UN End of Term Blogpost

Time flies, and Michaelmas Term has already come to an end! Hopefully, you have had a fruitful term and will find time for rest and fun over the break. In this blog post, I will briefly discuss the general successes and failures of the United Nations, and end off with informing readers of internship opportunities in the UN.

Some people are sceptical of the effectiveness of UN as they UN had failed in various missions: the 1994 Assistance Mission for Rwanda where the UN knew about the planned genocide of the Tutsi minority by the Hutus majority, but still failed to prevent the rampage of nearly a million; the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 where over 8000 Bosnian Muslims were killed in the town that was declared a safe zone; and most recently, failing to execute the seven-day ceasefire resolution in Syria’s besieged eastern Aleppo, hence failing to provide humanitarian aid to the people trapped there. Others criticize the effectiveness of the organisation due to the veto power of the Permanent 5 in the Security Council, since it is difficult for the five nations to come to consensus over many issues due to their own interests.

Indeed, the UN has failed in many instances and ways, however, UN definitely has had successes and positive influences as well. As Secretary-General of the UN Ban Ki-Moon said in a General Assembly debate on maintaining international peace and security in October 2015, “In many respects, the world is shifting beneath our feet. Yet the Charter remains a firm foundation for shared progress.” Since the 1990s, many conflicts have been brought to an end either through UN mediation or the action of third parties acting with UN support, such as the success in Sierra Leone, where the combatants of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and Civil Defence Force (CDF) were disarmed within a year, and where free and fair elections were facilitated in 2002. Research credits UN peace making, peacekeeping and conflict prevention activities as a major factor behind a 40-per cent decline in conflict around the world since the 1990s. Furthermore, since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the UN has enacted many legally binding agreements on political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights, and UN human rights bodies have focused world attention on violations such as torture, hence generating international pressure on governments to improve human rights records.

Apart from the various missions that the UN is more known for, an integral part of their existence involves tackling complex world problems everywhere with viable policies and solutions. Although the UN does have some shortfalls, it is no doubt worthwhile to consider being part of the organisation that works hard towards ending conflict, alleviating poverty, promoting economic development, combating climate change, defending human rights, and so on. Are you interested in diplomacy and public policy? If your answer is not a firm ‘no’, why not consider interning at the UN?

The deadlines for the several openings of internship positions are all around February next year in 2017, so this Christmas break is a good time to start thinking about applying for an internship in the UN. During the internship panel ‘Let’s talk about Internships’ earlier in the Michaelmas Term, previous UN interns gave some insights as to what interning at the UN is like. Internship is unpaid for, but Leonor (a 1st Year MSc Human Rights student, who went through a 6-month internship in Department of Public Information in the New York HQ) said that “it is a privilege to be able to have that experience without getting paid”. The LSE MUN Director Ralph Chow (a 2nd Year Bsc Economics student from LSE, who had a 3-months internship in UN-Habitat in the New York HQ) said he had “the best time” there, and gave some advice – “the most important thing (to secure an internship with the UN) would be to show you can work in a challenging environment; and with different people, settings and cultures”.

It is possible to intern with other United Nations funds and programmes as well, such as the UN Development Porgramme, the UN Children’s Fund, and so much more! Do consider applying for a UN internship, and check out the link below for more details. https://careers.un.org/lbw/home.aspx?viewtype=ip

Author: Natasha Teh

UN Presence in Lebanon

Growing up in London, the UN was never of much concern or interest; they were at best, some fabled organisation that simply ‘solved the world’s problems’. The return to Lebanon later on in my life somewhat complicated this rather stark definition.

Many of the family and friends that I know in Lebanon live in the Southern part of the country, Tyre/Sur, close to the border of Israel and one of the most active locations for Hezbollah supporters. It is also a part of Lebanon where UN presence is the most prevalent, the sight of their blue cobalt berets and UN tanks rolling through the streets a common occurrence.

Having arrived in the country in 1978, the UN were part of the country’s defence against the Israeli invasion and since then have been witness to revolutions, State dissolution, further conflict with Israel IDF forces and now, the Syrian/Palestinian refugee crisis.

Whilst the UN had been key in the continued resistance against Israeli forces, the mood toward the organisation has shifted in recent years and there is definitely a taste of bitterness in the mouths of locals when speaking of the once revered peacekeepers.

After the 2006 war with Israel, Kofi Annan visited the country in an effort to solidify the positive image of the UN within the country. Annan was met with protests by the angry residents of Beirut's devastated southern suburbs, frustrated at the UN's passivity in the face of the destruction wreaked by the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah. The situation and feeling toward the UN since then has worsened still.

According to UNHCR figures, Lebanon receives over 2,000 Syrian and Palestinian refugees everyday, most of the camps populating the Southern areas of the country. The largest of these camps Ain al-Hilweh, shelters 61,000 Palestinian refugees.

Recently, the UN have come under fire for sustaining such an expansive camp; the locals becoming fearful of the growing numbers of refugees that live so close to the residential areas. This hasn’t been helped by the reports of Islamic Republic terrorists finding refuge within its walls. As part of an agreement overseen by the UN between Palestinian leadership and the Lebanese government, the Lebanese army cannot exercise control within the camps and are relegated to manning the checkpoints at its entrance, this has left opportunity for different factions within the camp to battle over control, often with deadly consequences.

This is a situation that does not have easy answers for the government nor the UN who seek to maintain some kind of order within the disarray of war and crises, however there is a growing concern amongst the Lebanese that the UN are at best passive observers of the growing dissention in the country and at worst, as one Beirut resident described: “an instrument in the hands of the Americans."

Author: Victoria Basma

Who is The Next UN Secretary General?

For those who have been keeping up with recent developments in and of the UN, you will know that it has elected a new secretary general: António Guterres (for those who don’t, now you know). He is due to succeed Ban Ki-moon, who came to hold a speech earlier in the year at the LSE, at the end of this year. Some of you may ask what exactly the UN Secretary General is and does – well, as head of the United Nations Secretariat, he is essentially the spokesperson and leader of the United Nations. As such he is also chief administrative officer of the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council and the Trusteeship Council. If all of that means nothing to you, he basically is head on all of these important councils and has many other responsibilities across the UN. One of the other major tasks this role entails is the annual report to the General Assembly about the workings of the UN.

As representative of the UN, this role obviously needs to be filled with someone that has excellent diplomatic and personal skills, someone who is able to maintain support of the UN’s member states and liaise between them effectively. Furthermore, it is extremely important that this person maintains unbiased as to his (or her) state of origin. It is the General Assembly which has the great responsibility of appointing the Secretary General, and it does this upon recommendation of the Security Council. Usually terms are five years long and so far no person appointed has held the position for longer than two terms. Interesting about last year’s appointment have been the UN’s efforts to make the process more transparent – so they asked member states to nominate candidates.

Now as we are nearing the end of 2016, the ex-Prime Minister of Portugal, António Guterres is probably already preparing to take over from Ban Ki-moon. A humanist at heart, he decided as a student volunteer, that through politics he would be able to make a change and alleviate suffering. Even further, he believes that it is the centre of the UN system that is the best place to address this cause. At the time of his appointment, there was some disappointment as some were hoping for it to be a woman; however, António Guterres has vowed to appoint half of the senior positions to women, so there is hope for some more equality within the UN. His dedication to improving the conditions of people in crisis, manage climate change and conflict prevention and resolution are probably some of the reasons the General Assembly appointed him. With his diplomatic skills, we hope that he will be able to implement the policies and long-term goals.
If you are interested, here is a link to the visionary statement he held at the informal dialogue for the position earlier in April: http://webtv.un.org/…/antónio-guterres-portug…/4842691309001

Author: Nahid Ansari