After a group of Nepalese U.N. soldiers introduced cholera to Haiti in 2010, at least 8,774 Haitians have died of the infection. Ban Ki-moon waited months before calling for an investigation, while U.N. soldiers at the base in Haiti cleaned out waste pits prior to epidemiological examinations. In January, the United Nations was cited as having ‘absolute immunity’ from being held accountable for bringing cholera to Haiti, and the victims’ lawyers plan to appeal. Although the United Nations has yet to accept responsibility, Ban at last replies to a question about the cholera crisis.
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The Secretary General in His Labyrinth
Jonathan M. Katz, New Republic
March 3, 2015
Between the lights of Long Island City and Ban Ki-moon stood a stretch of wooden desk, a well-kept ornamental tree, a window, and the East River. The 70-year-old secretary-general was proud of the window, part of the 38-story glass curtain that covers the face of the U.N. building. Its blue-green glass looks like the 1952 original, only stronger and more energy efficient. It’s the crown jewel of a seven-year, $2 billion renovation nearing completion, the sort of administrative housekeeping at which Ban excels. He glanced out, then went back to the papers on his desk. There was, as one of his favorite English expressions goes, no time to lose. In twelve hours, at 8 a.m., Tuesday, September 23, he was to take his seat in front of the General Assembly and open one of the most important conferences of his life—a world summit on climate change. More than 100 heads of state and government would be there, President Obama among the featured speakers. Leonardo DiCaprio would provide opening remarks.
Ban did not know that an argument was raging down the hall which threatened to overshadow the whole thing. Earlier in the day, an American diplomat dropped a hint to a member of Ban’s staff: After more than a month of airstrikes in Iraq against Islamic State militants, the United States was expanding its bombing campaign into Syria. The strikes would begin immediately.
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