Monthly Archives: August 2007
There are 830 Unesco World Heritage sites around the world, so designated for their “outstanding value to humanity.” These sites include natural marvels like Yellowstone National Park and cultural landmarks like the Taj Mahal.
Once Unesco designates something a World Heritage site, it is up to each country to take the necessary measures to protect it. And as this Conde Nast Traveler piece shows, not all countries treat their wonders with equal respect. So, Traveler reports, Unesco has started taking the unusual step of de-designating sites that have been unneccesarily molested.
The idea is that designating something a World Heritage site helps boost tourism to the area. But Unesco has no desire to see a gaudy hotel complex sit atop breathtaking natural beauty. By starting to de-designate sites, Unesco is hoping to promote sustainable tourism. Sounds logical to me.
The new French Ambassador to the UN has circulated a draft Security Council “statement” affirming the council’s readiness to approve an EU-led mission to protect refugee camps in Chad and the Central African Republic. (A “statement” is a non-binding expression of Security Council unity on a particular topic. It is typically of symbolic value, but in this case it will pave the way for a Security Council resolution sanctioning an international military operation in Chad and CAR.)
The French draft proposes an EU military force of some 3,000 deploy to refugee camps in eastern Chad and northern CAR, where an estimated 800,000 Darfuri refugees and internally displaced live. The deployment would be supported by a smaller number of UN police and Chad police.
It would not be an official peacekeeping mission, as the troops would be under EU command and not blue helmets. But — and here is the kicker — in all likelihood, if this proposal goes forward it will likely turn into a traditional peacekeeping operation when the original mandate expires in a year. When that happens, the international community better be ready to commit the financial resources to sustain yet another peacekeeping operation in the Greater Horn of Africa.
The first all-female peacekeeping unit in Liberia was lauded by the top UN envoy to the country.
Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Alan Doss, congratulated the women for their work, noting “Though a new beginning for gender equality in peacekeeping, this deployment is a continuation of India’s consistent commitment to peacekeeping operations…This ceremony is not only about gender equality. It is about performance. You have all performed your duties well and met our high expectations.”
The UN General Secretariat is going green. And a Business Week peek into the renovation plans for the ageing UN headquarters in New York says the building will be a “model of UN efficiency.”
When completed in April, 2014, the U.N. will look as it does today from the outside. Or, as [project manager Michael] Adlerstein puts it, “Ten years from now, there will be no way to tell that the U.N. was renovated unless you look at the energy bill.” While refusing to disclose specific details of that bill, officials claim that the new plans aim for a 30% reduction of energy use. And green is a sustaining principle of the whole redesign.
On June 5, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon announced that he would like the new HQ to “become a globally acclaimed model of efficient use of energy and resources.” As such, he’s earmarked $28 million of the budget to ensure green principles are applied. Proposed initiatives include energy-efficient light fixtures, room sensors that turn off lights if a room isn’t occupied, and solar energy systems.
The interior of the Secretariat building will be redesigned with more open space to exploit the natural light that comes through the glass façade. Officials say they are aiming for, at the very least, a LEED Silver rating. LEED is a system run by the U.S. Green Building Council to judge buildings for energy efficiency.
Ban has made action on climate change an early priority of his administration. And forgive the pun, but it is heartening to see the UN, er, LEED by example. In all seriousness though, it is often said that the only power a UN Secretary General wields is the power of the pulpit. Kofi Annan used this power to advance a global human rights agenda. And though he has only been in office for eight months, it is clear that Ban ki Moon is endeavoring to make climate change his signature issue.
The United Nations has granted $8.7 million to help the ongoing humanitarian relief efforts in Sudan in the wake of devastating floods.
“Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes announced that he had approved the grant, which will be allocated among 11 relief projects across Sudan, where torrential rainfall has destroyed or seriously damaged more than 30,000 homes and inundated towns, villages and farmlands.”
Approximately 150,000 people are homeless from the floods.
Since a Russian submarine planted a flag 13,000 feet underneath the North Pole twelve days ago there has been a new scramble (of sorts) for the Arctic. Denmark sent two ice breakers to survey its potential claims; the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just announced a new mission to map part of the Arctic near Alaska; and at a North American summit in Ottawa today, the Canadian prime minister is expected to assert Canada’s territorial claim over the Northwest Passage.
Fortunately, there is a forum for resolving territorial disputes in the Arctic. So, like Scott Paul says, a “new Cold War” this isn’t. Here is how it works. Common international maritime law stipulates that each country’s territory stretches 200 nautical miles off shore. This means that most of the outer ring of the Arctic Circle is neatly divided by Canada, Russia, Norway, the United States, and Denmark (which controls Greenland). It is the inner ring, however, where the confusion — and competition — arises.
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.