During the 38th session of the Human Rights Council held in Geneva, IFOR organized a side event, co-sponsored by War Resisters International, focusing on the causes of migration from Eritrea and the struggles of Eritrean refugees.
The event was well attended and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Eritrea, Ms. Sheila B. Keetharuth, offered a valuable contribution to the discussion.
Among the speakers was Father Mussie Zerai, a well known advocate for the rights of refugees and chairman of the Habeshia Agency. In addition to his participation on the panel, Father Zerai offered an additional statement calling on European governments to respond to migration in humane ways.
IFOR's Representatives to the United Nations in Geneva worked closely with the dedicated international observation program supported by several IFOR branches known as FOR Peace Presence, to describe ongoing attacks on conscientious objectors and human rights defenders in Colombia. On February 2, they submitted a statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council about the ongoing situation in Colombia.
Earlier this year, IFOR was pleased to receive a grant from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust to help expand it's work at the United Nations in support of conscientious objectors around the world. IFOR saw a need to grow the capacity of human rights advocates to defend C.O.s and has created a Fellowship that will allow human rights professionals to learn more about the right to conscientious objection while gaining experience working to support those whose rights are being threatened or violated. The fellows will work along side IFOR's main representative to the UN in Geneva, Derek Brett for a period of 6 to 12 months.
We are pleased to introduce our first IFOR Fellow for this project, Martina Lanza. Martina has an M.A. in Human rights and International Relations and her principal interests are Children’s rights, conscientious objection to military service and nonviolent conflict resolution.
September 30 – October 3 more than a thousand people gathered at the Technishce Universität Berlin, Germany to discuss the most pressing challenges for peace in our time. The International Peace Bureau convened the "World Congress" in conjunction with its annual meeting. The Disarm! For a Climate of Peace gathering was supported by 50 international peace organizations including IFOR. Many IFOR members primarily from Europe and North America were in attendance. Topics of discussion included: opposition to NATO Expansion, Military Recourses and the Environment, the Impact of Climate Change on Peace and Security in Africa, the Nuclear-Climate Nexus and Sustainable Peace and many more.
In view of the monstrous consequences for humanity and the whole life on earth due to nuclear explosion IFOR urges for a ban on all nuclear weapons including possession, prohibition of use and final elimination of such weapons. It is the responsibility of all nuclear states to abandon the manufacturing and development of nuclear weapons, which may endanger their own population. In order to achieve these aims we recommend first an international treaty for a prohibition of use of such weapons then a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons for a total elimination.
During the Session, IFOR hosted a group of ten human rights activists from Mexico, Colombia, South Sudan, and Western Sahara, brought to Geneva through their partnership with the SweFOR, IFOR's Swedish branch.
Representing a variety of different organizations in countries facing similar yet distinct challenges to human rights, the activists experienced a week of training on the various ways in which the work of the United Nations in Geneva can help to protect human rights on the ground. They attended debates in the Human Rights Council and watched it adopt the Report on the review of a member state under the Universal Periodic Review; they met with staff of the High Commissioner's Office working with some of the Council's special procedures, and heard how these take up complaints about human rights violations sent to them by activists in country; they saw two of the ten “treaty bodies” - the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Committee on the Rights of the Child – questioning delegations from a “state party”. Some met with the World Council Churches – also based in Geneva – and the Lutheran World Federation; meanwhile the rest of the party met with other leading ngos – Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and also with UPR-Info and the CCPR Centre - ngos with the specific purpose of facilitating the access of in-country activists to specific UN procedures (the Universal Periodic Review and the Human Rights Committee, which oversees the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, respectively).