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The latest report of the Working Group on People of African Descent can be downloaded here
27 November 2017: The Secretary-General's annual report on the Work of the Organization (A/72/1), was submitted in July 2017 and went largely unreported because the only thing newsworthy about it was its embarrassingly low quality. We note its existence now purely for the record.
The Introduction to the report, which traditionally provides the Secretary-General's personal worldview highlighting issues of particular importance to the Organization, is embarrassingly jejune. It begins: "The United Nations was established to prevent war and human suffering by binding us together through a common rule-based international order. Today that order is laden with contradictory trends, and a clear assessment must be made if we are going to address these challenges effectively."
The main points of the rest of the Introduction are:
The Introduction concludes with the following list of the Secretary-General's "main initiatives."
Main Initiatives in 2017
The rest of the report is, as always, a cut and paste compilation of submission from various parts of the Secretariat.
20 May 2017: Reading the draft Outcome document of the second High-Level ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development (25-26 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 cant is pervasive. It includes reaffirmations and “strong commitment” to a wide variety of past declarations, agendas and action plans, to gender equality, Least Developed Countries, landlocked countries, Africa, Small Islands, to “end poverty and hunger, and to achieve sustainable development in its three dimensions through promoting inclusive economic growth, protecting the environment, fighting climate change, and promoting social inclusion and peaceful and inclusive societies.” At the level of aspiration that is impressive, if slightly nauseating.
Global Trajectory is Not Encouraging
The High-Level forum participants claim to have “assessed progress and identified obstacles and challenges to the implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda,” which they “recall … provides a global framework for financing sustainable development and is an integral part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, supports and complements it and helps to contextualize its means of implementation targets with concrete policies and actions.” In that regard, they “reaffirm the importance of policy coherence for sustainable development at all levels.” The “challenges” are not only “economic factors, such as difficult macroeconomic conditions, low commodity prices, subdued trade growth and volatile capital flows,” but also “natural disasters, climate change, environmental degradation, humanitarian crises and conflicts.”
They admit solemnly that “the current global trajectory will not deliver the goal of eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions by 2030.” To “reverse this trend, we will take concrete and immediate action to create the necessary enabling environment at all levels … and accelerate national and international efforts … We devote ourselves collectively to the pursuit of global development and of ‘win-win’ cooperation, which can bring huge gains to all countries and all parts of the world.”
“We encourage accelerating national efforts and strengthening international cooperation that supports policies and programs to increase public and private, domestic and international investment in sustainable development and generates employment.” They are encouraged by the “first substantive report of the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) on Financing for Development” which detects “progress … in all seven action areas of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda while acknowledging that many implementation gaps remain.”
There is not a single actionable proposal in the turgid paragraphs that follow.
One cannot but admire the stamina of those who drafted the document; just reading it is exhausting.
About halfway through the text the authors come to the key issue of “illicit transfer of resources” from developing countries. More baldly, that is the theft of wealth from poor countries by the apparatus of tax havens and shell companies which perform the functions of extractive colonialism without the need for Viceroys and collectors. That mechanism is a central presence in the world financial system, operating through major banks, law firms and transnational corporations but the High-Level Forum is entirely blind to it.
For some reason, the theft of developing country wealth, an international phenomenon, is buried in a section on “Domestic public resources.” The tone of the the section is reminiscent of Polonius prating life lessons to his son.
“For all countries, public policies and the mobilization and effective use of domestic resources, underscored by the principle of national ownership, are central to our common pursuit of sustainable development, including achieving the SDGs. We recognize that domestic resources are first and foremost generated by economic growth, supported by an enabling environment at all levels. We also recognize the challenges associated with a narrow tax base and low tax-to-GDP ratio experienced by some developing countries due to a small and underdeveloped private sector. We note that tax administration and public financial management capacities have improved in many countries, and welcome that there is strengthened awareness of the link between taxation, expenditure, good governance, accountability, and anti-corruption efforts. We will pursue whole-of-government approaches that emphasize the development of medium-term revenue strategies and stronger enforcement.”
There is no mention of drug trafficking terrorist movements and sundry insurrections fueled with foreign arms and funds that do the work of colonial armies. The world of 65 million refugees and displaced people they have created is not mentioned at all as a problem of world finance, even though the sordid violence encompassing the poorest parts of the world is paid for through the system of tax havens and shell companies that wick away their life blood.
Thematically, the document locates the issue of “greater international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows” as a matter of tax evasion, which it pledges “to deter, detect, prevent and counter.” The gathered potentates "encourage countries “to work on the strengthening of existing institutions and enforcement of law in both source and destination countries.” Amazingly, the authors of the document make no distinction of responsibility between the poor countries that have lost and the rich who gain.
The document does not hint at the magnitude of the theft from the poor: according to figures from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime cited by the 37-member Financial Action Task Force (FATF), some $1.9 trillion is laundered annually into the world economy. According to Washington based non-profit Global Financial Integrity (GFI) the total illicit transfers out of developing countries between 2004 and 2013 amounted to $7.8 trillion. Just in 2013, developing countries lost an estimated $1.1 trillion, roughly 1.3 times the $858 billion in total FDI that year, and 11.1 times the $99.3 billion in ODA. According to ECLAC, illicit transfers cost Latin America $154 billion in 2012, exceeding foreign direct investment of $129 billion; it was more than twice the $63 billion in remittances and 10 times the $10 billion ODA. Illicit transfers have made Africa a net creditor to the rest of the world every year since 1983.
Having obfuscated the nature of the malaise, the High-Level Forum prescribes the equivalent of two aspirins as remedy. Recognizing “that data and estimation can be helpful in designing policies and interventions to tackle this issue” they encourage “States to strengthen international cooperation on the recovery and return of stolen assets in line with domestic and international law and recognize that asset return is a priority.” Transparency is prescribed. “We will support continued exchanges on the development of good practices on asset return, with the objective of agreeing guidelines. We strongly encourage States to make use of agreements or arrangements under Article 57/5 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, where appropriate.”
All this is purely diversionary. There is no need for the rigmarole of “data and estimation” or “guidelines.” The entire problem can be resolved by banning tax havens and shell companies, which have no legal purpose or justification. Criminality is their sole occupation and sustenance. Without them institutionalized trillion-dollar thievery would not be possible.
Nowhere in the Outcome document is there any discussion of the impact of global digital connectivity on the capacity of the global financial elite to create and control small exclusive networks of wealth and power. That will create disruptions not seen since the institutions founded on that power -- the mega corporation and the stock market -- first made their appearance in the 17th Century. Portents of the coming transformation can be seen in the emergence of crowd-funding and peer to peer credit, the retreat of brick and mortar economic centralization in the face of surging e-commerce, the rapid advances in the use of Artificial Intelligence, the spread of solar power and 3D printing.
As the finest industrial production becomes possible on the smallest scale and in the remotest of locations, and communities are able to fund and cater to their own needs, a whole row of industrial era dominoes will fall. Mass production will lose its economic rationale; so will the global economic patterns set in the colonial period and hammered into place during the industrial era. Trade in commodities, manufactures and services will all undergo hugely disruptive changes. Giant investment banks will become redundant in a world without mega-manufacturing or global trade in commodities. Without Big industry and trade, the primary driving forces of urbanization in the last four hundred years will lose impetus, leading to radical changes in real estate valuations.
The disruptions caused by such changes have the potential to create widespread economic and political chaos or to usher in a world without poverty, equalized in terms of human development and able to heal the global ecosystem. The difference between the two futures lies in effective international cooperation guided by a vision of economic and human potential. Unfortunately, the High-Level Forum shows no indication of being able to offer such guidance.
21 April 2017: "In case a war breaks out in the Korean peninsula, the US will be held totally accountable for it, no matter who launched a pre-attack," says a 7-page letter from North Korea to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. It says the United States "has constantly escalated its hostile policy towards the DPRK and driven the situation to the outbreak of war by deploying huge amount of nuclear strategic assets and special warfare means in the Korean peninsula." Published as a document of the General Assembly and Security Council, the letter contains a litany of charges going back two decades to the Bush administration, all phrased in heated terms verging on hysteria.
"The DPRK’s mode of attack, once launched, would be a precision strike to destroy only the military bases of the US and its vassal forces targeting the DPRK. The DPRK will abide by the relevant provisions of the Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949, as a signatory to it. As already declared, the DPRK will also take all responsible measures for protecting the legal economic interests of other countries that they hold in south Korea. The international community should clearly understand the gravity of the situation created in the Korean peninsula by the US moves for aggression and war, and respect the option taken by the DPRK to defend itself."
Neither the tone nor the content of complaints has changed in 20 years. Citing a June 2003 statement of the DPRK Foreign Ministry, the letter says the US "is engrossed in the mean tricks of a smear campaign to tarnish the image of the DPRK system" by "groundlessly charging it with drug smuggling , counterfeiting of money, suppression of religious freedom, exodus of refugees, human trafficking, training of computer hackers and arms sale, etc. At the same time, it is hampering the routine service of DPRK-flagged trading vessels under various pretexts. This hostile act is, in fact, little short of a sea blockade against the DPRK. No matter how desperately the US may try to cover up these moves, they are, in the final analysis, acts of scrapping the Armistice Agreement and a declaration of war. In the long run, it is an act of war."
Call for Judicial Review
In another letter dated January 2017 but circulated on 20 April, the DPRK asked that the United Nations subject to independent judicial review the basis for the mounting sanctions the Security Council has imposed on it. The missile launches by India and South Korea, had not been subjected to sanctions, the letter said.
Saying that the “root cause of current aggravated situation of the Korean peninsula is none other than the United States," the letter criticized Secretary-General Guterres for describing North Korea’s failed missile launch on 16 April as “troubling” and calling on Pyongyang to abandon nuclear weapons.
If that pitch is intended to gain support for it among the Non-Aligned in the Security Council, it is further indication just how distanced North Korea is from a reasonable assessment of its own reality.
11 April 2017: There are currently 4,513 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council. Of that number, 149 organizations are in general consultative status, 3,389 in special consultative status and 975 on the Roster.
Consultative status provides NGOs with access to not only ECOSOC, but also to its many subsidiary bodies, to the various human rights mechanisms of the United Nations, ad-hoc processes on small arms, as well as special events organized by the President of the General Assembly. All organizations in consultative status are in a searchable database here.
The full list is in an annual report just released by the UN. It gives the name and year in which an organization was granted status with the Council. The consultative status of 8 organizations in general consultative status and of 150 organizations in special consultative status is currently suspended for a variety of reasons. Details are in chapter 8 of the report.
The three types of consultative status, General, Special and Roster allow different levels of access to UN meetings and documentation. Most new accreditations are in the Special category and have a particular area of expertise. The General category is broader. The Roster is an elite group acknowledged to have expertise of value to the work of the UN. General and special status NGOs are required to submit a 'quadrennial report' every four years.
ECOSOC accreditation is separate from 1,424 NGOs currently associated the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) to work in a purely informational capacity. See DPI list here.
Committee on NGOs
ECOSOC's Committee on NGOs reviews applications from NGOs for consultative status twice a year, in a "regular session " in January and a resumed session in May. The Committee does not decide but recommends action to be reviewed by ECOSOC in April and July respectively. See past reports here The deadline for applications is 1 June of the year before the Committee reviews the application; the upcoming deadline is 1 June 2017, for review by the Committee in 2018.
12 March 2017: The government of Afghanistan "continued to face significant political, economic and security challenges," says a new report from the Secretary-General to the General Assemblyand Security Council dated 3 March. Part of the problem is that the President of the country, Ashraf Ghani, and its Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah are not getting on very well. They "continued to engage in bilateral discussions to improve their working relationship," says the report, which is UNese for they continue to be at odds.
Meanwhile, the security situation continues to worsen, with "armed clashes between security forces and the Taliban reaching a record high in 2016 and continuing at that pace in 2017." Also, high levels of violence against civilians continued to be recorded, with "a significant increase in casualties among children and in internal displacements. An investigation is underway about the role of the First Vice-President, Abdul Rashid Dostum, "in the alleged illegal detention and abuse of a former Governor of Jowzjan Province."
Key government positions remain vacant and the anti-corruption agenda is advancing. In parallel, the implementation of the peace agreement with Hizb-i Islami Gulbuddin advanced and sanctions against its leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar were lifted; but there was "no discernible progress on peace talks between the Government and the Taliban."
The economic situation "remained fragile, with persistently low rates of economic growth and low investment rates." Rather unscrutably, the report says "regional engagement" increased.
14 December 2016: The General Assembly is set to adopt an almost unreadably dense resolution on the control of illicit drugs. Much of the density reflects an effort to ensure that the issue is moved to a new socio-economic frame of reference. The prohibitionist approach that empowers organized crime is still there, but layered over with directives on treating drug addiction as a disease rather than as a crime.
Sample from the text:
Paragraph 41 (of 99) is typical of the rest of the resolution. It:
"Invites relevant national authorities to consider, in accordance with their national legislation and the three international drug control conventions, including in national prevention, treatment, care, recovery, rehabilitation and social reintegration measures and programmes, in the context of comprehensive and balanced drug demand reduction efforts, effective measures aimed at minimizing the adverse public health and social consequences of drug abuse, including appropriate medication-assisted therapy programmes, injecting equipment programmes as well as antiretroviral therapy and other relevant interventions that prevent the transmission of HIV, viral hepatitis and other blood-borne diseases associated with drug use, as well as consider ensuring access to such interventions, including in treatment and outreach services, prisons and other custodial settings, and promoting in that regard the use, as appropriate, of the technical guide for countries to set targets for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care for injecting drug users, issued by the World Health Organization, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS;"
That sentence is 166 words. The full text runs to over 7,500 words.
20 September 2016: A report on "Economic costs of the Israeli occupation for the Palestinian people" submitted by the Secretary-General to the UN General Assembly (A/71/174), points to a devastating impact.
Prepared by UNCTAD, the report says the "economy of the Occupied Palestinian Territory was a viable and thriving one before the occupation in June 1967." It had "significant production and income that sustained a growing population of 1 million people and generated a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of about $1,349 in 2004 prices." That was sufficient for it to be considered a lower-middle-income economy at that time.
"Tragically, it has become a land on the verge of economic and humanitarian collapse" the report says. "In 2014, the GDP growth rate in the Occupied Palestinian Territory turned negative, for the first time since 2006. The Gaza Strip is becoming increasingly unliveable and could become totally unliveable by 2020 (see TD/B/62/3)."
"According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate in Gaza was 45 per cent in 2014, with over 63 per cent of Gaza’s young people unemployed, which is the highest rate in the world. Female unemployment in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was around 40 per cent and more than 60 per cent in Gaza. Nearly 40 per cent of Palestinians live below the poverty line.
"Clean water is a rarity, with at least 90 per cent of Gaza’s water supply unfit for human consumption. Electricity in Gaza is also sporadic and unreliable, available only four to six hours a day, and a properly functioning sewage treatment system no longer exists."
Despite those introductory statements, the report does not provide either a quantitative or qualitative assessment of the costs of occupation. Instead, it says that for a proper response to the request contained in Assembly resolution 69/20, there "is a need to establish within the United Nations system a systematic, evidence-based, comprehensive and sustainable framework for estimating the economic costs of the occupation."
The report looks at some previous efforts to assess the costs of occupation and the factors that need to be taken into account. All are focused entirely on the costs imposed on the Palestinian people, as intended by the General Assembly. However, for a full picture of the costs of occupation, it will be necessary to look also at the costs to Israel, which are certain to emerge as extremely heavy, albeit of a different dimension altogether.
Further, a double entry bookkeeping approach to Israel's military and security costs would allow an estimate of the profits that have flowed to those who have a huge vested interest in the current situation. If the General Assembly wants a full picture of the costs of occupation, it should mandate a comprehensive study; only then will we get a full idea of why this madness has continued for half a century.
18 September 2016; A new report from the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development shows that almost half of the world population -- 47 per cent -- now has access to the Internet. India has become the world's second largest Internet market, with 333 million users, trailing China's 721 million. Both countries figure also in the list of six nations that account for the – 3.9 billion people – who are still without access to broadband Internet (the others are Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nigeria).
According to the 2016 edition of The State of Broadband almost all people have access to broadband internet in richer nations. Globally, 165 countries now have '4G' high-speed mobile networks. The report says that if today's near-universal basic mobile phone access could be converted to high-speed mobile broadband access, mobile phones could serve as a major accelerator of development.
"There is a large body of economic evidence for the role of affordable broadband connectivity as a vital enabler of economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection," said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao.
Issued annually, The State of Broadband is a unique global snapshot of broadband network access and affordability, with country-by country data. The latest report projects that by the end 2016, 47 per cent of the global population – 3.5 billion people – will be using the Internet, up from 3.2 billion at the end of 2015. That will include 15 per cent of the population of the 48 countries designated as the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), as well as the 90+ percentages of the populations of the ten developing countries that lead the world in Internet access. All the leaders are Asian: the Republic of Korea with 98.8 per cent of homes connected, followed by Qatar (96%) and United Arab Emirates (95%).
Iceland continues to have the highest percentage of individuals using the Internet (98.2%), while Luxembourg (97.3%) has surpassed Norway to take second place, and Andorra (97%) takes third place from Denmark. Monaco remains very slightly ahead of Switzerland as the world leader in fixed broadband penetration, at over 47 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants compared with the Swiss figure of 45 per cent.
September 2016: Argentina and Brazil have just issued a joint declaration commemorating the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Guadalajara Agreement that opened the door to the world's first Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. Full text here
The declaration of such zones has since expanded to a number of other areas (see below), including Mongolia, which declared itself a single-country zone to get international backing for its status, sandwiched between two nuclear giants, China and Russian Federation. UN General Assembly resolution 55/33S on “Mongolia’s international security and nuclear weapon free status” confirmed that status.
The following treaties form the basis for the existing NWFZs:
Treaty of Tlatelolco — Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Treaty of Rarotonga — South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty.
Treaty of Bangkok — Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone.
Treaty of Pelindaba — African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty
Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia.
Other treaties that have denuclearized particular areas are:
Outer Space Treaty — Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.
Moon Agreement — Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.
Seabed Treaty — Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Sea-Bed and the Ocean Floor and in the Subsoil Thereof.
The texts of all the treaties noted above can be found here.
5 September 2016: The United Nations development system composed of 34 entities had $28.4 billion to spend in 2014, accounting for just 18 per cent of total official development assistance (ODA). Most of the money was routed through 10 entities ( WFP, UNICEF, UNDP, UNHCR, WHO, UNRWA, FAO, UNFPA, UNESCO and ILO), which accounted for 89 per cent of the total.
Of the total, core contributions (programmable by the UN) constituted only 24 per cent of the total; the rest was tightly bound by donor conditions. In the 15 years prior to 2014, the core share of funding for development cooperation dropped from 51 per cent to 30 per cent.
UN aid constituted a significant portion of ODA only in Least Developed countries (20 per cent), and in 57 per cent of fragile, post-conflict countries. Development cooperation in African countries amounted to $8.9 billion in 2014.
Developing countries contributed some $703 million to operational activities for development in 2014, an increase of 26 per cent in real terms compared to 2011.
In 2014, funding for Operational activities constituted over half of the resources for the entire United Nations system ($46.2 billion). The breakdown of overall UN expenditures was as follows:
Source: Report of the Secretary-General (A/71/63)
29 August 2016: The United Nations has just issued two dishearteningly insubstantial reports on high priority topics, one on Africa, the other on the trafficking of women and girls.
The “Report of the Secretary-General on the Causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa” (A/71/211) says nothing at all about the matters announced in its title. instead, it serves up a hodgepodge information lifted from previous submissions to the General Assembly and Security Council. There is not a word about who is arming Africa’s warring factions or how they are funded. While noting that the International Monetary Fund has adopted “new initiatives” to strengthen “national capacities for domestic resource mobilization,” the report ignores the heavy illicit drain of resources from African countries. The terrorist organizations operating across large swathes of Africa are heavily engaged in trafficking drugs but there is no mention of that.
The other hollow report is on “Trafficking in women and girls” (A/71/223). It too shows minimal effort in research and analysis. While noting the “vast impunity” that exists because countries with 2 billion people have not criminalized human trafficking, it provides no details; most of the details it does provide are from a 2014 report of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
August 2016: The “World Wildlife Day” declared three years ago by the General Assembly has proved to be a runaway success. A new UN report. says there were observances of the Day (3 March) in over 80 countries, making it the most significant global event focusing attention on the issue. The hashtags #WorldWildlifeDay, #WWD2016 and #InOurHands went viral on social media, garnering 667 million impressions in just four days in English alone; that was an increase of nearly 300 per cent over 2015.
The report (A/71/215), prepared by the secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, says over 160 powerful films were entered into the International Elephant Film Festival organized jointly by the secretariat and the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. The festival “greatly amplified the global calls to stop the poaching of elephants an d the illicit trafficking in elephant ivory.”
The World Wildlife Day poster design competition, organized in cooperation with the South African government had over 320 submissions and the three winning designers will get to attend the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention in September 2016.
World Wildlife Day 2015 with the theme “It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime” paved the way for the adoption of a new General Assembly resolution (A/69/314) on tackling illicit trafficking in wildlife.
In 2016, the theme of the Day was “The future of wildlife is in our hands”, with the sub-theme “The future of elephants is in our hands”. Information material issued by the UN focused on the inextricable link between wildlife, people and sustainable development. The message was that human beings hold the future of all wildlife in their hands and that failure to take action will have immediate, sometimes devastating, consequences for species of animals and plants. Elephants face particularly serious challenges in Africa and Asia.
President Barack Obama has declassified the 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission Report that his predecessor George W Bush decided to keep under wraps nearly 14 years ago.
The pages constituted the last chapter of the Congressional report on the attacks that took down the World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon and crashed a passenger aircraft en route to Washington after its passengers decided to resist the terrorists. The text released on 15 July is lightly edited to avoid revealing intelligence-gathering information but it reveals that the hijackers were helped by people clearly linked to Saudi officials at the highest levels.
Although Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubier tried to downplay the importance of the revelations, telling reporters that the "surprise in the 28 pages is that there is no surprise," the opposite is true. The families of those killed in the attacks said that "Each of the claims the 9/11 families and victims has made against the kingdom of Saudi Arabia enjoys extensive support in the findings of a broad range of investigative documents authored by multiple U.S. intelligence agencies." The National Chair for 9/11 Families United For Justice Against Terrorism was quoted in an Associated Press story that the information released was only "the tip of the iceberg."
The tip of the iceberg is damning enough. As A.J. Caschetta, an academic at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a fellow at the conservative Middle East Forum put it, the declassified pages "reveal an intricate web of Saudi nationals radiating outwards from Prince Bandar [Saudi Ambassador in Washington from 1983 to 2005], supplying assistance to Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdar, two members of the "muscle" crew on American Airlines Flight 77 which Hani Hanjour flew into the Pentagon."
"The web includes Saudi consular officials, naval officers, pilots, and servants. At least three Saudi intelligence officers functioned as facilitators and go-betweens for several of the 9/11 jihadists. One of them, Osama Bassman, and his wife received monthly checks from Princess Haifa Bint Sultan -- not just any princess, but the wife of Bandar. Meanwhile, Saudi-funded mosques and Islamic centers, a variety of Saudi owned front companies, and even the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C., (where Osama bin Laden's brother Abdullah worked) provided all the cover a spy could ask for."
Official Washington and mainstream media downplayed the most incendiary elements of the story. The AP report noted a number of elements that congressional investigators had deemed worthy of further investigation:
The story notes that Abu Zubaydah, the first high-profile al-Qaida terror suspect captured after the Sept. 11 attacks [and al Qaeda financier], had among his telephone contacts an unlisted number traced to a corporation in Aspen, Colorado, which, according to the FBI field office in Denver "manages the affairs of the Colorado residence of Prince Bandar." However, no direct contacts to those numbers were traced.
Background to the 28 Pages
The official 9/11 Commission's 567-page report, released in July 2004, found "no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded" al-Qaida. It should be recalled that the Bush White House initially opposed the investigation but strong public pressure from the 9/11 families led to a change of position. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was proposed to lead the Commission but he withdrew and was replaced by the former Republican Governor of Florida Tom Kean and former Democratic Congressman from Indiana, Lee Hamilton.
Kean and Hamilton issued a statement on the newly declassified pages noting that the information was almost entirely drawn from raw, unvetted FBI files. Important Congressional leaders urged that the information on the pages be read with caution. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a declassified summary of an assessment of possible Saudi Arabian official support for al Qaeda. It noted that Saudi agencies had been infiltrated and exploited by individuals associated with or sympathetic to Osama bin Laden.
However, not all of official Washington tried to downplay the revelations. "While the pages do not reach a conclusion regarding Saudi involvement in the 9/11 attacks, they provide more than enough evidence to raise serious concerns," Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut told Reuter's.
Richard Clarke, an ABC consultant who served as the national coordinator for counter-terrorism under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, said the 28 pages were "a snapshot in time" and pointed to a number of "dangling strands" in the investigation of 9/11. One of them was the role of Saudi government officials in supporting al-Qaeda and the 9/11 plot.
Another question, "with which the 9/11 Commission struggled but was unable to answer, is why the CIA failed to tell the FBI and the White House when the agency knew about al-Qaeda terrorists in the United States." He offered an explanation -- a failed CIA-Saudi operation gone wrong -- but in the face of all the straws in the strong wind blowing the other way, it was unconvincing indeed.
Clarke's assertion about the CIA is also factually wrong. The first episode of The New Yorker Presents (now streaming on Amazon), has two CIA operatives making the staggering claim that they tried to alert the FBI but were forbidden; they do not say who blocked them, but the episode ends with George Tenet getting a medal from George W Bush.
May 2016: The August 2015 estimate of South-South Cooperation (SSC) at $20 billion does not reflect the full value of that modality says a new report to the General Assembly's High-Level Committee (HLC/19/1). That is because the estimate did not capture the value of South-South collective negotiation and knowledge-sharing activities. In 2015, those activities were central to three important policy processes that shaped Agenda 2030 on sustainable development, the Addis Agenda on financing it, and the Paris Agreement on combating climate change. Each process involved diverse stakeholders from the sub-regional to the global level and laid the foundation for the broader agreements.
Similar South-South processes also shaped developing-country efforts to meet a variety of other challenges ranging from infrastructure deficits and access to affordable medicines to regional threats to peace and security, trade and investment issues, and building a global information society. These processes routinely engage 134 developing country members of the Group of 77 in its 10 subgroups while making space for sovereign choice.
The results have been impressive. In Africa, unprecedented intra-regional trade and investment flows reflect the emergence of patterns of growth driven by domestic consumption and structural reforms. In Asia, the majority of countries continue to grow at a steady pace and, despite slowing growth in China, important structural and infrastructural initiatives are opening up enormous potential in the region. A decade of rapid growth in Latin America has created a middle class that, for the first time in history, outnumbers the poor.
The South-South cooperation underpinning those achievements has received growing support from developed countries (through what is called "Triangular Cooperation), the United Nations system, civil society and the private sector. The report examines all those aspects and makes a number of important recommendations, including one to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1978 Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA) for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Development Countries. The BAPA initiated the first systematic cooperation effort among developing countries that went beyond declarations and conference rooms.
BAPA was reoriented after the end of the Cold War by the 1995 "new directions strategy" and after the 2008 global financial crisis by the Outcome Document of the High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation in 2009. The "new directions strategy" opened up SSC to the corporate sector and the 2009 Conference acknowledged the emergence of developing countries as the most important drivers of global economic growth. The fortieth anniversary of BAPA in 2018 will be an opportunity for taking stock of a range of new realities that are now emerging as China makes a major economic readjustment and Europe faces newly uncertain prospects.
Disclosure: the editor of Undiplomatic Times authored the seminal Bridges Across the South as a UN staff member and has been a long-time consultant to the UNOSSC in researching and drafting reports to the HLC.
Source: Report of the Secretary-General (A/71/63)
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8 September 2018: The Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) has reported to the General Assembly that the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund (UNJSPF) and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) are seriously at fault on important matters. Its investigations over the last year have spiked 46 percent over the preceding reporting period, with a significant rise in the number of sexual harassment and corruption cases.
OIOS is the General Assembly’s main watchdog body reporting directly to it on the UN System and independent of the Secretary-General. Its 2018 report, dated 14 August, is in document A/73/324 (Part I).
The Pension Fund secretariat “did not accept 4 of 13 recommendations made, including to: (a) prioritize and implement outstanding deliverables; (b) complete the testing of all benefit types; (c) enable automated controls to detect and report on non-compliant pensionable remuneration rates; and (d) consolidate the costs of all components of the project. While OIOS reiterated the four unaccepted recommendations, which related to significant control deficiencies, they were closed without implementation following management’s acceptance of residual risks.”
The Pension Fund has yet to address a variety of issues, including those relating to: the integrity of its data; prioritizing “actuarial exports;” reduction of manual activities in managing internal workflows; completing a security assessment of information and communications technology; and establishing a systemic baseline and performance monitoring.
The Division investigated several reports of retaliation, including one in the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights that found that a staff member engaged in a protected activity was subsequently retaliated against through the inclusion of inappropriate commentary in his performance appraisal. The findings (case No. 0564/16), were referred to the Ethics Office, which determined that retaliation was established, and to the Office of Human Resources Management, which is taking appropriate action. There were also other cases of corruption (see below)
Rise in Investigations
From 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018, there were 341 reports to the Investigations Division pertaining to non-peacekeeping operations. That represented an increase of 46 per cent over the previous year and comprised 43 per cent of all reported matters. That spike in reporting was significant, given the average 15 per cent annual increase seen in the previous three reporting cycles.
Following an evaluation through the intake process, 80 matters were assigned for OIOS investigation, 165 matters were referred or were in the process of being referred to other entities, 74 were closed without further action, 3 cases remained in suspense and 19 were pending review.
In the current reporting period, OIOS received 31 reports of sexual harassment, up from 2 in the previous year. That “marked increase in sexual harassment reporting” followed the Secretary-General’s “commitment to zero tolerance of sexual harassment, and in response to the ‘Me too’ movement.”
The Division has taken responsibility for investigating complaints of sexual harassment and is implementing a streamlined procedure for receiving, processing and addressing such complaints. A specialized team has focused on the investigation of sexual harassment complaints.
Increase in Other Cases
The number of non-peacekeeping matters referred to other entities increased to 80, an increase of 43 per cent over the previous year and 74 per cent over the previous two years.
By category, it included the following increases in investigations referrals: Criminal activity 7; Financial 6; Fraud/presumptive fraud 15; Misuse of office/position 6; Personnel 12; Procurement 6; Prohibited conduct 18; Recruitment 2; Retaliation 4; Sexual exploitation and abuse 4.
Fraud and Corruption
The Division also investigated multiple fraud and corruption cases. In case No. 0143/16, the OIOS investigation established that a UNODC staff member, in collusion with non-United Nations staff, established bid-rigging schemes to favor the award of contracts to particular vendors. It was further established that, on at least seven occasions from 2015 to 2017, the staff member favored or attempted to favor the award of contracts to specific individuals. The findings were issued to UNODC, along with an advisory report that identified control weaknesses. The findings were also referred to the Office of Legal Affairs for consideration of referral to national authorities.
Assembly President: Several significant cases of corruption by high-level officials were linked to the former President of the General Assembly. In the current reporting period, OIOS issued further investigation reports establishing possible misconduct (cases Nos. 0167/16 and 0191/16).
DESA: In case No. 0167/16, OIOS received a report that a staff member of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs received a free tablet while at an official event. The OIOS investigation found that the staff member had accepted the tablet, had made no attempt to return it and had not sought guidance from the Ethics Office or disclosed the receipt of the tablet to the Executive Office. It further found that the staff member had been erroneously reimbursed twice the eligible amount for travel to the event. The findings were issued to the Department.
UN Habitat: In case No. 0191/16, OIOS received a report that a UN-Habitat staff member had travelled to Hong Kong, China, without the necessary approval, at the expense of a company that had been implicated in possible bribery. It was further reported that the staff member had received daily subsistence allowance for the duration of the trips and accepted gifts without declaring them or obtaining approval. The OIOS investigation found that the staff member had made the trips as reported, certified incomplete and inaccurate travel request forms and failed to disclose or seek approval for gifts received, including a complimentary business class flight and a custom-made suit. The findings were issued to UN-Habitat and subsequently to the Office of Human Resources Management. The staff member has since been separated from the Organization.
UNEP/UNICEF/WFP: In case No. 0433/17, OIOS received a report that a staff member in UNEP was the Managing Director of a UNICEF and World Food Programme vendor. The OIOS investigation found that the staff member had operated in a position of conflict of interest and engaged in unauthorized outside activity in relation to his role as director and designer of the company. The findings were issued to UNEP.
UNEP: In case No. 0217/17, OIOS received a report of possible misconduct by a UNEP staff member. It was reported that the staff member had undertaken various official missions, which, although justified as business related, may have constituted private deviations. OIOS investigation found that an official mission had been extended and travel itineraries deviated at a financial loss to the Organization, to accommodate private visits and attend unofficial events. A report with recommendations for appropriate action against the implicated person, and for recovery of the financial loss suffered by the Organization, is pending review by the Department of Management.
OHCHR/UNCTAD: In case No. 0419/17, OIOS received a report that an OHCHR staff member had attempted to fraudulently circumvent recruitment processes. The OIOS investigation found that the implicated staff member had helped an applicant for a role at OHCHR to populate that applicant’s personal history profile with false information, and then, in collusion with another person, completed the written test for the applicant. Thereafter, a non-United Nations staff fraudulently posed as the applicant in the job interview. The applicant has been separated from the organization, after serving a temporary contract with UNCTAD. The findings were issued to UNCTAD and OHCHR.
OHCHR: In case No. 0422/17, OIOS found that an OHCHR staff member, in collusion with others, used the persona of a third party to fraudulently secure the award of a consultancy contract relating to a major information technology project. The OIOS investigation further found that the implicated staff member might have taken action to destroy possible evidence on the staff member’s United Nations-issued computer. The findings were issued to OHCHR and subsequently to the Office of Human Resources Management, which is currently reviewing the case for consideration of appropriate action.
8 September 2018: A report of the Secretary-General to the General Assembly says Iran continues to engage with the High Commissioner for Human Rights but there has been little positive change overall. In summary:
"Since the issuance of the previous report of the Secretary-General, to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-seventh session (A/HRC/37/24), the Government has begun to implement an amendment to the drug-trafficking law which retroactively abolishes the mandatory death penalty for some drug-related offences.
"Notwithstanding the positive steps, following increasing widespread protests the human rights situation has been marked by an intensified crackdown on protesters, journalists and social media users.
"The application of the death penalty, including for juvenile offenders, has continued at a high rate. Reports of torture, arbitrary detention and trials that failed to adhere to international standards have been received, as has information on persistent discrimination against women and girls, as well as members of minority groups."
15 January 2018: A new report from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on "Making Migration Work For All" ignores the basic fact that modern migration is a reflection of developmental imbalances. It does not contain a word on the systematic looting of developing countries through the illicit transfer of their resources and the support of major banks and "tax havens" for all forms of international corruption and organized crime, especially trafficking of arms, drugs and people. Those activities are a major cause of forced movements of population.
Input to Zero Draft
The report responds to a call from the General Assembly for information that will shape its own pronouncement on the matter. The following is the lightly edited text of the Secretary-General's remarks on releasing the report on 11 January (UN video here):
"The report, “Making Migration Work For All” ... serves as my principal input to the zero draft of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The adoption of this Compact stands as one of our most important collective priorities for 2018.
As we look forward to the zero draft, I would like to commend your efforts to date under the wise stewardship of Mexico and Switzerland, aided by the President of the General Assembly and my Special Representative, Louise Arbour. ... We have an opportunity to fashion, for the first time, a truly global response to migration.
It is an opportunity to maximize the contribution that millions of migrants are already making to our societies and to agree a set of actions to ensure that the rights of all migrants are fully respected.
Reality of Migration Today
My report describes the reality of migration today. It outlines what a system of safe, orderly and regular migration could realistically look like. It identifies key challenges and possible solutions. And it calls for more concerted collective action to deal with the unbearable limbo in which many migrants find themselves trapped.
Let me emphasize: migration is a positive global phenomenon. It powers economic growth, reduces inequalities, connects diverse societies and helps us ride the demographic waves of population growth and decline. It is also a source of political tensions and human tragedies. But the majority of migrants live and work legally.
Unfortunately, others live in the shadows, unprotected by the law and unable to contribute fully to society. And a desperate minority put their lives at risk to enter countries where they face suspicion and abuse.
Globally, migration remains poorly managed. The impact can be seen in the humanitarian crises affecting people on the move; and in the human rights violations suffered by those living in slavery or enduring degrading working conditions. It can be seen, too, in the political impact of public perception that wrongly sees migration as out of control.
The consequences include increased mistrust and policies aimed more at stopping than facilitating human movement. In my report, I call for us to focus on the overwhelming positives of migration and to use facts not prejudice as the basis for addressing its challenges. Above all, I urge a respectful discourse that places our collective humanity at the centre of the debate.
Migrants make a major contribution to international development – both by their work and by sending remittances to their home countries. Remittances added up to nearly $600 billion last year, three times all development aid. The fundamental challenge is to maximize the benefits of this orderly, productive form of migration while stamping out the abuses and prejudice that make life hell for a minority of migrants. States need to strengthen the rule of law underpinning how they manage and protect migrants – for the benefit of their economies, their societies and migrants themselves.
Authorities that erect major obstacles to migration – or place severe restrictions on migrants’ work opportunities – inflict needless economic self-harm, as they impose barriers to having their labour needs met in an orderly and legal fashion. Worse still, they unintentionally encourage illegal migration.
Aspiring migrants, denied legal pathways to travel, inevitably fall back on irregular methods. This not only puts them in vulnerable positions, but also undermines governments’ authority itself. The best way to end the stigma of illegality and abuse around migrants is, in fact, for governments to put in place more legal pathways for migration. This will remove incentives for individuals to break the rules, while better meeting the needs of markets for foreign labour. It will also aid in efforts to clamp down on smugglers and traffickers and to assist their victims.
Simultaneously, development cooperation policies must take human mobility into account. It is essential to provide more opportunities for people to be able to live in dignity in their own countries and regions. Migration should be an act of hope, not of despair.
We must also address the drama we witness in mixed flows of refugees and migrants. What happens all too often with these movements represents a humanitarian tragedy and an abdication of our human rights commitments. They are reflective of acute policy failures: of emergency response; of conflict prevention; of good governance; of development; and of international solidarity.
I call for greater international cooperation to remove those failures and to protect vulnerable migrants. In parallel, we must re-establish the integrity of the refugee protection regime in line with international law. My report addresses a number of elements for consideration in shaping the Global Compact on Migration.
Three Points of Focus
I will highlight three: the need for action, the need for engagement and the need for a UN that is fit for purpose.
First, our focus must be on implementation. The past decade has seen an enriching development of both our understanding of migration and its grounding in human rights. It is time now to build on these declarations rather than simply reiterate them.
Second, everyone has a part to play. On this, let me pay particular credit to the incomparable contribution of Peter Sutherland, whose death last week is such a loss for us all.Improving the management of migration is pre-eminently a matter of State responsibility. But it demands, also, the knowledge, capacity and commitment of many others. The consultation phase of the Global Compact has benefitted hugely from the participation of a wide range of actors. Municipalities, parliaments, civil society, the private sector, regional organizations, the media, academia and migrants themselves all have vital roles. Moving forward, I urge you to maximize the space for their contributions.
Third, as the United Nations finally ensures that migration is an issue squarely on its agenda, we have the responsibility to ask ourselves whether we are best organized and equipped to support the Compact’s implementation. For you, the Member States, this will require consideration of how to ensure ongoing review of the impact of the Global Compact.
Comprehensive Oversight Needed
What we focus on in 2018 may not be what we need to focus on in 10 or 15 years’ time. We will also need to reflect on how best to ensure oversight of migration within the UN system. There are many fora addressing migration, but none with comprehensive oversight. This merits consideration.
I am committed to ensuring that the UN system is best organized to ensure that it can support you in following through on the Compact. In my report, I stress my determination to strengthen how we work on this issue, consistent with my proposed management reforms and strengthening of the UN development system, taking full advantage of the IOM’s important and welcome move, in 2016, towards the UN System.
It is a phenomenon that touches on all our collective priorities – from the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals to the promotion and protection of peace and universal human rights. I urge all Member States to engage openly and actively in the negotiations ahead. I encourage you to work towards the adoption of a solution-oriented Global Compact on Migration at the International Conference in Morocco later this year. I stand ready to assist however best I can.
27 November 2017: As of 30 September 2017, the financial situation of the United Nations was "generally sound and positive," but "regular budget cash [was] currently exhausted, and reserves" were "at low levels." In a report to the General Assembly (A/71/440/Add.1), the Secretary-General said that "severe cash problems will be experienced in the final months of the year unless sufficient contributions are received."
In reviewing the organization's finances over the past year, the report focused on four indicators: bills sent to member States, those that remained unpaid, available cash resources and the Organization’s outstanding payments to Member States for peacekeeping troops, police units and equipment. Those outstanding payments have decreased significantly over the past year.
In 2017, assessments for the regular budget were $2.58 billion, $29 million higher than the level in 2016. Payments received by 30 September 2017 were $1.89 billion, just $1 million below the amount received by 30 September 2016. Unpaid assessments then totalled $1.1 billion, $94 million less than the level outstanding a year earlier. Of the UN's 193 member States, 134 had paid their regular budget assessments in full, eight more than on 30 September 2016. For full details download the report here
3 June 2017: One of the reports to the High-level segment of the Economic and Social Council this July is a review of the World Economic and Social Survey over the last seven decades. It purports to bring to light “lessons from UN pundits relevant to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” Any delegate who knows something of the history of the last 70 years will know that the so-called “lessons” have little value because the original reports were not truthful and the review itself is fundamentally dishonest and manipulative. For those who do not know their history, the following is a brief introduction.
At the end of the Second World War, Britain launched a ruthless power-play that subverted American democracy and launched the Cold War, crippling the United Nations at birth. One result of that coup was that the United Nations became an instrument of manipulating the so called “Third World” of newly independent Asian, African and Caribbean nations. As those nations struggled to overcome the colonial legacies of poverty and backwardness, the UN offer of help was gladly received. However, the only “experts” the UN could find on the recipient countries were former colonial officials, and their work, predictably, left a great deal to be desired.
In the UN’s first quarter century the enormous flow of American wealth in support of European and Japanese recovery (one per cent of US GDP), led to a massive expansion of the world economy. The review says this period is “known familiarly as the Golden Age of Capitalism.” It turns a blind eye to what was happening in the newly independent poor countries, where there was economic stagnation, political insurrections fomented by their former rulers, and endless oppression in those still under colonial control.
South Africa under apartheid suffered the worst of institutionalized oppression, but everywhere else in Africa things were almost as bad. Racist wars killed millions in countries ranging from Algeria in the north to the Congo in the center to Angola, Mozambique and Namibia in the south. South America struggled with a combination of wars, brutal fascist dictatorships, economic subversion and stagnation. Asia was at war from West to East as colonial rule died hard and was resurrected, as in South Asia, with proxy States and terrorist movements.
The UN’s “flagship” publication on development policy, reflected none of those realities. It focused instead on theoretical cutouts that hid what the former colonial Powers were doing to maintain control of their victim societies. There was, for instance, no mention of the emergence of “off-shore tax havens” around the world, most of them in small former colonies strongly linked to the global financial center of London. As those “tax havens” became a means to suck wealth illicitly from poor countries, the “Survey” noted the “reverse transfer of resources,” but made no effort to explain how that was happening.
The authors of the review have the gall to assert that the Survey “played a unique role in focusing on the issue of negative resource transfer from developing to developed countries.” They do not say what that was. Nor do they mention that the magnitude of the loss to the poor countries has been calculated at over $1 trillion in the decade before 2014. But they do mention that Official Development Assistance reached a “a new peak of $142.6 billion in 2016, an increase of 8.9 per cent from 2015.” The figure, from OECD, mixes development and humanitarian aid, and the least developed have been getting less and less of it in recent years; neither fact is noted.
Also missing from the entire 70-year period of the Survey is any mention of the trade in psychotropic drugs. Opium and heroin, the most valuable commodities of colonial era trade, expanded into a multi-billion-dollar global market with the addition of cocaine in the 1970s, but the Survey chose to ignore it. It also ignored completely the emergence of a global black market built on the infrastructure of tax havens that channeled drug money into banks and legitimate businesses all over the world. The corrupting impact of that black market undermined development in every region. It empowered organized crime in all parts of the world, gave life to old ethnic mafias and created new gangs and crime cartels wherever necessary. The Survey did not think any of that deserving of attention under the rubric of “development policy.”
Instead, the Survey churned out anodyne academic formulations. The present edition of the Survey is typical: it "highlights the importance for achieving sustainable development of a stable global economy supported by coordinated global actions, well-functioning international trade and monetary systems, respect for national policy space, international solidarity and strengthened national capacity for development planning. In today’s world of subdued growth, the urgent task is to strengthen the capacity for globally coordinated policy actions to enable the resumption of healthy growth in the world economy, with employment creation and social development as goals under the global agenda for sustainable development.”
The claim that the Survey “provided insightful analyses on how to effectively integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions for sustainable development” is thus laughable. So is a section that “reviews the evolution of the United Nations development agenda” that avoids mentioning such momentous events as the formation of the Group of 77, the creation of UNCTAD, or the call for a New International Economic Order. In fact, even the words “North-South” do not occur in the text; the sudden late reference to “South-South Cooperation” seems strange. The review’s “identification of four areas of concern that need to be addressed “so as “to ensure support for sustainable development,” verge on the comical. The “areas of concern” are “economic growth, labor markets, investment and trade, and financing for development.”
Key messages from the Survey
Given the level of generality at which the authors of the Survey view the world, it is not surprising that the “messages” they extract from seven decades of reports are also broad:
Everything said in explanation of those messages is equally banal. Consider the following excerpts:
While the review has a section on “Importance of development planning and State capacity,” and asserts that ”strengthening the capacity of national States to manage the economy is critical to long-term development,” it says nothing at all on the importance of free markets and the rule of law in ensuring that people are able to act in their own self-interest.
The patterns we have noted here in the Survey’s approach to development can be summed up bluntly as:
None of this commentary is likely to influence what happens at the High-level Segment of ECOSOC in July, for the UN system has conditioned delegations to such a level of diplomatic nicety that they will not rock the boat for anything. Expect polite speeches applauding the 70-year history of the World Economic and Social Survey.
17 May 2017: When ECOSOC meets in July it will have before it a report (E/2017/58) that claims to provide “an overview of current efforts to improve humanitarian coordination” and of “major humanitarian trends, challenges and thematic issues.” What it does provide is a summary of the current dismal humanitarian situation, followed by thumbnail descriptions of specific situations, references to various agendas, conferences and meetings deemed “opportunities” to improve humanitarian action, and a long shaggy dog section of indeterminate purpose. There is also a set of 25 recommendations.
The document provides the following summary information of current humanitarian need and outrage:
The worst situations of humanitarian need are in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and South Sudan. Lesser emergency situations prevail in Libya, Occupied Palestine, Burundi and Darfur; the South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions of the Sudan; the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia; the Boko Haram infested areas of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger; Ukraine, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Mindanao in the Philippines. The report gives brief statistical accounts of each situation; there is no explanation, analysis or history.
El Nino-related episodes of extreme weather led 23 countries to ask for international aid for more than 60 million people. There was drought in the Sahel, Somalia, South Africa and Central America. Haiti suffered a hurricane, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Myanmar and Fiji had cyclones. Storms affected Sri Lanka. Ecuador had an earthquake.
Outbreaks of Ebola, Yellow Fever, cholera and Zika are noted in a single paragraph under the subhead “Coordination for Health Emergencies.” They are said to have “highlighted the continued need to build a cross-sectoral health emergency response capacity and strengthen the interface between humanitarian and public health communities, including regional, national, local and community capacities.”
Stronger financing is “also needed, including for the Zika Response and Cholera Response Multi-partner Trust Funds in Haiti.” The only mention of anything remotely related to coordination is the December 2016 endorsement by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee of “procedures for Level 3 activation of the humanitarian system for infectious disease events.”
Shaggy Dog Section
The longest section of the document (paragraphs 37 to 98), appears under the head “Delivering better for people —meeting needs and reducing need, risk and vulnerability.” It consists of three subsections devoted to
None of them has much to do with improving coordination. This is typical of the text: “The United Nations and humanitarian actors have a responsibility to place protection at the center of humanitarian action at all stages. Following a whole-of-system review, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee issued in 2016 its Policy on Protection in Humanitarian Action, which emphasizes the commitment to prioritize protection, highlights collective roles and responsibilities on protection and underlines the need to implement this commitment in all aspects of humanitarian action and across the humanitarian program cycle.”
The authors of the report seem to believe that just stating a certain policy or priority is to improve coordination. A variety of similar statements are made on “Humanitarian access”; “Protecting humanitarian workers”; “Protecting medical care in conflict”; “Reducing the impact of urban hostilities on civilians”; and “Adverse consequences of counter-terrorism measures.”
The closest the report comes to noting action relevant to coordination is in paragraph 45 on dealing with sexual abuse: “in 2016 the principals of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee endorsed joint standard operating procedures, which are being rolled out in the field. They also endorsed the Best Practice Guide on Community-Based Complaint Mechanisms to prevent and respond to incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse and improve access to reporting mechanisms and services. … The Inter-Agency Standing Committee is also working closely with other relevant United Nations actors across the system to reinforce the Secretary-General’s strategy on fighting sexual exploitation and abuse.”
It is worth noting (as the report itself does not), that also in 2016 the sexual abuse of children in the Central African Republic by French peacekeepers was brushed under the rug with the collusion of several UN agencies, including UNICEF, and that the High Commissioner for Human Rights personally fired one of his Directors for making the information public.
No Useful Information
Other than the facts and figures above, the document provides almost no useful information. It observes that the current situation presents “increasingly complex challenges;” and that a “shift in strategies” is necessary to deal with “protracted displacement and the urbanization of conflict. It does not say what that strategy should be, or indeed even what is being done. There is no discussion of the actual problems of coordination or lessons learned.
Declarations Deemed Action
Throughout the document there is a fond belief that the declarative effusions of UN meetings are actions. They are described as “opportunities” to “strengthen the ability of the United Nations to implement new approaches with a diversity of partners and stakeholders.
Thus, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with its “central pledge to leave no one behind” is seen as helping “to reduce the factors driving humanitarian crises, reinforced by follow-up to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development.” That will be supplemented, it says, by the “Secretary-General’s sharpened focus on reviewing the United Nations development system to ensure that it is well positioned to deliver on the 2030 Agenda, strengthening prevention and sustaining peace capacities and prioritizing coherence and collaboration across pillars.”
Also deemed contributions to improved coordination are the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (General Assembly resolution 71/1), the Secretary-General’s global campaign to counter xenophobia, the New Urban Agenda, adopted at Habitat III (General Assembly resolution 71/256), the May 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, and “the 24 key transformations of the Agenda for Humanity” (A/70/709 and A/71/353). Only in the case of the Agenda for Humanity does the document explain its relevance to improved coordination: its Platform for Action “enables stakeholders to share information, voluntarily report on their commitments and mobilize for change.”
The 25 “Recommendations” of the report, all bundled into its final paragraph (99) are truly bewildering. Directed equally at governments and “non-State armed groups,” presumably including the ISIS luminaries who hack off the heads of their bound victims, they emphasize the need to “intensify efforts to promote and ensure full respect for and adherence to humanitarian principles,” to “take all measures necessary to promote and ensure respect for humanitarian law,” and to “take all measures necessary to enhance their respect for the fundamental international humanitarian law.”
Other recommendations urge them to “respect and protect humanitarian workers and assets,” “investigate and ensure accountability for violations of international humanitarian law,” and “stop the military use and targeting of hospitals, schools, places of worship and other civilian infrastructures.” One recommendation exhorts “full implementation of international legal obligations” set out in Security Council resolution 2286 (2016). It is a sad commentary on the state of the world that the Permanent Members of the Security Council are included in the intended audience of that exhortation.
If ECOSOC accepts this report without comment, or worse, if delegations commend it in their speeches we should take it as a firm indication that the United Nations is corrupted beyond hope of renewal.
15 November 2016: The United Nations System of specialized agencies and organizations has just issued its 14th report on the totality of its funding and spending. Compiled by the Chief Executives Board (CEB) of the UN System, it shows that peacekeeping and humanitarian affairs spending far outweighs that on development. Figures for the IMF and World Bank -- both specialized agencies of the UN -- are not included in the report.
Total Expenses by Organization
(thousands of US$)
United Nations 5 613 140
UN peacekeeping 8 759 159
FAO 1 219 235
IAEA 570 544
ICAO 194 804
IFAD 168 226
ILO 659 747
IMO 68 055
IOM 102 654
ITU 191 833
PAHO 1 379 322
UN-Habitat 167 062
UNAIDS 293 937
UNDP 5 057 414
UNEP 559 703
UNESCO 762 491
UNFPA 977 376
UNHCR 3 278 872
UNICEF 5 077 602
UNIDO 244 141
UNITAR 23 473
UNODC 278 919
UNOPS 671 526
UNRWA 1 333 775
UNU 74 632
UN-Women 314 974
UNWTO 27 014
UPU 79 266
WFP 4 893 472
WHO 2 738 660
WIPO 351 840
WMO 102 471
WTO 247 027
Expenses occur in five main categories:
UN System funding comes from four sources:
The tables in the report present information on the following items:
These compilations are something of a technical achievement because the UN System includes autonomous organizations with a wide range of funding models and terminologies.
8 October 2016: A new 36-page Report of the Secretary-General on how the UN Development System should be reoriented to implement Agenda 2030 is filled with such a dizzying collection of clichés that it loses all touch with reality.
The premise of the report seems to be that the mere adoption of Agenda 2030 has ushered in a “transformed development landscape” with its “ambition, interconnectedness and universality” calling for a UN “system whose parts can work in tandem.” The text repeats in many variations the message that “the 2030 Agenda requires the UN development system to pursue much more integrated approaches and create cross-sectoral synergies to deliver highly interlinked results at all levels, supported by an enabling funding and governance architecture.” On the same page as that sentence is a footnote saying there is “no commonly agreed definition of the terms ‘the United Nations development system’ and ‘operational activities for development’.”
Just two phrases in the report acknowledge such harsh contemporary realities as slow economic growth, falling investment and trade, mountainous debt, 60 million displaced people, massive environmental degradation, terrorism and war. Paragraph 4 refers to “global challenges that know no borders, rising inequality, protracted crises and other trends;” paragraph 7 notes “global challenges and crises.” For the rest, it is one continuous preachy flow of platitudes.
Although the report recognizes that “the United Nations must open itself to the realities of the twenty-first century” it is silent on the overarching phenomenon of our times, the connectivity revolution powered by the smart phone and broadband Internet.
If there is any hope of implementing Agenda 2030 all aspects of the UN System will have to be completely re-imagined to engage internally and externally in a seamless web of global connectivity. The stunning failure to even mention this potential -- the word “network” occurs just once in the text-- makes the report's 45 recommendations as useful as the very latest horse and buggy manual to the owner of an electric car. The recommendations are listed below:
System-wide Transparency, Accountability, Governance
Improved Functioning of UN System
Workforce & Capacity
Development, Humanitarian, Peacebuilding Nexus
Resident Coordinator System
The report concludes with the observation that the “2016 quadrennial comprehensive policy review is the first step forward, and it should:
Quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system: recommendations. Report of the Secretary-General
A report to the ECOSOC Committee for Program and Coordination (E/AC.51/2016/5) looks at UN System support since June 2015 for the implementation of the African Union's New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). It considers work in nine high priority thematic clusters, each overseen jointly by the AU and a UN entity. The nine clusters are:
1. Infrastructure Development
This is a key pillar of NEPAD and the African Union's Agenda 2063. It is guided by the AU Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative and the Dakar Agenda. Co-coordinated by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the cluster comprises four sub-clusters: (a) Energy, (b) Information and communications technology, (c) Transport, and (d) Water and sanitation. Seven United Nations entities implemented some 114 activities.
The World Bank has invested over $1.25 billion to date in national and regional energy, transport, information and communications technology (ICT), and water projects. ECA collaborated with the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency and the African Union Commission in developing the monitoring and evaluation framework of the Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa and the African Infrastructure Database, with a view to creating the African Infrastructure Network.
To advance the Dakar Agenda for Action, ECA produced a study on enhancing domestic resource mobilization for trans-boundary infrastructure projects, covering the 16 projects and key data relevant to potential investors. ECA and the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency conducted field consultations with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor to assess the progress and challenges in the development of the trans-boundary projects within the regional economic communities. These consultations contributed to the development of a regional model law promoting private sector participation in trans-boundary projects.
In the energy sector, cluster members supported the Africa Power Vision and the African Clean Energy Corridor initiative to increase energy access across Africa. The International Finance Corporation has developed a number of vehicles to attract institutional investors to projects focused on renewable energy. To increase investments in energy efficiency for sustainable development and climate change mitigation, ECA provided training on the preparation and financing of energy efficiency projects and produced case study reports on best cases of regulatory and institutional frameworks for energy efficiency investments in the period 2013-2015. Through the initiative, many investors and local commercial banks gained awareness of the importance of financing energy efficiency in Africa.
The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) supported Côte d’Ivoire in designing and implementing seven pilot mini-grids using solar energy, totaling over 200 kW of capacity and servicing approximately 4,000 households and small businesses in addition to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 500 to 3,580 tons a year.
In 2015, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supported Kenya and Nigeria in the preparation of their plans for energy security and sustainable development through the Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review. In addition, IAEA implemented 35 integrated nuclear security support plans, conducted integrated nuclear security support plan review meetings in 10 African countries and provided training to over 500 individuals to enhance capability in nuclear security.
In the information and communications technology (ICT) sector, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) continued to harmonize regional and sub-regional ICT policies and regulatory frameworks. Model laws and policies were updated in line with the current technology environment in African sub-regions. This enhanced the environment for public-private investment in ICT infrastructure.
In the transport sector, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) increased assistance and capacity-building activities in respect of 38 African countries, implementing effective aviation security programm in 2015. As at March 2016, ICAO plans of action had been implemented in 32 African countries, assisting them in reducing the rate of aircraft accidents and thereby improving aviation safety capability.
In the water sector, IAEA continued to address the water challenges faced by African countries through the application of nuclear and isotopic techniques. A total of 11 new national projects and 3 regional projects were initiated in 2016 to enhance water resource management capacity in Africa. In the Niger, IAEA supported the development of national capacities in geochemistry and isotope hydrology. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) facilitated a policy dialogue on institutional and legal arrangements among Malawi, Mozambique and the United Republic of Tanzania to strengthen regional capacity and awareness on mountain ecosystem law and governance. The dialogue improved cooperation on trans-boundary issues related to Lake Malawi.
Co-coordinated by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Governance cluster, comprises four sub-clusters: (a) Democracy, (b) Economic and corporate governance, (c) Human rights, and Public Service and (d) Administration.
During the review period, cluster members advanced the Democracy agenda by supporting the African Peer Review Mechanism as it conducted the 18th country review (Djibouti). The Mechanism has 35 member countries. The secretariat of the Mechanism is in the process of aligning its administrative measures and policies with those of the African Union Commission, with a view to positioning itself as the monitoring tool for Agenda 2063. A total of 31 activities conducted by six United Nations entities are highlighted.
On Democracy and governance, ECA supported regional economic communities and African Peer Review Mechanism countries to accelerate the peer review process. In December 2015, ECA organized a workshop on peer learning and sharing experiences for the East African region. A number of recommendations were highlighted to encourage accession to the Peer Review Mechanism. At the country level, Chad, Djibouti and Senegal benefited from assistance from ECA, which led to Djibouti being peer reviewed by the African Peer Review Forum in January 2016.
The United Nations Democracy Fund financed 15 projects implemented by local civil society organizations. The projects focused on the engagement of young people and women through training for journalists, political participation and human rights activities. In Rwanda, the Democracy Fund funded a project promoting democratic and human rights values among young people, and in Zimbabwe, it funded a project focused on electoral process training for civil society.
The UN Department of Political Affairs of the Secretariat continued its mediation in the Central African Republic by facilitating coordination, keeping the parties engaged and providing guidance. This led to the holding of successful presidential elections on 14 February 2016 and legislative elections on 31 March 2016.
The UN Department of Political Affairs also continued to work as part of the Joint International Facilitation Team, which included the East African Community, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the African Union, to facilitate dialogue between the Government and the opposition forces in Burundi. In July 2015, the Department held consultations to reiterate the need for dialogue as a catalyst for the holding of credible and peaceful elections in Burundi. The Department also extended United Nations support to the high-level facilitator of the East African Community on Burundi.
The UN Department of Political Affairs continued to support the African Union in combating illicit drug trafficking, organized crime and drug abuse in West Africa. At the meeting of the West Africa Coast Initiative high-level policy committee held in Bissau in November 2015, the Department galvanized support and commitments to fight transnational organized crime in Guinea-Bissau and facilitated the agreement on new strategic orientations for the extension of the West Africa Coast Initiative program in the sub-region until 2017.
On economic and corporate governance, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) supported the formulation and implementation of competition law and policy. In Zimbabwe, UNCTAD strengthened competition law enforcement through workshops and by activating an online complaint filing system in March 2016 to address anti-competitive business practices. UNCTAD continued to enhance the investment environment through its investment policy review program. It published the investment policy review for Madagascar and started preparing the review for the Gambia. UNCTAD assisted the Republic of the Congo and the Sudan in the implementation of their investment policy review recommendations.
On Human rights, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the African Union supported the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in reflecting aspects of the right to nationality and the eradication of statelessness in Africa in its draft Protocol. The Protocol was adopted at the eighteenth extraordinary session of the Commission, held in Nairobi in August 2015.
On Public administration, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the Secretariat supported Togo in formulating a reform programme. The Department organized a conference on the theme “Support to developing capacities for effective governance, public administration and service delivery in developing countries for sustainable development”, which was held in August 2015. The conference helped to raise awareness regarding the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals, with a particular focus on governmental, public administration and human resource capacity needs.
3. Peace and security
The peace and security cluster, co-chaired by the United Nations Office to the African Union, on behalf of the Department of Political Affairs, comprises four sub-clusters:
(a) The African Peace and Security Architecture, (b) Post-conflict reconstruction and development, (c) Emergency preparedness and response, and (d) transitional justice.
Over the review period, cluster members advanced the peace and security agenda, as highlighted by the 72 activities implemented by six United Nations entities.
The UN Department of Political Affairs continued to support ECOWAS and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) in implementing the outcomes of the Summit of Heads of State and Government on Maritime Safety and Security, held in Yaoundé in 2013. In September 2015, the Department chaired a forum on security in the Gulf of Guinea in Abuja, which advocated for the full activation of the Inter-regional Coordination Center for Maritime Safety and Security in the Gulf of Guinea. As a result, the Center adopted recommendations on the recruitment of personnel, the budget and the program of activities in February 2016. The UN Office of Legal Affairs continued to build the capacity and enhance the knowledge of legislators and officials of Somalia on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which sets out the rights and duties of States in respect of suppressing piracy and other threats to marine security.
The UN Department of Political Affairs continued to support the Mano River Union countries, namely, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, in the implementation of the cross-border security strategy. The UN Peace-building Fund supported the establishment of joint border security and confidence-building units along the borders of the Mano River Union countries, raising the number to 15 multinational border units and 7 national border units. The UN Department of Political Affairs and the Mano River Union developed a joint work-plan in February 2016 to strengthen the joint border security and confidence-building units and facilitate the sharing of best practices among national electoral management bodies.
In November 2015, the UN Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, the African Union Commission and the African Development Bank co-organized a high-level meeting in Cairo on the theme “Tackling the socioeconomic root causes of conflict towards achieving the goal of a conflict-free Africa." The participants made recommendations on the socioeconomic and developmental measures needed to accompany military responses, with a view to resolving conflict in areas facing violent extremism and terrorism, and on how to leverage NEPAD in addressing the underlying socioeconomic and development fragility.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) implemented peace-building, education and advocacy programs totalling $27.6 million in 11 countries, highlighting major root cause of conflict, especially the exclusion of adolescents and young people, poverty, inequality and weak social services. UNICEF implemented various conflict-sensitive and peace-building interventions engaging adolescents and young people in peace-building, including life skills training, in Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Dadaab refugee camp; community-based volunteer activities in Liberia and Sierra Leone; and participatory research in Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict continued global advocacy and engagement with parties to conflict to enhance the protection of children affected by armed conflict in the eight African countries included in the children and armed conflict agenda. In South Sudan, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition signed an action plan with the United Nations in December 2015 to stop the recruitment and use of children. The Special Representative also advocated for the inclusion of child protection in the peace agreement signed by the parties to the conflict in South Sudan in August 2015 and in the implementation of the peace agreement in Mali.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reinforced the protection of women and children from sexual violence through support for criminal justice responses to violence against women and juvenile justice. In Egypt, in cooperation with the Prosecutor General’s Office, UNODC developed training and procedural manuals on the appropriate handling of such cases. In Chad, the Office provided legal advisory services and policy advice on justice for children and violence against children. In Nigeria, UNODC, jointly with UNICEF, has been supporting the implementation of the recently adopted legislation on juvenile justice. In Southern Africa, UNODC established a one-stop centre and gender-based-violence hotline in Namibia in 2015.
The UN Department of Political Affairs continued to strengthen bilateral, sub-regional and international cooperation to combat threats of terrorism and violent extremism arising from the activities of Boko Haram. In February 2016, the Department conducted missions in Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria to assess the impact of the violence and encourage national authorities to hold the planned ECCAS-ECOWAS summit on Boko Haram. The summit will initiate the development of a regional strategy/response to address the threat of Boko Haram.
The UN Department of Political Affairs provided support for the integrated implementation of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Burkina Faso, Mali and Nigeria. It facilitated the development of regional counter-terrorism strategies in Central and Southern Africa, which were adopted in 2015, in close cooperation with the African Union Center for Studies and Research on Terrorism, ECCAS, SADC and the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate. The strategies will enable coordinated and sustained efforts to prevent and counter the spread of terrorist activities in both regions. Support for capacity-building in the area of cross- border cooperation on border security was provided to countries in the Sahel region and the Horn of Africa. Efforts focused on respecting human rights while countering terrorism and preventing and countering violent extremism, kidnapping for ransom and terrorist financing.
On emergency preparedness and response, following the adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, the United Nations Inter-Agency Secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction has been strengthening the implementation of the Framework in Africa; this led to the adoption of the Yaoundé Declaration on the Implementation of the Sendai Framework in Africa in 2015, which lays the foundation for a road map for the implementation of the Framework.
The United Nations Inter-Agency Secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction coordinated the monitoring of national progress on disaster risk reduction through periodic reports on the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action, covering 33 African countries for the 2013-2015 cycle. The Inter-Agency Secretariat has also been working with African countries to integrate risk profiling into programs and make all development financing risk-informed. Burkina Faso, the Comoros, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, the Niger, Senegal, Seychelles, Togo and the United Republic of Tanzania have completed hybrid and probabilistic risk profiles. As a result, Governments have gained the capacity for analytical assessment of catastrophic risk.
4. Agriculture, Food Security and Rural Development
Co-coordinated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), this cluster helps enhance the implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program, in line with the Maputo Declaration; nine United Nations entities engaged in 173 implementation activities.
The World Bank's lending for agriculture for the period under review amounted to some $1.1 billion in support of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme. The Bank supported the implementation of the Program through the $65.2 million Multi-Donor Trust Fund, which ended in December 2015. Preparations for a new Multi-Donor Trust Fund to support the implementation of the Malabo Declaration are under way. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) continued to mainstream agricultural risk management into the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program agricultural investment plans of Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Liberia, Mozambique, the Niger, Senegal and Uganda. In 2015, IFAD conducted risk management and assessment activities as well as capacity-building activities on agricultural risk management in those countries. This helped to support sustainable agricultural growth and food security.
Following a survey conducted in November 2015, FAO supported the improvement of access to finance for women in agribusiness, in an effort to better the plight of women in agriculture. UNCTAD supported Ethiopia in preparing a national strategy on green exports and in convening the first national stakeholder workshop on Ethiopia’s National Green Export Review in Addis Ababa in December 2015. The strategy contributed to boosting Ethiopia’s exports in green sectors and products with comparative advantage. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) produced a film charting the establishment of a geographical indication process in East Africa that showcases the successful use of the intellectual property system by local businesses.
To empower smallholders, the Common Fund for Commodities supported the Tolaro Global factory expansion in Benin, which enhanced the production of quality cashew nuts in a socially responsible environment. The Fund supported East Africa Limited, a one-stop integrated service provider for smallholder growers, helping increased export of paprika from Malawi to South African and European buyers. The Fund also supported a project on scaling up smallholder-based premium coffee production in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, as a result of which exports are expected to increase from $0.4 million to $12 million in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and from $4 million to $7 million in Rwanda between 2015 and 2021.
On food security, the World Food Program (WFP) continued to inform nutrition policies through the initiative “Cost of Hunger in Africa Study”. The initiative estimates the social and economic cost of under-nutrition, advocates for increased investment by Governments in nutrition and provides evidence-based guidance on nutrition policies and strategies. In 2015, studies were concluded in Burkina Faso, Chad, Ghana, Madagascar and Malawi. IAEA implemented 120 national and 6 regional projects to help African countries to achieve food security and reduce poverty through the improvement of agricultural productivity, the creation of tsetse-free zones, combating desertification, preventing transboundary animal disease and improving crop and livestock production in the region.
In line with the Malabo Declaration on reducing post-harvest losses by 50 per cent by 2025, UNIDO implemented a $1 million project to increase food security for targeted regions of South Sudan. To date, the project has led to the procurement of post-harvest reduction fishing equipment; the development of fish markets in two communities as well as a small-scale business development centre; and the development of a capacity-building programme to ensure the sustainability of the fishery sector.
To further rural development, FAO has been supporting rural institutions in 24 African countries by strengthening performance, governance and gender equality in producers’ organizations. It also enhanced livelihoods through the development of small-scale businesses, improved access to markets, services and finance and improved direct participation in policy-making. FAO supported the scaling-up of innovative approaches to improve access to rural agricultural finance for smallholder farmers and small and medium agro-enterprises under its Inclusive Finance for Rural Development initiative, including a program on the development of financial products and services for smallholders in Zimbabwe.
5. Industry, trade and market access
The industry, trade and market access cluster, co-chaired by UNIDO, supported African regional and sub-regional organizations in building productive capacity for trade, market access and continent-wide sustainable industrialization. Over the review period, nine United Nations entities conducted some 69 activities in support of the implementation of the Continental Free Trade Area through the strengthening of productive capacity, the facilitation of trade negotiations and the enhancement of market access.
UNIDO collaborated with the African Union Commission in planning the third African Union Commission Strategic Stakeholders’ Retreat on the African Union Action Plan for the Accelerated Industrial Development of Africa, held in Nairobi in October 2015. The retreat enhanced coherence and cooperation within the framework of the action plan and other continental industrial development initiatives.
In September 2015, on the margin of the General Assembly, the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, UNIDO, ECA and the African Union co-organized a high-level event on the theme “Operationalization of the post-2015 development agenda for African industrialization”, which brought together several African Heads of State and Government. The participants adopted a communiqué, which renewed political commitment to the implementation of Africa’s development priorities in the area of inclusive and sustainable industrial development and urged the African Union to call for an African Industrialization Decade.
To promote sustainable economic growth through innovation and technology, WIPO organized expert missions to Algeria and Tunisia with a view to enhancing and modernizing their Industrial Property Automation System to support their intellectual property offices. WIPO also organized the Arab Regional Meeting on the Industrial Property Administration System, in cooperation with the Egyptian Patent Office, which was held in Cairo in August 2015.
The International Trade Center (ITC) supported the development of sustainable South-South business relationships in the cotton sector through policy-level work with African regional economic communities. Three national cotton-to-clothing strategies were developed, in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and Zimbabwe.
On trade, ITC promoted the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises in regional and international value chains in selected agro-food sectors, which contributed to inclusive and sustainable trade-led growth in Kenya, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia, by improving the competitiveness of small and medium-sized producers and strengthening trade and investment support institutions in the three countries. Kenya mango exporters signed business transactions for exports of more than $1.1 million. In the United Republic of Tanzania, at least 30 enterprises became export-ready. In Zambia, branding support for Zambian honey to increase value addition was provided to nine small and medium-sized enterprises. A total of 26 International Organization for Standardization packaging standards and one technical specification were approved as Zambian standards.
UNCTAD supported the mainstreaming of trade into national development strategies through the Enhanced Integrated Framework by updating the Diagnostic Trade Integration Study in the Niger and Ethiopia. In the Comoros, the Enhanced Integrated Framework increased the competitiveness of the three main export products, including cloves, vanilla and ylang-ylang, by organizing the producers and processors into cooperatives. In the Gambia, it developed the cashew, sesame and groundnut sectors by supporting the country’s quality assurance framework in the three sectors. In Rwanda, the Enhanced Integrated Framework supported the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises in six export-oriented clusters, namely, pineapples, bananas, vegetables, honey, flour and nuts.
ECA coordinated the engagement of the United Nations system in the launch of the Continental Free Trade Area negotiations, including in the preparation of the draft negotiation texts. Specific activities included participation in the Continental Free Trade Area Task Force and continued technical support to the African Union Commission. UNCTAD also supported African countries in the Continental Free Trade Area negotiations and has been working with COMESA, the East African Community, ECOWAS, the Southern Africa Customs Union and SADC to strengthen regional economic integration in the area of regulations affecting trade. The Continental Free Trade Area negotiations were officially launched in June 2015.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) continued to provide technical assistance to African countries through its various technical assistance initiatives, including increased secretariat support as they prepared their common position in the run-up to the tenth WTO Ministerial Conference and during the Conference itself, which was held in Nairobi in December 2015.
Under the Aid for Trade initiative, WTO and ECA supported Africa’s contribution to the fifth global review of the initiative, held in June 2015. Both institutions facilitated Africa’s contribution to the review through preparatory activities, including the launch of a report on reducing trade costs to support Africa’s transformation.
UNCTAD, through its Automated System for Customs Data programme, helped to increase the revenue collected by Customs by more than 25 per cent and to reduce clearing times and costs. A total of 29 African countries benefited from the programme in 2015. The Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States commissioned a study for the Africa region on improving transit cooperation, trade and trade facilitation for the benefit of the landlocked developing countries in order to review the key achievements and constraints in transition issues and make policy recommendations to ensure the successful participation of African landlocked developing countries in international trade.
On market access, UNCTAD provided training on non-tariff measures for the tripartite regional economic communities. Through data collection, it strengthened transparency on non-tariff measures and supported policymakers in 12 countries in addressing trade obstacles. UNCTAD started a project addressing non-tariff measures in ECOWAS in order to strengthen regional integration. In November 2015, the Standards and Trade Development Facility published a report on ways to improve the implementation of sanitary and phytosanitary controls in Malawi, South Africa and Zambia, while ensuring safe trade, low transaction costs and health protection.
6. Environment, population and urbanization
The cluster on environment, population and urbanization, co-coordinated by UNEP, continued to address challenges relating to environmental degradation, population growth and migration, rapid urbanization and the lack of demographic statistics.
Cluster members supported the implementation of the NEPAD Action Plan for the Environment, advocacy for Africa’s position on climate change, the promotion of the demographic dividend and the advancement of urbanization. Highlights include 47 activities implemented by 13 United Nations entities.
As the secretariat of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment, UNEP continued to support the Ministerial Conference in promoting regional cooperation on addressing environmental issues confronting the region and worked with partners to support the implementation of the decisions of the Ministerial Conference. UNEP continued to support the African Union in the finalization of the African strategy on combating illegal trade in African wild fauna and flora, which was endorsed by the African Union Summit in June 2015.
UNEP also established a small-scale funding agreement of $50,000, which enabled the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency to assess the regional flagship programmes. In December 2015, UNEP and the Planning and Coordinating Agency co-organized a side event on regional flagship programmes at the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The secretariat of the Convention prepared a methodological guiding tool to support African countries in integrating land use measures into their intended nationally determined contributions and provided inputs to regional forums on such contributions held in Addis Ababa and Niamey.
The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs and ECOWAS co-organized a workshop on environment statistics in support of the implementation of the Framework for the Development of Environment Statistics, held in Lomé in October 2015. The World Meteorological Organization has been improving the understanding of gender-specific needs in the provision, access and use of weather and climate services for resilience-building.
With the support of ICAO and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the first aviation-related Clean Development Mechanism was adopted in November 2015. The methodology quantifies carbon dioxide reductions resulting from the use of electric aircraft taxiing systems and allows for the creation of saleable credits in developing countries that can be purchased by industrialized countries to meet their carbon dioxide emission reduction targets.
To strengthen sustainable land and water management, the World Bank continued to support the Great Green Wall Initiative in building resilience through innovation, communication and knowledge services. The World Bank also managed the multi-donor TerrAfrica Leveraging Fund, which is supporting the secretariat of TerrAfrica through a grant, in the amount of $2.0 million, up to the end of May 2017. This assistance has contributed to a more efficient and effective response to country demand for sustainable land and water management. With a grant of $0.1 million, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification financed pilot projects on land degradation neutrality in five countries, with a focus on testing and fine-tuning a methodological approach to the implementation of land degradation neutrality.
On population, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) collaborated with the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning in supporting national demographic dividend analyses in Botswana, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia. In each country, UNFPA provided technical and fiscal support to model the prospects for a demographic transition and a demographic dividend, with the aim of furthering the achievement of the goals of the International Conference on Population and Development. UNFPA also collaborated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to host its first global hackathon in Uganda. Partners from 17 countries generated mobile health prototypes to promote adolescent sexual and reproductive health, such as the “GetIn” mobile application, which can be used by community health workers to map households where pregnant girls reside.
In November 2015, the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa joined the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the African Union Commission and the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes in organizing a high-level meeting on the theme “Conflict-induced migration in Africa: Maximizing new opportunities to address its peace, security and inclusive development dimensions”. Participants explored strategies to prevent and address the root causes of forced migration within the context of the various African and global agendas and raised awareness on the causes and patterns of conflict-induced or forced migration and on the consequences for inclusive and sustainable development in Africa.
The World Tourism Organization, UNDP and the World Bank promoted the tourism industry as a catalyst for sustainable economic and social development in Africa through the financing of projects on the development of tourism management master plans as well as projects developed under the Sustainable Tourism — Eliminating Poverty Initiative.
On urbanization, the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN‑Habitat) provided financial and technical support for the development of land indicators to complement the post-2015 development agenda. UN-Habitat supported Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia in their ongoing land reforms. It collaborated on capacity development activities with the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development and other partners through the holding of learning events on innovative concepts and tools in land administration in Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.
7. Social and human development
The cluster on social and human development, co-coordinated by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), provided support in six sub-clusters: (a) Health, HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases; (b) Education and human resources; (c) Gender and development; (d) Social welfare and human trafficking; (e) Labour and employment; and (f) Sport and culture.
Cluster members strengthened health-care systems, supported countries affected by Ebola, assisted the implementation of the African Union road map on shared responsibility and global solidarity for the AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria response, supported social protection, skills development and job creation, and addressed human trafficking. A total of 14 United Nations entities implemented some 151 activities.
Through the H4+ Partnership, UNFPA, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), UNICEF, UN-Women, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank jointly contributed to the strengthening of national health-care systems, including through the implementation of the components of national health plans that relate to reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health. H4+ contributed to the training of approximately 10,300 health-care workers and helped to strengthen the capacity of 33 training institutions, including midwifery schools, in 10 countries. In each country, it was clearly demonstrated that the integration of reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health-care services into national health plans yielded better health outcomes. IAEA implemented over 100 national and regional projects in 2015 to improve and increase access to health-care services, in particular by strengthening radiotherapy services, training specialists and procuring equipment and expert services.
UNAIDS supported AIDS Watch Africa in reporting to the African Union Summit on the implementation of the African Union road map on shared responsibility and global solidarity for the AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria response and on the implementation of the commitments on health contained in the Abuja Declaration on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Other Related Infectious Diseases. As a result, African countries extended the road map until 2020 and called for a “catalytic framework” to detail milestones for ending AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in Africa by 2030. In addition, UNAIDS mobilized $7.5 million in 2015 from the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief to provide technical support to more than 85 per cent of the countries in Africa that had submitted concept notes to the Global Fund for grants to address AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. This resulted in the allocation of more than $3 billion in grants.
Throughout 2015, UNICEF improved evidence-based programming in adolescent HIV prevention in 11 countries through rapid assessments carried out under the All In initiative to boost access to and uptake of services by adolescents. This resulted in improved epidemiological and programme data analysis, enabling Governments to collate, review and validate data on adolescents, HIV and cross-cutting issues. Efforts to support the demonstration phase of the introduction of the human papilloma virus vaccine for adolescent girls resulted in the completion by Ghana, the Gambia and Senegal of the adolescent health assessment and the prioritization of adolescent health interventions to be integrated with the introduction of the vaccine in 2016.
The World Bank assisted Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in preparing economic recovery and growth strategies and realigned its programmes to match recovery priorities, including the restoration and build-up of the health sectors, increased focus on quick-impact strategic investments in agriculture and the provision of critical infrastructure, including electricity, roads, water and sanitation. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) provided $309 million in expedited assistance at zero interest rates to the three countries, as well as $95 million in grants for debt relief in 2015 to ease pressures on their balance of payments. UNICEF supported some 13,900 orphaned children and provided mental health and psychosocial support services to more than 315,500 children in the three countries. IAEA strengthened the early detection of dangerous emerging zoonotic diseases, including the Ebola virus disease in wildlife and livestock, under appropriate biosafety conditions.
As part of efforts to combat harmful practices against children, UNICEF supported the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage and worked closely with the African Union Commission to celebrate the Day of the African Child across Africa. The theme for the Day of the African Child in 2015 was “25 years after the adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our collective efforts to end child marriage in Africa”. The celebration raised awareness of children’s issues.
In response to the global migration challenge, in August 2015, UNODC launched a dedicated regional strategy for West Africa for the period 2015-2020 to combat trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants. UNODC enhanced the capacity of national task forces, committees and border officials to detect and respond to trafficking cases in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia. It also built the capacity of trainers on threats related to human trafficking in Guinea-Bissau. UNODC further supported the drafting of legislation on the trafficking of persons, in Djibouti and Ethiopia. This led Ethiopia to adopt its legislation in July 2015.
UNICEF and UNHCR implemented a regional information-sharing protocol for cross-border tracking and family tracing systems as part of a broader response to support unaccompanied and separated children from South Sudan and Burundi, which has resulted in faster and better matching of unaccompanied and separated children with their families/caregivers.
On social protection and labour, FAO enhanced the coherence between agriculture and social protection interventions, focusing on Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, by building strong partnerships through the Agriculture and Social Protection in Africa technical reference group.
In Senegal, UNIDO promoted youth-led micro, small and medium-sized enterprises through support to the Government in managing youth entrepreneurship and employability initiatives. UNIDO trained 66 staff and professors in supporting young people in seeking employment in companies. It installed six platforms for technical support services in selected regions and formalized 120 entrepreneurial initiatives, leading to the creation of more than 350 jobs. UNIDO also implemented a $1.4 million project in Liberia to promote youth employment in the mining, construction and agricultural sectors. To date, 148 diesel technicians and 84 machine operators have been trained under the project.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) has been actively involved in the development and implementation of the first five-year priority program on employment, poverty eradication and inclusive development (2015-2019) of the Ouagadougou+10 Declarations and Plan of Action. ILO has been contributing to four key priority areas, namely, labor migration, labor market governance, social protection, and youth and women’s employment.
8. Science and technology
The science and technology cluster, co-coordinated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), supported the implementation of Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action, which is built on three pillars, namely, (a) Capacity-building, (b)Knowledge production and (c) Technological innovation. Highlights include 10 activities conducted by five United Nations entities in support of the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024.
The World Bank supported the African Union Commission and Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action, notably with respect to the goals of addressing the data gap that currently exists across the continent, re-balancing post-secondary education towards the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and closing the gender gap in those fields.
In collaboration with the African Union and Senegal, WIPO organized the African Ministerial Conference 2015: Intellectual Property for an Emerging Africa, held in Dakar in November 2015. The Conference highlighted the crucial role that the intellectual property system could play in Africa’s economic transformation in the context of Agenda 2063 and the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024. Through its technology and innovation support centers, WIPO facilitated access to and the exploitation of technological information for Djibouti and Mauritania in December 2015.
UNAIDS contributed to advocacy efforts at the WTO Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to have the TRIPS waiver on pharmaceuticals for the least developed countries extended until 2033. The resulting agreement allows the least developed countries greater access to affordable essential medicines and paves the way for the establishment of local pharmaceutical capacities in Africa.
ITU, under the “Connect a School, Connect a Community” initiative, continued to improve ICT access in rural schools in the Gambia, Lesotho, the Niger, Sierra Leone and the United Republic of Tanzania. A total of 71 sites were equipped with ICT material and delivered courses for children and teachers, thereby contributing to the socioeconomic development of rural communities.
9. Communication, advocacy and outreach
The advocacy and communications cluster is co-chaired by the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa. Following the adoption by the African Union Summit of Agenda 2063 and its first 10-year implementation plan, the cluster worked to popularize the priorities of the new Agenda and mobilize United Nations system support for its implementation.
Five United Nations entities engaged in 21 activities. The Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, along with cluster members, advocated for NEPAD and the implementation of Agenda 2063 and its first 10-year implementation plan in conjunction with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Office strengthened coordination and coherence through partnerships with United Nations entities in joint activities and through the preparation of reports in collaboration with the Interdepartmental Task Force on African Affairs. In July 2015, at the margins of the third International Conference on Financing for Development, the Office, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the African Union Commission, the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency, ECA and the United Nations Global Compact, co-organized a high-level side event, at which the participants made policy recommendations aimed at leveraging pension funds for the financing of Africa’s infrastructure development. To raise awareness on financing infrastructure development, the Office prepared a study on leveraging such funds to finance infrastructure development in Africa.
The UN Department of Public Information (DPI) continued to promote public awareness of the aims and achievements of the NEPAD projects and programmes through the printed and online versions of Africa Renewal magazine, the United Nations News Centre, United Nations Radio and Television, the United Nations website and United Nations social media accounts. Between September 2015 and January 2016, some 26 Africa Renewal articles were republished, in both English and French, approximately 263 times in 133 different media outlets in 15 countries.
In collaboration with DPI, ECA, the African Union Commission and the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency and its secretariat, the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa organized, from 12 to 16 October 2015 at Headquarters in New York, Africa Week 2015 on the theme “Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Moving from Aspirations to Reality”. The Week comprised high-level events on the themes “Achieving regional integration through the Continental Free Trade Area”, “Silencing the guns in Africa by 2020”, “15 years of the women, peace and security agenda in Africa” and “Youth and development”. A press conference and one-on-one interviews were organized for senior officials from NEPAD, the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, the African Union and the African Peer Review Mechanism. Overall, Africa Week contributed to the mobilization of international support for the African Union’s Agenda 2063, while highlighting its synergies with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States provided advocacy and technical support to African landlocked developing countries to promote the implementation of the Vienna Program of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014-2024. The Office has been supporting regional and national efforts to mainstream the Vienna Program of Action, including through the provision of substantive support to African countries in the formulation and adoption of a resolution calling for the mainstreaming of the Program of Action in 2015.
UNCTAD advocated for the leveraging of trade in services as an engine of growth, employment creation and development through the launch of its Economic Development in Africa Report 2015: Unlocking the potential of Africa’s services trade for growth and development in July 2015.
In September 2015, the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa and the private sector advocated for investment opportunities during the African Heads of State and Government Investment Panel. Five African Heads of State engaged with global investors on opportunities in Africa with a view to fast-tracking the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda in Africa, as well as Agenda 2063 and its 10‑year implementation plan.
Report on the Work of the United Nations
The annual Report on the Work of the Organization (A/70/1) is one of the rare UN documents that gets media attention.
That is because it is submitted to the opening session of the General Assembly every year and its Introduction reflects the Secretary-General’s primary political concerns.
The Report itself is a distillation of many departmental submissions and traditionally it has been a committee-designed horse, its ill fitted parts of varying worth and integrity.
The Introduction to the 2015 Report is remarkable for several reasons. At the top of my list is that it makes no mention of a major change in UN policy announced sotto voce in the penultimate section of the Report itself: “The United Nations advocates a rebalancing of the international policy on drugs, to increase the focus on public health, human rights, prevention, treatment and care, and economic, social and cultural measures.”
That is the closest the UN has ever come to calling for an end to the prohibitionist approach to psychoactive drugs which has for over a century failed in its main purpose while rewarding organized crime with sky-high profits. It is certain to raise expectations that the 2016 General Assembly special session on drugs will rewrite international drug policy.
The Introduction is notable also for completely ignoring drug trafficking, money laundering and organized crime, the triune that funds terrorism and most contemporary conflicts.
Some of its statements are also outrageously false. Looking back over the UN’s seven decades it says “we have much to be proud of” because the “world has avoided global conflict on the scale seen twice in the first half of the twentieth century” and numerous “smaller wars were averted or brought to an earlier end.”
The truth is that well over 100 million people have died in the conflicts of the last 70 years, far more than in the two declared “World Wars.” Many societies have been torn apart by war and many hundreds of millions of lives ruined. Those grim realities have been generally invisible because international mass media pay little attention to the poor countries that have borne the terrible toll.
The claim that the UN has prevented and ended wars is ludicrous when even a cursory review can reveal the consistent impotence of the Security Council in the face of prolonged and widespread carnage. The cause of that failure is no mystery: the Council’s permanent members have been the primary beneficiaries of war; they provide almost all the world’s weaponry and reap enormous economic and political advantages from instigating proxy conflicts.
Another dishonest claim in the Introduction is that the past year has seen “significant progress” towards the interconnected goals of ending poverty, bringing climate change under control, and agreeing on “shared approaches to funding and implementing a new development agenda.” In fact, the UN’s endless talk on those issues has resulted in nothing but arid, hollow texts.
The authors of the Introduction are also inexplicably confused when it comes to telling about the “enormous strides” the UN has made in “building the long-term foundations of peace.”
On the one hand they ascribe undeserved credit to the Organization for raising “millions out of extreme poverty” and empowering women, both national processes, with a marginal UN role.
On the other hand, they make only one passing reference to the UN’s undisputed and major success in advancing human rights and international law.
The 70th anniversary is surely an occasion to celebrate that despite the many tyrannical regimes in its membership the Organization has created and codified more international law than in all previous history. It has been the primary designer, architect and advocate of a body of law that now extends from the abyssal depths of the sea to outer space and covers every individual on earth with the mantle of universal human rights and protections.
Strangely too, the report makes no mention at all of another major UN achievement, the creation of an integrated statistical framework that makes global problems visible. Without it the world would be incapable of policy and strategy in every vital area.
On contemporary problems, the Introduction is frank: “age-old problems persist,” and new ones are proliferating. “Inequalities are growing in all societies,” the “poorest of the poor” are being left farther behind, and there are shockingly violent crimes of violence against women and girls, especially as “a tool of war.” Climate change has “only begun to show the potential severity of its impacts.” Overall, problems have become more complex in an “increasingly fast-paced and interconnected world where opportunities “abound” but “risks are greater and more contagious.”
The description of the world situation in 2015 is vivid:
“During the past year, more people were displaced than at any time since the Second World War. Desperate migrants risked everything to flee from hunger, persecution and violence, only to meet with death, discrimination and greater desperation along the way. Conflict and crisis engulfed millions of people in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Darfur, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gaza, Libya, Iraq, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine and Yemen. Millions faced the brutal tactics of violent extremists such as Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab and Da‘esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), while many foreign fighters found the message of such groups alluring enough to join their cause. Environmental degradation, pollution and resource depletion continued almost unabated around the globe. There was little progress on the long-stalled disarmament agenda. Countless people died of curable diseases, went to bed hungry, buried children who might have been saved with basic health care, and in many other ways suffered avoidable, unacceptable levels of deprivation, fear and hopelessness.”
The section on Disarmament notes both the quick UN action to neutralize Syria’s chemical weapons and the 19-year lassitude of the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD), the world’s only multilateral negotiating forum on arms issues.
Finally, the Report takes no note of the tireless and powerful role of civil society in international affairs. Without the largely volunteer-driven agendas of civil society organizations the UN's State-centred processes would lose an essential humanizing element; it would be impossible for the Organization to hold out the hope that the idealism in the Preamble to its Charter will eventually come to life in global governance.
The authors of the Report could have made all those points easily by quoting from a statement made last March in the CD by the 100-year old Women’s International League for Peace and Freedomx. Some excerpts:
“For the last few years, my organization, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, has been permitted to deliver a statement to the Conference on Disarmament to mark International Women’s Day. For years before that, our statement was read out to the CD by the sitting president. This is the only time of year that any voice from civil society is allowed inside the CD chamber. And this may be the last time our voice is heard here.
“Dear colleagues, … let me explain to you what it is like being the only civil society organization that still pays attention to the CD. Last week, for the high-level segment, I had to make a detour on my way to the gallery, because security wouldn’t let me through – I would have been too close to the chamber in which about 20 minutes later a high level dignitary would be speaking.
“Even after any regular plenary session, I have to wait outside the Council Chamber for someone from the Secretariat to hand me the statements that you delivered, because I am not allowed into the room. This practice, by the way, was never an official decision. In 2004, it was decided that civil society was allowed on the floor, before and after the meeting. That changed without an official decision ever being put on the record.
“These are but a few of the indignities that civil society experiences at the CD. We do not experience them at other disarmament forums—not at First Committee, not at meetings of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, not at meetings of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“So, you can imagine our delight when Ambassador Lomónaco tabled the draft decision to increase our access to and engagement with the CD. And I assume you can imagine our disappointment, to put it mildly, when you started discussing that draft decision. Aside from the sexist, degrading remark about “topless ladies throwing bottles of mayonnaise,” the level of disrespect to civil society and disconnection from the outside world demonstrated by the debate over this proposal was astounding.
“Many of you have expressed your appreciation for our work over and over again. And we do enjoy working with you towards our collective goals. But at the moment that it mattered, some of you put process over progress. Member states that pride themselves to be open, democratic societies said they needed more time, had some more questions, wanted some changes, and in the end could not agree ...
“We in WILPF have thus decided that it’s finally time to cease our engagement with this body. While the debate over the proposal to amend the CD’s engagement with civil society was important in terms of timing, it is not the key reason that we have come to this decision.
"This is a body that has firmly established that it operates in a vacuum. That it is disconnected from the outside world. That it has lost perspective of the bigger picture of human suffering and global injustice. … We can no longer invest effort into such a body.”
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