Choosing the Next UN Leader Should Not Be Left to Three People

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Image: Minister-president Rutte/Flickr

This article was originally published by openDemocracy on 11 November, 2014.

Climate change, Ebola, IS, Ukraine … The world is not short of crises which cry out for a collective response. That is why, for 69 years, we have had the United Nations. People still expect it to provide that response, yet they are often disappointed.

Blame falls on the secretary-general (SG)—often unfairly, since he is really only the top civil servant. Political decisions are taken by the member states, in the General Assembly or the Security Council.

Still, among those decisions, choosing the right SG is one of the most important. He leads more than 40,000 staff, and oversees the work of 30 UN funds, programmes and agencies, dealing with a wide range of global issues.

The UN Charter allows him to alert the Security Council to “any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security”. Behind the scenes, his “good offices” can be crucial in preventing or resolving conflict.

In recent decades he has played an important public role, reminding the world of the UN’s basic principles, suggesting ways to apply them to new problems and mobilising world public opinion to confront major challenges. He’s the nearest thing we have to a world leader. » More

John Bruni on Security Jam 2014

Ukrainian Soldier Blocking the Road to Sloviansk. Image: Sasha Maksymenko/Flickr

Did Security Jam 2014 strike the right balance in terms of issues discussed, topics, categories etc.?

I believe that Security Jam 2014 did strike the right balance. Essentially it sought to unpack how Europe (i.e. the EU/NATO) would be able to adapt to new global security challenges. The discussions had were not just about weaponry and streamlining the processes by which EU/NATO constituent states operate, it sought to uncover other interesting elements of the security equation such as civil-military relations and the organizational implications of undertaking security in the 21st Century. And by security, I am using its broadest interpretation i.e. using the military instrument in missions other than war fighting, such as peacekeeping, providing humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and cyber security. Furthermore, the forums on contemporary issues such as Ukraine and Syria, added a sense of urgency to the Jam. » More

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A Futile Gagging Order for the ‘Prisoner X’ Scandal

Graffiti of Israeli newspaper reader. Photo: Helga Tawil Souri/flickr

After Australia’s ABC aired an exposé on ‘Prisoner X’ on February 12, Israeli media was quick to follow up on the shocking claims that Ben Zygier, an Australian-born Israeli citizen who worked for Mossad, was secretly detained in a maximum-security prison for months before allegedly committing suicide in 2010. However, reports on the scandal were pulled soon after they emerged. The Prime Minister’s Office called an urgent meeting of the editors of all major Israeli news outlets to ask for their cooperation in silencing the story. For a whole day, Israeli media were forbidden from reporting on the story, even as it was making headlines worldwide and Israelis disseminated  the news in social media and blogs. Only after three leftist members of the Knesset used their parliamentary immunity to speak on the issue did opaque headlines appear, and an Israeli court lifted the gag order.

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Iran’s Power Shakedown before the Presidential Election

Weakened President? Photo: Marcello Casal Jr/Wikimedia Commons

On October 22, 2012, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrote an unprecedented open letter to Iran’s judiciary accusing them of unconstitutional conduct. The letter was written in response to judiciary’s decision to bar the Iranian President from visiting the infamous Evin Prison in Tehran where his media adviser Ali Akbar Javanfekr is currently jailed.

In the letter, Ahamdinejad suggests that there was a “top secret” communique dispatched by the head of the judiciary, Sadegh Larijani that said the president’s request to visit Evin was not in the best interests of the country. Ahmadinejad claims he wishes to investigate the conditions of prisoners. » More

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A Legal Solution to Mob Justice in Nigeria?

Lagos, Nigeria. Photo: Stefan Magdalinski/Wikimedia Commons

On October 5, 2012, four students of the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria were beaten and burnt to death by a lynch mob, for allegedly stealing a Blackberry phone and a laptop. The tragic deaths of the students now known as the Aluu4 have caused outrage and plenty of online discussion about the serious problem of mob justice in Nigeria. It has also created opportunities for citizens to raise public awareness and propose solutions.

Noting the absence of legal provisions against mob justice, blogger Okechukwu Ofili posted a petition on October 18th for a mob justice prohibition bill signed by himself and “Nigerians Fighting for CHANGE” (read the full draft bill here) that has so far gathered more than 3,500 signatures. » More

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