August 2016: On 27 July, in a little noted decision on "Cartography," the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) made a change that will have more impact on the future of Sustainable Development than all the meetings of its High Level Political Forum. Read More
21 August 2017: The renewed effort being announced today in the long and heroic American war against terrorism in Afghanistan is the result of much expert deliberation but it cannot succeed without incorporating a strategy legend says Hercules used to defeat the giant wrestler Antaeus.
Antaeus was invincible as a wrestler because he was the son of the Earth and every fall increased his strength. Hercules won by holding him up in the air, away from his source of strength.
The Antaeus Strategy
In Afghanistan, the Antaeus strategy involves cutting off the Taliban's capacity to finance its depredations endlessly through drug trafficking. Without drug money the terrorists have no strength. They will not be able to pay their fighters and supporters in Pakistan will quickly lose interest in providing them with guns, ammunition, supplies and safe havens.
So how can the United States cut off Taliban access to drug money?
With a tactic the United States used to end the lawless terror of organized crime during the 1930s: by repealing alcohol prohibition. Without prohibition, there was no profit for criminals in alcohol, and all over the country bootleggers and their mafia networks went broke.
The same thing will happen with drugs, most of which are cheap and easily made vegetable derivatives. Without prohibition, no criminal will find it profitable to make or sell them, especially if government clinics provide them free.
Implementing the Strategy
Implementing the strategy will involve pulling out of the prohibitionist drug treaty the League of Nations began enforcing nearly a century ago and the United Nations has strengthened and strengthened into the current hugely destructive platform for crime. The global war on drugs waged to impose drug prohibitions has not had a single success in the last seven decades; on the contrary, it has caused a steady increase in corruption and violence, and promoted the biggest assault on freedom and individual liberties in human history.
To end the madness the United States can begin by pulling out of the existing prohibitionist drug treaties and taking the lead at the United Nations to repeal them altogether.
Latin American nations have already done much of the groundwork necessary for that to happen at a special session of the General Assembly next year. Only the determined opposition of the United Kingdom, which profits enormously from the $500 billion annual drug trade, stands in the way of action.
Multiple, Wide Ranging Benefits
The beauty of the Antaeus strategy is that it will put out of business not only the Taliban in Afghanistan but the Mexican drug cartels and the local drug runners responsible for the opioid crisis in America.
Without pushers to spread the drug habit to new victims the crisis will become manageable and can be brought to an end at a small fraction of the current cost of the "war on drugs." An added benefit will be the easing of a heavy burden on health insurers.
10 August 2017: The orotund 5,117-word Declaration issued by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) at its high-level political forum in July has now been published, and is notable for not containing a single word about action against drug trafficking, money laundering or organized crime.
Those are the most important factors fueling conflict and humanitarian crises around the world, and are thus primary obstacles to sustainable development (covered under Goal 16 of Agenda 2030). The Secretary-General's report presented to ECOSOC did not mention them, and the Ministerial failure to rectify that in the Declaration is significant.
Fortunately, in taking note of the Secretary-General's report, the ministers "Reiterate that, while our review in 2017 emphasizes Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2, 3, 5, 9 and 14, as well as Goal 17, the integrated, indivisible and universal nature of the Goals makes it essential that we pay particular attention to leveraging synergies and co-benefits, while avoiding or minimizing trade-offs."
That can be taken as a shot across the Secretariat's bow that Goal 16 better feature in its next report.
Why is the UN Silent?
The reticence of the UN Secretariat in dealing with drug trafficking, organized crime and money laundering is not difficult to explain: they are fiercely protected interests of the United Kingdom, carried over from the days of Empire when it fought two major "Opium Wars."
As its colonies dwindled in the 1960s and 1970s, Britain built up a global system of "tax havens" to launder the proceeds of its extensive drug trafficking network. That system developed into the central element of global organized crime networks, serving gun runners, human traffickers, garden variety smugglers and a wide variety of tax dodgers as revealed in the 2016 dump of 11.5 million "Panama Papers."
Britain can manipulate the UN to protect its interests because it has a superb diplomatic service that is miles ahead of any other in jockeying for bureaucratic advantage. It also has a vulture-like range in detecting corruptible talent. Officials who do its bidding are rewarded with easy promotions and plum assignments; those with integrity find themselves sidelined.
The Segue of Amina Mohammad
The most prominent example of that phenomenon recently has been the segue of Amina Mohammad from coordinating the negotiation of Agenda 2030 to the office of Deputy Secretary-General. As coordinator she ensured that the issues of drug trafficking, money laundering and terrorism were contained to one sub-paragraph of Goal 16. Now, as the official overseeing reports of the Secretary-General on the implementation of Agenda 2030 Ms. Mohammad is in a position to omit all mention of the inconvenient issues.
That has happened at a time when the African Group repeatedly underlined the need to deal with the illicit drain of resources from developing countries, and the Latin American Group mounted a multi-year effort to change the prohibitionist international approach to drugs.
The Potential of Agenda 2030
Agenda 2030 has the potential to present money laundering and drug trafficking as interdependent issues. If governments approach them as legal issues, abolishing "tax havens" (which should be more appropriately called "criminal havens") and decriminalizing drugs, it would pull the rug out from under the entire international economy of crime, violence and war.
Without the current prohibitionist approach, drug trafficking would not be profitable to organized crime for most psychotropic substances are cheap vegetable derivatives not worth pushing. The decriminalization of drugs would thus quickly render the problem of abuse a manageable mental health issue.
As drug trafficking is a major source of income for terrorist groups and all crime is heavily dependent on money laundering, a comprehensive approach to those issues would also quickly make arms trafficking and supporting conflict very difficult.
28 July 2017: One of China's richest men, Ng Lap Seng, was convicted yesterday in a New York federal court on six counts of bribery, conspiracy and money laundering. Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said that Ng had corrupted United Nations officials at the "highest levels" to become his "private band of profiteers."
The prosecution charged that Ng had tried between 2010 and 2015 to hijack to China the role of the UN Office of South-South Cooperation (SSC) in New York. He was accused of paying millions of dollars to the President of the General Assembly, John Ashe, and Dominican Republic Ambassador Francis Lorenzo, in a bid to have the General Assembly endorse his plan to build a South-South conference center in Macau, where he owned a hotel, a marina, a condominium complex, a heliport and a shopping center.
Ashe and Lorenzo were arrested in October 2015; both were released on bail, the former pleading not guilty and the latter pleading guilty. Ng was also arrested and has been under house arrest in his luxury Manhattan apartment. After the conviction, Ng's lawyer announced that it would be appealed.
Meanwhile: Another Deal that Needs Attention
While the Ng case been in the courts, the UN Development Program (UNDP) has signed a "Partnership Agreement" on South-South Cooperation with a Chinese law firm (sic). On 21 November 2016, UNDP and the Beijing Yingke Law Firm, which describes itself as "the biggest own-operated law firm in Asia Pacific," agreed "to support the global coalition of think tank networks to expand research and knowledge production and sharing for South-South Cooperation underpinning the implementation of the 2030 Agenda."
"The partnership will also support deepening the understanding of legal environment and policy coordination related to South-South and Triangular Cooperation." At a signing ceremony in New York, Sarah Poole, Deputy Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, emphasized the "importance of strengthening the legal environment and policy coordination for effective South-South and Triangular Cooperation, saying “In South-South Cooperation, it is often the public-private partnership at play that implements strategic programmes across developing countries.”
China's Disrespect of Law
Ms Poole did not address the issue of China's disrespect for law in its domestic governance and in its relations with other developing countries in iSout-East Asia, the Tibetan plateau and South Asia.
According to a UNDP Press release, "policy coordination and the legal environment for South-South cooperation is one of the priority research pillars of the South-South Global Thinkers Initiative -- the Global Coalition of Think Tank Networks for South-South Cooperation supported by UNDP and the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC)."
"The Global Coalition was established to foster engagement of the think tank networks of the South on harnessing knowledge and innovative solutions to advance frontier thinking and policy advocacy in South-South Cooperation for sustainable development."
Mr. Xiangrong Mei, Chairman of Yingke Global Board speaking at the signing ceremony, expressed gratitude at "the opportunity to partner with the South-South Global Thinkers initiative., and said his firm would continue contributing "support, knowledge, and expertise to South-South Cooperation" for sustainable development goals ."
Also present at the ceremony was Mr. Jorge Chediek, Envoy of the UN Secretary General and Director of the UN Office for South-South Cooperation.
No one present expressed an opinion on whether the United Nations should be opening the door to a critically important international development process for a "law firm" from a brutally lawless country. Given Mr. Ng's criminal conviction and the clear effort by the Chinese government to gain a potentially deeply negative strategic role in South-South Cooperation, the matter deserves focused attention at the next meeting of the General Assembly's High-Level Committee on SSC.
20 May 2017: Reading the draft Outcome document of the second High-Level ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development (22-25 May) brings to mind Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. Both are essentially tragic but shot through with the dark comedy of cant, myopia and insanity. Commenting on it makes me feel like a Tralfamadorian trying vainly to communicate impending danger to a bar filled with merry drunks. (For those who have forgotten or have never read the book, a Tralfamadorian is a two-foot alien shaped like a toilet brush and able to see the future.)
The United States and Britain have a long history of political animosity dating back to the 18th Century War of Independence but the strong cultural ties between the two countries have obscured that record. Modern transatlantic differences first came into focus in August 1941, when Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874-1965) and President Franklin Roosevelt (1882-1945) met on a battleship anchored in Newfoundland’s Placentia Bay to declare a set of common war aims. Read More
19 December 2016: In a resolution on the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund the General Assembly expresses concern that it suffered $3.4 billion in losses due to foreign exchange factors during the 2014-2015 biennium. It urges the Secretary-General to "employ suitable procedures and tools to mitigate foreign exchange losses as well as develop an internal mechanism to monitor, evaluate and manage" such losses or gains. Read More
13 September 2016: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein opened the 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council by complaining about"an emerging pattern: the growing refusal on the part of an increasing number of Member States to grant OHCHR, or the human rights mechanisms, access" when it "is requested explicitly, or in other instances to engage with us." Read more
13 May 2017: The following list reflects information published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
TOP STATE MILITARY SPENDERS
%GDP Per Capita $ Billion % Increase $ 2007-2016
United States 3.3 1886 611 4.8
China 1.9 156 215 118
Russia 5.3 483 69.2 87
Saudi Arabia 10.0 1978 63.7 20
India 2.5 42 55.9 54
France 2.3 862 55.7 2.8
Britain 1.9 741 48.3 12
Japan 1.0 365 46.1 2.5
Germany 1.2 509 41.1 6.8
South Korea 2.7 729 36.8 35
Italy 1.5 467 27.9 16
Australia 2.0 1013 24.6 29
Brazil 1.3 113 23.7 18
UAE 5.7 2504 22.8 123
Israel 5.8 2194 18.0 19
TOP ARMS MANUFACTURERS
Corporation HQ Arms Sales #Employees
Lockheed Martin USA 36.44* 126,000
Boeing USA 27.96 `61,000
BAE Systems UK 25.51 82,000
Raytheon USA 21.78 61,000
Northrop Grumman USA 20.06 65,000
General Dynamics USA 19.24 99,900
Airbus Group Europe 12.86* 136,500
United Technologies USA 9.50* 197,200
Leonardo** Italy 9.30 47,160
L3 Communications USA 8.77 38,000
Thales France 8.10 62,190
Huntington Ingalls USA 6.74 35,500
Almaz-Antey Russia 6.62 N/A
Safran France 5.02 70,090
Harris USA 4.92 21,000
* They have large non-military revenues ** Formerly Finmeccanica
Chinese genocide in Tibet draws rare UN protest Read More
Chinese actions recall 1961 General Assembly resolution on Tibet self-determination
Miroslav Lajčák, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia, was elected President of the 72nd session of the General Assembly on 31 May 2017. For details see here.
Dates of Assembly Debates Until 2026
The first Information document of the 71st session of the General Assembly lists the dates of annual 9-day opening debates until 2026. A/INf/71/1 of 12 January 2017 provides the following information:
72nd session opens 12 September 2017; General Debate begins 19 September
73rd session opens 18 September 2018; General Debate begins 25 September
73rd session opens 17 September 2019; General Debate begins 30 September
74th session opens 15 September 2020; General Debate begins 22 September
76th session opens 14 September 2021; General Debate begins 21 September
77th session opens 13 September 2022; General Debate begins 20 September
78th session opens 12 September 2023; General Debate begins 25 September
79th session begins 17 September 2024; General Debate begins 24 September
80th session opens 16 September 2025; General Debate begins 23 September
81st session opens 15 September 2026; General Debate begins 22 September
If you read our coverage of the high-level UN proceedings in 2016, it will be clear that they do not add much value to the consideration of various issues. The story on the Outcome document of the 2017 (above) indicates that will be true also of proceedings in 2017.
INDEPENDENT NEWS AND COMMENT ON WORLD AFFAIRS
Tiny satellites are coming into their own as the need for cheap earth observation systems booms.
2 September 2016: A year after the General Assembly adopted “Agenda 2030” as the global plan of action for the next 15 years the project is appearing increasingly Utopian. Read More