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

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.

Will the Diplomat, Accused of Rape, be Prosecuted at Home?

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.

Millions Go Hungry– While Billions Worth of Food Go into Landfills

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.

A Safe Haven for Ousted Political Leaders Escaping Executions and Hangings

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 Politics of the Hangman’s Noose: Judge, Jury & Executioner

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.

UN to Host Over 190 World Leaders & Delegates — Despite Threats from a Deadly New Covid-19 Variant

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.

Unprecedented Threats Against “Right to Protest” on the Rise World-wide

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.

A New Mideast Peace Plan: A Confederation of Israel, Palestine & Jordan

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 & China Continue to Lead –as World Population Projected to Reach 8.0 Billion

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.

The Camel, the Needle– and the UN’s first Woman Secretary-General

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.

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