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Human trafficking is a global phenomenon asn in order to effectively fight against it, we must first have an accurate picture of where and how the transport and exploitation actually take place. Geography–both physical and political–plays a significant role in the modern day slave trade. Factors frome terrain characteristics to border patrols help determine trafficking routes by either facilitating or impeding the rapid, clandestine movement of people. Additionally, political, social and economic factors within a society or region can either ‘push’ or ‘pull’ victims into a situation of trafficking. The scale and complexities of human trafficking on a global level are too enormous to adequately address here. However, I’ll try to paint a general picture of current geographical trends. And for those who want more information, most of my research for this post came from the UN’s ‘Trafficking in Persons: Global Patterns’ report (published April 2006).

IMPORTANT TO NOTE when reading this information:
Due to its clandestine nature, statistics on human trafficking at any level are shaky at best. They tend to be either a)actual number of victims rescued or repatriated (always much lower than the total number of victims) or b) estimates of the total number of trafficked victims based on other factors (educated guesses).

As a recent UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) publication reports, "No country is immune, whether as a source, a distination or a transit point for victims of human trafficking." Under the UN’s system of trafficking research, all countries in the world are rated–‘very low’, ‘low’, ‘medium’, ‘high’, or ‘very high’–in three categories: ‘origin’, ‘transit point’ and ‘destination’. While each case of human trafficking has its own unique characteristics, nearly all follow the same geographic pattern. People are abducted or recreited in the country of origin, transferred through thransit regions and then exploited in the destination country. The UNODC database that records actual instances of trafficking lists 127 countries of origin and 137 countries where exploitation actually has taken place.

The countries which rank the highest in each of the three categories are as follows:

Countries of Origin: Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, China, Lithuania, Nigeria, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russia, Thailand and Ukraine.

Countries of Transit: Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Thailand

Countries of Destination: Belgium, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Thailand, Turkey and the United States.

A quick glance at these lists shows one glaring trend: human trafficking nearly always flows from poor countries to rich countries with transit points falling somewhere in the areas in-between. These poor-to-rich flows occur in similar patterns at the regional level as well, with the poorest regions acting as suppliers to satisfy demand in richer regions, facilitated by the transit regions in the middle.

Regional Breakdown

Africa is overwhelmingly a region of origin with most victims ending up in Western Europe. However, there are also some networks operating solely within Africa, transporting victims from one part of the continent to another. Western Africa is the most documented destination for victims from other parts of Africa. Demand is highest in Benin, Ghana and Morocco. Most reported  African victims originate in Nigeria.

Asia‘s figures seem somewhat misleading at first glance because the origin percentages are almost exactly equal to the destination percentages. The reason behind this trend is that most trafficking in Asia occurs within the region. The main countries of origin are China and Thailand (ranked ‘very high’), followed by Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philipines and Viet Nam (all ranked ‘high’). However, a smaller number of victims also come from the former Soviet Union. The main destination countries in the region are Thailand, Japan, Israel and Turkey (the latter two are both included in the UN’s subregion of ‘Western Asia and Turkey’). Southeast Asia is seen as a key transit point both in and out of the region.

Central and Southeastern Europe is reported as predominantly an origin region. Victims trafficked out of this region mainly end up in Western Europe. However, trafficking within the region is a serious  (and harder-to-trace) problem as well. Central and Southeastern Europe is also reported, although to a lesser extent, as a destination country, with most victims originating in the former Soviet Union. The region as a whole serves as one of the main transit points in the nearly all patterns of trafficking. At a country level, Albania, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Romania are ranked ‘very high’ as origin countries, followed by the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Poland and Slovakia (‘high’).

Western Europe is mainly a destination region. Most victims come from Central and Southeastern Europe; others come from the former Soviet Union, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. The main destination countries in this region are Belgium, Greece, Germany, Italy the Netherlands ( all ‘very high’).

The Former Soviet Union (or Commonwealth of Independent States) is almost entirely a region of origin with most victims ending up in Western Europe or North America. Belarus, Moldova, the Russian Federation and Ukraine rank highest according to the UN’s figures.

Latin American and the Caribbean is primarily an origin region as well. Most victims are taken to Western Europe and North America. In terms of specific countries, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Mexico all rank ‘very high’ as places of origin. Complex (yet inadequately-researched) intra-regional networks exist in Latin America as well, such as the one in and around the ‘Triple Frontera’ (‘Triple Border’) region where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet. A great article by freelance journalist, Oliver Balch, is available here.

North America is reported almost exclusively as a destination with victims reported to come from all main regions of origin.

Oceania is mainly a destination region. Victims mainly originate in Southeast Asia.

So that’s a short summary of how the UN classifies human trafficking geographically. The US State Department has its own system for ranking countries in terms of trafficking risk and publishes an annual report entitled the ‘Trafficking in Persons (TIP)’ report. Countries are placed into one of three tiers based on the "three P’s"–prevention, protection and prosecution (the 1st tier being the best, 3rd the worst). The most current version is available here. These reports can help provide insight into where and how trafficking is actually taking place. However, as with any government report, the reader must ask himself how that individual publication fits into the government’s larger political agenda. Some critics of the US TIP report have suggested that recent fluctuations in particular countries’ standings may be less a measure of their actual anti-trafficking efforts and more a representation of their current diplomatic status with the US government. I personally find the section entitled "Trafficking and Emerging Muslim Leadership" particularly revealing.

Placing politics aside though, I chose to focus on the UN’s figures because if we really stand a chance to combat human trafficking, it will require global cooperation of the kind the UN was created to foster.

NEXT POST IN THIS SERIES: What actions are currently being taken to combat human trafficking? Who are the main players? What strategies have enjoyed success/ fallen short thus far?


National newspapers have been full of anti-UN and especially anti-Kofi Annan editorials recently. Most have been written by people who don’t have even a minimal understanding of how the UN works. As a student of international relations, reading these absurd editorials makes me want to tear my hair out in clumps as I come across factual error after factual error, and alarmist statements galore.

The UN is corrupt! The UN steals our tax money! The MDGs are a way to impose communism on the world! The UN is eroding our sovereignty! The UN is stealing our national parks! Kofi Annan is an anti-Semite!

What a load of you-know-what.

Thankfully, some papers are still willing to print pro-UN (or at least balanced for pete’s sake!) editorials. Here’s a great one from the Christian Science Monitor. It almost makes up for the fact that the CSW printed an astonishingly ignorant anti-UN piece just before it.

Feeding the hungry and saving lives, the UN is a blessing

It provides the guiding vision, framework, and influence in implementing public policies for the global good.

By Salil Shetty


Every few years, the United Nations is declared dead. The reality,
however, is that I cannot remember when the UN has been more in the
center of the news and public debate. The need for the UN is felt the
most when there is a crisis that goes beyond national boundaries, and
you would all agree that we have had no shortage of those in recent
times, whether it is 9/11 or Iraq or the tsunami.

The facts are in. The UN has fed more than 100 million hungry people
in the past five years. It has saved millions of lives through its
response to deadly diseases such as AIDS and malaria. It averted a much
bigger humanitarian disaster after the 2005 Pakistani earthquake. It
works to ensure that women have contraceptives, healthcare and, most
important, dignity. It takes care of millions of refugees. It has
improved agriculture and food security. And it has boosted global
literacy levels.

Above all, the UN provides the guiding vision, framework, and peer
pressure in implementing public policies for the global good. Take the
Millennium Development Goals. The world is united around these eight
goals – to be achieved by 2015 – to combat poverty, disease,
illiteracy, and environmental degradation.

And then there is the much more difficult work the UN does to
protect and promote human rights and to improve governance and
democracies. UN peacekeeping forces are working in some of the most
difficult settings across the world, from Lebanon to Haiti. And don’t
forget what the UN has done to stop the proliferation of weapons of
mass destruction.

How much does all this cost? Less than $1.5 billion per year – less than the cost of the New York Police Department.

Let us not forget that the UN was built on the debris of two world
wars that took millions of lives in the first half of the 20th century.
The second half of the 20th century was not without problems, but we
have had far fewer conflicts. Consider this: There were 40 percent
fewer conflicts in the past decade alone, life expectancy has gone up
everywhere, diseases such as polio have virtually disappeared, and we
have more democratically elected governments than ever before. Has this
all happened because of the UN? Of course not. But the UN has played a
crucial role.

This has happened in spite of the fact that the UN has no real
power. The UN cannot tax, regulate, or arrest, and it has no army.

Nobody would suggest that the UN is perfect. But we have to remember
that the UN is a club, and, like any club, it is as strong as its
members want it or allow it to be. As clubs go, it’s a pretty
attractive one. Every country in the world that could become a member
has become one.

If you ask indigenous people or the lowest caste groups, they would
say that without the UN and its human rights instruments, they would be
decimated. If you ask the people or leaders in poor countries, they
will tell you that despite all its imperfections, the UN is the only
international institution where they have at least some voice.

The need for the UN is only growing. Unilateralism is increasingly
recognized as a recipe for disaster. Global challenges need
multilateral global solutions.

Of course, there are many things that need to be fixed in the UN.
Citizens must be more directly represented by the UN. We cannot have
veto powers and permanent representation in the Security Council for
World War II victors. A lot of administrative reform is also required.
We have to stop the bullying and systematic undermining of the
proceedings in the UN by major powers and some minority outliers.
Discussions on radical reforms to the UN are at an advanced stage. This
is the time for all those who believe in multilateralism and the role
of a democratized UN at the center of it to support this process.

Salil Shetty directs the UN Millennium Campaign.

The Better World Campaign has the transcript and video.

Here’s a snippet:

You Americans did so much, in the last century, to build an effective multilateral system, with the United Nations at its heart. Do you need it less today, and does it need you less, than 60 years ago?

Surely not. More than ever today Americans, like the rest of humanity, need a functioning global system through which the world’s peoples can face global challenges together. And in order to function, the system still cries out for far-sighted American leadership, in the Truman tradition.

I hope and pray that the American leaders of today, and tomorrow, will provide it.

So do I.

UN Dispatch has a great post about an article on UN peacekeeping written by (of all people) Peter Beinart in (of all publications) The New Republic. I checked the article out, and, while I may not have a great personal impression of Beinart  (he did something nasty at a function I helped organize in DC this year), he makes excellent points, and emphasizes, as too few American writers do, how much good the UN actually does.

From UN Dispatch:

He hits all the main points. As a result of Iraq, says Beinart, Americans may have a declining appetite for ambitious nation building projects. However, the United Nations is poised to fill that gap. As Beinart notes, the UN has a capacity to oversee complex nation/peace building operations that is unparalleled by any government on its own; long serving expert staff in areas as diverse as justice sector development and election management makes the UN uniquely suited to take on these tasks in societies emerging from conflict.

Peacekeepers are the core of these kinds of operations. And perhaps the one point that Beinart could have emphasized more forcefully is the gap between the demand for peacekeepers worldwide and the financial resources available to the United Nations to oversee their deployment. The Department of Peace Keeping Operations is forced to maintain the current level of peacekeepers around the world and prepare for new
missions without ever experiencing an increase in its budget commensurate to the new operations the Security Council authorizes.

Complicating matters is that the single largest financial donor to peacekeeping operations, the United States, is constantly in arrears. The United States has agreed to pay 27% of the costs of peacekeepers around the globe, but it never makes that amount in full. For FY 2007, it is estimated that the United States will be close to $400 million in arrears.

These backlogs come at a time when the United States is increasingly looking to peacekeeping operations for world conflict zones. For example, just yesterday Ambassador Bolton raised the prospect of a UN peacekeeping mission in Somalia. People can debate the merits of sending blue helmets to Somalia (for the record, the prominent NGO The International Crisis Group cautions against this approach) but if

peacekeepers for Somalia are approved, this would be the fourth mission the Security Council will have authorized since August. The Security Council already approved missions for Lebanon, Darfur, and East Timor, which if implemented in full would increase the number of blue helmets across the globe by 50%.

Financially supporting in full peacekeeping operations is critical. It is the only way that major powers, the United States included, can maximize the UN’s share of the burden of maintaining peace and security
throughout the globe.

In the recent discussion “How are the US and UN Working Together to Combat Terrorism” former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Senior Advisor of the United Nations Foundation, Gillian Sorensen, discussed the necessity of strengthening the relationship between the US and UN. It is unfathomable that a single nation can address issues, such as terrorism that occur on such as grandiose scale. In her brief hour at American University, she touched on topics such as counter-terrorism, security, root causes of terrorism, and the current Iraq war.

Sorensen, when referring to US policy on the Iraq war stated that now is
“a time for tough love.” She was critical on the political decisions made by the United States post 9/11, affirming that the overwhelming international sympathy that the US received after 9/11 dissipated quickly because of US reaction. She stated that it is no secret that the America’s decisions have a larger than life impact, and that in making these choices the US should recognize the immediate and future impact of its actions and language.

Sorensen, as a clear believer in the policies of the UN, offered a unique perspective from an organization that focuses on resolution by means other than strong military action. While the increased international isolation of the US was due to factors including the controversial pre-emptive strike decision, refusal to listen to weapons instructors, Sorensen believes that the language chosen by the US was also a root cause of this international detachment. The Bush administration is known for its catch phrases: “get the job done”; “mission accomplished”; “stay the course”, etc. In the disarray that ensued immediately following 9/11 phrases such as “axis of evil” and “rogue states” were tossed around in an un-diplomatic fashion. This language ostracized potential relationships with students and activists throughout the Middle East and throughout the world. According to Sorensen, although talk may sometimes appear unavailing, talk is one of the more diplomatic options all nations can capitalize on – “talk always has potential.”

Like many us, when asked what our next option is in resolving the Middle East conflict, Sorensen slightly bowed her head and discussed a phased withdrawal. This is a “tragic mess of our own making” she said.

*The discussion “How are the US and UN Working Together to Combat Terrorism” took at American University’s Hughes Hall, in Washington, DC. It was co-sponsored by The United Nations Association of the National Capital Area Young Professionals for International Cooperation, Americans for Informed Democracy, American University Foreign Policy Association and Young Professionals in International Affairs.

On October 26, 2006, the General Assembly Disarmament and International Committee of the United Nations, known as the First Committee, overwhelmingly voted to accept the principle of designing an Arms Trade Treaty. This vote represents good news for millions of innocent African innocent civilians, victims of easily accessible weapons such as the AK-47 Assault Rifle (caliber 7.62).

Media reports indicate that more than 75 wars of our times use AK-47 Assault Rifle, with 70 to 100 millions of AK-45 Assault Rifle available in the world. The AK-47 Assault Rifle fires quickly, intensively, and its bullets can go beyond 1 kilometer. It represents one of the most utilized types of weapons in African wars. It has been used for gory wars in Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Angola, Rwanda, Somalia, and Ethiopia-Eritrea to name few countries. None of the countries mentioned demonstrate the genius to fabricate AK-47. However their soldiers, rebels and militiamen are good at using those arms to massacre millions of innocent lives. Those countries lack means to feed their populations, but they design big military budgets and spend enormous sum of dollars for AK-47. In most cases AK-47 is exchanged against huge amount of money or good deals of diamond. Its top providers include Russia, USA, UK, France and Germanythat account for about 80% of global arms exports. Other providers include China, Brazil, India, Israel, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Pakistan. Though the African countries mentioned above are responsible for killing their own people, the major exporters of weapons should also acknowledge their contribution to the destruction of humankind in those poor countries by selling the killers’ arms.

Aware of the danger the small arms represent for international peace and global security, 139 world governments out of 164 voting, including France, Germany, and Britain voted in favor of the UN initiative or resolution towards an Arms Trade Treaty. The resolution engages the UN in setting up a group of government experts to design a legally binding document that draws the norms for the trade of conventional weapons. Unfortunately, the US voted against the treaty. Russia and China observed abstention.

By voting against the Treaty, the US failed to demonstrate leadership in acting against the proliferation of weapons. Such attitude seems to discredit the Bush Administration’s noble fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. If the nuclear weapons represent serious threats for human community, conventional weapons including small arms such as AK-47 all represent severe threats humankind. In Hiroshima, the first atomic bomb killed over 70,000 people. In the last 5 years during the recent war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, AK-47 killed more than 4 millions people. Coherence and honesty would require that any government that stands against the proliferation of nuclear weapon must also stand against the anarchic circulation of small weapons. Where coherence and honesty are absent, human compassion should supplement and intervene for the sake of humankind.

The international community should welcome the great move to work to support all efforts towards a fair Arms Trade Treaty that is conducive to controlling the global circulation of all types of weapons. On this matter, the current fragile context of international relations request that real-politick and business face the challenge to integrate core moral values and compassion for international peace and global security.

Jacques KOKO, Senior Political Analyst -Americans for Informed Democracy

Below is a post from AID leader Zeeshan Suhail… it was originally published in a column he writes for a Pakistani newspaper:

New York Diary : The rights of the self-righteous


Last week was apparently a very ordinary week in the life of the United Nations (UN). Resolutions were being passed, debates being held over issues of global importance and diplomats communicating back and forth with their superiors in their respective countries. But the most amazing phenomenon was taking place in the US itself, where the champion of human rights and the custodian of democratic traditions shied away from playing a role that was expected of it in the international arena. The US first voted against a UN resolution that called for the establishment of the new Human Rights Council, in virtual isolation in the world body, and then announced that it would not contest elections for the membership of that Council. Old habits die hard.The newly established Human Rights Council will consist of 47 members and will make efforts to ensure global representation by allocating a certain number of seats to different regions of the world. Africa and Asia get 13 seats each, Latin America and the Caribbean get eight, Western nations get seven and Europe gets six. As soon as applications for membership were announced, several countries, including Pakistan, made official statements regarding their candidacy for positions. The enthusiasm for the membership of such a coveted body is understandable.

Unfortunately, the US went a step further and not only declined a leadership role, but also decided on not applying for membership. The announcement didn’t really come as a shock to many international affairs experts. Refusing to sign or ratify important documents has been a hallmark of US diplomacy. The most disappointing aspect of this scenario, though, is that the US will still continue to bully and harass this infant organization without providing the guidance and assistance that is so crucial at this point in its history. Instead of becoming a member of the Human Rights Council and playing a positive role in addressing human rights problems in the world today, the US chose to turn its back on the community and wait and see how the Council spent its first year. There were different viewpoints on the issue of the US involvement in the Council. Some politicians like Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, vehemently opposed the US participation in the Council and termed it “destined to fail”. He also asserted that “any US participation or financial support of the Council undermines our credibility as defenders of human rights around the world.” Wow. That is all that one could say.

On the flip side, many others supported the US affiliation with the Council, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar of Indiana. He maintained, “The US must remain engaged in the debate given the US history of support for human rights, and I urge the administration, having now voiced its frustration with the Council, to get on with the job of promoting human rights – a job that can best be achieved by seeking election to the new Council.” So much for Lugar’s hopes of seeing the US actively involved.

Voicing his disappointment at the US’s decision to not seek Council membership, Ambassador Bill Leurs, the President of the New York City-based United Nations Association of the USA stated, “This short-sighted decision contradicts the US government’s previously stated position that it ‘will work cooperatively with other member states to make the council as strong and effective as it can be.’ We are hard pressed to see how this can be achieved when the US has effectively given up its seat at the table.”

Ambassador Tim Wirth, President of the Washington, D.C.-based United Nations Foundation presented his comments, which are equally thought-provoking. “The notion that America can improve the new Council by refusing to participate in it contradicts both common sense and history. To many, today’s decision will be interpreted as a signal of US withdrawal from organized efforts by the international community to promote human rights. Engagement, not retreat, from international deliberations on human rights is the way to advance human dignity and stop oppression around the world.” One couldn’t have said it better.

My own views will probably come off as controversial, but then again, so is the US’s human rights record. From the outset, I was opposed to the US participation in the Council because of its blatant human rights violations all over the world, particularly at Guantanamo Bay and the prisons it operates internationally. How could a country lead or even participate in a forum where human rights were discussed, when its own record was so blotched and tarnished? My conscience didn’t permit that the US have a voice, let alone leadership role, in an august assemblage of states like that of the Council.

This is a turning point in history that we are all witnessing — a time when the US has rationally decided not to have a voice in human rights discussions in a global arena. It is also a time when the US must decide how it will deal with its own policies, which are now increasingly being labelled as hypocritical. It might be the big kid on the block, but it isn’t the only kid on the block where the will of the international community ought to be accepted. This realization will take a while to settle in, but the faster the US understands this, the better off it will be in the future.

The writer is pursuing a Masters degree in International Relations at the City University of New York

This post is from Allynn Lodge.

Today, January 27th, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Yesterday, Americans for Informed Democracy was invited as guests of the Daniel Pearl Foundation to attend a panel discussion at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City in commemoration of this day. The panel featured Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, Ambassador Dan Gillerman, and Dr. Judea Pearl, Professor at the University of California Los Angeles and father of slain reporter for the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Pearl.

Although 60 years have passed since the Holocaust, names like Cambodia, Srebrenica, Rwanda, and Darfur remind us that genocide is still a dangerous part of our reality. A cruel species of hatred has persisted for a long time. Indeed, Dr. Pearl opened his speech by drawing a parallel between two hate-based murders that have marked his life. In 1942, he lost his grandparents in Auschwitz. 60 years later, at the hands of different people, with a different language, and a different purpose, Dr. Pearl lost his son. In a dungeon in Karachi, Pakistan, Danny Pearl looked into the face of evil and proclaimed his identity: I am Jewish.

Danny’s last words meant many things, Dr. Pearl suggested. “I am Jewish,” meant, “I come from a place where heritage is strength;” “I understand suffering;” “I respect Islam” “I am reminding you of the challenge of understanding others and of the shining dignity of being different.” His words, Danny’s words, resonated in the large auditorium, figuratively and literally.

After Danny’s death, Dr. Pearl founded the Daniel Pearl Foundation to promote cross-cultural understanding in celebration of Danny’s three passions: journalism, music, and dialogue. Dr. Pearl suggested that we can win the struggle between inclusively and exclusivity, between civilization and barbarity through education, vigilance, timely response, and dialogue.

Who cares? Who listens? Dr. Pearl asked somewhat rhetorically. Our ideas and words, he suggested, reach the ears of young generations who receive the message that threats of genocide are wrong; that hatred is not the norm.

Today, January 27th, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. But let tomorrow, the next day, the day after that, and so on be days of remembrance as well. May we keep our minds and mouths open. Keep the dialogue thriving. Let us respectfully remind each other, as Danny did, of the “challenge of understanding others and the shining dignity of being different.”


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