UN chief disappointed as Member States unable to reach agreement on nuclear non-proliferation

According to the UN website, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed disappointment at the inability of Member States to reach consensus on a “substantive outcome” on a non-proliferation treaty key for global nuclear disarmament, according to a United Nations spokesperson.

In a statement issued earlier today regarding the conclusion of the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the UN spokesperson said the Secretary-General particularly regretted that States parties were “unable to narrow their differences on the future of nuclear disarmament or to arrive at a new collective vision on how to achieve a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.”

“The Secretary-General appeals to all States to sustain the momentum they have built over the past five years, including new initiatives in the pursuit of nuclear disarmament and continuing efforts to strengthen nuclear non-proliferation,” the statement continued. “With respect to the Middle East, the Secretary-General continues to stand ready to support efforts to promote and sustain the inclusive regional dialogue necessary to achieve this goal.”

Mr. Ban has previously lamented a reversal in progress towards new arms reduction agreements following “allegations of destabilizing violations of existing agreements.”

In addition, he has warned that the international tide of nuclear abolition – so strong in 2010 – has, in fact, ebbed leading to mounting tensions between nuclear-armed States and a return to Cold War mind sets.

In today’s statement, the Secretary-General’s spokesperson added that Mr. Ban hoped that the growing awareness of “the devastating humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons continues to compel urgent actions for effective measures leading to the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.”

[This should appear under photo: An atmospheric nuclear test conducted by the United States at Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands, on 1 November 1952. Photo: US Government]

Rights groups criticize Myanmar’s newly signed birth-spacing law

According to an article by Avaneesh Pandey in the International Business Times, a new law in Myanmar that could be used to force women in the country to have children at least three years apart has come under fire by rights group, which have decried it as anti-Muslim. The Health Care for Population Control bill was signed into law last week by President Thein Sein, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/05/rights-groups-attack-myanmar-child-birth-restrictions-150525131935855.html media reports.
“This law targets one religion, one population, in one area,” Khin Lay of the Yangon-based Triangle Women Support Group reportedly said on Monday, referring to the minority Muslim population in the country. However, the government has denied the allegations, reportedly calling it a law aimed at improving maternal and child health.

While the World Health Organization recommends having at least a two-year gap between pregnancies, in Myanmar — where several Buddhist ultra-nationalist groups have stoked anti-Muslim sentiments by accusing the Muslim population of having extremely high birth rates — the passage of such a law has become a highly controversial move.

“Activists with a racist, anti-Muslim agenda pressed for this population law, so there is every reason to expect it to be implemented in a discriminatory way,” Brad Adams, the Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said, in a http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/05/16/burma-reject-discriminatory-population-bill released before the bill was passed. “The population bill as well as the other ‘race and religion’ bills under consideration are likely to escalate repression and sectarian violence.”

The law is expected to primarily affect women belonging to the minority Rohingya community. The Burmese government has long claimed that the nearly 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims, who reside primarily in the northern tip of Rakhine state, are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, making them essentially stateless.  In recent years, this has resulted in frequent and violent clashes between the majority Buddhist and the minority Muslim population in Rakhine, killing hundreds and forcing thousands to http://www.ibtimes.com/rohingya-migrants-un-estimates-about-3000-boat-people-still-sea-myanmar-offers-aid-1934309 to neighboring nations like Malaysia and Indonesia.
Rights groups have also expressed concerns over the vagueness of the law, which http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/25/burmas-birth-control-law-exposes-buddhist-fear-of-muslim-minority calls for the establishment of designated “health zones” where married couples would be helped in practicing birth spacing. However, it is not yet clear what, if any, punishments would be given to those who violate the law and whether pregnant women would be pressured to have an abortion.

“We are particularly concerned that the Health Care for Population Control Bill could provide a legal basis for discrimination through coercive, uneven application of birth control policies, and differing standards of care for different communities across the country,” the U.S. State Department said, in a http://translations.state.gov/st/english/texttrans/2015/05/20150519315754.html#axzz3bQhv6Ptk released last week.

Image credit: AP/Alexander F Yuan