Wednesday 30 Sep 2020 | 07:20 | SYDNEY
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United Nations

A diplomatic breakdown over “snapback” tests the UN

After the United States experienced a rebuff at the United Nations last week – with almost the entire membership of the Security Council rejecting its attempt to re-impose UN sanctions on Iran – US officials warned that the dispute could lead to a major crisis in the Council, damaging the

Diego Garcia: The US has a clear choice

Mauritius is the legitimate sovereign over the Chagos Archipelago, including the island of Diego Garcia, which hosts an important US military base in the Indo-Pacific region. The government of Mauritius has publicly announced its willingness to enter into an agreement that would preserve the base,

UN report on US killing of Iranian commander misses the mark

In the early hours of 3 January 2020, missiles fired from US drones killed ten people near Baghdad airport. Drone strikes by the US are almost commonplace these days, but what made this particular strike noteworthy was its target: General Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran's Quds Force, a unit of

The obstacles to Syrian aid

On Saturday last week, following weeks of lobbying by humanitarian agencies and difficult diplomatic negotiations, the UN Security Council renewed its authorisation for the UN and its partners to provide humanitarian assistance in north-western Syria from across the Turkish border. The final

International law takes a step towards Asia

As the historical development of international law has been dominated by European principles and doctrine, there is an argument that public international law has always been associated with a Western-centric view of the world. Moreover, major public international law judicial organs such

Finding compromise in the Chagos Islands saga

The Chagos Archipelago of 54 islands, formerly administered as a dependency of the British Colony of Mauritius, was excised from Mauritius by the UK in 1965, three years before independence. It was renamed the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), and its inhabitants (about 1500 people) were

The goals for Australia to do better

Although the idea is hard to bear, we now all know that Australia’s 2019–20 bushfire catastrophe and the Covid-19 crisis will not be one-off historical events. Public health experts have long warned zoonotic disease pandemics will be on the rise due to global warming and ecological, behavioural

Woe Canada, a second consecutive UN rebuff

Last week, the United Nations elected five countries to the Security Council for two years from 1 January 2021: India from the Asia group, elected by an impressive 184 votes of 193 cast; Mexico from Latin America and the Caribbean; Kenya from Africa; and Ireland and Norway from the West Europe and

Diego Garcia: An American perspective

Diego Garcia is the United States’ major geostrategic and logistics support base in the Indian Ocean. Sovereignty over the island is increasingly being challenged by Mauritius, but it seems unlikely that Washington would be interested in a deal that would facilitate its transfer. The base has

WHO and China: Compounding politics and policy

This should be the greatest hour for the World Health Organisation, the UN’s Geneva-based body dedicated to fighting just such a global threat as Covid-19. Instead, WHO is struggling to defend its own credibility – while the impact of the contortions into which it has forced itself by adhering

The future ain’t what it used to be

What do the East Timorese defence force, “clean coal”, women’s empowerment, and Kevin Rudd’s first-term government have in common? The answer is the year 2020. Back when 2020 felt like a halcyon time far-far away, this was the year that, respectively, the Government of Timor-Leste, the

Syria: What the UN can do, and must do

As the Syrian Government intensifies its offensive against Syria’s Idlib province, the final opposition stronghold in the nine-year old war, diplomats and UN officials are running out of words in their attempts to convey the severity of the crisis to the UN Security Council. The UN Emergency

For Rohingya, the long distance between law and justice

One would think that, after 100 years, the International Court of Justice would know about administering international justice. To the extent that the “world court” does or doesn’t understand international justice really depends on your interpretation of the term. The ruling on Myanmar’s

At the UN, paying dues and having a say

The recent news that Tonga was among seven countries that had lost their right to vote in the United Nations General Assembly over unpaid dues has brought an additional element to an already complex issue over the financing of the United Nations. In 2019, the Secretary General highlighted the UN’s

Can the ICC bring justice to Myanmar?

More than 700,000 men, women, and children, many identifying as Rohingya, crossed the border from Myanmar’s Rakhine State into Bangladesh in 2017, fleeing violence at the hands of the military and security forces. A UN Fact-Finding Mission was established to determine the facts and circumstances

An educated idealist is still a believer

Book review: The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir, by Samantha Power (Harper Collins 2019) Samantha Power, an Irish immigrant whose tenacity and intellect earned her a place at Yale and Harvard and led her to become a war correspondent in the Balkans, rose to prominence when her 2002 book, A

INTERFET and the defence of Australia

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the International Force East Timor (INTERFET), a multinational mission led by Australia to stabilise the country in 1999. As a former Army officer posted to Timor-Leste after INTERFET, I’m proud to be back in Dili today to represent the

Who wants to be a peacemaker?

The candidates for two non-permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council for 2021–22 are now in, with three countries heading to the final stage to gather support and votes for their respective bids: Canada, Ireland, and Norway, representing the “Western European and Others” group,

Atrocities of April

The month of April is littered with reminders of how cruel the world can be and should motivate us to be vigilant about the potential for atrocity crimes in our own time. 24 April marks the start of the Armenian Genocide when, in 1915, hundreds of Armenian community leaders and intellectuals were

Trump to take on Iran at UN Security Council table

As it happens, the United States holds the presidency of the United Nations Security Council during the annual diplomatic gabfest at the UN General Assembly. Traditionally, that means the president of the US can choose to chair a Security Council meeting if he or she desires to spotlight a

Kofi Annan: great expectations

It says much about the UN Secretary-General that the two men widely regarded as the greatest to hold the office went in with the lowest expectations. Dag Hammarskjöld was an unknown Swedish civil servant who found out he was a candidate for the position when he received the telegram offering it

Kofi Annan: a leader with compassion

Those concerned with global peace and justice are grieving the death of Kofi Annan. Annan was elected UN Secretary-General in 1996 after a vigorously contested election campaign. Boutros Boutros-Ghali from Egypt had been denied a second term by US opposition in the Security Council. There was

Human Rights Council: reform rather than reject

The announcement the US was leaving the United Nations Human Rights Council did not come as a shock, especially after calls for an inquiry into clashes over the new US Embassy in Jerusalem. US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley described the council as a “hypocritical and

When Indonesia sits on the Security Council

Indonesia has successfully won its bid for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council 2019–20, but what is the country likely to achieve? There are, of course, significant constraints to what a non-permanent member of the Security Council can do within the UN

Gender parity at the UN: promises to keep

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,But I have promises to keep,And miles to go before I sleep,And miles to go before I sleep. Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” (1923) Early in 2018, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres delivered on the

An emerging role for the UN in the North Korean crisis

Last month, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman visited North Korean officials to promote a political solution to heightened tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear program. Feltman's mission has not received the attention it should have. The visit was the first

Does the nuclear weapon ban treaty warrant the Nobel Prize?

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) for: Its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of

Trump breathes fire but the UN is safe

Thirteen post-war US presidents have addressed the UN General Assembly, from Truman to Obama, from Kennedy to Reagan, but Tuesday's address from Donald Trump will surely enter the history books as the most hard-hitting speech delivered by an occupant of the White House in front of this global body

How the UN Security Council failed Syria

The UN Security Council has unequivocally failed the Syrian people: over 400,000 of whom have been killed, over 5 million of whom are refugees, and around 6.3 million of whom are internally displaced.  The recent resignation Carla del Ponte from the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria is

The Interpreter's best of 2016: The UN secretary-general race

Around every five years the world takes a crash course in UN politics when the top job threatens to change hands. With Ban Ki-moon's second term finishing on 31 December 2016, and individuals traditionally limited to two terms, the race to be the next secretary-general was on earnest. At The

UN Security Council bid: How Australia should sell itself

It's leaders' week at the UN. The 70th Session of the General Assembly is open for business under the Presidency of Mogens Lykketoft of Denmark. General-Secretary Ban Ki-Moon is presiding over his penultimate session; next year he will be replaced by an 'Eastern European woman,' if Russia's

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