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UN to strengthen peacekeeping efforts amid rising demand, says Ban

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the Institute of International and European Affairs at Dublin Castle, Ireland

7 July 2009 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today highlighted a new effort to strengthen United Nations peacekeeping at a time when the demand for the Organization’s services is at an all-time high and the global economic crisis threatens to further limit its ability to respond effectively.In an address at Ireland’s Dublin Castle, Mr. Ban noted that the UN is the only body that can deploy comprehensive peace operations integrating military, police and civilian components.

There are currently 16 peacekeeping operations and 27 special political missions deployed around the globe, supported by 78,000 military personnel, more than 11,000 police and more than 23,000 civilian staff, he said.

At the same time, he noted that peacekeeping has experienced serious setbacks. “Today we face mounting difficulties in getting enough troops, the right equipment and adequate logistical support,” he said. “Supply has not kept pace with demand.”

He added that the global economic crisis could further limit the Organization’s ability to respond effectively, and that a number of missions struggle to operate amidst stalled peace processes and ongoing violence.

“These gaps and constraints should concern all of us,” he stated, noting that they have led the UN to undertake what it is calling a “new horizon” process for peacekeeping. “We want our efforts to be more cohesive. And we want a renewed consensus on the direction peacekeeping should take.”

The UN Departments for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and for Field Support (DFS) have been working on the New Horizon initiative, which focuses on critical peacekeeping tasks and functions that require a renewed consensus; measures to improve mission design, resourcing and deployment; proposals on assessing and building the capacities needed for future peacekeeping; and a strategy to create a stronger, more flexible support system.

“The objective is to arrive at a set of achievable immediate-, medium- and long-term goals to help configure UN peacekeeping to better meet today’s and tomorrow’s challenges,” UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said last week, as he outlined the initiative to the Security Council.

The Secretary-General, who is on his first official visit to Ireland, praised the country’s “dynamic presence” at the UN, including its contributions to peacekeeping for more than half a century.

Today, there are nearly 500 Irish men and women serving with UN operations in the Middle East and Africa, he noted. In addition, 90 of the country’s citizens have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving the world body.

Ireland has also participated in military and civilian missions of the European Union, which is present together with the UN in many situations to help maintain peace and security.

Mr. Ban said this kind of solidarity is more important than ever today amid multiple crises – food, fuel, flu and financial. “These are times of trial. We are living through an era like no other,” he stated.

The Secretary-General also met today with Irish President Mary McAleese and Prime Minister Brian Cowen, with whom he discussed Ireland’s contributions to UN peacekeeping efforts, as well as development aid, the fight against hunger and public health.

In addition, he met with members of the Joint Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament, stressing to them the important role played by parliamentarians in addressing some of today’s toughest challenges.

“Through your legislative power, you can give domestic meaning to international standards and agreements. Through your power of the purse, you can put resources behind global causes. And through your deliberations, you can set an example of dialogue, democracy and the peaceful resolution of differences,” he stated.

After concluding his trip to Ireland, Mr. Ban will head to L’Aquila, Italy, to meet with leaders attending the summit of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=31383&Cr=Secretary-general&Cr1=peacekeeping

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Proposed climate change measures insufficient, Ban tells major economies

UN agencies urge action by G8 leaders to support world’s hungry

UN to strengthen peacekeeping efforts amid rising demand, says Ban

Economic and food crises threaten recent development gains – UN report

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Ban Ki-moon urges G8 to act on food crisis

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http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/2009/06/reducing_secrecy.html

In an effort to identify some of those conditions, I wrote a paper entitled “Reducing Government Secrecy: Finding What Works” (pdf). It has just been published in the Yale Law and Policy Review, volume 27, no. 2, Spring 2009.

[Excerpt From – ]

Reducing Government Secrecy: Finding What Works

Although people have been complaining about abuse of the national security classification system for decades, such complaints have rarely been translated into real policy changes.

More than half a century ago, a Defense Department advisory committee warned that “Overclassification has reached serious proportions.”  But despite innumerable attempts at corrective action over the years by official commissions, legislators, public interest groups and others, similar or identical complaints echo today.  What is even more interesting and instructive, however, is that a few of those attempts did not fail.  Instead, they led to specific, identifiable reductions in official secrecy, at least on a limited scale.

For example, the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP) that was created in 1995 has consistently overturned the classification of information in the majority of documents presented for its review.  And the Fundamental Classification Policy Review that was performed by the Department of Energy in 1995 eliminated dozens of obsolete classification categories following a detailed review of agency classification guides.  These and just a few other exceptional efforts demonstrate that even deeply entrenched secrecy practices can be overcome under certain conditions.

In an effort to identify some of those conditions, I wrote a paper entitled “Reducing Government Secrecy: Finding What Works” (pdf). It has just been published in the Yale Law and Policy Review, volume 27, no. 2, Spring 2009.

Among other things, the experience of the ISCAP underscores the importance of extending declassification authority beyond the agency that imposed the classification in the first place.

[Etc.]

http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/2009/06/reducing_secrecy.html

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http://www.fas.org/sgp/eprint/aftergood.pdf

Reducing Government Secrecy: Finding What Works
Steven Aftergood*
Introduction
Sunlight is the best disinfectant, Justice Brandeis famously declared, praising
publicity as a remedy for corruption.1 But sunlight is more than that; it is an
indispensable precondition of life. And to extend the Brandeis metaphor,
sunlight in the form of robust public access to government information is essential to the vitality of democratic governance, even in the absence of corruption. Our political institutions cannot function properly without it.

[ . . . ]

Ensuring appropriate public access to government information, while establishing proper boundaries around the exercise of official secrecy, has proved to be an elusive goal. The expansive secrecy practices of recent years appear to have enhanced the case for a new approach by illustrating the unintentional costs of secrecy, as well as its corrosive effects on government performance and public confidence.

For example, as former Justice Department official Jack L. Goldsmith told Congress: “There’s no doubt that the extreme secrecy [associated with the Bush Administration’s Terrorist Surveillance Program] . . . led to a lot of mistakes.”2 More prosaically, even agency telephone directories have been removed from public access, along with numerous other categories of useful and formerly public information.3

Not only civil libertarians and public interest activists, but also defense and intelligence officials, now say that secrecy has gone too far and must be restrained. In particular, the classification system that restricts access to government information on national security grounds clearly is not serving its intended purpose. It has become an unwarranted obstacle to information sharing inside and outside the government, to the detriment of public policy.

[ etc. ]

On the other hand, despite the fairly dismal record of the past fifty years, a
small number of secrecy reform initiatives have yielded measurable differences in official secrecy policy, reducing the scope of classification activity, and increasing the pace of declassification. Why did those isolated efforts succeed? Can they be distinguished from the other well-intentioned initiatives that ultimately failed? Do they hold lessons for today’s potential reformers? This Essay seeks to identify the salient characteristics of successful secrecy reform programs in order to explain their successes and to inform future reform efforts.

[Lots more including examples of what has worked – ]

http://www.fas.org/sgp/eprint/aftergood.pdf

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[and]

. U.S. Atomic Energy Comm’n, Medical Experiments on Humans 1 (1947),available at http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/doe/aec1947.pdf

Over the past fifty years, generations of critics have risen to attack, bemoan,
lampoon, and correct the excesses of government secrecy. Only rarely have they had a measurable and constructive impact.
The 1956 Coolidge Committee, led by Assistant Secretary of Defense
Charles Coolidge, identified widespread overclassification that it attributed to
vague classification standards and lack of any associated accountability or punishment. The Coolidge Committee recommended the creation of a Director for Declassification within the Office of the Secretary of Defense and a reduction in the number of authorized classifiers.17 There is no record that these suggestions were ever adopted.
The 1970 Defense Science Board Task Force on Secrecy concluded that the
amount of scientific and technical information that is classified “could profitably be decreased perhaps as much as 90 percent . . . .”18 The Task Force recommended a maximum classification lifetime of five years for most scientific and technical information and declassification of most currently classified technical information within two years.19 These recommendations were ignored.

[Etc.]

http://www.fas.org/sgp/eprint/aftergood.pdf

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[ And – a mention of the FOIA – from the same writing above which very clearly explains the problem – ]

Of course, not even the briefest account of secrecy reform’s history could
fail to mention the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which gave legal force to public requests for government information. The Act mandated the release of classified information upon request unless it was “properly classified.”30 FOIA has been used successfully over the years to challenge the classification of particular records and to dislodge mountains of government documents (classified and unclassified) that would otherwise not have been released. But at its best, FOIA only facilitates access to specific records; it does not and cannot alter the practices and procedures that make them inaccessible in the first place. Thus, indispensable as it was and remains, FOIA did not provide an effective remedy for the excesses of government secrecy that were identified by the various secrecy reform efforts that preceded and followed the Act’s passage in 1966.

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The White House has announced an online process for receiving public comments and recommendations for changes to classification and declassification policies.  Discussion of declassification policy begins today here.

**

http://www.whitehouse.gov/open/blog/

online process for receiving public comments and recommendations for changes to classification and declassification policies.]

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Economic and food crises threaten recent development gains – UN report

6 July 2009 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on rich and poor nations to boost efforts to fight poverty and hunger after a new United Nations report shows that recent advances are being threatened by the global economic and food crises.The report, launched today in Geneva by Mr. Ban, warns that, despite many successes, overall progress has been too slow for most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the globally agreed targets to halve poverty, hunger and a host of other social and economic ills – to be achieved by the target date of 2015.

“This year’s Millennium Development Goals Report delivers a message that should not surprise us but which we must take to heart: the current economic environment makes achieving the goals even more difficult,” Mr. Ban told the high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

The Secretary-General noted that higher food prices in 2008 have reversed the nearly two-decade trend in reducing hunger. In addition, momentum to reduce overall poverty in the developing world is slowing; tens of millions of people have been pushed into joblessness and greater vulnerability; and some countries stand to miss their poverty reduction goals.

Further, the target for eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005 has already been missed, he noted. Meanwhile, 1.4 billion people must gain access to improved sanitation by 2015 in order to achieve the sanitation target.

“We have been moving too slowly to meet our goals,” said Mr. Ban. “Yet the report also shows that when we have the right policies, backed by adequate funding and strong political commitment, actions can yield impressive results.”

The new publication, based on data from over 20 organizations both within and outside the UN system, is considered the most comprehensive global MDG assessment to date. It finds, among other things, that the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day decreased from 1.8 billion to 1.4 billion in the period from 1990 to 2005.

However, major gains in the fight against extreme poverty are likely to stall, indicators show, although data are not yet available to reveal the full impact of the recent economic downturn. In 2009, an estimated 55 million to 90 million more people will be living in extreme poverty than anticipated before the crisis.

At the same time, the Secretary-General noted that the report does show some progress. Fewer people today are dying of AIDS and many countries are implementing proven strategies to combat malaria and measles, two major killers of children.

“We are edging closer to universal primary education. We are well on our way to meeting the safe drinking water target,” he said. “We can and must build on these foundations.

“In Africa and across the developing world, we have abundant evidence that aid can help transform lives. But delays in delivering aid, combined with the financial crisis and climate change, are slowing progress,” he stated.

Mr. Ban recalled that the Group of Eight (G8) and Group of 20 (G20) nations have made specific commitments to increase financial and technical support to developing countries by 2010 to achieve the MDGs.

“Those commitments include raising annual aid flows to Africa, yet aid remains at least $20 billion below the Gleneagles targets,” he noted. “I urge the G8 to set out, country by country, how donors will scale up aid to Africa over the next year.”

The Secretary-General also urged donor countries to meet existing pledges on aid for trade, a crucial component in improving trade competitiveness of developing country producers and exporters.

Speaking at the World Trade Organization (WTO) Second Global Review on Aid for Trade, also in Geneva, he noted that the aid for trade initiative has made good progress in the three years since its launch. The April G20 Summit pledge of $250 billion for trade financing could lead to a significant increase in the $25 billion that aid for trade received in 2007.

However, the global financial and economic crisis has had a severe impact on demand, and it is now widely predicted that global trade will decline by 10 per cent this year, he added. “Unless the direction of the crisis is reversed soon, it will further unravel the progress that developing countries have made over the past two decades in reducing poverty.”

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=31369&Cr=mdg&Cr1=

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AIG Seeks Clearance to Release Bonuses

American International Group Inc. is asking the Obama administration’s new compensation czar whether it should pay previously agreed-to retention bonuses, including about $235 million pending for employees at the insurer’s controversial financial products unit, according to people familiar with the matter.

AIG asked Kenneth Feinberg to weigh in on the bonuses after the last round of multimillion dollar payments in March sparked an outpouring of public frustration amid the financial crisis. Before Mr. Feinberg was appointed, AIG had pledged to try to reduce the overall payments for this year’s performance to a few hundred employees at the financial products unit by 30%.

It had also delayed a much smaller set of payments to 40 high-ranking AIG officials that it is set to begin paying next week — payments for 2008 performance. Mr. Feinberg is expected to issue a decision on the 2008 payments although his primary job with regard to AIG will be to deal with compensation issues going forward, including whether to allow the company to pay bonuses slated for 2009.

[Etc.]

The pending $235 million in retention bonuses at AIG’s financial products unit, whose woes were largely responsible for forcing AIG to the brink of bankruptcy court last year, are part of roughly $450 million in retention bonuses for that unit that AIG has previously disclosed. AIG agreed in early 2008 to make those payments, months before it received a government bailout. The first installment of those payments was made late last year, after the bailout.

The second installment came due in March, and it was the preparations to make those payments that set off the prior controversy. The next installment of payments to the financial products unit employees is not due to be paid for months. AIG has argued that it is obligated to make these payments, and that keeping employees in their jobs is crucial to avoiding additional losses on trades that the unit still has in place and is trying to wind down.

The government has said it stepped in to rescue AIG because it feared a collapse of the company could damage the broader financial system. In the bailout, the government has made up to $173 billion in aid available to AIG.

[ . . . ]

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124718910241620823.html

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A.I.G. Seeks U.S. Support For Bonuses

Published: July 10, 2009
Seeking to avoid the public furor that erupted last spring, the American International Group has been quietly seeking approval from the new federal compensation czar to pay a total of $2.4 million dollars in bonuses to dozens of its senior executives.

Officials at the embattled insurance company, which has received more than $170 billion in taxpayer money, have sought meetings with Kenneth Feinberg, the pay czar, to review the payments for 40 of its highest ranking employees, according to individuals briefed on the matter.

[ . . . ]

A.I.G. has sought his advice in determining compensation for employees in its Financial Products unit, whose trading of high-octane derivatives brought the company to its knees. It is also seeking advice on the retention bonus program it put in place last fall.

A.I.G. officials have struggled to balance the need to retain executives and traders who can unwind its trading positions and sell its businesses against the public’s outrage that those employees would be paid bonuses at all. In the spring, lawmakers erupted after learning that A.I.G. planned to pay more than $165 million to executives in that unit, an amount that was reduced when some were pressured to give the money back.

Ever since, the insurance company, which is nearly 80 percent owned by the government, has been treading a fine line. And it is not the only financial company to seek advice.

[etc.]

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[Important option pursued by the G8 members at the L’Aquila Summit]

ANNEX 2: The Agenda of Heiligendamm – L’Aquila Process (HAP)

9 July:

Declarations:

The Agenda of the HEILIGENDAMM – L’AQUILA PROCESS (HAP)
1. Priorities for the future
Brazil, Canada, the People’s Republic of China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the European Commission, hereafter referred to as “the Partners”, agree to continue their dialogue as the Heiligendamm – L’Aquila Process (HAP) for two years.

They will review progress at the end of the first year on the basis of a substantive report to Leaders for guidance at the Summit in Muskoka in 2010. A concluding report will be presented at the French Summit in 2011.

This Process, which is a policy dialogue aiming at strengthening mutual understanding in the spirit of the work already undertaken, will focus on areas of common interest to the Partners, be forward-looking and produce tangible results. It will also remain sufficiently flexible to respond to major challenges and help shape the future. This process will complement and add value to the work in international organizations and other fora and facilitate the search for common positions therein.
The HAP Steering Committee will have the flexibility to take up pressing global challenges. The aim is to address emerging and/or cross-cutting issues which have an impact on global development efforts or on which potential for meaningful collective progress is foreseen. The next meeting of the Steering Committee will decide how best to organize and structure the work within the broad areas.
Possible themes:
– Freedom of investment to mutual benefit.
– The role of innovation and technology in the process of sustainable and socio-economic development.


– A strategic approach to development and its social dimension.

– Assistance to vulnerable states.


– Food security and reform of relevant organisations.
– Energy.
– Other possible issues to be decided by the Steering Committee. Some indications of interest have already been expressed.



2. The new governance structure and organization of work

The HAP Steering Committee will be co-chaired by a G8 and a G5 partner country and its meetings will be held alternatively by a G8 and G5 partner country.

The Steering Committee will have the necessary latitude and flexibility to organize the needed actions to ensure the Process is results- oriented in the areas of common interest. Consequently, it will take the needed actions, such as maintaining, modifying, and ending existing working groups or creating new ones.

The Steering Committee can also decide to invite other countries and/or International Organizations to join the discussions of specific working groups, where appropriate, on a case-by-case basis. Partners recognize the positive work done by the HDP Support Unit and the OECD since 2007 and ask them to continue to support the Process in this new phase.

http://www.g8italia2009.it/static/G8_Allegato/06_Annex_2__Concept_Note_on_HAP,0.pdf

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My Note –