UNEP Gets New Head

Erik Solheim of Norway will be the new Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), taking over from Achim Steiner of Germany in June 2016. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made the announcement following consultations with the Chairpersons of the regional groups in the UN General Assembly, so the required approval by member States is guaranteed. Mr. Solheim is currently Chair of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a post he has held since 2013. From 2007 to 2012, he was Norway's Minister for the Environment and International Development. He also served as Norway's Minister for International Development from 2005 to 2007. Photo by Magnus Fröderberg/Nordic Council  norden.org

Peace & Security

Rich Debate on UN Peace Ops Misses key Issue    
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. It is not a lack of firm evidence that prevents the UN from focusing on ugly realities. In 2011, the World Bank’s annual flagship World Development Report noted (page 54): “Countries rich in oil and other minerals that can be illegally trafficked are much more likely to have a civil war, and a longer one, with rebels financing their activity through the sale of lootable resources, such as diamonds in Sierra Leone and coltan (the mineral columbite-tantalite) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Illegal trafficking has been a source of finance for armed groups in Afghanistan, Mindanao, and Northern Ireland.”

The report did not examine what foreign factors contributed to that phenomenon but proceeded to consider cases of weak internal governance and domestic political support of violence “linked through underlying institutional weaknesses.” Yemen faced “four separate conflicts: the Houthi rebellion in the North, the presence of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, grievances in the south, and the popular protests for change that have swept through the Arab world. There is little direct evidence of links between these conflicts, other than through the weakness of national institutions to address them. Similarly, in Nepal, following a decade-long insurrection (1996–2006) a Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed between the Maoist rebels and the government. But violence between political rivals, quasi-political extortion, and criminal gang activity have increased markedly since the civil war.”

The lack of comment on international linkages was not from shortage of data. A little later in the same chapter (page 55 ff), the report offered the following observations: “Trafficking of drugs, people, and commodities has been an international concern for decades. Criminal networks take advantage of communications, transport, and financial services—and overwhelm enforcement mechanisms that are either rooted in national jurisdictions or hampered by low cooperation and weak capacity.”
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More Interviews on June 7

The next grilling of candidates for  Secretary-General is set for 7 June. Miroslav Lajcak of Slovakia, Susanna Malcorra of Argentina and former UN Chef de Cabinet Alicia Barcena of Mexico are the rumored new faces

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 SG's Role

The Preparatory Commission that worked to establish the United Nations after its Charter was adopted in 1945 saw the Secretary-General as the key to ensuring popular support for the new Organization. “The United Nations cannot prosper, nor can its aims be realized without the active and steadfast support of the peoples of the world," it said. "The aims and activities of the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council will, no doubt, be represented before the public primarily by the Chairmen of these organs. But the Secretary-General, more than anyone else, will stand for the United Nations as a whole. In the eyes of the world, no less than in the eyes of his own staff, he must embody the principles and ideals of the Charter to which the Organization seeks to give effect.”

Be prepared for erratic service from UNTV!

Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948), Nelson Mandela (1918 - 1913) and Mother Teresa (1910 - 1997) are legendary figures but each has enduring lessons to teach. Click the links above for more. 

The UN's view of 2015 

Drug Trafficking Massive Source of Terrorism Finance 

The failure of the General Assembly thematic debate on peace operations (see above) to focus on drug trafficking and money laundering is a serious one, for they are a massive source of terrorist financing. According to a 2014 study on financial flows linked to the production and trafficking of Afghan opiates published by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) a 1989 initiative of the Group of 7 largest industrialized countries:

"Drug trafficking is a business, but our understanding of this enterprise and response to it remain limited - less than 0.5% of the total laundered funds are seized. 

"Terrorists profit from and are engaged in opiate trafficking - over half the Afghan Taliban Senior Leadership listed under United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1988 are involved in drug trafficking. 

"International opiate traffickers rely on the services of financial professionals, either unwitting or complicit, to manage their assets but no global system exists to alert countries or the private sector of these individuals and entities, or to freeze the assets of opiate traffickers."      


UN ENTITY                    TOTAL STAFF                                %
Secretariat                         41 081                                       54.0 
UNICEF                                12 386                                       16.3  
UNHCR                                   9 728                                       12.8 
UNDP                                     7 456                                         9.8   
UNFPA                                   2 621                                         3.4  
UNOPS                                   1 009                                        1.3 
UN-Women                             816                                         1.1
ITC                                               298                                        0.4  
UNJSPF                                     240                                        0.3
UNRWA                                      144                                        0.2
UNU                                            123                                        0.2
ICJ                                               117                                         0.2  
ICSC                                              56                                         0.1    
UNITAR                                        40                                         0.1  
Total                                     76 115                                    100.0

  $5.4 Billion Two-Year Budget for UN
The UN biennial budget for 2016-2017 is $5.4 billion, $170 million less than the amount requested by the Secretary-General. The approved total is $400 million less than the 2014-2015 budget. Most of the cut came from Public Information funding. Acting by consensus in December 2015, the Assembly also decided how much each Member State will pay. The United States and Japan remain the top two contributors to the budget, with 22 and 9.68 per cent); for the first time is China will be third, with 7.92 per cent. 

UN Specialized Agencies, Funds and Programmes

 A Statistical Profile of UN Staff

There are over 76 thousand people working for the United Nations and its various entities around the world. That does not include the staff of the autonomous UN Specialized agencies (like the World Health Organization), but does include programs like UNICEF initiated by the UN General Assembly.  Of that grand total, fewer than 10,000 are subject to a national quota system linked to the size of a country's budgetary contribution. 

Most UN staff have contracts ranging from a few months to five years. A minority have permanent or continuing contracts. There are two major categories of staff, Professional (P) and the mainly secretarial General Services (GS). The Professional entry level is P-1 and goes up to P-5. Above that are two Director levels, D1 and D2 (the latter being more senior), and then the political appointee levels of Assistant-Secretary-General (ASG) and the more senior Under-Secretary-General (USG). The General Service ranks also ascend numerically and those who qualify can move up into the Professional ranks.

The charts below show the June 2015 breakdown of all UN staff by entity and location.


Where 41,081 UN staff were posted as of 30 June 2015

Duty station                          Country                               # Staff    

New York                           United States                           6 545   Geneva                                Switzerland                             3 459

Nairobi                                     Kenya                                    1 836

El Fasher                                  Sudan                                   1 710  

Vienna                                       Austria                                  1 156

Port-au-Prince                         Haiti                                     1 101

Juba                                      South Sudan                           1 090

Monrovia                                 Liberia                                    1 041

Goma                                    DR of Congo                                988

Kabul                                     Afghanistan                                938

Addis Ababa                          Ethiopia                                     899

Naqoura                                 Lebanon                                     861

Bamako                                      Mali                                           819

Kinshasa                              DR of Congo                                 806

Some Older Blog Posts


"Restoring Humanity"

The Economic and Social Council has decided to convene an “event” on the morning of 27 June that will consider the theme “Restoring humanity and leaving no one behind: working together to reduce people’s humanitarian need, risk and vulnerability.” It will be an informal panel discussion of what used to be referred to as the transition from relief to development. ECOSOC has decided that it will be known hereafter as “rethinking the humanitarian-development nexus.” The event will have no negotiated outcome.