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Thursday Morning Coffee

Top Stories

>>Serbia – Nationalist Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has blocked plans for a Serbian-European political and economic agreement, suggesting that it was an attempt to make Serbia concede the independence of Kosovo. Boris Tadic, a pro-European moderate who was elected President of Serbia on Sunday, is part of Serbia’s governing coalition. The rift between Kostunica and Tadic threatens to dissolve that coaltion.

>>Zimbabwe – The war veterans’ association, a militant group in Zimbabwe’s ruling party, Zanu-PF, has threatened former Finance Minister Simba Makoni, who is running for president against Robert Mugabe, by saying, “traitors should know Zanu-PF has a history of dealing harshly with their kind.” Makoni was also expelled from Zanu-PF yesterday.

>>Food – The global commodities boom has significantly raised the price of food, straining both the budgets of the poor and the programs of those trying to help feed them. The World Food Programme’s costs by 70 percent over the last five years. The boom is also rekindling the debate over whether donor nations should continue to provide surplus food or simply provide funding to be used on the open market.

>>Eritrea-Ethiopia – The UN fears that conflict could reignite between Ethiopia and Eritrea if 1,400 UN peacekeepers are forced to withdraw because the Eritrean government cut fuel supplies. Eritrea is attempting to apply pressure on the international community to force Ethiopian to withdraw from the border town of Badme. From 1998 to 2000, tens of thousands died in conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Quote of the day

“With this blockage, certain politicians are in a way filing for a
divorce before the marriage has yet even been agreed. I find that…rather regrettable.”
– EU Commissioner Olli Rehn

Yesterday in UN Dispatch

The Rest of the Story
Middle East
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Why it’s better to be Idriss Deby than a Darfurian civilian

On Monday, the Security Council issued a statement condemning the rebel assault on Chad’s capital, N’Djamena and urging Member States to support the Chadian government. The speed at which the Security Council responded to this threat underscores the distinction between defending a sovereign government from rebel attack and responding to a genocide perpetrated by a government on its own people.

Even though the Security Council’s statement had been toned down to omit references to military force or to Sudanese involvement in the attack, it implicitly gave France, which maintains 1,400 troops in Chad, the green light to defend President Idriss Deby’s government. French president Nicolas Sarkozy explicitly articulated his country’s willingness to intervene militarily, asserting yesterday that “if France must do its duty, it will do so.” In the tragic history of the Darfur genocide, by contrast, no country has so baldly proclaimed its readiness to pony up military support — or even peacekeepers or equipment — in the face of opposition from the Sudanese government.This dynamic — whereby it is easier to protect a head of state than millions of civilian victims — is in a sense a natural byproduct of the state sovereignty system under which the UN operates. Thus, a UN-authorized coalition invaded Iraq to defend the sovereign state of Kuwait from Saddam Hussein’s invasion in 1991, but the international community had only dithered when the despot gassed Kurds in his own country three years earlier. And while President Deby can feel secure after the rebels’ retreat and the prospect of French support, Darfurians still await the batch of helicopters for the much-delayed peacekeeping force that has been slowly and falteringly cobbled together to protect them.

It is unreasonable to expect that countries would leap at the opportunity to send military forces into a sovereign territory that overtly objects to their presence. To achieve the ultimate goal of balancing these two imperatives — respecting sovereign governments and protecting their populations — countries must embrace the emerging “Responsibility to Protect” (or R2P) doctrine, which creates powerful incentives for states to protect their own people and outlines a contingency scheme in the case of state failure. The UN has theoretically adopted this bold new framework for international relations, but its support thus far has been merely hortatory. Member States must step up and demonstrate their commitment to R2P, so that innocent civilians do not continue to languish unprotected, while beleaguered governments reap the benefits of their sovereign status.

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Opium and the Insurgency

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime released a new report warning of another huge opium harvest in Afghanistan this year. This from the New York Times

Afghanistan will produce another enormous opium poppy crop this year, close to last year’s record harvest, and Europe and other regions should brace themselves for the expected influx of heroin, the United Nations warned in its annual winter survey of poppy planting patterns.

Cultivation is still increasing in the insurgency-hit south and west of the country, the report said, and taxes on the crop have become a major source of revenue for the Taliban insurgency.

“This is a windfall for antigovernment forces, further evidence of the dangerous link between opium and insurgency,” Antonio Maria Costa, the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, wrote in the report’s preface.

Full report here.

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Wednesday Morning Coffee

Obama won more states, but Clinton claimed more delegates, and the battle continues. McCain solidified his frontrunner status in the Republican primary (even though Huckabee wasn’t too shabby).

Top Stories


>>Chad – Rebel attacks have ceased in Ndjamena in the wake of France’s declaration that it would get involved if necessary and the dispatch of troops by a Darfur rebel group in order to bolster Chad’s president. France’s Defense Minister, Herve Morin, is in town.

>>Afghanistan – The UN Office on Drugs and Crime has reported that opium cultivation increased by 14 percent in 2007 in southern and southwestern Afghanistan, bolstering the insurgency with up to $100 million. Marijuana production is also on the rise. Outside of rebel strongholds, production decreased.

>>Pakistan – Taliban fighters in Pakistan have declared a ceasefire after months of fighting that has left hundreds dead.

>>Counting the Dead – The BBC reports on the work of the International Rescue Committee, who has taken on the responsibility of counting the dead in difficult to reach places. By their estimates, 45,000 people a month are dying in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Quotes of the Day
  • “Indeed, it is the insurgents, the Taliban, that are deriving an enormous funding for their war by imposing … a 10 percent tax on production”
    - Antonio Maria Costa,
    executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime
  • “People aren’t dying dramatically. They’re dying quietly and anonymously … In the eyes of Western powers, Congo doesn’t represent major political or economic interest.”
    – Richard Brennan of aid agency International Rescue Committee
Yesterday in UN Dispatch

The Rest of the Story
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President Bush’s budget beefs up defense spending, shortchanges UN peacekeeping

In the record-setting $3.1 trillion budget proposal that he unveiled yesterday, President Bush allocated nearly $1.5 billion for 18 UN peacekeeping missions across the world. While the administration lauds the budget’s contributions to helping “end conflicts, restore peace, and strengthen regional stability,” this figure actually falls over half a billion dollars short of the amount that the US needs to provide for these UN missions to perform effectively. Moreover, the $610 million shortfall that this gap creates will only add to the $1.195 billion that the US still owes in arrears to UN peacekeeping.The insufficient US funding for UN peacekeeping missions is even more striking when compared to the enormity of the FY2009 budget for the Department of Defense. DoD’s base budget of $515 billion already represents the highest inflation-adjusted level of military spending since World War II, and, much to Democrats’ consternation, emergency allowances for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan push the budget to over $600 billion. This number dwarfs the State Department budget of $39 billion and strongly suggests a heightened focus on military defense over diplomacy and peacekeeping.

The administration nonetheless recognizes the high value of diplomacy, trumpeting the increase in funds “to support key allies in the Global War on Terror and improve responses to international crises.” However, the money allocated to support the militaries of countries like Egypt ($1.3 billion) and Israel ($2.55 billion) stands in sharp relief to the funds left out of UN peacekeeping budget. The best way for the US to contribute to international peace and stability is to follow through on its treaty obligations and its votes in the Security Council by fully funding UN peacekeeping missions.

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How a Peacekeeping Mission Fails…And Can be Rescued

Not Darfur, but the mission along the Ethiopian-Eritrean border, UNMEE. The Secretary General today warned that unless the Eritrean government lifts restrictions the import and purchase of fuel, the UN Peacekeeping mission along the Eritrea-Ethiopia border will have to fold. The mission has just two days left until it must tap into strategic fuel reserves.

UNMEE was created in 2000 to monitor a ceasefire along a disputed border region between. Both countries, though, have not made life easy for the peacekeeping force — at various times, the two governments have hindered UNMEE’s operations by throwing up bureaucratic roadblocks. Manufacturing a fuel shortage is simply the latest manifestation of the governments’ strategies to undermine the mission.

As always in these situations what’s needed is pressure from member states. If members of the Security Council think that UNMEE is worthwhile, (and they should, given the fact that the Council just extended the mission for another six months) they must do more to twist the arms of the Ethiopian and Eritrean Government to secure their cooperation.

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