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

Deputy UN Chief Eliasson to Head Search for Next Refugee Commissioner

Jan Eliasson: the former Swedish FM is heading the search for a new high-commissioner for refugees

Jan Eliasson: the Swedish diplomat is heading the search for a new high-commissioner for refugees

Sept. 24, 2015 – A panel headed by UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson will present a short-list of three names to Ban Ki-moon in the coming weeks as he seeks to find a replacement for Antonio Gutteres as high commissioner for refugees.

Gutteres is stepping down after ten years in the post and his successor will take over at a crucial time in the agency’s 65 year history. There are currently 60 million refugees around the world, a figure which includes 40 million displaced inside their own borders and five million Palestinian refugees, whose welfare is handled by a separate agency, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Among those vying for the post is the former head of UNRWA, Italian Filippo Grandi. He stepped down last year as commissioner-general of the agency that he joined in 2005 as deputy commissioner-general. He assumed the top post in 2010. During his time with UNRWA, he oversaw major refugee crises including the 2006 Lebanon war, the destruction of the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in Lebanon in 2007, the 2009-09 Gaza conflict and the conflict in Syria, which is home to some 550,000 Palestinian refugees under UNRWA’s care.

Former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and the head of the UN Environemntal Program Achim Steimer are also among the candidates. The short-list is expected to include at least one female candidate. Once Ban makes his selection, he then sends it to the General Assembly for rubber stamping, which will likely happen in November.

The new refugees high-commissioner will head a 10,000 person agency working in some 123 countries. UNHCR has won two Nobel Peace Prizes, in 1954 and 1981.

Eight of the ten previous high commissioners for refugees have been Europeans. The only non-Europeans were Japan’s Sadako Ogata, who served from 1990-2000 – and who is also the only woman to have headed the agency – and Iran’s Sadruddin Aga Khan, who was high-commissioner from 1965-1977.

– Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Related Story: Former Danish PM Nominated to Head UN Refugee Agency

Obama’s Next Bid for Re-Election – the UN Human Rights Council

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Ban Ki-Moon addresses the opening of the Human Rights Council’s current session in Geneva on Sept. 10 (photo credit: UN photo)

Nov. 7, 2012 – Among those running for 18 available seats on the UN Human Rights Council in Monday’s election is the United States, whose newly re-elected president, Barack Obama, decided to embrace the controversial body after his 2008 victory, arguing that Washington could better change and influence from inside than from outside.

Former US president George W. Bush boycotted the Council and its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights, but Obama reversed course and the US was elected to a three-year term in 2009.

The 47-nation Council has seen its influence grow in the past two years. With the Security Council deadlocked on taking action on Syria, the Human Rights Council appointed a commission of inquiry that’s investigating and documenting allegations of human rights abuses and possible war crimes in the country over the past 19 months. It also suspended Libya’s membership during Muammar Gaddafi’s brutal crackdown and prevented Damascus from vying for a seat in 2012, as well as blocking Sudan’s bid.

The Council has won praise too from pro-Israel groups – who’ve criticized the body for its disproportionate focus on the Jewish state – for appointing a human rights investigator on Iran in March 2011 and it has also won plaudits from Human Rights Watch for addressing human rights situations in Guinea, Myanmar and North Korea.

The US is one of five countries vying for three seats available in the Western European and Other States category. The other four candidate countries in the group are Germany, Greece, Ireland and Sweden.

The Western group is the only one with a competitive election as the other categories (Asia, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Eastern Europe) are running on a pre-arranged clean slate.

Countries ending their terms this year include China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Each country is elected to a maximum of two consecutive three-year terms.

Among the US allies who will join the Council in 2013 are Japan, South Korea, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Estonia.

A list of all candidate countries and the current composition of the Council is here.

– Denis Fitzgerald 

UPDATE Nov 12: US reelected to Council with 131 votes along with Germany, 127, and Ireland, 124 – both serving for first time. Greece, 77, and Sweden, 75, defeated.