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

When the Man Who Built the Bombs Met the Man Who Dropped the Bombs…

The award-winning Hollywood movie Oppenheimer portrays the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, who helped create the atomic bomb, which claimed the lives of an estimated 140,000 to 226,000 people and devastated the two Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

UN Staff Warned Against Public Comments on the Devastating Conflict in Gaza

The deadly six-month-old Israeli-Hamas war, which has claimed the lives of more than 32,000 Palestinians in Gaza and over 1,200 in Israel, has sharply divided the world with vociferous protestors on both sides of the conflict. But the United Nations is no exception with some of the estimated 35,000 staffers—both in New York and UN affiliates worldwide-- have been increasingly vocal, mostly on social media, critical of either Israel or Hamas.

Has the World Progressed or Regressed, 30 Years After a Landmark Population Conference?

As the world commemorates the 30th anniversary of the landmark International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in 1994, one lingering question remains: Has the world progressed-- or regressed-- in implementing some of the recommendations in the Programme of Action (PoA) approved by 179 UN member states.

UN in Geneva to Partially Shut Down— for Second Time— Due to Cash Flow Crisis

Faced with a continued cash flow crisis, the United Nations in Geneva (UNOG) will partially close down – for the second time since December last year— as it scales back its operations, including building closures, official travel restrictions, and budgetary cuts on spending. The UN is studying plans to close the Palais des Nations beginning 22 April. Only conferences would run, but some of the offices would shut.

Will Israel Defy Another Security Council Resolution?

The UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution for a temporary cease-fire in the ongoing conflict in Gaza— adopted by a 14-0 vote with the US abstaining –- marks a significant step forward in momentarily halting the five-month-old fighting which has claimed the lives of over 32,000 Palestinians and 1,200 inside Israel. But a lingering question remains: how will Israel respond? Clearly, Israel has had a longstanding notoriety for flouting UNSC resolutions ---and still never having to pay a price for such violations—primarily because of the unyielding support of the United States.

World’s Democracies Threatened by Disinformation Generated by Artificial Intelligence

Speaking at the third Summit for Democracy in South Korea last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that a malicious "flood" of disinformation is threatening the world's democracies—triggered in part by the rise of artificial intelligence (AI). But AI is also a critical arena in which democracy is being challenged. “So, while we seek to harness the power of AI and other digital technologies for good, some governments are abusing those same technologies to do just the opposite,” he said.

US Delivers Both Life –and Death– to a Devastated Gaza

The Biden administration’s sheer hypocrisy is reflected in its policy of dropping food packages into a devastated Gaza, while at the same time, it continues to arm Israel with missiles and heavy artillery to kill Palestinian civilians suffering hunger and starvation. As US Congressman Ro Khanna (Democrat of California) said last week: "You can't have a policy of giving aid (to Palestinians) and giving Israel the weapons to bomb the food trucks at the same time"

Alarming Increase in Journalists Killed in Conflict Zones Last Year, says UNESCO

The Paris-based UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), whose mandate includes promoting the safety of journalists and ensuring press freedom worldwide, has pointed out that 2023 has been a particularly deadly year for journalists who work in conflict zones. Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General, said at least 38 journalists and media workers were killed in the line of work in countries in conflict in 2023, compared to 28 in 2022 and 20 in 2021.

UN Whistle Blowers Fired for Challenging Risky Investment Policies of the Pension Fund

The UN Ethics Office, established in 2006, has promoted an organizational culture in the world body, including integrity, professionalism, respect for diversity and protection for whistle-blowers. But the UN Pension Fund, whose assets amount to a staggering $88.3 billion, is accused of firing four of its staffers, including senior investment officers, for challenging the wisdom of the Fund’s investment policies.

UN’s Credibility at Stake—as Russia and Israel Continue to Remain Defiant

The two devastating military conflicts—Russia vs Ukraine and Israel vs Hamas—have exposed once again the stark reality that the United Nations, created 79 years ago to maintain international peace and security, has failed in its political mission – while its credibility is at stake. Russia is accused of violating the UN charter by invading a sovereign nation state and causing hundreds and thousands of deaths over two years --- with no signs of a peaceful settlement.

UN’s Cash Crisis May Force Hiring Freeze, Limit Official Travel & Curtail Expenses System-Wide

The United Nations is heading towards a severe cash crisis forcing the world body “to implement aggressive cash conservation measures to avert a default in meeting the legal obligations of the Organization”. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has drawn attention to “the unfortunate deteriorating financial situation of our regular budget operations”.

Africa’s Absence as Permanent Member a “Flagrant Injustice,” says UN Chief

As the UN continues its never-ending saga on the reform of the Security Council (UNSC), one of the political anomalies that keeps cropping up is the absence of Africa, among the five permanent members (P5)—a privilege bestowed only on the US, UK, France, China and the Russian Federation.

Is the Reform of the UN Security Council a Good Try in a Lost Cause?

The myriads of proposals for the reform of the much-maligned Security Council have been kicked around the United Nations for more than two decades—with no significant progress. Speaking at the General Assembly’s (GA) annual debate, GA President Dennis Francis told delegates last November that without structural reform, the Council’s performance and legitimacy will inevitably continue to suffer.

Death Penalty, Condemned by UN, Still in Force in US– but With a New Twist

In a bygone era, public executions of condemned prisoners were common in certain parts of the United States where the death penalty, mostly with lethal injections, is still in force now. The hangings, at the turn of the century, apparently were open to the public and the media.

The World’s Richest Men Leave Women Far Behind—Amid Rising Economic Inequalities

The world’s rich are getting progressively richer while the world’s poor continue to be increasingly poorer. In a new report released January 15, Oxfam says the wealth of the world’s five richest men has doubled since 2020 –even as five billion people were made poorer in a “decade of division.”

Where Does the International Criminal Court Stand on Charges of Mass Killings in Gaza?

The continued devastation of Gaza by Israel has triggered widespread charges of war crimes, genocide, forced displacement, ethnic cleansing, starvation as a weapon of war and mass killings of civilians – over 22,000 at last count—compared to 1,200 killings by Hamas. These accusations have prompted growing demands for intervention by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, which has remained silent while its Prosecutor Karim Khan is accused of double standards and playing politics.

Is it Time for Palestine to be Voted UN Member State?

The atrocities against Palestinians in a ruthlessly devastated Gaza — with over 21,000 mostly civilian deaths in retaliation to the killings of 1,200 inside Israel —have resurrected a longstanding question: is it time for Palestine to be recognized as a full-fledged UN member state? The question has also been triggered by a statement by China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC).

US Hypocrisy Over Russian and Israeli Killings

When US President Joe Biden lambasted “the largest aerial assault,” which hit “a maternity hospital, a shopping mall and residential areas killing innocent people”, he was not talking of the devastating Israeli attacks on Gaza but criticizing the most recent Russian military assault on Ukraine.

Catastrophic Shortage of Food in Gaza—Starvation as a Weapon of War

As the killings of civilians in Gaza rose to over 20,000, the besieged city—which has been virtually reduced to rubble by Israeli bombardments—is also being ravaged by hunger and starvation. In new estimates released on December 21, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), a global partnership that includes the World Health Organization (WHO), said Gaza is facing “catastrophic levels of food insecurity,” with the risk of famine “increasing each day.”

A Desperate Plea from Palestinians: Drop Your Nuclear Bomb on Gaza–and Exterminate Us

The unrestrained destruction of Gaza and the disproportionate killings of over 17,000, mostly civilians-- in retaliation for 1,200 killings by Hamas and 120 hostages in captivity-- have left the Palestinians in a state of deep isolation and weighed down by a feeling of being deserted by the world at large.

UN Staffers Face Threat of Being Forced Out of the US– at Retirement

Going back to the 1970s, thousands of UN staffers were given legal status opting for permanent residency in the US-- after their retirement. But that longstanding privilege now seems to be in jeopardy forcing retirees to return to their home countries uprooting their lives in the US.

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