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UN Week – 9/3/13

September 3, 2013

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


John Carey, Editor

          President Truman famously said that the buck stops at the White House. President Obama has shown how to share the buck with Congress. He confounded his Congressional foes when he asked them if they wish to go to war with Syria. A military attack is war, and absent self defense it cannot today be carried on without UN Security Council approval.

          It is Congress that, under our Constitution, has the power to declare war. If they declare it, the Commander-in-Chief wages it. If they now say no to war, his hands will be tied just like those of the British Prime Minister. But even if circumstances allow Obama to attack Syria under US law, there remains the question whether international law would permit it.

          The possibility of a war of revenge has been mentioned, to punish Syria. Such a use of force has no support in international law. But what about the doctrine of responsibility to protect, known in UN circles as R2P and given muted support rhetorically in recent years? Read more…


Uniting for Youth – August 5, 2013

September 3, 2013

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

Uniting for Youth: Interactive Dialogue on UN Youth Initiatives with Mr. Ban Ki-Moon

by Raina Kadavil,  Intern with UNA-SNY and junior at White Plains High School

The chance to participate in a formal United Nations conference at fifteen is wonderful.  The chance to participate in such a conference with the UN Secretary-General is rare.  The chance for a fifteen-year-old to participate in a conference with the Secretary-General that aims to integrate youth voices into the global initiative for change is priceless.

Rainaphotocropped            On the morning of August 5th, 2013, I was fortunate to have the chance to attend the conference “Uniting for Youth:  Interactive Dialogue on UN Youth Initiatives” at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.  I was one of hundreds of students from all over the U.S. and all over the world.  Also present by videoconference were students from schools in India, Lebanon, Brazil, Belgium, and Nigeria.  All of whom had their own experiences and opinions, and their own, individual voices to be heard.  Youth representatives from Amnesty International and Global Poverty Project, among many other organizations, came to the United Nations to speak out and be heard by its highest ranking official – Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. 

Read more…

UN Week 7/1/13

September 3, 2013

This column was on hiatus between April 8 and July 1.  Welcome back! This blog entry is written by members of our blogging community and expresses those experts’ views alone.

John Carey, Editor

In this issue: Rice’s UN Swan Song; Codex Alimentarius Commission.

On June 25th, our number one UN Ambassador, Susan Elizabeth Rice, took a look back wards while preparing to move forwards as our next US National Security Advisor. She began by reflecting “on my four and a half years here at the UN as the best job I have ever had – fun, sometimes frustrating, but always rewarding.

“And it’s been rewarding for two reasons.“First, the people. I’ll greatly miss working with such a committed and talented group of individuals: my fellow Ambassadors, our amazing team at the U.S. Mission, the Secretary-General and his dedicated staff at the UN, the NGO community, and, of course, you guys, who work day in and day out to tell the people of the world what’s happening at the United Nations.

“The second reason, however, is because of the vital work of the United Nations that I have been so privileged to be part of since January 2009. It’s been a remarkable period for the United States, for the United Nation, and the world as we have carried out President Obama’s pledge to bring a new era of engagement to the United Nations. We’ve improved relations with allies, built and strengthened new partnerships, and exerted effective American leadership on issues that matter most to the United States. We’ve repaid past arrears and met our financial commitments. We joined the Human Rights Council believing that American engagement would improve its performance, and it has. We have worked constructively with a range of partners on a wide variety of important issues in the General Assembly. Read more…

UN Week 4/8/13

April 14, 2013

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

John and Douglas Carey, Editors

Contents of this issue: US hails arms treaty; sexual violence in conflict.

The United States told the General Assembly on April 2nd, following adoption of the arms trade treaty: “We believe that our negotiations have resulted in a treaty that provides a clear standard, in Article 6, for when a transfer of conventional arms is absolutely prohibited. This article both reflects existing international law and, in paragraph three, would extend it by establishing a specific prohibition on the transfer of conventional arms when a state party knows that the transfer will be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, or the enumerated war and other crimes. Article 7 requires a state party to conduct a national assessment of the risk that a proposed export could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law, as well as acts of terrorism or transnational organized crime. Taken together, these articles provide a robust and complementary framework that will promote responsible transfer of decisions by states parties.”

Sexual violence in conflict.

          I come now to a dreadful subject, one on which the UN has just published a major report, A/67/792-S/2013/149. Despite its importance, the report has not seen the light of day in any news medium that I am exposed to. Therefore UN Week is now presenting some aspects of the report, including its novel emphasis on sexual violence against men and boys.

As is often the case in UN reports to which many persons have contributed, this one speaks in the voice of the Secretary-General. That gives it added status beyond what it would enjoy if a single author or even a committee were given credit. Here is how it announces its goal.

“The report presents information on parties to conflict credibly suspected of committing or being responsible for acts of rape and other forms of sexual violence.” Id. at 1. “The term ‘sexual violence’ refers to rape, sexual slavery forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization and any other form of sexual violence or comparable gravity perpetrated against women, men or children with a direct or indirect (temporal, geographical or causal) link to a conflict. * * *
          “6. The country sections of the present report highlight several emerging concerns, including the perpetration of sexual violence against men and boys, the plight of children born as a result of rape and the practice of forced marriages by armed groups. * * *

“10. Although women and girls are predominantly affected by sexual violence, men and boys too are victims of such violence. Sexual violence has been perpetrated against men and boys as a tactic or war or in the context of detention or interrogation, including in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, and the Syrian Arab Republic. The social consequences of this violence are acute. More monitoring and information regarding male victims and the types of sexual violence perpetrated against them is required to tailor prevention initiatives, sensitization campaigns, treatment protocols and services for survivors.” READ from para 11.

Details follow on Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan (Darfur), Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen.

Under a heading ‘Sexual Violence in post-conflict situations,” the following countries are referred to in detail: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Liberia, Libya, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste.

Later in the report, accountability and reparations are discussed. “111. National courts remain the principal venue for holding individuals accountable for crimes of sexual violence. * * * 112. The focus of international criminal justice and mixed tribunals on combating acts of sexual violence, including rape, in the context of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, represents an important complement to national efforts. * * *

“113. The trial in the International Criminal Court of Jean-Pierre Bemba, former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and leader of the Mouvement de libération du Congo, in connection with events in the Central African Republic represents a critical test case for the principle of command responsibility for sexual violence as a war crime and a crime against humanity. ** *

“114. * * * In December 2011, a hearing on sexual violence under the Khmer Rouge regime revealed that sexual violence was a daily reality for most women, that acts of sexual violence were seldom punished and implicitly endorsed by an ‘enemy policy’ promulgated by leaders at the highest levels and that survivors continue to suffer from trauma, discrimination and stigma.”

Having dealt with national and international prosecutions to penalize sexual violence, the report then turns to a newer technique, targeted sanctions. “115. The unique ability of the Security Council to impose targeted sanctions raises the stakes for perpetrators and, as such, is an important aspect of deterrence.”

The Secretary-General’s specific recommendations included the adoption by the Security Council “of targeted and graduated measures by relevant sanctions committees, and to consider  means by which such measures may also be taken in relevant contexts where no sanctions committees are in place.” This technique is a new version of criminal prosecution that is not burdened with rigorous scrutiny of evidence by the accused or its legal counsel.

Annexed to the report is “a list of parties credibly suspected of committing or being responsible for patterns of rape and other forms of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict on the Security Council agenda.” The parties are listed under headings of the Central African  Republic, the Democratic  Republic of the Congo, Mali and the Syrian Arab Republic.

UN WEEK – 4/1/13

April 14, 2013

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

John and Douglas Carey, Editors

Contents of this issue: a new era in UN peacekeeping

          UN press release SC/10964 put it precisely on March 28th when it started off with this: “The Security Council today approved the creation of its first-ever ‘offensive’ combat force, intended to carry out targeted operations to ‘neutralize and disarm’ the notorious 23 March Movement (M23), as well as other Congolese rebels and foreign armed groups in strife-riven eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.”

          In contrast with this excited utterance, the New York Times, the next day, half way down page A-10, headed a story with, “U.N. Approves New Force to Pursue Congo’s Rebels.” The second paragraph ended with, “The intervention brigade will be the first such unit created within a traditional United Nations peacekeeping force.”

          The new resolution, 2098 (2013), harks back to recent resolution 2086 (2013) while “reaffirming the basic principles of peacekeeping including consent of the parties, impartiality, and non-use of force except in self-defense and defense of the mandate . . . .” Then the unanimous Security Council on March 28, “Acting under Chapter VII of the [UN] Charter, * * *

          “9.  . . decides that MONUSCO shall, for an initial period of one year and within the authorized troop ceiling of 19,815, on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent or any prejudice to the agreed principles of peacekeeping, include an ‘Intervention Brigade’ consisting inter alia of three infantry battalions, one artillery and one Special force and Reconnaissance company with headquarters in Goma, under direct command of the MONUSCO Force Commander, with the responsibility of neutralizing armed groups as set out in paragraph 12(b) below and with the objective of contributing to reducing the threat by armed groups to state authority and civilian security in eastern DRC and to make space for stabilization activities. * * *

          “12. Authorizes MONUSCO, through its military component . . . to take all necessary measures to perform the following tasks, through its regular forces and its Intervention Brigade as appropriate; * * *

(b) Neutralizing armed groups through the Intervention Brigade.

In support of the authorities of the DRC . . , carry out targeted offensive operations through the Intervention Brigade . . . in strict compliance with international law, including international humanitarian law and with the human rights due diligence policy on UN-support to non-UN forces (HRDDP), to prevent the expansion of all armed groups, neutralize those groups , and to disarm them . . . .”

          While voting in favor of the resolution, Guatemala questioned involving the UN in “peace-enforcement” activities. And yet, Article 42 of the UN Charter makes clear provision for peace-enforcement, saying that the Security Council “may take such action by air, sea or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

UN Week – 3/25/13

April 14, 2013

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

John and Douglas Carey, Editors

Contents of this issue: World Meteorological Organization; other UN specialized agencies.

World Meteorological Day, observed on 23 March, celebrates the creation of WMO in 1950 to promote international cooperation in the field of weather, climate, water and other related sciences. This year’s theme, “Watching the Weather to Protect Life and Property,” focuses on the crucial role that meteorological and water services play in alerting people to natural hazards such as floods, topical cyclones and droughts.

“Much more must, and can, be done to allay human suffering. Tropical cyclones, heavy rainfalls and floods, droughts and cold and heat waves affect the entire world, alerting us to some of the worst implications of growing climate variability and change,” WMO Executive Michel Jarraud said. “Weather and climate early warnings and disaster risk reduction are central to any sustainable development.”

For more than 60 years, WMO has been the UN system’s authoritative voice on the state and behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere, its interaction with the oceans, the climate it produces and the resulting distribution of water resources.

This year also marks 50 years of World Weather Watch program, launched by WMO following a General Assembly request to investigate the potential of weather satellites as part of the agenda for the peaceful use of outer space.

The program is considered to be an outstanding example of international cooperation through which countries share information for weather forecasting, and the foundation for more modern scientific insights in computing, telecommunications and satellites.

Because of advances in modeling techniques, scientists are now able to better understand the Earth’s complex global weather and climate system, and are starting to make seasonal and longer-term forecasts.

To mark the Day, WMO hosted a forum last week in Geneva featuring leading experts from around the world who discussed the evolution of coordinated climate and weather observations, telecommunications and meteorological forecasts.

Other UN Specialized Agencies

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

International Labor Organization (ILO)

International Maritime Organization (IMO)

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

Universal Postal Union (UPU)

International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) International Development Association (IDA)

International Finance Corporation (IFC)

Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA)

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)

One of the better known of the specialized agencies is the World Health Organization (WHO). A sample of its work is the following announcement dated March 23rd:

“The Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia has informed WHO of a new confirmed case of infection with the novel coronavirus (nCoV). The patient is a contact of the previous case reported in the Disease Outbreak News on 12 March 2012. This person suffered a mild illness, and has recovered and been discharged from hospital. Currently, there is insufficient information available to allow a conclusive assessment of the mode and source of transmission. To date, WHO has been informed of a global total of 16 confirmed cases of human infection with nCoV, including nine deaths.

“Based on the current situation and available information, WHO encourages all Member States (MS) to continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns. WHO is currently working with international experts and countries where cases have been reported to assess the situation and review recommendations for surveillance and monitoring. All MS are reminded to promptly assess and notify WHO of any new case of infection with nCoV, along with information about potential exposures that may have resulted in infection and a description of the clinical course. WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event nor does it recommend that any travel or trade restrictions be applied. WHO continues to closely monitor the situation.”

In addition, there are the following Programs and Funds:

And that is not all; there are several dozen other UN-related organizations with a variety of titles and of relationships to the organization proper. The proliferation of offshoots reminds one of the “alphabet agencies” that came into being in the 1930s in the United States, in an effort to cope with a major economic depression and the gathering clouds of war.

          Where did all this variety of units come from, and on that authority? Chapter III of the UN Charter consists of two articles. Article 7 says that the principal UN organs are the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, Trusteeship Council, International Court of Justice and the Secretariat. Article 7 then goes on to provide that, “Such subsidiary organs as may be found necessary may be established in accordance with the present Charter.” That is the basis for the plethora of UN-related organs.

          There then appears in Chapter III the little-mentioned Article 8: “The United Nations shall place no restrictions on the eligibility of men and women to participate in any capacity and under conditions of equality in its principal and subsidiary organs.” There must be quite a few Member States that cannot subscribe to that standard in good faith.

UN Week – 3/18/13

April 13, 2013

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

John and Douglas Carey, Editors

Contents of this issue: US declares for all women, not just most; UN help after civil war; freedom of expression and pro-nazism; Russia under the magnifying glass.

US declares for all women, not just most

          On March 16th, the US Mission to the UN stated that, “The United States welcomes today’s adoption of the Agreed Conclusions on the theme of the elimination of violence against women and girls. This agreement is a testament to both the gravity of the issue and the seriousness with which it was treated by the members of the Commission [on the status of women]. * * *

          “While delegates have shown flexibility in reaching an outcome we can all be proud of, we lament that some important aspects were left out. Most notably, we believe that the Agreed Conclusions should and must apply to all women, regardless of their sexual orientation or/and gender identity. We regret that some delegations prevented this recognition explicitly, but are confident that a day will come soon when we are able to do so. We also hope that the term intimate partner violence more accurately captures the range of relationships where abuse can take hold, and will continue to press for that important distinction. Today’s agreement is only a beginning.”

UN Help after civil war.

          Let’s assume that in 1865 there had been a UN Human Rights Council that offered to assist the North and South in dealing with post-US Civil War problems. We can to some extent judge how effective such outside intervention would have been based on recent experience in Sri Lanka.

          The two parts of Sri Lanka that struggled for years are separated by geography, culture, ethnicity and religion. The north, whose territory reaches yearningly towards nearby India, is largely Hindu, and its people Tamil. The much larger south is predominantly Buddhist and Sinhala.

After the final decisive battle, “2. In June 2010, the Secretary-General appointed the Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka to advise him on accountability issues in Sri Lanka and offered it as a resource to the Government, and particularly to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation  Commission. The Panel  . . . found credible allegations of potential serious violations of international law committed by the Government of Sri Lanka and by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). * * * ” A/HRC/22/38 at 3.

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission “concluded that ‘the root cause of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka lies in the failure of successive Governments to address the genuine grievances of the Tamil people” and that the “process of reconciliation requires a full acknowledge-ment of the tragedy of the conflict and a collective act of contrition by the political leaders and civil society of both Sinhala and Tamil communities.”

With that much background, I want now to run through some of the recommendations of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and we can all be thinking how such steps might have worked out in post-Civil War America. [read from pages 16 and 17.]

Freedom of expression and pro-nazism.

          On December 20, 2012, the General Assembly adopted resolution 67/154, entitled “Glorification of Nazism: inadmissibility of certain practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” For some reason the resolution was not published on the web until March 13, 2013.

Russia under the magnifying glass.

            As part of the Universal Periodic Review, the Russian Federation was the subject of a compilation prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, A/HRC/WG.6/16/RUS/2, which “does not contain any opinions, views or suggestions on the part of OHCHR other than those contained in public reports  and statements issued by the Office.” Id. at 1. I will skip through the compilation and highlight some notable portions