Thalif Deen

Thalif Deen

    The Green Revolution that jump-started Asia's agricultural growth has not been mirrored in the African continent.

    Alpha Oumar Konare, chairperson of the African Union Commission, says it is "scandalous" to spend $2-billion annually on the upkeep of a proposed 26 000-strong joint AU-United Nations mission in Darfur when Africa's urgent needs are elsewhere.

    As the international community reaches the midpoint between the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000 and the target date of 2015, the United Nations on Monday released a 36-page report, described as "the most comprehensive global assessment of [MDG] progress to date".

    A long-awaited international convention against nuclear terrorism will come into force next week, nine years after it was originally proposed by Russia and 10 months after it was adopted by the 192-member United Nations General Assembly. But most of the major powers, including those with nuclear weapons, are giving it a miss -- at least so far.

    The legitimacy of a much-ballyhooed Security Council meeting on climate change has been challenged by developing nations that argue that the threat to the global environment is not a subject within the purview of the UN's most powerful political body. There is "no role" envisaged for the Security Council on climate change, Pakistan's ambassador said.

    When United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon took office in January, he made a public commitment to revamp the UN secretariat, inculcate high ethical standards and make his new administration fully transparent and accountable. "My watchword will be meritocracy, with due regard for gender balance and geographical representation," he pledged, speaking of impending appointments of senior officials.

    A coalition of more than 140 international NGOs and women's groups is gratified that United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is expressing public support for the creation of a new UN agency for women. The proposal for a new UN women's agency was made last November by a 15-member "High-Level Panel on UN System-Wide Coherence".

    When the West African state of Liberia was torn apart by 14 years of civil war, the victims of the brutal insurgency included mostly women and children who were subject to rape and sexual violence. "Not only are the terrible consequences of this still felt by many Liberian women today, but violence against women and rape continue unchecked," says a new study on Liberia by ActionAid

    The torture of Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad and the wilful abuse and humiliation of terror suspects in the United States detention facility in Guantánamo Bay have been interpreted by human rights activists as violations of the 1987 UN Convention against Torture.

    When the United Nations launched a probe into "misconduct and mismanagement" in UN procurement last January, it moved against eight staffers who were temporarily suspended pending investigations. But one year later, six of the eight staffers have been reinstated with no charges against them.

    When former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan criticised the United States military invasion of Iraq as an "illegal" act, he was blasted by right-wing neo-conservatives in the US. Since history has a way of repeating itself, the international community is now faced with a parallel situation in Somalia.