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The 47 HRC Members Categorized According to Freedom House

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This graphic groups the members of the UN Human Rights Council according to the state of freedom in these countries. For an account of the state of the protection of human rights around the globe and the UN’s role in protecting such rights, see Céline Barmet’s recent addition to the CSS’ Analyses in Security Policy series here. For more CSS charts, maps and graphics, click here.

A Good Year (So Far) for Europe’s Separatists

The flags of Scotland and the United Kingdom. Image: The Laird of Oldham /Flickr

The European Union’s (EU) separatist movements have never had it so good. Faltering economic conditions, unpopular austerity measures and ‘out of touch’ governments have combined to reignite secessionism like never before. As a result, separatist fervour has never been so vocal – both in public and the national corridors of power. And there’s more to come. » More

Al-Shabaab’s Kenyan Ambitions

The flag of the terrorist group ‘Al-Shabaab’. Image: Ingoman/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the International Crisis Group on its ‘In Pursuit of Peace’- Blog on 15 April 2015.

Why is Al-Shabaab increasingly targeting Kenya?

In its statement following the attack, Al-Shabaab claimed it acted to avenge atrocities it alleges have been committed by the Kenyan military deployed in Somalia (now part of the African Union peace-support operation AMISOM). This puts pressure on the Kenyan commitment to that mission. Al-Shabaab also claimed that its fight is to liberate “all Muslim lands under Kenyan occupation”, including “north-astern province and the coast”. Despite being anachronistic given Kenya’s recent divisions into county based government, this language chimes with pan-Somali nationalist and irredentist slogans of the 1960s and 70s. » More

Blue Helmets: Why Europe Should Contribute More Troops to the UN

Italian UN soldier with the UNIFIL mission in Lebanon. Image: www.esercito.difesa.it/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Europe’s World on 9 April, 2015.

As tens of thousands of Western troops have withdrawn from Afghanistan in recent months, there remains a pressing need for peacekeeping troops in many other unstable parts of the world.

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador at the United Nations, recently asked Europe to contribute more UN peacekeeping troops. This may sound ironic as the United States stopped providing Blue Helmets after the 1993 debacle in Somalia, which cost the lives of 43 U.S. soldiers. Europe, however, should answer the American call. Studies show the deployment of peacekeeping troops can diminish the chance of renewed conflict by 80%. In recent examples, UN Blue Helmets have calmed the situation in northern Mali and prevented atrocities in the Central African Republic. » More

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

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