(By Alessandra Baldini)
NEW YORK, DECEMBER 30 – It was, once again, a year of epochal migrations, terroristic threats in Europe, bloody war in Syria, natural disasters linked with climate change, but also stunning election results in the US, UK and Italy. 2016, the year which is about to end, saw the world change among new and old crisis, intractable disagreements, new challenges and fragile hopes for the planet.
Brexit in June and the election of Donald Trump to the White House in November were among the biggest news stories in a year many have dubbed the worst ever. With the results of the June 23 British referendum still fresh in the news, on June 28 Italy and the Netherlands agreed to split the seat in the UN Security Council for which they were both competing: a message of European unity.
“Italy and the Netherlands want the split term to be a relaunch of ideals of European Union”, the Italian Permanent Representative Sebastiano Cardi recently told “La Voce di New York”: “The two governments want the shared seat to be a sign of unity and a relaunch of ideals of the European Union. It is important to ensure the success of the innovative experiment, to demonstrate that the road to European collaboration represents a positive prospective, even within the Security Council where, after all, it’s worth remembering that the Member States are elected at a national level”.
In the UNSC Italy will serve first in 2017 and in November will hold the rotating presidency. 2017 will be a crucial year for the Italian government lead by the former minister of Foreign Affairs Paolo Gentiloni: the 43rd G7 summit under Italian presidency will be held on May 26–27 in Taormina. Angelino Alfano, coming from Homeland security, has been appointed at the helm at the Farnesina. The rest of the team did not change: Mario Giro, Benedetto Della Vedova, Enzo Amendola are the undersecretaries, with Pietro Sebastiani as the new head of the Department of Cooperation.
Migrations and climate change were high on the agenda of the international community.
In November Italy ratified the historic Paris Agreement, then took an active part in the COP 22 Conference in Marrakesh. Hailed as a major bright point in the world agenda, the international effort to cut carbon emissions to offset global warming became effective November 4. As of December, 194 UNFCCC members have signed the treaty, 120 of which have ratified it, but the deal is under threat: US president-elect Donald Trump is considering whether to back out.
Migration is another issue that could put the UN – and new Secretary General Antonio Guterres, a former UN High Commissioner for Refugees – on a collision course with Washington. As the Republican candidate to the White House, Trump pledged to build a “big, beautiful wall” on the Mexican border (paid by Mexicans) to prevent illegals immigrants to enter the United States and to deport “millions” to their native countries. Washington is the largest contributor to the budget of the United Nations and the new administration may decide to suspend the funding to an organization that Trump himself has billed as “a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time”.
Back to migrations, other approaches are possible. Last March the E.U. negotiated a deal with Turkey that brought the number of migrants down to less than 100 a day in exchange for $6.4 billion in refugee assistance through 2018. As an indirect consequence, Italy was once again put on the frontline.
Over 181,000 migrants and refugees arrived as of December 30, according to statistics of the Ministry of the Interiors (+17,84% more compared to 2015): among them over 24,000 unaccompanied children, more than double a year ago. It was also the most deadly year: the number of casualties in the Mediterranean in 2016 were over 5,000: according to UNHCR, “the worst annual death toll ever seen”. Last year, when over a million people crossed the Mediterranean, 3771 casualties were recorded.
Not all refugees and migrants had to risk lives in the deadly crossing of the Mediterranean in 2016. 500 people, mostly from Syria but also from Iraq, were allowed to arrive in Rome and then resettled in other Italian towns and cities through “humanitarian corridors” made possible by three Italian NGOs – Community of St. Egidio, Waldensian Table and the Federation of the Protestant Churches in Italy – with the support of the Italian government. the goal to bring to Italy a total of a thousand refugees in two years. Once arrived in Italy, the refugees are welcomed by the organizations who help them to learn Italia and assist them in the search of a job. The goal is to bring to Italy a total of a thousand refugees in two years but also to offer to there countries in the UE a model to follow.
Syrians and Iraqis don’t make the majority of migrants arriving in Italy through the Mediterranean. Most of them come from Africa. Libya is the final transit country before the crossing. The 3 highest nationalities of migrants recorded by IOM entering Libya between 21 November and 11 December were Sudan, Egypt and Nigeria. They were going to Sudan, Italy and Germany.
Libya and Subsaharan Africa were the target of multiple actions. Among them the humanitarian mission Hippocrates – military doctors from Italy sent to Misrata to treat soldiers would in the battle of Sirte. The open field hospital, a gesture of support to the Presidency Council in the fight against ISIS, arrived last September under escort of Italian troops. Focusing on countries in the Sahel, two new Italian Embassies in Niger and Guinea (Conakry) were opened and new school spaces were built in the Central Africa Republic when the Michele Ferrero Foundation shipped structures from the Ferrero pavillon at EXPO Milan 2015. Gentiloni, President of the Republic Mattarella, then Prime Minister matteo Renzi and Vice-minister Mario Giro toured extensively the area.
After the reform of the cooperation system, on January 1 the new Agency for Cooperation became operational. Italy has been among the first countries responding to the emergency cause by Hurricane Matthew with one million 1Euros to Unicef and the Red Cross. Five million Euros went to emergency interventions in Yemen and the Central African Republic ad Cameroon for victims of terrorism and Boko Haram.
Human rights were high on the Italian agenda at the UN. In New York the sixth UNGA resolution for the moratorium of the death penalty gathered 117 votes: even in the face of terrorism and other threats to global security, the vote reconfirmed the international community’s commitment to work together towards a world free from the death penalty.
On December 30, UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon said farewell to his staff at the Secretariat. The former South Korean Minister for Foreign Affairs, going back to Seul and a new life, will be remembered for raising awareness on climate change and the plight of migrants and refugees, but also as a crusader for human and women’s rights. Ban did his best to bring a record number of women to positions of high responsibility inside the UN, among them Italian astrophysicist Simonetta Di Pippo at the helm of UNOOSA, the Vienna-based agency for space. With Mariarosa Cutillo joining UNPFA, another Italian woman is running for a leading position at the UN: Dr. Flavia Bustreo, on leave as Assistant Director-General for Family, Women’s and Children’s Health, is in the running for the number one job at WHO. (@alebal)