of “enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence.”

Read next: North Korea Says ‘Righteous’ Sony Hack May Be Work of Its Supporters

TIME

Deal Salvaged at U.N. Climate Talks in Peru

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Country representatives clap at the closure and approval of the proposed compromise document handed out during the marathon UN talks in order to meet the final goal of the UN COP20 and CMP10 climate change conferences in Lima on Dec. 14, 2014. Cris Bouroncle—AFP/Getty Images

(LIMA, Peru) — A compromise deal salvaged by climate negotiators in Lima early Sunday sets the stage for a global pact in Paris next year, but a consensus could not be reached on nations submitting to a rigorous review of their plans for greenhouse gas emissions limits.

In the agreement, reached more than 30 hours after talks were supposed to end, more than 190 countries agreed on what information should go into the pledges that countries submit for the expected Paris pact.

Although the Lima document does not oblige nations to provide that information — or even to set goals, they are feeling increasing domestic and international pressure to act on human-generated climate change blamed for more violent, damaging weather that has put 2014 on track to be the warmest year on record.

“I think there will be a lot of peer pressure for countries to put forward that kind of information,” said Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute. “It is a new world.”

Even China — the world’s No. 1 greenhouse gas polluter and among resisters of transparency on measuring its emissions — is feeling the heat as its citizens endure health-endangering smog from coal-burning power plants.

Delegates argued all day Saturday over the wording for the watered-down deal, with developing nations worried that the text blurred the distinction between what rich and poor countries can be expected to do.

Many developing countries, the most vulnerable to climate change’s impacts, accuse rich nations of shirking their responsibilities to curb climate change and pay for the damage it inflicts.

The final draft of the deal alleviated those concerns with language saying countries have “common but differentiated responsibilities” to deal with global warming.

“As a text it’s not perfect, but it includes the positions of the parties,” said Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, the conference chairman. He spent most of Saturday meeting separately with delegations.

In presenting a new, fourth draft just before midnight, Peru’s environment minister gave a sharply reduced body of delegates an hour to review it. Many delegates had already quit the makeshift conference center on the grounds of Peru’s army headquarters.

The approved agreement also restored language demanded by small island states at risk of being flooded by rising seas, mentioning a “loss and damage” mechanism agreed upon in last year’s talks in Poland that recognizes that nations hardest hit by climate change will require financial and technical help.

“We need a permanent arrangement to help the poorest of the world,” Ian Fry, negotiator for the Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu, said at a midday session.

However, the approved draft weakened language on the content of pledges on emissions limits, saying they “may,” instead of “shall,” include quantifiable information showing how countries intend to meet their emissions targets.

Also, China and other major developing countries opposed plans for a review process that would allow the pledges to be compared against one another before Paris.

In Lima, the momentum from last month’s joint U.S.-China deal on emissions targets faded quickly as rifts reopened over who should do what to fight global warming. The talks’ goal is to shape a global agreement in Paris that puts the world on a path to reduce the heat-trapping gases that scientists say are warming the planet.

The new draft mentioned only that all pledges would be reviewed a month ahead of Paris to assess their combined effect on climate change.

“I think it’s definitely watered down from what we expected,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Sam Smith, chief of climate policy for the environmental group WWF, said: “The text went from weak to weaker to weakest and it’s very weak indeed.”

Chief U.S. negotiator Todd Stern acknowledged that negotiations had been contentious but said the outcome was “quite good in the end.”

He had warned Saturday that failing to leave Lima with an accord would be “seen as a serious breakdown” that could put the Paris agreement and the entire U.N. process at risk.

Though negotiating tactics always play a role, virtually all disputes in the U.N. talks reflect a wider issue of how to divide the burden of fixing the planetary warming that scientists say results from human activity, primarily the burning of oil, coal and natural gas.

Historically, Western nations are the biggest emitters. Currently, most CO2 emissions are coming from developing countries led by China and India as they grow their economies and lift millions out of poverty.

During a brief stop in Lima on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said fixing the problem is “everyone’s responsibility, because it’s the net amount of carbon that matters, not each country’s share.”

According to the U.N.’s scientific panel on climate change, the world can pump out no more than about 1 trillion tons of carbon to have a likely chance of avoiding dangerous levels of warming — defined in the U.N. talks as exceeding 2 degrees centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above 19th-century averages.

It already has spent more than half of that carbon budget as emissions continue to rise, driven by growth in China and other emerging economies.

Scientific reports say climate impacts are already happening and include rising sea levels, intensifying heat waves and shifts in weather patterns causing floods in some areas and droughts in others.

The U.N. weather agency said last week that 2014 could become the hottest year on record.

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Associated Press writers Frank Bajak and Nestor Ikeda contributed to this report.

TIME Civil Rights

What the International Response to the Civil Rights Movement Tells Us About Ferguson

Education Segregation, USA. pic: circa 1957. Little Rock, Arkansas. National Guardsmen, having admitted white children to a school, barr the way to a black student.
Little Rock, Ark., 1957: National Guardsmen, having admitted white children to a school, bar the way to a black student Paul Popper—Popperfoto / Getty Images

International criticism during the Civil Rights Movement helped bring about new legislation

Images of armed soldiers blocking nine African-American high school students from integrating a public high school in Little Rock, Ark. shocked the world nearly 60 years ago. Organs of Soviet propaganda, determined to disrupt perceptions of a tranquil American democracy, wrote of American police “who abuse human dignity and stoop to the level of animals” in the newspaper Izvestia. In the midst of stiff Cold War competition for hearts and minds around the world, the prospect of controlling international perceptions motivated officials at the highest levels of U.S. government to support new civil rights measures.

The U.S. representative to the United Nations warned President Dwight Eisenhower that the incident had damaged American influence, and the President listened.

“Before Eisenhower sent in the troops, there were mobs around the school for weeks, keeping these high school students from going to school,” says Mary Dudziak, a professor at Emory whose book Cold War Civil Rights argues that international pressures encouraged the federal government to work to improve civil rights, and which tells the above story about Little Rock. “The issue caused people from other countries to wonder whether the U.S. had a commitment to human rights.”

Today, the highly-publicized killings of unarmed black men like Michael Brown and Eric Garner have attracted similar international condemnation, and some historians wonder whether concerns about U.S. appearances around the world could once again influence the federal government.

Read More: One Man. One March. One Speech. One Dream.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union, the sworn enemy of the U.S., had a lot to gain by showing that American democracy wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. The opposition of today’s day and age are less influential, but they appear equally eager to highlight American dysfunction. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei used the attention surrounding Michael Brown to remind his Twitter followers of America’s history on race issues. A tweet from the leader features images of police dogs in Birmingham during the Civil Rights Movement alongside an image of Michael Brown:

North Korea may have one of the world’s worst human rights records, but that didn’t stop the country from criticizing the U.S. for “wantonly violating the human rights where people are subject to discrimination and humiliation due to their races.”

It’s not surprising that North Korea and Iran would criticize the U.S., but the reprimanding hasn’t been limited to opponents. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said he is unsure whether the decision not to indict the police officer who shot Michael Brown “conforms with international human rights law.”

“It is clear that, at least among some sectors of the population, there is a deep and festering lack of confidence in the fairness of the justice and law enforcement systems,” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement.

Criticism from the U.N. is significant, but the international body’s desires, much less those of North Korea or Iran, have never driven U.S. policy — and the fact is, while there are many links between the Cold War era and today, times have changed. Thus far, the President has walked a fine line in his response. He proposed some measures, including encouraging police to wear body cameras, but it seems unlikely that he’ll be proposing any game-changing legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It’s not surprising that Obama has hesitated to involve the federal government in what is typically a local or state issue. The international mandate simply isn’t as strong as it was during the Cold War. There’s no equivalent to the Soviet Union offering a credible alternative to America’s system of governance.

But that may not be the case forever: historians and political scientists say that a growing movement against police brutality has the potential to increase international pressure and, perhaps, force change.

“I’m sure the Obama administration and the State Department are concerned about [international perceptions],” says Rick Valelly, a political science professor at Swarthmore. “Right now it’s embarrassing, but I don’t think it’s internationally consequential.”

Movements to end police brutality don’t yet have the “same kind of legs” that the Civil Rights Movement had, Valelly says. This year’s demonstrations have been attention-grabbing — and the “Justice for All” March planned for Washington, D.C, this Saturday is certain to make headlines — but it may take many more years of sustained protest before the movement would be noticed internationally on a much larger scale, as the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was. For now, experts in the field still remain optimistic about the benefits of international attention, relatively minor though it may be.

“Public diplomacy begins with listening,” says Nick Cull, a professor at the University of Southern California, “and this would be a really good time to listen.”

TIME ebola

U.N.: Ebola Outbreak Will Take Several More Months to Contain

Liberia Ebola Missed Goals
Health workers wearing Ebola protective gear spray the shrouded body of a suspected Ebola victim with disinfectant at an Ebola treatment center at Tubmanburg, on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, on Nov. 28, 2014 Abbas Dulleh—AP

The U.N. goal of containing 100% of Ebola cases by Jan. 1 will not be met

The U.N.’s special envoy on Ebola said Thursday that it would be several months before the outbreak in West Africa is under control.

Dr. David Nabarro said international governments as well as local communities had taken a “massive shift” in responding to the crisis over the past four month, the Associated Press reports.

However, he noted that more needed to be done to contain the spread of the disease in western Sierra Leone and northern Mali.

“It’s going to take, I’m afraid, several more months before we can truly declare that the outbreak is coming under control,” Nabarro said.

The World Health Organization aimed to have 100% of cases isolated by Jan. 1, but acknowledges that previous targets have not been met.

[AP]

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 9

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Foreign policy isn’t public relations. The value of releasing the torture report outweighs the risks.

By Daniel Larison in the American Conservative

2. Innovation in design — not technology — might be the key to disrupting industries.

By Todd Olson in Medium

3. The simple notion of community potlucks is working to rebuild the torn fabric of Ferguson.

By Shereen Marisol Meraji at National Public Radio

4. A new poverty alleviation strategy is built on feedback and direction from the actual beneficiaries — putting people at the center of policy.

By Molly M. Scott in RealClearPolicy

5. Women are uniquely positioned to understand the impact of climate change around the world. They must have a seat at the table to set global policy.

By Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka in the Aspen Journal of Ideas

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME United Nations

UNICEF Declares 2014 a ‘Devastating’ Year for Children

Turkey Syria
A Syrian Kurdish refugee child from the Kobani area holds another's hand as he walks between tents at a camp in Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border on Nov. 14, 2014. Vadim Ghirda—AP

Up to 15 million children are caught up in armed conflicts

A new report by the United Nations grimly labels 2014 one of the worst years for children on record.

The United Nation’s Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, reports that up to 15 million children have been exposed to violence in Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan, the Palestinian territories, Syria and Ukraine. Across the world, the agency adds, 230 million youth live in lands torn by armed conflict. That figure includes those who are internally displaced or who have been refugees.

In West Africa, where the Ebola outbreak has proven deadly for more than 6,000 people, an estimated 5 million children ave been kept out of schools.

“This has been a devastating year for millions of children,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s executive director. “Never in recent memory have so many children been subjected to such unspeakable brutality.”

The agency called for a greater outpouring of humanitarian funding to help missions reach children in volatile and inaccessible areas.

TIME Syria

International Community Asked to Take 180,000 Syrian Refugees

ARSAL, LEBANON - DECEMBER 05:  Syrian refugees fled their homes due to the civil war in their country try to hold on life under tough living conditions at Babel refugee camp in eastern Lebanese city of Arsal on December 05, 2014. Syrian refugees in Lebanon face starvation after the suspension of United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) food voucher aid for more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees since financial commitments from nations and other donors remain unfulfilled causing shortfall in funds needed to support refugees in December. (Photo by Ratib Al Safadi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Syrian refugees fled their homes due to the civil war in their country try to hold on life under tough living conditions at Babel refugee camp in eastern Lebanese city of Arsal on December 05, 2014. Anadolu Agency

The international community's failure to take in Syrian refugees is "shocking," Amnesty International says

The international community should step up its response to the Syria crisis by accepting 180,000 refugees. That’s the message from an appeal launched Monday by group of more than 30 humanitarian organizations.

The appeal comes ahead of a U.N. pledging conference in Geneva on Dec. 9, AFP reports.

More than 3.2 million refugees who fled Syria in the past three years are registered in neighboring countries but the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) expects that number to grow to more than 3.6 million by the end of 2015.

So far the Gulf states, Russia and China have failed to take a single refugee from Syria and the U.N is calling on these countries to help.

Amnesty International has slammed the global community’s response to the crisis, calling it “shocking.”

“The shortfall in the number of resettlement places for refugees offered by the international community is truly shocking. Nearly 380,000 people have been identified as in need of resettlement by the U.N. refugee agency, yet just a tiny fraction of these people have been offered sanctuary abroad,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali, head of refugee and migrants’ rights at Amnesty International.

Turkey and Lebanon each host more than a million refugees but the strain of the crisis is affecting infrastructure and public services. And border restrictions imposed in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan have left many refugees trapped in Syria.

“Next week’s pledging conference must be used to turn the tide around. It is time for world governments to take the courageous steps needed to share the responsibility for this crisis and help avert further suffering,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali.

[AFP]

TIME migration

Nearly 5,000 Refugees Were Killed in 2014, Data Shows

Syrian Refugees' Hunger Strike Outside Greek Parliament
Syrian refugees wait in tents during a hunger strike outside the parliamentary building in Athens on Nov. 30, 2014 Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

The majority died attempting to cross the Mediterranean

The number of refugees killed while fleeing their home countries more than doubled in the past year, according to data released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which said the toll for 2014 was nearly 5,000

According to the New York Times, citing IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle, about 3,000 of those people drowned while crossing the Mediterranean Sea, up from 707 out of 2,376 last year.

Doyle added that a majority of the refugees were from Iraq, Syria and Palestine, killed in the process of escaping escalating conflicts.

[NYT]

TIME ebola

U.N. Mission Warns That Ebola Still Poses ‘Huge’ Global Threat

Liberia Battles Spreading Ebola Epidemic
A mother and child stand atop their mattresses in a classroom now used as Ebola isolation ward on Aug. 15, 2014, in Monrovia, Liberia John Moore—Getty Images

The U.N. mission is urging that the longer the disease is allowed to storm West Africa, the more likely it is that the virus will reappear elsewhere in the world

The head of the U.N. Ebola mission in West Africa has said there is a “huge risk” of the Ebola outbreak expanding beyond the hard-hit region.

Anthony Banbury told BBC News that “there is a huge risk to the world that Ebola will spread” if it continues to ravage Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, where it has killed almost 7,000 people.

“That is why it is so important to get down to zero cases as quickly as possible,” Banbury told BBC News.

The U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response said last week that it did not expect to meet the ambitious goals it had set for Dec. 1 in its effort to halt the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Read more at BBC News

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