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UN Population Fund joins others to launch campaign in DRC against sexual violence

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Last week, the United Nations Population Fund joined civil society groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the Government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to launch a campaign raising public awareness about the prevalence of sexual violence in the DRC. The campaign will run for the next month with a number of efforts including marches, conferences, forums, school events and endeavors to popularize laws against sexual violence. There are 1,100 rape cases reported each month in the DRC. Additionally, victims of sexual violence are often left with little to access to help. Yakin Erturk, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, says not only that the justice system is in "deplorable conditions," but that victims often have to pay access to the courts, which she describes as "a major obstacle to justice."
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Attacks on Aid Workers Threatening Relief Operations in Darfur

From the UN News Center:
Attacks against aid workers in western Sudan have reached unprecedented levels, jeopardizing vital relief operations in the war-wracked Darfur region, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator said today. In a statement released in Khartoum by her office, Ameerah Haq said the humanitarian community operating in Sudan condemned all acts of violence taking place in Darfur, where rebels have been fighting Government forces and allied militia since 2003. On Monday Mohamed Ali, a driver contracted by the UN World Food Programme (WFP), was shot dead and his assistant was seriously injured by unidentified assailants while traveling on the main route into Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state.
Read more.
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Thursday Morning Coffee

Starting 5

>>Korea - South Korea's new government announced on Wednesday that it would speak out against North Korean human rights abuses and that aid would not be expanded until the North abandons its nuclear weapons program. North Korea responded by expelling 11 South Korean officials from the Kaesong joint industrial site, once a model of cooperation between the North and South. South Korea also stated this week that it would vote for a UN Human Rights Council resolution criticizing North Korea and calling for a full investigation.

>>Iraq - Prime Minister Maliki set a 72-hour deadline for Shia militia to lay down their weapons and avoid prosecution as fighting continued between 30,000 Iraqi soldiers and armed groups in Basra. The 4,100 British troops stationed at the Basra airport are not taking part in the crackdown. Iraqi and American troops have also been deployed to surround Sadr City in Baghdad, the home of Moqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army, which is still maintaining its declared ceasefire. Sadr followers marched in protest, some saying that Maliki is working in league with al Sadr's Shia rivals, the Supreme Islamic Iraq Council and the Badr Brigades, in an attempt to lessen his power prior to October provincial election.

>>Russa/U.S. - President Bush, who travels to Europe next week, has been invited by Russian president Putin to meet and attempt to iron out conflicts over possible NATO expansion into Georgia and the Ukraine and missile defense. It is likely to be their last meeting before Putin is replaced as president by Dmitri Medvedev, who will attend the meetings in his first substantial interaction with President Bush.

>>Somalia - The al Shabab islamic forces briefly captured Jowhar, a strategically placed town 50 miles north of Mogadishu, yestreday, releasing prisoners and taking weapons. In the past month, the faction has done the same in six towns in southern Somalia. The raid follows a a statement delivered to the UN Security Council by 40 NGOs on Tuesday warning of an "impending humanitarian crisis" in Somalia. The statement claims that nearly a million Somalis have been displaced. The Somali army is in shambles.

>>Iran - Iran has threatening legal action against the West for losses sustained from what it claims were illegal UN Security Council Sanctions passed on March 3. The threats were delivered in a letter from Iran's foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. It is not yet clear where Iran would present such a case.

Yesterday in UN Dispatch
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One Problem With A “League of Democracies”

Mark is right to call attention to the "new international institutions" that John McCain alluded to in his speech today. In proposing a "League of Democracies" -- an idea that, interestingly, resembles a Bush administration proposal from September 2005 -- McCain's speech very neatly mirrors the foreign policy address he gave at the Hoover Institution over a year ago, when he first launched the idea of an organization that "could act where the U.N. fails to act." What, exactly, does he have in mind? Straight from the horse's mouth, courtesy of an op-ed he wrote in Financial Times last week:
The nations of the Nato alliance and the European Union...must have the ability and the will to act in defence of freedom and economic prosperity. They must spend the money necessary to build effective military and civilian capabilities that can be deployed around the world, from the Balkans to Afghanistan, from Chad to East Timor.
While McCain's commitment to working together with other countries is welcome, his seemingly singular focus on a U.S.-Europe alliance could detract significantly from the objective of international cooperation. True, the UN General Assembly often grapples with tensions between the global "North" and the global "South," between "developed" countries and the "developing" 130 countries in the so-called "G-77." The existence of these tensions -- which often frustrate American objectives -- is not, however, a reason to exclude such a substantial number of states from the global decision-making process. In the 1950's and 60's, the UN reached a seminal point in its history, welcoming a flood of newly decolonized countries in Asia and Africa. To create an alliance consisting largely of militarily strong ex-colonial powers would be, to say the least, a disturbing development, both philosophically and practically. If as President McCain is serious about working with the rest of the world to address the pressing problems of the day, then he should commit to working with the -- admittedly imperfect, but hugely necessary -- institution that already exists -- the United Nations.
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McCain calls for Strengthening the NPT through Disarmament

On the heels of his trip to the middle east, John McCain is billed to give a major foreign policy address today. The Washington Post got its hands on some highlights.
"The United States cannot lead by virtue of its power alone," McCain said. Instead, the country must lead by attracting others to its cause, demonstrating the virtues of freedom and democracy, defending the rules of an international civilized society, and creating new international institutions to advance peace and freedom, he said. "If we lead by shouldering our international responsibilities and pointing the way to a better and safer future for humanity ... it will strengthen us to confront the transcendent challenge of our time: the threat of radical Islamic terrorism," said McCain.
Naturally, "creating new international institutions" catches my attention. Later in the article, it seems that McCain is referring to building a coalition of democracies and renewing American commitment to nuclear disarmament through strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. For a thorough explanation of why this first idea may be problematic, I'll encourage readers to (pre) order Matt Yglesias' new book Heads in the Sand. Meanwhile, it's really encouraging to see McCain throw his support behind not just disarmament, but the NPT in general. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, created in 1968, maintains that nuclear weapons proliferation can only be curtailed if nuclear countries make moves toward disarmament and the rest of the world be allowed to access civilian nuclear technology. However, this "three pillar" strategy has taken a beating in recent years, in part because some nuclear powers have largely ignored its disarmament protocols in pursuit of so-called tactical nuclear weapons. Re-affirming American support for nuclear disarmament is not only a good thing on its own, but it helps to strengthen our entire international non-proliferation regime. Supporting the NPT-- which means abiding by its precepts and working with allies to raise the costs of non-compliance -- is critical to curtailing the global spread of nuclear weapons.
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Tuesday Morning Coffee

Top Stories

>>Pakistan - Within minutes of assuming his new role, Pakistan's new Prime Minister Yousaf Gillani released a dozen judges, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, detained by President Musharraf last year. PM Gillani also called for a UN investigation into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

>>Iraq - Government security forces battled with Shi'ite militias in Basra today in an attempt to bring the city under federal control. The battle may prove important in the British exit strategy. Meanwhile, followers of Muqtada al Sadr continued to engage in a national civil disobedience campaign.

>>Comoros - The archipelago nation of Comoros, located off the coast of Mozambique, has, with the assistance of 1,350 African Union troops, taken control of the rebel island of Anjouan. Anjouan, an island of 300,000, was led by Mohamed Bacar, who had clung to power after an illegal election last year. Comoros has endured 20 coups since it gained independence in 1975.

>>Tibet - Protesting Tibetan monks, joined by locals hundreds of locals to call for the return of the Dalai Lama, were fired on by Chinese paramilitaries in Garze, which borders Tibet. Reports suggest that at least two were killed.

Yesterday in UN Dispatch