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Daily Brief: Ex-Refugee Chief Emerges as Favorite for UN Secretary-General

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October 6, 2016

Daily News Brief

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Ex–Refugee Chief Emerges as Favorite for UN Secretary-General

The UN Security Council is expected on Thursday to approve former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres to succeed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, whose term ends on December 31. Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin announced (Al Jazeera) yesterday that Guterres had emerged as a favorite after six rounds of balloting in the Security Council, which saw thirteen candidates, including seven women, running for the job. The choice must then be approved (USA Today) by the 193-member General Assembly, which reports said will likely happen next week (NYT). Guterres served as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees from 2005 to 2015.


"Trained as a theoretical physicist, Mr. Guterres is a veteran politician and a member of his country’s Socialist Party. His first major diplomatic test will be to rally Russia and whoever wins the presidency in the United States to address the carnage in Syria. He will also face a range of thorny conflicts elsewhere, from South Sudan to Yemen, and nuclear brinkmanship in North Korea. He will have to repair the United Nations’ reputation for peacekeeping, sullied by repeated accusations of sexual abuse, and show that the secretary general’s office can stand up to political pressure from rich and powerful countries," Somini Sengupta writes for the New York Times.

"The fact that he was promising to be an activist on humanitarian causes also makes Guterres victory surprising, as both Russia and China in particular have been resistant to outspoken activists in top UN posts. Also there was widespread sentiment this year that it was time for a woman to run the organisation for the first time in its 71-year history and there were several strong female candidates in the contest," Julian Borger writes for the Guardian.

"The final criterion for effective leadership of an international organization concerns accountability. In the last couple of decades, heads of the IMF, the World Bank, and the UNHCR Refugee Agency have left office under a cloud of suspicion. Some leaders have lately established far stricter codes of conduct; it is up to the new ones to ensure that they are being enforced. Welcoming independent evaluation—and disclosing the results—is essential," Ngaire Woods writes for Project Syndicate. 


Chinese Opinion Survey Highlights Mixed Views of U.S.

About half of Chinese individuals surveyed in a Pew poll hold favorable views of the United States. The poll also showed a rise in isolationist sentiment (NYT), with 77 percent saying their way of life needs to be protected from outside influence.

Stephen G. Brooks and William C. Wohlforth argue that economic growth alone will not make China surpass the United States as the world's superpower in Foreign Affairs.

MARSHALL ISLANDS: The UN International Court of Justice declined to proceed with a case (BBC) brought by the Marshall Islands against signatories of the 1968 nonproliferation treaty for failing to abide by their disarmament obligations. Marshall Islanders have been leaders in antinuclear activism since U.S. bomb tests there in the 1940s and 1950s.    


Pentagon: Afghan Soldiers Missing in U.S.

Some forty-four Afghan soldiers who went to the United States for military training have been missing since January of 2015 (RFE/RL), according to a Pentagon spokesperson. Officials said they are presumed to be living and working as undocumented migrants (Reuters) in the United States.

INDIA: The Indian military said it had killed three suspected militants who attacked a base in India-administered Kashmir (BBC). Clashes in the frontier area have escalated since an attack on another base killed eighteen soldiers last month.

CFR’s Global Conflict Tracker discusses India and Pakistan’s dispute over Kashmir.


Bomb on Syria’s Border With Turkey Kills 29

A bomb killed at least twenty-nine people (BBC) at a rebel-controlled border crossing in Idlib province, activists said. Many of the victims were reported to be from a rebel faction participating in a Turkey-led assault on militants from the self-proclaimed Islamic State and Kurdish fighters.

ISRAEL/PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES: A Gaza-bound flotilla with women activists, including a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and a retired U.S. army colonel, was intercepted by Israeli authorities and redirected to the Israeli port of Ashdod (Haaretz).  


Report: Peacekeepers Abandoned South Sudan Posts

UN peacekeepers abandoned (Guardian) their posts during a July outbreak of fighting in South Sudan, according to a new report from a U.S.-based Center for Civilians in Conflict. The report also says that women were sexually assaulted within view of UN bases.

In a CFR interview, Alex de Waal explains how political divisions in newly established South Sudan escalated into civil war.

ZIMBABWE: The United States has removed (VOA) targeted sanctions on at least nine individuals close to the ruling Zanu PF party of President Robert Mugabe, as well as banks and manufacturers. The sanctions had been in place since 2003 (Africa News) following allegations of election fraud and rights violations. 


Paris Climate Pact to Take Effect in November

The United Nations announced (AP) that the Paris climate treaty, negotiated in 2015, will take effect on November 4 after the necessary threshold of countries ratified the agreement. The agreement aims to limit global warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels.

This CFR video explores choices the next U.S. president will face on climate policy.

UK: The European Court of Human Rights will hear a lawsuit (WaPo) challenging mass surveillance in the United Kingdom that is based on revelations from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. The court's ruling, which would be binding, could impact U.S. intelligence gathering that relies on British data.


Hurricane Death Toll Climbs in Haiti and Dominican Republic

At least twenty-three people were killed in Haiti and four in the Dominican Republic in Hurricane Matthew (BBC), which is heading toward Florida. Presidential elections this weekend in Haiti were postponed.

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