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Blog Roundup #81

A sampling of United Nations related blog commentary Serendipity: "The latest State of the World's Children report by UNICEF has been released. Below is the press release from last month. (You can find previous years' reports at here.): "Abused and Neglected, Millions of Children Have Become Virtually Invisible - Hundreds of millions of children are suffering from severe exploitation and discrimination and have become virtually invisible to the world, UNICEF said today in a major report that explores the causes of exclusion and the abuses children experience." Brenna: "Take a look at these pictures. Be aware of the graphic nature. When have you personally ever seen this? I have never in my entire life seen the UN Peacekeepers rolling down my street in a tank. This picture is from Haiti as they prepare for an election. The UN is present to stop the violence that is occurring as the election draws near. I have never gone to vote and seen armed Peacekeepers patrolling the area to ensure that the election is kept fair. The Haiti election was postponed three times because the violence was too much. And it is looking at these pictures that I find myself disgusted with the low voter turnout here is Canada, and the people that have told me that they are not voting. These men and women are risking their lives to protect democracy and bring a fair election to the people of Haiti. Many Peacekeepers have been killed in the process." ArmsControlWonk: "An Iranian bomb is not, yet, a foregone conclusion. The degree to which Iran's nuclear program has become an element of the country's domestic politics suggests that fissures exist within Iranian elites that create space for negotiations. Those fissures might be quite severe, as suggested by a curious incident recently when Iranian delegates didn't show up for a meeting with IAEA DG ElBaradei. If I had to guess, the Iranians missed the meeting because they were probably riven internally and couldn't."
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Blog Roundup #80

A sampling of United Nations related blog commentary Demagogue: "As I mentioned last week, the AU says it will run out of fund for its mission in Darfur in March. Given the Security Council's reluctance to deal with Darfur, any eventual hand-over to UN troops probably wouldn't even happen this year. So Annan is basically asking member nations to start fully-funding the AU mission so that they can hang on long enough to transfer the mission over to the UN." Feministing: "The UN says that too many countries are failing women by conducting subpar census reports. "The World's Women 2005, Progress in Statistics" reports that many developing countries are not keeping track of the the sex of those who are born, work and die: "The whole goal of the improvement of the quality of life worldwide is dependent on knowing the situation of women, men, the elderly, infants," said Mary Chamie, chief of the U.N. demographics and social statistics branch. "We need it for questions on globalization, for questions on trade, on understanding of economic production, education, ... getting vaccinated and for that matter, reproduction," she said in an interview. "It's like going to the doctor, but the doctor never examines us." Read the report here." Belmont Club: "When's a death a death? Yahoo News carries this report on deaths in East Timor caused by Indonesian occupation: "Indonesia killed up to 180,000 East Timorese through massacres, torture and starvation during its 24-year occupation, a report to be handed to the United Nations has found, an Australian daily said on Thursday." The Third World is place where deaths are accounted with altogether different arithmetic than the First World. Events there happen as on another planet. Democracy Rising in a post called Hate Radio Returns As Ivory Coast Teeters On The Brink Of War talks about the implosion of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Ivory Coast." Huffington Post (Nathan Gardels): "In the debate raging across the West about taking Iran to the UN Security Council over its nuclear program, little is understood about internal Iranian public opinion. How can human rights activists who oppose theocratic rule at the same time support Iran's right to a nuclear program and resist the idea of punitive sanctions by the rest of the world? Is there a better way for the West to neutralize a potential nuclear threat from Iran? Here is an insight from Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian human rights activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 and a scientific colleague, Muhammaed Sahimi..."
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Blog Roundup #79

A sampling of United Nations related blog commentary Education Experts: "The United Nations Fulbright Fellowship Program, now in its third year, was created to build new sources of UN leadership and further the ability of the Fulbright Program to educate leaders and lay the foundation for global problem solving. It is funded by a grant from the United Nations Foundation/Better World Fund. This year, 10 UN Fulbright Fellows served in various United Nations departments, offices and funds both in New York City and worldwide, after completing their graduate degrees in the U.S. under Fulbright sponsorship. From June through December 2005, these UN Fulbright fellows had an opportunity to contribute to the advancement of the work of the United Nations, learn from United Nations staff, and gain valuable professional experience to cap off their Fulbright Fellowship in the United States." Uncooperative Blogger: "Iran Better Consider the Possibilities - You know I have been doing some thinking, and Iran should be concerned that Iran might face Security Council action in February, the very month John Bolton, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, assumes the Council's Presidency. This would certainly make it more likely that significant sanction would be imposed upon them." Phil Gomes: "Eric Margolis gives us another view of the possibilities as he anticipates a showdown [with Iran]. Iran must also face the very real threat of punishing UN-imposed sanctions, unless they are vetoed by China or Russia or even a US naval blockade. The EU is proposing sanctions as a way of trying to divert the US from military action, which would damage Europe more than the United States." Democracy Arsenal: "The latest disturbing news out of Iran is that the government now plans a conference on the Holocaust. Having already judged the Nazi genocide a myth and called for Israel's destruction, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems bent on making a name for himself as this century's leading violent anti-Semitic megalomaniac, this time with nukes.... With Ahmadinejad openly advocating Israel's destruction and cutting the UN seals on its nuclear installations, there would seem adequate grounds today for preventive action to stop Iran from acquiring the means to carry out its destructive aims against Israel. But the principle of preventive war is even more controversial than preemptive war, since its not predicated on a threat that's close at hand." Counterterrorism Blog: "Norway issued a startling declaration earlier this month. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store announced January 4th that his country would no longer follow the EU lead concerning the designation of terrorist organizations not included in the UN designated terrorist list. A Copy of the Foreign Ministry Statement is here. Norway had previously aligned itself with the EU's list of persons, organisations and entities set out in the Common Position on the application of specific measures to combat terrorism. The decision to now deviate from the EU means that organizations such as al aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Hamas, and some 45 other designated terrorist organizations around the world may no longer be subjected in Norway to the same restrictions other EU countries have placed on them." Michelle Malkin: "IRAN: PREPARING FOR THE WORST - We are on the brink. Via AP: "Iran's president on Saturday denounced Western nations threatening to refer his country to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions over its nuclear program, saying the international community has no legal basis for restricting Tehran's right to research."
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Blog Roundup #78

A sampling of United Nations related blog commentary Tapped (Mark Leon Goldberg): "Today, at the United Nations, negotiations will begin in earnest over the composition and mandate of a new human rights council that will replace the much maligned and discredited human rights commission. Creating the council has been on the UN reform agenda for quite some time now, and it was one of the pillars of reform that went unfulfilled at the UN summit last September. But as of today, UN member states are redoubling their effort to create a newly empowered human rights organ -- and spoiler countries, like Pakistan, Cuba, Venezuela and India, are doing their utmost to stall this work."
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Blog Roundup #77

A sampling of United Nations related blog commentary Transmutations: "Today's New York Times has an editorial concerning Ambassador Bolton's proposal for the new Human Rights monitoring council. The Times seems to be in favor of reform at the United Nations, but against Bolton's proposal because it does not serve the interests of members states and people who most need the rights to be protected. The leaders of the United States must change their policies and redress the wrongs they have done. Otherwise, they will face the consequences -- both from the United Nations, and possibly from foreign malcontents. As for the latter, I am not condoning this, but simply state the obvious. Both the U.S. and the UN need reforms to participate as responsible leaders in the 21st Century. Enacting the change that the Human Rights Commission proposes would facilitate these reforms. Ambassador Bolton's "couldn't care less" attitude would only exacerbate the problem. Justice is the issue, not politics as usual at the UN." Payne Hollow: "Here's at least one study that acknowledges the wisdom of peacemaking: A major study by the Rand Corp. published this year found that U.N. peace-building operations had a two-thirds success rate. They were also surprisingly cost-effective. In fact, the United Nations spends less running 17 peace operations around the world for an entire year than the United States spends in Iraq in a single month. What the United Nations calls "peacemaking" -- using diplomacy to end wars -- has been even more successful. About half of all the peace agreements negotiated between 1946 and 2003 have been signed since the end of the Cold War." The Ruth Group: "Writing in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Andrew Mack reaffirms that UN peacekeeping is having a tangible impact on levels of global violence: "Other international agencies, donor governments and nongovernmental organizations also played a critical role, but it was the United Nations that took the lead, pushing a range of conflict-prevention and peace-building initiatives on a scale never before attempted. The number of U.N. peacekeeping operations and missions to prevent and stop wars has increased by more than 400 percent since the end of the Cold War. As this upsurge of international activism grew in scope and intensity through the 1990s, the number of crises, wars and genocides declined." Low Level Panel: "Ralph Bunche, the first UN official ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize, said that the UN exists "not merely to preserve the peace but also to make change-even radical change-possible without violent upheaval. The United Nations has no vested interest in the status quo."
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Blog Roundup #76

A sampling of United Nations related blog commentary Kenneth Anderson: "Reuter's carries a story on a report from the UN staff union that attacks on UN workers around the world were up significantly in 2005, here. I discuss the general problem of UN neutrality and values in this Harvard Human Rights Journal article, from 2004, here." Green Think: "The UN Millennium Eco-System Assessment, the most comprehensive study of its kind ever done, tells us that 60% of the earth's eco-systems are not functioning or are in a state of decline. This is the degradation of our life support systems. The same things that are negatively impacting our health are also having the same impacts on our biosphere." Coalition for Darfur: "From AFP: "More than 46 000 people have fled fighting in the past two months between army troops and local militia in the southeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a UN aid official said Wednesday. The numbers of the newly displaced come in addition to 121 000 others who fled the war-torn region of the vast central African state in 2005 following continued unrest, UN humanitarian affairs official Anne Egerton told AFP. Egerton, who heads the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Kalemie, in Katanga province, warned that the situation of the new internal refugees was "extremely difficult"." Intelligence Watch: [Reuters] "The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast needs major reinforcements to cope with the volatile security situation there as the West African nation nears long-delayed elections, the United Nations said on Wednesday. The mission, which now stands at 6,891 soldiers and 697 international police, needs an additional 3,400 soldiers and 475 police officers, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in his latest progress report on Ivory Coast to the Security Council. His appeal, which is certain to meet with resistance in the budget-conscious 15-nation council, was based on the findings of a U.N. team that visited the region in November 2005." Paper Chase: "The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Wednesday appealed to Egyptian authorities in an attempt to prevent the deportation of 654 Sudanese refugees whom Cairo authorities say are in the country illegally. Also Wednesday, US-based rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to stop the deportations, which were announced earlier this week following a violent dispute on December 30 between Egyptian police and approximately 2,5000 Sudanese protesters. An estimated 27 Sudanese were killed [BBC report] during the violence. Both HRW and UNHCR have sent letters urging Egypt not to deport the refugees, with the concern that some of the refugees may face persecution in Sudan if they are forced to return. Reuters has more. AKI has local coverage." Syria Comment: "Khaddam is moving to form a government-in-exile, as-Seyassah reports below. Asad and Sharaa have been asked to testify before the Hariri investigators. According to ABC news, Syria has agreed that Sharaa will testify. Anyone interested in what I had to say on the PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer can read the transcript of the show." Washington Note: "TWN has been inundated with emails asking why I have not written more about revelations about non-court approved NSA intercepts of electronic phone and email transmissions within the United States and the connection to John Bolton's requests for NSA intercept material when he served as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. My response will no doubt frustrate many, but it is an honest one. I don't believe that John Bolton was involved with electronic monitoring or spying domestically -- with a couple of potential exceptions."
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Blog Roundup #75

A sampling of United Nations related blog commentary Rob's House: "The sturgeon in the Caspian Sea are almost gone. That means extinct, never to be seen again. The reason? Caviar. It is therefore good news that the United Nations has declared that there is no longer any legal international trade in caviar from wild fish. Henceforth, only farmed caviar is allowed." Ace of Spades HQ: "UN Investigators Seek Assad Q&A - Go, UN, go!: "A spokeswoman for the United Nations inquiry, Nasrat Hassan, told wire services that investigators had requested interviews with Mr. Assad and with Syria's foreign minister, Farouq Shara, along with others. She said the investigators were awaiting a reply. A preliminary report by the United Nations panel had concluded that the bombing was a terrorist act carried out by high-ranking Syrian and Lebanese intelligence officers." They'll also be interviewing the Syrian ex-VP Khaddam." Bogosity: "Gwynne Dyer writes great analysis of world news. Here's his 2005 wrapup. 2005 Year Ender - Gwynne Dyer: "First, the good news. In October, a comprehensive three-year study led by Andrew Mack, former director of the Strategic Planning Unit in the office of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, concluded that there have been major declines in armed conflicts, genocides, human rights abuses, military coups and international crises worldwide." Sudan Watch: UN warns of growing catastrophe in Sudan - UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned on Thursday that the security situation in Darfur continued to deteriorate. In his latest monthly report on Darfur, he called it a "deeply disturbing trend" with "devastating effects on the civilian population." "Civilians continue to pay an intolerably high price as a result of recurrent fighting by warring parties, the renewal of the scorched earth tactics by militia and massive military action by the government," he said in the report released on 29 December." Coalition for Darfur: "From IRIN - via POTP: "An enormous humanitarian crisis is emerging in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Katanga Province, with tens of thousands of people being displaced, but so far the government and the international community are doing little. ... "The number of displaced in central and northern Katanga now exceeds 100,000," said Anne Edgerton, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the town of Kalemie on Lake Tanganyika. "We know of at least 39,000 people who were recently displaced -- they do not include 72,000 displaced earlier in 2005." Edgerton said there might be tens of thousands more people displaced in the north and centre of Katanga Province - people whom aid agencies are unable to reach because of conflict." Mark A. Kilmer: "The Iraqi Shi'ites, Kurds, and Sunnis want a government. The Kurds had all parties up North for a meeting Tuesday, and the parties are talking and plan will keep discussing matters. A sticking point is still the accusation that the Shi'ites stuffed the ballot boxes: "Though some Sunni Arab leaders say they will protest and reject talks on government roles unless the foreign monitors uphold their claims of fraud, the United Nations has already called the election largely fair and other Sunni politicians are staking their claims to a share of power in negotiations." Stygius: "The domestic and international power-plays in Syria seem to be further fusing into one big chaotic ball, as both the United Nations requests to interview President Assad himself in the Hariri inquiry, and Syria's former vice president (now in exile) does his best on al-Arabiya to imply official approval of Hariri's assassination, breaking with the Baathist regime."
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Blog Roundup #74

A sampling of United Nations related blog commentary Chicken Foot Stew: "The UN General Assembly and Security Council passed resolutions creating a Peacebuilding Commission to help insure that post-conflict societies do not slide back into conflict. Apparently, over half of the conflicts in the past 20 years have reignited after their initial cease-fires." Rose Colored News: "UN Launches $500 Million Emergency Relief Fund - "The U.N. General Assembly approved the establishment Thursday of a new $500 million emergency fund aimed at providing swift relief following natural disasters. The new Central Emergency Response Fund is 10 times larger than an existing standby relief fund of $50 million. U.N. officials hope the creation of a standing account will allow for relief to reach areas hit by disasters and famine quickly." Full Story: Environmental News Network." Agonist: "NYT - The General Assembly and Security Council passed resolutions on Tuesday founding a Peacebuilding Commission to help stabilize and rebuild societies emerging from war." Meat-Eating Leftist: "Bolivia is now yet another South American neighbor that officially rejects American imperialism and unregulated, free-trade capitalism. Evo Morales, a Che-styled leftist who denounced U.S. influence in his country, and vowed to fight the same imperialist forces that have ensnared his people into poverty, looks to be the winner in the country's presidential election: "Mr Morales' win has raised eyebrows in the US, after he expressed his admiration for the Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He has also pledged to fight to remove the coca plant from the United Nations list of poisonous plants..." Opinio Juris: "Secretary General Kofi Annan today announced the adoption of a whistleblower protection policy for the U.N. The policy, which goes into effect next month, is intended to protect U.N. employees who report misconduct and/or who cooperate with investigations. This is welcome news for the project of creating genuine accountability at the U.N. and should help promote the kind of cooperation and good citizenship necessary to effective internal audits and investigations. It sets a standard higher than those available to government employees of many -- if not most -- member states." Shanghai Daily: "FOUR people died last night in a fire in a seven-storey building in the famous Hanzheng Street ... one of the longest and most renowned commercial thoroughfares in China. It acts as the largest small commodity distribution place and wholesale market in central China. The street is also the sister street of Fifth Avenue in New York, according to an agreement signed in September between the management bodies of the two streets. The United Nations Refugee Agency also set up its procurement information center on the street in September. The center is in charge of direct purchases, releasing the UN's needed items list and showing samples from Geneva, headquarters of the UN refugee agency."
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Blog Roundup #73

A sampling of United Nations related blog commentary Global Voices Online: "Passion of the Present reports that the UN is to facilitate the return of 60,000 refugees to the South of Sudan by May next year ... "The move started Saturday and it could take up to five years to repatriate all 560,000 southern Sudanese refugees in seven neighboring countries - Central African Republic, Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda - said Jean-Marie Fakhouri, the head of operations in Sudan for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees." Superspade: "The BBC today has a story about the escalating conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea. This story talks about how U.N. peacekeepers are leaving, more specifically, have been ordered to leave by the U.N. Security Council, by Friday. Who knew about this? Not most Americans. Instead, we are talking about Iraq." Opinio Juris: "In yesterday's Washington Post, we find an article in which Detlev Mehlis, the chief UN investigator into the murder of Rafik al-Hariri, actually accuses Syria of direct involvement in the assassination, as well as linking Syria to the murder of Gibran Tueni. While we can only sit and wait for the UN to release its evidence, let's hope that what has been gathered is so damning that Russia, China, and Algeria will have no hope but to support punishment." TPM Cafe (Larry Johnson): "The revelation that the National Security Agency was allowed to conduct non-FISA intercepts of American citizens should bring last summer's hearing on John Bolton's nomination to the United Nations back into focus. As Legal times noted in September of this year, "During the confirmation hearings of John Bolton as the U.S. representative to the United Nations, it came to light that the NSA had freely revealed intercepted conversations of U.S. citizens to Bolton while he served at the State Department." Harowo: "Toxic waste poisoning Somalia - Just before last December's tsunami hit the coast of Somalia, local fisherman thought their lucky day had arrived. The preceding force of the wave drove lobsters from the seabed onto the shoreline. But as fishermen collected the valuable harvest the biggest wave they had ever seen came towards them. Many homes have been rebuilt along the coast and many villages now have schools and hospitals for the first time ever. In some areas the situation is better now than before the tsunami, says Maxwell Gaylard, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia. ... However, it appears Somalia is experiencing another disaster of unknown proportions thanks to the tsunami." New Communications Blogzine: "Each year, the Millennium Project of the American Council for the United Nations University publishes its State of the Future report. [Disclosure: Jen McClure and I did some pro-bono work for this organization a few years ago to promote this report.] Designed to provide easy-to-read snapshots of the global situation as it pertains to topics such as democracy, technology, organized crime, ethics and so on, it is an excellent resource to get a broad sense of what is happening around the world and how experts expect trends to continue. Each year the SOTF report comments on 15 Global Challenges for Humanity, identified by the think tank's several hundred futurists, scholars, business planners, and policy makers from around the world."