Suporters of rights for gays and lesbians worldwide secured a major victory at the United Nations this week. The 192-nation U.N. General Assembly voted to restore a reference to killings due to sexual orientation that had been deleted from a resolution condemning unjustified slayings. The shift came after the United States submitted an amendment to restore the reference, which the General Assembly’s human rights committee removed last month from a resolution on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions that is adopted every two years.
Global News Journal
It happens every year. When the U.S. president arrives at the United Nations for the General Assembly’s annual gathering of world leaders, the east side of midtown Manhattan goes into lockdown mode. You can’t cross the streets before he arrives and until well after the most powerful man in the world has safely arrived inside the headquarters of world diplomacy.
Ban Ki-moon isn’t having a good year for public relations. Halfway through a five-year term as U.N. secretary-general, he’s been hit with a wave of negative assessments by the Financial Times, The Economist, London Times, Foreign Policy and other media organizations. In a March 2009 editorial entitled “Whereabouts Unknown,” the Times said Ban was “virtually inaudible” on pressing issues of international security and “ineffectual” on climate change, the one issue that Ban claims he has made the biggest difference on. The Economist gave him a mixed report card, assigning him two out of 10 points for his management skills while praising him on climate change (eight out of 10 points).
This week, Norway’s Aftenposten newspaper made an unpleasant situation much worse. It published a confidential memo assessing Ban’s 2-1/2 years in office from Oslo’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Mona Juul, to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. Juul’s report is scathing — and it comes from a representative of one of the world’s body’s top financial contributors. She says the former South Korean foreign minister suffers from a “lack of charisma” and has “constant temper tantrums” in his offices on the 38th floor of the United Nations building in midtown Manhattan.
She describes Ban as a “powerless observer” during the fighting in Sri Lanka earlier this year when thousands of civilians were killed as government forces ended a 25-year civil war against Tamil Tiger rebels, trapping them on a narrow strip of coast in the country’s northeast. In Darfur, Somalia, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Congo, she wrote, Ban’s “passive and not very committed appeals seem to fall on deaf ears.” She says that his recent trip to Myanmar was a failure and that some people in Washington refer to Ban as a “one-term” secretary-general.
Juul’s letter could hardly have come at a more inopportune time. Ban is planning to visit Norway in the coming weeks, where he intends to meet with government officials and visit the Arctic circle to see for himself the effects of global warming and the melting polar ice. Now U.N. officials fear reporters will be more interested in what he says about Juul’s memo than climate change.
Representatives of the world’s poorest countries joined other U.N. member states in New York this week at a three-day meeting of the U.N. General Assembly on the global financial crisis and its impact on the developing world.
There is a saying in English that people are judged by the company they keep. If this applied to countries, the United States would not fare well when it comes to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).
Although Washington signed the pact, which would ban all nuclear tests if it ever comes into force, in 1996, U.S. lawmakers have never ratified it. Eight other countries with nuclear activities must ratify the treaty before it can enter into force.
Those other hold-out countries are China, North Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel and Pakistan. Two of those — Iran and North Korea — are members of a trio which U.S. President George W. Bush once referred to as the “axis of evil.”
Iraq, which was a member of Bush’s axis of evil until the U.S. invasion in 2003 toppled Saddam Hussein’s government, signed the treaty last month, though Iraqi parliament has yet to ratify it.
The treaty opened for signatures 12 years ago. Since then, 179 nations have signed and 144 ratified it. Costa Rican Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno Ugarte told a news conference on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York that “these nine countries must not hold the international community at bay.”
Ugarte was one of some 40 foreign ministers who issued a joint statement calling on the United States, Iran, North Korea and the rest to ratify the treaty.
Even veteran Hollywood Actor Michael Douglas, a U.N. messenger of peace, appeared at the United Nations in support of the CTBT alongside former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry and the Costa Rican, Australian and Austrian foreign ministers.