Italy, Sweden and Netherlands Vie for Two Available Security Council Seats

UN-Sicherheitsrat_-_UN_Security_Council_-_New_York_City_-_2014_01_06 May 23, 2016 – Elections for five non-permanent members of the Security Council take place next month with contested races in three of the five UN regional groups. Bolivia is running uncontested to replace Venezuela for the one available seat for Latin America.

The elections are taking place four months earlier than normal to give new members additional time to prepare for the ever increasing Security Council workload. The five new members will join the Council on Jan. 1 2017 for a two-year term. The Eastern Europe seat, currently held by Ukraine, is not up for election this year.

The most talked about race inside the UN is for the Western Europe and Others Group where EU members Italy, Netherlands and Sweden will battle it out for two available seats.

Candidate countries must secure the votes of 129 member states to secure a seat on the Council and it looks, at this stage, that Sweden will take one of the two seats being made vacant by New Zealand and Spain, with guaranteed support from fellow Nordic as well as Baltic states.

Sweden has served on the Council three times previously, most recently in 2000 and is one of the top aid donors to the UN, contributing $356 million so far this year, far more than either the Netherlands ($94M) and Italy ($16M).

The battle would then seem to be between Italy and the Netherlands. Rome is the biggest EU troop contributor to UN peacekeeping with more than 1,000 troops currently deployed and it is also at the fore of dealing with the migrant crisis with the country often the first intended destination for migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean. It last served on the Council in 2008.

The Dutch angered permanent Security Council member the United States back in September when they refused a request to resettle two Guantanamo Bay inmates and this may hinder their bid for a seat. While the US only has one vote out of 193, its influence is much bigger than that particularly among states that are beneficiaries of US aid.

The Netherlands are well served by their foreign minister, Bert Koenders, who until his appointment with the Dutch government was head of the UN mission in Mali, where Dutch troops are also serving.

For their part, the Dutch are keen to stress that the Kingdom of the Netherlands constitutes four distinct countries, including the Caribbean islands of Saint Marten, Curacao and Aruba. Their hope is that the 40 or so small island states will lend their support to Amsterdam with the promise that their voices will be heard on the Security Council.

In the Asia-Pacific group, Thailand and Kazakhstan are in a race for the seat being made vacant by Malaysia. No former Soviet country from Central Asia has served on the Council. The country voluntarily renounced its nuclear arsenal, then the world’s fourth largest, when it became independent in 1991 and it was a key driver of Central Asia becoming a nuclear-weapons-free-zone. It would appear to have the edge on Thailand in the race for a seat.

Thailand is currently ruled by a military junta after a 2014 coup and scheduled elections since have been repeatedly postponed.

Kenya and Ethiopia are both seeking the African seat currently held by Angola. Both countries are home to a large UN presence with the UN Environmental Program and UN Habitat headquartered in Nairobi. Kenya is also home to the Dadaab refugee camp complex, where almost 350,000 refugees live. The Kenyan government announced earlier this month its intention to shut down the camp, a move Ban Ki-moon said could have “potentially devastating consequences.”

Ethiopia is host to one of the largest UN country teams in the world – 27 UN programs and agencies have resident offices there.

That Kenya’s president and deputy president were both subject to indictments from the International Criminal Court and given Nairobi’s vocal campaign against the ICC, there’s speculation that it would use its seat on the UNSC to rail against the ICC. Advantage Ethiopia in this race.

- Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Related: How Much is a UN Security Council Seat Worth and Which Countries Get Elected?

UN And MSF At Odds Over Future of Humanitarian Work

May 10, 2016 –  Medecins Sans Frontiers’ decision last week to withdraw from the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) taking place later this month highlights the tension between aid organizations and the United Nations over the future of humanitarian work.

In a statement, MSF said the summit threatens “to dissolve humanitarian assistance into wider development, peace-building and political agendas.”

The Nobel-prize winning group, which has lost several staff members and had its hospitals bombed over the past year in conflict zones, added that it failed to see how the WHS would address the urgent needs of people living in conflict in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan and other areas of armed violence.

At the heart of the matter is the UN’s desire to promote resilience in doing humanitarian and development work. While MSF say that humanitarian work should be kept separate from development work, the United Nations increasingly sees the two working in tandem.

Those inside the UN advocating for a joint approach point out that countries that emerge from conflict or other complex emergencies do not have a stronger society or systems when the emergency or conflict is over, and very often have a recurrence within five or ten years. For this reason, the UN and the WHS are asking how can countries that have repeated crisis be put on a sustainable path after a crisis.

With this in mind, there is a push to have humanitarian and development actors work in tandem, unlike the traditional sequential approach where aid workers come in and do their work and once they leave development workers come in and try to rebuild the society.

However, because of the core humanitarian principles of impartiality, neutrality and independence, humanitarian actors avoid working with local governments and once they leave the society is no more robust nor does it have a better emergency response system because aid organizations set up their own parallel systems that bypass the local governments, which should be the first line of response.

Another reason for the push towards resilience is that many crises are slow onset and protracted and it’s not necessarily a humanitarian response first and then a development response. Syria is a case in point where the crises is in its sixth year and it is both a humanitarian crisis – tending to the wounded and feeding the hungry – and a development crisis – establishing schools, devising cash for work programs – and it is also a transnational crisis affecting primarily its neighboring countries but also beyond, as in the case of Europe and the debate over refugees.

One can only admire the great work that MSF does around the globe in responding to emergencies and the great sacrifices it has made in doing so, and it it easy to sympathize with their decision not to attend the WHS.

Yet, an opportunity may have been lost in exploring how best to respond to future emergencies with the decision of MSF not to attend, given its status in the humanitarian world. Natural disasters are increasing and new conflicts continue to emerge and escalate at an alarming rate. Dealing with these crises exogenously is not going to work – outsiders going in and then leaving.

Core humanitarian principles – neutrality, independence, impartiality – need to be respected but they do not preclude the recognition and use of local systems. The question is how can local systems be used by respecting impartiality and neutrality and independence. 

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

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Former Maoist Rebels to be Deployed as UN Peacekeepers


April 7, 2016 – Nepal is set to double its contribution to UN peacekeeping operations with the government there approving a plan to deploy almost 10,000 troops over the next year to serve as blue helmets.

Among those to be deployed are former Maoist rebels who have been integrated into the Nepalese armed forces following the 1996-2006 civil war that claimed the lives of 17,000 people.

The Kathmandu Post reports that Nepal’s army plans to deploy more than 9,800 troops to peacekeeping operations, up from its current strength of 4,800, which will see it become the fifth biggest troop contributor to UN peacekeeping operations.

The announcement of more Nepalese troops comes at the same time as South Africa’s withdrawal of its some 800 troops serving with the UN/African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID). Nepalese troops are currently serving in UNAMID, as well as 15 other of the 16 current peacekeeping missions.

Nepal’s army almost doubled during the civil war and about 1,500 rebels were integrated since the war’s end. Haiti is among the missions where Nepalese troops are currently deployed and it was Nepalese troops who introduced cholera into the country five years ago as a result of the UN’s failure to test troops for the virus.

At present there are more than 107,000 UN peacekeepers deployed globally.

- Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Helen Clark to Announce Candidacy in Race for Next UN Secretary-General

April 4, 2016 – The much anticipated announcement of Helen Clark’s bid to become the next secretary-general of the United Nations will come on Monday with the former New Zealand prime minister and current head of the UN Development Program set to become the eight candidate for the post.

Clark will be the second Western candidate, after Portugal’s Antonio Guterres, and the fourth woman to enter the race. The New Zealand government have called a press conference for 9am NZ time while Wellington’s UN mission will hold a presser along with Clark at 5.30PM ET Monday in New York.

She is seen as the favored candidate of the P3 – Britain, France and the United States - but New Zealand had stalled on nominating her. Asked in late 2014 about a potential Clark candidacy, a source close to New Zealand’s United Nations mission told UN Tribune that Wellington was supportive of the view that it was Eastern Europe’s turn to nominate a candidate. Clark would be the fourth secretary-general to come from the Western Europe and Others UN regional group but the first from outside Europe.

No other regional group has had more than two secretaries-general while none of the previous eight have come from Eastern Europe. Although the UN Charter says nothing about regional rotation, it has been an established practice for selecting secretaries-general and was codified in a 1997 General Assembly resolution.

Clark was sworn in as administrator of the UN Development Program in 2009 and is currently serving her second term having been re-appointed in 2013.

The United States is believed to particularly favor Clark as a result of the cost-cutting measures she has undertaken at UNDP, including cutting staff. As New Zealand’s prime minister, she also sent troops to Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led international coalition. Clark did not send troops to Iraq. Although not a member of the alliance, as prime minister Clark signed an agreement to share classified information with NATO.

Her bid to become the ninth UN secretary-general, and first woman to hold the post, comes barely a week before candidates are scheduled for their first set of interviews with the UN General Assembly. The General Assembly, with the support of civil society, has been trying to wrestle away some control of the procedure for selecting the secretary-general from the Security Council but the permanent five members still retain veto over selecting the next UN chief.

Russia has said it favors an Eastern European woman for the post while the P3 have at various stages each said they support a woman taking the reins. It is understood that besides Clark, the P3 were keen to see Ban Ki-moon’s former chief of staff, and current Argentine Foreign Minister, Susana Malcorra, along with Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet, a former head of UN Women, enter the race too. Neither have announced bids and seem unlikely to do so in the next week.

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That Clark hails from the Global South is sure to stand in her favor but whether Russia will support her bid is quite another matter. Some UN member states may also argue that as Queen Elizabeth II is New Zealand’s official head of state, as a member of the Commonwealth, that this violates the understanding that a secretary-general cannot hail from one of the Security Council’s permanent five member states.

Ghana, where the seventh secretary-general, Kofi Annan, hails from, is also a member of the Commonwealth, but its 1960 constitution decrees that the president replaces the British monarch as head of state.

-Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

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Still Seven Candidates for Next UN Secretary-General Three Weeks Before Selection Process Begins

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From top (l to r) Antonio Guterres (Portugal) Danilo Turk (Slovenia) Natalia Gherman (Moldova) Irinia Bokova (Bulgaria) Srgian Kerim (Macedonia) Igor Luksic (Montenegro) Vesna Pusic (Croatia)


March 21, 2016 – The month of March has so far seen no new candidate announcements in the race to succeed Ban Ki-moon and become ninth secretary-general of the United Nations.

Portugal’s Antonio Guterres, most recently UN high commissioner for refugees, was put forward by his government on February 29, becoming the seventh candidate and the only one from outside the Eastern Europe regional group, which remains the only group to never hold the post.

While Guterres is well-regarded, it surprised many UN watchers that the Western Group put forward a candidate as it has had three previous secretaries-general, albeit the most recent, Kurt Waldheim, finished his second term in 1981. Nevertheless, promoting a fourth Western UN chief, when no other group has had more than two, looked insensitive to the overall UN composition.

Of the seven declared, three are women and in what may be another first, there is a strong desire among the general UN membership that after eight men at the helm, it’s past time for a woman to hold the post.

Only three of the declared candidates, Macedonia’s Srgian Kerim, Montenegro’s Igor Luksic and Moldova’s Natalia Gherman are from a non-NATO country, and, if the past is any indication, this could augur well for their bids – but worth noting that Macedonia and Montenegro are both aspiring NATO members, with Podgorica already in accession talks.

Of the three previous European secretaries-general, only one – the first ever secretary-general, Trygve Lie, was from a NATO member state – Norway was a founding member of the alliance in 1949, but this was three years after Lie assumed his post. In the case of Dag Hammarskjold and Kurt Waldheim, neither Sweden nor Austria have ever been NATO members.

Promoting a NATO-member candidate may well force a Russian and, perhaps, a Chinese veto, while Russia may also balk at supporting an EU candidate – and the four NATO member states with candidates are also EU members (Bulgaria, Croatia, Portugal and Slovenia).

The first set of interviews with candidates are set for April 12-14 when UN member states will have the opportunity to meet and question each of the seven.

To the credit of civil society and UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft, the process to select the next secretary-general, at this stage, appears to be approaching a broader basis, and less like a backroom deal among the P5.

- Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Related:

Race For Next UN Secretary-General Taking Shape

Natalia Gherman: Could Moldova’s Foreign Minister Be The Next UN Secretary-General?

Women Still a Minority in Ban Ki-moon’s Cabinet

EU-Turkey Refugee Plan Could Seal UN Cyprus Deal

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A UN peacekeeper observes from the buffer zone dividing Cyprus. (UN Photo)

March 9, 2016 – The plan carved out by Brussels and Ankara on Monday to resettle Syrian refugees, if implemented, could also see a resolution to the four-decade Cyprus dispute, with UN-talks which resumed in May already yielding results.

Under the EU-Turkey plan, Syrian refugees would be returned to Turkey from Greece, and in return for Turkey’s promise to take back refugees, EU countries would agree to resettle Syrian refugees from Turkey.

Ankara’s agreement is contingent on the EU liberalizing visa requirements for Turkey’s 75 million citizens and Turkey also wants to reopen EU accession talks. But for this to happen, Turkey will have to recognize EU member Cyprus. It is difficult to see any EU member state agreeing to reopen accession talks and green-lighting visa liberalization for Turks if Ankara refuses to recognize one of the EU-28. Moreover, Cyprus, as a member state, has a veto on accession talks.

The UN-backed Cyprus talks are aimed at reunification of Northern Cyprus, which is backed by Turkey, with the internationally recognized EU member state Cyprus. The Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded the northern part following a coup d’etat ordered by Greece’s then military junta aimed at unifying Greece and Cyprus.

The coup and Turkish invasion were preceded by years of tension between the island’s Greek and Turkish communities and a UN peacekeeping force has been in place since 1964, making it the United Nations longest-running peacekeeping mission.

In 1983, the Turkish Cypriot community in the north declared independence from internationally recognized Cyprus, but Northern Cyprus is only recognized by Turkey.

Following the 1974 hostilities, UN troops were mandated to monitor the de-facto ceasefire and a 110-mile wide buffer zone was created that runs through Nicosia, Europe’s only divided capital.

While the situation has remained mostly calm since, a political solution has remained elusive and the Security Council has renewed the mandate for UNFICYP every six months.

But the election of a new Turkish leader in Northern Cyprus, Mustafa Akinci, last April – he campaigned on a peace platform – gave impetus to the talks. The Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades, elected in 2013, has long called for a deal.

The talks which began in May have been held at the highest level with both leaders agreeing to six rounds of face to face meetings and both also released video messages in each other’s respective language at the end of 2015 calling for a peace deal this year.

Any peace deal must be approved in referendums by both Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities.

A resolution to the dispute would ease tensions between fellow NATO members Greece and Turkey and would also pave the way for Turkey’s recognition of Cyprus, which in turn would ease the way for Cyprus to withdraw its veto over Turkey’s EU accession process.

Turkish President Recep Erdogan has long prized EU visa access and the refugee deal reached on Monday, if it goes ahead, could result in Turks being granted automatic Schengen visas in June, but only with Cyprus’s consent, and that’s why a resolution to the island’s 42-year dispute is crucial.

- Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Where Do The 41,000 People Working for the UN Secretariat Come From?

First Phase Digital March 3, 2016 –  In Thant Myint-U and Amy Scott’s definitive The UN Secretariat: A Brief History (1945-2006), the secretariat is described as a political battleground where “the UN’s member states compete for power and influence and attempt to diminish the power and influence of others.”

The most recent Composition of the Secretariat report illustrates how political power and financial contributions impact hiring with just three of the 193 UN member states – the United States (2,636), France (1,470) and the UK (907) – accounting for almost 15 percent of the 41,081 Secretariat staff .

The Secretariat, which the UN Charter says “shall be comprised of a Secretary-General and such staff as the organization may require” essentially implements the resolutions of the General Assembly and Security Council, including managing peacekeeping operations, and also includes OCHA and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It does not include specialized agencies such as UNICEF, UNDP and WHO.

Besides the P3, the other permanent members of the Security Council – China and Russia – contribute 461 and 551 secretariat staff. Germany and India, aspiring permanent members, contribute 537 and 593 staff while there are 259 Japanese nationals and 326 Pakistanis working for the secretariat. Japan is the second biggest financial contributor to the UN budget, followed by China and Germany. The US is the biggest.

Ethiopia and Sudan also contribute high numbers to the secretariat staff. In the case of Addis, this is because it is one of the biggest UN country offices in the world, home to 26 UN programs, funds and agencies. In the case of Sudan, this is down to the fact that Sudan is home to two peacekeeping missions (UNAMID and UNISFA) and one of the UN’s biggest humanitarian operations.

There are 1,750 Kenyans working for the UN, this also a result of Nairobi’s designation as a UN regional hub.

On the other end of the scale, there are only 2 Emiratis, 5 Qataris, 20 Saudis and 25 Moldovans working for the secretariat while there are no Kiribatis.

Two of the countries on the UN Security Council sanctions list, Iran and North Korea are also under-represented, with just one North Korean and 60 Iranians employed by the secretariat.

Other countries of note are Syria (238), Turkey (81), Canada (660), Brazil (174) and Norway (90).

The average age of a UN secretariat employee is 42 and more than 200 people apply for every open position, according to General Assembly’s advisory committee on budgetary questions.

Overall the number of female employees of the secretariat stands at 34.4 percent and there is an even wider gap at the highest level of under-secretary-general where of a total of 78 people who hold this post, just 18 are women.

- Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Race for Next UN Secretary-General Taking Shape

The six official candidates to date to succeed Ban Ki-moon

The six official candidates to date to succeed Ban Ki-moon

Feb. 22, 2016 – There are now six official candidates to succeed Ban Ki-moon and become the ninth secretary-general of the United Nations.

Four of the six declared candidates hail from the Balkans with the former Yugoslav countries hedging that strong trade links with Russia, as well as EU membership in the case of Croatia and Slovenia, and EU accession status, in the case of Macedonia and Montenegro, could see them bridge the West-Russia divide in the UN and get the support of both.

Besides Croatia’s Vesna Pusic, Macedonia’s Srgian Kerim, Slovenia’s Danilo Turk and Montenegro’s Igor Lusik, the two other candidates are Bulgaria’s Irina Bokova and Moldova’s Natalia Gherman.

Bokova, the current director-general of UNESCO, was nominated earlier this month by the Bulgarian government despite much speculation that her compatriot Kristalina Georgieva was Sofia’s favored candidate – the EU budget commissioner is also favored by the Western P5 countries, Britain, France and the US.

But all is not lost for Georgieva as the candidate process does not rule out a UN member state nominating two candidates nor does it stipulate that a candidate has to be nominated by their country of citizenship.

The sixth and most recent declared candidate is Moldova’s Natalia Gherman. UN Tribune was first to write about Gherman as a potential successor to Ban Ki-moon, noting back in April 2015 that Moldova’s strong ties with Russia, its non-membership of NATO, as well as her own pro-EU outlook, could see her emerge as a compromise candidate.

Gherman is scheduled to speak at New York’s Columbia University next week and it is interesting to note in her bio she lists fluency in English, German, Romanian and Russian – but not French, an unofficial requirement of UN secretaries-general. But there’s little reason for her to worry about this as it’s widely known that Ban Ki-moon was taking intensive French classes after his election, and French-languaue reporters still like to test him on his proficiency.

There are no clear favorites yet to succeed Ban and the list of candidates is sure to increase but what is clear so far is that the next secretary-general will come from Eastern Europe – there is no requirement as such but it is the only region not to have had a secretary-general and there is wide agreement in the general membership, if not the P5, that it is Eastern Europe’s turn – and that the UN may well elect its first female secretary-general.

Update: Feb 29, 2016 – Former UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres has been nominated by the Portuguese government. Guterres is a former prime minister of Portugal and served as UN refugee chief from 2005-15, during the worst refugee crisis in UNHCR’s history. The Portuguese government made the announcement on Monday. He is the first candidate to be nominated by a non-Eastern European member state and his candidacy, while popular, is likely to face stiff resistance from veto-wielding Russia.

- Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Related: Natalia Gherman – Could Moldova’s Foreign Minister be the Next UN Secretary-General?

Libya Loses UN General Assembly Vote Over Non-Payment of Dues

60th plenary meeting of the General Assembly 66th session:

Feb. 4, 2016 – Libya has been suspended from voting in the UN General Assembly over non-payment of dues.

The country, which has two competing parliaments and governments, has been in turmoil since NATO forces intervened in 2011 and removed Muammar Gaddafi from power following a UNSC resolution authorizing action to protect civilians.

A recent UN report also says ISIS is established and seeking to expand in Libya.

The loss of a General Assembly vote is a result of falling foul of  Article 19 of the UN Charter, which states that countries will lose their UNGA vote if their “arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two full years.”

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A minimum payment of $1.4 million is needed for Tripoli to regain its vote, according to a letter from Ban Ki-moon to the General Assembly.

In total, Ban named 15 countries in his January 18 letter to the General Assembly, including Bahrain and Iran, but the other countries have since either made the necessary payment or, as in the case of Somalia and Yemen, been given a waiver as the UN Committee on Contributions has determined that conditions beyond their control contributed to this inability to pay.

Libya is assessed annual dues to the United Nations’ regular budget of $3.1 million.

- Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Germany to Send Troops to Bolster UN Force in Mali

Jan. 28, 2016 – Germany’s parliament on Thursday voted to approve the deployment of a contingent of up to 650 troops to join the 12,000-strong UN stabilization mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

The first deployment will begin January 30 and full deployment is expected to be achieved by June and will make Berlin the third biggest European troop contributor to UN peacekeeping, behind Italy and Spain.

Germany was one of 50 countries that pledged some 30,000 additional troops to United Nations peacekeeping operations at a summit chaired by US President Barack Obama in September on the sidelines of the annual General Debate.

The United States is the biggest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping, followed by Japan, China, and Germany.

The deployment of the German troops will be the first time in 23 years that a UN peacekeeping mission has had a full German army contingent. The last time was in Somalia in the early 1990s, when a German contingent served with UNOSOM II.

Germany currently contributes small numbers to seven UN peacekeeping missions and one political mission, in Afghanistan, deploying about 250 personnel in total.

The UN force in Mali was established in April 2013 and subsumed an African-led peacekeeping mission.

The Mali mission has become one of the deadliest for UN peacekeepers with 73 troops losing their lives in service there, including 44 through malicious acts up to Dec. 31, 2015, according to information from the UN’s dept. of peacekeeping operations.

On Thursday, four Malian troops were killed in two separate incidents.

Al Qaeda-linked fighters took over the country’s north in 2012, including the historical city of Timbuktu.

A peace agreement was signed in June last year between Tuareg separatists, armed militias and the government.

European countries are keen to stabilize Mali because of the impact it has on the Sahel region in general and Libya in particular, which is a major transit route to EU countries for migrants and asylum-seekers fleeing violence and poverty.

The German troops will be deployed to Gao and will serve in various capacities including intelligence, logistics and force protection, according to information from Germany’s UN mission in New York.

- Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz