Monthly Archives: June 2008
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is hosting a talk with the UN today on the state of Zimbabwe, the importance of transparent election, and the urgency to address how rape is used as a weapon of war, and what measures need to be taken.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the council’s discussion on women would send an important signal to the world just by discussing the systematic use of rape and mutilation as a weapon of war in conflict or post-conflict situations.
‘We believe it is very important that a message is sent that there is no impunity for such crimes,’ he said.
The simple acknowledgment of rape as a weapon of war is a great accomplishment, as its very existence has only really begun to be documented recently – but I’m also looking forward to seeing what strategic plans might come out of the meeting to really do something about violence against women in conflict and post-conflict situations.
A few weeks ago, John flagged a Refugees International report on the plight of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia. (The two countries have been in a state of conflict for the past decade). However, it seems that Ethiopia is not the only place that displaced Eritreans are vulnerable. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees reports that in recent weeks large numbers of Eritreans have sought refuge in Egypt. Problematically, Egyptian authorities have begun to systematically deport them. From the UN News Center:
The top United Nations human rights official said she was “alarmed” by reports that Egypt has deported some 700 Eritrean-asylum seekers in the past few days, and called on authorities to halt any further forced returns.
“People who could well be at risk in their home country should never be sent back before their asylum claims have been properly addressed,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said in a statement.
“Egypt should respect its international obligations not to send home anyone who could face torture or other serious forms of ill treatment, as may well be the case with those who have apparently been deported in recent days,” she added.
In a somewhat related development, the European Union approved a common policy yesterday which allows EU members to hold undocumented migrants in detention centers for up to 18 months.
Life just became a bit more difficult for the world’s most vulnerable populations.
By Ken Bacon, President, Refugees International
Today nearly five million Iraqis–20% of the population–are displaced. About half of them have fled the country and live as refugees throughout the Middle East, while the rest are displaced within Iraq. Most fled their homes because they felt unsafe; those who worked for the U.S. as translators or drivers fled after they were attacked as collaborators. Most refugees and internally displaced lack access to employment, education and medical care; they are facing shortages of food and money.
This is a humanitarian crisis first, but it is also becoming a security problem.
If you’ve been on the internet in the past year, you have likely come across Free Rice, the online vocabulary building game that donates 20 grains of rice to the World Food Program for each word correctly defined. The site went viral after its launch last year. To date, 36 billion grains of rice have been donated through the site by sponsors who advertise on the Free Rice homepage. It’s a win-win: users build their vocab, the hungry get fed.
Today, the World Food Program announced that rice donated through Free Rice is going to the Burmese survivors of last month’s cyclone; two of the site’s sponsors, YUM! and Unilever are paying for the consignments of rice to Burma.
Not a bad way to find out that “sastruga” means “wind-formed snow ridge.”
Yesterday, The New York Times published an editorial criticizing the UN Security Council for demonstrating insufficient “will” and “urgency” to stop the genocide in Darfur. The Times is rightly frustrated with both the Sudanese government’s persistent obstructionism and the international community’s failure to pony up sufficient funding, supplies, and troops for the peacekeeping force there. The editorial also urges all the right policy steps, including additional sanctions, pressure on China, and support for the International Criminal Court.
So what’s wrong with the Times‘ well-meaning and largely on-target editorial? Well, only that it may be aiming at an overly broad target . This complaint may seem nit-picky, but the Times, by focusing its indignation on the Security Council “as a whole,” is problematically conflating the umbrella of the “Council” with its component parts — the member states that make up the body and guide its decisions and courses of action. In a sense, then, the Times is missing the trees for the forest — and individual trees, particularly those falling out of line with the rest of the forest, make far better targets than the entire forest.
While unanimous Security Council action is always the goal — with regards to Darfur as well as any other subject of the Council’s attention — this cannot be achieved by simply chastising the entire institution; this is akin to blaming the Times “as a whole” for the words of, say, its editorial board. Using the term “Security Council” may often be convenient, but it casually glosses over the fact that the group — like the whole UN system — is no more than the sum of its parts, and that addressing criticisms to these individual countries, all of which act and vote according to their own interests, is both more effective and more intellectually honest. The Times‘ editorial in fact acknowledges that member states bear the greatest responsibility for the Council’s action or inaction:
But a minority of Council members, led by China, have let their economic interests — in Beijing’s case substantial investments in Sudan’s abundant oil supplies — trump their moral and legal responsibility to thwart genocide. Last week, China’s president, Hu Jintao, used stronger-than-usual language to urge Khartoum to cooperate with United Nations peacekeepers and enforce a cease-fire in Darfur. If China is prepared to back up those words with a tougher line in the Security Council, it could make a huge difference.
China is not the only Security Council member that needs to step up its action on Darfur. Greater individual commitments from all 15 nations — particularly the “P5″ of China, Russia, the U.S., U.K., and France — are prerequisites to stronger and more concerted pressure on Sudan. With the signs coming from President Hu’s language, from yesterday’s unified support for ICC prosecutions, and from the U.S. Congress’ progress in allocating funds for desperately-needed helicopters, these stepwise requirements seem to be gradually being notched up.
Certainly, as Mark writes (and as NYT blog “The Lede” picks up here) the U.S.’s willingness to sign on to a UN Security Council statement voicing support for the ICC is a big deal, and possibly — hopefully — a sign in a gradual shift in the U.S.’s stance toward the Court. Even more significant, perhaps, was the quieter acceptance of China and Russia — who had blocked a similar attempt in December 2007 — to supporting the ICC’s work in Sudan this bluntly. This month’s statement may not have been as strong as some member countries, particularly Costa Rica, which led the charge on this effort, would have liked, but it clearly represents the effects of pressure on the players with the most influence in Sudan.
Libya had opposed the original wording of the statement and only agreed to support it after the language was watered down to support an “end to impunity” instead of explicitly demanding compliance with ICC arrest warrants, council diplomats said.
They said China most likely supported the statement on Sudan to avoid drawing more unnecessary attention to its close ties with Sudan ahead of the Beijing Olympics.
Supporting the ICC by name and even more robustly would have been preferable, but that likely would not have changed Sudan’s obdurate response anyway. The fact that China is responding to advocacy efforts tied to the controversial Beijing Games may herald a shift with an even greater potential impact on bringing Darfur’s war criminals to justice than the U.S.’s evolving position on the ICC.
(Elsewhere in the world of the ICC, the news was not so good, as the Court has suspended, on technical grounds, the prosecution of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo — scheduled to sit in the ICC’s first trial, which would have begun next Monday.)
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.