A United Nations human rights chief steps down citing silencing of human rights defenders, as Myanmar bans a human rights investigator. President Donald Trump threatens to cut funding for countries that vote against formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and representatives from development, environment, and finance communities wrap up the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany. This week in development.
The U.N. General Assembly decisively voted for a resolution that calls for the U.S. to withdraw its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, with 128 states approving the non-binding resolution. Ahead of the vote, President Donald Trump threatened to cut aid funding for all countries that voted for the resolution. Trump indicated the U.S. would be "watching" votes on Thursday — a promise that Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., also reiterated. “All these nations that take our money and then vote against us at the Security Council or the assembly, they take hundreds of millions of dollars and billions of dollars and they vote against us,” Trump said at a cabinet meeting. “Well, we’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us, we’ll save a lot. We don’t care.” The threat has been reportedly cast off by some diplomats as not much more than "political theater." And as some reports have shown, in many cases, countries that receive U.S. assistance don't align with its voting patterns in the General Assembly.
The government of Myanmar has barred a U.N. human rights investigator from visiting the country. Yanghee Lee, a U.N. special rapporteur, was scheduled to visit in January with a U.N. human rights envoy to assess the state of human rights across Myanmar, including in violence-wracked Rakhine state. “This declaration of non-cooperation with my mandate can only be viewed as a strong indication that there must be something terribly awful happening in Rakhine, as well as in the rest of the country,” Lee said in a statement on Wednesday. Lee’s previous reports on the government’s lack of response to ongoing persecution of the Rohingya minority is likely the reason behind the refusal to work with her now, she stated. But the government says the move is based on distrust, and that Lee “said one thing in Myanmar and something different in other countries,” according to reporting from Radio Free Asia. Amnesty International condemned the decision, calling on the international community to continue to demand access to a region that has seen 650,000 people flee across the border to Bangladesh.
The U.N. human rights chief will step down from his post in 2018, citing an "appalling" climate for advocacy and a silencing of human rights defenders, Foreign Policy reported. Zeid Ra'ad Hussein — the high commissioner of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Office and a regular critic of the Trump administration — wrote that this marks the end of an "arduous year." The decision not to seek another four-year term raises questions about the U.N.'s ability to lead on human rights in a strained geopolitical environment. "After reflection, I have decided not to seek a second four-year term. To do so, in the current geopolitical context, might involve bending a knee in supplication; muting a statement of advocacy; lessening the independence and integrity of my voice — which is your voice,” Zeid wrote in the email. Zeid has castigated the Trump administration's respect for human rights throughout the course of this year, saying that press freedoms are "under attack from the president." Earlier this month, he questioned China’s — and the White House's — hostile positions on the universality of human rights.
The first installment of the new-look Global Landscapes Forum took place in Bonn, Germany, this week, drawing approximately 1,000 attendees from the development, environment, and finance communities. First launched in 2013, GLF was conceived to bring together the traditionally siloed agriculture and forestry communities under a broader "landscapes approach" umbrella. In the past, GLF events were largely held alongside the international climate talks and attracted a lot of interest. However, as funding dwindled, enthusiasm petered out. But now thanks to an 11 million euro cash injection from the German government, GLF is back and bigger than ever before. So much so that the organizers, CIFOR, decided to break off from the U.N. climate talks and host their forum a month later but in the same city, raising eyebrows among some. At the forum, Devex spoke to former Mexican President Felipe Calderón about how investors can support small-scale restoration projects.