Monthly Archives: June 2007
Today the House continues to consider the State, Foreign Ops Appropriations bill (streaming video), which includes funding for UN peacekeeping. House Appropriators added $195 million for peacekeeping in committee to help address U.S. arrears (which could reach $1 billion this year). That funding could possibly be under attack, and there will likely be many amendments offered that address issues of diplomacy and multilateralism.
As you may recall, the President’s budget request shorted U.S. funding for UN peacekeeping in FY 2008 by $500 million and failed to address $569 million in already existing arrears, threatening to put the U.S. more than $1 billion into arrears before the end of the year. In comparison to the Department of Defense budget (over $450 billion not including the supplemental spending for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan) this may not seem like much, but it represents 20% of the UN’s total peacekeeping budget for 2008 and forces the UN and troop-contributing nations to face resource shortfalls for critical operations in Darfur, Lebanon, and Haiti. Moreover it leaves key allies–notably India, Kenya, Pakistan, and Bangladesh–who send troops and ship equipment in support of new U.S.-supported UN peacekeeping operations holding unpaid invoices and threatens to further damage the U.S. image abroad.
The Free Republic, in its traditionally understated way, highlights an Investors Business Daily editorial excoriating Ban Ki-moon for making the connection between climate change and the Darfur conflict. “The new U.N. secretary general invokes a Twinkie defense,” says the editorial. “Excusing Islamofascist genocide in Darfur by blaming it on global warming. Forget the Chinese weapons. According to Ban Ki-moon, your SUV is responsible.”
The Atlantic Monthly ran an excellent feature on this topic two months ago. Darfur, which is composed of the three provinces in Sudan’s west, enjoys little natural wealth. It is a vast, unforgiving, and arid place. But it was not always as arid as it is today. As the Atlantic Monthly piece by Stephan Faris explains, southward expansion of the Sahara desert toward Darfur is a relatively recent phenomenon.
The desertification of Darfur has pit traditionally agrarian “black African” tribes in competition for arable land with nomadic tribes of ethnic-Arab herders. Of course, that alone is not sufficient to explain the accusations of genocide. Rather, when ethnic Darfuri tribes launched a rebellion against the central government in Khartoum in 2003, the government recruited and armed militias drawn from ethnic-Arab tribes, with promises that the land would be theirs. The fact that the two groups competed for natural resources in ways they had not in previous generations made the government’s strategy to recruit militias that much easier.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Washington, DC yesterday in an effort to seek support for reducing the U.S. deficit in peacekeeping dues.
“He’s meeting with congressional leaders, mostly talking about peacekeeping funding,” said Deborah DeYoung, information officer for the United Nations Information Centre in Washington.
“He’s been here twice before this year, and probably be coming back and forth a good bit. It’s a new era, and he’s keen to get to know people and keen to let them know his priorities.”
The timing of Ban’s trip coincided with the Better World Campaign–which gave the House of Representatives a petition on Tuesday signed by 32,000 people from all 50 states urging Congress to pay off $569 million in arrears.
By Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees
Today, on World Refugee Day, I am joining southern Sudanese refugees as they return home from Uganda to begin rebuilding their lives after decades of conflict. Although largely unreported, with help from the UN, refugees are starting to return to southern Sudan from refugee camps in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia, and the Central African Republic. Others are returning from exile in Libya and Egypt, as well as from other parts of Sudan itself.
Today, June 20, is United Nations World Refugee Day. And for the first time since 2002, the number of refugees and displaced persons around the world is actually increasing. According to a new report (pdf) by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, the number now approaches 10 million people, a 14 percent rise in the over last year’s figures. Sadly, the dramatic increase is largely due to the war in Iraq, where an estimated 1.5 million people have been forced to find refuge in neighboring Jordan and Syria.
Koichiro Matsuura, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), has has condemned the murder of Iraqi journalist Sahar Hussein Ali al-Haydari. This death follows the murder of two female Afghan journalists in recent weeks.
“In only a few days, three women journalists have been brutally murdered…These pioneering women were targeted because they devoted their energy and courage to help bring about democratic change in their societies…I trust these particularly heinous crimes will not go unpunished.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports taht at least 106 journalists and 39 media workers have been killed in Iraq since 2003.
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.