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After the United Nations voted Saturday morning to expand the observer mission to Syria to monitor a shaky cease-fire, the secretary-general and ambassadors swapped business suits for soccer shorts in the afternoon to benefit the victims of violence in Sierra Leone.
Did they achieve more than they do at the U.N.? Not clear but they put aside politics for a good cause on a sunny day on Randall's Island.
In a letter to the Security Council, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon proposes a supervision mission of up to 300 observers in Syria.
(CBS News) UNITED NATIONS - The language of Monday's U.N. Security Council's Presidential statement condemning North Korea's launch of a ballistic missile last Friday was particularly strong, deploring the launch as a grave security concern in the region. But the most important element of the council's condemnatory statement is that China - North Korea's strongest alley - was on board.
It gives weight to the fact that Beijing also considers North Korea's nuclear ambitions a threat to security.
After lengthy debate, and resistance from China during negotiations on Friday and Saturday, the U.N. issued its Presidential statement (which is a U.N. document that has to be adopted unanimously) condemning the rocket launch, making the point that any launch using ballistic missile technology - even if it a satellite launch or a space vehicle - is a violation of Security Council Resolutions.
That was intended to dispel any pretext by North Korea that its launch was for peaceful purposes, permissible under treaty obligations.
(CBS News) A day before Quartet on the Middle East mediators are expected to meet in Washington, D.C., the Palestine U.N. Observer, Ambassador Riyad Mansour, spoke with CBS News about prospects for peace. For 65 years, negotiations to bring peace to the Middle East have failed. This week, the Quartet principals -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov -- are scheduled to meet at Blair House in Washington, after having called for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks and for a framework agreement by the end of 2012.
The previous Quartet summit took place last September at U.N. headquarters at the same time that Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, submitted an application for full Palestinian membership - a plan which later failed at the Security Council.
"The talks are stalled," said Mansour, "We hope that the Quartet can succeed in getting the negotiations out of the impasse that we are going through."Continue »
(CBS News) UNITED NATIONS -- At the same time that new assaults are being launched against cities in Syria by the government, U.N.-Arab League Special Envoy Kofi Annan tried to reassure the General Assembly that his peace plan was not functioning as a pretext for the Assad regime in Syria to buy time or to defeat the opposition. Many in the U.N. have come to see the Syrian conflict as an internationalized battle - a proxy war - between Russia and Iran on one side and the U.S. and the Gulf states on the other.
A still-divided U.N. Security Council adopted a non-enforceable Presidential Statement to bolster Annan just before he briefed the General Assembly.
With the deadline one week away for the cessation of all violence, at the U.N., diplomacy is decreasing and violence increasing ahead of the deadline. Despite the fact that Syria's Assad said that the government would begin to withdraw troops from population centers, the Syrian army shelled a suburb of Damascus and continued their assault on Homs.Continue »
And in the U.S., where women may be overtaking men in pay, Bachelet told CBS, "When women earn the money for the family, everyone in the family benefits. "We also know that when women have an income, everyone wins because women dedicate 90% of the income to health, education, to food security, to the children, to the family, or to the community, so when women have an income, everybody wins."Continue »
In what may be the basis for decisions by the Obama administration as well as the European Union and Arab nations on how to defend civilians in Syria, the U.N. Human Rights Council reported that Syria's military, under orders from the "highest level" of President Bashar al-Assad's government, has targeted civilians, shelled homes, raped and killed unarmed women and children, and tortured wounded protestors.
"Army snipers and Shabbiha gunmen posted at strategic points terrorized the population, targeting and killing small children, women and other unarmed civilians. Fragmentation mortar bombs were also fired into densely populated neighbourhoods," the report says.Continue »
NEW YORK - Qatar led the 22-member League of Arab States in negotiations to draft a proposal calling on the United Nations to demand Syrian President Bashar Assad step down, and it was the first Arab nation to suggest sending troops to end the bloodshed in Syria.
In a report broadcast last month, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, told CBS' "60 Minutes" that Arab troops should be deployed to Syria to stop the killing that has claimed the lives of more than 5,400 Syrians since protests began nearly a year ago.
Now, the President of the U.N. General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, told CBS News that peacekeepers may in fact be the solution to the Syrian crisis: "If Syria will not be stable, or in a civil war, that might lead to really a very bad situation, not only in Syria, but for the region."
Al-Nasser said the Emir's proposal to get the Arab League involved - in an effort to bring stability and security (and perhaps a political solution) and thus end the violence - means "it would be the Arab League's responsibility to send peacekeepers," noting that the Syrian government has already rejected that suggestion.
During his Middle East trip, Ban Ki-moon focused on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The U.N. Secretary-General was met with protesters in Gaza, who attacked his convoy with sticks and shoes, but was applauded by schoolgirls at a U.N.-run school in Khan Younis in southern Gaza.Continue »
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's description of the global body as the "World Cup of Diplomacy" is, in part, an optimistic reflection of the world's chief diplomat, who has been plagued by less opposition and controversy than any of his seven predecessors.
Having been elected without contest to a second five-year term, Ban has outlined his priorities for the future, including lifting people out of poverty, following up on the Arab spring and transitions to democracy, creating jobs for young people and lifting people from abject poverty.
He has had his successes, among them; creating the division of U.N. Women, and establishing two special representatives to deal with violence against women and children; making sustainable development a priority and natural and manmade disasters a focus.
But as the world begins 2012, some of the crises facing the U.N. are more intractable.Continue »
Sweeping revolutions brought on by popular protests captivated the world in 2011 and a global financial downturn and European debt crisis punctuated the turmoil.
The question that occurred to many people who watched these remarkable events take place was: "What happened to spark all of this?" This is not the first time that revolutions occurred in a series: the American, French & Haitian Revolutions fed off each other's victories. Time Magazine's report on the year of the protestor documented the ripple effect, unlike previous periods of protest, in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and with less success in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. And the U.N. got involved in the use of force, refugee settlement, food distribution and Middle East issues on a scale never before seen.
Politics observers (or history buffs) read Thucydides, written in 431 B.C. about the Peloponnesian War, where the residents of a small neutral island were told to submit and surrender: "The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must." It is supposed to be a dose of political realism in order to understand that "might" makes "right" in the international system. But in 2011, that rule was turned on its head, at least in parts of the Arab world.
Some analysts believe it was the information revolution that sparked the pro-democracy movement. Others say technology was not the core, but helped those who wanted change, young and old, to spread the word and mobilize.
The revolutions that did succeed are fraught with growing pains and rivalries, some based on power, some along sectarian lines. Syria continues to be in the midst of massive and deadly crackdown on its civilian opposition; United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, has urged the U.N. Security Council to investigate Syria for crimes against humanity.
The seminal events of 2011 did not end with the Arab Spring. Mother Nature was a force that seemed more powerful than in previous years. Movement of the Pacific tectonic plate under the North American plate caused an earthquake and devastating tsunami that crippled Japan's Fukushima reactors, which will take 40 years to clean. Drought in Somalia turned the hunger needs to a famine and refugees fleeing from nation to nation in the horn of Africa became victims of crime.
The year also saw the deaths of traditional American foes.
When Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by U.S. Navy SEALs in what might have been closure to a national tragedy, U.S.-Pakistan relations soured badly -- and were worsened by a friendly-fire accident that resulted in a further downturn of relations.
And North Korea's Kim Jong Il died, leading to the fear that the transition in the Kim dynasty to 20-something Kim Jong Un might increase military confrontations with South Korea and Japan.
2012 holds some promise but also the prospect of continued turmoil:
- The biggest challenge of the coming year will likely be dealing with Iran and North Korea. Iran's defiance of U.N. mandates and sanctions continues unabated. One diplomat, who represents a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, told CBS News that Saudi Arabia and other Arab states have made it clear that they will not have Iran (if it were to develop a nuclear weapon) and Israel as nuclear neighbors without pursuing their own. A nuclear arms race in the Middle East defines a tinderbox.
- The turmoil in Syria is at center stage now, with Arab League observers not succeeding in protecting the protestors; Egypt's elections may or may not satisfy the protestors' desires for a true democracy.
- Fence mending will be needed or U.S.-Pakistan relations will continue to sour.
- Food needs in the Horn of Africa continue at emergency levels.
- Drug-trafficking and related crimes need attention. The U.N. Secretary General's 2011 message on the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, was that drug-trafficking has become a major threat to the world's health and security. The World Drug Report for 2011, issued by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), was grim: drug-trafficking is no longer a social and criminal ill but a trade that funds organized crime, terror and security threats.
- Tension in the Middle East, between Israel and Palestine is at a boiling point and negotiations are stalled.
- China's Communist Party will decide on leadership in Hong Kong and on the value of its currency.
- With Venezuela's Hugo Chavez seriously ill, the future of the oil-rich revolution is likely to be in the spotlight in the coming year as will Cuba, as Raul Castro (and brother Fidel) have not groomed a successor.
- Iraq's future and Iran's relations in a turbulent time may be in focus.
- In June 2012, Brazil hosts the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development (known as the Rio + 20) to focus on making cities more livable, protecting the oceans, renewable energy, and eradicating poverty.
- World population numbers also give cause for concern. The U.N. celebrated the 7 billionth child born in 2011; by 2050, there will be 9 billion.
What to make of all the turmoil? Curiously, although it seems like the world took a beating in 2011, the world is a less violent place. Harvard psychologist Steve Pinker, who has documented levels of world violence says, "homicide rates have plummeted over the centuries, and during the past sixty-five years, the rate of death from war has fallen to historically unprecedented lows."
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that the U.N. has "never been so needed" with growing demand and humanitarian crises around the world.
All these turbulent transitions may hold some hope for better governance in the end. And some of these transitions have opened doors. Many of the changes came about because of the revolution of information, aided by the increased use of unmanned predator drones, which bring both increased intelligence to protect civilians and have raised questions about collateral damage and civil liberties.
Kim Jong Il, North Korea's de facto Communist dictator for more than 12 years, repeatedly threatened the international community with nuclear weapons while mystifying the world with his extraordinary cult of personality.
Kim succeeded his father, President Kim Il Sung, but he never took the title of President, being dubbed instead by the government as North Korea's "Dear Leader" and the chairman of its National Defense Commission. He was the first leader of a communist state to inherit power.
Kim's persona, and mystery concerning his private life, extended even to his place of birth. Some records say he was born in the former Soviet Union, although one of the official biographies says he was born in a small mountain village in North Korea.
At the time of his death at 69 from an apparent heart attack, Kim's legacy - in addition to fostering the militarization of North Korea and further impoverishing its people - was a consistent defiance of the United Nation's ban on the development of nuclear weapons and the testing of long-range ballistic missiles.Continue »
As state-run TV in Tehran broadcast images of a RQ-170 Sentinel drone and U.S. officials acknowledged that is it likely to belong to the U.S., Iran's U.N. Ambassador, Mohammad Khazaee sent a letter to the Secretary General, the President of the General Assembly and the Russian President (this month) of the Security Council, calling their attention to the increased "provocative and covert operations against the Islamic Republic of Iran by the United States Government."Continue »
The Middle East is back on the agenda. Israel's military chief of staff reportedly warned this week that an increase in rocket attacks against Israel might lead to a large-scale military operation in Hamas-controlled Gaza. Additionally, Israel's defense minister warned of a possible Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear program after the international nuclear watchdog agency reported that Iran conducted secret weapons-related tests and may be close to developing a nuclear warhead.
Lt.-Col. Avital Leibovich, the head of the international media division of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), told CBS News that the Israeli military now needs to deal with several fronts, where in the past they have had only one.
Today, Leibovich said, in a regional environment altered by the "Arab Spring," Israel's borders with Lebanon, Gaza, and Syria pose the greatest risks to its population and the IDF. On the northern border with Lebanon, Israel has to contend with the Shiite militia Hezbollah, which stores its weaponry under civilian villages in the south of Lebanon. Near Gaza, Israeli citizens now face missiles fired from the Hamas-run enclave that can reach farther into the Jewish state than ever before. And in Syria, uncertainty surrounding the fate of the embattled Assad regime, which last May organized mass marches on the Golan Heights border with Israel.Continue »
At the U.N., where the rebel National Transitional Council flag was raised last month and the new government allowed to represent Libya in the General Assembly, diplomats from around the world, almost without exception, applauded the news of Qaddafi's demise, said CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk.
U.N. diplomats from the U.S, U.K. and France underscored the support that their leaders have expressed in the future of Libya, Falk said.Continue »