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Top of the Morning: Yet another Boko Haram Kidnapping of Women.

Yet another Boko Haram Kidnapping of Women…Suspected Boko Haram gunmen have reportedly kidnapped 20 women from a nomadic settlement in northeast Nigeria near the town of Chibok, where the Islamic militants abducted more than 300 schoolgirls and young women on April 15…In another incident, the Defense Headquarters said Monday that troops prevented raids by Boko Haram this weekend on villages in Borno and neighboring Adamawa state. Soldiers killed more than 50 militants on Saturday night as they were on their way to attack communities, defense spokesman Chris Oluklade said in an emailed statement.(AP

YouTube Video of Sexual Assault in Egypt Sparks Outrage…One attack occurred at an al-Sisi rally. “A string of sexual assaults on women during celebrations of Egypt’s presidential inauguration — including a mass attack on a 19-year-old student who was stripped in Cairo’s Tahrir Square — prompted outrage Monday as a video emerged purportedly showing the teenager, bloodied and naked, surrounded by dozens of men. Seven men were arrested in connection with the assault and police were investigating 27 other complaints of sexual harassment against women during Sunday’s rallies by tens of thousands of people celebrating Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s inauguration late into the night, security officials said.” (USA Today

Global Dispatches Podcast…Jessica Tuchman Mathews is on the line this week! The longtime president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace discusses growing up in a famous household, her very unconventional path to a career in foreign policy, and writing two hugely influential foreign policy treatises which helped mainstream the concept of “human security.”

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The death toll from Ebola in Sierra Leone has doubled to at least 12 in a week, local health authorities said on Monday, deepening the spread of a disease that has killed over 200 people in Guinea and Liberia. (Reuters

A sugar refinery — the wartorn Central African Republic’s biggest factory — is back in business after soldiers recaptured it from former rebels who occupied it for more than a year. (AFP

Niger will repatriate its citizens living as illegal migrants in neighbouring Algeria, as the government steps up efforts to combat trafficking networks. (Reuters

Young people in Zimbabwe with HIV are increasingly dying at a time when HIV-related deaths are declining for all other age groups. They are also less likely to get tested for the virus, as concerns about guardianship and privacy can discourage clinics from testing children. (IRIN

The kidnapping of 200 Nigerian girls and several recent horrific murders of women is expected to raise pressure on the world community to take concrete action to punish those responsible for sexual violence at a global summit in London this week. (Reuters

Africa’s climate change legislative frameworks, though a step in the right direction, have come under fire for not being ambitious enough to meet the challenge of a changing climate. (IPS

A new report shows that Nigeria now has the largest internally displaced population in Africa, and the third largest in the world. (VOA

African lawyers say they are committed to bringing back money illegally taken out of the continent. (VOA


Egyptian authorities have arrested seven men for sexually harassing women near Cairo’s Tahrir Square while thousands celebrated the inauguration of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Interior Ministry said on Monday. (Haaretz

The International Committee of the Red Cross and Syria’s Red Crescent have made rare aid deliveries in rebel-held territory in northern Aleppo province with government consent. (AP

Libya’s Supreme Court ruled on Monday that parliament’s election of Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq a month ago was unconstitutional, state media reported, a decision which means his predecessor will stay on for now, a parliament speaker said. (Reuters

Humanitarian needs in Yemen are huge, but it is also recognised as one of the most difficult places in the world for aid workers to operate in. What to do? (IRIN

Hope of political transition in Yemen is being jeopardised by hunger, access to safe water and conflict, UN warns. (Guardian


Thailand’s junta said on Monday it had ordered the Thai ambassadors to the United States and Britain to meet human rights groups in an effort to “create understanding” about last month’s seizure of power. (VOA

A new report warning that nearly half of the commercially-available condoms in Vietnam are of poor quality has health officials worried the country’s tenuous gains in safer sex habits could be at risk. (IRIN

The Solomon Islands’ Ministry of Health has declared a nationwide alert, with diarrhea outbreaks reported in six of nine Solomon Islands provinces, including Western, Choiseul, Malaita, Central, Makira, Honiara and Guadalcanal Provinces. (OCHA

The Americas

Brazilian riot police use tear gas to disperse protesters in Sao Paulo three days ahead of World Cup opening match. (BBC


Four things everyone should know about wartime sexual violence (WaPo

Bringing ‘Power Africa’ from Pledges to Projects (AllAfrica

The best books on Afghanistan: start your reading here (Guardian

Journalism Is Dying a Slow Death in Nigeria (Daily Trust

What Future for West African Fisheries? (Greenpeace

Keeping Momentum on Nutrition for Growth (IDS

The Corruption-Security Nexus: Lessons from Afghanistan (Part 1) (Global Anticorruption Blog

Five facts about informal economies (Chris Blattman


Italy has rescued about 5,200 men, women and children and recovered three dead bodies from overcrowded boats in the Mediterranean Sea since early Thursday. (Reuters

A British government pledge to tackle child poverty is set to be broken as 3.5 million children will remain poor by 2020, a watchdog said on Monday. (AP

Despite significant gains, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is far from over, United Nations officials said, calling for greater political commitment, investment and innovation to end the global scourge. (UN News Centre
Some 60 percent of countries where malaria is endemic lack solid information about the quality of available drugs to treat the deadly disease, according to a new study. (IRIN

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Meet the New High Commissioner for Human Rights

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Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced Friday that he will nominate Jordan’s Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein to succeed Navi Pillay as the next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Pillay will leave office on 31 August, after a single full term and two year extension.

Zeid’s selection followed consultations by Secretary General Ban with the permanent members of the Security Council, the heads of the United Nations’ regional groups and two interviews with the candidates for the post. Several names had been rumored to be under consideration, including  Marzuki Darusman, who wrote stinging reports on human rights violation in Sri Lanka and North Korea. The nomination will go to the UN General Assembly this summer and will almost certainly be approved by consensus or acclamation.

Prince Zeid will be the first Asian and the first Arab to head the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights. The post was created through General Assembly resolution 48/191 in 1993 and functions as the top human rights post in the UN system. As Commissioner, Zeid will report directly to the Secretary General.

He served as Jordan’s ambassador to the United Nations until this past April. Given that Jordan began a two-year term on the UN Security Council in January and Zeid has been outspoken on human right concerns during those four months, his resignation sparked rumors that he was being considered for the post.

Zeid previously served as his country’s ambassador the United States and Mexico. From 2002 to 2005, he served as the first President of the International Criminal Court’s Assembly of State Parties, overlapping with Pillay’s term as a justice of the Court (2003-2008). He led the informal negotiations on the elements of crimes under the Rome Statute and later chaired the working group on defining aggression as a crime during the Kampala review conference. He had earlier been the advisor to Secretary General Kofi Annan on sexual exploitation in UN peacekeeping and chaired the consultative committee of UNIFEM, one of UN Women’s predecessor agencies.  Earlier in his career, he had served as a political affairs officer in the UN peacekeeping mission during the Yugoslavia conflict.

Pillay has been a thorn in the side of several states from the beginning. Her nomination in 2008 was initially opposed by the United States due to her views on abortion rights, and her position on the Israel/Palestine disputes led the U.S. to only support her re-appointment to a truncated two-year term.  She directly accused Syrian President Bashir al-Assad of commiting war crimes after a 33-month investigation and called for its referral to the International Criminal Court. She has likewise called for an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan government during that country’s civil war and reported continued oppression of Tamils and religious minorities. This week, she spoke out against the Chinese crackdown on Tiananmen Square protestors 25 years ago, the highest ranking UN official to comment on the anniversary.

Zeid is likely to follow in Pillay’s footsteps as a formidable critic of governments in regard to their human rights records. In February, he co-authored the Security Council resolution on Syria that condemned the “attacks against civilians by all kinds of prohibited and non-prohibited weapons” and “crimes against humanity” taking place in the conflict. Last year, Prince Zeid joined other diplomats in calling for a boycott of a UN meeting organized by the UN General Assembly President considered by many to simply be a forum to complain about the treatment of Serbs in war crimes tribunals. In April, he used the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide to challenge the international community to act on the crisis in Central African Republic, stating that ”It is … clear we still do not care enough; not enough to act immediately, overwhelmingly, in those cases where an intervention is needed.”

Peggy Hicks, the global advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, noted that Zeid will be challenged “to speak frankly about the record of silencing civil society, crushing peaceful protests, which is endemic” in the Middle East.

Zeid was a candidate for UN Secretary General along with Ban Ki-moon in 2006. He ran on a platform of “A 21st Century United Nations,” in which he outlined five core principles which he felt would allow the organization to respond the crises more effectively. His late entry into the race cost him political momentum and his candidacy quickly sank. During the first color-coded straw poll, his candidacy was “discouraged” by one of the permanent members and he soon withdrew.

If Zeid serves the customary two four-year terms, he will be the United Nations’ top human rights officer until 2022.

His successor as Jordan’s ambassador to the United Nations will be Dina Kawar, who will be the sixth female member currently serving on the Security Council, a record for the body.

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Episode 20: Jessica Tuchman Mathews

Jessica Tuchman Matthews is on the line this week. The longtime head of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and foreign policy trendsetter discusses the crisis in Ukraine, growing up with a famous mother, her unconventional path from molecular biology to foreign policy; and how two of her Foreign Affairs articles forever changed how we think about security in the modern world.

It’s a great conversation!  Have a listen and let me know what you think.

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Previous episodes

Egypt After the Counter Revolution 

Episode 19: Louise Arbour, human rights pioneer.

What Obama Left Out of His Big Foreign Policy Speech

Episode 18: Zalmay Khalizad, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the UN.

Why Libya is Suddenly on the Verge of a Civil War 

Episode 17: Gov Bill Richardson, he frees hostages.

The Foreign Policy Implications of India’s Elections

Episode 16: Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children

What Boko Haram Wants

Episode: 15 Laura Turner Seydel, philanthropist

Episode 14: Douglas Ollivant, Iraq expert

Episode 13: Gary Bass, historian

Episode 12: Mark Montgomery, demographer

Episode 11: Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watcher

Episode 10: Live from the UN, Volume 2.

Episode 9: Mia Farrow, humanitarian activist and Goodwill Ambassador

Episode 8: Suzanne Nossel, Big Thinker

Episode 7: Live from the UN, Volume 1. 

Episode 6: PJ Crowley, former State Department Spokesperson

Episode 5: Octavia Nasr, reporter

Episode 4: Arsalan Iftikhar, “The Muslim Guy”

Episode 3: Dodge Billingsley, filmmaker.

Episode 2: Laura Seay,  @TexasinAfrica

Episode 1: Heather Hurlburt, national security wonk

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Top of the Morning: Karachi Airport Attack

Gunmen Attack Karachi Airport…It was an audacious attack In a ferocious terrorist attack that stretched into Monday morning, 10 gunmen infiltrated Pakistan’s largest international airport in Karachi, waging an extended firefight against security forces and shaking the country’s already fragile sense of security. The military reported just before 5 a.m. that the last of the attackers had been killed, ending hours of siege and explosions at the Karachi airport. The chief minister of Sindh Province, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, told reporters that the attackers had killed 13 people, including 10 members of the Airport Security Forces. (NYT

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea: It’s part of a trend. A Liberian-flagged oil tanker has gone missing off the coast of Ghanaand a senior port official told Reuters the captain sent a distress call to say the vessel was attacked by pirates…Pirate attacks jumped by a third off the coast of West Africa last year, pushing up insurance costs for shipping firms operating in a key commodities export hub. (Reuters

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Suspected Boko Haram militants from Nigeria attacked a town in Cameroon’s far north but local security forces fought them off, killing at least two gunmen, Cameroon’s government said. (Reuters

Up to 37 people including women and children were killed in Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern province of South Kivu in an attack that government officials blamed on a dispute over cattle. (Reuters

South Sudan’s presidential spokesman says Sudan is undermining the legitimacy of President Salva Kiir’s government and bilateral relations between the two nations after representatives of rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar were allowed to hold a news conference in the neighboring country during the weekend. (VOA

Some Non-Governmental Organisations in Zambia have threatened legal action against the government over threats of deregistration for refusing to register under the new NGO Act. (Times of Zambia

One person was killed Sunday in the Sudanese capital as police fired tear gas to disperse a demonstration over water shortages, police and witnesses said. (AFP


The US is sending two senior diplomatic officials to Geneva for rare direct talks with Iran on its controversial nuclear program. (VOA

A couple and their four children, the youngest just six months old, were killed Sunday in Syrian army air raids in the northern province of Aleppo, a monitoring group said. (AFP


China’s foreign minister has held talks with his Indian counterpart in New Delhi on ways to boost diplomatic ties between the two governments. (VOA

More than 80 bodies have been found two days after a devastating flash flood in Afghanistan’s mountainous and remote north, a provincial official said Sunday. (AP

Thai police arrested seven anti-coup protesters after a flashmob rally held Sunday outside a Bangkok shopping centre in defiance of thousands of security forces deployed city-wide to enforce a ban on political gatherings. (AP

The Americas

Metro workers in Sao Paulo vote to remain on strike in a dispute that could disrupt the opening match of the football World Cup on Thursday. (BBC

Colombia’s leftist FARC rebels declared a ceasefire on Saturday for a three-week period covering a tight presidential election race on June 15, campaigning for which has centered on how to end five decades of war with the guerrilla group. (Reuters

Officials are working to improve conditions at a makeshift holding center in southern Arizona where immigration authorities are housing hundreds of unaccompanied migrant minors. (AP


Universal health coverage – but mind the equity gaps (ODI

Q&A: Developing World Leads in Advancement of Climate Change Laws (IPS

Why I wear the Mexican education minister’s watch (BBC

Help yourself: How do poor women and men understand their right to food? (From Poverty to Power

A model for development built on indigenous foundations (SciDevNet

Categorising the poor (Pieria

SIBs, DIBs and Ad-Libs (Stanford Social Innovation Review

Madam Secretary Made a Difference (NY Times


Over the past week, the United Nations Development Programme has delivered 500 tons of concentrate animal feed, fertiliser and seeds to farmers in 15 flood-affected municipalities, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. (UNDP

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The High (Financial) Cost of War

Ed note. This post by economist Steve Killelea originally appeared in Project Syndicate and is reprinted with permission

NEW YORK – Stories of conflict fill today’s headlines: whether it is Syria’s civil war, street battles in Ukraine, terrorism in Nigeria, or police crackdowns in Brazil, the gruesome immediacy of violence is all too apparent. But, while commentators debate geostrategic considerations, deterrence, ethnic strife, and the plight of ordinary people caught in the middle, dispassionate discussion of another, vital aspect of conflict – its economic cost – is rare.

Violence comes with a hefty price tag. The global cost of containing violence or dealing with its consequences reached a staggering $9.5 trillion (11% of global GDP) in 2012. This is more than twice the size of the global agriculture sector and dwarfs total spending on foreign aid.

Given these colossal sums, it is essential that policymakers properly analyze where and how this money is spent, and consider ways to reduce the total. Unfortunately, these questions are seldom given serious consideration. To a large extent, this is because military campaigns are usually motivated by geostrategic concerns, not financial logic. Although opponents of the Iraq war might accuse the United States of coveting the country’s oil fields, the campaign was uneconomical, to say the least. The Vietnam War and other conflicts were also financial catastrophes.

Similar doubts accompany arms spending during peacetime. One might, for example, question the financial logic of Australia’s recent decision to spend $24 billion on the purchase of problem-plagued Joint Strike Fighters while simultaneously preparing the country for the most stringent budget cuts in decades.

Wasteful, violence-related spending is not just a matter of war or deterrence. Tough and expensive law-and-order campaigns, for example, though appealing to voters, generally have little effect on underlying crime rates. Whether it is a world war or local policing, conflicts always involve big increases in government spending; the question is whether they are worth the cost.

Of course, money spent to contain violence is not always a bad thing. The military, the police, or personal security details are often a welcome and necessary presence, and, if properly deployed, will save taxpayers’ money in the long run. The pertinent issue is whether the amount spent in each instance is appropriate.

Certainly, a few countries have struck a fair balance, addressing violence for a relatively small outlay; so there are ways to reduce unnecessary expenditure. Effective budgeting for potential or ongoing conflict is best achieved by emphasizing prevention. We know what underpins peaceful societies: an equitable distribution of income, respect for minority rights, high education standards, low levels of corruption, and an attractive business environment.

Moreover, when governments overspend to contain violence, they waste money that could otherwise be invested in more productive areas, such as infrastructure, business development, or education. The higher productivity that would result, say, from building a school rather than a jail, would improve citizens’ wellbeing, thereby reducing the need to invest in violence prevention. I term this the “virtuous cycle of peace.”

Compare, for example, the almost $10 trillion spent in 2012 worldwide on violence containment to the global costs of the recent global financial crisis. Mark Adelson, the former chief credit officer of Standard & Poor’s, estimates that total global losses from the crisis were as high as $15 trillion in 2007-2011, which is just half the cost of spending on violence during the same period. If policymakers dedicated the same amount of time and money to preventing and containing conflict, the payoff, in terms of less violence and faster economic growth, could be huge.

Governments might begin by re-evaluating their aid spending. Globally, they already spend 75 times more on violence containment than their total combined overseas development aid. And it is no coincidence that countries with the highest expenditure on violence as a percentage of GDP are also among the world’s poorest – North Korea, Syria, Liberia, Afghanistan, and Libya to name a few. Might this money be better directed toward investments that reduce or prevent conflict?

Apart from the obvious humanitarian reasons for investing in peace, especially when carried out within established international development frameworks, such investment is also one of the most cost-effective ways to develop an economy and balance a budget. That makes it a discussion well worth having.

Steve Killelea is the executive chairman of the Institute for Economics and Peace

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Russia’s Eventful Security Council Presidency

This month Russia takes over the Presidency of the UN Security Council, with Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin at the helm. From a Russian perspective, the timing of their turn at the President’s seat is auspicious. This month’s agenda will be dominated by Ukraine and a question over how to best deliver humanitarian aid to Syria.    

So far, it’s been an eventful presidency, mostly for the verbal sparing that has ensued.  Some observers are noting a degree of hypocrisy in Russia’s seemingly conflicting stances on these two issues.

Churkin invoked loaded phrases like “humanitarian corridor” and said “my colleagues need to respect the fact that the fighting is going on in populated areas” as reasons for the UN Security Council to quickly pass a resolution on Ukraine. He also has warned his colleagues that it was “grave mistake” for them to encourage Kiev to resolve their situation through use of force, sighting “very dramatic reports” from eastern Ukraine.  If that tone and language is familiar, it should be.  It is the same language that has been used for the past three years by the USA and Europe as they pushed for a resolution on Syria.

The irony was not lost on anyone, as one reporter asked “isn’t that hypocritical?” and Churkin simply barked back, “No!”  

As is their right, Churkin more than hinted that Russia would veto — for the fifth time —  a resolution on Syria, this time on the cross border delivery of humanitarian assistance. Russia’s logic on the Syrian border crossing issue is flawed, at best.  Churkin notes that “not only are you requiring Syria should give up sovereignty over its borders, but also its neighboring countries” like Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq.  Churkin stressed that before drafting a resolution based on Chapter VII, it should be decided “whether, in fact, it is going to improve the situation on the ground.”  

It is frustratingly clear that a humanitarian corridor would improve the situation on the ground, but Churkin and Russia are arguing semantics by claiming “Chapter VII [in this scenario] is not about cooperation, it’s about imposition” and that ‘cooperation’ is required by the host country.  

Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, countered Churkin by saying, “If you look at situations where there have been Chapter VII resolutions to enable humanitarian aid [like in Libya and Bosnia], they have tended to be resolutions that have been about the establishment of no-fly zones or the use of force to enable humanitarian operations.”  The draft resolution for Syria would not be as unprecedented as Russia cautions.  It can be argued that it is as essential as it was in Libya and Bosnia and crucial to regional stability given the millions of refugees.   (Of course, this is probably why Russia is so opposed to a Chapter VII resolution on Syria–Moscow does not want it to be a backdoor way for the West to intervene militarily on behalf of the Syrian opposition.)

In the midst of this stalemate over humanitarian access to Syria, the French have floated an interesting proposal: eliminating the veto for resolutions relating to humanitarian aid. This is actually a compromise because Russia would not get to veto the Syria draft, but other western countries would not get to veto Moscow’s Ukraine resolution. The French proposal is one of the most aggressive moves to get Russia on board but it was greeted with a firm “nyet” from Churkin who flatly refused to engage in the ‘deal’ with his Security Council colleagues.  

So, unless something changes under the Russian presidency of the Security Council we are not likely to see much movement on two of the most important global crises — but this is not exactly a surprise to most UN observers.

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