A Trail of UN Malfeasance in Afghanistan

The correspondence between the chief of the US watchdog on Afghanistan reconstruction and the administrator of the UN’s development agency over a trust fund bankrolling the Afghan police force is an entertaining read.

In a series of letters, John Sopko, special inspector general, alleged that the UN agency mismanaged the trust fund, known as LOTFA, allowing the Afghan interior ministry to milk $200 million in “deductions.” Since 2002, the trust fund has channeled $3.17 billion in salaries and operating costs. The US has paid $1.2 billion of it.

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Can a Divided UN Help us Fight Terrorism?

President Obama came before the United Nations hat in hand this week and got it to commit to anti-terror action, as the Security Council unanimously approved his foreign fighters resolution. He should also use the UN to promote the “antidotes” to violence he spelled out – entrepreneurship, civil society, education and youth – as part of “an architecture of counterterrorism.”

In fact, the UN has been underused in counterterrorism. Almost ten years after former secretary-general Kofi Annan declared that the UN must up the ante in counterterrorism to stay relevant, the famously unwieldy body has yet to heed his call to tackle transnational security threats.

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Supporting Local Farmers in Laos

2 June, Saravane, Laos — Oudone Vongkham, 60, lives in Naxay Noi Village, about 22 kilometres from the district of Saravane, on the southern tip of Laos. He spends his days working on his farm. When a new market was built in his village — with a newly paved road, linking his farm to the market — transporting and selling produce became possible for him. Now his family has a small shop in the market where his wife and their nine children take turns to sell produce all day.

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Rwanda’s Reforms Boost Progress on School Enrolment

7 May 2010, Kigali, Rwanda — When the Rwandan Government drafted the first status report on the Millennium Development Goals in 2003, the main focus was economic stabilisation. Poverty and maternal mortality targets were completely off track.

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In Northern Ghana, 10 Horsepower Helps to Fight Poverty

14 April 2010, Tamale, Ghana — Amadu Mahama has spent the last 20 years trying to make accessible modern energy services to his people in his native Tamale of northern Ghana. He has never doubted that access to modern energy services is a key to reducing poverty, especially in rural areas where only 17 percent of the population is estimated to be connected to the national electricity grid.

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A Fish Net and a Boat

Cyclone Nargis ravaged Myanmar in May of 2008, wiping out the Southeast Asian country’s western coast.  The opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was still under house arrest, and the military Myanmar government, apprehensive about the waves of incoming foreign aid workers, allowed only Asian passport-holders to enter the country for post-disaster reconstruction work.

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UNDP Doctor Treats One Village at a Time

Bogale, Myanmar, 10 June 2008 — Every morning since Cyclone Nargis made landfall, Doctor Ye Lwin has been getting up at five o’clock. After morning prayers, he starts seeing patients who have travelled a long way to come to the makeshift clinic UNDP has set up at its Bogale township office.

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Demining Afghanistan

Kabul — After 15 years of intensive demining work, Afghanistan still remains the most mined country in the world. It is estimated that some 4.5 million Afghans living in 2,400 communities, over an area of 715 square kilometers, are affected. An average of 100 people are killed or injured by landmines monthly. USAID, recognizing the critical importance of clearing lands for reconstruction and long-term development, continues the endeavor for mine action, which it first began in 1989 with the establishment of the War Victims Fund.

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Up to One Fifth of the World’s Children Have Mental Problems

An estimated 10 to 20 percent of children worldwide have one or more mental or behavioral problems. Many disorders commonly found among adults, such as depression, can begin during childhood, the World Health Organization reports. Categories specific to childhood and adolescence include disorders of psychological development, including dyslexia and autism, as well as behavioral and emotional disorders, such as attention deficit/hyper activity and conduct disorders.

Continue to read here (UN Chronicle, No. 2, 2002)