Thursday, 31 January 2013


French troops at Timbuktu Airport, Mali on January 30, 2013.
Photo/AFP  AFP

The United Nations is speeding up planning for a peacekeeping force in Mali as French and Malian troops steamroller into territory seized by Islamists, diplomats and officials said Wednesday.
The UN Security Council could start talks within days on moves that would probably incorporate African troops now gathering in Mali into a formal blue helmet force, diplomats said.
"There is increasing talk now of maybe moving straight to a UN peacekeeping operation. And that is one of the options the council will be looking at in the next few days," said one senior western diplomat.
UN officials said that planning for a peacekeeping force started months ago, before France intervened on January 11 to halt an Islamist advance on the Mali capital, and is now at an "advanced" stage.
After halting the advance by al-Qaeda linked groups, French troops on Wednesday entered Kidal, the last Islamist bastion in norther Mali, as part of a counter-offensive which has seen Islamist fighters disappear into the desert.
The success of the French campaign means "it might be possible to move faster than originally thought to a full UN peacekeeping operation," the western diplomat added.
Other Security Council diplomats confirmed that talks on the next move in Mali could start soon. US ambassador Susan Rice has proposed several times in council talks in recent weeks that a peacekeeping force must be considered, diplomats said.
The Security Council last month gave formal blessing to an African-led intervention force that had originally planned to support an offensive against territory taken by the Islamists later this year.
The UN leadership had initially been reluctant to give support to a military offensive. But after Ansar Dine and other rebel groups started an advance on the capital, Bamako, UN leader Ban Ki-moon praised France's "courageous" intervention.
France has said it wants to quickly get out again though and the international community is having to rewrite its plans for Mali.
Diplomats stressed there was still no agreement and that it could take weeks to get agreement on any new UN step. Peacekeepers could not take over until the offensive strikes against the Islamists are complete, they said.
A new Security Council resolution would be needed to approve any UN force.
About 5,000 African troops are scheduled to arrive in Mali in coming weeks and these could make up the core of any UN force once France declares its offensive is over, diplomats said.
A UN peacekeeping force would change funding for the troops and the mandate in areas such as human rights.
Much of the Security Council debate will be over what kind of force is approved.
Some western countries favour a traditional UN force. Some African nations would prefer a "hybrid" force as there is in Darfur, where the African Union and United Nations have joint control.
One Security Council diplomat called the hybrid style a "nightmare" as it is so difficult to make decisions.
The new council talks will also have to focus on what kind of encouragement to give to political talks.
Several European governments and UN secretary general Ban have stressed that a political accord to reconcile the Bamako government with ethnic Tuaregs and other minorities in the north will be essential for any long-term stability.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013


Helen Clark, United Nations Development Program administrator.

The United Nations Development Program may look a little differently in the future, based on recent remarks by its top official.

The agency is developing a new strategic plan, and “the work on the plan is progressing steadily,” Administrator Helen Clark said Jan. 28 at the first regular session of the UNDP executive board.

The reorganization appears to be partly inspired by the agency’s tough budgetary situation: Core funding has been lower than expected in recent years, and is expected to fall further this year.

“This trend is a serious concern,” Clark told her colleagues. “Wishing that the outlook was better, however, does not deposit funds in our bank account. Therefore, UNDP is taking all necessary measures to keep spending within the new resource planning envelope. We estimate that a $50 million dollar cut from previously planned spending will be needed this year to keep UNDP’s core liquidity balance at a minimum of three months at the end of the year. If necessary, at the mid-year point, we will make further adjustments, either up or down. Just as member states have to make critical decisions about spending priorities, so must UNDP.”

Under the proposed road map, Clark said, the agency will shift the focus of its operations from so-called practice areas to “development issues which UNDP is well-placed to address.”

Currently, UNDP’s activities center around poverty reduction and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, democratic governance, crisis prevention and recovery, and environment and energy for sustainable development. Clark’s speech suggests the new strategic plan would sharpen its focus on poverty alleviation, sustainable human development and gender equity, among other issuess.

In the future, UNDP, according to Clark, will pursue “innovative” approaches to partnerships, encouraging more South-South collaboration and ensuring partnerships are diverse. The program already collaborates with international financing institutions, developing country governments, other U.N. agencies, the private sector, charitable institutions, civil society organizations, and regional and local authorities.

To realize these goals, UNDP needs to make organization changes, such as having a fully developed talent management system, better aligning its various budgeting and reporting systems, and becoming more cost-conscious, Clark said.

“The plan we present to the [executive] board for approval [in September] will need to be both substantively coherent and organizationally achievable. I am confident that we can achieve this with your support,” Clark said. “The positive way in which board members have engaged with UNDP on the plan to date bodes well.”

Friday, 25 January 2013


WVM Chairperson, Justice Rizine Mzikamanda said during the launch of a strategic plan in the capital Lilongwe on Wednesday that during three years of implementation, the organisation would make a measurable contribution to improve the well-being of over one million vulnerable children and indirectly impact the lives of another two million children.
“We are optimistic that by the end of the planned period, the welfare of these children will be greatly improved because most of the programmes are to do with the under-privileged children,” he said.
Some of the activities include enhancing school-feeding programmes, improving literacy and child education, and early childhood development in the country.