Yearly Archives: 2008
For those of us in the United States, Thanksgiving is a time for reuniting with family over an enormous feast. It is also a time to think of those less fortunate. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo right now, over 200,000 people have been recently uprooted from violence. Day to day survival is a struggle and a peace process so far is elusive. Fortunately, international organizations like the World Food Program and UNICEF are fighting to keep up with humanitarian demands. It is an uphill struggle, but without their involvement the situation would be much, much worse. If you are looking for ways to help, the World Food Program’s Fill the Cup campaign is a good way to get involved.
The police in Kandahar have arrested 10 Taliban militants they said were involved in an attack earlier this month on a group of Afghan schoolgirls whose faces were doused with acid, officials in Kandahar said Tuesday.
The officials said that the militants, who were Afghan citizens, had confessed to their involvement in the attack on the schoolgirls and their teachers on Nov. 12 and that a high-ranking member of the Taliban had paid the militants 100,000 Pakistani rupees for each of the girls they managed to burn. [emphasis added]
The girls were assaulted Nov. 12 by two men on a motorcycle who were apparently irate that the girls dared to attend high school. The men drove up beside them and splashed their faces with what appeared to be battery acid.
A great initiative (and good use of technology):
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today called for people from all walks of life to join its online “virtual wall” to fight hunger, an initiative that will provide free meals for nearly 60 million children worldwide who go to school hungry.
For a small donation “The Wall Against Hunger” allows individuals to post their picture on a website – which several celebrities and sports personalities have already pledged to join – and email their wall images to friends as well as bookmark them to their social networking websites.
ABC News is reporting that Obama confidant, former Assistant Secretary of State and member of President Clinton’s National Security Council, Susan Rice is slated to be the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations. This is great news. The fact that President-elect Obama is entrusting US diplomacy at the United Nations to such a close adviser is a sure sign of the high priority to which the new administration will place US-UN relations. Deeper still, her background as a regional Africa expert will come in handy. About 2/3rds of all discussions at the Security Council are about situations in Africa.
More broadly, Rice is known in foreign policy circles as an innovative, forward thinking foreign policy wonk who pays special attention to the connectivity of today’s threats and challenges. As a diplomat, I expect her to be fairly sharp-elbowed, which is not a bad quality for Turtle Bay!
Here is how UN Foundation head Tim Wirth described Rice to Spencer Ackerman a couple of weeks ago.
Rice saw connectivity in the world’s problems, instead of viewing them through the traditional prism of individual state power.
“She was one of the few people to live in the foreign-policy world who understood global issues, transnational issues like human rights, climate change and terrorism,” said Wirth, who worked with Rice when she was at the NSC and who now heads the United Nations Foundation. “The foreign-policy community is largely about political relationships. That’s what drives the [typical] foreign-policy world. But the new one is transnational problems, problems that don’t have passports.”
UPDATE: I should also note that Rice has been a leading critic of the current administration’s Darfur policy, which she described as a policy of “bluster and retreat.” When she sets foot at first avenue, I expect her to focus like a laser beam on Darfur. The fledgling peacekeeping mission and stalled peace process could certainly use the help.
My week long trip to Ethiopia wrapped up yesterday and I would be remiss if I did not offer a word of praise for the people who made this possible for me: the Danes.
Denmark is a country of only about 5 million and has an Gross National Income (GNI) of $311 billion. Yet a staggering 0.8% percent of its GNI is allocated for foreign development assistance. This makes Denmark one of only five countries that have internalized a United Nations goal that at least 0.7% of developed countries’ GNI be dedicated to foreign development assistance. By comparison, the amount of official development aid as a percentage of GNI is 0.38% for France, 0.27% for Canada, and 0.16% for the United States.
Denmark’s generosity, though, is not driven entirely by altruism. Rather, foreign aid is seen as a way for Denmark to punch above its weight in global affairs. It was this impulse that drove Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen to establish the Africa Commission, which met in Addis Ababa last week and was the reason for my coming.
The African Commission is made up of a number of foreign leaders and dignitaries including Deputy UN Secretary General Asha Rose-Migiro, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, and the African Union Commissioner Jean Ping among others. They met in Addis to discuss ways to increase employment opportunities for Africa’s bulging youth population. The need is great. Some 46% of Africans are between the ages of 5 and 25, a vast majority of whom are uneducated and underemployed.
The current government of Denmark is center-right, which was reflected by commission’s singular focus on ways in which the private sector can be incentived to invest in African youth. (Indeed, the traveling Danish press made hay over a statement by Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen that the previous government engaged in fluffy, “aid socialism.”) Despite this focus on the private sector, civil society was not shut out of the meeting. The Danish government sponsored a parallel African Youth Panel, which included some 60 dedicated, innovative and amazingly bright social entrepreneurs from all across Africa. After a week of hashing out ideas among themselves, the youth delegates presented the Commission with their own recommendations.
The Commission will meet again in Copenhagen in May 2009 and offer a final set of recommendations on how to increase the effectiveness of foreign development assistance. I will certainly stay on the story.
Finally, on a separate note, the African Commission is clearly top foreign policy priority for Denmark. But the country’s biggest moment in the international spotlight comes in December 2009, when world leaders meet in Copenhagen to discuss a successor international climate change treaty to the Kyoto Protocols, which are set to expire in 2012. It was pleasantly shocking to me as an outsider to witness the extent to which climate change permeated nearly every aspect of this meeting. This includes the carbon offsets the government bought to fly me there to thematic discussions about how climate change will affect employment opportunities for African youth.
I already pointed out Denmark’s relative aid generosity. Other countries could do worse than following Denmark’s lead on climate change as well.
Middle East: During the last 48 hours of the continued ceasefire, humanitarian workers have delivered food to hundreds of thousands of people, repaired water and sanitation infrastructure, re-stocked medical supplies, and some of the 520,000 displaced Palestinians have returned to their homes. However, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator remarked the scale of needs remains “unprecedented in the Gaza Strip.”
Middle East: At today’s informal session of the General Assembly on Gaza the SG remarked that the most recent ceasefire has held since yesterday at 8 a.m. local time. He noted that a durable ceasefire is necessary and UN shelters must continue to remain safe zones. The SG thanked UN staff in Gaza and will fly the UN flag at half-mast tomorrow in memory of those who died in the conflict.
Middle East: The SG commended Israeli and Palestinian parties for committing to a 72-hour ceasefire that took place at 8 a.m. local time today. He urges all parties to abide by the ceasefire and commence peace talks in Cairo to address underlying issues and agree on a durable ceasefire to sustainably stop the violence. The UN lends its full support toward these efforts.
Middle East: The SG condemned yesterday’s shelling outside of an UNRWA school in Rafah that killed at least 10 Palestinian civilians. The SG stated that the attack violated international humanitarian law and UN shelters must continue to be safe zones and not combat zones.
SG: Last night the SG spoke at a joint press conference with the Foreign Minister of Costa Rica where he repeated his call for an unconditional and extendable humanitarian ceasefire. Speaking about yesterday’s shelling of a UN shelter he said: “Nothing – nothing – justifies such horror” and demanded “that all parties immediately respect UN premises”.
SG: The SG met with President Ortega yesterday in Nicaragua where he visited a wind farm and praised the country’s commitment to renewable energy. The SG arrived in Costa Rica today where he is expected to lecture about “Costa Rica and the United Nations: Challenges and Opportunities in the 21st Century”.