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Pope recommends the UN make dental arrangements

I'm not exactly sure what to make of the Pope's call for a "toothier" UN.  Here are the relevant grafs in his "encyclical," which comes somewhere between an S-G statement and the papal version of a Security Council resolution, I suppose.

In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, even in the midst of a global recession, for a reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth.


The integral development of peoples and international cooperation require the establishment of a greater degree of international ordering, marked by subsidiarity, for the management of globalization. They also require the construction of a social order that at last conforms to the moral order, to the interconnection between moral and social spheres, and to the link between politics and the economic and civil spheres, as envisaged by the Charter of the United Nations.

I think everyone can agree that the UN needs reform, and that giving poorer countries a greater voice should be an eminent concern.  I'm not sure what he means by "family of nations;" secularly, this naturally just refers to what we often call the "international community."  I'll assume this is the intended effect, and that other, culture-laden issues of "family" are not implied here.

Greater "international ordering" is similarly welcomed; the encyclical seems to get that, as we say, global problems require global solutions.  But I'm less keen on involving the UN in constructing a "moral order."  Contrary to what the encyclical claims, the term "moral" does not even make an appearance in the UN Charter, likely for the very reason that morals can be subjective, and that freedom of religion -- which the Charter does uphold -- precludes favoring any particular religion's "moral order" over another.

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UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Ban’s Burma trip

From Miliband's most recent blog post.  The British were supportive of Ban's recent trip to Burma.

Ban Ki Moon deserves credit for not taking no for an answer from the Burmese authorities. He refused to postpone his visit  - a visit that he promised to make when he visited the country at the time of Cyclone Nargis to discuss political and economic reform. Ban's closing speech was clear and definitive - the regime's refusal to engage properly was reprehensible.

The easy course would have been to be put off. Now he will report to the Security Council and every member will need to decide how much they care about the refusal of the regime to accept basic international norms. The temptation is to say no visit should go ahead without pre-promising of the results. But sometimes it is worth the risk. This is one such case.

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How swine flu and the economy can help tackle climate change, MDGs, and food shortages

If the G8 can figure out what to do about Italy, they might want to heed some of the Secretary-General's advice. In another op-ed that just might increase a few crushes (or maybe just boost his global popularity), Ban presents the responses to the global financial crisis last fall and the H1N1 epidemic this spring as evidence of the interconnectedness of global problems -- and how vigorous global cooperation can have a resounding impact. Armed with these examples, he lays down the gauntlet for the G8 on three of the causes he has taken up: global warming, the Millennium Development Goals, and the world food crisis. On the first, he sets an ambitious goal:

First, the G8 and other major emitters of greenhouse gases must intensify their work to seal a deal at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen in December. That agreement must be scientifically rigorous, equitable, ambitious and exact. Achieving the goal of limiting the global mean temperature increase to two degrees Celsius will require nations to cut carbon emissions by 50% by 2050. The G8 and other industrialised countries must take the lead by committing to emission cuts of at least 80% from 1990 levels.

It's worth pointing out that this is the minimum that will be necessary to prevent the worst from happening. Yet it's also, thus far, more than the United States and other wealthy countries are ready to commit to. As Ban writes, "co-operation works, but we've only just gotten started."

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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.