Int. Security Policy Summit Vienna, 7-9 November 2019

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By Mariam Frangulyan

Participant of the 8th Intl. Security Policy Summit in Vienna
Ca’Foscari University of Venice

 

In the mind of any international relations student, institutions such as the United Nations and the OSCE are a dream, a final point of arrival in our careers.

Having been able to attend the Intl. Security Policy Summit in Vienna with the WYAcademy allowed me to be a step closer to this dream.

 

DAY ONE: OSCE Headquarters, Heldenplatz, Vienna

I arrive at the meeting point in front of the OSCE headquarters, excited and eager for what’s coming next. I happily greet my friends who I had met during the last Summit in Madrid and already feel familiar with the environment.

As everybody arrives, we get in line for the passport and security check to get our badges to enter the building.

We get in. I couldn’t believe it was actually happening: we were in the building where the most important decisions in security issues are made.

As we arrive in our room, we are greeted by Florence Le Clézio who works as Senior Media Assistant at the OSCE and is in charge of visiting groups, such as us.

After a quick presentation, she starts explaining to us the structure and role of the OSCE, in order to provide knowledge and perspective of how the institution actually functions.

After this overview of the OSCE, something truly exciting happened: it was time to attend the plenary session that was ongoing that day.

I was so thrilled to have the opportunity of experiencing directly how these countries actually engaged in discussions among them and tried to solve those crucial issues.

That day we were extra-lucky because the session began with a report by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Lamberto Zannier. He provided a detailed report of what he had done and seen in different countries such as Tajikistan or Ukraine from June to October and he also talked of the cooperation he had had with the United Nations.

Following his report, the floor was given to the 57 countries present in the plenary session. For the time that we were there, the floor was taken by the Russian Federation, Finland, Norway, the United States and Ukraine, who, one at a time, responded to the report made by Zannier and provided their perspective and added comments. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay for the whole day, as much as I wanted to, we were told to quietly leave the room and go back to our training Summit. I looked back one more time to the room and to the 57 countries, hoping one day to be among them, as a direct actor involved. This has to be certainly one of the highlights of the whole experience.

The next speech was delivered by Tarik Ndifi, analyst and researcher for the conflict prevention centre at the OSCE. I had had the chance of meeting Mr. Ndifi at the Summit in Madrid and I was glad to see him again, as having an expert from the OSCE teaching us security issues is not to be taken for granted.

He provided us with in-depth knowledge about all the steps within a conflict, the so-called conflict cycle, reporting several examples from the OSCE field missions.

After a quick lunch break, to grasp the beauty of Vienna and recharge our energy, we were directed towards the Diplomatische Akademie Wien, where we had some time to get acquainted with one another, before continuing the Summit.

Our next lecturer was Lukas Wank, Co-Director at the Think-Thank Shabka, who delivered a speech about European Security Policy. After the lecture, we dealt with a case study concerning the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where we were divided into small groups and  each one of us was assigned a different role within this scenario, such as leader of local militia or university student. The goal of this exercise was to show how difficult and complex it is to agree on policies, when both local and international actors are involved. In fact, the needs and concerns of an actor might be completely different from those of another one, which certainly complicates the situation.

At this point, we wrapped up day one and went out for a few drinks.

 

DAY 2: UN HEADQUARTERS, VIENNA
We arrive at the United Nations Headquarters in Vienna early in the morning. After entering the building and doing security checks, we receive a badge allowing us to spend the whole day there. Incredible!

We grab a coffee and we are ready for the day. Two important experts from the UNODC were waiting for us in the conference room: Jean-Luc Lemahieu, Director in the division for policy analysis and public affairs and Billy Batware, responsible for crime and drug prevention and counter-terrorism projects.

Mr. Lemahieu delivered a speech about how the UNODC is working towards achieving peace, justice and the Sustainable Development Goals. Then, we had an intense Q&A, where we grasped the opportunity of having someone from the UN willing to answer to our many questions and solve our doubts related.

After his speech, Mr. Batware talked to us about the engagement of the UNODC with other NGOs in combating transnational organized crime, which was followed once again by a Q&A session. In this occasion, we also had the chance to get to know one of his interns and ask him directly about his experience at the United Nations as a young student, just like us.

Afterwards, we grabbed lunch at the UN cafeteria, which contributed to making experience at the UN feel more real, as if we were not visitors but rather actually part of the system.

Although at this point the academic part was over, there was so much more we were excitedly waiting for. We had the whole afternoon for ourselves to enjoy at the United Nations, so we had to make the most out of it! So, Ramiro Murguía, the Director of the Academy, guided us through the different wings of the building and thus we visited UNIDO, IAEA and UNODC. At this point, we couldn’t miss the chance of taking some pictures in this incredible environment!

To finish our day in the best way, we gathered at the diplomatic bar of the United Nations and had a drink all together, where we had time to share our views, perspectives and experiences.

 

DAY 3: International Institute for Peace

The third day and last day was definitely the most intense from an academic point of view but it definitely was necessary to gain a 360-degrees experience.

First, we were greeted by Mrs. Velina Tchakarova, Head of the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, who delivered a speech about the transformation of the global system with a special focus on the current and future role of Europe, which later opened up a discussion about Europe’s supremacy.

The next lecturer was Michael Zinkanell, Secretary General at Shabka Think-Tank, who delivered a speech about integration and European Union, which was followed by a practical exercise where we were divided in three groups, each one with a different type of EU integration. For example, my group imagined what would happen if the European Union underwent a process of full integration, where each member state renounced to its sovereignty. I believe that the practical part of the Summit is very important. I experienced this both in Madrid and Vienna: in this way, the lecturers allow the students to understand better the theoretical notions dealt with by applying them into practical contexts.

At this point, it was time for a quick lunch break during which some of us, including myself, gave interviews and shared our experience with World Youth Academy.

After the short break, we had our final lecture by Mr. Tarik Ndifi, who focused on the crisis in Ukraine and the OSCE field mission involved there. Within his lecture, he also emphasized how important the collaboration between the various institutions is and specifically presented us how the OSCE and UNHCR cooperate together.

The last session was now over, bringing the Summit to an end. However, there was still something missing… our certificates! In the last moments of the Summit, we were all handed our diplomas and we took the official pictures. With a final round of applause, we all congratulated and promised each other to meet very soon at the next Summits!

I’d like to conclude with a few final remarks: since first joining the World Youth Academy a few months ago, I honestly feel already much more enriched both from an academic and personal point of view. The lectures, the experts and the institutions involved are of high excellence and provide the participants with thorough and diversified knowledge.

In addition, the working environment is incredible. It’s not everyday you find 16 different nationalities in the same place sharing your own interests and passions.

Thank you everyone and see you soon!

By Mariam Frangulyan

Participant of the 8th Intl. Security Policy Summit in Vienna
Ca’Foscari University of Venice

 

 

 

 

 

IN DRUGS WE TRUST: THE AMERICAS WAR WITH DRUGS

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In its Global Study on Homicide 2019, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) stated that: “[o]rganized crime kills as many people as all armed conflicts combined”. The American continent had the highest rate of murders for 2017 and has been the same since 1990. UNODC has found that Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Venezuela have the highest homicide rates. Can this trend be stopped by the legalization of drugs?

Whether it may help reduce violence is still to be known. Another aspect of it does require further attention; it may help States prevent health deterioration of their citizens. Mainly, legalization could represent access to better quality and information on drugs. Yet, the debate is in no way a straightforward solution.

The motivations of organized crime, especially regarding transnational operations, has been a subject matter of policymakers, academics, and international organizations. Often criminal groups are considered to be ‘rational actors’ that seek to maximize profit. The drug trade is one of the most common methods of revenue associated with organized crime. Both academics and United Nations officials have suggested that legalizing drugs would greatly diminish funding for criminal groups.

Currently, Uruguay is the only Latin American country that allows for the legal use of cannabis and has been since 2013. Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru allow for its use within medical treatments. The debate is particularly relevant in Mexico due to the proximity to one of the largest markets: the United States.

According to research, the legalization of marijuana in some US states helped reduce violent crime in those places that border Mexico. The debate is complex and effects on legalization seem to have different notions in academic texts. The Mexican government has proposed the legalization as part of a wider security strategy but added the need to address both from the need to reduce income to criminal groups and also as a means to reduce the threat to the health of drug users.

Prices for cocaine, one of the most trafficked drugs in the US, increased from 2007 to 2017. Data may show that legalization could contribute to reducing the income of organized crime. But would that necessarily make the groups cease their activities or would it force them into other illegal markets?

Europe’s responsibility to bring back ISIS fighters home

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Following ISIS’ loss of the last sliver of territory in March, US President Donald Trump asked the UK, Germany, France and other European allies to take back the over 800 ISIS members that are captured in Syria and to put them on trial in their home countries. However, European countries have shown to be reluctant to repatriate nationals that have been accused of being affiliated with ISIS or have been involved in the fighting. They claim that bringing them back would pose serious security concerns and they fear that they may have difficulties obtaining enough evidence to prosecute them. They have chosen to revoke their nationality instead, passing on the responsibility to those countries where the fighters are held.

The recent withdrawal of US troops from Syria and the invasion of Turkey have created further tensions in the region, leaving liberated areas unable to contain ISIS fighters in camps, meaning the potential for further activity and radicalization, as many are being freed or have escaped. The Syrian Democratic Forces, in charge of caring for the situation in these camps in northern Syria, have called for an urgent long-term solution as they are struggling to maintain cohesive control over their assigned territories, but European countries are also unable to find a comprehensive way out of the situation. ISIS has lost its territory and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but has readjusted to the circumstances and continues to carry out numerous attacks and to grow in numbers. Therefore keeping ISIS fighters and relatives in the region without being prosecuted will not help the situation and could lead to further recruitment in both the Middle East or Europe.

The issue here is not only the continuing of terrorist activity in the region but also the conditions that these European nationals are living in. Conditions in these camps are inhumane and desperate. Widespread trauma among children subject to abuse, inadequate sanitation, and medical facilities as well as a general environment of lawlessness are present and becoming the norm in the camps, which again is strengthening the risk of further radicalization.

The instability in Syria following the Turkish incursion and the long-term detention of these men, women, and children are problematic for many security and humanitarian reasons. European governments should then address the challenge by accelerating the repatriation of their nationals, but instead, they have chosen to respond with exclusion policies and laws, displacing their responsibility onto others.

Some European officials have been trying to send suspects to be trialed in Iraqi courts or international tribunals but, despite some advantages to this prospect, it has been criticized over the risk of unfair or unreliable trials. Therefore, although it will expect some political courage to do so, European governments will have sooner or later to bring ISIS members home.

It is the fastest way to bring ISIS fighters into accountability for crimes through fairly conducted trials, it will get detainees and their relatives out of an unsustainable security situation and therefore limit the risk of the spreading of ISIS activities in the currently unstable northern Syria.

Disaster diplomacy: friend or foe?

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Yesterday, Albania experienced the most destructive earthquake in the last 30 years. The death toll is still rising and hundreds of injured are being treated. The EU, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia, Turkey have all sent help to Albania. Many other countries announced their readiness to help shall it be needed.

This kind of aid in cases of natural catastrophe is not uncommon. Even when those countries are at a cold or a very warm war. Disaster diplomacy deals with exploring how and why disaster-related activities influence diplomatic relations between countries.

An example of disaster diplomacy is the Iranian-USA relationship. In 1990, a huge earthquake killed more than 35,000 people in Iran. Although Iranian government refused help from the West, shortly after the American Red Cross and AmeriCare were providing help in Iran. Twelve years later, after another disastrous earthquake in Iran, the US sent help again, although Bush declared Iran part of ‘Axis of Evil’. Both countries wanted to cooperate but with no strings attached. This had no impact on USA-Iran relationship. However, Israeli help was not accepted – because this would likely hinder the chances of government’s re-election. In addition, following the denial of the UN representatives to access the nuclear power plants, Iran had to project a cooperative image at the international level. So it’s not only about human lives.

Demolished building in Albania following the earthquake in November 2019
REUTERS/Florian Goga

Another example are relations between Greece and Turkey. In 1999, more than 17,000 people died in an earthquake in Turkey. Greece sent financial aid as well as special forces, to help the Turks. Only three weeks later, an earthquake hit Greece and although Turkey itself was still managing the catastrophe, it responded to the needs of Greece and sent help. These moves were followed by a series of bilateral agreements between the two countries.

Kelman however states that disaster diplomacy sometimes yields further cooperation and sometimes further conflict. He states several important factors for disaster diplomacy to be successful: already set grounds for cooperation prior to disaster, focusing on disaster instead of diplomacy, building informal networks, working at multiple levels, reciprocity. Disaster diplomacy fails when diplomacy is avoided, relations are dependent on disaster, there are other events overwhelming disaster, and disaster is used as a weakness of the enemy.

Disaster diplomacy can be a powerful means for setting ground for future cooperation. Effective disaster diplomacy has to be followed by official conflict-resolution efforts led by governments. Or else, beware the helpers.

We at the World Youth Academy send our condolences to Albania and we wish you as quick as possible recovery from the catastrophe.

Men: Eliminate Violence Against Women

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The 25th of November has been marked since 1999 by the UN as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Particularly this year, the United Nations has chosen as its motto “orange the world: generation equality stands against rape”.

However, the origin of the day is less known. On the 25th of November 1960, the Dominican Dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo gave orders to execute the Mirabal sisters, three well-known political activists that had fervently opposed the dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. In 1981 the Latin American Feminist Movement,  paying homage to their assassination and raising awareness of the situation of women in Latin America & the Caribbean, declared the 25th of November as the day for the elimination of violence against women.

Let’s start by saying that violence against women is a structural phenomenon in mostly every society  in the world and despite the efforts in addressing this violence and working for its elimination via international instruments such as the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) or by including it on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the figures and facts in 2019 are still alarming and us, women, are right to fear.

But what do we fear? The main problem arising from all these initiatives is mostly its degree of abstraction. More often than not, we don’t see either in Conventions like the CEDAW or in different initiatives an appeal to the extremely likely and direct cause of violence: MEN.

This might seem obvious, but this fundamental cause of violence against women is usually absent, and the focus to end the problem instead of being on the cause is always on the consequences:

Who kills women and girls? The UN says:

-“1 in 2 women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family in 2017; while only 1 out of 20 men were killed under similar circumstances”

-Let me ask: who are their partners? the Partners are highly likely MEN.

Who marries child brides? The UN says:

-“Almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday”

-But I ask. Who are they forced to marry? Girls are forced to marry MEN.

Who rapes women? The UN says:

-“1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most frequently by an intimate partner”.

-I dare ask, again, who is the partner? and again, extremely likely, a MAN.

 

Today, on this very 25th November, I  challenge #allmen to start considering the ways you inhabit the world. I challenge you to think about all the times you weren’t scared when a woman was.

I challenge you to hold accountable other men around you. I challenge you to stop saying #notallmen (at least before you do, check these facts).

 

 

And to all the women, see you later on the streets.

Israeli politics at the expense of Palestinians

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The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the longest-running and most controversial conflicts taking place in the world today. Two opposing movements of self-determination fighting for more than seventy years over territory claims, political control and resources, with no clear direction towards peace.

However, what is clear is that whenever attacks are launched from Gaza into Israeli territory, public coverage and attention double up, unlike all the other stories such as Palestinians getting shot almost every week or the daily reality of occupation for example, that get much less or no coverage at all. This may immediately imply the general perception that it is the Palestinians who insist in debilitating relations with Israel. But is this always the case?

Once again, provocations, violence and revenge have invaded the Gaza Strip and Israel. But this time, it is worth noting that the recent hostilities were sparked by an Israeli air strike last November 12th ordered by Israel´s interim Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The attack aimed at and killed the 42-year-old leader of the Islamic Jihad´s armed wing Al-Quds Brigades, Bahaa Abu Al-Ata to which the Islamic network responded with retaliatory rocket fires. And so hostilities began again, creating a new security issue for Israelis.

So why would Netanyahu order such attack, knowing the full consequences?

The events have come at an interesting time in Israeli domestic politics: two months after Netanyahu came second in the general elections. The Israeli army does not usually take credit for initiating confrontation with Gaza and according to its narrative only retaliates when provoked – whether that is true or not is a story for another day.

So why take credit now? Netanyahu is desperate to hold on to power and in order to do so he is trying to convince his people that Israel is in a state of security emergency and that Benny Gantz´Arab-backed minority potential government would be ‘a historic danger to Israel´s security’ and that it ‘will gravely hurt the security of Israel’. But Gantz, former chief of the Israeli Defence Forces, is no peace-hugger either. He contributed to the mass killings of Arab populations as a soldier of the occupying army and if that wasn´t enough, he brags about how many Palestinians he has killed and uses those numbers to convince his voters.

The most devastating fact about this political competition is that it is all at the expense of millions of Palestinians. With the absence of a political solution and hope for peace and security in Palestine, Israeli political leaders will continue to impose violent solutions that only serve their personal political gains. There has to be a shift in focus because regardless of who wins in Israeli politics, Palestinians will continue to be powerless against a situation that the international community has turned a blind eye on. Instead of looking at those politicians in the occupying power, Palestinians, the Arab and international communities will need to create a popular movement based on healthy thought that truly desires peace and change.

Kashmir: A Never-Ending Division

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Following the 1947 separation of India and Pakistan and their independence from the British Empire, the conflict to control the territory of Kashmir began. This conflict has been one of the longest ones in history and unlike others, the situation is anywhere near settled.

Territorial disputes over the Kashmir region sparked two of the three major Indo-Pakistani wars in 1947 and in 1965. In exchange for helping with the rebels, Kashmir signed an agreement to become part of India. Despite joining the country, autonomy was formalized through Article 370, added into the Indian Constitution shortly after. The said article gave the territory of Kashmir a certain amount of freedom: they were able to have their own constitution, their own flag, and autonomy to make laws, whereas foreign affairs, communication, and defense remained under Indian control.

After several violent attacks on each other’s soil, in 1972, under the terms of the Simla Agreement and following UN advice, India and Pakistan renamed the borderline as the “Line of Control” and signed a ceasefire agreement in 2003. Despite this arrangement, they regularly exchanged fire across the border.

With the newly elected Prime Minister Modi, there were high hopes that his government would make significant progress in the negotiations with Pakistan. It was true that some effort was put into fixing their relations, however, momentum was definitely lost in September 2016, when armed Pakistani militants attacked an Indian base near the Line of Control, the deadliest attack in decades. According to the CFR between 2017 and 2018, there were more than three thousand reported violations along the Line.

At the moment, tensions between both territories and other international forces are exploding after the attack in February 2019. Official reports state that the Pakistani Islamic group Jaish e-Mohammad drove a car carrying between 300-350kg of explosives and crashing into a convoy transporting about 2,500 Indian troops to the Kashmir Valley.

Using the attacks, Prime Minister Modi decided to revoke seven decades of Kashmir autonomy by rescinding article 370 in an attempt to regain support and win the upcoming elections. “The risks of violence have risen significantly. The bottom line is India may believe that this move will bring more clarity to the Kashmir issue by formally integrating the region into the union of India, but there are all kinds of risks and uncertainties ahead” said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program.

Attempts of peace talks have come to no result and Pakistan and Indian remain tense, both aware that their counterpart is a nuclear superpower. On their part, India has approached the US to gain strength as China is gaining power across Asia. Pakistan, on the other hand, is one of the biggest beneficiaries of China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative attracting millionaire investments to Pakistani Kashmir.

While the conflict gets worse and international forces seek their own interests in the territory, people living in the Kashmir region have endured decades of human rights violations and abuses at the hands of security forces on both sides.

 

 

Why is America afraid of children’s rights?

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All the members of the United Nations have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but one. The United States. What may be the reason behind this opposition, given that the US actively contributed to the creation of the CRC and even suggested original text for several articles?

The UNCRC is the fastest ratified convention in the history of the UN. In the process of its creation, several articles were originally proposed by the US and were based on existing US law. However, for 30 years has the US failed to ratify it. Interestingly, the very articles proposed by the US are the ones that inspire the strongest opposition. One wave of opposition stems from religious-right and some other conservative organisations, whose slogan ‘The UN Wants Your Children’ is more than enough to portray their line of acting.

Another wave is grounded in fear that the Convention threatens the sovereignty of the US. The Convention threatens national security, it is said. A State Department legal advisor clearly explained: ‘In our constitutional form of government, we view basic rights as limitations of the power of government to do things to the individual, rather than requirements that the government do things for people’.

Although it is not very clear how ratifying the CRC would hinder American sovereignty since enforcement mechanisms by the UN are not foreseen, there are several possible explanations (there have been quite a few experts dealing with this issue). One is that the ratification could lead to necessary public reports on the negative state of American children. Well, there is no help there. Another explanation is the fear that the CRC would supersede the Constitution. Except it does not work that way. The UN can publish facts and give suggestions, but there is no legal way to influence the American law.

Another explanation is that the Convention might empower the congress to act in areas that are normally handled by the state. Here too has the UN no mechanism to mandate action at the national level, but rather to oversee whether the obligations are fulfilled.

Is failure to ratify the UNCRC reflection of the US paranoia or their need to act as a superpower, even at the cost of children’s rights? This question remains to be answered.

Until then, the US will remain the only country in the world with yet another glooming role: allowing juveniles to be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

Iraq´s rocky road to stability

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After years of war and occupation, the security scene in Iraq appeared to be somewhat better than it was in the post-2003 conflict period. The territorial (but not complete) defeat of Daesh in 2017 also brought some sort of optimism to the country. However looking closely, Iraq continues to be a war-torn country where a majority of the population lives in aggravating conditions and reconstruction of infrastructure and a harmonized society remains far-sighted. Iraqis have grown tired of a widely believed culture of corruption, weak governance, and a fragmented political arena. These once again, have sparked public anger.

Protests have erupted across Iraq over government corruption, shortage of basic services, increasing rates of unemployment and general discontent with the political system. The most striking features of these protests are their magnitude – they are the biggest protests since the fall of Saddam Hussein – and the brutality employed by the Iraqi security forces against those opposing the status quo – as of today, leaving 319 dead and 15,000 injured. These protests are the clear proof and example of the loss of trust in the Iraqi political system and instability in the country, putting Iraq in a direction difficult to pull back from.

So what is interfering in Iraq’s road to stability?

Iraq suffers from a heavily fragmented political system where different factions are competing against one another for power and influence and ultimately applying contradictory measures and working at cross purposes. This fragmented political arena is coupled with the integration of various factions of paramilitary groups within the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) with differing purposes, into the security forces. This can only lead to the absence of coherent control over the security situation and therefore more escalation of the conflict. Iraq has consequently become an open political space for contestation between weak and divided political and security figures and the Iraqi population.

Now, will the protesters’ claims be heard? Iraq is trying to get onto a path of stability but protests will not end while the root cause of the problem – unwanted and fragmented government and security forces – is still in place. There needs to be a strengthened and more unified national movement that removes the current political system and re-builds one that truly responds to the Iraqis´ basic needs. Although this will be a long process, it is not impossible and has to be urgently pushed for.

Myanmar’s invisible conflict

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Myanmar was a British colony until January 4th, 1948 when the country became independent. In 1962, General Ne Win imposed a rigid blueprint in an attempt to create a self-sufficient socialist state, free from capitalist and communist influence, the so-called “Burmese Way to Socialism”. This resounding failure greatly improved poverty and isolation within the country. Notwithstanding the State-sponsored violence supported by its own military and civil population, the International community has turned its back and cut down resources leaving the country at its mercy.

As the Guardian labels it, the “Burma road to ruin” lead the country to be one of the least developed countries in the world. In 1988, as a result of several protests across the country against the Socialist System, a military coup was enacted, and the government was overthrown. Despite the efforts of the National League for Democracy (NLD) to restate democracy, the military junta decided to ignore the results.

The lack of representation and religious discrimination reinforced by the adoption of Buddhism as the “national” religion in Myanmar made other minorities feel unrepresented, threatened and prosecuted. The Karen minority, constituting a 7% of the total population, has been fighting for independence since 1949. The Burmese government has used numerous tactics in an attempt to make them cease their efforts. According to the UN Security Council, the tactics against Karen people have been identified as “ethnic cleansing”. More than 100,000 people have been displaced along the Thai-Myanmar border throughout seven refugee camps.

The General Secretary of the Karen Women’s Organisation described the situation as “desperate” and states that Karen people “are losing faith” due to the fact that the Thai government and external funds from NGOs and International Organisations are being cut off.

However, the idea of coming back to their land is a no-go. They don’t have a safe home to go back to even after the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement signed in October 2015. The government has violated the agreement on several occasions and a new arrangement has not yet been made.

While UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator states that “The closure of camps must be linked to improvements in freedom of movement and access to services and job opportunities” no movement towards a resolution of the crisis is been achieved. Therefore, the situation remains rather hostile and life-threatening for those who are forced to leave the camps and go back.