Yearly Archives: 2007
Colum Lynch reports that the African Union force in Darfur may be on the verge of collapse:
The African Union’s first major peacekeeping mission — once considered the last line of defense for Darfur’s civilians — has been crippled by funding and equipment shortages, government harassment and an upsurge in armed attacks by rebel forces that last month left seven African troops dead.
The setbacks have sapped morale among peacekeepers, many of whom have not been paid for months. It has also compelled the force — which numbered 7,000 troops at its peak — to scale back its patrols and has diminished its capacity to protect civilians, aid workers and its own peacekeepers. In one example, Gambian troops last month failed to aid a Ghanaian peacekeeper who was gunned down in a carjacking incident within 300 yards of the mission’s Darfur headquarters, U.N. officials said.
When the fighting reached its peak in Darfur in spring 2004, the government of Sudan allowed a small number of African Union peacekeepers in to Darfur. Ostensibly, their job was to monitor a nominal cease-fire brokered between the government and rebels–not provide civilian protection. Still, considering the small number of troops, sparse resources at their disposal, and restrictive mandate, the African Union Mission in Sudan conducted itself admirably. In 2005, I interviewed Brian Steidle, a former US marine who served with the AU force. He recalled one incident in which the African Union deterred a government and janjaweed attack on a town of 45,000 by positioning merely 35 soldiers in the town.
Speaking at a conference on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), President of the General Assembly Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa said that governments worldwide can help lift women and their families out of poverty by introducing more gender-sensitive policies that offer greater employment, taxation and investment opportunities for women.
[Sheikha Haya] called on governments to incorporate gender perspectives into their fiscal and monetary policies. Promoting gender equality and empowering women is one of the eight MDGs.
“Gender-sensitive policies assist women entrepreneurs in accessing markets and obtaining reasonable interest rates for loans, as well as promote decent employment opportunities, fair taxation, and investments in infrastructure,” she said.
Ten years ago, I would have sounded crazy should I have predicted that Liberia would become a functioning democracy by 2007, and that Charles Taylor, the Liberian warlord turned president, would be in jail awaiting prosecution for war crimes. And rightly so — in 1997, Liberia was a singularly dismal place on earth. Taylor had just been elected president after leading a bloody insurgency characterized by the recruitment of child soldiers, wide-spread rape and mutilation. Taylor’s popular support, however, was less from admiration than fear. Prior to the election, throngs on the street chanted, “He killed my ma, he killed my pa, I’m going to vote for him!” Better to vote him president than have him lose the election and turn his wrath against the people.
The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues opened its two-week session today in New York, where more than 1,000 indigenous representatives will take on issues related to lands, territories and natural resources.
These matters are widely viewed as central to indigenous peoples’ efforts to gain recognition for their rights. “With the increasing desire of States for more economic growth, senseless exploitation of indigenous peoples’ territories and resources continues unabated,” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum, which will meet from 14 to 25 May.
The Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs and WorldPublicOpinion.org released a new poll affirming public support of the United Nations in the United States and around the world. Like similar polls in recent years, the new poll challenges the conventional wisdom about how one thinks the American public views the United Nations. For example, the poll asked respondents in 14 countries whether they would support “giving the UN the power to regulate the international arms trade.” By a large majority (60%), Americans were in favor. Also, when asked whether publics believe there should be a standing peacekeeping force “selected, trained, and commanded” by the United Nations, a whopping 72% of Americans agreed. Publics in other countries, such as France, South Korea and Peru gauged equally strong sentiment for these proposals, as well as giving the UN the authority to investigate violations of human rights.
Contrary to how one might assume Americans regard their country’s relationship with the United Nations, it would seem that even in relatively controversial areas like regulating the arms trade and establishing a standing “international” army, Americans are remarkably pro-UN.
United Nations Special Envoy Jan Eliasson said that the peace process in Darfur is at a “crossroads,” after he and his counterpart from the African Union (AU) finished their third joint visit to Sudan.
Serious obstacles to the political process – including the dire humanitarian situation, the persistence of tribal clashes and unrest in camps – still exist, Jan Eliasson told reporters at the Khartoum headquarters of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).
“We have talked very much about peacekeeping, an indispensable part of the process towards peace in Darfur, but we all must remember there has to be a peace to keep,” said Eliasson.
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.