Monthly Archives: April 2009
The early good news coming out of the United States in support of global women’s rights keeps getting better. Not only has the Obama Administration rescinded the exceedingly counter-productive “Global Gag Rule,” but the new Congress has stepped up funding for the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
As a result of the recent budget passed by the United States Congress, UNIFEM will receive much appreciated increased funding for 2009. The US contribution to UNIFEM core resources will amount to US$4,500,000, an increase of nearly one million from last year. Also benefitting is the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, administered by UNIFEM, which will receive US$2,500,000, an increase of more than US$700,000 from 2008.
This is money well spent.
Tipped by Dipnote, Afghanistan has officially established its first national park, at a beautiful locale called Band-e-Amir.
Beth Dickinson flags an upcoming big development in the anti-malaria campaign:
Sanaria, Inc. and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative announced this morning that their potential vaccine for malaria ready to start human trials as early as this May.
An effective vaccine would, as Beth says, “do wonders.” We’re still a long way off from comprehensive malaria vaccination across Africa, though. So for now, do the best thing we can to prevent infection (and help Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore have lunch eat bison burgers with Ted Turner): send a net, save a life.
The deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation directly, at this stage, would be a high-risk option…Given the divergent views among the main Somali political players…such an operation could trigger opposition from substantial elements of Somali society opposed to international military intervention. It is highly likely that those opposed to the peace process would portray the mission as a new enemy, which would consequently add momentum to the insurgency and detract from the political process. This could result in attacks against peacekeepers, and in efforts to draw the United Nations force into the conflict. Equally important, the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation would undermine the efforts of the new Government to continue its national reconciliation efforts. [emphasis mine]
Ban hits on all the right points here. The extremist Somali groups bent on undermining the country’s fledgling government would benefit from nothing more than an infusion of “foreign troops.” These groups have no short record, let’s remember, of attacking UNcompounds and personnel, and the blue helmets would be a bright new target for them.
As dangerous as such a mission would be for the peacekeepers, it would ultimately prove even more deleterious for Somalis. Increased violence, particularly of the indiscriminate kind, will only cause more suffering and displacement for civilians. And the country’s Transitional Federal Government is not exactly in a position to weather significant setbacks. If it falls, then one of Somalia’s best (but still faint) hopes for peace will dwindle.
For now, the best option in terms of peacekeeping is to do what the EU just did, and significantly bolster international commitments to the under-staffed and under-supplied African Union force currently operating in Somalia. The AU has already suffered numerous incidents of violence, and would be deeply unfair for UN Member States to ask it to hold the place of a UN mission without equipping it to do the job. The hypocrisy would be particularly acute because no Member State has volunteered to provide troops to a hypothetical UN mission in Somalia; when the Department of Peacekeeping Operations sent requests to 60 countries, only ten responded — all with a curt “no, thanks.”
The UN’s role for now, at least until the political and security situation in Somalia stabilizes somewhat will need to have, in Ban’s words, a “light footprint,” focusing on political reconciliation, good governance, and institution-building efforts. UN humanitarian operations — helping some 3.2 million people in need of aid — will continue, of course, but these too require a level of security that the Somali government is simply unable to provide right now.
If you want to help Demi and Ashton along, visit Nothing But Nets. After all, as Ted says, you don’t have to be Bill Gates or Oprah to make a difference.
And, as always, keep updated with us on Twitter.
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.