Sunday, June 19, 2016

UN System CEOs

The United Nations System consists of the central political organization, its 11 subsidiary entities, 15 autonomous Specialized Agencies and two related bodies, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Trade Organization. 

They are rather fitfully coordinated by twice a year meetings of a Chief Executives Board (CEB) under the chairmanship of the UN Secretary-General. 

I've just listed the (21) men and (8) women who make up the CEB and it makes interesting reading. The women are outnumbered but they run the largest and most influential agencies, including the IMF, the World Food Program (world's largest aid agency), the World Health Organization and UNDP (world's largest technical assistance agency). 

The listing has links to the biographical pages of the relevant agencies

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Imperial Elites and the United Nations

After World War II, as formal imperial structures were dismantled, those who had benefited from them were shape-shifting into the new money laundering elite. 

 These old/new elites will not relinquish their power meekly at the behest of UN resolutions and declarations. The three world wars (I, II and Cold) show the extent to which they will go to retain power, and it would be wise to expect horrors equal in magnitude as we seek to escape from their monstrous dominance. 

In our nuclear tinderbox world with a Pandora’s Box of invented pandemics it requires little imagination to think of what might happen.

There are also a number of less dramatic eventualities that could affect world order severely. Consider the following: Read More

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Rich Debate on UN Peace Ops Misses key Issues

A richly detailed and lively two-day discussion of United Nations peace operations and architecture (10-11 May), left untouched the basic reason for the Organization’s 70-year failure to achieve its primary Charter aim. Although the debate was shot through with facts and themes pointing to a malign and actively hostile international environment, no one tried to define it or say how the UN should respond. 

A few speakers from developing countries murmured about the negative role of “external actors” and one from a comfortably peaceful and affluent country cautioned against doing even that. In contrast, there was much talk of the internal factors – from weak governance and lack of democracy to insufficiently inclusive elites – that have contributed to the current grim and deteriorating world situation.

The Secretary-General’s report last September on the “Future of United Nations Peace Operations” described the current world situation as follows: “Since 2008 the number of major violent conflicts has almost tripled. Long-simmering disputes have escalated or relapsed into wars, while new conflicts have emerged in countries and regions once considered stable. Labels assigned to conflict, such as “internal”, “inter-State”, “regional”, “ethnic” or “sectarian”, have become increasingly irrelevant as transnational forces of violent extremism and organized crime build on and abet local rivalries. Environmental degradation and resource deprivation are not contained by borders. Exclusion at home is driving tension abroad. The number of people displaced by war is approaching 60 million, and global humanitarian needs for 2015 amount to close to $20 billion.”

Remarkably, neither the Secretary-General’s report nor the two from expert panels in 2015 inquired into the reasons for the negative trend and the growing disorder. That lack of curiosity has been endemic in the UN system as a whole, despite repeated complaints about the predatory international environment from developing countries dating back to the conceptual birth of the Nonaligned Movement at the 1955 Bandung Conference in Indonesia. Read More

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

New Hearings for UN Secretary-General Candidates

The slow-motion search for the next head of the United Nations is moving into a new phase. General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft announced today that he had scheduled the next so-called "informal dialogues" with candidates on 7 June. However, he did not say who would be appearing. 

According to scuttlebutt the new candidates will be Miroslav Lajcak of Slovakia, Susanna Malcorra of Argentina and former UN Chef de Cabinet Alicia Barcena of Mexico.

Meanwhile, AP UN correspondent Edith Lederer reported that two of the declared candidates, Croatia's Vesna Pusic and Moldova's Natalia Gherman had asked to meet with the Security Council. Pusic had asked for the meeting to hear the "concerns and questions" of council members and have its 15 members evaluate her candidacy.

The selection schedule for the next head of the UN calls for a decision on a new Secretary-General by mid-year, allowing a significant period of transition.

For more information on the declared candidates and the selection process check out

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Vaporous Talk Fogs ECOSOC "Integration Segment"

The “Integration segment” of the Economic and Social Council (2-5 May) was supposed to discuss innovative and balanced policy to implement Agenda 2030 on sustainable development but with the exception of one panel on "Leaving no one behind," very little was said that can be easily geared to change. Expressions of support for such vaporous formulations as a “new mindset,” the necessity of “breaking out of silos” and the high priority of “empowering women” were not followed by specifics of innovative action. One "keynote speaker" on energy asked the audience to close their eyes and imagine a blissful scene in 2024 that she described; she said nothing about the policy paths that might take us from the current turmoil in world oil markets to that future.

The exceptional panel was made so largely because of the ministerial participant from Vietnam who spoke of privatizing State Owned Enterprises and using the proceeds for education and hospitals. The government also maintained a safety net for those who needed help and to deal with emergency situations. A new initiative was creating interactive web sites for communities that were used to present data on local conditions and engage private donors in beneficial projects. Each web page was itself sponsored by a major donor.

There were also several other interesting speakers on the same panel. One represented the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. He spoke of a forthcoming meeting in Sweden to discuss the application of Agenda 2030 to developed countries and how they could mainstream sustainable development. A key activity was to make the avalanche of available data into knowledge and that into policy. How governments could deal with complex economic, social and environmental issues was important; key elements would be risk management and the role of private entrepreneurs and cities; the Habitat 3 conference later this year in Quito would have to plan for the next two decades. As Machiavelli had commented 500 years ago, there was nothing more difficult than to establish a new order of things. Policy makers would have to assess upside and downside aspects of integrated action and weigh synergies and trade-offs; all that would take time and resources.

Another notable participant was from Columbia University. He spoke of the need to have all voices heard. Existing Environment Impact Assessments did not do so. For instance, BP had a 600-page EIA document on its Gulf oil well that blew up; evidently no one had read it. He said it was necessary to have all EIAs posted on the web so that communities and activists could access them and robust laws to enforce action. The delegate of Guyana commented that implementing Agenda 2030 would have to be an organic process, combining institutional firmness and fluidity of practice. His government was preparing a green development plan that looked at decentralizing action to the country's 10 administrative provinces, with each having a "capital town." A speaker representing the International Telecommunications Union recalled the World Bank digital report released earlier this year. The analog support for the digital revolution would require hard wired connectivity in the health and education sectors; it would require private/public collaborations.

Most member States participated in the general debate through a handful of representatives and the developed countries not at all except for the Czech Republic. Some of the invited discussants from outside the UN seemed almost clueless. The unfortunate impression in much of the proceedings was of intellectual confusion and irrelevance even when individual presenters were pertinent and insightful. For instance, the two opening speakers of the session addressed the topics of e-governance and the informal sector of developing country economies, both critically important contexts for innovative public policy; but there was no discussion following their presentations

​Instead, the chamber was taken over for the taping of a dreary BBC radio show whose two hosts seemed oblivious not only of the UN’s conservative dress code but its decorum of practice. As one of them boasted of the “53 million” audience of the BBC its logo flashed on the video screen behind the podium; I’ve had the Secretary-General as my “warm-up act,” she said smugly.

That Ms. Piggy sensibility continued into the substance of their interviews on topics ranging from “barefoot lawyers” in Uganda to toilets in India. The best of the interviewees was an environmental activist from Costa Rica who made a series of interesting and important observations but seemed to get the cold shoulder. A comment about the urgent need to overcome the short-term perspectives of most parliamentarians was met with a non sequitur about road noise that had interfered with a BBC interview; another regarding the need to translate Agenda 2030 into the language and concerns of ordinary people was met with glazed silence.

Members of the second panel, on “A paradigm shift in development” seemed confused about what exactly they should be addressing; some spoke of obstacles to change (the tendency for issues to be addressed in “silos”), others of changes already happening (the shift to multi-dimensional measurement of poverty). Two participants with important things to say were a World Bank official speaking of the need for “analog support” for the digital revolution and a veteran leader of the women’s banking movement who noted that gender and finance were both cross-cutting issues in Agenda 2030. Increasingly aware that women with access to finance were powerful change agents, governments were acting to provide it. In Nigeria a woman could now open a bank account with a mobile phone, a photograph and an address; previously it required answering some 50 questions on a printed form. In the last year 700 million women had opened bank accounts globally, half of that in India. Most of them used mobile phones to access their accounts; it was sobering that 1.8 billion women had no mobile phones.

In the general debate developing countries stressed the need for the UN to look to the coherence of its own internal architecture and policies. Regional and country offices needed to be integrated, best practices had to be better shared, South-South and Triangular Cooperation utilized. The Arab League spokesman noted the need for innovative policy to fight violent extremism and terrorism. China called for the coordination of "macroeconomic arrangements" and said it would make implementation of Agenda 2030 top priority at the next G-20 summit.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A really brilliant proposal from UNEP

I just came across this really brilliant video on the UN Environment Program web site and am astonished that the proposal it makes has not gained more traction. In fact, I am kicking myself for not becoming aware of it sooner. Please watch.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

5 Panels at Drug Assembly Focus on Socioeconomic Aspects

The Special Session of the General Assembly on the World Drug Problem (19-21 April) will have five expert panel discussions arranged by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, an expert subsidiary of ECOSOC, closely guided by the President of the General Assembly. 

The following paragraphs are excerpted from the official document describing the arrangements and are notable in emphasizing the social, human rights and development aspects of the problem. Panel 3 below places the three prohibitionist drug conventions at the very end of its list of relevant legislation.

1. Drugs and Health: Demand reduction and related measures, including prevention and treatment, as well as health-related issues; and ensuring the availability of controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes, while preventing their diversion.

2. Drugs and Crime: Supply reduction and related measures; responses to drug-related crime; and countering money-laundering and promoting judicial cooperation. This will include countering money-laundering, including, where appropriate, in connection with the financing of terrorism.

3. Cross-cutting issues: drugs and human rights, youth, women, children and communities: (i) Addressing drug-related issues in full conformity with the purposes and the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant international law, including the three drug control conventions.

4. New challenges, threats and realities: in preventing and addressing the world drug problem in compliance with relevant international law, including the three drug control conventions; strengthening the principle of common and shared responsibility and international cooperation.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Picking a New UN Head

So far, there are four women and five men bidding to be the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations. Each has provided biographical details and a vision statement (see here for links to all)

Three of them -- Igor Luksic of Montenegro, Irina Bokova of Bulgaria and Antonio Gueterres of Spain -- engaged in "informal dialogue" with an attentive audience in the Trusteeship Council on Tuesday, 12 April. (Here for video and summaries of vision statements)

On 13 April, Danilo Turk of Slovenia,  Vesna Pusic of Croatia and Natalia Gherman of Moldova will take the stage, followed on the 14th by Vuk Jeremic of Serbia, Helen Clark of New Zealand and Srgjan Kerim of Macedonia (Former Yugoslav Republic).

There is a general expectation that other candidates will emerge, and cynical opinion is that the Permanent Members of the Security Council will eventually do the real choosing, However, General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft made a powerful point: if there is solid support for any one candidate in the General Assembly, the Permanent Members are unlikely to contest it.

A running commentary at the site will follow the process to its completion.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

UN Alphabet Soup

United Nations insiders have a language of their own known fondly to those who speak it as "Unese." An essential part of the lingo is an alphabet soup of organs and organizations. The ones below appeared in just one recent document on the "Composition of UN Staff."

ASG Assistant Secretary-General
BINUCA United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic
BNUB United Nations Office in Burundi 
CNMC Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission 
CTED Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate    
DESA Department of Economic and Social Affairs
DFS Department of Field Support 
DGACM  Department for General Assembly and Conference Management 
DM Department of Management
DPA Department of Political Affairs
DPI Department of Public Information 
DPKO Department of Peacekeeping Operations 
DSS Department of Safety and Security 
ECA Economic Commission for Africa 
ECE Economic Commission for Europe 
ECLAC Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean
EOSG Executive Office of the Secretary -General
ESCAP Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
ESCWA Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia 
ETHICS Ethics Office
FS Field Service
FT Fixed-term
GS+ General Service and related categories 
ICJ International Court of Justice 
ICSC International Civil Service Commission
ICTR International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda 
ICTY International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia 
IMIS Integrated Management Information System
INT Interpreters
INTERORG Inter-organizational bodies, including the secretariat of the Joint Inspection Unit
IRM International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals 
ITC International Trade Centre 
MENUB United Nations Electoral Observer Mission in Burundi 
MINURCA United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic 
MINURSO United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara
MINUSCA United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic 
MINUSMA United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali
MINUSTAH United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti 
MONUSCO United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
NPO National Professional Officers 
OAJ Office of Administration of Justice 
OCHA Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 
ODA Office for Disarmament Affairs 
OHCHR Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
OHRLLS Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States
OHRM Office of Human Resources Management
OIOS Office of Internal Oversight Services 
OJSRS Office of the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria
OLA Office of Legal Affairs
OPCW-UN Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons -United Nations Joint Mission for the Elimination of the Chemical Weapons Programme of the Syrian Arab Republic 
OSAA Office of the Special Adviser on Africa 
OSE-Syria Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary -General for Syria
OSES Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary -General for the Sahel
OSESSS Office of the Special Envoy for the Sudan and South Sudan 
OSRSGCAAC  Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary -General for Children and Armed Conflict 
PIA Public information assistants 
POE-Yemen Panel of Experts on Yemen 
PSO Peacebuilding Support Office 
ROL Rule of Law Unit
UNAMA United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan
UNAMI United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq 
UNAMID African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur 
UNCC United Nations Compensation Commission 
UNCTAD United Nations Conference on Trade and Development 
UNDOF United Nations Disengagement Observer Force 
UNDP United Nations Development Programme 
UNEP United Nations Environment Programme 
UNFICYP  United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus
UNIFIL United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon 
UNIOGBIS United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau
UNIPSIL United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone 
UNISFA United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei 
UNITAR United Nations Institute for Training and Research 
UNJSPF United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund 
UNLB United Nations Logistics Base 
UNMEER United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response 
UNMIK United Nations Interim Administration Mission  in Kosovo
UNMIL United Nations Mission in Liberia 
UNMISS United Nations Mission in South Sudan 
UNMIT United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor -Leste
UNMOGIP United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan 
UNOAU United Nations Office to the African Union
UNOCA United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa 
UNOCI United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire 
UNODC United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 
UNOG United Nations Office at Geneva 
UNOM United Nations Office in Mali 
UNOMS United Nations Office of the Ombudsman and Mediation Services 
UNON United Nations Office at Nairobi 
UNOPS United Nations Office for Project Services 
UNOSDP United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace
UNOV United Nations Office at Vienna 
UNOWA United Nations Office for West Africa 
UNPOS United Nations Political Office for Somalia 
UNRCCA United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia
UNRGID United Nations Representative to the Geneva International Discussions
UNRWA United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
UNSCO Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process
UNSCOL Office of the Special Coordinator of the Secretary -General for Lebanon
UNSMIL United Nations Support Mission in Libya       
UNSOA United Nations Support Office for the African Union Mission in Somalia
UNSOM United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia 
UNTSO United Nations Truce Supervision Organization 
UNU United Nations University
UN-Women United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
USG Under-Secretary-General

Friday, January 1, 2016

Status of Women Report

There have been some remarkable improvements in the status of women in the last two decades but for some reason, the United Nations has chosen not to blow the trumpets about that in the sixth edition of The World’s Women 2015: Trends and Statistics. Some of the items that deserve a fanfare:

  • The gender gap in education has not only closed at the primary level, at the tertiary level women outnumber men in many countries. At the secondary level the picture is mixed, with girls doing better than boys in a number of countries and the opposite situation in others. (The bad news is that 58 million children of primary school age are out of school worldwide and more than half are girls in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.) 
  • Globally, women have an average life span of 72 years compared to 68 for men, with both genders registering an eight-year gain in two decades.
  • The number of women dying in childbirth has fallen dramatically: from over a half million women in 1990 to under 300,000 in 2013, a decline of 45 per cent.
On most other aspects, the gender gap has narrowed but not rapidly or in all countries. The unmitigated bad news is that:

  • Physical, sexual, psychological and economic violence affects women around the world regardless of income, age or education. One third of all women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence by a non-partner.
  • The rate of child marriage has declined only slightly and the latest statistics show that almost half of the women between the ages of 20 and 24 in South Asia and two fifths in sub-Saharan Africa were married before 18.
  • Women continue to be grossly under-represented at decision-making levels in all sectors of life. Half the world’s women are in the rank and file of the labour force, compared to three quarters of men, a situation little different from 20 years ago.

The publication is part of a series mandated by the 1995 World Conference on Women and that probably explains some of its meta presumptions. Why, for instance, should we take the equal involvement of women in the labour force as a sign of progress? Could it not signify economic hardship? And is it not rather glib to wave away as a matter of “traditional gender expectations” and “risky behaviours” the fact that men die off much faster than women? Perhaps the main cause is unsafe working conditions?