Achieving Disarmament: Strengths and Weaknesses of International NGOs

The author stresses the importance of NGOs working collectively to reduce risks associated with nuclear weapons proliferation, and highlights how one program, the Strategic Concept for the Removal of Arms and Proliferation (SCRAP), can effectively create the needed synergy between all such NGO’s, while complimenting other existing campaigns to end the risks associated with nuclear weapons proliferation.

By Akhshid Javid,6th December, 2015

The Rise of the Global Movement for Disarmament 

Since 1945, nuclear disarmament has been a concern for many organizations around the world.  Moreover, there have been strong waves of public support for disbandment of nuclear weapons across the globe over the last 50 years.

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‘Iranian Mothers for Peace’ Alert the World on Sanctions and Shortage of Medicines

“The right to health and access to medical treatment and medication is one of the fundamental human rights anywhere in the world. Please do not allow the killing of our sick children, beloved families, and fellow Iranians from the lack of medicine, caught in instrumental policies of coercion and power.”

“Iranian women for Peace”, a human rights organisation in Iran have written an open letter to Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, and Dr Margaret Chan, the Director General of the World Health Organisation alerting them to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Iran as a result of the shortage of vital medication due to US/EU led sanctions. In this letter by Farid Marjai and Mehrnaz Shahabi, the intentions of Iranian Mothers for Peace are explained as well as the plea to the UN to respond.

by Farid Marjai and Mehrnaz Shahabi, 4th February 2013. Continue reading

Vogue Italia’s ‘Rebranding Africa’ Disaster

In this article Elliot Ross of Africa is a Country dissects the ‘Rebranding Africa’ edition of Vogue Italia.  The author attacks the concept of outside intervention as a defining characteristic of Africa before dealing with some of the more troubling assumptions made by the magazine.  It is a fantastic read.

This article was originally published on June 6th, 2012 on the website Africa is a Country.

By Elliot Ross, 8th June, 2012

Everybody’s trying to rebrand Africa, and it isn’t going so well. Vogue Italia’s latest issue — boosted by great billowing gusts of editorial hot air from both the New York Times and the Guardian — is called “Rebranding Africa”, and as you’d expect the whole thing is an embarrassing and insulting shambles. The images are okay, but otherwise it feels like something a middle-schooler cobbled together for a class project. And then got a “D” for it.

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The UN Human Rights Council Resolution on Sri Lanka’s Alleged War Crimes

In this article, the author explores the resolution’s impact on Sri Lanka, and its probable implications with reference to Sri Lanka.

By Rithika Nair, 3rd April, 2012

The United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) judgment on Sri Lanka’s efforts at post-conflict reconstruction, invited an abundance of opinions and debate globally. Newspapers cried out country decisions to the US sponsored resolution with regard to their foreign policies, domestic policies and moral policies. In lending an ear to all the global justifications and rationalizations, the importance shifted away from what Sri Lanka had to say with regard to the resolution and its possible impact on the island.

In 2010, the Government of Sri Lanka created the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) suo moto, to look into the causes of the conflict, its consequences on the people, and to promote national unity and reconciliation. The LLRC, though criticized for overlooking the violations of human rights and humanitarian law committed by the Sri Lankan army, stated that there were “considerable” civilian casualties. This was opposed to the government claims, which insisted on a zero-casualty rate.

The international community had already begun to push Sri Lanka to begin its post-conflict reconstruction agenda.  The LLRC report increased this demand for the Sri Lankan government to act – prosecute those who were accountable for civilian massacres, and bring relief to those displaced and devastated by the war.

This never happened.

The disappointing LLRC report largely exonerating the government, and the subsequent government inaction to suggested accountability procedures encouraged the international community to act.

In March 2012, the US submitted a resolution at the 19th session of the UNHRC, urging the Sri Lankan government “to address serious allegations of violations of international law by initiating credible and independent investigations and prosecutions of those responsible for such violations.” The resolution, after being slightly amended to word that the implementation of any external advice or investigation by the Human Rights Commissioner or Special Procedures must unfold only “in consultation with and the concurrence of ” the Sri Lankan government, was passed with 24 votes in favour, 15 against, and 8 abstentions.

The closing of Sri Lankan embassies in Europe, the threats to human rights defenders and the anti-Americanism in Sri Lanka are some of the immediate effects of the resolution. But it’s long-term implications – constructive and destructive, are nothing but analytical renderings as of now.

The resolution with its honorouble intentions could be a possible check on the quasi-dictatorship of Mahinda Rajapaksa. It could be the warning hand on the back, reminding Sri Lanka of what it had promised to deliver three years ago, a paternal gesture offering assistance if needed. It could imply that dialogue and soft diplomacy may harden, and the whispers of a ‘South Asian Spring’ may jump to reality with an international demand for the removal of Rajapaksa from his throne. With the Sri Lankan Tamils still dissatisfied with their government’s empty promises of reconciliation, and Sinhalese human rights activists being called traitors if they stood up for the Tamils, it would not be long before Sri Lanka could walk the line with Maldives, Libya, Egypt and Tunisia. If such a future be predicted, then the precautionary resolution – a very fair and balanced one, has been passed at a very appropriate juncture.

The resolution may have been a UN step to avoid being blamed for not taking action. Perhaps the UN was guilty of its own lack of action while the crisis unfolded over 26 years. Then, the resolution is but a ticking pendulum, softly but notably reminding Sri Lanka of its obligations and responsibility – and in doing so, delivering rehabilitation and hopeful justice to the victims of the war – the people of Sri Lanka.

On the other hand, the resolution placed the ball back in the Lankan court, and it ordered the multi-faced Lankan king to finish what he had promised to do. It asked him to submit an action plan detailing what he had done, and will do to implement the LLRC recommendations, and to address all matters that violated international law.

The king, with all ten heads, rejected the resolution.

Neither he nor his court thought that it added any value to the humanitarian and justice implementation process in Sri Lanka. They felt the resolution was ‘counterproductive’, ‘ill-timed’, and ‘an unwarranted initiative’. They perceived the supporters and sponsors of the resolution to be LTTE sympathizers – those who underestimated the violence and trauma that the LTTE had unleashed upon them. They felt that the unpunished situations in Afghanistan, Iraq and India removed the moral legitimacy of the resolution.  Lobbying against the vote in Geneva transcended into anti-America lobbying, and human rights activists and defenders of the resolution were threatened in Sri Lanka. In such circumstances, the significance of the resolution is undermined.

This resolution should not and cannot be rejected by comparing them to conflict situations where deeds committed by the sponsors and supporters go unchecked. This matter pertains to and reflects on Sri Lanka, and Sri Lanka alone. This does not mean that this case supersedes any of the other situations, but the current context is Sri Lanka, and that should be respected. If the world and its leaders were to act and re-act following the policy of every eye for an eye, and every tooth for a tooth, the vicious cycle of blame and revenge would never stop spinning.

However, as the ambassador for Bangladesh very prudently stated at the Council session, if Sri Lanka is not on board, then the resolution will have a very limited impact. Without the Sri Lankan nod to implement efficient rehabilitation and accountability measures, the resolution is but an empty bell with no sound.

Reporting from the United Nations – The dilemma of the Conference on Disarmament: to be or not to be.

In this article, the author reports on the first plenary meeting of the 2012 session of the Conference on Disarmament.


By David J. Franco, 15 Feb, 2012


On 14 February 2012, representatives of the states parties to the Conference on Disarmament (CD) gathered at the UN headquarters in Geneva for the opening of the first plenary meeting of the 2012 session. Following the opening statement of this session’s Presidency (held by Ecuador) we heard the statements of several delegations including those of Croatia, Mexico, Switzerland, Colombia, Chile, Egypt, Iran, Syria, and the US. There were no substantive surprises as states sticked to their well-known, longstanding scripts. However, perhaps the most positive notes derived from the Presidency’s efforts to overcome the current impasse and from the UN Secretary General’s statement and message that either the parties reach an agreement on a way forward or the General Assembly will consider alternative routes for disarmament.

The impasse

His Excellency the Ambassador of Ecuador Mr Luis Gallegos, who held the Presidency for the first time, opened the session highlighting that this year is of crucial importance for the future of the CD and that parties to the CD have a moral responsibility in finding the way to unlock the existing impasse (since 1996 the CD has not reached agreement on a single substantive issue). Thus, he placed the debate of the paralysis of the CD top of this year’s agenda and further called the parties to exercise political flexibility in order to overcome fifteen years of sterile negotiations.

The Debate

The floor was then given to delegations and one by one these read their readily prepared statements. Here we heard a mixture of opinions. Whilst most of the delegations agreed that 2012 is of crucial importance for the future of the CD, their position with regards to the causes and solutions to the current impasse often differed to the extent that one could sense, grosso modo, the co-existence of two blocks of states: those who believe that the current impasse is due to the procedural characteristics of the CD (in other words to the fact that the adoption of decisions in the CD is procedurally based on the principle of consensus), and those who believe that the lack of progress is due to the lack of political will and flexibility of some states parties to the CD. Depending on which of the two blocks states find themselves in, their proposed way forward also differs: hence, those in the first block call for substantive changes in the structure and procedural elements of the CD, while those in the second block call for more political flexibility and less radical changes.

The Statements

Of the statements of the various delegations, some are worth highlighting here. The Mexican delegation, for instance, reminded the conference of the work undertaken by Mexico on the occasion of the signature of the Treaty of Tlatelolco more than forty years ago, which established a nuclear free zone for Latin America and the Caribbean. In this regard, the representative of Mexico highlighted the organic relationship between peace and disarmament and argued that the establishment of free zones, while extremely important for the disarmament regime, should not be seen as goals in themselves but rather as stepping stones towards the ultimate goal of freeing the world of all nuclear weapons.

The representative of Syria, on the other hand, highlighted the lack of progress and pointed to the lack of political flexibility as its immediate cause. Further, without mentioning at any stage the name of Israel, the Syrian delegate indirectly referred to that country as the most destabilizing element in the Middle East. In this regard, the Egyptian representative referred to the importance of working towards the establishment of a Middle East Free Zone of Nuclear and other Weapons of Mass Destruction and stated that he has started to see things holistically, as opposed to seeing disarmament from the standpoint of a state party, as a result of the fact that he now sits in the podium next to the Secretary and the current Presidency (Egypt follows Ecuador in the Presidency and therefore now sits in the podium of the CD).

As per the Swiss delegate, he emphasized the need to overcome the current impasse and called for the elaboration and proposal of alternatives capable of leading the parties to progress. Further, the Chilean delegation intervened in similar terms and the Colombian delegation expressed the view that with increasing political flexibility parallel work in two directions is possible: that is, work towards the adoption of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) and work on the adoption of Negative Security Assurances (NSAs). Finally, the US delegate emphasized the willingness of her government to work towards finding a solution to the CD’s current deadlock and to further work towards the ultimate goal of freeing the world of nuclear weapons as stated in numerous occasions by President Obama.

Message of the United Nations Secretary-General

Towards the end of the plenary session, the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, delivered a message of the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon. Mr. Kassym-Jomart started his speech by emphasizing past achievements and reminded the parties present at the plenary that the CD has a great record despite its current longstanding deadlock. Nevertheless, his speech contained a clear message: one that, it could be argued, amounted to a clear threat (as far as words are concerned): ‘In 2012, the future of the Conference will be under the spotlight as never before. Lamenting the constraints of the rules of procedure or the “absence of political will” can no longer suffice as explanations for any further lack of progress. The General Assembly is seized of the matter and, if the Conference remains deadlocked, is ready to consider other options to move the disarmament agenda forward’.

Concluding remarks

The session ended with the closing remarks of the Presidency who made it clear that this year’s top priority is to reach consensus on the way forward. In other words, the CD is confronted with a serious dilemma: to be or not to be. For all the achievements of the past, the CD now faces its own extinction precisely at a time where the tide of disarmament is high in the agenda, at least rhetorically. On a more theoretical level, one is left wondering if consensus is the right way forward in a polarized world in which large groups of states have clear vested interests in preserving the status quo: fifteen years without reaching substantive agreements is a long time and if the CD fails to overcome its paralysis in 2012 the world should not fear the extinction of this forum in favour of existing or newer fora based on majority rules or coalitions.

Changes are often for the better and what may be seen as a threat to the existing disarmament agenda may in fact be seen as an opportunity to explore new venues. As a final remark, the Presidency discussed the issue of the involvement of civil society in disarmament matters generally and in the CD in particular, and pointed that several delegations have expressed their wish to increase civil society participation in the proceedings (as is more the case for example with the NPT and the First Committee of the General Assembly). However, upon discussing this particular issue with one delegate I was left with the impression that here, too, consensus is failing once again.

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics: Africa’s Statistical Tragedy

In this article the author assesses how flawed statistics may be exacerbating poverty in Africa.

By Jack Hamilton, 3 Nov, 2011

This week the UN has declared that there are 7 billion people in the world. It is impossible to verify this statistic but the reasoning behind the declaration is clear. It raises awareness of population growth and draws attention to future development issues. But what of the more dangerous statistics that have been exacerbating poverty? In Africa especially poverty estimates have been based upon flawed data with potentially disastrous consequences. With so much being written now about African growth, the data behind it must be questioned to reveal the statistical tragedy of Africa.

‘The Century of Africa’?

In the past decade Africa has surged forward. Its economy is growing faster than that of any other continent. Foreign investment has hit an all time high and the middle class is absorbing consumer goods at rates comparable to China and India. Articles on African optimism abound, normally at the turn of the year when it will inevitably declared that this is to be the ‘Year of Africa’, the ‘Decade of Africa’ or in the new book by Michel Severino and Olivier Ray, the ‘Century of Africa’. That is not to say that it will not be true. Rather the statistics behind this must be evaluated as well as the capacity to harness resources for development.

Africa Rising

Around one third of African growth over the last decade has come from a rise in commodity prices. These have been combined with increased investment from China as a low cost builder. Further investment has come from around the globe from Brazil to Iran, Turkey to South Korea leading to the defensive rhetoric of Hillary Clinton in declaring a ‘neo-colonial’ era on the continent. This is an unfair overestimation of external influence for Africa’s best friend has been Africa itself.

Regional economic cooperation has increased dramatically on the continent. Borders are becoming easier to cross and technology is advancing rapidly. Africa has more mobile phone users than the Americas and mobile financial transfers on a single phone network in Kenya are greater than the annual global transfers of Western Union. At the start of the year there were 17m Facebook users in Africa and this figure is expected to be 28m by the end of the year. As mobiles and data become more affordable the numbers will continue to surge. The political implications of this connectivity have been in the news due to the revolutions in the North but the economic impact on Sub-Sahara could have even greater consequences. The rapid distribution of agricultural information alone has been revolutionary.

While the rest of the world struggles through the economic meltdown Africa is growing and political violence, so long the cancer of growth, is declining. Tensions still simmer in Sudan, Congo and Angola but pale in comparison to their previous intensity and the talk of ‘new wars’ is receding and the markets are opening. This is not to overstate the case as Jean-Michel Severino and Olivier Ray have done in calling the 21st century ‘the century of Africa’. Africa’s rise is impressive but how many Africans are moving to China to set up factories?

The problem with the optimistic projections is that they are supported by figures which cannot be verified. Data is immensely unreliable to the point that we don’t know how many people are living in poverty or how quickly most of the continent is growing. In the words of the World Bank Chief Economist for Africa, Shanta Devarajan, Africa has a statistical tragedy.

Statistical Tragedy

The use of the term ‘tragedy’ is a reference to Bill Easterly and Ross Levine’s ‘African Growth Tragedy’ in their 1997 paper of the same name. This outlined the destructive link between economic growth and poverty in increasingly open markets. The financial gap is seen to be widening with the ‘Growth Tragedy’ placing the exacerbation of poverty at 2-3% per year. This has been placed as high as 6% more recently. World Bank estimates claim that overall poverty in Africa is declining at a rate of around 1% every year but Easterly and Levine demonstrate that this poverty is becoming more acute. The tale of the rising African middle classes does not include the plight of those at the bottom.

The tragedy is this assumption that growth is rising while poverty is declining. The statistical tragedy is that we don’t even know the real poverty rates. World Bank growth rates are based upon the imprecise science of GDP which is itself based upon national accounts. We need to take into account that only 11 Sub-Saharan African states currently use the World Bank GDP system. Most of the countries use older GDP measuring systems with some dating back as far as the 1960s.

In Ghana the system of national accounts was updated by the World Bank leading to a GDP figure that was 62% higher than previously thought. The World Bank took credit for the leap but failed to take account of the fact that it was their system which had systematically undervalued the Ghanaian GDP for the previous twenty years thus hampering long-term economic growth.

Only 39 countries in Africa use GDP systems which can be used to provide comparable estimates. National poverty estimates taken over a long period of time in a single nation are difficult to generalise beyond individual borders and the impact of conflict further limits them. How can one talk about continental poverty with only a single statistical point of reference? Furthermore the estimates are not comparable over time as the methodologies frequently change between estimations. An estimate on Kenya in the late 1980s would incorporate 235 items in the consumption basket whereas the early 1990s model had more than 600. Today this figure is in the 900s and rising.

While economists have been congratulating themselves for the declining poverty rate they have not been looking at the limitations of the data. It is not up to date. There is no uniform 2011 estimate. Of the 39 African countries that use GDP only 11 have comparable data for the same year. For the rest of the continent there is a need to extrapolate back to 2005. In the case of Botswana we need to go back to 1993.

Africa is given as the recurring example as the continent is an especially bad case when it comes to statistical tragedies. There are on average 3.8 poverty estimates from each country to the World Bank. Taking the African continent in isolation this drops to 1.5. In Africa the national estimates for 2005 have just been collated.

Why has this happened?

Statistics are fundamentally political. A poverty estimate involves the government declaring whether or not their people are better off today than they were five years ago. If a government is standing for election it would be in their interests that a negative report is not published. The consequence of this is a delay in the financing of such projects until after the election meaning that much of the raw data is not published or at least withheld until it is anachronistic.

The trope of condescending economic optimism for Africa is often checked with the accusation of poor governance. In this capacity progress can be verified. In Zambia defeated President Rupiah Banda, leader for the last twenty years, bowed out gracefully last month. From 1960 until 1991 no African leader was voted peacefully out of power with the exception of Mauritius. Since 1991 this has occurred in 30 of the 54 nations on the continent. The one party state is no longer the norm. Vast amounts of money are now spent on elections with Nigeria setting the world record earlier this year in spending $580m in an attempt to have a free and fair election, a figure which may be surpassed in Congo later this month. The figures in this case demonstrate the desire for change but also the scale of the problem. Only today it was revealed that a one month old baby is on the government payroll in Nigeria. He is also said to have a diploma.

It remains to be seen whether the winds of democratic change in the North and increased transparency south of the Sahara will see a rise in independent judges and neutral civil services but there is a clear case for optimism in African politics despite the verisimilitude of economic statistics.

Transparent Solutions

If the problem with statistics is the politics then the solution must come through transparency. Kenya’s open data initiative is a shining example of this, especially after the recent electoral violence. Secondly the behaviour of donors should also be evaluated and made public. This would stop organisations taking credit for aiding a negative situation which they helped to create. Thirdly, those found manipulating or withholding statistics must be named and shamed. Unfortunately this most important of factors is entirely dependent on the success of the first two. Much talk remains over neo-colonialism and foreign investment in Africa but it is the African politicians who need to open up, not the markets.

Palestine, the UN and Statehood – The relevance of the UNESCO vote

In this article, the author looks into the legal relevance and implications of the recent UNESCO vote which recognised Palestine as a full member of the United Nations agency. 

By Abdulaziz Khalefa, 2 Nov, 2011

Of the 193 member states of the United Nations, 127 have recognized a Palestinian state. When the UN cultural body (UNESCO) voted on admitting Palestine as a full member, what came as a surprise was that of the 66 states not recognizing Palestine, seven (Myanmar, France, Spain, Finland, Greece, Ireland and Austria) voted yes. One Israeli academic expressed a pervasive view among those states which stand against the Palestinian bid for full UN membership. He explained “what the Palestinians really have to look for is the establishment of a Palestinian state and this is not going to be implemented by the decision of an international organization – of course not UNESCO, but (not) even the General Assembly.” Such a position expects the establishment of a Palestinian state through negotiations with Israel. There are two problems with such a stance however; from an international legal perspective the case can be made that such negotiations are irrelevant, as for the political side the negotiations are unnecessary.

Legal Relevance

When talking about Palestinian statehood, one cannot ignore the history of the territory. After taking consideration of the area in its colonial context, the question of self-determination is bound to come up (see Quigley, 2011). I am talking about the right of self-determination. Self-determination is a right of people, and it is a right erga omnes (see Advisory Opinion, 1975). Several UN resolutions, the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion on the Wall, and even Israel itself have recognized the Palestinians as a people (see Quigley, 2011). The entitlement of the Palestinian people to a Palestinian state is uncontroversial. What is controversial however is what the Palestinian state would look like. Fortunately for the Palestinians the law on self-determination has specific core content which can guide the statehood process to have Israel, the US and the many European states recognize Palestine and admit it as a full member in the UN. Unfortunately for the Palestinians however, several Security Council members have decided to sidestep the legal formalism of self-determination, to instead opt for a negotiated settlement which has effectively made the Israeli endorsement a pre-requisite for Palestinian recognition and eventual admittance into the UN as a full member.

Before addressing why the negotiations are politically unnecessary, I would like to address the legal formalism which ought to be.

The law of self-determination involves (1) the free choice of people and (2) substance. The relevant UNGA resolutions and conventions (such as article 1 of the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. UNGA resolution 2656, 1514 and 1541) highlight that the free choice of the people must be ascertained (see Advisory Opinion, 1975, para 55). This can be done through a referendum as has been done with the Timor-Leste or through a UN mission as has been done with the Western Sahara. (Do note the East Timorese referendum has been criticized for not allowing for all the options to be put on the table).

The outcome the people choose can be (1) independence as a sovereign state (2) association with an independent state (3) integration with an independent state (see UNGA, 1970).

As for the second component of the law, substance, it might seem quite obvious that after the ascertaining of the will of the people, their decision would be followed. However this is not as obvious as it may seem. It has been the case in the past where the free choice has been ascertained without any substance. The best example I can think of is the Australian exploitation of oil resources in East Timor. In the Oral proceedings of the East Timor case at the ICJ, Australia argued that exploiting the East Timorese oil did not impede their free choice and their right of self-determination. However Judge Rosalyn Higgins deconstructed this line of argument and explained that there is no point in having the East Timorese exercise their right to choose freely if the land and resources remain under the exploitation of others (see Higgins, 1995).

With ascertaining the will of the people by granting them the option to choose; and by maintaining the substantive aspects of what they choose, we can have the legal formalism of self-determination. However the Quartet’s Road Map to peace has neither given regard to the free choice of the Palestinian people to determine what their future state would look like, nor has it even addressed substantive issues such as the danger of the Wall prejudging the future boundaries, or even the expansion of the settlements. In legal terms, specifically when it comes to self-determination, it is irrelevant for the Palestinians to negotiate given a framework which does not take into consideration their free choice and substance. It is also politically imprudent, and I will explain why in the following section.

The Negotiations: What’s the point?

Just hours after the UNESCO vote admitting Palestine as a full member, Israel ordered the building of new housing units in East Jerusalem. While one might think this is a punitive measure taken by Israel in response to the Palestinian maneuvering for full UN recognition, one only needs to be reminded of the fact that the expansion of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were never to be stopped. In a speech the Israeli PM gave in 2009, he explained that Jerusalem will remain the unified capital of Israel and that he will not do anything to stop the natural growth of the settlements (in both the West bank and East Jerusalem – both areas recognized as being occupied by the ICJ) (see Advisory Opinion, 2004). The Israeli foreign minister said two weeks beforehand that “I want to make it clear that the current Israeli government will not accept in any way the freezing of legal settlement activity in Judea and Samaria [the biblical name for the West Bank].” What this means is that the settlement expansions will continue whether the Palestinians do something about it or not.

Unfortunately, this means that the negotiations with Israel from a political perspective will be very unproductive for the cause of a possible future Palestine and its eventual membership in the UN. Negotiations have effectively meant more time deciding on nothing while the settlements continue with the natural growth. With the US vetoing almost any UNSC resolution or bid not in Israel’s interest, Israel can continue the building of settlements without any repercussions. Perhaps the staunch US support for Israel can be attributed to the Israel Lobby in the US; I know John Mearshiemer wrote a best-selling book in 2007 about the Israel Lobby, and it certainly was an interesting read.

This is the reason why the Palestinian Authority cannot do as the Israeli academic implied and return to the negotiating table. The Palestinians have nothing to gain from that table, and are better off focusing their efforts elsewhere.

Perhaps the recent cluster of South American states recognizing the state can add to the needed pressure to move the Palestinian case forward. In the UNESCO vote only 14 states voted against Palestinian membership with 107 voting yes, with 52 abstentions. Now to become full UN member the Palestinian bid will have to survive the US veto, which the US has already said it will use. What this means is that the Palestinians will have to rely on the other option to submit a resolution to the General Assembly seeking an upgrade from its current status of “observer” to “non-member observer state.” This status is currently held by the Vatican and was held by other full members such as Switzerland.


The international efforts to realize the statehood of the Palestinian people have trumped the legal formalism. The Quartet’s road-map says nothing about ascertaining the will of the Palestinian people, and ignores the substantive issues raised by the Wall. Politically, the negotiations with the Israelis have become sterile. It has become apparent that Israelis are determined to do nothing about the settlement expansions with the United States passionately wagging its finger at Israel for doing so. The Palestinian authority is left with no other choice but to focus its efforts elsewhere in hope that its status in the UN grows ever steadily until they become full members.


  • Advisory Opinion, 1975; Western Sahara, ICJ Rep. Cited in David Harris, Cases and Materials on International Law (7th edn Sweet & Maxwell, London 2010) 108.
  • Advisory Opinion, 2004; Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, ICJ Rep para 75 – 78. Cited in Stephanie Koury, ‘Legal Strategies at the United Nations: A Comparative Look at Namibia. Western Sahara, and Palestine’ in Susan M, Akram (ed), International Law and the Israeli-Palestinian Context (Routledge, Oxon 2011), 159.
  • Higgins, R., 1995; Final Oral Argument, CR 1995/13 8.
  • Quigley, John, 2011; ‘Self-Determination in the Palestine Context’ in Susan M, Akram, Michael Dumper, Michael Lynk and Iain Scobbie (eds), International Law and the Israeli-Palestinian Context (Routledge, Oxon 2011) 212 – 219.
  • UNGA Res 2625 (XXV), 24 October 1970