AS/COA Online - Brazil Sets Climate Change Bull's-Eye

Presidents Sarkozy (L) and Lula agreed on a proposal they dubbed a "climate bible." (Photo: Ricardo Stuckert/PR)

During a trip to France, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva set a standard for next month’s UN climate change conference in Copenhagen. During a press conference with his French counterpart Nikolas Sarkozy, the two leaders agreed on a plan that calls for reducing global carbon emissions to 50 percent of 1990 levels over the course of the next four decades. The proposal also suggests that, by 2050, industrialized nations should decrease emissions to 80 percent of 1990 rates. The presidents labeled the plan a “climate bible” and it came just after Brazil announced a sharp drop in deforestation rates. Still, when the Copenhagen summit rolls around, bold plans could give way to a scaled-back agreement.

Read More | Backgrounder: The Role of the UN Secretary-General

Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan left a mixed legacy after two terms as the organization's chief executive, ending in 2006. Annan garnered a Nobel Prize for encouraging global cooperation on peace, launched unprecedented investigations into UN peacekeeping and security, and set about reforming bodies like the UN Human Rights Commission. Yet his critics also saw a failure in Annan's inability to do more to end abuses in Sudan's Darfur region, his handling of relations with the United States, and his management of the UN's Oil-for-Food program in Iraq. Annan's replacement, Ban Ki-moon, has made climate change and AIDS themes of his term. The differences between Annan's and Ban's leadership styles in many ways point to the ambiguous nature of the secretary-general position itself—a role bifurcated, often unevenly, between the tasks of "secretary" and "general."

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Co-authored by Carin Zissis and Lauren Vriens | Rising Moon atop the UN

New UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was known as “slippery eel” by journalists in his native South Korea for avoiding direct answers to difficult questions. But Ban landed himself in hot water on his first day at work over comments during a UN press conference about Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s execution last week. Asked whether Saddam should have been hanged, Ban departed from traditional UN opposition to the practice by saying: “The issue of capital punishment is for each and every member state to decide.”

Read the full text. | Nort Korea Decries Act of War

Pyongyang has declared the UN Security Council resolution to apply sanctions an “act of war” (AP). The statement issued by the foreign ministry of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) described the United States as “the ringleader that pushed us to a nuclear test.” CFR Vice-President Gary Samore, in an interview with’s Bernard Gwertzman, says the North Korean test was “a purely political act” in reaction to the U.S. decision last year to sanction illegal North Korean banking activities in Macao. According to Samore, these activities were “directly related to the personal income of the leadership in North Korea.” Samore, who helped negotiate the 1994 Agreed Framework designed to control Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, praises UN Security resolution 1718 for targeting DPRK nuclear and missile programs. But he warns the sanctions are unlikely to break the back of the communist regime because they lack restrictions on Chinese and South Korean trade with the Hermit Kingdom.

Read the full text. | Questions Linger After Sanctions

The UN Security Council passed a unanimous resolution imposing sanctions against North Korea for its October 9 nuclear test, but the document's vague wording raises questions on how it will be enforced. It remains unclear, for example, whether economic activity between North Korea and its main trading partners—namely China and South Korea—would be affected (LAT). Both countries indicated their intention to continue cross-border trade and carry out a number of economic projects already in the works (NYT). Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice travels to the region this week in an effort to press these countries to carry out the sanctions regime (CSMonitor). 

Read the full story. | UN Debates Disciplining North Korea

Days after North Korea’s underground nuclear test announcement, disagreement continues over how to contain the regime’s weapons ambitions. The test has met worldwide condemnation, but has mired the UN Security Council in debate over how far to go in punishing Pyongyang (FT). President Bush threatened “serious repercussions” and Japan already imposed harsh sanctions (Japan Times), including bans on Pyongyang’s imports and travel. North Korea’s other neighbors are treading more carefully. South Korea is grappling with internal political divisions (IHT) over whether to back a UN draft resolution proposed by the United States. The resolution, which recommends stiff sanctions, could lead to military action by invoking Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. It is meeting resistance (Reuters) from North Korea’s strongest ally, China, although Beijing earlier called for punitive actions against its neighbor. The BBC provides a roundup of where world powers stand on the North Korea crisis.

Read the full text. | North Korea Faces Sanctions

North Korea’s announcement that it conducted a successful underground nuclear test has set off a scramble to contain the regime’s weapons ambitions and steady global nerves (FT) over the detonation. Concern was such that even Pyongyang’s top ally, sanctions-averse China, believes “there has to be some punitive actions" (Reuters) taken by the UN Security Council. The list of sanctions proposed by the United States would cut off trade (WashPost) in all materials that could be used to make weapons of mass destruction and any financial transactions that could support such a program. The Security Council, though united in condemnation, faces intense negotiations about how tough it should be, even as doubts linger over whether the blast was nuclear (WashTimes).

Read the full text. | Darfur: Crisis Continues

Three years after government-backed Arab militias known as "Janjaweed" began burning villages and conducting large-scale massacres in the Darfur region, the Sudanese authorities and rebel forces are moving at a painfully slow rate toward peace. In the meantime, a situation the U.S. State Department has called "genocide" has left some 2 million people displaced and hundreds of thousands dead. A well-meaning but ill-conceived peacekeeping mission by the African Union has failed to stop the massacres and destruction of villages. Now the UN Security Council, in spite of reluctance on the part of China and Russia, is calling for greater UN and NATO involvement in the crisis, against the wishes of the government in Khartoum.

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