Israel is concerned that the withdrawal of Syrian government troops from the area around the Golan Heights will leave it vulnerable to Islamist activity, write Martin Chulov and Harriet Sherwood. Having the United Nations observation force in the area "is of the highest importance, now more than ever," said an unnamed Israeli official.
A recent United Nations Development Programme conference focused on how mobile phones can become lifesaving technology during natural disasters, writes Bernadine Racoma. Disaster-prone countries can utilize mobile services to share information quickly and reduce human casualties.
The poorest countries need support from the international community if they are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, says Gyan Chandra Acharya, the United Nations official for least developed countries. One-half of people in the 49 poorest countries still live below the World Bank's $1.25-a-day threshold. "We must make sure that the unfinished agenda is taken care of. ... There is no way they can do it themselves," Acharya said.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging North Korea "to refrain from taking any further provocative measures." Ban, who meets with U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday, is reaching out to China and others to help rein in North Korea. "China is coming to the conclusion that North Korea is becoming a liability and it needs to take steps to deal with it," says Paul Haenle, formerly of the U.S. National Security Council.
Pledges of nearly $600 million for aid to Darfur came at Sudan donor talks over the weekend. Qatar is the largest donor, at $500 million, with the U.K., Chad, Turkey, Germany and Italy also contributing. The funds are sufficient "to start implementation and to build credibility of the process," says Jorg Kuhnel of the United Nations Development Programme. Officials seek $7.2 billion for reconstruction.