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
Come April 1, a post-Ukraine Russia, will preside over the UN Security Council in a month-long presidency on the basis of alphabetical rotation.
But Russia will not be the first or the only country – accused of war crimes or charged with violating the UN charter—to be either a member or preside over the most powerful political body in the United Nations.
When Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) last week, he said the annual meeting takes on even greater significance at a time when women’s rights are being “abused, threatened, and violated around the world.”
When the US was planning to sell fighter planes to a politically-repressive regime in South-east Asia in a bygone era, a spokesman for a human rights organization, responding to a question from a reporter, was quoted as saying there were no plans to oppose the proposed sale because “it is very difficult to link F-16 fighter planes to human rights abuses”
If fighter jets are fair game and cannot be used to violate human rights, the same cannot be said of “weapons of mass control” (WMCs), including water cannons, tear gas grenades, pepper spray and rubber bullets—used mostly against civilian demonstrators.
For the first time in history, says a new report from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), not a single functioning parliament in the world is “male-only”.
Is the increasing number of women in parliaments a singular achievement for gender empowerment? Or is it the result of mandatory legislative quotas for women’s representation in world’s parliaments?
The overwhelming political, economic and military support for war-ravaged Ukraine seems never ending—even as the Russian invasion moved into its second-year last week.
The US and Western allies have vowed to help Ukraine "as long as necessary" with no reservations or deadlines.
When the United Nations began negotiations on a legally binding treaty to protect and regulate the high seas, one diplomat pointedly remarked: “It’s a jungle out there”—characterizing a wide-open ocean degraded by illegal and over-fishing, plastics pollution, indiscriminate sea bed mining and the destruction of marine eco-systems.
As the toll in last week’s earthquakes in Turkey and Syria exceeds a staggering 28,000 people dead and more than 78,000 injured--and counting-- the United Nations is in an emergency-footing struggling to provide humanitarian aid, along with several international humanitarian organizations.
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.”
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 – 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.