Stories written by Thalif Deen
Thalif Deen, Senior Editor & Director, UN Bureau, Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency has been covering the United Nations since the late 1970s. Beginning with the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, he has covered virtually every major U.N. conference: on population, human rights, the environment, sustainable development, food security, humanitarian aid, arms control and nuclear disarmament.   As the former UN Bureau Chief for IPS, he was cited twice for excellence in U.N. reporting at the annual awards presentation of the U.N. Correspondents' Association (UNCA). In November 2012, he was on the IPS team which won the prestigious gold medal for reporting on the global environment-- and in 2013, he shared the gold, this time with the UN Bureau Chief of Reuters news agency, for his reporting on the humanitarian and development work of the United Nations.   A former information officer at the U.N. Secretariat, he served twice as a member of the Sri Lanka delegation to the UN General Assembly sessions. His track record includes a stint as deputy news editor of the Sri Lanka Daily News and senior editorial writer on the Hong Kong Standard. As military analyst, he was also Director, Foreign Military Markets at Defense Marketing Services; Senior Defense Analyst at Forecast International; and military editor Middle East/Africa at Jane’s Information Group. He was a longstanding columnist for the Sri Lanka Sunday Times, U.N. correspondent for Asiaweek, Hong Kong and Jane's Defence Weekly, London. A Fulbright scholar with a Master’s Degree (MSc) in Journalism from Columbia University, New York, he is co-author of the 1981 book on “How to Survive a Nuclear Disaster” and author of the 2021 book on the United Nations titled “No Comment – and Don’t Quote me on That”— and subtitled ‘from the Sublime to the Hilarious’, both of which are available on Amazon

NGOs Campaign for a Torture-Free UN Trade Treaty

Hinting at “Western hypocrisy”, a senior UN official once told a group of reporters, perhaps half-jokingly: “When you go on one of those sight-seeing tours in Europe, they will show you their palaces and castles-- but never their medieval prisons or torture chambers.”

Will the Ukraine War be Resolved With Talks– or with Tanks?

After much reluctance, the US and its Western allies last week agreed to provide Ukraine with some of the world’s most sophisticated battle tanks: American-made Abrams, German-made Leopards and British-made Challengers. But the question remains as to whether these weapons will make a decisive difference to Ukrainian armed forces fighting a relentless battle with one of the world’s major military and nuclear powers.

The UN Keeps Shrinking– Amid Pandemic Lockdowns & Flexible Working Hours

A new variant of Covid-19, spreading across New York city, is forcing businesses, banks and high-powered financial institutions to re-introduce flexible working hours after a brief hiatus. At the United Nations, the lockdown has reduced the 39-storeyed Secretariat building to a veritable ghost town since most staffers continue to work from home--- at least two or three days per week

An Oil Tanker Grounded Off Yemen Faces a Potential Humanitarian Disaster

The long-delayed salvaging of an abandoned tanker, the FSO Safer off the Yemeni coast, has been described as a humanitarian disaster waiting to happen. The rusting vessel, according to the UN, has remained anchored for more than 30 years. But off-loading and maintenance of the vessel ceased back in 2015, following the start of a devastating civil war in Yemen.

US in Proxy War with Russia Doles out 100 Billion Dollars in Aid & Arms to Ukraine

A US Senator once described Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, perhaps facetiously, as “a Winston Churchill in a tee shirt”. And last month, when he addressed the US Congress – with the presence of about 100 Senators and 435 Congressmen – he tried to re-live that moment.

After 43 Years of Negotiations, Security Council Reforms Move at the Pace of a Paralytic Snail

The reform of the Security Council, the most powerful body at the United Nations, has remained a never-ending political saga. According to the President of the General Assembly, Csaba Kőrösi of Hungary, 43 years have passed since the question of Security Council reform first appeared on the UN agenda.

Gender Inequality: A Question of Power in a Male-Dominated World, Declares UN Chief

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has singled out Gender Parity as one of his key priorities in his second term in office, beginning 2023. Describing it as “a strategic goal of the Organization,” he pointed out some of the “notable advances achieved in the past five years.”

The Digital Divide: Africa the Least Connected with 60 percent of the Population Offline

The digital divide – between the world’s rich and poor nations —remains staggeringly wide. For over 2.7 billion people, many of them living in developing and least developed countries (LDCs), meaningful connectivity remains elusive, according to a UN report released during the 17th Internet Governance Forum in Addis Ababa, last month.

The Decline and Fall of Democracy Worldwide

A head of state who presided over an authoritarian regime in Southeast Asia, was once asked about rigged elections in his country. “I promised I will give you the right to vote” he said, “but I didn’t say anything about counting those votes.”

UN Deploys Unarmed Weapon in Humanitarian & Peacekeeping Operations

A sign outside the United Nations reads, perhaps half-seriously, that it is a “No Drone Zone”—and “launching, landing or operating Unmanned or Remote-Controlled aircraft in this area is prohibited”. The “warning” comes even as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) – or drones – are some of the new weapons of war deployed mostly by the US, and more recently, by Iran, Ukraine and Russia in ongoing military conflicts.

US to Fight Sexual Abuse in International Organizations

The United States, which recently laid down a set of guidelines to monitor sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by US citizens in international organizations, including the United Nations and its agencies worldwide, has implicitly accused the UN of faltering on a high-profile case last month.

COP27: Egypt’s Repressive Regime Under Fire—While it Hosts a Key Climate Summit

The COP27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh has triggered a negative fallout for Egypt’s authoritarian regime which stands accused of human rights abuses -- and has been widely condemned for its longstanding repressive campaign against dissidents and civil society organizations (CSOs).

COP27: A Climate Summit Following Empty Promises & Funding Failures

The COP 27 climate summit is taking place amid a rash of political, economic and environmental upheavals, including missed funding and emission targets, increased pollution and climate devastation, rising global inflation, cuts in Western development assistance and the negative after-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Russian Dispute Over Drones Threaten to Escalate World Food Crisis

A war of words between Russia on the one hand, and the US, Britain, France and Germany on the other—specifically on the deployment of drones in Ukraine -- has triggered an unintended consequence: a new world food crisis. The Western powers last week asked the UN to verify whether Iranian drones were being used “illegally” in violation of the 2015 Security Council resolution 2231 which endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s disputed nuclear programme.

Ukraine Rises from Near Zero to Major Recipient of US Arms

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has resulted in a never-ending flow of arms to the battle-scarred country— elevating the besieged nation to the ranks of one of the major recipients of US weapons and American security assistance.

UN Censures 42 Nations for Retaliating Against Human Rights Activists & Journalists

The United Nations has singled out 42 countries (out of 193 member states) for condemnation-- virtually blacklisting them-- for retaliating against human rights activists and journalists

UN Plans a New Mobility Scheme Where Staffers will be Forced to Work Overseas

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.

UN’s High-Level Meeting of World Leaders Falls Short of Gender Empowerment

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.

UN Bans NGOs During High-Level Meetings of World Leaders— Triggering Strong Protests

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.

The Day the UN General Assembly Abandoned its New York City Home…

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.

World Leaders, Mostly Autocrats, Plan to Skip Upcoming UN Sessions

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.

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