June 2016

QUNO signs joint Quaker statement on TTIP

In a written statement, five Quaker organisations from Europe and the United States have called on governments around the world, to ensure that trade contributes to a more equal, economically just and sustainable world. The statement comes in the context of building opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), that is currently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States of America.

American Friends Service Committee, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Quaker Council for European Affairs, Quaker United Nations Office and Quaker Peace & Social Witness are concerned that some aspects of the global trade system are working counter to their vision of equality, truth, integrity, simplicity, and peace and global commitments, such as the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Goals. TTIP exemplifies these concerns, which however, also apply to other trade agreements such as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).    

The shared Quaker statement states that while “properly regulated trade can benefit everyone by contributing to well-being and by strengthening relationships and understanding between different countries and culture,” […] it is important to see trade for what it is, namely, a “tool, not an end in itself.” Thus, rather than measuring the success of any trade agreement solely in economic terms, Quakers agree in their statement that “a truly successful trade deal will benefit the whole of society and the environment.”

Quakers are alarmed that in its current form, TTIP and its negotiations are prioritising the prospect of short-term economic gain over the longer-term factors necessary to human wellbeing and the protection of the Earth. Furthermore, the inclusion of the proposed Investor to State Dispute Settlement mechanism or Investment Court System, that “gives investors privileged rights to challenge social, environmental, health or other legislation, not open to ‘ordinary’ citizens, are fundamentally antidemocratic in nature and therefore unacceptable.” 

Quakers state that “truth and transparency are the only way to ensure real accountability.” They are concerned with the lack of public access to details of the TTIP negotiations. Therefore, in their statement, they urge governments to ensure that “trade negotiations are transparent and negotiating parties seek meaningful input […] from a broad spectrum of civil society throughout the negotiation process.”

Read the full statement here.

Photo: GotCredit/Flickr

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June 2016

QUNO hosts discussion on strengthening the UN-AU partnership

quno event

QUNO organized an informal discussion at Quaker House between African Union expert Dr. Cedric de Coning, civil society, UN staff and Member States. This meeting, during which Dr. de Coning provided his perspective on the state of the relationship between the UN and the African Union (AU), was a follow-up to a recent open debate in the Security Council on UN-AU cooperation for greater peace and security. The discussion was an opportunity for New York-based actors to gain insight into the inner workings of the AU and think of ways to enhance UN-AU cooperation from UN headquarters.

Improving the relationship between the UN and the AU has been a priority for the UN system over the past year, as a result of a recommendation from the recent UN report of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) that calls for greater cooperation between these two institutions. As part of the Prevention of Violent Conflict program, QUNO has been honing into this recommendation, with a focus on building relationships between relevant UN actors engaged with the AU, including African Member States. This meeting was the first in a series of meetings that will take place in the informal setting of Quaker House and will bring UN, AU and African sub-regional organizations together to discuss issues of shared concern.

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May 2016

QUNO and International Treaty host consultation on Farmers' Rights

In conjunction with the secretariat of the International Treaty (ITPGRFA), QUNO hosted a small, focused consultation examining progress and challenges in domestic implementation of Article 9 - the section on Farmers' Rights.

Acknowledging the enormous contribution of farmers and local or indigenous communities to the development and maintenance of crop diversity, Article 9 recommends that countries take a number of measures to ensure this continues:

  • Protection of traditional knowledge
  • Equitable participation in sharing benefits of plant genetic resources' utilisation
  • Participation in decision making
  • Farmers' right to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed (subject to national law and as appropriate).

The consultation, held on May 28th at Quaker House Geneva, brought together representatives from state delegations, research institutions and civil society for a half day of rich discussion and experience-sharing. An outcome document was prepared, to feed into the Global Consultation on Farmers' Rights being held in September in Bali, Indonesia.

Photo credit: IITA/Flickr

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May 2016

Peacebuilding organizations in "Peace Promise" to address conflict drivers of humanitarian need

As the World Humanitarian Summit opens in Istanbul, peacebuilding organizations, including civil society, UN agencies and the World Bank, have issued a series of commitments - known as the "Peace Promise" - to more effective synergies among peace, humanitarian and development actions in complex humanitarian situations, with the aim of reducing human suffering by addressing the drivers of conflict and vulnerability.

In consultation with QUNO, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), as an operational agency, was one of 25 organizations to sign on. 

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May 2016

QUNO presents at WIPO seminar on intellectual property and genetic resources

On 27th May, QUNO's Susan Bragdon (Representative, Food & Sustainability), addressed state delegates and civil society at a seminar on intellectual property and genetic resources, hosted by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva.

Her talk laid out the legal landscape for the governance of genetic resources and explained some of the complexities and inconsistencies that currently exist, with a particular focus on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.

Countries across the world are interdependent on plant genetic resources for fulfilling their food security objectives, but there is a fundamental tension between the international legal architecture and communities on the ground. Susan's talk emphasised the importance of greater inclusivity and coordination between treaty bodies, as well as the need to better account for the needs of small-scale farmers, who play a key role in the maintenance and preservation of genetic resources.

By highlighting Sustainable Development Goal 2: "End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture", Susan offered a uniting objective that countries could use to help reconcile those treaties' disparate provisions.

You can watch the talk here by selecting 'Seminar on intellectual property and genetic resources'. Susan's talk begins at around 13mins in.

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May 2016

QUNO attends European conference on children of prisoners

From 20-22 May, QUNO attended the annual meeting of Children of Prisoners Europe (COPE), the European network of organizations working for the rights of children of incarcerated parents, held in Zagreb, Croatia.

The meeting allowed the sharing of experiences from across Europe, and discussion of new developments, policy concerns and good practice in this area.

A public conference on Friday 20 May, hosted in conjunction with the office of the Croatian Ombudsman for Children, brought together speakers from a range of institutions, including the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the European Commission and the European Parliament, as well as many organizations working directly with prisoners and their families.  

QUNO's Daniel Cullen (Programme Assistant, Human Rights and Refugees) exhibited a conference poster at the event, which outlined the international standards relating to the children of incarcerated parents, highlighting how the Human Rights Council and Committee on the Rights of the Child have sought to address the issue in the past. 

During the COPE general assembly on Saturday 21 May, QUNO's application for full membership was formally accepted. For further information about the work of the network and its members, please visit the COPE website here

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April 2016

2016 Holley Lecture in Applied Ethics

On April 26, 2016, Andrew Tomlinson gave the 2016 Holley Lecture in Applied Ethics at Bloomfield College, New Jersey, entitled "Every country my country, and every man my brother: Values and transformation in international policy settings". 

The QUNO New York Director made the point that values can provide an effective and legitimate approach to international policy work, that progress is often made through engaging with the inconsistencies in the values that people hold, and that that fostering values-based change requires us to develop different strategies that (for us) include listening, reaching out, making connections to real peoples’ lives and creating safe spaces for new ideas to emerge.

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May 2016

Bringing member states together around the peaceful societies' agenda

In July, the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development will take place at the UN in New York. The HLPF will be the primary UN platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted in September 2015. Twenty-two countries will undergo National Reviews during the HLPF, which will examine the processes they have undertaken to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at a national level. 

In collaboration with the International Peace Institute (IPI), QUNO is working on a project to support member states involved in the upcoming HLPF, specifically in regards to the peaceful, just and inclusive societies' component of the 2030 Agenda. In adopting the SDGs, member states agreed that peace is a necessary precondition for sustainable development, with good governance, inclusive institutions and participatory decision-making of essential importance. 

QUNO and IPI brought together experts from among this group of 22 states at Quaker House, providing them with the opportunity to hear from one another and share insights and strategies on how they plan on integrating the peace components of the 2030 Agenda in their first national review. This informal, off-the-record meeting allowed for insightful updates on the process of implementing the SDGs at a national level--insights that are often absent in high-level policy discussions within the UN system. 

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April 2016

Bringing the perspectives of Chinese scholars to the UN

In April, AFSC and QUNO collaborated to bring three Chinese scholars and UN experts to the UN. During their short but productive trip, they presented their research on UN peace operations and shared their perspectives on three recent major UN reviews to a variety of Member States, UN officials, think tanks and other civil society actors in New York. China is becoming increasingly involved in supporting UN peace operations and peacebuilding in conflict-affected and post-conflict states, especially in Africa. Discussion on the three UN reviews remains at the forefront of the UN’s agenda and QUNO believes it is crucial to bring a diversity of voices and perspectives to this process. By bringing these scholars to the UN, QUNO and AFSC hope to have contributed to this effort and provided the space for frank and open dialogue about China’s involvement in peace operations. 

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April 2016

The Paris Climate Change Agreement: the most critical work begins now

Representative for Climate Change, Lindsey Fielder Cook, reflects on the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Over the course of three years leading up to COP21, QUNO engaged in quiet diplomacy at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), offering delegates a more 'human' space in what could seem at times like an inhuman environment.

The report, available below, offers insight into this process, thoughts on the Agreement itself and a vision for what might lie ahead.

The most critical work begins now.

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