Yearly Archives: 2008
At least one person on the UN Security Council is enthusiastic about the possibility of a robust UN peacekeeping force deploying to Somalia.
“I am so excited! I’m over the moon!” South Africa’s jubilant U.N. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo told reporters afterwards.
Somalis are also likely to be pleased by the news, because it indicates a firm UN commitment to help alleviate the deteriorating humanitarian and political situation in their country. The African Union also welcomes UN involvement, as its contingent of 2,600 Ugandan and Burundian troops is not sufficient to maintain security as the country slowly opens up a peace process. One reason that this force has remained so deeply undermanned is because neighboring countries are loathe to involve their troops in a regional conflagration; UN peacekeepers from all over the world will not have this problem.
Possible troop-contributing countries may be less ecstatic, however, at the prospect of ponying up additional contributions to the over 110,000 blue helmets already deployed around the world. Other commentators are also likely to question the feasibility of rounding up troops for another UN peacekeeping mission when the force in Darfur remains over 16,000 personnel short of its target size.
These are legitimate concerns, and, in calling for preparations for possible UN deployment, the Security Council is in fact anticipating the difficulty of obtaining peacekeepers. Setting out the conditions for dispatching a peacekeeping mission to Somalia — while simultaneously pushing for more concerted pressure in broader peace negotiations — is not mere bureaucratic red tape; it is a prudent recognition that simply throwing in troops that the international community cannot yet provide would not solve either Somalia’s political or humanitarian woes. Pragmatism is necessary on deliberations of whether, when, and how UN peacekeepers — or a coalition under a different guise, which was one of the options laid out in the Secretary-General’s most recent report on Somalia — deploy to Somalia, but to allow the weight of the difficulties of achieving such a deployment to trump the actual needs of the situation on the ground would smack of expediency and perpetrate a great disservice on Somalis.
The United Nations released its semi-annual World Economic Situation and Prospects Report. The prospects are not so good. From the UN News Center
The deepening credit crisis in affluent countries triggered by the continuing housing slump, the declining value of the United States dollar, persisting global imbalances and soaring oil and commodity prices pose major threats to economic growth around the world, according to a report released today by United Nations economists.
Today’s report, issued by the UN’s Department of Social and Economic Affairs (DESA), predicts that world economic growth will fall steeply to 1.8 per cent this year and 2.1 per cent next year, down from 3.8 per cent in 2007.
The report says that much depends on developments in the US, which remains the prime driver of the global economy, and where a crashing housing market and finance and credit weaknesses set off the global downturn.
A worst-case scenario would see the “world economy come to a virtual standstill” if recent financial measures in the US fail to turn the economy around, and house prices continue to fall, blending with a severe tightening on credit.
According to John McCain, Darfur’s genocide will be over in five years, if only we replace the United Nations with a “League of Democracies,” an international body shorn of pesky non-allies like China and Russia. In a somewhat speculative speech today, McCain laid out the accomplishments that he envisions his administration will have accomplished by 2013.
After efforts to pressure the Government in Sudan over Darfur failed again in the U.N. Security Council, the United States, acting in concert with a newly formed League of Democracies, applied stiff diplomatic and economic pressure that caused the government of Sudan to agree to a multinational peacekeeping force, with NATO countries providing logistical and air support, to stop the genocide that had made a mockery of the world’s repeated declaration that we would “never again” tolerant such inhumanity.
One minor problem here. While the U.S. has not indeed exerted sufficient pressure on Khartoum, it has used up a lot of the economic influence that it brings to the table. U.S. companies have not been able to do business in Sudan since 1998, thanks to sanctions that the Clinton administration placed on the regime for supporting terrorism. Additional targeted sanctions are still possible, and the U.S.-based divestment movement continues with full force, but the main source of funding for Sudan’s genocidal apparatus is, of course, China (though India and Malaysia also have significant investments). Shutting out China, the most relevant player in Sudan, from the world’s premier global institution would effectively close off the best possible avenue through which to pressure Khartoum. Working with China to end the genocide may be difficult and fraught with complications, but trying to do it without Beijing would be well-nigh impossible.
Seemingly everyone and their mother has lately weighed in on the subject of invoking the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) as a way of securing aid for Burma’s cyclone victims, but I wanted to add two points to the discussion.
First, by and large, the R2P doctrine has been misunderstood or misrepresented in calls to “invade” Burma. R2P is often implied to boil down to a simple equation: if a government is unable or unwilling to adequately protect its citizens, then the international community has a right to forcibly intervene to protect these people. The first part of this conditional is accurate, but the second is a gross oversimplification. R2P does not prescribe invasion any more than the Constitution of the United States mandates impeachment. Military intervention is only one component of the R2P framework, and one of last resort, at that; it is only to be undertaken when a series of specific conditions are met, ensuring that intervention is justified, well-intentioned, practical, authorized by the proper authority (i.e., the UN Security Council), and will not cause more harm than good.
Wielding R2P as a Trojan horse for invasion and regime change, as Robert Kaplan seems to desire, is harmful to the integrity and future viability of the concept, as well as to the more pressing concern of alleviating the Burmese people’s suffering. Scott Paul, writing at The Washington Note, explains this point well, in reference to just one commentator with a convoluted understanding of R2P.
Unfortunately, Hiatt (like some others), seems to equate this principle with an international obligation to trample over the sovereignty of Myanmar in one fell swoop. It would be a disaster if R2P were first operationalized in the form of a hastily arranged military intervention in Myanmar, both for the Burmese people, for whom such an intervention could just as easily exacerbate the crisis as bring relief, and for the promise of the R2P concept, which actually outlines out a set of diplomatic and humanitarian options that are intended to avert a military showdown and preserve national sovereignty. For R2P to really grow in importance in a positive way, military intervention must be a last resort.
Since military intervention is not the only way to use R2P, though, invoking it in an accurate and responsible manner could actually perform a significant service to the doctrine. Merely by uttering these three words, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner spurred a discussion of R2P that will hopefully help hasten its integration into commonly accepted — and enforced — international norms.
Things are poised to go from worse, to very worse. From the UN News Center:
The Darfur conflict could lapse soon into another major cycle of violence and large-scale human displacement unless the parties retreat from their recent state of confrontation, the top United Nations peacekeeping official told the Security Council today.
Briefing Council members on the work of UNAMID, the hybrid UN-African Union mission in Darfur, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guehenno said there has been “a deeply disturbing” recent deterioration in the security situation.
Last weekend’s attack by rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) members on Government forces on the outskirts of the capital, Khartoum, illustrated that the conflict — which has raged on and off since 2003 — had the potential to move beyond the borders of the Darfur region, which lies on Sudan’s western flank.
This is a couple of days old, but I thought I’d flag it anyway. The World Food Program’s Josette Sheeran and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes discuss relief efforts in Burma with Charlie Rose.
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.