Monthly Archives: June 2007
Six Spanish peacekeepers in southern Lebanon were killed over the weekend in an apparent car bombing. These deaths are the first peacekeeper fatalities since UNIFIL expanded its operations in southern Lebanon following last summer’s war between Israel and Hezbollah forces. The culprits are unknown at this point. Hezbollah has condemned the attacks. But Fatah al-Islam–the militant group battling the Lebanese army forces in a refugee camp near Beirut–has previously accused UNIFIL of attacking the camp, so it would seem they are the target of immediate suspicions.
These fatalities highlight the unique force structure of peacekeeping in Lebanon. UNIFIL does not quite resemble other peacekeeping missions, where soldiers from South Asian countries typically make up the bulk of the forces. UNIFIL, out of design, is predominantly European. As a condition of the August 14, 2006 ceasefire agreement, the Israeli government demanded that countries with sophisticated military capacities help fill the security void once Israel withdrew its own soldiers. Sending American troops there was a non-starter, so France, Spain, Italy and other European countries stepped up. The deaths over the weekend are a sad reminder of Europe’s commitment to help keep the peace in the second-most volatile country in the Middle East.
A new report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) reports that environmental degradation is among the root causes of decades of conflict in Sudan.
Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP, says the report “has shown clearly that peace and people’s livelihoods in Darfur as well as in the rest of Sudan are inextricably linked to the environmental challenge.”
“Just as environmental degradation can contribute to the triggering and perpetuation of conflict, the sustainable management of natural resources can provide the basis for long-term stability, sustainable livelihoods, and development.”
Contributed by Sean-Paul Kelley
This really is an important story that deserves wider coverage. Microlending is very profitable. In the past those profits have always been plowed back into the local community to be used to lift even more people out of poverty. But that may be changing:
Scott Jagow: There’s a big conference in Europe today on microfinancing. That’s when you give people, usually women, in developing countries very small loans to help them run a business. It might be something as simple as selling crafts on the street. But some of the world’s largest banks are attending this conference. They want to get into microfinancing. Michaela Walsh founded Women’s World Banking back in 1975. I asked her why the big banks want a piece of this.
Michaela Walsh: It can be a very profitable business. It is more labor-intensive than say commercial credit. Our role is to make sure that microfinance doesn’t become consumer credit.
Is there a possibility that big banks will come in a depersonalize what has been one of the world most successful ways of alleviating poverty and empowering women? Yes:
Michaela Walsh: Personally, I have always had a concern that small loans that are given in a local community, whether it’s rural or urban, and when paid back there needs to be some kind of a guarantee that those profits and those benefits are reinvested in that local community and not just computerized and centralized in a capital city or in a global network. Recently Harvard University and two other universities did a study saying that because the large banking institutions have the capacity to get out more loans, that we ought to put more and more money into the big institutions. My concern about that is we need to make sure those loans are not consumer loans and that they are going to be shared with local women’s institutions to ensure that woman are making the decisions about how to run microfinance in the most effective way to serve the largest number of clients.
The big banks will turn it into a credit issue and then have even more wage slaves, globally too!
From a legal stand-point, UN sponsored “ad-hoc” war crimes tribunals in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, and the former Yugoslavia have been valuable tools for testing and codifying the limits of laws that govern armed conflict. Through sheer necessity and much effort, these courts, for the past decade or so, have defined what constitutes a “war crime” punishable under international law.
Yesterday, a new category of war crime was given sound legal footing when the Special Court for Sierra Leone handed down the world’s first conviction of military commanders accused of recruiting child soldiers. The court (which tries cases stemming from Sierra Leone’s brutal 11-year civil war) convicted three men of recruiting and using child soldiers under the age of 16.
It’s worth noting that the ruling comes near the 11-year anniversary of a similarly landmark moment: on June 28, 1996 prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia issued ground-breaking indictments in which rape was treated as a crime of war. Prosecutors won that case in early 2001, with a ruling establishing rape as a crime against humanity.
With yesterday’s ruling on child soldiers, the progression of international humanitarian law steadily marches on.
The United Nations food relief agency has appealed to Kenyan authorities to allow assistance for more than 100,000 people to be trucked into Somalia, where deliveries are being hampered.
One hundred and forty WFP-contracted trucks carrying the food left the Kenyan port of Mombasa and were unexpectedly stopped at the Northeast Kenyan border crossing of El-Wak since they first started arriving there on 25 May.
WFP Somalia Country Director Peter Goossens said “The Kenyan overland route was chosen because of major problems with sea routes to Somalia plagued by pirate attacks.”
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.