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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.

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Might the U.S. contribute more personnel to UN peacekeeping missions?

U.S. Permanent Representative Susan Rice suggested as much, in a statement during a Security Council debate on peacekeeping yesterday:

The United States, for its part, is willing to consider directly contributing more military observers, military staff officers, civilian police, and other civilian personnel—including more women—to UN peacekeeping operations. We will also explore ways to provide enabling assistance to peacekeeping missions, either by ourselves or together with partners. Let me single out one immediate priority: we will assist with generating the missing forces and enabling units required for UNAMID, MINURCAT, and MONUC to better protect civilians under imminent threat of physical, including sexual, violence. [emphasis mine]

Both of these would be pretty bold promises.  The United States currently contributes just 75 police officers and 10 military observers to UN peacekeeping missions, good for 68th place in the ranking of troop-contributing countries (right behind Romania and Mali) and a tiny fraction of the almost 100,000 personnel operating around the world.  This paucity of U.S. personnel in the field has long been a blight on U.S. support for the UN, and it will be quite the accomplishment for Rice's team if she succeeds in increasing the numbers.  The United States supports every UN mission that currently exists, and the country should be honored to send its troops police officers and military observers (U.S. troops are not likely to be forthcoming, because that "would mean putting American soldiers under U.N. command" -- a condition that no other country seems to find an impediment) alongside the others who risk their lives for the sake of global peace and security.

The second part of Rice's statement above -- that the United States will work to fully deploy the heinously understaffed missions in Darfur, Chad, and DR Congo -- may just prove even more difficult than contributing a few dozen more American personnel.  Thousands of troops for these missions have been supposed to arrive for many months, but due to a combination of host government resistance and reluctance on the part of troop-contributing countries, the missions have struggled on short-handed, unable to fully carry out their mandates.  Nudging the right countries behind the scenes will require deft diplomacy, and finally gathering the equipment and vehicles that these troops need will take an investment from wealthy nations that we have not yet seen.  One thing's for sure, though: Ambassador Rice will have a hell of a lot easier time going around asking other countries to contribute troops if her own country coughs up a few of its own.

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Ban Ki-moon is “second best in the world”

We knew he was hip, but "second best in the world?"

United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon is the second-highest ranked world political leader who has the confidence of many people around the world.

Ban Ki-moon inspired more confidence than any other political leader polled, except United States President Barack Obama, the United Nations information centre in Pretoria said on Tuesday, referring to a survey by

Coming in second behind Barack Obama -- whose public speaking, I think we can agree, is a little more inspirational -- is not too shabby for the South Korean.

The poll asked nearly 20,000 respondants in countries that represent 62% of the world's population their impressions of world leaders.  From World Public Opinion:

US President Barack Obama has the confidence of many publics around the world - inspiring far more confidence than any other world political leader according to a new poll of 20 nations by A year ago, President Bush was one of the least trusted leaders in the world.

What difference a year makes!  And for his part, it would seem that Asian publics propelled the Secretary General to second place.

Views of Ban Ki-moon are particularly positive in Africa and in Asia - nearly all Asian nations give him positive confidence scores led by South Korea (90%). Indonesia is an exception: views are divided. Large majorities in both Kenya (70%) and Nigeria (69%) express confidence in him.

Countries polled in Western Europe have confidence in the Secretary General, including Britain, Germany, and France, but Poland and Russia do not, and Ukraine is divided. A majority of Americans (57%) report little confidence in him, while Mexico leans toward having confidence (38% to 33%.)

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Ban Ki-moon is hip — but then, we already knew that

Evaluating the S-G's performance thus far, Stephen Schlesinger looks at some of the places where Ban has accomplished quite a lot, but which haven't received that much attention: places like Kosovo, Haiti, and Sri Lanka, where Ban's frequent trips have all brought about at least some level of improvement in extraordinarily complex circumstances. Schlesinger sees the point that many like to make, that Ban is less charismatic than certain other S-Gs. But, he argues, Ban can be pretty hip himself.

The problem for Ban is his diffident manner, which stands in stark contrast with that of his predecessor, Kofi Annan, a larger than life secretary-general who dominated the scene through his flair, eloquence, and star power. Ban, by contrast, is neither charismatic nor an inspirational speaker - indeed, his English is not as good as Annan's. In his own way, though, he is an engaging, polite man, hip to contemporary cultural icons, and even given to singing at public occasions with wry lyrics and verses. [emphasis mine]

This seems as good a time as any to repost Ban's success in breaking it down with Jay-Z:

Rapping skills aside, Ban's legacy will be judged, as Schlesinger concludes, by "what he has accomplished rather than by personal foibles or flatness of style."