Rights Advocates Suing U.N. Over the Spread of Cholera in Haiti – NYTimes.com

Holding the UN accountible for humanitarian aid: winning strategy?

Haitian leaders, while dependent on the United Nations to help maintain stability and provide other important services, have also expressed unhappiness over the cholera issue. In an address last Thursday at the annual United Nations General Assembly opening session, Haiti’s prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, spoke of what he called the “moral responsibility” of the United Nations in the outbreak, and said the efforts to combat it had been far from sufficient.

Forensic studies, including one ordered by the United Nations, have identified the culprit bacteria as an Asian strain imported to Haiti by Nepalese members of the United Nations peacekeeping force, known as the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, which was first authorized in 2004 and maintains about 8,700 soldiers and police officers there, drawn from more than three dozen member states. The forensic studies have also linked the spread of the cholera to a flawed sanitation system at the Nepalese peacekeeper base, which contaminated a tributary that feeds Haiti’s largest river, used by Haitians for drinking and bathing.

via Rights Advocates Suing U.N. Over the Spread of Cholera in Haiti – NYTimes.com.

American gun use is out of control. Shouldn’t the world intervene?

In a global perspective on US gun violence, Henry Porter suggest an international intervention to overcome domestic political gridlock:

The annual toll from firearms in the US is running at 32,000 deaths and climbing, even though the general crime rate is on a downward path (it is 40% lower than in 1980). If this perennial slaughter doesn’t qualify for intercession by the UN and all relevant NGOs, it is hard to know what does.

To absorb the scale of the mayhem, it’s worth trying to guess the death toll of all the wars in American history since the War of Independence began in 1775, and follow that by estimating the number killed by firearms in the US since the day that Robert F. Kennedy was shot in 1968 by a .22 Iver-Johnson handgun, wielded by Sirhan Sirhan. The figures from Congressional Research Service, plus recent statistics from icasualties.org, tell us that from the first casualties in the battle of Lexington to recent operations in Afghanistan, the toll is 1,171,177. By contrast, the number killed by firearms, including suicides, since 1968, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI, is 1,384,171.

That 212,994 more Americans lost their lives from firearms in the last 45 years than in all wars involving the US is a staggering fact, particularly when you place it in the context of the safety-conscious, “secondary smoke” obsessions that characterise so much of American life.

via American gun use is out of control. Shouldn’t the world intervene? | Henry Porter | Comment is free | The Observer.

U.N. invokes diplomatic immunity on Haiti cholera epidemic | Turtle Bay

How much “moral authority” does the UN keep when it must be concerned about legal exposure?  This question will grow in other areas as the UN addresses global problems–and occasionally becomes entwined in questions of liability.


A U.S. cholera expert at Tufts Univeristy, Daniele Lantagne, who was a member of the U.N. panel, told the BBC last October that further scientific evidence pointed more conclusively towards the Nepalese peacekeepers. She said it is “most likely” that they were the source of the outbreak.

Jonathan Katz, a former Associated Press reporter who covered the cholera outbreak, said the U.N. has “spent the last year and change saying” they can’t talk about the cholera epidemic because the claims case was pending. But now, he said, the U.N. maintains that it won’t even consider the claim.

Katz, who authored the recent book on the Haiti relief effort, The Big Truck that Went By, said U.N.’s refusal to confront responsibility reflects a deeper concern that establishing precedent could open the door to a slew of lawsuits against the United Nations around the world.

via U.N. invokes diplomatic immunity on Haiti cholera epidemic | Turtle Bay.

U.N. Flood Relief Official Says She Will Seek More Money – NYTimes.com

More help is needed in Pakistan:

The official, Baroness Amos, the United Nations Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that 64 percent of $460 million had been financed, but that “we are currently looking at the needs and will revise the appeal.”

via U.N. Flood Relief Official Says She Will Seek More Money – NYTimes.com.

But will the overall weak response cause other unintended problems?

UN Relief Coordinator Not Pleased with UN’s own Haiti Response

Oops.  A leaked internal message from the UN’s top humanitarian relief coordinator John Holmes doesn’t bode well for WHO–who is leading Haiti efforts with WFP, UNICEF, and others:

The email, which provides a rare and highly critical internal assessment of the massive U.N.-led relief effort, portrays an organization that is straining to set up enough shelters, latrines, and other vital services for Haiti’s displaced population. It also warns that a failure of the U.N. system to improve relief assistance, particularly as the country faces the onset of heavy rains, could result in political unrest and mass demonstrations.

The criticism by Holmes, the head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, focuses on the U.N.’s sluggish implementation of its humanitarian “cluster strategy,” which assigns key U.N. relief agencies responsibility for coordinating the delivery of basic needs in 12 sectors — including water, health care, and shelter.

via Turtle Bay | FOREIGN POLICY.