The United Nations is planning to introduce a new “mobility policy” under which staffers based in New York and other Western capitals will be mandated to serve in overseas missions and field services in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, including the UN’s 12 peacekeeping operations.
When the UN’s high-level meeting of world leaders concluded last week, the head count seemed lopsided: 190 speakers, including 76 Heads of State, 50 Heads of Government, 4 Vice-Presidents, 5 Deputy Prime Ministers, 48 Ministers and 7 Heads of Delegations—overwhelmingly male.
When world leaders, numbering over 150, make their annual political pilgrimage to address the General Assembly in the third week of September, the security at the world body is exceptionally tight.
And this year is no exception.
When the United Nations decided to locate its 39-storeyed Secretariat in New York city, the United States, as host nation, signed a “headquarters agreement” in 1947 not only ensuring diplomatic immunity to foreign diplomats but also pledging to facilitate the day-to-day activities of member states without any hindrance, including the issuance of US visas to enter the country.
When the high-level segment of the UN General Assembly sessions begin September 20, the official list of speakers include 92 heads of state (HS) and 56 heads of government (HG).
But the “usual suspects,” mostly leaders of authoritarian regimes, are missing, including Vladimir Putin of Russia, Xi Jinping of China, Kim Jong-un of North Korea, Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and the much-maligned military leaders of Myanmar.
When UN diplomats are charged with civil or criminal offenses – from traffic violations to sexual abuse -- they avoid prosecution and civil law suits under cover of diplomatic immunity.
It’s a privilege exercised by diplomats worldwide—including US diplomats in overseas postings.
The ominous warnings keep coming non-stop: some of the world’s developing nations, mostly in Africa and Asia, are heading towards mass hunger and starvation.
The World Food Programme (WFP) warned last week that as many as 828 million people go to bed hungry every night while
the number of those facing acute food insecurity has soared -- from 135 million to 345 million -- since 2019. A total of 50 million people in 45 countries are teetering on the edge of famine
When world political leaders, mostly presidents and prime ministers, are ousted from power following military coups or street demonstrations, they flee to “safe havens” to avoid being jailed, executed by firing squads or hanged in public.
Perhaps one of the secure “safe havens”—and a popular “political retirement home”-- is Saudi Arabia, a traditionally authoritarian regime, which has provided sanctuary for leaders from Uganda, Tunisia, Pakistan, Yemen and Qatar.
A spike in state-sanctioned executions worldwide – including in Iran, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and more recently Myanmar – has triggered strong condemnations from the United Nations and several civil rights and human rights organizations.
The United Nations is planning to host a high-level “in-person” General Assembly session, September 20-26, with over 190 world leaders and delegates listed to speak, including heads of state, heads of government, high-ranking ministers and senior officials.
The world body is apparently on a risky path, with hundreds of delegates due in New York for the opening of the 77th session—and, most worryingly, at a time when a new Covid-19 variant BA.5 is sweeping across the United States, including New York.
The French writer and philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778), once famously remarked: "I disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend unto death, your right to utter them.”
But that political axiom hardly applies to multiple governments in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America—including Greece, UK, Thailand, Hong Kong, India, Myanmar, Chile, France, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cyprus – where the right to protest, along with freedom of speech, are increasingly in jeopardy.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which dates back to the mid-1940s, is one of the longest military confrontations defying a permanent solution – even as it continues to be on the agenda of the United Nations whose primary mandate is the maintenance of international peace and security.
India and China, two Asian nuclear powers who are also longstanding rivals embroiled in the geo-politics of the Indian Ocean region, have remained two of the world’s most populous nations accounting for over a billion people each.
But as the world’s population reaches the 8.0 billion mark, come November, India is projected to surpass China.
A 2.0 version of an ancient Biblical saying reads: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a woman to become the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
The male/female ratio for the Secretary-General stands at 9 vs zero. And the Presidency of the General Assembly (PGA), the highest policy-making body at the UN, is not far behind either.
The United Nations has continued to crackdown on sexual harassment system-wide since 2017 while its “whistle blower protection policy” has provided “protective status” for nearly 68 UN staffers who reported wrong doing.
But Equality Now, an international human rights organization, is accusing the UN of faltering on its longstanding “zero-tolerance” policy.
The 164-member World Trade Organization (WTO) has implicitly rubber-stamped a widely-condemned policy of “vaccine apartheid” which has discriminated the world’s poorer nations, mostly in Africa and Asia, depriving them of any wide-ranging intellectual property rights.
As Max Lawson, Co-Chair of the People’s Vaccine Alliance and Head of Inequality Policy at Oxfam, said at the conclusion of the WTO’s ministerial meeting last week: “The conduct of rich countries at the WTO has been utterly shameful”.
As one of the world’s foremost international humanitarian organizations, the United Nations has pledged to provide food and medicines to cash-strapped Sri Lanka --a country suffering from a major financial crisis.
As of last week, a UN team, led by the Resident Coordinator in Colombo, Hanaa Singer-Hamdy has appealed to international donors for more than $47 million in “life-saving assistance” to 1.7 million people in a country with a population of over 22 million.
The LGBTQ community –comprising lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons—has been fighting a relentless battle for recognition of their rights—as they continue to gain ground while breaking down barriers over the last five decades.
The United Nations, which has failed to help resolve some of the world’s ongoing and longstanding civil wars and military conflicts—including Palestine, Afghanistan, Yemen, Western Sahara, Myanmar, Syria, and most recently, Ukraine—was rightfully challenged by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his riveting address to the Security Council last April.
The four-month-old Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has triggered a hefty increase in military spending among Western nations and a rise in humanitarian and military assistance to the beleaguered country, is now threatening to undermine the flow of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the world’s poorer nations.
The shootings in the New York subway system have prompted a call for gun scanners to monitor weapons in the city’s transit system.