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  1. EXCLUSIVE – United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres is on a blitz campaign to streamline the U.N.’s under performing bureaucracy, give more authority to its outlying branches, and greatly expand his ability to shuffle money around in the U.N.’s regular biennial budget (just part of its total cost)—all in the next 18 months. On paper, at least, it amounts to perhaps the most ambitious effort at U.N. reform in 20 years, before the world organization floundered into the vast Oil-for-Food scandal, and a subsequent array of administrative fiascos and largely failed reform attempts under Guterres’ predecessor, Ban Ki-moon. Guterres’ chief motivation, though he won’t say so explicitly, is the Trump Administration. Instead, Guterres is arguing to U.N. member states what he told a town hall meeting of U.N. staffers in late July: that his version of reform is “an absolutely essential instrument for the protection of the U.N.” amid increasing international skepticism about the organization’s efficiency, effectiveness, and even its reason for existence—all of which also happens to be true. http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/08/08/un-launches-blitz-reform-campaign-as-absolutely-essential-protection-against-trump-administration.html
  2. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/12/us-un-rights-council-idUSBRE9AB19E20131112 Delegates and representatives listen during the Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review session at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva October 29, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Denis Balibouse (Reuters) - China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday won three-year seats on the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, the United Nations' top rights body, despite concerns about abuses and restrictions on freedoms in all four nations. Also winning seats on the 47-nation council were Algeria, Britain, France, Mexico, the Maldives, Morocco, Namibia, South Africa, Vietnam, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The annual election for one-third of the council's membership was held in the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly. South Sudan and Uruguay failed to win election to the council in competitive slates for their respective regional groups. The other regions had uncontested ballots. The newly elected countries will be on the council from 2014 through 2016. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said the newly elected members of the council include "some that commit significant violations of the rights the council is designed to advance and protect" and that the election itself was a reminder that the council's work remains unfinished. Power did not specify which countries she was referring to. Peggy Hicks of Human Rights Watch was more specific. "With the return of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Cuba, human rights defenders will have their work cut out for them at the Human Rights Council next year," said Hicks, an expert at the New York-based advocacy group. "Fortunately, no states have a veto in Geneva so a hard-working majority can still achieve concrete results." Hicks said members of council that are committed to human rights will need to redouble their efforts on a number of problems. These include the civil war in Syria, accountability for crimes committed during the final months of Sri Lanka's civil war and the conflict in the Central African Republic. According to U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based advocacy group that monitors the United Nations, only four of the 16 candidates for the 14 open seats were qualified to be members of the council on the basis of their human rights records. They were Britain, France, Macedonia and Mexico. Iran and Syria had been planning to run for the Human Rights Council but pulled out amid criticism of their rights records. QUESTIONABLE RIGHTS RECORDS There was a small protest against China's policy on Tibet across the street from the United Nations as the vote took place. Western countries accused China last month of arresting activists, curbing Internet use and suppressing ethnic minorities, as the United Nations formally reviewed its rights record for the first time since Xi Jinping became president in March. Saudi Arabia's human rights record has also came under fire at the United Nations with critics accusing the kingdom last month of jailing activists without due process and abusing the basic rights of Saudi women and foreign workers. Jordan withdrew from the election after Saudi Arabia abandoned its seat on the U.N. Security Council to protest against the 15-nation body's inaction on Syria, the Middle East peace process and Iran. Western diplomats said Jordan stepped aside to allow the Saudis an almost certain victory on the uncontested Human Rights Council voting slate. Despite its withdrawal from the election, Jordan received 16 votes. Jordan is set to take Saudi Arabia's Security Council seat, diplomats say, although that would require the General Assembly to hold a special election. In response to criticism of its human rights record, Cuba said in May that it would consider letting in U.N. investigators to examine allegations of torture and repression and allowing Red Cross officials access to its prisons for the first time in nearly 25 years. The European Union, Human Rights Watch and others have criticized Russia's human rights record as well. They have voiced concerns about restrictive legislation, prosecutions against activists and limits on press freedom.
  3. http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/10/24/exclusive_germany_brazil_turn_to_un_to_restrain_american_spies Brazil and Germany today joined forces to press for the adoption of a U.N. General Resolution that promotes the right of privacy on the internet, marking the first major international effort to restrain the National Security Agency's intrusions into the online communications of foreigners, according to diplomatic sources familiar with the push. The effort follows a German claim that the American spy agency may have tapped the private telephone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and dozens of other world leaders. It also comes about one month after Brazilian leader Dilma Rousseff denounced NSA espionage against her country as "a breach of international law" in a General Assembly speech and proposed that the U.N. establish legal guidelines to prevent "cyberspace from being used as a weapon of war." Brazilian and German diplomats met in New York today with a small group of Latin American and European governments to consider a draft resolution that calls for expanding privacy rights contained in the International Covenant Civil and Political Rights to the online world. The draft does not refer to a flurry of American spying revelations that have caused a political uproar around the world, particularly in Brazil and German. But it was clear that the revelation provided the political momentum to trigger today's move to the United Nations. The blowback from the NSA leaks continues to agonize U.S. diplomats and military officials concerned about America's image abroad. "This is an example of the very worst aspects of the Snowden disclosures," a former defense official with deep experience in NATO, told The Cable, referring to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. "It will be very difficult for the US to dig out of this, although we will over time. The short term costs in credibility and trust are enormous." Although the U.N.'s ability to fundamentally constrain the NSA is nil, the mounting international uproar over U.S. surveillance has security experts fearful for the ramifications. "The worst case scenario I think would be having our European allies saying they will no longer share signals intelligence because of a concern that our SigInt is being derived from mechanisms that violate their privacy rules," said Ray Kimball, an army strategist with policy experience on European issues. He stressed that he was not speaking for the military. Although the Germans have not indicated such a move is in the works, they do have a game plan for making their surveillance complaints heard. The International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights was written in 1966 and came into force in 1976, decades before the internet transformed the way people communicate around the world. A provision in the international covenant, Article 17, says "no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honor and reputation." It also states that "everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks." "The covenant was formulated at a time when the internet didn't exist," said a diplomat familiar with the negotiations. "Everyone has the right to privacy and the goal is to this resolution is to apply those protections to online communications." Brazil and Germany are hoping to put the resolution to a vote in the U.N. General Assembly human rights committee later this year. The draft resolution, which has not been made public and which is still subject to negotiation among U.N. states, will seek to apply the those protections to online communications. "This is not just about spying," said the diplomat. This is about ensuring that "privacy of citizens in their home states under their own home legislation." "It calls on countries to put an end to violations of that right," the official said. "People have to be protected offline and online." Anyone who thinks this issue will only resonate in Brazil, Mexico, France, Italy, and Germany -- where the Snowden leaks recently revealed NSA datamining -- isn't paying attention. According to the latest internal NSA memo leaked to The Guardian, the list of targeted nations is even longer, which could give this U.N. effort additional momentum. The NSA monitored the communications of 35 unnamed "world leaders," whose phone numbers were given to the intelligence agency by a U.S. government official, according to the report. The agency has been collecting phone numbers, email addresses, and residential addresses of foreign officials from the people in the U.S. government who are in touch with them. The U.S. official, who is not named, personally handed over 200 phone numbers about the people he or she was in touch with. It's hardly a secret, or a surprise, that the NSA spies on foreign governments, including those friendly to the United States. Two former intelligence officials told The Cable that contact information like this is a regular source of intelligence for the NSA. And the memo acknowledges that the agency looks for officials' contact information in open sources, such as the Internet. But the revelation that U.S. officials are facilitating spying on the people they do business with to this extent has created the impetus for U.N. action, a first-of-its kind development. "There's a mixture of hypocrisy and feigned outrage along with real objections here," said a former senior intelligence official. "I don't know where the line is. The idea that political leaders are out of bounds for foreign intelligence is amusing. But on the other hand this business about trusting allies is a big thing. My guess is there's a real annoyance here" on the part of foreign allies. Merkel was so outraged by the news that her phone had been monitored that she called President Obama to discuss it. The White House issued a carefully worded statement, assuring that the German leader's phone would not be tapped now or in the future, but not saying whether it had been. It's not clear whether the NSA is still collecting information from the address books of U.S. officials. The memo was written in 2006. But at least at the time, such collection was a regular occurrence. "From time to time, SID [the agency's signals intelligence directorate] is offered access to the personal contact databases of U.S. officials," the memo states. It doesn't specify who those officials are, or where in the government they work. But, the memo goes on to say, the information provided by the one U.S. official was sufficiently helpful that the agency decided to go around asking for more such contacts from the NSA's "supported customers," which include the Departments of Defense and State, as well as the White House. (None of them are listed by name in the memo.) "These numbers have provided lead information to other numbers," the memo states. In the case of the one U.S. officials, the 200 numbers included 43 that previously weren't on the NSA's radar. "This success leads S2 [part of the signals intelligence directorate] to wonder if there are NSA liaisons whose supported customers may be willing to share" their contacts, as well. "S2 welcomes such information!" Apparently, though, success was measured not so much in secrets learned but just in having the data itself. The memo acknowledges that analysts "have noted little reported intelligence from these particular numbers, which appear not to be used for sensitive discussions." From this we might conclude that NSA's targets are not fools. Why would anyone in the senior ranks of a government or military have sensitive conversations or discuss classified information over the phone number or email on his business card? But, the NSA seems to have concluded, what could it hurt to find out? Time will tell. In a statement, a spokesperson for Merkel said she told Obama that tapping her phone would represent a "grave breach of trust" between the two allies. "She made clear that she views such practices, if proven true, as completely unacceptable and condemns them unequivocally." With the latest news from the U.N., it appears the U.S. might be in store for more than just a slap on the wrist.
  4. http://cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/saudi-arabia-gets-first-ever-seat-un-security-council-then-says-it After campaign- ing for its first ever seat on the U.N. Security Council and winning it in an election Thursday, Saudi Arabia in an astonishing move Friday said it would not take up the position. In a statement published by the official SPA news agency the foreign ministry said while the kingdom was grateful for having won a two-year term on the council beginning on January 1 it had decided not to join. It said the council’s mechanisms and “double standards” meant it was incapable of preserving international peace and security, citing failure to resolve the Palestinian issue after 65 years; failure to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in the region; and “allowing the ruling regime in Syria to kill and burn its people by the chemical weapons, while the world stands idly [by].” “Accordingly, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, based on its historical responsibilities towards its people, Arab and Islamic nations as well as towards the peoples aspiring for peace and stability all over the world, announces its apology for not accepting membership of the Security Council until the council is reformed and enabled, effectively and practically, to carry out its duties and responsibilities in maintaining international peace and security.” Friday’s statement contrasted with comments made by Saudi ambassador to the U.N. Abdallah al-Mouallimi after Thursday’s election in New York. Then he described the vote as “a defining moment in the kingdom’s history.” “As one of the first founding members of the United Nations, our election is much to rejoice over,” he said. “We welcome the positive shift as well as challenges of being part of the Security Council body.” Saudi Arabia easily surpassed the required two-thirds majority required for the seat: Of the 191 member-states voting by secret ballot, only 15 did not support the oil-rich Gulf state that is ruled by an autocratic monarchy according to the strict Wahhabi strain of Sunni Islam, is frequently criticized for a poor human rights record and is viewed as one the world’s worst persecutors of Christians. Earlier, Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Washington-based Institute for Gulf Affairs, called the election “yet another indicator of the international community disregard to oppression and that any talk of them supporting human rights and democracy is insincere.” While its Security Council seat would give Saudi Arabia a global platform to project its policies it would also provide “us as an opposition an excellent chance to increase the pressure on this obsolete monarchy and to expose its dark sides,” he said. “The people on the region are starting to see the true nature of the Saudi monarchy, and soon more people will open their eyes, in spite of the Saudi media empire,” al-Ahmed added. Ali Alyami, executive director of the Washington-based non-profit Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (CDHR) was scathing in his criticism of Saudi Arabia and the U.N., calling the latter “a useless elitists’ club that represents mostly violators of human rights, like the Saudi regime.” “As the Saudis becoming more isolated and less significant, they need little assurances from their Western and other allies that they are not totally forgotten yet,” he said, calling the election “a little ego boost.” The CDHR argues that Saudi Arabia is seeing its influence diminish as a result of developments in the region, citing the “Arab spring” uprisings, U.S. reluctance to intervene military in the Syrian civil war, and its tentative rapprochement with Iran. A Geneva-based human rights group, U.N. Watch, noted that the U.N. Charter states that “due regard” should be “specially paid” to Security Council candidates that contribute to the purposes of the world body. These include “maintenance of international peace and security” as well as “promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.” Yet Saudi Arabia has a “dismal” human rights record, said executive director Hillel Neuer. “Women are subjugated in Saudi Arabia. They suffer gross and systematic inequality, and discrimination in law and practice,” he said. “They can’t vote, drive a car, or even travel within or outside of the country without the permission of a male relative.” “Freedom of religion does not exist under the Wahhabist regime,” Neuer added. “Saudis are required by law to be Muslims, while the practice of Christianity and other religions are completely forbidden.” Saudi Arabia is also a candidate in next month’s election for the U.N.’s flagship rights body, the Geneva-based Human Rights Council. Image faltering A new Pew Research Center survey, released Thursday, also finds Saudi Arabia’s image is slipping in the region, in some cases quite significantly. Although solid majorities still view the kingdom positively in Jordan and Egypt, Lebanon is divided and in Turkey and Tunisia more people view it negatively. Pew found that positive views of Saudi Arabia had dropped in Arab states between 2007 and 2013 – by 31 points in Lebanon, 14 in Turkey, 13 in Egypt and the Palestinian territories, and by two points in Jordan. Across 39 countries around the world surveyed in Pew this year, a median of just 18 percent agreed that the kingdom’s government respects the personal freedoms of its people. By comparison, a global median of 70 percent said the U.S. respects the human rights of its people.

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