Monthly Archives: June 2007
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a surprise visit to Afghanistan today to meet with top officials.
During a four-hour stay in Kabul, the Secretary General met with President Hamid Karzai, with the leader of the Wolesi Jirga (House of the People), Yunus Qanuni, with the military commander of the International Security Assistance Force, General Dan McNeal and with members of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors met two weeks ago for budget negotiations, but could not agree to a funding increase for the agency. To make matters worse, donors have not yet delivered over $35 million dollars in promised contributions. That may not seem like a tremendous amount, but the IAEA’s total budget is only $379 million.
In a rare move, IAEA Director Mohammed elBaredei appealed directly to the Board of Governors, which is composed of thirty-five IAEA member states, to urge them to consider the consequences of an IAEA budget that provides for zero-growth. A summary of his remarks (which were only made public last week) is below the jump — and is well worth reading in full.
elBaredei’s plea makes me wonder if we are living on borrowed time. Accidents are bound to happen, particularly as more and more countries seek nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuel. But, as he points out, the agency’s ability to respond to a Chernobyl style incident is severely diminished by an overstretched budget. Also, some of the important verification work the agency does in places like North Korea and Iran may be called into question by the ageing environmental sampling technology the agency is forced to use. elBaredei even says that the IAEA must outsource some of its lab work, calling into question the whole principal of neutrality that gives the IAEA its credibility.
The board has until September to finalize the budget, so there is a chance that they may reconsider. The alternative — an IAEA without the resources to counter, say, nuclear smuggling — is truly frightening.
There was some good news for the Price of Peace campaign yesterday. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee endorsed S-392, which would increase the amount the United States pays in dues to support UN peacekeeping missions. The United States is assessed at 26% of the UN’s peacekeeping budget, but over the years has not paid that amount in full, resulting in the accumulation of significant arrearages. If the legislation is signed into law, it would be a significant boon to UN peacekeeping, which requires additional financial resources to keep up with its ever expanding number of missions.
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joe Biden summed up the importance of the legislation rather succintly, “At a time when we are seeking a robust U.N. force in Darfur, and are relying on U.N. peacekeepers in southern Lebanon, we should pay our dues in full.” Hear! Hear!
A senior official from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Iran has called for increased efforts to prevent HIV and AIDS from becoming an epidemic in the country.
“I am very impressed by Iran’s social programme and in particular the country’s approach to health issues,” said Omar Abdi, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, on Wednesday.
“Iran’s experience in these fields can serve as a useful model for other countries and could be central for increased south-south cooperation on social issues.”
Some welcome non-proliferation news: IAEA inspectors are on the ground in North Korea. Five years ago, you may recall, the DPRK booted all inspectors from their country following allegations by the United States that DPRK had a secret uranium enrichment program in violation of the Agreed Framework. Since then, North Korea has tested a nuclear weapon.
According to news reports, the IAEA team is currently in Pyongyang and will visit the country’s main nuclear facility in Yongbyon tomorrow.
Marking the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon roundly denounced torture and called on all countries to ratify the international treaty that bans it.
Ban said, “Let us speak with one voice against the perpetrators of torture, and for all who suffer at their hands…And let us build a better, more humane world for all people everywhere.”
The Convention against Torture went into force twenty years ago, yet, as Ban said, “even after two decades, this instrument falls well short of universal ratification.”
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.