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Can the UN save itself by downsizing?

Is the United Nations doing too much? No wonder it is always disappointing us. De-cluttering the organisation will rebuild trust and restore its original mandate. A smaller UN will be a better UN.

International Literacy Day: Learning is our most powerful weapon

9 September 2022 – Mukesh Kapila This article first appeared on 8th September 2022 as a TRTWorld Opinion 8th September was International Literacy Day. Millions of people worldwide still can’t read and write. We must do much better. Growing up in India, my earliest memory is of my grandmother learning to chalk her name inContinue reading International Literacy Day: Learning is our most powerful weapon

Is the UNOPS reform glass half-full or half-empty?

29 August 2022 – Mukesh Kapila In exposing misconduct and mismanagement at UNOPS through a dozen or so articles in this series, some common themes have emerged to explain how egregious misdeeds including profiteering, fraud, and corruption got embedded at the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), enabled by an unaccountable leadership that enjoyedContinue reading Is the UNOPS reform glass half-full or half-empty?

How  the dodgy business of UNOPS is enabled from Geneva

How did the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) make the money that allowed it to construct the fraud-ridden and corruption-infested S3i enterprise? A key trail leads to Geneva – the centre of a remarkably brazen enterprise generating immoral profits.

If the world is producing enough food for all, why is global hunger rising?

22 July 2022 – Mukesh Kapila The world is getting hungrier although we still produce enough food for everyone. Can we just blame conflicts such as the Russia-Ukraine war and the climate change crisis? In any case, the current food dilemma cannot be solved by technical fixes or charitable tinkering……. READ: Our beloved hummus is threatened asContinue reading “If the world is producing enough food for all, why is global hunger rising?”

No time for complacency: Somalia’s unfolding catastrophe

24 June 2022 – Mukesh Kapila This article was first released in The Conversation on 21 June 2022. Somalia is on the brink of catastrophe. A recent assessment suggests that 7.7 million Somalis need emergency aid right now, a similar number to those affected by the Ethiopian famine in 1984, one of the worst humanitarian disasters in history. About one millionContinue reading “No time for complacency: Somalia’s unfolding catastrophe”

UNOPS must stop lying and remove all its fraud-enabling Senior Leadership Team

8 June 2022 – Mukesh Kapila My previous article described the UNOPS Executive Board briefing on 16th May. It also referenced strong criticisms made by many Member-States who have belatedly recognised the mismanagement, misconduct, and potential fraud at UNOPS.  Finland was particularly outraged because it was conned into hosting the office of S3i  – theContinue reading “UNOPS must stop lying and remove all its fraud-enabling Senior Leadership Team”

Humanitarian instinct against humanitarian bureaucracy

26 May 2022 – Mukesh Kapila Last month, I visited Romania and the border region with Ukraine towards Odesa, in my role as Special Adviser to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM), accompanying its President Hon. Gennaro Migliore and Secretary General Sergio Piazzi.    PAM is an international organisation of the parliaments of theContinue reading “Humanitarian instinct against humanitarian bureaucracy”

What the UNOPS scandal teaches about multilateral vulnerabilities and reforms

25 May 2022 – Mukesh Kapila I have found over past weeks that professional circles familiar with the multilateral United Nations system tend to see or excuse its transgressions in nuanced terms.  It is as if the complexity of the contexts in which the UN functions confuses their moral direction-finder. Perhaps a weary cynicism andContinue reading “What the UNOPS scandal teaches about multilateral vulnerabilities and reforms”

UNOPS reaction to likely fraud is too little, too late, too phoney

22 April 2022 – Mukesh Kapila If there was a competition for the least trustworthy communications from a development agency, the United Nations Office for Project Services would be the undoubted champion. Scrolling its website is a singularly uninformative experience. UNOPS has never been transparent about the ups and downs that are normal for anyContinue reading “UNOPS reaction to likely fraud is too little, too late, too phoney”

“We have screwed up really bad”, admits UNOPS Director

A senior director and member of the UNOPS Senior Leadership Team finally admits to fraud and corruption in the UN agency, led by Grete Faremo. We look into the roles of other senior leaders who aided and abetted this massive heist, in this fourth article under this series

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”

Is something shady going on at the the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS? Nothing less than an independent unfettered enquiry into possible misdoings including fraud and corruption will clear the air. No one should be immune from such an investigation into the senior most ranks of UNOPS.

WHO head Tedros faces a challenge all humanitarians know well

“Damned if you speak up, damned if you don’t” the dilemma faced by humanitarians when they seek to help the victims of egregious crimes against humanity. Dr Tedros, the head of WHO decided to speak up on the catastrophic situation in Tigray, Ethiopia – setting an example to the leaders of other international organisations.

The hysterical womb: pathologising abused mothers

Since time immemorial, women who did not comply with male-prescribed behaviour norms were diagnosed as hysterical on account of their wicked, wandering womb. The prevalent laws punished them in many cruel and degrading ways.

We look back on that history with horror but the modern version is histrionic personality disorder. Although debunked as pseudo science, it is still commonly used in family courts to separate mothers and their children when domestic abuse by fathers has been alleged.

It is a legally-sanctioned injustice that ruins the lives of thousands of children and their mothers and families worldwide.. An example of structural state-sponsored violence against women despite the days of gender equality we are supposed to be living in.

Ethiopia arguments

The genocidal conflict in Tigray has sucked in many of Ethiopia’s varied ethnic groups, and polarised positions. Some critical questions and answers.

The world’s biggest active war: Appeal for Tigray, Ethiopia 

The civil war in Tigray, Ethiopia is a year old. It is the biggest active armed conflict in the world with millions blockaded and denied humanitarian aid, even as massacres and sexual violence abound, and famine is getting established. Distinguished scholars and researchers from around the world appeal for the blockade to be lifted as prerequisite for negotiations and eventually peace.

Are peacemakers really blessed?

Making peace is a messy business. And the best of intentions to bring peace and harmony in situations of armed conflict can backfire. Sometimes war must run its course before peace can be constructed.

Every atrocity needs a face

Faceless victims get forgotten and faceless offenders go unpunished. That is how justice is truly blinded. That is also why egregious human rights abuses including mass atrocities and genocides need a face.

The malignant pseudo-science of ‘parental alienation’

What is parental alienation? Based on junk science, this dangerous concept is destroying many families even as domestic abuse is allowed to flourish by courts. A grave injustice around a peculiar form of violence that affects thousands of mothers and children, worldwide.

What Climate ‘Code Red’ Means for Africa

There is much talk on the #ClimateCrisis. And the impacts of #globalwarming take on existentialist proportions for the most poor and vulnerable on the planet. Especially so for peoples in #Africa as their continent is warming slightly faster and their sea levels rising slightly more than elsewhere, according to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. What will happen there?

Learning from the village that conquered COVID-19

COVID-19 has brought out the best of humanity. But also exposed a lot of hypocrisy about global health solidarity even as policies of national and sub-national selfishness have worsened inequalities. But in a tiny corner of India, the villagers didn’t lament their leaders nor their gods. They conquered the pandemic by taking matters into their own hands. Their lesson for the wider world is neither new nor complex. But easily overlooked in our sophisticated technocratic age. What can the world learn?

Health in the crosshairs of the Tigray conflict

Mukesh Kapila  – 31 August 2021 As Ethiopia’s civil war  approaches its first deadly anniversary in November, there is, as yet, little prospect for peace.  The underlying causes of the immediate conflict are bitterly contested and the essential conditions for solutions remain elusive.  Geopolitical factors mean that the African Union and United Nations are paralysed,Continue reading “Health in the crosshairs of the Tigray conflict”

Following the Tigray conflict, the rocky road to peace in Ethiopia

Experience shows there are no shortcuts, quick-fixes, avoiding tackling underlying causes and ignoring the bringing of justice and healing to end a war & sustain #peace. Also, while all wars eventually end, how long and viciously a war is fought has a direct bearing on the quality of peace that follows.
When #genocide acts are part of the warmaking, forging peace is substantially more difficult.
What are these and other lessons from war and peace around Africa and the world?

Will #Ethiopia #Tigray learn? And others engaged in endless conflicts in so many places.

Comply or leave: the dilemma facing humanitarian agencies

Mukesh Kapila – 9 August 2021 The Ethiopian government has suspended the activities of three foreign humanitarian organisations which had been working in the Tigray region. Moina Spooner, from The Conversation Africa, asked Mukesh Kapila, a specialist in humanitarian affairs, to provide insights into the challenges humanitarian agencies face and what can be done to better support them.Continue reading “Comply or leave: the dilemma facing humanitarian agencies”

What is killing humanitarian aid workers?

Today’s soldiers are smart. They launch missiles and drones from a safe distance behind computer screens. And when they are obliged to venture out, they are forewarned by intelligence and well protected by their armour.

In contrast, more and more civilian aid workers, protected by little more than their sense of righteousness, serve at chaotic frontlines, and are pressured to bear witness and provide succour…come what may. Unsurprisingly, some of them are bound to be harmed.

But it is not just being in the wrong place that puts humanitarian workers at risk.There is increasing mistrust of the humanitarian enterprise either because its practitioners are not so scrupulous nowadays or their efforts can be easily abused for other ends. Besides, in a world of impunity where bad behaviour is a norm and there is rarely any accountability for hurting aid worker, it is simple to target humanitarian access as part of warmaking tactics.

Could it be that it is not random bombs and bullets but the erosion and abuse of humanitarian principles (including by careless humanitarians themselves) that is killing more of them?

What happens when the world doesn’t move freely?

When the world is not able to travel, distances of the heart grow faster than bodily distances. And we understand less and less about places not visited. Terrible atrocities can then flourish so easily behind closed borders. Worst of all, as our worldview shrinks, we stop caring and growing ourselves. The sooner the world re-opens, the better for both our sanity and our common humanity.

“Genocide! Save Me?”

Is genocide unfolding in Tigray? Against the Rohingya? Against Uyghurs? Does using the G word still have the moral authority to summon help? Have genocides ever been prevented? Before invoking ‘genocide’, what exactly is it? Is the Genocide Convention still stuck in the 1940s, while dictators and despots find ever more clever ways to get around the definition? Reflections here from my own personal journeys through genocide – some even as they were underway.

Will Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce be good for philanthropy?

11 May 2021 – Mukesh Kapila Growing up in the famine-affected Indian state of Bihar in the 1960s, I recall my mother’s eulogy of gratitude to America for sending us food aid. But my childish mind translated the accompanying sense of national humiliation into a dislike of the foreign donor who I knew only from schoolContinue reading “Will Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce be good for philanthropy?”

What is the point of speaking up?

When confronted by egregious human rights abuses, or war crimes and crimes against humanity including genocide, does speaking up make any difference? Especially if words are not followed by action? There are at least four reasons why it is still crucial to speak out, and how doing so can be effective. Also what matters is the pedestal of the speaker. The higher that is, the greater their responsibility to speak out. Of course,the rhetoric-reality gap is often vast and it is easy to get cynical. But silence or ambivalence kill and destroy much more. So, speak up clearly and loudly to wake up even the dead.

The merits of ‘observing’ – one day at a time

With a multitude of Observance Days, Weeks, and Months, the calendar is cluttered with commemoration events. Why do we do that? Is that too much? Or are they useful micro reminders in our age of diminished attention spans on how we can do good – a day at a time?

Where is China’s Belt and Road taking the world?

The old Silk Roads went everywhere but today’s version – the Belt and Road – leads only to Beijing Those seeking quick no-questions-asked prosperity by rushing along it should open their eyes wider, the closer they get to the destination. They should also expect the ride to get more bumpy.

Hindsight 2020 as Foresight 2021: The world in the rear view mirror is closer than it may appear

Hindsight 2020 and Foresight 2021 are much the same. This critical “review of reviews” analyses the true state of the world at the end of this tumultuous year and posits that the next year will be much the same. Can #COVID19 be fully blamed for all the world’s afflictions? Before the pandemic the world was already crumbling fast and progress on all fronts of development, environment, health, humanitarian and human rights had faltered or regressed. To make future progress self and collective delusions have to be torn away to grip the sad realties most people are mired in and the tough challenges we face

Looking below and beyond the mushroom cloud

Three cheers for the new Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty. Because an unequal world where some are allowed to retain offensive nuclear capabilities while others can’t acquire them, is unfair and bound to be inherently unstable.

Peace continues to elude the Nobel Prize

18 October 2020 – Mukesh Kapila The recent award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the World Food Programme (WFP) triggered mixed reactions. WFP’s humanitarian efforts certainly deserve applause. At the same time, questions arise. Do already privileged organisations doing their mandated jobs need such affirmation?  More fundamentally, should humanitarian and peace efforts be confounded?Continue reading “Peace continues to elude the Nobel Prize”

Trading-off human rights with public health in the name of COVID-19

25 September 2020 – Mukesh Kapila Today, during the General Assembly marking the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights organises a high-level event on participation as a human right when tackling global challenges. A recent seminar by PlatformA and the Parliamentary Assembly of the MediterraneanContinue reading “Trading-off human rights with public health in the name of COVID-19”

Will the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response restore the world’s trust in the fractured post COVID-19 global health system?

17 September 2020  – Mukesh Kapila Some ten months after the first case was reported from Wuhan and, as the world COVID-19 meter clicks on relentlessly towards 30 million confirmed SARS-COV-2 infections,  the Independent Panel For Pandemic Preparedness and Response meets for the first time today. It’s leisurely gestation has not matched the rapid evolutionContinue reading “Will the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response restore the world’s trust in the fractured post COVID-19 global health system?”

Six jobs the new World Health Organisation leader should prioritise

1 July 2017 – Mukesh Kapila Dr Tedros should steer clear of vertical disease programmes pushed by donors, be prepared for his authority to be questioned, and tighten the purse strings The first ever African director general of the World Health Organisation assumes office on Saturday. The election of Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, or as he isContinue reading “Six jobs the new World Health Organisation leader should prioritise”

We need a revolution in mindsets at the top of the World Health Organization

9 May 2017 – Mukesh Kapila Medical science has never been so productive and yet health inequalities have never been wider – more of the same is not an option Does it matter who heads the World Health Organization (WHO)? Yes, say West Africans badly let down by WHO’s feeble response to the Ebola epidemic. Yes, say Darfuris, whoseContinue reading “We need a revolution in mindsets at the top of the World Health Organization”

Humanitarians need to do less to do more

12 January 2017 – Mukesh Kapila It’s time to end this cruel roulette over the life and death of people in need and tighten our definition of humanitarianism. Are humanitarians demanding too much? The latest catalogue of human misery seeks $22.2bn for 92.8 million people in 33 countries. This consolidated humanitarian appeal for 2017 is the largest-everContinue reading “Humanitarians need to do less to do more”

If We Fail in Health We Fail Overall

9 August 2016 – Mukesh Kapila The much hyped, first-ever World Humanitarian Summit has come and gone. Convened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, 9000 participants from 173 countries assembled in Istanbul on 23-24 May 2016. They included 55 heads of state and government, and hundreds of civil society, NGO, academic, and private sector organizations. Issuing aContinue reading “If We Fail in Health We Fail Overall”

Global Health: Our Moral Compass in a World of Crisis

7 May 2016 – Jakaya Kikwete & Mukesh Kapila The first ever World Humanitarian Summit will be convened in Istanbul by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on 23-24 May 2016. This comes with the recognition that the world’s response to humanitarian crises is itself in crisis, as conflicts seem to go on for ever, record numbers ofContinue reading “Global Health: Our Moral Compass in a World of Crisis”

Remembering Darfur: The World’s Longest Running Genocide

1 January 2016 – Mukesh Kapila On the 27th of January 1945 Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated. That is why today is designated Holocaust Remembrance Day by the United Nations to recall the Nazi-perpetrated genocide that killed some 6 million Jews, 1 million Roma, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men.  We also remember today the victimsContinue reading “Remembering Darfur: The World’s Longest Running Genocide”

Remembering through Your Gut

5 February 2015 – Mukesh Kapila The first General Assembly of the United Nations – born out of the horrors of the Second World War – met in January 1946 in London’s Central Hall at Westminster. After being welcomed by British Prime Minister Clement Attlee to “this ancient home of liberty and order”, the UN’s first sessionContinue reading “Remembering through Your Gut”

Shall Not Perish: Remembering the Indian Ocean Tsunami

26 December 2014 – Mukesh Kapila Ten years ago, the Indian Ocean Tsunami was triggered by one of the largest-ever earthquakes. With a mind-boggling magnitude 9.1-9.3 on the Richter scale, it lasted for a record ten minutes and literally shook the world: vertical earth movements of 1 centimetre or more were recorded on the oppositeContinue reading “Shall Not Perish: Remembering the Indian Ocean Tsunami”

How Mary Saves the World – One Life at a Time

23 December 2014 – Mukesh Kapila Zambia is getting to grips with its AIDS crisis thanks to the millions of dollars in donor aid allowing the country to make anti-retroviral treatment universally available. But these precious drugs can often stay in hospitals and clinics while most of the population is scattered across a vast landscapeContinue reading “How Mary Saves the World – One Life at a Time”

In Celebration of Senseless Acts of Kindness

26 October 2014 – Mukesh Kapila “senseless act of kindness’’ which took me to its author Vasily Grossman and his magisterial novel: Life and Fate. This is a near-forgotten jewel of Russian literature. His translator Robert Chandler provides this introduction, quoting from Grossman himself: “We would do well to remember every time we hear promises of a newContinue reading “In Celebration of Senseless Acts of Kindness”

Lessons from a Personal Journey through the Genocide in Rwanda

15 May 2014 – Mukesh Kapila This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. The theme of the official commemorations – Kwibuka20 – asks the world to stand against genocide in three ways [1]: To remember by honouring the memory of those who died and offering support to those who survived To uniteContinue reading “Lessons from a Personal Journey through the Genocide in Rwanda”

Is Sudan committing another genocide – against the Nuba people?

21 March 2012 – Mukesh Kapila My warnings about Darfur were ignored – concerted international action is needed to save Sudan’s Nuba from the same fate. As the engines of the Sudanese Antonov bomber grew louder, everyone started running for their lives: mothers shouting for their children, the little ones screaming in fear. As theContinue reading “Is Sudan committing another genocide – against the Nuba people?”

Rethinking progress: A new development paradigm and goals for critical global challenges

2 August 2011 – Mukesh Kapila As the MDG 2015 deadline looms closer, could we not aspire to do more, do better and reach further, by shaping a new development model for post-2015? What would that be and what should the next generation of development goals look like? Does anyone still remember the excitement ofContinue reading “Rethinking progress: A new development paradigm and goals for critical global challenges”

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