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UN Week – 2/7/11

March 4, 2011

by John and Douglas Carey, editors,

Contents of this issue: The UN in Egypt?

           So far, the only UN involvement in the Egyptian crisis has been the Secretary-General’s blunder in urging Mubarak to go. This was a two-fold error. First, he alone cannot speak for the organization, and his own views on so sensitive a situation should be spoken only in private. Second, the UN as an organization is forbidden by its Charter, Article 2(7), from intervening in the internal affairs of Member States.

           But looking ahead, could there be any useful role for the UN to play? There are two possibilities, one very practical, the other quite speculative.

           The practical role for the UN would be to bring in massive amounts of aid, just as it has been doing in various natural disasters. Food, clothing and shelter, our most urgent necessities, are needed throughout Egypt. Anyone who has seen the thousands of desperately poor people residing in Cairo cemeteries for want of any other home would not dispute this.

           The more speculative UN role would be for it to provide limited interim administrative functions, pending their replacement by new governmental agencies coming out of multi-faction negotiations among elements of Egyptian society. A recent precedent for such arrangements is UNMIK, the UN mission in Kosovo.

           UNMIK took over control in Kosovo after Serbia withdrew under fire from NATO forces deployed to rescue ethnic Albanians from expulsion. That is not at all the situation in Egypt, but a neutral force from outside could keep the peace for a while, until a new Egyptian government structure is in place.

           UNMIK was created in 1999 by Security Council resolution 1244 with the formal name of UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo. It operated in the areas of health, education, banking, finance, postal services, telecommunications, and law and order. It made preparations for elections.

           UNMIK ran on four Pillars, humanitarian assistance; civil administration; democratization and institution building; and reconstruction and economic development. Its coordination of the functions of international humanitarian and disaster agencies could serve as a model in Egypt.

           Later, UNMIK was supplemented by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, known as EULEX, which the Security Council approved as an assistance mission subjected to UNMIK. EULEX had 2,000 police and judicial personnel and was intended to remain in Kosovo until at least June 2012. All this provides food for thought for Egypt’s planners.

          That’s all for this February 11th issue of United Nations Week: News and Views. We’ll be back with the next issue. Meantime, do send your own views on these or other UN-related issues to

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