Monthly Archives: August 2008
As you can see from the video below, Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly I. Churkin is none too pleased with his French counterparts. Here’s the backstory: The presidents of France and Russia negotiated a ceasefire agreement last week which is known as the the “six point plan.” The French prepared to circulate a draft resolution at the Security Council to formalize the plan, but scraped the idea amid concerns that Russia was not making good on promises to pull back its troops from Georgia.
Then on Tuesday, a draft written by France and backed by the United States and United Kingdom ratcheted up the pressure and called for “an immediate Russian withdrawal to pre-conflict lines, the return of Georgian forces to their bases and full compliance with an already agreed cease-fire.” According to Reuters, “Western diplomats said the French draft had been submitted to the council in full knowledge that Russia was likely to reject it. The aim was ‘to put the spotlight on the fact that the Russians have not withdrawn,’ one Western envoy said.”
Well, with the spotlight on him, Churkin lays into the French.
The UN Development Program has donated 500 bicycles to women in northern Uganda. UN News Centre explains why this could substantially help efforts to aid those affected by the region’s long-standing violence.
The bicycleprogramme is part of UNDP’s larger sexual and gender-based violence programme which has trained over 700 women in peacebuilding, negotiation and conflict resolution skills. It is hoped that the bikes will help these women reach remote and inaccessible communities sheltering the displaced who are returning to northern Uganda.
Allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) against personnel serving with the United Nations Missionin Liberia (UNMIL) have fallen, according to a new report from the mission.
No word on whether bicycles have played a part in the success, but this report is a welcome bit of positive news on the UN’s concentrated campaign to eliminate sexual abuse among peacekeepers — work that often gets lost in the reporting of cases of peacekeeper misconduct.
In the midst of a slew of what seems like the typical bad news out of Somalia — killings by insurgents, killings by Ethiopian troops, hijackings by pirates — two developments of the last two days may give at least a flicker of hope.
The U.N. Security Council authorized on Tuesday an African Union force in Somalia for another six months, a day after Somalia’s government signed a peace agreement with some opposition figures.
A unanimous resolution also asked U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to work with the AU to strengthen U.N. logistical, political and technical support to help bring the African Union Mission in Somalia, or AMISOM, up to U.N. standards.
Even taken in concert, these two steps will by no means end the chaos reigning in Somalia. For one, not all of the groups responsible for violence in Somalia — including the most intransigent extremists — signed the accord reached yesterday. For another, the re-authorization of AMISOM’s mandate simply represents a continuation of an all too unstable status quo. Nonetheless, with Nigerian units forthcoming, if the UN can follow up on its commitment to upgrade the AU force, then this will represent the best feasible scenario for the moment, when rashly deployed UN peacekeepers would likely only fall into the trap of struggling to maintain an incomplete peace.
The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court just announced that alleged war crimes in Georgia are “under analysis” by his office.
“Georgia is a State Party to the Rome Statute [that created the ICC]” he said. “My Office considers carefully all information relating to alleged crimes within its jurisdiction — war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide – committed on the territory of States Parties or by nationals of States Parties, regardless of the individuals or groups alleged to have committed the crimes. The Office is inter alia analyzing information alleging attacks on the civilians.”
So what exactly does this mean? For one, don’t expect any Georgians or Russians to be hauled to the Hague anytime soon–if ever. Being “under analysis” is the first step in a very long series of events before allegations of war crimes turn into indictments or arrest warrants. And it is hardly guaranteed that ICC indictments will ever be pursued in this case. Other criteria: like gravity of the alleged crimes and whether or not local courts are pursuing their own investigations must also be satisfied.
Still, this move by the court is significant for the fact that it is the only conflict in the global north that is in the ICC’s sights. All four cases before the court are from Africa (Darfur, Northern Uganda, Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Central African Republic) as are three of the five other situations currently “under analysis” (Chad, Cote D’Ivoire, Kenya, Columbia and Afghanistan).
I spoke to an ICC lawyer handling the Georgia case who talked me through the procedural issues but would not discuss the contents of Russian and Georgian allegations of war crimes. This Human Rights Watch report, however, gives you a good sense of what the court may be dealing with should it ever launch a full investigation in Georgia. It’s not a pretty picture.
UPDATE: The aforementioned ICC lawyer responds: “The one thing not to underestimate, however, is that once triggered the Court process will continue until the evidence driven process finds its conclusion. If crimes have been perpetrated that fit our criteria, someone will be held to account. This may well be after the smoke clears but it is not something that should, or in this case is, being dismissed by the parties to the conflict.”
As if the skyrocketing prices of food in the developing world were not enough, those struggling to afford enough to eat are now dealing with another twist: a sharpening hierarchy that is inducing even countries with not enough food for themselves to sell it off to the highest bidders. FT reports:
The race by food-importing countries to secure farmland overseas to improve their food security risks creating a “neo-colonial” system, the United Nations’ top agriculture official has cautioned.
The warning by Jacques Diouf, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, comes as countries from Saudi Arabia to China plan to lease vast tracts of land in Africa and Asia to grow crops and ship them back to their markets.
The proof is in the pudding, of course — or in this case, perhaps in the sorghum — and, as this Jeffrey Gettleman NYT article made clear, Sudan is in fact one player in this new game, selling off a quantity of crops large enough to feed the displaced population in its western province of Darfur.
Over on the Washington Independent, Spencer Ackerman writes a piece about what Sergio Vieira de Mello meant to the UN system. It’s a great piece. Definitely worth a read.
Vieira de Mello represented a transformation toward a more activist U.N. diplomat — one more comfortable settling disputes and tending to humanitarian crises in combat zones than smoothing over hurt feelings at U.N. headquarters in New York. “He never got muddy, despite wading in the mud so frequently,” said [ friend of UN Dispatch James] Traub, meaning that both literally and figuratively.
While Vieira de Mello might have been the best of that trail-blazing generation, he most certainly is not the last. Among the places that generation is proving its mettle is, ironically, the country where Vieira gave his life: Iraq. Right now, the Swedish diplomat Steffan de Mistura has thrown himself into the thick of Iraq’s toughest problems.
I’d also be remiss not to mention Lakdhar Brahimi, who served briefly as Algeria’s Foreign Minister in the early 1990s, became a career UN official heading missions in Haiti and South Africa in the early to mid 1990s. He’s most known, though, for three things: 1) He’s the namesake of the “2000 Brahimi Report” on how to restore UN peacekeeping after its failures in Bosnia and Rwanda. This report is hugely influential and paved the way for UN’s peacekeeping more recent successes in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote D’Ivoire. 2) He was also the UN’s top person on Afghanistan. And following the US-led toppling of the Taliban, he negotiated a ceasefire among competing militias and ethnic groups and paved the way for the constitution writing process and for the election of Hamid Karzai. 3) After his success in Afghanistan, the Secretary General sent him to Iraq to help restore the UN mission–which pulled out after the attack on the UN compound. He mediated between top Shiite leader Ali al-Sistani and CPA head Paul Bremmer, convincing the Americans to scrap their “Iraqi Interim Government” and convincing Sistani to be patient about holding elections. The eventual 2005 elections and “purple finger moment,” which at the time was billed as a great success, was Brahimi’s doing. It’s just a shame he was not empowered to do more.
Ibrahim Gambari, a Nigerian who is spearheading the UN’s diplomacy toward Myanmar, is also a go-to problem solver. It is hard to call Myanmar a “UN success,” but on purely humanitarian concerns, he has done a great deal to get humanitarian access to the people of Burma. Jan Elliason, former Sweedish Foreign Minister, is also a person to watch. He was president of the General Assembly during the major debates over UN reform in 2005 and was later tapped as Special Envoy for Darfur. He’s known as a skilled diplomat, though he was in a near impossible situation on Darfur.
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.