Checkpoint set up on the Hakari Bridge. Photo Credit: Jora @TheScarmind (Twitter)
Armenians in Artsakh, Official Development and Humanitarian Aid, access to drinking water.
The daily escalation of threats against the Armenians imposes its rhythm on a diplomacy on the defensive which hopes for peace but struggles to contain the risks.
On 23 April, Azerbaijan installs a military checkpoint at the entrance to the Latchine corridor at the Hakari bridge while maintaining the one located since 12 December in Shushi, at the entrance to Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh.
On Friday 28 April, Azerbaijan blocked a convoy of Russian supply vehicles from Artsakh for nearly 14 hours.
The Russians confirm the use of Azeri drones against Artsakh and claim to have means of prevention against them. At the same time, the Turkish drone manufacturer Baykar signs a partnership agreement and the construction of a manufacturing plant with Azerbaijan.
On Saturday 29 April, Azeri fire wounded an Armenian soldier in the village of Tegh in the Armenian province of Syunik at the entrance to the Latchine corridor.
At the same time, the Turkish aviation authorities cancel without notice the authorisation given to the company
Flyone Armenia to fly to Europe using Turkish airspace.
Far from calming down, we have to fear that this escalation, which seems to be gradual, progressive and systematic, will continue further to suffocate Artsakh and erode Armenia’s will to resist.
The risk of slippage and expansion is so serious that Iran has just declared: “Any intrusion into the territory of Armenia will result in a response from the Iranian armed forces”.
Will it take a conflict for the UN Security Council to take up this danger too late?
Catherine Colonna, French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, has just completed a diplomatic mission to Azerbaijan and Armenia. “Making peace is possible. It requires vision, determination and courage,” she said. But do these conditions exist and, above all, can they converge? Did France’s support for Armenia live up to the official discourse, to history and to an existential threat?
Catherine Colonna also visited the Tsitsernakaberd Genocide Memorial in Yerevan on the painful anniversary of the Armenian genocide in 1915, which claimed more than one million victims. Genocide still denied by official Turkey.
It also supported the European Union’s observation mission based in Djermouk, which aims to stabilise the borders between the two countries after the annexation in September 2022 of an Armenian territory of about 170 km2. It is curious how similar this is to the annexation of territories in north-eastern Syria by the Turkish army.
New rounds of talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan will take place in Washington. What will come out of these talks that is effective for peace and justice?
And what can we do? We, simple citizens, responsible for associations, foundations, local authorities, we political, economic or cultural leaders. Above all, we must not wait and show our solidarity with Armenia and Artsakh, which are under threat, in various ways.
The Presidential Development Council is meeting for the second time.
The first Council took place in December 2020 and the second will take place between 3 and 5 May 2023 as this edition is being published! We will talk about it again in the next edition, but I would like to talk about it with you now because of the stakes.
This Presidential Development Council is important because it takes the main decisions that will set the framework for the next Inter-ministerial Council for Development Cooperation (CICID) which will take place at the beginning of June and which will specify the humanitarian aid budget whose priorities will be on the agenda of the 6th National Humanitarian Conference (CNH) which will take place this autumn under the presidency of Emmanuel Macron.
It is recalled that the previous Council was immediately followed by a press conference at the Elysée Palace with Jean-Yves le Drian and Bruno Le Maire. Jean-Yves le Drian had then declared that “the country was back in the game” of Official Development Assistance by setting the objective of devoting 0.55% of its gross national income (GNI) to ODA, whereas it was devoting 0.37% in 2017 after a continuous decline under the presidency of François Hollande which had already begun with Nicolas Sarkozy.
This first Council in December 2020 was quickly followed by a Solidarity Development Programming Law (LOP-DSLIM) which confirmed this 0.55% target, which we now know represents 15.9 billion dollars, compared to 10.9 in 2019. But the most important thing for the future is summarised in an open letter of 28 April to the President of the Republic from Coordination SUD signed by its president, Olivier Bruyeron, and 37 NGOs, which states that “France must keep its commitment to devote 0.7% of its gross national income to public action (or “aid”) for development by 2025, i.e. approximately 21.4 billion euros, as defined in the law on solidarity development adopted on 4 August 2021″ (Read the open letter).
It is clear how much effort and progress this represents in order to “give impetus to this new impetus”, which responds in particular to the consequences of the Covid 19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the sharp increase in the number of displaced persons, refugees and people in need of assistance in the world.
The main issue at stake at this Presidential Development Council is therefore the 0.7% of GNI for ODA and its trajectory over the five-year period until 2027.
There are also other issues for NGOs. The first is that 15% of France’s bilateral ODA should be implemented by NGOs. And the second is that at least 13% of ODA (average for OECD DAC countries), or even 20% like other countries, should be allocated to humanitarian aid. Humanitarian aid is currently largely under-funded in the face of the increasing vital needs of poor populations confronted with conflicts, epidemics, natural disasters and the consequences of climate change. Failure to respond to these emergencies means risking their amplification and the despair that leads to radicalisation and forced immigration.
We will report on this second Presidential Development Council in our next edition on 31 May.
How did the UN Conference on Goal 6 of the Water MDGs fare?
In the introduction to this conference from 22 to 24 March in New York, the UN declared that it feared a freshwater crisis in the world. And yet, this was only the second conference on water since the one in Mar del Plata in 1977 in Argentina! Moreover, lessons should perhaps be learned about the way in which the United Nations operates in the face of the major collective challenges facing our world.
So, what is the outcome? If it remains to be deepened and consolidated, we can say that we are now in the middle of the road. On the one hand, the participants noted a global awareness and a real “political moment in New York”, as Gérard Payen, vice-president of the French Water Partnership (FWP), stated. On the other hand, and as was announced, no decision was taken, there is no global action plan, budgets are very insufficient and governance remains to be adjusted to the challenges!
To have an indisputable point of reference, let’s remember that we are halfway through the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the States at the UN in 2015 and that we are far behind, particularly on the water objective. The key issue is to give ourselves the means to achieve the commitments made.
Among the good news, we can note the 700 commitments of the Water Action Agenda, many of which are not yet operational. Let us also note the strong commitment of France, which, through its Minister Christophe Béchu, declared: “France is ready to commit itself (…) by calling for the appointment of a special envoy to the United Nations Secretary General, with a strong, appropriate and inclusive mandate…”. This is the position supported today by 150 States, including Switzerland, Germany and France, which are ready to finance this strategic position.
We could be confident when we hear Antonio Guterres declare that “water must be at the centre of the world’s political agenda”, that water is a global public good and when he evokes the appointment of a special envoy for water before the World Summit on Sustainable Development in September at the UN in New York.
But we also know that the same Secretary General was not initially in favour of this position and that the UN agencies concerned with water, and there are more than twenty of them, are in competition for resources and influence. The brakes are also there! If we have to be realistic about the contradictory geopolitical stakes of water and the competition between agencies, should this prevent the decisions that are needed in the face of the immense global water challenges?
The momentum in this direction has been set in motion. For example, the “call to action” (link here) launched by humanitarian organisations has already gathered more than 170 signatories, including those from two countries, Switzerland and France. We must support this dynamic so that it gathers more and more signatories in view of the next decisive deadline, which will be the World Summit on the SDGs in New York on 18 September 2023.
As Marie-Laure Vercambre, Executive Director of the FWP, says, if we want to emerge “…from a disorderly process, we need a vision and a framework”.
For this Summit on 18 September, we need the appointment of a Special Representative with a robust mandate, leadership and a team to match. We also need a regular meeting of states to drive forward Goal 6 for water by 2030. We need a global action plan and the necessary funding estimated at $1,000 billion a year to support the poorest countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, not to mention humanitarian aid for water to the victims of conflicts, pandemics and global warming.
Aren’t Artsakh, ODA and water linked, even from a distance, by geopolitics, livelihoods, solidarity and common goods?
We should be more concerned about the risk of war in the South Caucasus and the fate of the threatened Armenian minority in Artsakh.
Antoine de Saint Exupéry wrote in Terre des hommes: “Water is not necessary for life, it is life”. Let’s share it before it becomes an object of conflict.
Official Development Assistance is proof of concrete solidarity with countries in urgent need of peace and development for their ever-growing populations. It is not only life insurance for these populations, but also an assurance of peaceful coexistence in the face of the risks of radicalization and massive migratory movements.
Josep Borell, the head of European diplomacy, recently declared: “The world system is in danger of fragmenting”. I fear that the globalized war in Ukraine is the signal for this fragmentation. In any case, must we not safeguard solidarity at all costs with those for whom it is just life, if not survival?