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Nicole Kidman at the UN

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Interpreter star and UN Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman is back at the United Nations today to promote the UN’s “say no to violence against women” campaign. Most coverage of this visit, though, seems to focus on the fact that Kidman is six months pregnant–and shockingly is showing a “baby bump.” Amazing how that works.

For a more thorough account of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)’s ongoing campaign to combat violence against the women, check out the website. You can even sign the petition.

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Wednesday Morning Coffee

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>>U.S. – Authorities announced yesterday that they had arrested Ben-Ami Kadish, a former U.S. army engineer, on charges of supplying classified documents to Israel, including information on nuclear weaponry, the F-15 fighter jet, and the Patriot missile defense system. The hand-off allegedly occurred at the army weapons research center in Dover, Del., where Kadish worked from 1979 to 1985. His handler is said to be the same who worked with Jonathan Pollard.

>>Australia – The Olympic torch has arrived in Australia, which has enacted “unprecedented” security measures to keep protesters at bay. The torch was immediately whisked to an undisclosed location and will be guarded by hundreds of police along its 10-mile relay route. Pro-Tibet demonstrators have already beamed a laser sign onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge reading “Don’t Torch Tibet,” and a group of Tibetan exiles on hunger strike just completed a nearly 50-mile march to Canberra, where they are now involved in a candle-light vigil outside the Chinese embassy.

>>Zimbabwe – China may give up on a shipment of arms to Zimbabwe, due to protests across southern Africa, which have kept the ship from docking at a suitable port. South Africa’s supreme court ruled last Friday that the arms could not be transported from Durban, the ship’s original destination, to Zimbabwe, after an Anglican bishop argued that they would likely be used to crush the opposition. South Africa’s dock workers union also said they would refuse to unload the shipment. President Mwanawasa of Zambia, head of the Southern African Development Community, called on other southern Africa nations to deny the ship harbor. It is currently idling off the east coast of southern Africa.

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Wednesday Morning Coffee

Top Stories

>>U.S. – Authorities announced yesterday that they had arrested Ben-Ami Kadish, a former U.S. army engineer, on charges of supplying classified documents to Israel, including information on nuclear weaponry, the F-15 fighter jet, and the Patriot missile defense system. The hand-off allegedly occurred at the army weapons research center in Dover, Del., where Kadish worked from 1979 to 1985. His handler is said to be the same who worked with Jonathan Pollard.

>>Australia – The Olympic torch has arrived in Australia, which has enacted “unprecedented” security measures to keep protesters at bay. The torch was immediately whisked to an undisclosed location and will be guarded by hundreds of police along its 10-mile relay route. Pro-Tibet demonstrators have already beamed a laser sign onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge reading “Don’t Torch Tibet,” and a group of Tibetan exiles on hunger strike just completed a nearly 50-mile march to Canberra, where they are now involved in a candle-light vigil outside the Chinese embassy.

>>Zimbabwe – China may give up on a shipment of arms to Zimbabwe, due to protests across southern Africa, which have kept the ship from docking at a suitable port. South Africa’s supreme court ruled last Friday that the arms could not be transported from Durban, the ship’s original destination, to Zimbabwe, after an Anglican bishop argued that they would likely be used to crush the opposition. South Africa’s dock workers union also said they would refuse to unload the shipment. President Mwanawasa of Zambia, head of the Southern African Development Community, called on other southern Africa nations to deny the ship harbor. It is currently idling off the east coast of southern Africa.

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A Sign of Success in Liberia

As Bill Durch pointed out in his launch of the UN Dispatch/FP Passport online salon, UN peacekeeping is, on the whole, experiencing a tremendous period of growth. Lest we assume that this is unrestrained growth, however — a criticism levied by UN skeptics who bemoan what they perceive as an excessive number of UN mandates — it bears reminding that, as I’ve argued before, the most successful peacekeeping missions are those that are able to decrease their presence. Responding to David’s comment, the UN, despite the overall expansion of its responsibilities around the globe, has indeed shepherded a number of peacekeeping missions toward this mark of success.

I wrote previously about Cote d’Ivoire’s transition toward a peaceful drawdown of UN peacekeepers. Now, visiting the neighboring West African country of Liberia, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pledged continuing support for that formerly war-torn nation, as the 15,000-strong UN peacekeeping force there gradually begins its carefully structured process of withdrawal. While problems of poverty, corruption, and an inadequate justice system still trouble Liberia, UN peacekeepers have had remarkable success calming the country’s civil war, bringing its former dictator to justice, organizing its historic elections, and helping to restitch the fabric of its society. The withdrawal, moreover, is timed according to specific benchmarks and the requirements of Liberia’s situation.

The mission’s chief, Ellen Loj, said drawdown, agreed in UN Security Council resolution 1777 in 2007, is planned meticulously so as to “minimise all potential security threats to the state”.

AFP also gives a snapshot of the mission’s achievements:

Between November 2003 and October 2004, 101,495 fighters were disarmed and demobilised, with 90,000 resettled back into civilian life, mission statistics showed.

More than 500,000 displaced persons have also returned, while UNMIL has trained 3,662 new police agents who are gradually assuming their roles.

A total of 358 presidential guards, 139 prison guards, 37 immigration officers and 210 customs officials have also been groomed for duty.

The UN peacekeeping force has helped rebuild 3,000 (1,875 miles) kilometres of roads and worked on some 300 projects to restore and repair schools, health centres, wells, courts and police stations.

Most indicatively, the mission inspires confidence in Liberians, even as it begins its drawdown:

“As long as the UN forces are here, I don’t see why we have to worry about the possibility of destabilisation,” Moses Gbartu, a traditional chieftain in the country’s north told AFP.

“I thought there was going to be confrontations during disarmament, but UNMIL showed prudence, vigilance and strictness,” added shopkeeper Miattah Duago.

UN peacekeepers are not going to disappear from Liberia overnight — this round of troop withdrawals will still leave around 12,000 blue helmets there in October — and problems are likely to remain during this period, and persist after the UN’s departure. Increasingly, however, Liberia’s institutions will assume control of these problems, and the UN’s role there will increasingly shift to one providing political and humanitarian support. In the world of peacekeeping, results may come in fits and starts, and only manifest themselves slowly, but it is important to appreciate the positive signs along the way.

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A Sign of Success in Liberia

As Bill Durch pointed out in his launch of the UN Dispatch/FP Passport online salon, UN peacekeeping is, on the whole, experiencing a tremendous period of growth. Lest we assume that this is unrestrained growth, however — a criticism levied by UN skeptics who bemoan what they perceive as an excessive number of UN mandates — it bears reminding that, as I’ve argued before, the most successful peacekeeping missions are those that are able to decrease their presence. Responding to David’s comment, the UN, despite the overall expansion of its responsibilities around the globe, has indeed shepherded a number of peacekeeping missions toward this mark of success.

I wrote previously about Cote d’Ivoire’s transition toward a peaceful drawdown of UN peacekeepers. Now, visiting the neighboring West African country of Liberia, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pledged continuing support for that formerly war-torn nation, as the 15,000-strong UN peacekeeping force there gradually begins its carefully structured process of withdrawal. While problems of poverty, corruption, and an inadequate justice system still trouble Liberia, UN peacekeepers have had remarkable success calming the country’s civil war, bringing its former dictator to justice, organizing its historic elections, and helping to restitch the fabric of its society. The withdrawal, moreover, is timed according to specific benchmarks and the requirements of Liberia’s situation.

The mission’s chief, Ellen Loj, said drawdown, agreed in UN Security Council resolution 1777 in 2007, is planned meticulously so as to “minimise all potential security threats to the state”.

AFP also gives a snapshot of the mission’s achievements:

Between November 2003 and October 2004, 101,495 fighters were disarmed and demobilised, with 90,000 resettled back into civilian life, mission statistics showed.

More than 500,000 displaced persons have also returned, while UNMIL has trained 3,662 new police agents who are gradually assuming their roles.

A total of 358 presidential guards, 139 prison guards, 37 immigration officers and 210 customs officials have also been groomed for duty.

The UN peacekeeping force has helped rebuild 3,000 (1,875 miles) kilometres of roads and worked on some 300 projects to restore and repair schools, health centres, wells, courts and police stations.

Most indicatively, the mission inspires confidence in Liberians, even as it begins its drawdown:

“As long as the UN forces are here, I don’t see why we have to worry about the possibility of destabilisation,” Moses Gbartu, a traditional chieftain in the country’s north told AFP.

“I thought there was going to be confrontations during disarmament, but UNMIL showed prudence, vigilance and strictness,” added shopkeeper Miattah Duago.

UN peacekeepers are not going to disappear from Liberia overnight — this round of troop withdrawals will still leave around 12,000 blue helmets there in October — and problems are likely to remain during this period, and persist after the UN’s departure. Increasingly, however, Liberia’s institutions will assume control of these problems, and the UN’s role there will increasingly shift to one providing political and humanitarian support. In the world of peacekeeping, results may come in fits and starts, and only manifest themselves slowly, but it is important to appreciate the positive signs along the way.

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Are we expecting too much?

David Bosco raises a legitimate concern about “bang for the buck”. However, it is very difficult to measure results with any degree of accuracy when mission mandates are increasingly broad and often patently-over ambitious. I’d like to turn the question around, and ask if mandating authorities (like the UN, EU and AU) are not expecting way too much of peacekeeping — regardless of the financial costs?

For example, UN Secretariat officials repeatedly warned of the overwhelming obstacles to deployment to Darfur, but their warnings went unheeded by a Security Council that mandated 26,000 uniformed peacekeepers for the mission — with one of the main mandate elements being implementation of the defunct Darfur Peace Agreement.

The African Union Mission in Somalia managed to deploy only a quarter of its authorized strength of 8,000 due to a combination of logistical constraints, financial shortfalls, and a lack of peace to keep. With only 2,000 AU troops in Somalia and only 9,000 in Darfur, in March 2008 the UN Security Council was seriously debating the notion of deploying 28,000 UN troops to Somalia.

The widening gap between aspirations and the implementation of successful peace operations is very evident. The multi-billion dollar question is: How do we close this gap? By simply saying “enough” and retreating from the peacekeeping enterprise, as happened in the mid ’90s after the last big peak in global peace operations and some nasty experiences in the Balkans and Africa? By trying to expand the available means with the likes of the US-sponsored Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI), which aims to train a total of 75,000 peacekeeping troops — mostly Africans — by the year 2010? By commissioning another expert panel, like the one led by Lakhdar Brahimi in 2000 which produced very substantive recommendations on how to get the operational mechanics of UN peace operations right? Or by taking a really hard look at the mandate end and the peacemaking processes that precede the crafting of seemingly impossible mission mandates?

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