Yearly Archives: 2008
>>South Africa – South African troops have been deployed to stop the recent backlash against foreigners that has left 42 dead and forced 15,000 to flee. This morning raids at three hostels in Johannesburg ended in the arrest of 28 people and the seizure of drugs, arms, and ammunition. The last time troops were used to ease unrest was in 1994 at the end of apartheid era. Some members of the South African government, including the director general of the intelligence agency and the minister of intelligence, have claimed that the attacks were orchestrated by movements that supported the apartheid government.
>>Georgia – Georgia’s ruling United National Movement party has crushed its opponents in the parliamentary election, securing 59.5 percent of the vote according to official results released today, and cemented the power of President Mikheil Saakashvili. The second place United Opposition Bloc, which received 17.7 percent of the vote, has complained of irregularities in both the campaign and the vote. International monitors believe that the elections were an improvement on the past, but far from perfect.
>>Italy – Nearly 20 years after it was shut down by referendum in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster, Italy’s nuclear power program is to be revived. Italy, the world’s biggest net importer of energy, will begin construction on new nuclear power plants by 2013.
- From Whence Cometh the League of Democracies? And Does It Matter?
- Ban in Burma
- Rood Has the Goods, Part 2
“Who will watch the peacekeepers?” asks a former UN internal investigator in a New York Times op-ed today. The issue at hand are allegations that a contingent of Pakistani peacekeepers in eastern DRC trafficked in arms for gold with a local militia. The allegations are serious, and at least one prominent human rights organization has taken issue with the way the United Nations has handled the situation.
But the op-ed today drives at a deeper question: what to do about miscreant peacekeepers in general? Right now, there are over 100,000 peacekeepers in 19 missions around the world. The vast majority are putting their lives on the line every day to help bring peace to the most troubled places on earth. But by the laws of averages, a certain percentage is going to be bad apples. The challenge, therefore, is to reduce the percentage of bad apples through strengthening procedures that ensure individual criminal accountability.
This is much easier said than done. One of the main hurdles is jurisdiction; where should Pakistani soldiers who commit crimes in DRC be held accountable? Principals of justice would demand that the crimes be tried locally, but most places where peacekeepers are deployed don’t have functioning judiciaries.
It looks like Australia will soon be making an admirable move regarding women’s rights:
The Federal Government says steps are being taken to sign a United Nations protocol that aims to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.
Signing the optional protocol would enable women to complain to the United Nations if Australia violates its obligations and domestic remedies have been exhausted.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said, “We’re committed to the promotion and protection of women’s rights and making gender equality a reality in Australia.” He adds, “Obviously if we’re to promote the rights of women within our region we need to at least set the example domestically.”
After a two-hour meeting with Myanmar’s reclusive leader, General Than Shwe, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reports that the country will drop its opposition to foreign aid workers operating in the country. From Bloomberg:
“He has agreed to allow all aid workers regardless of nationalities,” Ban told reporters in the capital, Naypyidaw, according to the UN delegation. “He has taken quite a flexible position on this matter.”
This is a very promising development. Given the Myanmar government’s history of shutting out foreign involvement, though, action will be much more credible than words here. Even with this commitment, it is not yet clear whether aid workers will be permitted into all areas of the country, including more remote sections of the hard-hit Irrawaddy delta region, or even what kinds of boats will be allowed to transport the aid. Had Ban’s mission failed — or if Myanmar reneges on its pledge — then France, whose foreign minister has been outspoken in invoking the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine, is willing to go to the Security Council to push for delivering aid “by all means necessary.” Fortunately, though, Ban’s focus on diplomacy seems to be paying dividends. Granting the UN — which is ready to fully deploy, having stockpiled food and supplies for 2.4 million people — full access is clearly the preferable option here, but it is crucial to ensure this Myanmar’s openness is not more of a public relations ploy than a genuine acknowledgment of the country’s desperate situation.
In his Washington Post op-ed this week, Jackson Diehl contends that John McCain’s proposal to create a “League of Nations” does not actually originate with McCain himself:
In fact, a league of democracies is not a new but a very old idea. In the past decade it has been promoted mostly by Democrats, including several of Barack Obama’s top foreign policy advisers.
Diehl then cites a number of various liberal thinkers who have proposed a “concert,” a “community,” an “alliance,” or any other sort of coalition of democratic nations. The problem, however, is that Diehl does not fully consider the nuances of each of these particular ideas, specifically failing to distinguish between initiatives meant to be an association of democracies under the umbrella of the UN and those that merely mouth adherence to the UN system, but are more likely than not intended to supplant the global body. Senator McCain’s proposal, it seems, falls under the latter category, and this, for reasons we’ve articulated before, is a very unproductive idea.
More broadly, though, the origins of the idea are ultimately moot. Whether Republicans or Democrats have endorsed a version of the concept will not matter much in the eyes of the rest of the world–and it is the 6.3 billion non-Americans who will likely be most affected by the creation of a new global body. Simply because an idea enjoys supposed bipartisan support (which McCain’s “League of Democracies” is far from able to claim) does not mean that it should be taken up by both parties. Any idea should be assessed based not on those who support it, but on the merits of the idea itself. And in the case of an idea with so much potential to harm the global order, both parties would be wiser to abandon it entirely.
From the UN News Center:
Flying by helicopter over rice fields submerged under brown sludge, Mr. Ban visited the Kyondah relief camp, 75 kilometres south of Yangon in the hard-hit Irrawaddy delta, where many women and small children who have lost their homes and family members have taken shelter.
“I am so sorry, but don’t lose your hope,” Mr. Ban told a camp resident. “The United Nations is here to help you. The whole world is trying to help Myanmar.”
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.