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 high-level segment of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) is famous for its fiery speeches and the colorful personalities assembled in the GA Hall. But much more goes on beyond the hall itself –the frenzy of the press in the broadcast trucks, security personnel on every sidewalk, military aides in dress uniforms, and an endless round of receptions and parties of every kind.
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.
In nations lacking certain religious freedoms, the bold multi-faith membership of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable’s Campaign to Eliminate Apostasy and Blasphemy Laws, would be forbidden.
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.
As you know, after four years as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, my mandate ends next week, on 31 August.
The world has changed fundamentally over the course of my mandate.
Global Public Investment. A short and simple phrase. But one that means so much.
At its most basic, GPI means public money being used to invest in goods and services that are of global benefit. There is no shortage of goods and services that need GPI, whether they be used to prevent or respond to environmental catastrophe, international war and conflict, or the next pandemic.
In the year that has passed since the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan we have seen daily and continuous deterioration in the situation of Afghan women and girls. This has spanned every aspect of their human rights, from living standards to social and political status.
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.
The upcoming summit on Education, part of the UN Secretary General’s ambitious agenda, can truly bring accountability and participation to the inevitably new ways education will be imparted in the future.
The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
, commemorated annually on August 9, is a day to celebrate the many contributions of the 476 million Indigenous peoples worldwide.
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.
A growing mountain of data and analysis points to an unprecedented global crisis in the making, due to the convergence of “Four Cs” (Conflict, Covid, Climate and Costs).
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.
With the invasion of Ukraine, Russia effectively destroyed the European peace order. Now, Europe needs to find ways to contain its aggressive neighbour, while its traditional protector, the United States, continues its shift of focus to the Indo-Pacific.
Pundits are focused on Joe Biden’s tanking poll numbers, while progressives continue to be alarmed by his dismal job performance. Under the apt headline “President Biden Is Not Cutting the Mustard,” last week The American Prospect summed up
: “Young people are abandoning him in droves because he won’t fight for their rights and freedom.”
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.
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.
From the worst drought
in four decades threatening famine across the Horn of Africa to extreme heat in South Asia, the war in Ukraine and the unequal pace of pandemic recovery, global food systems are under extraordinary pressure.
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.