United Nations


UN Peacekeepers still not screened for cholera despite causing outbreak | 

Cholera treatment centre in Les Cayes run by International Medical Corps.
Cholera treatment centre in Les Cayes run by International Medical Corps.

It has been four years since an earthquake devastated the small country of Haiti. More than three years have elapsed since a UN peacekeeping unit from Nepal introduced cholera to Haiti.

Despite telling CNN otherwise, the UN is not taking steps to ensure its peacekeepers do not carry cholera from country to country.

A ten year plan costing $2.2 billion is underway to ride the entire island of Hispaniola of cholera, but some are concerned that the UN is not doing enough to avert making the same mistake.

It came as a surprise when  UN spokesman Farhan Haq told CNN in October that the UN was screening peacekeepers for cholera.

“Part of our lessons learned from this has been to screen peacekeepers for cholera,” said Haq.

It would be an important change in UN policy. But it is not true.

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Why I am not donating to the most effective charity | 

GiveDirectly has the strongest case of any organization for a donation. It works and has the evidence to back up the claim.

Knowing this, I did not give to them this year.

I, like many other Americans, wait until the end of the year to do my charitable giving. As a person who covers the humanitarian sector I read a lot of organization’s reports, pitches and research studies.

Armed with this knowledge, it would seem that choosing where and how to give is easy. It is not. I tend to worry too much that it will be wasted. I debated sharing where I am giving this year and justifying my decision.

Ultimately I decided to write this because of my belief in the importance of transparency. I should disclose any possible conflicts of interest with my reporting. I do not think that my decision constitutes any conflict going forward, but erring on the side of transparency makes the most sense to me.

This happens to be a moment where major humanitarian emergencies (Philippines, Syria, Central African Republic) require a lot of money and when better information on impacts of programs make it easier to know what is the most effective way to give. Continue reading

How Bill Gates stopped worrying and learned to love the MDGs | 

GN_MDG_Child_Chart_04.2Bill Gates was not thrilled about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they were launched in 2005. The goals were meant to set tangible targets for the world and individual countries to achieve by 2015. Though he eventually came around to love them. Bill and Melinda now sing their praises far and wide.

“It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it happened, but over time Melinda and I moved from cautious optimists to full-throated fans. I think the MDGs are the best idea for focusing the world on fighting global poverty that I’ve ever seen,” blogs Gates.

The Gates’ love for the MDGs boils down to three reasons:

  1. There are concrete measurable goals.
  2. The MDGs dominated the global agenda.
  3. They prove that ending poverty is not as complex as some say it is.

He says that the impact of the MDGs may be hard to determine outright, but are responsible for some of the biggest gains against poverty.
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UN certain chemical weapons used in Syria, US agrees, Russia dissents | 

UN SG Ban shares remarks on the chemical weapons report.
UN SG Ban shares remarks on the chemical weapons report.

The much anticipated report from United Nations chemical weapons inspectors in Syria was finally released on Monday. The group’s findings pointed towards the use of chemical weapons by Syrian armed forces. The US and UN made strong statements about Syria’s use of the weapons. Russia is again the dissenter.

However, the Syrian government is not directly assigned blame. Rather the information provided in the report strongly indicates that the attacks were carried out by Syrian government troops.

“The environmental, chemical and medical samples we have collected provide a clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent Sarin were used,” conclude the inspectors.
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Asking the NSA: Who killed Dag Hammarskjöld? | 

Dag Hammarskjold

The LA Times reports that new questions are being raised about the 1961 death of former UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld. The story begins:

It was 1961 and the Cold War battle for influence in newly independent African states was sharply focused on the Congo.

And Hammarskjöld was operating in the middle, on a political knife’s edge, trying to help unify the newly independent DR Congo after the nation’s first democratically elected leader, Patrice Lumumba, had been kidnapped, tortured and killed (by a Congolese faction supported by Western governments and corporate interests, some say, worried about Lumumba’s friendly relations with the Soviet Union).

Hammarskjöld, a Swedish diplomat before taking the helm at the UN, was flying into Congo reportedly to arrange a truce and stabilize the country when his airplane crashed in northern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Some witnesses reported seeing it shot down.

The Times story cites a new 61-page report that points to “significant new evidence” that would provide conclusive proof of whether the plane was shot down. The only problem is that the evidence is held by the US government’s National Security Agency (yes, the same agency that is sucking up our email and phone records). Even though this information has passed the traditional half century mark that would allow it to be made public, the NSA so far refuses to de-classify what it knows about the death of Hammarskjöld.

Why is the red line at chemical weapons? | 

Red Line

US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke passionately about the abhorrent act of Syrian forces deploying chemical weapons to kill hundreds of people last week.

“What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality,” said Kerry.

“Let me be clear: The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders, by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity.”

Analysts suggest that Kerry’s remarks represent the US taking yet another step closer to intervention in Syria’s civil war. Lawmakers like Senator John McCain are pushing hard for the Obama Administration to take a more active role. The president’s invocation of a red line on the issue of chemical weapons has been a source of debate and anger for those supporting US action in Syria.
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Mexico moves with elegance toward our dietary future – eating more bugs | 

As we’ve reported here before, the United Nations has encouraged all of us to expand our dietary range to include eating more insects.

Not by accident, like when they get ground into the peanut butter or embed themselves into a lettuce fold. No, the idea here is to help address the growing global need for more food and more sources of food. Bugs, it turns out, are big in protein and not that unusual to see on the menu in many cultures.

The Guardian reports that Mexico has taken this dietary admonition to heart, or gut, and has been able to succeed at moving it out of the realm of survival food (you know that goofy guy on TV who eats bugs in the wild) to haute cuisine. The story notes:

The San Juan market is Mexico City’s most famous deli of exotic meats, where an adventurous shopper can hunt down hard-to-find critters such as ostrich, wild boar and crocodile. Only the city zoo offers greater species diversity. But the priciest items in the market aren’t the armadillo steaks or even the bluefin tuna. That would be the frozen chicatanas – giant winged ants – at around $500 a kilo. Continue reading