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>>Russia and friends – Yesterday Russia announced its expanded support for Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two separatist republics in Georgia. The “support” falls short of full recognition, a step that Russia has threatened in response to the declared independence of Kosovo and Georgia’s bid for NATO membership, but will include direct relations and deeper trade, agriculture, education, diplomacy, and social ties, modeled after the U.S. relationship with Taiwan. Georgia’s foreign minister David Bakradze said that Georgia will seek a special session of the UN Security Council in response.

>>Olympics – Tibetans living in New Delhi greeted the Olympic torch’s arrival with protests yesterday. Over 15,000 police will guard the torch today as it continues its route through the capital, which has already been barricaded and truncated to about a third of its original five-mile length. In advance of the torch’s arrival, protesters lit an alternate torch at Ghandi’s burial spot and planned a parallel relay. Delhi police said they would allow the relay, but would extinguish any alternate torches.

>>South Korea – Yesterday South Korea announced that it would cull 3 million farm birds due to three more bird flu outbreaks. The nation has already had 15 confirmed cases of H5N1 in the last two weeks.

>>East Timor – President and Nobel laureate Jose Ramos-Horta returned home yesterday following more than two months of treatment in Australia for injuries sustained in an assassination attempt by those loyal to rebel leader Alfredo Reinado. Ramos-Horta was greeted by a military parade and thousands of supporters.

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Don’t Go It Alone!

A very newsworthy press release from the Better World Campaign:

The Better World Campaign delivered today to the U.S. Congress a letter signed by 80 organizations calling for payment of U.S. debt to the United Nations, which at the beginning of this year amounted to more than $2.8 billion to the UN’s regular budget and peacekeeping accounts. The debt makes up 25 percent of the UN’s annual budget, and is ten times the amount owed by any other nation.

us debt to un.jpg

This letter clearly shows that the American public wants the U.S. to keep its word at the UN and stop going it alone,” said Better World Campaign Executive Director Deborah Derrick. “This Congress can begin the process of repairing U.S. financial standing at the UN when it takes up the President’s FY 2008 Supplemental Funding Request in the coming days,” she added.

The President’s FY 2008 supplemental request, expected to be taken up by the Congress the week of April 21st, includes $334 million for the UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Sudan, and $53 million for the UN’s political missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. has called on the UN to take a greater role in these missions, but has not fully funded them.

For 80 organizations to sign on to a letter to Congress, the “ask” must have pretty universal appeal. Paying U.S. dues to the UN enjoys this kind of traction for very legitimate reasons: paying these dues makes sense, improves U.S. standing in the world, and is firmly in the U.S.’s interest. To emphasize these points, Better World Campaign — the sister organization of the UN Foundation, Dispatch’s sponsor — has launched its “Don’t Go It Alone” campaign, highlighting the effectiveness of working through the UN and the pressing need for the U.S. to follow up on its funding commitments.

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Don’t Go It Alone!

A very newsworthy press release from the Better World Campaign:

The Better World Campaign delivered today to the U.S. Congress a letter signed by 80 organizations calling for payment of U.S. debt to the United Nations, which at the beginning of this year amounted to more than $2.8 billion to the UN’s regular budget and peacekeeping accounts. The debt makes up 25 percent of the UN’s annual budget, and is ten times the amount owed by any other nation.

us debt to un.jpg

This letter clearly shows that the American public wants the U.S. to keep its word at the UN and stop going it alone,” said Better World Campaign Executive Director Deborah Derrick. “This Congress can begin the process of repairing U.S. financial standing at the UN when it takes up the President’s FY 2008 Supplemental Funding Request in the coming days,” she added.

The President’s FY 2008 supplemental request, expected to be taken up by the Congress the week of April 21st, includes $334 million for the UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Sudan, and $53 million for the UN’s political missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. has called on the UN to take a greater role in these missions, but has not fully funded them.

For 80 organizations to sign on to a letter to Congress, the “ask” must have pretty universal appeal. Paying U.S. dues to the UN enjoys this kind of traction for very legitimate reasons: paying these dues makes sense, improves U.S. standing in the world, and is firmly in the U.S.’s interest. To emphasize these points, Better World Campaign — the sister organization of the UN Foundation, Dispatch’s sponsor — has launched its “Don’t Go It Alone” campaign, highlighting the effectiveness of working through the UN and the pressing need for the U.S. to follow up on its funding commitments.

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The Size of the Peacekeeping Mission in DR Congo

MONUC, the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is typically — and accurately — described as, at over 17,000 uniformed personnel, the largest such mission currently deployed. What is less frequently considered, however, is the sheer size of the ground that these 17,000 peacekeepers have to cover. Just take a look at a map.

Thumbnail image for LgCongoMap.jpg

DR Congo is about the size of Western Europe. With that perspective, it’s easy to understand why the Secretary-General, in his most recent report on the mission, worries that it risks becoming “stretched to the limit” as it transitions almost entirely to the eastern part of the country. Indeed, at a press conference in New York yesterday, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to MONUC, Alan Doss, confirmed that 92% of the mission’s forces were now deployed in eastern Congo — a crucial repositioning that will help the mission build on January’s ceasefire in the volatile region.

Even in just two of Congo’s smallest provinces, though, UN peacekeepers still have to patrol an area the size of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg combined. Speaking today at the Wilson Center, Mr. Doss made the telling analogy that MONUC’s task of patrolling one of these provinces, South Kivu, is equivalent to having one police officer cover all of Manhattan, plus a sizable chunk of Brooklyn.

We often don’t appreciate how tall of a task UN peacekeepers in remote, expansive , violent locations face. Give that statistic to a police officer in New York City, though, and I imagine s/he’ll appreciate it a whole lot more.

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The Size of the Peacekeeping Mission in DR Congo

MONUC, the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is typically — and accurately — described as, at over 17,000 uniformed personnel, the largest such mission currently deployed. What is less frequently considered, however, is the sheer size of the ground that these 17,000 peacekeepers have to cover. Just take a look at a map.

Thumbnail image for LgCongoMap.jpg

DR Congo is about the size of Western Europe. With that perspective, it’s easy to understand why the Secretary-General, in his most recent report on the mission, worries that it risks becoming “stretched to the limit” as it transitions almost entirely to the eastern part of the country. Indeed, at a press conference in New York yesterday, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to MONUC, Alan Doss, confirmed that 92% of the mission’s forces were now deployed in eastern Congo — a crucial repositioning that will help the mission build on January’s ceasefire in the volatile region.

Even in just two of Congo’s smallest provinces, though, UN peacekeepers still have to patrol an area the size of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg combined. Speaking today at the Wilson Center, Mr. Doss made the telling analogy that MONUC’s task of patrolling one of these provinces, South Kivu, is equivalent to having one police officer cover all of Manhattan, plus a sizable chunk of Brooklyn.

We often don’t appreciate how tall of a task UN peacekeepers in remote, expansive , violent locations face. Give that statistic to a police officer in New York City, though, and I imagine s/he’ll appreciate it a whole lot more.

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UN Report Released Today on Maternal and Child Deaths

While over 10 million women and children in developing countries continue to die every year from preventable and treatable causes, a new report released today by UN agencies and partners calls for improved health care systems to reduce maternal and child deaths:

04-16-who-maternal.jpg

‘Tracking Progress in Maternal, Newborn and Child Survival’ finds that few of the 68 developing countries that account for 97 per cent of maternal and child deaths worldwide are providing the necessary health care to save lives.

The 2008 report was released today as leading global health experts, policy-makers and parliamentarians convene in Cape Town, South Africa, to address further efforts to slash maternal and child mortality by 2015, part of a set of internationally-agreed targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

And this is not to mention that donor funding for maternal, newborn and child health has actually increased over the past few years. So while there has been much improvement, the fact that health care needs are so high in these countries still result in health care programs being “grossly unfunded,” says the report.

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