Tough Medicine from a UN Insider

Anthony Banbury, a longtime international civil servant, wrote a scathing op-ed in the New York Times this week in which he describes some harsh truth's about the UN's personnel management system. The first major problem is a sclerotic personnel system. The...
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Three Nobel Laureates Oppose Sri Lanka’s Bid for the Human Rights Council

In the run-up to Wednesday's elections to the UN Human Rights Council, Nobel laureates Desmond Tutu, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, and Jimmy Carter have all issued statements opposing Sri Lanka's candidacy. The case against Sri Lanka, according to Tutu:
Sri Lanka has failed to honour its pledges of upholding human rights standards and cooperating with the UN since joining the council two years ago. Indeed, its human rights record has worsened during that time. The Sri Lankan idea of cooperation with the UN, meanwhile, has been to condemn senior UN officials (including the high commissioner for human rights, Louise Arbour, and the under secretary general for humanitarian affairs, John Holmes) as "terrorists" or "terrorist sympathisers." The systematic abuses by Sri Lankan government forces are among the most serious imaginable. Government security forces summarily remove their own citizens from their homes and families in the middle of the night, never to be heard from again. Torture and extrajudicial killings are widespread. When the human rights council was established, UN members required that states elected must themselves "uphold the highest standards" of human rights. On that count, Sri Lanka is clearly disqualified.
Opposition to Sri Lankan membership in the Council -- the successor to the Human Rights Commission, which was much-maligned for its regular inclusion of rights-abusing and abusive regimes -- does seem to have crystallized among NGOs and human rights activists. While the new Council is by no means a paragon of human rights monitoring -- passing more resolutions that condemned Israel than those that censured Sudan, for example -- the campaign to tighten the standards of countries accepted into the body reveals how far the Council has come. Last year, Belarus' candidacy flopped, deterring notorious human rights offenders like Sudan and Zimbabwe from even attempting to stand for election. Sri Lanka may well not be pleased with the negative attention is receiving, but ultimately, both the Human Rights Council and the human rights situation within Sri Lanka stand to benefit.
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New UNF Insights

With a new Secretary General comes new opportunities for the United States to strengthen its commitment to the United Nations. The next UNF Insights column outlines some of the openings that this transitional period presents and argues that American foreign policy would be best served by seizing this new multilateralist moment. Click here for the PDF.
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The Pitfalls of Purchasing Power Parity

The next installment of UNF Insights explores some problems associated with using what economists call "Purchasing Power Parity" (PPP) to assess what each member state must pay in dues to the United Nations. Readers of The Economist might recognize the term from the magazine's periodic "Big Mac Index," which uses the price of a McDonalds hamburger to compare economies around the world. In short, PPP is a way to measure comparative standards of living by comparing the price of a "basket of goods" in one place (i.e. a Big Mac in Bengal) to the same "basket of goods" elsewhere (i.e. a Big Mac in Bologna.) When applied to the price of a hamburger, PPP gives harmless anecdotal evidence about the relative strength of economies. But if used to calculate UN dues - as some key member states have argued - it would have debilitating consequences for UN operations. To find out why, click here for my short essay on the topic.
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Ban Ki-moon Pledges UN Reforms

IHT: "The next secretary-general of the United Nations pledged Tuesday to restore trust in the world body and enact reforms, speaking on the 61st anniversary of the organization's founding. Ban Ki-moon, South Korea's foreign minister who will assume the top U.N. job in January, said the organization cannot forge united global political will in an atmosphere of mistrust.
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Washington Post: Democrats Criticize Bolton as Ineffective

"Senate Democrats unleashed a sharp volley of criticism of President Bush's foreign policy yesterday, arguing that John R. Bolton has done more harm than good as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and does not deserve an extended term. If Bolton's style were less divisive, they said, he might have achieved more reforms at the United Nations and tougher sanctions against Hezbollah and North Korea." [Full story] Bloggers weigh in: FDL Washington Note Think Progress
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Substance – Not Ambassador Bolton’s Personality – Is the Question

Writing in Bloomberg News, Amity Shlaes argues that the opposition to Ambassador Bolton's re-nomination is born from a conviction that he does not possess the right temperament for the job. "Doesn't play well with others," writes Shlaes. "That's the charge against John Bolton.... Other UN diplomats don't like him. They complain about him the way preschool teachers complain about an irritating child -- too loud, too pushy." With respect to Ms. Shlaes, Bolton's temperament is not the issue here. Among the many reasons to question the wisdom and utility of Bolton's re-nomination, the fact that he does not possess the social graces typical of other diplomats in Turtle Bay is beside the point. Rather, questions about Bolton's nomination are grounded in profoundly substantive critiques of his one year tenure as Ambassador.