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Security Council Votes to Expand Iraq Role

Breaking news from the Associated Press:

“The Security Council voted Friday to expand the United Nations’ role in Iraq in a move aimed at promoting talks among ethnic and religious rivals and winning support from the country’s neighbors.

The resolution, approved unanimously, authorizes the U.N., at the request of the Iraqi government, to promote political talks among Iraqis and a regional dialogue on issues including border security, energy and refugees.”

More.

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More Warnings on Warming from the UN

Earlier this week, we flagged a World Meteorological Association release noting a correlation between the record number of extreme weather events this year and record breaking global land surface temperatures. Now, the head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that climate change could lead to potential food shortages and increase the risk of hunger in developing countries. India, says, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf, will be particularly hard hit, potentially losing 125 million tons of its rain-fed cereal production, or about 20% of its total cereal production.

The New York Times has more.

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UN ‘hitting the target’ towards deployment of hybrid peace force in Darfur

From the UN News Center:

The United Nations is on target to deploy a mainly African hybrid peace force in the war-wracked Sudanese region of Darfur on schedule, but needs more offers from countries on critical capacities such as aviation and ground transport, a senior UN peacekeeping official said today.

Jane Holl Lute, acting head of the new Department of Field Support, told reporters that “we are hitting the target of a predominantly African force,” outlined in last week’s Security Council resolution authorizing the creation of the hybrid operation, to be known as UNAMID.

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UN Report Details Extreme Weather Events of Early 2007

From the Scientific American:

The world experienced a series of record-breaking weather events in early 2007, from flooding in Asia to heatwaves in Europe and snowfall in South Africa, the United Nations weather agency said on Tuesday.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said global land surface temperatures in January and April were likely the warmest since records began in 1880, at more than 1 degree Celsius higher than average for those months.

There have also been severe monsoon floods across South Asia, abnormally heavy rains in northern Europe, China, Sudan, Mozambique and Uruguay, extreme heatwaves in southeastern Europe and Russia, and unusual snowfall in South Africa and South America this year, the WMO said.

Scary stuff. Read more. And click here for access to the full WMO release.

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Yearly Kos and the UN

UN Dispatch was well represented at Yearly Kos at the end of last week. Three out of four Dispatchers made the trip out to Chicago.

Aside from getting to meet many of the bloggers that I had only known as online personas, I thought the foreign policy discussions were the most interesting part of the convention. For the most part, everyone seemed remarkably well-informed. And, even though as a convention largely dedicated to the progressive movement the discussion too often veered toward a single-minded view of the war in Iraq, international cooperation and improving the U.S. image abroad was the underlying sentiment in the forums on U.S. foreign policy.

Unfortunately, that idea was rarely carried through to a discussion on the U.S. role at the United Nations. The UN is the world’s platform for international cooperation, and it is clear that strengthening U.S. engagement at the UN should be the centerpiece of our efforts to bolster both our image and our influence abroad. UN Dispatch intends to continue to foster this conversation in part so that at next year’s event it attains its natural position at the center of U.S. foreign policy discussions.

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On the Relevancy of the Security Council

Ivo Daalder and Robert Kagan (who are informal foreign policy advisors to presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama, respectfully) team up in a Washington Post op-ed to argue for the irrelevancy of the Security Council. The council, says Kagan and Daalder, is too beset by competing national interests to suffice as the ultimate arbiter for authorizing humanitarian interventions. Rather, a “concert of democracies” should take on that role.

Matthew Yglesias offers an excellent retort, “to survey the wreckage in Iraq, and conclude that despite the lessons seen there we can’t defer to the UN…on the grounds that the UN might sometimes say no is very weak tea.”

Agreed. I would also add that contrary to popular perception, the Security Council frequently authorizes foreign military intervention on humanitarian grounds. We just don’t hear about them. In spring 2006, for example, when rioting in East Timor forced some 100,000 people to flee their homes, the Security Council authorized the rapid deployment of Australian troops to restore order. Similarly, in May 2000 when a fragile peace deal in Sierra Leone was on the verge of collapse, the council authorized a deployment of British Special Forces to fight off spoilers.

The fact is, not authorizing military intervention is the exception to the rule at the Security Council. The debates over Iraq and Kosovo are the only two instances over the last eight years in which the Council failed to authorize the use of force when one or more of the P-5 democracies wanted it to. There are eighteen other examples to the contrary. (I would not lump Darfur in the “failure to act” category because no member state has recommended that the council permit a multi-national force to invade Sudan on behalf of the Darfuris. Also, the council first authorized a traditional peacekeeping mission there one year ago.)

Foreign troops are helping to keep the peace in the most forlorn stretches of the globe today precisely because the Security Council is willing and able to act. From 1998 to 2003 some four million people are thought to have perished as a result of war in the Congo. Thanks to Security Council’s deployment of some 18,000 troops there, the fighting has largely subsided.

My point is, the perception that that the Security Council is too overcome with competing national interests to permit humanitarian intervention is not in tune with reality.

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