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Nets and Phones to Help Refugees

(by Ingrid Madden, Communications Associate at the UN Foundation)
Many of the world's gravest refugee crises exist in Africa, where in recent months armed conflict has forced hundreds of thousands from their homes. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a recent surge in violence and instability has resulted in the loss of thousands of lives and forced over 60,000 Congolese citizens into refugee camps in neighboring Uganda. Recognizing this humanitarian crisis, the UN Foundation [the organization that sponsors UN Dispatch] and its programs are working in a number of ways to protect and support those displaced by the infighting. In response to the immediate health needs of these refugees, living without shelter or adequate medical care, The United Nations Foundation's Nothing But Nets program has joined forces with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) to provide long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets to cover every sleeping space in camps throughout Uganda and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. By protecting against a deadly mosquito bite, these nets save lives by preventing the spread of malaria - the leading killer of refugees in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to protecting the health of these destitute populations, the UN Foundation, through its partnership with the Vodafone Foundation, is also helping to reconnect families separated by the conflict in DRC. The Partnership supported the deployment of a team of telecommunications specialists from the France-based non-profit group Telecoms Sans Frontieres to Uganda to establish 'humanitarian calling operations.' In camps without phones or even electricity, the operations provide free 3-minute phone calls for Congolese refugees to contact family and loved ones. The telecommunications team also installed satellite-based Internet connections and offered technical support for humanitarian agencies responding the influx of refugees in need of aid. Through Nothing But Nets, or through its strategic Technology Partnership, the UN Foundation is broadly supporting the various needs of refugees in Uganda, and not only saving lives, but helping to improve the quality of life for some of the most impoverished people in the world.
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Where the side events are the main events

by Mark Hopkins, Director of International Energy Efficiency, UN Foundation
From the UN Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland
I am lodging at a hotel about 11 km from the conference center, so I've spent a good bit of my time in taxis going back and forth. My hotel location is a bit unusual though -- it's in back of a gas station along a four lane highway and you have to drive through the station to get to the front door of my hotel. Given this COP is the final one for the Bush Administration and everyone is anticipating a U.S. policy change after President-Elect Obama takes office, many are jokingly referring to Poznan as "the lame-duck COP." Others are commenting that when these climate conferences began many years ago the negotiations were the main event, and side events were, well, just side events, something to occupy the time of all those at the conference who weren't at the negotiating table. But at "the lame-duck COP" the situation is now reversed -- the side events are where the real action is -- by action I mean the innovative thinking and ideas that might lead to an agreement some day. And finally, everyone got quite excited today, at least for a few minutes - the sun actually broke out of what seems to be the ever present dark gray Polish sky.
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Fighting Pirates Is No War Game

A 41-year Marine vet with a good deal of experience in "unconventional" war tactics -- he commanded the team that handily defeated U.S. forces in a seminal war game -- explains to Foreign Policy's Elizabeth Dickinson how he would advise taking on the pirates wreaking havoc off the coast of Somalia:
I guess your first question would be: Am I going to eliminate it at sea, or am I going to try to go to the places where these pirates have their home bases and their forts? There's a pirates nest, I guess; where are they? If you can separate them from their ports or wherever they hide out, then obviously you get them before they even come out. The difficulty you have there is what you have with most insurgent-type activities: sorting out the good from the bad. You know that [the pirates] go into a certain port, but trying to hit them without collateral damage is always a challenge. It's [also] not a strictly military calculation because you have commercial interests who are worried about the cargo they are carrying. They're worrying about insurance rates. If they take on the nature of a naval vessel--that is, they arm themselves--then what happens to their insurance rates? The other side of the factor is, if the pirates know you're armed, then they're liable to shoot first and ask questions later. It's not thinking in terms of a straight head-on-head between two fighting vessels, but what are the folks that own these either cruise liners or commercial ships thinking about.
Both of Lt. Gen. Van Riper's points are often overlooked in the conundrum of how to stop Somali piracy. First, even the key recommendation given by the most astute commentators -- to address the problem at its roots, in the anarchy and wholly disrupted economy on shore -- is severely complicated by the same unexpectedly tricky issue of actually identifying who is a pirate that can frustrate at-sea anti-piracy measures. Second, this is at its heart an economic more than a military matter. Fighting pirates -- even if they shouldn't be considered terrorists, as Kevin at Opinio Juris admonishes, because of their lack of political agenda -- is akin to fighting terrorists in that the military fight itself is necessary but not sufficient; until the deeper economic grievances compelling poor Somalis to this unacceptable swashbuckling are addressed, a quick and easy buck on the high seas will remain worth the danger.
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What Image Has Opened Your Eyes to Human Rights?

Witness is an international non-profit organization that uses video and online technologies to shine a light on human rights abuses around the world. For the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, Witness staff discuss some of the videos and images that have touched them over the past few years. At the end of the video, viewers are asked what image has opened our eyes to human rights. For me, this picture is one of the most enduring symbols of how the demand for human rights can inspire extraordinary courage in ordinary people.
What images most symbolize human rights to you? Send an email to undispatch AT and we will update this post with your response. Please indicate if you would like to keep your response anonymous. UPDATE: See some reader responses below the fold.
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Happy 60th Anniversary, Human Rights!

Sure, they existed before 1948, but it was only then that they were codified into the remarkable document known as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This cool video from Amnesty International gives a fun tour through some of the Declaration's stunning 30 articles of the freedoms, rights, and liberties that every human being possesses.
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Europe Turns Away from DR Congo — Again

This is worse than many people may realize:
The European Union sidestepped an appeal by the United Nations on Monday to dispatch troops to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in the east of the country where war has displaced a quarter of a million civilians. Although a statement by EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels said a formal response to the request from Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, would be forthcoming in due course, it was clear that differences among member states made the deployment unlikely. The statement came four days after Mr Ban wrote to the EU saying a European-led force was urgently required to ensure humanitarian aid supplies reached those who had fled fighting between government and rebel forces in Congo's North Kivu province. The EU deployment would fill the security gap until the UN's own peace force, Monuc, was reinforced, a process Mr Ban said could take another four months.
This is not the first time that Europe has demurred on this question. Nor is it the first time that an urgent request has been lodged in abeyance. The head of MONUC head, Alan Doss, made his request for more troops months ago, and -- even though it was quite clear that troops would take months more to deploy once authorized -- this need was met, belatedly, only once fighting in eastern Congo reached a fever pitch. MONUC cannot be put in the position of acting as Congo's national army -- which, the FT reports, is utterly in shambles. A rapid reaction force is desperately needed, and the British, the Germans, and the other countries responsible for torpedoing this request should be made to feel the heat for their reluctance. Waiting for the situation to get even worse in the next few months is not an acceptable option.