In the UN, Uzbekistan Gets a Pass on Human Rights As
Opposition to U.S. Grows and War's On in Somalia
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
UNITED NATIONS, November 20 -- On Friday evening, the
UN General Assembly moved to express concern and investigate Israel's bombing of
Gaza, by a vote of 156 in favor, 7 against and 6 abstaining. Afterwards, Inner
City Press interviewed the GA President, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalif.
"According to the [UN] Charter," she said, "we are the people of the world. We
must protect civilians."
Inner City Press asked
GA President to compare the processes of the GA and
Security Council. "This is democracy, you see," she said. "Nobody accepts
killing civilians for no reason. It is not fair."
On Monday morning, the GA's Third
Committee voted to quash a resolution expressing concern about the "Situation of
human rights in Uzbekistan," A/C.3/61/L.39. The vote was close, with 74
countries voting with Uzbekistan, 69 against, and 24 abstaining.
The UN's Special Rapporteur on torture
has found that in Uzbekistan "there is ample evidence that both police and other
security forces have been and are continuing to systematically practice torture,
in particular against dissidents or people who are opponents of the regime" of
Islam Karimov. Particularly vulnerable are participants or witnesses in the May
2005 Andijan demonstrations, ended by government crackdown.
The UN Secretary-General's recent
report on Uzbekistan
concerns over asylum seekers and refugees who fled Andijan and have been
detained or returned to Uzbekistan, including fears for the safety of five men
who were returned by Kyrgyz authorities in August. The Uzbek Government claimed
fewer than 200 people were killed in the unrest. However, more than 450 of the
Uzbek refugees subsequently provided testimony... Uzbek authorities called for
the closure of the UNHCR office in Uzbekistan earlier this year."
Monday when the results were
posted, showing victory for Uzbekistan's request for no action on its human
rights record, "there was applause among some delegations as the results
appeared on the electronic voting board," as described by the UN's
The 74 countries voting to quash any
further inquiry into Uzbekistan's human rights record include, for example,
Russia, China, South Africa, Morocco, Pakistan and India, which is the
beneficiary last week of a U.S. Senate vote for the nuclear sharing.
Following the vote, early Monday
afternoon Inner City Press asked U.S. Ambassador John Bolton to comment on the
Third Committee's vote against the U.S.-sponsored resolution on Uzbekistan. From
the U.S. Mission-prepared transcript:
Press: The Third Committee just voted down this morning the resolution on human
rights in Uzbekistan. Does the U.S. -- or do you have any comment on that not
Bolton: It's obviously a disappointment to us. I've been involved in the
Security Council all morning. I can't -- I don't know what the vote was, so --
The vote was 74 for Uzbekistan, 69 for
the U.S.-sponsored resolution, and 24 abstainers, including Brazil, Colombia,
Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and Somalia (this last
apparently referring to those in Baidoa, where the UN's Francois Lonseny Fall
held a meeting on Monday regarding which the UN spokesman had no read-out, hours
later, see below in this report for Somalia update.)
Those not voting at all on the Uzbekistan
resolution included Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Lebanon and Cote D'Ivoire, which
abstained from Friday's vote on Israel, in a move many called a return favor to
the U.S. for supporting Laurent Gbagbo during the recent Security Council
Uzbeks cut carrots, pixellated to remain anonymous
Friday by the Security Council Inner City
Press asked for a U.S. comment on the loss of American
Michael J. Matheson, one of 44 candidates for 34
seats on the UN International Law Commission. Inner City Press was told this was
not part of any larger trend of U.S. losses in the United Nations, but only the
product of their being other qualified European candidates. What struck many
observers in Friday's votes was the EU and even United Kingdom breaking from the
U.S. and voting for the resolution to investigate the bombing of Beit Hanoun. In
the Security Council resolution that the U.S. vetoed, the UK had abstained.
Has Uzbekistan benefited from
growing opposition to the United States? Separately, have some agencies in the
UN system working with the Karimov regime, for example
UNDP helping the regime collect taxes,
helped bring about Monday's result? Developing.
On Somalia, some updates were
provided in response to
Inner City Press' questions to the UN
Spokesman on Monday:
Press: In the reports from Somalia between Ethiopian troops and the Union of
Islamic Courts, can anyone in the United Nations system confirm, deny or speak
I'll see if I can get something from the Somali office.
Press: Has Lonseny Fall or any... I know he was supposed to be... (inaudible)
did not have an update on his activities today, but we'll try to get one.
Press: And also on the monitoring group report on Somalia. On Friday, I think
you said what countries had protested or issued demarches to the United Nations
about their being named in the report. Do you have that list?
had that list Friday afternoon and I've deleted it from my head. There were two
countries that came to see the Secretariat and I do know a number of other
countries have written to the Sanctions Committee. For that, you would have to
talk to the Security Council.
Press: Do we know what two countries?
That, I will find out. [The correspondent was later informed that, as of today,
the countries that had filed formal complaints to the UN Secretariat in reaction
to the Somalia report were Egypt, Iran and Syria.
It is unclear why
is not on this list. Later on Monday, the following arrived:
"We have no
independent confirmation of fighting between Somalia's Islamist fighters and
Ethiopian troops. FYI, the Ethiopian government has denied that any fighting
took place or that any Ethiopian troops were killed in Somalia by Islamists."
Now even Somalia's president
presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia. Developing.
UN Office: S-453A,
UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439
Reporter's mobile: 718-716-3540
At the UN, Cluster Bombs Unremembered, Uighurs
Disappeared and Jay-Z Returns with Water -- for Life
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
UNITED NATIONS, November 17 -- As in the
UN General Assembly speeches continued on Israel's bombing of Gaza, Israel's
Ambassador Dan Gillerman was asked by Inner City Press about his country's use
of cluster bombs. "I must confess I really don't know about that," Ambassador
Gillerman said. "I arrived very early this morning. I may have missed something
during my flight." Video
at Minute 12:41.
Inner City Press subsequently
asked Kofi Annan's spokesman if the UN's condemnation of cluster bombs, and
their use in South Lebanon earlier this year, had been conveyed to Israel. The
spokesman answered, "We have spoken out very
at Minute 14:50.
On the topic of the
power plant in Gaza,
which was destroyed by Israeli bombs and is insured by the U.S. Overseas Private
Insurance Corporation, Inner City Press asked Amb. Gillerman for an update.
at Minute 10:55. "We are in the process of building a high-pressure cable to
enable the residents of Gaza to have electricity," Amb. Gillerman replied.
Another correspondent muttered, "So that they can turn it on and off."
Inner City Press later asked the UN for an update, and received this in return:
would appear that temporary transformers from Egypt (replacing the destroyed
ones from Sweden) are in place , with power imported from Israel also assisting
to cover any outstanding gaps. This is a temporary measure."
The U.S. government's
OPIC's role in this should be pursued.
U.S. government's aid chief, Randall
Tobias, who visited Lebanon last month to check on U.S. aid work there, said
that "at the time I was there, the estimate was that we had removed or assisted
in the removal of about 50,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance."
After the bombing, where are the bombs?
Another traveling U.S. diplomat was in
the UN on Friday: Phil Reeker, previously a State Department spokesman and now
the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest. In the half-light
of the Security Council stakeout he recounted how the-Secretary of State Colin
Powell has once offered to "drop him off" by plane in Budapest while flying
elsewhere, an offer with Reeker declined.
Reeker's companion, who will remain
unnamed, pointed out that the day after the UN General Assembly's Third
Committee passed a resolution about naming-and-shaming countries on human
rights, the full GA spent the day debating Israel's bombing of Gaza. Inner City
Press subsequently put this question to the GA President's spokeswoman, who said
"there are ironies everywhere."
she pointed out that the full GA does not yet have to follow a resolution
approved in committee.
still, she forwarded an answer to Inner City Press' question if the GA's new
Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance"
applies to the U.S.'s extraordinary rendition flights, or to abductions by North
Korea. The answer, from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights'
Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, is that "extraordinary
rendition is not necessarily enforced disappearance. There are several elements
of the act that are required. The definition of enforced disappearance is
contained in the draft Convention, as well as the preamble to the GA Declaration
on Enforced Disappearance."
These provide that "enforced disappearance is
considered to be the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of
deprivation of liberty committed by agents of the State or by persons or groups
of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State,
followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by
concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place
such a person outside the protection of the law."
Significantly, the new Convention on Involuntary
Disappearances also provides that "no exceptional circumstances whatsoever,
whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any
other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for enforced
So --the definition of
involuntary disappearance appears to apply to abductions, extraordinary
rendition and to the fate of the
Chinese Uighur last seen in Kazakhstan,
described below in this report.
The Third Committee's passage of the
resolution against naming-and-shaming countries on their human rights records
was not the United States' only loss on Thursday. In elections of 34 members of
the UN International Law Commission, from only 44 candidates, the U.S. nominee
Michael J. Matheson lost out, while among the elected were representatives from
Cameroon and Sri Lanka and, from Nigeria, Bayo Ojo. The GA President will be
meeting with NGOs on Tuesday, her spokeswoman says.
Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's
spokesman for comment on the GA's Third Committee's passage of a resolution
against the naming-and-shaming of countries for their human rights records.
While declining to comment on the GA's work, the spokesman made reference to Mr.
Annan's earlier statements that the countries on the new Human Rights Council
should have their records reviewed. Inner City Press then asked if Mr. Annan or
anyone else in the UN system has spoken out about incidents in Mexico's Oaxaca
region -- Governor Ulises Ruiz's crackdown on APPO, the dead of journalist Brad
Will, etc. -- particularly given Mexico's role in the UN Human Rights Council.
Subsequently, the spokesman's office sent Inner City Press the following:
"The Special Rapporteur on Indigenous
Issues made a
on the situation last month. The High Commissioner for Human Rights Office in
Mexico is monitoring the situation and is in contact with the authorities. They
also issued a
condemning the violent acts in late October."
Speaking of speaking out, Jay-Z returned
to the United Nations on Thursday evening, and took questions from reporters in
the lobby of the UN prior to the premiere of
the MTV documentary "Water For Life."
As first done at the
August 8 press conference announcing
that this documentary would be filmed, Inner City Press on Thursday asked Jay-Z
for his views on the privatization of water systems in the developing world. On
August 8, Jay-Z called the question one of "bureaucracy."
Thursday he answered, "I don't know about
privatization. I was just in people's houses."
Inner City Press asked a follow-up
question, if the water in the houses he visited was provided by governments or
"They paid fifty cents a bucket for it,"
"Sounds like privatization to me,"
a correspondent muttered.
Upstairs in the Trusteeship
Council chamber, there were roped-off VIP rows. Journalists were herded to the
front, then told to go back, up to the video booths. The wireless worked fine,
as Anne Veneman of UNICEF thanked "Jay-Z and his staff," and mentioned his trip
to Angola. A reporter arranging a trip to Angola found that visas cost over
$200. Ms. Veneman called it the launch of UNDP's report on water, about which
reporters were briefed ten days ago. Click
Inner City Press' story on the report, including on UNDP's partnering with Shell
Oil and Coca-Cola.
Back on August 8,
when Jay-Z briefed reporters at the UN at his video's outset, he praised
Coca-Cola for providing ten "play pumps" to children in Africa. Coca-Cola is
under fire on at least two continents for pilfering communities' water resources
to profit from sugar-laden soda. Is humanitarianism being privatized as well?
"I don't know," was the seconded response.
The documentary will be shown on MTV-2 on
November 19, and on MTV itself on November 24. The footage of Angola is worth
Later on Thursday night, the
UN Mission of Kazakhstan threw a party, with a fashion show and an apparently
lip-synching trio of singers, at the New York Palace Hotel on Madison Avenue.
The models in the fashion show were, as usual, tall, and some were blonde (not
expected). The reception afterwards featured lamb chops and shrimp and the crowd
contained, among others, the Russian mission's press spokeswoman, Ambassadors of
Hungary and Azerbaijan, the teacher of the Kazakh Ambassador's daughter and, of
course, the Ambassador himself, Yerzhan Kazykhanov, one of the best hosts in the
UN. Afterwards many of the attendees loaded onto an Omega Express tour bus,
which a bodyguard said was headed "to Pennsylvania." Mysterious, but not as
troubling as the fate of the Chinese Uighur asylum seeker who disappeared in
Almaty on October 23, click
Nagorno-Karabakh President Disputes Fires and
Numbers, Oil and UN, in Exclusive Interview with Inner City Press - Video
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee, Correspondent at the UN
UNITED NATIONS, November 13 -- Of the so-called
frozen conflicts in the world, the one in the Nagorno-Karabakh region in
Azerbaijan, claimed by Armenia, heated up this Fall -- literally.
In August and September 2006, Azerbaijan
and Armenia traded volleys of draft resolutions in the UN General Assembly,
about a series of fires in the Nagorno-Karabakh region which on most maps is
Azerbaijan, but is not under Azeri control.
The subtext of the fight was
that Azerbaijan wants the dispute to be addressed in the
UN General Assembly,
while Armenia prefers the ten-year process before the Organization for Security
and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE. In the UN General Assembly these frozen
conflicts are often treated as footnotes, particularly to a
corps which covers the Security Council in the most minute detail, at the
expense of most other activities undertaken by the world body.
Last week Inner City Press sat down for
an interview with the president of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Arkady
Ghoukasyan, and asked him about the fires, about the UN and other matters. Click
for the video.
"The fires were provoked by Azerbaijan
firing," Mr. Ghoukasyan said. "They used special bullets that would ignite wheat
In the UN, "the countries of the Islamic
Conference are present and Azerbaijan is hoping to use their support," said Mr.
Ghoukasyan. He added that most countries in the UN know little of the Karabakh
conflict, so "Azerbaijan can try propaganda in the United Nations," in a way
that it can't with the OSCE "experts."
By contrast, the situation in
Abkhazia is routinely put on the UN Security Council agenda by Russia, with
representative of Georgia often excluded from the meetings and resorting to
sparsely-attended press conferences outside, most recently on
flag & correspondent
On Nagorno-Karabakh, UN observers see
Turkey backing Azerbaijan, while the NKR is represented, if one can call it
that, by Armenia. The interview, originally scheduled for a hotel across from UN
Headquarters, was moved six blocks south to the Armenian mission in a brownstone
on 36th Street, to a second-story room with the Nagorno-Karabakh flag on the
table. Through a translator, Mr. Ghoukasyan argued that no negotiations that do
not involve representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh can solve the problem. "The
prospects are diminishing, without Nagorno-Karabakh involvement, it's just
impossible to come to a resolution," he said.
Hot Words From Frozen Conflicts
Inner City Press asked Mr. Ghoukasyan to
compare Nagorno-Karabakh to certain other so-called frozen conflicts, two of
which are before the OSCE: Transnistria a/k/a Transdnestr, and South Ossetia,
where a referendum was held on November 12, the results of which no country in
the world recognized.
"We already had our referendum,"
Mr. Ghoukasyan said, "back in 1991. We would only hold another one if Azerbaijan
and the co-chairs of the OSCE group agreed in advance to recognize its results."
Mr. Ghoukasyan said he had come to the
U.S. less to build political support or to propose a referendum than to raise
funds for infrastructure projects in Nagorno-Karabakh, mostly from "different
circles of Armenians in the United States." He is on a whirlwind tour: "Detroit
Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and maybe Fresno, we are still finalizing
our West Coast program," he said. A highlight will be a telethon from Los
Angeles on November 23.
Speaking of funds, and of infrastructure,
Inner City Press asked about the impact of the Baku - Tbilisi - Ceyhan (BTC) oil
pipeline on the conflict.
"Azerbaijan is trying to get maximum
political dividends from fact of this pipeline," said Mr. Ghoukasyan. "Since the
West is interested in undisruptible oil, Azerbaijan tries to beef up their price
for this stability. This emboldens Azerbaijan, making it more aggressive and
less willing to come to agreement."
What would an agreement look like?
"In any resolution, we think that
Karabakh should have physical land connection with Armenia," said Mr. Ghoukasyan.
At a press conference about
the BTC pipeline earlier this year, the
Azeri Ambassador told Inner City Press that
twenty percent of Azerbaijan's territory has been occupied by Armenia.
On the disputed numbers of displaced
people, Mr. Ghoukasyan quipped, "I always suspected they are bad in
mathematics." He estimated it, "maximally," to be 13%, and put the number of
displaced Azeris at "only" 650,000, rather than the one million figure used by
Azerbaijan. Mr. Ghoukasyan admonished, "There is information in books."
And so to the library went Inner City
Press. Therein it is recounted that while "in 1989, the Armenian Supreme Council
made Nagorno-Karabakh a part of Armenia, this decision was effectively annulled
by NKR declaring its independence in 1991. Whether the decision to declare
independence was made cooperatively with Yerevan is not yet known."
The UN's role is dismissed: "with one
exception the UN never condemned the capture of Lachin, the strategic link
between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. The UN passed Security Council Resolutions
822, 853, 874 and 884... Each UN resolution reiterated the international body's
support for the OSCE Minsk Group process."
Going back, some pundits blame the
conflict on Stalin: "he took a part of Armenia and gave it to Azerbaijan, and
now so many people are dying while trying to correct his foolish mistake. Now
redefining the borders is as painful as cutting someone's flesh when that person
Fast forward to 1977, when the
Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast's first secretary from 1973 to 1988, Boris
Kevorkov, told visiting journalists that Karabakh Armenians were happily
separated from the Armenian republic, saying that "the history of Nagorny
(Mountainous) Karabakh is closely interwoven with Azerbaijan's... By contrast,
the region is close to Armenia geographically but is separated by high
mountains, which were an insuperable barrier in the past for any extensive
contacts." (Quoted in Claire Mouradian's "The Mountainouse Karabagh Question").
Also found are rebuttals, including from
Azeri poet Bakhtiyar Vahadzade in his 1988 Open Letter, that "since 1828, our
people have been divided into two parts," and that both Azeris and Karabakh
Armenians "emanate from the same ethnic stock: the Caucasian Albanians." Others
say Turkey always takes the Azeri side. There are references to the shoot-down
of an Iranian C-130 aircraft in 1994 as it crossed the Azeri-Karabakh line on
contact, and of Iran's demand for an apology.
Going back, a volume by Mazda Publishers
in Costa Mesa, California entitled "Two Chronicles on The History of Karabakh,"
contains the full texts of Tarikh-e Karabakh (History of Karabakh) by Mirza
Jamal Javanshir and of Karabakh-name by Mariza Adigozal Beg. In the
introduction, translator-from-Persian George A. Bournoutian reports that
"Armenian historians maintain that all of Karabakh was, at one time, part of the
Armenian kingdom and that the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh has had an
Armenian majority for several hundred years. Azeri historians assert that the
region was never part of Armenia and that the Armenian population arrived there
from Persia and the Ottoman empire after the Treaty of Turkmenchay (1828) when,
thanks to the Russian policy that favored Christians over Muslims, the Armenians
established a majority in what became Nagorno-Karabakh." In a footnote he
addresses nomenclature: "Nagorno-Karabakh is the Russian designation. The
Armenians call is [sic] Artsakh or Gharabagh and the Azeris Karabag."
Finally, on the question of numbers, Arif
Yunosov in "The Migration Situation in CIS Countries" opines that the conflict
has caused 353,000 Armenia refugees and 750,000 Azeris -- less than the one
million figure used by Azeri President Aliev, but large, and 100,000 larger than
acknowledged in the interview. And a more solid figure than Aliev's 20%, but
more than was acknowledged, is 13.62 percent. The search for truth continues. If
the comparison is to the original, Soviet-defined Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous
Oblast, it must be noted that NKR is claiming, beyond the Oblast, the territory
By the end of the interview, Mr.
Ghoukasyan was focusing on two regions of the old Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous
Oblast over which now Azerbaijan has de facto control: Martakert and Martuni.
While Mr. Ghoukasyan's point was that these should be subtracted from the 13
percent, they raise a larger question, that of break-aways from break-aways.
The analogy, to Inner City
Press, is to the serially-opening or
"nesting" Russian dolls.
Inside one republic is another, but inside the breakaway is another smaller
portion, that either wants to remain with the larger, or to itself be
independent. Northern Kosovo comes to mind, and the portion of Abkhazia into
Tbilisi-based government is trying to
How small can these Russian dolls become?
And how will the UN-debated status of Kosovo, now frozen into 2007, impact or
defrost other frozen conflicts? Developing.
Other Inner City Press
reports are archived on
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At the UN
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In Gaza Power
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At the UN, A Day
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UN Grapples with
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In North Korean
War of Words, Abuses in Uganda and Impunity Go Largely Ignored
On North Korea,
Blue Words Move to a Saturday Showdown, UNDP Uzbek Stonewall
As the World
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North Korea in
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UN Gives Mugabe
Time with His Friendly Mediator, Refugees Abandoned
At the UN,
Friday Night's Alright for Fighting; Annan Meets Mugabe
Abuse in Uganda, But What Did Donors Know and When? Kazakh Questions
In Uganda, UNDP
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Alleged Abuse in
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Strong Arm on
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UN in Denial on
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Vision on Somalia and Wishful Thinking on Uighurs
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Concerned About Use of Terror's T-Word to Repress, Wants
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UN Waffles on
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At the UN,
Internal Justice Needs Reform, While in Timor Leste, Has Evidence Gone
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Transparency for Finance But Not Foreign Affairs: Somalia, Sovereignty
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In Bolton's Wake,
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Pro-Poor Talk and
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Deafness to Consumers, Even by the Greens
at the UN, But Not the Global Compact; Teaching Statistics from
Turkmenbashi's Single Book
Ripped Off Worse
in the Big Apple, by Citigroup and Chase: High Cost Mortgages Spread in
Outer Boroughs in 2005, Study Finds
Burundi: Chaos at
Camp for Congolese Refugees, Silence from UNHCR, While Reform's Debated
by Forty Until 4 AM
In Liberia, From
Nightmare to Challenge; Lack of Generosity to Egeland's CERF, Which
China's Asked About
Mirage: Beyond French Bombs, Is Exxon In the Cast? Asylum and the
Uzbeks, Shadows of Stories to Come
Through the UN's
One-Way Mirror, Sustainable Development To Be Discussed by Corporations,
Even Nuclear Areva
Disparities Grew Worse in 2005 at Citigroup, HSBC and Other Large Banks
Mine Your Own
Business: Explosive Remnants of War and the Great Powers, Amid the
Human Rights Are
Lost in the Mail: DR Congo Got the Letter, But the Process is Still
Iraq's Oil to be
Metered by Shell, While Basrah Project Remains Less than Clear
At the UN, Dues
Threats and Presidents-Elect, Unanswered Greek Mission Questions
Kagame and Coltan: This Moment in the Congo and Kampala
Swarmer Begins, UN's Qazi Denies It's Civil War and Has No Answers if
Iraq's Oil is Being Metered
Cash Crop: In
Nepal, Bhutanese Refugees Prohibited from Income Generation Even in
The Shorted and
Shorting in Humanitarian Aid: From Davos to Darfur, the Numbers Don't
Transparency Later, Not Now -- At Least Not for AXA - WFP Insurance
Chaos, Shots Fired at U.N. Helicopter Gunship
In the Sudanese
Crisis, Oil Revenue Goes Missing, UN Says
Empty Words on
Money Laundering and Narcotics, from the UN and Georgia
What is the Sound
of Eleven Uzbeks Disappearing? A Lack of Seats in Tashkent, a Turf War
Collective Punishment and Electricity; Lights Out on Privatization of
Cleansing and (Money) Laundering, Says Georgia
Human Rights Abuses, including by UNDP in the Maldives
Who Pays for the
Global Bird Flu Fight? Not the Corporations, So Far - UN
Dissembles at United Nations Environmental Conference
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