The Great Debate UK
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."
The former South Korean foreign minister is in the final year of his first five-year term and is widely expected to run for another stint as the supreme U.N. official. The formal re-election process is likely to commence in the coming months. In the meantime, Ban is visiting the capitals of key U.N. member states to gauge his chances of keeping his job. Those chances, U.N. diplomats say, are excellent. So far, no country has nominated any candidate to oppose him. "I'd put my money on Ban Ki-moon getting a second term," said a Security Council diplomat.
The 15-nation Security Council nominates the secretary-general, though the choice has to be confirmed by the 192-nation General Assembly. Despite the veneer of democracy, it is the five veto-wielding permanent council members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- who choose the top U.N. bureaucrat in New York. And none of the five has any serious objections to a second and final term for Ban, diplomats say.
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.
-Professor Kees Vuik is a professor, and Mehfooz ur Rehman is a PhD candidate at Delft University of Technology. The opinions expressed are their own.-
The Haiti earthquake was a truly appalling tragedy and it is little wonder that the United Nations has described it as the worst humanitarian disaster it has faced in its history. The 2010 earthquake follows several earlier ones, including in 1751, 1770, 1842 and 1946, which have struck the island of Hispaniola (the tenth most populous island in the world) which is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republican.
- François Grignon is Director of the Africa Program at the International Crisis Group. the opinions expressed are his own. -
Four years ago, the Sudanese people were promised a brighter future. A peace deal had finally ended the two-decades-long civil war between north and south, which killed more than two million people and devastated the south. But today, that bright future is looking decidedly tarnished, and Sudan is sliding towards violent breakup.
Ahead of a U.N. summit in Copenhagen next month, scepticism is growing that an agreement will be reached on a global climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, due to expire in 2012.
The protocol set targets aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which are believed to be responsible for the gradual rise in the Earth’s average temperature. Many scientists say that reducing carbon dioxide emissions is key to preventing climate change.
The European Union has been at the forefront in pressing for binding, internationally monitored reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and funding from industrialised countries to help developing nations switch to clean energy.
from Africa News blog:
Activists often say that the world is not paying enough attention to Sudan's Darfur crisis. But could the opposite be true -- that Darfur is actually getting too much attention, from too many organisations, all at the same time?
A rough count shows at least 10 international and local initiatives searching for a solution to the region's festering conflict. Many of them are at least nominally coordinated by the United Nation and the African Union. But with so many parallel programmes in play, the opportunities for duplication, competition and confusion are legion.
from The Great Debate:
Words of wisdom from an American leader: "The United States must be humble and must be proud and confident of our values but humble in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own course.