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  William Vocke    Special to The China Post
Faced with the ongoing civil war in Syria, the natural disaster in the Philippines and a spreading civil conflict in the Central African Republic, the U.N. humanitarian agencies are confronting a near perfect storm of political and natural disasters. Add the continuing needs from earlier trouble spots such as South Sudan, Somalia and Haiti and the system and donor states are facing a near overload.
While final exams and the end of the semester are fast approaching for students across America, there's an early report card which was just delivered with grades for math, reading, and science. Regrettably, students in the United States don't rate terribly well against their global peers, especially those in East Asia. But wait, there's more to the story.
Situated geographically between two blocs, divided culturally and religiously between two civilizations and now placed in the political conundrum of choosing between East and West, Ukraine is again the object the competing interests. And amid the political and gravitational pull of the two sides are the swirling clouds of Ukraine's tumultuous 20th century history.
In a world where politicians and potentates clog the media with pre-packaged sound bites, yammer on with a staccato of political chatter, or drone on with endless explanations of subjects even they forgot, it's heartening to see a former British prime minister act the role of statesman and sage. Thus, after the sonorous drone of the recent U.N. General debate, it's a pleasure hearing Tony Blair address key global issues with passion, verve, and dedication.
Super Typhoon Haiyan, which swept across the central Philippines, left a brutal legacy of death, destruction and dislocation in its wake. The category-five storm which slammed into Leyte and Cebu directly confronted the global community with yet another gripping disaster in which 13 million people were affected, with over 4 million persons displaced and at least 4,000 dead.
You can't make this up. In recent elections for the U.N.'s 47 member Human Rights Council (UNHRC), some of the winners of the coveted seats are ironically the countries who are among the major global human rights transgressors. The situation ironically evokes the old adage of the foxes guarding the henhouse or of Tony Soprano chairing a Senate subcommittee on organized crime.
As civil war, political stalemate, and the tragic humanitarian hemorrhage of refugees continues, Syria approaches its third winter of conflict.
A host of “systemic and systematic violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights” continue to plague Iran despite the election of the purportedly reformist President Hassan Rouhani. That's part of a stinging assessment of the current human rights landscape according to Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Recent elections for the new non-permanent members of the U.N. Security Council went off with a predictable yawn. Countries representing regional groups gained the coveted two-year rotating membership without opposition and basically by acclimation. A secret ballot was set; vote for one out of one. So when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia won a coveted seat for the Asian group, there was polite applause, wry smiles, and then later political shock and awe when the Saudi's rejected the seat and renounced the Council's role in the Syrian war.
An arc of political and social instability exists on the soft underbelly of the Sahara Desert, as Islamic militants and ethnic separatists chip away at the fragile political geography of five states on the southern fringe of the Sahara desert. The West African country of Mali, wracked by a military coup, an Islamic power grab and tribal fighting, has only regained a fragile stability in the wake of French military intervention earlier this year and the subsequent U.N. peacekeeping mission. Yet Mali's precarious situation, and that of the many regional states, could be slipping backwards.
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