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UN employee killed in Pakistan

Another tragic example of the dangers that UN personnel face:

The attack on the U.N. worker took place early Thursday at the Kacha Garhi camp near Peshawar. Local police chief Ghayoor Afridi said the assailants tried to abduct the U.N. official and opened fire when he resisted.

The chief of the U.N. refugee agency in Pakistan, Guenet Guebre-Christos, identified the dead U.N. worker as Zill-e-Usman, a 59-year-old Pakistani in charge of the U.N.’s relief efforts at the camp. She said Usman had worked for the U.N. for nearly 30 years and was set to retire soon.

“He was quite an old hand and he was looking forward to his retirement,” Guebre-Christos told The Associated Press. She strongly condemned the attack, calling it a “cowardly assassination.”

This UN worker was one of many trying to help the two million Pakistani civilians that have been displaced. Trying to abduct him — and hinder the protection and resettlement of fellow Pakistanis in the process — was indeed cowardly, as well as foolish, egotistical, and vile.

The report also notes the arrival of the UN team, led by Chilean ambassador Heraldo Munoz, tasked with investigating another cowardly assassination in the country: that of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.


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Sanctions tightening around North Korea

The facts that China appears to be on board — not to mention that the UN panel on North Korea sanctions may come to consensus before its deadline — do not bode well for a defiant Pyongyang.

The U.N. Security Council neared agreement on Wednesday on North Korean firms and individuals to be added to a blacklist for involvement in Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, diplomats said

“We are very close” to agreement, Japanese Ambassador Yukio Takasu told reporters. Diplomats from several countries said a council committee that has been discussing the issue for a month was on target to meet a weekend deadline for completing its task and could do so as early as Wednesday.

Meanwhile, North Korea insists that its “sovereignty” be respected before negotiations can recommence. This seems to have it completely backwards. North Korea’s leaders aren’t exactly the ones to place conditions here; they’re the ones who will need to reconsider their country’s nuclear program if they are interested in, say, having unfrozen bank accounts or being able to travel anywhere.

Yet I wouldn’t be surprised to hear some off-the-mark commentators continue to insist that an utterly isolated North Korea somehow has “the upper hand” in this drama.


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One beneficiary of the financial crisis

Organized crime.

Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said that until the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, the banking system “has been very active and clean,” forcing organized crime to return to cash transactions.

“That was basically the situation until the financial crisis, which started as a liquidity problem, an unwillingness of banks to (engage in) inter-banking transactions,” Costa said. “So you have on the one hand a supply, resources, cash from organized crime and you have banks very (that are) illiquid and striving for cash. Well, that is really license for organized crime to penetrate into the financial system.”

And as with much of the rest of the economy, this dynamic is profiting the few at the expense of the many. Costa made his rather canny financial analysis during the launch of a program bringing multiple UN agencies together to combat West Africa’s rampant trafficking problems, which span from drugs to toxic wastes (?!?). The UN’s political, economic, and peacekeeping offices are all involved in the effort, which is placing an emphasis on the post-conflict issues that trouble much of the region.

On the plus side, it does seem that the “cocaine iceberg” of trafficking from West Africa to Europe is shrinking.


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Turkey to raise Uighur issue at Security Council?

The violence between ethnic Uighurs and Han Chinese that Alanna has blogged about may find its way to the Security Council. Via Ambassador at Large:

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan announced today at a Gulf Cooperation Council meeting that he wants the issue of violence in Xinjiang discussed at the Security Council.

The Turks, currently non-permanent members of the Council and serving as President of the Council for the month of July, are usually reticent of [sic] bringing issues of internal ethnic unrest within states to the Council because of their domestic issues with the Kurds.

Erdogan may want to bring the matter up because many Turks see Uighurs as Turkic-speaking cousins, but the violence does happen to be occurring during Turkish presidency of the Council. And it’s a good sign if countries are willing to talk about issues as they exist, without fearing the implications for “their own” similar issues, such as the status of Turkish Kurds, which should be addressed, but in its own different forum.

At any rate, don’t expect the Chinese, who of course wield a veto, to be too keen to discuss the matter.


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Meet your new UN envoy in Iraq

Replacing Staffan de Mistura will be the current deputy head of the UN Development Program, Dutchman Ad Melkert.  Some praise:

U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said Melkert would bring to the Iraq job “a unique combination of extensive political experience … and economic and development expertise.”

“As a result he enters with a deep understanding of the nature of the challenges and priorities that face Iraq at this phase of its transition,” she told a news briefing.

He’s got his work cut out for him.


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Ban Ki Moon saying useful things in the New York Times

I have an embarrassing crush on Ban Ki Moon. You really can’t blame me. He raps! He married his high school sweetheart!

His op-ed in the New York Times tomorrow just made it worse. In it, he announces the launch of the Global Impact and Vulnerability Alert System:

 “We know the big picture: countries with low financial reserves; countries that face shrinking foreign investment, remittances and aid; countries where demand for exports has fallen. But we need a sharper lens with finer resolution.

 I am marshalling the resources of the United Nations to monitor the impact of the crisis in real-time.”

Ban then calls on donor countries to maintain their support for international aid, pointing out that we already have evidence for what works in international development. He finishes with a call for the reform of international institutions, and an argument for multilateralism.

“Challenges are linked. Our solutions must be, too.”

Other than the Global Impact and Vulnerability System, he’s not saying anything new here. But it’s all things that need to be said. It would border on disaster to reduce foreign aid right now, and we are marshalling institutions created in response to the second world war to respond to a global financial crisis of unprecedented shape.

 On the new alert system – I can’t find any additional information beyond a reference from UNDP and a blog post from iRevolution. UNDP says “The UN system is also working with other development partners to establish a ‘Global Impact and Vulnerability Alert System’, to track the impact of global crises on the most vulnerable, and to provide decision makers with evidence which can guide specific, rapid, and appropriate responses to countries suffering from the crisis.” iRevolution cites an unnamed UN report which also mentions tracking real-time data to support effective decision-making by leaders.


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