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

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.

Israel’s 2,000-pound Bunker-Busting Bombs, Supplied by US, May Have Annihilated Gaza

As the civilian death toll in Gaza continues to rise to unprecedented heights —reaching over 17,000 since October 7, with more than 46,000 injured – one of the most distressing reports to come out of the war zone is the use of excessively heavy weaponry by Israel. The Hamas attack on October 7, which killed 1,200 inside Israel, has resulted in a disproportionate number of Palestinians killed so far—and rising.

Autocracy on the Rise, Warn Civil Society Groups, Seeking UN Expert on Democracy

The rise in authoritarianism worldwide has prompted a coalition of over 85 civil society organizations (CSOs) to call on the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to appoint a Special Rapporteur—an independent UN expert-- to protect democracy and reverse its decline. The joint appeal comes ahead of the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which will be commemorated on 10 December 2023.

The World’s Right-Wing & Left-Wing Torturers

Jeanne Kirkpatrick, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, once made the distinction between "friendly" right-wing authoritarian regimes (which were mostly U.S. and Western allies) and "unfriendly" left-wing totalitarian dictatorships (which the U.S. abhorred). Among the “dictators” the U.S. shunned in the 1970s and 80s were Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Myanmar's General Than Shwe, Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Cuba's Fidel Castro, Libya’s Mummar al-Qaddafi, Syria’s Hafez al-Assad and North Korea’s Kim IL-Sung.

US has Provided Over 130 Billion Dollars in Aid & Weapons to Israel– the Largest Ever

As one of America’s closest allies, Israel has remained heavily dependent on the US —politically, economically, and militarily—since its creation in 1948. US arms supplies, mostly provided gratis, are channeled via US Foreign Military Financing (FMF), Military Assistance Program (MAP) and Excess Defense Articles (EDA).

Arms Suppliers to Israel & Hamas Should Face War Crime Charges—But Will They?

The killings of thousands of civilians in the ongoing Middle East conflict are largely the result of an uneven battle—a nuclear-armed Israel, equipped with some of the most sophisticated American weapons systems, fighting a rag-tag militant group, Hamas.

What is Happening in Gaza is “Inhumane, illegal, and Unacceptable”

Last August, 91 UN member states, “in a demonstration of solidarity and commitment”, signed a U.S.-Led Joint Communiqué condemning the Use of Food as a Weapon of War. Roughly 345 million people – in 79 countries – face acute food insecurity, often caused or exacerbated by armed conflicts, the US said, pointing out that the joint communiqué was born out of the United States’ resolve to once again use its UN Security Council presidency to draw attention to conflict-induced food insecurity.

Gender Parity: Rise of Denmark and Downfall of Afghanistan

The UN agency, which advocates women’s rights and gender empowerment, has predicted that gender equality is “300 years away.” Addressing the UN Commission on the Status of Women last March, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres not only quoted the estimates provided by UN Women but also warned that progress toward gender equality is “vanishing before our eyes.”

American Weapons Used in Gaza Trigger War Crime Accusations Against US

The widespread use of American weapons by Israel, which has killed thousands of civilians in Gaza, has triggered accusations of war crimes against the United States. But US has always escaped these charges in contemporary military conflicts –particularly in the killing fields of Afghanistan and Iraq --and also in the use of American weapons in Yemen where thousands have been killed.

UN Chief Urged to Create Civil Society Envoy

When the United Nations commemorated the 75th anniversary of the UN Charter back in 2020, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres paid a supreme compliment to Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).

Faced with Crushing Debts, World’s Poorest Nations to Slash Public Spending by Over 229 Billion Dollars

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are returning to Africa, for the first time in decades, with the “same old failed message”. “Cut your spending, sack public service workers, and pay your debts-- despite the huge human costs,” says Oxfam International’s interim Executive Director Amitabh Behar, following the release of new Oxfam report.

UN’s High-Level Appointments Should Give Priority to Gender in Geographical Rotation

The UN’s high-level appointments have mostly been on the basis of “equitable geographical rotation”—with Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Western Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean taking turns.

Poverty & Hunger Eradication Targeted to Miss UN’s 2030 Deadline by Wide Margins

When the UN’s 193 member states reviewed the current status of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger by 2030, the verdict was mostly failures—and with little or no successes. The hunger/poverty nexus was best characterized by Alvaro Lario, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), who warned last week that under current trends, 575 million people will still be living in extreme poverty in 2030—and as many people suffering from hunger by 2030 as in 2015 (600 million people).

UN, Still Living in the 1940s, Urgently in Need of Reforms

Politically, the United Nations has largely been described as a monumental failure ---with little or no progress in resolving some of the world’s past and ongoing military conflicts and civil wars, including Palestine, Western Sahara, Kashmir, and more recently, Ukraine, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan and Myanmar, among others.

A Global Survey of Democracy Finds Both Sobering and Alarming Results

The recent epidemic of coups in Africa -- including military take-overs in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Gabon-- have triggered the inevitable question: Is multi-party democracy on the retreat? The Open Society Barometer, an annual global survey from Open Society Foundations, launched September 12, reflects the positive and negative aspects of the state democracy worldwide.

World Leaders Offered “15 Minutes of Fame” at UN’s High-Level Meeting

Everyone in this world is entitled to 15 minutes of fame-- is a legendary quote mis-attributed to the American pop icon Andy Warhol. Over the years, the United Nations has laid down its own 15-minute rule for world leaders addressing the UN General Assembly.

When the UN Came Under Attack— from a Mis-Guided Rocket Launcher

When 150+ world leaders, including Presidents and Prime Ministers, arrive in New York to address the high-level segment of the General Assembly beginning September 19, the UN neighborhood will be turned into a veritable war zone. The streets will be littered with scores of police officers, US secret service personnel, UN security officers, bomb-sniffing dogs, road closures-- and a stand-by ambulance in the UN campus ready to cope with any medical emergencies.

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