Trump gives a punchy speech to the United Nations General Assembly

First of all, what is the UN’s General Assembly?

It was established in 1945 under the Charter of the United Nations, and it takes a central position as the chief deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations. Comprising all 193 Members of the United Nations, it provides a unique space for discussions between world nations. It also plays a significant role in the process of standard-setting and the codification of international law. The Assembly has the power to make recommendations to nations on international issues. It has also started actions—political, economic, humanitarian, social and legal—which have affected the lives of millions of people throughout the world. You might learn how the UN works in Religious Studies lessons in Year 9 and Year 11.

Today Donald Trump gave his first speech to the United Nations as US President and it was full of headline grabbing gambits…

He told the UN General Assembly that America would destroy North Korea if forced to defend itself or its allies. He openly mocked North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, saying: “Rocket man is on a suicide mission.”

North Korea has been testing nuclear bombs and missiles in defiance of the UN.

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had earlier urged statesmanship, saying: “We must not sleepwalk our way into war.” On the photograph below UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is on the left and President Trump on the right:

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The American leader didn’t hold back either by also attacking Iran, saying it was a “corrupt dictatorship” which was intent on destabilising the Middle East. He called on the government in Tehran to cease supporting terrorism and again criticised the Obama-era international agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme, which he called an embarrassment.

With such a bolshy speech by the US President it will be interesting what North Korea, Iran and the USA do next.

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USA urges Security Council of the United Nations to take “the strongest possible measures”

What is the UN Security Council? The Security Council has the main responsibility for the keeping international peace and security. It has 15 Members, and each Member has one vote. Under UN rules all Member States are obligated to (as in they have to) comply with Council decisions.

“The time has come to exhaust all diplomatic means before it is too late,” Nikki Haley the US envoy to the United Nations told an emergency meeting of the Security Council in New York today.

North Korea has been in the news for most of this summer. There are reports which suggest that North Korea is preparing new test missile launches. It tested a nuclear bomb underground on Sunday. Estimates of its power range from 50 kilotonnes to 120 kilotonnes. A 50kt device would be about three times the size of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.

At the start of Monday’s Security Council meeting the UN Under Secretary General Jeffrey Feltman said North Korea’s actions were destabilising global security, and he called on Pyongyang to abide by Security Council resolutions.

“The DPRK [North Korea] is the only country that continues to break the norm against nuclear test explosions,” he said.

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The British ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, said direct talks with North Korea were only possible if Pyongyang stopped the escalation.

“Dialogue will always be our end goal but returning to dialogue without a serious sign of intent from Pyongyang would be a set-up to failure,” he said. “North Korea must change course to allow a return to dialogue.”

Meanwhile China’s envoy to the UN, Liu Jieyi, reiterated a call for all sides to return to negotiations. “The peninsula issue must be resolved peacefully,” he said. “China will never allow chaos and war on the peninsula.”

People often wonder what type of pressure the United Nations can put on a country not keeping to international law.  Well in the case of North Korea just last month, the Security Council voted unanimously to ban North Korean exports and limit investments in the country. Diplomats are suggesting that the next harsh sanction which could be imposed is an oil embargo that would have a crippling effect. Other serious steps that countries might take through the United Nations are  a ban on the North’s national airline, limits on North Koreans working abroad, and asset freezes and travel bans on officials. All of these things are designed to put pressure on North Korea. Do you think they would work?

Holy Sites in Jerusalem Re-Opened

Last Friday three Arab Israelis opened fire from a sacred site in Jerusalem which is called Noble (Haram Al Sharif) Sanctuary for Muslims and Temple Mount for Jews. Using automatic weapons the three Arab Israelis killed two police officers and were later shot dead inside the compound. The Holy Sites were re-opened today with stricter security checks.

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The Arab-Israeli conflict is only studied a little in British schools as the focus is on modern wars such as World War I and World War II. We take an initial look at the subject in Religious Studies when studying about pilgrimages and how Jerusalem is contested and valued by Muslims, Jews and Christians. A short BBC video explains the importance of Haram Al Sharif and Temple Mount, and there is a BBC Pictures special about the holy sites, explaining how through modern history there has been unrest over who the site belongs to. The history of the sites brings you closer to understanding both faiths, with important stories for Jews such as Abraham almost sacrificing his son Isaac there, and Temple Mount being where people will receive redemption when the Messiah arrives. Compared to Muslim stories of Muhammad PBUH  having his Night Journey from Makkah to Jerusalem to hear in heaven from Allah about prayer (salah, one of the five pillar of Islam).

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3 million people displaced, 14 million facing starvation – heard of the civil war in the Yemen?

A YouGov poll by the Independent newspaper found that only 49% of people questioned had heard of the conflict currently causing death and hunger in the Yemen. This number got even smaller with the younger age group of 18-24 year olds with only 37% knowing about the conflict. The map below shows that Yemen is located south of Saudi Arabia:

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Thanks to Sophie our school’s BBC School reporter even more people will have heard about what’s going down in the Yemen. You may need to search Global, RE on the school’s BBC Report page to read Sophie excellent report. The Independent are trying their best to make  UK citizens aware of a conflict where British weapons purchased by Saudi Arabia are being used in questionable circumstance.

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Syria’s Banksy

A Syrian rebel fighter has been likened to Banksy for his politically motivated street art around Syria. The artist Abu Malik al-Shami has created some striking wall murals which send a strong political message.

This one made me remember talking about agape with Year 10 students…

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What’s your interpretation?

Heard of the war in the Yemen? Thought not.

You may never have even heard of the Yemen which is just south of Saudi Arabia. So it is therefore highly unlikely you’ve ever heard of the war which has been taking place in the Yemen since September 2014. When rebel troops took over the capital city and ousted the President, Saudi Arabia tried to set up a coalition of countries to fight back and re-instate the old Present because they were fearful that Iran and Shia Islam would rise to dominance.

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In March 2016 the BBC published a report which clearly explains who is involved in the war, and showed that the British were selling weapons to the Saudi troops. When those weapons are used like they were this weekend, killing a funeral party of 140 people, questions should be asked on whether a trade embargo should be put in place against the Saudi kingdom. Amnesty International provide a thorough analysis of the conflict so far.

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UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, condemned Saturday’s strikes on the funeral gathering as a “horrific attack”. He said that aid workers who arrived at the scene had been “shocked and outraged”.

How do long conflicts finally come to an end?

It looks like Colombia’s 52 year conflict will finally come to a peaceful end. It’s rarely made big headlines in the UK but is interesting for students of RE and PSHCE because the end of the conflict sees lots of things happening which we would expect to find at the end of a bloody conflict.

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First up there’s been a peace deal between the insurgents (rebels) and the government. This is going to be voted on by the people of Colombia in a referendum. The Farc rebels have also said they will pay reparations to the victims of this last Cold War conflict. There are thought to have been 260,000 people who died and up to six million people internally displaced by the conflict. With the end of the conflict the Farc rebels are also expected to stop their heavy involvement in Colombia’s drug trade too.

peace deal – an agreement between two or more hostile parties, usually countries or governments, which formally ends a state of war between the parties.

referendum -a general vote by the electorate on a single political question which has been referred to them for a direct decision. Britain had a referendum on leaving or staying in the EU in 2016.

reparations -the compensation for war damage paid by a defeated state/ group. At the Treaty of Versailles Germany was made to pay reparations for the damage caused in WWI. It was one of the reasons the Nazi Party was able to rise to power because the payment of the reparations crippled the Germane economy and people were annoyed at having to pay back so much.

internally displaced -a person who is forced to flee his or her home but who remains within his or her country’s borders. They aren’t allowed to be called refugees as the legal definition of a refugee has to see the person fleeing over the border to another country.