UN Reform

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UNITED-NATIONS- flagsUN was headed to Philadelphia, but a Rockefeller stepped in
The book “Capital of the World” chronicles the search for a home for the United Nations headquarters after World War II and the nearly 250 U.S. cities that were candidates. The West Coast, South and Midwest were eventually rejected in favor of the Northeast, with Philadelphia a leading contender until the Rockefeller family offered to buy the land in New York on which the UN now stands, writes Alex Gallafent. PRI’s The World (Boston) (2/13)
Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Security Council Reform and the G-20 (November 2010)

Keeping A Piece of Peacekeeping
The United States Doubles Down at the United Nations
(Foreign Affairs) On September 28, President Barack Obama convened a summit of more than 50 world leaders on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. The gathering followed a similar effort by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden last summer. Both meetings were intended to boost contributions to UN peace operations in the face of record-level demand for peacekeeping, particularly in Africa, where several missions are struggling to achieve their mandated tasks. Obama’s summit exceeded expectations, generating over 170 pledges of new personnel, assets, and support capabilities. In total, approximately 40,000 uniformed personnel (troops and police), 40 helicopters, 10 field hospitals, and 15 engineering units were pledged along with individual state promises to aid in capacity-building efforts. China made by far the largest single pledge of troops, police, and helicopters.
The summit also saw the release of United States Support to United Nations Peace Operations, a new presidential policy that calls for the United States to aid in partner-building efforts, expand direct contributions to UN peacekeeping efforts, push for systemic reforms in the face of increasing scrutiny of UN efforts in the Central African Republic and elsewhere, and commit new staff officers, logistics support, troop training, and to oversee civil–military command exercises. As well as codifying the importance this administration attaches to UN peace operations, the new policy calls on Washington to support new initiatives, as well as requiring the Departments of Defense and State to reform their respective personnel systems to credit and professionally reward personnel who are deployed to UN missions. The United States has also pledged to double the number of U.S. staff officers in UN missions, and has signed an agreement that makes U.S. logistical material and services available to UN peacekeepers. (6 October 2015)

Jeffrey Sachs: The UN at 70
The United Nations will mark its 70th anniversary when world leaders assemble next month at its headquarters in New York. … if the UN is to continue to fulfill its unique and vital global role in the twenty-first century, it must be upgraded in three key ways.
Fortunately, there is plenty to motivate world leaders to do what it takes. Indeed, the UN has had two major recent triumphs, with two more on the way before the end of this year.
The first triumph is the nuclear agreement with Iran. Sometimes misinterpreted as an agreement between Iran and the United States, the accord is in fact between Iran and the UN, represented by the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the US), plus Germany. An Iranian diplomat, in explaining why his country will scrupulously honor the agreement, made the point vividly: “Do you really think that Iran would dare to cheat on the very five UN Security Council permanent members that can seal our country’s fate?”
The second big triumph is the successful conclusion, after 15 years, of the Millennium Development Goals, which have underpinned the largest, longest, and most effective global poverty-reduction effort ever undertaken. Two UN Secretaries-General have overseen the MDGs: Kofi Annan, who introduced them in 2000, and Ban Ki-moon, who, since succeeding Annan at the start of 2007, has led vigorously and effectively to achieve them.
Given this, the first reform that I would suggest is an increase in funding, with high-income countries contributing at least $40 per capita annually, upper middle-income countries giving $8, lower-middle-income countries $2, and low-income countries $1. With these contributions – which amount to roughly 0.1% of the group’s average per capita income – the UN would have about $75 billion annually with which to strengthen the quality and reach of vital programs, beginning with those needed to achieve the SDGs.
This brings us to the second major area of reform: ensuring that the UN is fit for the new age of sustainable development. Specifically, the UN needs to strengthen its expertise in areas such as ocean health, renewable energy systems, urban design, disease control, technological innovation, public-private partnerships, and peaceful cultural cooperation. Some UN programs should be merged or closed, while other new SDG-related UN programs should be created.
The third major reform imperative is the UN’s governance, starting with the Security Council, the composition of which no longer reflects global geopolitical realities. Indeed, the Western Europe and Other Group (WEOG) now accounts for three of the five permanent members (France, the United Kingdom, and the US). That leaves only one permanent position for the Eastern European Group (Russia), one for the Asia-Pacific Group (China), and none for Africa or Latin America.
The rotating seats on the Security Council do not adequately restore regional balance. Even with two of the ten rotating Security Council seats, the Asia-Pacific region is still massively under-represented. The Asia-Pacific region accounts for roughly 55% of the world’s population and 44% of its annual income but has just 20% (three out of 15) of the seats on the Security Council.
Asia’s inadequate representation poses a serious threat to the UN’s legitimacy, which will only increase as the world’s most dynamic and populous region assumes an increasingly important global role. One possible way to resolve the problem would be to add at least four Asian seats: one permanent seat for India, one shared by Japan and South Korea (perhaps in a two-year, one-year rotation), one for the ASEAN countries (representing the group as a single constituency), and a fourth rotating among the other Asian countries. (August 2015)

Shashi Tharoor: The Politics of UN Leadership
The contest for UN secretary-general is about neither vision nor the best resume, language skills, administrative ability, or even personal charisma. It is a political decision, made principally by the P-5.
(HuffPost) Election cycles are growing longer worldwide. … Yet some races — such as that for the next United Nations secretary-general, which will also be held in 2016 — still occur largely under the radar. This should change.
… the decision comes down to the 15 members of the Security Council, who select the candidate to be rubber-stamped by the UN General Assembly (as has occurred in every case so far). Crucially, the Security Council’s five permanent members – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the US – have veto power, so a majority means nothing if a single member of the P-5 dissents.
The result is that the “least unacceptable” candidate gets the job. And, as it stands, there is no reason to believe that the advent of social media, satellite television coverage, or a more intrusive press will change that fundamental reality.
In 2016, the smart money will be on an east European candidate acceptable to the P-5, particularly Russia. … – only one UN region has yet to be represented: Eastern Europe.
In fact, a number of potential East European candidates have already emerged, with some said to have begun actively soliciting support. Former Slovenian President Danilo Türk, who served as Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs under Annan, is an early front-runner. There is also talk of current UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, who is Bulgarian, and of two Slovaks, Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák and his predecessor, Jan Kubiš, entering the race. Finally, there is Romania’s former foreign minister, Mircea Geoana, who is highly respected among P-5 governments.
The fact that all five of these candidates are well known in diplomatic circles, and four have direct UN experience, refutes the old canard that Eastern Europe does not have a credible candidate to offer. (Full disclosure: all five are friends of mine, and I consider them highly capable and well suited for the role.)
But there is a hitch: Eastern Europe must avoid attracting a Russian veto. Indeed, that may be the main factor derailing the prospects of former Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski. If, as some fear, the Kremlin vetoes all East European candidates, a representative from the Western Europe and Others Group, such as former New Zealand Prime Minister and current UN Under-Secretary-General Helen Clark, could stand a chance, especially given the appeal of finally selecting a woman for the role. (17 January 2015)

UN refugee agency looks to attract new supporters of its work
The United Nations refugee agency is backing The Hive, an effort to generate support and funding for the ongoing refugee crisis by using nontraditional methods to educate potential donors, especially “persuadables,” or people who aren’t actively helping but are open to the idea. “We have the first full-time data scientist in a nonprofit in the US focused on engagement,” says Brian Reich. Fast Company online (12/30), Vox (12/30)

28 October
How Not to Select the Best UN Secretary-General
by Alvaro de Soto
(Global Leadership Foundation) On 11 September, the five permanent members (P5) of the 15-member United Nations Security Council, under pressure from the broader membership of the 193-member Organization, accepted an intrusive role for the General Assembly, in which all members are represented, in the selection of the Secretary-General (SG), heretofore handled in zealous secrecy by the Security Council. Candidates for SG will be invited world-wide, and the full membership will be able to examine those candidates and their CVs in real time. There is the prospect of public grilling of aspirants..
The Assembly’s 11 September resolution provides for the Presidents of the Council and the Assembly to jointly invite candidate nominations on the basis of a list of criteria: proven leadership and managerial abilities, extensive experience in international relations and strong diplomatic and multilingual skills, among others. Assembly members are to be kept current on candidates and their CVs. The resolution envisages the entire Assembly examining and interviewing candidates in an open process.
Even though the required majority and the veto power remain unchanged, the UN is entering unmapped territory, but even at this early stage, it is clear that the Assembly’s intrusion into the Council’s territory is potentially disruptive. The membership at large, unbound by the omertà that governs private deliberations of the Council, will have the ability to embarrass or inhibit potential candidates, or nominating members, or both.

Ban: General Assembly president must be more transparent
Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, has named a task force to make recommendations on improving the transparency and accountability of the president of the General Assembly, which is an independent position. The Associated Press (10/23)
Majority of General Assembly seeks to limit vetoes on war crimes issues
A measure to establish a code of conduct to prevent Security Council vetoes against “credible” resolutions involving war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity is being supported by 104 member states including the UK and France. The measure calls for the UN secretary-general to decide when a violent situation could turn catastrophic. Yahoo/Agence France-Presse (10/23)
UNBlue_OperaHouseWorld lights up in UN blue to mark Organization’s milestone anniversary
From Australia to Azerbaijan, Indonesia to Iraq, Saudi Arabia to South Sudan, some 300 sites around the world will be lit in ‘UN blue’ beginning on Friday as part of the global celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations.
The celebration will kick off in New Zealand and from there a wave of blue – the official colour of the UN – will move across countries and continents as monuments around the world take part in the event to commemorate UN Day.
UN Headquarters in New York will light up for two nights, beginning 23 October when the annual UN Day concert will be held, and concluding on 24 October, which has been celebrated as UN Day since 1948.
The Day marks the anniversary of the entry into force of the UN Charter. With the ratification of this founding document by the majority of its signatories, including the five permanent members of the Security Council, the Organization officially came into being.

Lloyd Axworthy: How landmines paved a way for UN reform
In 1997, more than one hundred government delegations and nongovernmental organizations gathered in Ottawa. The occasion was to sign a treaty comprehensively banning the use of land mines against humans — the Mine Ban treaty, as it is known. At the center of this accord, were the tireless efforts by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a coalition of civil society groups that would go on to win the Nobel Peace Prize, which worked with a number of like-minded governments to put effective pressure on wavering states to join the process.
This innovative form of cooperation began in 1994, and slowly, a division of responsibilities emerged. On one hand, NGOs lent considerable expertise and the appearance of democratic legitimacy to the negotiations — as well as the ability to shame governments. On the other, progressive governments would press key policy issues in the intergovernmental negotiations and eventually use resources at their disposal to convene states to sign the treaty.
Mending a global giant: How to fix a 70-year-old United Nations
(Open Canada) As the United Nations turns 70 on Oct. 24, we look at some of the more pressing areas in need of reform and increased support within the institution — from the refugee system and peacekeeping operations to how secretaries general and security council members are selected. This series rolls out over the next week.
21 October
At the U.N., Beijing Begins to Shift Away From Putin
Beijing and Moscow have long maintained a united front against the West. That’s changing as a rising China begins to chart its own course.
(Foreign Policy) China and Russia consider one another strategic partners and they strive to align their votes at the United Nations as closely as possible, in part to act as a brake on the projection of American power. But maintaining that partnership is exacting an increasing diplomatic cost for China as Russia has grown assertive in ways that have threatened the interests of Beijing’s commercial partners, from the Middle East to Ukraine.
6 October
Ban “deeply troubled” by charges filed against former UN envoy
US authorities have filed charges against six people including John Ashe, the former United Nations envoy for Antigua and Barbuda and the General Assembly president in 2013-14. Ashe allegedly took bribes related to the building of a UN-sponsored conference center in Macau. Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, was “shocked” by the allegations, said Stephane Dujarric, a UN spokesman. Reuters (10/7), USA Today (10/6)
UN General Assembly ex-president John Ashe charged in bribery scheme
6 charged in alleged conspiracy linked to United Nations, prosecutor says
(CBC) A former president of the United Nations General Assembly turned the world body into a “platform for profit” by accepting over $1 million US in bribes from a billionaire Chinese real estate mogul and other businesspeople to pave the way for lucrative investments, a prosecutor alleged Tuesday.
John Ashe, a former UN ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who served in the largely ceremonial post as head of the 193-nation assembly from September 2013 to September 2014, faces tax fraud charges in what authorities call a conspiracy with five others, including Francis Lorenzo, a deputy UN ambassador from the Dominican Republic who lives in New York.
U.S. attorney Preet Bharara repeatedly noted that it was early in the investigation and told reporters that as it proceeds: “We will be asking: Is bribery business as usual at the UN?”
He added: “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see other people charged.”
2 October
As the UN turns 70, cooperative rhetoric hides a darker divide
(Globe & Mail) …  in declaring their interest in a UN-focused, global co-operation to solve problems – both in Syria and more widely – the leaders were talking about very different, and often completely opposite, things. …  beyond passive-aggressive sparring over this crucial issue [Syria], much of the rhetoric of international co-operation was but a thin veneer covering some deep divides over the meaning of those words. …Mr. Xi, for instance, devoted much of his speech to the traditional Chinese Communist argument that international values and a liberal order do not really exist – that, in the words of the British China scholar Shaun Breslin, the values articulated at the UN “are not universal at all, but merely the product of a small number of Western countries’ histories, philosophies and developmental trajectories.”Likewise, Mr. Putin’s speech was largely devoted to denouncing democracy and anti-dictatorship movements in the Middle East, Ukraine and elsewhere as concoctions of dark Western forces manipulated by the United States.“We consider attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the United Nations as extremely dangerous,” the Russian President said. They were words which every other leader would, on the face, agree with – but for the fact that, as this week’s events showed, nobody agrees whether people like Mr. Putin are opposing those legitimacy-undermining forces, or if they are the embodiment of them.
28 September
U.N. Serves World Leaders Food Scraps For Lunch
Some of the most powerful people on the planet ate the food we throw away and leave to rot at supermarkets for their lunch on Sunday
About 30 world leaders — including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and French President Francois Hollande — were served “landfill salads” made out of vegetable scraps for a high-level working lunch at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York. They were also given water drained from cans of chickpeas, burgers made from vegetables thrown away for being below quality standards, French fries produced using corn typically used as animal feed, and desserts consisting of coffee cherry pulp, cocoa bean shells and leftover nut skins.
The goal of the lunch was to highlight the role of food waste as an “overlooked aspect of climate change,” Ban said at a press conference Sunday. The meal was served to the world leaders after they adopted  17 new Sustainable Development Goals Friday, and created 169 targets, to hit by 2030, which focus heavily on the need to tackle climate change and end poverty and hunger worldwide.
Ban: SDGs provide “a to-do list” for global action
The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals on Friday by United Nations members must be followed by action on the part of world governments to implement the goals. The SDGs “are a to-do list for people and planet, and a blueprint for success,” says Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general. The Associated Press (9/25), Thomson Reuters Foundation (9/27), The New York Times (free-article access for SmartBrief readers) (9/28)
27 September
Saudi Arabia Protests Inclusion Of Gay Rights In UN Development Agenda
(HuffPost) Saudi Arabia is protesting any references to homosexuality in a sweeping new agenda for global development, saying it runs “counter to Islamic law.”
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir told a U.N. summit of world leaders Sunday that “mentioning sex in the text, to us, means exactly male and female. Mentioning family means consisting of a married man and woman.”
He asserted his country’s right to not follow any rules that relate to any “deviations” from that belief as the world moves forward on the new development agenda.
22 September
SDGsYour comprehensive guide to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals summit
World leaders will pledge to tackle poverty, inequality and climate change at a historic event in New York. Here’s everything you need to know about it
After nearly three years of open global consultations, fraught negotiations and some high jinks, the proposed sustainable development goals (SDGs) are expected to be adopted by UN member states at a special summit convened at the UN headquarters in New York from 25 to 27 September.
The SDGs will replace the millennium development goals as the new global goals to be accomplished by 2030.
The whole thing kicks off with a vigil on Thursday night, and then on Friday 25 there will an address by Pope Francis. Once the General Assembly gets underway the three days will feature a mixture of plenary meetings and “interactive dialogues” on the main themes of the SDGs – including ending poverty, tackling inequality and combating climate change.
The “interactive dialogues” are opportunities for non-governmental organisations to address the world leaders gathered for the summit. Amnesty International, Oxfam and Global Campaign for Education are among 24 civil society representatives that have been selected. Details of who is speaking when can be found here.
Ban: UN remains important at 70
The United Nations remains a viable organization, and “when there is a unity of purpose and solidarity among Security Council members, particularly the five permanent members, you can make real things,” says Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He says his visits to refugee camps give him fulfillment and a chance to remind children, particularly, that there is hope. Financial Times (tiered subscription model) (9/18)
Shashi Tharoor: Is 70 Too Old for the UN
(Project Syndicate) As world leaders prepare to gather next week at the United Nations in New York to ratify the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and commemorate the UN’s 70th anniversary, for many a fundamental question has become inescapable. In the face of growing global disorder – including turmoil in the Middle East, waves of migrants flooding into Europe, and China’s unilateral moves to enforce its territorial claims – does the UN have a future?
Grounds for pessimism are undeniable. Conflicts rage on, seemingly unaffected by upholders of world order. Despite more than two decades of talk, the Security Council’s permanent membership (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) still reflects the geopolitical realities of 1945, not 2015. Denied accommodation in the Bretton Woods institutions (the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund) commensurate with its economic clout, China has established its own alternatives, which other countries have flocked to join. The G-20 seems more representative than the Security Council – and more imbued with common purpose.
Yet the UN should not be written off. It continues to serve a vital purpose, and its history suggests that it can be revitalized to meet the needs of the twenty-first century.
3 September
UN states want a voice in choosing Ban’s successor
(AFP) – UN member-states are pushing to have more of a say in choosing the successor to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who steps down at the end of next year.A draft resolution is due to be put to a vote at the UN General Assembly next week that would for the first time allow the 193-nation to see the resumes of potential candidates and hear their views.
For decades, the choice of the UN chief has been the purview of the five permanent Security Council members, in a selection process kept mostly behind closed doors.
Ban was chosen by the Security Council which forwarded his name to the General Assembly for endorsement.
The draft resolution requests that the Security Council and the General Assembly start looking for candidates now by sending a letter to all 193 nations inviting applications and explaining the selection process.
12 August
The New UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Fresh Water
For 15 years, the world community has worked to achieve a comprehensive set of goals and targets called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – launched in 2000 to tackle poverty, economic and environment inequity, and strategies for effective development. The MDGs concluded this year, and a new set of goals to replace them have been in design and negotiation for some time. These new objectives – now called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – are now final, offering global priorities for sustainable development beyond 2015.
Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
6.1 by 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all
6.2 by 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations
6.3 by 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater, and increasing recycling and safe reuse by x% globally …
17 April
Kevin Rudd quietly campaigning for UN secretary-general, says inner circle
(Sydney Morning Herald) If an Eastern European candidate is blocked, Mr Rudd or New Zealand’s former prime minister Helen Clark could stand as a candidate for the Western Europe and Others grouping.
Law professor, Jesuit priest and Rudd confidante Frank Brennan said the pair had discussed the role and “if the world looked to our part of the world, I’m sure he would have an interest”.
“But as a mate I say to him, if it came to our part of the world, there is him and Helen Clark. But guess what, she is a woman [the UN has never been led by a woman], she is competently running a UN operation, the UN Development Program, and she wouldn’t attract the same static from her own audience,” he said.
11 March
Development Finance: Enter the Private Sector
Making poverty history by 2030 will require massive increases in private investment, not just public aid
By Brett House
(Global Brief) Ridding the world of extreme poverty by 2030 is at once an ambitious and entirely feasible goal: ambitious because the world has never done it before; feasible because the world has the technical means to do so. Some plan to increase public financing for the SDGs will almost inevitably be brokered in Addis Ababa in July. Promises will be made to increase aid, make tax systems more efficient and effective, and find new ways to raise public funds. This is all important and essential, but it will not be enough. The world also needs to come together to increase the flow of poverty-alleviating private investment in the countries and sectors that see little of it now. Reforming, renewing, expanding, and freeing the world’s DFIs – as well as adding to their ranks – is the most immediate way to put private capital to work to achieve the SDGs. After 15 years of practice on their MDG predecessors, the world knows what to do. And this is the year to make it happen.
7 March
How The UN Plans To Use Innovation And Entrepreneurship For Sustainable Development
[Amina J. Mohammed, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development Planning] expects a big role for innovators and entrepreneurs in the implementation of the SDG’s – from a policy and execution standpoint. Governments often pay lip service to the terms innovation and entrepreneurship. Most of the time, policy makers and bureaucrats do not have the background to understand the implications of an innovation. And they often don’t trust entrepreneurs (social or for-profit) to be as reliable as larger, well-known companies and NGO’s. That is where policy development comes in. Government agencies, at all levels, must be encouraged to consistently seek out “the best technologies and innovations” in their programs, and provide opportunities for entrepreneurs to use their new models to achieve results.
On implementation, governments will need to ensure that entrepreneurs have a fair shot at showcasing their success in the relevant field – such as education or health care. And they should have a pathway towards scaling up their products and services through public-private partnerships.
2 February
Ex-Aussie PM Kevin Rudd wants John Baird to help him fix WHO, other UN organizations
Baird the right person to help ‘structurally alter the rules’ of international health agency: Rudd
The head of a new international commission wants Canada’s tough-talking foreign affairs minister to help him reform the United Nations World Health Organization because it responded too slowly to the Ebola crisis.
21 January
2015 and the UN: Great Expectations in Times Ahead
By Rosemary McCarney, President and CEO of Plan International Canada Inc.
(HuffPost) 2015 promises to be a transformative year on the international development front and is therefore an appropriate time to reflect on a noteworthy milestone. The United Nations enters its 70th year — and like some 70-year-olds, the beleaguered UN has found new vigour and relevance in people’s lives, with Canada playing a role in some noteworthy accomplishments.
6 January
The post of UN Secretary-General is said to be the world’s most impossible job. It is also one of the most important.
To live up to these tasks, the Secretary-General must be highly skilled, competent, persuasive and visionary. The role has expanded rapidly in scope, importance and profile since the UN was created in 1945. The Secretary-General now works with 193 Member States. He leads over 40,000 staff, and oversees the work of 30 UN funds, programmes and agencies, which deal with a wide range of global developmental and humanitarian issues.
Reform is possible and urgent
Surprisingly, while the role has developed significantly, the selection process has remained largely unchanged. It is defined by secretive and outdated practices that effectively place the selection in the hands of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, which puts forward just one candidate for the rest of the UN’s membership to rubberstamp. These practices are not obligatory. The UN Charter includes only broad provisions on the appointment. States have the power to improve it and a large majority of governments agree that the process is wholly unsuited to producing the best person for the job.  Over the past 20 years, the UN has agreed concrete proposals on making the process more robust. But they have not been implemented.
A more open and inclusive selection process, with genuine involvement by all UN Member States, would give future Secretaries-General a stronger mandate. That in turn would boost their ability to mobilise support for the UN and drive its agenda forward.  A better process would also help to revitalise the UN, enhance its effectiveness and credibility, and reaffirm its global authority and popular appeal.
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22 July
Clark: Adding AIDS goal to SDGs will help end the epidemic
The inclusion of an AIDS-specific goal in the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals “will help raise aspirations and generate the momentum we need to end the epidemic,” says Helen Clark, head of the United Nations Development Programme. Thomson Reuters Foundation (7/22), Devex.com (free registration) (7/22)
15 July
U.N.’s New Development Goals Must Also Be Measurable for Rich
(IPS) – The United Nations is on the verge of releasing a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – perhaps 17 or more – to replace the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which will run out by the end of 2015.
The proposed new SDGs, which will make amends for the shortcomings of the MDGs, will be an integral part of the U.N.’s post-2015 development agenda which, among other things, seeks to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger from the face of the earth by 2030.
Neelie Kroes of the European Commission says the new development agenda is being described as “the most far-reaching and comprehensive development-related endeavour ever undertaken by the United Nations in its entire history.”
But Jens Martens, director of the Global Policy Forum, told IPS that in general, the current list of proposed goals and targets is not an adequate response to the global social, economic and environmental crises and the need for fundamental change.
The proposed SDG list, he pointed out, contains a mix of recycled old commitments and vaguely formulated new ones (such as the goal 1.a. to “ensure significant mobilization of resources from a variety of sources to provide adequate and predictable means to implement programmes and policies to end poverty in all its dimensions.”).
According to some development experts, the world’s rich nations have mostly failed to meet their obligations on MDG target 8 which called for a “global partnership for development” between developed and developing nations.
7 May
U.N. Treaty on Corporate Rights Abuse Sees New Momentum
(IPS) – Some 500 global groups are calling for action by governments next month to jumpstart the process of drafting an international treaty to address rights abuses by multinational corporations, following on a related proposal by Ecuador and others.
On Wednesday, a global network of civil society groups known as the Treaty Alliance called on members of the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) to back a resolution next month to draw up a binding accord that would ensure both accountability and mechanisms for redress by victims of corporate rights abuse. The council will hold its 26th session Jun. 9-27 in Geneva.
The Treaty Alliance’s joint statement, signed by more than 150 organisations and representing hundreds more, underscores “the need to enhance the international legal framework, including international remedies, applicable to State action to protect rights in the context of business operations, and mindful of the urgent need to ensure access to justice and remedy and reparations for victims of corporate human rights abuse.”
The statement also calls on member states to work towards a binding agreement that “affirms the applicability of human rights obligations to the operations of transnational corporations and other business enterprises” and requires states to “provide for legal liability for business enterprises for acts or omissions that infringe human rights”.
The alliance is urging the creation of a supra-national body to oversee any eventual treaty’s implementation.
Divisions over Gender Complicate Development Agenda
(IPS) – As the U.N. focuses on refining its Post-2015 Development Agenda, divisions surrounding issues of population and development continue to plague consensus on a universal way forward.
“People have to be at the centre of development,” Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), told IPS. “I think we are beginning to see a greater commitment [of governments] to deliver on gender parity, girls rights, issues of gender-based violence and girls education.”
Following the 2014 U.N. Commission on Population and Development (CPD), an annual gathering where member states, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other members of civil society discuss and define goals on population and development, serious divisions emerged regarding issues of sexual health, sexual education and gender.
“The balance of this resolution remains heavily skewed towards peculiar interests of certain developed countries, as evidenced by undue emphasis on selected rights over the real development priorities,” said Fr. Justin Wylie, attaché for the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the U.N., on Apr. 12, following the adoption of the CPD outcome resolution.
6 March
Irwin Cotler: The tragic farce of the UN Human Rights Council
Beginning this week, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, China and Russia will sit in judgement of others, rather than in the docket of the accused. Yet these four regimes stand accused of many serious human rights violations, and only their suspension will restore the credibility of the HRC.
It is long past time for countries that espouse the values of democracy, freedom and human dignity to put their ballots where their mouths are.

On Monday, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) began its first session since electing 14 new members last fall. Among them are Saudi Arabia, Cuba, China and Russia, all regimes that violate the human rights of their own populations as a matter of course.
United Nations rules specify that countries shall be elected to the HRC by the General Assembly on the basis of their “contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights.” It is therefore shameful that the new members include four of the world’s worst human rights violators, all of which received the support of a majority of UN member states.


Saudi Arabia rejects Security Council seat
Saudi Arabia has rejected Friday a seat on the U.N. Security Council just hours after it was elected as one of the Council’s 10 nonpermanent members.
In a statement issued through the state Saudi Press Agency, the Middle Eastern nation thanked those countries “that have given (it) their confidence” but said the 15-member body is incapable of resolving the world’s conflicts.
11 October
OPCW’s efforts recognized with Nobel Peace Prize
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a United Nations-backed group, was given the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize today. “We were aware that our work silently but surely was contributing to peace in the world,” says Ahmet Uzumcu, OPCW’s chief. Thorbjoern Jagland, who leads the peace prize committee, says: “We now have the opportunity to get rid of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. … That would be a great event in history if we could achieve that.” Reuters (10/11), The Washington Post (tiered subscription model) (10/11), The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (10/11)

Ban: Syrian crisis highlights importance of “responsibility to protect”
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the UN remains committed to enforcing the “responsibility to protect” principle despite challenges. “Our collective failure to prevent atrocity crimes in Syria … will remain a heavy burden,” he said. Separately, the UN chemical-weapons team is expected to deliver its Syria report Monday. The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (9/11), Reuters (9/11), ForeignPolicy.com/Turtle Bay blog (9/11)

George Monbiot: Obama’s Rogue State
For 67 years successive US governments have resisted calls to reform the UN Security Council. They’ve defended a system which grants five nations a veto over world affairs, reducing all others to impotent spectators. They have abused the powers and trust with which they have been vested. They have collaborated with the other four permanent members (the UK, Russia, China and France) in a colonial carve-up, through which these nations can pursue their own corrupt interests at the expense of peace and global justice(1).
Eighty-three times the US has exercised its veto(2). On 42 of these occasions it has done so to prevent Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians from being censured(3). On the last occasion, 130 nations supported the resolution, but Obama spiked it(4). Though veto powers have been used less often since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the US has exercised them 14 times since then (in 13 cases to shield Israel), while Russia has used them 9 times(5). Increasingly the permanent members have used the threat of a veto to prevent a resolution from being discussed. They have bullied the rest of the world into silence.
Why post-2015 development goal-setting is on the right track
The post-2015 development goal proposals are making headway, especially concerning sustainability, adaptability of goals, education and migration, writes Charles Kenny. While Kenny would like to see the post-2015 address governance, he says that the process is working. Center for Global Development (8/26)

What Brazil can bring to the Security Council
The United Nations must respond to challenges in innovative ways, writes Simon Adams, executive director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. Brazil, which seeks a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, has a commitment to human rights and experience with Responsibility to Protect that could make a difference, he argues. “A better world and a reformed UN are both possible, but it will require grit and determination to achieve either,” Adams writes. The Huffington Post/The Blog/O Estado de S. Paulo (8/12)
31 July
A Responsibility to Reform
(OpenCanada.org) There are countless reasons why the Security Council needs reforming. One of the more compelling is that its lack of meaningful representation undermines its legitimacy. Take the case of peace support operations. Peace-keeping mandates intended for the so-called “global south” are drafted by a Council that unashamedly excludes the vast majority of troop-contributing countries and mission-hosting states. Not surprisingly, governments and civil societies at the sharp end of these missions – especially in Africa, the Americas and Asia – are demanding a greater say in decisions that affect them. Questions of international peace and security are frankly too important to be decided by five countries alone.
… Brazil … in September 2011 [called] for “responsibility while protecting.” The effect of Brazil’s proposal on many other United Nations member states was electric. In demanding more checks and balances over peace operations, Brazilian diplomats were trying to resolve the age-old question: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”
… A new publication coming out on World Humanitarian Day on 19 August by the Igarapé Institute and the Brazilian Center for International Relations outlines a few possibilities. Rather than walking away from it, Brazil should double down on the responsibility while protecting concept.
5 June
Examining Samantha Power’s background and nomination prospects
Samantha Power, nominated to be the next U.S. envoy to the United Nations, has been known as an outspoken advocate of human rights who has already received the support of one Republican, Sen. John McCain. Power’s background “has made her deeply committed to trying to prevent mass atrocities, which should be the top priority for the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations,” says Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch. The Washington Post (6/5), The Huffington Post (6/5), ForeignPolicy.com/Turtle Bay blog (6/5)
3 June
TICAD closes with Abe supporting African leaders for reform of U.N. Security Council
The 5th Tokyo International Conference on African Development closed on June 3 with the approval of a Yokohama Declaration that established a goal of turning Africa into the driving force for global economic growth.
The conference brought together the leaders of 51 African nations as well as representatives of international organizations.
… African officials asked Japan to support having an African nation named a permanent member. One participant said that 2015 would be an important year for reform because it would mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations.
Japan has also sought the cooperation of Africa in its efforts to become a permanent member of the Security Council along with India, Germany and Brazil. With its large number of U.N. members, Africa is considered an important voting bloc.
20 May
Experts urge water’s inclusion in development goals
(SciDev.net) As the world faces growing water security challenges, experts are calling for better monitoring of the availability, quality and use of water, and its inclusion in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as a key issue in the post-2015 development agenda.
Human activities, such as building dams and agricultural irrigation, they say, have fundamentally altered the global water system, threatening ecosystems and a steady supply of fresh water. But a lack of scientific data and monitoring mean there is still no effective global governance of this key resource.

7 May
Emerging Reformers
Robert Muggah and Ilona Szabo de Carvalho
Why countries like Brazil could change the face of the UN Security Council
(OpenCanada.org)  Confronted with global crises ranging from financial collapse to climate change, and such vicious wars as the one in Syria, an effective United Nations is more urgent than ever. Paradoxically, at a time when it is urgently needed, the Council is paralyzed. As a result, it is rapidly losing credibility and risks, according to senior diplomats from Delhi to Brasilia, becoming the architect of its own irrelevance. While there appears to be widespread agreement about “why” reform of the Security Council is needed, there is less consensus over “how” this should be done, much less “who” should benefit from the redistribution of power. As a result, negotiators in the United Nations are stalling, dithering over procedural details rather than tackling the real issues.
… it is unlikely that Brazil will acquire permanent membership to the Security Council if it restricts its focus to technical negotiations inside the United Nations. At a minimum, it needs to leverage its vibrant civil society, including think tanks, businesses, and activist organizations, to engage other actors with the issue of reform. The urgency of Security Council reforms for addressing global peace and security issues must also be loudly debated by the civil societies of the P-5 countries. Rather than concentrating on changes in the form of the Security Council, Brazil and other rising powers should lead a debate on the function of a new, more legitimate and effective body. Brazil’s foreign ministry and civil society could start by setting out a compelling vision for what a reformed Security Council would do differently. The ongoing negotiations in the United Nations are not advancing Brazil’s cause and may be a step backward. These importance of these issues is simply too great for them to be left to negotiators alone.

UN panel moves toward unified goals on post-2015 development
Sustainability in economics and environment, as well as societal aims and a reduction in inequality, are shaping up to be part of a unified agenda for the United Nations’ post-2015 development goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals. A UN panel expressed the “need to strengthen global governance to ensure it is fit for its purpose; avoid overlap and the duplication of efforts; and encourage joint work to address cross-cutting issues.” The Guardian (London) (3/27)

Eliasson: UN aims to work toward “what the world should be”
The United Nations “is a reflection, a mirror, of the world as it is,” says Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, but his job is to slowly move toward “what the world should be.” He also emphasizes the need for cooperation at the UN, between nations and with civil society. “[W]e should realize that in today’s world the good international solution — let’s say climate, migration — the good international solution is, or at least should be seen as, a national interest,” he says. The Nation/Katrina vanden Heuvel blog (2/20)

Reform of UN is “essential,” Annan says
The United Nations Security Council must be expanded to include more countries, while companies that prey on the world’s poor should be punished by the world body, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Thursday in a speech at Yale University, which is publishing a five-book set of his UN papers. New Haven Register (Conn.) (2/7)


On UN Day, remembering the UN’s importance to developing nations
The United Nations turns 67 today, and its importance to improving the lives of people in developing nations and giving a voice to smaller, weaker countries remains vital, according to these articles from Serbia, the U.S. and Jamaica. “As the most universal of the world organizations, it is especially important to smaller and weaker states, to which their voice in the UN General Assembly, the arranged international relations and respect for international law are often the only protection against violence and tyranny,” said Vuk Jeremić, president of the UN General Assembly. B92 (Serbia)/Tanjug (Serbia) (10/24), Iowa City Press-Citizen (10/23), Jamaica Gleaner (10/24)
8 October
Daniel Livermore: The Central Conundrum of Baird’s UN Speech
(CIPS Blog) Those who criticize the UN generally focus on its lack of results in crises (of which Syria is only the most recent example). The Harper government likes to take this approach and many in the media favour it, because it’s easy to present and produces quick headlines. Unfortunately, though, the problem is more complex. Simply put, the UN is only a secretariat, and not a very large one. Its member states are the bosses, and those member states dictate what the organization will do. They can authorize the organization to do useful and constructive work that saves lives and secures peace; or they can prevent the organization from doing anything, for a variety of reasons. [Emphasis added]
4 October
A reflection on responsibility: What does Syria mean for R2P?
By Lloyd Axworthy and Allan Rock
(Diplomat online) Measured by the glacial pace at which important changes are introduced into international law, R2P has advanced with unprecedented speed. It is hardly surprising that its evolution has been marked by failures as well as successes.
What is most encouraging is the strong residual loyalty that so many UN member states (including the vast majority from the global south) have shown to its principles, and their willingness to seek solutions to the challenges that R2P faces in becoming a standard response when vulnerable populations are threatened by lawless governments.
Despite the Security Council’s failure to apply R2P in Syria and elsewhere, we must continue to work towards the day when its principles are put into practice in a consistent and effective way. The stakes are simply too high for us to do otherwise.
Renewed calls for African seats on the UN Security Council
Foreign ministers from Africa have resumed calls for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. South African President Jacob Zuma told the world body that the council should add two permanent and two rotating seats for African nations, noting that much of the council’s work is in Africa and that Africans are among the largest contributors to peacekeeping operations. Council on Foreign Relations online/Africa in Transition blog (10/1), TheRoot.com (10/3)
2 October
Hon. David Kilgour: The UN’s Responsibility to Protect
(Epoch Times) The UN Security Council and larger international community must find a way to prevent outdated concepts of national sovereignty from allowing genocides and mass atrocities to occur before humanitarian interventions can be achieved.
Consider, among others, the events in King Leopold’s Congo (1886-1908), Ukraine’s Famine (‘32-33), the Holocaust (‘39-45), Chiang Kai-shek’s Taiwan (’47 and later), Mao’s Tibet (‘50 and afterwards; also today under Hu), Biafra (‘67-70), Pol Pot’s Cambodia (‘75-79), the Ndebeles in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe (‘82-87), Bosnia/Kosovo (‘92-99), Bashir’s Darfur (2003 to the present) and the Nuba Mountains (ongoing), Sri Lanka, and Falun Gong in China (’99 to the present).
1 October
Baird criticizes UN in speech to general assembly
Foreign minister says UN should focus on world’s problems, not its own
“I believe the UN spends too much time on itself. It must now look outward,” he said. “The preoccupation with procedure and process must yield to substance and results. If the UN focuses on the achievement of goals such as prosperity, security and human dignity, then reform will take care of itself.”
Baird says the UN itself is not a goal, but the means to accomplish important goals. …
The address comes on the final day of the 67th United Nations General Assembly.
Canada’s relatively low-ranking speaking slot can be explained partly by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision not to address the gathering this year, as other country’s leaders have done, the CBC’s David Common suggests.
UN assembly enters final day
The final day of the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly will feature speeches by figures such as Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Pak Kil-yon. “If there are going to be surprises, they’re going to happen on the final day of debate,” writes Dana Ford of CNN. CNN (10/1)
27 September
Ban Ki-moon’s new education initiative must emphasise teaching and targets
If the UN’s refreshingly positive Education First scheme is to succeed, it must prioritise quality teaching and define clear goals
(The Guardian) … the key challenge is to translate this into sustained changes at national and local levels. Education requires strategic, long-term investments and only delivers returns after many years, so we need to ensure the new initiative moves beyond short-term headline-grabbing into practical, long-term action.
Ban’s initiative is refreshing for its recognition of the role of teachers – drawing attention to the need to create 2m new teaching positions, reprioritise training and professional development, and redignify the profession. This should be obvious, but it is astounding how many international education policy debates fail to focus on teachers.
26 September
Egypt’s Morsi takes UN stage
Mohamed Morsi of Egypt used his United Nations General Assembly speech on Wednesday to discuss Egyptian democracy, the need for solving the Syrian crisis, as well as Israel-Palestinian relations and the role of freedom of expression in insults against religion. Morsi also called for the UN to give greater power to the Assembly rather than the Security Council. San Jose Mercury News (Calif.)/The Associated Press (free registration) (9/26), ForeignPolicy.com/Turtle Bay blog (9/26), Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription model) (9/26), The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (9/26)
Verbosity at the UN

(The Economist) FEWER dictators means better timekeeping at the UN General Assembly. In past years delegates braced themselves for the rambling rants of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi (record: 90 minutes in 2009). This year’s meeting of the UN’s big representative body featured only a handful of long-winded speakers. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad managed just under 40 minutes, bemusing some delegates and amusing others with his calls for restructuring the UN, which he says is heavily skewed towards a few countries. He also gave his thoughts about the coming of the 12th imam and Jesus of Nazareth.
UN protocol since 2003 stipulates that heads of state addressing the General Assembly must keep within a 15-minute limit. Barack Obama has breached that every year of his presidency with orations of at least 30 minutes. But modern efforts pall against the giants of the past. Cuba’s Fidel Castro in 1960 gave the longest ever continuous speech to the General Assembly, a fatiguing four hours and 29 minutes.
But the lengthiest speech ever at the UN (to the Security Council, not the General Assembly) was in 1957, when India’s representative, VK Krishna Menon, outlined in some detail India’s stand on Kashmir. It took eight hours, spread over three sessions, after which he collapsed.
This year’s delegates may not lack opportunity to exercise concentration. Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, is due to address the General Assembly via video-link from his refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Concision is not his watchword. If a record is to be broken this year, the odds are on him.
Obama extols freedom of expression, importance of UN role in global cooperation
U.S. President Barack Obama called upon nations of the world to “rally against bigotry and blasphemy and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect” in a speech Tuesday before the United Nations General Assembly. “The strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech,” said Obama, who also paid tribute to slain Ambassador Christopher Stevens and his investment “in the international cooperation that the UN represents.” PBS/Newshour (9/25), The Blade (Toledo, Ohio) (9/25), Mail & Guardian (South Africa)/Agence France-Presse/South African Press Association (9/26)
Syria is a regional calamity with global ramifications, says Ban Ki-moon
(The Guardian) UN secretary-general issues strong rebuke over security council inaction, saying world leaders ‘should not look the other way’
18 September
A primer for the UN General Assembly’s 67th session
While the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly began Tuesday, most world leaders aren’t slated to arrive until next week. While the ongoing crisis in Syria and Iran’s nuclear program are certain to be discussed, observers say other issues likely to be spotlighted are anti-American protests across the Muslim world and the Palestinian bid for membership in the world body. WNYC-AM/FM (New York Public Radio) (9/18), The Daily Beast (9/18)
3 August
UN General Assembly adopts Syria resolution
(Al Jazeera) World body deplores Security Council’s failure to act as Ban Ki-moon says brutality in Aleppo may amount to war crimes. Has Syria become the UN’s proxy battlefield? — Following Kofi Annan’s resignation we ask if the UN is engaged in a hegemonic power struggle over the Syrian conflict.
4 July
A Bastion for Human Rights? The UN Nominates Syria…Seriously
(HuffPost) In what can only be described as an act straight from the “theatre of the absurd”, comes news that Syria is running for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. Only thing, this is no fiction!
According to UN Watch, an independent human rights group based in Geneva, “the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad is a declared candidate for a seat on the 47-nation U.N. body, in elections to be held next year at the 193-member General Assembly.”
17 June
We cannot help but wonder if this dust-up is at all related to the attitude of the Harper government towards the UN … just wondering.
Blame Canada: U.N. rights chief “alarmed” over Canadian law, but silent on China, Iran & Saudi Arabia
(Published by UN Watch) Canada will be put in the company of some of the world’s worst abusers of human rights tomorrow when the UN’s highest human rights official expresses “alarm” over Quebec’s new law on demonstrations during her opening address to a meeting of the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council, revealed the Geneva-based monitoring group UN Watch, which obtained an advance copy of her speech.  Other states on the UN watchlist include Syria, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.
1 June
UN tourism body disputes Canada’s reason for quitting
(Globe & Mail) Canada is withdrawing from the United Nations World Tourism Office, a move it said was formalized this week over the agency’s recognition of Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe.
30 May
The New York Daily News got it wrong
U.N. endorses Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe as tourism leader
Pick of leader dubbed one of the world’s worst dictators roils human rights group
… The U.N. World Tourism Organization endorsed Mugabe along with Zambian President Michael Sata at the African countries’ shared border, where the pair signed an agreement Tuesday to co-host the WTO General Assembly in August 2013.
The UNWTO later stressed that Mugabe was not made an official U.N. ambassador or given a tourism-related title.
A time to reflect on UN peacekeeping role

United Nations peacekeeping efforts have spanned 67 missions on four continents since 1948, and currently involve more than 120,000 military personnel from 117 countries. “For six decades, these men and women — most recognizable in their blue helmets — have been responsible for restoring stability where terror lived. They are charged with rebuilding societies that have been wracked by violence and natural disasters. And they are challenged to restore confidence in families and communities who have known little but war,” writes Peter Yeo, vice president of the United Nations Foundation, to commemorate the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers on May 29. The Huffington Post (5/30)
U.S. support of UN, dues payment are crucial

The spending plan for 2013 being considered by a U.S. House committee would fall $400 million short of the U.S. commitment to the United Nations, undermining U.S. security interests and abnegating the will of the voters, writes Peter Yeo, vice president of public policy for the United Nations Foundation. “At a time when Americans want our dollar to go farther, this bill unnecessarily targets UN agencies — the very vehicles we need to make that happen,” he writes. “It contradicts what voters want, and we must speak out.” The Hill/Congress Blog (5/17
Youth 21 to press for UN influence by young people

Global youth leaders meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, have created an initiative, Youth 21, aimed at ensuring that people below the age of 35 are fully represented at the United Nations. “When you look around, the youth constitute the largest population across the world, yet they are often ignored, they are only remembered by leaders when they want votes,” said John Anugraha, of India, who sits on the UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board. AllAfrica Global Media/Capital FM (3/19)
UN official says Syria crises show need for reform

In an interview, the head of the UN General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser, said that the vetoes by Russia and China of a resolution condemning the Syrian regime demonstrates that the system is outdated. “The world has changed. The UN should also reform itself to deal with the issues of today,” al-Nasser said as the Red Cross was being denied access to the devastated district of Baba Amr, in Homs, and thousands of Syrian refugees were pouring into Lebanon. The Independent (London) (3/5), BBC (3/5), The Daily Mail (London) (3/4)

Ban outlines priorities for his second term
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon outlined his priorities for his second term in office in a speech this morning before the General Assembly. Ban’s “action agenda” includes a focus sustainable development, conflict mitigation, preventing diseases, increasing opportunities for women and girls and other global priorities, as well as harnessing partnerships and strengthening the UN. Ban said, “Waves of change are surging around us. If we navigate wisely, we can create a more secure and sustainable future for all.” Watch a video of Ban’s speech. Read the full transcript in English here. UN News Centre (1/25)

Ban talks Responsibility to Protect
The United Nations’ Responsibility to Protect concept has brought together multilateral institutions and governments to address crises around the world, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says. But key challenges, such as mustering practical support to back Security Council mandates, continue to limit efforts to put the concept into practice. The Christian Science Monitor (1/23)

19 January
How the U.S. Manipulates Key U.N. Appointments
(IPS) – When Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announces his new team of senior officials shortly, his appointments will be based not only on merit but also on demands made by the five big powers – the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia – as well as key donors who sustain U.N. agencies through voluntary contributions.
The World Food Programme (WFP), one of the world’s largest humanitarian agencies, will have a new head, come April, according to one of the first appointments announced early this week.Ertharin Cousin, a U.S. national, will be the new executive director in an organisation which in recent years has been dominated by the United States, the last two heads being Catherine Bertini and Josette Sheeran.
According to one political source, the administration of President Barack Obama insisted that Sheeran be succeeded by Cousin, currently the U.S. representative to both WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), both based in Rome.


UN’s Ban outlines priorities for second term
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says one of his top priorities as he embarks on a new five-year term at the helm of the United Nations is to help ensure that the popular movements toward democracy across the Arab world are sustained. He also plans to do more for young people and women the world over, and influence policies that might narrow the widening gap between rich and poor. The Washington Post/The Associated Press (12/31)

Reduced UN budget reflects global austerity
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is pledging more cuts in coming months to the 2012-13 UN budget that already has been cut from $5.41 billion to $5.15 billion — only the second time in 50 years that the budget has been reduced from prior levels. “Governments and people everywhere are struggling,” said Ban, referring to the economic crises in major donor countries. Google/Agence France-Presse (12/25), CBC.ca (Canada) (12/25)

Rock band backs UN chief’s sustainability drive
American rock band Linkin Park is partnering with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to promote the new initiative Sustainable Energy for All, which aims to ensure universal access to modern energy services as well as double both the rate of improvement in energy efficiency and the share of renewable energy worldwide. The United Nations Foundation, through its new Energy Access Practitioner Network, will join representatives from the private sector and civil society to solve energy issues in order to achieve universal access by 2030. The New York Observer (11/8), Google/The Associated Press (11/8)

Ban readies a new UN leadership team
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made clear his intention to replace his current roster of advisers. Ban is slated to begin a second term as head of the world body and plans to recruit a new team of diplomats at the undersecretary-general and assistant secretary-general levels. ForeignPolicy.com/Turtle Bay blog (11/3)

Wirth: Why the U.S. needs UNESCO
Palestinians’ bid for full membership in UNESCO could lead to a resignation of the U.S. from the world body due to current U.S. legislation and trigger a domino effect that would leave the U.S. absent from the a key corner of the international stage, warns United Nations Foundation President Timothy E. Wirth. American officials must find a diplomatic solution to avoid resignations every time Palestinians succeed in seeking membership in a UN agency as participation in the UN remains a vital security interest for the U.S. Los Angeles Times (10/24)

Palestinian bid prompts review of U.S. funding for UN
While some U.S legislators have called for the U.S. to cease funding the United Nations and presented legislation to do so, Israeli diplomats remain committed to engagement at the world body as a matter of national security. Political tensions have risen recently over Palestinians quest for UN membership and statehood recognition, which has prompted multiple pieces of U.S. legislation. TheAtlantic.com (10/6)

Actor urges UN to free “thoroughly stuck” Western Sahara
Award-winning actor Javier Bardem on Tuesday accused Spain, France and the U.S. of turning a “blind eye” to human rights abuses in Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony trapped in a kind of legal limbo since it was annexed by Morocco in 1975. The UN peacekeeping mission there is the only one that does not monitor human rights, Bardem told the world body’s obscure Fourth Committee, which focuses on decolonization. ForeignPolicy.com/Turtle Bay blog (10/4)

U.S. Congress draws fire on aid suspension
U.S. administration and Palestinian officials are criticizing a decision from the U.S. Congress this week to freeze $200 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority. Republican legislators were moving in direct response to the Palestinian bid for United Nations membership but are also planning additional legislation that could dramatically alter the U.S. relationship with the world body. Peter Yeo, executive director of the Better World Foundation, said the threatened cuts present an opportunity to “to educate members [of Congress] about the economic and security and political interests of the United States” that are aided by a robust, well-funded UN. ForeignPolicy.com/Turtle Bay (10/4), BBC (10/4)

U.S. criticizes UN salaries, personnel costs
The proposed 2012-13 budget for the United Nations “is not a break from ‘business as usual’ but a continuation of it,” according to Joseph Torsella, U.S. ambassador for UN management and reform. Bloomberg (9/29)

28 September
R2P and the Libya mission

When does ‘responsibility to protect’ grant countries the right to intervene?
The challenge after Libya is how to improve our capacity to respond to future R2P risk situations. Those of us whose business is preventing mass atrocity crimes need to get better at monitoring countries, states and conflicts before they reach “boiling point.” When things do reach a critical stage, we need to ring alarm bells in a way that not only provides adequate warning but mobilizes meaningful responses.
We need to coordinate these responses locally, regionally and internationally. We need better policy instruments, learning not only from Libya and Ivory Coast but also Guinea, Kenya and other places where R2P has been invoked but military force was unnecessary. The standard Security Council menu — which ranges from envoys and mediation, to referral to the ICC, sanctions or a no-fly zone — is inadequate. We need a wider range of preventive, mediated and coercive options.

24 September
Manmohan calls for U.N. reform to address global crisis

(The Hindu) There was a “deficit in global governance” which necessitated “a stronger and more effective United Nations.” “For this,” Dr. Singh argued, “the United Nations and its principal organs, the General Assembly and the Security Council, must be revitalised and reformed.” He underlined the need for “early reform of the Security Council.”

22 September
Durban III conference opens in New York amid allegations of anti-Israel bias

Counter-convention draws Jewish leaders and prominent supporters of Israel; 13 countries refuse to take part in Durban III.
(Haaretz) As the Palestinian statehood bid draws increasing support at the United Nations convention in New York, key member states have distanced themselves from a conference marking the ten-year anniversary of the Durban anti-racism conference in South Africa, in which both the United States as well as Israel stepped out due its alleged anti-Israel agenda.

30 August
Ros-Lehtinen introduces U.N.-bashing bill ahead of Palestinian statehood vote

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) introduced a bill today that would effectively slash U.S. contributions to the United Nations and punish any U.N. organization that goes along with the U.N. vote on Palestinian statehood next month.

25 August
After Libya, the question: To protect or depose?

(LATimes op-ed) NATO has gone beyond the United Nations mandate to protect the Libyan people, and now some U.N. member states are reluctant to act on Syria.

10 August
Adam Daifallah — Durban III: Your Taxpayer Dollars at Work
(Hudson New York) The forecast for New York City for September 22 is for a big cloud of anti-Semitism – brought to you courtesy of your own tax dollars.
The third edition of the farcically-named UN World Conference Against Racism is this time being held on American soil after stints in Switzerland in 2009 and South Africa in 2001 (hence its shorter moniker, Durban) and there is no reason to believe this one will be any different than the first two.

7 July
Security Council Reform in Sight?

(Council on Foreign Relations) After years of inertia, the campaign for UN Security Council (UNSC) enlargement is gathering momentum. The four main aspirants to new permanent seats—the so-called “G4” countries of India, Germany, Japan, and Brazil—have agreed on a draft resolution to expand both the permanent and elected UNSC membership. Last week Brazil and Japan claimed that the G4 blueprint enjoyed the support of at least one hundred nations. That brings the G4 within striking distance of the magic number: 128 affirmative votes, representing the necessary two-thirds majority in the 192-member UN General Assembly (UNGA). Sources close to the issue tell me that the G4 hopes to submit their resolution for a formal UNGA vote during the current, 65th Assembly session—meaning this summer. But they will only do so if they are confident they can marshal the requisite votes.
The kingmaker remains the African bloc, whose members are locked into the unrealistic “Ezulwini Consensus.” … [that] insists on two permanent members from the continent, with vetoes, and an additional three elected UNSC members from Africa. Given the diehard opposition of all five permanent members (P5) to any extension of the veto, the consensus is a complete non-starter—and an obstacle to progress on UNSC reform. Fortunately, the AU may not be as united as it appears. It is beginning to dawn on South Africa and Nigeria—the two main African aspirants—that they will never attain their goal without greater flexibility.

15 June
Adam Daifallah: What Happens When America Outsources Foreign Policy Leadership to the UN
(Hudson New York) The Western democracies are finally facing up to the reality of the mission in Libya: Containment is impossible and Moammar Gaddafi must go. But American leadership is still missing, and it is unclear if some NATO countries have the necessary willpower to take this excursion to its logical end. And, even if they do, there is still no clear plan for how to get there.
The original purpose of the Libyan mission – to protect civilians from the murderous tyrant’s bombs – has failed. It was bound to. It had no clear endgame and, it appears, no contingency planning was done. The result has been a case study in confusion. Retired Canadian General Lewis MacKenzie, who led the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, has called it a “dog’s breakfast.” This is what happens when America outsources foreign policy leadership to the U.N., as it did in this case: nothing bold gets done. The scope of the mandate to move forward is the result of a compromise to keep diverging interests happy.

28 May
UN Security Council Reform

(International Law Prof Blog) With different groups holding steadfast to their respective positions regarding reform of the Security Council, the President of the General Assembly today called for a “compromise” on the issue, at least a temporary one.
“We should try to make some reform that could not be final, that means that (it) should be reviewed at some time, but that could bring something which improves the situation in a way that every country can say our own possibility to be a member sometime in the Security Council is improved,” said Joseph Deiss, who heads the 192-member Assembly.
Security Council reform has been under discussion for over 17 years, with the key issues being the category of membership, the question of veto, regional representation, the size of an enlarged Council, and the Council’s working methods and its relationship with the General Assembly.

19 April
Gordon Brown calls for reform of global bodies including IMF and UN

Former PM sidesteps David Cameron’s criticisms and dodges speculation about his ambition to lead the IMF
(The Guardian) Gordon Brown has called for the wholesale reform of the world’s most powerful bodies, including the World Bank and United Nations, claiming they are unable to cope with the challenges of the 21st century.
The former prime minister said these institutions were designed for another era, in the post-war years and the Cold War, making them ill-equipped to tackle modern crises. Existing bodies, he said, had specifically failed to meet the new challenge of climate change.

31 March
UN Security Council Sanctions Ivory Coast’s Gbagbo, Wife, Top Aides
(WSJ) The Security Council said Gbagbo and his inner circle “obstructed the peace process and reconciliation in the country, obstructed the work of the [U.N. peacekeeping force] and committed serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”

3 March
Reform of the United Nations: Lessons Learned

Testimony of Ambassador Terry Miller before The Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives
As citizens are dying in the streets of Libya this week at the hands of one of the world’s most repressive regimes, the United Nations Human Rights Council has on its agenda the adoption of a report praising the government of Muammar Qadhafi for its “commitment to upholding human rights on the ground.” In a small note of grace, the U.N. General Assembly, which just last year had overwhelmingly elected Libya to membership in the Council, did vote on March 1 to suspend Libya’s rights of membership in the Council.”

12 February
India, Brazil, Germany, Japan demand Security Council reform this year
Four regional powers hoping to get permanent seats on the Security Council — India, Germany, Brazil and Japan — said Friday they believe the U.N. will take action by September on expanding its most powerful body.

January 2011
Fundamental UN Reform, a Non-Starter?

(Global Policy) The major issues confronting world politics in the 21st century – climate change, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, pandemics, terrorism and economic meltdowns, among others – require that the United Nations reinvent itself as the multilateral forum for tackling the pressing challenges of today. The possibilities for significant reform are remote but not impossible. This article addresses four major roadblocks: sacrosanct state sovereignty; the emphasis on process over results in organizational culture; perennial and theatrical North–South confrontations; and the twin problems of turf battles and decentralization. At the same time, individuals and states can be as strong as the institutions they create. There are plenty of things wrong with the United Nations, but many can be fixed.

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