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UN marks International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) marked the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition by reflecting on slavery’s “tragic past” while noting that its modern forms still cause worldwide suffering.

Matsuura said it “serves to pay tribute to all those who worked collectively and individually to trigger the irreversible process of the abolition of the slave trade and slavery throughout the world.”


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UNESCO joins efforts to aid Peruvian earthquake victims

UNESCO is joining the United Nations in their effort to aid those affected by the August 15 earthquake in Peru which left some 500 people dead.

UNESCO will provide assistance to Peru’s Ministry of Education to assess the situation of schools in communities stricken by the earthquake, also working with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).


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When Unesco Strikes Back

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.

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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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