TIME ebola

WHO Chief Unveils Reforms After Ebola Response Criticized

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan addresses the media during a special meeting on Ebola at the WHO headquarters in Geneva
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan addresses the media during a special meeting on Ebola at the WHO headquarters in Geneva on Jan. 25, 2015. Pierre Albouy—Reuters

"The Ebola outbreak revealed some inadequacies and shortcomings"

The head of the UN’s global health agency has laid out a set of reforms to better and more quickly fight disease outbreaks, in a frank acknowledgement that the organization struggled to confront the scale of the 2014 Ebola outbreak that killed more than 8,600 people.

“This was West Africa’s first experience with the virus, and it delivered some horrific shocks and surprises,” said World Health Organization (WHO) director General Margaret Chan in a speech on Sunday. “The world, including WHO, was too slow to see what was unfolding before us.”

The needed changes, she said, include country-specific emergency workforces trained with “military precision”; a strengthened team of epidemiologists for detecting disease and a network of other providers to allow responders to reach “surge capacity.”

“The Ebola outbreak revealed some inadequacies and shortcomings in this organization’s administrative, managerial, and technical infrastructures,” she said, calling for a “dedicated contingency fund to support rapid responses to outbreaks and emergencies.”

The remarks came as the WHO’s executive board prepared to meet in Geneva to discuss reform proposals that many in the international community consider to be overdue. The response to Ebola by the UN’s health agency was seen by many as slow and ineffectual.

Indeed, Sunday’s speech did not mark the first time Chan acknowledged her organization’s shortcomings. In October, she told TIME that “the scale of the response did not match the scale of the outbreak.”

TIME United Nations

U.N. Hosts First Ever Meeting Dedicated to Combating Anti-Semitism

Bernard-Henri Levy
French philosopher and writer Bernard-Henri Levy addresses the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. Richard Drew—AP

Meeting planned long before the recent attacks in Paris

The U.N. General Assembly gathered Thursday for its first ever meeting dedicated to global action against anti-Semitism.

The informal meeting, attended by approximately half the bloc’s 193 member states, was organized by mainly Western nations in order to address an “alarming outbreak of anti-Semitism worldwide.”

Planning began last October in response to the murder of three people outside the Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgium, and the killing of a rabbi and three children in Toulouse, France, the Associated Press reports.

The U.N.’s 57 Islamic nations unanimously condemned all words and acts that encourage “hatred, anti-Semitism [and] Islamophobia.” The statement, given by the Saudi ambassador, Abdallah Al-Moualimi, was “extremely significant,” said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power.

Al-Moualimi stressed the importance of dialogue in efforts to combat Islamophobia and anti-Semitism and denounced “any discrimination based on belief and religious practices.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N. Ron Prosor said that the Holocaust had elicited pledges that anti-Semitism had no place in the modern world. Yet, he lamented, “Here we are again.”

TIME Nigeria

A Multinational Task Force Must Fight Boko Haram, Says U.N. Security Council

People fleeing Boko Haram violence in the northeast region of Nigeria, cook food at Maikohi secondary school IDP camp in Yola, Adamawa State
People fleeing Boko Haram violence in the northeast region of Nigeria cook food at Maikohi secondary-school camp for internally displaced persons in Yola, Adamawa State, on Jan. 13, 2015 Afolabi Sotunde—Reuters

After almost a year of meetings, the bloc releases a statement on how to deal with the Nigerian terrorist group

The U.N. Security Council is urging Central African countries to fight Boko Haram more aggressively.

In a statement released Monday, the council pushed for the deployment of a multinational task force targeting the Nigerian jihadist group.

This is the council’s first statement actively advocating for this sort of resolution, Agence France-Presse reports. It also called on Boko Haram to “immediately and unequivocally cease all hostilities and all abuses of human rights and violations.”

Boko Haram has gained notoriety for its brutal methods, like the use of children as suicide bombers. The 13-point statement condemned these tactics.

The response comes after attacks by Boko Haram on Sunday in Cameroon, where they took dozens of hostages. Cameroon, along with Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Benin, has signed up to join the force.

Prior to the meeting, advocacy group Avaaz received 725,000 signatures on a petition appealing to the U.N. Security Council to take action on Boko Haram. “Boko Haram has butchered its way into the global spotlight and finally the Security Council is reacting,” said Alice Jay, the campaign director for Avaaz.

TIME Middle East

U.N. Chief Says Palestinians Will Join International Court on April 1

Joining the ICC is part of a broader Palestinian strategy to pressure Israel into withdrawing from the territories and agreeing to Palestinian statehood

(UNITED NATIONS) — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said late Tuesday that the state of Palestine will join the International Criminal Court on April 1, a high-stakes move that will enable the Palestinians to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel.

The Palestinians submitted the documents ratifying the Rome Statute that established the court last Friday, the last formal step to accepting the jurisdiction of the world’s permanent war crimes tribunal. The U.N. said the secretary-general would review the paperwork.

In a statement posted on the U.N.’s treaty website, the secretary-general announced his acceptance of the documents saying “the statute will enter into force for the State of Palestine on April 1, 2015″ in accordance with the court’s procedures. He said he was “acting in his capacity as depositary” for the documents of ratification.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed documents to join the ICC a day after the U.N. Security Council rejected a resolution on Dec. 30 that would have set a three-year deadline for the establishment of a Palestinian state on lands occupied by Israel.

Joining the ICC is part of a broader Palestinian strategy to pressure Israel into withdrawing from the territories and agreeing to Palestinian statehood. Abbas has been under heavy domestic pressure to take stronger action against Israel after a 50-day war between the Jewish state and militants in Gaza over the summer, tensions over holy sites in Jerusalem, and the failure of the last round of U.S.-led peace talks.

The Palestinian decision to join the ICC has already sparked retaliation from Israel which froze the transfer of more than $100 million in tax funds collected for the Palestinians on Saturday. It promised tougher action on Sunday.

The United States also opposed the move, calling it an obstacle to reaching a permanent peace agreementl that would give the Palestinians an independent state. The Obama administration said Monday it was reviewing its annual $440 million aid package to the Palestinians because of the decision to join the ICC.

While Palestinian membership in the ICC doesn’t automatically incur U.S. punishment, any Palestinian case against Israel at the court would trigger an immediate cutoff of U.S. financial support under American law.

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said last week that the Palestinians are seeking to raise alleged crimes committed by Israel, including during last summer’s war in Gaza. He said the Palestinians will also seek justice for Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory, which he said constitute “a war crime” under the Rome statute.

The ICC said the Palestinians submitted a document to the court’s registrar, Herman von Hebel, in The Hague, Netherlands on Jan. 1 stating that Palestine accepts the jurisdiction of the ICC starting June 13 — about a month before the Gaza war started.

The International Criminal Court was created to prosecute individual perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Palestine will become the 123rd member.

But in Monday’s press release, the court stressed that accepting the jurisdiction of the ICC “does not automatically trigger an investigation.” ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda must determine whether the criteria under the statute for opening an investigation have been met, it said.

The secretary-general also approved Palestinian documents joining 16 other international treaties, conventions and agreements on Tuesday night.

TIME Libya

France Says Ready to Strike Extremists on Libya Border

Francois Hollande
French President François Hollande prepares to answer a reporter's question during a live interview on French radio station France Inter in Paris on Jan. 5, 2015 Remy de la Mauviniere—AP

President Hollande said French forces will strike Islamic extremists "every time they leave these places where they are hiding"

(PARIS) — France said Monday its troops south of Libya are ready to strike extremists crossing the border, but the speaker of Libya’s internationally recognized parliament rejected any Western military intervention in his country.

International concern has been mounting over Libya, which is mired in its worst fighting since Western and Gulf-backed rebels overthrew dictator Moammar Gadhafi and killed him in 2011.

Today two rival governments are each backed by an array of militias fighting it out across the country, and extremists in the east have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

U.N.-sponsored talks between the rival governments did not take place Monday as scheduled.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said recent development on the ground “have not been conducive in any way to holding a dialogue.” He said the U.N. is urging the rival governments to agree on the timing and a venue “that complies with the necessary security requirements.”

French President Francois Hollande urged the United Nations to take action to stem growing violence in the North African country and the transit of arms from Libya to militant groups around the Sahel region.

“We are making sure to contain the terrorism that took refuge there, in southern Libya. But France will not intervene in Libya because it’s up to the international community to take its responsibility,” Hollande said Monday on France-Inter radio.

While he ruled out unilateral intervention inside Libya, he said French forces will strike Islamic extremists “every time they leave these places where they are hiding.”

To do that, France is setting up a military base in northern Niger, 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the lawless Libyan border region. About 200 troops are deployed in the desert outpost at Madama. French and U.S. drones are already operating out of Niger’s capital, Niamey.

African leaders urged Western countries to intervene in Libya at a security summit in Dakar last month. On Monday, Libyan leaders called on the Arab League for help but rejected armed Western intervention.

“I call formally on the Arab League to intervene to protect the vital installations in all of Libya and to prevent all these terrorist formations from using violence,” Libyan parliament speaker Aqila Issa told reporters in Cairo after a meeting on the subject.

“Foreign military intervention in Libya is rejected. If we need any military intervention, we will ask our Arab brothers,” he added.

Issa did not elaborate on what type of aid he sought, but the Arab League, which supports the internationally recognized government based in the eastern city of Tobruk, called for a U.N. arms embargo to be lifted.

“We are now talking about how to restore security and stability in Libya and lift the embargo on arming the Libyan army in a way that will stabilize security,” Deputy Secretary General Ahmed bin Helli said.

Mohammed Bazzaza, spokesman for the internationally-recognized government, told the Dubai-based al-Hadath TV station that his government welcomes international cooperation to fight terrorism, but did not mention outright military intervention.

French airstrikes helped drive Gadhafi from power. Later, French troops largely expelled al-Qaida-linked insurgents from northern Mali in 2013, with some fleeing to Libya. France has now launched a military operation against Islamic extremists in five of its former colonies in the Sahel region, with 3,000 troops, 200 armored vehicles and six fighter jets in Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mali.

In the time since Gadhafi’s overthrow, rival militias widely believed to be backed by regional powers have fought for control of Libya. An alliance of Islamist and other militias captured the capital Tripoli last year and revived an earlier government and parliament.

The Tripoli government accuses Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Emirates of backing its rivals in Tobruk, including by carrying out airstrikes. The Tobruk government says Turkey and Qatar back Islamist militias.

Dujarric, the U.N. spokesman said the bombing of a Greek-owned tanker at an eastern city controlled by Islamist extremists Monday by fighter jets from the internationally recognized government “underscores the need for all parties to reach an agreement.” Libyan and Greek officials said two crew members were killed and two wounded.

___

Rohan reported from Cairo. Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report from the United Nations

TIME Palestine

U.N. Security Council Rejects Palestinian Resolution

UN Security Council rejects draft resolution on Palestinian statehood
Riyad Mansour, second right, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, is seen during the United Nations (UN) Security Council meeting in New York on Dec. 30, 2014. Cem Ozdel—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The measure was not expected to pass due to U.S. opposition

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Tuesday rejected a Palestinian draft resolution, strongly opposed by the United States, that sought peace with Israel within a one-year time frame.

The resolution failed to win the nine-vote majority required for approval, the Associated Press reports. Eight countries voted in favor of the resolution, while two opposed (U.S. and Australia), and five abstained.

“The fact that this draft resolution was not adopted will not at all prevent us from proceeding to push the international community, specifically the United Nations, towards an effective involvement to achieving a resolution to this conflict,” said Jordan’s U.N. Ambassador Dina Kawar after the vote.

The resolution, whose voting had been requested by Jordan, demanded that East Jerusalem become capital of Palestine, according to Al Jazeera. It also asked that negotiations be based on territorial lines prior to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in 1967.

The measure was not expected to pass due to strong opposition from the U.S., according to Reuters. U.S. diplomats previously said the resolution would bind Israel and Palestine to a “rushed” timeframe to resolve a decades-long conflict, and that they would use their veto if necessary.

“We voted against this resolution not because we are comfortable with the status quo,” said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power. “We voted against it because … peace must come from hard compromises that occur at the negotiating table.”

[AP]

TIME conflict

Global Arms Treaty Comes Into Force on Christmas Eve

STR—AFP/Getty

But the U.S., China and Russia have still not ratified it

A global arms treaty aiming to cut off the weapon supply for human-rights violators comes into force Wednesday, and campaigners vow to enforce its implementation.

“For too long, arms and ammunition have been traded with few questions asked about whose lives they will destroy,” Anna Macdonald, director of the Control Arms coalition of NGOs, told Agence France-Presse. “The new Arms Trade Treaty which enters into force this week will bring that to an end. It is now finally against international law to put weapons into the hands of human rights abusers and dictators.”

A total of 60 countries including France, Great Britain and Germany have all pledged to adhere to the the treaty, while 70 others, including China, Russia and the largest exporter of all, the U.S., have approved but are yet to ratify it.

Campaigners note that much work remains to implement regulation of the $85 billion global weapons trade, and a first meeting between the signatory states will be held around September.

ATT, as the treaty is known, is the first major arms accord since the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1996.

TIME North Korea

North Korea Calls for U.N. Probe of CIA ‘Torture Crimes’

NKOREA-POLITICS-MILITARY
This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 12, 2014 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un inspecting the command of Korean People's Army Unit 534. KNS—AFP/Getty Images

North Korea's UN representative decried CIA interrogations as "the gravest human rights violations in the world."

North Korea’s U.N. Ambassador has called on the world body to investigate the CIA for subjecting captured al-Qaeda operatives to “brutal, medieval” forms of torture.

The statement comes as the U.N. Security Council prepares to debate North Korea’s human rights violations on December 22 and 23, the Associated Press reports.

“The so-called ‘human rights issue’ in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is politically fabricated and, therefore, it is not at all relevant to the regional or international peace and security,” wrote North Korea’s Ja Song-nam in a letter to the current council president.

Ja then pivoted to the U.S. Senate’s report on interrogation techniques against detainees. “The recently revealed CIA torture crimes committed by the United States, which have been conducted worldwide in the most brutal medieval forms, are the gravest human rights violations in the world.”

A United Nations commission documented wide-ranging human rights violations in North Korean prison camps. The 400-page report, based on prisoner testimonials, detailed acts of “enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence.”

Read next: North Korea Says ‘Righteous’ Sony Hack May Be Work of Its Supporters

TIME Civil Rights

What the International Response to the Civil Rights Movement Tells Us About Ferguson

Education Segregation, USA. pic: circa 1957. Little Rock, Arkansas. National Guardsmen, having admitted white children to a school, barr the way to a black student.
Little Rock, Ark., 1957: National Guardsmen, having admitted white children to a school, bar the way to a black student Paul Popper—Popperfoto / Getty Images

International criticism during the Civil Rights Movement helped bring about new legislation

Images of armed soldiers blocking nine African-American high school students from integrating a public high school in Little Rock, Ark. shocked the world nearly 60 years ago. Organs of Soviet propaganda, determined to disrupt perceptions of a tranquil American democracy, wrote of American police “who abuse human dignity and stoop to the level of animals” in the newspaper Izvestia. In the midst of stiff Cold War competition for hearts and minds around the world, the prospect of controlling international perceptions motivated officials at the highest levels of U.S. government to support new civil rights measures.

The U.S. representative to the United Nations warned President Dwight Eisenhower that the incident had damaged American influence, and the President listened.

“Before Eisenhower sent in the troops, there were mobs around the school for weeks, keeping these high school students from going to school,” says Mary Dudziak, a professor at Emory whose book Cold War Civil Rights argues that international pressures encouraged the federal government to work to improve civil rights, and which tells the above story about Little Rock. “The issue caused people from other countries to wonder whether the U.S. had a commitment to human rights.”

Today, the highly-publicized killings of unarmed black men like Michael Brown and Eric Garner have attracted similar international condemnation, and some historians wonder whether concerns about U.S. appearances around the world could once again influence the federal government.

Read More: One Man. One March. One Speech. One Dream.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union, the sworn enemy of the U.S., had a lot to gain by showing that American democracy wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. The opposition of today’s day and age are less influential, but they appear equally eager to highlight American dysfunction. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei used the attention surrounding Michael Brown to remind his Twitter followers of America’s history on race issues. A tweet from the leader features images of police dogs in Birmingham during the Civil Rights Movement alongside an image of Michael Brown:

North Korea may have one of the world’s worst human rights records, but that didn’t stop the country from criticizing the U.S. for “wantonly violating the human rights where people are subject to discrimination and humiliation due to their races.”

It’s not surprising that North Korea and Iran would criticize the U.S., but the reprimanding hasn’t been limited to opponents. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said he is unsure whether the decision not to indict the police officer who shot Michael Brown “conforms with international human rights law.”

“It is clear that, at least among some sectors of the population, there is a deep and festering lack of confidence in the fairness of the justice and law enforcement systems,” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement.

Criticism from the U.N. is significant, but the international body’s desires, much less those of North Korea or Iran, have never driven U.S. policy — and the fact is, while there are many links between the Cold War era and today, times have changed. Thus far, the President has walked a fine line in his response. He proposed some measures, including encouraging police to wear body cameras, but it seems unlikely that he’ll be proposing any game-changing legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It’s not surprising that Obama has hesitated to involve the federal government in what is typically a local or state issue. The international mandate simply isn’t as strong as it was during the Cold War. There’s no equivalent to the Soviet Union offering a credible alternative to America’s system of governance.

But that may not be the case forever: historians and political scientists say that a growing movement against police brutality has the potential to increase international pressure and, perhaps, force change.

“I’m sure the Obama administration and the State Department are concerned about [international perceptions],” says Rick Valelly, a political science professor at Swarthmore. “Right now it’s embarrassing, but I don’t think it’s internationally consequential.”

Movements to end police brutality don’t yet have the “same kind of legs” that the Civil Rights Movement had, Valelly says. This year’s demonstrations have been attention-grabbing — and the “Justice for All” March planned for Washington, D.C, this Saturday is certain to make headlines — but it may take many more years of sustained protest before the movement would be noticed internationally on a much larger scale, as the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was. For now, experts in the field still remain optimistic about the benefits of international attention, relatively minor though it may be.

“Public diplomacy begins with listening,” says Nick Cull, a professor at the University of Southern California, “and this would be a really good time to listen.”

TIME ebola

U.N.: Ebola Outbreak Will Take Several More Months to Contain

Liberia Ebola Missed Goals
Health workers wearing Ebola protective gear spray the shrouded body of a suspected Ebola victim with disinfectant at an Ebola treatment center at Tubmanburg, on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, on Nov. 28, 2014 Abbas Dulleh—AP

The U.N. goal of containing 100% of Ebola cases by Jan. 1 will not be met

The U.N.’s special envoy on Ebola said Thursday that it would be several months before the outbreak in West Africa is under control.

Dr. David Nabarro said international governments as well as local communities had taken a “massive shift” in responding to the crisis over the past four month, the Associated Press reports.

However, he noted that more needed to be done to contain the spread of the disease in western Sierra Leone and northern Mali.

“It’s going to take, I’m afraid, several more months before we can truly declare that the outbreak is coming under control,” Nabarro said.

The World Health Organization aimed to have 100% of cases isolated by Jan. 1, but acknowledges that previous targets have not been met.

[AP]

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