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Gaffney Lost on Law of the Sea

by Martine Apodaca

The UN Convention on Law of the Sea, which came into force in 1994 and has been ratified by 154 countries and the European Community, has been gathering steam in the U.S. Senate, is widely supported by both government and business leaders, and appears to be on track for ratification by the U.S.

This seems to be frightening a fringe group led by Frank Gaffney, a neocon columnist for the Washington Times and the National Review online, who has launched a nonsensical attack on the effort for U.S. ratification, claiming that the bid is a “UN power grab” and that US accession would transform the UN into a “world government” and force the United States to surrender sovereignty and immense resources in the sea and on the sea bed. Those unfounded views are reflected in Gaffney’s column yesterday in the Washington Times.Gaffney apparently thinks he knows how to protect U.S. national and security interests better than the President, the Secretary of the Navy, and the combined leaders of the U.S. petroleum, fishing, mining, and shipping industries. That’s not a bet that the U.S. Senate should take.

Rather than acknowledge and debate the vast military, economic, and environmental benefits of UNCLOS, Mr. Gaffney chooses to scare-monger about “international taxes” and “world government.” UNCLOS establishes neither. Mr. Gaffney also doesn’t acknowledge that an international race for oil, fish, diamonds and shipping routes has begun and is being accelerated by global warming as the arctic ice cap recedes. At stake are a possible 460,000 square miles of Arctic seabed that could hold as much as 25 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas, valuable commodities like gold, diamonds, fishing stocks, and lucrative freight routes.

The race is on.

Other nations are moving to take advantage of this situation. In August 2007, Russia planted its national flag on the seabed beneath the North Pole, calling international attention to a dubious claim to ownership of the North Pole and the Lomonosov Ridge — with substantial potential oil, gas, and mineral deposits. The Canadians are staking claims in the arctic as well. In August 2007, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper set off on a three-day tour of the region and announced plans to build two new military bases to reinforce Canada’s territorial claims, and the Canadians are spending $7 billion on new arctic patrol vessels.

The U.S., however, has taken itself out of the race; only nations who are party to the Convention can make such claims — or challenge the claims of others. Thus, while nations struggle for control of the arctic, the U.S. is sitting on the sidelines.

In truth, Mr. Gaffney is nearly alone on the far fringes in opposition to the Convention. Perhaps that is why he is making such desperate and outlandish arguments.

I’ve left Gaffney’s sovereignty claims until last because they are perhaps the most ridiculous.

The Convention has, in fact, been called, correctly, a U.S. land grab because it expands U.S. sovereignty and sovereign rights over extensive maritime territory and natural resources off its coast. It provides a 12-mile territorial sea subject to U.S. sovereignty, U.S. sovereign rights over resources within a 200-mile exclusive economic zone, and U.S. sovereign rights over offshore resources (including minerals) to the outer edge of the continental margin, which extends well beyond 200 miles in several areas, including up to 600 miles off Alaska. This Convention clearly expands our sovereignty.

The Convention has a built-in, dispute-resolution forum where nations can come together to peacefully and efficiently settle disagreements. The deep seabed mining provisions would not apply to any areas in which the U.S. has sovereignty or sovereign rights. Further, these rules will facilitate mining activities by U.S. companies. Investors would have the legal certainty of the convention to protect their claims and investments. And the navigational provisions ensure that U.S. military and commercial vessels have worldwide maritime mobility with the backing of international law and not subject to the whims of any nation.

Senate ratification of the convention is inarguably in America’s best interest. Scaremongering to the contrary is simply irresponsible.

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New Blog on the Block

Besides being unfortunately named and hard on the eyes (memo to Secretary Rice: blogs should not have black backgrounds!) bravo to the State Department for launching its new blog, “DipNote.”

It’s nice to see the State Department getting into the blogging game. Of course, a blog like this runs the risk of being dismissed as propaganda and completely ignored. (Especially if it is used to post re-worded press releases or becomes self-congratulatory.) On the other hand, if State’s in house bloggers are willing to engage other foreign policy blogs in debate and discussion, the forum could really take off. There are plenty of smart folks in the State Department who already read top foreign policy blogs like The Washington Note, Matthew Yglesias, Passport and others . Our discussions would surely be enhanced should State Department experts chime in from time to time.

So, DipNoters, please don’t be afraid to enter into the discussion. Doing so is quite critical to your blog’s success!

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Turning the Corner on International Cooperation

by Congressman Bill Delahunt, Congressional Representative to the 62nd UN General Assembly

Last week I attended the opening of the 62nd United Nations General Assembly in New York, where I serve as one of two Congressional representatives in the United States delegation.

I met with world leaders and UN officials to discuss several of the major challenges facing the world today: climate change, instability in the Middle East, global security, and humanitarian crises. Each is daunting and extremely complex. And each is exactly the kind of problem that the UN is designed to address — to deal with problems that no single country can resolve. The overwhelming majority of those I met with expressed their willingness to work with the U.S. through the UN to address these issues. Now, the U.S. must demonstrate its willingness and genuine commitment to engage multilaterally — rather than unilaterally — and support the UN’s efforts.

The day before the opening of the General Assembly, I attended UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s High-Level Event on Climate Change. Numerous reports have detailed how climate change is having a significant impact in certain regions — particularly in developing countries — and on critical ecosystems. These reports also demonstrate that the problem can be addressed, in a cost-effective fashion — if action is taken now.

This meeting was crucial to building the political capital necessary to begin successful negotiations in Bali, Indonesia, later this year. The goal is to develop a framework that can be successfully negotiated in Bali this December, presented to member states by 2009, and in force by 2012. I will work with the UN and my colleagues in Congress to ensure that this treaty will be acceptable to the American people and allay their concerns about global warming and potential economic consequences.

Another major issue I raised during my visit is the plight of millions of Iraqis fleeing the violence unleashed by our invasion of that country. Since 2003, over 2 million Iraqis have left, mostly for Jordan and Syria. Syria hosts over 1.2 million refugees, while, in Jordan, the more than 750,000 Iraqi refugees now account for almost 10 percent of the population. Both nations have repeatedly appealed for international financial support, as the refugees are placing an incredible strain on their security, health, and education infrastructures. Another 2 million Iraqis have been displaced within Iraq as a result of ethnic and sectarian cleansing, making them the third largest displaced population in the world. This refugee problem is on the verge of becoming a full-blown crisis that could significantly destabilize the entire region — with dangerous consequences for the U.S. and its national interests.

Of particular concern to me is the U.S. response to the issue of Iraqi refugees — some of whom have been specifically targeted because of their work for the U.S. government as interpreters, drivers, and guides. While Syria has taken in over a million Iraqis, the US has received over 9,000 Iraqi refugee applications, but has admitted only 1,600 this year. We must do better or our image in the international community will continue to erode. We have a moral obligation to help these people, not just because it was our invasion of Iraq that caused this humanitarian catastrophe in the first place, but because many have placed their lives and those of their families at risk to help us.

The UN has taken the lead in response to this tragedy. The UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees has worked with regional neighbors and donor countries to provide for education and healthcare for refugees in Syria and Jordan. But the UN cannot handle this alone. While the US has provided some funding to UNHCR, the US must give more support — both political and financial — to the work of the High Commissioner’s office and other UN organizations such as UNICEF (UN International Children’s Emergency Fund) and the World Health Organization.

Another major issue is the expanding need for UN peacekeeping efforts. Almost 100,000 UN peacekeepers work to promote peace and political stability in 20 missions around the world, from Lebanon to Haiti to the Balkans. The UN is unparalleled in its ability to carry out peacekeeping missions and does so at a fraction of what it would cost the U.S. alone. This is not hyperbole. In 2006 the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, reported that it would cost American taxpayers eight times as much to mount a U.S.-only military operation in Haiti as it does to maintain the current UN mission there. In addition, the US has less than 10 soldiers serving as UN peacekeepers — so our troops are free to concentrate on other missions.

It is important to highlight peacekeeping because the UN is about to embark on the largest, most challenging, and most expensive such mission in its history — the operation to stop the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. An estimated 200,000 people have died and 2 million have been displaced since the fighting broke out in 2003. UNAMID, the joint African Union/UN mission in Darfur, will ultimately have over 26,000 peacekeepers. They will face real danger — just this week 10 peacekeepers were killed when their camp was overrun by rebel forces.

While President Bush addressed the urgent need for the UN to deploy to Darfur during his speech to the General Assembly, he did not commit to providing much-need additional U.S. funding to support this mission. The U.S. played a lead role in establishing the Darfur mission, but now we have to back up our words with deeds — and financial support. The U.S. is currently nearly $1 billion in debt to the UN, almost all of it for peacekeeping operations. That debt will increase in 2008 if the Administration does not take corrective steps now — by making up some, if not all, of this shortfall in the President’s supplemental funding request — and as it plans the budget for next year. A billion dollars — about the cost of a week’s operations in Iraq — seems a small price to pay when it means ending genocide.

As the Democratic Congressional representative to the UN for the coming year, I am committed to strengthening and rebuilding our relationship with the UN. The world leaders I met were enthusiastic for U.S. engagement and leadership at the UN, and I am eager and ready to support such an agenda.

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UN expert speaks out on racism in France

A United Nations independent expert, after a mission to France, has noted that “visible” minority immigrants are targets of racism.

UN Independent Expert on minority issues, Gay J. McDougall said, “Racism is alive, insidious and clearly targeted at those ‘visible’ minorities of immigrant heritage, the majority of whom are French citizens.”

McDougall called on the government to take action to address “widespread, entrenched and institutionalized discrimination.”

More

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On Nuclear Abololition

Prompted by a presidential candidate’s speech, the blogosphere is suddenly buzzing about nuclear abolition. Greg Sargent, Matthew Yglesias, and Joe Klein, among others, weigh in.

This seems like an appropriate time to revisit a UNF Insights on strengthening multilateral non-proliferation efforts we ran three months ago. In the essay, we write that affirming American commitments to disarmament would help re-invigorate a flailing Non-proliferation Treaty. So too would supporting other non-proliferation instruments, like the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention.

The 2005 world summit outcome document, signed by virtually every head of state, detailed a number of important reforms for the world body. However, on proliferation issues, the document was shamefully silent. This occurred, in part, because certain key nuclear states would not back language on disarmament. In turn, nuclear states not party to the NPT banded together to block non-proliferation goals from entering the text.

This was a great disservice to the cause of arms control. Before it was stricken from the final draft of the outcome document, the section on non-proliferation and disarmament provided a useful blueprint for a long term strategy to reduce the nuclear threat. This included firm commitments to both nuclear arms reduction and a reaffirmation of non-proliferation instruments, including the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention…

The setbacks at the 2005 world summit…occurred, in part, because a small number of states could not make the mutual concessions necessary to move the debate forward. To help counter this disturbing trend, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has sought to incorporate the UN’s disarmament portfolio into the office of the Secretary General. Citing the need to “revitalize the disarmament and non-proliferation agenda through a more focused effort,” Ban proposed that the Department of Disarmament Affairs be augmented with a new Office of Disarmament Affairs that answers directly to the Secretary General. In March, the General Assembly approved this move and created a new High Representative for Disarmament Affairs to act as the voice of the Secretary General in disarmament and nonproliferation debates.

Of course, non-proliferation and disarmament are only two of the three pillars underpinning the NPT. The third is access to civilian nuclear power. And here, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, founded by Sam Nunn and Ted Turner, is promoting a cutting-edge proposal that would obviate the need for countries to develop their own uranium enrichment facilities by setting up a “nuclear fuel bank.”

In September 2006, The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), founded by former senator Sam Nunn and Ted Turner, took a key first step toward creating a reserve stockpile of low-enriched uranium, to be administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency. As proposed by NTI, the bank would provide an insurance policy for countries that want to develop nuclear power, but lack domestic enrichment facilities and therefore must depend on importing enriched uranium. With a guaranteed source of low-enriched uranium, countries will feel less compelled to develop indigenous enrichment facilities, which in turn can be used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons. IAEA Chief Mohammed elBaradei has endorsed this proposal, which includes a grant of $50 million in seed money, pledged by NTI with the backing of investor Warren Buffet.

There is, however, a limit to what philanthropies can accomplish on their own. For the fuel bank to work, it needs financial and political support by a government or governments. To that end, Congressman Tom Lantos, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, has introduced legislation that affirms this approach and provides another $50 million for the bank. Congress would be wise to act on this legislation. And other countries should follow suit with their own financial and political commitments to the bank.

Read the whole thing.

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Senegal Wavers

Following on Mark’s post yesterday about the disheartening attacks on AU peacekeepers in Darfur comes this news from the Washington Post:

Senegal threatened Monday to withdraw its more than 500 troops from Darfur, moving the African Union’s beleaguered peacekeeping mission closer to collapse after a spectacular militia attack over the weekend left 10 A.U. soldiers dead and dozens more missing or wounded …. Senegal, with the third-largest number of troops in Darfur now, was expected to be a key player in any future force.

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