Putin Coming to New York for UN General Assembly as Russia Presides Over UNSC

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Aug 28, 2015 – With Russia presiding over the Security Council in September, its president Vladimir Putin is also coming to New York later next month for the high-level segment of the opening of the 70th General Assembly.

Putin last addressed the UN in 2005 for the organization’s 60th anniversary.

With Moscow chairing the Council next month, Putin will likely preside over a meeting of the 15-nation body during his visit.

If he does, it will be interesting to watch for which world leaders attend the meeting – and which ones will decide to boycott.

US President Barack Obama chaired a meeting of the Council last September and in September 2009.

 

EU Countries Combined Provide the Same Number of UN Peacekeepers as Nepal

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Aug 24, 2015 – Latest figures from the UN Dept. of Peacekeeping Operations show that 24 of 28 EU member states provide police and troops to peacekeeping missions for a total current contribution of 5,204 peacekeepers.

That’s less than five percent of the current 104,000 troops deployed in 16 missions worldwide and less than the 5,332 peacekeepers that Nepal alone provides.

A majority of EU states provide only tens of peacekeepers while others are in the low hundreds.

The top five EU troop contributing countries to UN peace operations are:

Italy – 1,111
France – 906
Netherlands – 681
Spain – 616
Ireland – 371

Bulgaria, Latvia, Luxembourg and Malta are the four EU countries that are currently not providing any troops to UN missions.

Among those providing the least peacekeepers are Cyprus, 2, Portugal, 3, Belgium, 5, Czech Republic, 13, and Croatia, 15.

Permanent UN Security Council member the UK provides 287 peacekeepers, which is less than fellow permanent member France but significantly more than Russia, 76, and the US, 78. China leads the way among permanent members providing 3,078 troops. The US is the biggest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping.

While Sweden is a strong supporter of the UN, it does not make the top five for contributing personnel to peacekeeping with a total current contribution of 279 police and troops combined. Fellow Nordic countries Finland and Denmark are providing 338 and 49 peacekeepers respectively. Non EU-member Norway is providing 97 peacekeepers.

Germany, which has aspirations of a permanent Security Council seat, provides 175 peacekeepers to current UN missions while neighbors Austria are contributing 191 personnel.

The tiny Baltic countries Estonia and Lithuania are providing four and 43 peacekeepers respectively.

The burden of peacekeeping is shared among South Asian and African nations with Bangladesh currently the top contributor, providing 9,398 peacekeepers, followed by Ethiopia, 8,309, India, 7,960, Pakistan, 7,665, and Rwanda, 5,600.

A summit on providing troops to peacekeeping operations will be held during the 70th General Assembly which opens in September.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Late Djiboutian Envoy Roble Olhaye Remembered at General Assembly Tribute

Late Djiboutian Ambassador Roble Olhaye had served as his country's UN envoy since 1988.

Roble Olhaye had served as Djibouti’s UN envoy since 1988. (UN Photo)

July 28, 2015 – A special session of the General Assembly was held Monday to pay tribute to Djibouti’s former UN ambassador, Roble Olhaye, who passed away last week in New York. He was 71.

Olhaye took up his UN post in 1988 and was also his country’s ambassador to DC and non-resident ambassador to Canada. He served as president of the Security Council in February 1994.

“At this time of mourning, we may take some measure of comfort from knowing that he left a lasting legacy based on nearly 30 years of engagement with the United Nations,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at Monday’s General Assembly tribute. “He was fondly referred to as the ‘eternal representative’ among permanent representatives.  He had great wisdom.  We considered him a leading ‘dictionary’ since he knew so much.”

Olhaye presents his credentials to then secretary-general avier Pérez de Cuéllar in 1988.

Olhaye presents his credentials to then secretary-general Javier Pérez de Cuéllar in 1988. (UN Photo)

Also speaking at Monday’s tribute was US Ambassador Samantha Power. She recalled asking her predecessor, Susan Rice, for advice on who to call on when she arrived at the UN.

“Go see the Djiboutian Ambassador,” Rice told her. “He knows everyone, and he knows everything.”

“There was no geopolitical conversation with Roble that didn’t begin with a discussion of our families, and our love of our kids,” Power told delegates. “That is one quality that made him such a tireless diplomat: he never lost sight of the individuals and families who were – and still are – affected by all of the debates we have here.”

At the time of his death Olhaye was the longest serving ambassador to the United States and held the honorary title Dean of the Diplomatic Corps.

He is survived by his wife and five children.

A Ceasefire or Humanitarian Pause: What’s Happening in Yemen?

Airstrike in Sana'a photo: Ibrahem Qasim - Licensed by Creative Commons

Airstrike in Sana’a photo: Ibrahem Qasim – Licensed by Creative Commons

July 25, 2015 – Media reported on Saturday that a five-day ceasefire (Reuters) or humanitarian ceasefire (CNN) was to take hold in Yemen beginning on Sunday between the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels.

The source of the news was a Saudi Press Agency (SPA) report announcing a “humanitarian truce.”

So which is it?

It seems certain from the SPA report that what is planned is not a ceasefire, which would mean both sides have agreed to a longterm cessation of violence in conjunction with a political process to resolve the conflict.

Instead, it appears that the announced five day cessation of hostilities is a humanitarian pause, such as what was planned for earlier this month but which never took hold, and its sole purpose to allow in desperately needed aid supplies.

Here is a useful glossary from UN OCHA on pauses during conflict.
AccessMechanismsWhile the news of a pause to allow the delivery of aid is welcome, and absolutely vital, it seems like none of the parties is committed to a political process to resolve the conflict, and the UN appears unable to negotiate one.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

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Kosovo Says Seeking UNESCO Membership

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July 22, 2015 – Serbia has vowed to fight any move by Kosovo to join the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci announced on his Facebook page late last week that he expects Pristina’s application to join the organization will be voted on in November though no formal application has been submitted yet, according to UNESCO.

Sapo aplikuam për anëtarësi në UNESCO, agjencionin e OKB për arsim, shkencë dhe kulturë. Ky veprim vjen pas një…

Posted by Hashim Thaçi on Thursday, July 16, 2015

 

The move to join UNESCO, which is responsible for promoting press freedom, defending freedom of expression, and preserving cultural artifacts, is reminiscent of Palestine’s 2011 successful bid to join the organization.

Like Palestine, Kosovo is not a UN member state and veto-wielding Russia is sure to block any future bid, but the country is recognized by 108 United Nations member states. To join UNESCO it will need the support of a simple majority of the Paris-based organization’s 195 member states (besides Palestine, Niue is also UNESCO member but not a UN member state). Palestine’s bid to join UNESCO received 107 votes in support.

As it stands, representatives from Kosovo are allowed speak at UN Security Council meetings on Kosovo but behind a nameplate that lists the speaker’s name, not the country – as it is not a recognized UN member state.

The presidents of Kosovo and Serbia participate in a UNSC meeting, May 27, 2014. (UN Photo)

The presidents of Kosovo and Serbia participate in a UNSC meeting, May 27, 2014. (UN Photo)

Belgrade says an application by Kosovo to join UNESCO violates Resolution 1244 and the move will also likely provoke debate over the protection of Serbian Orthodox churches in Kosovo. Some 150 of these churches were destroyed from 1999-2004 and several more were reportedly destroyed in 2008 unrest.

In 2012, the government of Kosovo announced that it was forming a special police force consisting of Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs to protect Serbian Orthodox churches.

Two of Kosovo’s Orthodox monasteries are on UNESCO’s world heritage list. The monasteries are protected by troops from KFOR, the international security force in Kosovo.

Kosovo has also been fighting for the return of 1,200 artifacts, some dating from the Neolithic period, that it says were appropriated by Belgrade after 1999.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

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Security Council Adopts Resolution Endorsing Iran Deal

The Security Council votes unanimously to endorse the Iran nuclear deal (photo: Russian Mission to UN)

The Security Council votes unanimously to endorse the Iran nuclear deal (photo: Russian Mission to UN)

July 20, 2015 – The UN Security Council on Monday unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reached between Iran and the E3+3 on non-proliferation. The terms of the agreement will be implemented 90 days after the adoption of this resolution. The full text of Resolution 2231 is below including, in Annex A, the JCPOA.

Iran Nonproliferation

Part 2 of resolution – List of individuals and entities (cont.).

UN Yemen Aid Appeal Only 15 Percent Funded

Airstrike in Sana'a photo: Ibrahem Qasim - Licensed by Creative Commons

Airstrike in Sana’a, May 2015 – photo: Ibrahem Qasim – Licensed by Creative Commons

July 14, 2015 –  Gulf countries are conspicuous by their absence on the list of donors to the UN’s $1.6 billion humanitarian appeal for Yemen where more than 80 percent of the population are in need of assistance.

The United Arab Emirates is the sole donor among the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), having committed $18 million towards the $284 million received so far, according to information from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs.

More than 3,200 people have been killed and some 16,000 more injured since a Saudi Arabia-led mission to restore the former Yemeni government began in March after an offensive by Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former president Saleh.

The government in Riyadh has pledged $244 million to the UN appeal but has not delivered the funds. Similarly, Kuwait has pledged $100 million but has also not yet committed.

Oman, Qatar and Bahrain have neither pledged nor committed funds to the appeal. With the exception of Oman, all members of the GCC reportedly have fighter jets taking part in the Saudi-led mission while the United States is providing intelligence and logistical support and has speeded up the sale of arms to the coalition.

Also not among the donors to the UN appeal is Iran. A UN Security Council sanctions committee report last month stated that an Iranian vessel delivered 180 tonnes of weapons in March to a Yemen port under Houthi control.

The US is the top donor to the appeal, having committed $75 million, or 26 percent of the funding received to date.

The UN last week declared the situation inside Yemen a Level 3 humanitarian crisis, the highest level. Only three other humanitarian crisis are designated L3 – Iraq, South Sudan and Syria.

More than 3,500 schools have been closed in Yemen and almost 2 million children are out of school, according to the latest humanitarian situation report from OCHA.

An outbreak of dengue fever has reached six governorates and the UN says it needs to preposition cholera kits ahead of an expected outbreak.

There are increasing cases of measles and rubella and a high risk of a polio outbreak, according to OCHA. At least 160 health facilities are affected by a lack of power and shortages of medicines, IV fluids and surgical supplies.

A delivery of 10,000 doses of Oxytocin has been made to the Ministry of Health to assist women in labor, OCHA says.

A humanitarian pause that was due to take hold over the weekend never materialized.

The full list of donors to the UN appeal for Yemen is below.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Yemen aid appeal

A Guide to the Six UN Security Council Resolutions on Iran’s Nuclear Program

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July 13, 2015 – The UN Security Council has passed six resolutions against Iran over its nuclear program, specifically requesting that Tehran end uranium enrichment activities and comply with requests from the International Atomic Energy Association. Collectively, the resolutions impose an assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo.

1. Resolution 1696 was passed in July 2006 in response to an IAEA report that Iran had not complied with its safeguards agreement. It was adopted with 14 countries in favor and one non-permanent member against, Qatar. The text called on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and to comply with the IAEA, stating that otherwise the Council would impose punitive measures under Article 41 of the UN Charter. Article 41 allows for measures not involving the use of force, i.e. sanctions.

Full text of Resolution 1696

2. Resolution 1737 was passed in December 2006 in response to Iran’s failure to comply with Resolution 1696. The text imposed sanctions – in this case, an assets freeze – against individuals and entities involved in Iran’s nuclear program. Currently, there are 43 individuals and 78 entities on the sanctions list. The resolution also banned the sale, supply and transfer of designated nuclear and ballistic missile technology to Iran. The resolution was adopted unanimously.

Full text of Resolution 1737

3. Resolution 1747 was passed in March 2007 and tightened the sanctions against Iran including preventing the export of arms from the country as well as adding individuals and entities to the list of those under an assets freeze. It also called on states to report to the Sanctions Committee the entry of certain individuals into their territory. The resolution was adopted unanimously.

Full text of Resolution 1747

4. Resolution 1803 was passed in March 2008 and for the first time imposed a travel ban on certain individuals associated with Iran’s nuclear program. It also added to the list of individuals that states must report to the 1737 Committee if they enter into or transit through their territory. Fourteen countries voted for the resolution while non-permanent member Indonesia abstained.

Full text of Resolution 1803

5. Resolution 1835 was adopted in September 2008. Unlike the previous four resolutions it was not adopted under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. It imposed no new measures against Tehran but reiterated the four previous resolutions and endorsed a statement from the president of the Security Council calling for an “early, negotiated solution” to the Iranian nuclear issue. The resolution was adopted unanimously.

Full text of Resolution 1835

6. Resolution 1929 was adopted in June 2010 and tightened the arms embargo against Iran as well as expanding the list of individuals and entities subject to an asset freeze and travel ban. Non-permanent members Turkey and Brazil voted against the resolution while fellow non-permanent member Lebanon abstained.

Full text of Resolution 1929

Understanding Resilience – An Interview with the UNDP’s Samuel Doe

 Samuel Doe is the UNDP policy adviser for crisis, fragility and resilience (photo: Josh Styer/EMU)


Samuel Doe is the UNDP policy adviser for crisis, fragility and resilience (photo: Josh Styer/EMU)

July 10, 2015 – When Samuel Doe was growing up during Liberia’s 1990s civil-war he recalls aid workers distributing wheat to feed the hungry.

“Liberians never ate wheat. We had to learn to eat wheat,” he says. “It wasn’t our decision.” He also remembers mothers queuing up to receive cooked porridge to feed their babies and aid workers insisting on feeding the babies themselves. “They did not trust the mothers would feed their babies.”

“That sort of indignity is becoming less and less now,” says Doe, who is the UN Development Program’s policy adviser on resilience, an often-used and misunderstood term that is transforming the way aid and development work.

At a fundamental level, “resilience is about harnessing agency, the intentional action of human beings and believing that human beings can make dignified decisions that over time strengthen their independence, strengthen their interdependence and their self-reliance,” Doe explains.

But how does that translate on the ground for the UN and international NGO’s doing aid and development work and what were the reasons behind the shift to a resilience approach?

There are four broad reasons, Doe says.

The first is a realization that, with a lot of complex emergencies, once the response and recovery phase is over, these countries do not have a stronger society and stronger systems.

“We find them repeatedly again and again falling back onto those conditions of fragility that have been exacerbated by the crisis. Countries that have gone through war and have recurrence in 2-3, maybe 5-10 years,” Doe says. “Countries that have repeated disasters have been depleted of human resources and social capital. That is one of the reasons why people begin to ask how can we make the humanitarian response and recovery processes put countries on a path that is sustainable after a disaster.”

“The second reason behind the motivation, the push to resilience, is that prior to this thinking we have always thought in the international system that there is a sequential approach, a sequential relationship between humanitarian response and development. So there is a crisis, the first line actors are humanitarians, they do their bit then they get out and then we come in and then development people pick up the pieces. But, increasingly, depending on the quality of work that humanitarians do, they are likely inadvertently to make the development space more difficult.”

“For example in many humanitarian responses there is a tendency to develop parallel systems: we can’t work with the governments so we will establish our own coordination system, which brought about the cluster system. We will set up our own accountability system. The funding mechanism will go directly to the implementing organizations that we will work with. So government being the primary actor to responding to disaster is often left out in these emergency response.”

“Parallel systems that are developed in a crisis context that then overcrowd the local government systems over time make them almost inoperable to assume responsibility once the response is over. Many governments are saying increasingly that unless we use the country systems in preparing and responding to disasters it will be difficult for these countries to develop much more robust systems against future disasters.”

The third reason is that emergencies are increasingly slow-onset, says Doe, and aid and development work is happening at the same time.

“Take the case of Syria, the case of the Horn of Africa, or the case of the Sahel. There is no relief and then development. There is relief and then development constantly interacting because it’s a slow-onset crisis, it’s a protracted crisis. This illusion that humanitarians will do their bit, they will get out and then we’ll come in does not work. Therefore we have to cultivate a new way of working that allows development actors and humanitarian actors to work in the same space at the same time but that then puts a lot of pressure on the humanitarians who say well ‘we need the core humanitarian principles to still be respected,’ principles of neutrality, independence, impartiality. These need to be respected but they do not preclude the recognition and use of local systems. So how can local systems be used by respecting impartiality and neutrality and independence. This is the discourse we are pushing.”

The fourth reason is that the architecture of the development and humanitarian communities reflects the financial architecture of the donor communities so there are donors that fund only humanitarian work and donors that only fund development work. “There is no bridge conceptually or operationally for humanitarians to tap into development funds and vice versa,” Doe says.

But slowly UN appeals are being reconfigured to move away from short-term appeals, months or up to one year, to multi-year appeals that address both the humanitarian emergency and the underlying development issues.

So how will a resilience approach be implemented and what lessons have been learned from the past?

“Society should have the capacity to predict risk and if possible prevent risk using development, prevent the threat factors that are preventable,” says Doe. “So say, for example, we look at the Ebola crisis in West Africa, we’re saying the recovery plan should emphasize the resilience of the countries because when the crisis happened, it only took three months for Ebola to destroy the institutions the international community had invested billions into in Liberia and Sierra Leone. It took just three months for the economy to go into free fall, for the health systems to collapse completely. The highest donor support in Liberia was to the health sector. The system that we put the most money into was the system that collapsed in three months. What gave way to that?”

“Prior to Ebola, Liberia had literally 51 doctors for 4.5 million people. More than two-thirds of those doctors were concentrated in Monrovia, Although we’re investing in building the infrastructure of the health system, we’re building the clinics, but the Liberian medical school was producing less than 20 doctors every year. It’s appalling that the doctors being produced weren’t equipped to deal with very basic supply chain management, access of rural clinics to supplies, roads that were inaccessible. Even basic gloves were not in villages and clinics. So the way we invested in the health system focused a lot on payment of salaries, focused a lot on building the infrastructure but the human capital that is necessary to sustain those systems was less invested in. So our investment was sort of skewered to different priorities.”

A major push behind resilience thinking is strengthening local governments as they are the front-line responders to a crisis.

“If we do risk sensitive development we need to emphasize local government systems, emphasize working with local governments, making sure local governments and administrative bodies are strong, that local governments have their own preparedness capacity in place,” Doe says. “That there is a strong, fluid, very active supply line, a communication line that runs across local and central governments. We’ve  seen that in the Ebola crisis, we’ve seen that in other crisis: when the local systems are functioning, when the local communities are actively engaging the systems, the response capacity is fast and is effective.”

The resilience approach is now being used for the Syrian crisis and Doe explains the thinking that lead to this.

“There was tension between humanitarians and the development people. At some point the humanitarians said this is a humanitarian crisis, we want to focus on humanitarian issues. we do not want the development actors to confuse this, but over time we all realized that this crisis is going on years and it’s transnational. Turkey is affected, Jordan is affected, Lebanon is affected. They all have refugees. The refugees are not all in camps, they’re in homes, some are working. So you can’t use the way we do humanitarian response in that setting.”

“In Lebanon for example you have two shifts of schools, morning and in the afternoon, so maybe you have to increase the salaries of teachers. Paying that cannot come through a humanitarian fund, it goes through the government. That is the kind of thing that is happening. Strengthening systems of governments so that they deliver on a humanitarian crisis. Rather than strengthening humanitarian systems so that they deliver only humanitarian aid. So that is the distinction that is being made in the Syrian situation.”

Prepaid cards distributed to Syrian refugees in Jordan.

Prepaid cards distributed to Syrian refugees in Jordan.

Another example Doe gave is the credit card system used in Jordan where Syrian refugees are given prepaid cards instead of aid workers determining what goods and services the refugees need, the refugees decide for themselves.

“They have credit cards now, they can go to a bank, use their credit card and get their funds for their own welfare. That’s an example of choice, of empowerment. So giving them choice giving them the freedom of choice is an important outcome or characteristic of building resilience. It’s dignity,” says Doe, who was instrumental in designing the 3RP plan for Syria.

Although resilience has been a buzzword for the past few years, it is only now that it is being codified. The United Nations is about to release its UN System Principles on Building Resilience, a document two years in the making that involved not just the UN’s humanitarian and development arms but also international NGO’s working on the ground.

“It’s an amazing process, just to have a blueprint, something that is codified,” Doe says. Now the hard work starts. “Multi-year appeals, getting donors to  change their way of thinking, trying to really get governments thinking too that this is about ownership: this is your crisis. Working together more coherently getting coordination systems way ahead of time, making sure we have preparedness -  we spend billions of dollars on response but less than one percent on readiness of countries, changing that paradigm, making sure we spend a bit more money on getting people ready. Are these schools ready, are they producing the right human capital?”

Doe also says a more integrated early warning system, not just for food and conflict, but also pathogens is needed. He said there’s currently a push to get the EU to develop its own Center for Disease Control so that it too can provide global disease surveillance.

The stark reason why the UN is changing the way aid and development is done is simply because natural disasters are increasing and new conflicts continue to emerge and escalate at an alarming rate. This underlies the resilience approach.

“We will not be able to deal with all of these exogenously, just from outsiders going in,” Doe says. “That’s not going to work.”

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

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Cuba First Country to Eliminate Mother to Child HIV Transmission

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June 30, 2015 – The Caribbean region has the second highest incidence of HIV after sub-Saharan African but has made steady progress over the past decade in reducing new infections and on Tuesday Cuba achieved a feat that has so far evaded the rest of the world.

The World Health Organization announced that the island nation has become the first country to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The most recent figures from WHO show that 240,000 children globally were born with HIV in 2013, down from 400,000 in 2009.

“Eliminating transmission of the virus is one of the greatest public health achievements possible,” WHO Executive-Director Margaret Chan said in a statement. “This is a celebration for Cuba and a celebration for children and families everywhere.”

An estimated 1.4 million women living with HIV become pregnant annually and, unless treated with anti-retrovirals, have a 15-45 percent chance of transmitting the virus during pregnancy, labor or through breastfeeding. If both mother and child receive antiretroviral treatment during these crucial stages then the risk of transmission is lowered to about 1 percent, according to WHO.

The Caribbean nation has also eliminated mother-to-child transmission of syphilis. Some 1 million pregnant women are infected with the disease annually and it results in early miscarriage and stillbirth, newborn death, low-birth-weight and other serious infection in newborns.

The WHO guidelines for validating elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis notes that as treatment is not 100 percent effective, elimination is defined as a reduction to such a low-level that it no longer constitutes a public health concern. Among the indicators are new HIV infections among infants are less than 50 cases per 100,000 live births or less than 5 percent for women living with HIV who are breastfeeding. These targets must be met for two consecutive years.

In 2013, only two babies in Cuba were born with HIV and only five with syphilis.

- Denis Fitzgerald 
On Twitter @denisfitz