Damage to the once pristine habitats of the deep oceans by pollution, litter and overfishing is running out of control, the United Nations warned yesterday. In a report that indicates that time is running out to save them, the UN said humankind’s exploitation of the the deep seas and oceans was “rapidly passing the point of no return”.Last year some 85 million tonnes of wild fish were pulled from the global oceans, 100 million sharks and related species were butchered for their fins, some 250,000 turtles became tangled in fishing gear, and 300,000 seabirds, including 100,000 albatrosses, were killed by illegal longline fishing. [More]
Alertnet: “The United Nations launched a drive on Thursday to “disaster-proof” schools to prevent children being crushed in earthquakes and swept away in floods.Tragedies like last year’s Pakistan quake, when collapsing classrooms killed 16,000 children, underlined the urgent need for action, U.N. disaster reduction chief Salvano Briceno said.
The two-pronged campaign will also push governments to make risk reduction part of the curriculum.
“More than 200 million people are affected by disasters every year, a third of them are often children … Educating about disasters can make the difference between life and death,” Briceno told a launch ceremony in Paris.”
A sampling of United Nations related blog commentary
CJR Daily discusses the “Elephant in the Newsroom” known as Guantanamo: “A quick Lexis-Nexis search for “Guantanamo” proves just how inadequate newspapers have been to the task of telling this story. Nearly every article that appears is a breaking news story about a new hunger strike, a court battle over forced feeding, or an organization like the UN voicing concern about the detainees.”
Joshua Landis writes: “The new UN investigation into Rafiq Al Hariri’s murder is expected to indict Syrian leaders.”
Paper Chase says that “UN rights experts call on Egypt to preserve independent judiciary.”
Given the scale of killings, rape, looting and destruction of villages in Darfur, Sudan the Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations-backed criminal court said today he anticipates the prosecution of a sequence of cases, rather than a single case, of possible war crimes in the conflict between the Khartoum Government, allied militia and rebels.
“Identifying those persons with the greatest responsibility for the most serious crimes in Darfur is a key challenge for the investigation,” Luis Moreno Ocampo, of the International Criminal Court (ICC), said as he presented his latest report (pdf) to the Security Council this afternoon. “The complexity of the conflict in Darfur exacerbates this challenge, given that it involves multiple parties, varying over time throughout the different states and localities.” [More]
Unrest in Dili. © UNHCR/S.Martins
“The international community should not have pulled out of East Timor so quickly, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said yesterday. Mr Annan earlier announced plans for a major new mission to the troubled nation.But a UN mission substantially larger than the 2000-strong Australia-led force would take at least six months to prepare, Mr Annan said.
“The sad events of recent weeks reflect shortcomings not only on the part of the Timorese leadership, but also on the part of the international community in inadequately sustaining Timor-Leste’s (East Timor’s) nation-building process,” Mr Annan told the UN Security Council. [Read more]
Also read this letter to the editor from the International Herald Tribune:
Losing East Timor
Who lost East Timor? Jeff Kingston, in “Nation rebuilding” (June 10-11) says “The United Nations bears responsibility for leaving before it finished the job.” That’s not correct, and we need to make sure the record is set straight before this becomes part of the received wisdom.
Decisions on a UN operation of this kind are the responsibility not of the whole United Nations but of the Security Council or, if you prefer, the five permanent members, who each have a veto.
The Security Council took the decision to terminate the UN military presence in East Timor, against the wishes and in spite of the pleas of Secretary General Kofi Annan that a small military force be left in place. Had he been listened to, the tragedy now taking place could have been avoided.
Frank Peel, Geneva
Crunching numbers provided by the State Department’s annual report on voting patterns in the United Nations, Fred Gedrich concludes that General Assembly member states vote against the United States 75% of the time. So doing, he argues that this voting pattern evidences a chronic anti-Americanism at the United Nations. Alas, he fails to impart a rather significant disclaimer to that figure: it does not include resolutions reached by consensus. Says the report (pdf):
“When consensus resolutions are factored in as votes identical to those of the United States, a much higher measure of agreement with U.S. positions is reached. This figure (77.6 percent in 2005), which more accurately reflects the work of the General Assembly, is below the 85-88 percent range recorded since the statistic was first included in this report in 1993. It was 81.3 percent in 2004, 80.7 percent in 2003, 83.0 percent in 2002, 85.0 percent in 2001, 87.6 percent in 2000, 86.4 percent in 1999, 88.3 percent in 1998, 87.3 percent in 1997, 87.3 percent also in 1996, 88.2 percent in 1995, 88.8 percent in 1994, and 88.3 percent in 1993.” (emphasis mine)
Voting coincidences with the United States are not static statistics. Indeed, ten years ago (discounting consensus resolutions) the rest of the world voted with the United States at frequency 25% greater than it is today. A dose of constructive engagement with the developing world would go a long way to raise this number to levels achieved in the mid 1990s.
For further evidence of supposed anti-Americanism at the UN, Gedrich also writes, “Over strong U.S. objections, assembly members … elevated Iran’s nuclear weapon-seeking terrorist state to Vice Chair of the Disarmament Commission.” This is extremely misleading. The UN’s Disarmament Commission is a small and not very active forum that meets for three weeks in a year. Elections to the commission’s leadership happen by acclimation. If the Bush administration thought it worth their while to prevent Iran from attaining a leadership position on the commission, Ambassador Bolton or one of his representatives could have simply raised some objections and called for a vote. Needless to say, this did not happen.
Fact checking, it would seem, is not much of a priority at The American Enterprise.
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.