Scroll down for:
29 January 2017: At its final meeting in 2016 on 23 December, the General Assembly adopted a stinging resolution on Ban Ki-Moon’s proposed budget outline for 2018–2019. Echoing the views expressed by itsAdvisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, the Assembly reaffirmed testily that the “budget outline should provide a greater level of predictability of resources” and set out what it wanted from the Secretary-General:
(a) A preliminary estimate of resources needed for the proposed program of activities
(b) Priorities, reflecting general trends of a broad sectoral nature
(c) Real growth, positive or negative, compared with the previous budget
(d) Size of the contingency fund expressed as a percentage of the overall level of resources.
In another sign of open dissatisfaction the Assembly further reaffirmed that the “proposals of the Secretary-General should reflect resource levels commensurate with mandates” and that “the budget outline is a preliminary estimate of resources.”
UN Priorities for 2018-2019
In inviting the Secretary-General to base the Outline on a preliminary estimate of $5,395 million (inclusive of $1,124.4 million for special political missions), the Assembly asked that he be guided by the following 8 priorities:
(a) Promotion of sustained economic growth and sustainable development
(b) Maintenance of international peace and security
(c) Development of Africa
(d) Promotion of human rights
(e) Effective coordination of humanitarian assistance
(f) Promotion of justice and international law
(h) Drug control, crime prevention and combating international terrorism.
Source: General Assembly resolution 71/274; SG report in A/71/428; ACABQ report in A/71/634.
2 December 2016: Delegates in the General Assembly's Budget Committee have been roundly critical of the Secretary-General’s budget outline for 2018‑2019 for lack of strategic depth and clarity on estimated costs. They have also found fault with the way the Secretariat has dealt with cost estimates for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. There has been a level of open asperity seldom seen in the UN's diplomatic proceedings.
The Budget Outline was presented by Assistant Secretary-General and Controller Bettina Tucci Bartsiotas. She said the outline represented the Secretary-General's "vision of doing more with less” and improving mandate delivery. While the preliminary $5.4 billion estimate for the biennium was $21.2 million higher than the 2016‑2017 figure the increase was due mainly to initiatives currently being considered by the General Assembly. Without them, the budget outline was $259 million less than the nearly $5.7 billion spent in 2014‑2015.
Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), led off the criticism by saying the outline did not clearly distinguish between estimates for established activities and those for initiatives to be considered. In the ensuing discussion Thailand’s representative speaking for the Group of 77 (developing countries), said estimates for the Umoja management project could be affected by the Assembly’s consideration and thus it was premature to assume that costs could be decreased. She also expressed concern over the proposed resource reductions; they did not reflect achieved efficiencies but rather cuts in expenditure with no clear explanation of how targets would reached.
The European Union representative said "by far the most serious concern" about the outline was the incremental way in which it had been put together. The figures were confusing and sometimes contradictory, the overall approach lacked strategic depth and it was unclear what items were included in the outline and what must be added. The limited benefits accruing from the Umoja project were disappointing and those expected in 2019 needed clarification. The delegate of Japan noted the need to go beyond mere projection of the current budget into the next biennium and asked why it had been introduced so late in the session
The delegate of Switzerland said that by the time the budget was approved program plans often were outdated; there was no link between resource allocation and past performance. The lack of strategy left member States “embroiled in micro-management of allocating resources to the extent that they authorize the creation and abolition of individual posts.”
Calling for a "reform the budget process,” the United States delegate urged a scrutiny of core drivers of costs such as staff costs, the review of mandates and reduction of duplication. Under current arrangements substantive bodies were routinely forced to operate in a financial vacuum without information on how much their decisions would cost.
The representative of the Russian Federation said he could not agree on appropriations for initiatives that had not been approved; they should be shown separately.
Agenda 2030 Implementation
Another round of criticism was heard on 30 November, with delegates focusing on the Secretary-General's failure to present a comprehensive proposal to support implementation of the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals. They also expressed strong concern over the Secretariat’s handling of program budget assessments for Regional Commissions.
David Nabarro, Special Adviser on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, presented the Secretary General’s report on supporting and financing the 2030 Agenda. To eliminate extreme poverty, reduce inequality and tackle climate change, among a multitude of other goals, the report asked for $3.48 million (to implement ECOSOC decisions), $5.9 million for other mandated action in 2017 and $12.5 million for strengthening technical cooperation.
The Chairman of ACABQ noted that the Secretary-General had not provided sufficient information on how proposed enhanced resources for the Development Account and technical cooperation would be utilized, and would therefore not recommend an approval of those resources.
Thailand’s representative, speaking for the “Group of 77” expressed disappointment with the report. “We are perplexed that even after two resolutions, 70/247 and 70/248 C, the Secretary-General does not appear to fully comprehend the intentions of this Assembly,” she said.
Many other delegations expressed the same sentiments. The representative of the Dominican Republic, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, said the Secretary-General’s report had neither provided sufficient details on how regional commissions would deliver their development mandates, nor acknowledged how the capacity of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) would be strengthened. The delegate of Switzerland said the report demonstrated that old structures and concepts were still in place, leaving little evidence that the Secretary-General had established new mechanisms allowing the Secretariat to work more cohesively. The representative of the European Union warned that neither the Development Account nor the regular program for technical cooperation were effective mechanisms; they would divert much-needed funds from other, more effective delivery mechanisms.
Main Committees of 71st session begin Work
1 October 2016: Four of the six main committees of the General Assembly begin their general debate on Monday, 3 October. They deal with Disarmament and International Security (First Committee); Special Political and Decolonization (Fourth Committee), Economic and Financial (Second Committee) and Legal (Sixth Committee).
The Social Humanitarian and Cultural (Third Committee) holds its first substantive meeting on 4 October.
The Administration and Budgetary (Fifth Committee) has been at work since 29 September, dealing with organizational matters, holding informal consultations on the 2016-2017 budget and having a general discussion on the annual report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services. The OIOS report is first to be submitted by Under-Secretary-General Heidi Mendoza who has held the post since December 2015.
The Second Committee has an invited keynote speaker to kick off its debate, Zambian-born Dambisa Moyo, whose web page says she is, “a global economist and author who analyzes the macro-economy and international affairs.” She “serves on the boards of Barclays Bank, the financial services group, SABMiller, the global brewer, Barrick Gold, the global miner, and Seagate Technology. She was previously an economist at Goldman Sachs and worked at the World Bank in Washington. She is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa and How the West Was Lost: Fifty Years of Economic Folly and the Stark Choices Ahead. Her third book was Winner Take All: China’s Race for Resources and What it Means for the World.
All the open and formal meetings of the Main Committees have been streamed on the Web since the 66th session of the General Assembly and they are available on demand.
20 September 2016: In the wake of UNCTAD 14's failure to take on board the issue of massive illicit financial flows from developing countries (read here), the General Assembly is ramping up the work of ECOSOC’s Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters.
Under a draft resolution (E/2017/L.2/Rev.1) presented by the Group of 77 (developing countries) on 15 September, the Assembly would direct the Committee to meet twice a year instead of once and take note of the report of the High-level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa and the joint Second Committee-ECOSOC discussions of the matter last October and November (summary records in E/2015/SR.28 and 29).
The Committee’s nine subcommittees are already focused on core issues related to the multi-billion-dollar illicit flow of resources from developing countries, but it meets only once a year for four days. The Assembly looks to strengthen the “institutional arrangements to scale up” tax cooperation, including “the conversion of the Committee into an intergovernmental subsidiary body of the Council.”
The resolution emphasizes the importance of the Committee enhancing its collaboration with other international organizations active in the area of international tax cooperation, including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and with relevant regional and sub-regional bodies. It asks the President of ECOSOC “to issue invitations to representatives of national tax authorities to attend the annual special meeting of the Council” that will consider international cooperation in tax matters.
The obvious hope behind those instructions is that the bodies named can be energized on an issue they have dealt with very cautiously over the decades. As the 11.5 million leaked documents in the May 2016 Panama Papers showed, the world's ultra-rich siphon out enormous amounts of wealth to escape taxes, and all institutions have been wary of offending them.
The next meeting of the Committee of experts will be in Geneva (11 to 14 October). The Assembly would have it meet again in December “back-to-back with the special meeting of the Council,” to increase the Committee’s engagement with ECOSOC and enhance intergovernmental consideration of tax issues.
19 September 2016: General Assembly President Peter Thomson has a support staff of 29 to run the 71st session, (the same number as Mogens Lykketoft had during the 70th). A number of key posts continue to be filled by the same people but there has been some rearrangement of duties to focus more on Agenda 2030. The information provided about the individuals on the team is perhaps more than most people might want to know, but one detail -- nationality -- is not provided. It would also be interesting to know who is seconded by governments and who are UN staff members. In keeping with UN practice, the nationalities of staff are not officially provided; the parenthetical notations below are deduced from the biographical notes on the PGA web site, of which the following is an edited version:
Ambassador Tomas Anker Christensen (Denmark) Chef de Cabinet of the Office of the President. He served in the same position in the Cabinet of the President of the 70th Session. Previously he was Senior Adviser for Partnerships in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, helping to design a new UN Partnership Facility and promoting partnerships as a means of implementing mandates with a particular focus on climate action and finance. In 2014 he played a key role in planning, organizing and executing the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit. Before coming to the UN he was (2010 to 2012) Under Secretary for Global Challenges at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark and responsible for participation in the Rio+20 conference on Sustainable Development. In that role he also built a successful multi-stakeholder partnership, the Global Green Growth Forum focused on catalyzing through partnerships to speed and scale the transition to a global green economy. His diplomatic postings have included Tehran, Algiers, Cairo, Luxembourg, New Delhi and the United Nations in New York. He was Director for the Middle East and North Africa at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He speaks English, French, German and Danish.
Ammar Aldurra (Iraq) Senior adviser for humanitarian issues, is a career diplomat. He joined the Iraqi Foreign Ministry in 2004. Serving as a Congressional Officer, Protocol Officer and Political Officer at the Iraqi Embassy in Washington D.C. from 2007-2011, Ammar managed the U.S.-Iraqi political portfolio engaging in policy-planning analysis to government officials and delegations between the two countries. He has directed coordination with the U.S. State Department’s Office of Protocol, Secret Service and Diplomatic Security Service for logistical and technical issues in regards to high-level state visits and delegations, and has performed numerous case-studies on legislations involving capacity-building projects within Iraq and lobbied the offices of the members of the House of Representatives on behalf of the elected government of Iraq. During his most recent posting to New York from 2014-2016, he was appointed as the Economic and Social Affairs expert as the Iraqi representative for ECOSOC as well as the representative for the Security Council, coordinating working-visits for expert teams from the UN’s Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force to Baghdad and Erbil training law enforcement officials, and for the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate to meet with Iraqi counter-terrorism governmental agencies in Baghdad.
Manoj Basnyat (Nepal) Senior Adviser and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Team Coordinator. Previously, he was the Special Adviser in the Bureau of Management of the United Nations Development Program. He has more than 20 years of development leadership and management experience. In 2004, he served as UNDP’s Resident Representative in Ukraine, served as Country Director in Afghanistan (2008-2012) and Bangladesh (2006-2008). He was Deputy Resident Representative in Ukraine (2001-2005). Before that, he served in UNDP’s Regional Center in Bratislava, Slovakia (1999 – 2001) for the Europe and CIS region and UNDP’s Regional Center in Colombo (2005 – 2006) for the Asia Pacific region. Earlier in his career, he was a development specialist in World Bank-managed urban development projects and the USAID-funded Integrated Rural Development Project in Rapti, Nepal. He speaks English, Russian and Nepali.
Tanisha Hewanpola (Australia) is the speechwriter for Mr. Peter Thomson. She is a career diplomat in the Australian Foreign Service. Since 2012, she has served at the Australian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York, most recently as a conflict prevention expert and co-chair of the intergovernmental negotiations of the 2015 Review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture, culminating in the simultaneous adoption, by the General Assembly and Security Council, of the 2016 ‘Sustaining Peace’ resolutions. From 2012-2015, she was Australia’s human rights and gender expert at the United Nations. That included serving as Australia’s representative to the Third Committee, and as Australia’s human rights, and women, peace and security expert on the Security Council, during Australia’s term as a non-permanent member in 2013-14. Prior to being posted to New York, she worked on Australia’s foreign policy engagement in the Asia-Pacific, with a particular focus on Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Torres Strait. She also served as a member of Australia’s crisis response team working on the Arab Spring, Fukushima-Daaichi nuclear disaster, and Christchurch earthquake. She has also been a legal adviser in Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Her qualifications include a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice, and Bachelor degrees in Arts, Commerce, and Laws from the University of Adelaide. She is admitted to practice as a Barrister and Solicitor in the Supreme Court of South Australia.
Elina Lemmetty-Hartoneva (Finland) is Senior Adviser responsible for issues related to UN financing and management and also covering other UN institutional issues, including participation of civil society organizations at the UN. Prior to joining the Office of the PGA she worked at the Permanent Mission in New York, covering UN budgets and administration, UN reforms, as well as matters related to good governance, accountability and transparency. During her three years with the Mission she participated in the work of the Administrative and Budgetary Committee (Fifth Committee) of the General Assembly as a facilitator, negotiator and a bureau member. A career diplomat, she has covered issues from international law and human rights to regional development cooperation with SADC countries. She has also served in St. Petersburg, Russia. Before entering the diplomatic service, she worked as lawyer and compliance officer in the private sector. She is fluent in English and Finnish, understands French and Swedish and speaks elementary Russian.
Tomás Pico (Argentina) is the Deputy Communications Director and Deputy-Spokesperson in the Office of the President of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly. Before joining the Office, he worked for the Permanent Mission of Argentina to the United Nations on issues related to the Second Committee of the General Assembly. A member of the Argentinian Foreign Service since 2008, he has served in New Delhi, and from 2010 to 2012, worked at the ministry in Buenos Aires. Before becoming a career diplomat he was a journalist for three years.
Signe Schelde Poulsen (Denmark) is the Special Assistant to the President of the General Assembly. Prior to joining the Office, shewas Second Secretary at the Embassy of Denmark in Addis Ababa, where she was responsible for Denmark’s engagement in South Sudan. She also served three years in the Danish Foreign Ministry in Copenhagen, where she worked on Development Policy and Global Cooperation, the high-level Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) and as Press Adviser. Prior to joining the Ministry, she worked in the Danish Parliament with a focus on development policy.
Danny Rahdiansyah (Indonesia) is a Senior Adviser on Peace and Security, General Assembly Revitalization and First Committee. Previously, he served at the Indonesian Mission to the UN in New York, covering issues related to Security Council, Security Council reform, General Assembly revitalization, and Secretary-General selection. He was also a delegate to the Fifth Committee. A career diplomat since 2003, he has served at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Embassy in Rome, and as a seconded official in IFAD.
Sergio Shcherbakov (Ecuador) is an Adviser in the Sustainable Development Goals’ Team. His portfolio covers matters relating to the Second Committee sustainable development agenda, including the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the implementation and follow-up on Habitat III. Previously, Sergio worked as a diplomat at the Permanent Mission of Ecuador to the United Nations, where he covered the Second Committee of the General Assembly, Humanitarian Affairs and Executive Boards. He was the chief negotiator for the intergovernmental negotiations on Financing for Development, and supported the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Before that he was at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and at the National Secretariat of Planning and Development. He speaks Spanish, English, French and some German, Chinese and Russian.
Jullyette Ukabiala (Nigeria) is a Senior Adviser for Political Affairs. She has served in the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management as a Political Affairs Officer and Secretary to intergovernmental bodies, including the Special Committee on Decolonization, the Statistical Commission and the Trusteeship Council. She has also served as an active member of the secretariat of the Disarmament and International Security Committee, and as Deputy Secretary of the Economic and Social Council’s Group of Experts on Geographical Names. In addition, she was Secretary of the 12th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (Ankara, Turkey, October 2015), and Secretary of the Main Committee of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (Addis Ababa, July 2015). At United Nations Headquarters, she served as a Public Information Officer. Before that she was a Journalist and the Defense Correspondent of the Nigerian Guardian Newspapers.
Fernando Zelner (Brazil) is a Senior Adviser responsible for issues related to Sustainable Development Goals Financing, as well as sustainable development and UN financing and management. He spent three years at the UN Mission of Brazil, serving as a delegate in the Fifth Committee and dealing with macroeconomic issues, including financing for development, as well as global health. A political scientist and a career diplomat, he joined the Brazilian Foreign Service in 2007, served for five years at the Ministry's Division of Agriculture and Commodities in Brasilia. He is fluent in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese, and speaks basic Dutch and Russian.
Francella Strickland-Simonet(Samoa) is Senior Adviser of the Sustainable Development Goals Implementation Team responsible for issues related to Oceans and Climate Change, including the implementation and follow up of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Her role also includes liaising with United Nations Agencies, Funds and Programmes, as well as with representatives of civil society organizations, think tanks and other stakeholders. She joined the Samoa Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2001, was posted to Belgium with accreditation to the European Union and the Secretariat of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States. Since 2011, she was Counsellor and Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN Mission of Samoa.
Harriet Osias (United States) is the Personal Assistant of the President of the General Assembly. Before joining the Office she worked for two years with the Secretary-General Climate Change Support Team. Since joining the staff of the Press Section of the UN Department of Public Information in 1985, she has woked in the Office of Legal Affairs and in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Before that, she worked for Missions in Switzerland, the former Yugoslavia and Lebanon. She speaks English and French.
Ambassador Dessima Williams (Grenada) serves as Special Adviser for Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. She brings experience as a diplomat and negotiator, a social development advocate, professor and private sector investor. In 2009, she was posted as Ambassador of Grenada to the United Nations, serving also as Chair of the Alliance of Small Island Developing States. In the 1980s, she served as Grenada’s representative to the Organization of American States, Deputy Governor to the World Bank and Deputy Permanent Representative to the Inter-American Commission of Women. At the Organization of American States, she shepherded resolutions such as the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, Development and Independence and promotion of small island states. She has taught at secondary, college and university levels and is an advocate for the rights of women and girls, for farmers and for rural development. She founded the Grenada Education and Development Program, which supports Grenada’s students as emerging leaders. She has also owned a business in the tourism sector.
Ambassador Ioannis Vrailas (Greece) is the Special Adviser on Political Issues. He has more than 30 years of diplomatic experience, serving with the Permanent Mission of Greece to the UN (1992-1996), twice with the Greek Permanent Representation to the EU (1988-89 and 2004-2009), and as Deputy Chief of Mission with the Embassies of Greece in Tehran (1996-1999) and in Washington (2009-2011). In Athens, he has served in the Departments of European Union External Relations (1986-1988) and European Union Common Foreign and Security Policy (as European Correspondent from 1999 to 2004). In July 2011, he joined the European External Action Service, after having been selected to the post of Deputy Head of Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations in New York (which he occupied until August 2016). He studied economics at the University of Athens and European Studies at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. He speaks English, French, Greek, Italian and Spanish.
Gabrielle Rajkumar (United States) is the Staff Assistant in the Office of the President of the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly. She also held this position during the 70th session. Prior to joining the Office, she was a Staff Assistant in the Front Office of the Under-Secretary-General, DGACM and a Meeting Services Assistant in the General Assembly Affairs Branch, where she played an active role in servicing plenary meetings. In her current position, she provides substantive support to the Senior Advisers and Management Team in ensuring that all day-to-day logistics of the Office are executed with the highest degree of professionalism. She has a background in Economics and began her career in Marketing and Advertising after graduating from New York University in 2011.
Kamal Amakrane (Morocco) is the Political Director in the Office of the President, an assignment that has continued from the 70th Session of the General Assembly. He oversees political, peace & security affairs as well as human rights, humanitarian and legal issues.
Prior to working in Office of the President of the General Assembly, he served as Chief of Staff of the United Nations Operation in Cote d’Ivoire, where he advanced the coordination of UN’s peacekeeping, political, electoral and rule of law engagements in the country (2013-2015), as well as directed UNOCI’s Ebola response efforts. Before taking up his appointment in Abidjan, he led the Office of the UN-African Union Joint Special Representative for Darfur & Head of UNAMID, where he oversaw the crafting and execution of UNAMID’s strategy for the protection of civilians in Darfur and assisted with the implementation of the Doha Peace Agreement (2011-2013). Previously, he served as Special Assistant to the UN Envoy to Myanmar, tasked to advance the democratic transition in Myanmar (2008-2011). From 2007 to 2008, he supported the UN’s engagement towards the stabilization of Iraq, assisting with the negotiation and implementation of the International Compact with Iraq. He was also part of the UN team working on the political transition in Iraq and tasked with organizing the country’s first elections (2004-2007). His international career began in the Office of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (2002), after which he joined the Office of Arab League’s Secretary-General Amr Moussa, advising on Iraq issues (2003). In Morocco, Kamal worked on sustainable development and urban planning issues (1998-2001). He is an Architect and a graduate of Sciences Po Paris and Columbia University. He speaks fluent Spanish, English, French, Arabic and Berber.
Katharina Kandt (Germany) is the adviser on communications and digital media. She worked on external communications in the Office of the President of the 70th Session.
With a strong background in strategic and digital communications, she will focus on the President’s web and social media presence. A UN staff member since 2015 she worked initially in the Evaluation and Communications Research Unit of the Department of Public Information. In previous positions in Europe, she gained experience in research on gender equality and diversity, website management, social media, outreach, public relations, advertising and publishing. She has worked with civil society as well as the private and public sectors. She has a Master degree in Communications from Sciences Po Paris and a Bachelor degree in Media Management from the Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media. She speaks English, French, German, Spanish and some Arabic
Mateus Luemba (Angola) leads on issues related to the Fourth Committee and Indigenous Peoples. He is also the focal point for issues related to countries of the G77 + China. Previously, he served as Senior Adviser and team coordinator on issues relating to budget and management within the Office of the President of the 70th Session of the Assembly. He was responsible for matters relating to the Fifth Committee. He will also support the team’s work on Peacebuilding. During the 69th Session of General Assembly, he served as Adviser to the President of the UN General Assembly on peacekeeping and the Special Political and Decolonization Committee. From 1999 to 2007, he worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Angola, where he was part of the team in charge of the peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lake Regions. He also served as an expert to the Permanent Joint Commission for Defense and Security between Angola-Zambia and between Angola-Namibia. From 2007 to 2014, he was First Secretary for Economic, Financial and Sustainable Development Affairs at the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Angola to the United Nations.
Michael McManus (Ireland) is the Special Assistant to the Chef de Cabinet. He used to work for the Irish Mission to the United Nations in New York and was heavily involved in the negotiations which led to the agreement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
He has also worked on human rights and development cooperation policy with Irish Aid, on organisational development with a local civil society organisation in Bangladesh as well as on children’s rights with the Council of Europe. He speaks English, Irish, French and German.
Abdelghani Merabet (Algeria) leads on issues related to the Second Committee and the Sustainable Development Goals. He is also the focal point for issues related to countries from the Non-Aligned Movement, the Arab Group and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Before joining the Office of the President of the General Assembly of the 69th and 70th sessions as a Senior Adviser in charge of climate change, sustainable development and fifth committee issues, he served at the Permanent Mission of Algeria to the United Nations in New York. At the mission from 2009 to 2013, he covered Second and Third Committee issues. He was elected as Vice-Chairperson of the 19th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, and was Algeria's chief negotiator chairing the Group of 77 and China during the 2012 Rio+20 Summit on sustainable development. The same year, he chaired the group during the sessions of Second Committee, as well as the Economic and Social Council. He also served as national focal point of Algeria to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Before the UN, he worked for the Ministry of Finance in Algeria for five years prior to joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2006, where he worked for the Department of Economic Relations and International Cooperation. He studied Economics and Finance at the Ecole Nationale d’Administration of Algiers and has two postgraduate degrees, one in Political Science with a major in defense and international security from the University Jean Moulin in Lyon, France and the other on diplomacy and international relations from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, United States. He speaks Arabic, French, English and Spanish.
Lenka Miháliková (Slovakia) is a Senior Adviser on Peace and Security related issues, continuing her role in the 70th Session of the Assembly. She follows the First Committee, disarmament and non-proliferation in general. She participated on preparations of the Special UNGA Session on the World Drug Problem and acted as a liaison officer for the Eastern European Group. A career diplomat since 1996, she has worked in the Department for Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and Counter Terrorism where she was responsible for coordinating and evaluating implementation of Slovakia’s obligations with regard to several international treaties and export control regimes. She has been closely involved in UN affairs since 2002 when she finished her posting in London where she served from 1998 to 2002 as a Secretary for Press and Cultural Affairs. She deepened her experience in the field of culture and education while working at the desk office for UNESCO and the Deputy Secretary-General for the Slovak Commission for UNESCO. During a posting to the UN Mission in New York from 2009-2013, she followed the Fourth Committee and issues on the agenda of the Security Council. She participated in drafting strategy for candidature and membership of Slovakia in the Security Council (2006-2007), and has followed peace and security issues, peacekeeping and political affairs.
Alejandro Sousa (Mexico) provides legal advice to the President, serving as the focal point for the Sixth Committee, as well as for Oceans and Law of the Sea, Rule of Law and international courts and tribunals. In addition, Alejandro deals with International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights and Counter-terrorism. He served as Legal Adviser to the President of the 70th Session and was the Legal Adviser of the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the UN and its delegate to the Sixth Committee from the 67th to the 69th General Assemblies.
After joining the Foreign Service of Mexico in 2005 he served as Legal Adviser in the Mission to the European Union in Brussels, in charge of Human Rights, Justice, Home Affairs and Council of Europe. He has also served as consul, specializing in border affairs, migration and community outreach. He participated in several negotiations including the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the process of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (BBNJ), the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, and the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT). He was elected Vice-President of the twenty-fifth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on the Law of the Sea and Vice-Chair of the Special Committee on the Charter of the UN and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization. He is fluent in Spanish, English and French.
Meena Syed (Norway) continues her work during the 70th session of the Assembly as senior adviser responsible for the process of selection and appointment of the next UN Secretary-General, for the relationship between the Security Council and the General Assembly and Security Council reform. A career diplomat, she has served at the Permanent Mission of Norway twice (2005-2007 and 2011-2015), most recently as counsellor responsible for the Security Council and the Middle East, as well as human rights issues in the Security Council. In addition to dealing with the Middle East, North Africa and Ukraine, she has been responsible for issues relating to the reform and the working methods of the Security Council. She has worked as the human rights delegate at the Mission of Norway, responsible for the General Assembly’s Third Committee. Other assignments have been as the Norwegian Representative office to the Palestinian Authority, and in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ legal department and section for peace and reconciliation. She has a J.D. in law from the University of Oslo and a M.A. in Human Rights from Columbia University, New York. She speaks English, Spanish and Norwegian.
Dan Thomas (United Kingdom) leads work on communication and external relations and serves as Spokesperson for the President. Before joining the Office for the 70th session in September 2015 at the request of President Mogens Lykketoft of Denmark, he headed up communications, mobilization and outreach for the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Change Team within the Executive Office of the Secretary-General. In 2014 he led communications for the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit for which he won an award. A former journalist with Reuters and BBC Television News, he joined UNICEF as a multimedia producer in 2000. In 2008, he left the UN system to join the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) – a public-private global health partnership based in Geneva – eventually becoming Acting Director of Communication. He has travelled to more than 50 countries and lived and worked in Cardiff, Hong Kong, London, Nairobi, Geneva and New York.
Ramis Sen (Turkey)is a Senior Adviser for Third Committee, human rights and humanitarian issues, coninuing a role he had in the Office of the 70th General Assembly president. A career diplomat who joined the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1997, he has served in a variety of capacities at various diplomatic missions, including the United Nations mission (2007-2010). In 2010, he was elected as Chairman of the United Nations NGO Committee. In September 2015, he joined the Office of the President of the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
Evelyne Ojwang (United States) is the Administrative Assistant in the Office of the President, a position she has held since the 69th session of the General Assembly.
Her work focuses on preserving the institutional memory of the Office, ensuring smooth and efficient transition between Presidents of the General Assembly and advising on and implementing relevant administrative policies, systems and procedures. She served previously as a Meeting Services Assistant at the UN General Assembly Affairs Branch, providing meeting support for the GA plenaries and its committees and supported the work of the PGA’s office. In previous capacities, she worked in advocacy organizations, including World Information Transfer and American Cancer Society, promoting health and environmental literacy. She has a Master’s in Public Administration from Georgia State University, in Atlanta, GA, and speaks English and Swahili
Tracy Raczek (United States) is a Senior Adviser for Partnerships and Outreach, with a particular focus on facilitating multi-stakeholder partnerships on sustainable development, including climate change and oceans. Before joining the Office during the 70th session, she led work on the Action Agenda for the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit, working closely with the UN System, civil society, foundations, and the private sector for the United Nations Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team within the Executive Office of Secretary-General. She also served on the Secretariat of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability in preparation for UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20),
From 2007 to 2012, she was a Partnership Specialist and focal point on Sustainable Development and Climate Change with the United Nations Development Fund for Women and UN Women. She helped shape the organization’s work in this area, providing policy guidance on gender and climate change, especially in the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Prior to joining the United Nations she had more than 10 years of experience in the environmental field, specifically forestry and environmental conservation, as well as in education and social justice advocacy.
Suljuk Mustansar Tarar (Pakistan is Senior Advisor on the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals. His expertise includes peace and security, human rights, sustainable development and humanitarian issues. He has worked with UNFPA since 2013 on political strategy, partnerships, advocacy, inter-agency coordination and contributing to UN reports for ICPD beyond 2014 review and the Post 2015 process. He also helped in the planning and organization of regional population conferences, the Commission on Population and Development and the UNGA Special Session on ICPD beyond 2014, and integrating UNFPA mandate in intergovernmental outcomes and processes including in implementation and follow-up of SDG’s and Financing for Development. Since joining the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1998 he has served at the Jeddah Consulate and Permanent Mission to the UN, where he was responsible for issues in the Third Committee and, at various times, also in the Second, First and Fifth Committees. He served as Rapporteur of 2009 NGOs Committee and Chair of its January 2013 session; he was also Vice Chair of 2011 Commission on Population and Development; and Vice Chair/Rapporteur of 67th Session of UNGA Third Committee. He has a bachelors degree in Architecture from National College of Arts, Lahore and Masters in International Affairs from School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University. He speaks English, Punjabi and Urdu and has basic understanding of German and Arabic
13 September 2016: The 118th meeting of the 70th session of the General Assembly this morning segued into the first meeting of the 71st session with a historic event: the first ever oath of office by the Assembly president. Peter Thomson of Fiji made the event memorable by having his two granddaughters, Grace (7) and Mirabelle (5), join him on the podium.
In his concluding remarks, Assembly president Mogens Lykkettoft of Denmark reviewed a list of significant achievements under his stewardship, most prominently, the increased transparency of the process to appoint the next Secretary-General. He announced that he had sent a letter to the president of the Security Council (with copies to all Ambassadors), expressing hope that the transparency of the process would continue into the next phase and contribute to the legitimacy of the recommendation to the Assembly for action.
After the oath-taking, which Mr. Thomson did with a copy of the UN Charter in his upraised right hand, the gavel changed hands and the Assembly heard Mr. Thomson's opening statement. He dwelt on the challenges ahead, especially the implementation of Agenda 2030. The 71st session, he declared, must "witness the wheels turning" on Agenda 2030 implementation. To push work on all 17 goals, he had assembled a team in the Office of the President. He would also seek to align the work of the Assembly and ECOSOC on Agenda 2030 issues. After that, the Assembly got down to arranging its work for the months ahead. Real work will begin with the meeting next Monday on the issue of mass migrant flows. Oath is 37 minutes into the tape (link above).
6 August 2016: The General Assembly has negotiated for eight years on Security Council reform without a written text, structuring its talk around five clusters of issues. On 27 July, in deciding to continue talking into 2017, it noted that there had been some "convergence" on two of those clusters. One was the working methods of the Council (see next column); the other was the relationship of the Council and the Assembly. The issues on which there was no acknowledged progress were: categories of membership and the question of the veto, regional representation and the size of an enlarged Council.
The 40 minute meeting of the Assembly as it adopted the decision is worth watching (video here) because it makes clear why progress has been so hard to achieve: the system of group positions that usually facilitates UN negotiations has broken down. Only the African, Arab and Caricom groups have spokesmen (respectively, Sierra Leone, speaking 6 minutes into the video, Kuwait 22 minutes in, and Guyana at 24).
All the rest are split into unique patterns. There is Brazil speaking (substantively) for the "Group of 4," including also Germany, India and Japan (at the 10 minute mark). Italy speaks (16 minutes in) for the "Uniting for Consensus" group which took shape in opposition to the G-4 and has as core members also Egypt, Mexico, Pakistan and Turkey. Nicaragua speaks (19 minutes in) for the disparate "L 69" group of developing countries from all regions. Belgium speaks also for the Netherlands. China and the Russian Federation speak separately; the three other permanent members of the Security Council do not speak.
29 July 2016: In announcing the sentencing of one of those who pleaded guilty in the bribery of the late John Ashe, the president of the United Nations General Assembly from September 2013 to August 2014, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York made clear that the case was not only about building a South-South conference center in Macau.
At the UN, the case has been seen as primarily about the effort to get Ashe – and the UN Office of South-South Cooperation – to support the development of a UN conference center in Macau. However, a 29 July Press release from the prosecutor’s office announcing the 20-month sentence handed down to Shiwei Yan, also known as “Sheri Yan,” noted that she and co-defendant Heidi Park had paid Ashe $800,000 in exchange for official actions to benefit several Chinese businessmen.
“With Yan’s knowledge, Ashe shared a portion of the bribe payment with one or more Antiguan officials,” the press release said. In August 2013, Yan and Park “began paying Ashe approximately $20,000 per month, purportedly for his forthcoming service as the ‘Honorary Chairman’ of a non-governmental organization, the Global Sustainable Development Foundation, later known as the Global Sustainability Foundation (GSF).”a wider canvas.
Yan, a 60-year old naturalized American citizen who lived mainly in China prior to her arrest, had arranged for him to travel to Antigua with a Chinese businessman (identified as “CC-2”). They met with Antiguan officials about a business deal for a “Chinese security company” and succeeded in signing a “memorandum of understanding” with the government.
That deal was different from the one that led Ashe to officially attend a private conference in Macau hosted by the real estate developer identified as “CC-3,” who turned out to be billionaire Ng Lap Seng.
Yan and Park were charged with bribery in October 2015, along with Francis Lorenzo (then-Deputy Permanent Representative of the Dominican Republic to the UN), Ashe, Ng and his assistant Jeff C. Yin. Yan, Park and Lorenzo subsequently pleaded guilty to bribery, money laundering, and other charges. Ng and Yin, are set to go to trial in New York on 23 January 2017. Following Ashe’s untimely death on 22 June, charges against him were dropped.
In addition to her prison term, Yan was sentenced to two years of supervised release, fined $12,500, and ordered to forfeit $300,000.
25 July 2016: The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is the latest addition to the United Nations System. Not a full-fledged Specialized Agency nor a Fund or Program initiated by the General Assembly, it will nevertheless be represented on the UN System Chief Executive’s Board (CEB) and its staff will be entitled to carry the Organization’s blue passport.
Founded in 1951 as the Provisional Intergovernmental Committee for the Movement of Migrants from Europe (PICMME), to deal with the post-World War II population displacements, IOM has had its current name and a formal relationship with the UN since 1989. The existing agreement was deemed inadequate in view of the increasing importance of the issue in recent years.
After its initial task of identifying resettlement countries for the 11 million people uprooted by the war, it helped get nearly a million of them to their destinations. Since then, as it has faced successive challenges in Europe and globally – Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, Chile 1973, the Vietnamese Boat People 1975, Kuwait 1990, Kosovo and East Timor 1999, the Asian tsunami and Pakistan earthquake of 2004/2005 – the agency has evolved significantly from its original logistical functions. It now deals with all aspects of the issue except the normative, working with governments and civil society to advance understanding of particular situations, support socioeconomic development through migration, and promote the well-being of migrants.
IOM activities have grown rapidly in recent years and are currently funded at some $1.4 billion; it has over 9,500 staff in 450 centers in over 150 countries. It has 165 States members and 8 with Observer status.
The new agreement was approved by the IOM Council in June and by the UN General Assembly on 25 July; it will be signed by Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon and IOM Director General William Lacy Swing at the UN General Assembly's one-day Summit for Refugees and Migrants on 19 September 2016.
July 2016: United States authorities have expanded the bribery charges against Macau billionaire Ng Lap Seng in the case involving former General Assembly president John Ashe who was found dead on 22 June in his home gym in Dobbs Ferry, NY (see below). The new charges say Ng and his assistant, Jeff Yin, agreed to pay Ashe even after he left office, and that they also bribed two UNDP officials in the effort to get backing for a UN conference center in Macau. Both Ng and Yin have pleaded not guilty.
The additional charges brought in by a federal grand jury in Manhattan on 14 July have the obvious effect of replacing Ashe with two unnamed UNDP officials who could testify to the alleged crime if they cooperate with the prosecution. The indictment also expands the time frame of the case from 2014, when Ashe finished his term as president of the General Assembly, to September 2015, when Ng and Yin were arrested.
In May 2015, the foundation associated with Ng's company, Sun Kian Ip Group, donated $1.5 million to the UN Office for South-South Cooperation. A UNDP review of the use of that money said in May 2016 that the funds were used, in part, to pay for a conference in Macau.
Three people have pleaded guilty to related charges in the case, including Francis Lorenzo, a former diplomat from the Dominican Republic who is said to have been a go-between for Ashe and Ng.
24 June 2016 — In a surprising turn of events, John Ashe, the president of the 68th UN General Assembly was reported dead of a heart attack on 22 June and the next day the cause of death was changed by a Westchester Medical Examiner to “traumatic asphyxia.” It seems he suffered neck trauma while doing a bench press at his home gym in Dobbs Ferry, New York.
Whether there will be further investigations to rule out homicide is not clear.
Ashe, 61, had been indicted of tax fraud amidst allegations that he received some $1.3 million from Chinese businessmen including billionaire Macau real estate developer Ng Lap Seng. At a hearing in May, Prosecutor Daniel Richenthal announced that Ashe, who had pleaded not guilty, would be facing additional charges. Seven people have been indicted so far in the case. NG and two others have pleaded not guilty; three others have pleaded guilty.
According to the Grand Jury indictment last October, Ashe, a diplomat representing the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda, received bribes to support the development in Macau of a conference facility supporting South-South Cooperation.
A UN internal investigation has found that Ng contributed to a fund supporting the Office of South-South Cooperation and that it paid for the travel of staff to a conference in Macau on cooperation among developing countries. The leadership of OSSC has changed since then because of the retirement of the former Director, who has not been charged.
July 2016: The scandal surrounding John Ashe, former president the General Assembly has led to an effort to have that annually elected officer take an oath of office and abide by a Code of Ethics. There are few structural protections against abuse of the Assembly president's powers because they have always been considered mainly ceremonial and procedural. There are no rules on the books prohibiting what Mr. Ashe is alleged to have done.
The resolution annexing the oath of office and ethics code was drafted by the co-chairs of the Ad hoc Working Group on the revitalization of the General Assembly, Vladimir Drobnjak of Croatia, and Wilfried Emvula of Namibia. It deals with a much broader array of concerns than the integrity of the Assembly’s presiding officer. Among the points it covers are:
Oath of Office
The proposed oath of office is as follows: "I solemnly declare and promise to exercise in all loyalty, discretion and conscience the functions entrusted to me as President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, to discharge these functions and regulate my conduct with the interests of the United Nations only in view and in accordance with the Code of Ethics for the Presidency of the General Assembly, and not to seek or accept instructions in regard to the performance of my duties from any Government or other source external to the Organization".
Code of Ethics
The draft code of ethics reads as follows:
1. The President of the General Assembly shall at all times observe the highest standards of ethical conduct.
2. The President shall avoid any action, before, during or after his or her term of office, which might result in or create the appearance of:
a) The use of the office of the Presidency or resources attached thereto for private gain;
b) Giving unwarranted preferential treatment to any organization or person;
c) Impeding the work of the Organization; or
d) Affecting adversely the confidence of member States in the integrity of the work of the Organization.
3. The President shall avoid any situation involving a conflict between their own personal or private interest and the interests of the Presidency or United Nations;
4. The President shall ensure the greatest possible transparency in the utilization of property, premises, services, and resources made available for the discharge of the functions of the office, and ensure that they are used only for the official business of the Presidency, and not for other purposes;
5. The President shall ensure the greatest possible transparency in any external activities, including the holding of any public or commercial office, or any commercial dealings, to protect against conflict of interest.
6. In the event that the President considers that a conflict of interest may arise, he or she shall recuse himself or herself from handling the matter and, in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly, appoint an Acting President in relation to that matter or meeting;
7. Any reference to the President of the General Assembly in this Code shall also include his or her agents.
Scroll down for:
30 October 2017: The prolonged multi-generational tragedy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo calls for words that should be "howled out in the desert air where hearing should not latch them." Instead, the Security Council has issued a statement that might issue from the imponderable Sphinx. Consider as you read the following that the European members of the Council bear primary responsibility for the situation in that unfortunate land.
"The members of the Security Council were briefed on 11 October by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of Congo and head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO).
The members of the Security Council reiterated their concern at the current political, security and humanitarian situation, in light of the challenges facing the implementation of the 31 December Agreement, the deterioration of the security situation, in particular in the Kasaï region and the East of the country, the increase in abuses and violations of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law in the country, as well as their subsequent humanitarian consequences, disproportionately affecting women and children. They stressed the need for greater attention to the humanitarian situation.
The members of the Security Council expressed concern that, unless political actors demonstrate renewed good faith and political will to deliver on the promises they made to their people on New Year's Eve 2016, the DRC and the wider region are set to face an increased risk of insecurity and instability. They further called upon all political parties, their supporters, and other political actors to remain calm and refrain from violence of any kind. The members of the Security Council reiterated their commitment to act accordingly regarding all Congolese actors whose actions and statements impede the implementation of the agreement and the organization of the elections.
The members of the Security Council reiterated their support to the efforts of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, MONUSCO, the African Union and regional organizations in helping to ensure the full implementation of the 31 December 2016 Agreement, in accordance with resolution 2348 (2017). The members of the Security Council called on partners of the DRC to continue to support genuine efforts by national stakeholders towards the full implementation of the Agreement. They took note of the communiqué adopted at the 7th summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region on 19 October 2017.
The members of the Security Council reiterated that effective, swift and timely implementation of the 31 December 2016 Agreement is critical to a credible electoral process and the peace and stability of the DRC, as well as in supporting the legitimacy of the transitional institutions, as it represents a viable road map towards the holding of inclusive, peaceful and democratic presidential and legislative elections. They called for the urgent publication of a credible electoral timetable, in line with the spirit of consensus that prevailed for the signing of the Agreement. They further reiterated their call for the full implementation of the confidence building measures agreed in chapter V of the 31 December 2016 Agreement, some of which are yet to be implemented.
The members of the Security Council welcomed the steps taken by the National Electoral Commission, CENI, towards finalizing the voter registration, with the active support of MONUSCO. They welcomed the offer by the African Union, the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, the Southern Africa Development Community and the European Union, along with the United Nations to establish a coordinated team of experts to support the preparations of the elections, including in ensuring women’s full and equal participation.
The members of the Security Council reiterated their appeal to all Congolese actors to work for the preservation of the still fragile gains in the path of peace and stability in the DRC, they underscored the responsibility that all Congolese political stakeholders bear, especially by overcoming their differences to reach consensus and upholding the interests and well-being of their people above all other considerations, and strongly urged all stakeholders to redouble their efforts to ensure the inclusivity of all signatories of the Agreement in its implementation.
The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that the Government of the DRC bears the primary responsibility to protect civilians within its territory, they stressed the need for the full respect for human rights, and for renewed efforts in the fight against impunity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, especially in view of the reported killing of civilians by state and non-state actors and disproportionate use of force by elements of the security forces. They reiterated the importance and urgency of prompt and transparent investigations into violations of international humanitarian law and violations or abuses of human rights in the Kasaï region. They reiterated their intention to closely monitor progress of the investigations into these violations and abuses, including the joint investigations by the Government of the DRC, MONUSCO and the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC, in order to bring to justice and hold accountable all those responsible.
The members of the Security Council expressed concern about the increased activities of armed groups in Eastern DRC, including a recent increase in violence against local communities and the DRC armed forces, escalating ethnic tensions, and an increase in internal displacement. They underlined the urgent need for safe and unhindered access for humanitarian actors.
The members of the Security Council took note of the strategic review of MONUSCO. They welcomed its focus on the two priorities set out by the Security Council in resolution 2348 (2017), as well as on ensuring increased effectiveness in the Mission, and agreed to thoroughly look into the recommendations of the Secretary General. They reiterated their full support to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and to MONUSCO. The Members of the Security Council are mindful of the financial constraints facing the mission."
4 September 2017: The Security Council today convened its second emergency session in less than a week on North Korea after Pyongyang exploded what it claimed was a Hydrogen bomb on 3 September. The event, the sixth in a series of nuclear explosions conducted by the DPRK, was characterized as a “perfect success in the test of a hydrogen bomb for intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM),” marking "a very significant occasion in attaining the final goal of completing the state nuclear force.”
On 31 August, the DPRK rejected the Council’s last Presidential Statement and asserted that its ballistic missile launch of 29 August was the “first step taken by the Korean People’s Army in its Pacific operation and a meaningful prelude to restraining Guam”. The United States has a military base in Guam.
DPRK Media Claims
DPRK official media published photographs of what they claimed to be a hydrogen bomb, conspicuously displayed in front of a payload fairing for a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile. The bomb was described as “a multi-functional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP attack”.
UN Undersecretary-General Jeffrey Feltman told the Security Council that this "was a rare reference by the DPRK to the use of EMP, an electromagnetic pulse, which triggered by a nuclear weapon would aim for widespread damage and disruption to electricity grids and sensitive electronics, including on satellites."
UN Confirms Test
UN monitoring stations established under the aegis of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) confirmed the North Korean explosion. The statement from the Vienna-based CTBTO noted that the seismic event it registered measured approximately 6.0 in magnitude. Governmental sources reported a yield as high as 6.3, higher than any previous DPRK test. Expert estimation is that the test had a yield of between 50 and 100 kilotons, more than five times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb, at the low end of the yield of a modern thermonuclear weapon.
The CTBTO also detected a second smaller seismic event at the location of the DPRK test site eight and half minutes after the main event, probably caused by the collapse of the tunnel used in the nuclear test.
"We are alarmed by this dangerous provocation," Mr. Feltman said in conveying Secretary-General Guterres' condemnation of "yet another serious breach of the DPRK’s international obligations ... profoundly destabilizing for regional and international security." The Secretary-General "counts on the Security Council to remain united and take appropriate action," Mr. Feltman continued, noting that "as tensions rise, so does the risk of misunderstanding, miscalculation and escalation." He said the "latest serious developments require a comprehensive response in order to break the cycle of provocations from the DPRK."
"As the Council considers its reaction, the Secretary-General reiterates the importance of responding to humanitarian imperatives regardless of the political situation. The people of the DPRK rely on the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need. "
19 July 2016: Just days before its first straw poll to select the next Secretary-General, the Security Council decided it would keep the results of that process secret. The only people it will inform officially are the candidates. (As nothing remains secret for too long at the UN, the results will be known soon after the straw polls are conducted on 21 July.)
The matter was noted with disappointment during a long morning of frank talk about reforming the Council's working methods. Almost every one of the 44 speakers noted the need for greater transparency in the work of the Council, not just in the selection of the Secretary-General but in its relations with the rest of the membership, particularly troop contributing countries. A particular demand was that the Council submit substantive annual and special reports to the General Assembly as required by the Charter
Several speakers were particularly emphatic about the need for more openness in the work of the Council's subsidiary bodies that oversee sanctions regimes and hold closed door discussions of issues before they are brought to open meetings. One speaker noted that the subsidiary bodies took about a thousand decisions a year without the rest of the UN membership knowing anything about it. The subsidiary bodies had also taken it upon themselves to be guided by the rules of anonymity and unanimity in taking decisions; that meant every member had a veto exercised in secret. Unlike the Council itself, the presiding officers of the subsidiary bodies never briefed delegations or the media on their work.
Another speaker observed that Security Council resolutions were supposed to be discussed informally so as to give every member a chance to shape the draft; but that never happened. Several speakers noted that the permanent members (Britain, China, France, Russian Federation, United States) dominated the work of the Council: the president of the Council could not even send out a note on a purely procedural matter without having it reviewed by all five. One speaker said the non-permanent members had to assert themselves collectively if there was to be real change. Another decried the tendency of some States to consider certain countries and regions as their special charge; such mentoring was outdated.
A widely expressed demand was that the Council streamline its work by reducing the number of reporting cycles on various issues on its agenda. Failure to do that would lead to irrelevance, said one speaker. Another said the Council should not take on issues it could not decide.
Council meetings should be real interactive discussions rather than a succession of statements, said one speaker who wanted decisions to emerge from real discussions. Two speakers noted that after 70 years the Council still had "Provisional Rules of Procedure;" it was time to formalize them. [The Rules remain provisional to prevent them getting in the way if there is urgent need to bend or break one or more of them in the interests of maintaining international peace and security.]
Several speakers endorsed the call by France and Mexico for voluntary restraint in the use of the veto; one noted that over 100 States supported the initiative. There was also support for a code of conduct for the Council in the face of serious violations of human rights and crimes against humanity. One speaker said there was a significant gap between global expectations of the Council and its performance. Another said it was permanently stained by its failures to act in the face of massive atrocities. On the other hand, the Council was dealing with matters that posed no threat to international peace and security
The discussion on working methods took place a decade after Japan first raised the issue and led the way in defining an agenda for reform. As the current president of the Council, Japan convened the discussion to get input for a comprehensive update of the reform agenda.
No summary can capture the complexity of a discussion that lasted over 3 hours, so readers interested in its rich detail can listen to the coverage by UN TV:
Speakers are listed in order with figures indicating the minutes into the video when they begin speaking: Japan (presiding); 09 Egypt; 13 Ukraine; 18 France; 24 Malaysia; 30 Spain; 35 Britain; 38 New Zealand; 43 Uruguay; 50 Russian Federation; 55 China; 59 United States; 1.00 Venezuela
Part 2: Mexico; 07 Argentina; 11 Switerland; 16 Brazil; 20 Colombia; 24 Pakistan; 29 Iran; 37 India; 43 Hungary; 48 Italy; 52 Poland; 55 Germany; 58 Australia; 1:01 Romania; 1:06 Chile; 1:11 Guatemala: 1:17 Georgia; 1:21 Singapore; 1:27 Estonia; 1:30 Lichtenstein; 1:35 Costa Rica; 1:40 Holy See; 1:45 Norway; 1:49 Belgium; 1:53 Indonesia; 1:58 South Africa; 2:05 Kazakhstan; 2:10 Cuba; 2:17 Turkey; 2:19 Panama; 2:24 Portugal; 2:27 Republic of Korea
One Year On, Push for Peaceful Iran Nuke Program a Major Success
18 July 2016: There has been major progress in the first year of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to ensure that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful. US Ambassador Samantha Power ticked off the most significant achievements at a Security Council meeting on 18 July: two-thirds of Iran's nuclear centrifuges dismantled, the core of its plutonium reactor filled with concrete and 98.7 per cent of its stock of enriched uranium sent out of the country. But that doesn't mean everyone is happy. The six-monthly report of the Secretary-General to the Council noted Iran's unhappiness that it has not benefited more rapidly from the lifting of sanctions, especially travel restrictions. Ms Power said the "United States disagrees strongly with elements of this report, including that its content goes beyond the appropriate scope," adding, "We understand that Iran also disagrees strongly with parts of the report." Yet another matter of dissatisfaction was Iran's continuing missile tests despite what Washington sees as a ban imposed by Council resolution 2231 (2015); Tehran interprets the resolution as giving it wiggle- room. The Russian Federation was unhappy that the Secretary-General's Report did not take its views into account on a number of points: Ambassador Vitaly Churkin spent most of a rapid-fire ten-minute statement lambasting it. ""Some of the provisions of the Secretary-General's report have no relation to his mandate, nor to the terms of reference" of the Council resolution, he said at one point. He was scathing also about American and Australian claims -- reflected in the report -- about their naval vessels discovering caches of Iranian arms en route to Yemen (where Tehran is backing a Shia insurrection). Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was not present.
Could New SG Emerge in July?
6 July 2016: Could the Security Council spring a surprise and pick a new Secretary-General at the first straw polls on 21 July despite the announcement in June by the French presidency of the Council that the selection would not be made until October?
It is possible, for last December the expectation was that action would come by mid-year, and some recent odd developments might signify an effort to return to that timing.
In past selection processes when permanent members have backed different candidates for Secretary-General there have been efforts to fake each other out. The last time that happened was 1992, when the Organization of African Unity nominated four men to succeed Javier Perez de Cuellar.
In a succession of straw polls in the Security Council beginning on 21 October 1991, Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt and Bernard Chidzero of Zimbabwe emerged as the leading candidates. France backed the francophone BBG who had no experience at the UN but had won fame as the Foreign Minister who accompanied President Anwar Sadat to Israel in 1977. Britain strategized for Chidzero who had been head of UNCTAD (and had a British wife).
There was much spirited lobbying for and against both candidates. Britain’s UN envoy, David Hannay, a dead ringer for the ultra-cynical Humphrey in the BBC sitcom Yes Minister! drew attention to BBG’s age (69) at every opportunity. “He’s the only man I’ve met who bounds up when you’re introduced and declares how well he is feeling!” he told reporters.
The two candidates were neck and neck, and then, as Chidzero seemed to be gathering momentum, there was a sudden reversal in the straw poll on 21 November and his support sank to 7 votes, less than the minimum of 9. He was done in by a decision of Non-Aligned countries on the Council, supposedly coordinated by France, to withhold support. Boutros-Ghali, with 11 votes in favor (none against and 4 abstentions) was picked to be the sixth Secretary-General.
The reason to suspect that similar gaming might occur now is a number of recent stories in the Press urging Britain to oppose the Argentine candidate Susana Malcorra. One last week in the Huffington Post was typical: headlined UK Must Block Susana Malcorra from Becoming Secretary-General it was written by Luke Coffey, the Director of the Foreign Policy Center at the influential Right wing Heritage Foundation, and advanced three reasons why the UK should block Malcorra. She could not be impartial on the Falklands/Malvinas issue; she had exercised bad judgment in the case of Anders Kompass, the whistle-blower who revealed the sexual abuse of children by UN peacekeepers; and it was the turn of Eastern Europe to have the job. The Telegraph of London carried a similar story earlier in June, and several others have appeared since then.
Obviously, there is a horse race afoot; and the timing of the articles suggests that the outcome is expected sooner rather than later.
New members elected for 2017-2018
Bolivia, Ethiopia and Sweden were elected to be 2017-2018 members of the Security Council in the first round of voting in the General Assembly on 28 June, and Kazakhstan on the second round. Neither Italy nor Netherlands could get the majority needed to win the Western European and Other (WEO) seat and they agreed to split the two-year term. The newly elected countries will replace Spain, Malaysia, New Zealand, Angola and Venezuela. on 1 January 2017
[Note: the new members will be able to observe the work of the Council from October to December 2016 before officially taking their seats on 1 January]
INDEPENDENT NEWS AND COMMENT ON WORLD AFFAIRS