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Gambari Briefs Security Council on Myanmar

Ibrahim Gambari, The United Nations Special Envoy to Myanmar, called for immediately begin talks to between the Government and the opposition, stressing that dialogue was the only way forward to address the country’s ongoing crisis. From the UN News Center:

“In today’s world, no country can afford to stay outside the irreversible trends towards stability, prosperity and democracy, and it is the responsibility of every government to listen to its people, respond to legitimate popular demands and respect in full the human rights of its citizens,” Ibrahim Gambari told the Security Council today.


Mr. Gambari said that although his mission did not produce all the results he had hoped for, there were a number of positive outcomes.

Among them was the fact that, for the first time since she was last put under house arrest in May 2003, Ms. Suu Kyi was allowed to pronounce herself publicly through a statement read by the Special Adviser on 8 November. Following that statement, she was also allowed for the first time in four years to meet with members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

In addition, the Government assured the Special Adviser that it would release more detainees and that no more arrests would be carried out, and it agreed in principle to consider establishing a broad-based poverty alleviation commission.

Read more.

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New Poll: Don’t Go It Alone

The United Nations Foundation released the results of a major survey of Americans’ foreign policy attitudes today. Americans, the poll finds, are virtually unanimous (86% of all voters) in the belief that working with allies and through international organizations is a wiser strategy for achieving America’s foreign policy priorities.

The poll also finds that 73% of all voters are more likely to vote for a candidate for President who understands that “solutions to world problems require international cooperation, whether they are economic problems, environmental problems, or problems of peace and war and that international cooperation is a better way of solving some of the world’s key problems.” Voters also show a strong preference for a candidate who can put an end to anti-Americanism and “restore trust in America through strong diplomatic efforts and cooperative partnerships with other nations around the world.”

One interesting caveat to all this is that young voters reflected stronger preferences toward isolationism than older Americans. The poll finds “young people, disillusioned by the war in Iraq, are “new isolationists.” GOP primary voters, on the other hand, were increasingly open to the idea of international cooperation. “Overall,” says the poll “a sharp generational difference has opened in the United States, with older Americans more inclined to support U.S. involvement in international affairs.”

To view the survey data, click here. For those in the Washington, DC area, the data will be released during an event at the National Press Club at 1:30 this afternoon, featuring UN Foundation President Timothy Wirth, Brookings Institution President Carlos Pascual, Geoff Garin, President of Peter D. Hart Research, Bill McInturff, President of Public Opinion Strategies and Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Ivo Daalder.

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UN forum focuses on Internet resources and accessibility

The second meeting of the United Nations Internet Governance Forum in Rio de Janeiro tackled internet resources, access, how to use the internet to assist in development.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “The United Nations does not have a role in managing the Internet…But we do embrace the opportunity to provide, through this Forum, a platform that helps to ensure the Internet’s global reach.”


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Kosovo’s Ticking Clock

The government of Kosovo has threatened to declare independence unilaterally on December 10 should the Security Council not come to a final decision on Kosovo’s status as a sovereign country. With the clock ticking, UN Dispatch talks to Daniel Serwer of the United States Institute of Peace who catches us up with the current state of the negotiations, and lets us know what the world might look like on December 11 should Kosovo make good on that promise.

What is the current state of play of the negotiations over Kosovo’s final status?

We have been through a period of intense negotiation under the auspices of former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari. [In March 2007] Ahtisaari presented his plan–which provides for an independent Kosovo under intense international supervision and with robust requirements for the protection of Serbs and other minorities–to the Security Council. But the council decided this fall that rather than act on the proposal, it would ask for another 120 days of negotiation.

It is a little bit hard to tell what is going on inside the negotiations, which are being overseen by the Kosovo “troika” of the United States, Russia and Germany (on behalf of the EU). There is no indication of any significant progress on the fundamental issue — which is whether Kosovo’s sovereignty will reside in Pristina or Belgrade. The United States and most of the European Union–as many as 22 of the 27 EU countries–have decided that sovereignty should reside in the future in Pristina. Belgrade, which had been the sovereign power until its sovereignty was suspended in 1999, wants to preserve sovereignty, even if it gives up any pretense of governing the territory. It is important to remember that in Kosovo, there are perhaps 1.8 to 1.9 million Albanians, and probably 120,000 Serbs.

And the Kosovo Government has said that it will declare sovereignty unilaterally on December 10 should the troika not reach a conclusion?

What they have said is that this current round of negotiation is the final round. They haven’t said exactly what they will do on December 10—actually December 11 more likely. In fact, on December 10 something rather un-dramatic will happen: the troika will report to the Security Council. What happens then is the big question mark in my mind.

If I were in charge, I would want a Security Council resolution at that point, and want it badly enough that I would be prepared to take it to a vote–even if Moscow has indicated it would veto. The reason I say that is that from my point of view, and this also true from Moscow and Belgrade’s point of view, it is really much better to settle this on the basis of a Security Council resolution than without a resolution. You want to do whatever you can to have a Security Council resolution.

What would the fallout be from a Security Council resolution that is blocked by Russia?

My reading is that the Americans are not prepared to bring it to a vote if they think it will be vetoed by the Russians. They don’t want a clear defeat for a Security Council resolution because that would make it difficult for the Europeans to deploy the civilian presence that is required for the peace implementation process.

I am not exactly sure what the Kosovo government will do on December 11, but I don’t think anything should be done unilaterally. What has to be done is that the countries that want to recognize an independent Kosovo as a sovereign state have to confer with Pristina on a roadmap. That road map has to include accepting the Atisaari plan. And in exchange for Pristina accepting that plan, the international community—that is, the United States plus as many EU members as possible—agrees to deploy a civilian presence to implement that plan. This is quite different than a “unilateral declaration of independence” which is being talked about in the press.

If they Security Council route is stalled, how much patience do you expect from Pristina to remain in this pre-final status limbo?

Little. These guys have gone through over a year of negotiations. The relative moderates who control the government in Pristina today went out on a limb because they have said to their people that they were going to have independence this year. From a political point of view, therefore, they are pretty exposed. Also, there are nasty people in Kosovo, as there are in most places, some of whom are vets and impatient young people who will launch attacks on Serbs if they feel independence is not forthcoming.

What would happen, then, if Kosovo’s government on December 10, or sometime soon thereafter, simply declares independence?

What is the fallout? It could be bad. You could have efforts by Belgrade to grab the northern piece of Kosovo, which has a Serbian majority, and declare its own independence. And perhaps even Republika Srpska (the Serbian half of Bosnia) as well. Belgrade is in a position to make a lot of trouble in the aftermath of a Kosovo declaration of independence.

Moreover, a declaration of independence isn’t worth the paper it is written on unless you get international recognition. That is the key issue: how many countries will recognize a sovereign Kosovo?

Which countries do you expect would recognize that?

The United States has made cleat that it will recognize a sovereign Kosovo.

And the European Union?

The European Union is split. A number of countries, for their own reasons, are very hesitant to recognize Kosovo absent a Security Council resolution. The European Union has also agreed to deploy a civilian presence to Kosovo, the primary purpose of which would be strengthening the rule of law in a newly independent Kosovo. And insofar as it is a rule of law issue that affects minorities, the focus would be on the Serbian communities and protecting their rights.

It is ironic that by blocking a Security Council resolution, Russia — acting on behalf of Belgrade–would be effectively blocking a peace implementation force that would be deployed to protect Kosovo’s Serb minority.

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Rape as an Instrument of War in the Congo

The conflict raging in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the most brutal wars in the world today. Four million people are thought to have perished in a civil war that raged throughout Congo from 1998 to 2002. And while peace has been restored to most of the country — which is the size of western Europe — the conflict lingers on in the east. Rape, as this report from The Guardian explains, is a preferred instrument of war and terror used by all sides to the conflict. How bad is it?

Rape has been used to terrorise and punish civilians in Congo who support the “wrong side”, and it is perhaps no coincidence that it was also a tool of genocide in the mass murder of the Tutsis. Sexual violence is now so widespread that the medical aid charity, Medecins sans Frontieres, says that 75 percent of all the rape cases it deals with worldwide are in eastern Congo. Darfur is a distant second.

But those are just statistics. One victim provides us the dismal perspective from the ground.

“Every woman in the village leaves at night to sleep in the bush because of the raping. They still loot but if they can’t find us they can’t rape us,” [a rape victim] said.

Augustin Augier [of Medecins Sans Frontier] said that women in many villages dare not sleep in their own homes. Others are too afraid even to go to the outskirts of their communities to tend to crops because so many women have been seized in the fields, contributing to the rise in malnutrition and disease that has claimed so many lives.

“People live in fear so they live in the bush. They expose themselves to diseases: malaria, gastro-enteritis. It’s cold at night. All of this claims lives,” he said.

Terrible. But there is a bit of positive news coming from the region today. The DRC and the government of Rwanda — an instigator of conflict in Congo’s east — have agreed to join forces to disarm a Hutu militia, which is one of many armed groups ravaging the east. Rwanda has also agreed to tighten its border and prevent arms shipments to a Tutsi militia that is battling DRC government forces in the east. To be sure, this is a step in the right direction. But given the misery of the place, progress should ultimately be measured by the relative improvements of the quality of life of the people, especially women, living in eastern DRC.

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Ban: Antarctica needs action on climate change

During Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Antarctica, the UN Secretary General said warming temperatures on the continent mark dangers of climate change.

“It is here where our work, together, comes into focus…We see Antarctica’s beauty – and the danger global warming represents, and the urgency that we do something about it.”


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