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UN Week- 12/5/2011

December 27, 2011

This blog entry is written by members of our blogging community and expresses those experts’ views alone.

by John and Douglas Carey

In this issue: transparency in the Security Council; Human Rights Council condemns Assad regime in Syria; the “Girl-Child at the UN; a UN Bill of Attainder? “Umoja is crucial to the future of the UN.”

On November 30th, US Deputy Permanent Representative Rosemary DiCarlo addressed the Security Council in these terms, inter alia:

“Our discussions of the working methods of the Council are important to ensuring that the Council remains able to address the challenges of the 21st century. On behalf of the membership of the United Nations, the Council has the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. It is essential that in carrying out this role, its work be as effective, efficient and transparent as possible. Article 30 of the Charter mandates the Council to adopt its own rules of procedures. In doing so, the Council recognizes the need for other UN members, who are our partners in the maintenance of peace and security, to be informed of and appropriately involved with the Council’s work.

“To achieve that end, the Council, some years ago, revitalized its Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions. Our discussion today builds upon the extensive work done by the Working Group as well as the recommendations outlined in Note 507 by the President of the Security Council. In that regard, we would like to once again thank Japan for its efforts in developing updates to note 507. * * *

“With respect to transparency, Council presidents brief non-Council members shortly after the adoption of the program of work each month. Further, each Council president prepares a published assessment of its month-long term, thereby expanding the information available to all member states on the problems faced by the Council and how these problems have been addressed.

“The Council has increased its interaction with non-Council members by holding open debates and informal discussions. We are encouraged by the growing number of Member States that choose to participate in open meetings, such as today’s meeting, and look forward to subsequent open sessions on a range of issues that are relevant to the Council’s agenda.

“Further, the Council has welcomed the chairs of the various country-specific configurations of the Peacebuilding Commission to participate in Council deliberations. Subsidiary bodies like the counter-terrorism committee have held more open meetings, and sanctions committee chairs have organized more open briefings for the broader UN membership to discuss sanctions regime objectives and committee activities. Sanctions committees also invite representatives of Member States to brief them on issues of mutual concern, and we encourage Member States to pursue such opportunities.

“Troop-contributing countries play a critical role in the development of peacekeeping operations and the Council has aimed to increase the role that TCCs play in discussions of mandates of Missions to which they contribute. To highlight the importance that the United States assigns to TCCs, President Obama met with the top contributors in September 2009 to hear their perspective on ways to improve UN peacekeeping.

“The Council has also increased its interactions with non-Council members through informal processes, like Groups of Friends. The Group of Friends of Women, Peace, and Security, for instance, informs the Council’s actions through inclusive and transparent dialogue with non-Council members.

“Making the work of the Council more efficient requires constant efforts. In this regard, we all face the challenge of balancing the substance with the length of our remarks. We should all, Council and non-Council members alike, aim to convey our message succinctly so that as many member states can speak with as many other states present to hear them.

“Today’s debate offers Members the opportunity to share views on whether the practical applications of the innovations listed in the 507 note have helped them to better follow and participate in the Council’s work. The United States welcomes constructive comments that will inform future efforts of the Working Group and allows us to assess the effectiveness of practices and measures taken by the Council to enhance transparency, dialogue, and efficiency. We look forward to continued discussions on these issues and thank the Portuguese presidency once again for this initiative.”

Human Rights Council condemns Assad regime in Syria.

On December 2nd, US Permanent Representative Susan E. Rice issued the following statement:

“Today’s special session of the Human Rights Council on Syria is the latest in the ever expanding chorus of condemnation of the Assad regime’s brutality. I applaud the Council for holding its third special session on Syria since April, with a record 29 co-sponsors.

“No nation has been the subject of more than one special session, let alone three, in such a short amount of time. Today’s resolution passed by an overwhelming margin of 37 to 4, including the support of all seven Arab members. I am pleased by the Council’s creation of a special rapporteur to maintain focus on the human rights situation in Syria even after the Commission’s mandate ends. The United States will continue to stand in solidarity with the Syrian people and to lead the rest of the international community to do the same.” So Israel would seem no longer to be the Human Rights Council’s number one target.

The “Girl-Child” at the UN.

John F. Sammis, US Deputy Representative to ECOSOC, stated on November 22nd that: “The United States is pleased to co-sponsor this resolution and appreciates the efforts of the delegation of Angola to reach consensus and to address several of our concerns. The fact that the ‘Girl Child’ resolution receives such broad support demonstrates that the international community recognizes that there is a need to focus on such issues as the discrimination against girls, health, education, poverty and early marriage.

“The United States is committed to bettering the lives of women and girls, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it is also the smart thing to do. We are committed to focusing on empowering women and girls, not just as beneficiaries of development, but as agents of transformation. By considering women and girls in all of our policy initiatives, global health, food security, climate change, economic issues, human rights, and peace and security we can make those initiatives stronger and more successful.”

A UN Bill of Attainder?

          On November 29th, this joint press release was issued by the US, UK and France, in itself a rarity. “The Permanent Missions to the United Nations of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States submitted to the Security Council’s Committee established pursuant to Resolution 1533 (2004) concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the name of Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka, to be added to the list of individuals and entities subject to a worldwide travel ban and asset freeze. Sheka is the leader of the Mai-Mai Sheka, a Congolese armed group responsible for impeding the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of combatants, carrying out attacks on mines in Eastern DRC, and serious violations of international law involving the targeting of children.

“Members of the Committee agreed on 28 November, 2011, that this individual would be placed on the Committee’s list of designees for DRC sanctions. This designation demonstrates the international community’s continued determination to take firm action against those who oppose the disarmament of rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and who are respon-sible for the recruitment of children and serious human rights abuses. Our Missions strongly en-courage the Congolese government to implement the existing arrest warrant currently outstanding against Sheka.

“The Permanent Missions to the United Nations of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States will continue to work with members of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Sanctions Committee to identify and pursue the designation of individuals and entities that meet the criteria in Resolution 1857 (2008).

“The UN Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1533 (2004) concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo is responsible for monitoring UN Member State implementation of the sanctions in place in the DRC. The Committee comprises all 15 members of the Security Council, and was authorized by Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1596 (2005) to list individuals and entities for an assets freeze and travel ban.

“Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka, born in 1976 in Walikale Territory, Democratic Republic of the Congo, is the Commander in Chief of the political branch of the Mai-Mai Sheka, a Congolese armed group that impedes the disarmament, demobilization, or reintegration of combatants. It operates from bases in Walikale territory in eastern DRC. The Mai-Mai Sheka group has carried out attacks on mines in eastern DRC, including taking over the Bisiye mines and extorting from locals.

“Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka has also committed serious violations of international law involving the targeting of children. Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka planned and ordered a series of attacks in Walikale territory from July 30 to August 2, 2010 to punish local populations accused of collaborating with Congolese government forces. In the course of the attacks, children were abducted, raped, subjected to forced labor and other human rights abuses. The Mai-Mai Sheka militia group also forcibly recruits boys and holds children in their ranks from recruitment drives.”

“Umoja is crucial to the future of the UN.”

So said the US Ambassador Joseph M. Torsella on November 29th. Just what is this magic cure-all for the UN? At first glance, it looks like an acronym. But it’s not; it is a Swahili word meaning “unity.” Where did it come from? To quote the Umoja web site (

“Umoja is an administrative reform initiative that will enhance the productivity of the United Nations. It is a cornerstone for organizational change that will integrate with all other UN reform efforts – from accounting and human resources to developing climate-neutral business strategies.”

Unfortunately, Ambassador Torsella had to say on November 29th that, “With Umoja now two years behind schedule, my delegation is extremely concerned about the timeline, the cost and scope of the product that will be delivered.” The reasons Torsella gave for the Umoja’s situation included, “First, the commitment by senior management to Umoja has thus far been inadequate.* * * In addition, there is virtually no  revised financial analysis to support the Secretary-General’s assertion that Umoja will be completed at a cost of $315 million and will deliver the anticipated annual benefits that it promises. The absence of such analysis does little to lessen our doubts regarding future cost overruns and unmet expectations.”

If indeed “Umoja is crucial to the future of the UN,” as Torsella says, what is the US Mission to the UN, or the US Government in general going to do about it?

With that worrisome question, I must sign off with this December 5th 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 questions to

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