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Meanwhile, a Global Food Crisis

Once again, the World Food Program is warning that unless donors step up it will have to start rationing food aid.

The Rome-based World Food Program said it issued the appeal in a letter sent to governments on Thursday, urging them to be as generous as possible by May 1 so the WFP will not have to begin rationing food aid.

The agency estimates that in Darfur alone it needs to provide emergency food for as many as 3 million people daily. The organization, the world’s largest humanitarian agency, gives food to as many as 70 million people worldwide.

Earlier this month, WFP executive director Josette Sheeran said that the high prices of food and oil have been swelling the ranks of the hungry since last summer, and cautioned that the crisis would continue for several years.

Sheeran said that a 40 percent rise in the cost of fuel and commodities such as grain since mid-2007 have raised the cost of food and transport, causing the shortfall in the agency’s 2008 budget.

The WFP says it needs $125 million to cover transportation costs and $375 million to purchase new food stocks. But this is just the humanitarian face of a larger global crisis. As Ban wrote a couple weeks ago rising food prices are also fomenting political instability around the world.

Food riots have erupted from West Africa to South Asia. In countries where food has to be imported to feed hungry populations, communities are rising to protest the high cost of living. Fragile democracies are feeling the pressure of food insecurity. Many governments have issued export bans and price controls on food, distorting markets and presenting challenges to commerce.

In January, to cite one example, Afghan President Hamid Karzai appealed for $77 million to help provide food for more than 2.5 million people pushed over the edge by rising prices. He drew attention to an alarming fact: The average Afghan household now spends about 45 percent of its income on food, up from 11 percent in 2006.

Other than Free Rice enthusiasts, it seems that few people in donor countries paying much attention to this emerging global crisis.

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UN Plaza: Parag Khanna explains the Second World

Parag Khanna, author of Second Word: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order stops by UN Plaza this week. In the segment below, Parag explains why developing countries of the second world are the “swing states” of the 21st century.

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Monday Morning Coffee

The Olympic torch has begun its 85,000-mile journey. The American death toll in Iraq reaches 4,000.

Top Stories

>>Pakistan – On Saturday, the Pakistan People’s Party named its pick for Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani, a former speaker of the National Assembly who spent four years in jail under what many consider to be trumped-up corruption charges. Many speculate that Gillani was chosen over Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who ran the PPP during Benazir Bhutto’s exile, because he will be easier for Bhutto widower Asif Ali Zardari to dislodge after he runs for a seat in parliament and is eligible for the top position. Meanwhile, Musharraf has vowed to support the new government.

>>Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe’s leading opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, has accused the government of Zimbabwe of printing 9 million ballots for Friday’s election when the nation only has 5.9 million registered voters, which includes nearly 600,000 extra for civil servants, police, and soldiers. Meanwhile, Mugabe increased government debt 65-fold ($53 billion) in the six weeks leading up to March 7 to bump up civil servant salaries and supply farm equipment.

>>Colombia/Ecuador – Colombia has admitted that an Ecuadorean citizen was killed in the raid three weeks ago on FARC rebels in Ecuadorean territory that caused a diplomatic standoff between Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, had previously said that it would be “extremely grave” if it proved true that an Ecuadorian was killed in the raid.

>>Bhutan – The people of Bhutan will become members of the world’s newest democracy today as they vote in an election for seats in the lower house of parliament that will end the hundred years’ rule of the extremely popular Wangchuck royal family. The 28-year-old king has implored citizens to vote.

Friday in UN Dispatch

The Rest of the Story


Africa

  • href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/-/1/hi/world/africa/7311111.stm">Talks
    seek to end Somali violence
  • href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/24/world/africa/24darfur.html?ex=1364097600&en=98f4d4d04b6fc434&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss">Peacekeeping
    in Darfur Hits More Obstacles
  • href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/24/world/europe/24pope.html?ex=1364097600&en=5fad7a229f4b0976&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss">Pope
    Calls for Peace and Celebrates Conversions
  • href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/africa/article3607481.ece#cid=OTC-RSS&attr=797093">Tanzanian
    troops from the African Union train to tackle rebels on Anjouan
  • href="http://feeds.reuters.com/%7Er/reuters/worldNews/%7E3/256740132/idUSL0926529020080324">Zimbabwe’s
    whites fear vote will change little
  • href="http://feeds.reuters.com/%7Er/reuters/worldNews/%7E3/256637112/idUSL2312596920080323">Mali
    battle hinders hostage effort, deadline nears
  • href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/-/1/hi/world/middle_east/7310553.stm">Egypt
    releases Hamas men
  • href="http://feeds.washingtonpost.com/%7Er/wp-dyn/rss/world/index_xml/%7E3/256315893/AR2008032202206.html">One
    Man’s Personal Mission To End Slavery in Mauritania
  • href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/africa/article3607831.ece#cid=OTC-RSS&attr=797093">Funeral
    costs rise as Zimbabwe elections loom for Robert Mugabe

Americas

  • href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/21562624-f916-11dc-bcf3-000077b07658.html">Advertisers
    feel squeeze from Chavez
  • href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/24/business/media/24press.html?ex=1364097600&en=1a79467bb8eb0171&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss">The
    War Endures, but Where’s the Media?
  • href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/23/world/americas/23haiti.html?ex=1364011200&en=d396a5dc1051ac90&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss">Haiti’s
    Poverty Stirs Nostalgia for Old Ghosts
  • href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/23/world/americas/23suriname.html?ex=1364011200&en=72bd5e0eb6be3e42&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss">In
    Babel of Tongues, Suriname Seeks Itself
  • href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/mar/24/venezuela?gusrc=rss&feed=worldnews">Peruvian
    leaders cry foul as Chavez exports healthcare
  • href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/mar/24/argentina.genetics?gusrc=rss&feed=worldnews">New
    DNA technology to identify Argentina’s disappeared
  • href="http://feeds.washingtonpost.com/%7Er/wp-dyn/rss/world/index_xml/%7E3/256386708/AR2008032202401.html">U.S.
    Strike Kills 6 Iraqi Sunni Volunteers

Asia

  • href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/-/1/hi/world/europe/7311035.stm">Casualties
    in south Russia blast
  • href="http://feeds.reuters.com/%7Er/reuters/worldNews/%7E3/256944114/idUSTP33785420080324">Taiwan
    ruling party to retool after another defeat
  • href="http://feeds.reuters.com/%7Er/reuters/worldNews/%7E3/256984261/idUSSP14677420080324">Philippines’
    Aquino, democracy icon, has cancer
  • href="http://feeds.reuters.com/%7Er/reuters/worldNews/%7E3/256945882/idUSPAT43515420080324">Family
    of slain Briton urges help to find suspect
  • href="http://feeds.reuters.com/%7Er/reuters/worldNews/%7E3/256956714/idUST32981120080324">Hopes
    fade for Ukrainian sailors in Hong Kong collision
  • href="http://music.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,2267686,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=worldnews">Prized
    violin plays again for Moscow’s elite
  • href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/a5317fd2-f909-11dc-bcf3-000077b07658.html">Asian
    bankers hope to escape US woes
  • href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/-/1/hi/world/south_asia/7310377.stm">US-Afghan
    forces kill insurgents
  • href="http://feeds.reuters.com/%7Er/reuters/worldNews/%7E3/256879201/idUSDHA14829020080324">Politics
    heats up ahead of Bangladesh anniversary
  • href="http://feeds.reuters.com/%7Er/reuters/worldNews/%7E3/256915678/idUSJAK2233720080324">Final
    appeal for Bali bombers on death row withdrawn
  • href="http://feeds.reuters.com/%7Er/reuters/worldNews/%7E3/256924157/idUSSEO34019620080324">South
    Korea ruling party struggles for majority win
  • href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/-/1/hi/business/7310972.stm">Taiwan
    markets rally after poll

Europe

  • href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/7f31888c-f8e5-11dc-bcf3-000077b07658.html">Call
    for EU to study Beijing Olympic boycott
  • href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/-/1/hi/sci/tech/7308036.stm">EU
    ‘committed’ to stiff CO2 cuts
  • href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/24/world/europe/24bull.html?ex=1364011200&en=be64577afea65924&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss">For
    a Prize Bull, Next Big Test Is in the Genetics Lab
  • href="http://feeds.reuters.com/%7Er/reuters/worldNews/%7E3/256516350/idUSL234647620080323">Serbia
    returns to the offensive over Kosovo
  • href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/8f8511a8-f927-11dc-bcf3-000077b07658.html">France
    and UK to press banks over debt
  • href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/be55f09c-f8f0-11dc-bcf3-000077b07658.html">Latvian
    premier grapples with crisis
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U.S. Intervenes on Ethiopian Abortion Law

I applaud recent posts by Frances and Michelle recognizing that, for much of the world, unsafe abortion remains a critical issue for women’s health and rights. I also agree with those who have said that U.S. leadership and support is crucial, and that addressing this problem should be high on the agenda for the next administration.

Here in Ethiopia, we have changed our law to expand the indications for legal abortion. The new law is a result of several years’ effort by a coalition of health and women’s rights advocates both in and out of government working together to revise Ethiopia’s laws in accordance with the 1992 constitution.While the global gag rule does not allow the U.S. to interfere in the sovereign affairs of another nation, the U.S. has nonetheless attempted to impose its own views on abortion on this government-led legal reform process in Ethiopia. USAID’s country office used a firm hand in compelling Ethiopian NGOs receiving U.S. assistance to work under the gag rule. NGOs with expertise in health and human rights were forced to make a difficult choice: did they want to take part in the legal reform process, a democratic process in their own country, or did they want to receive U.S. money that could provide limited healthcare for more people?

In contrast with the current administration, I hope that a new administration will be zealous on the side of women, and will strive to ensure that they have access to legal and life-saving health services, including safe abortion. Ethiopia has a population of over 72 million people – the second largest country in Africa – and 22 percent of these are women of reproductive age, nearly 16 million women, aged 15-44. With a high maternal mortality rate and low rates of contraceptive use, unsafe abortion is an enormous health problem for women in my country. Although we have taken the important step of changing our law, that is not enough to make abortion safe. Leadership from large donors like the U.S. is essential in helping us grow our health sector to bring comprehensive reproductive health services to women – including birth control, STI and HIV/AIDS prevention, and yes, safe abortion care. Governments in Europe are already leading the way in funding global and country-level safe abortion activities in every region, including Sweden, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, and Denmark. Where is the United States?

I hope that the new American president will not only repeal the global gag rule on Day One; I hope he or she will also call for a non-discriminatory policy on women’s access to basic health care. I hope he or she will make immediate plans to send a foreign aid bill to Congress that funds comprehensive, not selective, reproductive health programs. U.S. foreign aid reform should repeal the Helms Amendment that for more than three decades has prevented U.S. assistance from supporting the safe abortion care so badly needed to save the lives and health of women in Ethiopia and in many other countries.

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We’re Only Going to Get What We Give

On page one of the Post today, Colum Lynch pens an excellent breakdown of budgetary pressures facing the United Nations. This month, reports Lynch, the United Nations secretariat asked it’s top donors, including the United States, for an additional $1.1 billion over the next two years. Why would the UN need this extra cash? Forgive the pun, but here’s the money graf from Lynch

Much of the increased spending flows from Bush administration demands for a more ambitious U.N. role around the world. During President Bush’s tenure, the United States has signed off on billions of dollars for U.N. peacekeeping operations in Sudan and elsewhere, and authorized hundreds of millions for U.N. efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, where U.N. officials helped organize elections and draft a new constitution.

There are always two important thing to keep in mind when folks rail against UN spending. 1) The UN’s budget is relatively small. It’s regular operating budget is about $5 billion; peacekeeping costs about $6 billion. 2) The United States has an effective veto over increases to both peacekeeping and the regular UN budget. If the United States does not think it is in its interest to incur a portion of the cost of a peacekeeping mission, the US always has the option to use its veto to block the mission.

On the other hand, the growth we have seen at the UN over the last few years is largely due to America directing the UN to take on more jobs. Among other things, the United States–which is the UN’s single largest patron–has turned to the UN to send peacekeepers to the Horn of Africa, set up a war crimes tribunal in Lebanon, and arrange elections in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since the United States has directed the UN to take on such roles, it only stands to reason that the United States should be expected to pay its fair share of the costs.

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Final Word on Somalia

To clear up any misconceptions, the United Nations–as a rule–does not send peacekeepers to places where there is no peace to keep. Somalia today certainly falls into this category.

Peacekeepers are trained to keep the peace, not mount invasions. Furthermore, the Secretary General does not have any standing forces at his disposal. When the Security Council approves a peacekeeping mission, the Secretary General must rely on member states to pony up troops and equipment. To complicate matters, member states are generally reluctant to offer their troops for a peacekeeping mission that has no ceasefire or political agreement to uphold (see: Sudan, Darfur).

The Security Council can, however, approve the kind of mission that Alex Thurston considers necessary to save Somalia.The defense of Kuwait in 1990 and Australia’s interventions in in East Timor, for example, were authorized by the Security Council. However, these are not “UN peacekeeping missions,” but essentially war-fighting efforts led by individual member states. For humanitarian intervention to occur in Somalia tomorrow, an individual country, NATO, or some coalition of the willing would have to take on the project themselves. Presumably, this would include evicting Ethiopian troops, suppressing an insurgency and defeating spoilers. So far, no country seems willing to take this on, so the next best option is to work to secure a political agreement between as many factions as possible and then use UN peacekeepers as the guarantors of that peace. The newest Secretary General’s report on Somalia, linked here, recommends this path–and I suspect the Security Council will approve.

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