Yearly Archives: 2008
From the UN News Center:
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on world leaders gathered at a United Nations summit in Rome to take “bold and urgent” steps to tackle the global food crisis, including boosting food production and revitalizing agriculture to ensure long-term food security.
Addressing the High-level Conference on World Food Security, Mr. Ban said that over 850 million people around the globe were short of food before the current crisis began. That number is estimated to rise by a further 100 million, and the poorest of the poor will be the hardest hit.
“The threats are obvious to us all. Yet this crisis also presents us with an opportunity,” Mr. Ban told the gathering, which is being hosted by the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). “It is a chance to revisit past policies. While we must respond immediately to high food prices, it is important that our longer term focus is on improving world food security — and remains so for some years.”
At 10 am, UN TV is live casting a press conference that will include the economist Hernando de Soto and Secretary Albright, the two co-chairs of the United Nations Development Program’s Commission on the Legal Empowerment of the Poor. Tune in here to watch the release of a report the two co-authored called Making the Law Work for Everyone, which takes the novel approach that legal remedies must be harnessed in the fight against global poverty. Here is a teaser:
The majority of the world’s poor live their lives outside the rule of law, without the basic legal protection that recognizes their homes, assets and hard work. Without property rights, they live in fear of forced eviction. Without access to a justice system, they are victims of corruption and violence. Without enforceable labor laws, they suffer unsafe and abusive work conditions. If they own an informal business, they cannot access the legal business protections that entrepreneurs in the developed world take for granted — they are locked out of economic opportunity in their own countries and in the global marketplace. Many are unregistered from birth, and have no access to basic public services. Outside the law, the ability of the poor to create wealth is frustrated; without access to justice, their dignity is violated.
In its forthcoming report entitled “Making the Law Work for Everyone,” the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor will call on national governments and international institutions to make legal empowerment a key pillar of the anti-poverty agenda. Specifically, the report makes concrete recommendations about how nations, multilateral institutions and civil society can come together to empower the poor in ways that allow them to lift themselves from the grips of poverty. Within the context of a scaled-up international effort to meet the MDGs, a real commitment to the Legal Empowerment agenda constitutes a powerful and dynamic tool in the assault on global poverty.
Check the Commission’s website at 10 am est for the full report.
What Mark earlier called the “scandal that never was” — the U.S.’s accusation that the UN Development Program (UNDP) had illegally funneled millions of dollars in cash to the North Korean government — can finally perhaps be put to bed. Already, a Senate investigative committee, as well as the UN’s own auditing board, has exposed this charge as largely groundless, and now, the just-released report of an independent panel chaired by former Hungarian Prime Minister Miklos Nemeth, confirms the extent to which this issue has been blown out of promotion by scandalmongers and UN-bashers.
The UNDP’s operations with North Korea are difficult, but they are also vital to millions of North Koreans who benefit from the organization’s services. Everywhere UNDP works, it must work with and under the rules of the host country’s government. In North Korea’s case, this entailed UNDP adopting sub-optimal policies on local staffing, the use of hard currency (as distinct from cash), and project oversight — policies that had long been accepted by the U.S. government and are still being practiced by embassies and NGOs in the country. Nonetheless, when UNDP came under attack in March of 2007 for having operated under the policies that North Korea required, and recognizing the importance of ensuring that its funds were not being mismanaged, UNDP suspended its operations in North Korea.
Some of the accusations then leveled against UNDP came from a former employee who later claimed that he was being punished for having “blown the whistle” on the organization’s supposedly irregular policies. The new Nemeth report, however, clarifies how well-established UNDP’s operating procedures were in North Korea among U.S., NGO, and UN agencies and finds no UNDP complicity in North Korea’s attempts to avoid sanctions. It also casts serious doubts on the credibility of the purported “whistleblower” who broke these accusations.
Meanwhile, and even though this particular individual’s case did not prove to be substantiated, UNDP strengthened its whistleblower protection policy and beefed up accountability systems worldwide. As for whether or not UNDP should resume its programs helping the citizens of North Korea, that will be up to Member States to decide, when they discuss the Nemeth report later this month.
Refugees International has released a new policy recommendation calling attention to the plight of Eritrean refugees, as well as Ethiopians of Eritrean origin, who have not been fully integrated into Ethiopian society and are often targeted as undesirable “foreigners.” This problem underscores the tension of the countries’ border dispute and the festering antagonism between the two governments that precipitated the recent withdrawal of UN peacekeepers from the region. As RI’s briefing makes clear, the ones suffering are those caught in the middle:
Nearly everyone RI interviewed told a story of ongoing separation from loved ones, exacting a considerable personal and psychological toll. Travel between Eritrea and Ethiopia is prohibited, there is no interstate phone system, and Ethiopians have reportedly been jailed for communicating with persons in Eritrea via the internet. “Family separation is the problem,” one man said. “I am a nation-less person. Eritrea does not consider me as Eritrean. Ethiopia does not consider me as Ethiopian. My brother tried to go to Sudan but was caught and jailed. My sister is in Kenya. I’ve had no news from her in 5 years.”
The full policy recommendation is worth reading. Neither Ethiopia nor Eritrea is innocent here, and both need to take steps to secure the rights and dignity of those driven to a condition of essential statelessness.
We’re back! And with great news: Nothing But Nets was featured on the front page of the New York Times today. Reporter Donald G. McNeil, Jr. explains how it’s becoming trendy and cool for today’s youth to donate $10 to send an insecticide treated bed net to a malaria prone region in Africa.
Unusual allies, like the Methodist and Lutheran Churches, the National Basketball Association and the United Nations Foundation, are stoking the passion for nets that prevent malaria. The annual “American Idol Gives Back” fund-raising television special has donated about $6 million a year for two years. The music channel VH1 made a fund-raising video featuring a pesky man in a mosquito suit.
It is an appeal that clearly resonates with young people.
Addressing a conference of 6,000 Methodist youths in North Carolina last year, Bishop Thomas Bickerton held up his own $10 and told the crowd: “This represents your lunch today at McDonald’s or your pizza tonight from Domino’s. Or you could save a human life.”
The lights were so bright that he could see only what was happening at his feet. “They just showered the stage with $10 bills,” Bishop Bickerton said. “In 30 seconds, we had $16,000. I’m just lucky they didn’t throw coins.”
You too can get in on the action. Click here to donate $10 for one bednet. As they say, “Send a Net, Save a Life.”
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.