TIME United Nations

U.N. Chief to Nominate New Special Envoy to Yemen

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, head of the UN Mission for the fight against Ebola (UNMEER), speaks to the press, on Jan. 7, 2015 in Monrovia, Liberia.
Zoom Dosso—AFP/Getty Images Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, head of the UN Mission for the fight against Ebola (UNMEER), speaks to the press, on Jan. 7, 2015 in Monrovia, Liberia.

The council must approve the nomination to make it official

(UNITED NATIONS) — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday is expected to nominate the head of the U.N. Ebola mission as the new special envoy to Yemen, the country’s U.N. ambassador said Thursday.

Ambassador Khaled Alyemany told The Associated Press that Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed, of Mauritania, is the only candidate for the post after Jamal Benomar on Thursday announced his intention to step down.

“The secretary-general has already made his decision,” Alyemany said. “Ould Cheikh is a very good U.N. diplomat and expert,” with experience leading U.N. humanitarian efforts in Yemen in recent years, he said.

Benomar’s four years of efforts at a peaceful political transition in the Arab world’s poorest country fell apart amid a Shiite rebel uprising, Saudi-led airstrikes and sharp criticism from Gulf countries.

Ban was expected to nominate Ahmed in a letter to the current Security Council president. The council must approve the nomination to make it official.

Ahmed was in West Africa on Thursday and had no comment, his spokeswoman said.

There was no immediate comment from Ban’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, who has said Ban would consult the parties in Yemen and countries in the region before selecting a replacement, adding that it must be “someone who can talk to all parties.”

Benomar’s departure created a diplomatic vacuum in Yemen, where he had been the key international figure working to bring the feuding parties together, even after diplomats fled embassies and the U.N. staff pulled out.

But Benomar had come under criticism from some in the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, as his recent efforts to broker peace yielded little success.

“He had started to promote the Houthis, and we cannot accept that,” Alyemany said Thursday. “He started really ignoring the government and ignoring the president.”

The ambassador said he doesn’t see any objection to Ahmed from the collection of Gulf countries that had pressed for Benomar’s departure.

Yemen is now under weeks of airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition in an attempt to push back Shiite Houthi rebels who swept south and caused the Western-backed president to flee.

The U.N. said in its statement on Benomar late Wednesday that it will “spare no efforts to re-launch the peace process,” but the challenge has grown as the fighting in Yemen has become a kind of proxy war between Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies and Iran, a Shiite power that has supported the Houthis. More than 700 people have been killed since the airstrikes began.

TIME United Nations

U.N. Chief Gives James Bond a New Mission

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Timothy A. Clary—AFP/Getty Images United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets with actor Daniel Craig who was named as the first UN Global Advocate for the Elimination of Mines and Explosive Hazards at the United Nations in New York on Apr. 14, 2015.

Daniel Craig takes on a new role

(UNITED NATIONS) — Daniel Craig, who won international acclaim playing James Bond, received a special mission on Tuesday when Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed the actor as the first U.N. Global Advocate for the Elimination of Mines and Explosive Hazards.

In a brief ceremony at U.N. headquarters, Ban thanked Craig for his commitment to support the U.N.’s vision for a world free from the threat of land mines and explosive remnants of war.

“Along with moviegoers worldwide, I have been on the edge of my seat watching Mr. Craig, as James Bond, defuse ticking time-bombs with seconds to spare,” the secretary-general said. “I am even more excited that Mr. Craig has agreed to use his star power to draw attention to the noble causes of mine destruction and mine awareness.”

He said Craig’s designation as a global advocate for three years was one of a number of events organized to observe the 10th anniversary of the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.

Craig toured an exhibit at the U.N. on the impact of mines, and Ban said he hoped his efforts would raise awareness of efforts to rid the world of mines and raise political and financial support.

TIME Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ Latest Mission: Stopping Nuclear Weapons

Pope Francis attends a private audience with President of Slovakia Andrej Kiska at the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City, Vatican, on April 9, 2015.
Getty Images Pope Francis attends a private audience with President of Slovakia Andrej Kiska at the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City, Vatican, on April 9, 2015.

The U.S. State Department is revving up its efforts to work with the Holy See

The Vatican has long opposed nuclear weapons, but Pope Francis is making the cause one of the top diplomatic priorities of his two-year-old papacy.

In December, the Vatican submitted a paper calling for total nuclear disarmament to the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. In January, Pope Francis touted nuclear disarmament as a major goal alongside climate change in his speech to the Vatican’s diplomatic corps. And on Easter Sunday, he publicly prayed that the prospective multi-nation deal to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program would be “a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.”

Many observers expect the Pope to raise the topic in his speech to the United Nations in September, especially as that event also commemorates the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s historic U.N. speech calling for “never again war, never again war.”

“Pope Francis has recently pushed the moral argument against nuclear weapons to a new level, not only against their use but also against their possession,” Archbishop Bernedito Auza, the Holy See’s Ambassador to the U.N., says. “Today there is no more argument, not even the argument of deterrence used during the Cold War, that could ‘minimally morally justify’ the possession of nuclear weapons. The ‘peace of a sort’ that is supposed to justify nuclear deterrence is specious and illusory.”

The Vatican push on nuclear weapons comes as the United States is in the final stages of negotiating a deal with Iran and as 190 parties that have supported the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty prepare for its five-year review. The upcoming NPT RevCon, as the U.N. treaty review conference is called, is the first NPT review during the Francis papacy, and Francis’ voice is already adding moral and political weight to the conversation. The Holy See, a party to the Treaty, has opposed the possession and use of nuclear weapons since the beginning of the nuclear age.

The Holy See is “very concerned,” Auza adds, about nuclear-capable states’ commitment to disarmament, arguing that the central promise of the treaty remains unfulfilled. “The fact that nuclear-possessing States not only have not dismantled their nuclear arsenals but are modernizing them lies at the heart of nuclear proliferation,” he says. “It perpetuates the ‘injustice’ in the NPT regime, which was supposed to be temporary while nuclear disarmament was in progress…. how could we reasonably convince the pre-NPT non-nuclear countries not to acquire or develop nuclear arms capabilities? Now, the real and present danger that non-state actors, like terrorist and extremist organizations, could acquire nuclear weapons ‘in the black market’ and ‘not-so-black market,’ ‘in the back alleys’ and ‘not-so-back alleys’ should terrify us all.”

On Thursday, two events on opposite sides of the planet signaled Pope Francis’ diplomatic reach ahead of the NPT review. In New York at the United Nations’ headquarters, the Holy See’s Mission to the U.N. and the Global Security Institute hosted a conference of diplomats and interfaith partners to promote the abolition of nuclear weapons. At the Vatican, a United States diplomatic delegation was courting Catholic Church leaders on President Obama’s commitment to nuclear disarmament.

Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller has picked up on the Vatican’s keen interest in nuclear disarmament and has made it a priority to engage the Holy See. Gottemoeller first visited the Vatican in January to discuss arms control and nonproliferation issues with several counterparts. In late March, the State Department invited the Holy See to participate as an observer in its new disarmament verification initiative, the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification. This week, Gottemoeller returned to the Vatican with Madelyn Creedon, the Department of Energy’s principal deputy administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration, for a two-day diplomatic visit.

Gottemoeller’s efforts have centered on briefing the Vatican on the United States’ disarmament agenda. She has been working to reach highest-level counterparts, as well as technical experts and non-governmental experts. “President Obama from the very beginning of his term in office has been very clear that his goal is to proceed with nuclear disarmament,” she says. “People think sometimes that that is just a kind of propaganda slogan out there without a lot of ‘there’ there, so I wanted to make sure that our Vatican counterparts knew the degree to which the President’s Prague initiative has become substantively a very significant part of our national policy.”

The United States knows the political capital Pope Francis holds when it comes to national and international decision-making. Most notably, the White House credited Francis for his role in brokering the U.S.-Cuba deal in December. “I think there is a huge moral impact of the Vatican on issues that relate to nuclear weapons deterrence and the disarmament agenda overall,” Gottemoeller says. “I see it is as a confluence of interest in a very positive sense. … You can’t just wave a magic wand and make nuclear weapons go away. It takes hard work and it takes a lot of very practical steps, but we can get there, and that is the President’s message. I just hope that we will be met by patience from the community trying to work on these issues.”

For Francis, nuclear disarmament—like most everything—must be viewed from the position of the poor instead of the position of the powerful. Inequality and nuclear power are interwoven. “Spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations,” Pope Francis wrote to the Vienna Humanitarian Conference in December. “To prioritize such spending is a mistake and a misallocation of resources which would be far better invested in the areas of integral human development, education, health and the fight against extreme poverty. When these resources are squandered, the poor and the weak living on the margins of society pay the price.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has also been deepening its theological and political attention to disarmament. Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace, spoke at the Holy See’s U.N. panel. During the NPT RevCon, the USCCB plans to sponsor an event with the Kroc Institute on evolving Catholic perspectives from nuclear deterrence to disarmament. Stephen Colecchi, director of the USCCB’s Office of International Justice and Peace, says that the USCCB is trying to move the Holy See’s moral discussion forward in the U.S.—the USCCB had a close relationship with the Administration during the time of the New START Treaty, and has continued the dialogue with Gottemoeller, who is Catholic. “We certainly urge the United States to work with Russia and we have been urging them to separate the issue of the day, which is Ukraine, from the issue of the decades, which is nuclear disarmament,” Colecchi says. “Deterrence is even less stable in a multipolar world. We might ask, Are nations, including our own, serious about nuclear disarmament if they are modernizing nuclear weapons systems?”

After a period of denuclearization in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union, several states in the developing world went nuclear and events recently have further undermined the NPT. U.N. Ambassador Libran Cabactulan of the Philippines—who was the president of the previous NPT RevCon—flew in from Manila to speak at the Holy See’s event at the U.N. on Thursday. “Nothing has been achieved. Nothing much,” Cabactulan told the U.N. gathering, describing the progress of disarmament in the last five years. “What perhaps I achieved, that was calling more on temporal power, and maybe I failed, because in the order of things it’s the tally sheet, what has been done. And that is why I am gratified…to have spiritual leaders.”

Ambassador Antonio Patriota, permanent representative of Brazil to the United Nations, believes that Francis’ position will resonate during the NPT review conference. “He himself coming from South America, we feel that he has a very deep understanding of the challenges posed by inequality,” Patriota says. “His words carry quite a bit of political weight. It is a powerful message from man of high moral standing in a time when leadership is scarce.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 30

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Blue-collar jobs are coming back, and pay well. But women are missing out.

By Mitchell Hartman in Marketplace

2. Ikea is known for affordable, flat-pack furniture. Now they’re selling the U.N. flat-pack refugee housing.

By Amar Toor in the Verge

3. With an eye on the White House, politicians won’t admit it, but the ethanol mandate is terrible policy.

By Josiah Neeley in the American Conservative

4. With billions in profits, tech giants must lead the charge against inequality in Silicon Valley.

By John D. Sutter in CNN

5. Can better customer service make primary medical care affordable and sustainable?

By Margot Sanger-Katz in the Upshot

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Cameroon

More People Are Fleeing Northern Cameroon to Escape Boko Haram

In this file photo taken on Feb. 25, 2015, a family of refugees that fled their homes due to violence from the militant group Boko Haram sit inside a refugee camp in Minawao, Cameroon
Edwin Kindzeka Moki—AP A family of refugees who fled their homes because of violence from the militant group Boko Haram sit inside a refugee camp in Minawao, Cameroon, on Feb. 25, 2015

Cross-border attacks are fueling the exodus

The surge in violence and cross-border attacks by Nigerian Islamist militants Boko Haram has doubled the number of civilians in Cameroon displaced by the conflict, with some 117,000 people from northern Cameroon fleeing their homes in March alone, according to a U.N. survey.

Boko Haram, which has waged an insurgency in northern Nigeria since 2009, has killed 6,400 and carried out 337 attacks since January 2014, according to the U.N. Recently, the group has been launching cross-border attacks into Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

“The northern part of Cameroon was already under severe strain due to deteriorating climate conditions over the last three years. The growing insecurity has further exacerbated that situation,” U.N. Sahel coordinator Robert Piper told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Cameroon also shelters at least 66,000 Nigerian refugees escaping Boko Haram.

[Reuters]

TIME Yemen

Yemen Leader Asks U.N. to Back Military Action Against Rebels

A Houthi Shiite rebel with Yemen's flag painted on his face chants during a rally in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 27, 2015
Hani Mohammed—AP A Houthi Shi'ite rebel with Yemen's flag painted on his face chants during a rally in Sanaa, Yemen, on Feb. 27, 2015

The embattled President is looking for support against a Shi'ite Houthi insurgency

(UNITED NATIONS) — Yemen’s embattled president asked the U.N. Security Council to authorize a military intervention in support of his government to oust Houthi Shiite rebels who control much of the disintegrating country’s north and are advancing south.

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi said in a letter to the council obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press that he had also asked members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League to immediately provide “all means necessary, including military intervention to protect Yemen and its people from the continuing Houthi aggression.”

Hadi, the country’s internationally recognized leader and a key U.S. ally, asked the Security Council to approve a resolution that can be militarily enforced under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter.

The Houthis seized the capital Sanaa in September and have been advancing south alongside forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down in 2011 as part of a U.S.-backed, Gulf-brokered deal after months of protests against his rule. The rebels have recently closed in on the southern port city of Aden where Hadi fled and is now based.

Hadi said a Security Council resolution should invite willing countries to immediately support Yemen’s legitimate government “by all means and measures, to protect Yemen and deter the Houthi aggression expected to occur at any hour from now against the city of Aden” and other cities in the south.

Military convoys are heading to attack Aden and the south, Hadi said, and Yemeni air force jets controlled by the Houthis are continuing to fly and bomb Aden “in a very alarming and dangerous” way.

Hadi also said Yemen’s missiles have been looted, and asked the Security Council “to control the missile capability looted from the legitimate authority or assign a neutral country to monitor it.”

He said all efforts at a peaceful settlement have been rejected by the Houthis whose goal is to control the country.

“The Yemeni people have never faced such heinous aggression,” he said. “The threats posed by the Houthis are not targeting the security of Yemen but the regional and international peace and security.”

The Houthis are members of the Shiite Zaydi community, which makes up around a third of Yemen’s population and is concentrated in the north. Their opponents view them as a proxy of Shiite Iran, charges the Houthis deny.

The turmoil has undermined Yemen’s ability to combat al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the target of a U.S. drone program, and the country now also faces a purported affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for a series of suicide bombings killing at least 137 people last Friday.

Hadi also asked the Security Council to help Yemen face al-Qaeda and Daesh, the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

TIME Environment

UN Report Warns of Serious Water Shortages Within 15 Years

INDIA-UN-ENVIRONMENT-WATER
Manjunath Kiran—AFP/Getty Images Residents in Bangalore wait to collect drinking water in plastic pots for their households on March 18, 2015.

If we continue on our current trajectory, warns the report, we'll only have 60% of the water we need in 2030

The world will only have 60% of the water it needs by 2030 without significant global policy change, according to a new report from the U.N.

While countries like India are rapidly depleting their groundwater, rainfall patterns around the world are becoming more unpredictable due to global warming, meaning there will be less water in reserves. Meanwhile, as the population increases, so does demand for potable water, snowballing to a massive problem for our waterways in 15 years’ time.

The report suggests several changes of course that nations can take, from increasing water prices to finding new ways of recycling waste water.

TIME Leaders

Pope Francis Will Speak at the U.N.

Pope Francis talks about importance of grandparents
Marco Campagna—Demotix/Corbis Pope Francis blesses the faithful, Vatican City, March 11, 2015.

The Pope will hold a town hall meeting with U.N. staff

Pope Francis will visit the U.N. in September during its annual gathering of world leaders.

The Pope will address the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 25, meet with U.N. leadership and participate in a town hall meeting with U.N. staff, according to a statement issued Wednesday by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s office.

“His Holiness Pope Francis’ visit will inspire the international community to redouble its efforts to achieve human dignity for all through ensuring greater social justice, tolerance and understanding among all of the world’s peoples,” the Secretary General’s statement says.

Pope Francis’ visit to the U.N. will come one day after he is scheduled to address Congress in Washington, D.C. He will be in the United States from Sept. 22-27.

TIME United Nations

U.N. to Reopen Probe Into 1961 Plane Crash That Killed Former Chief

Dag Hammarskjold
AP Dag Hammarskjold, former Secretary General of the United Nations, is seen in 1959.

Dag Hammarskjold died in a plane crash whose cause has yet to be determined decades later

The United Nations is reopening the case of a plane crash that killed former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961.

Hammarskjöld was on his way to what is now a part of Zambia to help broker peace between secessionist fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo and U.N. troops who were trying to stabilize the newly independent country, the New York Times reports.

A three-person, independent panel appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will have three months to investigate the evidence that has emerged since the U.N. first looked into the crash, according to a U.N. statement.

That evidence, the Times details, includes testimony from two U.S. intelligence officers stationed at listening posts hundreds of miles apart and who claimed they heard what sounded like the plane getting shot down; one recalled hearing “The Americans shot down the U.N. plane.”

The panel—made up of a jurist from Tanzania, a ballistics expert from Denmark and an aviation expert from Australia—is expected to submit a report to the Secretary-General no later than June 30.

TIME climate change

Global Carbon Emissions Flatlined in 2014 Even as Economy Grew

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Hans-Peter Merten—Getty Images coal power plant at dusk

In an encouraging sign, levels of the leading greenhouse gas were unchanged in 2014

Global carbon emissions did not increase in 2014, marking the first time on record that carbon levels have not grown without a concurrent decline in global demand.

Carbon dioxide emissions last year remained at 32.3 billion metric tons, the same as a year earlier, even as the global economy grew by 3 percent, according to a news release by the International Energy Agency (IEA) published Friday. Since the IEA began tracking carbon dioxide emissions 40 years ago, the rise has been halted or reversed only three times: in the early 1980s amid the oil price shock, in 1992 in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and in 2009 during the global financial crisis.

“This gives me even more hope that humankind will be able to work together to combat climate change, the most important threat facing us today,” Fatih Birol, the chief economist and next executive director of the IEA, said in a statement.

The IAE attributed part of the halt in emissions growth to China, the world’s largest carbon polluter, where the growing use of renewable sources like hydropower and solar energy have helped reduce the country’s reliance on coal. In a deal with the United States in November, China pledged to stop emission growth by 2030.

The news is an encouraging sign for the global effort to combat climate change ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris at the end of this year, which aims to establish a global pact on emissions.

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