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

UN to Raise Holy See Flag on Morning of Pope Francis Visit

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Sept. 21, 2015 – The United Nations will raise the flag of the Holy See on Sept. 25th ahead of Pope Francis’s address to the UN General Assembly that morning.

The decision to raise the flag of a non-member observer state comes after a resolution passed by the General Assembly on Sept. 10th to allow the flags of Palestine and the Holy See to fly alongside the flags of the 193 UN member states.

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Francis will be the fourth pope to address the assembly and it will be the fifth papal UN visit. Paul VI was the first pope to address the UN in 1965, one year after the Holy See became a non-member observer state. John Paul II visited twice, in 1979 and 1995. Benedict XVI addressed the assembly in 2008.

Flag poles in place for raising of Holy See and Palestine flags in front of UNHQ in New York.

Flag poles in place for raising of Holy See and Palestine flags in front of UNHQ in New York.

Just over 40 of the UN’s 193 member states have a Catholic-majority population while the overall global Catholic population is about 1.2 billion. Latin America and Europe have the largest share of the global Catholic population with 39 percent and 24 percent of all Catholics respectively living in these regions.

Pope Paul Vi addressed the General  Assembly on Oct. 4, 1965

Pope Paul Vi addressed the General Assembly on Oct. 4, 1965

The United States has the fifth biggest share of Catholics among countries with about 75 million followers or 25 percent of its population.

Palestine has said it will raise its flag on Sept. 30 ahead of President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech following a ceremony on UN grounds. The Holy See has said there will be no ceremony for its flag raising. UN personnel will raise the flag the same time as they raise the other flags on Sept. 25.

Statement from Holy See mission to the UN

Statement from Holy See mission to the UN click to enlarge

Francis, aged 78, is the first Latin American pontiff and the Argentine is also the first Jesuit pope and the first non-European pope since Syria’s Gregory III in 741.

Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he chose the name Francis following his election by papal conclave in 2013 in honor of Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscans whose mission is to serve the poor.

In his UN address, he is expected to speak about climate change, poverty, nuclear disarmament and the global refugee crisis as well as the conflicts that underlie the refugee crisis.

In addition, he is also expected to address the plight of Christians in the Middle East, the birthplace of Christianity, but a region where the number of Christians who’ve had to flee war and persecution has risen dramatically in the past decade, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

The Holy See has diplomatic relations with 180 sovereign states including the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the State of Palestine. It also has formal contacts, but not diplomatic relations, with Afghanistan, Brunei, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Somalia and has unofficial delegates in regions where there are Catholic communities including the Arabian peninsula and Western Sahara.

The Holy See has no diplomatic relations of any kind with the Maldives, North Korea, China and Bhutan.

Prior to his address to the assembly, Francis will attend a town hall meeting with UN staff.

- Denis Fitzgerald 
@denisfitz

 

Rwanda and Yemen Among Eight Countries to Lose UNGA Voting Rights

60th plenary meeting of the General Assembly 66th session:
Jan. 26, 2015 – Rwanda and Yemen are among eight countries to have their General Assembly voting rights suspended over 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.”

Rwanda completed a two-year stint on the Security Council on Dec. 31, 2014. It is the fifth biggest troop contributor to UN peacekeeping operations.

Minimum payments of $69,948 from Yemen and $7,636 from Rwanda are required to get their voting privileges back, according to a letter from Ban Ki-moon to the president of the General Assembly. Liberia is also listed in Ban’s letter but he has since informed the GA that Monrovia has made the necessary payment.

Macedonia is also among the countries currently without a General Assembly vote. It will have to make a minimum payment of $24,606.

In total, 12 countries are not in compliance with Article 19, but four of those, including Guinea-Bissau and Somalia, can still vote as the GA decided that inability to pay is beyond their control.

The eight countries currently without a vote in the General Assembly:

1. Yemen
2. Grenada
3. Kyrgyzstan
4. Marshall Islands
5. Rwanda
6. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
7. Tonga
8. Vanuatu

Rwanda has been assessed dues of $54, 271 for 2015 while Yemen’s dues are $271,357 for the year.

UPDATE Jan. 28: Following publication of this story, Rwanda has since made the necessary payment to restore its UNGA vote, a representative of the committee on contributions has informed UN Tribune.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Image/UN Photo

Pope Francis’s Sept. UN Visit Will be Fourth by a Pontiff

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Jan. 21, 2015  - Pope Francis’s visit to the United Nations in September will be the fourth by a pontiff and comes fifty years after Paul VI became the first pope to address the UN General Assembly.

The Catholic News Agency reported on Sunday that Francis will visit the UN on September 25 and address the assembly.

Sept. 25 is also the opening day of the high-level summit on the post-2015 development agenda when world leaders will agree on goals to replace the MDGs.

The pope is likely to address poverty, the plight of refugees, the persecution of Christians, climate change and religious freedom in his speech before the 193-member assembly. It is not yet clear if he will address the post-2015 summit.

The Vatican, or Holy See as it is know diplomatically, is a non-member observer state of the United Nations, joining the organization in 1964.

The following year, Paul VI became the first pontiff to address the assembly where he called for an end to war. John Paul II visited the UN twice, in 1979 and 1995. In the latter visit he spoke of the growth of unhealthy forms of nationalism. Benedict XVI’s speech in 2008 praised the UN as a defender of human rights but said those rights come from God and no government or religion has a right to limit human rights.

The Vatican’s cachet in diplomatic circles has increased in recent weeks after the White House said that it was instrumental in bringing to a close the 40-year US embargo of Cuba. Pope Francis was the only world leader mentioned by US President Barack Obama in his state of the union address on Tuesday.

Francis will come to New York from DC where he will address a joint session of Congress. From New York, he will travel to Philadelphia.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

World Leaders to Make Their Debut at This Year’s UNGA

1st Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly 69th session
Sept. 17, 2014 – At least ten newly elected presidents and prime ministers will address this year’s General Assembly including three new female leaders.

As is tradition, Brazil will open the high-level segment and President Dilma Rousseff will address delegates for the fourth consecutive year when the session opens on Wednesday.

Also speaking on opening day is Chile’s Michelle Bachelet, who is no stranger to the United Nations having headed UN Women when it was founded in 2010. She left that post in 2013 to campaign for her country’s presidency and was elected in March this year. This is her second stint as Chile’s president. She previously served from 2006-10.

Bachelet is one of three women to take on the post of president or prime minister in the past year who will address the assembly. Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg is slated to speak on Friday while Central African Republic’s interim President Catherine Samba-Panza is up on Saturday.

Egypt’s President Adel Fattah el-Sisi will make his debut on Thursday as will Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko and Iraq’s Fuad Masum.

India’ nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks on Saturday and will deliver his speech in Hindi.

Other newly elected leaders making their bow are El Salvador’s President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, Costa Rica’s Luis Guillermo Solis, Guinea-Bissau’s Jose Mario Vaz and Lebanon’s Prime Minister Tammam Salman. Spain’s King Felipe is also speaking on the opening day. He assumed the throne in June.

The most recent list of speakers provided by the UN states that Afghanistan will be represented by its head of state but June’s runoff presidential election poll is still disputed and it’s not clear at this stage who will represent Kabul.

Besides Rousseff, Bachelet, Solberg and Samba-Panza, at least nine other female heads of state or government are set to address the assembly next week: Argentina’s President Christina Fernandez Kirchner, Liberia’s Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, Lithuania’s Dalia Grybauskaite, Malawi’s Joyce Banda, South Korea’s Park Geun-hye, as well as Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Denmark’s Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Jamaica’s Portia Simpson-Miller and Trinidad’s Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Image: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

US Nominates Climate Skeptic as Representative to UNGA

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Sept. 12, 2014 – A Wisconsin senator who argues the evidence that human behavior causes climate change is not convincing and who has likened climate activism to “environmental jihad” has been nominated as a US representative to the 69th UN General Assembly.

The announcement comes days before President Obama participates in Ban Ki-moon’s Sept. 23rd Climate Summit.

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson in 2013 sent a fundraising email to supporters attacking the League of Conservation voters, calling the group “one of the many attack dog groups used by President Obama, the Democrats and the extreme left to weaken, defeat and silence conservatives.”

“They are an extreme left group on an environmental jihad,” he wrote, according to a Huffington Post report.

Earlier this year, he sparred with climatologist James Hansen at a Senate Foreign Relations Hearing over the Keystone Pipeline. “The science is far from settled,” he said about climate change at the hearing.

The General Assembly is the United Nations’ main deliberative, policy-making and representative organ, with five representatives and five alternates from each of the 193 member nations. It meets in regular session from September to December each year, and periodically thereafter.

Johnson will continue to represent Wisconsin in the Senate and will assume his new duties next week when the 69th General Assembly opens, pending his confirmation.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Kosovo: What’s in a name(plate)?

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


May 28, 2014 – When the presidents of Kosovo and Serbia addressed the Security Council on Tuesday, Tomislav Nikolić sat behind a nameplate that stated his country while Atifete Jahjaga sat behind a nameplate that simply said her name.

That’s because Serbia is a UN member state but Kosovo is not and its path to full membership is likely blocked for the near future as Russia is sure to veto any Security Council resolution on the matter.

Pristina participates in regional meetings in Europe under a Kosovo nameplate per a 2012 agreement known as the asterisk agreement that stipulates that an asterisk on the nameplate refer to a footnote that states “this designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSC 1244 and the ICJ opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.”

While Kosovo’s path to full UN membership is blocked in the Council, it could go to the General Assembly, as Palestine did in 2012, and petition for non-member observer state status which would require a simple majority of 97 UN member states supporting the resolution.

Palestinian FM Riad Malki addressing the Security Council in January 2013.

Palestinian FM Riad Malki addressing the Security Council in January 2013. (UN Photo)


As it stands, 96 countries recognize Kosovo including 23 of the 28 EU member states. Spain and Cyprus, who both voted in favor of Palestinian recognition at the UN, have not yet recognized Kosovo – both wary of the implications for their own territorial issues regarding Catalonia and Northern Cyprus. Greece, Romania and Slovakia are the remaining EU countries that have yet to recognize Kosovo.

Non-EU holdouts include Morocco and Pakistan. Both have expressed support for an independent Kosovo state but are similarly concerned about implications due to the situations in Western Sahara and Kashmir.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

 

Sudan and Yemen Among Nine Countries to Lose UNGA Voting Rights

60th plenary meeting of the General Assembly 66th session:
Feb. 20, 2014 – The UN General Assembly has suspended the voting rights of nine member states over non-payment of dues.

Among the nine who have fallen foul of Article 19 of the UN Charter are Sudan and Yemen.

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 $111,300 is required from Sudan to get its voting privileges back, according to a letter from Ban Ki-moon to the president of the General Assembly, while Yemen owes $34,525.

In total, 14 countries are not in compliance with Article 19, but five of those, including the 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. The list, last updated on the UN’s website on Feb. 14, is accurate as of Feb. 20, according to a representative from the Committee on Contributions.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Image: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Day One of UNGA Highlights Global Gender Gap in Politics

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Brazil’s President Dilma Rouseff Addresses 2012 General Assembly (UN Photo/Marco Castro)

Sept. 23, 2013 –  Only six of the 34 presidents, prime ministers and monarchs that will address the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday are women.

Argentina (Cristina Kirchner), Bangladesh (Sheikh Hasina), Brazil (Dilma Rouseff), Costa Rica (Laura Chinchila), Liberia (Ellen Sirleaf) and Malawi (Joyce Banda) are the countries with female leaders taking the podium on the opening day of the high-level segment.

The less than 20 percent ratio of women to men is pretty much average across the board for female participation in politics with women occupying about 18 percent of parliamentary seats worldwide.

While some European governments, particularly Nordic ones, have up to 40 percent of women members, the continent lags when it comes to female leaders with only Denmark, Germany, Lithuania and Slovenia led by a woman.

Globally, less than 20 governments are headed by a woman. Besides the above, others include Jamaica, South Korea, Thailand and Trinidad & Tobago.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Bashir Not The Only President Facing ICC Charges Planning UNGA Visit

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Sept. 18, 2013  - Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is facing charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court, is expected in New York next week to speak at the United Nations General Assembly.

The latest UN list of speakers for the annual General Debate notes that the head of state will speak on behalf of Kenya’s delegation next Wednesday.

Kenyatta was indicted by the Hague court in March 2011 charged with crimes including murder, rape and persecution that occurred in 2007-08 following a disputed election. He denies the charges.

Kenyatta was elected as Kenya’s president in March. President Obama did not visit the country, his ancestral homeland, during his June visit to Africa, traveling instead to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. Obama’s decision not to visit was reportedly due to Kenyatta’s election.

Unlike Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir who has refused to appear at the court and is subject to an arrest warrant, Kenyatta has travelled to the Hague to defend himself.

Calls to Kenya’s UN mission to confirm his attendance were not answered.

- Denis Fitzgerald

photo: creative commons