Monthly Archives: June 2008
According to the official Xinhua news service, China is sending a new deployment of 315 military engineers to Darfur.
With a third group of Chinese peacekeepers sent to Sudan to replace their predecessors, China has sent more than 10,000 peacekeepers to participate in 18 UN peace-keeping missions.
At the request of the United Nations and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, China decided to participate in a hybrid force of the United Nations and the African Union.
China promised to send a 315-member engineering unit to Darfur. So far, the first group of 143 engineers has been dispatched to Darfur, where it is at work.
I’m not entirely sure how Xinhua came up with the claim that China has sent “10,000 peacekeepers to participate in 18 UN peace-keeping missions” as China is only the 13th largest (pdf) troop contributor with nearly 2000 military and police in the field. Still, China’s stepped up participation in the Darfur – African Union mission is certainly welcome. Welcome too would be Beijing using its diplomatic suasion with Khartoum to help lift restrictions on the Darfur mission.
Meanwhile, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations announced a French successor to Jean-Marie Guehenno, the very capable Undersecretary General who headed peacekeeping operations since 2000. Alain Le Roy, who cut his teeth in the Balkans, will succeed Guehenno.
I was unable to tape a UN Plaza diavlog this week, but New York Sun national security reporter Eli Lake stepped up. In the segment below, Eli surprises by offering two reasons why American neoconservatives (like himself) should love the United Nations.
At this week’s African Union summit leaders may not be condemning the “sham election” in Zimbabwe, but Ban Ki Moon wades where Secretary Generals typically do not and calls the presidential election in a member state “illegitimate.” From the UN News Center:
“The outcome did not reflect the true and genuine will of the Zimbabwean people or produce a legitimate result,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in statement issued today in Tokyo, where the Secretary-General is currently on an official visit.
“The Secretary-General has said repeatedly that conditions were not in place for a free and fair election and observers have confirmed this from the deeply flawed process,” the statement added.
At long last, Congress has passed the 2008 supplemental appropriations bill — and it includes $665 million to help fund UN peacekeeping missions, pay back U.S. debt to the UN, and contribute to key international organizations like NATO and the World Health Organization. In response, the Better World Campaign expressed cautious optimism in a press release that it issued on Friday:
“At a time when the United States is asking the United Nations to take on more and more responsibilities for peace, security and progress around the world, it is imperative that America honor its financial commitments to the UN,” said former Senator Timothy E. Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation and Better World Campaign. “America is a great nation and as such needs to pay its bills on time and in full. This legislation is an important step toward reducing America’s nearly $2 billion debt to the UN,” Wirth said.
“If the President approves this budget request, U.S. debt to the UN will fall to $1.734 billion,” said Deborah Derrick, Executive Director of the Better World Campaign. “In order to further reduce U.S. debt to the UN, and enhance America’s reputation in the world, the Better World Campaign is calling on Congress and the Administration to prioritize payment of unpaid bills to the UN in the fiscal 2009 appropriations process,” she said.
“Fall to $1.734 billion” may seem depressingly ironic, as such a sum means that the country with the world’s largest economy still harbors an unacceptably bloated debt to an organization that it asks to take on so much around the world — from Darfur to Iraq to, most recently, Zimbabwe. Even with this funding, the U.S. is still dangerously underfunding peacekeeping missions in places like Chad, Kosovo, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, jeopardizing the ability of these missions to be effective. Furthermore, the upcoming FY 2009 funding bill threatens to undo all of the gains that will be made by this $665 million.
Nonetheless, there is a positive sign in Congress’ decision of how to appropriate funds in the supplemental. The $665 million for UN causes will go not just to high-profile issues like the peacekeeping force in Darfur, but also to the less “sexy” — but no less important — cause of paying back the U.S.’s debt to the UN. Congress has made the statement that fully funding the UN is a worthwhile endeavor, and, in its work on the 2009 budget, it needs to make sure that this step forward is not canceled out by two steps back.
It seems that speculation about the president of East Timor, Jose Ramos-Horta, leaving his country to become UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was a bit premature. Here’s how Ramos-Horta explained his decision:
“An early departure from my current responsibility would result in early elections and this would be an unfair burden on a people who went to the polls three times in 2007,” he told a news conference in Dili.
The possibility of inadvertently fomenting instability in his country undoubtedly weighed heavily on Ramos-Horta. His role, as one analyst describes it, is an important one of “ensuring there is a link between two groups of people who don’t want to talk to each other” in a polarized East Timorese political system. The same analyst, however, sees the potential for more a slightly more cynical motivation on Ramos-Horta’s part:
“By refusing this now, he has managed to put himself on the list for the future,” said Edward Rees, a specialist on East Timor and a former UN consultant on security issues, speaking from Dili. “The list is constantly being used to fill top spots at the United Nations. His name will be on the list, and maybe in a year from now if something comes up, he’ll get it.”
The fact remains, though, that Ramos-Horta’s name was never officially offered the job from the Secretary-General to begin with. Curious indeed.
Over at his blog, On the Ground, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is incensed that the Bush administration has, for the seventh consecutive year, decided to withhold any funding for the United Nations Population Fund. He’s not alone, as voices on the Hill are already registering their outcry. Why would the U.S. object to helping fund an organization that provides reproductive health services for women across the world (not to mention assistance in development, human rights, and gender equality initiatives as well)? Kristof explains:
The reason given for withholding the U.S. funds is that the Population Fund (universally called UNFPA, after its old acronym) supports forced abortions in China. Even if that were true, it would be ridiculous to withhold funds for UNFPA activities against maternal mortality in Africa because of its work in China. But in any case, UNFPA has been a major force against compulsion of any kind in China, as the U.S. blue-ribbon committee that investigated the charges found. In the areas in China where UNFPA set up a model program, there is no compulsion and the abortion rate is lower than in the U.S.
It seems that the administration is assuming that, simply because China has a one-child policy — and because yes, like everywhere else in the world, some women in China do get abortions — that abortions there must be non-voluntary, and that the UNFPA, merely by operating in the country, is guilty by association. This logic is clearly flawed, its assertions are wholly unsubstantiated by the evidence, and, perhaps worst of all, it contradicts the findings of the U.S. government's own investigative panel. Moreover, as Kristof suggests, depriving UNFPA of support for any of its work — even in places like Africa, where President Bush has trumpeted his development efforts, such as PEPFAR, as a staple of his legacy — out of either political or ideological posturing makes for nonsensical policy.
Cross-posted on On Day One.
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.