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UN’s Commission on the Status of Women kicks off

The United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) kicked off its 52nd session yesterday; this year’s theme is financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women and the emerging issue is gender perspectives on climate change.

In the session’s opening address, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke out against violence against women, noting that “at least one out of every three women is likely to be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime.” Ban also announced the launch of a new campaign to battle global violence against women, which will run until 2015.

I’ve been lucky enough to go to past CSWs when I was working in the international women’s rights arena, but (sadly) I won’t be there this year. What’s great, however, is that you can follow along on the CSW website and see what’s happening – whether it be panels, statements or NGO events.

Another great place to find out info on CSW and its happenings is the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) (my old stomping ground), who are heavily involved in the process and give great updates.

Too often, American feminists forget about the all-important work being done on the international level by groups like WEDO and others. So please, check out all of the info on CSW and get involved!

If you want to know more about CSW and its history, click here.

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Increase Aid to Africa

Conventional wisdom — here, and elsewhere — has been that, while President Bush has fallen woefully short in supporting UN peacekeeping in Africa, he has at least done a fairly good job providing humanitarian aid to the continent, particularly in combating HIV/AIDS and malaria. Not so fast, argues Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Homi Kharas; the raw numbers of the Bush administration’s aid to Africa look impressive, but a closer look reveals that even these sums pale, in proportional terms, to the amount given by European countries. Moreover, even the aid provided by the U.S. is often subject to bureaucratic delays and does not necessarily go into the areas identified by Africans as the most important.

Kharas urges that the U.S. enact an explicit policy to increase the amount of aid it provides for Africa:

The United States can do much more to increase the level and effectiveness of its aid to Africa. It can allocate a greater share of aid to Africa which is the poorest continent and which faces the greatest development challenges. A target of at least 40% – about what the Europeans give – would be reasonable. It can shift resources from food-aid, which has above-market pricing and caters as much to domestic farm interests as to development, towards priority funding for infrastructure, agriculture and economic improvements. In programs like the Millennium Challenge compacts, which do respect local priorities, it should focus heavily on implementation and develop more realistic timeframes so that countries can actually use the promised money. That would be a legacy of assistance that the whole world would welcome.

As I’ve argued here previously, increasing humanitarian and development aid to Africa is helpful in more than just a feel-good way; by improving the U.S.’s image in the world, it can also actually contribute to a stronger national security policy. An even higher priority, though, is to make sure that the aid being sent is effective; this means, for example, relenting on abstinence-only programs and increasing contributions to concrete development programs — not to mention anteing up the money for the peacekeepers crucial to the safety of millions of Africans.

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El Baradei faces Another Tired Charge of Anti-Americanism. Enough Already.

Hugh Hewitt flags the latest hit job on IAEA Chief Mohammed el Baradei from AEI’s Michael Rubin and Danielle Pletka, who have had elBaradei in their cross hairs ever since the Iraq war. (You see, while the hawkish duo was drumming up support for a U.S. non-proliferation strategy predicated on invading and occupying Iraq, elBaradei warned anyone who would listen that his agency has no evidence of nuclear weapons in Iraq.) Now, for having the audacity to once again to render a judgment on the state of Iran’s nuclear weapons program based on evidence available to him (incidentally, a judgment backed up by the American intelligence community) elBaradei gets subjected to fusillades like this:

Mr. ElBaradei’s report [on Iran] culminates a career of freelancing and fecklessness which has crippled the reputation of the organization he directs. He has used his Nobel Prize to cultivate an image of a technocratic lawyer interested in peace and justice and above politics. In reality, is a deeply political figure, animated by antipathy for the West and for Israel on what has increasingly become a single-minded crusade to rescue favored regimes from charges of proliferation.

Glen Greenwald has done a masterful job documenting how time and time and time and time and time and time again, Elbaradei has been vindicated against charges that he is some sort of stooge to rogue proliferators. Meanwhile, it is hard to see how Elbaradei can be accused of anti-Americanism when all along his agency has been supplying to the United States correct information about the nuclear weapons programs of America’s potential rivals. It seems to me that this is exactly the sort of thing that the United States would want from the world’s nuclear watchdog.

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LRA No More? Ceasefire in Northern Uganda

Via Hilzoy comes this great bit of news

“With whoops and backslaps, Uganda’s government and Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels signed a ceasefire on Saturday, a big step towards a final peace settlement to one of Africa’s longest-running wars.

“It is the laying down of arms. It is the end of the war,” U.N. envoy Joaquim Chissano said after the parties signed the “permanent ceasefire” agreement during their fast-progressing talks in southern Sudan’s capital Juba.

With only a demobilization deal left to be agreed on, negotiators and mediators like Chissano are predicting a final accord will be reached next week to end one of the world’s most macabre and least-understood conflicts.

Fortunately, on UN Plaza last week, I enlisted the help of the Enough Campaign’s Julia Spiegel to help me, and viewers, understand the conflict. As she points out, it is actually not that complicated: an outlaw group that receives support from abroad terrorizes the population of northern Uganda. Government forces, in trying to suppress rebellion, commit atrocities of their own. The people of Northern Uganda lose. Until now, that is.

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Tuesday Morning Coffee

First the New York Philharmonic, now Eric Clapton has been invited to play Pyongyang.

Top Stories

>>Kenya – Kofi Annan has expressed frustration that parties in Kenya have been unable to reach a final deal, despite weeks of talks. The sticking point seems to be the amount of power that the agreed-on new post of Prime Minister would hold. The opposition Orange Democratic Movement has filed the necessary papers for what it says will be a massive protest on Thursday. Estimates suggest that 1,500 people have died in violence over the past two months.

>>Belgium – The political stalemate that has kept Belgium from forming a government for nearly nine months appears to be almost over. A compromise between the Flemish and Francophone political parties was reached on Monday to devolve powers over industrial policy, housing, and agriculture to the regions. The new government will be led by Yves Leterme, a Flemish Christian Democrat.

>>World Food Programme – Director of the World Food Program (and former US Undersecretary of State) Josette Sheeran has said that, due to the sharp increase in global commodity prices (food increased 40 percent last year), it would need more support from donor countries to ensure it can continue to provide even the current level of food aid. Through voluntary contributions by Member States to a budget of roughly $2.8 billion, the WFP feeds 73 million people in 78 countries. Meanwhile, wheat prices jumped 25 percent in one day to a record high, as major exporter Kazakhstan announced it would impose export tariffs.

>>Thailand – Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister of Thailand who was ousted in a military coup, will return on Thursday to fight corruption allegations. Thaksin ally Samak Sundaravej recently took office as the new Prime Minister.

>>Nigeria – The 2007 election results that put President Umaru Yar’Adua in office have been validated by a five-judge tribunal, created after his rivals asserted that the election was rigged. Observers worried that the nation, a major oil exporter, could have been destabilized had the decision gone the other way.

Quote of the Day

“This is the new face of hunger. There is food on shelves but people are priced out of the market. There is vulnerability in urban areas we have not seen before. There are food riots in countries where we have not seen them before.”
– Josette Sheeran, director of the World Food Program

Yesterday in UN Dispatch

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Monday Morning Coffee

Joel and Ethan Coen, as well as Daniel Day Lewis and Javier Bardem, took home some well-deserved hardware at the Oscars last night. The NY Philharmonic meanwhile plays Pyongyang.

Top Stories

>Cuba – Raul Castro became the new president of Cuba on Sunday, promising immediately to consult his brother on every major decision. The National Assembly stuck to the old guard when filling other major responsibilities as well, selecting 76-year-old Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, “a Communist hard-liner fiercely loyal to Castros,” to be the First Vice President and 70-year-old Ricardo Alacron to be the Assembly President. Some in Cuba had hoped that the mantle of leadership would pass to a younger generation.

>>Cyprus – Demetris Christofias, leader of the Communist Party, was elected president of Cyprus on Sunday, bolstering hopes that reunification of the island might be a possibility. He agreed to meet with his Turkish Cypriot counterpart, Mehmet Ali Talat, “at the earliest possible date.”

>>Turkey – Several hundred Turkish troops and dozens of tanks entered Northern Iraq at the end of last week, following hours of shelling and bombing by the Turkish military. Reports of casualties vary, but Turkey admits to the loss of one of its helicopters, which the PKK claims to have shot down. The incursion sparked intense criticism from the Iraqi government, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has urged Turkey to keep it short.

Friday in UN Dispatch
  • Bergmann
    on Funding UN Peacekeeping
    by Mark Leon Goldberg
  • href="http://www.undispatch.com/archives/2008/02/quick_plugpeace.php">Stiffing
    the Blue Helmets – by Mark Leon Goldberg
  • href="http://www.undispatch.com/archives/2008/02/secretarygenera_3.php">Secretary-General
    Introduces his Adviser on the “Responsibility to Protect” – by
    John Boonstra

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