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Ten Hours in Iraq Cost the Same as Three Years in Liberia, Says Former UN Official

From today’s presentation at the U.S. Institute of Peace by Jan Egeland, the former UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, comes this enlightening statistic:

The amount of money that the United States has contributed to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) — whose successes include calming a decade of civil war, bringing a former dictator to justice, and ushering in a democratic government that elected Africa’s first female leader — over the past four years is equal to the amount that it spends in ten hours in Iraq.

This statistic is sobering, but it is not surprising. After all, the amount of money that the U.S. spends in just three days in Iraq is equivalent to our entire yearly contribution to all UN peacekeeping missions. And while the conflict in Iraq roils on, many war zones in which the UN has been engaged are emerging as valuable success stories. In addition to Liberia, Egeland cited Ivory Coast, East Timor, South Sudan, Sierre Leone, and Kosovo as examples in which UN engagement has led to substantially freer and more stable societies — all at a fraction of the cost of the U.S.’s operations in Iraq.

Egeland stressed that the key to improving U.S.-UN relations is to convince the U.S. government just how good of an investment UN peacekeeping missions are. As Mark has emphasized before — and as even U.S. government studies have proven — UN peacekeeping missions are consistently more effective and more cost-efficient than comparable U.S.-led enterprises. For these and other reasons, supporting UN peacekeepers is strongly in U.S. interests, even if this year’s budget request doesn’t reflect this priority.

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Tuesday Morning Coffee

Did Slate knowingly swipe “Eliot’s Mess” from Colbert? Meanwhile, the Vatican delineates new sins, including pollution and “social injustice.”

Top Stories

>>The Hague – The prosecution of three Croatian former generals, Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak, and Mladen Markac, accused of playing key roles in Operation Storm in Croatia’s eastern Krajina in 1995, has begun at a UN war crimes tribunal at the Hague. Mr. Gotovina, regarded as a war hero among some in Croatia and being portrayed as such in a film starring Goran Visnjic, is being charged with responsibliity for 150 Serbian deaths.

>>Beijing Olympics – Roughly 100 Tibetan exiles marching from northern India to Tibet to protest the Beijing Olympics were told by police on Monday night that they were not allowed to leave the Kangra district of the Himachal Pradesh state under orders from central government, which has agreed not to conduct “anti-Chinese activities.” Similar protests, though not as long or hard on the soles, were held around the world, including in Lhasa, yesterday, the 49th anniversary of the uprising against Chinese rule that led to the Dalai Llama’s flight to India. According to the Guardian, India has been “sympathetic to the Tibetan cause in the past, but has begun to clamp down on public protests in recent years, fearing they could embarrass Beijing and damage burgeoning relations between the two Asian giants.” The group is marching on.

>>Darfur – Bandit attacks in Darfur have forced the World Food Programme to halve its deliveries of emergency food aid, a necessity for 2 million Darfuris. In total, 51 vehicles have gone missing and 23 drivers are still unaccounted for. Meanwhile, a funding crisis threatens to shut down air deliveries, increasingly important because of the increasing insecurity on the roads.

Quote of the Day

“The pollution in China is a threat to my health and it would be difficult for me to run 42km in my current condition”
Haile Gerbrselaisse, world record holder who today announced that he would not compete in the Olympic marathon in China.

Yesterday in UN Dispatch

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Regarding Michelle’s question…

Michelle, this a great question and I think complicated. I am hoping for a new administration that does not inappropriately use humanitarian or health, food aid, etc. as a means of accomplishing political goals. Within that context, there needs to be room for not funding agencies including governments that are egregious violators of human rights. These issues around family, gender, violence, etc. should be monitored by the State department in its annual human rights report which, in part, informs funding decisions. And of course my new Secretary of Women will work on these issues. :)

Preaching from the US about sexual and reproductive rights is not productive. Our own house is not quite clean enough. So we really need to link our domestic policies and their enforcement with our moral voice abroad. Another and I think very effective mechanism for the kind of in-country changes we would all like to see is to increase funding to civil society groups in that country that have the democratic right and responsibility to seek to influence their own country’s polices. I’d much rather see the US empower women’s groups and men’s groups to work against sexist, anti-woman laws than use our stick. Where ever possible our approach should be the carrot.

This is not to say that the US should not work with government to change policies that are human rights violations. The question is method. I am anxious about denying funds but enthusiastic about government-to-government education as well as south-south collaborations where we work with multilateral agencies and with other southern countries with better records on these issues to influence violators in their regions.

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Two questions for the group

I suspect many of us will agree that Adrienne’s solid, common-sense paper (pdf) articulates pretty much exactly what we’d like to see the next president do. I’m curious, though, what others think about the political tactics he or she should employ (assuming, that is, that he or she is a Democrat, and thus not actively hostile to everything we’re talking about).

There are two particular questions I’ve been mulling over quite a bit lately. First, how much should the administration pressure foreign governments to reform anti-woman laws? Here’s an example: I spent quite a bit of time in Uganda last year, where feminists were quite devastated over the failure of the Domestic Relations Bill, which would have, among other radical provisions, criminalized spousal rape. Many men considered this an outrageous curtailment of their freedom. The Monitor, a Ugandan newspaper, reported that “[l]aw enforcers, legal and health experts, however … think the law prescribing the offence of marital rape is discriminatory as it seems to target men alone.” A member of the Parliament’s legal affairs committee said the bill should address women’s denial of sex, arguing, “Refusing to have sex is the most violent thing a spouse can do.”

Uganda gets a lot of aid from the US, and has shown itself willing to change its policies to make the US government happy (witness abstinence-only, for example). Should the US government be pressuring other countries to pass domestic laws protecting women, even if those laws don’t have a popular base of support? I tend to think yes, even though it inevitably leads to howls about cultural imperialism. A similar questions come up with FGM, where in the past US pressure seems to have played quite an important role in getting bans passed, even in the face of cultural nationalist sentiment to the contrary.

Here’s the second question. We all know that the original, crudely Malthusian justification for global family planning programs has been disgraced and discredited, in no small part through Adrienne’s own pioneering work. The whole population explosion thesis came to see risible as the predicted food shortages and resource wars never manifested, at least on the scale that people like Paul Erlich predicted. Now, though, decades after the doomsayers envisioned, we are starting to see really serious effects of a rapidly growing (and developing) population — huge spikes in food prices, mushrooming megacities, disputes over diminishing agricultural land, etc. There is enormous international concern over the state of the environment. My question is this: should US policymakers, and the women’s movement, try and leverage that to garner more support for reproductive health and women’s empowerment programs? Is it time to break the taboo against making demographic arguments? I don’t mean this as a rhetorical question — I’m asking because I really don’t know and am curious to hear what others think.

Steve Sinding, former head of IPPF (among lots of other things), has argued that when the dominant paradigm of population control, with its environmental and national security rationale, gave way to women’s rights, donors and the public lost interest. I’ve heard arguments for and against this position and am not sure who is right. I do wonder, though, whether a new administration might be better able to effect a massive increase in aid for reproductive health as part of a wide-ranging environmental initiative, because elite opinion evinces an urgency about the environment that’s unfortunately unmatched by its concern over women’s rights.

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Is this a “bold” plan?

Adrienne Germain’s “New Agenda for Women” is a solid and fairly comprehensive plan for a US administration committed to partnering with governments north and south that are already on board and working to achieving many of these goals. As the discussion progresses, I am sure we can all tweak these objectives and indeed add to them.

But is it a “bold” plan? Only in the sense that the US is so far behind the curve on modern thought about gender, sexuality and reproduction that getting there with our current mindset is unthinkable. In this sense, it is a good plan for the 20th century, but I say let’s be really bold and move to the 21st.

A few thoughts:

  1. On the “first day,” a symbolic moment for sure, of course all prior presidential initiatives that hurt women can and should be shifted. The Global Gag Rules as related to both family planning and HIV and AIDS can be lifted and funding for UNFPA can be restored. I would like to see another first day action. The administration should take a page from the bold book of Dennis Kucinich who said he would create a Department of Peace. We must have a new cabinet level department on women, appropriately funded and with a broad portfolio for women domestically and internationally on the full range of economic, social and political issues that affect women. Let’s get some of that money that is in the State department, US AID and HHS, Labor and Education into the hands of people whose only job is to ensure that women’s rights and well being are addressed. No waffling, no inter agency council, a real cabinet level department.
  2. Let’s expect the administration to usher in 21st Century thinking about values. Adolescent sexuality is not just “going to happen”; it has its place in adolescent life. Birth control and sex education for adolescents should not just be there as an antidote to the disease of adolescent sexuality but as an aid to healthy and responsible adolescent sexual expression. Ditto on abortion. I note the word appears once in Germain’s agenda while we all know anti-abortion moralizing is one of the key problems in including abortion services and information in sexual and reproductive health programs. The policies of the US government on abortion, both at home and abroad have been a disgrace from Eisenhower forward and include both Democratic and Republican administrations. Every effort must be made to restore public funding for abortions for low-income women in the US and to allow reproductive health and maternal mortality reduction funds to be used to fund abortions overseas.
  3. As a first “post,” let me close with a thought on the role of US non-governmental organizations. We must learn from the mistakes we made during the Clinton administration. We were so glad to have ended the Reagan Bush years that we became apologists for, rather than advocates before, the administration. We were not bold; we asked for very little and that is what we got. On day 1 of the new administration, whether they are friendlier or not to our agenda; we must press for everything we should get and for everything women deserve. Let us not be deterred by administration claims that we must go slowly. Of course we shall be mature and strategic but from day 1 forward we will not be deterred from our goals.

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Climate-Health Nexus

Cross posted at On Day One

Over the weekend, Matt Yglesias and Brad Plumer posited that an auctioned carbon cap and trade system would yield significant benefits to public health. Among other things, “increases in CO2 can worsen the adverse respiratory effects of ozone and other air pollutants” and people would be incentivized to drive less, and walk more, and thus live healthier and longer. (This latter point has been researched by the New America Foundation’s Phillip Longman.)

One Health-Climate nexus less relevant here in the United States but of critical importance in much of the developing world is that warming temperatures have resulted in the appearance of disease vectors where they were previously absent. Mosquitos carrying Malaria and Dengue fever are suddenly showing up in places where the risk of these diseases used to not be so acute. Check out the World Health Organization’s climate change page, for a rather exhaustive explication of the links between human health and climate change in the developing world.

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