Sudan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe Among Thirteen to Lose UNGA Voting Rights

Jan. 30, 2012 – The UN General Assembly has suspended the voting rights of thirteen member states over non-payment of dues.

Among the thirteen who have fallen foul of Article 19 of the UN Charter are Sudan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. 

Article 19 declares that:

A Member of the United Nations which is in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization shall have no vote in the General Assembly if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two full years. 

A minimum payment of $347,879 is required from Sudan to get its voting privileges back, according to the UN Committee on Contributions, while Venezuela will have to stump up $5,113,575 and Zimbabwe $38,815.

In all, 18 countries are not in compliance with Article 19, but five of those, including Central African Republic and Somalia, can still vote as the GA decided that inability to pay is beyond their control.

A list of the countries in arrears under Article 19 is here. This list was last updated on the UN’s website on Jan 21. Equatorial Guinea and Kyrgyzstan have paid up since then and have their voting rights restored, Allison Watson from the Committee on Contributions secretariat said Wednesday.

– Denis Fitzgerald

Susan Rice Irked at ‘State of Palestine’ Nameplate in Security Council

image

Foreign Minister Riyad Al Maliki was the first Palestinian to address the Security Council since the Nov 29 Vote Recognizing the State of Palestine (photo credit: UN Photo) 

Jan. 23, 2013 – Palestinian Foreign Minister Riayd Al Maliki addressed the Security Council’s regular monthly Mideast meeting on Wednesday sitting behind a “State of Palestine” nameplate, provoking a stern response from US envoy Susan Rice

Since the Nov 29 General Assembly vote recognizing Palestine as a non-member observer state, the UN Secretariat has changed the designation of ‘Palestine’ to ‘State of Palestine,’ in line with the GA resolution.

In her remarks to the Council, Rice had this to say:

The United States does not consider UNGA resolution 67/19 as bestowing Palestinian “statehood” or recognition. Only direct negotiations to settle final status issues will lead to this outcome. Therefore, in our view, any reference to the “State of Palestine” in the United Nations, including the use of the term “State of Palestine” on the placard in the Security Council or the use of the term “State of Palestine” in the invitation to this meeting or other arrangements for participation in this meeting, do not reflect acquiescence that “Palestine” is a state. This statement of our position shall apply to Palestinian participation in meetings of United Nations Security Council or in other UN meetings, regardless of whether the United States specifically intervenes on this matter in the future.  

She also had tough words for Israel, whose envoy, Ron Prosor, told the Council – in reference to Israeli settlement plans – that “Jews have been building homes in Jerusalem since the time of King David 3,000 years ago” and that “the presence of Jewish homes in Jerusalem” is not a threat to peace.

Rice, who spoke after both Maliki and Prosor, said Israel’s current settlement plans “run counter to peace” and “would be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution.”

Meanwhile, the Holy See (Vatican) envoy, speaking at the same meeting, suggested that the solution to the Jerusalem issue is to have the city administered by a body similar to the UN Trusteeship Council (which suspended operations in 1994 following the independence of Palau).  

Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikatt said that the only way to guarantee freedom of religion and access to holy sites “might be to involve the United Nations in the Holy City’s safekeeping and administration in some relevant and effective capacity.”

Such a plan was originally envisioned in Resolution 181, which the General Assembly passed on Nov 29, 1947.

Denis Fitzgerald

UN ‘Regret’ Over Serbian War Song Played at UNGA Concert

image
Ban Ki-moon and Vuk Jeremic at Monday’s Concert (source: Blic)

Jan. 17, 2013 – The United Nations has expressed regret that a Serbian war song was sung at a concert held in the General Assembly hall on Monday.

The event, commemorating the Julian New Year and Serbia’s presidency of the General Assembly, was attended by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic, who is Serbia’s former foreign minister.

For the final performance, the Viva Vox choir sung “March on the River Drina,” a patriotic song that recalls a World War 1 battle between Serb and Austro-Hungarian forces on the river Drina, which runs through the Bosnia-Serbia border. The song later became an anthem for ultra-nationalist Serb forces.

A protest letter sent to Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday states that, ”The genocide that occurred in Srebrenica and Zepa, and other parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was conducted by Serbian aggressors while blasting this song as they raped, murdered, and ethnically cleansed the non-Serb population.”*

On Thursday, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said: “We are aware that some people were offended by the encore song at the concert held at the General Assembly on Monday and we sincerely regret that people were offended by this song which was not listed in the official program. The Secretary-General was obviously not aware what this song was about or the use that was made of it in the past.”

At the closing of Monday’s performance, Jeremic dedicated the concert to all those who dream of world peace.

A war song seems an unusual tribute to world peace. 

– Denis Fitzgerald

* “The women knew the rapes would begin when ‘Mars na Drinu’ played over the loudspeaker of the main mosque… While ‘Mars na Drinu’ was playing, the women were ordered to strip and soldiers entered the homes, taking away the ones they wanted. The ages of women taken ranged from 12 to 60. Frequently the soldiers would seek out mother and daughter combinations.” source: “Seventh Report on War Crimes in the Former Yugoslavia: Part II” US submission of information to the United Nations Security Council. 1993.

UN Condemns Attack on Aleppo University

image
More than 60,000 people have been killed in the past 22 months in Syria, according to the UN Human Rights Office 

Jan. 16, 2013 – Tuesday’s attack on the University of Aleppo has been condemned by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who said deliberately targeting civilians or civilian institutions is a war crime.

Two explosions struck the university – one of Syria’s biggest – on the first day of exams, reportedly killing more than 80 people, and injuring 160.

“The secretary-general strongly condemns the appalling attack at Aleppo University yesterday, in which scores of people have been reported killed and wounded,” Ban’s office said in a statement Wednesday.

“Deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian targets constitutes a war crime. Such heinous attacks are unacceptable and must stop immediately,” the statement said.  “All combatting parties in Syria must abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law.”

Ban called “for a reflection by all Syrians about the degradation of a conflict that is tearing their nation apart, and stresses the urgent need for a peaceful political solution that ends the violence and meets the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people.”

The head of UNESCO has also condemned the attack.

“It is truly shocking and distressing to see so many young people dedicated to pursuing their education in the midst of strife lose their life to senseless violence,” Director-General Irina Bokova said Wednesday. “This is a dark day indeed for the entire country.” 

Aleppo University is Syria’s oldest institution of science and technology. The university has about 60,000 students. Tuesday’s explosions reportedly struck an area between the university’s halls of residence and the architecture faculty.

– Denis Fitzgerald 

57 Countries Urge UN Security Council to Refer Syria to ICC

Jan. 14, 2013 – Switzerland, on behalf of 57 countries, on Monday sent a letter to the president of the Security Council urging the 15-nation body to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

Among the signers of the letter were permanent Council members Britain and France as well as non-permanent members Australia, Luxembourg and South Korea. 

Libya and Tunisia were the only Arab countries to sign the letter.

China and Russia, not surprisingly, did not sign on to the letter but neither did Sweden, the United States and current non-permanent Council member Argentina. 

The letter was sent the same day the International Rescue Committee released a report detailing “horrific levels” of sexual violence recounted by refugees who’ve fled Syria in the past 22 months. 

-Denis Fitzgerald 

imageimage

Record One Billion Tourists in 2012: UN

Online Graphing
A record 1 billion people visited other countries in 2012, a more than 50% increase from the amount of people who traveled abroad in 2000. (The figures in the chart above also show numbers for 1970 (166 million), and 1950, (25 million) source: UNWTO.

Jan. 10, 2013 – There were more than one billion tourists in 2012, according to figures from the UN World Tourism Organization, more than double the amount of tourists in 2000 when 435 million people traveled abroad.

Europe was the destination for more than half the tourists last year and was also where more than half the world’s tourists came from. Asia accounted for about 225 million tourist arrivals, the Americas next at some 160 million, followed by Africa and the Middle East which each received more than 50 million tourists last year, according to projected data.

France had the highest number of tourists in the world in 2012 with about 85 million visitors, followed by the US with some 65 million, China, 60 million, Spain, 58 million, and Italy, about 48 million. Smaller European countries showed strong growth too with Ireland receiving close to 8 million tourists and Finland, 4.5 million.

Outside of the US, Mexico had the highest number of tourists in the Americas with close to 24 million visitors, followed by Argentina, about 6 million, Brazil, 5.5 million and Chile, more than 3 million.

South Africa was the top destination for the African continent, receiving almost 10 million visitors last year followed by Morocco with about 9.5 million.

In the Middle East, Egypt witnessed an estimated 32% increase in tourists from 2011, with some 10 million people visiting last year. Saudi Arabia had the highest number of visitors in the region in 2021, with about 18 million arrivals. Syria, not surprisingly, is projected to record a 40% reduction in tourists in 2012 with about 5 million people estimated to have visited the country last year.

The WTO says tourism accounts for one of 12 jobs globally and for about 9 percent of global GDP.

Denis Fitzgerald

$11.8bln Donated to UN Aid Appeals in 2012 – EU, US Top Givers

 image

The UN’s top aid official, Valerie Amos, meets child refugees in Kabul, May 2012 (photo: UN Photo/Fardin Waezi)

Jan. 6, 2013 – Almost $12bln was donated to UN aid appeals last year with the European Union and the United States contributing more than half that amount.

The European Union (European Commission + 27 Member States) was the largest donor providing $4.9bln while the U.S. was the largest individual donor providing $3.1bln to humanitarian aid appeals in 2012.

A breakdown of the EU number shows that the European Commission – the legislative arm of the EU – donated $1.8bln to UN aid appeals last year while member states provided just over $3bln. The biggest member state donors were Britain ($809mln) and Sweden ($684mln).

Non-EU members Norway and Switzerland donated $493mln and $324mln respectively.

Outside of Europe and the US, Japan was the largest provider of aid to the UN, donating $658mln last year, followed by Canada who gave $496mln, and Australia, $296mln.

Among emerging donors, Brazil provided $54mln to UN humanitarian relief in 2012 while the UAE gave $43mln, Russia, $39mln, China $27mln, and Saudi Arabia $27mln. BRICS countries combined contributed $126mln last year with South Africa giving 3.5mln and India $2.7mln..

The Republic of South Sudan ($792mln), Somalia ($676mln), and Sudan ($588mln) were the biggest recipients of UN aid in 2012.

A tally of the top donors is here.

Denis Fitzgerald

50 Member States Still to Pay 2012 UN Dues, Including US

Jan. 2, 2013 – Fifty UN member states have yet to pay their dues to the organization’s Regular Budget for 2012, including the United States – the largest contributor by some distance, assessed to pay 22 percent of the $2.5bln budgeted for last year.

A tally, or “honour roll” as it’s called by the UN, shows that 143 countries have paid their dues to the Regular Budget – which pays staff wages and related costs in eight headquarter locations in the US, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The Regular Budget also covers international conferences, public information work, human rights promotion, and special UN missions to conflict areas.

Nine countries contribute about 70 percent of the total budget: US – $568mln; Japan – $296mln; Germany – $189mln; UK – $156mln; France – $144mln; Italy – $118mln; Canada – $75mln; Spain – $75mln; and China – $75mln. The US is the only one of the nine not to have paid its dues by Dec 31, 2012.

Among the countries that also have not yet paid are Comoros, Jamaica, Lebanon, Mali, Sudan, *South Sudan, and Venezuela.

The two countries with the lowest assessments – Central African Republic and the Solomon Islands – have both paid their $23,000 share.

Republican lawmakers are quick to pour scorn on the UN but a closer look at what the US gains from the organization – strictly in economic terms – paints a different picture.

Of the 43,000 staff working for the UN Secretariat, some 2,700 are US citizens, or 6.2% of the total staff. Japan, the second highest financial contributor, has a mere 167 staff members or 0.59%, according to the latest available Composition of the Secretariat report.

In addition, a 2010 report from UN Foundation showed that the UN Secretariat procured more than $832 million from US companies in 2010. The report also said that the economic benefit to New York City by having UN Headquarters located in the city is about $3.3bln annually.

– Denis Fitzgerald 

(Separate to economic benefits, the US – as well as holding a veto in the Security Council – is also allocated the key top political post in the UN – Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs, currently Jeffrey Feltman. It also gets to nominate the head of the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, currently Anthony Lake; and the World Food Program, currently, Ertharin Cousin.)

* South Sudan was admitted to the UN in July 2011, after the Budget Committee met in June and thus was not assessed.