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UN Overwhelmed By Civilians In Danger

According to the United Nations there are now 40 million people uprooted by fighting worldwide but the UN can offer special care and legal protection to less than half. John Howard reports and comments.

On Thursday the UN Security Council was told that national sovereignty claims are being cited as reasons why the UN is unable to help 25 million people who are classifed as "internally displaced."

The African continent alone has 10 million people who do not come under the strict definition of "refugee" because while they have abandoned their homes, they have not crossed borders.

Fighting has prevented the UN and other aid agencies from reaching them and they often end up in isolated areas without food, water or shelter. Yet they are protected by the same Geneva Conventions that give refugees special status in countries of asylum.

In some areas, governments directly prevent aid from entering their country viewing civilians as allies of their enemies. Citing national sovereignty these government deliberately block the UN refugee agencies from entering.

China told the Security Council that international aid should be given "only on the basis of respect of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs."

China consistently stresses the rights of countries to manage their affairs internally fearing international intervention in Tibet and Taiwan.

While the fine distinction between refugees and internally displaced is allowed to exist and national sovereignty issues are raised to prevent human suffering, I have a question to ask of our world leaders.

By what right do countries claim national sovereignty?

If a new island were thrown up from the sea by volcanic activity today, who could claim national sovereignty over it, and by what right?

Can these nations who now claim national sovereignty prove to the citizens of the world, and they are the ones who count, that they have absolute ownership over a piece of dirt? Or are they just claiming a radical title to the land through force or perception.

I'll bet these politicians have never asked their peoples.

So world leaders, if you claim national sovereignty which prevents aid reaching people, answer this simple question for the rest of the citizens of the world - Prove it?

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