I have especially imported Isabella Lövins book, Tyst Hav (Silent Sea), to New York to give to my collegue Hilding. The reason being that Sweden under the capable leadership of Hilding has already taken over the EU Presidency of the Laws of the Sea and the negotiations of how to handle the rights over some fishes that wander across several seas. Since Isabellas book is about the catastrophic causes of overfishing due to lack of regulations I thought this might be an encouraging read. And in all hounestly I was very proud that the Swedish Green Party have managed to get her a a candidate on our list for the elections to the European Parliament this summer.
To me Isabella Lövin is the kind of agent of change that I really admire. When working as a journalist she became aware of the near extinction of several spieces of fishes and chocked at the lack of political action or public interest in the fact that some of our most common dishes on the dinner table would soon be memories of the past. So she wrote a book that have not only won her several journalistic prizes, but managed to put an issue on the political agenda as well as into the dinner conversations of many a households that the scientific community have tried to make visible in report after report. And after being the bridge from the scientist to the public she now has the courage to also walk into the corridors of politics.
Another of my political favourites, Gustav Fridolin, has recently come out with a book as well called The Stolen Generation. Timely as always, Gustav, manages to write about the effects for my generation of the cutdowns in public spending after the economic crisis in Sweden in the 1990s just at a time when we risk seeing history repeat itself. His book has managed to create quite a debate about the problems of us the children of the 80s. Gustav is for certain one of Swedens most talented creators of public opinion. He became a member of Parliament (for the Greens, need I say?) at the age of 19 and was definitely one of the most visible and popular parliamentarians during the last term. Whenever I have gotten to meet, talk or listen to him I am always inspired by what seems to be an endless curiosity into how the world works and how we can act to create change. Agents of change seem to write books. It sure seems like the thing to do.
Today I was covering the Security Council Debate on Children Affected by Armed Conflict, which was the first time that I covered a SC debate. For me this was a rewarding experience, especially since the debate in the SC tends to be more actionable than the more lofty policydebates in the ECOSOC subcommissions.
The debate was mainly based on the Secretary Generals Report on Children Affected by Armed Conflict, which includes a shamelist of state and non-state parties to armed conflicts that recruit or use childsoldiers. The focus was whether or not this shamelist should be enhanced to also cover listing of parties that commit the abuses of rape and other forms of sexual violence and killing and maiming of children. There have been a development in recent years towards including issues that were formaly considered to be of a social or human right nature and therefore not directly related to maintaining international peace and security, such as the concerns of children, women and civilians in armed conflict, onto the SC agenda. This is of course an important development and I hope the high level presence was a promise to the importance paid to the issue.
As for me I left the UN, the Permanent Mission and my computer screen with my head spinning on issues like impunity, the SC mandate and enforcement mechanisms. And somehow I felt hopeful. A friend of mine once asked if I could name one instance where I could show that the UN had made a tangible difference in the lives of people. And I am hoping that maybe this development towards stronger protection measures can be such an instance.
It is warm and sunny in New York this weekend. The temperature is around 30 degrees Celsius and people are gathering in the parks to enjoy.I spent a wonderful day in Prospect Park in Brooklyn yesterday and this afternoon will be spent in Central Park. It is like a new wave of optimism takes over when the sun arrives. You sweat all day and dance all night and it just makes it worth it all.
Yesterday there was a soccermatch between diplomats in support for the NGO Play31, which I unfortunately missed. But my friend Kristin let me in on the footboll skills of Secretary General Baan Ki-Moon afterwards. The match was held to raise money to support children in Sierra Leone to have free time and play. And in lack of watching the game I instead got to spend the evening with some of the nicest people I have met in the city so far.
As few probably have missed the Durban Review Conference in Geneva on racism, racial discrimination and other forms of xenophobia has developed into quite a drama after the Irans president Ahmadinejad called Israel a racist state and the EU-member states walked out of the meeting (some of them didn’t even attended as a preventive boycott, one of them being The Czech Republic, who presently holds the EU Presidency, why Sweden had to take over as incoming presidency and speak on behalf of the Union. This gained some criticism on the Swedish Foreign Ministers blog)
The drama at the Conference was long anticipated and it is rather surpirsing that the conference has managed to agree upon the final document already yesterday. A few weeks ago I was at a pressconference held by the New York office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who hosts the conference. The entire purpose of the conference was to rebut the rumors claiming that anti-Semitic wording were included in the document ,as has been claimed by both Prime Ministers and respected news media, but which is ungrounded. The fact is that there were anti-Semitic statements made at the NGO-forum of the first Durban Conferences, but there is no such actual references in the agreed text. Still as I walk to work this morning I hear the Israeli Foreign Minister on my NPR Global News Podcast claim that there are clear anti-Semitic wordings in the final document under review and still he is not able to cite any upon the request of the reporter who says he can’t find any such references. And as so often- when you tell a lie enough times it becomes (treated as) a truth. Especially if it is said by the right people in the right forums. In my mind this brings back images of the outrage in the Middle East after the publication of the so called Muhamedcaricatures in the Danish Jyllandsposten, when thousands of angry protesters marched in outrade over images few of them had ever seen. In the same way the rumour tends to add reasons to get angry and in the lack of realitycheck it is easier to incite anger and hatred.
And concerning the EU reaction, the Iranian statement and the final document- as I am beginning to realize the value of an outcome document is as much measured by the points in which is speaks as one those on which it is silent. And on the note of sience I think you should read this very noteworthy piece by Dror Feiler (sorry once again in Swedish, but if you look in the comments field Dror himself has posted the article in English).