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France Proposes EU – UN operation in Chad and CAR

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 proposed operation is part of a massive expansion of peacekeeping in the region. It would be the western-most outpost of a series of peacekeeping missions stretching to the Indian Ocean, including Darfur (if that gets off the ground), Southern Sudan, the Ethiopian-Eritrean border, and a UN supported AU force in Somalia. (The last time there was a similar cluster of peacekeeping operations was a decade ago, when UN peacekeepers were deployed to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Cote D’Ivoire.)

Obviously, this presents huge challenges to the UN and its member states. Peacekeeping is already on the verge of a potential resource crunch. If the Security Council wants to replicate the success experienced in places like Sierra Leone and Liberia, wealthier member states must step up and back the new east African missions. The alternative would be letting conflicts continue to fester in the Horn of Africa.

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UN Liberia envoy hails Indian female police unit

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.”

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Walking the Walk

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.

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UN grants more than $8 million for Sudanese flood relief effort

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.

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About that Russian Arctic “Claim”

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.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (Unclos) Arctic countries can lay claim to the seabed beyond 200 nautical miles if that seabed is an extension of their continental shelf. A panel of 21 geologists and scientists that sit on a body called the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Self reviews and certifies these claims.

Flag planting has zero standing under international law. It is geology that dictates claims. So if Russia wants to make an internationally recognized claim it must send supporting scientific data to the Commission. Unfortunately, while Russia can take advantage of the rights afforded to it under Unclos, the United States cannot. This is because the United States senate has not yet ratified the treaty. So all the mineral wealth that is believed to be hiding underneath the inner ring of the Artic Circle may be beyond the reach of American petroleum companies.

There is, however, a great deal of domestic support for ratification. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is unanimously in favor of the treaty–as is the president. They are joined by an unlikely coalition of environmental groups, oil companies and the military. All that stands in the way of ratification is 1) senate scheduling 2) a small number of senators who still subscribe to what we may call the “Frank Gaffney worldview” in which Unclos cedes, rather than affirms American sovereignty. But under pressure from both the White House, military, and various interest groups opposition to the treaty from the knee-jerk anti-UN wing of congress is dwindling.

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UNESCO chief speaks out on death of journalist in Iraq

Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), issued a statement on the murder of journalist Adnane al-Safi.

“The murder of Adnane al-Safi strikes yet another blow against peace and democracy in Iraq…His killers stand condemned in the eyes of the world, and I call upon the authorities in Iraq to do their utmost to bring those responsible to justice.”

Some 40 media professionals have been killed this year alone in Iraq.

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