Tufts UN Career Night

Join us on March 9th for our UN Career Night!

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The United Nations and human rights

The United Nations human rights chief on Friday slammed Bahrain, Libya and other Middle Eastern governments for their ‘excessively heavy-handed’ response to opposition protests.

‘The Middle East and North Africa region is boiling with anger,’ said Navi Pillay, the high commissioner for human rights.

UN General Secretary also told reporters that “The reports from Bahrain overnight are deeply troubling,” adding that he was disturbed by the violent methods being used to disperse demonstrators

As the Jasmine Revolution from Tunisia began to spread elsewhere around the region, the United Nations is concerned with violent crackdowns by the governments as the report says. In Bahrain, the military sent tanks and soldiers to supress protesters with their arms. As the movement expects to get larger, it is being suspected that serious violations of human right are likely to occur in the region. In Libya alone, 20 people were reported to be killed by Libyan military.

The General Secretary clearly stated that “the United Nations has been clear and consistent in supporting basic human rights and freedoms. Above all, we have insisted on respect for the rights of peaceful protest and assembly, freedom of the press and access to information.” Yet interpretations of human rights differ within the members of the United Nations. As the Revolution continues in the region, UN faces various tasks of balancing national sovereignty and what we see as fundamental human rights. Even though the words of UN officials seem to be firm, it would be actually really difficult for UN to interfere in people’s behalf. But at least for Egypt and Tunisia, people have shown their reselient for the change. The United Nations already pledged to aid implementations of free and democractic elections in these countries. There is clearly no “going back” to the past, and  freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of communication should be fully guaranteed. It would be interesting to see how the situation develop in the region, and the United Nations should carry on its promise to aid ‘people’s will’.

Seoho Lee

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Egypt, national sovereignty and the UN

The anti-Mubarak protests in Egypt have dominated headlines and conversations this past week as the world watches the largest Arab state in the Middle East go through an unexpected political crisis. Leaders from various countries and multi-national organizations have contributed to the rising international pressure on President Mubarak to resign from government before the presidential elections set for September this year. Ban Ki-moon, the UN’s Secretary General, is among the prominent figures urging reform and an “orderly and peaceful transition”.  Such international attention and receptiveness to the events in Egypt have prompted some to call on the UN Security Council to intervene.  However, it is important not to forget about the fine line of national sovereignty; a key principle championed by the UN.

National sovereignty forms the basis of much international law, and is clearly enshrined in the UN Charter. Article 2 in Chapter 1 of this Charter states that “nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state” and that “the [UN] is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all of its Members.” More plainly said, the UN is dedicated to upholding the national sovereignty of each of its Members equally and will not intervene in their domestic affairs.

Over the years, however, the meaning behind this simple language has changed with shifting international attitudes and norms regarding intervention and the concept of international human rights.  Even the UN Charter contains language , such as the statement in Article 1 of Chapter 1 that “[the UN shall] encourage respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms”, which echoes these modern sentiments.  Since the end of the Cold War in particular the number of humanitarian interventions undertaken by the UN have risen significantly and are now considered a standard option instead of a more exceptional undertaking.

The United Nations, as the principle international organization dedicated to maintaining global peace and security, is often looked to in times of domestic crises.  Most recently in Egypt Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who heads the World Muslim Scholars’ Union, urged the UN to “intervene in Egypt and protect innocent civilians”. While the death and injuring of Egyptian protesters is deplorable, it is still inadvisable for the UN to intervene due to the dangerous precedent it would set.  Such an unlikely move , given that the situation in Egypt has not reached a level consistent with current standards for humanitarian intervention, would introduce the idea of the UN determining the winner in a domestic political battle as a part of the discourse about international interventions and mark the beginning of a new, more aggressive phase in international interventions.


This post was written by Quinn Connors, a senior at Tufts University majoring in International Relations.

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UN and 2011

As another year passed behind us, there is now only four years left to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Even though everyone expects their new year to be better than its previous years, early incidents depress many of the earlier expectations by the international community. Lebanon once again fell into political chaos, while regions such as Somalia and Afghanistan still remain unstable. Places such as Afghanistan or Iraq are far from being stable. However it is still too early to give up our hopes yet.

Places such as Ghana and Kenya showed their commitment to meet Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Kenya started the free education program in 2003, and their enrollment number doubled by 2010. The United Nations World Food Programme and the United Nations Children’s Fund have committed to working together to reduce child stunting in Eastern and South Africa. According to UNICIEF, the prevalence of stunting in the developing world declined from 40 to 29 percent between 1990 and 2008. WFP and UNICEF well understand stunting issue has not been eased in Eastern African nations, and they promised to put their focus to the region where 80 percent of stunting children live. ASEAN members are putting their final plans to reduce poverty and stop HIVE to fulfill their MDG requirements. Their senior meeting would focus on rural development and poverty eradication through mutual aids.

Of course, all these promises can be meaningless unless it is accompanied by actions. It is important for us as students to keep the Millennium Development Goals to be known and supported by people around us. UN and International Olympic Committee agreed to launch various programs that would foster public interests of MDGs through sports. Their programs would be accompanied by FIFA, the International Federation of Association Football. Soccer, which is the most popular sports around the world, is a powerful tool to bring public awareness and support. Football for Hope campaign already built community centers for development, education and health. As we reached another year, we saw progress being made despite of difficult situations around the world. Let’s patiently wait, watch and help them, and we will really see our goals being achieved.

Seo Ho Lee

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon Remarks to Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP16 High-Level Segment) – as delivered

 Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon Remarks to Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP16 High-Level Segment) – as delivered

Your Excellency President Calderon,
Distinguished Heads of State and Government,
Ms. Figueres of UNFCCC,
Ladies and gentlemen,

This is the Fourth time I come before you since becoming Secretary-General of the United Nations. From the heady days in Bali, to the search for progress in Poznan and unmet expectations in Copenhagen last year, this has been a long journey. And we know our journey will not end here in Mexico.

Yet, we cannot allow the ongoing nature of these complex negotiations lull us into any type of complacency.

Business as usual cannot be tolerated, for it would condemn millions – no, billions – billions of children, women, and men around the world to shrinking horizons, and smaller futures.

Cancun must represent a breakthrough. The status quo will not do. Determination must be our watchword.

A new future must begin to take shape here. There is no real option.

Here in Cancun, we must move forward.

This is a marathon race, not a sprint. Climate change was not created overnight. It will not be solved overnight either.

But if we work together, we can forge an effective, long-term response to climate change.

Every country must be a part of the solution. Every country has a role to play.

We must act as united nations, showing courage, common sense and compromise.


I realize you all face political and economic constraints at home.

However, I am deeply concerned that our efforts so far have been insufficient ? that despite the evidence, and many years of negotiation, we are still not rising to the challenge.

We are here for one reason: to protect people and the planet from uncontrolled climate change.

To do that, we need to make progress – in these global negotiations and through national actions each of you take in your countries to curb emissions and increase resilience.

The longer we delay, the more we will have to pay – economically, environmentally, and in human lives.

Since the Bali climate conference three years ago, the health of our planet has continued to decline. Global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.

The pace of human-induced climate change is accelerating.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the IPCC – the world’s authoritative, consensus voice on climate science – has warned that global emissions need to peak within the next decade, and then decrease substantially, if we are to limit global average temperature rise to two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

To achieve this – and hopefully much more – we need results now, results that curb global greenhouse emissions, strengthen our ability to adapt, and help to create a more sustainable, prosperous future for all.

In particular, we need results that help the poor and most vulnerable.

Their plight must figure front and centre.


Last year, I met a teenage boy from Bangladesh. He told me how torrential rains had inundated his village.

Rivers of mud from deforested land nearly washed away his home.

As the flood waters retreated, cholera struck.

He survived. Many did not.

This young man’s story points to a larger truth.

We cannot sustain progress toward the Millennium Development Goals without progress on climate change.

We will not reduce extreme poverty without coming to grips with the increasing intensity and unpredictability of weather trends associated with climate change.

We will never assure energy security – or international security – without climate security.

Now, more than ever, we need to connect the dots between climate, poverty, energy, food and water. These issues cannot be addressed in isolation.


Tangible progress is possible here in Cancun.

The world is looking to you to adopt a balanced set of outcomes.

We do not need final agreement on all issues. But we do need progress on all fronts.

We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

You can take significant decisions here in Cancun on forests, on adaptation, on technology, and on the creation of a new fund for long-term climate financing.

You also need to make progress on mitigation, on anchoring your national commitments, on accountability and transparency, and increasing clarity on the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

Finally, Parties need to agree on how – and when – to move forward after Cancun on issues still under discussion.

The UN system has generated movement in many of these areas.

First, on protecting forests. Nearly 20 per cent of global emissions come from deforestation and land use. A decision to move forward with REDD Plus will provide tangible results for the planet, and for millions of people whose sustenance and income depend on forests.

On energy, a coalition of UN entities is working with the private sector and governments to realize the twin goals of universal energy access and significant cuts in energy intensity in the next two decades.

And on long-term finance, my High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Financing concluded that it is challenging but it is possible for developed countries to realize their goal of raising $100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to support climate action in developing countries. I encourage Parties to use the Group’s findings as inputs to your climate finance negotiations.


From Bogota to Beirut, from Dhaka to Durban, the United Nations system is helping countries to reduce disaster risk and build more resilient cities.

In West Africa, we are helping to expand rural energy access through low-carbon technologies.

In Vietnam, we are supporting green trade initiatives that bring jobs and incomes.

As countries travel the low-emissions pathway, the United Nations can help to navigate the maze of funding and investment options.

We can provide skills training and technology assistance, and supply the latest climate assessment tools and services.

The United Nations system can, in short, support you in turning promises into action.

Let us, together, take the next steps down the road toward a safer, more sustainable and prosperous future for all.

The UNFCCC process is an essential component in our overall response.

But ultimately, success will be measured by results – results in these negotiations, and results achieved through actions by each and every country to meet this challenge.

Nature will not wait while we negotiate.

Science warns that the window of opportunity to prevent uncontrolled climate change will soon close.

The time for waiting, while keeping one eye on everyone else, is over.

The world– particularly the poor and vulnerable — cannot afford the luxury of waiting for the perfect agreement.

I repeat: We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Action now, and agreement and movement on as many issues as possible, must be our aim, here, in Cancun.

Every country can – and must – do more.

It is up to this generation to forge a new path to low-carbon prosperity.

From the family cook stove to the factory floor, from classrooms to corporate boardrooms, and here in the negotiating halls of Cancun, together, we can create a clean energy future.

This will require our greatest efforts.

But the stakes are worth it.

The stability of the global economy, the well-being of your citizens, the health of our planet, all this and more depend on you. I count on your leadership, your sense of flexibility and your sense of compromise to make this world better for all. Thank you.

Secreatary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon.

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UN Sanctions and North Korea

Just as many Tufts students were preparing to leave campus and celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family, North Korea shelled the South Korean island Yeonpyeong, killing two marines and two civilians.  While the attack was not unprecedented, as tensions have been steadily increasing since the March attack on a South Korean warship, the incident last Tuesday was certainly one of the worst clashes between the nations since the end of the Korean War in 1953.  Many nations and leaders, including the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, were quick to condemn North Korea’s actions. However, there appears to be no resolve for developing any further, or even firmer, response to the situation.

Since 2006, the UN has imposed stiff financial and trade sanctions on North Korea following the country’s nuclear testing.  Almost five years later, not only has North Korea not halted its weapons program but the sanctions regime still contains several large holes.  Trade in luxury items, food, and arms have continued between North Korea and several countries, including China.  As a member of the Security Council, however, China has not suffered any consequences for its infringements of the sanctions regime.  In fact, the last UN sanctions committee report on North Korea was blocked from reaching the Security Council for several months by China.

The current escalating tensions between North and South Korea pose a serious challenge for the United Nations.  Both countries are holding live-fire military drills, and, if the statements of South Korean President Lee are anything to go by, are preparing for the worst.  Large powers are getting drawn in in a variety of ways, from the US participating in military drills with South Korea to China calling for negotiations.  With Security Council members involved on separate sides of the conflict, firm direction from the UNSC seems unlikely.  When last faced with a serious situation in this region, the March warship incident, the Security Council was unable to agree on a meeting or statement until July, and at that point only condemned the attack which killed 46 South Korean navy members.

The future of the United Nations, its relevance and reputation rests on many issues and the Korean dispute is certainly among them.  The fact that North Korea continues its nuclear weapons program, as well as trade, endangers the UN’s relevance as an international legal institution.  The lack of response to the rising tensions, military displays and attacks between North and South Korea threatens the UN’s role as an international peacekeeping body.  The conflict of interests on the Security Council, albeit not unique to this issue, undermines the body’s ability to function swiftly and purposefully.  In defense of the United Nations I have always said that it can only be as strong as its members.  So what should the position of the United Nations be for an issue over which even the Security Council members cannot come to a consensus?

This post was written by Quinn Connors, a senior at Tufts University majoring in International Relations

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G-20: Alternatives to the United Nations?

Just a week ago, the world witnessed the summit by The Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, also widely known as G-20. As its original name suggests, G-20 started as a gathering of finance ministers from 19 countries and the European Union. After their first meeting in 2008, it now confers heads of government from each state, replacing the G8 that used to be the main economic council of the wealthiest nations. G-20, which includes populous and newly emerging powers such as China, Brazil and India, is now often viewed as a major contender against the United Nations Security Council. The G-20 economies comprise of 85% of global gross national product, 80% of world trade and more than two-thirds of the world population.

What initially began as the councils for Financial Ministers of the rich and populated nations, national leaders’ participation in each of G-20 summits come as an alarm to many of U.N supporters. For this year’s Seoul Summit, a large number of countries brought their Foreign Ministers along with their financial ministers. While the foreign ministers talked to each other about how they can enjoy their leisure time in a banquet without any job for this trip, growing speculations are about how G-20 can easily turn into other form of summit that can discuss in a variety of issues. Opponents of G-20, largely composed of alienated nations, claim that G-20 threatens programs laid out by World Bank and United Nations. Norwegian Foreign Minister criticized G-20 as being ‘an arbitrary group based on 19th century system of Congress of Vienna.’ Proponents claim that G-20 will lead to a better understanding among those who can make real impacts in the World’s economy.

Despite of much speculations surrounding G-20, G-20 can also be a partner with UN to promote discussions of economic policy issues. Even though their sincerity was being questioned, G-20 discussed framework for strong sustainable and balanced global growth, well as how to help developing nations around the world. They also invited UN, WTO and IMF as observers for the summit. What G-20 now needs is how it can engage with other countries and even organizations to be accepted as a legitimate international organization. Of course, as much as Security Council has been in the past, G-20 will be most likely to not agree on most of issues. But it should be aware of that it claimed its institution can agree on a broader rule that is beneficial to most, not just a few. As G-20 countries such as Brazil, India and Japan still seek their seat in Security Council, G-20 is not likely to replace United Nations. Rather than gathering attentions around them, G-20 is likely to let UN to handle most of issues relating to international security. Yet, G-20 is mostly likely to enhance its role in international economic policy to make sure international trade policies would be something desirable for them. Now, the question is how both G-20 and UN will overcome difficult feelings among themselves and work for the better sustainable world economy. As 80% of world trades are being done by G-20 members, G-20 also should be considerate in their decision-making process.

Seo Ho Lee

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