Monthly Archives: August 2008
Samantha Power marks the fifth year anniversary of Sergio Vieiro de Mello’s assassination with a New York Times op-ed on terrorists’ new front against aid workers.
Just as we Americans tried to make sense of [9-11], United Nations officials, nongovernmental workers and world leaders grappled with applying the lessons of August 19. But five years later — and less than a week after Taliban forces in Afghanistan killed three female educators and a driver with the International Rescue Committee — the individuals who carry out vital humanitarian and development work for the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations have never been more at risk.
The Baghdad bombing made it clear that the United Nations and humanitarian groups had moved from the 1990s, when their flags no longer offered them protection, to a phase in which their affiliations made them outright targets of Al Qaeda and other violent extremists.
One of the most dangerous places in the world for humanitarian workers is Somalia. The head of the United Nations Development Program’s Somalia office was shot dead coming out of Mosque last month. And just yesterday, local World Food Program confirmed that employee Abdulkadir Diad Mohamed was killed while riding in his car.
In her essay, Power recommends steps the international community can take to keep aid workers safe. This includes spending more money on security for humanitarian organizations and, where possible, getting greater commitments from the host country to provide security. In places like Somalia where this latter option is not possible (and where the international community is not willing to expend many resources) aid workers may have no choice but to pull out. It is an unfortunate decision to have to make. As Power says, we need to do more to protect the protectors.
Five years ago today an explosive laden truck pulled rammed into the Baghdad headquarters of the United Nations killing 22 people, including the head of mission Sergio Vieira de Mello.
Sergio was a legend at the United Nations. His extraordinary talents as a peacemaker and diplomat touched the lives of millions of people around the world. Early in his career, he single handily negotiated (with the Khmer Rouge) for the repatriation of thousands of Cambodian refugees. From 1999 to 2002 he oversaw the building-from-scratch of the newest country on earth, East Timor. His great success at nation building led Secretary General Kofi Annan to appoint him as head of mission in Iraq where he would apply his gifts as a peacemaker, humanitarian and troubleshooter to the world’s most complex conflict. Sadly, a terrorist’s bomb took his life only a few months into his mission. Iraq descended into chaos not long thereafter.
Sergio may be gone, but his legacy lives on. The Pulitzer Prize winning author Samantha Power wrote a book about him this year. An HBO documentary and a feature film (by the director of Hotel Rwanda) are both on the way. And now, there is a new blog on the block to keep Sergio’s vision of peacemaking fresh and build a movement for a smart foreign policy built upon the values he embodied as an international civil servant.
Chasing the Flame blog (which shares the title of Power’s book) is written by Sergio’s friends, admirers, and assorted foreign policy experts. Annick Stevenson, Sergio’s former spokesperson, opens the blog.
Imagine a world in which everybody would speak to his/her neighbor, would listen to his/her views and would try to understand them, would, more generally, always wish to know the will of others before deciding, would negotiate before envisaging any military reaction, would never ever view war as the solution to any conflict whatever the reasons may be…A world in which war would become impossible because it would too difficult to think of killing someone you share so much with. This world existed. It was in the mind of Sergio Vieira de Mello. This is how he conceived it and lived it, as much as he could, or at least as a matter of principle.
Add Chasing the Flame to your blogrolls and RSS feeds. Sergio’s vision of diplomacy and constructive dialogue is as urgent and relevant to American foreign policy as it ever was.
The big news today is out of Pakistan, where president Pervez Musharraf has announced his resignation just days after Pakistan’s parliament moved to impeach him. Matthew Yglesias, Spencer Ackerman, and Steve Clemons have more.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the region, tens of thousands of Muslims took to the streets of Kashmir’s main city to demand that the United Nations recognize Kashmir’s right of self-determination. The demonstrations occur amid a recent spate of violence in which 34 people have been killed in the last six weeks. One protester held a sign saying “Ban Ki Moon, Where Are You?” From AFP
Security was tight as crowds marched towards a local UN office, in defiance of official warnings against holding the rally in revolt-hit Srinagar, which remained tense after deadly clashes last week.
The UN office in Srinagar houses personnel who monitor ceasefire violations along the heavily militarised Line of Control, the de facto border dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
“I have never seen such a big rally in Srinagar,” said Abdul Aziz, a 75-year-old shopkeeper who was taking part in the procession.
“I couldn’t resist coming out to demand freedom from India,” he said, as he marched towards the UN office carrying a placard reading “If freedom for Kosovo, why not for Kashmir?”
There are, in fact, 48 military observers deployed to UNMOGIP, the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan–which mostly monitors ceasefire violations along the India-Pakistan border in Kashmir and Jammu. It is one of the oldest UN missions, dating from 1949–just after the partition of India. UNMOGIP itself has no say over the status of Kashmir. Only the Security Council can make those kinds of decisions. Still, it is the most visible sign of international presence in the region, so naturally it would be a target for demonstrators who want the capture the UN’s attention.
BBC has been airing “No Country for Young Girls” this week, a UN-funded documentary on India’s preference for sons. Via UN News Center:
“No country for young girls” explores issues such as illegal sex determination and consequent elimination, and its consequences for vast Asian nation in the years to come. It portrays a young Indian woman who has to choose between staying with a husband who does not want girl children, or to make it on her own.
According to a series of studies commissioned by UNFPA last year, prenatal son selection in several Asian countries – including India, China and Viet Nam – is likely to have severe social consequences in coming years. The agency has been working to address the issue for many years.
This comes a few months after the Indian prime minister denounced the widespread practice of aborting female fetuses as a “national shame.” Check out the BBC World News website to find out when the film is airing in your area.
by Adele Waugaman
It is important to remember that the Russian incursion into Georgia on August 8 has created not only a complex political situation but a humanitarian emergency that requires immediate attention. Aerial bombings and street fighting injured many and displaced waves of up to 100,000 civilians, according to estimates by the UN refugee agency. And, as we attempt to put the pieces back together, both the political negotiations and the humanitarian efforts will need world attention and support.
In recent days, both the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the non-profit group Télécoms Sans Frontiéres (TSF) have mobilized their emergency telecommunications services in support of the humanitarian relief efforts underway.
At a ceremony honoring the 22 people who died in the horrific bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad five years, the head of the UN mission in Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, pledged that the UN would continue to step up its work in the country.
“What we are doing at the moment is sending a signal that the U.N. is back. The U.N. is back to stay. The U.N. is back to have its footprint increasing, its activities increasing.”
U.N. officials say there are about 350 international civilian and military staff members across the country, and that the number of civilian foreign staff members increased by 30 percent over the last year.
As the situation in Iraq shifts, so too is the direction of the UN’s support.
[Officials] say their focus has shifted from bricks-and-mortar projects, such as building schools, to training and advising Iraqi ministries and officials.
With violence at four-year lows across Iraq, the United Nations is also venturing further into the tempestuous world of Iraqi politics.
The only way to consolidate the possible benefits of this decreased violence, of course, is through ramped up efforts at political reconciliation. Upcoming provincial elections — likely to be delayed from October until early next year because of, among other factors, the difficulty of negotiating a referendum over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk — are crucial to Iraq’s political progress, and, as others have noted, the UN is in the best position to take the lead in this endeavor.
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.