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Child Soldiers Active in 13 Countries

In a day-long open meeting at the UN, officials discussed ways to finally end the terrible scourge of child soldiers. From the UN News Center

The Security Council must “take concrete and targeted measures” against those parties that persistently use or abuse children during armed conflicts around the world, the United Nations envoy on the issue said today, urging that well-meaning words be transformed into effective actions.

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Addressing the Council during a day-long open debate, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy noted the ongoing impunity for those persistent violators that use or abuse children during wars.

From the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to Myanmar and from Sri Lanka to Uganda, parties to armed conflicts kill, maim, abduct or sexually assault children; deny humanitarian access to children in need; and recruit and use child soldiers. In total, at least 58 parties are known to be offenders.

Read more. Edith Lederer is also on the story.

(A child soldier in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern town of Malindi on December 2003. REUTERS/Finbarr O’ Reilly, courtesy www.alertnet.org)

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Wednesday Morning Coffee

In yesterday’s “Potomac” (I think I might prefer “Chesapeake”) primary, Obama and McCain ran the table, Obama by unexpectedly wide margins. Tomorrow I will be blogging live from the UN Investor Summit on Climate Risk.

Top Stories

>>Russia – Russia issued a trifecta of provocative statements today and was generally all over the news. The nation, which introduced a treaty to ban the deployment of weapons in space at a UN disarmament forum, has said that a failure to do so could spark a new cold war and arms race, while the U.S. is worried about the same thing because of the February 9 Russian bomber mission that flew over the USS Nimitz. Russia has restated its objection to Kosovo’s possible independence, calling it a violation of international law and a threat to security in Europe. And, in addition, it has said that it would point its missiles at the Ukraine if they join NATO and deploy the US missile defense shield despite having worked out a previously contentious gas deal with the Ukraine on the same day. Meanwhile, Russia finalized a nuclear deal with India, and Georgian opposition politician, Badri Patarkatsishvili, who feared an assassination plot against him, was found dead in the UK of a heart attack at age 52. The UK police are suspicious. Also, Medvedev is a fan of Deep Purple.

>>Hezbollah – Hezbollah’s intelligence chief, Imad Mughniyeh, was killed by a car bomb in Damascus, an attack the group is blaming on Israel. Mughniyeh, believed to be the mastermind behind a series of hostage situations in Lebanon in the 1980s and at least two bombings in Argentina with heavy casualties, had been in hiding.

>>Tigers – A long-awaited tiger census in India has revealed that the animals’ numbers have declined from 3,642 to 1,411 in the last five years. Tigers are killed for their skins and bones, which are used in traditional medicines. Some reports suggest that there were 40,000 tigers in India at the beginning of the 20th century. Meanwhile, body parts of the nearly extinct Sumatran tiger are being sold in 1 in 10 retail outlets surveyed throughout Sumatra.

>>Venezuela – Venezuela has suspended sales of crude oil to Exxon Mobil, which has sought compensation for the nationalization of one of its projects in Venezuela.

>>Standing Up – Director Stephen Spielberg, best known for his work as a production assistant on Faces (1968), has withdrawn from his role as an artistic director for the opening ceremony of this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing to protest China’s involvement with the government of Sudan. Spielberg had been pressured to do so by UN Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow. And, a Sicilian bishop, Piazza Armerina, is refusing to host the funeral of the head of a notorious mafia family, who died of natural causes at age 81. Armerina, who has said, “Men of the Church must do their bit to fight the mafia,” has received death threats and is under police protection.

Quote of the Day

“I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue business as usual. At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur.”
– Stephen Spielberg

Yesterday in UN Dispatch

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Rood has the Goods

Justin Rood of ABC News reports on the critically important, yet often overlooked story of American arrears to UN Peacekeeping.

On the eve of President Bush’s trip to Africa, his administration has decided to drastically cut money for United Nations peacekeeping missions in war-torn countries there.

According to White House figures quietly released this week, more than $193 million for U.N. troops would be cut for missions in Liberia, Rwanda, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire and elsewhere. A State Department official who would not be named confirmed to ABC News Monday that the cuts could be even worse.

“America’s reputation and standing are not helped when we call and vote for — but don’t pay our fair share of — new and bigger U.N. peacekeeping operations in places like Darfur and Chad,” Deborah Derrick, executive director of the Better World Campaign, told ABC News. “Great nations pay their bills.”

Amen to that! (The Better World Campaign is the sister organization to the UN Foundation, which sponsors this site.)

Since the start of the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United Nations has quietly assumed responsibility for managing a growing number of conflicts worldwide. The flare-up in Haiti in 2004, the July 2006 fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, and the situation in Darfur, are just a few of many conflicts managed by the UN with little direct involvement by the United States. In fact, most Americans would be surprised to learn that of the 76,000 UN troops currently deployed to 20 missions worldwide, only eleven are American service members.

At the heart of this arrangement is an implicit deal: The UN will go to places where the United States cannot or does not want to so long as the United States picks up a little over a quarter of the cost of each mission. At least, that is the way it is supposed to work. In reality, the United States, as a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, has approved mission after mission while falling behind on its payments.

This arrangement is clearly not sustainable. If promoting democracy abroad and ending genocide are as much of a priority as the White House proclaims, then surely somewhere in the $3.1 trillion budget they can find spare change to fund Peacekeeping.

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Tuesday Morning Coffee

The RNC hates on Obama’s Grammy (video) as we head into the “Potomac” or “Chesapeake” primaries today (DC, VA, and MD). Television and film writers are expected to approve a deal to end the three-month-long strike today. Saudi Arabia bans red, at least for a day.

Top Stories

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>>Malaria – Interpol, the WHO, and others have exposed a massive trade in counterfeited, and sometimes life-threatening, malaria pills, funneled from China to Southeast Asia. Sophisticated methods were used by manufacturers to mimic the actual drugs and to trick authorities, including distributing the pills in bubble packs authenticated with up to 16 holograms and lacing them with trace amounts of the active ingredient of the authentic pill (artesunate) to foil screening tests. Up to half the pills tested in Southeast Asia were counterfeit, some containing toxic chemicals and psychedelics. The upside: the investigation was carried out employing a new form of analysis using pollen that allowed authorities to arrest four in China and promises to bolster similar investigations in the future.

>>Pakistan – Two Pakistani nuclear technicians have been abducted in northwest Pakistan, in the Dera Ismail Khan district. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Tariq Azizuddin, may or may not have been kidnapped in Kyber in northwest Pakistan, but he’s definitely missing. Also, the convoy of Nisar Ali Khan, a parliamentary candidate campaigning in Northern Waziristan, was attacked by a suicide bomber, killing seven and injuring the candidate.

>>Iraq – Two CBS journalists were abducted in Basra. Witnesses say that they were taken from the Sultan Palace Hotel by at least eight gunman.

>>Kenya – Kofi Annan (the former SG not Kenya’s new rhino), mediating the crisis in Kenya that has killed over 1,000 and caused over 600,000 to flee their homes, has said that it looks like there will be a political solution by the end of the week. That solution appears to include a “Grand Coalition” government, an independent investigation that will lead to election reforms, and new elections next year.

Quote of the Day

“He’s got a great life. He wakes up around 11, gets a couple of cookies and goes with me to the grocery store. Everywhere we go, people want to pet him.”
– Barbara Bishop, owner of Rufus, the 2006 Westminster champ who took a digger over the weekend leaning in “for a better look at the other dogs.”

Yesterday in UN Dispatch
  • Congressman
    Lantos, RIP
    by Mark Leon Goldberg
  • href="http://www.undispatch.com/archives/2008/02/escalation_in_d.php">Escalation
    in Darfur – by Mark Leon Goldberg

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Congressman Lantos, RIP

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Escalation in Darfur

Two top UN Officials briefed the Security Council on Darfur today, warning that the peace process had reached an impasse and that the peacekeeping force was stalled. Meanwhile, reports are emerging of a fresh round of government attacks on villages in West Darfur. From Warren Hoge

Jan Eliasson, the special envoy for Darfur, said the present impasse could cause the people of Darfur, particularly those in overcrowded camps, to lose confidence in the ability of the United Nations to help them.

Jean-Marie Guehenno, the under secretary general for peacekeeping, warned that if Darfurians “see that we cannot meet their expectations — and their expectations are very high — then I think they will be in a very difficult situation.”

[snip]

Mr. Guehenno said the international peacekeeping force for Darfur urgently needed a decision by the government in Khartoum to permit the participation of critical military units from Thailand and Nepal. Only a third of the anticipated 26,000 members of the force — a joint effort by the United Nations and the African Union — are in Darfur, and the government has been objecting to the participation of non-African troops…The force also lacked the 18 tactical and six attack helicopters it needs, despite a loan promised this week of a small number of aircraft from Ethiopia. “Darfur is a vast area, and we must have the ability to quickly move troops to strategic points,” Mr. Guehenno said.

Read more.

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