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BRICS Nations Speak Out in Favor of UN Reform

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MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa agree that the multilateral global system must be reformed and improved, including though the reform of the United Nations and other international organizations, BRICS foreign ministers said in a joint statement on Friday.

“The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening and reforming the multilateral system, especially of the UN and its principal organs, in order to make the institutions and instruments of global governance more inclusive, representative, participatory, reinvigorated and democratic and to facilitate greater and more meaningful participation of developing and least developed countries, especially in Africa, in global decision-making processes and structures and make it better attuned to contemporary realities,” BRICS foreign ministers said in a joint statement after a meeting on the sidelines of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly.

The minister also reaffirmed their commitment to reform the multilateral trading system.

“The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to multilateralism and to the multilateral trading system with the WTO at its core. They reiterated the strong and necessary need to strengthen and reform the multilateral system, including the UN, the WTO, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and other international organizations,” the statement read.

All countries should refrain from applying any economic, financial or trade measures that are not in accordance with the international law and impede the economic and social development of other countries, the ministers said.

“The Ministers urged all States to refrain from promulgating and applying any economic, financial or trade measures not in accordance with the rules of the WTO, international law and the UN Charter that impede the full achievement of economic and social development, particularly in developing countries,” the statement said.

BRICS foreign ministers underscored the importance of ensuring the inclusive and effective work of the global governance system, including the restoration of a well-functioning WTO dispute settlement mechanism by 2024, as mandated in the MC12 Outcome document.

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Afghans left in legal limbo in Greece while ‘real refugees’ helped to settle | Migration and development

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It is 3.30pm and Suna Hamanawa, 25, is doing what she and dozens of other Afghan mothers do most days: whiling her time away on a park bench in Viktoria Square, a scruffy plaza in central Athens, as her children play around her. Like almost every other asylum seeker, she is relieved to be in Greece.

“We’re better here, we’re safer here even though me and my husband and our first little one [initially] spent 10 months in Moria,” she says, screwing up her face at the memory of the notoriously overcrowded and fire-ravaged refugee camp on Lesbos.

“But every day, in its own way, is a fresh hell. The Greek government does nothing. It just keeps saying ‘wait, wait, wait’. And that’s what we do all day, every day. Wait for our papers, wait for our travel documents. Wait for freedom.”

A year after Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban, Greece continues to be the first port of call for thousands of people fleeing the country’s worsening humanitarian crisis. After Ukrainians, Afghans account for the second-largest group of asylum applicants in the EU and by far the biggest in Greece, where more than 37,000 – more than a third of the total number registered nationwide – have filed asylum claims.

Hamanawa, who arrived in Lesbos with her husband, Mohammed, in a dinghy from Turkey in 2018, waited four years to become one of the estimated 28,500 Afghans to secure refugee status – a protracted period of legal limbo that is vastly at odds with other refugees, not least those from Ukraine.

In a recent report, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) chronicled Afghan refugees’ difficulties in Greece and the serious impact on their physical and mental health.

Of the 192 Afghans monitored by the organisation’s mental health teams between April 2021 and March 2022, about 97% had reported symptoms of depression, while 50% had considered suicide, the IRC report said.

“Many Afghans fleeing conflict and persecution in their own country think their troubles will be over once they reach Europe … This is simply not the case,” says Dimitra Kalogeropoulou, the IRC’s Greece director.

“Instead, people face the stark reality of violent pushbacks from Greek borders, months or years living in fear of being sent back to Turkey or Afghanistan, where they could face untold horrors, extended periods trapped in prison-like reception conditions, far from towns and cities and an alarming lack of support to begin rebuilding their lives,” she says.

For the estimated 70,000 Ukrainians who have sought refuge in Greece, it has been a different story. After Russia’s invasion on 24 February, the EU moved quickly to issue a temporary protection directive to safeguard the rights of people desperate to leave the war-torn country.

Although relatively few Ukrainians have headed to Greece, the reception they have received there has been unusually warm, with senior officials often referring to the newcomers as “real refugees”.

It was vital, said the IRC report, that Afghans were also guaranteed access to full and fair asylum procedures and given “dignified” support with accommodation and integration.

“While the Greek government has welcomed refugees from Ukraine, by efficiently registering them, issuing legal documents and allowing immediate access to employment, Afghans in Greece, alongside other asylum seekers and refugees, continue to be isolated from the Greek society in which they seek to rebuild their lives,” the report’s authors wrote. “Even after receiving status, refugees have limited integration support.”

Afghan asylum seeker Khorshid Ahmadi and her daughter Leyla in Viktoria Square, Athens.
Khorshid Ahmadi, an Afghan refugee, and her daughter, Leyla, in Viktoria Square, Athens. Photograph: Helena Smith

The biggest barrier for Afghans claiming asylum is the Greek government’s controversial decision to label Turkey a “safe third country” for people not only from Afghanistan but also from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria. The decision has prevented thousands of people from being able to explain why they need international protection.

“We’ve been here for four years,” says Khorshid Ahmadi, 26, as she plays with her children in Viktoria Square. “My family’s request for asylum has been rejected three times. They keep saying we should return to Turkey, even if Turkey doesn’t take anyone back from Greece.”

As a result, she says, neither she, her husband nor their five children have legal status or any right to housing or cash assistance.

Greece’s centre-right government insists it pursues a “tough but fair” migration and asylum policy. Accusations of pushbacks – despite overwhelming evidence – have been strongly denied. But keeping asylum seekers at bay remains a priority. In September, the migration minister, Notis Mitarachi, noted that the country had blocked about 50,000 migrants from entering Greece in August alone.

Amid renewed tensions with Turkey, the public order minister in Athens claimed last month that every night about 1,500 people gathered at the land border with Turkey were attempting to cross as a result of Ankara’s policy to “weaponise” migration and push asylum seekers into Greek territory.

As one of Europe’s most southerly states, Greece was the main entry point for more than 800,000 Syrians when the refugee crisis first engulfed the continent in 2015. After the adoption of a controversial pact aimed at stemming flows between the EU and Turkey in March 2016, the influx dropped steeply.

As patrols have been reinforced, with the help of the EU’s border agency Frontex, the number has fallen further in recent years, particularly arrivals on the north Aegean islands facing the Turkish coast, where most asylum seekers at the height of the crisis were located. The decline prompted the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, to boast last week that smuggling networks had been largely cracked.

International bodies have echoed the IRC in rebuking Athens for resorting to tactics of brute force to keep asylum seekers out.

Concluding a 10-day fact-finding tour of Greece in June, Mary Lawlor, the UN special rapporteur for human rights defenders, accused the Mitsotakis government of creating a “climate of fear”, not only for refugees and asylum seekers fleeing poverty and persecution but also for groups defending migrants’ rights on the ground. Illegal evictions of asylum seekers at land and sea borders had become a general policy in Greece, she said.

Last week, Mitarachi insisted the government would continue to replace open-air camps on frontline islands, such as Lesbos, with barbed-wire encircled “closed controlled” access centres, and would push ahead with plans to extend a border fence along the Evros land frontier with Turkey.

Mohamad Mirzay, Greece’s Afghan community spokesperson, who arrived in the country in 2006 at the age of 14, says: “Every day, we hear from families back home of Afghans being lost at the border.

“One of our biggest problems is that a lot of young Afghans whose asylum claims are rejected get into drugs, a problem we are now trying to address as a community. It’s all so very hard. Very few want to stay here, they don’t want to endanger their future. For sure, you could say, Ukrainians get very different treatment.”

Sofia Kouvelaki, who heads the Home project, an NGO that supports unaccompanied minors, said: “Ukrainian refugees have proved a point. In Greece, and in the EU, they have shown that if we want to integrate we can, and if we want to welcome people with a human face we can do that too.”

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Opposition Party of Bulgaria’s Ex-Prime Minister Borisov Leading in Parliamentary Vote

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MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Opposition party Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), chaired by former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, is coming ahead in the snap parliamentary elections, Bulgaria’s Central Election Commission said after processing over 51% of the ballots.

The GERB and Union of Democratic Forces coalition currently has 25.64% of the votes, while the centrist We Continue the Change (PP) party, co-led by former Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, is second with 20.87%.

In June, the Bulgarian parliament cast a vote of no-confidence in the coalition government and the cabinet led by Prime Minister Petkov was forced to resign. Attempts to form a new government failed.

Bulgaria held three snap parliamentary elections last year, as no party was able to form a government. In November 2021, lawmakers finally formed a four-party coalition between PP, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, There Is Such a People (ITN), and Democratic Bulgaria, ending a month-long government crisis. The elections saw an all-time low turnout of less than 40%.

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Elections in Brazil: Lula scents power as Brazil heads to the polls | International

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Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva made history two decades ago, when he became the first president of Brazil without a university degree. It was a historic milestone. Lula – as he is popularly known – was the first worker to reach the summit of power in one of the most unequal and classist countries in the world. Now the 76-year-old has the opportunity to return to power and rewrite the last chapter of his political history. The leftist leader of the Workers’ Party (PT) is poised to the first round of the Brazilian presidential election on Sunday. If the polls are correct, Lula will defeat Brazil’s President Jair Messias Bolsonaro by a wide margin – a victory that could heal the trauma caused by the 2016 impeachment of former PT president Dilma Rousseff and consolidate the leftist shift in Latin America, where the left has made gains in Colombia, Chile, Argentina and Mexico.

The main question is whether Lula will win more than 50% of valid votes (not counting blank or invalid votes) on Sunday. If he achieves this, he will win the election outright and avoid a runoff vote against Bolsonaro on October 30. According to the last voter intention poll on Saturday, Lula is predicted to win 50% of the vote and Bolsonaro 36%.

While Bolsonaro won the support of Brazilian soccer player Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, who encouraged his followers on TikTok to vote for the former military general, Lula has been backed by iconic singer-songwriter Chico Buarque. On Saturday, the Brazilian performer shared a message on Instagram, in which he called on his followers to vote for Lula – even if they didn’t like him – because Brazil’s democracy was in danger. According to Buarque, whose parents helped found the PT during the military dictatorship, Sunday’s vote, was about “saving democracy.”

Another question hanging over the election is whether Bolsonaro will accept the results. The far-right leader has raised doubts about the credibility of Brazil’s electronic voting system, even though it has been working without incident for 25 years. Many Bolsonaro supporters – who make up a third of the electorate – believe the system is rigged against Bolsonaro. And they also question the polls, which for months have given Lula a clear lead. Bolsonaro’s constant attacks against the justice system, the free press and anyone he considers an opponent have slowly eroded Brazil’s democracy. In the lead-up to the October vote, many in Brazil have expressed concerns that Bolsonaro will falsely claim the election has been stolen, which could lead to a constitutional breakdown.

For Lula, the vote is a dispute between democracy and barbarism. For Bolsonaro, it is a fight between good and evil. Around 156 million people are eligible to vote on Sunday. Voters will cast their ballot for president, and also vote for Congress deputies, a third of the Senate, as well as the governors and state legislatures of Brazil’s 27 states.

Under Brazil’s convoluted electoral regulations, political rallies are not allowed the day before an election, but candidates are allowed to parade in public. On Saturday, Lula appeared in a kind of Pope mobile on São Paulo’s main avenue, while Bolsonaro led a group of bikers through the north of the city.

Lula’s rise to power is an incredible story, but his image was tarnished by the Car Wash (Lava Jato) corruption scandal. In 2018, he was convicted of corruption and imprisoned for 20 months. The convictions against him – which have since been overturned – prevented him from contesting the last presidential election in 2018, in which he was also the favorite. Lula has always defended his innocence.

Lula supporters in São Paulo.

Lula is the son of illiterate parents and the youngest of seven children. Born in the interior of Pernambuco state, a land ravaged by drought, he was seven when he traveled with his mother and siblings in a van for 13 days to the booming city of São Paulo as part of an exodus of northeasterners to the south in 1952. His father, Aristides, was a longshoreman who struggled to feed all his offspring while treating them with a cruelty bordering on sadism, as recounted in his biography, Lula, Volume 1. Life was hard, but there were opportunities. Lula took advantage of them. He worked as a shoeshine and errand boy before entering a vocational school, his springboard to a job as a lathe operator in which he lost a finger; Bolsonaro often calls him “nine fingers.”

Lula became a union leader, and after the military seized power in 1964, he led major strikes against the dictatorship. The PT leader first ran for president in 1989. He was defeated three times before he was finally elected in 2003. His two terms in office (2003-2010) were a time of prosperity for Brazil, thanks to Chinese demand for raw materials. Lula was able to implement ambitious social programs for the historically marginalized. “We put the poor in the budget,” he likes to say. The lives of millions of people greatly improved under his administration. Electricity and appliances that once seemed like luxuries reached the homes of Brazil’s poor. Thanks to that prosperity, many poor people flew in an airplane for the first time. The children of domestic workers were able to go to university – to the ire of the elites, who argued that they had displaced their children.

Lula’s Brazil won over the world and former US president Barack Obama, who, in 2009, described Lula as “the most popular politician on Earth.” The following year, Lula left office with an 87% approval rating.

Lula’s 2022 presidential is focused on bringing back that Brazil – not the Brazil that was seen later, under Rousseff, who he appointed to continue his legacy. Rousseff’s Brazil is linked with systemic corruption, recession and an impeachment that ended 14 years of progressive governments. This context fostered in Brazil a deep hatred of the political class, particularly of the PT. Bolsonaro was able to skillfully ride this wave of discontent to his shock win at the 2018 election.

A Lula supporter at a political rally at the city of Salvador, Bahia state, Brazil, on September 30, 2022.
A Lula supporter at a political rally at the city of Salvador, Bahia state, Brazil, on September 30, 2022. ARISSON MARINHO (AFP)

Today, Brazil is facing another economic crisis. More than 33 million Brazilians are going hungry, unemployment is around 9%, inflation has reached 8.7% and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that gross domestic product (GDP) will only increase this year by a marginal 1.7%.

If he loses, Bolsonaro will be the first president not to be re-elected so far this century. His inhumane and disastrous management of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed 670,000 Brazilians, is the main reason why many former supporters now oppose him. To survive in office, Bolsonaro turned to political parties that offer parliamentary support to the highest bidder, and launched a generous economic aid program to help 20 million poor people. The economy survived the Covid-19 pandemic, but it is still flailing.

Upon coming to power, the ultra-conservative leader, who has expressed his admiration for Brazil’s military dictatorship, set about fulfilling his pledges to dismantle environmental policy, facilitate the sale of arms and place a “terribly evangelical” judge on the Supreme Court. Under Bolsonaro, deforestation has accelerated, the environment has been devastated and the country is more diplomatically isolated than ever.

For many, Lula is seen as a savior. For others, he is the lesser evil and the only politician capable of defeating Bolsonaro. To improve his chances, Lula picked Geraldo Alckmin, a former center-right figure and staunch supporter of Rousseff’s impeachment, as his vice-presidential candidate. The PT leader is promising to bring back prosperity to Brazil, but has not detailed how he intends to resurrect an economy that been stagnating for decades. Nor has he explained how he plans to fund his ambitious programs to lift Brazilians out of poverty.

Lula’s team has reserved Paulista Avenue for Sunday night, but Lula will only make an appearance if he wins the 50% plus one needed to win the election in the first round. Bolsonaro supporters also wanted to gather at the central avenue, but will only be able to do so in the unlikely event that Bolsonsaro wins the election in the first round. A quick count is expected thanks to the electronic voting system, which now – thanks to Bolsonaro – is only a source of pride for half of the country.

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