UN

 

Nigerian teachers at a rally in Lagos protesting against the abduction of 200 schoolgirls and the killing of 173 of their colleagues by the Islamist Boko Haram group. Getty

Osama Bin Laden must be chuckling from his grave on the ocean floor. In the wake of 9/11 he explicitly targeted Nigeria as a new front-line in his global jihad. When the UN Security Council on Thursday blacklisted Boko Haram alongside al-Qaeda and its other affiliates, Nigeria had formally arrived.

It is the latest in a series of international gestures intended to isolate the group, which provoked international outrage for a series of atrocities including abducting more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls and threatening to sell them into slavery. But its value is little more than symbolic.

 Read more

♦ Michela Wrong thinks the events at Westgate mall jeopardise international justice because the west has realised that it needs Kenyatta and Ruto.
♦ On paper, Ted Cruz looks like a country club establishment Republican, but with every sentence he uttered in his 21-hour “filibuster” against Obamacare, he made clear that his primary mission in Washington was to rid his party of any lingering remnants of compromise.
♦ Xan Rice speaks to Ahmed Jama, the owner of a successful restaurant in London and a naturalised Briton, who decided to return to Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, and open a restaurant there, even while Somalia was at war.
♦ As conventional oil reserves diminish, the Kremlin is pinning its hopes on Siberian shale to maintain the nation’s standing, but stern geological and commercial challenges lie ahead.
♦ Dozens of Nepalese migrant labourers have died and thousands more are enduring appalling labour abuses in Qatar. A Guardian investigation reveals how Nepalese workers died at a rate of almost one a day this summer labouring in preparation for the World Cup.
♦ Richard Gowan, associate director of the Centre for International Cooperation at New York University, asks how much the UN’s moral voice is worth as a peacekeeping toolRead more

James Blitz

Can Iran and the west finally do a deal on the Iranian nuclear programme, ending the decade long stand-off that has plagued international diplomacy? As we watch the extraordinary set of encounters at the UN General Assembly in New York this week between leading Iranian and US figures, that question will be on the mind of every diplomat and journalist.

The atmospherics between Iran and the US this week are certainly exceeding expectations. All the attention on Tuesday will be on whether an encounter occurs between Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. But whatever happens on that front, other important encounters are already being scheduled that say a lot about just how much the mood has changed. Read more

Esther Bintliff

JORDAN - JANUARY 29: Young children sit inside a tent as Syrian refugees go about their daily business in the Za’atari refugee camp on January 29, 2013 in Mafraq, Jordan (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Syrian children in the Za'atari refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty)

The UN’s World Food Programme is running out of money to feed Syrians – both within the crisis-hit country and outside, in refugee camps where more than 1 million people have fled over the past two years. Javier Blas, the FT’s Commodities editor, has the full story.

The World blog spoke to Matthew Hollingworth, the Damascus-based officer in charge of WFP’s Syria operation, about the practicalities of getting food to people in a war zone.

Q: What kind of food do you provide?

A: When we deliver food to people we’re delivering them a family ration or parcel – a box of food. The idea is that each box has enough food to support a family of five for a whole month. The rations are very simple, non-luxury goods – rice, pasta, bulgur wheat, canned beans, lentils, sugar, salt and vegetable oil. The reason we give them some canned goods is because it’s easier for them to cook and eat those things if they have a problem receiving fuel. Next month we’re adding wheat flour to the basket because there’s a recognition that access to bread is becoming a problem.

Q: How do you transport the food boxes throughout Syria? Read more

Bosco Ntaganda smiles after receiving a Congolese army uniform during an integration ceremony held by the Democratic Republic of Congo on January 29, 2009 (WALTER ASTRADA/AFP/Getty Images)

Bosco Ntaganda in January 2009 (AFP/Getty)

This week Bosco Ntaganda, a Congolese warlord indicted for war crimes, gave himself up after evading an international arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for more than six years. I’m pretty sure I was the last international journalist to meet and interview him.

It wasn’t exactly the uniform I’d imagined him in, but when I came across the Congolese warlord in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, he was wearing a t-shirt with the words “peace and reconciliation” across his front.

General Ntaganda is an indicted war criminal accused of recruiting child soldiers for a 2002 conflict and who, at the time I met him in 2010, had managed to duck an international arrest warrant for more than four years. All the while, he continued to draw allegations of further atrocities – massacres, political assassinations and rape among them.

When a journalist colleague pointed him out to me, he was huddled with the chief of the Congolese armed forces beside a grass football pitch that doubled as a UN helicopter base surrounded by the forests of Walikale.

That in itself was significant – the UN had repeatedly issued contorted and ambiguous statements in an effort to deny Gen Ntaganda was part of a UN-backed Congolese army effort deployed to beat back several rebel groups in the area. But it was an open secret that the former rebel commander whose loyalists had like him been integrated – poorly – into the army, was now second-in-command of the UN-backed mission. The UN later warned me to drop the story when I sought a response from a senior representative.

As Gen Ntaganda began to walk away I found myself walking up to him and greeted him in Swahili. “I am military co-ordinator for the operations…I am the number two,” he soon told me as he reached a vehicle packed with armed troops who looked so young I wondered about their age. “I am going to see my forces,” he said as he prepared to drive off.

The next day he directed me to a secret location in Goma, the volcanic city at the heart of eastern Congo. An armed guard kept look-out from a raised sentry box at the gate while others patrolled the site. One of them eventually summoned me with his muzzle to meet him. Read more

Daniel Dombey

Gold bars are seen at the Czech Central Bank on September 05, 2011 in Prague (MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images)

The golden stuff (AFP/Getty)

It must rank as one of the most thankless jobs in diplomacy. Just how do you draw up incentives for Iran to rein in its nuclear programme?

Talks have lumbered on, in one incarnation or another, for a decade now. Efforts to win over Tehran have been encumbered by mutual suspicion, political sensitivities (there is always the charge of appeasement) and sheer force of law.

Many of the sanctions the Islamic Republic most objects to are already on the statute book, whether as UN Resolutions, EU agreements or US law. No wonder it is difficult to come up with a compelling offer; few countries can change their laws by fiat.

On Monday, Tehran attacked one of the latest ideas seemingly floated by the world’s major powers – the notion the US could roll back recently imposed sanctions on gold sales to Iran.

The idea may have been designed to help Western allies – notably Turkey –as much as to alleviate Iran’s economic isolation. Last year Ankara became the world’s leading gold exporter to Iran, whether directly or through entrepôts such as the UAE. Demand from the Islamic Republic helped Turkey’s overall exports of the metal reach levels of $1.5bn-$2bn some months.

The trade has various explanations – chief of which is that bank transactions with Iran have become ever more problematic, particularly in the wake of measures affecting Swift, a group that facilitates electronic funds transfers. Against this backdrop, Tehran started taking payment for its oil and gas exports to Ankara in Turkish Lira – instead of via bank transfer – and using the money to buy gold it then ships home. Read more

Gideon Rachman

The climate change talks in Doha have come to a predictably acrimonious conclusion. As well as the baffling technical, economic and scientific challenges involved, the diplomatic deadlock throws up a fascinating question of political philosophy – do the citizens of one country have responsibilities to people in other parts of the world? If so, what are they? Internationalists might respond that we should have equal obligations to all human-beings. But, as a matter of fact, that is not how practical politics or human emotions work. Most people are willing to do much more for the people who are closest to them: family and neighbours. They also usually feel more willing to help compatriots than people on the other side of the world. They might, however, feel some obligation, or desire, to help people in far-off places. But how far do those obligations stretch?

Those questions lie at the heart of a fascinating new academic enterprise, pioneered by Hakan Altinay, a Turkish academic. I come across a lot of schemes to improve the world. But Altinay’s efforts to promote the idea of a “global civics” is one do-gooding idea that might actually really do some good. Read more

Pilita Clark, the FT’s environment correspondent, gives us the lowdown on the biggest conference the UN has ever organised. Read more

Roula Khalaf

Bullet marks on the wall of a reception room, Taftanaz, Syria, April 2012, following nine extrajudicial executions there © Amnesty International

Bullet marks in a room in Taftanaz, where Amnesty says nine extrajudicial executions took place. Image: Amnesty International

Syrian activists have been reporting the regime’s human rights abuses for the past 15 months. But independent examination of the brutality in Syria has been limited because of the lack of access available for international organisations, and the inability to check the accuracy of the activists’ reports.

Amnesty International has just published a report based on a month-long trip of a researcher through the northern governorates of Idlib and Aleppo. Its findings are that Syrian security forces have been rampaging through towns and villages, summarily executing men, burning homes and at times even the bodies of those killed in cold blood. Many of the abuses, says the report, amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes. Read more