The United Nations Security Council

This year I came into studying political science believing that the UN was this magical organisation that saved the world. I was incredibly idealistic; but I’ve come to understand that the UN and all of its other substitutes are still human organisations, and therefore they still have flaws, some of these critical flaws.

The biggest thing that I have learnt so far is about the UN Security Council, the P-5 and the Veto power. The UN Security Council is a council consisting of 15 members from 15 states. 10 of these members are from various countries that are on two year terms, ultimately they are rotating members and change every two years. The other 5 members are the P5 or Permanent 5 members which consist of Russia, The United States, The United Kingdom, France and China. The P5 members do not rotate and are awarded an extra level of power called “veto.” This power allows the P5 member to deny any resolution put through to the UNSC, even if there is a majority that want said resolution to occur.

In most recent times Russia has used their veto power twelve times to deny any action from the UNSC to act or intervene in the Syrian Conflict. (BBC) This has led to 7 years of conflict. SEVEN ENTIRE YEARS. Not only this, but it has also led to 11 million people being displaced. (Syrian Refugees) So instead of the UNSC being able to act or create change, Russia has prevented any action from occurring.

This leads to the realisation that these P5 have this extra power, but they still have their ulterior motives, they still have their Home Country’s interests as a primary motive, they do not act for what is the best action for the world or other states. So it leads to the thought, why do these P5 members have this power? Should the veto power be rotated? Should all members of the Security Council be on two year terms? Why is it fair that these five states have more power than the others? I am left with all of these questions that can’t be answered simply, all I know is people are dying, people are losing their homes, children are losing their childhoods and their education, and that Syria was once a beautiful country is losing everything – if this conflict does not come to an end soon, there will be nothing left.

Syria’s use of Chemical Warfare

Yet again we find ourselves witnessing another chemical attack against innocent civilians in Syria. This Chemical attack in Douma although it is not entirely clear it is believed that at least 40 people have been killed and hundreds affected. (NY Times and Al Jazeera) It is also believed that a large number of these casualties are children.

The US has threatened retaliation again, but does this just mean more air strikes? Are more civilians going to be killed by outside nations dropping bombs?

The worst part of all of this in my opinion is that this isn’t the first time that chemical weapons have been used against the Syrian people. Since 2013 we have seen countless chemical attacks with thousands of people affected and so many dead.

The Syrian Government has again been accused for this attack and is said to be responsible. Will the Al-Assad regime ever be held responsible? With the Syrian Government again claiming that the use of chemical warfare was fabricated; What does this mean for the justice of the Victims? Is the rest of the world just going to sit by and watch these human beings suffer? Is it not time to take R2P action? The Government is clearly failing it’s responsibility to protect its citizens, does this not mean anything anymore? Does the slaughter of children not invoke action? This civil war has gone on for far too long and seen far too much bloodshed.

The rest of the world should put aside its differences and save the citizens that are left in Syria. I know that this is incredibly idealistic but it’s beyond the point of return. Al-Assad continues to use chemical weapons on his citizens, and the outside world continues to just bomb strong holds of various groups – which seems to cause more civilian deaths rather than anything else. I don’t know how we can fix this, or how to stop the pointless loss of life, but something needs to change. Maybe every other state that is interfering should withdraw? Maybe the US and Russia should stop with its airstrikes? Maybe the different states should stop funding the various groups? Maybe the rest of the world should take more responsibility and evacuate as many refugees as possible? Maybe countries like Australia should accept more refugees and guarantee safety for these people? I don’t know what the solution is, but there must be something more we can do.

Political Freedoms and Protesting

I’ve been learning a lot lately. I’ve learnt a lot about the UN, Syria, WWII, The Cold War, Freedom, Equality, Democracy and so many other different things in this world that I feel like it has truly opened my eyes.

One thing I’ve learnt that has really hit home is in countries with totalitarian regimes and violent and oppressive leaders citizens; are not afforded the same luxuries as someone from a country with a peaceful democracy. I know this sounds straight forward and may seem quite obvious but have you ever thought about the fact that in Australia you can protest and no real harm will come to you? In Australia you can take to the streets, voice your concerns in a peaceful manner and the worst that could happen is being arrest and taken to the watch house. You won’t be shot on site or killed for standing up for your beliefs; not everyone gets this luxury, not everyone can take to the streets to peacefully protest without risking their lives. With this realisation, I thought it was important to voice it and show whoever will listen how fortunate we are, and how far the world still has to come

George Orwell wrote an entire piece on the effect of peaceful protest called Reflections on Gandhi which in short says that for peaceful/non-violent action to be effective one must presume compassion from the perpetrator, simply put there must be a certain level of freedom and a level of compassion. This is something that I have never considered.

All we have to do is reflect back to China in 1989 where thousands of people (mostly students) took to the streets in protest for the end of corruption, peaceful reform, economic reform and political reform. These protests saw thousands of people detained, imprisoned, tortured and executed. This peaceful protest turned violent and it is known as the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. These citizens expected their Government to listen to them, to do right by them and to change, however instead they were murdered, tortured, and imprisoned.

In more recent times we have the case of Syria. In 2011 many people took to the streets to Protest Bashar al-Assad’s presidency, the rate of unemployment and the high level of poverty. They were basically asking for more freedom and a higher level of dignity for themselves and all citizens of Syria. They wrote songs, danced in public squares, gave roses to soldiers, and peacefully protested for their beliefs. The Government and it’s forces retaliated by murdering activists, shooting protesters in the streets and ultimately starting this civil war. The protesters then took up arms and began defending themselves. This was roughly 7 years ago and this civil war has grown and become a conflict that is so complicated that I won’t go in to it any further (in this post at least). For more information about the Syrian conflict, here is an article by the BBC.

In both of these examples of China and Syria you have a leadership that lacks compassion. The al-Asad regime has been accused of using chemical weapons on their on citizens and China in 1989 was a heavily communist society with high levels of poverty and corruption. You can see how these societies lacked compassion and it is just shown further in their reactions to civilian protest. These citizens lacked the freedom to be able to use non- violent means, and their Governments failed them in not showing them the compassion to do so.

How is it that in the 21st century civilians cannot take to the streets to make themselves heard?

In Australia, people are awarded the luxury to protest for their beliefs. Marriage equality, refugees, pro-choice/pro-life, Adani are all topics in which people have tried to have their voices heard. People have taken to the streets in protest, they have had banners and marches – people didn’t die, no one was shot, people were able to go home and hold their families. These Australian’s had the privilege to speak up against their Government with no (or little) consequences, if nothing else I want everyone to realise how privileged they are, and how lucky they are to be even given the option for that.

Manus Humanitarian Crisis

I live in a country of egalitarianism. I live in a country of mateship, in the country of a fair go. I live in the country of the Australian dream, the country built on the blood, sweat and tears of criminals, convicts and migrants. I live in a country where one of our national heroes was a bush ranger and a criminal, where one of the most recognised songs known by Australians is about a swag man, ultimately a backpacker.

I also live in a country where it’s citizens seem to have forgotten who built this great nation. They seem to have forgotten that the majority of the population originally came here by boat.

I am a 7th Generation Australian. I am the relative of Convicts, of a Light horse man, of soldiers, and of farmers. I am also a 2nd Generation Australian, the Granddaughter of two migrated English men. I grew up in a Country Victorian Town, and I was born in Northern Queensland.

I am also a strong believer in equality and the egalitarian beliefs that this nation has thrived on. I am a young woman that will sing my national anthem with pride and hopes that my home, my country can follow through with its core ideals.

To simply start

In a Manus Island Detention Centre controlled by the Australian Government 606 men have been left with no power, no running water and no food. Which the United Nations has declared as Humanitarian Crisis. These men were originally taken to this detention centre unlawfully and have ultimately been treated worse than animals.

Manus Island is situated in Papua New Guinea, The high court of PNG demanded that the detention centre be closed as the UN had declared it unlawful, and in breach of human rights. I’m not sure if you know too much about the PNG, But in simple terms it is not a safe place, foriegners can be gravely unsafe and crime rates are high. So in great Australian fashion the detention centre has been closed and the 606 men were given the option to be placed in an alternative facility in Lorengau which is believed to be unsafe, and would put these refugees at a higher risk of danger and harm.

To make matters worse, our neighbouring nation New Zealand offered to take 150 of the Manus island refugees and the Australian Government denied that offer.

This makes it seem as though it is a stand off between the Australian Government and the Refugees fighting for their right to life, safety and to seek asylum and the Government’s policy to ‘stop the boats.’

The part I always find most ironic about this is that the Australian anthem, the song that is supposed to represent my country has these lyrics:

‘For those who’ve come across the seas 

We’ve boundless plains to share; 

With courage let us all combine

To Advance Australia Fair.’

Does no one else see the irony in that? My Government is doing absolutely EVERYTHING in its power to stop people coming by boat entering this country, yet the anthem, the Country’s National anthem literally states that they are welcome. How far from Australian ideals can you get if you are walking away from the song that brings our nation together.

Furthermore, you have the parts of Australia that have low levels of immigrants and high levels of intolerance. I grew up in a town full of refugees and it was successful. I was surrounded by refugees from so many African and Middle Eastern Nations; as well as immigrants from Italy, Greece, China, India, and who knows where else. We all lived together, we all went to school together, we laughed together, we ate together and we grew together. We didn’t see the skin colour or the heritage that made up our pasts, we saw the individuals who had their quirks, their own sense of humour, their own way of showing love and kindness.

We were kids that didn’t talk about the atrocities that some of my beloved friends had gone through, we enjoyed the fads of Gangnam style and listened to One Direction like any teenagers of my time. I honestly believe that that’s what the world should be like. It shouldn’t be about where you were born, or what horrible things you have had to face. It should be about giving people the chance to be their best selves, about letting kids be kids, about giving every person the same chances, and hoping beyond anything else that as a Nation we can grant safety to at least a few people that honestly and truely need it.

Call me biast if you like. God knows I am, I have experienced what I have experienced and I have seen a successful multicultural community thrive. I have seen people come together, I have seen families accept other families and the true harmony and love of a community that didn’t just judge people by their skin colour, but rather by their character.

That was one community that I lived in, that I grew up in, and if what was so successful why can’t more be? Why can’t more communities in Australia allow refugees and asylum seekers to settle there. We have the room, and not only that we have an AGING POPULATION, which means to be able to support our aging population we need more young people to be educated, working and paying taxes to support the ever growing number of older (and elderly) people who cannot support themselves.

I will not apologise for how I feel and I will not stop talking about how poorly our Government has handled the international refugee crisis. All I can say is that I stand with the men on Manus, I stand with the people on Nauru and I hope that some day soon we all wake up and realise that we are all human and these poor souls seeking asylum deserve every opportunity we have been granted in our wonderful country that is Australia.

Offshore Detention in Australia

As a global community we are suffering from a refugee crisis. That is the simple reality. While some countries are doing their part and accepting as many as they can handle, and other communities have come together and embraced multiculturalism. Others have not.

Some countries have decided that it is easier to hide the people that are seeking refuge and asylum in distant places and honestly it’s an out of sight and out of mind technique. Australia has taken this approach, going a step further by placing innocent people in unlawful imprisonment, in unsafe foreign lands.

The two destinations in question at this present moment are Manus Island and Nauru. Both of these foreign lands are responsible for housing the innocent souls seeking refuge and asylum in Australia.

So now that I have given you a brief (and not even close to complete) introduction. Lets now discuss the real issues at hand; The Australian Government knowingly putting innocent vulnerable people in dangerous circumstances.

Earlier this year 1,923 former and current detainees that had been illegally imprisoned and neglected on Manus Island were awarded $70 million in a class action against the Commonwealth (finalised in a settlement out of Court).  This illegal detainment and neglect had been occurring since November 2012 and the detention centre is still open. Although to at least to slightly rectify the issue, it has been set to close by the end of October.

So with the closure of Manus island looming, refugees have been invited to opt-in to a transfer to the detention centre in Nauru as the Australian Government is seemingly running out of options to where they want to imprison these innocent people.

So, now we start the topic of Nauru. It can’t be as bad as Manus right? However, the fact is that offshore detention is offshore detention and between Nauru and Manus, there is little to no difference between them. The Australian Human Rights Commission found in 2014 that offshore processing puts asylum seekers and refugees at a high risk of being forcibly returned to a country where they would be subjected to persecution. As well as the rates of self-harm and detrimental mental health being quite high in these detention centres. See more here.

At least to some extent, offshore detention does not discriminate. Men, women, and children are all sent to detention. The educated, the non-educated, the young, the old, the healthy and the sick can all be sent to offshore detention. The Australian Government has placed these people in unlawful detention because they are desperate and they need our help. Honestly, what Government could imprison innocent vulnerable people? 

So to talk about what Human Rights are being breached by offshore detention by the Australian Government;

Firstly Article 5 ‘The right to not be tortured, or treated cruelly, inhumanly, or degraded as a form of punishment.’ Australia has inhumanly treated and degraded human beings due to the simple fact that they needed a safe place to go.

Article 9 is the next human right breached with offshore detention; ‘The right to not be arbitrarily arrested, detained or exiled unfairly,’ with thousands of innocent people being detained every day, do I need to say anymore?

Article 14 ‘The right to seek asylum,’ do I need to add anything to that? Australia is not allowing human beings their human right to seek asylum for what reason? For what cause?

Article 25 ‘The right to adequate living standards and social protections,’

Article 28 ‘The right to a free and fair world’

And lastly Article 30 ‘The right to Human Rights that nobody can take away’

At least 6 human rights are breached with the Australian Government’s Offshore Detention Centres and yet they are still open, and yet people are unlawfully imprisoned. How in anyone’s mind is this okay, and why hasn’t it changed.