WORLDVIEWS

When Is an Attack on UN Peacekeepers a War Crime and When Is It Not?

The recent attack by a militia on the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in which seven peacekeepers were killed, highlighted a question that the Security Council has hesitated to confront for years. What are the consequences when UN peacekeeping missions become parties to the conflict? The Security Council responded to the latest attacks on Monusco, as the … Read more

The UN’s Combat Troops in the Congo: ‘They Were Not Supposed to Die’

United Nations peacekeepers working for the mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were killed by a militia in a jungle in North Kivu Province on Nov. 15, leaving seven soldiers dead: six Malawians and one Tanzanian. Ten were injured. Twelve members of the Congolese armed forces were also killed, as national forces and … Read more

NIKKI HALEY WATCH

Speaking Loudly Even While Wielding the Big Stick

Whatever else came out of the latest American-led strikes on Syrian chemical weapon sites, it put on display rare signs of diplomatic skill on the part of the Trump administration, even if those signs first surfaced at the Pentagon rather than at the White House, the United Nations or Washington’s rudderless Department of State. After … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

With UN Security Council Reform, Bigger Is Not Better

Much ado — during 25 years of fruitless negotiations — has been made about the need for the United Nations General Assembly to achieve more equitable geographical representation in the UN Security Council. Article 23(1) of the UN Charter, however, also requires the Assembly, in electing the nonpermanent members of the Council, to pay due … Read more

Thank You, UN, for Validating Indigenous People

Indigenous people, several millions of them, live in more than 80 countries and have long suffered, and continue to suffer, from injustices. Until 1981, they had no global forum in which to appear to plead for justice and for respect of their inalienable rights. That year, the director of the United Nations Division of Human … Read more

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WORLDVIEWS

Unprepared and Unprotected: UN Peacekeepers’ Lives Must Be Saved

The 15 deaths and 43 injuries to United Nations troop personnel in the North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in December would not, sadly, have surprised those of us who have served in peace enforcement missions with the UN. These are difficult and dangerous places, where rebels have many advantages of … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

Leave the UN’s Human-Rights Treaty System Alone

The United Nations Charter requires each and every member state to discharge its obligations by faithfully carrying out norms of legally binding international human-rights law. These may be norms of international customary law, those contained in treaties or those flowing from general principles of international law. The human-rights provisions in the Charter were amplified by … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

After 50 Years of UN Sanctions, Is the System Broken?

With only few of the current United Nations sanctions cases accomplishing their political objectives, it is not unreasonable to wonder why the system seems broken. As the 50th anniversary of the first use of this important political tool is duly noted, the short answer is that nothing is wrong with sanctions. The problem is with the … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

Was America’s Attack on Syria Legal? An Asian Expert’s View

The images of civilians, particularly children, being asphyxiated by chemical substances and dying in Idlib Province of Syria on April 4 were a game changer. Judging that the chemical attack was carried out by the Syrian government, the United States, two days later, attacked Syria’s Shayrat airbase with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles. The US action … Read more

NIKKI HALEY WATCH

On a Light Note: 10 Tips for Nikki Haley, New US Ambassador to UN

A recent email sent out by a member of the United States Mission to the United Nations, then tweeted and possibly subtweeted, contained the following statement: This is to let you know that Ambassador Haley will be spending her first few months learning about the UN and Security Council and its members. She will not … Read more

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In the US Congress, a Campaign Opens to ‘Punish’ the UN

It was inevitable that a triumphant Republican government in Washington, D.C., would sooner or later launch an assault on the United Nations. A near-unanimous UN Security Council resolution on Dec. 23 condemning Israeli settlements on Palestinians’ land provided the trigger. That the administration of President Barack Obama stood aside with an abstention, allowing a 14-0 … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

Dear Mr. Guterres: Please Be a Hammarskjoldian Secretary-General

As much as this moment of unity among the United States, Russia and other Security Council members coming together on António Guterres as the next United Nations secretary-general is to be relished, it’s not just the who that matters. It’s the what of the job. Unless the big powers are willing to let Guterres play … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

The UN’s Three Main Bodies Are Failing to Do Their Job

  “Those who seek to bestow legitimacy must themselves embody it, and those who invoke international law must themselves submit to it.” So spoke United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the 59th session of the UN General Assembly on Sept. 22, 2004. Annan’s statement should be understood to apply to the principal organs of the … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

The UN’s System of Selective Security

OXFORD, England — The United Nations is going through one of its many difficult periods — so far as its central task of maintaining international peace and security is concerned. In Syria since 2011 and Ukraine since 2014, the Security Council has been unable to take decisive action on momentous issues, including the taking of … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

The Clamor to Remake the UN Misunderstands Its History

It is a well-known story that the five world powers at the founding conference of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945 — the United States, the Soviet Union, China, Great Britain and France — set up the organization so that they alone could control it. They did this by reserving the veto power … Read more

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WORLDVIEWS

Ironing Out the Kinks in the UN’s New Human-Rights Initiative

BERLIN — In December 2013, Jan Eliasson, the United Nations deputy secretary-general, went on a selling spree. In a series of briefings, he presented a new initiative to UN member states and to the rest of the world. In his address to the General Assembly, Eliasson said, not mincing words: “In improving the way we … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

Revisiting the 1942-1945 United Nations

The 70th anniversary of the signing and entry into force of the United Nations Charter should draw attention to the 1942-45 United Nations Alliance that gave rise to the world body and the underpinnings of contemporary global governance. While anniversaries are in some ways an artificial “hook,” they are nonetheless a way not to forget. Last … Read more

A UN Resolution Is Being Readied for Boko Haram Fight

Chad is not only leading the regional military assault on the Boko Haram terrorist group but it is also said to be leading the drafting of a United Nations Security Council resolution to authorize the multinational task force in West Africa already battling Boko Haram, a UN diplomat confirmed. The resolution is being pushed for … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

The UN Environment Program, Influential but Lacking Power

BERLIN — The history of the United Nations Environment Program is illustrative in two respects: it reflects the changing importance of environmental issues within the UN system and it demonstrates that dedicated people in a UN organization can master the difficult task of implementing an ambitious mandate without sufficient political status, funds and personnel and … Read more

BOOKS

Lonely at the Top: What It’s Like to Be the UN Secretary-General

UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold

There have been eight secretaries-general of the United Nations in the 68 years since the first of them, Trygve Lie of Norway, took on this unique global position. All eight — all men — have been very different in character and personality, in their cultural and political backgrounds and in their views of how the … Read more

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