Ban Ki-moon publicly acknowledged Thursday that he removed the Saudi-led coalition currently bombing Yemen from a blacklist of child killers — 72 hours after it was published — due to a financial threat to defund United Nations programs. The secretary-general didn’t name the source of the threat, but news reports have indicated it came directly from the Saudi government.
Saudi Arabia is one of the U.N.’s largest donors in the Middle East, giving hundreds of millions of dollars a year to U.N. food programs in Syria and Iraq. In 2014, Saudi Arabia gave $500 million — the largest single humanitarian donation to the U.N. — to help Iraqis displaced by ISIS. Over the past three years, Saudi Arabia has also been become the third-largest donor to the U.N.’s relief agency in Palestine, giving tens of millions of dollars to help rebuild Gaza and assist Palestinian refugees. Saudi Ambassador to the U.N. Abdallah al-Mouallimi, who held his own press conference afterward, offered his own back-handed confirmation of what happened. “We didn’t use threats,” he said, “but such listing will obviously have an impact on our relations with the U.N.”
The report “World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate”, which Unesco jointly published with the United Nations environment program and the Union of Concerned Scientists on Friday, initially had a key chapter on the Great Barrier Reef, as well as small sections on Kakadu and the Tasmanian forests. When the Australian Department of Environment saw a draft of the report, it objected, and every mention of Australia was removed by Unesco. No sections about any other country were removed from the report. The removals left Australia as the only inhabited continent on the planet with no mentions. The news comes less than a year after the Australian government successfully lobbied Unesco to not list the Great Barrier Reef in its list of “World Heritage Sites in Danger.”