Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How the U.S. Can Welcome Refugees: New Age Islam’s Selection From World Press, 23 September 2015

New Age Islam Edit Bureau
23 September 2015
How the U.S. Can Welcome Refugees
Sacrifice, even if only for a day
The Jakarta Post Editorial
Rohingyas face ethnic cleansing, discrimination
By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
Chechens face an epic battle in Syria
Dr. Theodore Karasik
‘Mama Merkel’ helps heal wounds of Germany’s past
Diana Moukalled
Where there’s a will there’s a way
Why gender equality is the most critical of all the global goals
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

How the U.S. Can Welcome Refugees
THE evidence from Europe in recent weeks is that many citizens are ahead of their governments when it comes to responding to the tide of human misery coming from the Middle East. Soccer clubs in Germany are setting up training academies. Austrians have turned out at railway stations. In Iceland, more than 15,000 people joined the “Syria is calling” Facebook page, many of whom apparently offered to house a refugee.
In the United States, the Obama administration’s response has been cautious. While Turkey is hosting approximately 1.9 million refugees from Syria, Jordan has received more than 600,000, and Lebanon over one million, America has taken only just over 1,500 people during four years of the Syrian civil war.
The president first promised this month to increase the number who will be resettled to 10,000 in the fiscal year beginning in October. This was paltry.
Secretary of State John Kerry has said that the total number of refugees allowed into the country in 2017 would be increased by 30,000, to 100,000, but he didn’t specify how many of those would be Syrian. The city of Munich welcomed 25,000 refugees over one weekend.
The mismatch between need and response is all the more striking since the United States has given a home to some three million refugees since 1975. In 2013, they came from 64 different countries.
The experience of the United States Refugee Admissions Program, which is a consortium of federal agencies and nonprofit organizations, offers a number of valuable lessons. The first is that successful resettlement needs more than big-hearted citizens. It needs an effective combination of resources provided by both the public and the private spheres.
Government needs to set the legislative framework, oversee security checks and provide funding for initial housing, case management and language training. Once these needs are met, resettlement agencies in the United States work within their communities to develop volunteer programs and raise funds to augment the public provision. The success of the refugee admissions program lies in this partnership between the public and the private sectors.
Second, refugees need to be seen for their potential contribution to society. The language of “burden” is mistaken. Rather, economic self-sufficiency is the central pillar in successful refugee resettlement.
Resettlement agencies work to help refugees gain employment as soon as possible after their arrival. According to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement’s annual report to Congress for 2013 (the most recent year for which figures are available), the rate of refugees’ self-sufficiency at 180 days was 69 percent. A recent survey by the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute found that refugees were, in fact, more likely to be employed than the American-born population.
Third, education for the children of refugees is crucial for effective integration. Many refugee children arrive with little formal education and limited to no English skills. Yet resettlement experience in the United States shows that, with proper support, refugee children are able to thrive at school in a short time.
Data from the International Rescue Committee indicates that 95 percent of refugee students graduating out of the I.R.C.’s New York City Education and Learning program earned a diploma. This is far above the city’s baseline average of about 62 percent for English-proficient students.
For many refugees, the chance for their children to get a good education means more to the parents than their own immediate prospects. It is the young who can go on to reap the full benefits of resettlement.
The final lesson is that refugees prosper most when they become citizens. Refugees need support to achieve it as soon as they become eligible. Studies show that naturalization as a United States citizen correlates with higher levels of employment and earnings.
The United Nations has called for the resettlement of 400,000 Syrian refugees over the next several years — which amounts to about 10 percent of those who have been displaced to neighboring countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Historically, the United States has taken 50 percent of the world’s refugees who are eligible for resettlement; that is why the I.R.C. is appealing to America to take 100,000 Syrians next year.
That will require political will and the funding to back it up — both of which most of Europe has conspicuously lacked. European Union leaders meeting this week must put that right.
With more people fleeing conflict and disaster than at any time since World War II, renewed leadership is required. No country is better placed than the United States to offer it.
No one pretends that an enlarged program of resettling refugees will end the humanitarian crisis created by the civil war in Syria. That will require a new wave of political and diplomatic engagement at the source of the conflict. International aid organizations like the I.R.C. see every day the need to provide more help to the neighboring states of Syria that are under huge strain, but refugee resettlement is also a practical way of making a difference for the most vulnerable.
There are very many generous, civic-minded Americans who stand ready to welcome thousands more Syrian refugees to this country. So, too, should the United States government. That effort will not only save precious lives, but will also confirm the nation’s commitment to its moral and international responsibilities.
David Miliband, a former British foreign secretary, is the president and chief executive of the International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian aid organization.
Sacrifice, even if only for a day
The Jakarta Post Editorial
September 23 2015
Muslims in Indonesia and around the world will mark Idul Adha, the Day of Sacrifice, on Thursday. Followers of Muhammadiyah and a few other Islamic sects may beg to differ, celebrating it on Wednesday based on their calculations of the movement of the moon. This minor difference is now a common occurrence in Indonesia that it is not really worth disputing. Accept the differences and move on.
What is important is that everyone on this day has the same purpose, to observe the spirit of sacrifice as exemplified by Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). As narrated in the Islamic traditions, Ibrahim agreed to slaughter his son Ismail at the behest of God. This is symbolic of the extent to which one must be willing to part with one’s most precious earthly possessions. In the narrative, Ismail was replaced by a ram at the last minute.
The ritual of slaughtering livestock on Idul Adha is observed each year by Muslims to this day. One must add that the tradition of sacrifice predated Islam and is also observed in most other faiths, including Christianity. They just do it differently and on different days based on different narratives.
The spiritual message of this story is compelling: Making sacrifices should be part of our daily activities, not just one day in a year, but all through the year and throughout our lives.
Looking at Indonesia today, sadly, the spirit of sacrifice, and the humility it is supposed to promote, is hardly observed. We see in its place greed, a “me first” attitude and arrogance — and even the use of repression and violence to justify the ends — as the accepted norms.
This is particularly true among the nation’s elite, including our political and business leaders, who should be role models in society. The media, including social media, have hardly stopped reporting about the endless power struggle between our leaders, more than a year after the nation held democratic elections to establish a new government. Corruption, including collusion between politicians and wealthy businessmen, remains as rampant as before.
The elected officials and politicians and their financial backers, are still bickering among themselves, which has left the nation almost bereft of governance.
In the absence of effective leadership, the economy suffers, with dire consequences for the lives of the people, particularly among the poor.
All this in the name of greed among the nation’s elite, not just for power, but also for money and wealth.
Idul Adha will probably bring respite as everyone observes the ritual of the Day of Sacrifice. They will all feel better that they have done their deeds, even if only in formality.
The bigger question is have they truly grasped the spiritual meaning of sacrificing in the name of God and for the good of mankind? A one-day respite is welcome, but a long-term commitment, say one year until the next Idul Adha, would be even better for Indonesia.
Casting aside our doubts for now, we wish everyone Eid Mubarak.
Rohingyas face ethnic cleansing, discrimination
By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
September 22, 2015
IT is no more a secret that the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar are being subjected to flagrant violation of human rights and practices of ethnic cleansing and racial discrimination. A few months ago, the United Nations, represented by its Human Rights Council, announced that the Rohingya Muslims in the Arakan state of Myanmar are the “the world’s most persecuted minority.”
Rohingya Muslims are an ethnic community in the western Rakhine state of Myanmar, who have for decades suffered from state-sanctioned discrimination in the Buddhist-majority country, which considers them illegal settlers from Bangladesh. Several international rights bodies, such as Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch emphasized in many reports and on several occasions that these hapless people have undergone sufferings that reached the level of ethnic cleansing and racial discrimination. They demanded the intervention of the international community to stop these gross rights violations.
The Western countries, especially the United States and the European Union states, are fully aware of what had happened and is happening in that country, which is closed to the outside world to a great extent. The military junta in Myanmar does not have any concern in safeguarding human rights. The Muslim countries are also aware of the magnitude of atrocities being perpetrated against the Rohingyas. There are several racist groups in Myanmar who are against Islam and Muslims and their aim is to drive Rohingyas out of the Rakhine state, and this with the clandestine support and blessing of the government — from both its civilian and military wings.
The issue of Rohingya Muslims was discussed at the Islamic summit held in Makkah a few years ago. While strongly criticizing the Myanmar government for the ethnic cleansing and atrocities committed against the Rohingyas, the summit demanded the government to stop the persecution of the Rohingya and protect them by restoring their legitimate rights.
The summit authorized the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to exert every effort to end the persecution. But, unfortunately, the pan-Islamic body failed to carry out the duties assigned to it by the summit. The OIC confined its role to dispatching an envoy to Myanmar to tackle the issue and later called upon the Myanmar government to stop its discrimination against Rohingya Muslims and treat them fairly just like other citizens of the country. It is evident that the solution to this problem can be achieved only through collective pressure on the Myanmar government from the part of the international community as a whole and the OIC in particular.
It is also noteworthy that a series of meetings were held in Malaysia, Thailand and Norway to discuss the plight of the Rohingyas. All these meetings expressed their solidarity with these people and denounced what they are exposed to following injustice, oppression and discrimination. In Malaysia, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad criticized the Myanmar government vehemently for stripping the nationality of inhabitants of the Arakan region who have been living there since several centuries.
In Oslo, a conference was held in May this year with the aim of drawing international attention toward this issue so as to end the increasing persecution and suffering of the stateless Muslims who are ethnically linked to Rakhine state. Several prominent global figures, including philanthropist and business tycoon George Soros, and South African Bishop and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu converged at the Nobel Institute together with pastors, imams, and monks. In his speech, Soros compared the plight of Rohingyas in Myanmar to that of Jews in the Nazi Germany. Addressing the gathering, Tutu said that Rohingya Muslims face slow genocide.
Some American artists, including famous actor Matt Dillon, visited the Rakhine state to have a close look at Myanmar’s long-persecuted Rohingyas who are languishing at squalid camps. Voicing sympathy at the dismal state of Rohingyas, they called on the international community to urgently intervene to halt the persecution and human rights violations in the country.
The latest visit to Myanmar to monitor the situation of Rohingyas was that of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR). In their second fact-finding mission, the delegation met with a variety of stakeholders to seek out a wide range of perspectives, including those from government, civil society and various ethnic and religious communities. After meeting with different segments of the Myanmar society, the delegation noted that there is no doubt that the recent legislations aimed at depriving Muslims of their right to vote and contest elections are in flagrant violation of the fundamental human rights.
While stating that the religious freedom is apparently under threat in Myanmar, they called on the international community to urgently intervene to pressurize the Myanmar government to roll back from denying Muslim population of their citizenship and stopping racial discrimination against them.
Similarly, nine embassies in Myanmar have issued a statement calling for tolerance ahead of the November election. In the statement, they said: “As the campaign in Myanmar officially begins, however, we, as international partners invested in the success of this country and these elections, are concerned about the prospect of religion being used as a tool of division and conflict during the campaign season. We call for all election rules and regulations to be applied fairly, consistently, and transparently without regard to ethnicity, religion, or political party.”
They specially mentioned the move to bar a Muslim parliament member belonged to the ruling party from contesting elections again.  The United States also voiced its deep concern over the government’s decision to mass disenfranchisement of the Rohingya Muslims. However, the Myanmar government paid no heed to these demands or protests. 
As the polling day approaches, incumbent President Thein Shin is almost certain to be reelected. In a recorded tape, he boasted of enacting the ‘Protection of Race and Religion Law’, and taking a series of decisions against Muslims such as denying the OIC, which represents one billion Muslims, from opening an office in the northwest of the country. He also asserted that the international community has been told candidly that there is no such thing as Rohingya Muslims in a country whose inhabitants are only Buddhists. Shin also claimed that he took the country out of its isolation and that he had informed senior world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, that there is no Rohingya in the country and that his decisions have led to a boost of investment in the country.
The open statement about racial discrimination and ethnic cleansing by none other than the country’s president has resulted in the denial of voting rights for 1.5 million Rohingyas in the upcoming elections. This also emboldened the Buddhist extremists to continue the killing of hundreds of Rohingyas and driving out of hundreds of thousands of them. Hence, it is a humanitarian obligation on the United Nations and the entire global community to stop these immoral and inhuman acts and come forward to safeguard these miserable people.
—Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at
Chechens face an epic battle in Syria
Dr. Theodore Karasik
22 September 2015
Now that the Kremlin is proactively involved in Syria’s Latakia region – given Russia’s expansion of both the port facility at Tartus and an airfield, along with its dispersal of assets and humanitarian aid – the issue of where Chechens sit in the current milieu is of major strategic interest.
Of primary concern are those Chechens who are key leaders and tacticians in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). These militants are particularly influential and cunning – and have long-term plans that include a violent return to the Russian Federation to spread the caliphate.
Chechens, by design or by fate of history, are again at the center of a battle that plays into their unique warrior lore.
Dr. Theodore Karasik
To be sure, Chechen fighters and field commanders have featured prominently in the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. While a number of them may have departed directly from the Russian Federation, others are likely veterans or relatives of exiles in Europe, Turkey or the Levant from the two separatist Chechen Wars that took place in the 1990s. For those who are anti-Russian and anti-Grozny – the capital of Chechnya – the draw of ISIS’ so-called caliphate is strong.
Chechen fighters are involved in the senior ISIS leadership and in many of its attacks. One notable is Musa Abu Yusuf al-Shishani (aka Abu Omar al-Shishani), whose original name is Tarkhan Batirashvili. He is an ethnic Chechen from Georgia’s Pankisi valley and a senior military commander in ISIS. Al-Shishani is featured prominently in many ISIS videos. It will be interesting to see how Al-Shishani conducts his operations against the Russian “infidels” now that the Kremlin is backing Assad’s forces on Syrian ground.
Russia a target
To be sure, Islamic State has designs on the Russian Federation, which helps explain why the Kremlin is acting the way it is now in Syria. Chechens who are enemies of Moscow are key to penetrating Russia’s soft underbelly.
Maps issued recently by the Islamic State identified several caliphates it intends to establish within the next five years. One of these, the Qoqaz, imagines a unified Northern and Southern Caucasus caliphate. Unmistakably, the Russian Federation is now highly concerned – as demonstrated by recent pronouncements by the Russian Security Service (FSB) – as ISIS not only has significant influence on regional geopolitics, but serves as inspiration for extremist sympathizers around Russia’s borders and in allied countries in Central Asia, notably Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.
Aside from ISIS-affiliated Chechens, other Northern Caucasus ethnic groups including Circassians play a role in the Levantine war environment. Circassians are present in the Syrian military, as are others from the Northern Caucasus who immigrated to Damascus over the past century. There are families in Syria that have ancestral ties with Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetia, and Dagestan. How these ethnicities see Russia’s presence in Syria now will be part of “squaring the circle” between the Levant and the Northern Caucasus.
Anti-Russian hatred
Syrian counter-intelligence always considered these ethnic groups “non-Arab”. We need to recall anti-Russian hatred that manifested itself early in the Syrian revolt, which featured the burning of Russian flags and other violent acts. In addition, when speaking of Chechens in Syria, there needs to be an important distinction of who is actually a Chechen or is instead related to another ethnic group from the Russian Federation. Clearly, the festering ethnic issue of minorities in the Levant may rise up; Moscow and Damascus should take note.
Nevertheless, there are, of course, Chechens aligned with the Kremlin on the Syria issue. Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov already called ISIS the “Iblis State” – State of Satan – which demonstrates his absolute contempt for the Caliphate. More importantly, Kadyrov is playing a key role in acting as an intelligence arm in cooperation with Moscow, Damascus and, significantly, Amman. In June 2014, King Abdullah of Jordan visited Chechnya to meet with Kadyrov. From there on out, Amman and Grozny, along with Moscow, in a significant triangulation, have been sharing intelligence information on Chechens and other Russian citizens in ISIS. Moreover, Chechnya’s counterterrorism forces are prominently displayed in Chechnya to the point of setting up an international training center in Gudermes earlier this year modeled on the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center (KASOTC).
Hunter-killer teams
The Kremlin’s plan appears to be for Russian forces to be augmented with Kadyrov’s hunter-killer teams in Syria. This move, supported by Jordan and other Arab countries, has been in the works for over a year. As a force multiplier, Kadyrov’s forces actually know how their Islamic State opponents think and act on the battlefield. That’s an important requirement – boots on the ground – and an irony that Kadyrov’s Chechen counterterrorism fighters are going to “save the day” in Syria. This plan is what one reaps from relying on air power alone by the U.S.-led Operation Inherent Resolve. To be determined is how the pro-Moscow Chechens will cooperate and interoperate with other players in the Syrian battle-space.
Unmistakably, Chechens, by design or by fate of history, are again at the center of a battle that plays into their unique warrior lore. But this Levantine battle is different because this fight will be outside their home territory and ultimately, against each other. In other words, the spread of Chechen politics and violence, sharply divided since Moscow imposed its will in Grozny through the Kadyrov clan, is now being transported into the heart of the Levant. It will be an epic battle – and all sides know it.
Dr. Theodore Karasik is a Gulf-based analyst of regional geo-political affairs. He received his Ph.D in History from UCLA in Los Angeles, California in four fields: Middle East, Russia, Caucasus, and a specialized sub-field in Cultural Anthropology focusing on tribes and clans.
 ‘Mama Merkel’ helps heal wounds of Germany’s past
Diana Moukalled
 22 September 2015
We have become used to seeing photos of German Chancellor Angela Merkel on social media networks, particularly on pages pertaining to the Syrian diaspora, accompanied by slogans voicing gratitude and appreciation.
For Syrians escaping death, Merkel has managed to offer shelter, with her country setting the bar high for its European neighbors, in the welcome it is giving the refugees.
Syrians responded to the German leader by voicing their affection any way they could, with many using social media as it is the easiest means to voice gratitude. They are circulating selfies snapped by Merkel with Syrian refugees during her visit to one of the camps in Germany. And the media is full of comments commending Merkel, and condemning other leaders.
The photo of Aylan and of Syrian refugees on trains struck a particular chord among Germans.
Diana Moukalled
Even some negative articles that claimed those escaping war are not supposed to be carrying smartphones did not detract from the positive image of the Chancellor – whom some have dubbed ‘Mama Merkel’.
German nationals are pleased at this positive image of Merkel – something that is being linked, by association, to the country itself.
‘Unmerciful tyrant’
During the past few years when the economic crisis was at its worst in Greece, Merkel was often pictured as an unmerciful tyrant by European media. Many photos and comments drew similarities between her and Hitler.
But Merkel chose a moral stance over how to deal with the refugees. It’s true that Merkel’s courage is being challenged by racist groups in Germany and Europe – groups that base their argument on fear of Islam, and claims that these refugees cannot integrate in society. However, broader German public opinion seems to be more in favor of Merkel’s choices.
Yes, the photo of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old boy who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea while fleeing to Europe with his parents, has been especially powerful, especially in a country where the collective memory is haunted by photos of Jews on trains as they were taken to extermination camps. That massacre still impacts on the Germans’ public image today. And so the photo of Aylan and of Syrian refugees on trains and crossing borders in Europe struck a particular chord among Germans – influencing their stance on the refugee crisis.
‘Tired of being the bad guys’
This emotional response in commending Merkel has comforted many Germans, with some thinking that this marks a new positive image for their country and people. The culture of welcoming refugees has been strengthened, thanks to both laws and Germans' acts of kindness in receiving refugees with flowers. Photos of such gestures have positively affected public opinion of Germany, which is still influenced by history and the Nazi era.
More than one German commentator has said “we are tired of being the bad guys.” And a new image is developing, as Germany wants the world to love it more. So perhaps the Syrian tragedy will help heal the wounds of Germany’s past. But as for Syria’s recovery, it seems now is not the time.
Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.
Where there’s a will there’s a way
Published — Wednesday 23 September 2015
Reports about 75 US-trained rebels entering Syria from Turkey has attracted special attention because it marks a new development in the military arena there despite the fact that the number is not enough to shift the balance on the ground in Syria.
The military map in Syria has changed significantly, and so have the priorities of the US-led international coalition to fight terrorist organizations in Syria particularly Daesh.
Instead of toppling the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the coalition’s priority now is to fight Daesh. Prompted by fears of terrorism and Russia’s support for the Syrian government, Washington has raised the prospect of involving Assad himself in peace negotiations on the grounds that he is one of the players in Syria.
The issue of training Syria’s moderate rebels has been the subject of debate for years and no one knows why efforts have not succeeded or why support for rebels has remained limited. It has emerged that rivals who are actively engaged in the Syrian conflict are government forces backed by fighters from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and other Iraqi organizations on the one hand, and extremist organizations that have managed to attract foreign fighters who consider fighting in Syria a sacred mission on the other hand.
No one expects the 75 fighters to shift the balance of powers in Syria. Experiences of the past do not arouse optimism that this group will make much of a difference. Many fighters, trained by the United States to fight extremist groups in Syria, have been attacked and abducted before. The US program to train moderate Syrian rebels has drawn fierce criticism against President Barack Obama administration from the Republicans who called it a joke.
In fact, the real problem lies in the will to fight. Without a genuine will to fight Daesh and a clear military strategy, any practical results on the ground would be hard to achieve by Syria’s moderate rebels be they 75 or 1,000. At the end of the day, it is a battle of wills and victory is achieved when one side breaks the other side’s will to continue fighting.
The most prominent example in this context is the Kurds’ will to fight Daesh and other similar-minded groups in Syria and Iraq. Kurdish fighters have defeated Daesh in the Syrian town of Kobani and in several locations in Iraq despite the atrocities committed by the group with the aim of terrorizing and intimidating its opponents. On the other hand, the Iraqi army’s campaign to liberate Al-Anbar province from the clutches of Daesh has failed and ended with the collapse of regular forces whose fighters lacked the will to fight the ultra-radical group.
Without instilling the will to fight in the hearts of fighters, arming and training them becomes utterly useless and a complete waste of time and effort, with weapons eventually falling into the hands of extremist groups. Rebels in Syria do have a clear military strategy. It is inconceivable that the Syrian people who rose against their government would accept to be governed by a system that takes its inspiration from the Middle Ages.
Why gender equality is the most critical of all the global goals
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
At the end of this month, thousands of representatives from all over the world will gather in New York. They will witness the launch of the most ambitious universal effort since the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The reshaping and re-stating of the "larger freedom" of those rights in a new agenda has a deadline of 2030 for a fairer, more sustainable world, with the drive to achieve full equality of men and womenat its center.
It is a threshold moment. Many constituencies, far broader than governments alone, have deeply invested hope and expectation that we have learnt enough, are committed enough, to make this new agenda a success. Through it, we seek to impact some of the key challenges of the 21st century, such as poverty, inequality and violence against women. Women's empowerment is a pre-condition for this.
We know now that without gender equality and a full role for women in society, in the economy, in governance, we will not be able to achieve the world we hoped for. These are the changes for which governments have repeatedly signed their support, with international protocols on non-discrimination, and on different aspects of rights and global goods. To date, that support has not been felt all the way through society; consequently results have fallen short of aspiration.
We have extensive information on what needs to be done. In 2015 we conducted a review of implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on its 20th anniversary. As many as 167 countries reported their own successes in achieving gender equality and women's empowerment. These reports are in effect national blueprints for action.
Their assessments revealed important gains in some areas, such as new or amended legislation to eliminate discrimination against women and other barriers; improved enrollment by girls in primary and secondary education, and progress in reducing maternal deaths. But advances were unacceptably slow in other vital areas, such as increasing women's access to decent work or equal pay; no country has achieved gender equality.
There has been a critical gap between those who draw up the commitments and those who carry them out. Gender ministries tend to be underfunded and lack the influence and weight of larger and stronger ministries, such as foreign affairs or treasury functions.
This is where we intend to learn from history – and change it.
On September 27, we ask the highest leaders in each land to take personal responsibility for their commitment to change the trajectory of gender equality and empowerment of women. We ask those who make the undertakings to be the ones to lead their implementation. We believe this level of engagement is crucial to create a new cycle of history.
We have already started this path through the HeForShe campaign that identifies IMPACT champions in top leadership positions, in government, academia and multinational corporations. Each leader has made game-changing undertakings – of a new order of magnitude – that will bring institutional change to their own arena that is replicable elsewhere.
No other issue on the sustainable development agenda will receive this level of special attention. No other issue is as critical to the success of the new agenda as a whole.
The ambition of the 2030 Agenda must be matched with an equally ambitious level of investment with transformative financing commitments, including dedicated funding for women's-rights organisations. This can only happen if governments increase budget allocations across all sectors, states meet their official development assistance commitments, and all other sources of funding are mobilised to achieve gender equality.
As we move toward September's threshold moment, I invite all Heads of States and Governments to prepare for the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 with commitments that are truly visionary, that break barriers, provide solutions, and so put themselves, and the world they lead, on the right side of history.
The writer is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women.

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