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

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

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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

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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 

Record One Billion Tourists in 2012: UN

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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