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Category: Human Rights

The Debate on UN Funding

$1.5 billion. That was the amount of the United States' debt to the United Nations at the beginning of the 2009 fiscal year. Of that, over $1.3 billon was for peacekeeping operations. This put the US at the top of the UN collections list.

In 2010 the US satisfied a significant portion of its debt to the UN, paying more than $500 million owed for peacekeeping and other UN operations. This was a significant feat at the time; the newly Republican House had threatened to withhold funding for the UN, which they perceived as a waste.

Why does the US’s contribution to the UN, and more specifically peacekeeping, matter?

Peacekeeping has emerged as an integral part of the UN; it is also the most scrutinized arm of the International Governmental Organization (IGO). While some of the most polarizing examples of UN peacekeeping operations are failures, such as those in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, many other peacekeeping missions have been successful.

In addition to its peacekeeping efforts, the UN also helps war-ravaged countries rebuild and close the chapter of conflict. Peacekeeping and building efforts have been instrumental in reconstructing dozens of countries around the world.

Hey FIFA, Which Team Are You Playing For?

FIFA, and subsequently the World Cup, has received criticism from many for its corruption, human rights violations, and the problems it has caused for many residents of host countries. After writing about this last week, I admit that I was left with some deep-seated resentment of FIFA, and the World Cup by association. Having never been much of a soccer fan, I had no problem boycotting the games, taking what I felt to be some sort of moral high ground.

But then I heard about how women in Iran were openly watching the Iran-Argentina game in public alongside men, not only to show support for their country but also to protest a law banning women from entering most sporting events. As a woman of Persian descent, I was instantly filled with pride; I was also struck by the role the World Cup had played in this small but significant event.

Soccer brings the world together; there is no doubt about that. And since it is the “UN of Football,” FIFA has the power and influence to make incredible, important changes. In what ways has it already done this, and in what ways can it improve? 

After Tragedy: Rejecting the Option for Destruction

Last Monday brought a devastating conclusion to the 18-day search for three missing teenagers in Israel with the discovery of the bodies of Naftali Fraenkel, 16; Gilad Shaar, 16; and Eyal Yifrach, 19. Tens of thousands attended the  funeral, and the international community echoed the nation’s grief; Barack Obama said that as a father, he could not imagine the pain of the parents. Yet as a world leader, he urged restraint in Israel’s response, encouraging Israel and the Palestinian Authority to work together in pursuing justice and to “refrain from steps that could further destabilize the situation.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon suggested that “this heinous act by enemies of peace aims to further entrench division […] and to widen the conflict. It must not,” he asserted, “be allowed to succeed.”

Months after American-brokered peace talks broke down, their warnings against provoking escalation went unheeded.

Thailand: The Story That Flew the Coup

The international media has a tendency to focus on the news stories that will garner the greatest attention from a given audience. Events such as the ISIS declaration of a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria and the ongoing World Cup in Brazil have taken up headlines within recent weeks and are likely to stay in that spot. So what happens to the stories that go unnoticed?

One example of a story that has flown under the radar in recent weeks is the situation in Thailand. On May 22nd the Thai military led a coup after mounting protests against the elected government over accusations of corruption and factional violence. Following the military takeover the international community diverted attention from the issue, afraid of what effects the move could have upon the region and even the world. 

UN Should Deliver Humanitarian Aid Without Assad's Consent

The number of people needing humanitarian aid in Syria has reached nearly 11 million - half the country's population. Yet with Syria's ongoing civil war, the only way for aid to reach those in need is for the government of Bashar Assad to allow aid workers into affected areas.

To say the least, this is a poor system for ensuring the basic needs of millions of people. With the country in tatters, people must have unfettered access to food, water, medicine, and other necessities: life shouldn't be held up by checkpoints and constant threats. With mounting evidence that Assad has used food and aid access as a weapon of war - to maintain and demand loyalty of Syrians wherever they might be - the international community has clearly needed some way to take control of humanitarian aid away from those who might use its access arbitrarily or maliciously.

In recent weeks world leaders have started work on plans to begin routing access around Assad and the rebels. The UN Security Council has been drafting a resolution in which aid workers, possibly with the legal protections of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, would be able to cross into Syria without consulting the Syrian government. That way people would have access to the resources they need and neither Assad nor the opposition would be able to use access to aid as a weapon of war.

Assad has vehemently protested the news of this resolution, claiming that any such cross-border aid deliveries would be a violation of Syrian sovereignty and would amount to an attack on the Syrian state.

This brings up two important points.

FIFA's Failures

The World Cup is moving into the knockout stages and, rightly so, the tournament has garnered immense attention internationally. I myself have been cheering for the US Men's National Team, though I think that Die Mannschaft (Germany) will ultimately emerge victorious in the tournament. The World Cup never fails to disappoint and this year has certainly been thrilling.

The World Cup is also a moment in which football's governing body, FIFA, is most scrutinized -- and this is for good reason.

Brazil's opportunity to host the World Cup has been a moment of pride for the Brazilian government and is almost too fitting a scene. A country that evokes images of beach parties, carnivale, and joyful people is coupled with a deep appreciation for the rich history of Brazilian soccer -- players like Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Marta, and more come to mind.

A World Cup, But Not A People's Cup

Soccer is a universal sport. It is played around the world in a variety of countries: rich and poor, democratic and nondemocratic, Western and Southern. For millions, it is more than just a game, it is a source of national pride, and competing in the World Cup is one of the highest honors a team can bring to its country.

But while the sport itself may be a unifying force within and among countries, the international governing body that organizes the World Cup, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), is not. In fact, it is the cause of many of the world’s current issues, ranging from corruption to human rights abuses to mass riots. FIFA has gained enough power and influence to become somewhat of a world government, causing it to be dubbed the “United Nations of Football.”

Brazil, the current host of the World Cup, spent $300 million to build just one stadium in a secluded part of the country that does not have a first-class team to play there afterward; it will apparently cost $250,000 per month to maintain. All this comes from a country that suffers from extreme poverty and inequality, a decaying infrastructure, and both healthcare and education programs in need of more funding. The construction has also led to the gentrification of locals, with many enduring rent increases, demolitions, and evictions.

Can We Leave Our Children A Better World?

I came across a BBC article last week entitled "What our descendants will deplore about us." The article considers human beings' trajectories in recent memory and what we are doing in our contemporary world that our children and grandchildren may find unbelievable--and in some cases downright terrible. The apartheid of South Africa and the segregation of the United States, for example, are deplorable to us now as many of the ongoing injustices around the world will look unacceptable to our children.

This article got me thinking about what I would put on a list of issues facing the world at the moment and which of them are critical to address if we want our progeny to look fondly at what we've done and the world we leave them. In doing so, I came up with the following as some of the most important goals for the global community to work toward:

Peace Among the Religions: A Call to Action,_World_Economic_Forum_2009_Annual_Meeting.jpg#/media/File:Religious_Leaders,_World_Economic_Forum_2009_Annual_Meeting.jpg

In my final year of high school, I delivered a speech called "The Rusted Rule." I argued against the opinion that religion was inherently misogynistic, a justifier for war and a prop of regimes. I maintained that the Golden Rule of empathy, albeit rusted by the iniquities of religious extremism, still united world religions in a creed to abolish war and global injustice. I ended with an exhortation to repair the damage caused by all that is wrong with religion and to uphold all that is right with it.

Of course I was delighted to find at the recent Raise Your Global Voice Conference the means to bring to life the vision of peace through interreligious dialogue.

David Oughton, Professor of Theological Studies at St. Louis University and Board Member of Global Solutions’ St. Louis Chapter, spoke on the responsibility of world religions to take an active role in building a firm foundation for world peace and in promoting the ideals of a global community. He argued that the diverse faiths, in addition to articulating mildly different iterations of a common Golden Rule, share six commandments including “thou shalt not kill” and “help the helpless.” These laid the groundwork for the articulation of a Global Ethic, a universal call to action on the basis of collective religious principle, at the Parliament for World Religions in 1993.

Oughton suggested that all the world’s religions join the struggle for peace through interreligious dialogue, a necessity in accordance with Hans Kung’s statement that there can be “no peace among nations without peace among the religions.

ISIS Declares Caliphate: The Worsening Situation and the Role of the International Community

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) made a huge move yesterday by declaring a caliphate spanning large areas over Iraq and Syria. ISIS has been capturing Iraqi cities one by one for several weeks now. They have successfully overrun military forces, and in some cases made forces voluntarily retreat.

(ISIS has recognized their caliphate as crossing international boundaries and ridding the countries of lasting colonial-era borders and has therefore changed its name to only “The Islamic State”.)

Abu Muhammad al-Adani, ISIS spokesperson, made this announcement on Sunday, which was also the beginning of Ramadan. In it al-Adani declared ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the imam and caliph (religious and political successor of the Prophet Muhammad) of “Muslims everywhere."

Last week, ISIS had been suspected of overtaking an oil refinery in Baiji, Iraq that would give them control of 1/3 of Iraq’s oil output. Because of this development, President Obama approved 300 troops to be sent to Iraq. These troops are part of what is called an “assessment” mission.