Outbreaks of Cholera and Ebola as Race for WHO Chief Gets Nasty

Candidates for the next WHO director-general: David Nabarro, Sania Nishtar and Tedros Adhanom

 

May 16, 2017 – Next week delegates will gather for the World Health Assembly and vote for a new director-general of the World Health Organization.

The election comes at a time when WHO are dealing with a cholera outbreak in Yemen that risks spreading quickly due to the dire humanitarian crisis there already and the reemergence of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Pakistan’s Sania Nishtar, UK’s David Nabarro and Ethiopia’s Tedros Anhanom are the three vying for the post and this week the race hardened with accusations that Nabarro is running a smear campaign and is also using UN and WHO staff on his campaign, contravening the code of conduct for WHO’s election process.

The charge comes from Mukesh Kapila, a professor of global health at the University of Manchester in England. Kapila tweeted photos of what he says are leaked communications from Nabarro’s team. One of the recipients in a January email from Nabarro to his “Support Team” is Laurence Gostin, a professor of global health at Georgetown University in Washington DC.

The spark for Kapila to make the charge against Nabarro and his team is that Gostin was quoted as the source for an article in the New York Times this week accusing Tedros of covering up cholera outbreaks when he was Ethiopia’s health minister.



Gostin told the paper he went public to protect WHO and that his intervention was not authorized by Nabarro, who also said he did not authorize the release of the accusations.

Kapila has also retweeted several tweets supportive of Tedros’s campaign.

The new director-general will take the reins on July 1 when current DG, China’s Margaret Chan, steps down.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Related: Replacing Vaerie Amos: Political Appointment or Merit Based?

UN Chief’s Cabinet Stacked With Men, Less than 30% of Posts Held by Women

Antonio Guterres takes the oath of office for his five-year term as UN Secretary-General. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten.

April 18, 2017 – Antonio Guterres has done little so far to reverse the gender imbalance in terms of senior posts held by women in the United Nations.

The UN’s senior management group, which essentially acts as Guterres’ cabinet, consists of 42 high-level appointments, and of the 42, just 13, or less than 30 percent, are held by women, much the same as it was under Ban Ki-moon.

Immediately after his election as the ninth UN secretary-general, Guterres spoke of his commitment to a UN where 50 percent of senior posts would be held by women, which was also the goal of his predecessor, Ban Ki-moon.

His first appointments were encouraging in this regard, appointing Nigeria’s Amina Mohammed as his deputy and Brazil’s Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti as his chef-de-cabinet.

Since then however, two of the top posts held by women, executive-director of the World Food Program and administrator of the UN Development Program have been given to men with David Beasley replacing Etharin Cousin as head of WFP, and Achim Steiner replacing Helen Clark as head of UNDP.

Guterres has to be mindful of the gender imbalance in the UN system given the widespread expectation that Ban would be succeeded by a female leader, which would have been the world body’s first ever.

But it seems as if it’s business as usual so far under Guterrres, with the permanent five members ruling the roost. Another Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Lacroix was appointed as head of peacekeeping while the other crucial and high visibility posts, such as heads of OCHA, UNICEF, Political Affairs – currently all held by men, will likely be divvied up among the P5.

It’s early days in Guterres’ reign and it has to be acknowledged that he is bound by the wishes of the P5, but advocates are closely watching his appointments with the expectation that he will hold firm on his promise made after his inauguration.

“In the appointments I’ll be making – and the first ones will be announced soon – you will see that gender parity will become a clear priority from top to bottom in the UN,” Guterres told journalists after the ceremony.

His first 100 days in office have passed and besides the the two early appointments, Guterres has so far failed to live up to his promise.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Venezuela, Libya, Sudan Lose UN Voting Rights Over Non-Payment of Dues

April 11, 2017 – Sudan, Libya and Venezuela have had their General Assembly voting rights suspended because of non-payment of dues.

These countries have fallen 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.”

Notice Posted on the UN’s Website

Venezuela recently completed a two-year term on the UN Security Council while Sudan is host to the world’s second biggest peacekeeping mission, a 20,000 strong joint African Union – UN mission in Darfur.

Libya has been ravaged since the 2011 UN-backed military action led to the overthrow and killing of strongman Muammar Gaddafi. A UN support mission in the country has failed to bring competing sides together to form a central government.

Tripoli has arrears of $6.5 million, according to a letter from Antonio Guterres to the General Assembly, while Caracas is in the hole for $24 million and Sudan has arrears of $264,000.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

US Has Good Cause to Seek Reductions in Contributions to UN

First Phase Digital

March 20, 2017 – At a time when the United Nations is seeking funds to address massive humanitarian crises in Yemen, South Sudan and Somalia, reports that the Trump administration is seeking to cut its funding to the world body by up to half are particularly unwelcome.

The United States is by far the biggest contributor to the UN system, contributing 22 percent to the regular budget and also 28 percent to the peacekeeping budget. That it is a permanent member of the Security Council and that the UN headquarters is hosted in New York City go some way towards the US getting its money’s worth (the economic benefit to New York City from the UN is some $3.3 billion per year).

In truth, the UN is divided into two classes: the veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, and all others, and it is the P5 who rule the roost at UN headquarters. The top jobs are divvied up among the five and they have the power to influence hiring and firing (witness last week’s ‘resignation’ of the secretary-general of ESCWA after angering Washington with a report that said Israeli treatment of Palestinians amounted to apartheid).

As researcher Cedric de Coning recently pointed out in a Twitter post, a fairer system of assessing dues would be for the permanent members of the Council to pay 10 percent each towards the regular budget, which would amount to about $1 billion each – a savings to the US of about $2 billion. Combined, the other four permanent members, Britain, France, China and Russia, pay less than 17%, with the UK and France paying some 6 percent, China, 3 percent and Russia less than two percent.

The UN could also make make life easier for itself and those it serves by imposing mandatory assessments to fund its aid programs, just as it does for the regular budget and the peacekeeping budget. Its dependence on voluntary contributions is not working and when crises emerge, as they constantly do, the UN is hamstrung by lack of money. But the UN also has to improve how it delivers aid and addresses crises. It can do this by continuing to focus on resilience and helping fragile countries increase local capacity.

The UN is vital but it is also a poorly managed bureaucratic labyrinth with some 30 funds, programs and agencies all vying for money and influence and oftentimes operating with overlapping mandates and duplicate efforts, wasting precious resources.

If the UN wants the new US administration to take it seriously then it must get serious about becoming more transparent on how its money is spent and shutting programs that are simply redundant or not working.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Related: Despite Inefficiencies, UN is Big Contributor to US Economy

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

As Obama heads to UN, U.S. Debt to World Body Soars to $3 Billion

Replacing Valerie Amos: Political Appointment or Merit Based

Drought an Underlooked Catalyst for Syria Revolt

Latest Panel of Experts Report on Yemen

Screenshot 2017-02-23 at 4.02.17 PM Feb. 23, 2017 – The latest UN Security Council panel of experts report on Yemen states that the Houthi-Saleh alliance is one of convenience and unlikely to last. It also states that the massive air bombardment by Saudi Arabia and its allies has not made a significant impact in dislodging the Houthi-Saleh military alliance holding sway over much of the country. Further, the report states that the panel are investigating the laundering of $84 million in Saleh family funds to a company named Raydan investments over a three-week period in Dec. 2014. A previous report by the panel stated that Saleh was worth $60 billion, amassing $2 billion a year during his 30-year reign of corruption. Earlier this month, the United Nations appealed for $2.1 billion to stave off famine and address the dire humanitarian situation in the country. Only three countries have maintained a diplomatic presence in the capital Saana: Iran, Syria and Russia.

Full report: Panel of Experts Yemen Jan 31 2017

Thirty Countries Have Paid Their UN Dues on Time for 2017

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Feb. 8, 2017 – The following is a list of the thirty UN member states that have paid their dues to the United Nations regular budget so far this year. The UN considers members past due if they have not paid by Feb. 10. So far, the member states assessed the biggest dues – the U.S., Japan and Germany, have yet to pay. Besides the U.S., none of the other permanent members of the Security Council have paid yet.

1 Angola
252,229
10-Jan-17
2 Armenia
151,338
10-Jan-17
3 Benin
75,669
10-Jan-17
4 Dominican Republic
1,160,254
10-Jan-17
5 Hungary
4,060,886
10-Jan-17
6 Liberia
25,223
10-Jan-17
7 Senegal
126,114
10-Jan-17
8 South Sudan
75,669
10-Jan-17
9 Ukraine
2,597,959
10-Jan-17
10 Canada
73,676,084
17-Jan-17
11 Singapore
11,274,636
17-Jan-17
12 Liechtenstein
176,560
19-Jan-17
13 Norway
21,414,240
19-Jan-17
14 Luxembourg
1,614,265
20-Jan-17
15 Denmark
14,730,173
24-Jan-17
16 Latvia
1,261,145
24-Jan-17
17 Australia
58,945,913
25-Jan-17
18 Guinea
50,446
25-Jan-17
19 Sweden
24,113,090
25-Jan-17
20 Estonia
958,470
26-Jan-17
21 Finland
11,501,641
26-Jan-17
22 Switzerland
28,754,104
26-Jan-17
23 Georgia
201,783
27-Jan-17
24 Ireland
8,449,670
27-Jan-17
25 New Zealand
6,759,736
27-Jan-17
26 Algeria
4,060,886
2-Feb-17
27 Kuwait
7,188,526
2-Feb-17
28 Austria
18,160,486
6-Feb-17
29 Azerbaijan
1,513,374
7-Feb-17
30 Netherlands
37,380,335
7-Feb-17

Despite Inefficiencies, United Nations is Big Contributor to US Economy

January 23, 2017 –  A bill before the US Congress aims to end United States membership in the United Nations and to remove UNHQ from US territory.

Such a move if successful, and the likelihood of that is far from clear, would leave the UN Security Council without one of its permanent members and would deprive the organization of about 25 percent of its funds.

While the motive behind the bill is ideological, its official title is American Sovereignty Restoration Act, its supporters argue that the more than $3 billion in dues paid by US taxpayers is money wasted.

But this is a shortsighted analysis. In fact, the United Nations is a big contributor to the US economy, in particular, to the economy of New York City.

In addition to the 6,700 UN staff working at the Secretariat in New York, there are some 2,000 diplomatic staff working for the 193 member states posted to the city as well as dozens of non-governmental organizations with offices in New York.

A report from the UN Foundation and the City of New York from 2010 estimated that the economic benefit to the city alone was in the region of $3.3 billion while, additionally, the UN procured over $800 million from US companies.

Furthermore, of the 41,000 people working for the UN Secretariat both in New York and in one of the other 24 duty stations, more than 6,500, or 16 percent, are US citizens.

The UN Secretariat is separate to other UN funds, programs and agencies and there are also several hundred US citizens working for UNICEF, UNDP, UN Women and other arms of the United Nations with headquarters in New York. In addition, the head of UNICEF is nominated by the United States – its current executive-director is Tony Lake.

It’s unlikely that Congress will pass the proposed bill – a similar piece of legislation was put forward in 2009 by Ron Paul and was never acted on.

Nevertheless, the election of Donald Trump has caused unease around the UN with his mantra of America First signaling a retreat from global institutions and multilateral diplomacy.

Undoubtedly, there is significant waste in the UN and it is often a place where member states find jobs for former foreign ministers and other politicians so they can be removed from the payroll at home – the top jobs at UN are given as political favors, not on merit.

But for all the waste, it is still good value for money for the US, in strictly economic terms.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Related: Russia to Run DPA, US Seeks to Rule Management Dept. Under Guterres

New UN Report Alleges Iran Still Transferring Weapons in Violation of Nuclear Deal

General Soleimani in Aleppo

General Soleimani (left) in Aleppo, Dec. 2016 (photo: Iranian media)

January 18, 2017 – Iran continues to transfer weapons in violation of its obligations under the Iranian nuclear deal according to information received by Ban Ki-moon which was detailed today in his final report to the Security Council on Tehran’s compliance with the deal.

Ban’s report also states that two individuals subject to a travel ban by the Security Council have violated that ban.

The report does, however, say that the UN Secretariat had not received any information regarding the sale, supply, or transfer of nuclear-related material to Iran in the past year.

Specifically, Ban’s report states, “On 5 July 2016, France brought to my attention information on the seizure of an arms shipment that, in its assessment, had originated in the Islamic Republic of Iran and was likely bound for Somalia or Yemen. According to information provided, the French frigate Provence, operating as part of the Combined Task Force 150, boarded a stateless dhow on 20 March 2016 in the northern Indian Ocean. That action resulted in the discovery of weapons aboard the vessel that included 2,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 64 Hoshdar-M sniper rifles, 6 type-73 machine guns and 9 Kornet anti-tank missiles.”

“The Secretariat was recently provided with information (by the Combined Maritime Forces and Australia) on an arms seizure in February 2016 by the Royal Australian Navy, off the coast of Oman, which the United States of America assessed as having originated in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Ban’s report adds.

“I look forward to the opportunity for the Secretariat to examine those weapons and previously seized weapons, in order to corroborate the information provided and independently ascertain the origin of the shipments,” Ban writes.

Ban’s report also states that on, “On 24 June 2016, the Secretary-General of Hizbullah, Hassan Nasrallah, stated in a televised speech that it receives all its weapons and missiles from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

“Any Iranian arms transfer to Hizbullah would have been undertaken contrary to the provisions,” of the Iran deal, the report says.

With regard to the travel ban, two individuals are named as allegedly having violated that ban by travelling to Syria and Iraq. The allegations in one instance are backed up by photos of one banned individual, General Qasem Soleimani, at the citadel in Aleppo.

On travel by Soleimani, the report states: “In recent months, additional information from open sources suggests that Major General Soleimani continues to engage in foreign travel. In late June 2016, several Iranian media outlets (Fars News Agency, Tasnim News Agency) reproduced pictures of Major General Soleimani visiting the former Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki. In October 2016, another Iranian media outlet (Mehr News Agency) reproduced a picture of the General in the Iraqi Kurdistan region, visiting the family of a Kurdish Peshmerga officer killed fighting ISIL militants in 2015. In November 2016, the leader of the Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba militia declared that he was in Mosul along with other Iranian military advisers (Fars News Agency)…. In mid-December 2016, pictures showing the General at the citadel of Aleppo were widely circulated by Iranian and other media outlets (Fars News Agency).”

 

General Mohammad Reza Naqdi conducted a field tour in Quneitra

General Mohammad Reza Naqdi conducted a field tour in Quneitra

The other individual allegedly violating the travel ban is Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi, former Deputy Chief of Armed Forces General Staff for Logistics and Industrial Research. Ban’s report says he “traveled to the Syrian Arab Republic in March and July 2016. In the following days, … media outlets reproduced pictures of him reportedly in the Golan region, near Qunaytirah, as well as in the Sayyidah Zainab mosque in Damascus.”

Ban’s full report is here.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Trump Could Chair UN Security Council Meeting in April

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January 4, 2017 –  Donald Trump will have the opportunity to chair a UN Security Council meeting as early as April this year when Washington takes the reins of the 15-nation body.

The Council’s presidency rotates alphabetically among its 15 members and the U.S. did not preside over the Council at all during 2016, having last held the gavel in Dec. 2015.

During each country’s presidency, a high-level meeting is held which is typically chaired by the country’s foreign minister or president.

Barack Obama twice presided over the Security Council, in Sept. 2009 when he chaired a meeting on nuclear disarmament, becoming the first U.S. president to chair a Council meeting, and in Sept. 2014, when the Council passed a resolution on foreign terrorist fighters.

Trump berated the UN last week, calling it “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.”

“There is such tremendous potential, but it is not living up,” Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. “When do you see the United Nations solving problems? They don’t. They cause problems.”

“So, if it lives up to the potential, it’s a great thing,” Trump added. “And if it doesn’t, it’s a waste of time and money.”

Of course, Trump may decide to send a signal to the UN by either not attending the high-level meeting in April or by not sending his secretary of state – Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson is the nominee.

During George W. Bush’s presidency, Bush himself never presided over a Council meeting when the US was chair, nor did he ever send his secretary of state. The only time a secretary of state attended during Bush’s presidency was when Colin Powell addressed the 15-nation body in Feb. 2003 to deliver what turned out to be faulty evidence to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Trump’s nominee for UN ambassador, NIkki Haley, is expected to be confirmed in the next few weeks and will assume duties after Jan. 20.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Related: Russia to Run DPA, US Seeks to Rule Management Dept. Under Guterres

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

As Obama Heads to General Assembly, US Debt to UN Balloons to $3 Billion

Libya’s UN Envoy Says Illegally Fired and Banned From UNHQ by Jeffery Feltman

screenshot-2016-12-01-at-3-46-39-pm Dec. 1, 2016 – In a letter to Ban Ki-moon, Libya’s former representative to the United Nations says he has been illegally fired and banned from United Nations headquarters. Ibrahim Dabbashi wrote that the decision by the UN-backed Government of National Accord to remove him from his post is illegal because the GNA has not been approved by the Libyan House of Representatives.

He adds that Undersecretary-general for Political Affairs, Jeffery Feltman, instructed the UN’s protocol department to strip him of his credentials, preventing him from gaining entry to United Nations headquarters in New York.

He also says the UN bears much of the responsibility for the chaos in Libya, where three different groups claim to be the legitimate representatives of the people.

His full letter is below. img_0394 img_0395