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Five Stories to Follow During UN Week

Hundreds of world leaders make their annual pilgrimage to New York for the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly.  This is what is on their agenda.

1) Millennium Development Goals

When: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday

What: Before the UN General Assembly officially kicks off, presidents and prime ministers will gather at the UN for a summit on 10th anniversary of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  These are a set of eight anti poverty and global health targets that world leaders set for themselves in 2000. They are due in 2015 and progress, so far, has been mixed.

Some of the goals will be met, but that is mostly because the rapid economic development of China and India over the past decade lifted millions out of poverty. Sub-Saharan Africa still lags behind on most indicators.  The idea behind this summit is to inject some political will and secure new commitments that will close the gap to reaching the MDGs. To that end, all summer long, diplomats have been pouring over the text of a “summit outcome document” that heads of state will endorse when they arrive in New York.

Expect world leaders to laud progress made toward some of the goals, and lay out some grand new commitments to achieving others. Whether they follow through on those commitments is another story.

2) Women and Children First

WHEN: Wednesday

WHAT:   Not all of the MDGs have been approached equally. The Goals farthest from their targets are Goal 4 (a two-thirds reduction in child mortality) and Goal 5 (a three quarters reduction in maternal mortality and universal access to family planning). Progress toward these goals have been particularly stunted in 49 of the least developed countries in the world, the majority of which are in sub-Saharan Africa.

In late August UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon released a Global Strategy for Women and Children’s Health, which calls for an additional $26 billion to reach these goals.  The summit outcome document (see item 1) endorsed this plan in principal.  On Wednesday, the Secretary General is convening a meeting of major donors and recipient countries, philanthropists and private partners to secure tangible commitments toward implementing the plan. “We want developing countries to come to the table with policy commitments and donor countries will come to the table with financial commitments,” says UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant who met with a group of journalists last week to preview the event.

The UN says more than 15 million deaths of children under five could be prevented; 33 million unwanted pregnancies could be avoided; and 740,000 women would be saved from dying from complications during child birth should these efforts be fully implemented.  No one predicts that $26 billion of additional funding will suddenly materialize during the UN meeting. But most UN watchers do expect that convening this meeting will result in a big dent in the funding gap for women’s and children’s health.

3) Can Pakistan Get Some Relief?

WHEN: Friday

WHAT:  The waters are beginning to recede, but Pakistan’s epic floods remain the single worst natural disaster in recent history. It has affected more people than the Haiti earthquake, the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, and the 2005 Kashmir Earthquake…combined.

On Friday afternoon, there will be a special meeting on Pakistan flood relief, prior to which the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (which is sort of like the UN’s FEMA) has released a new estimate of what it will cost to fund humanitarian operations in Pakistan for the rest of the year. The UN is now asking donors for an additional $1.6 billion to support relief efforts.

These funds pay for the emergency work of UN agencies like UNICEF and the World Food Program and international NGOs like Save the Children and CARE International which are delivering food rations, providing emergency shelter, schooling displaced children and offering health care for people affected by the floods.

If past is prologue, expect donors to come up short on funding. It has been over one month since the UN launched its initial $460 million emergency appeal for Pakistan flood relief.  To date only about 80% of that emergency funding has been committed by donors.

4) Trying to Avert Disaster in Sudan

WHEN: Friday

WHAT. Sudan is very close to another civil war.  Its southern provinces will vote for independence in early January, and the central government has made it clear it does not want to lose its grip on the oil-rich southern region. (At least, not without a fight.)

In the lead up to this vote, the Obama administration is ramping up its diplomatic efforts to avert an outbreak of violence, which intelligence analysts believe would likely result in mass atrocity or even genocide. Last week, President Obama’s special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration met with leaders in Khartoum to present a package of diplomatic enticements—including an easing of some U.S. sanctions—should Sudan allow the referenda to go forward and respect the results.

On Friday afternoon, countries will meet with Sudanese representatives on the sidelines of the General Assembly.  The administration hopes that this meeting will galvanize international support for a peaceful independence referendum.

This meeting represents one of the few times that Sudan is dealt with directly by the president himself — President Obama will speak directly to Sudanese representatives at the meeting. That, itself, is a boon for the prospect of a peaceful referendum. Still, Sudan watchers and those in the advocacy community will be eager to see if some diplomatic sticks are presented along with these carrots.

5) The Curious Case of Paul Kagame

WHEN: Thursday

Muammar Ghadaffi will not be around this year to work translators into the ground, but Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez can be counted on to put on their usual show at the General Assembly.  This year, though, particular attention will be paid to the remarks of Rwandan president Paul Kagame.

Kagame came to power as the leader of a militia that was able to stop the Rwandan genocide in 1994.  In the years since, Kagame has been a darling of the international community.  Rwanda has experienced tremendous economic growth and is on pace to meet many of the MDGs.  Ban Ki Moon even appointed Kagame to co-chair a body called the “Millennium Development Goals Advocacy Group.”

But there is a problem. Two weeks ago a the French newspaper Le Monde published the leaked contents of a draft UN report that accuses the Rwandan army (read: Kagame’s Tutsi militia) of committing genocide against Hutus as they fled Rwanda for the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Needless to say, the Rwandan government was very, very displeased to see that in the paper.  The government even threatened to withdraw their troops from UN peacekeeping, which would effectively dissolve the UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur.

This sparked a flurry of diplomatic activity. The top UN human rights official delayed the publication of the report for at least until October. And on September 8, Ban Ki Moon paid an emergency visit to Rwanda to convince Kagame to maintain his commitment to UN peacekeeping.

Expect Kagame to receive some extra-special attention from diplomats in New York.  More than just the usual crowd will tune in when he addresses the General Assembly on Thursday.

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The Millennium Development Goals, Fully Explained

I chat with John McArthur of Millennium Promise for BloggingHeads.  John does an excellent job of explaining  the Millennium Development Goals in a way that ought to satisfy wonks and newcomers alike.   Enjoy!

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Welcome to the NEW UN Dispatch

Welcome to the new UN Dispatch.  We hope you like the new design, completed just in time for a busy week of UN related events in New York City.

In the week to come, we will have full coverage of all the events going on in New York City.  I will be blogging from inside the UN during the Millennium Development Goals summit (Monday to Wednesday) and during the opening of the General Assembly on Thursday and Friday.

Alanna, Penelope, and Corbin will also be in town. And between the four of us, expect full coverage of the big events of the diplomatic and philanthropic circuit, including the UN Foundation/Mashable Digital Media Lounge and Social Good Summit, the Clinton Global Initiative, TedxChange, Climate Week NYC, and other special gatherings.  Check back often.

Got a scoop? Send us an email at undispatch-at-gmail-dot-com or hit us up on Twitter via @undispatch.

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$2 billion Pakistan Appeal released; Afghan Elections; Flotilla Incident Report

MDG Gap Task Force Report: Yesterday, the SG released the 2010 MDG Gap Task Force Report, dedicated to MDG 8, which this year focuses on the impact of the global economic crisis.  The SG pointed out that while ODA is at an all-time high, $20 billion in commitments remain missing for this year. Africa accounts for 80% of that gap. With the MDG Summit approaching, the SG urges leaders to forge these commitments because the international community has all the necessary tools and resources to achieve the MDGs by 2015.

MDG Gap Task Force Report: Yesterday, the SG released the 2010 MDG Gap Task Force Report, dedicated to MDG 8, which this year focuses on the impact of the global economic crisis.  The SG pointed out that while ODA is at an all-time high, $20 billion in commitments remain missing for this year. Africa accounts for 80% of that gap. With the MDG Summit approaching, the SG urges leaders to forge these commitments because the international community has all the necessary tools and resources to achieve the MDGs by 2015.: today the Flash Appeal for the Pakistan floods was revised upwards to $2 billion to provide aid to  14 million people over 1 year.  The $459.7 million original appeal, which is 80% funded, is included in this figure – leaving an outstanding need of $1.6 billion.  This money will go towards 483 projects to be carried out by 15 UN bodies (plus IOM) and 156 NGOs.

Afghan elections: tomorrow Afghanistan will hold parliamentary elections, to which UNAMA is providing technical and logistical support (in response to a request from the Government of Afghanistan).  Yesterday, SRSG for Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, met with election officials and local leaders in Kandahar and expressed the UN’s support for the elections.

Panel of Inquiry on Flotilla Incident: the SG has received the report of the Panel of Inquiry on the Flotilla Incident, which is largely procedural.  The Panel has received an interim report from Turkey on progress of its national investigation, and is awaiting a report from Israel.

DRC: today the Security Council adopted a Presidential Statement calling on the DRC to take “swift and fair” action to bring the perpetrators of the rapes in eastern DRC to justice.  The Council also expressed its willingness to consider actions – including “targeted measures” – against those responsible.

Somalia: Yesterday Augustine Mahiga, SRSG for Somalia, briefed the Security Council, expressing concern about the country’s security situation and its potential impact on the region.  He noted that the TFG should reserve the fragile peace created by the Djibouti Agreement, with 11 months left before the end of the transition period.  Mahiga appealed to States to support Somalia, including financial and material support for AMISOM.  Kyung-wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, issued a statement following a three-day visit to the region, calling for an end to the culture of impunity

HRC: This morning the HRC held an Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of Human Rights in Sudan (whose mandate is up for renewal), during which the U.S. made a strong case for the renewal of IE’s mandate for another year, especially due to the upcoming referendum.  Today also featured a discussion of “situations requiring the Council’s attention”, in which Ambassador Donahoe brought attention to Iran (particularly restrictions on freedoms of expression, assembly and religion); Myanmar (particularly the upcoming Nov 7 elections), Cuba, DPRK and the DRC (and the recent use of mass rape), among other countries.

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Malakal, via google maps

Dispatch from a Divided Sudanese Frontier Town

MALAKAL, Sudan–The feeling in this town is markedly more tense than the last time I visited nine months ago. Malakal has been a site of emerging tensions in the south in recent years, and given its proximity to the north-south border, it may be a bellwether for the way relations between north and south are headed as the referendum

In 2008, a serious clash between the northern and southern army units of the so-called “Joint Integrated Units,” a joint Sudanese military force envisioned by the drafters of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement to be the future army of “New Sudan.” Instead, the JIUs are more prone to fighting with each other than training together, as evidenced by the firefight between the forces here two years ago. More recently, local tensions over land and territorial claims between the Dinka and Shilluk populations in and around Malakal have resulted in villages near Malakal being burned and in one case, indirectly caused fighting during the 2009 ceremony to commemorate the signing of the 2005 peace accord that ended the north-south civil war.

Lately, tensions in Malakal are evident in the movement of SPLA forces to one of the most strategic points in town: the airport. The northern Sudanese army (SAF) component of the JIU has always been on the “airport side” of town, while the SPLA unit is positioned closer to the town center. The town remains divided in this manner, with SAF soldiers sticking to their side of Malakal and southern soldiers doing the same since the 2008 clash. However, a new contingent of SPLA troops have moved in recent months to a small site just outside the airport, on the opposite side of SAF and a kilometer or two from the
U.N. base.

Given the makeshift nature of the shelters the SPLA have constructed, if I had not been told that this new cluster of mud huts and straw thatched roofs next to the airport was the new SPLA unit in town, I would have thought that the settlement could have been a small group of internally displaced people who had fled their homes for one reason or another. Nonetheless, the increased SPLA presence is signficant given the location and it is representative of a broader policy being implemented now by both the southern and the northern armies: increased deployment of troops and hardware near the contested
north-south border. Is not surprising that both armies are abiding by the adage of “hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.”

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Scenesetter for the UN’s upcoming MDGs Summit

An audio transcript of a press conference in which our friends at the UN Foundation preview next week’s UN summit on the Millennium Development Goals.


On-the-Record Scenesetter for the UN’s upcoming Millennium Development Goals Summit

On-the-Record Press Teleconference with UN Foundation CEO Kathy Calvin, Vice President for Public Policy Peter Yeo and Senior Director of Partnerships for Energy and Climate Leslie Cordes

Priorities on Global Health, Women and Children’s Issues, Energy and Climate and U.S.-UN Relations to be Discussed

Washington, D.C. – The United Nations Foundation will host a press teleconference with UN Foundation CEO Kathy Calvin to help set the stage and provide background in advance of next week’s historic UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Summit taking place September 20-22, 2010 marks the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the MDGs, where President Barack Obama and other world leaders, will deliver a plan to advance progress in reaching these goals.

The MDGs are eight goals that all 192 United Nations member-states have agreed to help achieve. They offer a road map to end poverty and its root causes and tackle the biggest problems facing the world today – these include global poverty, women’s and children’s health, hunger, and education. According to the latest nationwide polling, the UN Foundation has found that 68% of Americans agree that these issues should be at the forefront of a global conversation. Americans, together, with the rest of the world’s citizens, say that these issues deserve more attention and focus. For more details, please visit

Who: Kathy Calvin, CEO, UN Foundation

Peter Yeo, Vice President, Public Policy and Public Affairs, UN Foundation; Executive Director, Better World Campaign

Leslie Cordes, Senior Director of Partnerships, Energy and Climate, UN Foundation

UN Foundation MDG Press Call by UN Dispatch

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