June 26, 2019  

Two new flags will be flying high at the Olympic Games in Rio.

For the first time, South Sudan and Kosovo have been recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Kosovo, which was a province of the former Yugoslavia, will have 8 athletes competing; and a good shot for a medal in women's judo: Majlinda Kelmendi is considered a favorite. She's ranked first in the world in her weight class.

(South Sudan's James Chiengjiek, Yiech Biel & coach Joe Domongole, © AFP) South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, will have three runners competing in the country's first Olympic Games.

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus


(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)



Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler



CARTOON: Peter Broelman, Australia/BROELMAN.com.au)


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Entries in Peacekeepers (3)


Prodded by Film, UN Makes Rare Admission on Involvement of Peacekeepers in Sex Trafficking (REPORT)

Madeleine Rees (L) and Larysa Kondracki. Credit: UNTV(HN, October 17, 2011) - In a rare move, the United Nations has admitted the involvement of UN professionals in human trafficking and sexual exploitation and has apologized for their acts.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made the admission at a panel on human trafficking and sexual exploitation late Friday following the screening of the highly-acclaimed German-Canadian co-production, The Whistleblower.

(HUMNEWS was able to review a transcript of the panel today).

Said Ban: "I was deeply saddened by the involvement of the international community, particularly the United Nations, in the abuses connected in the trafficking of women and their use as sex slaves. This movie tells this ugly story."

Ban viewed the film in August with senior advisors and subsequently wrote to the director Larysa Kondracki and ordered the film to be shown at UN headquarters. Ban said he wanted to act after reading a letter from Kondracki. He said sexual exploitation and human trafficking has taken on "a frightening global dimension."

He added: "In all of our work it is essential to face up to difficult issues. When we fall short we must learn the lessons and to act on them.

The UN mission in Boznia-Herzogovina was the focus of the Canadian-German co-production, and centred around the true story of American whistleblower Kathryn Bolkovac- an American former police investigator from Nebraska, who worked as a UN International Police Force monitor in Bosnia.

Bolkovac was not only shocked to discover the sexual enslavement of young girls in the mission, but that UN peacekeepers and private contractors were major customers. The film documents a disturbing culture at the UN of denial, retribution and cover-up in regards to the abuses at the peace keeping mission. It stars Rachel Weisz, Monica Bellucci, and Vanessa Redgrave.

Referring to the peace keppers' acts portrayed in the film, Ban said: "These acts were in clear breach of UN Peace Keepers code of conduct, and in some cases, were illegal...We all know that what could have been done and should have been done was often not done."

Ban said several steps have been taken by the organization since the revelations have come to light. 

He said the UN now has clear policy shaped by the story in the film. "That policy is no tolerance, none." He added clear policies and codes of conduct are now in place for staff in the field, including curfews and delineation of out-of-bounds areas for UN personnel.

Rachel Weisz stars as Kathryn Bolkovac in Samuel Goldwyn Films' The Whistleblower. Credit: Samuel Goldwyn FilmsBan also said that by 2014, the UN police should consist of about 20 percent.

"The bottom line is that we have made much progress since the dark period portrayed in this film..But we also know that we still have much to do," said Ban.

For her part, Kondracki told the panel that much more needs to be done. "I do worry...but rhetoric only goes so far," she said, adding that sexual exploitation is still continuing.

Kondracki also pointed out that the UN only notified the main protagonist of the film, Bolkovic, was only invited to the panel six days ago.

Bolkovic, she said, has never received a formal apology from the UN, nor was her record ever cleared.

Madeleine Rees, former UN rights lawyer and secretary of the Women’s International League For Peace And Freedom (played in the film by Redgrave), also attended the panel. She said the panel would have never taken place without the appearance of the film.

Rees said she is often asked if there is more she could have done during the difficult time portrayed in the film. "We were blocked every time by the very people we were trying to work with. And I feel guilty for that."

She said that the only time that the trafficking stopped was when the peace keepers went away.

The Whistleblower, Rees added, accurately portrayed the shocking reality on the ground in post-conflict Bosnia: "Everything that happened in the film is true, and I know because I was there...What you saw happened to the girls in that film did happen.

"But we will never know to how many because we weren't able to keep the records."

Rees said that when she first raised concerns about UN peace keepers involvement in sex trafficking, she was met with giggles, boredom and was even told off.

The panel appeared to reveal a split in opinions, with UN officials taking a defensive stance for their actions since the accusations came to light. "In practical terms..we have moved a lot. We have many more instruments than we did 10 years ago," said UN Under-Secretary General Susana Malcorra.

In an email response in HUMNEWS today, Kondracki said she remains cautiously optimistic.

"I hope for more than just rhetoric. The Secretary General was apologetic, he spoke how this film raises the issue about the importance of the single voice, and how we need courageous people to continue to stand up against abuse.

"But Kathy (Bolkovic) still hasn't been recognized for her work. The UN still claims she was fired for time sheet violations - so until at the very least that is corrected, I don't have full faith in the zero tolerance policy he is citing.

"I'm hoping that apology to Kathy and to the thousands of victims of the rape, kidnapping, murder and torture committed not only by peace keepers but then covered up by high-level diplomats, is forthcoming. It would signal to me the start of genuine reforms."

Currently, the UN is sponsoring 18 peace keeping operations and special missions, utilizing 14,000 individuals. They serve between six and 18 months, and are then rotated. "The vast majority of these officers do excellent work, some do not," said Ann-Marie Orler of Sweden, who is the Police Officer in DPKO.


- HUMNEWS staff


UN Backers Blast Draconian US Bill to Reduce UN Budget (REPORT)

Palestinian youths in a refugee camp. Proposed cuts would severely curtail aid to millions of refugees in the Palestinian Territory and three countries. CREDIT: Nora Stribrna(HN, UPDATED September 6, 2011 0637GMT) - Supporters of the United Nations are lashing out at proposed US legislation that would slash Washington's support to the world body, threaten crucial overseas programmes and peacekeeping operations, and possibly strangle UN support to Palestinian refugees in Gaza and three countries.

The bill, proposed by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and known as H.R. 2829, threatens funding to the UN from the US, which accounts for 22 percent of the world body's budget.

The bill by Ros-Lehtinen, who is also the Republican chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, proposes that countries be allowed to decide how much to pay and which programs they will support, rather than the current arrangement of assessing payments based on a formula.

Moreover, the bill, if passed, would end funding for Palestinian refugees, limit use of U.S. funds to only purposes outlined by Congress and put a hold on creating or expanding peacekeeping operations until management changes are made. Support to the controversial UN Human Rights Council (HRC) would also be cut under the bill.

“We need a UN which will advance the noble goals for which it was founded,” Ros-Lehtinen of Florida said in a statement. “The current UN continues to be plagued by scandal, mismanagement and inaction, and its agenda is frequently hijacked by rogue regimes which protect each other while targeting free democracies like the U.S. and Israel.”

Critics say the bill does nothing to promote reform, transparency and accountability at the UN.

UN police working alongside counterparts in Haiti. CREDIT: UN"This legislation does not bring us any closer to achieving those laudable goals.  H.R 2829 would not only undermine real progress toward reform at the United Nations, but would also return the U.S. to an era of debt and ineffective leadership," said a statement by the Better World Campaign, a non-profit backed by billionaire philanthropist Ted Turner that works on bettering relations between the US and the US.

“We believe in UN reform,” she said. “We just don’t think this is the right way to go about it.”

The U.S. pays 22 percent of the UN’s regular operations budget and is assessed 27 percent of the peacekeeping budget. U.S. payments totaled $3.35 billion in 2010, of which $2.67 billion was dedicated to the 16 peacekeeping operations worldwide, from South Sudan and Ivory Coast to Haiti.

As of July 2011, the UN peackeeping force consisted of almost 120,000 military, police and civilian personnel from 114 countries.

In recent times, the behaviour of UN peacekeepers has stirred controversy. The UN has confirmed that an investigation has been launched into alleged sexual exploitation and abuse involving Uruguayan UN peacekeepers in Haiti.

The bill already has 57 co-sponsors - all Republicans - and could obtain widespread support in a Republican-controlled House. However, opposition is already being generated in the Senate and it is highly unlikely to get support from President Barack Obama.

“We oppose this legislation,” said Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman. She said the measure would cut by half U.S. funding for the U.N and “dangerously weaken the UN.”

A Palestinian girl at a refugee camp. Many young Palestinians know of no other life than growing up in a camp. CREDIT: Nora Stribrna“We believe in UN reform,” she said. “We just don’t think this is the right way to go about it.”

Aside from budget support, the US already has significant political influence over key UN agencies: it regularly selects appointees for the head of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

Ending funding for Palestinian refugees - about 5 million of whom are living under UN-run camps in the Palestinian Territory, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon - would likely put the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) out of business.

It could also seriously damage relationships with Arab states that have recently been transformed in the "Arab Spring."

The bill is gaining momentum as as the UN General Assembly prepares to vote on recognizing Palestinian statehood regardless of the outcome of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.

Better World and others say most Americans support the world body - pointing to recent bi-partisan research that found the UN is considered as an important global forum and organization that is still needed today, and the majority of Americans believe the United States should be actively engaged at the United Nations. The survey also showed that Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike support paying UN and UN peacekeeping dues on time and in full. 

- Agencies, HUMNEWS staff. Special thanks to Nora Stribrna for photography.


UN worker kidnapped during visit to Sudan's Darfur region - In the meantime Security Council team stresses timely, peaceful referendum

(MAP: About.com) (HN, October 8, 2010) -- A UN employee that was part of a UN Security Council visit to Sudan's Darfur was kidnapped on Thursday night.

A UN peacekeeper was abducted in Sudan's Darfur region on Thursday night amid renewed clashes between rebels and government forces.

While the kidnapping was most likely motivated by money rather than by politics, the abduction raises concerns about deteriorating security conditions in Darfur, where separatists have been battling government forces for the last six years.

The UN worker, whose nationality has not yet been released, was abducted just hours after a United Nation's Security Council mission arrived in El Fasher, the capital city of Darfur. (Continue reading @ Christian Science Monitor)

Amb. Susan Rice of the United States, head of the Security Council delegation to Sudan, with other members in JubaThe Security Council delegation visiting Sudan yesterday stressed that the two referenda scheduled for January must be held on time, in a peaceful environment and according to the provisions of the peace agreement that ended the war between the north and the south.

“We are here to reinforce that message and the determination of the Council to support you and all parties to the CPA [Comprehensive Peace Agreement] in that process,” said Ambassador Susan Rice of the United States, who is heading the delegation.

On 9 January the inhabitants of southern Sudan will vote on whether to secede from the rest of the country, while the residents of the central area of Abyei will vote on whether to be part of the north or the south.

The referenda will be the final phase in the implementation of the CPA, which was signed in 2005 to end two decades of warfare between the northern-based Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation  Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in the south.

The Council’s visit was a follow-up to last month’s high-level meeting on Sudan held under UN auspices in New York that produced a communiqué calling on the international community to respect the outcome of the referenda if they meet those stipulated criteria.

Ms. Rice noted that the “core responsibility” for successful implementation of the CPA remains in the hands of the regional Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS), the national Government in Khartoum, and the Sudanese people.

The delegation concluded its two-day stop in Juba, the capital of southern Sudan, with a visit to the Dr. John Garang Unified Memorial Police Training Academy in the nearby town of Rejaf.

The visit to the police-training academy was significant because the Southern Sudan Police Service (SSPS) will play a central role in crowd control and the securing of polling centres and ballot boxes during the referenda.

“The UN has been one of the key components in the support that we are getting for the development of the police and in training these recruits […] from the 10 states,” said GoSS Minister for Internal Affairs Gier Chuang Aluong.

Since July, UN Police advisers have trained over 11,500 SSPS officers in referendum security procedures and regulations throughout southern Sudan, according to Rajesh Dewan, the Police Commissioner in the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).

An initial group of 5,400 police cadets who began to receive instruction at the Rejaf training facility in January is expected to graduate at the end of this month, and a second group of 4,000 cadets will subsequently start their training.

Wednesday, the Council delegation held a two-hour closed-door meeting with senior Southern Sudanese officials led by GoSS President Salva Kiir.

The delegation travelled to Darfur yesterday, from where they will proceed to Khartoum before completing their mission on Saturday.

- UN News