Monthly Archives: April 2009
For those who may have been following the strange saga of whether or not Fijian troops have been barred from UN peacekeeping missions, the tale may — or may not — have taken a twist the other day, when Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced rather unequivocally that the UN was not accepting any troops from Fiji. At issue is the fact that the government of Fiji, which came to power in a coup two years ago, still has not held elections. Since troops going to UN peacekeeping missions would come from Fiji’s military, this would indirectly lend support to Fiji’s military junta.
Australia and New Zealand have a problem with this, and they have led the effort to make sure that no new Fijian troops join UN peacekeeping missions. Except…Fijian peacekeepers haven’t been deployed to new missions since the 2006 coup, and even under current policy, Fijian troops currently deployed — such as 500 in Iraq — will not be forced to leave. So it’s unclear whether Rudd was articulating standing UN policy, or was calling for stricter measures against Fijian peacekeepers.
The military leader of Fiji, for his part, kindly told Prime Minister Rudd to bug off. We’ll see where this goes.
UPDATE: The S-G’s spokesperson clarifies that using Fijian soldiers in peacekeeping missions proceeds on a “case-by-case basis.” No new troops have been accepted, but previously serving contingents remain. Jenny Hayward-Jones at The Interpreter has more.
(image of Fijian peacekeepers in UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, from United Nations Photo)
Over a month ago, the 35 countries that make up the International Atomic Energy Agency tried to elect a new Director to succede Mohamed ElBaradei, who is retiring in November. They tried, and then they tried again — and again and again, six times in all. Each time, neither of the leading candidates, Yukiya Amano of Japan or Abdul Samad Minty of South Africa, received the necessary 2/3 vote to win.
So, the field was opened to new candidates, and it looks like a Spaniard, one Luis Echavarri, currently the Director-General of the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency, who might break the stalemate. The question is whether Echavarri will be able to bridge the gap that doomed both Amano, who received the bulk of his support from Western nations, and Minty, the candidate favored by the developing world. Amano and Minty are also both candidates this time around, as are two other experienced European nuclear diplomats, but it’s Echavarri who looks like he could be the consensus pick (interestingly, ElBaradei also had not been on the original ballot, and was chosen after a similar stalemate). Echavarri certainly seems confident:
“I can offer a solution to the standoff,” Mr. Echávarri said during an interview in Madrid. “We believe a consensus candidacy is taking shape, although we need more time. My goal is to get unanimous support, and I see no reason why it shouldn’t be that way.”
Another diplomat, though, complained that Echavarri was not “inspiring” enough. With North Korea threatening more nuclear tests and Iran’s centrifuges still spinning, though, the IAEA might not have time to find the most “inspiring” candidate.
Stay tuned for updates.
It is always pleasing when hard-core realists embrace multi-lateral institutions. Vis, Stephan Walt explaining why he thinks global cooperation is useful way to deal with potential pandemics. The kicker?
All this is not to say that the global response will be perfect, or that the potential pandemic will be contained as effectively as SARS ultimately was. But it does remind us that global cooperation is possible, and that some global institutions do provide valuable protection. Libertarian neo-isolationists and neoconservative institution-bashers should take note. [emp. mine]
It must be so lonely on the fringe these days.
Fresh off the wires, Reuters is reporting that the Obama administration is seeking to delay a $1.9 billion loan to Sri Lanka from the International Monetary Fund. I’m working on a longer piece about this that I do not want to cannibalize, but here is the money quote from an un-named American official.
“The problem, from our vantage point, is that the Sri Lankans have refused to engage on the humanitarian crisis as a priority,” said one U.S. official. Delaying an IMF loan “is an attempt to get their priorities back where they should be.”
This is a VERY forceful policy response to the unfolding crisis in Sri Lanka. It places the onus of civilian protection in Sri Lanka squarely at the feet of the government in Columbo and comes after two weeks of tough talk by top officials in the Obama administration. Now, by blocking the loan, the administration is backing tough talk with action, and quite literally putting its money where its mouth is. Needless to say, it is nice to see this kind of policy and messaging coordination in pursuit of something that is clearly not a top American foreign policy priority, but nevertheless an important matter of human rights.
Photo from Flickr user Kyrion.
Good news for a baby gorilla in DR Congo’s dangerous Virunga National Park.
Motorbike ambulances are helping South Sudanese pregnant women, one of six out of whom tend to die during pregnancy from easily preventable causes.
And Tony Blair is impressed by the return of tourism to Sierra Leone.
The UN’s Special Tribunal for Lebanon, designed to investigate the murder of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri four years ago, yesterday released the only four suspects — all “pro-Syrian security generals” — that it still had in custody. The news prompted celebration — featuring the mandatory firing of guns into the air — in some quarters of Lebanon, including Hezbollah’s. But what seems most remarkable about this development is how calmly the Tribunal’s supporters, such as Hariri’s son Saad, a leader in his party’s campaign for June elections, have reacted to what could have been seen as an embarrassing failure of evidence in highly contentious proceedings. Said Saad Hariri:
“I … don’t feel one iota of disappointment or fear over the fate of the international tribunal. What has happened is a clear declaration that the international tribunal has started work and it will reveal the truth,” Hariri said on television.
Though the Tribunal took years to assemble, had to release three suspects shortly upon assuming jurisdiction of the case in February, and now finds itself back at square one, it is in fact working. The decision made by the Tribunal yesterday was not a political one, bolstered by the fact that it resisted calls to postpone its pronouncement until after elections, as well as by its release of the pro-Syrian generals, since it had been accused by opponents of being biased against Syria. Rather, the Tribunal will continue, and with continued support and opportunities to accrue more evidence, it just might get to the bottom of this nasty business.
(For what it’s worth, I disagree with what seems like the conventional analysis that the Tribunal’s decision should be seen as a “blow to [the] anti-Syrian political alliance” led by Hariri. Had the four pro-Syrian generals been found guilty, particularly if credible evidence against them was lacking, that would have galvanized Hezbollah and other opposition groups skeptical of the Tribunal. As it is, they won’t have that card to play in the June elections.)
(image of Rafik Hariri, from flickr user madmonk under a Creative Commons license)
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.