Monthly Archives: August 2009
RedState commits a major misread of a Bloomberg article yesterday in which UN Foundation President (and former Clinton climate negotiator) Tim Wirth lays out the most salient strategy for passage of a climate bill in the U.S. Congress. Bending the conversation for his own ideology (and misspelling “Wirth” three times in the process) Caleb Howe suggests — no, repeats in italics — that Senator Wirth thinks the bill is too broad as a matter of policy (not political strategy) and would not support the bill as such.
Presumably Howe knows the difference between when someone in the political sphere is discussing practical strategy (i.e. a “process story”) and when they’re advocating a position, but he doesn’t exhibit that precision here. Though the Bloomberg piece isn’t very clear, logic would indicate the former in this case, particularly when, in a easily retrievable statement on the UN Foundation website, Wirth clearly says, “[Waxman-Markey] is the first step toward an energy policy for the 21st century. It will lead to technical innovation, good domestic jobs, less use of oil and more protection of the world we live in.” Sounds like support to me.
To be more clear, Wirth sent a letter around today in which he wrote:
Legislation in the Senate is the second step. The Senate will require a different combination to unlock the necessary votes to pass this critical legislation this year. As noted in the Bloomberg story, I have repeatedly argued that to win passage, legislation must include a number of important elements: very strong efficiency standards, agriculture-related provisions, a package for nuclear power, a carbon emissions standard for new power generation, and a strong natural gas piece.
In other words, because “Senate passage of legislation is absolutely essential for U.S. security, economic and climate interests,” the Senate needs to do whatever it can to get the strongest bill it can passed. Due to the recent developments that Howe mentions in the first few words of the post, that might mean trimming the fat — as Wirth advocates.
Opinio Juris’ Duncan Hollis has the goods on the payouts from the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission (set up to arbitrate damage claims from the 1998-2000 conflict between the two countries) — another topic sure to be of passionate interest to a certain subset of Dispatch readers.
You can access the damages decisions for Eritrea here, and those for Ethiopia here. According to the AP, both sides will accept the awards, but neither is apparently thrilled with the final results. Ethiopia ends up with more money; its final award totals $174,036,520, while Eritrea receives $161,455,000 plus an additional $2,065,865 for individual Eritrean claimants. Ethiopia apparently feels though that the delta between the two awards was insufficient given earlier rulings had found Eritrea violated the jus ad bellum in originally resorting to force in 1998. For its part, Eritrea remains miffed that Ethiopia has resisted the Commission’s drawing of boundary lines between the two states (e.g. giving Badme to Eritrea), a point reiterated (subtly) in its acceptance of yesterday’s award.
I’m sure that Hollis is right on both of these counts: both sides think they are in the right, but the fact of the matter is that both are responsible for not implementing parts of the peace agreement, and for forcing the premature departure of a UN peacekeeping force last year.
I would also recommend this year-old op-ed by Samantha Power, who has since taken a job in the White House. Key excerpt: “We cannot return to a pre-8/19 world any more than we can return to a pre-9/11 one. Neither the blue flag nor the red cross is enough to protect humanitarians in an age of terror. But five years after August 19 we owe it to those who died — and to those whom humanitarians have saved — to do far more to protect the protectors.”
Ruth Levine has a depressing blog post on the Center for Global Development blog today. She points out that President Obama’s efforts to improve American global health assistance by shifting to a health systems approach will actually make things look worse in the short run. For example, treatment of HIV is a lot more impressive to look at than prevention, and any comprehensive HIV programming is bound to focus on prevention as well as treatment. A prevention plus treament approach is much better science, and it’s going to save more lives, but that doesn’t make it easy to appreciate.
As she puts it, “Improvements on the prevention side, which very well may result from smart policy and programmatic measures, will be awfully hard to detect.” Levine goes on to discuss the issues involved with expanding the President’s Malaria Initiative beyond its target countries, and in strengthening health systems to improve maternal health. None of that is going to produce easy-to-read success stories, but over the long haul, they’ll do more for global health than the kind of programs that produce good photo ops.
Yesterday we heard from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navinathem Pillay, celebrating the first-ever World Humanitarian Day and marking the six-year anniversary of the Baghdad bombing that cost 22 UN staff members their lives. Today, the son of Sergio Vieira de Mello, the accomplished diplomat who was the UN’s Special Representative in Iraq at the time, pens a moving op-ed in The Washington Post. The focus is on ensuring that what happened to his father does not happen to more of the thousands of humanitarian workers braving dangerous enviornments in the world today.
It is high time for the international community to face its responsibilities and stop hiding behind humanitarian action. The world must stop using humanitarian efforts as a fig leaf. It can no longer avoid action while putting its conscience at rest by sending humanitarian actors into the killing fields. There are lives at risk.
And on this day, because of their courage, dedication, generosity and humility, humanitarian workers deserve our respect. We should not only praise their work but also remind the world that we must protect them, that we must impress on warlords that if they have any humanity left, they should protect and assist these workers. We must remind the world that humanitarian workers are neutral and help those in need, whatever their color, race, religion or political beliefs. They deserve our efforts and our thanks.
We’ve made it a habit to thank UN peacekeepers for the hard work that they do; take a moment to appreciate the risks that humanitarian workers take to bring concrete benefits to the lives of others.
(image from Wikimedia Commons)
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”.