Monthly Archives: September 2008
In addition to their Huff Post piece on a new China-Darfur strategy, the prodigious folks over at the ENOUGH project today also released a statement on the faltering peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s increasingly volatile eastern region. According to their analysis, the Congolese government has basically fallen flat on its political commitments to negotiate with the rebel National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP). Instead, the authors argue, Kinshasa has attempted to sideline the CNDP, while — to compensate for its military weakness — inappropriately relying on the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, MONUC, to mount offensives against CNDP and other armed elements.
The CNDP has not been blameless, of course, and tensions threaten to erupt into full-scale war. Trapped in the middle are the MONUC peacekeepers. While ENOUGH’s report criticizes the mission for condemning rebel atrocities more often that the Congolese army’s equally egregious transgressions, it also identifies the untenable bind in which Kinshasa is forcing MONUC.
[T]he Congolese government has expected MONUC to fight its war against Nkunda, and periodically blamed the UN for failing to dislodge the CNDP. Recent public protests against MONUC are a grim indication that blaming the UN resonates with frustrated and war-weary Congolese civilians. This cynical strategy by the Congolese government of failing to implement agreements while simultaneously blaming the peacekeepers for the eroding situation may well make things much worse.
If only such a “cynical strategy” were limited to DR Congo. UN blue helmets are stationed all over the world in incredibly difficult situations, at times with only skimpy Rules of Engagement and an overly constrictive mandate. Too often they are scapegoated for the failings, deceptions, and aggressions of governments, rebel groups, and, yes, the international community that deployed them. The civilians on the ground, who cannot peer into the back rooms of peace negotiations where promises are made and broken, should not be manipulated as vessels of propaganda. If parties truly have the interests of their people at heart, then they should help peacekeepers keep a peace, rather than use them to try to tear one apart.
Neil MacFarquhar of The New York Times reports that some tangible good news for Darfur may have come out of the UN General Assembly.
United Nations officials emerged with a commitment for 18 helicopters for the peacekeeping force there from Ukraine. There were so many conditions attached by Ukraine, however, including using private contractors and getting approval from the embattled Parliament, that it remained unclear whether a solution for the long quest for 24 helicopters had really been found.
Given the tumultuous state of Ukrainian politics right now, this latter requirement seems a daunting obstacle. Plus, Ukraine’s last shipment of military vehicles to Sudan (if Kiev even knew that was their likely eventual destination) probably would have violated an arms embargo had it not first been seized by pirates. There’s certainly no embargo on equipping a UN peacekeeping mission, though, nor is there any doubt how desperately the blue helmets in Darfur need the helicopters, so let’s hope that the political hurdles are cleared and that the choppers don’t run into any sort of “air pirates” en route.
China assumes the rotating presidency of the Security Council tomorrow, meaning it will have the lead role in setting the Council’s agenda for the month of October. The last time China held the Council presidency was July 2007–when it helped steer the process of authorizing a peacekeeping mission to Darfur. Since then, though, many human rights activists have been dismayed by China’s alliances with Zimbabwe, Burma, and Sudan–and have complained that China uses its influence at the Security Council to protect those regimes.
For much of the last three years, many in the activist community used the Beijing Olympics as leverage to secure China’s cooperation on Darfur and on human rights issues more broadly. Now that the Olympics are over, the Enough Project’s John Prendergast and David Sullivan argue for a new, more sustainable approach. From HuffPo:
[A] new administration in Washington and activists around the world need to focus on Beijing’s investment strategy, demonstrating how its economic interests are undermined by its present foreign policy and offering China real alternatives. A more sober examination is required in order to ascertain how the Chinese government might be motivated to become a more constructive actor in support of peace and human rights. There are two points of leverage: one positive and one negative.
On the positive side, as China increasingly integrates into the global economy, Beijing must play by the rules if it wants others to do so. China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001 was based on the calculation that the economic benefits of globalization outweighed the cost of abiding by international norms. But today an emboldened China skirts the rules on everything from underage gymnasts to product safety and intellectual property rights. The U.S. should remind China that defying basic human rights, environmental and labor standards will rebound negatively on its commercial interests, particularly by using multilateral mechanisms like the W.T.O. to impose a cost on China’s errant practices.
On the negative side lurks the greatest threat to China’s long-term growth potential. By allying itself with some of the world’s worst dictators for the spoils of today’s resource grab, the bill will be paid tomorrow by rebels and opposition officials who will remember who kept their enemies in power.
Last week, amid the hubbub of the UN General Assembly and CGI, I received a kind invitation from Nothing But Nets to an event highlighting two worthwhile new endeavors.
Along with tasty treats, the main event was the launch of Exiled, a new show on MTV that is supported by the UN Foundation and Nothing but Nets. Fans of My Super Sweet 16 will find the format familiar, but this time the, what I’ll gently call “overly attended to,” rich kids spend some time with local families in the developing world. Here we saw Ava, who made her entrance into her sweet 16 party on a red chaise carried by shirtless Loyola polo players, visit a Karen village in Thailand (full episode). One of her tasks was cleaning up elephant dung. I think you can see where this is going.
There is humor in the disconnect, but also real value in the messaging. After seeing how the other half lives, the MTV audience is directed to ThinkMTV, where they can engage in discussion and help out directly (like by sending a $10 bed net to Africa).
Although MTV executive Dave Sirulnick noted that these kinds of shows are doing well in the ratings, kudos to MTV for continuing to take the “risk” of airing them. And kudos to the widely successful Nothing But Nets campaign for continuing to engage new grassroots constituencies in their critical work.
It’s somewhat of a truism that leaders of an armed coup will attempt to justify their takeover by painting it as urgently necessary for their country’s welfare and overwhelmingly supported by the local population. In his turn speaking in front of the General Assembly, the UN ambassador from Mauritania, whose military toppled the country’s democratically elected president in early August, made no exception to this formula:
In view of the political impasse, the armed forces and the security forces, conscious of the serious dangers to the country, intervened in order to correct the deviations and pressure national unity and the other gains of the country, and its prospects of development and progress.
This change has engaged the support of two thirds of members of parliament and about 90% of mayors and two thirds of the recognized political parties in addition to other organizations of the civil society including cultural and professional societies and unprecedented popular marches.
I don’t know where the ambassador is getting his statistics, but independent news outlets have reported that the junta is “facing criticism at home and abroad,” even if the putsch “garnered some support in Mauritania’s political establishment.” Some of the “popular marches,” of course, were actually protests against the new regime. The Security Council has condemned the coup, as have the United States, France, the World Bank, and both the European Union and African Union. Also apparently opposed to the coup is al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb — the very terrorist organization that, ironically, the junta claimed that it would be better than its predecessor at combating.
Three weeks after back to back hurricanes devastated the Gonaives region of Haiti, many residents are still homeless and still living on their roofs. UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador (and blogger) Mia Farrow visited Gonaives a week after the storms slammed the city.
At CGI last week, World Food Programme Director Josette Sheeran announced that she would travel to Gonaives to see the devastation first hand. She now reports that “Haiti’s misery index is rising” and that WFP needs $54 million for food, logistics and emergency telecommunications to meet urgent hunger needs.
“The US, Japan, EC, Switzerland and Canada have stepped up with almost $11 million and we can meet urgent food needs until the end of November.
Despite this show of generosity from many nations, we need more help so we can continue with the emergency operation and our other programmes here that will contribute to the longer-term solution President Préval and the people of Haiti so desperately need,” she said.
Almost one month after the disaster struck destroying roads and 3,000 houses, three million cubic metres of mud still need to be removed from the city. Fifty thousand people continue to take refuge in shelters.
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.