Tag Archives: United Nations

The Western Sahara

 Another one of my articles on Impakter magazine:
Western Sahara

on February 22, 2016 at 5:25 PM

The Western Sahara scandal. The last colonial war in Africa is still unresolved, in spite of over 40 years of efforts on the part of the United Nations. A people has been destroyed, its rights to its native soil confiscated, half of its people living in refugee camps – three generations now that have never known a normal, free life – while the rest barely ekes out a living in the barren eastern part of the country, just beyond a Berlin-like wall built by the occupant, Morocco.

And all the riches of the country from ocean fisheries and phosphate mining go to Morocco, leaving not a cent for the native people of the Western Sahara, the Sahrawis.
Morocco has brought into the country some 350,000 Moroccan immigrants; they help exploit the phosphate mines and have even set up modern agricultural infrastructures producing tomatoes, while the exploration rights to oil recently discovered in the ocean have been sold to Americans. The Moroccan tomatoes bought by Europeans are often in fact grown in the Western Sahara.

Who knew?

Actually, nobody knows. Or cares. This is an international scandal, one of the worst offenses against human rights and human dignity. And a conspicuous United Nations failure.

How did it all start?

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What Really Happened at the Paris Climate Conference – and What Next

Impakter just published one of my articles about the United Nations – this one about the results of the Paris Climate Conference:

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The Paris Climate Conference Agreement – What Next

After the Copenhagen fiasco in 2009 when no agreement was reached, the subject of climate change looked dead and buried. Yet, this time in Paris, something positive happened at COP21. That’s the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP), i.e. the countries that have signed onto the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) back in Rio, at the 1992 Earth Summit. It took twenty-three years to get from there – in Rio – to here in Paris.

So, was COP21 a success or yet another failure? Actually, it was both

On Saturday, December 12th, at 7:30 pm, after 11 days of negotiations between 195 countries, including a 24 hour delay and a last minute panic caused by a typo in the text that suggested that one sentence in the agreement was binding when it was intended to be voluntary, an agreement was reached, met by a standing ovation.  Called the “Paris Agreement” by the French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius and President of COP21, it was agreed to by “consensus” as is the habit at the United Nations, even though one country, Nicaragua, insisted that its perplexities be put on record.

If you listen to French President Hollande or the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, it was a huge success, a “historic” agreement, the start of a new era. President Obama concurred, seeing the accord largely as a personal victory, the result of his agreement last year with President Xi Jinping of China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions  and  of the new regulations he issued this year to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. “We’ve transformed the United States into the global leader in fighting climate change,” he told the New York Times.

Yet, the deal falls far short of what is needed to slow global warming and reverse the environmental damage already done.

The rest on Impakter, to read click here.

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The Weather War: UN Report Shows Toll of Climate Change

On 23 November, just a week before the opening of COP 21, the Climate Change Conference in Paris, the United Nations issued a fascinating (and scary) report showing the unexpected toll of climate change over the past 20 years (see here). The author of the report is the UN’s office for disaster risk reduction (UNISDR). Headquartered in Geneva with 5 regional offices, UNISDR is an organizational unit of the UN Secretariat, headed by Margareta Wahlström and tasked to support the implementation, follow-up and review of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 that was adoped by UN Member States in Japan in March 2015.

Margareta Wahlstrom, presenting the report. She is Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Disaster Risk Reduction, appointed since 2008. A citizen of Sweden, she started her international career with the Red Cross (1995-2000).

The numbers are mind-boggling. Did you know that over the past twenty years, since the first Climate Change Conference (COP1) in 1995, over 600,000 people have lost their lives and over 4 billion have been injured  in weather-related events? Losses to property are of course commensurate and enormous: 87 million homes were damaged or destroyed over the period of the survey; the total cost of property losses – including from earthquakes and tsunamis – is between US$250 billion and US$300 billion annually (a UNISDR estimate, noting that loss data is systematically under-reported).

Perhaps the most remarkable thing is that weather-related events account for 90% of disasters. We always think of disasters in terms of war and other human-related causes (and of course, those are the worst, on ethical grounds because they could be avoided) and we tend to accept passively disasters caused by climate change.

But we shouldn’t. The pace of climate-related events is increasing: An average of 335 weather-related disasters were recorded per year between 2005 and 2014, an increase of 14% from 1995-2004, and almost twice the level recorded during 1985-1995. That is truly scary.

Yet, there is a silver lining in all this. In the upcoming Climate Change Conference, we have a chance to finally do something constructive. This report proves that, in purely economic terms, engaging in measures to control gas emissions and reduce global warming results directly in lives and property saved. And that translates into an automatic reduction in the costs of controlling climate change. So it’s not a straight exchange, one on one, between economic growth and climate change control. By choosing to curb emissions, even developing countries would find that they are enjoying a better quality economic growth.

And then there’s the moral question. Do we really have the choice of sacrificing lives to the God of Economic Growth and the Golden Calf of Profit?

Adoration of the Golden Calf by Poussin

 

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The Key for Peace: The Indispensable Role of the United Nations

Once again, one of my articles, just published on Impakter, with a remarkable introduction from the Editor (he is a millennial, a man deeply concerned about the issues of our time, value-driven like his whole generation, and this too is reason for hope in a better future). This is the beginning, to read the rest, go on Impakter, click here.

THE KEY FOR PEACE: THE INDISPENSABLE ROLE OF THE UNITED NATIONS

on 16 November, 2015 at 19:00

Note from the Editor: In these hours, following the tragic killing of innocents in Paris and Beirut,  our thoughts are with the people of France and Lebanon.

Impakter is a global publication. Our team comes from every corner of our beloved World. We represent the citizens of the World. Furthermore, our aim is to express that through this publication. Today we want this thought to reach higher than ever before. 

We believe that the current events taking place during the G20 could potentially be a significant milestone in our human history. A unprecedented event. The G20 could potentially regroup all the citizens of the World.  All united into delivering a safer and united future for all the generations to come.

The road is full of challenges, but  we will all walk through it under one flag, that of Peace. This is without a doubt a key turning point in our history. Like the Phoenix, we are to be reborn from the ashes of our World’s darkest hours.

Now, more then ever, we must move upwards and onwards. 

This is a first analysis of what might be happening next.

LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE PARIS ATTACKS – THE WAY FORWARD

Once the United Nations Security Council is unblocked, we can hope to see an end to the Syria crisis. So far, because of Russia’s repeated use of its veto power at the Security Council, supported by China, its usual ally, the international community has not been able to move forward in a concerted fashion. Syria, after three years of a devastating civil war, is now pounded by Russian and American forces and their respective allies, but they haven’t agreed on common objectives: Russia supports Bashir al Assad, the United States targets Daesh, a.k.a ISIS or IS. But now things are changing.

On Sunday 15 November, at the G20 meeting in Turkey, a major political decision was reportedly taken, a page in the difficult relationship between Russia and the West appears to have been turned. It seems that Putin and Obama had an eye-to-eye talk that lasted half-an-hour and their meeting was caught on Turkish television.

Negotiations under the aegis of the United Nations between the Syrian opposition and the regime [meaning Bashir al Assad] and a cease-fire

A White House spokesman said afterwards…

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How the United Nations Foresees The Future

That is the title of an article I just wrote for Impakter. As I am doing research for my upcoming book about the United Nations (tentatively entitled “Soft Power“), I keep coming across interesting aspects of UN work that are little known to outsiders and I wanted to share these “choice bits” with you on my blog. Here is the beginning of the article, you can read the whole article on Impakter here.

The United Nations’ Predictions of War, Disaster and Famine till May 2015: The IASC Early Warning Map

One always thinks of the United Nations as the harbinger of bad news, in particular dire predictions of global warming as the upcoming “Paris Climat”, the next World Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris in December 2015, is gathering steam.But what is not so well known is that the United Nations plays a major role in the international community in predicting the next emergencies, man-made disasters like war devastation and economic collapse, but also some natural disasters that can be foreseen, like famine caused by  a protracted, on-going drought.

Predictions of this kind are essential to get everyone in the humanitarian community prepared for the next emergency. And in a 2-page document that anyone can find on Internet, there is a map of the emergencies foreseen by the UN for a 6-month period ending May 2015 (this one came out in December 2015 – screenshot):

IASC

Eleven hot spots, eleven areas in the world where chances are very high –close to 100 percent – that people will die in large number soon if nothing is done. It’s an amazingly high number.

The rest on Impakter, click here .

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A Pope, a Queen, a King, a Princess and Melinda Gates Meet at ICN2

Another one of my articles on Impakter magazine (published under my real name – I attended this Conference last week):

http://impakter.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Nutrición.jpg

ICN2: Where a Pope, a Queen, a King, a Princess and Melinda Gates Come Together

Claude Forthomme

on 24 November, 2014 at 09:30

ICN2 is not a new disease, it’s the bizarre acronym for the Second International Conference on Nutrition, held in Rome,  19-21 November 2014, at FAO Headquarters.  Anyone familiar with the United Nations “alphabet soup” won’t be surprised. And in spite of this unpromising name, it drew over 2,200 participants, many from civil society, and delegations from over 170 countries, most of them headed by Ministers of Health – again, no surprise as the Conference was organized jointly by FAO and the World Health Organization.

It also drew the Pope, Queen Letizia of Spain, King Letsie III of Lesotho, Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein from the United Arab Emirates and Melinda Gates.
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                                                                             In the photo: Queen Letizia of Spain – ©FAO/Alessandra Benedetti

Pope Francis made a memorable address (he spoke in Spanish) and was interrupted by applause several times. He told the Conference that access to food is a basic human right that shouldn’t be subject to market speculation. “We ask for dignity, not charity” he said, drawing applause. A little later, possibly deviating from his written text as he raised his eyes and spoke ex-tempore, he said, “God always forgives.” Then he paused, adding with a knowing smile, “Man forgives sometimes.” He paused again, looked around and finished, “but the Earth never forgives!”.  He made it very clear: the Earth will not forgive the abuse of its resources for profit. This was also a dramatic and entirely new way to draw attention to an increasing issue and potentially a devastating one – the impact of Climate Change on nutrition –  if we do nothing to “respect the Earth”.

No doubt about it, International Conferences on Nutrition seem to inspire Popes. At the first Conference, held in 1992, also in Rome and in FAO, another Pope made History: this was Pope John Paul II who used a phrase that became famous, the “paradox of plenty”, to decry a world of food abundance where the poor were denied access to food and died of hunger. And in that respect, as Pope Francis noted, little has changed. The poor are still denied access.

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In the photo:  Address by His Holiness Pope Francis. Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), FAO Headquarters (Plenary Hall) ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

The Conference also inspired princess Haya Bint Al Hussein  to share her experience of visiting a hospital ward in Malawi and coming face to face with the drama of hunger. There, she witnessed the harrowing death of…

The rest on Impakter.com, click here.

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What’s Wrong with the UN Security Council

Here’s another article about the UN I wrote for the magazine Impakter under my real name: (published on 9 June, 2014) – after all, after 25 years of service in the United Nations, I believe I know a thing or two about it! Enjoy and let me know what you think!
 

What’s wrong with the UN Security Council

To an idle observer dropping in from Outer Space, the UN Security Council is the strongest organ of the United Nations.

Tasked with maintaining peace among nations, it has been given weapons of war. When it passes a resolution, it can send troops, the blue-helmeted UN peacekeepers or “blue berets”, and force peace on belligerents. Blue berets belong to member nations’ armies, but taken together, they constitute a hefty, permanent UN force.

At this point in time, over 110,000 military personnel are permanently deployed around the world in “hot spots”, currently in 15 “missions”.

This level of intervention dates to the collapse of the Soviet Union (1988): the number of resolutions doubled, the peace-keeping budget increased by a factor of ten. So far, there have been eight major missions, with only two notable failures, Somalia and Bosnia. A respectable record nonetheless. The biggest failure however was caused by lack of intervention. This happened in 1994, when one of History’s worst genocide was perpetrated in Rwanda.
UN Security Council debate on Rwanda, June 1994. Photo credit UN photo Milton Grant
UN Security Council Meets on Rwanda 08 June 1994

 
The Security Council can do more than send troops….

TO READ THE REST, CLICK HERE.

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