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

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.

UN’s “No-Fly List” on Sexual Harassment Falls Short, Complains Rights Group

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.

The Battle for Covid-19 Vaccines: the Rich Prevail Over the Poor

The 164-member World Trade Organization (WTO) has implicitly rubber-stamped a widely-condemned policy of “vaccine apartheid” which has discriminated the world’s poorer nations, mostly in Africa and Asia, depriving them of any wide-ranging intellectual property rights. As Max Lawson, Co-Chair of the People’s Vaccine Alliance and Head of Inequality Policy at Oxfam, said at the conclusion of the WTO’s ministerial meeting last week: “The conduct of rich countries at the WTO has been utterly shameful”.

Should Sri Lanka Join the Ranks of the “Poorest of the World’s Poor”?

As one of the world’s foremost international humanitarian organizations, the United Nations has pledged to provide food and medicines to cash-strapped Sri Lanka --a country suffering from a major financial crisis. As of last week, a UN team, led by the Resident Coordinator in Colombo, Hanaa Singer-Hamdy has appealed to international donors for more than $47 million in “life-saving assistance” to 1.7 million people in a country with a population of over 22 million.

The LGBTQ Community, Battling Discrimination, Celebrates 52nd Anniversary in “Pride Month”

The LGBTQ community –comprising lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons—has been fighting a relentless battle for recognition of their rights—as they continue to gain ground while breaking down barriers over the last five decades.

Has the UN Transformed itself into a Vast Humanitarian Relief Organization?

The United Nations, which has failed to help resolve some of the world’s ongoing and longstanding civil wars and military conflicts—including Palestine, Afghanistan, Yemen, Western Sahara, Myanmar, Syria, and most recently, Ukraine—was rightfully challenged by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his riveting address to the Security Council last April.

UN “Deeply Troubled” by Impending Cuts on Development Aid by Rich Nations

The four-month-old Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has triggered a hefty increase in military spending among Western nations and a rise in humanitarian and military assistance to the beleaguered country, is now threatening to undermine the flow of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the world’s poorer nations.

Gun Scanners to Monitor Weapons in City’s Subway System?

The shootings in the New York subway system have prompted a call for gun scanners to monitor weapons in the city’s transit system.

Covid-19: Rise of the Super Rich & Fall of the World’s Poor

Michael Bloomberg, the three-term Mayor of New York city and a billionaire philanthropist, was once quoted as saying that by the time he dies, he would have given away all his wealth to charity – so that his cheque to the funeral undertaker will bounce for lack of funds in his bank account.

Despite a New Wave of Infections, No Mask or Vaccine Mandates

A fifth wave of a new Covid 19 variant BA.2, followed by a surge in infections, is threatening to undermine the safety of New York city (NYC) which was gradually returning to normal after a prolonged pandemic shutdown. As a result, the City went on “high Covid alert.”

Russian Invasion Blamed for 44 Million People Marching Towards Hunger & Starvation

The Russian invasion of Ukraine last February has triggered multiple crises in several fronts: the deaths of thousands of civilians, the destruction of heavily populated cities, the rise in military spending in Europe, a projected decline in development assistance to the world’s poorer nations; the demolition of schools and health-care facilities — and now the threat of hunger and starvation.

UN Continues Financial Ties with a Vilified Russia Isolated by the International Community

The Russian Federation, which invaded Ukraine last February killing scores of civilians and destroying entire cities, has been condemned, vilified and ostracized by the international community. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was emphatic last month when he remarked: “The use of force by one country against another is the repudiation of the principles that every country has committed to uphold. This applies to the present military offensive. It is wrong. It is against the Charter. It is unacceptable”.

A Move to Undermine the Anachronistic Veto Powers in the Security Council Gains Traction

The five permanent members (P5) of the UN Security Council (UNSC) – UK, US, France, China and Russia – have exercised their veto powers primarily to protect their own national interests or the interests of their close political and military allies.

War in Ukraine & Rise in Arms Spending Undermine Development Aid to the World’s Poor

The unprecedented flow of arms to Ukraine, and the rising miliary spending by European nations to strengthen their defenses, are threatening to undermine development aid to the world’s poorer nations.

New York City, Shaken by the Pandemic, is Hit by a Crime Wave

New York City, which was on a virtual lockdown for nearly two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic, has now been hit a crime wave.

Ukrainian President’s Plea: Expel Russia or be Ready to Close Down the UN

A legendary quote attributed to Joseph Stalin most likely applies to the United Nations too. “How many divisions does the Pope have?” asked the Soviet leader, interrupting a speech by Winston Churchill in a bygone era.

New York City Cracks Down on Homeless People Cluttering Streets & Subways

Faced with a growing problem of homeless people living and sleeping in park benches and on subway trains, New York city (NYC) authorities are physically moving them out—mostly under protest-- to some 150 encampments or public shelters.

A Battle Between a UN Chief & US Envoy Ends in a Decisive Blow with an American Veto

When Madeleine Albright was nominated to be the first female US Secretary of State back in 1997, some apparently questioned whether “a woman could go toe-to-toe with world leaders”. “Madeleine quickly quashed those misguided doubts,” says Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a tribute to Albright, who passed away last week at the age of 84. “There was simply no doubt that, in any room, she was as tough as anyone and often tougher. That said, it wasn’t always easy.”

As Yemen Continues to be Devastated in an eight-year-old Conflict, a UN Pledging Conference Attracts only one Arab Donor

When North and South Yemen merged into a single country ushering in the Republic of Yemen back in May 1990, a British newspaper remarked with a tinge of sarcasm: “Two poor countries have now become one poor country.” Described as the poorest in an oil-blessed Middle East, Yemen continues to be categorized by the United Nations as one of the 46 least developed countries (LDCs), “poorest of the world’s poor” depending heavily on humanitarian aid while battling for economic survival.

Don’t Risk our Multi-Billion Dollar Pension Fund in Wall Street, Warn UN Staffers

The United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund (UNJSPF), which is expected to provide retirement, death, disability and related benefits for staff, upon cessation of their services-- has a staggering portfolio amounting to over $81.5 billion ranking far, far ahead of the UN’s annual budget of $3.1 billion and its average peacekeeping budget of over $6.4 billion.

UN Re-Surfaces After Long Pandemic Lay-off

After several on-again and off-again pandemic lockdowns, the United Nations is planning to return to normal beginning this week. A circular from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on March 11 says “based on the new guidelines, we are now able to institute associated changes in our workplace, returning to full operational capability while still prioritizing the health and safety of personnel, and balancing the operational needs of the Organization”.

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