The Great Debate UK
from David Rohde:
It is the world’s most important organization, yet remains one of the most dysfunctional.
This week a former United Nations employee described a pervasive culture of impunity inside the organization – one in which whistle-blowers are punished for exposing wrongdoing. James Wasserstrom, a veteran American diplomat, said he was fired from his job and detained by U.N. police – who searched his apartment and placed his picture on wanted posters – after he reported possible corruption among senior U.N. officials in Kosovo.
“It’s supposed to be maintaining the ideals of human rights, the rule of law and anti-corruption,” Wasserstrom said in an interview. “And it doesn’t adhere to them on the inside.”
The United Nations is under attack as well for its decision last month to pay no compensation to the families of 8,000 Haitians who died and 646,000 who fell ill from a 2010 cholera outbreak that experts believe Nepalese U.N. peacekeepers set off in the country.
Steven Heywood is a programme assistant, specialising in the human impacts of climate change at the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva. The views expressed are his own.
“Countries have not tended to go to war over water,” Ed Davey, the UK’s Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change recently noted, “but I have a fear for the world that climate instability drives political instability.”
On May 23, 2012, the chief negotiators of the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany will meet their Iranian counterparts in Baghdad to discuss Iran’s nuclear programme. This follows last April’s meeting in Istanbul, when negotiations were resumed after more than a year’s inaction. This summit will test whether Iran is serious and whether concrete results can be achieved.
from The Great Debate:
The United Nations estimates that since Syria’s uprising began over a year ago, more than 9,000 Syrians have been killed. A recent assessment from Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Elliot Abrams puts the total number of Syrian refugees at almost half a million. Worse, it appears that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are continuing to torture, imprison and kill Syrian civilians. It also seems that the recent peace plan promulgated by U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan, which Assad’s government agreed to, is dead. According to Turkey’s prime minister, Assad “is not withdrawing troops, but he is duping the international community.”
The conventional wisdom holds that the international community is out of alternatives, short of another potentially dangerous military intervention or the risky prospect of arming Syria’s rebels. Syria’s government has already thumbed its nose at sanctions and condemnations from the Arab League, Gulf Cooperation Council, European Union and various U.N. organs and individual countries. The Security Council, thanks to the vetoes of Russia and China, is also constrained to issuing awkward joint statements rather than passing binding resolutions.
from The Great Debate:
A year into the crisis in Syria, it's time to admit that the world is prepared to allow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to slaughter his people. Unless force is used to back diplomacy, the international community will let Assad kill tens of thousands more than the 7,500 already lost.
We’ve seen this playbook too many times before -- in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Sudan. It is time to face three brutal truths about the crisis. First, no country sees it as sufficiently in its interests to use airstrikes and eventually send forces into Syria to stop the attacks by the Syrian regime -- the only way to end the current slaughter. While well intentioned and perhaps saving some lives, all the surrounding activity -- summits, special envoys, humanitarian corridors, safe zones, arming the opposition, and efforts to reach a ceasefire -- serves as a smokescreen for the Syrian regime to finish the job of wiping out the rebel “terrorists.” These negotiations will not work unless backed by force.
from The Great Debate:
By Josette Sheeran
The opinions expressed are her own.
I will never forget holding my newborn baby in my arms watching a television report on the 1987 famine in Ethiopia – hearing the haunting cries of babies whose hunger could not be met by their anguished mothers. Tragically, today we are seeing the same images as the worst drought in 60 years again devastates the Horn of Africa, throwing as many as 12 million into desperate hunger.
But there are hopeful signs that today’s drought need not result in the tens of thousands of deaths that we saw in earlier decades. Other than the tragic situation in South Somalia, where those in control have blocked humanitarian assistance, the drought’s impact has been blunted by advance preparation and resiliency programs. WFP, with the support of many, has been scaling up for more than six months.
from Global News Journal:
It's hard to find a delegate to the United Nations who despises U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. But it's even harder to find someone who thinks he has the gravitas and charisma of his Nobel Peace Prize-winning predecessor Kofi Annan, who invoked the wrath of the previous U.S. administration when he called the 2003 invasion of Iraq "illegal." As one senior Western official, who declined to be identified, said about Ban: "It's not as if he's lightning in a bottle, but we can live with him."
from Global News Journal:
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice has dismissed suggestions that her diplomats are part-time spies, as suggested by the latest batch of documents released by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.
"Let me be very clear -- our diplomats are just that, they're diplomats," Rice told reporters at the United Nations where she was peppered with questions about the latest chapter in the WikiLeaks scandal. "Our diplomats are doing what diplomats do around the world every day, which is build relationships, negotiate, advance our interests and work to find common solutions to complex problems."
She didn't exactly deny the charges of espionage. But the top U.S. diplomat in New York did reject the idea that there would be any diplomatic fallout from the release of thousands of documents obtained by WikiLeaks, some of which have been published by The Guardian and other newspapers.
One U.S. diplomatic cable published by The Guardian shows how the State Department instructed diplomats at the United Nations and elsewhere around the world to collect credit card and frequent flyer numbers, work schedules and biometric data for U.N. officials and diplomats. Among the personalities of interest was U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as were the ambassadors of the other 14 Security Council member states.
There is nothing new about espionage at the United Nations, but it's always embarrassing when classified documents proving it happens surface in the media.
Most Security Council envoys declined to comment on the WikiLeaks documents as they headed into the council chambers on Monday for a meeting on North Korea. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, however, told reporters, "Surprise, surprise."
Churkin should know. One of the diplomats in his charge was implicated earlier this year in a high-profile Russian espionage case in the United States in which nearly a dozen people were accused of being part of a Russian spy ring that carried out deep-cover work in the United States to recruit political sources and gather information for Moscow. The U.S. Justice Department said that an unnamed diplomat at the Russian mission to the United Nations had delivered payments to the spy ring.
And then there was the man known as "Comrade J", a Russian spy based in New York from 1995 to 2000. Working out of Russia's U.N. mission, Comrade J directed Russian espionage activity in New York City and personally oversaw all covert operations against the United States and its allies in the United Nations. According to a book about his exploits, Comrade J eventually became a double agent for the FBI.
Nor does the history of U.N. espionage end there. In 2004, a former British cabinet minister revealed that British intelligence agents had spied on Ban Ki-moon's predecessor Kofi Annan, who fell afoul of Washington and London by opposing the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the Vienna-based U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was also the victim of a phone-bugging operation, according to media reports from 2004. He had also opposed the invasion of Iraq and angered the United States by saying that their intelligence on Saddam Hussein's alleged revival of his nuclear arms program was not only incorrect but partly based on falsified evidence. U.S. officials pored over transcripts of ElBaradei's telephone intercepts in an attempt to secure evidence of mistakes that could be used to oust him from his post, the reports said. Not only did they fail to unseat him, he went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.
- Terry Sanderson is President of the National Secular Society. The opinions expressed are his own.-
When the Government is about to announce a 25 percent cut in public spending, the tens of millions of pounds showered on Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain seem like real papal indulgence.
- Jennifer Parmalee is senior public affairs officer and spokesperson on global issues with the United Nations World Food Programme. The opinions expressed are her own. Reuters is hosting a “follow-the-sun” live blog on Monday, March 8, 2010, International Women’s Day. Please tune in.–-
A few years ago, I traveled to northern Bangladesh – a hardscrabble region forever whipsawed between drought and flood – to interview teenage girls and mothers at a maternal and child health center supported with nutritional food by the UN World Food Programme.