The United Nations Security Council votes to pass a new sanctions resolution against North Korea during a meeting at U.N. headquarters, New York, Sept. 11, 2017 (AP photo by Jason DeCrow).

Some political battles seem so obviously over and done with that you can forget that the losing side’s grievances are still important. I discovered this because of a comment I made in a recent interview for a German website: that “discussions of Security Council reform are dead” at the United Nations. This is not quite true, technically speaking. Diplomats do continue to hold periodic meetings on ideas to change the council’s composition and rules. But nobody actually believes that these are going anywhere, so it seemed safe to write off the whole process almost in passing. Once the interview was […]

The Puerto Rican National Guard delivers food and water brought via helicopter to victims of Hurricane Maria, to the San Lorenzo neighborhood of Morovis, Puerto Rico, Oct. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Ramon Espinosa).

This week, many Americans savor the seasonal culinary delights of Thanksgiving, while around the world, food insecurity is on the rise, particularly in places suffering from conflict or acute climate disruptions. The Saudi-led blockade of Yemen is being investigated by the United Nations as a war crime. Across the globe in Puerto Rico, it took a celebrity chef, Jose Andres, to help respond to critical food needs after Hurricane Maria, cooking whatever was available locally for a population without electricity or sufficient support from the U.S. government. The implications for policymakers cover a gamut of issues around food security, from […]

Russian Deputy U.N. Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov raises his hand to vote against a resolution condemning Syria’s use of chemical weapons, U.N. headquarters, New York, April 12, 2017 (AP photo by Bebeto Matthews).

It is Cold War time at the United Nations again. Last week, Russia caused diplomatic uproar by vetoing not one, but two Security Council resolutions extending a U.N. investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Moscow is angry with the investigators for accusing the Syrian regime of using sarin gas and chlorine bombs. Russia has now used its veto 11 times to block resolutions over the Syrian war since 2011, four of them this year. Every veto sparks a ritualistic bout of outrage in the Security Council. All sides seemed especially tetchy last week. Nikki Haley, the U.S. […]

A robot in Parliament Square as part of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, London, April 23, 2013 (Press Association via AP Images).

Autonomous weapons are on the agenda in Geneva this week. The Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, which has members and observers drawn from national governments, intergovernmental organizations and civil society, is holding its first meeting since it was established last year under the auspices of the U.N. Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, or CCW. On the table for discussion are the technical, legal, military and ethical dimensions of machines capable of making battlefield decisions without human oversight. The stakes are high. Autonomous weapons have, in recent years, catapulted into the defense and security strategies of the […]

U.N. forces from Rwanda patrol the streets of Bangui, Central African Republic, Feb. 12, 2016 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

On Nov. 15, the United Nations Security Council will meet to decide on the fate of the U.N. mission in Central African Republic, known by its acronym MINUSCA. In stark contrast to the debate over the U.N. mission in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, which the U.S. pushed to reduce last April after citing its ineffectiveness and cost, few in New York expect cuts to the Central African Republic (CAR) mission. To the contrary, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited CAR at the end of October and called for increasing the mission’s authorized troop ceiling, currently just over 12,000, by […]

U.S. Intelligence Faces Challenges From Tech, Bad Actors—and the President

Three recent stories about U.S. intelligence offer insights into how the massive effort to collect and interpret data about threats to the United States has performed over the past few years, and how that effort must increasingly deal with challenges from technology, bad actors and even from political leaders. The first story is about the planned release of old U.S. intelligence documents, which are straightforward enough. The second is the publicly acknowledged damage done to American signals intelligence from hacking or leaking. The third, and perhaps most troubling, is President Donald Trump’s startling statement while overseas in Asia that he […]

Homeowner Sohail Soomro dumps debris on his front yard in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Katy, Texas, Sept. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Matt Rourke).

Devastating hurricanes and fires in the United States and the Caribbean since August have demonstrated yet again that extreme weather exacerbated by climate change has created new risks. The suffering and damage caused by this extreme weather has, in turn, created additional new dangers to public health. One of the more worrisome is the spread of disease, especially “vector-borne” diseases. These are diseases transmitted to humans through insect bites, most commonly by mosquitoes, ticks and flies. They include Zika, Lyme, Chikungunya and malaria. In 2015, malaria alone infected over 200 million people and caused about 438,000 deaths worldwide. According to […]

United Nations peacekeepers from Niger patrol the streets of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Jan. 10, 2011 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

United Nations peacekeepers have a branding problem. The blue helmets, once much-admired symbols of international cooperation, are now routinely associated with venality and incompetence. Regular allegations of sexual abuse have tarnished their reputation, and U.N. forces have struggled to manage surges of violence in trouble spots such as South Sudan. The U.N. has not yet properly come to terms with well-attested claims that Nepali peacekeepers introduced cholera to Haiti, killing thousands. As a result, media reports about peacekeepers now start from the presumption that U.N. personnel are a problem rather than a solution to major crises. U.N. officials wearily note […]

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump react as they watch the election results during Trump's election night rally in New York, Nov. 8, 2016 (AP photo by John Locher).

Anyone who comments on politics should take time off in the coming days to reflect on their mistakes and imperfections. This week marks the first anniversary of Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election, an event that highlighted the weaknesses of the commenting classes. Prior to election night, almost all observers believed Trump could not win. After he did so, analysts and editorialists churned out confused, panicked and lame pieces about what he would do in power. While pundits claim to forecast the political future, they often perform poorly in the face of unexpected twists. Scott Malcolmson, an editor […]

People gather to remember the victims of the recent truck attack during a candle light walk near the crime scene along the Hudson River, New York City, Nov. 2, 2017 (AP photo by Andres Kudacki).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, senior editor, Frederick Deknatel, and associate editor, Omar H. Rahman, discuss the threat and evolution of transnational terrorism in the wake of the latest attack in New York City. As the self-proclaimed Islamic State loses more territory in Syria and Iraq, will it lash out elsewhere, and what about al-Qaida? How are nations responding to the prospect of Islamic State recruits returning from Syria and Iraq, and how permanent are new security measures designed to protect against lone-wolf terrorism and domestic radicalization? If you like what you hear on Trend […]